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Command & Conquer: Yuri's Revenge is an expansion pack to Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 developed by Westwood Studios. The game was released in North America on October 10, 200 by EA Games. The game is centered on a shadowy ex-Soviet figure named Yuri who has established a secret army of his own and poses a threat to the free will of the world.
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"I've read a bunch of concept ideas Westwood had for the game. Gameplay and story. There were planned to be five factions in the end, with two to be added with expansion packs: Nod, GDI, CABAL, the Forgotten and the Scrin. The Forgotten were going to get psyonic powers that ran from an army-wide mana pool, a thing unique to that faction.
The story had some crazy ideas. One was that the Tacitus was a Martian artefact, not a Scrin one. The idea was that the Scrin had previously sent Tiberium to Mars and mined it clean, leaving it barren. The Martians made a database of Tiberium information and sent it to Earth for the then-primate humans to find when the Scrin eventually came for them too.
Another was that Nod would have psychic units, including Yuri himself. Yuri would end up getting sent on a mission to Area 51 to steal a commando mech suit prototype and while there an old Chronosphere would accidentally activate and send him back in time and he'd create the Red Alert 2 timeline."
Also this german page lists some interesting interviews and quotes and no longer accessible links from the old petrogylph forums
But they only list a few facts of the canon and apparently nobody ever asked the devs how the full story would have been and it makes me sad that we will maybe never know it.
21 hours, 6 minutes. Chapter 7: Preparations Part 2
The following days were a rush. Most of our time was spent on trying to get all the ducks in the row for our imminent departure. During the first day, I successfully managed to fix the remaining tires. That was the thing I was most concerned about, so I felt pretty good afterwards. Having seen my success, Natsuki finally revealed her plans with the suitcases she hoarded from the maintenance room. Namely, she wanted to attach these to the bikes in order to increase our carrying capacity. A brilliant idea which fell short, because neither of us had a clue on how to attach them. Luckily, Yuri helped us out, and the final outcome was something to be proud of.
Now, despite our first win, the chores didn’t stop there. I was quickly mobilized by Yuri to help her with washing up. This would have been the most boring thing ever had it not been for Sayori’s presence. Although she was a bit hurt after I lost track of time when fixing the bikes, I made sure to apologize the next morning, and this seemed to bring her back to her usual cheery self. I asked her if she’d like to accompany me during the remaining chores, and she agreed almost immediately. To us she was like a godsend: she would hold up a conversation like it’s no-one’s business and keep our spirits up by proposing different word-games we could play. This made the whole thing so much more enjoyable, and none of us really grasped how quickly time went.
The remaining days were spent on trying to organize our stuff in order to make it easier to decide what to bring along and what to leave behind. This would have been an easy task, yet it dragged on for hours, mostly because during the time they had spent in the school, the girls had looted a lot of seemingly valuable items. Our limited carrying capacity meant that compromises had to be made, and this led to some heated debates between the club members. Monika advised everyone not to bring a lot of personal belongings along. While Sayori was content with that idea and Yuri, albeit hesitant, also agreed, it took us longer to convince Natsuki to leave all of her manga behind. This was only one of such fights we had to endure.
It was clear that the uncertainty and anxiousness weighed on everyone. Although it was plausible to assume that by the time we arrive to the hospital it could already be empty, a chance still remained that we could clash with the other group. This meant that the outcome of the whole operation was based on dumb luck as well as our ability to adapt to the situation at hand. Our plans were thorough and thought out, however, there were a lot more factors at play, and no plan can take into account every single thing that can go wrong.
And it wasn’t just the hospital we were worried about. The 284 mile ride to New Davenport was going to be difficult as well, mostly because of the supply situation. There were only a handful of villages along the way, and there was no guarantee that we would find everything we need from there. It was a gamble just like the hospital mission, and everyone knew that.
Out of all the members, Yuri seemed to deal with our predicament the best, probably because she was the one who got the most out of it. Ultimately, it was her idea to depart for the DCHQ, and everyone, except for Monika, was fully on board with the plan. There was a possibility that she was faking her calm demeanor – an assumption that is surely correct to some degree – but there was no doubt she hid it better than the others.
Natsuki was prime example of a person who couldn’t hide her emotions. Despite her desperate tries to keep it together, her outbursts became more frequent and more volatile. There wasn’t a soul inside the school who hadn’t gotten the classic Natsuki treatment, yet we all toughed it out. We were used to it, and we also knew that if we just left her alone for a while, she would come to her senses and the conflict wouldn’t escalate.
The person we were all worried about was Monika. She would spend most of the days inside the meeting room. Of course, she would come out and help us with the chores, but as soon as she was finished, she would retreat there again. The only person who got any contact with her was Sayori, and although we pestered the latter pretty hard, she didn’t divulge any information, only assuring us that Monika was fine. This gave us little to work with, and we had no other option but to hope for the best.
Sayori didn’t try to hide anything – she was visibly petrified every time our conversation tilted towards the hospital or the DCHQ. Luckily, it rarely came up, and when it did, I managed to quench any worries with relative ease. I hadn’t forgotten about my doubts regarding Sayori’s well-being, but it was pretty easy to keep an eye on her, seeing as she was stuck to me like a band-aid. It didn’t bother me at all. On the contrary, her cheeriness would ease my own mind, for it was clouded with anxiousness.
Ever since the exam day, I’ve been having nightmares. They’ve varied in intensity: sometimes I experienced them quite vividly, sometimes I forgot about them in seconds. After arriving to school, however, these nightmares have ramped up both in intensity and content. The theme has always been the same: I would either see scenes from the day of the outbreak or horrible stuff that hasn’t happened before. The latter have mostly been related to the hospital. It wasn’t unusual for me to wake up screaming or panting after seeing another one of my friends dead on a gurney or a hospital bed. In addition to the fact that I haven’t been able to rest properly, these nightmares have actually made me scared of falling asleep, which is why I’ve been feeling exhausted for days.
This fear has also hindered me in other ways. On the third day it was time to check my wounds, and, of course, Yuri was the one to do it. She had been skimming a few books she found in the nurse’s office so to find out when to remove the stitches and how to keep them clean. Her deduction was that in order to avoid infection, it was important to occasionally wash the wounds. The suggestion was logical, and I could easily do that, because the group had collected enough water to last for a few weeks at least, yet I was terrified of going downstairs.
At noon, Yuri found me pacing in front of the hallway leading to the gym showers.
“Hello, Michael,” she greeted me politely. “What are you doing here?”
“I was just going to heed by your suggestion.”
“Oh? That’s good. I was actually pondering about your face.”
She turned a shade redder and quickly began to explain what she really meant.
“A t-textbook said that face injuries actually heal the quickest, so we may be able to remove the stitches soon!”
“That’s what the book said.”
“But I should clean them before that, right?”
I made a vague motion towards the hallway, signaling her that I was going to do just that, but I was unable to budge. This didn’t go unnoticed by Yuri, whose gaze switched back and forth between the hallway and me. Even though I tried to act as nonchalantly as possible, it was clear why I was so apprehensive about heading to the showers.
“Is everything okay, Michael?” Yuri asked, her eyes fixated on me.
I attempted to think of an excuse on the fly, but she saw right through me.
Her exclamation didn’t come as a surprise, but it startled me nonetheless. I instinctively lowered my head in shame.
“I’m so forgetful! It seems like I left my hairbrush in the showers,” she said and shook her head in disappointment. “Would you like to accompany me?”
It took me a few seconds to realize the true meaning behind her words. What appeared to be the most pathetic acting quickly turned into the most tactful thing I’ve seen anyone do. Our eyes didn’t meet, but I spotted a supportive smile.
“Of course,” I answered with a lump in my throat, taking her hand. “I’d be happy to.”
We locked arms and began to head through the hallway. As expected, I was greeted by the same whispers and malignant thoughts that plagued me three days from then. My attempts of staying calm proved fruitless, and at some point I began to shake uncontrollably. I guess Yuri noticed that, because she started to hum a somber tune, which had a calming effect on me. Despite my fidgeting, we managed to arrive to the showers without a major incident.
After falling on one of the benches inside the women’s dressing room, I let out a weary groan. Spotting Yuri’s worried expression, I quickly assured her that I was fine.
“Are you sure? Do you need me to stay?”
“No,” I answered, trying to mask the shakiness of my voice. “I can handle it.”
I still couldn’t look her in the eye, but I was able to muster enough courage to say my final thanks.
“You’re a class act, Yuri.”
Although she usually displays herself as an extremely restrained person, it seemed like I broke her that time. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her smile this wide.
The following 30 minutes were a mixture of good and bad. On one hand, the water was bitter cold and the overall low temperature of the room didn’t add to my comfort. On the other hand, it’s been almost a month since I’ve washed myself that thoroughly. The luxury of hot showers has been a distant memory, so I’ve gotten used to alternative methods, often having to use baby wipes to clean myself. Cold water and shampoo was a huge improvement and left me refreshed and content, even though I reeked of coconut afterwards.
On my way back to the principal’s office I ran into Yuri again. She was waiting for me so that she could begin removing the stitches. This time the pain was nonexistent, mostly because removing stitches doesn’t include sticking a needle inside my skin multiple times. It only took a few snips to get rid of the ones on my face, but the shoulder wound was left untouched. I asked if they would need to bandage my eye again, but Yuri theorized that it would be better for it to get some air. I thought I looked terrible without something covering it, but Yuri was quick to assure me that it was barely noticeable.
The following evening was spent with the whole group. Monika wanted to give everyone a break from their chores and organize a fun event full of board games, card games, and other such activities. I was quite concerned about the fact that no-one was on guard duty, but Monika seemed okay with it. She told me that it was important to keep our spirits high before departure, as morale plays an important role during risky situations. Despite my hesitation, I agreed with her, because everyone had been under a lot of pressure during these few days.
We started with the only board game that was available: a well-known property training game. I knew that I was straight up garbage at it, so I didn’t have any hopes of winning. Surprisingly, I managed to last longer than Natsuki, Sayori, and even Yuri. With Sayori being my cheerleader, I put up a valiant defense against Monika’s ruthless gameplay, but was ultimately defeated: penniless and in jail. We waited until Yuri and Natsuki finished their chess battle and then moved on to a card game, which was a bit more lighthearted, because it didn’t need any sort of strategic thinking. I somehow sucked at that as well, because of course I did, but I didn’t let such a meaningless circumstance stop me from having fun. On the contrary, my bad luck quickly became the main thing we made fun of.
Because of the fact that the board game round dragged on into the night, our time to play cards was cut short. Everyone was quite sleepy after a few rounds. The first one to hit the hay was Sayori, who, despite comforting me on my losses quite enthusiastically, seemed out of it by the end of the evening. Natsuki and Yuri soon followed her. I wanted to catch Sayori before she went to sleep, hoping to maybe make her feel better in some way, but I was stopped by Monika.
“Quick word with you, Mike?” she asked, while the others were heading out of the room.
“Sure, Monika!” I answered, glancing at the door. “What do you need?”
“I wanted to speak to you about the hospital.”
I reluctantly focused my attention on her.
“Do you wanna to go through the plans again?”
“No, they’re fine.”
“What’s wrong then?”
“I just wanted to make sure you’re healthy enough for tomorrow.”
“Of course!“ I answered with a chuckle. “My shoulder has been steadily healing, so-…”
“I’m not talking about your shoulder.”
“What are you talking about then?”
“”Get out of my head”. What was that?”
The question caught me completely off guard, because I’d already forgotten about my little outburst during the fight. There was no doubt that Monika had heard everything I said, which meant that the assumption that Yuri was the only one who knew about my illness was shattered, along with the illusion that this would stay a secret. I tried to play dumb, but my shock was pretty telling, which is why any attempt of denying what had happened was shut down by Monika.
“It was nothing,” I managed to say. “You don’t need to worry about it.”
“So I just imagined you freaking out, right?”
It took me everything to keep myself calm, but Monika’s combative demeanor made it incredibly difficult.
“I’m just saying that this isn’t your concern.”
“Not my concern?” she scoffs. “I’m responsible for their lives! It’s my obligation to make sure that everything goes well.”
“I understand that,” I pressed through my teeth, hoping to move on, but Monika had other intentions.
“You do realize that tomorrow is going to be incredibly dangerous?”
“Well, it doesn’t look like it!” she exclaimed. “What happens when you have another fit like that? You’d be putting all of us in danger.”
The question bellowed in my mind, multiplying all of the same doubts that had festered in me these last few days.
“Look, I’m giving you a way out. If you’re not up for it, then maybe-…”
“Not up for it? Really?!”
I wanted to say a lot of things to her, but I managed to keep the more insulting comments at bay.
“Do you see me hesitating? What part of my behavior tells you that I’m not up for it?!”
“It’s impressive you’re so determined about this, but you don’t need to push yourself.”
“Don’t fucking do that!” I growled at her. “A few days ago you approved of me leading this raid, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do.”
“You don’t need to get so defensive. I’m just trying to help.”
“Respectfully, Monika, this conversation ends now.”
Without another word, I walked out of the room.
I took a gander over the hallway, but, like I’d previously thought, Sayori had already entered the sleeping quarters, which meant that there was no way to talk to her face-to-face without alerting others. Even though I figured I would get a chance to talk to her tomorrow, it did little to ease my concerns. Trying to calm down from my little skirmish with Monika, I took a deep breath and headed for the office.
I shouldn’t have lost my temper, but Monika cornered me and I lashed out. I could admit that she had a point – if anything similar occurs, things would probably take a turn for the worst, however, bringing that up the night before our raid was pretty ridiculous of her. I knew very well that I was the lynchpin of the operation, so her accusing me of not taking that seriously was insulting. Not to mention the hypocrisy of her claiming to care for the group while sowing doubts the night before. She should’ve voiced her lack of confidence in me much sooner, so we could’ve had an opportunity to change the plans.
I laid awake on the couch for a few hours, ruminating about the upcoming day, pondering about Monika’s intentions, and worrying about Sayori. With each thought I could feel myself get more irritated, because the more I wallowed in such topics, the less chance there was for a peaceful night’s sleep.
“Stop it! Please…”
“Yeah,” the doctor agrees with a sigh that is almost compassionate. “You’re right. We should stop.”
After one meaningful look at Sayori, he lowers his head.
“Because this isn’t life, wouldn’t you agree? We’ve been talking for minutes and she hasn’t even batted an eye.”
Even though he’s clearly blocking her view to the park, she doesn’t care at all.
“Fortunately, we can make it right.”
He clears his throat and grabs Sayori’s shoulders.
“There’s no need to further drag this out, Mikey.”
He tenderly pushes her on her back.
“We both know what the answer is.”
He takes the pillow. The sudden realization hits me.
“I know you can’t do it.”
A quick glance at my direction reveals his eyes. I see a yellow glint.
“So let me carry that burden.”
Without missing a beat, he places the pillow on her face. I try to scream, but no voice leaves my open mouth.
“Remember, Mikey. You’ll never be a hero.”
Her whole body convulses, and the doctor’s laugh turns into a harrowing growl….
I jolt upwards and desperately gasp for air. Flickers of my nightmare remain only for a second, soon replaced by a terrible stinging sensation coming from my elbow. The office starts to take a more detailed shape, and I feel comfortable enough to sit upwards. As I see the aftermath of my nightmare, I let out an exasperated groan. The glass coffee table has toppled over to its side, luckily not exploding into million pieces in the process.
I slide on my boots and do some stretches, after which I pull the table to its original place and gaze at the windows. The sky has turned noticeably lighter. If countless nights spent outdoors have taught me one thing, it’s that sunrise is just around the corner. This means that I probably slept for only three or four hours. It’s pretty obvious I’m not able to fall asleep for a while, so I might as well do a short walk around the school. After all, there is one place I haven’t visited yet.
The hallways are illuminated only sparingly, but the light of the rising sun is enough to guide me. I yawn multiple times and follow the third floor hallway towards the rooftop access. Instead of entering the stairwell, I turn a corner and walk to a more secluded part of our school. There are still multiple fliers about the finals and messages about other important dates plastered all over the walls and doors of the classrooms. Their colorful nature contrasts the gray nothingness of the abandoned school. I glance at the fliers a few seconds, but soon arrive to my destination.
Classroom 324. The Literature Club. This is where it all began.
I grab the handle and open the door. I was hoping for the smell of Natsuki’s cupcakes or Yuri’s oolong tea, but what I experience is a far cry from those. It takes me a few seconds to finish dry heaving, because the contents of the classroom aren’t pretty.
I’m greeted by dozens of corpses laying in the back of the classroom, quite close to the closet Natsuki used to hold her manga collection. I fall on the doorframe for support. Pictures of the bodies in the trucks crash into my consciousness, dragging along the familiar feeling of hopelessness. I take a moment to gather myself and step inside the room.
Although the place is ruined by dried blood and yellow liquid, I find that the desks and chairs are still left in a somewhat orderly fashion. Even my desk is mostly untouched by the dormant danger within the room. With careful steps I edge closer to my regular sitting spot and run my hand over the backrest of my chair, feeling the roughness of the plywood underneath my rugged hands.
I close my eyes.
“Okay, everyone! I think we should end the day here!”
I shake myself awake and examine my pathetic excuse of a poem. I’m not sure what Monika expected of me, seeing as I haven’t written anything since middle school, but I have a sneaking suspicion that two lines of unrhymed garbage isn’t close to qualifying even as a bad literary work.
“Sayori! Please help Natsuki with her manga!” Monika thunders again. “I don’t want Ms. Rivers to yell at me again!”
Natsuki starts to huff and puff, but Sayori’s elated nature quickly overwhelms her. They pull up a chair and place it next to the class closet. On the other side of the classroom, I notice Yuri collect her tea set and walk towards the sink.
“Did you get anything written?”
I yelp and jump in my chair. Monika has somehow teleported right in front of me, and her hearty laugh tells me that she scared me on purpose. I quickly crumple up my brain fart and slide the paper ball in my lap.
“Then what’s that there?” Monika says with a smirk and points towards my lap.
I let my head fall.
“A miserable performance by a failed writer?”
“Come on, Mike! Show me! I’m sure it’s not that bad.”
“It’s pretty terrible. I wish I had more time…”
Monika nods and places her hands behind her while sporting a wide smile. My stomach twirls around, and I feel myself blush.
“Of course. I understand. It’s not easy to come up with anything while put on the spot like that.”
I eagerly nod.
“Plus, you guys pumped me full of sweets before handing me such a difficult task,” I say and point at the empty tray which held at least twelve cupcakes. “The only thing I’m able to think about is how sleepy I suddenly am.”
She giggles and tilts herself towards me.
“We wanted to make sure you feel welcome!”
I chuckle nervously and scratch the back of my head.
“I do feel very welcome, Monika. Thanks!”
“I should ask you about the club now,” she says with a slightly lowered voice. “The others are busy, so you can tell me what’s really on your mind.”
Her smile is a lot more sincere than before, which is why I decide not to hold back.
“Well, Monika, to be honest, the club is a lot of fun! You really know how to lead the group and it shows.”
“I can sense there’s a “but” coming…”
“But I don’t know how I can contribute. I’ve never been much of a book guy. I’m sure Sayori has already told you that.”
Monika chuckles and looks the mentioned girl, who is now dangerously close to tipping over while carrying Natsuki’s manga collection.
“She has only told me how funny and great you are.”
“Take that with a grain of salt,” I mumble, feeling a familiar hotness congregate to my face. “She likes to over-exaggerate.”
“I wouldn’t worry about contribution or anything like that! After all, if you’re interested, we can teach you and give you suggestions. There’s no rush!”
“I just don’t think it’s for me.”
Monika slowly nods. She’s still smiling, but there’s a faint sadness creeping up.
“Hearing Yuri go on and on about how long she has read and all that… I haven’t picked up a book in five years!”
“And you don’t want to read one now,” she finishes my thought. “Michael, if you’re not interested then-…”
“It’s not that!” I blurt out and try to look anywhere else but Monika’s eyes. “There’s exams coming and other stuff…”
I feel terribly guilty, scrambling for excuses like that. I should’ve just told her that this club would heavily cut into my other activities.
“It’s okay,” Monika says. “I just hoped that you’d be willing to try.”
“Why is it so important anyway? It looks like you’re doing fine on your own!”
“The thing is, Michael, the school board made some new rules over the summer break. In order to be an official club, we need at least five members.”
Noticing my expression, Monika jolts up.
“Don’t take this the wrong way! I didn’t mean to guilt-trip you! Sayori just seemed to be so sure about this…”
“Of course,” I let out a sigh. “What did she say?”
“She told us that she’s been talking to you about this for weeks. But that isn’t the case, is it?”
I can’t help but snicker.
“She invited me this morning.”
“Oh… It wasn’t nice of her to put you in a position like this,” Monika admits. “Look, whatever you decide, we won’t hold any gru-…”
“What are you two lovebirds chatting about?”
This is the last thing I need. It seems like others have noticed our little get-together.
“Stop it, Natsuki,” Yuri scolds the girl. “We shouldn’t be interrupting in the first place. They’re obviously having a private conversation.”
Despite her saying this, Yuri is in no rush to leave us be. She makes a measly attempt to back off, but seeing Sayori skip towards us, she drops her plan altogether.
“What’s going on?” Sayori chimes with her usual joyous demeanor. “Did you make a decision?!”
I fidget and try to dodge their collective gazes, but it doesn’t work out. Regardless of the pressure, I can’t falter. I must stay true to my choice!
“Actually, yes,” I declare and straighten myself, much like Yuri did when she introduced herself. “While I’m thankful for your invitation, I just don’t think it’s the right club for me.”
It’s fascinating to see multiple people get so dejected at once. Only Monika is able to hold her smile.
“B-But I really though you-…,” Sayori begins, but is quite abruptly cut off by Natsuki.
“Nice plan, Sayori! Do you see it now? I told you he only came for the cupcakes! Why else would a guy stay after school?!”
“I didn’t only co-…”
“What a load of crap, Mike!”
The guns are now turned towards me, and it’s fire at will.
“Gah! I can’t believe it! All the work I put into those!” Natsuki fumes at me, barely holding herself back. “Well, what are you waiting for? You got what you wanted!”
“M-Maybe he doesn’t want to join, because you scared him off with your impudence!” Yuri remarks.
“Oh, speak English, would you!” Natsuki bites back. “Maybe if you didn’t act like a pretentious diva, he wouldn’t feel like he’s a total moron!”
Yuri recoils, but only for a second. She frowns and pushes her chest forwards, while making fists with her hands.
“I’m sorry, Natsuki, b-but you acting like a five-year-old is no-…”
“Stop!” Monika bellows at the group with rage. “What is wrong with you!? Both of you!”
She manages to stun them both, leaving Natsuki stare off into the distance, arms crossed, and Yuri to back away and turn almost dangerously pale.
“Not only did he give us a chance in such a short notice,” Monika glances swiftly at Sayori, who turns red from her face, “but he declined our invitation politely! And what does he get in return? You two going at it like a bunch of brats fighting in a sandbox!”
An uncomfortable silence falls over the group. Monika peers at both of them with a scowl, curiously resembling my mother when she found out that my sister had gotten into yet another fight at school.
„It absolutely astonishes me that the moment we find a person who is at least a little bit interested, you manage to nullify all of it! Is this what you want the literature club to be known for: members constantly bickering amongst themselves?”
If looks would kill, Monika would be tried for murder ages ago. After some tense seconds, she shakes her head and rolls her eyes.
“I think the least you can do now is apologize.“
The first to speak up is Yuri, who nervously plays with her hair.
“I-I’m sorry, Michael. It was unquestionably rude of us to react this way. I-I do hope you don’t get the wrong impression from us,” she mutters while looking at the ground. “Please don’t think we’re always like this.”
Monika nods and even sends Yuri a short smile. It fades immediately as she turns towards Natsuki. The latter bites her lip and growls a bit, but then opens her mouth.
Although Monika isn’t quite happy with the response, I decide to relieve some of the tension, despite feeling some whiplash from the encounter.
„It’s okay. It’s no problem at all.“
After a momentary silence, Natsuki turns to Monika.
“But what about our club? Will they close us down?”
Monika breathes in, regaining some of her composure.
“I’m not sure. We have until the end of the week. Maybe we’ll find someone.”
Looking at the girls’ faces, it’s clear that none of them are quite as hopeful as her. But it seems like Monika isn’t finished yet. She slowly turns to me.
“Unless… There’s some hope we can change your mind, Mike?”
The words slide off her tongue, and I almost feel the need to applaud Monika. This was perfectly executed in every way. She steered a potentially disastrous situation to her advantage, managing to put pressure right where it was needed. It’s obvious that the club means a lot to these girls, and if I do decide to join, I’ll be the savior of it.
Although I’m still hesitant, my mind changes the moment I look at Sayori. I’m not sure if it was the fight that has left her in tears, or the fact that I refused their invitation. Nevertheless, I recall this morning when we met at the only traffic light on our way to school. She seemed so giddy when I told her that I will consider her invitation. I didn’t even mean it seriously then, but now I realize that I do want to spend some time with my friend, and the literature club seems to be the perfect place to do so.
Like Monika said, there’s no rush. I don’t need to be awesome at this from the get-go. And what else would I spend my evenings on? Mastering yet another hero in a video game? Killing yet another bunch of dimwits in an online lobby? Watching yet another low-quality anime flick? If picking up a book means that I can continue spending time with these wonderful and weird… and potentially single girls, then so be it.
“Alright, fine. I hope that I don’t reg-…”
But my sentence is cut off by Sayori’s ear-piercing scream. She grabs me into a hug and bounces up and down. Over her shoulder I can see the relief on Yuri’s and Natsuki’s face. They both seem to have forgotten their clash just moments ago and share a smile. Monika crosses her arms and seems quite pleased with herself.
I quickly turn around in order to face the owner of the voice.
“Jesus Christ, Sayori! You scared the crap out of me!”
“What are you doing here?!” she exclaims from the darkness, only her bow lit up by the morning sun.
“What are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be asleep?”
“Shouldn’t you be asleep?” she jabs back. “Eheheh… We can do this all night!”
I didn’t expect her to be that clever and persistent in the mornings.
“I woke up and couldn’t sleep anymore. Your turn.”
“Same… kind of,” she answers with a sniffle. “I just wandered around and saw someone here. I thought it was Monika at first, but it’s you.”
“Monika? Does she come here often?”
“From time to time.” she says, her voice gradually dropping. “I think she misses the club meet-ups.”
“Gosh. It feels like those were ages ago…”
I glance around myself. Leaving out the obvious in the back of the room and the thick layer of dust coating the floor and much of the furniture, one could perceive it as a totally usable classroom.
“This is the only place I haven’t visited,” I say and pat the chair. “I was actually wondering why you didn’t make this your hangout room. It would’ve fit so well.”
I kick my feet into motion and walk next to Sayori, putting some distance between me and all the death. She moves out from the doorway to make me some room.
“Now I see you had a pretty good reason to avoid this place.”
“It wasn’t this bad initially. We brought them here ourselves.”
“That must’ve been horrible.”
“It was!” she says and sniffles again. “We tried to be as respectful as possible. I can’t imagine what they went through…”
And it’s better you don’t, Sayori.
I smile and turn towards her, hoping I get the timing right. She was just about to notice the pained expression on my face.
“Are you ready for tomorrow?” I ask with forced cheeriness. “Bags packed and all that stuff?”
I spot a nod in the darkness.
“Did you try out your bike?”
“A bit,” she mumbles. “I have to figure out how to put the seat in the right spot.”
“I can help you with that before we leave. Sometimes it’s a bit difficult to release it from the frame.”
She nods again. It seems like she’s not in a talkative mood. As I’m beginning to run out of small talk myself, I just lazily stare out of the classroom windows, part of my cheek resting on the metallic doorframe. The coldness of it offers some odd comfort, keeping me from leaving this room. The longer I watch the sunrise, the more I sympathize with Monika. I come to a conclusion that I would give anything to return to the good old days, when a poem assignment was the only thing I had to worry about.
Despite the hurt from bittersweet memories, I feel mighty sleepy all of a sudden. As soon as I start dozing off, I feel something tugging at my sleeve.
“Mhh?! What is it?”
“Can I hug you?”
My eyes suddenly flick open. There’s something awakening inside of me. My mouth feels strangely dry, and my head begins to ache.
-Long time, no see, Mikey.
I press my eyes shut. This proves to be a costly mistake, as I’m brought back to my nightmare. I don’t remember much of it, but the horrifying emotion still lingers.
-Do you remember what I said?
Sayori has always been a little clingy – all this touchy-feely stuff has been her modus operandi in the literature club with the others, but I haven’t heard such a request since we were in our teens and she found out her parents are divorcing.
“Uhh… S-Sure!” I utter and raise my arm.
-“She will never hug you.”
She sheepishly presses against me.
“Are you okay?” I manage to say, desperately trying to ignore the nausea suddenly besieging me.
“I missed you so much,” she mumbles into my hoodie. “I was afraid I’d never see you again…”
-I bet you’re enjoying this.
“I-I missed you too,” I say and try to swallow anything, but my throat stays dry. “It’s okay now.”
Even though I awkwardly rub her back and repeat the previous, she still seems quite unhinged.
-I know you, Mikey.
“We’re all together again. We can get through this.”
My heart beats furiously as she tightens the hug.
What the hell is going on…?
-Good god. How pathetic can you be?
“Can I tell you something?”
Sayori raises her head, but doesn’t look at me. Instead she seems to be determined to stare out of the windows.
“Of course,” I chuckle nervously. “What is it?”
A few long seconds go by, but she doesn’t seem to be able to utter a single word.
“Did you fall asleep?” I ask her and nudge her shoulder. “You know that it’s your turn to say something, right?”
She giggles. I can’t help but notice how hollow it is. Any sort of energy usually present in her classic “Ehehehe!” is gone. I decide to gently push her away to get a better look.
“Are you that worried about tomorrow?”
She finally raises her eyes from the wall and nods a couple of seconds later. With considerable difficulty, I twist a smile and shake my head.
“There’s nothing to be worried about! We’re gonna arrive to the hospital and get our stuff.”
-Her eyes are so mesmerizing.
“In-and-out, just like we planned!” I say and snap my fingers.
“We’re gonna get everything we need and then head for the DCHQ.”
-Am I right, Mikey?
“And then we’re gonna find out what the hell is going on with the world!”
-Do you feel it?
“I promise you that everything is gonna be just fine.”
-Don’t lie to me.
Sayori’s glance drifts to the windows again.
“You can’t promise such things. You don’t know what’s going to happen…”
“I just know,” I simply say. “The “how’s” and “why’s” aren’t important.”
She rubs her eyes and yawns. I shakily draw some breaths and quickly use this cue to my advantage.
“Look, let’s just get some sleep. All of this will be gone in the morning,” I say and pat her shoulder. “You’ll feel better then.”
I’m not sure she bought any of it, but at least she agrees to leave the room. She trots along the hallway and takes a look at the same colorful fliers I observed before. She looks back towards me, but I wave at her to go.
As soon as she clears the corner, I fall to my knees, grabbing my head. The combination of nausea and pain is unbearable.
-You haven’t learned anything.
-There’s going to be consequences.
Leave me alone.
-Don’t fight it.
-It’s going to ruin her anyway.
I punch the floor a couple of times, but this does nothing else but multiply the pain I’m feeling. I attempt to catch my breath, and, luckily, it works after a while. I slowly stand up and take a last glance over the classroom I’d learned to love so much. The blazing red sunlight bounces off the dust-caked desks and chairs, blinding my tired eyes. I’ve never been in this room this early, and the experience is so magical that I’d like to savor it forever, yet I know it’s just not possible. This room, along with everything else that happened in this school, belongs in the past now.
I step outside and close the door. As I walk through the hallway back towards the principal’s office, my throat feels thick with emotion. I have to swallow a few times to access my voice, because I see Sayori stand next to the office door.
“Did something happen?”
She turns towards me, but doesn’t meet my eyes. Instead, she drags her foot across the floor and purses her lips.
“No! Nothing! I was just wondering if…”
It’s almost frustrating, constantly having to drag information out of her.
“If I can sleep here tonight?”
“Here? You mean the office?” I ask, to which she nods.
I exhale and scratch my head. If her previous request was a bit weird, this one is just downright bonkers. Still, I don’t have enough energy to contemplate why their room isn’t suitable, so I just motion her inside, eager to finally get some shut-eye.
I follow her into the room and drag my feet towards my backpack leaning against the wall. I take a knee near it and start to rummage through its contents.
“What are you doing?” she asks me, her voice noticeably more relaxed than before.
“What do you think I’m doing?”
She sits down on one of the armchairs and shrugs. I stick my hand into the backpack and lift some clothes out.
“I’m taking my sleeping bag. The floor is quite cold, you know?”
“Aren’t you sleeping on the couch?”
“No? You’re sleeping on the couch.”
Of course, as is her nature, she quickly refuses, not wanting to cause me any more discomfort. I tell her that it’s no problem, but she doesn’t seem to care, and this little argument goes on and on until I finally find my sleeping bag and roll it on the floor, making my final statement.
“No, seriously, Mike, I can just sit here and-…”
“You either get on the couch or you get out, Sayori.”
This shuts her up quite quickly. She mumbles something about me being a meanie, but, nevertheless, trots next to the couch, tripping against the coffee table on her way. While she lays down on the couch, I take off my hoodie and climb into the sleeping bag. Although the couch would’ve been softer, the sleeping bag proves to be snug as well, and the floor has the added bonus of supporting my back.
“Alright… Goodnight,” I utter, having finished finding the best position on the floor, but the lack of any answer tells me that she’s already fallen asleep.
I chuckle to myself and place my hands below my head, taking a final look out of the windows. Morning has arrived with frightening speed, yet we probably have a couple of hours before Monika wakes us up and ushers us to pack our stuff on the bikes. A lot of doubts remain about tomorrow, but the creeping sunlight and the clear blue sky offers some hope that perhaps we’re really going to get through this.
Perhaps we’re going to stay alive.
All of us.