The interior of the room was silent.
This was something to expect, for the small town had fallen asleep hours prior to then.
The one thing that disturbed the silence came in the form of a girl who had her feet planted in a chair, the chair itself creaking under her weight as she shifted herself left and right.
She stood up straight on the chair, her hands working restlessly with a piece of rope.
Every so often, when there came a sudden creak the young woman feared was loud enough for her father to hear, she would glance behind herself, towards her door, eyes gazing worriedly at it, her ears hearkening for her to know if the drunk living in her house was still asleep or otherwise.
She would stare at the door for a long time, and when she believed it'd be safe to assume there was nothing to fear, she returned to her task, her working the rope in a fixed way.
This was the only way, she had realized hours before.
After everything she had been through, this was her one way out of it, to quickly fix everything.
Several trails on her face held a deeper color to her skin as compared to the parts surrounding it, the tears she'd shed having dried up completely.
The crimson puffiness of her eyelids refused to let themselves be watered again, and the girl closed her eyes, breathing in deeply through her nose, doing the opposite the same way, her mouth duct taped shut.
She had done this to avoid any chances of her father trying to interfere with her in the event that she screamed before everything was over.
After an hour's time of working, the girl's labor ended, her wrapping her hand around the lower most part of the rope and tugging it harshly down for good measure, the structure she chose sturdy enough to hold the rope away from its owner in its entirety.
Nodding to herself, as though in self-affirmation, the girl noticed the flashing of her phone out of the corner of her eye, it lying on her bed, yet not a split second passed before she turned her attention completely away from it.
She couldn't deal with him now, she thought with a strong sense of disdain.
She breathed a moment, then grasped the rope's circle shape with her hands, tightening her grip on it after another moment of trying to steady her breathing.
This was the only way, she thought to herself again, her realizing that she was reasoning with herself instead of convincing herself.
In the midst of this realization, she shut her eyes and shook that undeniable fact out of her head.
She didn't need convincing.
She knew this was the only way.
Any other alternative would just make her go through hell all over again.
The point in time where she crossed the point of no return had passed by her a long time ago, and she had tried many times to return to the position she had been in before she crossed that metaphorical point, all to no avail.
What had once started out as a desperate attempt to win favor in someone's eyes had turned into a very unhealthy hobby, and from there it had become a source of how she made a living.
The girl who held a noose in her hands stared down at the rope.
She didn't know when the point of no return had come, let alone when she passed by it.
But it didn't matter now.
Nothing mattered now.
Not her laments, not her reasons for doing what she had done, not the person that was calling her on the phone for the fifth time in a row, not her life, or what was left of it, and certainly not her own emotions.
It simply didn't matter anymore.
Nothing she could do would help her anyways.
She closed her eyes, breathing deeply for the umpteenth time that night, before she pushed her head into the hole the rope made, the noose pressing against her fragile neck like a rough necklace.
It'd all be over soon, she thought to herself.
All she needed to do was take a step off of her chair...
From the moment that she woke up that morning, the girl could tell she felt especially tired from the night before.
Even as her phone, made into her makeshift alarm clock, blared into her ear the daily sound to force her to come out of her slumber, the girl didn't want to get up.
Every fiber in her being told her of how her body yearned, oh so greatly, to return to that state of rest once more.
Yet, as a matter of habit, the young woman forced herself out of bed, groaning all the while, her eyes drooped groggily.
Despite her tiredness, she looked at the door to her room, it closed at that moment, and sighed softly.
"Thank God, I was actually able to stay asleep the whole night this time around." She said with a tone of relief.
Her father hadn't come inside in the middle of the night, and she smiled, her content with this, even with her half-night long sleep.
Closing her eyes, she slapped her cheeks twice, in an attempt to force herself to wake up, talking to herself all the while, "Wake up Kokona, wake up."
She stretched her arms over her head with closed eyes, grunting lowly within her throat, then lowered her arms, yawning heavily into her hand as she walked out of her room, the interior of the dark house giving her a fresh feeling of familiarity.
Hearing the sound of her father's snores from the living room, Kokona edged into the bathroom to get ready for school, careful not to wake the man sleeping downstairs.
A half hour later, one could find Kokona walking out of her home with her binder in hand, eyes set forward as she went.
Something felt off, Kokona thought to herself.
As she left her home and walked in the direction to her school, Kokona couldn't understand what could've possibly felt off to her.
At first she wondered if her intuition was warning her about something.
Whenever something bad was going to happen to her, or, in some cases, things she didn't necessarily like happening to her were going to happen, she would be able to feel it in her gut.
But before long, Kokona disregarded this notion.
She felt off, but it wasn't the same as a "gut-feeling" kind of off.
It couldn't have been her actions during the morning.
Though she couldn't replicate her actions to the dot every single day of her life, or even more than one day in her life really, her general routine had been completed while being in line with her habits.
Her efforts to figure out what exactly was wrong had a conscious flaw within them however, and Kokona knew it well.
She was ignoring the fact that she had stayed up for most of the night yesterday, she admitted to herself.
As she thought about the events of the night before, Kokona sighed heavily.
Things had went too far yesterday.
But it'd be fine, she told herself.
She'd just have to avoid doing that sort of thing again...
Unexpectedly, a wave of self-disgust went through her body, and she closed her eyes, looking down slightly.
Staring down at the ground for a long moment, Kokona involuntarily spoke a small curse to her father's drinking habits, knowing full well that had that never manifested itself, she never would've...
She shook the thoughts out of her head, opening her purple eyes and looking up at the path she was taking to school.
She had to get her mind off of it.
There'd be no point in letting her mind go off into the infinite world of "what-ifs", for she had taught herself that unlike some sci-fi flick, there would be no way of knowing whether said "what-if" scenarios would actually produce different results from what happened originally.
Kokona pulled her phone out, turning it on and watching her touch screen open up, seeing many apps sitting in front of her, waiting longingly to fulfill their purpose of utterly wasting her time.
She pressed one app, seeing it bring up a colorful screen that had a cheerful background behind it, with the words "Candy Crush Saga" showing up over a few title screen options.
From what Saki told her, this game was fairly simplistic yet addicting.
She had never played it before, yet remembering her best friend's description seemed to fit into what she was going to use it for.
Pressing the "Start" button, Kokona started playing, her mind becoming immersed in the game, with her subconsciously forgetting all about everything that had happened in the past twelve hours.
With a somewhat slackened pace, Kokona walked to school in this way.
It was only upon arriving at school that Kokona looked up completely from her phone, her gaze having been so engrossed in the game she was playing that her eyes felt weird at looking at anything else.
After she walked to her locker, it being close to the doors to the school to the right, swapped her shoes for her school issued ones, and started walking outside to the plaza in the center of her school whilst greeting her friends, Kokona caught a glimpse of a boy her age walking ahead of everyone else in the crowd.
Him facing away from everyone else, Kokona couldn't see his expression, but could tell from his body language that he seemed saddened, if not depressed.
Seeing this, Kokona felt no surprise.
Anyone would be depressed to find out that their childhood friend had been brutally murdered.
As she thought this, the boy turned himself around, him sitting down on the fountain of the plaza, him looking at everyone else who approached.
There was something off about his gaze though.
Usually there'd be a smile playing at his lips, him seeming somewhat happy to see everyone.
Yet now, the boy in front of her looked detached, if nothing else.
There was no smile of any kind on his face then, only a small frown.
Kokona had been walking towards him the entire time as she noticed this, her friends all behind her, and soon enough, the boy caught her eye as she passed by him.
For a moment they held each other's gaze as Kokona kept walking, circling around the fountain the boy sat on, and then at the next moment, she stopped, still holding his gaze with her own.
"Hey. Are you holding up okay Yamada?" Kokona asked, speaking the boy's last name out of reflex.
He forced a small smile that didn't look at all genuine, "Yeah, I'm fine Haruka."
She seemed tempted to say more, but couldn't find another thing to say.
Awkwardly, she muttered a small, "OK." before walking away, her friends all standing together in a group, an incomplete hexagon with her absence.
Upon walking next to a girl with red hair tied into a pony tail that stuck itself out of the side of her head, Kokona smiled slightly, it being a reflex she naturally had.
It was no surprise that she could find herself smiling here.
Here, with her friends, she would feel more relaxed, safely content with knowing that she was accepted among them for things other than her body or what she could bring into her home with.
The thought of this made the girl sad for two reasons.
On the one hand, she couldn't help wondering if her friends would accept her if they knew the things she'd done.
On the other hand, the girl felt sad as she wondered what her life would be like if she lost this simple luxury, of having friends who you could talk to without a care in the world.
Thinking of the second one, Kokona glanced over at the boy, sitting sadly on the fountain without anyone to talk to.
He never had many friends, other than Osana Naijimi, the girl that died.
While he kept a relationship with many people, they would always be a distance he kept that no one else could close except for Osana.
How sad it must've been, to no longer have one's friend to talk to.
Kokona's gaze filled with pity, a part of her wishing to be there for him but not knowing how to go about it.
It was at that moment that she felt her phone vibrating in her skirt pocket, her looking down in surprise at it as her ringtone blared through the air, her friends' attention going towards her as she pulled the phone out of her pocket.
Seeing that the number was blocked, her expression grew sour so quickly that she didn't even realize it.
Was that guy calling her again?
She looked up at her friends' curious faces, forcing a smile on her face before speaking quickly, "Sorry, I have to take this!"
Without waiting for a response from any of the five girls present, Kokona sprinted away from them, her footsteps making a clapping fill the air as she went, down the pathway leading to the school entrance, passing by a black haired girl who stood by the exit leading to the plaza, staring at her phone as she texted someone, not even taking notice of Kokona as she ran to the entrance doors and clicked on the green button on the screen of her phone, bringing it up to her ear.
She hoped it wasn't who she thought it was.
Despite her thinking this, all semblances of happiness, both genuine and forced, left Kokona's voice as she spoke into the phone, "Hello?"
"Hello." A man's voice replied.
Kokona's eyes narrowed as they looked at the phone, as though she could glare at the man on the other end of the line, her voicing her annoyance with a sound, "Ugh, I told you not to call me when I'm at school!"
"I'm sorry, I just wanted to talk about yesterday." The man spoke quickly to her. "I wanted to ask if we could -"
She was having none of it.
"Like I said, that was one time thing," she cut him off as she closed her eyes, "I don't wanna do that again!"
"Not even for 500,000 yen?" The man's voice wasn't surprised, though he sounded a bit excited.
Kokona's eyes widened.
"H-How much did you say?"
"500,000 yen." The man repeated. "Would you be willing to do it again for that much?"
For a short moment, Kokona paused.
Was that man really willing to give her that much money?
Her lips were moving before she could stop herself, "Well... if it's just one more time then... I guess it's okay..."
There was a smile in the man's voice, "Good to hear."
"... how about tonight?" Kokona mentally hit herself but spoke anyways. "Where we met last time? In Sisuta Town?"
"Yes. I'd love to."
"Okay then." Kokona said tonelessly, "See you tonight."
"See you then."
With that he hung up.
Kokona lowered her phone from her ear, putting it back in her skirt pocket, then brought her hands to her face, a harsh slap, cursing herself over and over and over again.
"I can't believe I'm doing this!" She said to herself.
After everything she told herself, she couldn't even say "no" when the time counted?
She closed her eyes, breathing in slowly to ease away her self-reproach.
Think of the money, she thought to herself.
It was 500,000 yen on the table now.
If she did this one more time, then she wouldn't have to do this again for a while.
The last few words of the above thought stuck in her mind.
Just how long would "a while" be?
Kokona sighed, turning around and walking away, passing again by the girl with black hair pulled back in a ponytail, Kokona not noticing her as the girl looked at her blankly.
Kokona walked past her, going into the plaza once more.
Ayano looked at the back of Kokona's head, then back to her phone, looking at the messages she'd received then.Hey.
It's me again.
What do you want?
I wanted to say you did well with getting rid of Osana-chan.
You stabbed her so many times the police could never trace it to you unless they were guessing.
How do you know?
I'm Info-chan, remember? Little details like stab wounds are part of my job to know.
Keep your congratulations. I shouldn't have hurt Osana so much.
What? But I thought for sure you would've been happy knowing your precious Senpai was safely yours.
I would be. But with there being so many stab wounds, the police thought someone close to her did it. The police thought Senpai might've killed her now.
Perhaps it'd be best not to go so out of control next time?
What do you mean, "next time"?
I'm saying your Senpai has more than one person eying him that isn't you.
Someone else likes Senpai?
It's the girl that just ran past you.
It had been at that point that a girl with purple hair put into two drill shaped locks ran past her, Ayano looking up at her then as she yelled at her phone one moment, then quickly quited down.
A few moments passed, and the girl started walking back towards the plaza, Ayano watching her for every step she took.
When she passed by her, Ayano looked at her phone again, it vibrating.I can't give you a deadline for when she'll try to take your Senpai away like with Osana-chan.
I can only tell you her name is Kokona Haruka. She's a third year, in your Senpai's class no less.So much for the name "Info-chan" if that's all you the info you can give me.I never said I don't have more info on her. I'm saying that's all the info I'm willing to give for free.
Ayano's eyes narrowed.
You want me to take more panty shots for you?Yes.
Can't I give you something else?
Preferably something that Senpai wouldn't think I'm weird for?Maybe.
Ayano waited for another message to come, but for a few minutes, one never came.
She decided to humor the girl supplying her with information.What exactly?
While panty shots are excessively easy to get, if you can manage to send me a picture of them revealing more skin than that, I can give you more info.
As soon as Ayano read this, she walked to stand in the middle of the exit into the plaza, her phone entering camera mode as she zoomed it in as much as possible while pointing the camera towards a group of gossiping girls, Kokona being among them, her taking a picture of a pair of one's legs.
The picture had been zoomed in to the point that it looked somewhat blurry and pixelated, but Ayano sent the picture to Info-chan anyways.
Immediately after sending it, she started another text, her question being genuine.
Is that enough skin for you?
I'm not sure what's cuter. You being a smartass about what I said or you showing signs of actually being human.
Had that been bitter sarcasm or genuine humor behind those words?
Ayano wasn't able to tell.
It's not like I'm a monster.
Someone who's a murderous psychopath isn't that far away from becoming that.
Ayano gave no response to that, her blank expression remaining on her face.
Regardless, no, that's not what I meant.
I meant that if you sent me pictures of a girl wearing less than their usual clothes, I could give you more info.You're saying that as if I can get them in the nude easily.You don't know what a picture can do, Yan-chan. It's like you really. It may seem harmless, but in the right hands it can be quite damning.
Ayano cared nothing for the fact that Info-chan was basically comparing her to a picture, with Ayano herself being on the more dehumanizing side of the simile, and asked a question she was more curious about."Yan-chan"?I wanted to give you a nickname. Considering you have one for me, it's only fair.About as fair as you knowing my real name and me not knowing yours.
There was an air of truth behind the girl's words, even if they lacked the emotions to fill them.
I know what I'm doing Yan-chan.
Ayano looked up as the signal bell for class rang, and she looked back down on the phone she had.
Call me what you like, but just make sure your info is worth it.Okay Yan-chan.
Enjoy your class. I'm sure you'll learn something worth using later on.
Info-chan turned off her phone then, looking at the computer and watching students walking through the halls towards their classes, turning the machine off before closing it, turning around in her chair before standing up, leaving the empty club room to go on about her day.