Original writer: AnakniRizal
/31/ Caesar Box
“You’re all cheaters!” Tadeo shouted in fury after we entered the common room. “You are all shameless swindlers!” He even pointed one of our classmates who came earlier and not sitting calmly.
“Roman.” Morris held his hand to put him in place and stopped his outburst. “Enough of this.”
“Men, it won’t do!” He removed Morris’ hand from his shoulder and faced them, they are staring at us while having dozens of reactions and facial expressions. “We worked so hard for the clues and yet they are the ones who benefited?! SO DAMNABLE! Cheaters!”
I gave Ireneo a stare while folding his arms. Shaking his head while grinning. Surely, he’s already celebrating for his win. The truth is, I don’t really care about winning this game… But when I looked at them… this nine people… showed confidence and stood up for me. On the way here, I want to ask them why?
“Here.” Morris tried to hand me his jacket but I refused.
I lose the chance to inquire them that time, when I saw how they looked… Tired, weary, and restless. As we moved forward, no one dared to speak, not until when we arrived here and Tadeo blustered.
“WHAT’S FUNNY, HUH?” Senji run and pulled up one of my laughing classmates.
“Eh, did you think you’re gonna win? You are only pitifully nine!” Ayton smirked even while being held up by Tamaki on his collar. “and one more thing, Miss didn’t forbid doing what we did. She only said to come back here. I’m sure you all understood that, right?”
“H-he has a point, Tamaki.”
“SHUT UP, STEPHEN!” Even from here, I can see how he gritted his teeth.
“You haven’t change.” Senji let go of Ayton and turned to look at Ireneo. “Senji, you are still a loser. Before. And even now.” What a conceited beast. Even when it was not said towards me, I still felt fury from his words. I want to shout in rage, but I can’t… because I remember what he said, about how Lucille’s death is my fault.
I saw how Ireneo suddenly stumbled on the floor. In a blink of an eye, everyone was in chaos, nobody’s interfering… I froze at my spot and was only dumbfounded that no words came out of my mouth.
“Good evening.” Everybody stopped and fixed themselves. Even I focused my eyes on the screen where her face could be seen. She’s only looking at us, calm and emotionless. Is this part of Miss Karen’s game? Why? Why are you toying with us?
“First of all, I want to congratulate — “
“Miss! We’ve been killing each other here so why are you not doing anything?!” Aya shouted but she ignored her.
“I want to congratulate team one for returning here earlier, I was amazed by what I saw, your strategy is impressive.”
“B-but Miss Karen, that’s not fair!” Penelope exclaimed.
“Ayton was right, what they did was not in the limitations.” She said blankly. “And so… the winner of this game is…
“W-wait! Did we hear it, right?”
“Miss, we’re team one.”
Each of them was saying something while our group remained silent, being perplexed, puzzled by her decision. I glimpsed at him, at Morris and I saw him furrowing his brows. Aya told me that he and Miss have correlation; I want to know what that was for, and if that has something to do with all of this.
“Remember what I told you before? The first group to come back here together will win and proceed to the next game.”
“Exactly! We got here first!”
“Yes, I know. But you are not complete, some of your members are missing. I clearly told you that you should come back together. Due to your violation, team two won.” Team one was already despairing while my group-mates have not yet digested her words.
“D-does it mean?” Baldo stuttered.
“We’re the winner.”
Team one still complaining to Miss but she never answered back. Instead, she eyed to us.
“Because you won this game, team two, including you Morie, your hard work shall be compensated. A sumptuous feast is waiting at the dining hall. After eating, please come back immediately.” Then she stared at them. “And team one shall face the consequence of their defeat. Team one members are not allowed to eat.”
Aya and the rest became so happy; they jumped and hugged each other due to too much joy. However, I was still staring at the screen where Miss’ vanished.
“Jill, come on! I’m so excited to eat!” I feel myself being pulled by Aya and Penelope out of the common room to the dining hall. Before leaving that place though, I saw how my classmates looked at us with uncontrollable grief. When we arrived there, waiting atop the long table was really a sumptuous feast, the rice is obviously hot due to the smoke emitting and the aroma of delicious delicacies wafted the place. They couldn’t wait to sit down. Aya pulled me so we sat next to each other.
Baldo was almost starting his devouring spree when Penelope stopped him, “Wait, let’s pray first before eating. I’ll lead the prayer— “ but she was interrupted by a growling of stomach.
“Haha, Tadeo, it’s obvious you’re hungry.” – Aya.
“Hey, that’s not me!”
“Sus, don’t feel shy.”
“It’s not me, how persistent, Martinez. Maybe it’s you Baldy?”
“Hah, you wish, Tado! Maybe it’s Tamaki, he’s not speaking eh. Hahaha. Buddy, I’m just kidding.”
“S-sorry.” I said. “It’s me.” I lightly smiled. Yeah, I’m very hungry. I can’t help it since I’m also a human, could feel hungry and weak. They just giggled, but it’s awkward for me because Lily is at my opposite while Sabina is at my side.
Penelope led the prayer and after that, like death row convicts, we started eating. Without inhibitions or shame, the others used their bare hands in eating and their mouths were full of stuffs so they couldn’t even say a word. I recalled the faces of those who were left at the common room. I’m sure they are also hungry so I think that Miss Karen is too much this time. We couldn’t finish the food prepared, probably because it was intended for more than forty people.
“Guys…” Penelope said shyly, “Don’t you think that Miss’ punishment to them was overboard? Ah, what I mean is… we didn’t finish the food, eh…”
“So? You want them to have a share, just like that?” Sabina said without masking her disagreement.
“Penelope they cheated against us and you still want them to have some portions? Hah, let them starve.” – Tadeo.
“W-we still won, eh. Moreover, it’s just a game, right?”
No one spoke. Senji stood first followed by Baldo. Penelope couldn’t do anything. I thought was the only one who worry about that matter. I nodded at her then gave her a smile. We also stood up and went after them, going back to the common room like how Miss Karen instructed. Penelope’s idea was still on my mind. The team one is still there.
“Welcome back.” She appeared again. I hope team two is ready for the next game.”
“Miss Karen.” I stepped forward.
“I have a favor.”
“What is it?”
“Please allow them to eat.”
“And why are you requesting that?”
They don’t deserve to starve.
“Jill, didn’t you hear what she said earlier? This is their punishment for losing!” Sabina faced me but I only averted my eyes from hers.
“And do you think they will also think what you’re doing right now if they have won? No, right?” Tadeo added.
I couldn’t blame them. Sometimes, when emotions took over you, you no longer want anything but see the miseries of others so you will feel comfortable inside. Sometimes, you won’t think of anything else but yourself. We, humans, are naturally selfish, because we want to survive in this cruel world. Sometimes even an act of selfishness is selfish, like when we’re giving to the needy. Aren’t there times when we gave something but deep inside we didn’t plan to really do that good deed?
“Then… I’ll punish you too for defying my orders.” Said by Miss.
“Miss! Don’t be like that!” Aya contrasted. “Morie, you’re taking back what you said, right? Right?” Aya even shook me but I’m not saying anything. “Miss! She won’t continue asking that favor! We will proceed to the next game!”
“Morie, please, let’s wrapped up things first before talking to Miss Karen.” Morris was actually near me and he was holding one of my arm which I immediately freed from him.
“Right, Morie. What if Miss jailed you again? We’re already tired of playing hide-and-seek.” – Baldo.
I breathed deeply. “Okay.”
I think I could no longer do anything about this that’s why I have to stop insisting, after all, my companions kept on protesting. I have to understand them.
“Let’s settle this later.” Morris said.
“I hope we’re in mutual understanding, Team Two. Now, go outside. The second part of the game is waiting.”
“What’s this?” We were surprised by what we saw. When we went outside, what greeted us were intertwining ropes, like webs which were messily entangled on four posts.
“Don’t approach that Baldo! Look.” Lily pointed somewhere. “You’ll be electrocuted.” When we inspected it closely, surely those ropes were not ordinary. My heart beats anxiously… Miss Karen won’t do this…she won’t kill us right? I want to peek at their eyes to predict what will happen but I stop myself, thinking that I couldn’t do that because my ability is more dangerous…
“Damn it.” Morris whispered to himself.
“Listen team two.” From somewhere, Miss’ voice was heard, that’s when we noticed that there are actually speakers placed outside. “The second game is—“
“Are you trying to kill us? This is not included to our deal!” What Morris shouted made my forehead creased. Deal? Is this what Aya has told me?
“What deal, Morris?” Aya asked. “Don’t tell me you know something about what has been happening now!?”
“Shut up, Mariah!”
“What deal are you talking about? Answer me!”
“Hey, hey, chill, men! Martinez, just argue later, let’s listen to Miss so we can finish this, okay?” Tadeo took the spot between them. I also want to meddle but Tadeo was right, this freaking game should be ended soon. After this game was finished, everything would be known. I would also learn who Yue had tracked. About that blogger, he told me to wait until this recollection was over.
“Team Two.” Miss spoke again as if she heard nothing of Aya’s and Morris’ shouts. “This time I want you to choose your partner.” Aya automatically held my hand and I didn’t refuse. “You will decide which of you will be blindfolded; the other one with no blindfold will command the blindfolded person on how she/he will cross the center.”
We’re really doing this? Seriously? No, Jill, you can’t look at their eyes… I don’t want to see, it’s not doable.
“I’ll be blindfolded.” I said.
“H-ha? Jill… you sure?”
“I believe in you, Aya.” She was taken aback by what I said… It’s as if she heard a miracle.
“Wait a minute, please. C-can we not do this?” Sabina said. “We can refuse and say we don’t want to do it right if we will say it, right?”
“I think…” Senji finally spoke, “There’s a heavy reason on why she’s making us do all of this. In truth, I should not be here, but she forced me.” Is he talking about… Miss? “But she said, I will know everything once I join this recollection.”
“You will know everything? Miss Karen talked to you? Why?” Baldo continuously poured his questions.
“Lucille ordered her, she said.” What?
“But she’s dead.” Lily emphasized the word ‘dead’.
“That’s why I want to finish this game so that we will know all! That Karen Italia is connected to Lucille!”
“Senji men, calm yourself. Nothing will be accomplished by being like this.”
What does Tamaki mean about Miss Karen being connected to Lucille? How? Damn. This is so frustrating. Morris. Lucille. Why couldn’t I escape from the puzzling past even now? Right, we need to finish this… then… then everything will be alright… then I will know everything…
The masked guys handed us the blind folds. Aya helped me to put the thing on then my vision darkened. I could see nothing but darkness and only Aya was guiding me. But hell, I’m already used to this, walking into darkness without knowing where’s the right path. This is my life, I’m walking in darkness, alone.
“Looks like everyone is ready. Those with blindfolds, go to the other end of the spider web. The game is simple, those blindfolded will be the one to cross while their partners will instruct them how to walk without running into the wires. Only after those blindfolded individuals crossed the web will the game end. Don’t worry, the grounded wires are not deadly. But everything depends on your partners. Just endure the pain if ever. Well, good luck.”
The second game started but I’ve yet to enter the webbed region. I can’t clearly hear what Aya is saying due to the louder shouts and screams of pain.
“Morie! Go forward! Walk three steps!” I followed her, “Thenkldklaklfjasjk”
I can’t understand what she said next since the voices overlapped with one another. I dared to move by my own but I misstep since a wire was touched by my arm and it grounded me. I actually can’t do it alone but I can’t really make out Aya’s instructions.
“WAIT! SHUT UP ALL OF YOU! SHUT YOUR MOUTHS! SON OF A B*TCH SHUT UP!”
That was Senji’s voice. Everyone went silent and the other shouts vanished.
“If all of us will shout and say something at the same time, nothing will be accomplished, we won’t be able to finish and they will only be hurt again and again because we can’t understand each other! We’re all allies here. This is not a race. We only have to let them all cross safely so that all of this stupidity will end!”
I can’t believe that he could actually say such things.
“We’re not rivals with each other, we’ll help each other! Do you all understand!”
They did what Tamaki exactly said, they take turns to give us, the blindfolded, with instructions. I was the first one to receive their directions and when I reached the other side, I removed the blindfold then Aya hugged me tight. I also helped afterwards. Then we finally finished the game.
Each of us were panting hard.
“F*******CCCCKKKK SSSSHHHHHHH****TTTTT!” Tadeo screamed, crying while lying on the grasses. I don’t know the reason for his cries.
“Good job, team two.” Her voice appeared again, there’s not even a thread-size worry, joy or anything in her tone. “Return again to the common room.”
We didn’t immediately move. Penelope is still dumbfounded by the turn of events.
“Guys, let’s go…” Morris encouraged us.
“Can’t you see, Morris? We can’t go on anymore.” – Sabina.
“Please, guys. Come on.”
“The heck, Morris. What’s really the matter huh?” Penelope pleaded.
“You heard what Tamaki had said. You can still do it.”
We couldn’t do anything except return. Team One actually managed to watch everything through the camera that had been set up. There gazes can’t be fathom, if they pity us or what. Us? It seems all the food we ate disappeared… Just a little more, and my companions would break. A little more… Is this still not going to end?
“Only two from you will proceed to the third game. And because Jill Morie crossed it first, she and Aya will proceed to the third game. The third game is easier.” Then she showed a paper with letters written on it…
G T Y O R J O T E O U I A B G T
“What does this message say?”
Hell, I don’t have an idea. I glanced at Aya and she looked serious like was never seen before. I think she knows the answer so I held her hand, “Go. Tell her.”
“If you know the answer, say it to her.”
She nodded then raised her hand, “Ummm… Miss… I know the meaning.”
“What? Aya, you know?” Baldo said as if he couldn’t believe it.
“Great. Job. You. Got. It.”
All of the people inside the room had their jaws dropped. Wow, I didn’t know that Aya is good in puzzles.
“This is suspicious.” We looked at Lily. What? Suspicious? “Earlier you know how to read morse codes… then…”
“Mariah, will you please show us your solution?” Lily’s words were interrupted when Miss Karen spoke. Aya swiftly walked towards the whiteboard and wrote
G T Y O
R J O T
E O U I
A B G T
“When read vertically and by column, the hidden message will appear… This is called Caesar Box…”
I glanced at my friends and their faces couldn’t be describe, if they were amazed, confused, puzzled or what. What’s suspicious about Aya knowing how to decipher Morse Codes and puzzles?
“I-Isn’t this suspicious?” Yue whispered to Penelope.
“Y-yeah, is it just a coincidence that Aya knows every puzzles and codes given by Miss Karen? Since a while ago, I pestered her to tell me but Aya refused to talk about it…”
“This is not a coincidence.” Morris chimed in their conversation. “Miss did these all in purpose. She knew.”
“What do you mean, Morris?” They didn’t notice me approaching. He stared at me, directly at the eyes. His mouth is already opening to answer me but he was disrupted when a masked man entered.
“Please follow him Mariah. Because you won in this game, you’ll have to see your prize.” Miss Karen said. My gut feeling suddenly warned me about this. I looked again at Morris and he was looking seriously at Aya.
“Morris…” I called, but he didn’t look at me.
‘We will know everything soon…” he replied.
T/N note: Gosh, more than 3000 words, I survived! hahaha!
By the way, the next chapter is the ultimate revelation so look forward to it. XD