Act 1: The Plot Device (Part 3)

3

"You didn't run. Could it be that you're actually curious?"

She caught it. She caught me. She caught the biggest mistake I'd made, and even outlined it for me, with a big red arrow saying 'over here, stupid!' and I decided to play along like a – oh cut it out with swine metaphors, brain!

But yes, to slaughter.

"Don't make me change my mind," I growled. But my knees shook, betraying me.

Yumeko noticed. "Right. But you know, you do look like you need more excitement in your life."

"I don't." We lived in different worlds, girl. Your idea of fun was spending time with people. Mine was building a wall between myself and the world, shutting myself in my own wonderland. I didn't need people, I created them with my mind, to entertain me, their lord and god.

"I'll start, then. Look at this." Yumeko slipped the ring onto her finger.

It disappeared.

She pulled something from her finger, and the ring reappeared.

"A street magician can do that," I commented.

She frowned, and held my hand with the hand that was supposed to wear the ring. "You can feel it, right? The ring is there, you only can't see it."

I winced. Just the touch of her hand felt like I'm touching something obscene.

Wait. It's the opposite of those magic rings you'd see in movies, right? You wore a magic ring, you'd disappear. But this one… you wore it, the ring turned invisible.

"That's as much magic as I can show you," Yumeko said, pulling off the ring and making it visible again.

I stared at the plain silver ring. It looked pretty small, like it was made for her slender fingers. Maybe if you threw it in the fire, it'd expand and have glowing red letters.

"This ring gives me an unnatural power. It makes people love me. It makes me a lovable person. It gave me the perfect face. The ability to sway people with my words. The ability to appear intelligent. I can also influence people's feelings in subtle ways."

Was that why her breath smelled like she ate toothpaste for breakfast?

"However, I have no idea what this will ring give you. No one knows what she's going to get from taking it. The ring also has its own will and whimsies. For example, my power seems to affect you in this weird way, and not the way I wanted it to."

What. That ring gave her the power to rape me, specifically me, with her touch?

I felt so tainted right now.

"Magic has some really weird rules. The ring chooses its master. It can only be passed to a person that is chosen by it."

"Why in the world do you think I'm the one?" I drawled. Seriously, this girl. "I hate you."

"The ring told me. I think the waves of hate you're feeling are simply the ring resistance. It doesn't want to leave me, but it told me that it's okay to pass it to you."

"That ring sounds like an irrational lover," I commented.

Seriously, like, 'I-it's not like I want to be hers. I'm just telling you it's okay to give me to her.' Holy cow, this was the first time I'd ever thought of a tsundere ring. It's going to go all blushing and warm when it's in 'dere' mode, and cold and tight in 'tsun' mode.

What.

"I don't know, Yukiko, I told you magic has some really weird rules. If I give it to someone who's not chosen by the ring, that person and I are both cursed, and we'll die."

"Whoa-whoa-whoa," I cut her short. "What if I'm not chosen?" Okay, I was a very skeptical person. I didn't believe in curses and the supernatural. Most of the time it was some weirdo claiming that he sees things. Just watch one of those supernatural documentaries, everyone, the crew, the victim, and all were either lying, prejudiced or had a few screws loose.

But now being at the receiving end, I didn't want to risk dying, even if it's by something that had a zero point zero zero zero zero zero… zero one percent chance of killing me.

"I swear, the ring chose you, Yukiko. Think about it. Think about me. Curses have started ruining my life. I've walked around cities, in crowds, I've walked in stadiums, looking for someone whom the ring would choose. You're the first one, ever. I don't want to die. I'd held on to it for too long."

For the first time, a chink had appeared in her confident façade.

"You can't throw it away?" I asked. Duh, obviously she couldn't, or she wouldn't go through all those trouble.

"I'll be cursed to death if I do that. You're not the cornered one over here, Yukiko. It's me."

I couldn't believe it. I couldn't effing believe it. Now I was feeling sympathy for her. I was feeling sympathy for my violator! "How do you know about the rules?"

"I got this ring from my grandma. She told me a lot on how it works. She passed it to me."

I rubbed my temple. "Okay, so if I take this ring from you, good things will happen."

"In the beginning. Enjoy it. But when bad things start to happen, you need to pass it to someone else."

I tried to come up with any bright ideas. "What if I return it to you after that? Will good things happen to you again?" But that would mean she could pass it to me again, afterwards. Infinite loop.

"You can't. It has to be a new person."

I knew it. Otherwise it'd be too easy, a game breaker. She could've just exchanged it with her grandma. "But… but it all feels so sketchy… I feel like I should know more… Fine. What kind of bad things will happen?"

Yes, always ask about the bad news first. You didn't want a cruel joke where the bad news was actually that there's no good news.

"My grandma got into a car accident…"

"Coincidence?"

"Three times in one month. She died the third time."

"Oh."

"Actually, it's pretty random. You'll have no idea what are the good things that you'll get, and what bad things will come after you. I had to deal with a violent stalker once. It was a mess, until the police caught him. In that moment, I knew I just had to pass this ring to someone else."

I paused. I felt like I'd reject the offer, no matter how great the rewards were. But heck, she's using the sympathizing card. "Okay, so what good things will I get?"

"As I sad, I've no idea. In my case, I won the lottery grand prize."

"Coincidence?"

"Twice."

My eyes turned round. "Huh?"

The probability probably approached one in a trillion. And there were only seven billion people in the world right now, and an estimated number of a hundred billion people from the first homo sapiens until today. It was like the whole humanity could throw a dice once and only once, and they got a six, and she was the one who threw it.

"I told you my net worth was more than a billion yen. Even being a voice actor won't give that much money. My grandma found her true love. I got chosen as a voice actor and a model, my dream line of work. And I already told you about my powers, right?"

I paused.

I stood.

I looked at the window.

I looked at the door.

I looked at Yumeko's expectant face.

I looked at the ring.

I looked at my own reflection on the window.

I made my decision.

I leapt past her and ran away. Nope, nope, nope, you're not making me take the ring and fill my life with curses and pianos falling from the sky!

She caught my skirt.

With frightening strength, she slammed me onto the floor, and was on top of me in less than a second.

Did I even have to describe the sensory overload I got from that very awkward position? I couldn't believe the first time I felt these unprintable sensations was with a girl who's trying to make me accept her proposal about a ring.

No, I was not marrying her! Marriage proposals didn't even work that way!

And why was I thinking of marriage proposals right now?

I started screaming things I never thought I would ever say in my entire life. "HELP! SHE'S VIOLATING ME!"

"Just hold still!" Even Yumeko was panicking right now.

She's forcing me with her fingers! With a rough movement, she thrust a finger – my finger – through the ring. It disappeared right as it slipped through.

The universe would never treat me the same way since.

Yumeko got off me right as I kicked her away.

I stood shakily, my legs feeling like jelly, trying to pull the ring off.

Time stopped.

There was a flash of light behind me brighter than the sun, just as the ground shook and a deafening boom punched into my eardrums right as the classroom windows shattered into pieces. I turned around to see a dirty orange fireball rise into the air, blackening into crackling smoke with an evil stench.

I was lucky that I decided to run, or the shards of glass would've lacerated me. Was it better to be violated but alive?

My already delicate legs failed me. I stubbed my toes on a desk leg and lost my balance, falling with my mouth open.

I coughed…

…and coughed…

…and coughed.

But it was too late.

"Yuki-chan, thank you very much."

I raised my head. Yumeko had already disappeared. I only heard rushed footsteps in the hallway, growing ever more distant. It was hard to imagine Yumeko running away like a sprinter.

But that wasn't the thing that concerned me the most at that moment.

It wasn't even the fact that the universe had decided that terrorists would bomb my school.

It was that I had accidentally swallowed the ring.


A/N: so now let us follow yumeko's epic journey to the cracks of doom, where she'll throw her friend yukiko into a volcano