Our Sacrificial Waltz To Everlasting Memory

Chapter 1

"Bathe me in gold… I deserve nothing less."

"Let jewels replace my eyes… and gems become my skin."

"May this glittering flesh be a symbol of my work."

Crown Of Royals

*Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick.*

It started out with a slight rhythmic noise, tapping along the walls.

Prince couldn't move…

His heart was racing.

No… not again.

He was having that nightmare again! The instant he felt his limbs stiffen and his throat squeeze, he knew it was happening. No no no… why now? Why again?!

'Please wake up… please…' He trembled and tried to move.

But nothing…

Instead… he stared in horror into the darkness around him as that familiar knife dances in someone's hand. And then, slamming it down on his heart, the figure tearfully smiled.

"Goodnight… Prince…"

"AAAAAAAAAAHHHH-!" Prince screamed and woke right up, breathing hard as he felt for his chest.

No blood, no knife.

Relief flooded through him as he weakly collapsed into bed. He had to remind himself it was just another dream and he was in fact alive. That fact would've been enough to lift his spirits if it didn't mean going through that same nightmare twice in a row.

So much for having better dreams tonight. Just why did it show up again?

Although the anxiety rippled through the spot in his chest where he was "stabbed"… he shook his head and ignored it. He wouldn't allow this nightmare to ruin his day completely. Not this time! He had to be strong if he was going to honor Amaya's words.

…but she also said it was okay to be afraid, right?

Amaya quieted for a second, her eyes grave before gently lighting up. "But even though I'm scared… I know this all has been especially troubling for you. With your memory… and everyone's status as a Grand Student, you may feel as an outcast. But that's not what you are. We're in this together… I want you to believe that."

Just remembering that conversation gave him the strength he needed to get out of bed. Regardless of his nightmare… Prince knew Amaya would be there for him if no one else. He just needed to stay true to himself and what he wanted to do.

And above all else right now, he needed to get out of this place… or at least out of his room to start a brand new day and work with everyone.

That is… if one minor thing didn't throw a tiny wrench in his plans.

The crown.

'What in the world is up with this…?" Prince wearily thought as he approached the thing on his desk.

He had brought it in his room after finding it last night. The fact it came with a note from Alexander didn't make things any less nerve wracking. It's likely this was the "gift" he was meant to receive… but what was it for…? Just an accessory? If it was, it looked way too fancy for someone like him to wear.

Not to mention… he was sure if he walked out wearing such a distractingly different item from his usual attire… people would stare at him funny… and suspiciously.

'Why is this happening to me…?' Prince glumly put his head down on the desk as he glared at Alexander's gift… 'he isn't expecting me to wear it… right?'

Before he could analyze it any further, a beep sounded from his watch. It was morning announcement time… which prompted a groan from Prince as he lazily stared at the screen. Interestingly… only Alexander was on it today.

{ Morning Announcement}

"Ahem, rise and shine my fellow guest!" Alexander sat at his desk, fingers interlocked as he formally spoke, "our second-morning announcement together and what a beautiful day it is. We're looking at clear skies… and beautiful sunny weather for all those who wish to venture outside and bathe in the pool! Just take a look at that sunshine!"

Alexander moved his chair out of the way to reveal… a blistering snowstorm still tearing up the glass window.

After he showed that he laughed as if it was the funniest trick ever. "Nighttime has officially ended, meaning a new day is upon us! I hope everyone was able to sleep comfortably and had wonderful dreams!"

He made a sleeping motion with his hands, as if he was having a pleasant dream before snapping awake and giggling. "Alas I am on my lonesome with announcements today… so I must be the one to reveal that all facilities are now accessible! Remember the rules are in effect… yada yada yada. If you require Empress's services she'll be located in the Angel Room near the ballroom."

Alexander was blitzing through the announcement, seeming to get it over with as soon as possible.

"With that in mind, we can get to more EXCITING news," now… for some scary reason, Alexander's mask darkened as the eyeholes turned red, "I have a very big announcement planned tomorrow morning. As for what it is… trust me it'll be fun… for ME! But to give you some time to prepare, please enjoy your peace for today because we're long overdue for… something interesting to happen."

As he spoke, it was very clear he was suppressing a giggle. Whatever that… announcement… was did NOT sound good if Alexander was enjoying himself so much.

"With that final note, this marks the end of my little broadcast everyone! Please enjoy yourselves and make sure to live today to the fullest...

After all… it may be your very last…"

And just like that, the video ended.

Prince felt his heart sink as the broadcast ended. On one hand he couldn't be rid of that grating voice soon enough. But now there was this uneasy "announcement" he was planning to do tomorrow.

What could that have been?

Even though Prince tried to stay positive, voices like Alexander were enough to dampen his already tense mood. Given this scary "announcement" soon to happen and his nightmare again, Prince felt even more on edge then before.

And it wasn't helped that… he was stuck with this crown now.

"Do you think you have a choice?" Alexander laughed as he gripped Prince's shoulders and leaned close enough to where he could hear the madman breathing under the mask.

Prince had no choice but to accept this crown… or else Alexander might do something to him. But…

…although he accepted it… that didn't mean he had to wear it, right? Perhaps for now he could just leave it in his room where no one would find it, and be on his merry way. No one has to know about Alexander's visit or his gift. No one…

…well except Amaya… which made Prince worry if he was really being a trustworthy friend for the group.

He wanted to be trusted right? So… shouldn't tell everyone about this? But… not all of them were like Amaya. Some would suspect him for sure.

What… could he do?

"It's alright Brother Prince…" Amaya continued softly. "It's alright if you still are afraid of things, that's natural. And if you are concerned people may judge you for your visit of Alexander then you may wait as long as you need to tell them. But if you're worried that they will judge you… just know I won't let that happen. That's my promise to you… because I trust you Brother Prince."

Prince took a deep breath… his heart aching weakly as he did.

…and walked out of his room without the crown.

When Prince left his room… he was so distracted by his earlier choice that he almost didn't notice the commotion happening in the living quarters.

Keyword "almost" since he jumped at the loud voice of Machi who pounced nearby, "Prince! You woke up! Perfect, we got the whole gang together!" However, that chipper tone faded away as she noticed his tense frown. "Hey, you okay? You look pretty out of it right now."

"H-Huh? Oh… I'm okay" Prince scratched his cheek nervously, trying to avoid the uneasy topic, "just… couldn't sleep well again. Anyway what's going on with you to be so chipper this morning? And what do you mean… the 'gang'…?"

Machi stared at Prince in doubt, as if wanting to question him, but given his tense posture… she thankfully realized he didn't want to speak about it, so she decided to relent and smile reassuringly instead.

"Well… I'm talking about the cleaning crew silly!" Machi explained as she tapped her noggin with a playful finger, "we left such a pig fest in the dining room yesterday that we're getting everybody together to clean up before breakfast… or well we're trying to get the early birds to help clean and those who WANTED to clean anyway…"

Oh that was right, Prince forgot they weren't able to clean up dinner yesterday. He looked around and saw the clean up crew consisted of Luna, Stefano, Jun, Aimi, Kanna, Luna, and obviously Amaya who waved at Prince and Machi.

"And I recently just volunteered cause I felt bad for not helping a little earlier," Machi sheepishly mumbled, "I mean I was so preoccupied being Kanon's assistant doctor I didn't get to prepare the dinner with everyone. And then I got super tired… so I didn't volunteer last night. So… I'm helping out now!"

"Ah… so you j-just wanna make up for being a slacker?" Prince tried to joke. Is this how friends joked? Wait, he probably made it sound too much like an insult! No! Now he was cringing!

"Hey now! I only procrastinate sometimes!" Machi pretended to pout, before her face turned serious, "besides I think it might be a good thing to have more people to help since… that announcement we just got did not sound good. Just what could Alexander be planning?"

Prince nervously looked away. Although he had no idea personally, the inkling of guilt he felt knowing that mad man visited him still persisted. Should he tell Machi?

"Well, he's insane, so who cares about him?" Machi didn't even give an opening for him to spill the beans as she held his hand, "back to the good stuff! Yep, I wanna help out! So, let's get a move on!"

Machi helped Prince down to meet everyone else. With her hand in his… Prince felt a little better about his earlier choice. As long as he kept things like this… it would be okay, right?

He didn't have time to doubt as he met with the others. They were gathered by the door, some appearing refreshed from the night like Jun and Amaya… but Prince noticed Stefano was muttering weakly to himself, his eyes unusually tense as he rubbed the bags that had formed under them. Did he also get bad sleep?

He didn't get to ask as Machi waved the group over, "ta-da! I have Prince!"

"Wonderfully done Sister Machi," Amaya made her marionette doll do a small prayer of thanks. Her eyes lingered on Prince for a brief moment, possibly concerned like how Machi was given his slight breakdown yesterday, but with a forced smile from Prince to reassure her... the marionette maker backed off as well with a gentle nod. "Now that we have quite the group to help us clean, might I suggest-"

"That's everyone, yes?" Stefano surprisingly interrupted Amaya as he tapped his foot, his usual stoic eyes antsy all of a sudden, "may we please hurry now?"

"Woah, what's the rush?" Jun blinked to the antsy Stefano, "you look like you're standing on pins and needles right now, is everything okay?"

"Okay?" Stefano repeated, narrowing his eyes worriedly, "we left an entire spoiled dinner out in the dining room all night to rot and fester. Such a disgusting mess has to be cleaned up right away before it contaminates the whole room… otherwise future meals will be… ugh… blotted with a writhing… detestable… urgh."

Stefano looked very repulsed by his words as he forced himself silent. His smile was still present... but, it was twitching, clearly forced.

"That's what you're concerned about?" Luna seemed surprised by the reaction as she tilted her head lazily, "I assumed you were acting that way because of the... announcement we just received."

Uneasy silence grew amongst the group. Given the announcement happened moments ago, it was obviously on everyone's minds.

"That's... also part of the reason, yes," Stefano sighed, "but heaven knows what might happen with that man later. At least with the dining room, we can deal withy that right away."

"...are you sure it's just about the dining room though?" Kanna mumbled worriedly nearby, hiding behind Luna. "You look… tired. Did you get a decent rest at least?"

Prince did agree with the assistant, Stefano looked horribly tired right now. But the boy barely paid any mind to it.

"I'm fine, just some... rough sleep." So it was that. Stefano quickly brushed off though as he turned around, "I'll feel better once we clean the dining room." With that he didn't even wait for the others, he stormed out of the room.

"Is… S-Stefano okay?" Aimi looked the most concerned as she tugged her chef hat, "he didn't look to g-good..."

"Yeah, he was acting... well, a bit different," Jun nodded with a sigh, crossing his arms, "maybe it's just as he said though, he got some rough sleep and also wanted to clean the dining room. I can get where he's coming from. I would want the work stations in the kitchen to be clean as well."

"Yeah…" Kanna noticed this too and trembled nervously, but, he managed to step out first with a determined frown, "it's best we follow him, yes? We do have to c-clean up all those bowls from d-dinner last night anyway..."

Jun nodded as he adjusted his blazer and followed, "yeah, might as well, let's move out guys. Keep close." He motioned toward Aimi who turned red as she reached for his hand and followed the escort.

"That just leaves us then," Luna motioned for Amaya to join her and the two girls stepped out happily. Although Prince did notice Amaya giving him a soft glance before she left.

This was a sign he should join them with a bouncing Machi by his side. On one hand, Prince was relieved that he was able to contribute to the team this way. If he cleaned up with everyone… maybe they'd feel a stronger bond like last night!

But on the other hand… Stefano looked pretty tired. Was… he okay?

There was also another problem though… Prince really didn't want to clean dishes so early in the morning…

It turned out though… he didn't have to.

When the cleaning crew entered the dining room, they were surprised to find not a single bit of evidence for their dinner last night. All the plates were gone… the decorations were neatly put away in a box shoved into the corner of the room… and not a single crumb or bit of dust was left.

Kanna gasped, being the first to react as he fumbled with his cardigan sweater. "The room… it's c-completely cleaned up already!"

Stefano let out a relieved laugh, almost pleasantly surprised, "seems my worries for nothing. No rotting food or messy plates in sight… truly the act of an angel."

"But h-how?" Prince glanced around, it seemed too good to be true given how big their dinner was, "did someone clean up here last night?"

"Given Rule #3… that's impossible," Jun tried to wrap his head around this, "the dining room and kitchen were closed and we left when the nighttime announcement went off yesterday. So no one had any time to clean. Plus the morning announcement just went off. There wouldn't be enough time to clean everything like this… I think?"

"If someone did... they'd only have a few minutes to do so before we arrived," Amaya pointed out as her doll shook it's head in disbelief.

"So was it m-magic…?" Aimi stammered, her eyes wide.

"I think there's a simpler explanation…" Luna suddenly spoke, her eyes lazily trailing over to the kitchen door in the dining room. There were sounds coming from behind it. "It sounds like someone arrived here very early and is cleaning up for us."

"Oh? Someone is in the kitchen right now?" Jun peered to look at the kitchen door, clearly curious.

"Maybe the person who cleaned everything up!" Machi grinned as she took the lead, "we should see what they're up to!"

Prince followed, but felt a little uneasy. Didn't the morning announcement just come on? How did someone get here that fast and start cleaning for them?

And more importantly… who was it…?

As it turned out, probably the most unlikely person he would've ever guessed as Prince gasped in the kitchen.


Anata stood in the kitchen with a surprised look on her face. "Oh… you're all up early," she sighed and put some kitchen utensils away, organizing them hurriedly, "I thought I was the only morning person in this place. What's with this showing?"

"We wanted to clean up the kitchen!" Machi smiled before seeing the drawer Anata snapped shut, "but it seems you beat us to it!"

Anata yawned uneasily, "well… I woke up a little bit earlier than expected. Restless sleep and all… so I came over to see what happened after your dinner last night. But when I entered after the announcement… I saw it was a little bit of a mess. Lots of food and dirty plates left behind. So I just organized some stuff like the bowls and decorations. That's it."

Prince widened his eyes, she really cleaned up everything in the kitchen? She must've moved fast.

"You say 'organized' but it's almost spotless," Jun's eyes lit up. Relieved not too much would have to be done, "that cuts off our work time in half."

"Y-Yeah it does…" Kanna sounded almost disappointed at that though as he hugged himself.

Anata rubbed her forehead, uneasy at the attention for her deed, "I didn't mean to steal your thunder or anything. I just wanted to see what happened last night since it sounded like you all had a good time…"

"Last n-night?" Aimi nervously spoke up with a smile, "does that mean… you wanted to see how the dinner turned out? You k-know… we were really hoping you'd join u-us..."

Prince quieted down as well from that. He had invited Anata to join them and yet it didn't feel like they made much progress in getting her to trust the others.

Anata studied Aimi's glum look before the storyteller softened and sighed. "I was just unsure if it was safe… but seeing as that whole event turned out okay, guess I had nothing to worry about."

"Yeah it was really fun!" Machi pumped her fist proudly before she hummed in thought, "but since the kitchen's cleaned up… what the heck are we going to do now?"

"I guess uh… set up breakfast?" Jun nervously laughed, "if there's nothing to clean up… we can get a head start on cooking meals right now!"

"That sounds nice!" Kanna beamed as he clenched his fist in determination, "like a b-bed and breakfast!"

"Except... all our brothers and sisters will be coming to breakfast," Amaya sweat dropped as she smiled.

"Normal breakfast it is," Jun smiled as he shared a hand toward Anata, "hey, since you're already here Anata, care to join us? We have room for one more cook here."

Anata thought for a moment but then sighed, shaking her head, "I think I'll pass. I already organized everything in the kitchen and ate some leftovers so… I might just go read somewhere."

Prince kept staring at Anata, saddened by the idea she was going to leave again, "are you sure? You missed dinner last night… it might be better if you at least have some of Jun's cooking for breakfast."

"That's true, I can whip up anything you want," Jun reassured with a classic wink.

Anata went silent, and then shook her head, almost in an... irritated manner. "Sorry, I know what you're trying to do… but I just feel more at ease by myself… especially given the announcement just now. So… bye..."

There was no room for debate, Anata quickly left the room, leaving a bewildered cleaning crew behind. Prince especially deflated the group at seeing how close they were to actually getting her to stay… and that worry grew more when he noticed Aimi's downcast expression.

"I-I really thought she'd join us this time…" Aimi murmured, timidly covering part of her face with her chef hat.

"For some isolation brings more of a comfort…" Stefano let out a sigh and shook his head, "just leave her for now, we can't force her to join us."

"Exactly..." Luna agreed sleepily as she rubbed her eyes, "given her worry around whatever Alexander is planning... the best we can do is continue making a harmonious existence here until some form of rescue arrives."

Amaya smiled softly in agreement. "Then let us do our best to make this a comfortable environment, brothers and sisters! Our first priority should be getting breakfast started… so everyone can wake up to a warm meal!"

Everybody nodded and got to work helping with the ingredients for a warm breakfast meal. Prince gave one final glance to where the storyteller left. He understood her worry, but he was in the awkward position of both understanding that fear... and still being part of the group. Such a feeling was overwhelming him at that moment as he stood sheepishly to the side… unsure of… where to start helping with the cooking process. Should he even do anything at all?

He was saved from the anxiety by Jun who gave him a concerned one over. "Prince, you okay?"

"Just fine…" Prince sighed, "I-I don't wanna just stand around so… is there anything I can do to help?"

Jun thought for a moment before smiling, "if you want… it seems that all the leftovers for the party are already in the fridge… but they aren't put away in proper containers so maybe you can help organize those for later!"

"There were… leftovers last night?" Prince blinked. If he recalled… he was sure everyone pretty much ate all of the food.

"I figured that too, but there were a few stragglers left behind like Anata mentioned," Jun noted as he let out an amused sigh, "a lot of the sweets Aimi made were scarfed clean but I noticed a few plates of mine were left untouched."

Prince blinked in shock, "but your food was amazing last night! H-How could no one like it?"

"Ha… I don't think it was like that… more like everyone was distracted talking to each other," Jun clarified as he ran his fingers through his hair, "needless to say, we got some leftovers… not a lot, but it'd be best to put them in proper containers instead of just leaving them out in the fridge all open like that. I remember a few containers were in the back closet for the kitchen… think you can check it out with me?"

The back closest… a short person's worst nightmare given how tall the shelves were.

So basically Prince's worst nightmare.

Jun noticed Prince deflate and he waved his arms reassuringly, "oh no don't worry, the containers are at the bottom shelf I remember. What you're thinking about are the dessert ingredients at the top shelf, which is why Aimi had some trouble baking last night… I think Luna had to help her."

"P-Please don't r-remind them of that time!" Aimi blushed as she buried her face behind her chef hat.

"Your height is nothing to be ashamed of," Luna softly smiled, pretending to be oblivious to Aimi's timid plea. "I find it quite adorable having to help you personally."

"P-Please! It sounds like I-I'm being critiqued!" Aimi blubbered quietly as she blushed.

"Sister Luna, you have her all flustered!" Amaya let out an amused giggle, "though the exact situation was the same with poor Brother Prince. Last night he-"

"A-Ah… I don't think anyone needs to know that Amaya!" Prince stammered, hoping Amaya didn't blurt out how he needed her help to reach the top shelf too.

"Know about what?" Machi smiled innocently, a teasing gaze pointed at Prince. "Now I'm curious… I need ammunition to tease Prince with~"

Prince instantly prepared to leave. "Uh, you guys have fun teasing Aimi… I'll get the containers…"

"Y-You're leaving me with them?!" Aimi squeaked.

Too late, Prince hurried over to the closet as the two tall girls went over to reassure Aimi while Machi innocently went off to cook with Jun, Stefano, and Kanna.

Prince followed Jun's orders well enough as he swiftly entered the closet and got the containers for the leftovers. He glanced around the space. Sure enough Jun was right, containers and buckets were at the bottom shelf along with all the kitchen supplies, and the middle and top shelf had ingredients, food, and baking supply stuff. It seemed like a chef's paradise… but Prince wouldn't know the first thing about cooking so he couldn't feel as in awe of it as he probably should've.

Instead the only thing he could recall from the closet… was the conversation he had with Amaya last night.

If he could just… trust in himself… he'll be okay. He had to remember that.

Taking a deep breath he returned and put the leftovers in the boxes before closing them in the fridge. As he did this, he kept making glances at those around him. Since he was late to breakfast on the first day, it was fascinating seeing how everyone worked today.

Machi seemed to work with great energy, now resetting up all the bowls they'd hand out for everyone with Kanna's help keeping the process in check. Aimi timidly worked alongside Luna and Amaya to prepare some of the meals everyone would be eating, but the three of them seemed to have a fun time together. Stefano silently showed off some actual skill in setting up the food for cooking by Jun…

…speaking of Jun his hands were flying around, effortlessly whipping up all the meals needed for breakfast. It seemed so easy for Jun to work… Prince almost envied how skillfully he was preparing all the food. That experience he must've talked about before must've helped him with that

So if Prince wanted to help out, he had to at least put in some effort to follow along with what the master chef was doing. Once he finished his job, he nervously approached the taller boy. "Um, Jun, am I preparing things right? There's so much food, I-I don't want to mess it up."

"You've done a lot actually with the leftovers, you're doing great," Jun reassured with a smile that truly showed he meant those words.

"A-Am I really?" Prince chuckled, feeling a little guilty over his indecisive nature, "sometimes I think I'm not really contributing as much. How do you think I'm h-helping…?"

"Well… you're working with everyone, so that's helping in my book, we could really use people like that here, especially you," Jun flashed a friendly wink his way, the effect glimmering so bright that Prince's heart almost flew out of his chest.

"O-Oh wow…" Prince stood stunned at the compliment. Were those words what Kanon and Uta had to put up with? He wasn't sure how those two could be stone cold to such charm!

Jun noted the reaction and awkwardly laughed, a mark of sweat crawling down his cheek, "u-uh Prince you okay there bud?"

"Y-Yep! I'm f-fine. I-It's nothing!" Prince stammered as he recovered his balance, faintly hiding his slightly red face. "I was just uh… surprised you saw me that way. H-Honestly I think you have that effect more than others… given your talent."

"Heh, you flatter me too much," Jun quietly said as he continued cooking away, his fingers moving efficiently to prepare the meals, "since my work focuses on performing certain roles for people… I just do what I can to make others happy."

"Your work? Really?" Prince tried to think of how an escort would really be if that was the case. "S-So your talent really does help people… I heard that Grandview accepts only the best of the best and is super competitive… s-so… I'm confused why you don't talk about your talent more, it sounds lovely."

Jun widened his eyes and then laughed, looking a bit embarrassed but managing to keep his smile. "My talent isn't something you just talk about openly usually. The general term 'escort' usually is associated with something entirely different. But my work personally is nothing like that..."

"You said that when we met… but I-I really don't follow…?" Prince this time was the one who was confused, "is it something bad? I figured it was just something relating to cooking?"

Jun scrunched his eyebrows and frowned before coming up with something, clearly acting like an older brother trying to keep a younger sibling's mind innocent. "okay… you could say my cooking has a part in it. But it's not just that, I mostly spend time with people and act as their ideal person… for however long they wish to pay me anyway."

"T-That's interesting…" Prince murmured, "so you're pretending to be s-someone… for a person?"

"Exactly," Jun nodded with a friendly smile, "and I usually have specific clients too… usually older women who miss their sons and grandsons. I get hired to fulfill those roles, I act like their son or grandsons basically, just me comforting and being there for my clients."

Prince tried to imagine that, "so older people hire you to pretend to be a family member…?"

"It's mostly older ladies but yeah, pretty much," Jun sighed, "they usually come in, I listen to them talk, be a shoulder to cry on, cook them good food… and then they pay me and leave. That's how the gig works, or my gig personally anyway."

Prince blinked. "And you're so good at it… you got a talent for it?"

"Yeah… they pay pretty well also," Jun messed with his hair, flickering a look down to his other fingers as if he was holding imaginary money, "but I also usually do such a thing to reassure them since… well they're lonely you know? No family around… drinking away at the bar. No one should have to go through that, so I lend them an ear, listen to their problems and make them some nice food. And then they go home… hopefully feeling a little better."

Prince thought about it carefully. He didn't know it was as easy as listening to people's problems to get a Grand Talent. But given how sincere Jun looked… and all the work he did for dinner last night… it was clear Jun did have what it took to brighten people's hearts with his talent.

So Prince managed to smile reassuringly at Jun. "Well, from what I'm hearing, your talent is working like i-it's supposed to... and I think it's doing a good job cheering this group up…"

"Really?" Jun almost appeared flattered as he lightly smiled, "that means a lot Prince. I wanna try and do right for this group so… let's try our best together, okay?"

Prince nodded. The warmth from Jun's voice made it feel like if they worked together… anything was possible.

"Yeah… okay!" Prince pumped his fist nervously

And in response Jun smiled.

Maybe the two would be able to help each other as well as the group… hopefully.

By the time breakfast was finished and prepared, the dining room was coming across sparkling given everyone's efforts.

"Sweet, we're pretty much set," Jun gave a satisfied smile as he gave a thumbs up to Prince. "You did a really good job moving everything."

"I-I tried," Prince sheepishly nodded. He was happy to be praised by Jun though. For someone so hard working, being noticed made him feel a little lighter. As for the others, the satisfaction of a job well done was also apparent on their faces.

"Yummy!" Machi gazed at the food with a helpless look on her face before pumping her fist happily. "Looks like we're for another amazing breakfast! I bet everyone is about to head in right now… as long as they haven't been murdered or anything!"

"That one kinda slipped out, sorry," Machi nervously chuckled.

Kanna deflated, "p-please let's not joke about that… instead… u-um, let's w-wait for everyone to arrive!"

And slowly but surely, Kanna's wish was granted. Everyone started filing into the dining room shortly after. Prince noticed that a lot of people came in pairs.

Amelie walked in first, yawning with an irritated look on her face with Xiuying close behind. Xiuying didn't look that much better given she was rubbing her eyes. The fatigue was VERY noticeable given the usual elegant way the girls carried themselves.

Lukas entered, but this time with Albion. The blacksmith also looked incredibly tired as he massaged his forehead. Lukas on the other hand seemed a bit more graceful than the last few days, perhaps he was finally recovering from his brawl he had with Omen the first day here. Since Uta wasn't with either of them, Prince assumed he wasn't showing up for this meal.

Same with Koji and Anata… who neither of them showed up. Anata was expected due to her recent departure, but Prince had hoped Koji would consider joining…

In contrast to those two's absence, Hagoromo and Tadatake barreled inside the room. Tadatake stomped his foot in frustration as Hagoromo cheered in victory for whatever race they were doing today. Fudo came in shortly after, patting Tadatake on the back for his efforts to try and distract Minnie from squeaking with laughter at him.

Hania and Kanon were one of the last few to show, but out of all the sleepy people the two girls seemed to have it the worst. Hania was hugging herself quietly as she wearily took a seat toward the back of the room to avoid talking to anyone. Meanwhile Kanon was holding a cup of coffee, clearly from the café room…and was forcing her eyes open as she stumbled to the chair closest to the door and grumbled.

"Morning everyone!" Jun smiled, waving at everyone who entered the room, "I hope you… uh… slept well enough?" There was an uneasy pause because… it was sort of obvious not many people slept well.

Tadatake didn't seem to notice as he muttered. "I coulda totally won that race if I had gotten my eight hours. Just you wait, we're gonna have a rematch, got it?"

"It seems everyone wants a taste of little ol' me~" Hagoromo giggled, not looking at all sleepy. "If you do wish for a rematch, I'm ready whenever! I couldn't be more energized after my rest last night! I was counting little demonic sheep in my head before drifting off into a cozyyyyyyyy slumber!"

"Quiet." Kanon shut the conversation down with a tired glare. "Some of us don't have the luxury to sleep through everything like you."

"Hm… you look unwell especially Sister Kanon," Amaya had to point out with a concerned look. She took a step to cater to the doctor, "is everything all right?"

Kanon rejected her concerned look as she scoffed. "Just a sleepless night and stupid dreams, I deal with them all the time… it's normal."

"As a doctor, shouldn't you know that's unhealthy?" Jun spoke in a worried tone as he shook his head.

"I'm the best doctor," Kanon reminded.

Prince blinked nearby. Was that supposed to be an answer?

Jun didn't seem to think so as he sighed. "S-Sure, you're the best. But you should probably get some sleep after breakfast, okay?"

"N-Not just her, you a-all look tired…" Kanna pointed out timidly to the new arrivals, "did everyone have trouble sleeping last night?"

"Quel mal de tête…" Amelie was quite vocal for the assistant as she huffed in French before speaking, "hmph, just a bad night's rest from pathétique night terrors that plagued me. It was truly bothersome, voilà tout."

"Night terrors…?" Luna tilted her head in thought, "as in nightmares…?"

Prince tensed at that comment, recalling his own nightmare this morning.

"Sounds like you got them to," Stefano sighed as he rubbed his eyes nearby. Perhaps that why he looked similarly worn out. "Honestly, after the dream I had yesterday it took me by surprise..."

"Oui! But it was just a night terror, rien de plus," Amelie yawned, but still kept her elegance as she fluttered her fingers, "such an annoyance to deal with when I was trying to catch up on my beauté sleep." Despite her indifferent tone, her eyes looked tense… as if she was recalling her nightmare right then.

"This probably will come out wrong but I had another pretty good dream!" Fudo smiled innocently as Minnie squeaked.

"Soyez silencieux…" Amelie muttered with a glare at the boy.

"That sounds wonderful," Luna murmured, though it was unclear if she was referring to Fudo's dream or the group wide night terrors everyone was facing given her rather curious whisper directed to the group, "we should all share the dreams we had together at this table… perhaps the Eternal One has granted you all hidden messages just as it has for me…"

"Yeah whatever god… you worship, I'd rather not deal with it while on fumes," Kanon scoffed as she looked away, "can we get this meeting over with already so we can focus on what matters?"

"Ah hell ya, food!" Tadatake grinned with a thumbs up.

"No not food- n-nevermind," Kanon gave up on the hockey players absurdity, "I meant on a plan of action. Did anyone even remember the announcement this morning?"


It didn't take a genius to know she was referring to that ominous message left by Alexander.

"He was planning on... announcing something tomorrow, right?" Fudo was the one that spoke of the topic right away, his eyes cautiously darting around the room.

"Yep, and given it's... HIM we're talking about, it can't be good," Kanon grumbled, "so we have to figure out something to do in this place. I've worked too long in the medical field to know an aimless plan is a death sentence for any group trying to accomplish something."

"A p-plan?" Kanna nervously chirped and grabbed some paper and pencils to get to work writing things down in case anyone chimed with some ideas. "T-That's a good idea! We need to plan out exactly what we s-should do now t-that we… um… had our little get together yesterday, o-only if everyone um… thought that was okay? If it's not… I-I'm sorry…"

"No, Kanon and Kanna are right," Xiuying sighed as she tried to subtly rub the bags under her eyes, "now it's time for genuine strategy. We have been sitting around like fools squawking over party favors."

"But you need food to survive," Luna tried to calm Xiuying down, "might I suggest we just eat the food we so graciously prepared for you? There's no need to get hung up on what we need to do just yet. That comes later with a clear mind and full stomach."

"...doesn't eating make you sleepier?" Fudo commented blankly, "you're basically making doctor mophead pass out quicker."

"Even though you're right, quiet," Kanon shook her head, "point is, I know I'm not the only one feeling this way. We've been here for a full day and NOTHING new has shown up? No new clues? No investigation? Were you guys even trying at all before the dinner last night?"

"Well w-what have you been doing?" Tadatake didn't seem to appreciate such a call out, "you're not really being a team player-"

"I literally spent all of yesterday checking up on Lukas and Prince's injuries."

Oh! Right...!

Tadatake rightfully shut up.

Amaya, who had suggested the idea of dinner yesterday, looked a little hurt before she voiced her concerns. "I apologize if the dinner yesterday came off as a distraction. I only hoped it would bring everyone together so we could strengthen our bond to do whatever we plan for next."

"Hm... but I suppose now we actually have to put some thought into what that plan is," Luna reminded as she rested her head on her staff. "Very well then, perhaps a prayer to the Eternal One will answer our inquiries."

"No." Kanon had no qualms shooting that down.

"Oh oh~! We can talk about what everyone discovered yesterday!" Hagoromo volunteered to speak, "I discovered that Omen is a slowpoke-!"

"To you he's slow maybe," Xiuying puffed some air and pinched her nose, "all of us aren't as insane as you are to race that thing."

"On that topic though," Stefano spoke up with weary eyes, "Momo here… distracted Omen long enough for us to find a crown he was guarding yesterday. It had a sticker labeled… "SOLD" on top of it… which I'm not sure what that implies… but it seemed important if Omen was patrolling the area."

Prince fell silent at the mention of the crown. That very crown was still probably in his room… mockingly sitting within the box he opened it from. Should he tell everyone about it? Well of course he should, he knew that… but his voice failed him as Albion spoke up in his place.

"Yeah, that weirdo started to panic when he realized he left it unguarded yesterday," Albion muttered as he crossed his burly arm, "made a big stink about it and everything..."

"That's usually the case with him though," Stefano pointed out, looking bothered by the topic of conversation, "it is bizarre though that he was guarding that item. For what purpose would he even need to do that?"

"Unclear..." Luna yawned gently as she lazily shut her eyes, "it might be a good idea to check the area once again to investigate it in greater detail."

Now Prince finally decided to speak, though his voice was weary since he knew where the crown actually was, "u-um… what if it's not there anymore?" His heart raced as he spoke, already fearing his question might pose suspicion on him.

"..." Luna gave it some thought, "I don't see a reason why it wouldn't be, it was on display in the art gallery like everything else. If it was moved… that would possibly give us further reason to explore the mystery of that crown…"

Now Prince's throat was growing dry, he needed to tell them… but… if Alexander really was connected to the crown then… how dangerous could that thing be?

His worries spiraled until someone else spoke up, Xiuying, who appeared bored of the topic. "If we're turning our attention to fashion accessories over a potential solution to escape, might I bring up these out of date badges we have on? It's been two days and no one knows the purpose of them."

"True…" Jun looked at his blazer where the copy and pasted badge was, "there's even a rule we can't mess with it. Prince mentioned this before but perhaps it's meant for identification."

"Identification for what though?" Albion rolled his eyes.

"I… have no idea," Jun sheepishly confessed, "perhaps it's for tracking purposes then?"

Albion countered that as he folded his big arms, "these weirdos have millions of other ways to identify us… including just getting an up close and personal look since they're wandering around this house."

"They also have cameras they could use to track us…" Machi murmured in thought before shrugging, "but outside of some rooms like the parlor room, I don't think I've seen any more." Machi blinked in realization. "Wait a second, have you guys even seen the cameras anymore? I remember there were a few when we woke up but then… I dunno… seems like they vanished yesterday."

Vanishing cameras? Prince did remember seeing a few when he woke up but… he wasn't sure why they were vanishing now. "Maybe we s-should look into that… if the cameras are going missing t-then… well, isn't that against the rules they set up?"

"Rule #2, y-yes!" Kanna raised his hand to answer the question, "we can't destroy any property… which i-included the cameras b-but…"

"Now they're vanishing…" Lukas finally spoke up to finish the thought, and yet equally sounded confused, "perhaps they don't see a point in those… devices… anymore."

"Ergo, them using the badges to track us instead!" Jun in a roundabout way finished his earlier point to possibly make a new theory. "If there's no cameras they still need to keep tabs on us, so the badges could do the trick."

"But couldn't someone just not wear the clothes with the badges to avoid being tracked?" Tadatake spoke of the insane thought with little problem, "I mean, I dunno about you, but that seems like a massive oversight the head honchos didn't prepare for."

"Mister Take…" Fudo deadpanned, "maybe it's because no ones INSANE enough to walk around butt naked."

"Momo don't you dare."

"I wasn't Alex!" Hagoromo quickly defended herself as she readjusted her jacket, "but hey he's not half wrong, you don't need to kick the breeze and strut around showing your stuff! You can just get rid of the article of clothing the badge is on. That french dollie over there has the badge on her beret! All she'd need to do is toss her beret in the trash and problem solved!"

"Non! As if I'd ever!" Amelie scoffed, "this is a designer! I paid good money to look this élégante."

"You paid money to look as pink as a flamingo?" Fudo was unimpressed, "wow, and I just thought your parents forced you to dress that way."

Amelie flipped her ponytail to the side as she raised her chin up high, "Hmph, I can understand why your minuscule brain would think that... given you probably still have your mother dress you up for those ridiculous montre's you put on."

"She has good taste you know!" Fudo blurted out with a red face.

"Aww… that's cute you let your mom dress you…" Aimi gave a sheepish smile.

"You think everything he does is cute!" Machi smiled, causing Aimi to pale.

"N-No I don't!" Aimi stammered.

"You... don't...?" Fudo mumbled as Minnie started to bring out tissues for the boy's fake tears.

"W-Wait I didn't mean it like that!" Aimi was not having a good time.

"My god, for Grand students you all get sidetracked easily," Albion stared at the group with annoyance as he slammed his hand on the table, "need I remind you this is a discussion over what the heck we're gonna do about this killing game nonsense!"

The atmosphere around the table was uneasily serious with the reminder of the situation. Prince especially felt the levity drain as the word "killing" came to the forefront. This still was a horrible situation… so what were they to do?

"Our brother is right, we shouldn't grow so distracted from the topic at hand, well…" Amaya held her hands together delicately, gazing at her marionette doll nervously before steadying herself, "I believe… we should list off what we know and what we all plan to do today perhaps? That way we can know the plan of fighting against the game going forward!"

"A sound idea," Luna nodded, "we were discussing the mystery of the crown and cameras… perhaps we can have two groups investigate that."

"I kinda wanna know why the cameras went missing, yeah!" Machi smiled.

"I'll a-assist!" Kanna jumped up.

Amelie narrowed her eyes. "Ugh! Who said you could-"

"Splendid!" Amaya interrupted the perfumer and helped Kanna pair up with Machi. "We have two people for that job! As for me… I perhaps could track down that… Empress woman… and ask about the badges we spoke of earlier."

"She might ignore your question…" Hania suddenly sighed as she rubbed her eyes.

Amaya blinked, "oh? And why would she do that? Her purpose is to inform us… isn't it?"

Hania looked unsure of herself before speaking up once more. "I think… she tends to ignore questions that might reveal secrets about the game… she's very vague…"

"How do you know that?" Fudo blinked in confusion before he seemed to clue in on something, "oh wait… that's right, you were one of the few people who went to the Angel Room yesterday, right? You said so during dinner." He looked skeptical about Hania's findings but kept going. "If you met that lady, is that what she's like?"

"Actually screw what she's like," Albion looked much more invested now that it was revealed Hania went to the Angel Room, "what did that ghost woman say about the magic here… what questions did you ask her?"

Prince's eyes widened. He had forgotten the existence of the magic was still pretty unknown for the group. Even though he himself went to the Angel Room… it was still a vague concept. The only thing he knew was about… the sacrifice needed to wield it, but… he wasn't exactly ready to tell everyone you had to kill to use it.

Plus no one else knew he went to the Angel Room… so that felt like another awkward thing he wanted to keep hidden.

Hania however did hold all the cards to expose Prince right then and there, and considering she was glancing over at Prince… perhaps she was considering shifting the conversation to him. "Why don't you ask him…? He was also in the room with me when she explained it."


"Brother Prince was there?" Amaya's eyes widened, this clearly being news to her.

All eyes turned to Prince, making him stiffen.

"F-For investigation purposes…" Prince clarified. Now he felt silly trying to hide something as miniscule as going into that room. He just investigated the place so… he should be fine to tell them, right? "I… I didn't really learn much though personally, Empress only talked about… how in order to use the magic here… someone has to s-sacrifice something…"

The dread bubbled in Prince's chest as he gazed at everyone's reactions. Some looked tense at the news, while others looked even curiouser over the aspect.

"Sacrifice…?" Hagoromo repeated with a wavering grin. It was impossible to tell if the idea thrilled her or unnerved her.

"Wait so… like…" Fudo's brow furrowed with a cold sweat, "sacrifice as in…"

"Killing…" Albion finished the train of thought with an irritated look. He glanced at Hania, "can you confirm that?"

Hania didn't appreciate the attention back on her but she wearily nodded, "he's telling the truth. The only way to use the magic here is to kill someone… that or to sacrifice some aspect of yourself… like sleep or time to study it, but even then it doesn't seem like the magic works without something being… destroyed."

"So it's an e-exchange based system…" Kanna nervously tugged at his cardigan sweater as he explained it, "in order to use such a powerful tool… you have t-to… take a life. That's when the p-properties of magic… unlock."

"How dreadful…" Amaya's eyes fell faintly as she twirled her marionette doll with her fingers, "to have such a wondrous power be locked by the prospect of killing."

"But a-again…" Prince quickly spoke up, "she did say we could do it without taking a l-life… we just… have to exchange a life force and s-stuff."

"What does that constitute though?" Lukas joined in briefly, though he sounded unsure of himself as he adjusted his sword, "is it anything organic? Is there a broader scope to what qualifies as a 'life force' that can be sacrificed?"

"I'm sure she just meant anything alive counts…" Hania sighed, "like flowersanimals… and people obviously."

"This all sounds like a fancy roundabout way to say… if we wish to use the magic we either study or kill someone," Xiuying put it bluntly, which to be honest it seemed like the most straightforward explanation. Yet it brought an uneasy silence to the table.

"Um…" Prince nervously spoke again, wanting to give more info, "she also said there were two types of magic. The magic itself is called 'Light Energy'... but there's two types of magic we could use… Lunar or Solar energy."

"Magic types?" Fudo perked his head, "now this is starting to sound like some kind of strategy wizard game."

"It's the truth though," Hania sighed, wearily speaking up more since everyone was gazing at her, "everyone falls into one of the two categories. Solar seems like a more physically demanding class… while Lunar favors mental strength." Looking around the table, a few people easily came to mind for one or the other category. "Depending on what category you show more skill in… the spells for those categories are easier."

"Heh, Solar sounds like my kinda class then!" Tadatake grinned as he flexed his arms.

Stefano narrowed his eyes and pondered, "Lunar energy… hm…"

Prince wouldn't even know which class he would fit under but… he figured he could find that out later.

"Wait a moment… Lunar…" Kanna murmured nervously, "that r-reminds me of that paper I found in the library. The one… that said Lunar on it…" The assistant quickly fumbled to bring the paper up as the whole group looked it over.

{ - Lunar (Gibberish) - }

Section 15B - Section 17B

- Starlight 2

- (Gibberish)

- Starlight 4

- (Gibberish)

- Dream 2

- Rolling Waves 1

- (Gibberish)

- (Gibberish)

- Black Spot 3

(Note - They can change remember, they always do, remember them well. Remember foreverandalwaysforeverandalwaysforeverandalwaysforeverandalways (Gibberish)

"That's true… it does say Lunar… but…" Luna's eyes grew heavy as she tried to process what the heck she was reading, "to be perfectly honest, I'm not sure if even the Eternal One could translate what I'm seeing."

"I have… an idea," Hania suddenly mumbled as she uneasily hugged herself, "Empress said that we have access to spells and could study them without killing anyone. So maybe… this is like a study guide… for one of the Lunar spells."

"This has gotta be the wackiest study guide I've ever seen!" Machi exclaimed as she gazed at the paper, clearly bewildered. "It's like someone threw random words in a melting pot, stirred it around by sprinkling in random numbers and then called it a day."

"Well… some spells were of a higher skill level then what we could do," Hania sighed, "maybe this is one of them…"

Aimi trembled slightly, unsure of what to make with this information. "So we can't understand it… y-yet?"

"I don't even know why you guys are fixated on stuff like this," Kanon, of course, looked immensely annoyed at the direction the conversation had taken, "from what I'm hearing this stuff is both too annoying and complicated to deal with. Why don't we just make it a rule that no one even entertains this stupid magic nonsense?"

"And risk someone going behind our backs to use it?" Albion narrowed his eyes as he frowned, "I'm not taking any chances." Albion then pointed at Prince with a stern glare. "You were there, right? Was there anything else she said?"

Prince blanked, both out of fear and… well he didn't really recall what else Empress said other then… how his memory was taken because of this magic. "I… well she didn't say much else, that's the simplified version. I… I do think the magic is dangerous though, she told me that… m-my memory loss was a result of it…"

"Really?" Machi's eyes softened briefly.

"So the magic took away your memory?" Tadatake chimed in next, "that's insane!"

Kanon narrowed her tired eyes at Prince. It seemed she was about to comment on his claim before Jun gave her a pleading look to keep it to herself. She begrudgingly relented.

"If the magic here took away Prince's memory..." Hagoromo suddenly started up with a grin, "then the same must be true for all of us, yeah? Whatever magic they used was applied to all of us! After all, nobody has the tiniest inkling how they got here!"

"You sound so happy about t-that..." Aimi shuddered.

"Because it makes sense!" Hagoromo giggled, "it's clear whatever spells those big dogs got going on is the reason the game is going so smoothly. You can't explain LOGICALLY how twenty Grand students ending up missing without any of their memories!"


Kanon was silenced as Hagoromo laughed. "The only explanation could be the magic, yeahhhhhhhhh?"

"That sounds FAR to convenient," Xiuying looked to be skeptical as she tapped her finger on the table, "while yes, magic could explain how we got here, but we don't know exactly what was used to make this game happen."

Hania spoke softly after the fabric maker, "we don't have all the details... but... Hagoromo might be right. I think I know the spell that was used to get rid of ALL our memories…"

"Spell?" Jun blinked, "wait, so she told you about some sort of spells as well?"

"Only three," Hania sighed. "The Memory Spell to be specific. That makes people… recount memories… and also helps take away other memories…"

Stefano gave it some thought, "then it's likely that spell was used to take away the missing memories from the moment we got our Grandview acceptance letters… to now. But then that means… a certain amount of time has passed that we aren't aware of…"

"The time from our acceptance to the school… to now, yes?" Lukas looked for clarification, which Stefano nodded to.

"W-Wait… what are you saying?" Fudo looked very freaked out as he clutched his scarf, causing Minnie to squeak, "have we been missing for longer than we thought or something?"

"Seems like it…" Albion grumbled before he glared at Hania. "You said she told you three spells, what were the other two?"

With the blacksmith's dangerous look, Hania grew quiet before she relented with a neutral look. "There were three… a puppeteer spell, a memory spell, and some sort of morphing spell."

"Puppeteer spell? Amaya tilted her head, sounding interested in that one.

"Morphing spell… seriously?" Kanon repeated the last one, but less out of curiosity and more so as if she was trying to make everyone realize how stupid it all sounded. "How half baked could these names be?"

"Well I think they are supposed to describe whatever the spell is…" Jun nervously chuckled. "But that's good to know all the spells we have access to… and also knowing that some of them are linked to our capture like the memory spell."

"But… what do we do with all this?" Aimi risked speaking up as she tried to avoid any glances her way, "there's so much information but… I'm not s-sure how it helps us…"

The group went silent… what were they to do with this indeed?

"Well it's as Amaya said before," Luna suddenly spoke up, "we have multiple avenues to investigate. Some people could look into the missing cameras… while others can go to Empress and learn about the magic and also the badges on our person."

Amaya lit up briefly and nodded as she gave a small nod in appreciation to Luna, "Sister Luna raises an excellent point. We should all explore what we feel comfortable with investigating today. I shall lead the pursuit of finding Empress and learning about the badges and the magic here to see how else it connects to the game we're forced to play. Who cares to join me?"

Amaya gave a hopeful look at Luna's way, to which the cult leader sighed and tiredly smiled, "well I know you want me to join you… so I shall accompany you on that front as well."

"No harm in learning new things," Jun gave a small grin, "I think I'll also check in on that."

"You have fun with that nonsense," Kanon grumbled, "I'm going to set up all the doctor's equipment I need for our stay here… just in case anyone gets ill."

"And that's fine," Jun nodded, "just make sure to rest soon after that for me, okay?"

Kanon sighed. "It wouldn't be for you, first of all-"

"I wanna go and check out that crown again!" Hagoromo interrupted as she stood up, "I never got to see it… and Alex's words don't do it nearly enough justice!"

"I'm guessing… S-Stefano will be joining you then…?" Aimi nervously smiled.

Stefano just submitted to the idea he wouldn't be leaving Hagoromo's side today.

"I wanna see the crown too!" Fudo grinned, "Mister Take, Aimi, you should join me!"

Aimi flustered but nodded quickly.

"Sure thing Pip, I got nothing going on!" Tadatake agreed pretty easily, even though technically no one had anything going on as well, "if that bonehead samurai shows up I'll make sure he doesn't try anything!"

"You're going to be killed if you antagonize him…" Xiuying deadpanned before waking up, "wait… I just remembered, I don't care about you. Do what you wish, I'll be off on my own today."

"Quoi? And where are you going?" Amelie blinked, "considering my assistant has run with his tail between his legs, I need some company. We're going to have a journée complète of élégance."

Xiuying didn't look pleased.

"Oh, and of course my chevalier will accompany us!" Amelie determined without anyone's input.

Lukas looked as if he accepted this.

Hania said nothing but it seemed after all the talking she did she was ready to go back to her room and not come out of it for the rest of the day, not that Prince blamed her.

"Jeez, since no one else is showing any care about it, I'll look for the cameras," Albion rolled his eyes.

"Uh… b-but Machi and I showed interest in that…" Kanna reminded.

Machi's eyes sparkled, "Albion, you're going to be joining both of us? Thank goodness! Out of everyone I was really starting to wonder if you were avoiding me or-"

"I take it back, I'm going solo today."


Prince watched on at the chaos and slightly smiled. Although the anxiety about the crown had started it off on a bad note, this day looked to be… relatively fine. "I think… I'll wander around… maybe… recheck all the rooms. I know the ballroom was locked so maybe I want to look at that area-"

"Oh! Since we're rechecking the rooms for cameras, Prince, wanna join us?" Machi gave an excited look as she reached out a hand to Prince. "We can kill two birds with one stone and investigate all the rooms while we're at it, together!"

Kanna looked excited at the prospect of more people helping while Albion just grumbled.

Prince didn't feel the need to refuse such a kind request so he nodded gently and took Machi's hand. "S-Sure… I'd be happy to join you."

Machi smiled triumphantly, "perfect! I have a bunch of plans for you~!"

That sounded… somewhat ominous. Prince nervously chuckled. "S-Sure thing."

"Get out while you still can," Albion grumbled.

Kanna gulped. "You k-know Machi isn't forcing you to stay…"

"Are we done with the planning...?" Stefano blinked with a loud sigh, attempting to force a smile, "there's been food on the table and no one has been allowed to enjoy on account of everyone's ramblings overt the situation. At this rate it might spoil, wouldn't you agree?"

"Vraie... I wouldn't want my parfaite meal to spoil because of these bouches bruyantes..." Amelie scoffed nearby.

Despite her rude way of phrasing it, everyone also seemed to be hungry, Prince included. It was probably as good a time as any to eat.

"W-Wait, actually before we eat!" Jun suddenly spoke as he scratched his cheek bashfully to all of the tired glances his way, "I… I um… I actually have been mulling with an idea for something big with this group. Something we might all like."

"My god… for once you sound unsure of yourself!" Hagoromo widened her eyes in gleeful surprise.

"Well, I didn't know if everyone would take it well!" Jun laughed before composing himself well enough, "however! After working on the dinner with everyone and really feeling the spirit of teamwork, I was thinking with a group of our size… we should maybe elect a leader to help guide our group!"

"Oh hell yeah! That sounds perfect!" Tadatake slammed a fist to the table in excitement, "a leader for this squad is just what we need! You… uh… actually beat me to the punch in suggesting that."

"W-When were you going to ask that?" Aimi asked sheepishly.

"Soon! …enough!" Tadatake defended himself.

"An entire leader though?" Kanna's eyes widened. "This is s-so sudden!"

Prince felt surprised too. To elect a leader now of all times? "W-Why are you bringing this up Jun?"

"I think it'd solidify us even more!" Jun explained as she ran his hand through his hair, "think about it… if we didn't have a solid group… what's stopping everyone from running around doing whatever they want before the announcement tomorrow? No offense to Albion or Uta… but we saw that happen with them taking over the weapons room."

"For all of your benefit," Albion made sure to point out.

"Wait, are you saying we should elect someone to lead us here?" Fudo questioned before flatly speaking. "...are you suggesting this to get us to vote for you or something?"

"N-No not at all!" Jun nervously chuckled, "I think it's someone we should all agree is capable of uniting us. And there's really only two people that fit the bill, wouldn't you say?"

"I'm glad to be one of those people!" Tadatake puffed his chest proudly as he gave a shining grin, "I'll tell you all the great qualities of why I should be leader!"

"Please! He was talking about me doll~" Hagoromo teased as she stood up," I definitely am honored to be one of the two chosen for the position!"

"...so obviously it's NOT going to be either of you," Kanon deadpanned.

"Boo…" Hagoromo leaned back in her chair, probably knowing she never had a chance for the position.

"W-What?!" Tadatake however looked flabbergasted, "why am I not being considered?!"

"Y-Yeah, I think… Tadatake could be a good leader…" Aimi timidly encouraged, "he set up the breakfast meeting idea…"

"And he almost tried to beat Omen up when we woke up here!" Fudo slammed his hand on the table with a grin. "It was stupid of him, but pretty cool!"

Xiuying sighed at the pointers, "... so he contributed by… scheduling our meal plans and almost getting himself killed? Brilliant leader like qualities I see."

Tadatake frowned, "you just don't understand my genius, but it's all good! Pip and Shortcake do at least!"

"So… the actual enfants?" Amelie chuckled, "quelle blague! You truly do amuse me with that brutale head of yours!"

"S-Sorry Tadatake," Jun crossed his arms, "I know you'd probably like to take charge but… I actually had two other people in mind. And I think… everyone else does too, right?"

Prince knew exactly where this was going, as did everyone else. Instantly… everyone glanced over at the two role models in particular.

It wasn't at all surprising that Amaya and Machi were the main candidates for being the leader.

"Oh that's nice!" Machi was oblivious. "Whoever is the leader should be confident, bold, dependable… and… uh… w-why are you all staring at me like that?"

"Oh my!" Amaya paused in shock at the attention on her, "a-are you suggesting us both… Brother Jun…?"

"Yep! One of you two should be the leader!" Jun smiled, "think about it. At the start of this game… Machi totally went to town on talking back to Alexander, and then afterward calmed us all down like a true leader would with that speech!"

Thinking back, Prince could still feel the fiery spirit Machi radiated as she spoke out against the mad man. She seemed totally in control, like a true leader.

"And then there's Amaya…" Jun continued, "not only did she rally us together during breakfast, but she suggested the idea of us having dinner together yesterday which gave us something to look forward to! Plus she's really taken charge recently with this breakfast as well by suggesting what we could do!"

Prince also felt his heart warm up as he thought over Amaya and all the helpful things she's said to both the group and him. Truy someone who had everyone's best interest in mind.

"That… is true," Tadatake grumbled, "I guess one of them being the leader isn't a loss! Although if they wanted to hand me the title then-!"

"I vote for Miss Machi!" Fudo beamed.

"P-Pip!? You betrayed me?" Tadatake gasped.

"Sorry Mister Take, Miss Machi's just smarter than you," Fudo grinned unashamed, "I've seen her when she puts on the glasses! She becomes both brains and beauty!"

"M-Mediator Mode doesn't just make me smart!" Machi tried to explain.

"Machi is pretty fearless," Jun beamed, "but I would give my vote to Amaya personally. She really came through with the dinner idea yesterday, and she's just been there for all of us."

"My vote would pass for Amaya as well," Luna nodded gently, "her resolve is as bright as the shining stars."

"S-Same here!" Kanna beamed, "I-I vote Amaya!"

"Everyone, this is…" Amaya looked closer to tears as she was shocked by the sudden attention. "I… I don't know what to say!"

"Wait, she's getting more votes than me?" Machi deadpanned, a flicker of a competitive spirit coming out, "okay wait! I-I have some decent qualities… kinda… like… I can name every single summer blockbuster superhero movie that has come out for the past ten years!"

"That's not a good sales pitch…" Kanon sighed, "but I might as well vote for you if I'm being forced."

"How are you being forced to vote for me?" Machi blinked.

"There was a certain way she spoke against Alexander that inspired me," Lukas nodded, his vote going to her.

Voting went underway… and what was supposed to be a relaxing dinner turned into a brief debate over who could best lead the group. Prince awkwardly was in the middle as he joined in with their voices, but for once… he felt like he was part of the discussion.

And that discussion ended in the final results with…


Machi: Fudo, Kanon, Lukas, Tadatake, Hagoromo,

Amaya: Jun, Luna, Kanna, Aimi, Amelie, Stefano, Albion, Xiuying, Hania, Prince

Didn't Vote: Anata, Uta, Koji

(Didn't Count) Tadatake: Tadatake

(Didn't Count) Hagoromo: Hagoromo

In the end, Amaya was elected the leader. She clearly didn't expect it given the astonished gasp she let out at the overwhelming results, but she took the role with great understanding as she bowed her marionette doll.

"Everyone… my brothers and sisters, I… I promise you I will do my very best to keep you safe!" Amaya nodded firmly. She seemed a little nervous, but given she stepped up to the plate anyway, Prince knew she would make the best choice. "I apologize Sister Machi for stealing the opportunity from you."

"Nah, it's fine! Guess I got unlucky this election," Machi didn't seem that bummed about it as she smiled, "but I'll still work with you guys obviously!"

"Only five votes though?" Hagoromo scratched her cheek and bobbed her head side to side, "I wonder why…?"

Xiuying rolled her eyes. "Any side with both Hagoromo and Tadatake's vote is NOT the side I'm on."

"She lost by association to us?" Tadatake looked frazzled, both losing the vote and also being on the other losing side.

But with all of the votes tallied there was no more debate… Amaya would be filling in as their leader for the time being. Prince was happy to hear that…

With Amaya elected as the leader and breakfast pretty much finished… the group split up to do their own thing. Prince noticed Hania instantly left the dining room the first chance she got, definitely to avoid any more lingering conversations about the Angel Room.

After her were Amelie, Xiuying, and Lukas. Amelie started to ramble to Xiuying… who paid little mind to her words. Lukas only just marched on behind them with his sword ready to defend them… though he did give a nod to Kanna who waved goodbye to the knight.

Kanon was instantly next to leave, though she looked pretty sluggish. Jun watched on in concern for her as he went to clean the dining room.

The others lingered around, either to talk or clean. The crown group was causing a ruckus about their plans…

"If we see Omen, leave him to me!" Hagoromo sinisterly chuckled, "he has yet to beat me in a foot race… and I am determined to keep my two time title."

"But what if he ends up attacking you?" Fudo deadpanned as Minnie facepalmed. "You do realize you're provoking him right?"

"If he attacks anyone I get him all to myself!" Tadatake pounded his fist together, "ain't no way I'm gonna let him lay a finger on anyone here!"

"Lukas was knocked out with a full set of armor when he fought him…" Stefano blinked, "what are you going to do?"

"H-Hopefully it doesn't come down to that…" Aimi shivered nervously.

That group left pretty fast, leaving Prince to his devices for about… two seconds before Machi instantly scooped the boy up.

"It's time for the big search!" Machi beamed, as if celebrating some big event, "the mystery of the vanishing cameras is now being investigated by yours truly, Prince the Prepared, Kanna the Considerate, and-"

"Are you done?" Albion raised an annoyed brow. "Didn't you set up this group with the intention of investigating, or are you just some hyperactive puppy going from one topic to the next with no rhyme or reason?"

"No, that's more Hagoromo's thing," Machi smiled innocently.

Albion ignored the comment and turned to the door, scoffing, "let's just get this over with. We're supposed to be looking for the missing cameras and figuring out what's happening… not giving dumb nicknames to each other."

"R-Right…" Kanna nodded before freezing out, "I mean- w-wait that sounds like I agreed with the n-nickname insult! I'm sorry! I meant… uh… I agree with our objective. W-We should go out now, yes?"

Prince hesitantly agreed, "Yeah, there isn't much point staying here. The cameras that we once saw around the manor… are missing s-so lets try to figure out where they were. Where do we go fir-"

Albion walked right out of the room before anyone could discuss where they'd begin the search.

"Guess he knows where we're going," Machi shrugged as she held onto Prince' hand, tugging him off, "so we're off then as well!"

Prince felt his heart race as he allowed Machi to drag him out of the kitchen. She was always so tightly bound to him, but he didn't really mind. Hopefully with Kanna nearby though they would focus on what really mattered…

…what was going on with those cameras?

The trio of Prince, Machi, and Kanna hurried up to a stern Albion as he led the pack. He looked focused on heading to a specific location, though when Machi tried to bug him about it... he didn't say a word.

"Hold it," Albion finally stopped dead in his tracks in front of… the Weapons Room. "Stay here and wait until I come out."

"Um… why?" Machi blinked, "what do you need from the Weapons Room of all places?"

"I don't need anything in there," Albion scoffed, "those weapons are piss poor. I'm informing Uta of what happened for breakfast."

"Are you h-his informant for what the group does?" Kanna squeaked, looking curious.

"Tch, please, I'm not anyone's lackey," Albion looked annoyed at the thought as he folded his big arms, "that moron just isn't able to leave his post in case anyone dares to be stupid enough to grab a weapon from that room. So all I do is check on him to make sure he's doing his job and is caught up to speed. If anything he works under me."

"Says the Blacksmith… who creates the weapons for masters like me to use." Suddenly Uta's chilling words alerted the group to his presence outside the door. "None of you were even close to quiet, I could hear you coming a mile away."

"Well look at you all prepared!" Machi beamed, causing an eye roll from Uta.

"If I was prepared I'd know what everyone was doing down to the millisecond," Uta waved over as he tightened his frown, "now explain, what are you doing?"

Kanna looked beyond terrified of Uta but nervously spoke up, "u-um, we're trying to pinpoint where the cameras in the mansion are and… why they are vanishing."

"Oh yes, those vanishing devices…" Uta shrugged.

"You've noticed them missing?" Prince gulped.

"Since day one, yes," Uta casually remarked, "those cameras were distracting in the first place… so their vanishing was an immediate warning for me that something was transpiring."

"Well we're going to investigate them!" Machi grinned, "wanna join-"

"-and leave behind my post in the weapons room?" Uta deadpanned, "you're basically asking someone to commit murder if I leave this room. And given the announcement today... the chance of that happening has increased. No doubt someone might be preparing for it..."

Prince tensed up at the topic and he noticed Kanna similarly shrank back. The idea of murder was still…

..stupid according to Machi's sudden laugh at the idea. "You guys worry too much, no one would ever try and commit murder here. Have you seen our group? We've been here for a good while and now and no one's even tried anything."

"It's... only day two," Prince pointed out sheepishly.

"We've been here a short while and no one's tried anything!" Machi corrected.

"Naturally because we've barred off the only room filled with weapons," Uta said with an uninterested look.

"That's… n-not exactly true," Kanna nervously spoke up, hugging himself as he gave it some thought, "technically there are items that can be used as weapons in e-every room that can commit murder. The gym and game room sort o-of come to mind, but no one has given it much consideration because… I-I think we all trust each other, I-I hope…"

Prince raised his eyebrows at that. Yeah, there were technically weapons everywhere... and yet everyone was keeping it relatively peaceful. Hopefully that meant this type of group would never resort to such drastic measures.

"That kind of thinking may prove to be your downfall," Uta shrugged. Seemed he was dead set on preparing for the worst case scenario, "but if you're going to stick to such a mindset, do whatever. Just keep me out of it."

Albion rolled his eyes at the conversation, "enough with the wishy washy crap, we need to talk, just us." He ordered to Uta, almost shoving him inside the Weapons Room before he shut the door.

"Annnnd they left us out here," Machi frowned before shrugging off her worries with a grin, "oh well! This works out perfectly, I wanted to talk to you guys anyway!"

"Y-You wanted to talk to us?" Kanna blinked as he sheepishly stepped up. "Of c-course! I can talk about a-anything you want! J-Just say the word and I'll do my best! I've researched thousands of t-topics for small talk so n-now might be the perfect situation to use that in! M-Maybe we can talk about the political state of the world r-right now! O-Oh, or maybe we can have a deep discussion about our nightmares… as a t-therapeutic exercise!"

Now it was Machi's turn to blink. "Oh!"

She said nothing else.

Kanna took this as a sign to shrink back in embarrassment. "E-Er, only if you uh… wanted to h-hear those topics. We don't have to…"

"N-No it's okay!" Machi pumped her fist again in reassurance. "That stuff does sound interesting to talk about, but I more so meant… Kanna as the Grand Assistant you would have an excellent memory, right? So I was hoping you assistance could help me with Prince's memory, since I promised him I'd help with that!"

To end the chain of surprise blinking… Prince blinked in shock before his eyes widened. "W-Wait what?"

"Yep! I figure we can do a memory search right now!" Machi beamed before backtracking, "or well uh… memory training is what I meant to say. The conversation at dinner reminded me that I promised to help you with that… especially since now we know the magic here apparently is why you lost your memory… and ours too! And since we're all here now, I think it's as good a time as any to get you on the same page as everyone else!"

Prince's eyes widened, remembering their earlier conversation a few nights ago. So Machi did remember her promise to him…

Kanna spoke up this time, processing the conversation he was sort of dragged into, "that is true… out of everyone Prince's memory is by far the most limited. But don't w-worry, I wanna help! So… whatever questions you need answered about anything like Grandview or even something simple about the world… I'm here!"

Prince couldn't contain his excitement. Despite everything he was really going to learn something now. But now that he had the option to speak up and learn new things, his throat choked up with the overwhelming questions.

"A-Are you okay Prince?" Kanna's eyes shrank as he covered his mouth, "you look nervous? D-Do you need water or anything! Just let me know and I'm here to help!"

"O-Oh, no I'm fine," Prince finally managed to speak, "I just got overwhelmed with the ideas of what to talk about. But um… Uta and Albion actually told me a few things about Grandview yesterday… like how competitive it is… s-so… maybe I'd like to hear more about that school. Maybe it can help me understand why we were taken…"

Machi looked pretty satisfied with that, her purple eyes sparkling with delight. "Alright then, so where to start? Hm… there's so much to talk about with Grandview since it basically connects us all…"

"We could talk about the s-selection process!" Kanna gulped, suggesting the idea sheepishly, "that's what makes it so c-competitive you know! I read up extensively on how Grand students are s-selected! Or we can talk about how long e-each term is! It's actually different from most schools!"

Prince nodded absently with a nervous smile. "Maybe I can tell you what I know first… and see if it's right and wrong. That way I know i-if… I'm on the right track or not." He had heard many different things from so many different people, but he decided to go with the basics for now.

"T-That's fine too!" Kanna flushed. He didn't seem to be bothered by the idea as he pulled out some notes to use, "t-tell us what you know!"

"Okay um… those who join the school get immense success…" Prince recounted slowly. "And also… it was a school that broke the mold of the academic era. And its m-mission statement was… 'those who seek progress take the first step toward power' or something like that."

Kanna mumbled a little at that, his eyes widening in curiosity, "that's… very specific information that's all true. How did you recall all of that?"

Now it was Prince's turn to fluster. "Don't think this is weird or anything but um… there was a newspaper clipping about the school in my room when I first woke up. Plus, I talked to others about it so… this is just the general k-knowledge I've gathered."

"A newspaper clipping?" Machi mused, "that makes sense! Grandview is super popular so the newspaper would print up all the time about the school. How one found its way into your room however…" Machi muttered to herself before eventually quieting down. "Eh, unimportant I guess! Anyway, you're pretty much right, those who attend the school are promised success, and that's indeed its mission statement, the headmaster came up with it."

"The headmaster?" Prince curiously asked.

Machi quickly nodded. "Yep! I forgot his name, but he's like… super intense! He created the school in an effort to change the world, by recruiting a group of remarkable people he deemed as 'Grand' in society. So I suppose he did break the 'academic mold'."

"You forgot his name?" Kanna eyed Machi in bewilderment. "W-Wouldn't a student attending the school know its h-headmaster? You usually meet him personally at the entrance ceremony to get in!"

"Well… technically none of us got to attend the entrance ceremony since… you know… this kidnapping and all, hehe!" Machi talked about the dark matter with an embarrassed smile. "L-Listen with how intense the entrance exam was to just get into the school... I… kinda forgot about him after."

"You forgot about the g-guy whose changing the structure of our world...?" Kanna deadpanned nervously.

"Yeah!" Machi smiled.

'How is this going to help with my memory training…?' Prince internally sighed. Aside from the banter going on, Prince was intrigued of this entrance exam. This was the first that he had heard of something like that. "W-Wait, so Grandview has an entrance exam?"

"T-That's right!" Kanna confirmed, albeit timidly as he fiddled with his pen, "it's not enough to be scouted or invited as the best of something, you have to prove your worth b-before they officially accept you, so you take a test depending on your field. No test is the same… so someone like… ummm… Albion or… Uta… wouldn't have the same test as someone like m-me."

"And what was your test?" Prince nervously asked.

"...I-I was tasked with assisting my town's local orphanage… get it back into proper code…" Kanna reluctantly spoke, a sudden… somber look entering his eyes.

Well that was… interesting. Prince didn't feel it best to pry… so he turned to Machi. "And what about your test, Machi?"

Machi brightened up as she talked about her test. "Oh! My test was settling a political dispute between two parties in a local city! It was a pretty big deal since in the history of that city… those two parties never saw eye to eye before."

Talk about extreme… Prince would probably fumble over his words in that situation. "And t-that's it?"

"Yep!" Machi grinned. "If you pass, then boom, you're in. I suppose the headmaster wanted to see the results of our efforts before letting us in… since then we could be declared as the best in our field."

"W-Wow… that's interesting, I can see how it's competitive now..." Prince murmured. That was one thing that seemed consistent the whole time, Prince noticed everyone was the 'best' at something here, no matter how taboo or bizarre.

…but… Prince internally was conflicted. He thought of what it would be like to exist in that sort of school. To be surrounded by the exceptional, expected to deliver results, to take the… "first step towards power". The thought was both inspiring… and also… terrifying given he was getting a taste of the exceptional talent in this manor.

Compared to him everyone was so… great. He tried not to think about what that made him as he turned to the others with a forced smile. "It sounds pretty intense, b-but if you can become successful from g-going to that school… I suppose it's worth it."

"Way more than worth it!" Machi grinned, "some graduates go on to become world leaders, groundbreaking scientists, and even influential stars in the entertainment scene! If you have Grandview's stamp of approval, a LOT of doors open for you."

"T-That should be the case…" Kanna however didn't look too assured by that statement, mumbling something before taking over. "It's why the school is held in high regard. So… it possibly makes sense why Alexander took us before a-attending the school. He could be someone who hates it on principle and wants to tatter its reputation. Grandview had its fair share of enemies, especially against the h-headmaster."

"Why the headmaster specifically?" Prince sweat, "in fact… I've heard a bit about him but… still don't know anything concrete about him…"

"That's because… he's very…" Kanna didn't finish, he looked nervous to speak on it again, "a-anyway, the headmaster's view of the world sometimes clashes with other people. He's a very stubborn guy..."

"M-Maybe if it's that… Alexander d-does hate him?" Prince murmured to himself now, still unsure of some things regarding the theory, "but Alexander… i-is aggressive about his views to… about sacrificing things. He's… very strange…"

Mach reassuringly spoke. "Which is why we shouldn't take anything he says seriously. He might be going through some emotional breakdown involving Grandview as his chosen target… and we were the unlucky ones that were picked out for his revenge."

"B-But… didn't he say yesterday that… 'he couldn't invite anyone else but us'?" Prince remembered how specific Alexander was with those words, how despite the game he treated them to dinner and drinks. How he insulted Omen for attacking Lukas. How he visited and gave Prince a crown.

Every time he thought of the man… his head hurt at the contradictions…

"Whatever his reason is, it's just weird to make people kill each other, so I think we should ignore him!" Machi smiled, regaining her tune as she glanced at Prince. "So… did that help jog any memory at all?"

Prince tried to think back at that moment on anything related to Grandview, but his mind came up as blank as always. "Maybe n-not my memory, but at least I have a foundation about what the school is like." Despite the lack of answers, he was appreciative to have actually gotten something of note. "T-Thank you both for this… I… I at least can say I know about the school you guys were gonna go to."

Machi looked relieved at that and held Prince's hand, causing his heart to race. "Prince, don't mention it! To be fair none of us got a chance to attend the school either, so we're all kinda in the dark like you about it. I think the fact we blacked out after reading our invitations is like… bad as well… don't you think Kanna?"

"Blacking out in general is b-bad!" Kanna did have a point there as he nervously stammered. "But yes, the fact is we don't remember how we got here… well i-in that case we all really are like you Prince. So, we s-should try to be on the same page of information."

Prince squirmed as he thought of the last thing he was still hiding, that being Alexander's visit, but after all this time… it was possible that he didn't need to keep it to himself. He could actually open up and not expect judgment… but rather curiosity and support.

But before he could open his mouth to touch on the subject, Albion suddenly reappeared.

"Alright, I'm finished, we can head out." Albion muttered as he glared between the three of them.

"You sure took your sweet time," Machi noted, "we were able to have a whole conversation before you came back out."

"If you're that annoyed with how I do things you're welcome to split off," Albion scoffed, "might save me the headache of traveling with you all."

"N-No need for that, please!" Kanna tried his best to stop anyone from splitting off as he nervously gulped, "w-we need more pairs of eyes in order to locate and speculate about the m-missing cameras… s-so… please let's corporate."

"Yeah… the more eyes the better." Prince nodded sheepishly as he rubbed his arm, "speaking of… I think I know where we could start our investigation. There was a… camera somewhere… I remember..." A brief moment was taken to recall where it was. "Oh right, it was in the parlor!"

"Then we don't have time to lose!" Machi pumped her fist in determination, "team, let's roll out!"

"Okay! I'm rolling out n-now!" Kanna followed along with the antics.

"You make it sound like we're some sort of superhero unit or something nerdy like that," Albion looked done with this.

Entering the parlor with haste, Prince watched nervously as Albion, Machi, and Kanna got themselves situated in the room. It looked just the same as Prince remembered. It had that same muted glow from the fireplace that made the red chairs and large bookshelves pop all the more in the mystical setting.

"So this is the parlor…?" Albion glanced around the room, unimpressed, "it's just a smaller version of the library."

"Isn't that a good thing since the library is like… impossible to navigate?" Machi giggled.

On the surface though Albion was right, there wasn't much in this room you couldn't find in the expansive library. However Prince recalled a few differences. Mainly the place was connected to a smaller billiard room. "At least there's a g-game you can play here… it seems cozier…"

When Machi spotted the billiards table she lit up. "Oh fun! Best two out of three?" Machi grabbed a pool cue and began to mess with it next to Albion. "Don't tell me you're scared of a challenge?"

Another eye roll from Albion, "please, I'd mop the floor with you in this game."

"If that's the case we should make it a duos game!" Machi grinned as she pulled Prince near her, "I call Prince!"

"W-What? We're not actually playing this now right?" Prince gulped.

Albion stifled a chuckle, "doing me a favor by picking the dead weight amnesiac? Perfect, Kanna would be my partner then if I was actually taking this seriously."

Kanna's eyes grew tense as he rubbed his delicate fingers in anxiety. "I-I don't want to… s-spoil the fun but I thought we were… supposed to investigate?"

"Didn't you hear me?" Albion's smirk vanished into his signature frown. "I said 'IF' I was taking Machi's suggestion seriously. Obviously we don't have time to waste on this dumb game. We got important things to do."

"Sounds like an excuse to chicken out to me~" Machi hummed as she put the pool cue away, "another time then, we're supposed to be looking for a camera though, right?"

Prince nervously sweated. "You're asking that as if you forgot why we're here…"

Kanna however picked up the slack and answered Machi instantly, "y-yes! One of the cameras is in this room… or at least it s-should be, yes?"

Prince nodded, "yeah I remember one of them was… it was up…" But his words left him as he pointed to an empty spot on the wall. Where the camera should've been… was instead an empty white plate with the screws undone.

It really was gone. But… if Prince recalled correctly it was right there… clear as day back then.

High above a few brown chairs positioned against the wall was a white security camera, which seemed to watch him with a haunting fixation. Its smooth chrome surface was similar to that of his watch, with a small 'M' imprinted on the side in sharp text. Perhaps a logo of some kind? Whatever the case was, it seemed to follow him as he began to move around, although he wasn't sure if it was merely his paranoia telling him that.

"Is it possible someone recently installed t-this...?" he mumbled to himself, "well, this is a fancy home… it's… probably meant to catch people who try to break in. That has to be it… I think…"

"I swear it was here before…" Prince murmured uneasily. Hopefully they didn't take it as if he was lying about the placement of where the camera was.

"I don't doubt that," Albion scoffed as he grabbed a chair and stood on it to inspect it closer, "it's pretty obvious the camera here was dismantled, just as we guessed before. So those idiots really are taking them down, probably the bigger brute."

"But w-why?" Kanna blinked, "wouldn't that violate rule-"

"Rule #2. Yes, it would…" Suddenly, a new, uneasy voice entered the conversation, but to everyone's shock it wasn't Albion, whose voice was more passionate and irritated… no it was…


"Koji? What are you doing here?" Machi tilted her head, definitely surprised, "we haven't seen you in like forever!"

Everyone glanced at Machi in confusion since… they literally met Koji last night for dinner.

Koji sighed as he rubbed his eyes, appearing... conflicted, "I was... in the café trying to look for something, but then the two... queens of blazing fire and rage... came in and demanded I go-" Koji scrunched his nose slightly in annoyance "-I was in the middle of an important investigation to..."

"Queens of... what?" Albion immediately scoffed, "...oh wait, yeah, those two. Talk about buzzkills."

"Amelie a-and Xiuying?" Prince finally said it aloud, a bit quiet though in case the two could hear him somehow.

"And their little knight too," Koji revealed in a serious tone, though it sounded sort of cartoonish when he said it in that dark voice, "Lukas I think...? Anyway they kicked me out of that room for the day and now I'm here."

"Makes sense…" Kanna murmured uneasily, "Amelie does like the café room… she talked about making it her main spot of the manor to me."

"So she's just claiming ownership over rooms?" Albion looked offended. "Who does she think she is? Honestly the nerve of her…"

"Albion, you've locked everyone out of the weapons room," Machi pointed out blankly.

"Shut up." Albion rolled his eyes.

"Ignoring… that," Koji blinked in bewilderment before his gaze grew firm, "now I get to ask a question, what are you all doing here? This is a pretty big group for a room as small as the parlor. Are you searching for something?"

Kanna spoke up with a squeak, "u-um… just-"

"Hold it" Albion didn't look to happy as he glared down the undertaker, "why should we tell you jack? You barely show up to the group as is, rambling about distrusting others and all that crap. If you want to go lone rider on us then do that, but we don't owe you anything."

"Albion!" Machi didn't seem pleased by the answer and stepped up, "ignore him, he's being all grumpy from the lack of sleep~!"

Albion huffed. "Whatever. You don't need the information, especially because it sounds like you were already listening in on our conversation. This is... what? The second time you've lurked around the rest of the group? The first time was during dinner... and now you're conveniently snooping around us."

Koji looked slightly offended by managed to stifle his complaints with a forced sigh, "I did hear you… but what else was I supposed to do? Interrupt you in the middle of your search?"

"You… kinda did already," Prince sweat dropped with a nervous smile.

Koji only stared blankly at Prince before sighing again. "...fine, I didn't need to know anyway. Just know in the eyes of the underworld... this was an unfair trade."

"What?" Albion rolled his eyes, "can you speak... normally or can you not even do that much?"

Koji's red eyes closed tightly. "An unfair trade of information. Everything is give and take in this world. I told you what I was doing... and where Amelie and Xiuying were up to as well. So if you want to hide things from me, fine, but that counts as an unfair imbalance to the world... which makes me right to not trust any of you."

"Koji... come on," Machi started up.

"No, if that's how you wish to play it, that's fine," Koji seemed indifferent as he crossed his arms, "given whatever... announcement... is happening tomorrow, I'll let you guys do what you please... and we can both agree to stay out of each other's way."

"Fine by me," Albion looked almost thrilled at the idea of the undertaker leaving as he turned his back with a scoff.

Koji did the same with tightened fist and almost walked out. Prince wanted to reach out... to maybe stop him and explain what they were doing. However, before he could... Kanna finally spoke again.

"Um… w-wait, please," Kanna tried to raise his voice with a nervous murmur, "don't go, Koji! We... We can tell you what we're doing! You can trust us!"

"What do you think you're doing?" Albion muttered, unpleased with the direction Kanna was trying to take, "he doesn't trust any of us, yeah? Well then, he can go skip off into whatever coffin he came out of if he wants to avoid the group that bad."

Kanna's words were cut down a little by Albion's intense glare, but somehow, the boy managed to squeak out, "e-even then... we need to work together because of that announcement today. Everyone's on edge... but w-wee should be on the same p-page! And... clearly you came to dinner last night Koji so... I think you want to work with others, y-yeah?"

Koji stopped, glancing at Kanna with an uncertain gaze. At least he got him to stay for a second.

"Correction, I was forced." Koji quickly muttered.

Oh that was right, Uta dragged Koji to the dinner... but anyway!

"Still, you stayed..." Kanna smiled sheepishly, "s-so please, you can go off by yourself if you want... but I'll tell you what w-we're doing, promise! It's my duty as an a-assistant to help everyone, so let me help you..."

Prince could feel the nervous determination pouring out of Kanna's voice. The boy clearly was struggling to hold it together... but he was seriously trying his best to reach out to Koji...

And unlike with Anata earlier in the kitchen... Koji actually relented.

"...W-Well then, with your pleading I'll oblige," Koji nodded, though it was clear he was curious what the group was doing, "let's make this a fair trade... tell me what you're doing here."

Prince smiled given Koji decided to stick around briefly. Kanna actually did a great job convincing him... so now it was up to the others to help answer and keep the promise... which Prince decided to do as he spoke up, "we're looking for the cameras that were around the mansion. B-But… most of them have gone missing… so we're trying to solve the mystery behind them."

"And as you can see-!" Machi spoke up, similarly glad to share the info as she pointed at the parlor wall where the camera used to be "-the camera in this room is missing."

"Oh right… there was a camera here, wasn't there?" Koji clutched his jacket, clearly thinking over something, "funnily enough my own investigation was focused on looking for them."

"Wait... you were ALSO looking for the cameras?" Machi sputtered.

"Yeah..." Koji hesitantly shared as he crossed his arms, "when we woke up here there were cameras in a few of the rooms... I made note of them in my mind. But yesterday as I explored around this cursed manor... I didn't see them again. I'm not sure why they are vanishing… but my best guess is the people in charge of this game have taken them down… most likely Omen."

"Word for word what I guessed earlier but okay," Albion muttered, not happy Koji stuck around but deciding to play along anyway.

"Ignoring him... why do you suspect Omen?" Machi questioned.

"Because... he's the enforcer here," Koji explained, "Alexander and Empress don't look to involve themselves in small matters like that. As the brawn, Omen probably carries out all of their task, even minor ones I would assume."

"That… is true from what w-we've seen," Prince nervously agreed. "But then that begs the question of why they were set up at all before? I-I mean, to set up a bunch of cameras only to THEN take them down seems like wasted work, doesn't it?"

"Maybe…" Kanna was suddenly speaking to himself as he kept his train of thought open, "m-maybe our captors weren't the ones who set them up before?"

"What?" Prince tensed slightly, "a-are you saying someone else set them up besides Alexander?"

Kanna started to piece some idea together as he frowned, "p-perhaps. I mean, it's as you said earlier, it s-seems counterintuitive if Alexander set them up initially... only to then take them down. Why b-bother at all with the security if you're just going to change your mind?"

"Well to be fair, Alexander is a... sporadic kinda guy?" Machi noted with a slightly bewildered look.

"That's a good a-assessment to make of h-him," Kanna mumbled as he looked down, "but there's other things I thought were weird about the cameras to if Alexander set them. F-For um... example, the style of the manor is h-historically Japanese and magical right? But… the cameras… were very futuristic. We know Alexander uses magic a-anyway, so why would have such modern looking c-cameras installed?"

Prince nodded along as Kanna explained. Alexander had always been more erratic given how magical abilities... so it would make sense for him to use that instead of cameras, right?

Albion thought on the idea as he glanced at his electronic wrist watch, "you might actually be talking sense."

"R-Really?" Kanna glowed a bit at the acceptance to his idea.

"Really? How?" Koji asked, his expression growing grimmer by the second.

Albon muttered something before he spoke with a firm frown, "it could make sense given our idiot captors are clearly more traditional then modern. We got a moron for a samurai, and some witchy ghost woman. Not to mention when we woke up there was a hand written note from the nut job owner. That must mean, they rarely use technology, I mean do any of them look like they know how to use it?"

"Only Alexander seems like he does," Koji pointed out as he clung to his jacket. "But... if we're really following this satanic train of thought... the cameras are clearly made from some high tech from what I remember, and our watches also seem to be the same style as the cameras to, maybe the two are connected for some nonsense reason... and belong to... another party."

"But… who could that 'other party' be?" Machi didn't seem to have a clue what was happening but she was determined to find out. "We were already dealing with Alexander and the others. Could... another group really be behind this? If so... who?"

"I… don't know," Koji looked frustrated that he didn't have an answer.

Everyone went silent. They had brought up the idea of another group behind their situation... but they didn't have any avenues to continue their line of thought. Just what was this game... and what was going on? Prince honestly felt he was going to drown from the questions he had.

After awhile, Kanna seemed to rationalize something as he nervously spoke ,"um... even if we don't know exactly if another group is behind this, we still know for sure the cameras are being taken down... and if we w-wish to know more about why the camera was taken down… perhaps we s-should, find Omen and question him about it."

"You actually want to see that crazy guy?" Albion looked dumbfounded at the idea.

Kanna stiffened at being questioned so harshly, but he tried to persist. "If our t-theory is true that he set them up, he'd have to explain himself, wouldn't he? His purpose is to enforce the rules so... m-maybe he can tell us stuff about the cameras?"

That sounded plausible. Although Prince was nervous to encounter that large enforcer again. All he could do was agree with everyone.

"That seems to be our only option for now, yeah," Machi nodded as she glanced at the billiards table, "unless you guys were up for a quick game of-"

"Nope, we're finding Omen. Let's go." Albion was first to leave, dragging Machi behind him.

"Not even one tiny game?" Machi's voice faded away.

This left Kanna, Koji and Prince alone, to which Prince hesitantly stepped up to glance at Koji. "Do you want to come with-"

"I think you know the answer to that," Koji sighed, struggling with his new few words, "I will... thank you... for at least exchanging useful information with me... but... I already told you I'm more comfortable with my solo endeavors. With what we just discussed... I need to make sure no matter what I'm in a good position to be safe…"

"B-But... you were opening up to u-us..." Kanna wanted to speak up now, but was shut down with a strange glare from Koji.

The undertaker looked guilty, but he forced a frown

"I was only sticking around for the information," he explained with a forced sigh, "now that I have it... I'll part ways here. You seem to have an idea what to do before that announcement so..."

Koji paused, turned around, and then let out a strained mutter as he left, "...j-just be cautious of the demons in the shadows."

Prince only briefly remembered that look when he first stormed away from the group on the first night. So why… had that look returned so badly?

"Koji… seems tense again," Prince sighed sadly as he tried to reach out for Kanna, hesitating briefly, "I'm sorry, you did a good job warming him up to us though..."

Kanna nervously tapped on his watch, his eyes downcast. It didn't seem like he heard Prince as he talked aloud, "I'm worried about us all, we're all more crabby today despite the dinner." Kanna paused, his eyes tense. "No one's going to hurt a-anyone, right?"

Prince was about to answer, but he noticed Kanna was just mumbling to himself now. It seemed he was asking himself that to just reassure his nerves more than anything.

But Prince wanted to try and be there for him regardless, "I… I think we'll be okay. Everyone seems nice so… we shouldn't worry."

Kanna gazed at Prince, and seemed to fluff up slightly like a cat, as if… slightly reassured. "R-Right, we shouldn't worry. We should just… keep everyone happy…" Suddenly, he started fiddling with something in his pocket, his grip tight.

Prince actually caught that it was a picture of some kind. What… was that about?

Before Prince could ask, Kanna seemingly let the topic settle in his mind as he scuffled past, his eyes deep and focused. Prince blinked and gazed at the sleek paneling where the camera was.

…just what was going on with this house?

…and what was going on with everyone else?

Author's Note

This chapter ended up being more of a pain to write then I thought, and I think the reason for that is... I rewrote the breakfast scene like eighty times (not clickbait).

Jokes aside, this is one of the more standard chapters I've done, so we're still kinda in the midst of the game's daily life. It's taken me forever to actually get into the meat of the game and I apologize, but I do mean it when I say stuff will pop off soon. I estimate with the idea I have in mind, it should be three chapters before the body drops... hopefully.

Given my timing that probably sounds horrifying to wait that long but trust, I have an idea and I hope you all like how its executed!

Anyway. Do you love what's happening so far? Hate it? Anything I can do for the characters? Do you LIKE any characters? I know it's been a good while since I've consistently tried to put up chapters so again... I'm really sorry for all the delays I've been putting off. In the meantime...


Algorithmic Alteration - Otterplay

Corrupted Hope - SilverMark16

Cold Blooded Revenge & Guilty as Charged - Sempi

Honeymoon Havoc - Nekoja

Obscurity's Disgrace - ExtraMeme

Puegatorio and Happily Never After - WolfieRed23

Your False Words - Prince PokePersona

Y'all the works are amazing and the writers ARE THE MOMENT, so please also check them out, their stories are really well written and they are such nice authors!

As for this story... I can't confidently say when the next chapter will be done... but I can still say this story is the priority until I make it up to chapter 1, and honestly I want to focus on it as much as possible past chapter 1 as well before returning to sanctuary, so those folks will have to hang tight, GH has been long overdue for a trial anyway.

With that being said, I'll see you all next update and thanks for putting up with this schedule. Here's hoping I can get the next one out when I can!

Take Care