CHAPTER 1: I AM A JOKER
Yukio was drowning. At least that was what he thought at first. His entire being was submerged under the vast, deep blue of the ocean. There, he slowly sunk deeper into the abyss. The light from the sun far above the ocean illuminated the vast body of water as far as the eye can see. If Yukio knew he was not drowning, he could open his eyes and see the beautiful emptiness of it all - the marriage of deep blues and greens. Believing that this was the end of him, Yukio relinquished his will to cling onto life and took a breath; thinking that the salty poison would engulf his lungs. Surprisingly, it felt like taking in a breath of clean, refreshing air. Yukio opened his eyes and took in another breath, only to have the same results as the previous breath. He was breathing just fine under water. "I'm not drowning... Does that mean- Am I dead...?" Yukio suddenly spoke. His voice echoed softly through the water much to his surprise. "Just what is happening," he must've wondered. Yukio was raised on the notion of death being a chaotic event, but this instant, his believed death, seemed so orderly - so calming. Yukio attempted to move around but found himself immobile. Then, echoing whispers began to call out for him. "Yukio. Yukio. Yukio." the whispers repeated in succession.
The whispers were so frequent that it made it seemed like they were chanting. The whispers got louder and louder, or were, that too, an illusion? "Yukio!" a masculine voice brought him back from the land of dreams. It was his father calling him as he gently shook Yukio's shoulder. Yukio wiped his eyes and saw his father leaning against the family car. "Oh, well look who's awake. Honey, it's a miracle. Our son is alive." the father, turning his head to the right, lightly joked. "How long was I asleep?" Yukio asked. Yukio's mother passed by with a small box held in her right hand. "You slept the whole way, Yukio. But, hey, we're finally here." the mother said before walking away. Yukio slowly got out of the car and turned his attention to the humbly small, two-story house that stood resolute in front of him. "Welcome to your new home." Yukio's father said before heading to the trunk of the car. "Here, come help me unload some of this stuff." his father said as he impressively took two huge boxes from out of the trunk and made his way towards the house. Yukio headed for the trunk and, once he got there, he unloaded a pretty large box labeled "glassware".
As Yukio turned around, he noticed a young girl about his age heading down the street. She had a school uniform on - a Kumagawa High School uniform. Kumagawa is going to be Yukio's new school as he continues his second year of high school. He used to attend Mishima High School located in Takano's Guken district but due to an unusual incident that caused his former home to be burnt to the ground, Yukio and his parents had to relocate to the Inabi district. Where Guken has a more studious, urban excitement, Inabi offered a more tranquil, rural comfort. Not to say that the noise of the Takano's urban center didn't made its way to Inabi. No, Inabi was still part of the city after all, just a quieter part. "You're gonna bring that in anytime soon, Yukio?" his father called for him from the door. "Oh. Sorry." Yukio said as his mind drifted back to the task at hand. "Not much excitement around here..." Yukio spoke quietly to himself as he headed inside the house with the box of glassware.
[The Next Day]
This was Yukio's first quiet morning. In Guken, every morning was noisy with the sound of traffic, but here in Inabi, the only noise came from the pitter-patter of student shoes. Yukio had received his uniform the previous week when his father dropped by the school and picked it up. Now Yukio will have to put it on for the first time. In all honesty - and understandably so - Yukio hated the fact that he had to change schools. He was leaving behind his friends and a year of memories at Mishima High School. Unfortunately, the Guken district had few houses left available and the ones that were available were ridiculously priced, leaving the Yamada family with the only choice of moving to a new district. Yukio understood that fact but that didn't help him to like this new school any better. It was already mid-year which meant being a new student was only that much more difficult. But complaining about it won't help his situation in any way. He might as well tolerate his new life. With the grey clouds obscuring the sky, Yukio made his way to Kumagawa High School.
"Alright students, settle down please. We have a new transfer student joining us today from Mishima High School. Please introduce yourself to the class." a large, clean-cut man - who no doubt is the teacher - instructed Yukio. "My name is Yukio Yamada. I'm pleased to meet all of you." Yukio introduced himself with a complementary bow of respect. The class responded in unison with, "We're pleased to meet you," along with a respectful bow of their own. Yukio's first class of the day is an elective social studies class. This class is one of the few at Kumagawa in which both second and third year students could take together. "There's an empty seat next to Mr. Ito. That will be your seat from this point forward." the teacher, Tomido-sensei, told Yukio. Yukio studied the layout of the classroom before taking his seat next to the student named Kazuma Ito.
[Two Days Later]
Yukio had adjusted somewhat to his new school. For the most part, he still keeps to himself but he, at least, seems to be generally liked by his classmates. Today was an especially cloudy day. As Yukio entered into his elective social studies class, he noticed that everyone was staring at the tiny television hanging on the wall near the entrance. Yukio was a bit taken back by what he saw but quickly recovered his composure and made his way to his seat. Instead of asking his classmates any questions, Yukio merely adjusted his attention to the screen. "A girl by the name of Saki Yoshida has gone missing late last night. Saki Yoshida is a third year student at Kumagawa High School-" a reporter on the news explained much to Yukio's surprise. "(Saki?)" he thought as he looked over to the far side of the room. "So it really is true. Saki's gone missing." Masaru, the student sitting in front of Yukio, said with a defeated tone of voice. "How could something like this happen in Inabi?" another student - this time, Chie Izumimura - asked; her voice was a mix of anger and disbelief. As the students continue to share their thoughts on the situation, Gin Tsukishima, a good friend of Saki, sat at his desk without making a single peep.
As class ended, most of the students left along with Tomido-sensei who needed to make a quick trip to the men's room. There were seven students left in the class: Yukio Yamada, Yoshiko Uekita, Kiyoko Yamamoto, Kazuma Ito, Ayame Chika, Masaru Hanamura, and Gin Tsukishima. As the rest were about to leave, Gin walked to the front of the classroom in order to confront the others. "So what? Are you guys just going to forget about your classmate?" Gin suddenly asked them. "Well what are we supposed to do? We're just students. We need to leave this to the police to handle." Masaru responded. "The police are gonna do a half-ass job at finding Saki. WE need to take care of this ourselves. I have a hunch of where she might've been last. We could go there and conduct our own investigation." Gin proposed. Masaru gave a remorseful sigh. "I'm sorry but I- I gotta get to my next class... Sorry Gin..." Masaru said, defeated, as he walked past Gin and head out the classroom door. "And what about you guys? Saki needs our help. Think about it this way. If we find something that would help find Saki, we could give that to the police." Gin stated.
"Masaru's right. This is something beyond our power. We can't do anything-" Yukio began to speak but was interrupted. "Bullsh*t! I don't know about the rest of you but I'm sure as hell not gonna let this defeat me. I'll find her myself if I have to!" Gin claimed. While Yukio wasn't exactly friends with any of these people, there was something about Gin that made Yukio want to help. "You're dead set on doing this aren't you?" Yukio asked. "Yes I am." Gin replied. Yukio noted the fierce determination in Gin's eyes. "Fine. I'll help you." Yukio stated, much to everyone's surprise at the new student. "You will?" Gin asked eagerly. "Saki's a classmate of mine's. I'll help in anyway I can." Yukio answered.