The last person to arrive at Kishou School, wearing a blue star-shaped rank badge, was clearly thoroughly annoyed. "I'm here," she said, exhausted, and leaned against the tree.
Like the others, she looked, for the most part, like a Keroform species. However, also like the others, she was jet-black, like a silhouette, with the same glowing yellow eyes. The only other traces of color were the gleaming, blue-lit bracelets on her wrists and the badge pinned to her hat.
"Sorry I'm late," she went on, scrubbing the rain from her face with her hands. "Ugh, some days I could...!" When she moved her mouth, it glowed as brightly as her eyes.
"Took your sweet time," growled the silhouette with the red star.
"I'm sorry. Don't jump down my throat about it, okay?"
"If you two are done arguing," the gold-starred shadow said patiently.
"No fighting," agreed the purple star. "Let's all be polite, mmkay?"
"Hai," Blue said at once.
"Hai," agreed Red reluctantly.
"Now that we're all here, we can start," said Silver.
"Start what?" asked Blue. "Sorry, I kind of need to catch up."
"That's okay," said Pink kindly. "There's this letter for all of us. We were waiting for you to show up before reading it."
"Thanks," Blue replied. In her head, she was making notes. Okay, so I know Purple and Pink are both girls, no surprise there, or at least one would think so. So is Silver. Gold and Red and both guys, and I think Green is, though it's hard to tell with these weird voices we all have and only a laugh to go by.
"Should I open it now?" asked Silver.
"Go ahead," said Copper brightly. "We're all listening."
Silver tore the letter open and began to read it aloud. "Welcome, contestants..."
Welcome, those of you who are reading or hearing this letter. You are surely wondering why you have been instructed to gather here. Your patience will be rewarded now.
As you all know, the nine of you have been chosen to participate in the Game. It is both a great honor...and a great curse. It all depends on whether you win, or lose.
You are all players, but you are not all contestants. Eight of you are true members.
One of you is the Sly.
The Game will be four weeks long, during which you will live in a designated area, participate in challenges given to you via letter, and try your best to stay in while getting the other players out. One at a time, you will all be disqualified, until only one person is left. That person, whether it is an honest player or the Sly, wins the game. Will you be the first to uncover the secret? ...Or will you be one of the eight who walk away in shame, empty-handed?
Your goal is to reveal the identity of each of your fellow players. Every few days there will be a Campfire where you will gather unmasked. Only at a campfire are you allowed to make your guess. But be warned: if you are wrong, you have lost.
An incorrect guess is not the only way you can be disqualified. Every day there will be tests of your strength, skill, and smarts. These perilous challenges could be your defeat, or your key to success. If you recognize a person's reaction, you've revealed their identity.
But that still doesn't tell you which one is the Sly.
Failure to complete a challenge, cheating on a challenge, and incapacitation of any sort lasting for more than 24 hours will result in your disqualification, so be careful. And be warned—while other players will be disqualified for interference of any kind, the Sly will try to sabotage you.
Your first trial is a safe one, but one that may pose arguments. You must divide the five cabins you are allowed among the nine players. Furthermore, once these rooms have been assigned, you may not change your mind later.
There is another catch: if no one has correctly guessed the identities of the players before time is up, the Game has been lost and the Sly has won. You have four weeks.
When only three of you remain, you will receive new instructions. You three are the finalists. At this point, there is only one chance left. If the player who guesses is right, he or she wins the Game. If he or she is wrong, they have lost and brought their comrade with them, leaving the Sly to take the prize.
Of the finalists, of course, two are real contestants. Here is where the real challenge lies: either one or both of you will lose. The Sly, of course, is the enemy, but even so, your rival is hardly a friend.
"It's signed, 'The Hostess,'" finished Silver. "Just like the letter I got!"
"But where are we supposed to go?" demanded Red. "It never told us what we do now!"
"What's that?" asked Orange, who hadn't spoken yet. He dropped to all fours and crawled over to the square of silver that had fallen out of the envelope when Silver opened it.
"No--" shouted Red.
"Wait--" Gold began.
Orange picked up the piece of foil. No sooner had he done so than everyone's silver bracelets began to glow with a bright white light.
Then, in a flash, they were gone.
A square of foil as thin as gold leaf drifted to the ground and landed faceup in the grass. The Keron symbols written across it, had anyone been able to decipher them, read Superspace Teleportation Chip~One Use Only.