Sorry about the late update.

Chapter Five: Truth Revealed

It all made sense now.

***

"D-don't you start again!" Shiki pulled back, crossing her arms across her chest and holding Mr. Mew tight. He paused, eyes almost shining in the light, and then with obvious difficulty he pulled himself up straight.

"Shiki, dear, I know you want to ask a question, so I must insist you do."

She blurted it out before she could help it. "Why are you hanging out with me? Me in particular?"

"Isn't it obvious?" He asked.

"No. I have two reasons, and I just hope….that you're not doing what I think you are."

"Which is…?"

"You…don't have a crush on me, do you?" She asked.

Joshua giggled, which quickly turned into laughter. Shiki felt herself turn bright red.

"If that's not it, you're just using me, right?"

"Explain your reasons for that statement." His laughter had cut off unexpectedly fast.

"Well, you don't like me, so you must want to use me for the Game somehow."

"That is only about one third of the way true." He paused, but when she didn't react he continued. "I'm interested in your abilities in the UG, for reasons that should be obvious, given to the life you had bestowed upon your precious cat. However, I also have a certain degree of affection for you, since your upbeat personality is very amusing, and is a pleasant difference from those I am familiar with. Also, your thoughts are interesting to hear." Joshua studied his nails, speaking calmly. "Seeing how you interact to the things I do is also very intriguing."

"If you're just using me because I entertain you-"

His head shot up, and Shiki trailed off, staring into his violet eyes, which looked like smoldering embers. Was he angry?

"Yes, I'm very irritated with you." He narrowed his eyes now, and she found it hard to look away. "Shiki, dear, I value you very closely as a friend. Possibly, something more?" He smirked then, moving slowly closer.

"You have a weird way of showing it." She replied, flattening herself to the wall.

"Do I?" He inquired, smiled slowly. "See, that's what is so amusing about you."

"What?" She snapped.

"Do I intimidate you?"

Shiki considered this. Not really, she thought he was simply the world's largest jerk, but it was clear he meant no harm, at least at the moment. She found this all kind of amusing, but only if it was happening to someone else. Right now it was just confusing.

However…whenever he got that look…

"See, I do frighten you a bit."

"J-Josh, what do you want?" She asked, pointedly ignoring that last statement.

"Very well, dear Shiki. Would you be interested in joining the Game?"

"No." Shiki answered instantly.

"Why not?"

"I don't know what you're doing, but…you hardly ever mean well. You'd just use me."

"I'm shocked and hurt you think of me that way." He pouted slightly.

"You'll get over it." She pointed to the door. "Get out. I don't want to see you again!"

He actually looked surprised. "I thought we were friends, dear."

"We can be friends, but you have a weird way of getting to the point. If you're done being creepy and wanting to use people, then come back. Because…friends don't use each other, Joshua."

He dipped his head, studying her through his ashen hair. "My my. I've forgotten that other part of your personality. Any other requirements I have to meet?"

"Be honest, too. That's really important in friendships."

His eyes laughed silently. "Honest? Shall I begin now?"

She nodded, hugging Mr. Mew, unable to believe he was actually listening.

"Remember that thief?"

She bobbed her head again.

"That incident was my fault. Honestly, dear, who would steal a stuffed cat? It was an associate of mine from the Game."

She remembered those terrible hours when she thought she would never see her precious stuffed feline again, and then how happy she had been with Joshua for giving her back her possessions.

Oh. My. God.

Why didn't she think of that earlier? Of course. He had set that up, trying to get close to her, in an effort to get her to join the Game…Because her powers were unique, and might work in other ways besides what she knew.

And, possibly, he wanted to spend time with her…?

Shiki gritted her teeth, tightening her grip on Mr. Mew.

"Get. Out."

"But I'm being honest, Shiki." He giggled again.

Shiki flung open the door so hard that when it hit the wall a photo fell off.

"Get out! Beat was right; I should never have trusted you!"

Was it her imagination, or was his eyes…hurt?

"Are you certain?"

Shiki turned around, scowling. "I don't ever want to see your face again, at least not for a while. I'm afraid I'm going to kill you if I do."

"Ah yes, I messed with the three things I should never have touched. One, Mr. Mew, two, your trust, and three, your friends, correct?"

She whirled around; preparing to yell at him again, but there was no one there.

***

Later on, Shiki dialed Neku's number.

"Shiki? Where the hell have you been?"

"With Joshua."

"What?"

She quickly explained everything, about how Joshua apparently liked her and wanted to use her, about how he had stolen her things just to make it look like he cared enough to get them back, and how he had compromised her trust.

"He was probably going to hold you captive or something and make us help him for whatever sick needs he wanted." Neku growled. In a quieter tone he said, "I thought he was better than that."

Shiki leaned back, closing her eyes and said before hanging up, "If he does this to people he likes, I feel bad for those he hates."

She removed her necklace, dropping it in her desk drawer, and then slowly flipped down the picture Josh had given her. Now that the anger had faded, she just felt worn out. She'd have to call Eri and tell her something...maybe that she was feeling ill?

That wasn't far from the point, actually.

Shiki said out loud, mostly to herself, but possibly to a certain Composer who might be lingering in the room:

"You were always so indirect, but maybe that's what I had liked about you."

***

End, for real now. Ha-ha. Be sure to review! ^_^