Chapter 3: The Game

Haruhi thought she was dying.

Sure enough, the helicopter had almost brought them to the rendezvous, but the small trip from the foot of the mountain to the top had been tough. The girl was not in bad shape at all; she just was not used to wandering up and down mountains like that. Her father had never had the money to pay for such a trip, so she had never set a foot on a mountain before. Not that this was that much of a mountain according to the others, who had seemingly tried something alike before. But in her eyes, the tall uphill in front of her resembled nothing less than a mountain.

All six hosts securely found foothold step after step on their way up through the forest-covered hillside. Hunny was riding the back of Mori, who travelled on without complaint. Hikaru and Kaoru seemed to try and discuss the events of the day without the others hearing too much, even though Haruhi was sure that they knew just as little about the whole event as she and the others did. Tamaki was in front and seemed to be looking for something. And Kyouya was right behind her, absently tapping down some notes onto his mini laptop, which he carried in his left hand. Was she the only one being nervous? She did not recall the Host Club having such an arrangement before. Going to the beach or a fake jungle or an expensive hotel or the mall were some entirely other trips. This was something that required at least some skills. The ground was very steep.

The brunette could have sworn that she could have shrieked loudly the moment her foot slipped and she tumbled backwards, desperately trying to grasp something to save her from the fall, but even the closest person was too far away, and so she found herself falling, panic invading her senses and her lips parted to let out the sound of surprise which never came.

Once again, she was surprised, for her fall was seized by a strong embrace. It took her senses some time to realize, and when they did she felt everything else than tempted to see who had saved her, even though she knew that only one person was behind her.

Her heart raced erratically, her breath bated and her eyes slowly opening to confirm her salvation. Dark eyes stared back at her, calm and with a glint of something she could not identify. She found her heart beating even faster now that she looked so deep into those mesmerizing eyes that she had been lost in the night before.

She wanted to say something, wanted to thank him or kiss him or say his name, but the words never came, and her lips merely trembled in silence. And then she was pulled upon feet again.

"Are you hurt, Haruhi!" asked a nervous Tamaki and bit his lips, assessing the girl's face and arms and legs and midsection and brea-

"No, I am fine," Haruhi answered meekly, feeling somewhat annoyed. She was no little girl anymore. Tamaki did not need to fuss over her whenever she did something clumsy. Tamaki seemed to get this and nodded once, smiling and returning to the front of the crowd.

Letting a hand run through her short, chocolate brown locks, Haruhi sent Kyouya an apologetic smile.

"Thanks," she mumbled, still wanting to say more, but she suppressed it and continued forward like the rest of the group. The feeling of his muscular and hard chest against her back lingered to her with a tickling feeling to it. Something inside her wanted to laugh at herself, scornfully and accusingly. Ever since the night before, even the smallest glimpse or the lightest touch of the young Ootori made her body act weird. It was as if her hidden feelings for him, which she only had discovered that night, were beginning to bloom. And this was a problem. For yes, she did feel that there had been something special between them, but she knew that a relationship would be far too complicated with all their friends. Especially Tamaki.

Haruhi felt relieved when finally all of them stopped in something that looked like a small clearing in the forest that surrounded them. Everyone fell somewhat silent, and even the twins stopped talking to look around. She wondered if they knew why they had stopped.

Then a familiar laughter echoed. Renge. Of course. Weird things always seemed to happen around them once she showed up. As she approached them, a broad smile graced her lips.

"Renge-san!" greeted Tamaki eagerly, "Is everything ready?" The girl nodded, now with a cunning smile. A shiver ran up Haruhi's spine, and when she looked around, she saw a few semi-nervous faces. Or rather, to normal people they would seem stoic, but she knew them better than to be fooled by their facades. Especially Hunny seemed nervous. Kyouya did not even look like he was listening, because he kept tapping on his laptop. She did not really notice just how long time she eyed him, but suddenly he raised his gaze and looked back at her. In surprise, Haruhi withdrew her stare, a slight blush on her cheeks.

"Okay, dear friends of mine, gather around me!" exclaimed the tall blonde and brought forth a small box that he had been carrying in his backpack. In it were eight small pieces of paper, folded, and each with a name hidden in it.

"Haruhi, Hunny, Hikaru, and Kaoru, please pick a piece of paper each. If you choose your own name, pick a new one," Renge instructed with a broad smile and laughed. Hikaru and Kaoru fought to be first in line, so Tamaki allowed Haruhi to pick first. Without further thought she grabbed the upper piece.

"Do not open it until everybody has chosen," Renge added, "Even though I know that you are close to bursting with excitement! And for good reason." When the other three had picked a piece of paper each, they opened them. For a short moment, Haruhi felt her body freezing. Perhaps… perhaps Kyouya would be her partner for the day.

She opened.

Barely had she time to read the name before Tamaki jumped her from behind.

"What does it say, Haruhi!" The girl felt like laughing at his enthusiasm and handed him the paper for him to read for himself.

"Hikaru is your partner? Aw, that is cheat. I hoped you picked me! Just imag-" Before he could finish his complaint, an arm snaked around the girl and tugged her away from Tamaki and close to the owner.

"How convenient, Haruhi-chan. Mine says 'Haruhi'," said Hikaru with the broadest and most unsettling smile she had seen him flash since Halloween. Yes, how convenient… she thought and gulped. He had seen something he should not. But then again, everyone had.

"While you, Tamaki, is my partner," said Kaoru with a smile just as creepy while he swung his arm around Tamaki's shoulders, "I promise you that you will not be bored."

"Mine says 'Renge'," mumbled Hunny, making Renge laugh yet again. Mori approached behind him, placing a caring hand on his shoulder.

"Are you okay with that, Hunny?" The loli-shota nodded insecurely and beckoned for Mori to move his face closer.

"Even though I find her scary," he then whispered. Haruhi heard and smiled. Yes, Renge sure was something special.

"Well, this means that Mori and Kyouya will make the fourth team," Tamaki said with a smile, "Renge-san will explain the rules." Said girl climbed onto a rock to catch more attention.

"As you see, we are divided into four teams. Each team will go its own way to solve different assignments. When you find a piece of paper, read it and follow the instructions. The better you do the assignment, the more points you get. Just wait and see how." Kaoru and Hikaru eyed each other, challenging and each with a sly smile on his lips. Haruhi did not know just what their gazes meant, but the scene sent a shiver up her spine.

"If two teams meet, however," Tamaki added, "the team with most points will decide a challenge for both teams to do. The winner team of the challenge either gets ten points or must team up with the other team. But the teams will only depend on the other team in order to obtain more points. The total sum of points will be divided into two at the end of the game, and each team gets its share."

"And the point of this game is to collect most points. It requires knowledge and physical abilities to collect the points. The game stops when the first team has reached seventy points, or if there simply are no more assignments to do. This means that we will be playing until nightfall if this is necessary," cackled Renge with a flashy smile, "A great way to get closer to your teammate."

"Did all of you get the rules?" people nodded, so Tamaki resumed, "Good. Then, let the game begin!"