A/N: This was co-authored by one of my best friends, Herald of Prophecy. Honestly, he's the only one I would break my one rule with. Which is never let anyone have sway on what I write. It's been great plotting with you, Herald.
The air was still in the Udagawa district of Shibuya. By itself, the streets were a little ordinary, but the large graffiti mural made the area stand out. There weren't a lot of people around, and Kota preferred that. He didn't hate people, but he was completely shy, and didn't know how to interact with strangers well. Kota was sitting under the CAT mural, using it for inspiration as he sketched in his drawing pad.
Kota was a huge fan of CAT. His art spoke to him, made him feel like he had the power to add his own unique flare to the world. Kota always said that if it weren't for CAT, he wouldn't have had the will to pick up a pencil and begin to draw. Since he began drawing those few years ago, it took quite some time, but over the years he managed to hone his skill with practice and patience, and his pieces received a lot of praise from anyone who took the time to look at them. Kota's greatest passion in life was to pick up a pencil and begin to sketch. He dreamed of one day being as renown as CAT. Maybe even one day meeting the real CAT.
After a few hours of drawing, Kota closed his sketchbook, stood up, and stretched.
"I think that's enough for today," he thought to himself. "I should be getting back," With his sketchbook tucked under his arm, he set off out of Udagawa, and off towards his family's home just off of Cat Street. It was a long walk, but he never got better inspiration than when he was sitting by the mural, so he thought it was worth it.
In actuality, he could draw anywhere he wanted to, but when he was looking at the graffiti, the ideas just seemed to flow out of him. It was so easy to be creative in the presence of genius.
Passing through the Scramble was always the worst. It was so crowded, and everyone was always in such a hurry. It was just a pain to Kota. He tended to get out of there as quickly as possible, and move on toward Cadoi City, just past the Shibu Department store. As he passed by Towa Records he checked his phone for the time. He gasped as he realized how late it was. His parents would be wondering where he had been. He broke into a run, heading toward the Miyashita Park Underpass. It was just a quick cut through the park, and he would be home.
As he rounded the corner to the Underpass, he collided with a boy. Kota fell backward, and his sketchbook went flying. There was a sound of plastic on concrete, and Kota looked up to see a pair of purple headphones had fallen by him. Looking farther, he saw the boy he had hit.
He was a skinny guy, with spiky orange hair, and a ridiculous purple shirt with a poufy collar, white shorts with odd pockets, and outrageous purple shoes. It was as if this guy had no fashion sense whatsoever. Kota honestly wondered how a trend sensitive town like Shibuya hadn't formed an angry mob against this kid before.
But then again, Kota wasn't one to talk, with his limp brown hair, and his not-so-impressive Mus Rattus threads. Today he was wearing his favorite worn out "M Cap". The yellow M had almost worn down to nothing, and reduced the hat to an almost fully dull brown cap. His yellow tee had paint smudges on it, which had cumulated over the years from his painting. The shirt also showed off his boney arms, and he had little to no muscle on his body at all. His jeans had become naturally distressed, as he wore them almost all the time. To complete his ridiculous look, he was wearing his beach sandals. He didn't care that he got funny looks, it was a comfy outfit and that's what mattered to him. He liked to dress casual, but he wasn't always trendy.
"Neku! Are you alright?" asked the girl standing next to the boy he had knocked over. She had short, brown hair that bobbed by the side of her face. She was wearing a green skirt, and a white blouse. Kota squinted, as the glare from her glasses kept him from seeing her eyes. They flashed in his face, forcing him to look away.
"Sorry, I wasn't looking…" muttered Kota to the boy.
"No, it's fine," he replied. "Just try to be more careful, people don't appreciate being knocked into like that," He was getting to his knees, looking around for something. Kota realized it was the headphones, so he picked them up, and handed them to him. The boy smiled, and picked up Kota's sketchbook, which had fallen by him. They both reached out to return the items to their rightful owners, trading off at the same time.
"Thanks," said Kota.
"No worries," replied the one supposedly named Neku. He got up, put the headphones around his neck, instead of over his ears, and walked off with the girl. Kota got up too, but looked back as Neku and the girl walked off in the opposite direction he was going.
"Wow, Neku. That was actually nice of you!" she said with a big grin.
"What? Is that not allowed, Shiki?" he retorted. She put her arm around his, and leaned against him, putting her head on his shoulder as they walked.
"No, it's wonderful to see you acting kind for a change," she said with a giggle.
Kota was transfixed by the two, he wasn't sure why. He just couldn't take his eyes away. Absentmindedly, he took a step forward, but was snapped back to reality by a honking horn. He turned to see the front of a car speeding towards him.
"Oh! Sh-" was all he managed to get out before he was struck. Kota flew threw the air, a lifeless form. He hit the ground hard, and crumpled like a rag doll. A small pool of blood began to form around where he landed.
It only took a few minutes for paramedics to arrive and pronounce him dead.
Kota slowly opened his eyes, then squinted against the sudden white light. It took him a second to get used to the brightness of the white room. When his eyes adjusted, he got up into a sitting position and took in the area around him. The light made it hard to make out anything in the room, but Kota could clearly see there were a lot of other people there with him, a couple dozen if he had to guess. He didn't recognize any of them, not that he had many friends anyway. They all seemed just as confused as he was, some were even crying. Others were more terrified than anything else, visibly shivering. Nobody approached anyone, so it appeared as if they were all strangers to each other.
The question still remained, where was he? The last thing he remembered… the last thing was getting hit by a car. With a cold shiver, Kota realized he was dead, and that must make this place the afterlife. Kota did a quick inventory. He still had his bag, his art supplies, his sketchbook and his phone. So it looks like you could take it with you, as long as you were carrying it when you died.
Kota wanted to laugh at his little joke, but the situation was too disturbing for him to feel anything but complete fear.
Before Kota could say anything to any of the other dead people, a figure materialized in front of them all. It was a girl, a women actually, who looked roughly twenty. Her hair was an odd shade of pink, and her shirt sleeves covered her hands as well, as if they were gloves. It ruffled at the end, and just barely allowed her mini-shorts to be seen. Her black gothic wings should have been her strangest quality, and they certainly did stand out. However, even they paled in comparison to her devilish grin, and icy stare.
"Welcome to the Underground," she said addressing everybody. Everyone in the room had their full attention on the woman. She continued on. "You're all here for the same reason…You're all dead,"
"So I was right…I'm really dead…" Kota thought to himself in horror.
"But don't fret!" The woman continued in her mocking tone. "There's still a chance for you to go back to life!" Kota's ears perked up at that, everyone was hanging onto her words with baited breath. "All you have to do, is win The Reaper's Game,"
Kota had no idea what this woman was talking about. Just what was the Reapers Game, and how would winning bring him back?
"My name is Uzuki Yashiro, but you can, and should call me The Conductor of The Reaper's Game," Everyone seemed to tense with every word she said. Kota certainly was. He had no idea what was happening, and he was beyond scared out of his mind.
"What's the Reaper's Game you ask?" she said. "Well, it's simple really! All you have to do is survive for one week in the Underground, or 'UG' as we call it, completing missions each day. But be warned, there are monsters in the UG that will try to finish you off, it's not going to be easy. So, I would find a partner, because you can't fight them without one. Once you have a partner, the monsters, also called the Noise, will leave you alone. It'll be up to you to decide if you want to fight them. If you die while fighting the Noise, you will be Erased. Also, keep in mind that Reapers will be patrolling the UG and will send Noise to attack you. "
"E-Erased?" a teenaged girl asked hesitantly, "What does that mean?"
"Excellent question!" Uzuki said with mock enthusiasm, "I want you all to imagine becoming nothing, becoming less than nothing, being wiped from existence entirely," she began, causing the whole crowd to swallow nervously, "All that's left of you is bits of your soul floating around without thought or sentience, your only salvation being bound to a pin and probably used to make more Noise. That is Erasure."
Uzuki let the crowd take this information sink in before continuing, "A player's power comes from the pins they wear, we will provide you with a few pins to start out with, you can collect more over the course of the week. One pin in particular is very important," As she said this she waved her hand, and a small burst of light erupted from every ones hands.
Kota looked down into his own hand. When the light faded, he saw a small black pin, with a white symbol. The symbol looked a little like a skull of some kind.
"This is the Player Pin, it signifies you are a certified Player in the Reaper's Game. And it comes with a special perk…when you touch it, you can scan, and read people's minds,"
Kota was legitimately shocked to hear that he could have this power. Or any power for that matter. It was all so hard to process. He was still wrapping his head around the idea that he was actually dead.
Then someone spoke out.
"And what if we don't want to play your stupid game?" asked a man angrily.
"I'm glad you asked!" replied Uzuki with an evil smile. "You don't get a choice! You've already been selected from the weaklings of the world. You don't think everyone who dies has the honor to play, do you? And it's not like we won't give you an incentive…besides the chance to live again. To enter the game, you must give an entry fee. The thing that is most important to you! Doesn't matter what it is! It's ours until the game is over!" Uzuki then spoke in a lower, more serious tone, "And if you think we don't have the power to take it away…think again."
Murmuring spread through the crowd.
"What happens to our entry fee if we lose?" asked a woman.
"It'll be Erased, just like you," said Uzuki with nonchalance. Her attitude was making Kota sick to his stomach. How could she treat human lives like this? In actuality, it probably didn't matter. Kota was being forced to play, and Erasure didn't sound like a good thing at all. On top of it, he wasn't going to be Erased and lose the thing that mattered most to him. He was suddenly determined to win, no matter the cost.
"And you want to know the best part?" continued Uzuki. "We won't tell you what your entry fee is! You have to figure it out for yourself, as ordered by The Composer of the Game Himself!"
Kota felt a sinking feeling in his stomach. How was he expected to play for something if he didn't know what he was playing for?
"Well, that's enough of this. It's time to start the week. Right…About…Now!" said Usuki. With a wave of her hand, everyone vanished in a flash of white light. As everything began to fade into light, Kota heard Uzuki yell something at the last moment, "Want some advice? Head to the Statue of Hachiko and pick up a partner! You can't do much without one!" With that last thought in his head, Kota was whisked away with everyone else into parts unknown.