The Befriending Game

“Looks like all the peasants are present and accounted for! Oh, and my lovely angel Kobato-chan!”

Sena rushed into the clubroom about five minutes after Yozora and I had entered.

Me, Yozora, Rika, Yukimura, Kobato and Maria were all present.

Kobato flinched, looking unhappy.

“Shut up and die, baldy.”

Yozora then said, without even looking up from the Japanese textbook she had been sullenly reading since entering the clubroom.

“‘Baldy’?! That’s the first time I’ve been told that…”

Rather than surprise, Sena had a look of shock on her face.

“Wait, why are you reading a textbook?”

“…No reason in particular. I just felt like it today.”

“Huh. Well, it’s not like anybody cares how you feel. Anyway!”

Sena took out something from a paper bag she was carrying.

It was a fairly big and flat board, 50 centimeters across.

“We’re going to play this today!”

With a bam, she placed it on the table.

(…)

“…’The Befriending Game’…? Amazing how they managed to make a board game with so pinpoint a name…”

Even Yozora, who generally complained about Sena’s every suggestion, mingled some amazement into her exasperation.

“Hey, how do you play this?!”

Said Maria, looking deeply interested.

“Hmm… I’d venture the guess that it’s related to those games played on boards with an element of dice added, like Monopoly or the Game of Life.”

Said a serious-looking Rika as she surveyed the box from various angles.

“Do you need to guess? It looks like that’s exactly what it is.”

Rika’s face reddened at my jab.

“…I-I haven’t played analog games like this before, how should I know?!”

“Really?”

“Oh, and you have, Kodaka-senpai?!”

Rika became annoyed for some reason.

“Yeah, of course… with Kobato and Dad… we do have Monopoly, but Kobato couldn’t understand the rules.”

“A-Anchan! I told you not to tell anyone!”

Kobato’s face burned crimson as she protested.

Ku… kukuku… q-quite a formidable challenge, that was…”

“Well, I guess the rules to Monopoly are pretty complicated.”

“Onii-chan, I’ve played Monopoly too! A long time ago, with the hag! She was a little tough at first, but in the end, I was so good those other crappy players couldn’t win against me!”

Ugugu…”

Kobato whimpered in frustration at Maria’s words.

“I have played board games in the past as well,” said Yukimura.

“…Me too! I used to…”

Yozora tried to say something, then looked strangely saddened and glossed over it.

“I-I’m quite fond of traditional games myself. Shogi, chess, playing cards, Uno, Othello, Sugoroku, Monopoly, Game of Life, Yu-Gi-Tei cards and History of the World…”

“You don’t say. Even trading cards– oh.”

“Heh, Tomocha–”

“We’ve heard that punchline before, you can stop now.”

When I interrupted her, Yozora’s mouth turned into a ω as she said, “But she was really good at Solitaire and 8 Queens…” Aren’t both of those single-player?

“I’ve played board games before with Papa and some relatives on New Years Day,” said Sena.

“…Mm… in which case, I’m the only one who hasn’t played any board games at all.”

Rika frowned, looking somewhat sour.

(…)

Obviously, the game was a derivative of board games, and it seemed the backdrop was the process of high school admission till graduation.

It required a minimum of 2 players, but I suppose it wouldn’t be impossible to play alone with an imaginary friend.

Specifically, the rules were as follows:

– Players must advance the number of spaces indicated by a rolled die, and follow the instructions on each space en route to the goal (Graduation).

– At the starting point (Admission), each player is given 5 friends, 5000 yen (not real, of course, but plastic chips) and 3 random items.

“Haha, five friends right from the start of high school…? Games are games, but can’t this be more realistic?”

“Shut up, Kodaka. (Sena)”

“Sorry.”

– Each player’s friends or money will increase or decrease at the spaces where they stop. A player’s game ends if either his or her friends or money reaches zero.

“So you can’t live on without money, huh. Life sure is tough…”

Said Maria meekly.

“It ends if you run out of friends, too… if this was real, we’d all have hit Game Over from square one.”

“… (smile)”

…Feeling a wordless pressure coming from Rika, I kept quiet.

– Players who reach the goal receive money in the order of arrival, plus 1 friend per every 1000 yen.

– The game ends when every player has reached the goal. The winner is the player with the most friends.

(…)

– Items may be used in your own turns, before the rolling of the die, once every turn. Using them may require expending money or friends.

“‘Expending friends’?! What’s that supposed to mean?!”

“That’s one incredible turn of phrase to use…”

Sena and Yozora gave similar comments.

– Players are free to trade their friends, money, and items at any time before reaching the goal, under any chosen terms.

“So basically, when you’re about to run out of friends and lose, you can use your money or items as bargaining chips and buy other people’s friends…”

Yozora muttered with an unpleasant expression.

“…That’s a horrible system,” she frowned.

“In reverse, that means you can sell off your friends when you need the money… that might actually be worse,” said Rika.

“For the sake of Aniki, I would gladly be sold for a loan.”

“I won’t sell you!”

Even though I was sure I would never take a loan, I still made a hasty retort.

“Aniki… how kind you are…”

Yukimura still looked entranced.

(…)

“Alright, let’s do this!”

Sena rolled the die. It was just your run-of-the-mill six-sided die, by the way.

It came out [6].

“And that’s why I’m the best! Just watch me, this Goddess of Promised Victory will be crossing the finish line first!”

In high spirits, Sena moved her piece six spaces forward, and read the instructions there.

“Um… Getting too hyper during your high school debut got you isolated from the rest of the class! Lose two friendswhat?!”

Sena cried out at the disaster that suddenly befell her.

“…That’s a pretty realistic development. I can definitely see Meat making some poor decisions for the sake of living the dream life of a high school Riajuu and end up scaring off what few friends she had from middle school.”

Said Yozora dispassionately.

“She’s totally different now, isn’t she…”

“Yeah… she’s not the girl we knew anymore…”

With a distant look on their faces, Rika and Yozora acted out the role of said friends. Aren’t you two having fun…

“T-That’s never happened to me before!” Sena tearfully complained. “Besides, friends who leave you just for making a few mistakes weren’t really friends in the first place! The three who stay are my real friends!”

Disposing of the two friends (plastic tubes about the length of matchsticks), Sena gripped the remaining three tightly.

“Sniff… Akane, Yayoi, Reika… only you three are my real friends…”

“Why the hell are you naming them…?”

All the friend pieces were of the same color and size, so there was no actual way to distinguish them.

“Ahaha, it’s me next!’

Maria rolled the die with enthusiasm.

A [6] came out.

“…”

Silently, Maria moved her piece six spaces and disposed of two friends without a word.

“…That reminds me… I did some bad things in high school too… ahaha…”

She smiled faintly with hollow eyes.

“Ah, hah, well, looks like it’s my turn, ahaha…”

Announcing this as positively as I could, I let the die go.

It was a [1].

“Haha, just one, huh. Well, I guess I screwed up my high school debut, too… umm,”

Moving one space forward, I read the text on the space.

Now’s the time to make a good high school first impression! Advance 5 spaces and show your classmates what you’re made off!!

…The way it sounded so excited just pissed me off.

As such, I moved five spaces and disposed of two friends.

“Ahaha, looks like you screwed up too, Onii-chan! Now we’re friends in screwing up high school debuts, haha! Yay! Hugs!”

Laughing, Maria threw her arms around me.

“Yep, we’re friends.”

“Ahahaha!”

Maria became happier and happier as I petted her head.

It was a sinking feeling to remember how I had been late on the first day I transferred here, but I guess it’s okay as long as Maria was happy…

“Hmph. If my friend suddenly became a disgusting pedophile after moving up to high school, I wouldn’t want to have him close by either…”

Sounding displeased, Yozora rolled the die.

A [2] came out.

“…Umm… Braving the hairdresser to make a good high school first impression landed you with an awkward hairstyle and trying to fix it the whole morning before the first day of school got you late! Lose one friendWho are you, me?!”

After reading the instructions in trembling fear, Yozora made the most powerful retort she could.

“That’s a pretty novel comeback…”

“You ask that, but, um… you’re the one reading it, aren’t you, Yozora-senpai?”

“Did you really, Yozora?”

“…It wasn’t on the first day of school, though. Whatever, just forget about it! You’re next!”

Yozora forcefully ended that particular topic and handed the die to Rika.

Rika did not roll it, but stared fixedly at the board.

“…Hmmm… spaces one, two, four and six all have bad results… looks like landing on five is the correct choice…”

She checked the instructions written on the spaces.

“What’s the point of checking i– wait, can you…?!”

I gasped in sudden realization at Rika’s overly serious expression.

Yozora caught her breath as well.

“You mean… you can control it?! Which face the die lands on…?!”

As we watched in astonishment, Rika faced us with a fearless smile.

S-So this is the power of a scientific genius…!

“Heheh… allow me to demonstrate… the power hidden within Rika, the one they call the Child of Newtonian Mechanics…!”

Kukuku… ah, the Nuton powers of legend… to think that one other than myself could employ such a force…!”

Kobato put on a show of amazement with her exaggerated way of speaking, but it’s actually ‘New-ton’, not ‘Nu-ton’.

“Potential energy, calculated. Reflection coefficient, check. From this height and angle, at this speed, it will descend on this point!”

As we all held our breaths and watched on, Rika let go of the die.

Rolling, rolling… and landing on a [4].

” (・ω<) Of course I can't control which face it lands on… eheh, this is the first time I've rolled a die, actually."

Ignoring our combined exasperation, Rika happily moved her piece forward, tapping it on each passing space.

"Umm, You got bullied out of your pocket money right after getting into school! Lose 500 yen.… Why are you doing this, Kodaka-senpai?!”

“It’s not me!”

“Okay, 500 yen…”

Paying absolutely no attention to my complaints against that horrible remark, Rika disposed of 500 yen (five plastic chips marked ‘100’ on the sides).

“Getting bullied by Aniki… how enviable, Rika-dono…”

“I said it wasn’t me!”

However, Yukimura also paid me no heed and rolled the die.

A [3] came out.

You managed to maintain a safe position within the class!. So it would seem.”

“Huh… that’s not bad.”

I really did envy her.

“The true samurai does not live life in peace and security…”

On the other hand, Yukimura looked quite dissatisfied.

Kukuku… so, it comes to me, at last…”

Kobato gripped the die tightly in her right hand, held it aloft in the area somewhere around her forehead, and focused her power with a, “Haaaaahh~!“…well, not that it would make any difference.

Kukuku… O Nuton, one of the Four Great Servants of the Night… answer my call, and reveal your power… for I am Reisys vi Felicity Sumeragi… true ancestor of the–”

“Just roll it, you crappy vampire.”

Smack!

Maria slapped Kobato’s hand holding the die.

“Ah!”

Roll, roll… the die went end-over-end and landed on [5].

“What’s wrong with you, you big idiot!”

“It’s your fault for not rolling faster!”

Ugugu…”

Kobato advanced five spaces even as she moaned.

“…Um… You became friends with the classmate sitting next to you! Gain 1 friend.. Yay!”

Kobato cheered in joy, gasped, and then tried to played it down.

Kukuku… you have done well in answering my call, great demon Muton…”

Saying this, she took out one friend piece from the bag of friends placed in the center.

“So that’s one turn, huh… this game is pretty tough…”

Muttered Yozora with a grimace.

Everyone having rolled the die once, only Kobato, who gained a friend, and Yukimura, who was unscathed, made it through without serious damage.

“Every space aside from two and five had penalties, which means a two-third chance per turn to get hit by something… damn, that’s really hard…” said I.

(…)

Sena bravely rolled the die a second time.

It was another [6], of all things. It would be incredibly lucky if we were playing pretty much any other game with dice.

“…Thanks to your inappropriate comments, you lost one friend!… what’s that supposed to mean?!”

Sena yelled.

“…Again, something easily imagined.”

“That’s true…” “Oh yeah…” “Incredibly real.”

Rika, me, and Yukimura agreed with Yozora’s words.

Uuu… aren’t friends supposed to forgive you for saying something just a little out of place?!”

“Hahaha, just hurry up and get rid of one of your friends, fool.”

“You really sound like some kind of devil, you know that…?!”

Flinching at Yozora, who chose this and only this moment to wear a pleasant smile, Sena stared at her three friend pieces.

“Heh… Akane and Yayoi and Reika, who will you abandon…? Which one has come to hate you…?”

At Yozora’s evil witch-like murmurs, tears swelled in Sena’s eyes.

“Sniff… I can’t abandon any of them…! Akane and Yayoi and Reika are all good girls!”

“Then you truly be a disgusting piece of meat for one of these good girls to hate you…!”

“N-Nobody hates me…!”

Sena glared sharply at Yozora and threw out a hand, holding a few of the chips she had, at her.

“There!”

“…? What are you playing at?”

“I’ll give you money, so sell me one of your friends! I’ll throw her away instead!”

“…God, are you serious…? You really are the worst…”

Yozora recoiled.

“W-What’s wrong with that?! It’s just a game!”

Those weren’t the words of someone who would go out of her way to buy a friend from another player just for the sake of throwing her away.

“Idiot. Who would sell you a friend, knowing that you would just dispose of it?”

“What’s the problem with that?! Sell me your friend! Sell her!”

“I’m not selling anything!”

Smack!

“Ow!”

Having been rejected by force, Sena finally backed down.

“Rika, then! You need money after getting bullied earlier, right?! Here, take this, and sell me one of your friends!”

“…Oh, wow… so this is what people mean by doing something ‘low’…”

Rika pulled back from her in frank disgust.

“I won’t be selling any of my friends either, by the way.”

Uuu~! W-Well then, Kobato-chan, sell one of your friends to me ♥”

“No!!”

Even amongst all the things Sena had said to Kobato before, that had to be one of top comments. And as always, Kobato rejected her.

“Come on, Kobato-chan~! I’ll never ask anything from you again! Sell me the friend you just got~♥”

“No!!”

“…The rules say you can exchange friends, money and items under any conditions, right…? In that case… how about I give you not game money, but real money?! I’ll give you ten thousand yen if you sell me your friend ♥”

“…Gulp…ten, ten thousand yen…”

“Yep, ten thousand! You can buy anything with ten thousand yen! Candies, and games, and anime, anything!”

“…Uu… uuuu…”

“Gweheheh~, Kobato-chan… guweheheh~”

Wearing the face of a true social deviate, Sena sidled up to Kobato, whose heart was in turmoil due to her words.

I began to consider telling her to stop.

“Stop that, stupid Meat!”

But Yozora used her fly swatter again.

Uuuu~”

In tears, Sena finally removed herself from Kobato.

“Sena-anego, if you so desire I could lend you one of my friends.”

Said Yukimura, unable to watch on.

“Really?! How much will you sell her for?!”

“I require no fee.”

“What?! Are you serious?!”

“Yes. After all, I require no friend.”

Yukimura handed the friend piece to Sena even as she nonchalantly exposed something incredible that completely overturned the foundation of the Neighbors Club, game or no game.

“Sniff… you’re such… a good girl… I’ve always thought you didn’t really stand out and didn’t know what you were thinking about and thought you were a little disturbing and didn’t want to spend time alone with you, but I was sorry, I’m sorry…”

“…Was that how I seemed to you?”

Sena’s many unneccessary and thoughtless comments, spewed out in her deeply emotional state, made Yukimura look slightly indignant.

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