“That’s correct – for the duration of your stay in this lodging house, we – the managers – have organised a ‘team-building exercise’, a little game that you can all enjoy for the next few days.”
Twelve boys, gathered around a spacious living room, exchanged curious looks.
“All twelve of you will be working together, so this will be a good chance for members from both groups to work with people they don’t normally work with.
“Let me introduce the game that you are about to play – The Murder Game. There is a murderer on the loose, and his aim is to murder as many players as he can. He may begin killing from the beginning of the game, which will be at midnight, until the end of the game, which is exactly a week from today.
“There will be two primary roles – first, the murderer, and second, the detective. The detective’s job is to gather all the clues and evidence from the subsequent murders, and use this information to discover who the murderer is. A trial will be held straight after the game finishes, in which the detective must accuse his suspected player and present the evidence to prove his guilt. Yes, Wu Fan?”
Wu Fan had raised a hand. “But what if the detective himself gets murdered?”
“Ah, that won’t be possible, because as soon as the roles have been allocated, the detective must make himself known. This must seem to put the detective at a disadvantage, but not so – out of twelve people, only ten, in effect, will get murdered, which should give the detective a big clue should the murderer succeed in murdering all the players.”
“But who chooses the roles?”
“Good question, Joonmyun – the roles will be chosen completely at random. We will be passing around a box in a minute, with twelve slips of paper inside which will tell you your role.
“Now for the game mechanics; as I mentioned before, the game begins tonight, at exactly midnight, and ends exactly a week from tonight, also at midnight – the murders may be committed at any time in between. The trial will take place at nine-o-clock the day after, which gives the detective some time to collect all his evidence and confirm his suspicions.
“Two very important things; firstly, the murder weapon. Just like a real murder, a weapon must be used to kill a player, and the designated murder weapon is—” The manager raises the item. “—this ring.”
Twelve identical expressions of disbelief. “But,” Chanyeol blurts out, “But that’s...”
“This,” the manager smiled, holding up the black hexagon, “is the EXO ring. All twelve of you have one, and the murderer has the freedom to use any of them. The rules are quite simple; in order to murder a player, the weapon must be in clear sight, and the player’s name must be announced by the murderer, followed by the killing words, ‘you’re dead’. Allow me demonstrate, hmm…Jongin?”
Jongin got up and walked up to the manager, who slips the ring on his finger. “Now, Jongin can clearly see the murder weapon – and if I do this,” he lifts Jongin’s hand, who automatically turns his attention to the ring, “Jongin – you’re dead. Then that’s it.”
“But surely, like that it’s dead easy to find out who the murderer is.”
“Ah – a few ground rules. Firstly, as Lu Han pointed out, it’ll be too easy to find out who the murderer is. However, once you are murdered, the player is absolutely forbidden to speak for the rest of the game because, hypothetically, they should be dead.
“Here’s where the detective comes in. It is his job to keep track of all the players, and he can ask them how they were murdered. Only if the detective asks them, the player is then allowed to reveal some details such as how it happened, where it happened, when it happened – but the dead player absolutely cannot mention any names, and is forbidden to contribute any input for the rest of the game.
“The detective can discuss the evidence with the surviving players, who can help him decipher it and also so they become aware of the murderer’s tactics, rendering it useless with the murderer unable to use the same tactic twice. Can you all still follow?”
Quick nods, all already engrossed in the game. “Now, there are two little things that add a twist to this game. The detective has all the players on his side, who can aid him with the investigation – the murderer, however, will be allowed a single accomplice.
“The accomplice is something of a wild card, and will also be chosen at random. His role, apart from aiding the murderer with the killings, and can also attempt to throw the detective off if he is beginning to have suspicions towards the right player. The accomplice is also allowed to carry the murder weapon, but he cannot actually murder anyone. The murderer must be the one to recite the victim’s name, and the killing words.”
Baekhyun frowned. “Then isn’t he a bit useless?”
“Not quite – there’s quite a few ways to use an accomplice to your disposal, but I’ll leave whoever acquires those roles to use their imagination and figure it out. Now, as for the second twist – this game is heavily reliant on teamwork, trust, and most of all, honesty. The murderer has to ensure that he won’t be accused so he will be a liar. He is the only player in the game who is allowed to deceive the other players. Now, any other questions?”
“Do we get a prize if we win?”
“Good question, Jongdae; as a matter of fact, you do, but the prizes will be revealed after the trial. If the detective successfully captures the murderer, there will be a prize for the detective and the other nine players, whether they survived or not.
"This is a two-sided coin; in effect, if the detective is unsuccessful, the murderer and his accomplice will walk away free, and they shall be rewarded the prize. Any other questions?” Shaking heads, some already discussing tactics with their peers.
“Excellent. I'm going to pass the box around now, and everyone will be allocated their roles."
And let the game begin.
The Murder Game
“But I don’t want to be detective—”
“Baekhyun, calm down—”
“We’re going to lose—”
“We’re not going to lose, calm down—”
“All of us are going to be massacred—”
“But I thought the detective can’t be killed?”
“Not helping, Lu Han!”
“I’m just saying…”
“I want my mommy—”
“Kyungsoo, he needs you, do something!”
“Baekhyun-ge, it’s going to be okay—”
“No Tao, you’re going to die and it’s because of me—”
“Well, we’re going to die anyway; your job is just to find out who the murderer is, try to keep up—”
“Not helping, Lu Han!”
“I’m just saying!”
“Okay, everyone shut the hell up and calm the hell down.”
The rising cacophony of a garbled mixture of Mandarin and Korean, Baekhyun’s uncontrollable wailing, the desperate attempts to soothe him, and Lu Han’s failure to realise his ineptitude at making the inconsolable member see reason immediately died down. All the inhabitants of the room clammed up as a blonde-haired member took the centre stage.
“We’re going to be calm about this.” Wu Fan enunciated. “Baekhyun, relax. It’s just a game.”
Baekhyun whimpered from between his hastily erected and not entirely willing human barriers, Tao and Chanyeol. “B-But I don’t want to be detective. Somebody else can be detective.”
“Rules are rules though; we can’t change the designated roles,” Joonmyun pointed out, visibly relaxing now that Wu Fan had taken the reigns. “Besides, the normal players can help out the detective, right?”
“Exactly, so we need to think of a game plan or something.”
“I agree with Minseok-hyung, but isn’t that a bit risky?” All eyes turned to Kyungsoo. “I mean, the murderer, and his accomplice, are in the same room.”
Quick, furtive looks exchanged between all twelve boys; Baekhyun groaned in despair again.
“We’re all going to die—”
Another round of squabbles, debates and uncontrollable wailing from their hapless detective; a game plan is eventually agreed on. Wu Fan waves an impatient hand.
“Okay everyone shut up for a second again – this is what we agreed on: to make Baekhyun’s job easier for him, we’re going to meet in the living room at ten-o-clock every evening. Since we’re not allowed to say we’re dead, Baekhyun’s going to ask each one of us whether we died, and if we did, we can then tell him the details and such—”
“But no names,” Kyungsoo reminded.
“But no names. Regarding the murder weapon, we all agreed that we should hide our personal ring; that way, the murderer’s limited to using his own ring.”
“Or his accomplice’s,” Jongdae comments; Wu Fan acknowledges it with a nod.
“Or his accomplice’s. The third thing is making sure the least amount of murders is committed – this means staying in groups of two at least, as much as possible not leaving yourself open. But since we don’t know who the murderer is, well…” Wu Fan sighed.
“Anyway, most important point is – try not to get murdered!”
The Murder Game
“How’s it going so far? Anyone dead yet?” The manager looked up from his newspaper to his colleague, smiling.
“None, so far. It’s early yet, but the murderer’s certainly taking his time.” Both men observed the twelve boys, spread out across the spacious room and busily practicing their dancing or doing vocal training. “They’ve all been so tense for the past two days – everyone’s all scared and jumpy.”
“Do you know who the murderer is, hyung? Or the accomplice?”
“No, but,” He smiled as he observed Minseok quickly shaking his head when Jongdae asked him to come with him to go for some water. “That’s what makes the whole game interesting.”
The Murder Game
“Stupid murder game. Stupid murderer not making a move,” Wu Fan muttered to himself; he’d been on the edge ever since they began the game, jumping every time somebody spoke to him or was even in the same room as him. Everyone seemed to be suspicious, and there was no telling who the murderer could be when there were ten potential suspects; the loud ones were pretty obvious, but the quiet ones…there were way too many quiet members, all lurking in the background and ready to strike when he least expected it.
And the wild card, the accomplice – one mustn’t forget him.
“Wu Fan-hyung?” He nearly jumped at the sudden hand on his shoulder, and struggled to calm his heart when he saw who it was.
“Ah—yeah, what’s up?”
“Hyung wanted to speak to you; he’s in the dining room.”
“Oh, okay. Thanks.” He stood, mentally berating himself to stop being such a wuss as he made his way to the dining room; this was just a game, after all, as he’d so confidently told Baekhyun, but he was also as competitive as hell, and there was no way he was going to lose and get murdered.
He stepped inside; there was a lone figure on the table, but no manager in sight. “Oh? Did hyung call you here as well?”
“Yeah, he was just here; he said he’d be back in a minute and said we should just wait.”
“Oh, okay…” Wu Fan grabbed a seat, lowering himself on it. How strange, what could the manager possibly want with both of them? What an odd combination…
“By the way, Wu-Fan-hyung.”
“Hmm?” He turned absently, his gaze aiming straight for the black hexagon in front of him.
Joonmyun was running late for the evening meeting, but he couldn’t find his notebook anywhere – he’d been taking down the minutes for each meeting they’ve had so far, and although there hadn’t been any murders yet, they’ve been discussing ways to avoid getting murdered. It was already the fourth day, but that was still three days remaining in the game – plenty of time for the murderer to make his move.
“Notebook, notebook, I wonder where I put it,” he mumbled to himself, checking all the draws and his desk, even his wardrobe. He’d already checked the living room and the dining room, so it couldn’t possibly be there. A head peeked inside the room.
“Hyung? It’s time for the meeting, come on.”
“Yeah—I’m coming—I just, I can’t find my notebook anywhere.”
“Oh, hmm…have you checked under the bed?” Well, Joonmyun didn’t know how it could possibly have ended up there, but there was no harm in checking. He got on his knees and bent; true enough, his notebook was there.
“Oh!” He enthusiastically pulled it out.
“Ah yeah, thanks, it was here after all, and…” Wait, what was his ring doing on top of the notebook? He’d hidden that away in his suitcase—
“Okay, is everyone here?” All twelve members were gathered around the living room, plus a manager to make sure they obeyed the rules. “Right, let’s start then, um…”
“Ask everyone if they’ve been killed,” Lu Han said helpfully.
Baekhyun nodded nervously. “Right, um…let’s start with Joonmyun-hyung, then. Joonmyun-hyung, have you been killed?” The past three days had been uneventful with no murders committed so far, and today seemed no exception.
Not quite; Joonmyun grimaced. “Ah…yes. I was murdered today.” Eyes widened, the room went dead silent, and Baekhyun let out a garbled sound like he was being strangled.
“Um, um, okay, um…” Baekhyun turned to the manager helplessly. “I can ask the details, right?”
“Yes – but no names.”
“Okay, um, Joonmyun-hyung, when were you murdered?”
Joonmyun looked like he was in pain. “Twenty minutes ago.” Another round of shocked gasps, and Baekhyun looked ready to faint.
“W-Where, and how?”
“Ah…it was in my room. I was looking for my notebook, and someone came in. He told me it was time for the meeting, and I told him about my missing notebook. He then suggested I check underneath the bed.” Joonmyun heaved a sigh. “I did, and it was there, with the murder weapon on top of it. Before I knew it, I was murdered.”
There was a deathly silence, which Kyungsoo broke by asking if anyone was taking note of any of this; Joonmyun was forbidden to participate for the rest of the game, so Lu Han volunteered to begin taking notes.
“Then that’s Joonmyun-hyung dead, and um…” Baekhyun progressed to the rest of the players, and all seemed positive until he reached—
“Yes, I died today.” The statement was gritted out with heavy resignation; Baekhyun looked even more terrified.
“But how? When? Where?”
“It was a few hours ago, in the dining room.”
“S-So you died even before Joonmyun-hyung?”
“Yes. I was in the practice room, when I was approached by—”
“No names,” the manager reminded, and Wu Fan nodded grimly.
“—by someone, who told me that one of the managers needed to speak to me in the dining room. So I went, and,” he sighed in annoyance just from remembering it. “the murderer was there. And he killed me.”
That wasn’t all – Sehun wasn’t spared either. “I was practicing alone in the training room, and he just came and murdered me, pretty much. I wasn’t really paying attention since it was somebody I didn’t expect, so…”
The rest of the players had survived, but they were all reeling from the loss of three players, who were now forbidden to offer any input for the rest of the game, and to ensure they wouldn’t give any details away, verbal or not, they were also banned from attending the rest of the meeting and any of the meetings that followed.
“So, three completely different tactics, and could that someone with Wu Fan-hyung be the accomplice?” Minseok murmured.
“That’s possible,” Yixing agreed; he’d mostly been quiet in the past meetings but now that three unexpected murders had been committed, the game was getting pretty exciting. “He obviously knew that the murderer was in the dining room and knowingly sent Wu Fan-ge there. Does anyone know who approached Wu Fan-ge, maybe saw them speaking to each other?”
Everyone had been too busy practicing to pay attention to anyone else that afternoon, and no one could remember if anyone other than Joonmyun arrived late for the meeting either. Most people were in their rooms at the time that Sehun had been murdered.
“So try not to be caught alone, and be alert,” Lu Han concluded.
The meeting finished, and the group dispersed, all discussing between themselves; Tao telling Lu Han I was so sure Wu Fan-ge was the murderer! He really looks like one, with Yixing interjecting so do you, Zitao, maybe you’re the murderer and Tao’s quick denial, Baekhyun being consoled by Chanyeol, Minseok and Jongdae animatedly discussing the clues with each other, and Jongin and Kyungsoo, who had been mostly quiet, murmuring to each other.
The Murder Game
“Oh, Minseok-hyung? I thought nobody was here.”
Minseok looked up absently as a figure entered the room, shutting the door behind him. He’d had the practice room to himself all afternoon, as most of the guys had gone out for the day to go sightseeing with all of the managers; the lodge they were renting for two weeks was in a beautiful location, but he’d wanted to catch up with practice – no point getting lazy even if they were, technically, supposed to be on holiday.
“Yeah, I thought you went with them too?”
“I did, but I went back first – it’s too hot out there.” Well, it was nice to have someone to practice with, especially one who’s a good dancer – they wasted no time practicing their songs, and even had fun dancing to other group’s songs.
They were sweaty and out of breath an hour later and Minseok ungracefully collapsed on the floor, heaving in breaths between laughs. “Damn, that was fun.”
“Yeah,” his companion gasped out, also laughing as he staggered over to the side of the room where they kept towels and water bottles. Minseok had closed his eyes, waiting for his heart to calm down and strength to return to his limbs. He was totally relaxed – totally unaware.
“Minseok-hyung, here’s some water.”
“Oh, thank you!”
He opened his eyes, holding a hand up for the bottle held in front of him – and the black hexagon adorning a ring finger.
“Sorry, but…you’re dead.”
The Murder Game
Jongdae was getting a little worried.
After the news of Minseok’s unexpected demise, the whole group had been in a wreck. He’d had his suspicions that Minseok was the murderer or at least the accomplice – he’d seemed a little too excited about the game – but it turned out he was a normal player all along. The clues hadn’t been helpful at all, but there were still two days left – all the more reason to keep his guard up.
The house was empty and silent; most of the members had gone with the managers to the nearby shopping centre, but he’d opted out, preferring to spend the day lazing about the lodge and watching TV. Someone else had stayed behind, but had been locked up in the practice room for most of the morning.
He’d been flicking lazily through various channels when his companion suddenly walked past, phone in hand.
“Jongdae-hyung? Phone for you.”
“Oh?” Who could possibly be calling him? “Who is it?”
“I’m not sure; one of the hyungs, I think.”
“Oh, okay.” He put the phone to his ear. “Hello? This is Jongdae.”
“Hello, Jongdae-hyung.” Oh, an unexpected caller; what could he possibly want?
“Yeah, hey, what’s up?”
“Look behind you.” Behind him?
He turned; his companion was standing there, holding the wretched black hexagon. Oh, man.
“…Jongdae-hyung, you’re dead. Bye!” And the line went dead.
“Thanks for the phone, hyung.” The manager nodded, hiding a grin, the only one who had overheard the muted conversation.
“What was that about?” Lu Han asked curiously as the group entered another shop; the other boy shrugged.
“Just Jongdae-hyung – needed to ask him something.”
The boys immediately spread out as soon as they stepped inside, busily perusing the shelves and racks of clothing. Three made a beeline for the caps, excitedly examining all the different styles and designs.
“Oh – Tao-hyung, Chanyeol-hyung! Look at this one!” The two immediately went over, where their companion was pointing to a particular cap.
Chanyeol laughed in surprise; it had a little item next to it. “Oh, look, that’s—”
“—the EXO ring,” Tao blurted out with dread, but it was too late.
“By the way, you’re both dead.”
The group had returned from the shopping trip, lazing about the dining room while dinner was being prepared; Jongin peeked inside the kitchen.
“Hyung, do you need help with anything?”
“Oh, Jongin – yeah, that’d be great. Can you get something out of the cupboard for me?”
“Sure,” Jongin walked over to the cupboard; it was full of packets and tinned goods. “What did you need?”
“Ah, just the tomato sauce – it should be on the back somewhere. Around the left side, I think.”
He rummaged around the tins of tuna and pasta packages, furrowing his brows. “I can’t really find it anywhere, hyung.”
“Oh, my mistake, I’ve got it already.” Jongin quirked a brow, but swung the cupboard door shut. “Sorry about that, Jongin.”
“That’s alright, hyung—” He turned—oh, crap.
“Sorry about that, Jongin – but you’re dead.”
“How was the shopping? Did you kids buy anything?” one of the managers asked as he sank down on an empty place beside Minseok. Everyone was crowded around the dining table, all hungry from their shopping trip.
“I had loads of fun, and I bought lots of things,” Sehun piped up enthusiastically, echoed by the others. Some, however, seemed unnaturally quiet tonight, the manager noted; Chanyeol, particularly, was just staring blankly at his food, Tao kept sneaking apologetic looks to Baekhyun, who kept asking him what was wrong, and Yixing who had just entered the dining room in a daze, a glassy eyed look of one in shock as he collapsed on the seat next to Wu Fan.
“Hyung, hyung, look at what I bought, look at what I bought,” Lu Han laughed and set his chopsticks down as a bag was shoved enthusiastically in front of his face.
“Okay, okay, let’s have a look then.” He opened the bag and perused its contents, completely missing Chanyeol’s frantically shaking head across the table.
“Oh, Lu Han-hyung,” the voice next to his ear spoke.
“Hmm?” Oh, there were some nice caps here…and what was that in the bottom? He dove a hand inside; wait, this was—
“—you’re dead, by the way.”
“He killed all the players today? The murderer’s been busy.” Two managers were looking at the current standings; all the boys had gone to bed after the second to the last meeting, with Baekhyun nearly in hysterics. “How did it happen?”
“Tao and Chanyeol in the mall, Jongdae over the phone, which I thought was really clever, Jongin before dinner, Lu Han during dinner—”
“During dinner? But we were all there!”
“Yeah, I was wondering why Lu Han suddenly lost his appetite. And Yixing, apparently, just before he went inside the dining room.”
“No wonder he looked so out of it,” the manager murmured. “Interesting; I was so certain that Lu Han was the murderer, and I thought Chanyeol was the accomplice. So that means…”
There was only one player left, but both managers exchanged grins.
“That means the game just got a lot more interesting.”
The Murder Game
“Okay, settle down, settle down, we will now begin the trial, please go to your designated seats.” The commotion died down, and everyone took their seats except Baekhyun who remained standing, holding his notes nervously. One of the managers, acting as the judge, gestured to him. “Detective, you may proceed.”
The living room had been rearranged to become an impromptu court room – the judge on the centre, the murdered players on his left, and a witness stand on his right. Across him, Baekhyun stood, with the lone survivor a few spaces on his right, and the rest of the staff acting as the audience seated behind them.
Baekhyun fidgeted with his notes. “Um, I’d like to call Kyungsoo to the witness stand, please.”
The lone survivor of the game walked up to the witness stand, calm and his expression inscrutable as he turned to face the audience. He’d been the last person that Baekhyun suspected, but then again, looks were deceiving and the roles were completely chosen at random.
Besides, Kyungsoo was the last surviving player, and even Baekhyun wasn’t that stupid.
“Um...well, I accuse you, Kyungsoo, for the murders.” Kyungsoo’s expression hadn’t changed, but Baekhyun wondered why the ten members were frantically shaking their heads at him.
“On what evidence, detective?” The judge was asking, and Baekhyun gave them all a good frown before turning back to his notes.
“Well, apart from the obvious fact that he is the only remaining player because he cannot actually kill himself – Kyungsoo was the one cooking dinner when Jongin was murdered, Kyungsoo had also stayed home when Jongdae didn’t come shopping with us, and Kyungsoo was seated right next to Lu Han-hyung when he was murdered during dinner.”
The other murders had been too vague on the details, but these three were sure to prove Kyungsoo’s guilt.
How come nine heads were shaking frantically then?
“Can the other players please refrain from trying to distract the detective,” the judge said absently before turning back to Baekhyun. “Detective, am I to understand that you are absolutely certain that Kyungsoo is the murderer? What of his accomplice?”
“Well…I thought Jongin was his accomplice, so I was surprised that he murdered him as well, but…”
“I must remind you that once you’ve made your accusation, you cannot change it.”
Really guys, why do you have so little faith in me, Baekhyun was thinking to himself, more than a little annoyed as Chanyeol waved madly, Wu Fan made a cross with his arms, Lu Han was trying to mouth something, Tao and Joonmyun looked ready to cry, Yixing and Jongin looked resigned to their fate, and Jongdae and Minseok were shaking their heads so hard their necks looked ready to snap.
Sehun, surprisingly, was smiling – well at least somebody was on his side. With strengthened resolve, Baekhyun puffed up his chest and turned back to the judge.
“That’s right – Kyungsoo is the murderer.”
Kyungsoo’s sudden demonic laughter filled the room, drowning out the groans of despair from his peers.
“I still don’t get it.”
“And we’re still angry,” Chanyeol snarled; Minseok, Jongdae and Wu Fan’s glares were added for good measure.
“It’s okay, ge, I’m not angry with you,” Tao soothed as consolation.
Lu Han shrugged. “I’m not either, I had fun.” Yixing nodded at that.
Chanyeol rolled his eyes. “Oh, it’s fine for the M members because you won’t be stuck with—”
“Now, now, let’s not argue,” Joonmyun pleaded.
“But I still don’t understand how Sehun was the murderer,” Baekhyun persisted. “I mean, he was dead—”
“I lied.” Everyone looked up as the two triumphant victors entered the room with smug smiles. “I had to get everyone’s guard down, basically; Kyungsoo-hyung suggested it.”
“And if Baek wasn’t such an idiot, he wouldn’t have fallen for it,” Chanyeol muttered.
“It was really clever though,” Jongin suddenly spoke up; he’d suspected Kyungsoo to be the murderer the whole time before it was his turn to die. “I fell for it – we all did.”
“And now Kyungsoo-hyung and I have ten slaves that we can order to do anything, for a full week,” Sehun sneered. “What shall we do with our slaves, Kyungsoo-hyung?”
Kyungsoo, the real perpetrator and diabolical puppet master, simply grinned widely; shivers ran down everyone’s spines.
“Oh, I have a few ideas.”