REWIND: How To Commit Genocide in 48 Hours
"First team, step forward!"
We made our way up the crooked steps and onto the floor dotted with jungle leaves. The sky was smeared with low-hanging clouds, dotting patchwork shadows along the otherwise flawless arena. Other teams watched us closely from the grass. We were the first round of Game Two, which made us the guinea pigs that everyone else would study. Fear pulsed through me and left my fingers shaking. I told myself this wasn't different from any other game. It was just like going up to solve a problem in front of the class, dozens of beady eyes scrutinizing your every disjointed movement. But in this game, the wrong answer meant death.
Well, high school was a series of social deaths anyways, so this couldn't be much worse… please.
Yuuki's anxiety showed on his face, his nose twitching like he smelt something rancid, an old habit of his.
"We're so dead…"
That word on it's own was enough to send my spirits tanking like a downed fighter jet. Akabane looked as if she was on the verge of murdering him.
"With an attitude like that…!"
I crept behind Asano, who was dangerous and unpredictable, but also our greatest asset. We couldn't just deny him off of principle back there, especially with his knowledge of Sei that he made no effort to hide. Besides, I don't think there's a happy ending to turning down a psychopathic mime.
Positioned in the middle of the arena, Hermes ushered our opponents forward.
Only one of the three looked dangerous, a hulking mass that bulged out of his shirt. He was even taller than Asano, cheeks jostling as he walked. The other two were an old man with gray hair flattened out by a newsie cap, and a woman who kept fidgeting with something behind her back. They were all European. I hadn't even considered, but we were separated from most contestants by default through a language barrier.
Akabane elbowed me in the stomach. I hadn't noticed him even with the distinctive white hair and gi because of how short he was, but Renji was coming up the steps too. As soon as he saw Asano his demeanor shifted. I felt his anger from across the arena tearing forward like a caged tiger. I had assumed that the blood on Asano's hands had been Renji's, but there he was.
Hermes clapped for attention.
"Ahem! The rules for this game are just as simple and easy as the rules from the last. This one's my own creation. I call it Team Hot Potato, based off of your inferior human game. There will be a series of direct one versus one battles. Both teams are fighting under their own thirty minute timers that will carry over from each fight. For example, if the first battle lasts five minutes, the losing contestant will have those five minutes deducted from their teams thirty minutes. After all four battles, whichever team with the least time remaining loses. The losing team gets an eyeball removed."
Yuuki leaned forward and his jaw dropped.
"Did I hear that right? Is he serious? You can't just say that if you're serious-"
"Now, one contestant please step forward from each team! We will have a game of rock, paper, scissors to determine who will receive a bonus advantage!"
Renji immediately shoved passed the adults and stepped out into the forefront, his dirty feet slapping tracks across the arena.
I looked at Yuuki.
"You were always good at rock paper scissors…"
"Me? No, no no no! What if there's a twist, Kurosawa-kun? What if the loser's hand explodes?"
"Why would that even happen?"
"Look around you! We're in the loony bin here!"
"If you two are gonna argue, I'll-"
Asano glided forward without a sound, and right then his mime act became real. I was suddenly so positive that he was moving in an invisible box that the feeling resonated into my Sei. He and Renji were separated now only by the foreboding arm of Hermes providing fencing between them.
"Best of three. Begin!"
Only Renji said the words.
"Rock! Paper! Scissors!"
Renji threw rock and thrust his hand up in victory as he saw Asano's scissors. Asano moved his hands with about as much enthusiasm as a math teacher doing finger puppets.
"Rock, paper, scissors!"
Renji won again, 2-0. Were my eyes messing with me, or was something wrong with the air around Asano's fingers? Like a mirage.
"Rock paper scissors-! Ah!"
Renji stumbled back in frustration. For some reason he was annoyed by his immediate win. Hermes whistled.
"An unfortunate defeat for our lovely Asano. The advantage is given to Renji's team as promised. Renji, you and your team get to decide who the opponents for one of the battles will be. Consult carefully with your teammates-"
"Me and him!"
"Him! And! Me! I want to fight Asano!"
"Hey! What is the meaning of this?"
The burly contestant crossed his arms.
"We were told to consult! Why have you done this, boy?"
Genuine guilt showed on Renji's face, his brows folding inward as if he'd been caught breaking a plate.
"Oh - sorry, I-"
Hermes placed a reassuring hand on Renji's shoulder.
"He won the game, and he chose his prize."
The burly man held his head high, clearly unsatisfied but smart enough to know not to question Hermes.
Hermes patted down his sleeves to vent out his anger at being interrupted. His next words amplified as if he was holding a microphone, his voice echoing out of multiple spots in the jungle as if giant parrots were mimicking his words right back at him.
"Prepare for an interesting match, everyone! These two had a bout in Game One that I am quite keen to see resolved… in round two!"
Hermes' finger fell on Yuuki like the world's most sickening game of spin the bottle. I just hoped they didn't kiss.
"Yuuki and Clarkson."
The burly man stepped forward, cracking his knuckles with the self-assurance only one sure of their victory could have. Yuuki seemed assured of Clarkson's victory, too.
"You can't be serious, Mr. Hermes! He's huge! He's two of me!"
Hermes eyed Clarkson up and down before turning back to us.
"I'd say he's closer to three of you. Now get out there, and give us a good show!"