Chapter 7:

Rules Are Absolute

REWIND: How To Commit Genocide in 48 Hours

He may have betrayed me, but I didn't want Yuuki to die.Bookmark here

I wouldn't wish death on someone just because they'd wronged me.Bookmark here

Yuuki saw the worried look on my face and whipped back his straw-yellow hair.Bookmark here

"It's cool, dude. Cooler than ice."Bookmark here

"Don't die."Bookmark here

"Me? I would never."Bookmark here

He swaggered forward as if he was going onstage. I'd expected some kind of long-winded recital from Hermes, but as soon as Yuuki was halfway to Clarkson, Hermes clapped and a siren blared.Bookmark here

"Begin!"Bookmark here

BLAAAA!Bookmark here

Clarkson charged, legs colliding with the ground like a gorilla pounding away. Yuuki yelped and fumbled around in his school coat.Bookmark here

His pocketknife?Bookmark here

Clarkson roared and collided with Yuuki like a semi-truck, and I was positive Yuuki had been Isekai'd right in front of me. My toes dug into my shoes. They went down and Clarkson laid there on top of him, huffing. They stayed there clinching each other like two boxers.Bookmark here

Was it over? Was Yuuki out cold?Bookmark here

Clarkson felt along his stomach, groaning. I couldn't see what Yuuki was doing under the giant man's shadow, but whatever it was, it worked. Clarkson stumbled back, clutching at his knife-wound as if the blood spreading outwards and soaking his shirt was a terrible disease he desperately needed to contain.Bookmark here

Yuuki got up, bloody knife now clearly visible in his hand. Clarkson gave Hermes a bewildered look, but Hermes merely shrugged.Bookmark here

"I never said weapons were against the rules."Bookmark here

Yuuki hopped from foot to foot, fixing up the courage to finish the job. He started at Clarkson, blade gleaming wickedly in the sunlight. Clarkson dropped to both knees.Bookmark here

"I can't fight anymore. I need treatment."Bookmark here

Yuuki paused. Clarkson shifted.Bookmark here

"Yuuki-kun, no!"Bookmark here

Clarkson shot off the ground and his fist stopped right in front of Yuuki's face. Hermes had halted the attack with one finger, one finger that now fenced off the face from the fist. Hermes surveyed Clarkson's arm as if it was some strange amphibian at the zoo.Bookmark here

"You said you surrendered, Clarkson."Bookmark here

"I said no such thing!"Bookmark here

"You said 'I can't fight anymore'."Bookmark here

"That cannot-"Bookmark here

"Rules are rules."Bookmark here

Hermes removed his hand from between the two contestants and gripped Clarkson's neck. When he realized what was about to happen, Clarkson beat wildly at the hand, but it was like beating at a steel beam. Hermes didn't even flinch. He gently placed Clarkson flat on the ground and placed his other hand over Clarkson's eye. Clarkson screamed.Bookmark here

Akabane looked away.Bookmark here

Clarkson beat again and again uselessly at Hermes. Hermes' fingers sunk into both sides of Clarkson's eye like a spoon scooping up pudding. He wailed and thrashed as if he'd forgotten how to stand. As soon as Hermes plucked out the eye Clarkson passed out from the pain, arms falling limply by his sides.Bookmark here

Hermes tossed Clarkson out of the arena and onto the grass, a trail of blood following like a water bottle without the cap on. Clarkson thumped onto the ground and didn't get up. Nobody moved to help him.Bookmark here

Hermes showed the eye to Yuuki. It looked more like a camera lens now.Bookmark here

"Souvenir. Want it?"Bookmark here

Yuuki stared in horror.Bookmark here

"No? Suit yourself."Bookmark here

Hermes flipped the eye like a coin and it disintegrated. Yuuki walked back to us in a daze as Hermes began to speak.Bookmark here

"Let that be a lesson for all of you! The rules are very clearly stated. In this world, there are no loopholes. There are no ways to defy what we, The Hands and Fingers of Mistress, have said. Now, Asano and Renji, please step up!"Bookmark here

Asano proceeded as if none of this really interested him. Renji was already sweating by the time he stepped up, eyes glued to the blood on the tiles.Bookmark here

Yuuki slumped down next to me, defeated.Bookmark here

"That's two people I've killed."Bookmark here

"Two…?"Bookmark here

"Yeah. One up on the platforms too. But I guess that's our world now. Kill or be killed."Bookmark here

I looked at Renji. Was that really it? Us or him losing and eye? And for what? A game like this, with no meaning?Bookmark here

No. Of course there was a meaning, of course these monsters had some kind of plan for us. But it couldn't possibly be worth doing this. Renji and his teammates weren't our enemies. Hermes was.Bookmark here

"That might be our world now, but it doesn't have to be us. I'm gonna win my round without killing."Bookmark here

Yuuki looked up.Bookmark here

"Oh, come on, man. Get real."Bookmark here

Akabane crossed her arms.Bookmark here

"There's no point in trying to figure Kurosawa-san out. He doesn't even know himself. Isn't that right? One minute you don't think humans are any good, the next you're self-righteous about saving them."Bookmark here

"That's right. I don't know what the hell I'm doing. I just… I can't sit still. So watch me. I'll do it. I'll get through this entire game without killing a single person."Bookmark here

Akabane was about to speak when Hermes clapped for attention.Bookmark here

"Asano versus Renji! Begin!"Bookmark here

BLAAAA!Bookmark here

Renji darted at Asano and closed the distance faster than someone his size should've been able to. His body was glowing again, so faintly that it was probably subconscious. Yuuki said:Bookmark here

"The kid's a natural…"Bookmark here

I doubted if anything was natural about it. Either way, I wasn't looking forward to what Asano was about to do.Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

"His name is Inigo Asano."Bookmark here

Black Mask placed two bottles of whiskey on the counter. The clerk's toothpick fell out of his mouth.Bookmark here

"Where the hell did you come from, man?"Bookmark here

"He's a convicted serial killer. Thirty-five counts of first degree murder, three counts of arson, and one count of attempted arson in his teenage years. He was only caught when he turned himself in. They say he felt nothing when he tortured his victims, that he was as human as a mannequin and looked like one too. But that wasn't true. He felt excitement. Pure, unfiltered joy, like a kid in a candy store. Or so they say."Bookmark here

The clerk grabbed a baseball bat from under the counter. A cockroach skittered away over the grimy tiles.Bookmark here

"Listen, man. Just pay for your shit and leave."Bookmark here

"When I discovered Inigo, he was sitting in a penitentiary cell sipping tea that had clearly been smuggled in, yet the guards showed no concern. I asked why a man as smart as he would allow himself to be caught. He told me he was disinterested in the human world, and that he had been waiting for me."Bookmark here

The clerk levied the bat over the counter and slammed it into Black Mask's face, the mask shattering into a million pieces like glass. The clerk lost his grip on the bat and it clattered down the aisle, knocking down a magazine stand.Bookmark here

Black Mask felt his face.Bookmark here

"Oh. I haven't finished my story…"Bookmark here

The clerk took one look at the face that had been unveiled, and before he turned to dust his eyes rolled up in his head, as if pure ecstasy was coursing through his veins.Bookmark here

Black Mask walked around the counter and picked up the whiskey that had fallen down in the scuffle.Bookmark here

"I'm sure she won't notice if the bottle smells weird."Bookmark here

He looked at the pile of grey dust at his feet.Bookmark here

"I was going to ask you how the hell a guy like Inigo Asano could walk around in your society unnoticed, but then you had to go and do that."Bookmark here

White Mask was right. She'd told him that trying to have a conversation with a human was like trying to talk to a monkey: it made a lot of incoherent noise then threw it's shit at you when it got mad.Bookmark here

Ana Fowl
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