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Felix made himself comfortable in the cabin room. Sprawled with his limbs eagle-spread on the bouncy coil-spring bed, he was ruminating about his conversation with Shae. She had been so guarded about her backstory; this mystique intrigued Felix. He recalled her red-rimmed eyes drenched in tears as the crowd insisted that she was “The Banshee”. That had not been the face of a killer. She looked so innocent.

You terrorists, he recalled someone saying. Should’ve kept my mouth shut. “It was fine to kill people.” What was I thinking?! But anyway why should I care? But he did, and his mind drifted to her fiery words which had shut him up on more than one occasion.

Whomp! Dart plonked down a mattress on the carpeted floor, kicking up a sheen of dust. He had enlisted the help of the hospitality team to obtain an extra mattress. If Felix was going to stay in his room, they were absolutely not sharing the bed.

Dart grabbed Felix’s legs and yanked hard, forcing him to slide off the bed and onto the mattress in one swift motion. “What are you doing?!” Felix shrieked, caught off guard.

Dart had reclaimed his spot on his fancy bed and relegated Felix to the guest mattress. “This isn’t over, asshole!” Felix pumped his fist in the air. But he lay on his back, too lazy to pick another fight.

Dart beamed in delight as he plopped down amongst his fluffy pillows and began to build a pillow fort. “Can’t heaaaar you!” he chirped merrily from under the mountain of blankets. Ah, sweet satisfaction. This almost made up for his terrible luck leading up to the inauguration and elimination round!

Felix was in a reflective mood. “Hey Dart, did she look like a terrorist to you?”

Dart knew that Felix was still thinking about Shae. “I don’t know, maybe? She did beat you up, didn’t she?” he jibed.

“I let her win,” Felix retorted defensively, his ego bruised.

“Sure you did,” Dart didn’t feel like picking a fight either.

“Who was that guy anyway? The one who tried to shoot you?” Dart asked curiously.

“That asshole? One of the Ministers running my country,” Felix explained. “This guy was a real piece of work; name’s Glover. Though, they’re not all bad, I guess. My country has survived the revolution and operated fine since.” Vinlan Corp was run by thirteen ministers in a cabinet, who each acted as if they were above the law. Because their roles were determined by the performance of the country as a capitalist society, the people had no say in their leadership at all. It was all a matter of numbers and monetary value.

The two were quiet for a moment, each just basking in the luxurious cabin room and lost in their own thoughts.

Dart was contemplating Kitaro’s words to him, barely listening to Felix’s rant. The rational is real, and the real is rational. Dart couldn’t wrap his head around the concept. What was this obscure concept all about anyway?

Dart couldn’t help opening his big mouth. “I found a talisman on the floor,” he said finally, breaking the silence. “I don’t know whose it is. What should I do?”

Felix sat up immediately from the mattress, alert and attentive. “Whattttt?!...You should break it!” Felix was immediately ready to pull the trigger.

Dart admitted slowly and hesitantly that the same thought had crossed his mind. “Will that disqualify the person? Will they die?”

Felix shrugged in response. Nobody had explained how rōōh was channelled to each fighter, but it was understood that the talisman was one’s connection to OLO and its celestial dimension. Without this, it was unclear whether they would still be part of the tournament, or merely handicapped in each fight. In either case, the competition would lean in favour of the others.

This is everyone’s lynchpin. Kitaro’s words floated back to Dart. One person’s loss is another’s gain. Dart frowned again. “I don’t want to win this way. It's not right.”

Felix shrugged again. “Right and wrong is wayyy overrated. Do what’s best for you!”

Dart shuddered. It struck him that the rules of the tournament were more than what Suez had laid out. They were fighting for a future, and to each, their own mattered the most.

“Think of it this way,” Felix continued. “If you return this talisman, and you end up fighting the owner, do you think they will let you off the hook just because of one good deed? Besides, how will you find its owner? Are you going to ask everyone?”

Dart opened his mouth and closed it before speaking, shaking his head no in disagreement. But he was still unable to formulate a response.

Deep down, he knew that he couldn’t do it because if it had been him, he would’ve wanted a second chance.

***

OLO’s fur rippled gently as it fluttered around the small figure in the white room.

“Hmmm… interesting,” OLO muttered. “Do you mind if I check it?” It stuck out its right paw, and gently caressed Krystal’s midriff. The tattoo hummed and glowed in response, pulsating with rōōh.

“I didn’t think you would inherit this power.”

“Is… something wrong?” Krystal was puzzled. Was this adorable otter-celestial… blushing? Its cheeks were turning a shade pinker than before. OLO cleared its throat, as if to regain its composure.

“Oh, not at all. It’s an enchanting hmm… how shall I say… ability you have been endowed with,” OLO assured. “However, explaining would simply not do justice to it,” OLO continued. “No no, it will not do at all.”

“Please bring me some bones,” OLO chirped.

Krystal raised an eyebrow quizzically. “Bones? Human bones?”

OLO nodded its head but demurred to explain further. “Just bring some, and we shall see.” Its expression was smug and mysterious. There would be no further explanation from OLO at this stage, and nothing Krystal could do would extract it out.

“Fine, I’ll see what I can do,” Krystal agreed as she exited the white space.

Ming greeted Krystal as she stepped out of her portal. “How did it go, sis? Did OLO tell you about your powers? Mine are gonna take some time to manifest apparently,” Ming asked eagerly.

“I have to find a dead body,” Krystal responded matter-of-factly.

Ming burst out laughing. This OLO nonsense had been out of this world, and he was sure Krystal was pulling his leg.

Krystal lifted her shirt and inspected her tattoo in the full-length mirror in the hallway.

“Have you seen Grandpa?” she asked.

Ming looked over at the bed. Yi Sun’s portal was still open and active. It glowed and vibrated with energy.

“He’s not back yet,” he answered. “But can we go get something to eat first? I’m sooooo hungry!” A growing teenager, Ming’s whiny complaints got even worse when he was hungry.

Krystal knew more than to argue with her hangry younger brother. They made their way to the upper deck of The Challenger. It was time to see whether their welcome brochure, which had promised a “dizzying array of eateries from all over the world”, lived up to its claims.

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About the author

PlayingGamesOfDespair

Bio: YA fantasy book series created by Kabir Singh & Judy Goh
Sypnosis: Tournament of the century, ordained by God. Who will prevail?

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