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Krystal hurried to the top deck towards the sound of mayhem. Inside Moonbucks, shivering swimmers clutching towels were huddling with ice skaters who had run out of the rink with their skates still on. Many more were hiding behind the coffee bar. To the other end, Krystal could make out two fighters and a panther in battle, and the panther was losing. Over to one side, a fellow fighter from Xin had chosen not to evacuate his seat, and was just observing the fight in a relaxed fashion.

Crash! Glass shattered from the windows of the observation room overlooking the pool.

A figure was roughly tossed out from the observation room.

Felix and Dart, having defeated the panther, looked at each other in confusion. Isn’t that Minister Glover from the restaurant?

Minister Glover got to his feet, disoriented and holding his bleeding head. His eyes settled on his third and last panther, which had lost its fight valiantly.

“YOU KILLED MY BABY!” Minister Glover wailed. “You will pay for this!” he screamed at Felix and Dart.

“I remember who you are now; you’re Luke’s pick,” he wagged his finger at Felix. “You killed my panthers!” He sounded as deranged as he looked.

“Stand back, Vinlander and I will let you off the hook for disrespecting me earlier.” Minister Glover said to Felix, looking directly at him. “I am your Minister. Let me kill this Celtian and you will be handsomely rewarded,” he waved Felix to the side, holding up a small gun to warn that he was serious about Felix stepping aside.

“I will make sure you have the same priceless look of the Celtain whose head got cut off in the elimination round. You won’t even see it coming… just like him,” Minister Glover continued his tirade. He laughed maniacally as he continued to spout racist drivel against Celtians.

Dart recognised his voice from the loudspeakers, and anger boiled from inside him.

“You’re a weak little runt with a little jewelled forehead,” Minister Glover taunted. “I’m only saving you the embarrassment of dying in front of a bigger audience!”

Felix knew that Dart’s dignity was on the line. “You can handle this, right?” he asked Dart. Dart nodded coolly. This was personal now.

“Smart choice, Vinlander,” Minster Glover smiled at Felix. “You’ll be rewarded handsomely.”

Dart used his hand to sweep the blood and sweat out of his eyes. His family jewel glistened on his forehead.

Kitaro, as if sensing Dart’s discomfort, tossed over his personal weapon.

“Here, you might need this.” It was his kunai knife.

Dart accepted it, and acknowledged Kitaro’s gesture with a nod.

It was time to settle this. Vinlander to Celtian. Man to man.

Minister Glover took some shots with his gun, but they easily missed Dart as he moved out of the way quickly. He was a politician after all, not a trained fighter, and Dart knew that he had the upper hand.

Dart moved close to Minister Glover, staring him down at eye-level. Making a bold move, he touched Minister Glover’s cheek with the tip of the kunai, nicking the skin and drawing a thin trail of blood.

“Isn’t this enough? Or do you want more?” Dart asked rhetorically. It was a warning.

Minister Glover gulped but could not react in time.

Without a second beat, Dart grabbed Minister Glover’s gun-wielding arm with one hand to steady it. Then, he used the hilt of the kunai to snap his wrist, knocking the gun out of his grip.

Minister Glover’s face turned to terror as his weapon was discharged from him. He spun around on his heel and ran for his life.

Dart stood back and let him run away like the coward he was. He was satisfied to let him attempt to escape. Krystal had arrived at the scene, and the large audience had witnessed everything. There would be no running away from consequences now.

“I thought you were going to kill him,” Felix guffawed.

“Huh? For some trash talk?” Dart laughed back. “That’s a bit extreme, even for you.” He handed the kunai knife back to Kitaro with thanks.

Walking over to the dead Tehari panther, Dart prised open its mouth and yanked out a canine.

“Think this will help you?” Dart asked, handing it to Krystal.

“Maybe,” she said codolly, pocketing it.

Felix frowned at Kitaro. “You had a knife this entire time! Didn’t you see me struggle with that umbrella? Why didn’t you help me out?”

“I literally couldn’t put down my book,” Kitaro huffed.

Felix laughed. “Good joke!”

Kitaro looked blankly at him.

Felix’s mouth fell open. “You’re being serious!” He gasped, turning to Dart and repeating, “He’s being serious!”

 

***

Minister Glover swore as he stumbled into the corridor of the VIP floor. “This isn’t over! I’m going to have my revenge on that little Celtian boy, or wherever he’s actually from… Humiliating me like that…”

His escape route was blocked by a towering, familiar figure. It was a Vinlander fighter by the name of Djinn. His signature spiky hair was unmistakable.

“Where do you think you’re going?” It was a rhetorical question. Djinn stood squarely in the middle of the narrow aisle, a small handheld gun angled directly at the fleeing minister with one hand. Glover would not be going anywhere.

Immediately, Minister Glover realised that he had been the one foiling his plans up till now: launching the grenade into the mortuary, and throwing him out of the security room with his back turned.

“It was you!” he exclaimed in genuine surprise.

Minister Glover had been set up. Outwitted. By none other than the Minister who had helped him get on The Challenger.

“Whoa there! You put on a good show. You’ve done even better than we’d thought! Ever thought of joining the circus? You’d fit right in!” Djinn threw his head back and laughed. His gun-wielding arm held steady.

“Minister Miles… but why would he do this? It just doesn't make sense… So that’s why he helped me get on this ship? It has to be him! He’s the one that picked you,” Minister Glover rambled. His brain was short-circuiting as he tried to piece together the puzzle of how he had been out-schemed.

“Whatever he’s paying is not enough. Name your price,” he offered.

Silent, Djinn made a show of inspecting his handheld gun. Then he slowly twitched his lips up into a smile. “I am not a snitch.”

“Are you listening to me?” Minister Glover was annoyed. “I never should’ve trusted Miles. But you and I, we can work something out, right?” Minister Glover tried to negotiate again.

Djinn seemed to have a change of heart. “Maybe… I’d give it a think.” His eyes twitched and his head bobbed back and forth as if there had been a glitch in his neural networks. His two minds were conflicted over the decision he was about to make. Snuff out the life of this snivelling, thieving minister? Or to show mercy and let justice take its course.

“Just let me do this!” He said out loud, decisively. He could deliver justice swiftly, right here and now.

“Who are you talking to?” Minister Glover asked, confused by Djinn’s sudden swap in demeanour. It was almost as if he had split personalities.

“Where were we?” Djinn chuckled, laughing. His calm, steady voice was back. “I’d give it a think if you lick my boots.”

“I’m a Minister! You think I’d…”

A barrage of three bullets found their way into Glover’s head, heart and abdomen. They were perfect shots. His body crumpled to the ground.

I’d think you’d be smarter than that,” Djinn scoffed. “But you chose wrong, pawn.”

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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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