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Disembarkation had been announced, and passengers were streaming out of the ship. The drama of the non-disclosure agreement behind them, the passengers seemed to have completely forgotten that they had just moments ago been held under duress as prisoners to sign away their right to freely share information.

Priorities had been renewed. Now was the start of their grand world tour! The VIP guests on the ship were disembarking from the ship as tourists. The real VVIPs were the fighters, who had their own dedicated red carpet gangway to shore. The thousands who had gathered to welcome them out of curiosity and support were ecstatic, and military presence had dwindled as they left in their army vehicles.

Strutting down a catwalk, Felix was in his element. “That’s what I’m talking about, baby!” He struck poses and tossed his hair as he bathed in the fame and attention from the Vinlan Corp crowd. The irony was that just a few minutes ago, he might have made a decision that would have made this a plank walk.

“You’re famous! Don’t just stand there,” he chided Dart as Dart followed him nervously.

Dart couldn’t see much. There were too many faces all at once—unfamiliar ones—with eyes trained on him. Flags, colours, sounds… All were completely new to him.

One thing that he could see though, from miles and miles away, was the towering building of Vinlan Corp headquarters situated in the middle of the city.

“What are they doing with the lightning?” Kitaro blinked aggressively, shaking his head as he tried to avoid the flashes from photographers.

“Huh? Lightning? That’s a camera flash. They’re just taking our photograph,” Dart explained. Kitaro had never seen a camera before? I thought he was the smart one, he thought to himself.

“What’s a photograph?”

Dart explained that the camera was a device that used light to capture live scenes on special paper as pictures.

Kitaro was flabbergasted. “What kind of witchcraft is this?!” He shrugged, and held up a peace sign with two fingers as he stalked down the path. More flashes came his way as the paparazzi went crazy for his seemingly political message.

Dart was amused. He learns quickly.

***

Yi Sun was still on his guard. He eyed the cameras held by the photographers suspiciously. He whipped out his katana, ready to strike at any moment.

“Get behind me, kids. They’re going to attack. Any moment now…” He cautioned his grandchildren.

Krystal gently tried to dissuade Yi Sun. “I don’t think they’ll do that.”

Ming, meanwhile, was completely mesmerised by the shiny glass facades of the tall skyscrapers. Lost in his musings, he wondered aloud, “Wow, look at those tall constructions… I wonder how many floors people have to climb every day to get that high up?”

***

Atlas and Ginther had spent their time on the ship working out together at the gymnasium. After Atlas had shyly offered to spot a rather skinny Ginther in the weights section, the unlikely Ginther from Celtia and Atlas from Xin had struck up a friendship. Walking down the ramp, Atlas was timid and self-conscious about the way he looked. His bulging muscles and gruff, beaten-up appearance had always bothered him.

“Don’t be afraid, big guy, they’re your fans!” Ginther encouraged Atlas.

Atlas’ confidence grew. He smiled widely. It was the first time he saw a crowd of people curious and eager to see him, instead of turning away in fear. He was going to savour this moment. Happy tears welled up around the side of his eyes.

***

“Hey wait up!” Gilgamesh came sashaying up to Zora. He tried to link arms with her, only to be brusquely slapped away.

“Do you want to die?” Her eyes were cold, and her words sharp. She did not even bother to veil her threat.

“Come on… we look like a power couple! Just go with it. It’ll be good publicity for both of our countries,” Gilgamesh complained.

Zora shot him a fierce look and ignored Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh, undeterred, kept in step next to her with his back arched straight. Zora was a powerful contender, it would be good to be associated with her. Plus, she’s got that dark beauty… I bet Gabriella’s watching. I want her to see.

***

Shae wanted to disappear. She had enough attention from the debacle on the ship, and it had not been good. One of her strengths was to remain low-key and private. Her past had made her that way. This red carpet welcome to Vinlan Corp was the opposite — it left her exposed and vulnerable. She put up her hood, and stared down at her feet as she walked.

Attossa motioned to one of her bodyguards, asking him to cover Shae. “The Al Tehari fighters would enter Vinlan Corp together,” she decreed. No matter what Shae had done with the royal family, here on enemy territory it was us versus them.

***

Gunny was his usual hot mess. He had already drunk so much at the open bar by the pool that it was a miracle at all that he had made it to the gangway to disembark in one piece. He had only taken a few steps before he stubbed his toe on a nail jutting out from the plank bridge, and comically fallen over. With the momentum, he rolled all the way down the gangway until Djinn turned around and stopped the rolling body with his foot.

Gunny belched and leaned heavily on Djinn as he stood up. Then, turning over quickly, he retech over the side railing. Cameras clicked rapidly, capturing every second of Gunny turning out the contents of his stomach into the ocean.

Djinn looked empathetically at Gunny, concern coming over his face. “Oh no, someone’s seasick.”

***

Vincent stopped dead in his tracks as he approached the crowd. Dramatically, he raised his arms above his head in victory. His red eyes flashed urgently as he made eye contact with the crowd. Even the photographers paused, slightly stunned by his directness.

“Is this what you wanted? High profile sacrifices? A good show? The games of despair? Your wish is my command. Entertainment, gore and more! The show is on!”

 

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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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