One year later. Location: Vinlan Corp Stadium
“What a showwwww!” Ashley bellowed into the microphone from her position in the commentator booth. “My heart almost stopped!”
“Gunny’s did,” Ash quipped. “And I mean literally!”
The crowd laughed along at his joke, completely unabashed. The first round of God’s Tournament had been entertainment that had wowed the world, even beyond the massive battle royale at the inauguration.
“Ash! I had chills just watching this fight!” Ashley pumped her fist in the air, still hyped from the battle between Zora and Gunny. “I can say for sure, this audience has never seen anything like this before!”
“I almost wish I had these powers,” Ash said in mock regret. “Minus all the death, of course!”
Zora quietly left the stage, preferring not to celebrate her victory.
“This year has been a roller coaster for Vinlan Corp.” Ashley shook her head. Both of the fighters in the first duel had to be from the host country. “But these games are what we have all been waiting for… THIS. IS. PEAK. DESPAIR!” Ashley yelled.
The crowd went wild, revelling in schadenfreude.
“Before we start the next fight,” Ash said, “A short break for the stage to be fixed.”
The two emcees disappeared from the main screen broadcasting to the audience. Their faces were replaced by an advertisement spot.
The camera panned to a shot of a beach party. “Summer means… Friends…” A voiceover whispered in a sexy drawl as beautiful models laughed and danced on the beach. “Fast cars…” A quick clip of a fancy car zooming down the beach boulevard. “Fun…” The camera closed in on a scantily-clad model’s tanned, taut stomach, glistening with droplets from the ocean. “Freshly squeezed,” the camera trailed her body upwards to her face. She lifted a bottle to her lips and looked directly at the camera seductively. “Zepsi.”
The fighters’ studio was noisy with rumours as the fighters awaited Zora’s return after her battle with Gunny. Somehow, most felt that they should have expected this outcome. With one slain, there could only be more. Zora had moved on to the next round.
“Welp, she’s definitely immortal,” Felix said, turning around to face Dart. “At last we don’t have to fight her.”
Dart’s face was overcast and gloomy. He had seen a lot, too much, and all at once. His brain was running wild with thoughts, none of them coherent nor complete.
“What happened to you?” Felix put his hand on Dart’s shoulder in concern. “Don’t tell me you’re crying over Gunny’s death…”
“You know, thinking about it won’t do you any good,” Kitaro said nonchalantly.
“Thinking about what? What are you babbling about again?” Felix looked at Kitaro, confused.
“Half,” Dart said in a low, serious voice. He looked up at Felix. “Only half of us are leaving this stadium alive.” It wasn’t Gunny’s death that bothered him. The year had changed Dart. He no longer had the disposition of a naive kid that flew into the inauguration on a flying bicycle.
Felix chortled. “I’m not dead yet, and I’m not planning on dying.”
Kitaro folded his arms solemnly. “The sooner you accept that we are going to die like cattle, the easier it will get.”
Felix scrunched his face up in horror. “That’s truly inspiring.”
Then he looked at Shae, who was puffing along on her cigarette in the corner, looking out at the crowd.
It’s funny. Death didn’t scare me until now, he thought.