I’m tired. The sky is already getting dark and we haven’t found any towns yet. This road leads on forever! My stomach grumbles, followed by Jen, Roger, and Kert. I grunt as I fell to my side onto to cold hard grass.
“Nnn…get up” Roger yawns.
“Cant…I’m going to sleep here” I reply, shutting my eyes. The wind blew, making me shiver.
“I’ll sleep with yah” he falls on his back, right behind me.
“Well, a mans gotta do what a mans gotta do” Jen squeezes himself in between us and tugs our cloaks closer to him. “Warm now…” he dozes off.
“I’m not going to sleep anywhere near you guys…” Kert says. “I’d rather freeze to death”
“I’ll see you at your funeral then, buddy” Jen says weakly.
Kert didn’t say anything, just sat down two feet away from us. My shoulders ached and I could feel my calves pounding. I think my feet have blisters on it, too.
“Mmm…Jen, you’re hogging all the warmth” I tried pulling my cloak back but he wouldn’t let go so I gave up.
Some hours later…
Clank, clank, clank
I open my eyes a little.
Clank, clank, clank
What’s that noise? It’s getting louder. The grounds vibrating a bit. Am I dreaming? I always have dreams on being a prince riding on a carriage that sounds the same as this.
The noise stopped, the carriage stopped. Time to go meet my princess…! I got up slowly and held out my hand to a figure in front of me. Wow, her hairs so long and shiny. I think its…orange, autumn. That must be her name.
“Hello, Autumn. Is your castle…huge?” I ask her, smiling.
She backed away a little—shy. I think I heard Kerts voice, he said “Don’t fret, he’s not a perv, just an idiot” I stare at a different figure that came to view, I think it was him. What’s Kert doing in my dream? Is he trying to steal my princess away?
“No…don’t take her! She’s mine…get one yourself, if you can!” I stuck my tongue out at him, he picked me up and tossed me inside a carriage with two other people—I think they were laughing. I turned back to my princess who disappeared. “Where’s…my Autumn?”
Then everything went black.
I woke up, yelling, waking up the others around me.
“What’s wrong with you?!” Jen asks, irritated, rubbing his eyes.
“W…where are we?”
“In a wagon!”
I looked around, it was sunny, and by the looks of the sun, morning. Kert and Roger were glaring at me. “What?” I ask them.
“Oh gee…I don’t know…maybe I just wanted to stare angrily at you” Roger says. “But here’s a tip for when you wake up” he clears his throat. “Don’t yell!”
“Oh…well I had a dream…a nightmare, I guess…”
Their expression changed from fuming mad to strangely amused. Kert says, “It was a nightmare? I thought it was a great fantasy” he grins. “’Autumn, oh Autumn, how your hair shines so bright’” the others laughed.
Roger takes over. “’How I wish to stroke your lovely—‘”
“’—Cheek that looks like a soft peaches bosom’” Jen finishes the sentence. They explode with laughter.
My face flushes; I think I’m going to die in humiliation! I grabbed my cloak and covered my face in it.
“I love your dreams” Kert says. “And your lines are so…’bobantic’” they laugh again.
Oh, man! Not that! I say that in my dreams instead of romantic.
“I wish to kiss your lovely smile that burns my love with flare” it was a girls voice, and that line, Autumn said it in my dream.
I dropped the cloak and turned around to face the person that spoke. It was a girl with long orange hair. She had bangs and wore a tan-ish white hat.
“You are the hunky man I dreamed of marrying” she giggles—that was another line Autumn said in my dreams. “Then you say…” she wanted me to reply to that.
I bit the bottom of my lip, I didn’t want to say it, it was too stupid.
“And you are the hunky woman I dreamt of marrying, my sweet” Jen says for me, everyone laughed hysterically.
Oh no, gosh no, anything but this! “But it was all a dream!”
“Yeah, it was just a dream” Roger says. “Did you know you talk in your sleep?”
I gape, okay so that’s how they knew what I was saying but, “How did you know what Autumn was saying then?”
“Simple” Kert replies. “Nana” he gestures to the girl with orange hair, “was talking while you were dreaming and we realized that what she said, you replied to, so we were messing around for a bit…”
“All night” it was a deep voice, old, sort of. “I was amused by it too, though. You are quite the charmer, young boy” he said sarcastically. It was the guy driving, controlling the ox that pulled the wagon. He had grayish black hair and had on dirty brown clothes.
“No…cursed for life…” I groan. “The humiliation! The shame!” I lowered my eyes. “Mess with a mans dream…”
“We thought you were awake when the wagon came, though” Jen says. “Your eyes were open…sort of”
“That’s true. Then when Kert and Nana were going to put you on here, you started talking. Calling her a princess then naming her Autumn, asking her if she had a big castle which she took offensively” Roger chuckles.
“Oh…” I glance over to her. “Sorry…” I mumble.
“It’s okay” she smiles. “What I did to you was worse, so on behalf of you friends here, I’m sorry”
“Where you headed to, anyway?” the man asks, dropping the subject.
“To a town” Kert replies.
“Any in particular?”
“No, just the nearest one”
“Ah, okay. That’s where we’re headed, too. It’s called Symphony, a place where wondrous things happen, one of the best”
He coughs. “Well it has canals running along the streets filled with fishes. It leads all the way to the top to a giant water fountain, enormous. That’s where you can go water sliding on a different route”
“Yes, all across the town if you like” he pauses. “Well let’s see…it’s the home of inventors, performers, cooks, blacksmith, tailors, musicians, all of a kind. And for you four, battle arenas”
“A battle arena? What’s that?” I ask.
“It’s where people go to battle with all sorts of weapons and armor to win one of two prizes, your choice”
“What are the prizes?”
“Fifty thousand bot or information”
“What’s bot? And what kind of information?”
“You don’t know what bot is? Well it’s what we call money, you know, to buy stuff. And the information can be about anything you want, anything, and they’ll tell you either straightaway or in less than one week, no more. They have one hundred percent accurate answers all the time. Once this man who won decided to go for information and he asked ‘where is my lost brother?’ well the Lookers—“
“What’re the Lookers?”
“They’re like judges, leaders, supervisors of the arena” he clears his throat and continues his story. “The Lookers told him that they’ll research it soon and will tell him sometime that week. Well, six days later, they told him where he was and he thanked them, followed their direction and found his lost brother”
“Wow!” I beam. “How do the Lookers do that?”
“No one knows. It’s all a big mystery full of rumors”
“We have to enter that contest” Roger says.
I turned to him. I was going to ask him why but he had such a serious look on his face, determined, that it made me remember about why we’re doing all this, to rescue Anysa.
“You guys are entering?” Nana asks. “You don’t even know anything about anything, and you’re going to enter?”
We all turn to her. “Yeah”
She smiles. “Well each of you do look strong, I’ll tell you that. And since you don’t know the very details, I’ll explain them all to you so don’t interrupt! First off, the arena goes on once every two weeks, and you’re in luck because it starts four days from now. Second, there’ll be nurses and doctors there to bandage you up after a battle. Third, rules. You can’t have help from the audience other than for them cheering. There are no animals involved. You can only enter in a one on one fight. There’s nothing that says you can’t cut a limb or blind your opponent. To win, your opponent must be unable to battle or they could surrender. And…” she stopped.
We waited for her to finish but she wouldn’t continue so the man finishes it.
“The arena is no fun and games, you see. There’s this one rule that gets to everyone, and I mean everyone. So choose carefully on this, okay?” he pauses for a reply but doesn’t get any. “Two men steps into the battlefield. The Lookers give them five seconds to say ‘kill or be killed’ if none of them say it, great, they win by what you’ve heard from Nana. But if they do say it, it doesn’t matter which one, they must kill their opponent to win”
“But what if the person that didn’t say it doesn’t want to do the Kill or be Killed?” Jen asks.
“Then he dies by the other mans hands”
“But he could forfeit”
“You cannot forfeit” he glances over his shoulders to us. “That’s why it’s called Kill or be Killed. Each of you has a seventy percent chance of dieing”
“Seventy percent is quite a lot, isn’t it?” Kert asks. “I mean, I’m sure most people wouldn’t go for the Kill or be Killed”
“Yes, those are the people who cower and refuse to enter. Almost all the challengers there are blood thirsty”
“Are you boys ready to kill another human being?”
My pulse races.
“Are you boys ready to watch another man kill with joy?”
My fingers fidget.
“Are you boys ready to put you life on the line?”
I glance over at Roger, Jen, and Kert.
“Are you boys ready to see each other cry in agony, lose a limb, a sense, or even die?”
I wasn’t even sure anymore, I’m not sure the others were so sure anymore, but the confidence that flared in Rogers eyes made me feel hopeless, spineless, weak. I took a deep breath and said what I hoped was the right choice.
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