The sound of multiple chariots and the donkeys running filled the area of the fourth division, bearing the sentries bound to the places they were assigned to for fetching the participants and each family's representative for the upcoming game.
It was now the first of the month. The days the parliament had given to the participants to be with their families had now ended as they would have to depart now from them and face another world, willingly or not. The participants would spend the rest of the days at the fourth division for the basic introduction of the game, for choosing weapons, and if they wanted, for short training before the tenth of the month came which would be the start of their expedition inside the fifth division.
The whole country was suddenly filled with cries and agony, protests and revolts as they didn't want to let go of their family's representative members—exactly what happened five years ago, or might they say, every five years whenever the game would start.
"I'm hearing the chariots coming," Riley said while the whole family was seated in their small living room, gathered for the last time as a complete family, however hurtful it might be when thinking about it.
"I know they are still far," Her mother replied, squeezing her only daughter's hand which she had been holding for hours now, unable to let go, afraid that it might be the last. "Use your senses in the game, okay? Always look around, be vigilant."
"I know, mother. I've learned from watching so you do not really have to worry about me, that much at least." She cheerfully said, trying to ease her nervousness, sadness, tension, and every negative feeling floating in the atmosphere, yet still to no avail.
Her two brothers have their heads bowed down, Servy's arm draping on Thirdy's shoulder as they both were also saddened by their sister's dangerous voyage. Her father was just silent, didn't know if he made the right decision of letting her daughter participate instead of him, he felt like what happened five years ago was repeating because his son also did the same thing when he said he would participate, and now brought them into this never-ending grief of their son's loss. The parents losing a child was indescribable, no word could explain how painful it was to see their offspring withering in front of them but was unable to even hold them nor talk to them because of the parliament's rules.
All because of them.
"Look, how am I going to be fired up once I reach the place when you look so down like you know that I will not survive? Do you see me as a loser too?" She asked, though she couldn't blame them because they know how dangerous it could be and even she was doubting to survive, they should at least give her a little lift encouragement even if it was a lie, sometimes people needed it.
Her mother rubbed her arm and shook her head adamantly, "No, child. You are the strongest we have seen in our entire life. You will have the hardest time in the game but we know how you are a tough, passionate woman, you will do everything to live with us again. You are not a loser, but survive not to prove them wrong, but to be back in our arms again, Violet."
She had always been hearing from older people that a parents' advice is the best that a child could receive. However, she didn't experience it with her parents often because she was not sharing much of her problems with them, she tended to keep it to herself, but now, it was showing. The tenderness of their love and care for their children was out of the world, their sacrifices were just one indication, and she knew her brothers needed their parents' guidance instead of hers.
The sound of the chariot stopped in front of their house, and the steps of the two sentries came to their ears. They heard a knock on their unstable door, it shook a little as dust came off from it.
"We are from the government, we command your household's participant to come presently with us." One man with a baritone voice announced.
"Shortly." The father said, standing up as he took Violet's medium-sized backpack bearing her clothes and a few sustenances to live on for ten days while the participants were at the fourth division.
"Riley, do you really have to go? Can't no one leave out from our family?" Thirdy asked, hugging her sister's waist as he started sobbing. She looked at Servy, he was also teary-eyed, biting his lower lip as he looked away from her.
"Don't worry," She softly said, running her fingers on her brother's shoulder-length hair, "I will be back, and I'll tell you the weaknesses of these creatures so you'll know how to move on with the game, okay?"
He sniffed and detached himself from her to look at her, "Do you promise?"
Riley looked at his pinky finger stretch towards her while he was looking at her with a tear-stained face, making it harder to take. She always believed promises were made to be broken, she had asked the same thing to her brother, and he promised to survive, but he broke it, which left her devastated for years. But now, she knew why he did that, she was just then a kid, and he just wants to make her at ease and to not worry about him, and she felt like she wanted to do the same to her brothers, but she doesn't want them to hope that would end up just like the same.
Another louder knock added to the family's tension, and grievance. Instead of taking his pinky finger alone, she held his whole hand and smiled softly at him.
"I don't promise, Thirdy, but I'll do my best, okay? Wait for me." She said, patting his head once and walked to hug Servy as well who couldn't contain it anymore and started crying too.
She took her bag from her father, gave them both a tight hug as she sadly smiled at them. Her every step towards the door, their every tear falling down their cheeks, doubled the pain in her heart, especially when Thirdy and Servy tried to run after the chariot that was already trotting away from the house.
She sighed and just closed her eyes, relaxing herself indeed for the last time as the chaos will just begin as soon as she arrived in the fourth division.
Riley sighed and clutched her bag to herself tightly as she watched the men's smug smiles while they walked towards her. She just got out of the chariot and it was not even too far away but she was already at the start of her expected chaos. Sho, the guy whom she considered as her bully's leader, draped his heavy arm on her wide shoulder.
"She joined the game Sho, it's a sure minus one just in level one." His friend said, laughing as he imagined the woman getting dead without even starting yet.
"She joined because she's tired herself. This is like her suicide." Another one said the one with the loudest laugh like what he said was humorous.
She kept her silence, hearing everything they say in one ear and letting it go to the other instead of letting it stay in her mind and heart and cry over it. That's what she always does, there's nothing much to do to their words but to throw it like trashes in the air. If she would let it affect her, she was definitely on the corner now and crying her heart out for being poor, hugging her knees because she was always being laughed at, in the dark, and afraid of going out because everyone saw her as a losel, but no, she knew her worth, she was more than what they think of her, they do not know a single thing about her aside from being poor.
But she wasn't like that, her parents taught her to be strong.
"You shouldn't have joined, poor girl. You know you wouldn't survive. You should have just stayed and continue your study, in that case, your smarty brain," Sho poked her forehead multiple times, "would be in good use and you could give your family a good life instead of acting like a hero as a representative of your family. You should have made your poor papa die for your family."
Maybe there would always be people who could press something so hard to get what they wanted. And this time, Riley's composure crumbled a little upon hearing her father and die in the same sentence.
For the first time ever, she faced him with a mocking smile, "Who are you to tell? My decision is voluntary. I bet yours aren't, and if I know, your family just threw you out here because you are no sense for them at all-"
A loud slapping sound echoed in her ear, and the sting on her cheek didn't make her heart hurt but instead felt proud of herself for standing on herself against this narcissistic guy who can mock someone but couldn't take mockery himself.
The scene had gathered a few audiences, curious as to what was happening on that side of the government hall's expansive ground. She still had her face on the side and her reddened cheek was curtained by her hair, and the boys were as much as shocked as the others when the guy did it to her. Because once again, the sentries allow mocking and bullying through words but not violence.
As expected, two sentries came with indifferent expressions, the huge machine g*n was secured on their backs. "We've seen clearly what happened, we hold strictly to the rules, and so you have to come with us for one day of confinement without supplies of sustenance from us along the time."
"Wait, it's not me! She started it! She wants to be hurt! I don't have food with me! Please!" He protested, violently waving his arms but the sentries were too well-built and stronger than him so it appeared to be like nonsense at all.
She sighed and fixed her hair, pushing it to the back, and straightened her chopped her bangs on each side of her forehead. Sho's friends silently went back to their place earlier, they were basically nonfunctioning without their leader. The expansive ground of the capitol was fully packed, and there were even more participants coming in, people were sitting on the ground and talking either in circles or partners but it was very unmistakable where the lowest level was.
She walked to the left side, to the mass of people where she belonged, there was a good space that bordered the side of the middle class and the lowest class which made it obvious, and the upper class was getting along with the middle, making their class out of place. However, seemed like they also have no intention of mixing along with these people just by observing and overhearing their conversation, it was full of bragging, a competition who had more and who had less, and if you run out of things to brag, you lose.
It was just depressing to hear.
Her cheek was still stinging, and she wanted to cry because her parents have never hurt her even once, but the man whom she despised a lot, was the first one to hurt her, and it was maddening more than it hurt.
"Io, I thought your father will be joining as far as I heard it last time." One man, as old as his father, approached her as soon as she reached their place.
She took her bag off of her bag and sat on the ground, placing it on her lap as she looked up to the man. "It was supposed to be him, sir, but I managed to convince him that it should be me."
"Why? You are an intellectual. You managed to be on the government's scholarship even you are poor. You have a future ahead." He curiously asked, just like the same as what Sho had told her, and honestly, she was so tired of hearing it.
Yes, she's intelligent, she passed the government's appraisal in accepting scholars, and even top it. However, she couldn't watch any of her family died in front of her, again. Plus, she believed she had an advantage, after watching her brother's journey, she now had an idea of what kind of creatures there have in the game, and she could still vividly remember how her brother and the other participants survived the levels.
It felt like she had this photographic memory plus a holographic mind that generated images of what might happen in her decisions. Also, that made her weird at times because she often got lost in her thoughts which appeared her to be staring at the void.
"Just watch me survive and end this game forever."