Recent Content by Roxas
Status Update by Roxas, May 3, 2022
The sun had begun to set over waters that slowly lapped higher up the Californian shore. A mirage of twinkling lights covered the flat city like a flame as people came out to play. Cin gazed across the blurry metropolis, wishing he could go back to reality for one more minute. He’d have to win to accomplish that, and even then, after everything he’d been through and witnessed, it was more or less a consolation prize to the deep scars that would never quite heal.
As he peered across the mansion’s grounds, it didn’t seem like there was a way out. Walls too tall to climb were topped with barbed wire. If one could manage their way over, he saw another higher wall just beyond that was covered with armed guards. There were landmines in the grass if he tried to jump from the window, and all of this was before he factored in the three helicopters that circled their position. Analysis complete, he grimly told Mish the news.
“Yeah, there’s no way out. They planned for everything.”
“Figures,” Mish said, drained. “Guess it’s time to face the facts. At this point, we’ll have to kill each other... Are you ready to do that?”
He turned, not sure what to say. “Well, I - “ he stammered. In his mind, the prize pool could still be split between more than one player - that was the rule stated at the beginning of the game, after all. But that was before Roxas was thrown into the mix. He knew now that only one of them was walking out of here alive. The game was rigged from the start. His mind raced and the pain in his wound throbbed alongside his heartbeat. No matter what kind of clever plan I try to come up with, it won't be good enough.
“I’m sure you’re wondering why we had to switch roommates,” he said while he looked out the window. “I hurt Roxas.” He let those words linger while he stared at his fist. Mish said nothing. “I asked him something I shouldn’t have, maybe. I asked him what was really going on with the game. I figured he’d be able to explain this whole thing, having been so close to the top.”
Mish stood up and walked over to him. “And?”
Cin wasn’t sure how to articulate exactly what happened before dinner. When the words finally came, tears flowed with them. Mish was stunned, unable to comprehend all Cin said. It was quiet while they stood in disarray and processed their emotions. Once that moment passed, they held each other.
“He must die,” Mish grimaced, shuddering. “No matter who walks out of this game alive, it can’t be him.”
“This world is finished,” Cin whispered, scared to admit it. He pulled away. “The government’s gone apeshit and half the people have gone with them, apparently. At the very least we take Roxas with us.”
“Whatever’s next, we’ll get him,” Mish said enthusiastically.
“There’s something I want to give you, Mish,” Cin said. He went to his bed and pulled the blanket back to reveal something that had managed to stay on his person after he’d been taken to the infirmary. Like a miracle, it was the paint brush he’d brought to Los Angeles on a whim.
“Wait,” Mish laughed before he even had a chance to hand it to her. “A brush? Why do you have that?”
“It’s always been mine,” Cin replied. “I brought it thinking I might have a chance to use it, but I guess with everything that happened, I never did find that paint. But maybe you’ll have the opportunity, Mish.”
“Me?” she asked. He looked into her eyes.
“Take a look,” he said, before he passed it her way. She took the brush from him, her eyes focused on the bristles. “The other end, Mish. The pointy one. I sharpened it as a little surprise.”
“I doubt they’ll let me near him again, and even if I get close, Roxas will be on edge. It won’t work if I go for the killing blow," Cin explained. "But he wouldn't expect if from you. Or at least, I don't think he will."
Mish looked at the brush. “I can do it,” she said. “I’ll kill him.”
“Not just Roxas,” Cin said. “Misty, too. I want you to be the one who gets out of here.”
“Misty? I mean… wait, Cin. What about you!?”
“I told you this world’s finished. Done. Someone like me, someone who knows that so truthfully… I don’t deserve to be the one who gets out of here. I don’t care anymore. Not after the last couple weeks or however long it’s been. It has to be you.”
Cin felt Mish’s arms wrap around him.
“I know I can’t change your mind,” she sobbed. “So… I’ll say thank you, instead.”
Cin looked down. She looked up.
“I always wondered what would happen if we met,” Cin began. He didn’t know where he was going with this. “Before I got on that plane… before I answered Roxas’s letter… I logged on to KH-Vids and read our old personal messages. It was so nostalgic, it brought all those wonderful memories back in a flash… those innocent, joyous times. At that moment, I wanted to go back to those days again so badly. And I hoped - I wished - that when we finally met, it would feel that way. That I’d feel that free again. But look what happened. We were betrayed, and everything was taken from us. Everything.”
Mish hadn’t taken her eyes off his while he’d been speaking, even as the tears ran down his cheeks and splashed off her chin.
“It has been,” she agreed. “But at least for now, and until the next game begins, we have each other.”
Cin had never noticed how close their faces had become. He let the inevitable happen and kissed her. They held their faces together until he gently pulled away. Mish leaned in and kissed him again.
“Are you sure?” he asked.
“...Yes. Are you?”
“Of course, I mean… yes.”
The sun dropped slowly over the Pacific Ocean as the minutes ticked by, and eventually the moon could be seen rising in the east. As the bright lights of the city illuminated the night sky, the last players fell asleep in each others’ arms.
Baaaah! Baaaah! Baaaah!
Misty jumped awake, screaming. Roxas was gone, the door to the room open. The blaring alarm was deafening. She threw the covers off and stumbled out of bed. Outside it was dark, and she had no clue what time it was.
Black. Red. Black. Red. She tripped on her way to the door, unable to see until the alarm filled the room with a crimson glow. Everything moved in frames as she made her way toward the hall.
What's going on? Where'd Roxas go?
After all the things he’d just said to her, too… and all the things she’d said back. Something wasn’t right. He should be here right now - especially if something like this was happening.
She ran out the door and caught her foot on something heavy. “Agh!” she screamed on the way down. She slammed into a potted plant and sent the vase crashing to the floor. “What was that...?"
She looked, but she wished she hadn’t. An Organization goon lay face up with a piece of shattered glass stuck through his throat. The mask had been removed and the eyes were bulging out of their sockets. Misty heaved up dinner into the remnants of the pottery.
It can’t be…
A dead goon, right outside their door. And Roxas was missing.
Misty crawled up to the man and looked at his face. These Organization freaks had been terrorizing them all game long, and she’d wondered long and hard who they might be. She didn’t know what she expected - a familiar face, perhaps. But all she saw in the dim, red light was a complete stranger.
“This is a nightmare,” she wept. “A total nightmare.”
She leaned back and her hand hit something metal. “Huh?”
In the darkness, she saw the handle of a gun. She pulled it closer and realized what it was - a machine gun, dropped by the dead goon.
Oh my god.
Misty stood and put the strap over her shoulder. The handle was cold. She triple-checked the safety to make sure it was off.
An ear-splitting scream echoed down the hall and Misty turned.
"Mish!?" she called, but there was no answer.
The dining room, she realized.
She set off with one thing in mind - to get the answers she deserved.
4 players remaining
When Cin’s eyes opened he expected the dormitory’s looming ceiling to greet him once more. But the room he was in had a window and real sunlight was entering the room. His mattress was soft and the blanket pulled over him wasn't a thin, plastic sheet. Outside, he heard waves lapping against the shore and birds singing with the sunset. The clock read 5:32 PM.
He jumped and skewed his back as he looked right and threw his hands into a defensive position. Roxas was sitting on an identical bed on the other side of the room.
“Roxas!” Cin said, wincing. Distracted by the sounds of nature, he’d forgotten the wound he'd received during the chaotic fight at the stadium. The bandage felt tight against his muscle. “How much time has passed?” he asked.
“A day,” Roxas replied. He got up and walked over to the side of Cin's bed. “You can stand, Cin. I know it hurts, but the doctors said you’ll be alright. Lucky *******.”
“I’m sure I will,” Cin said, uncaring. “But that’s the last thing on my mind. We're here, both of us... finally. Tell me what happened, Roxas; why this whole thing occurred, and how they forced you into this?”
“Heh,” Roxas chuckled. “Straight to the point. Sure.”
He looked down like his eyes couldn’t bear to look at Cin while he explained it all. “They didn’t quite force me. An arm twist might be the best way to put it. There were promises - of money, of fame, and glory, too. All the things I’d ever wanted, I guess. I was a weak target. An easy one.”
“Wait, what do you mean?” Cin asked, flustered. Was Roxas implying that this was what he wanted? That the game was still his doing? “What promises did they make? And who is they!? Just tell me straight, man. How involved are you?"
“Once I knew the game was happening, I also knew I’d have to be a player like you,” Roxas said. “So I figured I’d throw the whole shebang instead, what with my knowledge of Royales in the first place. When I was contacted by the CIA, I thought it was a joke, obviously. But nope. They were dead serious. Those boomers blame the internet on everything, and this is their way of getting back at us."
“At us? But we haven’t done anything to them!”
“It doesn’t matter,” Roxas sighed. “This is their way of pruning the world of what they deem to be… 'unwanteds.' They compiled a list of online communities and pulled us out of a hat. It's that simple. This Royale won’t be the last. Not even close. I’m sure the kids from KHInsider are being rounded up as we speak.”
Cin was stunned. “KHInsider!?”
“Yeah,” Roxas nodded. “What - you think this is a one time event? Do you remember the Organization members in red? They were all staff members from KHInsider and KH-13. And once their forum members have been killed for sport, they’ll move on to the next community they pull out of a hat. And the next. And there's nothing we can do about it."
“So you could have been a player all along,” Cin sighed. “A friend. Yet you chose to use us.”
“I chose the weapons, the island, even the challenges, Cin. It was... well, it was fun. They promised me I’d make the final four, so long as I acted like the ringleader the whole way. So I did. I got to skip the game. And in a ****ed up way, I enjoyed some of it, too. I guess for a minute there I felt invincible. Like a King. I got to watch; now I get to play. The competition has dwindled and my chances of success are higher. So yeah, I was forced. But it wasn't hard for them to force me.”
Rage awakened in Cin and he lurched out of bed, punching Roxas in the face. His old forum friend grabbed his cheek and shouted in agony but Cin gave him no chance to retaliate and began to pummel his head.
“You ****ing ****!” Cin screamed, trying to hold back the tears. “Everything! You ruined everything! Why, Roxas!? Why!?”
But Roxas couldn’t answer, his lips getting ever more busted as Cin’s fist smashed once, twice, three times…
The door burst open. Organization goons ran in and pinned Cin down. Blood coated his knuckles and the bottom of Roxas’s face was covered in cuts.
“Let it out,” Roxas chuckled, spitting a bit of blood onto the floor. Cin saw red, absolutely livid. “But given the choice you would have done the same, Cin.”
It was the last thing he said before the goons dragged him out of the room while he grinned.
“You’ll be getting a different bunkmate,” the last Organization member said to Cin before closing the door.
Beside a little blood on the bedsheets, it was like nothing had happened. Cin listened to the birds again and stared at the ocean out the window.
I so wanted to believe this was all some mistake. Some joke.
The man who he’d trusted everything with had done this to him - and not just him, but all their friends.
There has to be a reason, Roxas. There has to. Fame, glory… Just shut the **** up. It's another lie. It has to be.
Confused and hurt, there was only one thread he wanted to resolve before the game was over: to find out the real reason Roxas had done this.
Misty and Mish were talking in their room when the Organization goons opened the door uninvited.
“Ladies,” a robotic voice said. “Due to an incident, we’re making a roommate switch. Mish, you’ll be moving to the other room and Roxas will be staying here.”
Mish glanced at Misty, who only shrugged in response.
“Oh… do you want me to leave now?” Mish asked. She rose.
“We’ll be making the switch after dinner,” the Organization member explained. “Which, unlike breakfast and lunch, will not be occurring in your rooms.”
“Ah, we get to leave our cell," Misty said sarcastically.
The goon just stared at her. “It's time for dinner. Follow me.”
They left the room and walked down a long hall, passing modern art and strange paintings. Sculptures decorated open spaces and every window revealed snowcapped mountains and sprawling valleys.
“Look,” Mish whispered, pulling on Misty’s arm. A giant window revealed the Hollywood Hills rolling across the horizon. Little bits of land protruded out into the water and in the distance, the few skyscrapers in LA marked a hazy blur of city buildings. “We’re back in California.”
"It must be some kind of mansion," Misty said back. "Some kind of place they're holding us."
The goon ahead heard them. “This is the location of the final game. More will be explained at dinner.”
Finally, after walking for what felt like five minutes through the vast residence, they reached a spiral staircase that led down into a beautifully adorned room with a window as a wall. From there, the Pacific Ocean reflected the setting sun inside, sending dazzling sparkles throughout the house. A table had been set in the dining area - it was a large square table, with one place setting at each side. Roxas and Cin were already in their seats, across from each other at the north and south ends of the table.
It was quiet when they sat, and none of them seemed capable of saying a word to each other. An awkward feeling hung thick in the air, and Misty noticed bruises and a couple band-aids on Roxas’s jaw. Her eyes flickered back toward Cin. His knuckles were bruised, too. What happened?
Organization members circled the table and poured glasses of red wine. Even with their aprons on, Misty saw machine guns poking out from underneath or hanging from their backs. Another group came out of the kitchen carrying platter-covered trays to serve dinner.
It was the most delicious meal she’d had in weeks. Meat fell off the bone, the potato was whipped perfectly and the vegetables came with all sorts of sauces, from cranberry to dijon to horseradish, and before she knew it, she’d finished off two plates covered with gravy. Had you only listened to the noises, it would have almost sounded like pigs feeding. They were starved prisoners, eating their first real meal in days.
Dessert came next, and Misty realized she’d forgotten the taste of ice cream. She had pistachio gelato, then a spoonful of some strawberry mousse, and finally a nibble from a vanilla bean cheesecake. Her stomach, which must have shrunk to the size of a pea during the Royale, felt like it was going to pop. Misty sat back and exhaled, looking at the chandelier above until the plates were cleared.
She wanted to say something, but she wasn’t sure where to begin. Here they finally were - four old friends - and yet no one was able to muster up a conversation starter. Cin can't even look at Roxas. Something terrible went down.
When the table was finally empty, a familiar chorus began to play. All the stupid Kingdom Hearts kids, why the hell did we go along with this? Misty thought to herself, ignoring the song which had gone from one of her favorite nostagia pieces to a rapid anxiety trigger. Whenever it played, it meant only one thing; someone important had something to tell them.
An Organization goon in red entered on cue.
“Players!” he announced jubilantly. There were no mechanical alterations to his voice. “The final supper has ended, and I must say - the ratings are through the roof! Who knew watching you eat your last meal would be so entertaining!” The other goons laughed alongside him.
Misty looked at Roxas. Everything this goon in red did, from his mannerisms to the way he talked, reminded her of when Roxas was the one "running" the game. Of course it would be reminiscent of you. They probably had you at gunpoint, telling you to act a certain way, do certain things. She couldn't wait to talk to him again - the real him.
“Look," the man in red continued. "This has been quite the adventure for you all, so let’s get to the final chapter. You all know there’s one more game. So what is it? Well, we decided to make it a little bit more fun for our viewers at home this time.” The man paused. “That’s why I won’t be telling you anything. Surprises are the best, aren’t they?” It was quiet for a moment.
“Well thanks for the meal,” Cin responded.
Mish started cracking up, and even Misty cracked a smile.
“You’re very welcome, players. That’s all we have for you. Cin, Mish, you will be escorted out first."
Mish glanced at Misty like it was the last time they would see each other again. The man in red took her and Cin up the spiral stairs and away down the hall.
“Roxas, Misty. This way.”
Misty felt someone approach behind her and put their hands on her chair. “Get up.”
She obliged, and Roxas did the same. They grabbed his arm and led him up the stairs. Then it was her turn.
I finally get you one on one. She had so many things she wanted to say that she didn’t know where to begin. When they passed the esoteric art, she felt like she was slipping into a dream. They walked in and out of shadows cast through the windows until her and the guard approached the room.
Misty was shoved inside. She spun to see the goon with his hand on the door.
“We will return when the game begins.” He slammed it closed and turned the switch.
“Christ,” she said, turning around. “But at least we’re finally-"
She never had a chance to finish her sentence before Roxas kissed her.
4 players remaining
There were only three of them left in the bleachers - Aelin, Misty and Tamale. A blanket look had fallen over their faces. They were led into the pit by Organization goons as the lifeless bodies of their old friends were dragged to the side of the battlefield like roadkill. Was it an advantage or disadvantage to sit through two rounds of action before you were called up to fight?
Now that the crowd was in rhythm, the boxes that contained weapons were brought out without the usual fanfare. Roxas stayed in his seat, watching the next game get set up as Flo Rida’s Good Feeling boomed. The bloodthirsty attendants did the wave as highlights from the last round played on screen. Each of the remaining players were pushed toward the circle.
“Go on,” an Organization lackey in red said behind Aelin. She was sure she recognized the voice, but a forceful hand threw her into the sand and when the dust settled, whoever it was had already retreated up the edge of the pit. So many questions unanswered… so many things I’ll never know, she mused, glancing at the balcony where Roxas sat. All it takes is one maniac to ruin many lives. And I’ll never know, will I? Why you did this? She’d felt hollow since the start; since she’d lost Arch. Everything after had simply deflected off her like a dart missing the dartboard and clattering to the ground. The walls she’d put up were too thick to pierce. It had been her greatest asset in the game. The key to it all, she thought, looking back. My secret weapon. I’m not scared because I don’t need to be. Because I’m alive, and the alternative is to be with you.
A hand gracefully touched her shoulder. She jumped and turned to see Tamale. “Hey,” she said, stunned.
“Let’s team up,” Tamale whispered. “Take out Misty. After that, we’ll figure out what to do.”
Aelin glanced up, eyes wide. Nothing left her lips, but she nodded gently as Misty herself was pushed into the pit.
“You three,” called a goon, rifle pointed their way. “Pick a box.”
She watched Tamale cross to the other side of the pit. All three boxes were the same size, so it didn’t seem to matter which one she got. It's all RNG at this point.
Misty walked past her and went for the closest box.
She didn’t hear us, did she?
No, there was no way… in fact, Aelin realized Misty had no idea what little chance she stood. A flash of pity flickered through her, compartmentalized quickly. What would they do after Misty was dealt with? She had no clue - and it seemed like Tamale didn’t, either. It’s irrelevant, she decided. I’ll be one person closer to the final three.
The last box awaited, and as she walked up to it and brushed it with her palm the noise level in the stadium rose to a staggering level.
“Players!” Roxas announced. “Who will join our fated winners in the final three? Your game begins in ten seconds!”
A giant number began to spin on screen. 10… 9… 8…
Her throat tightened and her hands clenched. She gulped, but she was ready. Tamale caught her eye and Misty finally looked at her, too. Neither of them seemed worried. The desensitization was real.
3… 2… 1…!
A foghorn went off, the crowd jeered and the three boxes cracked open to reveal the weapons inside. Aelin was expecting something wacky, but as the wooden sides fell to the dusty ground a pistol with one clip of bullets lay waiting.
She looked at Misty and Tamale. The former had a machine gun, the latter a shotgun. They stared at each other momentarily as it dawned on them the kind of weapons they’d received. A hush fell over the crowd. They’d come seeking violence and it was about to be as violent as it had gotten all day long.
Misty scrambled to grab her chamber and shove it in the machine gun. Tamale was panicking, clueless on how to put the shells into his shotgun. Aelin quickly picked up her pistol and shoved the clip inside. She flipped the safety switch and cocked it back, pointing it at Misty.
She was too late. Misty pulled the trigger and bullets shredded Tamale. Tat-tat-tat-tat-tat! Riddled with smoking potholes, his corpse collapsed to its knees and he fell face first into the sand.
Aelin screamed at the top of her lungs, pulling the trigger again and again. Her first two bullets missed Misty, but the third grazed her shoulder blade. Screaming, she fired off the rest of her clip, but none of the bullets she spent hit.
“Dammit!” Misty screamed, swiveling in Aelin’s direction and firing off a spew of bullets. Aelin dived to the left but couldn’t dodge the spray. She felt the small metal objects pierce her chest and legs and heard her own blood splatter on the ground behind her. As her body hit the floor, more pain shot through her than would have been normal to experience. Her pistol rolled away, outside the edge of the arena. I’m finished.
Warm puddles formed beneath her as she began to leak out. Misty walked over, holding her shoulder. She lifted the machine gun and pointed it at Aelin’s face but couldn’t seem to bring herself to pull the trigger. Trembling and defeated, Aelin watched as Misty’s face morphed into Arch’s.
He’s waiting for me, she smiled. The sky began to blur. I can’t really lose this game, can I?
“You can’t lose,” Arch said, embracing her. “The fact that it’s over means you’ve finally won.”
“Our final winner is Misty!” Roxas belted, and the stadium was thrown into its final frenzy. Misty was grabbed by two Organization members who took her gun and led her out of the pit. She was whisked across the sand and into a tunnel.
“Wait here,” ordered a goon. She stood still while important looking people rushed by. Down the hall, Cin was being treated by medical personnel. A group of doctors rushed toward her in the background with a bed of their own.
“You,” one said, an Organization mask on despite the scrubs. “Sit up here.”
Misty hopped on the bed and alcohol was immediately applied to her wound. She was injected with anesthesia before the doctors sewed up her broken skin. A bandage was wrapped around her arm. It must have taken a minute, as Mish had arrived by the time she looked up.
“M-Mish?” Misty called, her voice unsteady. It felt like the first thing she’d said in years.
“You made it!” Mish called, running over. She went to hug Misty, but the goons stopped her.
“Is it over?” Misty asked. “Just… be over.”
“It should be,” Mish replied. “We’re the final three, right?”
“I’m not so sure,” Misty said, feeling sick. “I don’t know anymore.”
Clap. Clap. Clap.
The creepy claps echoed down the hall, and Misty turned her head in disgust. She’d been listening to that distinct clap all game long, every time they’d woken up in that dingy, dirty dormitory. It was Roxas himself - their so-called “forum friend” - always showing up at the most inconvenient and inappropriate times.
“Excellent work, players,” Roxas chuckled as his silhouette emerged from the shadows. He gave Cin’s bed a little push, but the man was unconscious. “Today was the day the world has been waiting for; and unlike KH3, it delivered.”
“Is it really the end?” Misty asked. She had to know.
Roxas paused. “You three are the winners of the first Royale.”
Misty felt relief wash over her. “Say it’s over,” she begged. “I need to hear those exact words.”
“Heh… really?” Roxas asked. “That traumatized?”
“You sick twat!” Mish screamed, raising her arm. Her hand whipped across Roxas’s face faster than Misty could blink. The slap echoed down the hall. Why had none of Roxas’s madmen stopped her?
She looked around. None of the medical personnel or Organization goons she'd just seen were present. Somehow, when Roxas had appeared, they had all decided to leave at the exact same time.
Something’s not right.
“Ouch,” Roxas said, a small grin on his face. The red mark on his cheek seemed to throb.
“Of course we’re traumatized,” Mish shouted at him. “Roxas… we were friends, all of us! How could you do this!? Why!?”
Mish mouthed a few words before she managed to speak again. “I can’t believe you,” she continued. “That stupid letter you sent me - I wish I’d never opened it! I wish I’d never answered! **** you, you hear me? **** you!”
“I hear you,” Roxas answered. He wasn’t grinning anymore. “I won’t stand here and pretend to be some emotionless freak. After everything I’ve put you through - not just you, but everyone from KH-Vids - it would be callous. I've seen you as friends this whole time. In a way, Mish, this is the first time we’ve ever met. Isn't that great? I’ll tell you what I know if it makes things right. And I’ll tell you why this is happening. Why I went through with this: I was forced to.”
Misty straightened up so fast a chunk of pain pummeled her shoulder. She had no clue how much skin Aelin’s bullet had shaved off, but the damn thing hurt. “You were forced!?” she managed to sputter, more confused than she’d been since the morning the game began.
“I was…” Roxas nodded, looking at no one now. He began to pace. “Look, friends... if you'll even let me call you that. The Royale is over. But I never said the game was done. There’s one more round for the last four players.”
“Four?” Misty asked, counting the last of the KH-Vids kids. There were exactly four - Roxas included.
“You were part of the game all along,” Cin coughed from the bed. They all turned, flustered and scared. Misty brushed herself off and pretended she didn’t jump. “I ****ing knew it,” Cin groaned. "You appeared on that GPS, and then... I just knew." His eyes closed and his head fell back onto the pillow.
“What now?” Mish asked, a horrified look plastered across her face.
“Well,” Roxas began. “Based on what I know-” His words were cut short as a loud hiss began to ripple from the walls and ceiling. At the end of the tunnel that led back out to the stadium, a gate began to close. Misty had grown so used to the sound of sleeping gas by now, it could have made her laugh. Here we go… again.
Though Roxas was never able to finish his sentence, the question was answered.
4 players remaining
"Oh, I'm ready," Lauriam answered. Cin held up Cia's wooden sword, his blitzball long gone. He wasn’t sure what kind of defense it would give him against the nunchaku. Sure, a deft swipe in the right direction could block or even deflect one of Lauriam’s strikes, but those things spun in such a way his eyes couldn’t follow. He’d be at the mercy of physics and gravity if he were to try to take them on full-stead.
Don’t defend, he realized. Attack.
It felt like an epiphany. Lauriam’s weapon was incredible for attacking - the best of the three offered, undoubtedly. But when cornered, a well-placed slash from Cin could knock her out. There was no good way to protect yourself with the nunchaku besides using the chain as a makeshift barrier. If he could bring the sword down hard enough, perhaps he could bend the chain and get a hit in.
And then what? I strangle her? It’s either that or I beat her head in.
The Destiny Islands weapons were laughably weak compared to the Dream ones from last round. Even calling them “weapons” seemed a to mock the participants - they were toys for children, capable of inflicting harm in the right hands but hardly made for murdering each other. The next death would have to be a creative one, too.
Lauriam charged, breaking Cin’s train of thought. Her bright hair billowed as she jumped in the air and smashed down with one half of the nunchaku. Cin dodged left, careful not to accidentally step outside the boundary line and end the game prematurely. Sand kicked up into his face and he coughed, swinging the sword wildly in confusion.
One end of the nunchaku smashed into the back of his leg and jarred his entire body, knocking him to one knee. ****! Let’s be careful here.
Spitting sand from his mouth, Cin got back up to his feet and began to move along the perimeter of the battlefield. Lauriam wasn’t just swifter than he was; she had a weapon with a bit more length. Any attempt he made to attack, as good as that plan might have seemed a moment ago, would simply end with a blow to the cheek before he was in striking range. And sure, he could try to parry her attacks, but he was just a painter from New York. He’d never actually been in a fight before. What other choice do I have?
It dawned on him; if you can’t win via speed, and you can’t win via reach, try to exhaust the opponent and wait for the right window to engage. Easy…! Yeah, right. What the **** am I on about? I don’t have any experience with this… I mean, I hid behind a GPS the entire game. But he knew the time to fight would eventually come, and here it was - along with all the baggage of a live crowd and TV audience watching.
“Gonna keep walking backwards?” Lauriam asked. “I’ll just follow you.”
Cin turned, eyeing the line he dare not cross. “Yeah, guess so,” he answered, unsure of what Lauriam expected him to say. She was giving off her usual sass but without her usual smirk. He gulped and admitted it was somewhat unsettling. Here he was, doubting every step he made while she looked ready to kill him on the next slip. The nunchaku swung in a circle as she turned, eyes beaming. Beads of sweat began to roll down Cin’s forehead as he entered the path of the sun. The heat, the noise, the stakes; it was too much.
A voice came through the stadium speakers: “circle shrinking.”
Circle shrinking? Cin thought. What do they mean…?
Guuuuurn. A mechanical rumble grew in decibels. Behind him, the sand bounced and rolled away as the arena’s perimeter began to shrink inward. Cin ran forward a couple steps, trying to keep one eye on the line and the other on Lauriam. The radius of the circle grew smaller and smaller as the line moved inward a meter at a time. Ka-chonk! There was a snap, and the line stopped. Cin looked up at Lauriam, the distance between them far less vast than a moment ago. The camera danced between their two faces on the LED screen above.
“Probably won’t be hard to follow me now,” Cin said nervously.
“Stop running,” Lauriam responded. “Let’s get this over with.” She let the nunchaku drop at her side before she ran at Cin. He sprinted down the edge of the circle. This won’t work anymore, he realized. She can just hang in the center of the circle and I’ll always be a leaping strike away.
He knew now that he had no choice but to fight.
“Lauriam,” he said, stopping. Surprised, she halted her advance. Cin raised his wooden sword and prayed luck would fall his way. “You’re right. Let’s just get it over with.” The crowd went mental as he dropped the sword in front of him, mimicking the swordsmen he’d seen in games. I literally have no clue what I’m doing right now.
A smirk finally crossed Lauriam’s face. This is what she wanted.
“Go on then, Cin,” she chuckled. “Come at me.” The nunchaku swung ominously, bits of Cia’s hair still caught between the links of the chain. Cin galloped, holding the sword out like a lance. He reached the center of the circle and felt the nunchaku slam against his blade. Hilt and handle nearly flew from his hand, but he clung on as the force of the chain sent him careening to the ground. The crowd cheered and jested as he dusted himself off.
“Let’s put on a show,” Lauriam said, circling him. “I can play this game as long as you’d like.”
**** this. Enraged, Cin jumped up and dashed toward Lauriam again. She took one step back and deflected his sword with the nunchaku, giggling to herself. The crowd began to laugh and Cin felt his cheeks turn red. He took his time positioning himself, no longer interested in being the fool. His knees were trembling, his arms weak, but he knew there was a way to expose her. I’ll have to be tricky here. She's toying with me.
Cin ran forward, and when he saw Lauriam’s arm flick to crack the nunchaku in his direction, he spun and took a step back. The nunchaku ripped through thin air and wrapped itself back on Lauriam. Gotcha. He charged, and with Lauriam trying to recover from her missed swipe, Cin managed to land a hard blow on her shoulder.
The crowd was loving it. Cin felt he’d discovered the nunchaku’s weakness - its momentum. Any mistimed attack would result in a huge opening. If anything, him baiting Lauriam with his own attacks - assuming he could dodge her swings - was better than running away. For ****’s sake, he grimaced. I should have gone with my first idea.
But Lauriam seemed to be thinking the same thing. Before he knew it, Cin saw the nunchaku screaming through the air as Lauriam descended on him, her silhouette blocking out the sun. He lifted the sword and smacked it into her knees, but it wasn’t high enough to stop the end of her weapon from striking him in the corner of the eye. A blinding pain shot through him and he felt the sword fly from his hand. It spun through the air and landed on the edge of the circle, blade first in the sand.
“Dammit!” Cin grabbed his face and fell backward. He opened his good eye and saw Lauriam looming over him. She raised the nunchaku and smashed it down. Cin rolled toward her feet, throwing all his weight at her shins and sending her off balance. Lauriam fell to the ground and Cin pulled a hand away from his wound as he felt his vision returning. His palm and arm were covered in blood, symptoms of the intense pain throbbing through his face.
The sword sat at the edge of the circle, stuck in the ground like Excalibur. Cin half ran, half stumbled in confusion. His left eye could only see momentarily before it filled with blood again. He dared not look up at the televisions to see how bad he might be - as if he had the time to, anyway. The sound of Lauriam getting to her feet was already something he’d noticed.
Thud thud thud thud THUD!
He had almost gripped the sword's handle when Lauriam’s nunchaku smashed into his back, just below his neck. Cin tripped and clattered into the sword instead of grabbing it. His body crumpled at the edge of the circle, white pain searing down his spine. Twitching, he reached for the sword, but it was too far away.
He looked up to see Lauriam right on top of him. He was too weak to reach the sword and his eyes were too filled with blood and sweat to see where she actually was. He blindly stuck his feet in the air at the place the scream came from.
“****!” Lauriam screamed as Cin’s feet planted right into her stomach. The nunchaku came swinging down and smacked Cin in the chest but she had no way to get off him as he rolled backward and launched her in the air.
The nunchaku dragged along Cin’s chest, catching him one more time on the chin. He bit his tongue and felt his mouth fill with blood. Lauriam’s frame blocked the sun until it passed over him completely, landing on the outside of the circle. The arena went still.
Laying on his back, Cin watched as Lauriam realized where she was. The nunchaku landed next to her, its two ends bouncing away. Had the circle not shrunk, the area she was in would have been perfectly valid. But both she and Cin knew what would happen next, and their eyes met, each with different looks of horror in their eyes. This round was over.
Beep, beep, beep, beep, beeeeeeeeeep.
Cin passed out due to blood loss before Lauriam’s head exploded.
5 players remaining
I will be back writing the story this evening. Had a ton going on recently and whenever I had free time, I spent it on Elden Ring or the new pop punk album I've been working on for a few months now.
There isn't much left, so I hope everyone is excited for the finale. Chapters should start dropping in a day or two. See you soon.
p.s. LMFAO at the post above this.
I think Home is the new national dex. Take that how you will.
All I've ever really wanted is an open-world Pokemon game with the traditional 8 badge game-play so this gen seems geared toward me. But I'm worried it's too late. Open world games are a dime a dozen these days and Elden Ring feels like it put a bow on the genre the same way FFX did with turn-based RPGs. They should have done this years ago.
I'll still get it and play it since it has the potential to be the best Pokemon game in years though lol.
Status Update by Roxas, Feb 16, 2022
It was eerily quiet as the crowd realized what they had witnessed. Perhaps this kind of depraved, voyeuristic rush was the same the Romans felt from the seats of the Colosseum 2,000 years ago. The smell of blood carried on the breeze that blew from the Pacific Ocean as it swept the sand and dust up from outside the stadium, rushing through the stands and out the other side. Spectators had arrived on boats that very morning, leaving west from Los Angeles’ shores and landing on the secret island a few hours later. It was a place used in film for years; in classics like King Kong and Peter Pan. Oscars had been won on this very land. That was, until nuclear testing by the United States army accidentally blew it away. Fifty-seven years later, overgrown and abandoned, it had been repurposed into the location for the game.
Tickets for the Final Three had been sold for thousands each at floor price; seats near the pit cost millions. Celebrities, politicians, icons - there wasn’t a modern entity not present at the event. For a brief moment while they held their breaths as blood spurted from C’s neck, it seemed like humanity almost prevailed. That some shred of dignity had returned to the people as they watched his headless body and Risk’s mangled corpse loaded onto stretchers like dead cattle before they were walked down a tunnel. But when an announcer beamed through the microphone that Mish had won, the crowd erupted in a ritualistic fervor. She was guided to the bleachers where the remaining players waited as hoses sprayed the innards from the pit to prepare it for the next round. Lauriam watched Mish stumble back, a dead look in her eyes. She sat down next to her.
“Mish… are you okay?”
“Did I… make it?”
“You made it,” Lauriam smiled, rubbing Mish’s back. She couldn’t imagine how relieved Mish must feel. How free. How lucky she was to go first and come out alive. So many things Lauriam wished she could feel, too. The game had gone on for so long, their struggle so infinite. It all ran together now - the blood, the gore, the dead bodies. The loneliness of the island and the stars in the sky. A blur of faces she’d never met but knew so well, falling left and right, and yet here she still was. That must mean something. But only if I survive.
A million ideas ran through her head now that she’d seen what happened in the pit. Which weapon would she choose if she got called first? The sword seemed the most obviously powerful, but what about the staff? Was the shield underrated? Mish ended up with that one, and here she was. Defending wasn’t her style, but she couldn’t help but wonder… if the other weapons each had some kind of special ability, then what was the shields?
Yet all these strategic musings were immediately dashed as the Organization members brought out the boxes for round two. Lauriam stared in confusion and horror as three square wooden boxes were placed at the edges of the pit. They’re all the same size, this time? What’s going on here?
“Round two!” Roxas shouted, and the lotto appeared on the LED screens. Lauriam saw her ball bouncing around inside with the number one on it. She’d had so many advantages as the first player in earlier challenges, being the first out of the dormitory each time; the first to know what their weapon was and the first to explore the island. All those perks seemed useless now.
“Player number one - Lauriam!”
She stood and raised her arm to the screaming fans. They all had their posse in the crowd now, and she’d be foolish not to channel their energy during the fight. This was life and death, and any edge, even the slightest percentage, was worth it. An Organization member beckoned her to the edge of the pit and she slid down it coolly. It was time to choose a starting point. All the boxes seemed the same, but that didn’t mean they had the same weapons in them. Still, it was a crapshoot. She went to the nearest box and looked up at the LED screens.
The balls began to bounce again and Roxas smacked the button. A light blue one rolled out.
“Player number eighteen - Cin!”
Lauriam watched Cin casually make his way into the pit as well. He was certainly a threat who’d need to be dealt with immediately. Everyone left in the game at this point would be putting up a fight. They were here for a reason.
Cin chose a box and then the third player was chosen. They both looked up at the screen to see who would be joining them.
“Player number seventeen - Cia!”
Another section of the crowd went wild and Cia made her way to the final box. The three players glanced nervously at each other - the three of them didn’t know each other too well, and that meant anything goes. Lauriam dug her heel back, knowing full well what she needed to do. As soon as the game began, she would charge.
“Players, I hope you’re ready to add one more to our Final Three. In this round, the fight will begin before you open your boxes. And that time… is now!”
Lauriam tore open the top of her box and looked inside.
This is… what the hell?
The crowd gasped as she pulled out a nunchaku. Her eyes looked up to see astonished looks on Cin and Cia’s faces, too. Cin pulled out a blitzball while Cia had a wooden sword. Like the children on Destiny Islands, they were to have a deathmatch in the sand.
“**** this!” Lauriam screamed, charging at Cin. He reared back and threw the blitzball at her as hard as he could. Lauriam ducked and the blue ball went flying over her head and out of the pit. She looked at Cin.
“Well ****,” he said. Lauriam roared and jumped into the air, flinging her nunchaku at his face as hard as she could. The metal end flailed wildly but he dropped to his knees just in time and dodged out of the way. Lauriam pulled the end back to her and landed. Cin, laying on the ground, was momentarily defenseless. She raised her flail up and swiped at him, but he grabbed the wooden box his weapon came in and broke her nunchaku's path. The box splintered into pieces, and Cin drove one of them into the side of Lauriam’s leg.
“****er!” she screamed, stamping on his hand. He cussed as her heel mangled his pinky finger. She kicked the bit of wood out of her ankle; it wasn’t a deep wound at all, but it still hurt. Something suddenly smacked her in the back of the head and she fell forward, vision white.
Rolling, she blindly swiped her nunchaku out. She felt it hit something and as the spots cleared from her eyes realized it was the end of Cia’s wooden sword. It seemed insidiously sharp now that she saw the weapon up close. Cia swiped down but enough of reality had returned for Lauriam to dodge it. She kicked out and sent Cia sprawling. The wooden sword went flying through the air and landed in the sand on the edge of the pit. Lauriam heard her fans go crazy and dived for the weapon, but she was too late. Cin, who she’d totally forgotten about, was already there.
She pivoted and turned to Cia, who was now unarmed. The poor girl turned to crawl away. Lauriam ran up behind her and slammed her foot down on Cia’s back. Her body crumpled into the sand and stopped crawling.
“Please,” she heard Cia sob. “Don’t.”
Cin stood, waiting to see what Lauriam did. She knew he’d let her have this one.
“I have to,” Lauriam answered, and she wrapped the nunchaku around Cia’s neck. The crowd went silent as she was strangled by its chain. Everyone, even Cin, stood and watched until the deed was done. Finally, after an uncomfortable ninety seconds, Cia’s body stopped writhing.
Brushing back her pink hair, Lauriam stood slowly. She turned to face her final foe; Cin.
“Well?” he asked. “You ready?”
6 players remaining
Status Update by Roxas, Feb 15, 2022
The weight of the Dream Sword in Risk’s hand was almost too much for him. Its sharp blade, made of pure steel, extended nearly four feet from the hilt. A shame we can’t have video game physics here, he frowned, imagining Sora’s frail arms holding such a massive weapon. Mish, with the Dream Shield, was already crouched in her corner of the arena, waiting for someone to come for her. C, on the other hand, was staring across the sand directly at him. With the Dream Staff, he posed a greater threat - but surely, regardless of outcome, Risk had chosen the best weapon of the lot.
C clicked something on his staff and a flame jet roared from the top like a blow torch. The crowd ooh’d and aah’d at the pretty colors. Risk began to sweat a bit, his sword slightly less advantageous than it had looked ten seconds ago.
Maybe there are secrets in my weapon I don’t know about yet, Risk thought to himself. Something as crazy as that, hopefully. He looked down at this sword, which had a big red Hidden Mickey symbol engraved on its hilt. His finger brushed across it and he felt a button begin to push, but retracted his finger before he pushed it down all the way. Perhaps this is the key, he thought. But save it. The element of surprise will be your true advantage.
“Fight! Fight! Fight!”
Risk looked up at the giant screens surrounding the arena and saw himself staring back. At the edge of the pit, his fellow KH-Vids members looked on in fear. The crowd was eager.
C charged. The circle was wide enough that Risk could run forward to meet him. Cameras zoomed in and spun wildly around the two as they reached the center. Risk leaped into the air and raised his weapon.
“Sorry, bud,” he spat, bringing down the sword as he fell through the air. C lifted the staff and broke his strike. Sparks flew as the bits of metal clanged off each other. Risk felt a spasm go through his arm and he almost dropped the sword as he fell to the ground.
Suddenly, the staff was pointed in his face. He rolled to the right before C activated the staff’s fire plume. Risk felt a bit of his hair singe and turned to see a blackened spot left in the sand. He looked up to see the Dream Staff flying through the air toward his chest. Risk aimlessly swung his sword, which luckily caught the staff and sent it careening out of C's hand.
“****!” C screamed, grabbing his forearm. Risk swiped the end of the sword at C’s face and caught him on the bridge of the nose. Something splintered and blood showered the ground. C fell to the ground, his hand grabbing the staff that landed next to him just in time to block a blow to the chest from Risk’s sword. Another plume of fire erupted into the hot island air and Risk jumped back, sweating harder now. C, his upper body covered in blood, gripped the staff with both hands to reveal his deformed, nose-less face.
The women in the crowd screamed and some fainted as the cameras zoomed in on C, but Risk tried not to get distracted by the huge TVs as he charged once more. Their sword and staff traded blow after blow as sparks, sweat, and flecks of blood flew around them, dotting the sand in their wake. Exhausted, Risk fell to the ground, the sword’s heavy weight becoming a pain point. C took a moment to catch his breath too, his appearance changed now that the blood had formed a crimson beard on his neck and chest.
He’s weak, Risk realized. Get him.
He jumped up and used all his strength to bring the sword down as hard as he could, but C still had strength, too, and when their weapons clashed, they both flew from their hands and landed in the dirt. Risk fell to his knees, his arms in pain where the reverberations from the metal had cut through to the bone.
The heat was too much, and now that the sun was high enough to break the top of the stands, buckets of sweat were pouring off Risk. C coughed and got to his knees, crawling for the sword.
Risk began scrambling, but he could tell C would make it there first. He turned to see the Dream Staff a few meters away. It wasn’t the weapon he’d chosen, but it would do. The tingling feeling had returned to his arms and he got up to run for the sword when an enormous object caught him in the midriff and sent him flying.
“Gah!” he shouted, eyes closed, hands on his stomach. His body landed in the dirt and twisted violently as he came crashing to a stop. The crowd went insane, and as he looked up at the swirling sky, he realized the Dream Shield had been responsible. Momentarily winded, Risk clawed for air, a thick pain at the center of his body, and when his breath came back his vision seemed to right back into place. Mish stood above him, about to bring the shield down on his knees and shins.
Roll, you idiot.
Risk spun to the left and heard the bottom of the shield crunch into the ground where his shins had just been. He did a backward somersault and landed on his feet, just in time to notice C charging at him with the sword. Risk pivoted dexterously to the side, sucking in his stomach. The blade of the sword only slightly grazed him, and a bit of blood leaked out onto his clothes. C fell forward from its weight, leaving an opening. Risk dived for the staff, ignoring the other two competitors completely; he needed that weapon, or he was screwed. His body hit the ground but he ignored the pain as his hand gripped the staff. It was so much lighter than the sword, he almost laughed.
But there was hardly anything funny about C coming down on him with the sword. Risk turned swiftly and held both ends of the staff as the sword crashed down in the middle. Hot sparks tinged his cheeks and he felt like he had to close his eyes, but he kept them open, the blade only inches from splitting his face. Finally, C grew tired and pulled back, the sword banging against the ground in his exhaustion.
Glancing both ways, Risk noticed Mish had retreated back behind her shield. I’ll take care of you after, he strategized, and charged straight for C. Tired, bleeding and broken, C raised the sword in the air and blocked the first glance from the staff. But Risk kept smashing away until the sword fell from his hands.
“I’m sorry, C,” Risk said, pointing the staff at his face. He saw Mish cowering behind her shield, afraid to move in on the action. “You had a good run.”
His finger moved for the button on the staff’s handle and thousands of C’s fangirls clutched their faces, screaming.
But before he could press it, Risk felt his feet fly out from underneath him. C’s leg had caught him unaware. Idiot!
By the time he hit the ground, the staff had clattered to the arena floor a meter away. C stood up, the Dream Sword in hand. Risk gulped, trying to pull his body toward the staff, but the bruising on his stomach and the blood leaking from his wounds was beginning to catch up with him. He turned, looked at C, and prepared to accept his fate.
"Gotcha," C said, pressing the Hidden Mickey emblem on the sword. Its blade flew from the hilt like a bullet, piercing Risk's heart and lungs.
Behind her shield, Mish watched Risk’s arms and legs twitch as the last bit of life left his body. The roar of relief from the crowd seemed appropriate after the C fanclub had its heartstrings pulled and tugged, but now Mish and C were in the arena alone. And that meant she’d have to kill her friend.
If I can…
It seemed impossible - and even if she had the heart to do so, C now had a weapon in each hand. He approached her, staggering, his nose caved in, blood covering his chest. The two weapons fell from his hands as he lost the strength in his legs and collapsed. Mish threw her shield to the side and ran forward, catching him before his body hit the ground.
“Help me up, Mish,” he coughed.
“C…” she said, a tear forming in the corner of her eye.
“We have to fight, don’t we?” Blood on his lips splattered her tracksuit. “Take me to the edge, Mish. We can fight…” He coughed again. “We can fight there…”
“O-okay,” Mish said, lifting C, his arm wrapped around her shoulder. She left the weapons behind and dragged him to the edge of the pit. The crowd was silent now, wondering what was going on.
“Lay me here,” C said, his breathing heavy. She laid him down and he grabbed her hand and held it as tightly as he could.
“I could never kill you,” he said, water forming in his eyes. “Not you, Mish. Not my friend.”
She smiled and closed her eyes, remembering all the amazing times they’d spent together.
“Not if it’s what he wants,” C said, coughing. “What they all want.”
Mish nodded, and a tear fell from her eye and landed on C’s face.
“Kill him for me,” C said, and his eyes began to close. “For everything he’s done to all of us.”
“I don’t want you to go,” Mish cried. “Not yet.”
“There can only be one winner,” C said, and she thought a smile flickered across his lips. He let go of her hand and rolled out of the pit. The microchip in his neck began to beep. “Say hi to Sam for me."
The microchip exploded and the first round ended.
7 players remaining
Ok, I finally got the Platinum for this game and I have mixed feelings. The story isn't is bad as I remember it being - YX/time travel is easier to digest and accept now. There are some of the best Disney worlds ever in this game, but some of the worst gameplay. A lack of a quick drop feature is a huge oversight by the developers. I also find the whole affinity grinding thing to be a joke. This game is like a 7/10 that should be a 9/10. Either way, I enjoyed playing it a bit and to fill out the story as I get hype as hell for KH3, but I will never touch this game in my life now that I've done this plat run.