As the man expected, no one said a word. In fact, he noticed that the green-hooded man and the overcoat lady were giving him the same look, one that cried, "Hurry this up already or I'm gonna leave". Of course, I share the same sentiment but this is the only moment you all have to gain more knowledge, he thought to himself. It'll be a wasted opportunity to get a slight upper hand. And just then, a hand went up. The man, out of character, showed visible shock on his face. The tension that had been silently brewing between him and the participants had been compromised and everyone's attention turned towards the culprit.
It belonged to a silent fellow, one who had been sleeping the entire time. He had a glowing but messy set of silver-stained hair and on top of his head were a pair of dog ears pointed outward like horns. He was well-built, despite his short stature, with a shaggy tail attached to his rear, swinging left from right. His face was that of a wolf, sharp and gaunt, paired with a set of jagged, unwashed fangs. And, like a wolf, his attitude was nothing short of zealous indignancy.
"Ey, magic man! I gots a question for you. You listenin', yeah?"
The man showed no sign of judgment towards the canine, unlike the rest of the twelve. His manner of speech and the aura producing off of him reeked of an ego that was impossible to miss. First impressions are important, after all, even in a battle to the death. The wolf stuck a particular chord with the young red-hooded lady, the man noticed. Her immediate reaction was of pure disgust, her eyes shooting daggers in his direction and her fists shaking at her sides. Interesting, he thought.
"Yes, Mr. Wolf. What is your question?"
"Bates. M'name's Bates."
"My apologies, sir—"
The man, along with everyone else, gave him a puzzled look. The young lady spits to her side in response.
"My apologies... Mr. Bates."
"You fucking right it 's. Aight, I gots a question for you."
The man could tell the young lady's feelings were not misplaced.
"Aight. Lez say I do the do and chop-chop here and chop-chop there. I'm gonna be left w'leftovers, no?"
The man gave him another puzzled look.
"Leftovers? What are you referring to, Mr. Bates?"
The wolf sighed in annoyance. He raised his voice in response.
"D'nt be fucking daft w'me. Y'nno what I'm talking 'bout. "
The confusion was still in the air. The overcoat lady rolled her eyes and spoke up.
"Sweetie, no one here can understand a word you're saying. If you wanna be a tough boy putting on a tough boy act, then stop biting your tongue and speak. For god's sake, we'll be here all night at this rate."
Bates turned and pointed at her with an unfazed look.
"You'll get you's turn next, bitch. Lemme talk now."
A quick glance at everyone's faces told Bates exactly what he needed to know. It infuriated him and he began to scratch his head furiously. Grumbling, he finally went for a frank approach.
"Leftovers as in thems. All of thems here. I kill thems and I gets to eat them, yeah?"
The tension grew stiff as no one knew how to react to such a blunt question. The young lady's face grew pale as she gritted her teeth in rage. The overcoat lady's haughty facade vanished as the realization of who she provoked settled in. The fact that he was nonchalant about it and, furthermore, referred to their future corpses as leftovers showed that this man was insane. More than insane. He was an animal amongst them. Perhaps it was shrouded within his ginormous ego, but no one could deny that he was sick in the head. Still, the man answered.
"I see now. Forgive me for the delayed response. Yes, you may."
The wolf smirked.
"Good, good. I've waited for t'night without lunch. It better pay off, ya hear?"
Immediately, Bates was interrupted by a loud bang. The attention now shifted to the young lady, who had stood up with a foot stomp. Tears had formed around her eyes and her teeth were still gritting. Her expression was a mix of pure sorrow and utter fury. Her voice trembled as she held her arms, calming herself down.
"You disgusting mutt."
Bates was having none of it.
"The fuck you think y'are? M'name's Bates. Now—"
She, too, was having none of it.
"My name is Leah Evangeline. The granddaughter of Warren Evangeline, master swordswoman of the Clover sword style and the woman you slaughtered at Roanoke Village on December 24th, ten years ago. I'll promise you this, mutt. You will not harm a single soul here tonight because the moment the game starts, I'll find you and avenge my grandmother once and for all."
Bates stood quietly, staring at the lady with the same unfazed look. Then, it shifted towards a realization. And then, laughter. A slow simmer that grew into uncontrollable boiling. His laughter echoed into the night sky as everyone watched uncomfortably. He cackled and howled until he was curled up on the surface of his pillar. Tears were now streaming down his face as he clutched his stomach, digging his claws into the flesh. Despite the pool of blood accumulating at his side, he continued laughing. Then, it became a slew of chuckles and finally, he caught his breath. He looked back at the girl, unfazed once more. The lady, Leah, had hit an intersection with her feelings. One way wished to cut down the wolfman here and there. Another way wanted nothing more than to let it all out. Her mind couldn't keep up and her body became stiff.
"Y'wanna hear a funny story, yeah?", Bates muttered in a monotone pitch.
Leah couldn't respond. Her mind thought up a hundred responses but none came out. Bates went on anyways.
"That night, the pack 'n I had been fucked 'ver by the Emperor's calvary. Thems suns of bitches killed and gutted us by the 'dreds. No mercy. No warning. No nuthin. We d'dnt do nuthin'. We ran and we ran. Ran until there were only 10 of us left. We hated yous kind. Humans are nuthin but hypocritical bastards. Huntin' 'n killin' whenever theys please but we— no. We go too far. So what's you think when a lil' wannabe warrior walks up to us and demand we leave or die? That's right. We get mad. We say fuck it. All humans the same anyways so how's 'bout we have fun? We eat the lil' wannabe warrior 'n his family. Then, more wannabes come. They come to kill us, we fight back. Then, more come. More and more until it's nuthin but leftovers. And then, a wannabe warrior comes up to us. Except this ain't no warrior. An old, shriveled hag in drags is no warrior. She comes to kill us, we fight back. Except this ain't no wannabe. She chops-chops here and chop-chops there. Anos and Ylva, gone. Big bro Taro's head buried among the leftovers. All's left 's me. I run. Run and run until I can't run no more. And this hag in drags has the audacity to follow me. I'm defenseless, yeah, and this hag has the audacity to follow me. And she spouts bullshit about that fucker Emperor. I hates him. Hates him to the core. And just then, she stops. She screams and she falls. Of course, I ate her. Are you blaming me for winnin' against a monster, fair and square? I d'dnt do nuthin' and she fell. Leftovers are leftovers, no matter the warrior before. She took everything I had left. Friends, family, dignity. That Emperor she so praised took more. 'Nd here you are, saying bullshit about vengeance. What's next? You hear to suck him off, too? I'm sick of it. So sick, it's funny. Now laugh. Laugh with me 'nd forget the fact you gave up your life for a wannabe warrior in the end."
At that moment, Leah snapped. From her hood, she revealed a hidden blade. She readied her stance to start leaping upon the pillars towards Bates when suddenly, the man flashed before her.
"Young Leah. Please wait until the game begins before you start killing anyone."
"Move. I'll kill him now. That monster has no right to live", she uttered in a low, dark tone.
Bates shifted into a battle stance as well.
"Laugh! Laugh, you bitch! Yous reason for comin' here is in vain! Learn from that hag!"
He reached into the fur of his tail and pulled out a rusted lumber ax that had been somehow concealed up until this point. With one hand, he twirled it around, ready to parry any attack. The man, holding back Leah, was now very troubled.
"Mr. Bates, please don't provoke her. You both—"
"— Are wasting valuable time."
The chaos stopped. The contestants, who all appeared uncomfortable, looked towards the new voice that had emerged. It came from the last pillar, where a teenage boy had risen from a light nap. No one had noticed him amid the conflict but it seemed no one had noticed anything for a while. His white locks of hair shined in the moonlight as he placed his hands into the pockets of his light green hoodie. He was not amused.
"The countdown already started. The longer you keep bickering, the closer we'll all be to reaching a draw."