Alea Ludo Chapter 8: The Maze!

The rest of the day went on without incident. I returned to my room and remained there for hours, repeatedly going over the letter given to me by the mysterious sender. I racked my brain trying to piece together who could’ve written it and why did they choose to send it to me of all people? To be honest, it’s not like I had any friends or allies participating in the games. I never attempted to grow close to anyone there.

There was no need. We weren’t partners. If anything, all of us were enemies. The point of the game was to win gambling points from one another. If a player lost all their points, then that was the end of the road for them. Frederick was a prime example of that rule.

What was the point of forming friendships with people that we were essentially trying to kill? It didn’t make any sense.

As far as I was concerned, the letter was nothing more than an item used to try and start some drama. Well, I refused to be the one to cause that drama. I had enough on my plate. I wasn’t going to fuel the fire that someone else was trying to ignite. Whoever sent that letter made a mistake choosing me as their target.

I crumpled up the letter then tossed it into the trash. My attention was then brought to the ceiling once Caius’ voice came from the intercom.

“Attention all players! It is time to start the third round of the games! Please rendezvous to the lobby!”

Reluctantly, I followed the Game Moderator’s instructions. I left my room then headed towards the lobby. I was the last one to arrive.

Caius stood in front of the large window located on the other side of the room. The other players, minus Darius for obvious reasons, were gathered around him. I decided to remain in the back, not wanting to get any closer to him than I wanted to.

He directed everyone’s attention to the screen beside him. He was going to roll the digital dice and decided the two players that were going to risk their lives in another game. The first two games weren’t so bad. But something in my gut told me that wouldn’t be the case for the third game.

I don’t know if any of the other players felt it. But there was something ominous in the atmosphere.

“We will now decide the next two players that will face off against each other in the third round! Aren’t you all excited?” Caius looked to the players with great expectations for a hyped response. However, his expectations dashed. No one in the room seemed to be as excited as he was. Not even Melanie.

If anything, everyone was impatient to get things moving. I couldn’t blame them. I wanted to move things along as well.

Caius immediately picked up on that and then proceeded. He pressed a button on his tablet, the digital dice appeared on the screen then began to roll. Eventually, they came to a stop.

Eight and twelve. Those were the numbers they landed on. I didn’t even bother to check my bracelet. There was no need. Twelve was my number.

My opponent was none other than Elena. The blonde-haired woman’s face turned pale immediately after checking the number on her bracelet. She let out a sorrowful cry before dropping down to her knees. Iris knelt next to her and attempted to cheer her up. But her words of encouragement fell on deaf ears.

“No! I don’t want to play! I don’t want to!” cried Elena, glancing over to Caius with water filled eyes. “Please! I don’t want to die!”

It was pathetic watching that. We didn’t even know what game we would be playing, and the woman was already bawling her eyes out. No matter, it was going to be an easy win for me.

Her cries and pleas were ignored by Caius as he said, “Now, now, Elena, save those tears for when the games begin. You should know the rules by now. If you refuse to play, then you will be disqualified then subjected to lethal injection. Trust me when I say that you don’t want that.”

Although he warned her about the cruel fate that awaited if she refused to play, it was clear by his expression that he was hoping for her to do just that. And by the look of things, it seemed like that was how things were going to happen. If Elena didn’t muster up her courage and play the game, then I wouldn’t earn any points. I couldn’t allow that.

I walked over to Elena then stopped in front of her. She looked up to me, her eyes still filled with tears. But I wasn’t swayed by the sight of them. If anything, I was annoyed. Crying solved nothing in the world. It was high time for the woman to learn that lesson the hard way like everyone else.

“Stand up,” I ordered, offering my hand to her. While hesitant, she eventually grabbed a hold of my hand. I helped her to her feet then continued, “Now enough with your crying. It’s annoying. Nothing can be gained by crying all the time.”

“Hey now. Go easy on her, Ambrose. It’s terrifying playing these games.” Iris stepped in to aid Elena.

“Who cares? Nearly anything can be terrifying if you’re frightened of it. But do you think crying over it will make anything better? Do you believe that someone will just magically appear anytime you come across a roadblock in life and save you?”

My attention was on Iris, but my words were directed to Elena. No one said anything. So, I continued to speak.

“Do you want to live, Elena?”

At first, she was surprised by my sudden question. But she soon responded with a nod of her head. “Y-Yes…I would like to live.”

“Bullshit!” I yelled, she flinched in response to the sudden rise in my volume. “If you truly wished to live, then you wouldn’t have dropped to the floor crying like that! What did you expect to happen? Did you think that someone would step in and offer to take your place? Would you have been satisfied with that result?”

She kept her head down to avoid my gaze. She gripped tightly to her clothes, struggling to hold back more tears. Despite that, I continued with my verbal assault.

“Say by some miracle that Caius allowed someone to take your place in the game, what would you have done if that person died because of you? Would you have been able to live with that on your conscience?”

There was still no verbal response from the blonde-haired woman. There were a few sobs here and there. But still not a response that I was looking for.

“That’s enough! Take it easy already! There’s no need for all this!” Iris stepped in between Elena and I. “Elena’s scared! Anyone else would be scared too if they had to play in these games! Yelling at her like that won’t make the situation any better!”

“You think coddling her will make the situation any better? If I recall, Elena and I are the ones that will be in the game room today, not you. As far as I’m concerned, she’ll be all alone down there.”

Iris had nothing to retort. She simply averted making eye contact with me. She was looking to the others for some means of support. But none was given to her.

“She won’t be alone. You’ll be in the room with her. Surely you’ll help her, right?” She glanced at me with pleading eyes.

“Why would I do something as stupid as that? You do realize the point of these games are to win points from the other players, right?”

“Yes, I’m aware of that fact. But that doesn’t mean that we still can’t help one another.”

“Help one another do what exactly?”

“Survive!” She exclaimed. “One person has already died! I don’t want anyone else losing their lives because of these games! We need to help each other!”

“Practice what you preach then. Help me convince Elena to participate in the game. If she doesn’t, she’s going to die right here and now. You don’t want that to happen, do you?”

Iris gritted her teeth after hearing my words. She probably didn’t want to admit it, but she knew that I was right. She slowly turned around to face Elena. The blonde-haired woman trembled uncontrollably. She looked like she would collapse at any moment.

“Elena…” Iris began.

“No…” Elena interrupted her, shaking her head. “No, I don’t want to play! If I play, I’m going to die! I don’t want to die!”

“If you don’t play, you’ll die regardless. Please, Elena, the game might not be so bad.” Iris reached her arm out to touch Elena.

The blonde-haired woman backed away out of reach from the approaching hand. “Not so bad? Tell that to Darius who nearly lost his life yesterday! Who’s to say that I won’t end up dead?”

“You’re right. You’re going to die.” I coldly stated to her. Her eyes suddenly widened. “You’re weak, Elena. You do nothing but cry and rely on others to help you. You’ll never grow stronger from relying on others all the time. Simply sitting around waiting for someone to save you just doesn’t happen. This isn’t a fairytale. This is reality.”

“You think I like being weak?!” She suddenly yelled at me, her eyes filled with anger and sadness. It was oddly nostalgic seeing eyes like that. “You think I like being timid? Withdrawn? Relying on others to defend me all the time? I hate it!”

“Then why not do something about it?”

“What can I do? I’m not that smart! I’m not that brave! I’m not that strong! I’m useless!”

“No one said that becoming strong would be easy. A good way to start would be overcoming your fear.”

“How?”

“Let me rephrase my question from earlier. Why do you want to live?” I suddenly asked her. Her expression soon changed to that of confusion. “You have a dream or a goal in mind. Everyone has one. But there must be something else driving you to risk your life like this.”

“There is…” She nodded.

“Then use that something as a reminder as to why you’re here. If you want to achieve your goal, then fight for it. Stand up on your own two feet, march into that game room, and then play the game with the intent to win. Victory comes to those that fight for it.”

My words of “encouragement” seemed to work. The grim expression on her face slowly washed away. Only to be replaced with a wryly smile. The anger and sadness in her eyes were gone. Instead, they were filled with hope.

“You’re right…” She nodded, clutching her hands into fists. She then turned to Caius with a look of sheer determination, her voice unwavering. “Let’s proceed, Caius. I’m ready to play.”

“Elena? You’re not afraid anymore?” Iris looked to Elena as if she had suddenly become a new person.

“No. I’m still afraid. In fact, I’m terrified.” She admitted. “But Ambrose is right. Nothing will change if I just sit around crying all the time. I need to be strong. I’ll start by overcoming my fear of these games.”

“Excellent!” Caius happily exclaimed, clapping his hands together frantically. He then wandered over to the game wheel. “Now I shall spin the wheel! What kind of game will the two of you play? We shall see!”

He spun the wheel with all his might. It eventually slowed down to a complete stop. The needle rested on the panel featuring stick figures walking through a maze. I didn’t know what kind of game that was supposed to be, but I wasn’t going to like it.

A happy squeal came from the game moderator before he spoke, “How lucky! The two of you will be playing through the Maze!”

“The Maze?” I asked.

“This will be an exciting game! Please follow after me!” He sang as he proceeded to skip out of the room.

Reluctantly, I followed him. I could hear words encouragement coming from some of the others, but I ignored them. I said what I needed to say, whatever happened next was out of my hands.

At some point, Elena and I separated from each other. I went down one hallway while she went down another. I was left in a small room with a panel like the ones in the voting room. It worked like them too. The moment I placed my bracelet over it, it turned on. To my immediate dismay, a miniature Caius appeared on the screen.

“Welcome lovely player number twelve! If you are listening to this, then it means you have been selected to take part in one of the spectacular games today! Congratulations!” It mockingly applauded me. The words “congratulations” appeared above its head, flashing in bright, neon colors with fireworks exploding in the background. I nearly reached my limits. I would’ve liked nothing more than to destroy that piece of junk. But, I restrained myself and allowed it to keep talking. “Before you can participate in the game today, you must offer up some of your gambling points. You may choose to offer up as many points as you please.”

The screen on my bracelet turned on. My gambling points appeared on it with an arrow on either side of it. My finger hovered over the arrow on the left. I pressed it. My gambling point decreased by one. The number on the panel in front of me displayed the number one.

The miniature Caius appeared to be disappointed at the sight of the number. “One point? Are you certain that you want to gamble away only one point?”

I didn’t respond. I wasn’t going to speak with some artificial intelligence.

“Tell you what, if you offer up a few more points, I will give you some juicy information about the game and your opponent. The more points you offer up, the more information that I will give you.”

And there it was, the reason why people were gambling away more than just one point in the games. It explained a lot. It worked just like in the voting room. Temptation was powerful in that room as well.

The more points one gambled away, the more information one could learn about the game they’d play and the opponent they’d be up against. It wasn’t that bad of a suggestion. The fear of not knowing what one would be playing or even who they would go up against would cloud the judgment of anyone.

It made perfect sense as to how Frederick knew more about Klara than anyone else on the first day. But, there was still a fatal flaw with that method. Simply because one has more information about someone or something, it didn’t mean that victory was guaranteed. Frederick learned that lesson the hard way.

I refused to be swayed by its words. I didn’t care what kind of game that I would play. My opponent was Elena after all. My victory was guaranteed. Hopefully, I would win more points throughout the game.

After some time passed, the mini Caius pouted. “Looks like you wish to resume with your choice. Very well. Good luck out there in the game.” It bowed its head to me then the door in front of me unlocked.

I walked through the door, stepping into the game room. Ahead of me was my opponent, Elena. She stood up straight, head held high, exuding confidence. Although, her legs clearly shook.

My gaze shifted upward to the large glass window where the other players were watching. Damn it was high.

“Ladies and gentlemen! It is time to start with the third game; Maze!” Caius’ voice came from the intercom. “I shall begin with the explanation of the rules! The players Ambrose and Elena must search through the maze for a secret special treasure hidden somewhere within the center! The first player to retrieve the treasure then return to their starting point will be crowned the winner!”

Simple enough. Is what I thought. But, I kept that thought to myself. I knew there would be more to the game than just that simple explanation. And soon enough he continued to explain the rules.

“Both players will soon be given twelve cards. Hold on to those cards. You will need them to progress throughout the maze.”

Seconds later, the floor panel in front of me split open, allowing a table holding a small deck of cards to come out slowly. I took the cards in my hands. The table then descended back into floor.

“Do you both have the cards? Good! Remember not to lose those! Each of those cards can manipulate the maze in complex and mysterious ways! Which could prove to be beneficial or disastrous if you are not careful!” He warned us.

“Excuse me!” Elena raised her hand. “What do you mean by these cards can manipulate the maze?”

“It is simple, Elena. Once inside of the maze there may come a time when you are either lost or trapped at a dead end. If there is a card slot nearby on one of the walls, then all you need to do is place a card in that slot and then watch as the magic happens.”

“Magic?”

A sadistic chuckle came from the game moderator after hearing her question. Elena and I were irked by it. “Yes. Once a card is placed in one of the slots, the maze will shift and change randomly; either aiding you by hindering your opponent and clearing your path. Or, it may make matters even worse for you in the long run.”

“How much worse could it get than getting even more lost in the maze?”

“It can be quite dangerous while in the maze, Elena. You never know what kind of traps you may come across.”

“Are you about done now? I’d like to get the game started.” I cut into the conversation.

“No need to act all cranky, Ambrose! The rules of the game have been explained! Let the Maze game commence!” Caius announced.

Almost immediately, several floor panels split open, allowing large walls to rise. They appeared to be at least thirteen feet high. Eventually, Elena was obscured from my line of sight.

Silence.

It was short, but there was nothing but silence. It was amazing how fast the game room turned into a maze. The technology used in the facility was truly top notch. So far, there was nothing suspicious about the maze walls. Maybe it was paranoid of me to suspicious from gate, but I couldn’t help it.

Caius’ words still lingered in my mind. He mentioned the possibility of there being traps in the maze. I had to proceed with caution. The goal was simple. Traverse through the maze, find the treasure set in the center, retrieve it, then return to my starting position. Piece of cake.

As if. I thought to myself. The games were never that simple. There was something waiting for us in the maze. And I had to be prepared for it.

I closed my eyes and concentrated on my goal. Before participating in anything serious, I would always visualize my target and consider the possible routes I could take to achieve victory. Sure, it was difficult to do since I had no idea what I was looking for, but that was a small matter. After my visualization completed, I opened my eyes then stepped forward into the maze.

“Looks like the game is getting started now! Ambrose is the first one to step forward into the maze!” Caius announced.

The way he announced that made it seem like it was such a huge surprise. My opponent was Elena after all. That girl was truly hopeless. I wouldn’t have been surprised if she simply stood at the entrance of the maze trembling in fear.

She was weak. I wasn’t. To be honest, I doubted that she would’ve been much of a challenge. She would make an easy opponent.

The first few steps within the maze was simple. All I had to do was make a few turns here and there. There weren’t any hints of traps or card slots. However, that immediately changed after making my fifth turn in the maze. A section of the wall split open.

A torrent of flames shot out from the wall.

I dodged rolled out of the way, thankfully only sustaining a burn to my shoulder. The flames soon came to a halt. The hole immediately closed afterward.

“Looks like things are beginning to heat up now! Ambrose has come across one of the first traps in the maze! Be careful down there!” Caius warned me.

Despite my injury and annoyance of Caius’ pathetic attempt at making jokes, I progressed onward into the maze. I didn’t have time to check my injury, or rather, I didn’t make time. It was nothing more than a first-degree burn, second-degree tops. Injuries like that were nothing. Easily treatable.

I’d suffered far worse injuries than that. I wouldn’t allow something like that to stop me. Nothing could stop me.

I encountered my first roadblock after I made the next turn in the maze. It was a dead end. But luckily, on the far end of the wall lied a card slot. There was chance for me to alter the maze. I slowly approached the card slot, making sure not to come across or activate any more traps.

Once there I selected one of my cards at random and then placed it inside of the slot. Then, the magic happened. Almost immediately the walls around me began to shift, altering the maze. The wall in front of me never budged an inch. However, the walls next to me did.

A path opened to the left, so, I took that route.

“Ambrose simply continues to advance in this game! He’s the first one to find a card slot and alter the maze! At this rate, the treasure will be his!” Caius’ irksome voice plagued my eardrums once more. I wished that guy would’ve just kept his mouth shut so that I could’ve focused more on the game.

But, of course, I wasn’t granted such luxury. Caius continued to announce the events throughout the game in which he deemed to be exciting or noteworthy.

“And what’s this? What a surprising turn of events! Elena has now entered her way into the maze!”

His announcement made me stop in my tracks for a moment. It certainly surprised me to hear that Elena, a well-known crybaby, had decided to risk her life and step into the maze. It seemed that she had taken my words from earlier to heart. However, it didn’t matter. Victory was still mine.

I got my head in the game then proceeded deeper into the maze. Wandering aimlessly through the maze grew tiresome quickly. I had no map or indication if I was getting closer to the center or not. Luckily, no traps were activated. But, who knew for how long that would last.

The ground beneath my feet trembled. I placed my hand on the wall to keep myself balanced. The walls shifted. The one I used for support moved away from me, causing me to fall and nearly land on my face. Almost immediately, another wall came closing in on me.

I rolled out of the way, then watched the wall collide into another. An image of me getting crushed flashed through my mind. But, I immediately cast it aside. It wasn’t my first time coming close to death. And it certainly wouldn’t be my last.

“Oh! What a devious tactic from Elena! Ambrose nearly got crushed into paste due to the sudden shift of the maze!” Caius announced again.

“What?!” A frightened shriek came the other side of the game room. “I’m so sorry, Ambrose! I swear! I wasn’t trying to kill you!”

“Don’t worry about it! Make sure to be careful next time!” I called out to her. Although I had nearly gotten crushed to death, I couldn’t be mad at her. It was surprising enough that she even found the courage to enter the maze, let alone make it to a card slot.

While I wasn’t mad at her, I was however annoyed. Thanks to her, my path had been blocked. I had to find another way around. I turned back then headed in the opposite direction, hoping to find another path that would lead me to the center of the maze.

The moment I peered my head around the corner, a volley of bullets raced past my face, missing me by mere inches. I immediately retreated behind the corner, taking a moment to catch my breath.

Death.

It was inches away from my face in the form of bullets. Damn did that bring back some memories.

Thankfully, I had gotten a quick glance as to what had shot at me. It was a security camera with a machine gun linked to it. The absurdity of the game had reached another level. If I had been one-second slower, one second, my brain would’ve been splattered all over the back wall.

“Ambrose has had yet again another close call with death!” Caius happily mentioned, once again at my expense.

“Son of a bitch, Caius!” I shouted, having reached my limit with the man. Not only was being lost in the maze a hassle, but I had to deal with Caius’ annoying commentating, Elena’s antics, and a machine gun linked camera. To make matters even worse, it had a motion detector system installed.

Getting past it wouldn’t be an easy task.

I glanced around the area for any sign of a card slot. There was none. Elena had unintentionally screwed me. I had two choices to make. One, I could wait around and be forced to rely on Elena to find another card slot to change the maze again. Or two, somehow find a way to bypass the machine gun and then continue with the game.

The first option was the safest, but also risky. I didn’t know if or when Elena would come across another card slot. There was no guarantee that she would even use it in the first place. Also, even if she did use it, there was a possibility that my situation would only get worse. If I wasted any more time, she would eventually reach the center, retrieve the treasure, then return to her starting position to win the game.

I made my decision. I wouldn’t rely on her. I was in the game alone. I would finish it alone.

I peered my head around the corner once again. Immediately, I was greeted with more gunfire. I retreated behind the corner.

Twenty.

The gun fired twenty bullets in a second. Although risky, I stuck my leg out into the open. About three seconds passed until there was more gunfire. I quickly returned my leg behind the corner.

So, from what I had gathered, the gun fired twenty rounds a second, there was about a three-second reloading time. Perhaps getting through wouldn’t be so hard after all. All I had to do was wait for the gun to waste its rounds then make a break for it. The passageway wasn’t that long.

I set my plan into motion. I stuck my leg out once again, then pulled it back upon hearing gunfire. After it stopped, I made my move. I rushed out from behind the corner then made a break for it.

I made it about two-thirds of the way there before the gun activated once again. My feet carried me as fast as they could. I continued to race down the passageway until I eventually reached the safety behind the cover of another wall. However, I continued to run. Adrenaline pumped throughout my body, and I didn’t want to waste it.

Too much time had been wasted, and I had to make up for it. I had no idea how far Elena had progressed through the maze while I had been held up. Time was of the essence.

It was annoyingly ironic. I had convinced Elena to participate in the game so that I could easily win. But, the situation had changed. The tables had turned in Elena’s favor. It must’ve been some twist of fate or perhaps karma was working its way against me for my selfish actions earlier. Either way, I didn’t care.

I lost all momentum once my foot sank a bit into the floor. I had stepped on a panel, which had activated another trap. Spikes shot up from the floor, nearly reaching across the entire passageway.

“Damn it…” I removed my foot from the panel then weighed my options. Once again, no card slots were presented anywhere near me. Turning back was not an option. The only path that I could take was forward.

I took long, deep breaths to steel my resolve. I had already made the decision to do anything to win the money to save the bar. Slowly, I backed away and gained some distance from the spiked floor. I could already feel the familiar kick in the pants from the old man as I charged ahead.

I jumped.

Then, I briefly ran across the wall. Gravity began to take its course, so, I kicked off the wall then dove for the area past the spiked floor. Fortunately, I managed to reach it without any sustained injuries.

Around the corner was the center of the maze. In the center lied a spotlight that illuminated a lone table with a treasure box that rested on top of it. It was only a few feet away from me.

The moment I took a step forward to claim it, a familiar sound erupted throughout the entire room. The walls had shifted once again. The path leading to the center of the maze had been blocked off before my very eyes.

“No!” I rushed over to the wall then kicked it as hard as I could. It didn’t budge at all.

“What a huge upset! Ambrose was so close until Elena used another card slot to shift the game to her favor!” Caius announced.

“Damn it!” I yelled.

“Sorry about that Ambrose!” Elena’s voice came from the other side of the wall. “I didn’t know that would happen!”

I wanted to believe her words, but I was at the point where I wasn’t willing to listen to anyone. My goal was beyond the thirteen-foot wall. I wasn’t going to bother wasting time by finding another way around. If I couldn’t go around it or through it, then my only option was to go over it.

“How shocking! Elena has reached the center of the maze, and she’s retrieved the treasure box! If she manages to return to her starting point, she will be crowned the winner!” Caius’ words forced me to pick up the pace.

I quickly stepped back and prepared myself. I sprinted forward then jumped, kicking off one wall, then to the other. I used the walls as stepping stones to help me reach the top of the center wall. Once there I caught a glance of Elena racing back to her side of the maze. She was quick on her feet.

But not as quick as me. Instead of jumping back down to the floor, I decided to remain on top and continue using the walls as stepping stones. That way, I could keep an eye on Elena, follow her, while also avoiding other traps laid out in the maze.

The game wasn’t over. Elena had retrieved the treasure box, but she hadn’t reached the goal yet. There wasn’t a rule stating that I couldn’t steal the treasure from her.

“Come back here!” I chased after her, carefully running, then jumping across the top of the walls.

She desperately ran through the maze, clutching the treasure box close to her chest, showing no sign of wanting to let it go. I didn’t know who the person I was chasing anymore. It wasn’t the Elena that I was used to. The Elena that I knew was meek, shy, and timid. But at that moment she was strong and outgoing. It was like she was a new person.

“Sorry, Ambrose! I have to win!” Elena encountered a card slot then placed her card there. The walls shifted once more. I nearly lost my balance. But then I jumped across to another wall that wasn’t affected by the shift.

My chase after Elena continued. Throughout the chase, I noticed that there weren’t many traps set out for her. Either she was very lucky, or she gambled away more than just one point. It certainly explained her desperate behavior.

Nonetheless, the blonde-haired woman encountered a dead end. I jumped down from the wall, then stared at her. She slowly turned around then looked at me with a pale expression. That was the Elena that I knew.

“You surprisingly put up a good fight. But play time’s over.” I extended my hand out. “Don’t make this difficult. Hand over the treasure box.”

“I…I…I can’t do that!” Elena stammered, clutching onto the treasure box as tightly as she could. “I’ve made it this far! I’m so close! I have to win this game!”

“In case you haven’t noticed, you’re trapped at a dead end. Your only way out is through me.”

Elena gently set down the treasure box after hearing my words. She stepped out in front of it. Then things got complicated. She raised her hands up then balled them into fists.

She planned on fighting me. Elena. The weak and timid girl had planned on fighting me. I wanted to laugh at her, but it was so surprising that I could do nothing but stand there. Throughout my entire life, I’ve been involved in countless fights. That was the first one that I regretted getting myself in.

“V-v-v-victory comes to those that fight for it. That’s what you said. I’m going to fight for it.”

And with that, she came at me. Embarrassingly enough, she wildly swung her arms around in a circular fashion.

A windmill punch.

She tried to use a windmill punch on me.

None of them hit me of course. But, the cartoonish situation we were in dealt a blow against me psychologically.

I used my outstretched hand to hold her at bay while she just continued to swing. I didn’t know what to make of the situation. I had mixed emotions.

I was never one to shy away from a fight. I didn’t care who my opponent was, man or woman. I showed no mercy. But, I made an exception for Elena. I removed my hand from her head then stepped aside as she fell onto the floor. While she was whimpering in pain, I wandered over to the treasure box then retrieved it.

I had won my fight. I would’ve spoken to Elena to make sure that she was okay, but the winner speaking to the loser after a fight only made matters worse. So, I walked past her without saying a word. However, things weren’t over so easily.

There was a tug at my leg. I reluctantly looked down to see Elena’s hand. I jumped away from her immediately.

“Don’t touch me!” I snapped at her, raising my leg to strike her. However, I returned to my senses then stopped after noticing her expression.

She glanced up at me with teary, pleading eyes. “I’m sorry…I’m sorry…I’m sorry…please don’t hit me.” She repeated constantly. Each apology grew more silent than the last. Her body trembled.

Nostalgia suddenly hit me at that moment. Seeing her cowering in fear like that reminded me of a distant memory that I wished would disappear. I lowered my leg back down to the floor then averted making eye contact with her.

She was no longer Elena. She was someone else.

“I’m not going to hit you.” I knelt in front of her then offered my hand to help her back on her feet. While hesitant at first, she took my hand.

After I pulled her up, she wiped away her tears. There were still a few sniffles here and there though.

“Thank you again, Ambrose. I’m sorry for all the trouble I’ve caused you.”

“Don’t worry about it. Let’s end this game already.” I turned my back to her then continued my way through the maze. Elena followed me, not offering up any more resistance. We wandered around for about three minutes until we reached my starting point.

“This marks the end of the Maze game! The treasure has been brought to a starting point! The winner of the game is Troy Ambrose!” Caius announced. And with that, the maze game was finished, with me being crowned as the winner.

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