Alea Ludo Chapter 9: Know Victory!
The third game of the competition had concluded. The victor of the match was none another than me. It wasn’t that surprising considering my opponent was Elena. Granted, there were a few bumps throughout the game. But nonetheless, a victory’s a victory.
Elena and I were led by Caius back to the main lobby, where the other players resided. The moment we entered the room, Iris greeted us with a tight embrace. It was uncomfortable. If not for the no physical violence rule, I would’ve shoved her off me.
“Thank goodness you’re both alright! It must’ve been terrible down there!” She said, eventually releasing us from the hug.
“Do I get a hug as well, Iris? I’m alright too in case you were wondering.” Caius mentioned, holding his arms out in wait for Iris to hug him too. Hilariously enough, his efforts were futile. Iris ignored him and continued to speak to us instead.
“Thank you so much for keeping Elena safe, Ambrose. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to repay you for what you’ve done.”
“Don’t worry about repaying me. I’ve already received a reward for my actions.” I told her, indicating to the amount of points I gained from winning the game. My gaze went to Caius as I asked, “How do the rankings look now, Caius?”
He snapped out of his “depressive” state then pulled out his tablet. He pressed a few buttons then turned the screen around to show us. “Melanie is still in the lead with thirty points. Tied for second place with twenty points are Darius and Klara. And now, Ambrose is in third place with fifteen points.”
Third place. It wasn’t a bad spot to have. If I somehow managed to keep that spot until the games finished, there was a possibility of me leaving with eight hundred thousand dollars. It was more than I needed, but it never hurt to have more in the long run.
I was certainly satisfied with the ranking results. I had accomplished my goal of earning enough money to save my bar. All that needed to be done next was for me to escape from the facility through the voting process. However, besides me, there were three other people that voted to continue playing. If the traitors couldn’t be convinced to change their minds, then everyone would be stuck in the facility for another day.
“Fifteen points?” Melanie inquired, looking over to Elena. Her Cheshire smile crept onto her face. “Blondie gambled away more than just one point? How scandalous. I figured you’d be too scared even to gamble two points.”
“For once I agree with Melanie.” Said Wyatt, giving Elena a skeptical look. “What possessed you to gamble away five of your points?”
Elena’s face turned pale once everyone’s gaze slowly fell onto her. She opened her mouth to speak a few times but stammered. She struggled to find the right words to explain herself. To be honest, I was curious to hear her answer as well.
“What does it matter what her reason is?” Iris stepped out in front of Elena to protect her. “She didn’t gamble away all of her points. She’s still alive and well. No need to pry any further.”
“She is not in any trouble. I am just curious.” Wyatt said. “Now she only has five points left in the game. She cannot afford to make a desperate gamble again like that.”
“Unless she wishes to die by lethal injection.” Melanie callously remarked, pointing to Elena’s bracelet.
She wasn’t wrong. Every single player started the game with ten points. If a player ever lost all their points, then they would be killed by lethal injection or some other kind of brutal execution method. Out of all the remaining players, Elena was in the most danger. If she was chosen to play another game and she gambled away her remaining points again, she would die. There was no doubt in my mind.
“I didn’t want to gamble away five of my points, but there was nothing I could do. I had to do it…” Elena’s voice shook as her head was kept down.
I knew why she did what she did. After all, the two of us were in similar situations before the game started. We were offered the opportunity to gain more information on the game and about our opponents if we gambled away more than a single point. I chose not to do so since I was confident in my abilities.
Elena, on the other hand, must not have had much confidence. I couldn’t blame her. The odds were completely stacked against her. It was a stroke of good fortune that she wasn’t wounded during the game like I was. Or rather, it was because she gambled away five points that she managed to do so well.
What bothered me the most was what kind of information she had learned about me before the start of the game. It frustrated me that I couldn’t confront her about it later. It was a rule that we couldn’t mention anything about the process before the start of the game. If we did, then we would be killed.
“Don’t worry about it, Elena. No one’s mad at you.” Henrika said.
“Yeah! Instead of hanging your head, moping around, we should be celebrating! It’s the third day of the games and no one has died!” Iris cheered, jumping for joy.
“Unfortunately…” Melanie was the one moping around that time. “The game was so boring. Where’s the fun if no one’s gonna die?” She walked over to the couch then lied down on it, staring up at the ceiling with a spiritless expression.
“Disregarding Melanie, I’m glad to see that no one died,” Henrika said.
“Although there was an injury.” Leona indicated to my charred clothes and shoulder.
“You should get that wound looked at as soon as possible, Ambrose,” Wyatt warned me.
“It won’t get infected or anything, right?” Elena spoke up next. Her voice filled with concern.
“You should hurry over to the infirmary right now, Ambrose. Have the medical personnel treat your wound.” Iris suggested.
“Don’t concern yourselves over this. It’s nothing. A little ointment and bandages will heal this thing right up.” I dismissed her concerns.
Melanie scoffed. “What? You think you’re a badass by shrugging off your wound? It must’ve hurt like hell. I bet once you’re all alone in your room, you’re gonna cry like a baby.”
“Is that your convoluted way of showing concern for my well-being? How nice of you.”
“Get over yourself.”
“Right back at you.”
“Despite Ambrose’s minor injury, I’m glad to see that you were not harmed as well, Elena,” Nicholas told her.
“If not for him, I’m certain I would have been injured. Or perhaps even gotten myself killed.” Elena responded.
“No arguments there,” Melanie remarked. She leaned up from the couch then smiled at Elena. “Speaking of which…what the hell was your deal tryna fight against him? He’s got about an extra five inches on you. Also, that windmill punch shit was hilariously pathetic to watch.”
Elena’s face was about as red as a tomato at that point. Melanie’s insistent laughter caused her to cover her ears then crouch down in embarrassment. I’d be embarrassed as well if others watched me put on such a display earlier. I glanced around the room to gauge the reaction of others. Some of them were struggling not to laugh along with Melanie.
They were Henrika, Salomon, Nicholas, and Wyatt.
“Stop laughing at her! Elena was in a desperate situation!” Iris once again came to the defense of the blonde-haired woman.
“She should’ve dropped the treasure box and surrendered peacefully. At least that way she’d have some dignity left.” Melanie continued to poke fun at Elena’s expense. She wasn’t being as cruel as usual today. She was acting more like a school ground bully.
“Just leave me alone already! I’ve been humiliated enough!” Elena whimpered. She was on the verge of tears.
“Alright, that’s enough.” I reluctantly called out to Elena. “Although it was embarrassing to be involved in that humiliating situation, it was reassuring to see you stand up for yourself. Don’t forget that feeling.”
The room went silent. All gazes were on me at that moment. Had I said something that surprising?
“I knew you weren’t a bad guy, Ambrose.” Iris suddenly smiled at me.
“You act all tough and mysterious, but when Elena was crying and in trouble, you stepped in to help her. While your words of encouragement were harsh, they needed to be said.”
That girl misunderstood my intentions. I didn’t scold Elena earlier out of encouragement. I just wanted her to participate in the game so that I could win the points and earn my money. But, they didn’t know that. I had no intention of telling them.
Letting them make their conclusions was easier on me anyway.
I didn’t respond to her assumption, wanting her to just move on to another subject. Elena approached me, grabbed my arm, then stood on her toes to plant a kiss on my cheek.
“Thank you again for saving my life. I promise that I’ll repay you.” She told me before leaving the room.
Iris followed suit and kissed my other cheek. “Thanks again, Ambrose! I’ll take over as Elena’s protector from here!” She patted my back then followed Elena out the door.
“Someone’s getting lucky tonight!” cooed Melanie, glancing over towards me with a suggestive expression. It made me nauseous.
“Don’t be stupid.” I rubbed my cheeks.
“Someone’s suddenly popular.” Henrika teased.
“Not you too.”
“You plan on taking ’em both at the same time? Kinky.” Melanie continued to tease me.
“If you are all about done messing around. Ambrose needs to get to the infirmary now to get his wound checked out.” Wyatt stepped in to stop the insistent teasing.
“Don’t you mean wounds?” Leona cut into the conversation.
“Wounds?” I looked over to her. The only wound that I remembered sustaining was the burn on my shoulder.
“You didn’t notice? You were shot in the legs a few times while running from that machine gun.” She pointed to my pants.
My gaze lowered to my pants. Lo and behold, there were holes in them. The bullets must’ve gone through and through. I didn’t notice. I couldn’t have noticed.
Despite having been shot multiple times, there was no pain. Explaining how I could walk, run, and jump with leg injuries was going to be difficult.
“Incredible. Your adrenaline must be pumping so much that you still don’t even feel the pain.” Concluded Wyatt. “But that won’t last for long. Hurry to the infirmary. I will get you patched up and remove the bullets from your legs.”
“No need.” I immediately refused, turning my back to the group. “I’ll have the medical personnel look after me. I don’t want to worry anyone.”
I quickly left the room, ignoring the voices of concern coming from Wyatt, Henrika, and Leona. To ease their unneeded concerns, I entered the infirmary room. There were five medical personnel waiting for me. They brought me over to one of the medical beds then got to work on my shoulder.
For the first fifteen minutes, I lied across the bed with a bag of cold water placed on my shoulder to help relieve the pain and swelling. After that, they rubbed antibiotic ointments on it, then patched it up. They moved to treat my legs, but I swatted them away. Eventually, they left me alone in the room to gather my thoughts in silence.
“Hey! Sweet game you won there, Ambrose!” A familiar voice intruded into my eardrums.
It belonged to Darius. I had forgotten that he was resting in the infirmary as well.
“You looked so cool the entire time! The way you dodge rolled out of the way from that flamethrower! The badass way you avoided the machine gun camera thing! And then when you started free-running atop of the walls! It was awesome dude!”
“Once again, thanks.”
“What’s with that dull response?” He remarked. “You’re in the third place now with fifteen points. You practically have eight hundred thousand dollars. You should be celebrating.”
“Celebrating while in the infirmary doesn’t sound very pleasing.”
“Yeah, you’re right about that. I haven’t celebrated my placement in the rankings yet since I’ve been in the infirmary for almost two days.”
“I don’t know if constantly being electrocuted is a cause of celebration.”
“It’s not. But thanks to that, I’ve obtained some badass new scars which the ladies will surely love. Also, I’m tied with Klara for second place.”
“Don’t be so cold.” He told me. “You need to learn to have some fun. Live a little. Cut loose.”
His irritating optimism was on par with Iris’ sometimes. Time and time again he found ways to make me lower my impression of him. Have fun he said. How did he expect me to have any fun playing games that could result in my death? The entire game was a hassle; especially when I had to babysit Elena towards the end.
“Perhaps another time,” I told him, hoping that would be the end of the conversation.
“I’m gonna hold you to that.” Darius sternly told me. His expression changed for a moment. He looked like he was struggling to find the words to say to me next. Regrettably, he found the words then spoke, “So, which girl are you aiming for?”
“Which girl are you aiming to hook up with man? Don’t play dumb with me, you womanizer!” He pointed at me accusingly.
“Womanizer? What the hell are you talking about?”
“Cut the shit man! I saw you get kissed by Elena and Iris from the monitor!” He pointed to the monitor hanging on the wall in front of his medical bed. “That’s not fair! Don’t hog all the women for yourself!”
Despite the stupidity of the conversation, Darius was completely serious. Because of a few kisses on the cheek, he concluded that I was trying to get with every woman in the facility. His imagination was truly troublesome.
“They only kissed my cheek as a form of gratitude. Nothing more. Nothing less. Now drop it.” I glared at him.
Often enough my glare alone would be enough to scare someone into silence. However, it surprisingly didn’t work on him that time. His resolve on the topic surpassed his fear.
“Come on man! Don’t be greedy! You’re not leaving me with many options!” He complained, raising his fingers as he continued to speak. “I’m left with a punk rock girl that nearly killed me, a quiet bookworm, a florist, and finally an old lady! That’s not fair at all!”
“Are you seriously trying to have this conversation right now?” I brought my hands to my head, rubbing my temples. “Don’t you think there are more important matters to be discussing?”
“This is important!” He stomped his foot on the floor. “Before I agreed to participate in these games, I rarely ever spoke with any other woman besides my aunt!”
“I don’t see how this concerns me in any possible way.”
“This concerns you in every way! I can’t get any cute girls in this facility with someone like you around!” He pointed at me again.
“Someone like me?” I leaned up from my medical bed. “Is this your way of threatening me, Darius?”
My glare worked that time. His eyes widened, and his face turned pale. “Threatening? What? No way! I’m not doing that!” He frantically waved his arms in front of him. “I’m saying that it would be tough for an uncool guy like me to capture a girl’s attention.”
“Stop trying to make it sound like I’m trying to get their attention. I have no interest in any of the women here.”
“And that’s why it’s unfair, Ambrose! You’re not even trying, and yet the girls are falling for you…especially Elena.”
That’s what the point of the conversation was about. Elena. The item of Darius’ fascination. In retrospect, it wasn’t all that surprising. He spoke with her the most out of anyone in the facility. The two often stuck together.
“Let’s face it. You’re way cooler than me or anyone else in this entire facility for that matter. You hardly ever lose your cool, and you’re incredibly brave for risking your life to save Elena.” He mentioned.
“Don’t sell yourself short. If you were in that situation, you would’ve done the same.”
There was no immediate response to my attempt of encouragement. He avoided making eye contact with me. His gaze fell to the floor.
“I’m…I’m not too sure about that. I’m a bit of a coward.” He solemnly announced to me. “If I were in that maze instead of you. I would either be dead or if by some miracle I made it to the center; I probably would’ve abandoned Elena.”
He cupped his hands together, squeezing them together while grinding his teeth. It must’ve taken a lot out of him to reveal that to me. He didn’t realize that at that moment, he was braver than me. It took a lot of courage to show such weakness to someone they barely even knew. I knew that I would never do that. Never again.
He didn’t know how naïve it was to reveal such information to a potential enemy. I didn’t see the need to consider Darius, an enemy, but things change. It never hurt to be careful.
“Make sure that you don’t let anyone else hear you say that,” I warned him, knowing how the others would see it if he did, especially Elena. If she were to hear those words leave his mouth, he could kiss his chances with her goodbye. And his chances were slim in the first place.
“Believe me; I won’t.” He raised his head then looked to me. “I truly appreciate it that you saved Elena though, Ambrose. If she had died, I don’t know if I would’ve made it.”
“What do you mean?”
“Love is a mysteriously powerful thing. Back when I was getting electrocuted yesterday, I thought that I was going to die.” He admitted. His eyes averted somewhere else as if he were gazing off into the distance. “But then once I thought about Elena, I found the courage to counterattack against Melanie. I stood against her and fought for my life. All so that I could impress her.”
“I don’t understand why you’re so infatuated with her. You’ve only known her for three days.” I pointed out, bringing him back to reality.
He seemed very displeased with my facts. He shook his head then replied, “You’re so naïve, Ambrose! Haven’t you ever fallen in love with someone at first sight?”
“No, I can’t say that I ever have.”
“I see…” He crossed his arms over his chest then leaned his head back, looking down on me with a haughty expression. “It appears that I’m ahead of you a bit in the love department when it comes to that topic.”
My jaw tightened, and my hands curled into fists. His sudden shift in attitude was irritating. First, he was dejected about me being better than him at nearly everything. But the moment he found something he was better at that he deemed important, he figured that he was better than me.
“This is stupid…”
“Take it from the love guru. The moment I first made eye contact with Elena, the planets aligned. The stars spelled our names for all to see. We’re connected by the red string of fate, destined to be together forever.” He proudly stood to his feet, raising his pinky. He was so full of himself. I could imagine him picturing there being a red string attached to his finger.
“…Good night, Darius.” I stood from my bed then headed for the exit. I no longer wanted to be left alone in the same room as him. My patience with him was running thin.
“Wait! Wait! Wait!” He stepped in front of the door, preventing me from leaving immediately. “I’m sorry! I need your help, buddy!”
“Buddy? I don’t recall ever becoming your friend.” I harshly told him.
“Don’t be like that, man. At this point, I feel like we’ve connected. Perhaps we can even be bros.” He suggested.
I immediately cringed after hearing his words. “We’re not bros. We’ll never be bros. Now move.”
“So harsh…” Darius stepped aside. I moved passed him then opened the door, stopping in my tracks after hearing him call out to me, “Thanks for listening to me anyway, Ambrose. If you ever need to talk about anything, let me know.”
Ordinarily, I would’ve left without saying a word. However, I couldn’t have afforded to miss out on that opportunity. Something was going to happen soon, and I wanted to be prepared.
“Fine. Let me know if anything happens in the future.” I said.
“It doesn’t matter. Just let me know if anything happens.”
“Okay. You can leave it to me.” Darius saluted me.
And with that, I left the infirmary room. I walked over to my room and remained there for the rest of the night.