In a terrible manner of fortune, that some could describe as a curse, every student in Night Raven College had gotten involved with The Circle, being forced to vote each other out and to witness execution after execution, only with the small hope of surviving. It was up to them to choose the survivor, to conclude who was worthy of walking out of this alive, not caring about their personal relationships or the repercussions of their choices.
Amidst the chaos, Yuu and Kalim quickly developed an alliance, for the newcomer knew that the Scarabia dorm leader trusted him and would follow his every step. And he did, of course. Kalim had no reason to believe Yuu could convince him of acting maliciously; no, that was unthinkable. He just wanted to survive, like anyone else in the room, and Yuu had only been so kind as to help him accomplish that. He wanted more sunny days, more hours in the kitchen cooking delicious meals for those he cared about, more chances to feel truly alive. He promised himself that if he made it out of this, he would try even harder to be a better version of himself, to be warmer and to welcome everyone to his dorm with a loving hug.
However, when he had to vote for Jamil... The prince hesitated at first, not believing Yuu could be serious about his statement. Voting Jamil? Maybe... Yuu could be joking, and Kalim was too dense to understand that. As a reflex, he just laughed, showing his teeth with enthusiasm.
"I'm serious" Yuu had a dark aura around him, and his friend stared at him, horrified. "He meant to kill you. So for this round, just follow my lead"
In his heart, Kalim knew it was wrong to attempt getting revenge from him. How could he ever hurt Jamil if, before the overblot day, he had given everything up just to take care of him? He was the only person he could trust in the entire world, the one who always stuck by his side, no matter the circumstances. Jamil said they had never been friends, but Kalim... always felt different around him. He felt safe, at home. Like one tends to feel about a best friend.
Even then... He listened to Yuu, trusting that he would know better for everyone's sake.
"Jamil has been fatally electrocuted"
The votes were in, and Kalim's fate had been determined by his peers, without a trace of remorse from them. Once they found out Yuu and Kalim had conspired against everyone else, they figured it was about time to destroy their bond for the greater good. Moral grounds were questionable down here, but after all, survival was the top priority, and their alliance would risk a tragic amount of lives. Perhaps this reasoning soothed their conscience, as they had to annihilate the most joyous student in school.
The young heir let his tears flow without a care, knowing resignation was his only choice, for he had done much worse than anyone could ever imagine. Having his trust violated was something he could easily bear with, but backstabbing the person he cared about the most...
"At least..." he cried out softly, his body trembling while knowing this was his very last statement. "I can see Jamil again... Right?"
Yuu held his breath as the electric fizzle teared his ally's body apart.
"Kalim has been fatally electrocuted"
And even when Kalim had died, there was something else bothering Yuu, much more than the disturbing scene he had witnessed shortly before.
It was the fact that Deuce, his boyfriend, voted him out.
It hadn't been an honest mistake, nor had his name slipped from his mouth on accident. The cold glance Deuce gave him felt like the end of it all, and still...
"Why did you vote me?" Yuu questioned him, still shocked by his friend's death. "Love..."
"Don't call me that" the Heartslabyul resident gathered all the strength he could find within himself, aware of how Yuu had betrayed him by stablishing an alliance with Kalim, out of all people. He had chosen Kalim... above him, even. As much as it hurt, everything about this situation hurt like hell. "Ever again"
"Jack and Lilia have stepped out of their circles as a sacrifice"
Ruggie didn't hesitate for a second, running towards him infuriated. Giving up? They were trapped in a mortal game with extremely low chances of surviving, and Jack wanted to give up? That seemed nothing like the Jack he knew to be perseverant and relentlessly determined.
"Jack! What the hell are you doing?!"
But he didn't look back. His dear elder's voice reproaching him was the last thing he got to hear. And even then, it was so sweet to go like this. To go while knowing he had protected the one he loved, till the very end. Nothing could fill the void that Ruggie's death would bring him subsequently... So it was his duty to stand up for him, at least for once.
"Jack and Lilia have been fatally electrocuted"
"Roi du Poison" Rook cooed him, like he didn't know what was about to happen. Even when tragedy was upon them, his admiration towards his boyfriend would not cease to be expressed. "You will be the most beautiful of them all, for all the eternity. Je t'adore"
Vil couldn't help but to shake his head, quietly disapproving of his words. Even during his last breath, Rook would never knock it off with the optimism. But in all honesty... Vil would rather die like this, than having to stay and watch him cry.
"Vil has been fatally electrocuted"
Once again, the votes were in. And this time, it was Heartslabyul's dorm leader's unlucky turn.
Quite astonishing for him, the outside world was never what his mother warned him, what she kept him captive so long for. He had made friends, formed a life of his own, and even got to fell in love. Perhaps following every rule on the book isn't what he needed to seek all that time. Perhaps... Not everything was like his mother said.
Riddle preferred thinking of this to comfort himself, instead of focusing on Trey's intense sobbing right behind him.
"Riddle has been fatally electrocuted"
The beauty Vil treasured so much, Rook would keep it until his body would cease to exist. No tears could ruin the makeup his boyfriend put so much effort into applying, no nervous ticks to pick at those perfect nails his poison king encouraged him to grow out.
None of it to be found, for Rook only knew one thing, love is better shown than said. What a wonderful thing, to have loved his trésor at such extent, that his memory would embrace him through his brutal demise.
"Adieu" the hunter muttered, but only to those in the room. For Vil, it was a see you soon.
"Rook has been fatally electrocuted"
Funny. He would have gotten away with it, wouldn't he? Still, what difference did it make? Deuce refused to talk to him, there was no hope in trying anymore. He watched his loved ones die, one by one. In fact, he helped them reach that fate, way sooner than they should have.
And for what? Yuu could not stop questioning himself. Wondering what would Grimm even think of him, if he knew about his alliance, his intentions...
Would his brother still love him, knowing Yuu only wanted to save himself, above everyone else?
«Not Deuce» he thought, and bit his lip. Never, not even for a moment, did he mean to put Deuce's life at risk. But the damage was done, and there was no way to fix it.
Deuce looked at him all the time, holding back his tears as much as he could. He did vote Yuu once or twice, but this... This was too much. When the decision had to be made, he just didn't want him to die. He never wanted him to disappear, for fuck's sake. The breakup burned his skin more than before, forcing him to wallow in dangerous thoughts. If only they were in good terms, he could kiss him just one last time...
Yuu kept his head low, avoiding the penetrating eye contact from the one he loved. Oh, he sure had messed up this time.
"Sorry" his shaky voice echoed across the room. Without a doubt, a word that Deuce will never forget.
"Yuu has been fatally electrocuted"
Another round goes by, and Deuce simply does not care anymore. There is no point in voting, really. He is simply sick to his stomach, in complete denial of what's happening.
He can't look at Trey, or think about how relieved he must be cause he can finally reunite with Riddle. None of it matters now, nothing resonates quite the same.
Everything feels empty without Yuu. To be fair, Deuce hopes someone votes him out of this misery soon.
"Trey has been fatally electrocuted"
Ace knows what Deuce is going through, and he forgives him for it. He understands his friend has been damaged by this much more than him, and that is okay.
It's alright. His life has never caused a greater impact. He's not Deuce's (or anyone else's) main priority. A side character in a complementary story, someone you happen to forget about. Ace was used to this being his identity, his way of living. It wasn't really a big deal. It was much easier to die if you knew that no one would be damaged for it.
His hands clutched the chair, as hard as he could. Of course, much easier for his friends, his classmates. A burden finally takes the hint and disappears. Convenient and practical for everyone. In fact, even in this room of survivors, most of them agreed on letting him go.
«That's okay» he repeats to himself. He wasn't meant to cling so hard onto living either way. He didn't deserve making it this far, while others mourned their losses. Ace marked a break for them, a chance so their suffering would not be worsened by losing someone valuable.
And with that, before the chair electrocuted him, Ace managed to put out his small will to live.
"Ace has been fatally electrocuted"
The circle has slowly began to become hell on earth.
None of the people remaining know Deuce well enough to comfort him, or to even understand what he's feeling. He has skipped voting, over and over again, and they sense nothing from him. His eyes look dead, and he just seems... Tired. But they can pinpoint exactly of what. Even to those that are focused on the game, it's pitiful to watch him.
Deuce is now an empty shell. A hollow excuse for a human being. And anyone who could help him get out of that state is long gone.
Malleus wants to believe that he understands him. But how? They were nothing alike. They both lost everything, but... Malleus losses were sacrifices. His friends gave everything to protect him, ever since he was young. The overprotective behavior he had hated so much... He just wanted to have it back, just for a brief moment. To hear Lilia advicing him, to have Sebek and Silver caring for him, preaching about his important prince title...
Is this what it meant to be royalty? Being powerless to defend those you love... In exchange for absolutely nothing.
Azul doesn't take the time to examinate those two, too caught up in running away from his feelings. He was not the type to sit down and mourn loudly what he lost. Jade and Floyd served him because they wanted to, and they were free to leave as they wished.
But they never did. They remained by him since he was young, considering him an equal, and eventually a leader. Someone they could look up to, and work side by side at the same time. Someone they deemed worthy of his accomplishments, never again being dismissed as a loser who amounts to nothing.
But pondering on it would provide nothing. Azul was winning; and in Monstro Lounge, that is all that matters.
The people in the room were too busy thinking about themselves, but nobody missed that.
Some of them thought they had misheard his choice. Blamed it on the lack of sleep, even.
Truthfully, he couldn't understand himself why he voted Ortho.
With anxiety forcing him to rummage a reason within himself, his guts ached as his sins crawled on him, making gravity feel even heavier. Ortho couldn't stay silent through this.
"Big brother..." his heart was broken by his biggest hero. This could not be real, Idia hadn't just said... his name... right?
Idia didn't have the courage to face him, anxiety now forming a dense knot in his throat. He wanted to scream, to cry, to take it back. But he just froze, his lack of survival instincts finally showed up.
Why didn't he take it back?
How could he?
"Ortho has been fatally electrocuted"
Goosebumps take over Malleus as their last voting round starts, only he and Azul to suffocate in the cold decisions they have taken so far. A light shines on them, as if making evident this is the end, pressuring them to make the hardest choice of their lives.
Azul goes for it, completely sure he will come out victorious from this hell. He will be renowned in NCR, and he will become a legend. No one will ever doubt him again. With or without his friends, he will earn everyone's respect, taking pride in what his greatest achievement: survival.
And beside him, Malleus thinks carefully of his options. He could vote Azul, of course. And make each other face a revote, although it would be useless since they're the only ones remaining. There was no way of knowing who would be executed... And even worse, what if they both were?
Confident of his choice, Malleus concludes that someone has to be the bigger man here. The smartest choice cannot be the easiest one at all times, he thinks.
And so he walks away, deciding not to vote, unable to hear that tiny crack of what begins to crumble inside of Azul.
"Malleus has been fatally electrocuted"
Jade is gone. Floyd is gone. Absolutely everyone he knew were gone, in fact. And they would never come back.
Azul had thought of this as a game, a strategy that he could manipulate as his will, proving once again he was the most fit for any type of challenge, rubbing it on his enemy's faces. Who could doubt him if he managed to walk through hell and come out invictus? A godlike prowess had been set upon them, and he had successfully leaded his way out of it.
But this felt nothing like a prize, nor an achievement. Jade and Floyd would not congratulate him, not even Kalim who was known to be kinder than what others deserved. At last, he stood by himself, being once again the octopus bastard who is always alone.
Azul doesn't win. But he survives. And at what cost?
The ground seems to feel different, with his whole world shattering under his feet. The school's quiet environment only irks him further, reminding him of everything he lost, of what he cannot ever get back. A pitiful facet for the great Azul Ashengrotto, so well known for his extravagant qualities, now drowning in self deprecation and hollowness.
Cater looks at Azul, walking slowly down the main street of NRC, alone. For the first time in years, Cater doesn't have something to say, not even a comment on an unrelated topic to break the ice. Because there's no ice to break, only a dense and silent moonlight shining above them as they get together. Cater doesn't know anything about it, but he knows that he won't ask. He doesn't need an answer. For once, ignorance is his most valuable trait, as Cater walks with Octavinelle's dorm leader bereft of fitting words to comfort him.