Introduction to the Survival Theory - Chapter 25
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Her name was Abigail, an operator under house arrest for abandoning a Participant after they had a falling-out during a match.
Most Operators hailed from wealthy, influential First-Class families. Considering that simple fact, her being locked up for almost five months could be seen as a surprisingly heavy punishment.
But this wasn’t Abigail’s first problematic behaviour, which necessitated her getting a token punishment at the very least. And today was her release from house arrest. Her day of freedom, in other words.
Her father came personally to welcome his daughter. As she walked outside her gorgeously decorated residence, he greeted her with a warm smile.
“You’ve suffered a lot, Abigail.”
The Fascist regime insisted on the superiority of the Aryan bloodline. And as if to match its ideals, both Abigail and her father, who were First-Class Citizens, boasted golden hair and blue eyes.
Her white dress accentuated her beautiful facial features, while the white flowers placed around the footpath seemed to be granting their blessing to her freedom.
“What’s this? Why did you come here, boomer?”
But then, Abigail addressed her father rather curtly while making a face of a delinquent, which was at odds with the current atmosphere. She then took off her uncomfortable high heels and chucked them into the nearby flower shrub.
Her complaining voice contained a faint trace of love for her parent but it was largely overshadowed by her unlady-like behaviour.
But her father simply smiled in contentment as if he was already used to this side of her. He then escorted her to his car.
Once the father and daughter duo climbed aboard the waiting limo, the uniformed chauffeur grabbed onto the steering wheel and expertly manoeuvred the vehicle down a beautifully paved road.
They happily settled down on the back seat and watched the scenery pass by. But after a while, her father cautiously asked something while gauging her mood.
“…Are you thinking of applying again?”
This would be Abigail’s third ‘incident’ already.
She was most certainly the apple of his eye, and that’s why he had been quite worried about her recent house arrest.
However, she curtly replied with a face that said, don’t even ask about such a thing. “Yeah.”
Despite causing several issues with many Participants until now, Abigail had no plans of quitting her job as an Operator.
Her father knew full well the complicated reason behind her obstinate behaviour and could only sigh at length. He then shifted his gaze back to the rapidly passing scenery beyond the window.
The City Representative Selection Match concluded yesterday.
If the matches until now were simply a warm-up to filter out good-enough Participants, then those who passed the Selection Match should be seen as semi-pros.
Operators were referred to as the ‘jewels’ of the tournament, and their first appearance in the tournament was the final preliminary taking place after the Selection Match
The ‘real’ Survival Game would start from that moment on, signalling politics and lobbying efforts outside the arena to intensify even further.
To individual Participants, their success in the tournament hinged on finding a good Operator. It was an important task, indeed, but at the same time, a golden opportunity, too.
“Here is the list of the prospective Participants.”
Participants aimed for the overall victory.
Operators aimed for honour and glory.
The two sides with interests closely woven together wished to find suitable partners for their goal.
The thing was, most of the Participants wished to partner up with a well-known Operator boasting a solid career record. Meanwhile, high-ranked Operators were given the first refusal on the selection, which naturally led to them prioritising selecting Participants with the highest number of points.
To put it bluntly, Abigail, with probably the worst career record among the Operators, could only choose from a list consisting mostly of bottom-tier Participants.
Still, her father was someone fairly influential within the First-Class circles. Meaning, he was capable of letting her take a look at the list a bit earlier than others and help her choose at least a mid-tier Participant.
She hurriedly took the thick pile of documents her father handed over, then began carefully studying the contents within as the limo continued to glide forward in silence.
Eventually, her disinterested eyes began sparkling brightly, with hints of fervour circulating within.
Abigail basically lived her whole life with no enthusiasm and interest in just about everything. A bum, in other words.
But whenever the topic of the Survival Game comes up, she’d suddenly become more passionate than anyone else out there. In times like these, she seemed to shine so brightly.
Her father stared at her in contentment, then pointed out the most excellent prospects among the mid-tier Participants.
“I’ve already marked out the recommended Participants, so how about selecting one from…”
“How about this guy?”
But then, she didn’t even pay any attention to what her father said and pulled out a single page from the stack of documents. It sounded like she already had someone in mind even before leaving her residence.
The document contained a blurry mugshot that seemed to have been taken in a hurry before the tournament went underway.
The mugshot belonged to Victor with unkempt hair and beard – who happened to be the hottest topic in town right now.
“…I understand what you’re thinking of, Abigail. However, I ask you to reconsider. Why do you think other Operators are sleeping on this man?”
[Combat Ability: First Grade]
[Survival Ability: First Grade]
[Leadership: Ninth Grade]
[Sociability: Eighth Grade]
Victor’s averaged Selection Match score put him as a low-tier.
However, no sane Participant would dare to look down on Victor’s scores just because he was labelled low-tier. After all, he did score unprecedented grades in both combat and survival abilities that hadn’t been seen before in the Selection Match’s history.
Even the judging panel, famous for being very conservative, had no problem giving Victor those high grades. Understandably, people were paying him a great deal of attention at the moment.
He might have scored the worst possible grades in both the Leadership and Sociability categories due to his high body count and his lone wolf tendencies, but that didn’t stop him from dominating the highlight packages on TV screens.
Rather obviously, the viewers at home were fanatically enthusiastic about him.
Both the regime and the broadcaster couldn’t stop the rising interest in Victor so, after concealing his origins from the public’s eye, they decided to observe the unfolding situation for the time being.
Unlike the explosive level of interest, however, the Operators tasked with selecting their Participants were very much against Victor’s participation.
The reason for that was simple enough – they were all die-hard First-Class Citizens first and foremost. And from their perspective, Victor, who scored the worst-possible Sociability grade, was a bomb ready to go off at any given moment. That’s what he precisely was in their eyes – no more and no less.
Despite being the most talked-about Participant, no Operator wanted to get in touch with him. That’s the current situation.
Abigail’s father was naturally worried for a good reason, and that’s why he was trying to convince her to change her mind.
Too bad for him, though, Abigail didn’t pay any heed to her father’s persuasion and replied in a resolute voice. “Just lodge the official documents, please.”
She then crossed her arms in silence while turning her gaze outside the car’s window. She would only display that stubborn expression when she had already made up her mind over something.
Abigail’s father could only sigh softly, then nod in silence as well.
‘Will the Participant she chooses this time be able to pass the final preliminary?’
The father briefly thought about how fastidious his daughter would suddenly become during the match situations, then cast away his distracting thoughts to the rapidly moving outside scenery.
I woke up to a familiar sensation.
After quickly grabbing hold of my consciousness coming back from a long nightmare, I forced my eyes to open.
Sure enough, the unfamiliar ceiling and the bed entered my view, letting me realise that I had managed to survive the last match.
The last memory I had of that event was someone supporting me to the return pod so that we could enter it. I figured that it must’ve been the curly-haired brunette.
However, it was easy enough to guess what her relationship with the ginger kid was. So I promptly switched my attention off regarding that topic.
After slowly sitting up on the bed, I began confirming the condition of my body that had been in a wretched state.
I knew it. Everything was completely healed.
All of my wounds had been regenerated without leaving behind a single scar. I was seemingly in the top physical condition right now.
This level of miraculous medical technology was incomparable to what I received back in the training centre. And it allowed me to stand back up without much trouble.
I carefully moved all the important muscles one at a time, then tested my nerves to see if they had any problems.
After diligently moving around the room to test my physical condition, I concluded that my body had no problems to worry about.
Although I didn’t show it outwardly… there really were way too many close brushes with death for my liking.
Only after escaping the deadly arena did I realise how lucky I had been. While sighing in relief, I sat down on the luxurious bed.
Now that I had a moment or two to catch my breath, I finally began paying more attention to my new surroundings.
If one considered the training centre so-so in terms of facilities, then the room I woke up in was the same as a luxurious five-star hotel.
The story about the benefits and privileges a Participant received getting better the higher one progressed was not an empty lie, it seemed.
As I sat on the bed in a slight daze, the door to this ‘hotel room’ suddenly flipped open, and someone walked inside unannounced.
Her voice sounded like silk to my ears, but it was easy enough to notice the false pretence hidden within, too.
I turned my head in the direction of the voice calling out my name. A woman kitted out in the clean white business suit was standing there, smiling and staring at me.
Even at a casual glance, I could tell that she was a tournament employee. With a practised composure of a pro, she suddenly began with her explanation.
“Mister Victor, we offer our heartfelt congratulations on safely negotiating the City Representative Selection Match. It has been around one day since the conclusion of the match.”
Participants about to enter the Selection Match were given one week to prepare. However, those stepping into the final preliminary were granted one whole month, which was considerably longer.
During this period, Operators would contact the Participants they had chosen and begin their training to get themselves in sync so that they could enjoy a ‘good tournament’.
“The current location you’re in is the third mixed-sex residential complex where the Participants such as yourself have gathered. Everything will be provided for free, so if you have anything you need, please don’t hesitate to call on us, the employees of this glorious tournament.”
There were three mixed-sex resident complexes like this one throughout the country.
No one stayed in them during the ‘normal’ times but then, they would come back to life for the sake of Participants and Operators preparing for the final preliminaries.
The scale of a residential complex rivalled that of a small city. It featured everything from luxurious residential areas to training and entertainment facilities and even a small casino.
But then, the female employee continued on with a friendly grin as if that wasn’t the end of it. “Additionally, the Operator who will be in charge of you is scheduled to arrive in this building tomorrow morning.”
Any and all Participants reaching the final preliminary would get partnered up with Operators.
Regardless of whether they had abilities or were losers…
…Or whether they had achieved a good result or not, this fact wouldn’t change.
As a Participant, I, too, was included in this rule. And so, she informed me of tomorrow’s meeting with my Operator, the one I’d have to work together from now on.
Tomorrow, was it? A bit earlier than I’d like, but…
It kind of felt a little weird.
Here I was, in possession of everything I required, yet it also felt like someone had handed over extra supplies that I didn’t even ask for.
Since the very beginning, I had been preparing and fighting by myself without anyone’s help. So the presence of an Operator felt like a blockage in the drain, uselessly messing with the water flow.
That didn’t mean I could just clean out the blockage as I see fit, though.
“Well, then. Please enjoy your rest, sir.”
The female employee, who seemed oblivious to my complicated thoughts, finished what she wanted to say, then stepped outside the doorway while maintaining her smiling face.
That brought back the still silence to my room.
The world outside was already bathed in the darkness of the night. The neon signs of the reawakened residential complex switched on one by one to fill the cold, empty void.
I glanced at the window, my mind blank. That’s when I spotted a gathering of people outside on the street. They were Participants who didn’t die during the Selection Match and successfully made it all this way.
They were laughing among themselves. However, their smiles seemed a little hollow to me. They smiled because they had survived, but the smile itself contained the memories of the torturous times they had to endure back in the frozen mountainside.
But most of them were still young. And befitting their youth, the Participants gathered in groups of twos and threes to enjoy the night filled with leisure and entertainment.
There was a small wall between them and me. A chasm that couldn’t be bridged.
The Participants were celebrating their barely-earned survival and wrapped their arms around each other’s shoulders as friends.
…Friends that could potentially turn into enemies sometime in the future.
I wordlessly reached out to close the curtains on the window, then lay down on the bed.
Come tomorrow morning, I had to talk to the Operator that I honestly didn’t even want to meet.
It might be a little early in the night, but I figured it’d be a good idea to get some good rest for the first time in a long while. Then, from tomorrow onwards, I planned to start my relentless dash towards the final preliminary.
To invite the goddess of slumber, I had my eyes quietly closed. But someone else began knocking on the hotel room’s door to interfere with my rest.
I initially wondered if the female employee had come back again, but unlike the last time, the door stayed closed.
The momentary flooding of enervation made me very reluctant to get up again but, knowing I had no choice, I pushed myself off the bed and headed to the door.
Without saying anything, I opened the door and stared at the visitor, my eyes silently asking who they were and what they wanted from me.
Silence descended in my room for a moment there.
I switched on the light to get a better look at the visitor standing by the doorway. And it was the curly-haired brunette from the match.
She was quietly staring back at me.
This translation is presented by Nocturne Translations.
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