The Hunger Games Galaxies
District 12 Introduction: Part 2
"Citizens of the Twelve Districts…" said the Voice of the Gods. "Welcome to the Reaping. As you send your courageous Tributes off to the field of battle, keep in your hearts the hope for them to return victorious! It is only with your encouragement and prayers that they may have an edge in battle."
Around the auditorium, the sobs were stifled when the voice began to speak. Yu felt his fists digging into his hands as tears sprang to his eyes. How was it possible that two of his best friends were being sent to the arena? He blinked to clear his vision and turned his head to find the others. Chie was supporting Yukiko still down the line as she quietly cried into the former's blazer.
"Each year," continued the Voice. "The 24 tributes provide ample opportunity for not only the Gods but all of you in the Districts to observe each other in a cultural exchange of sorts… but we were wondering… how could we make this exchange even stronger and more varied…?"
A couple of rows in front of them, he could see Rise's hair, as she also silently shook. Kanji was easiest to spot, and he wasn't crying… he seemed to be in shock. He didn't move a muscle the entire time Yu looked at him. Teddie was nowhere to be found. It wasn't surprising that there was no record of him at the schools, but surely the Gods knew of him…
"And therefore…" announced the Voice, loudly. "The Gods have decreed that, from each District, we shall Reap a second group of tributes, ensuring this year's Hunger Games provides even more entertainment than the last!"
The horror of this announcement swept over the audience, and pandemonium began to break out as students started to run for their siblings or friends. Yu could see Nanako trying to push through the crowd amongst the stampede of elementary students trying desperately to get to their elder siblings. Shots rang out, which brought the crowd to a halt as they ducked for cover, but it seemed the bullets were blanks meant to scare, rather than kill.
"Order!" roared the High Priest from the stage. "I will have order in my District, children! Now, we shall finish our Reaping in a moment… again, if I call your name, carefully proceed to the stage. Everyone else, please remain in your assigned spots until you are dismissed!"
As the teachers ushered everyone back into their assigned spots, the High Priest moved to the girls' bowl again. Yu felt his chest tighten. He thought of all his female friends: Chie, Yukiko, Rise, Ai, Yumi, Ayane… and of course Nanako. There wasn't any guarantee that Yasogami would see another female taken from them, but that didn't stop his worry. He couldn't think of anyone he wanted to see taken instead, even the highly unpleasant Hanako…
"District 12's second tribute… is Rise Kujikawa," read the High Priest.
Though Rise had screamed at the sound of her name, the eruption of emotion from her fans was even worse. Yu was sure the entire adolescent demographic in the country was up in arms right about then. Swarmed by cameras and people, Rise slowly and tearfully made her way through the throng of students, finally having to be extracted by the Peacekeepers and led to the stage herself. Naoto and Yosuke took her hand as she made her way there; the poor girl was crying too hard to even stand up. The High Priest tried to call for applause for her, but too many people were still screeching their disapproval. It was only about a half minute later that everyone realized Rise herself was trying to say something.
"E-Everyone… I… I don't want any vo-vo-volunteers," she choked out, before breaking down again.
"Even in the face of certain destruction, she bravely pushes forward… this is the Risette we've grown to know and love. I daresay if there were Sponsors this year, you'd be set," said the High Priest, kindly patting her arm and grinning. "Very well! Time for our second male!"
Though the audience was still screaming and yelling obscenities, and some Peacekeepers were trying to be inconspicuous in subduing the more outrageous ones (a task they failed miserably at since their uniforms clashed so violently with those of Yasogami and the surrounding schools), the High Priest made a show of carefully stirring the names around before he pulled a slip out, taking his sweet time walking back to the microphone. Finally, he opened the paper.
"Daisuke Nagase!" yelled the man.
Directly behind Yu came the frightened cries of both Daisuke and Kou. Yu turned, eyes wide with shock, as a nearby Peacekeeper grabbed ahold of his wrist and started pulling Daisuke away from the others. Kou looked at Yu, and looked as if is world had just ended. His best friend was being taken from him; Yu couldn't even imagine what that must be like. And yet… as he looked to the stage, where Yosuke, Naoto, and Rise were fighting (or failing) to hold back tears… he realized that he knew exactly how that felt. And he wasn't going to let it happen.
"I volunteer!" he screamed, having to do it several times before he could get his voice above the pandemonium. "I volunteer as a tribute for Daisuke!"
"What's this…? We have a volunteer!" cried the High Priest. "How fantastic! Please, come this way, young man."
The sea of students parted pretty easily for Yu as he headed for the stage. Daisuke tried to stop him as he passed, but Yu shook his head. In the audience, he could hear Nanako screaming for him, her voice cracking with sobs, but he didn't stop. Somewhere, part of his brain wondered what was wrong with him. But another part though of the life he'd have if nobody came back, how he'd let his friends be led to the slaughter…
"I won't accept no for an answer, nor substitutions," he said. Inwardly, he prayed his bravado wouldn't give out in front of the cameras.
"Very well!" roared the High Priest. "In that case, please give your best wishes to our four tributes from District 12!"
"This shall be my final announcement," rang out the Voice of the Gods, silencing everyone once more. "To each of our Districts… and to our viewing entities… there is one additional rule change to this year's Hunger Games. If the last 2, 3, or 4 tributes are from the same district, they shall be declared the victor, and the Games will end."
And the silence hung in the air for a good twenty seconds before that sunk in. Yu, Yosuke, Naoto, and Rise looked at each other. For the first time since the day had started, they broke into smiles, one-by-one, until they were smiling with tears running down their face. They were fortunate; surely no other district had anyone this close fighting together? Their hope was infectious, and soon the entire auditorium had been brought to a standing, screaming ovation, cheering on their four tributes as the four wrapped their arms around each other and the two on the ends held their hands up in a V-sign for the victory they promised to bring home to District 12.
After the fanfare of the Reaping, the meeting quarters in the Senior classrooms were almost eerily quiet. Light refreshments were provided for the tributes so that their families could each have a final meal together before they left for the transfer portal. Yu wasn't hungry, for perhaps the first time in his life. His visitors trickled in, one-by-one, saying their goodbyes and best wishes.
Many of his classmates only stayed for a short time. Yu was surprised to see several coworkers from the hospital, some of whom he'd rarely spoken to, including the nurse Sayoko. She promised she would do everything she could to help from her end, and thanked him for helping her in the hospital. Nobody else from his daycare job stopped in, but the mother of one of his trouble kids, Eri, also brought him a small package of sweets and begged him to stay safe in the arena.
His classmates were harder to say goodbye, but none as much as Kou and Daisuke. The latter broke down while trying to thank him, promising that he would take the gift of his life with everything he had, vowing to never back down from any fight and to lead the charge for District 12 in the future. Predictably, Ai, Ayane, and Yumi spent much of their visit in tears as well, begging Yu to return to them. Naoki had trouble forming words, but finally was able to thank him for helping him come to terms with his sister's death.
Shu and his mother were among the last of his visitors. They both thanked him for his wonderful tutoring, and Shu vowed to be one of the top students in his class without cheating. Then came Hisano, the old woman he'd met by the river. She told him that she'd pray for him every night, and ask her husband to keep watching over him as well.
Facing Nanako and his Uncle Dojima was the hardest of the visits by far. She bawled as she hugged him tight, and even Dojima had trouble focusing on his words. But what he'd said about the Peacekeepers was deeply troubling to Yu.
"They restrained several… a couple guys got beat up pretty bad for badmouthing them or the Gods," said Dojima, sighing and patting Nanako on the back. "Even one of our officers got his nose busted when he refused to partake in the… brutality…"
"Anyone we know…?" asked Yu.
"No… almost everyone from Inaba is behaving," said Dojima. "But my hands are tied… I'm lucky they even let me off long enough to say goodbye to you…"
"Big Bro," Nanako muttered quietly.
"Yes, Nanako, what is it?" asked Yu.
"You have to come back, ok?" she said, quietly. "You gotta fight hard and win…"
"Of course," said Yu, also patting her on the head. "I'm just so happy you didn't get picked…"
"I… I wish I could go with you…" she said, sniffing.
"No," said Yu. "Don't be like that. You have too much to do here. You have to make sure Inaba is safe while I'm gone, okay?"
"… o… okay," she said.
"Would you like something to eat?" asked Yu, indicating a desk with a small platter of food. "One last meal?"
"Sure… thanks, Big Bro," she said.
Luckily, Dojima was able to persuade the Peacekeepers outside to give them a few extra minutes while they shared a few bites of the meal. It wasn't substantial, and none of them were especially hungry, but at least it gave them a couple of minutes to retreat from the insanity outside. All too quickly, their time was up, and the Peacekeepers arrived to take Dojima and Nanako away.
After them, nobody else showed up. Yu checked his watch; they still had almost ten minutes before they had to leave the school altogether. He quietly left his room and headed down the hall. The one next door was empty, so he went to the third one, and slid it open. The entire investigation team was in there, as well as Teddie. He immediately crushed Yu in a massive hug, his fur matted down with his free flowing tears.
"Sorry for not visiting you directly…" Yukiko muttered. "There were so many people going in and out that I didn't get a chance to…"
"It's okay," said Yu. "I'm happier we could all be together like this…"
Kanji sat silently next to Naoto, the both of them staring hard at their feet. Yukiko and Chie were sat next to Rise, patting her shoulder and whispering quietly to her. Every now and again, she'd giggle as they relived some funny memory that probably involved injuring or humiliating the boys. Yosuke and Yu sat against the far wall as Teddie continued to cling to Yu's arm, quietly rocking back and forth.
"We can do this, Yosuke," Yu finally muttered. "We can fight and we can win. Nobody else has the kind of bond we've all got."
"Yeah," said Yosuke. "We just have to stick together in the arena. Right from the get-go."
"But what kind of set up will they have, I wonder…?" muttered Naoto. "The cornucopia will have to be massive… there'll be nearly 50 people on the field at once…"
"Well… don't go running into the center," said Chie. "Too many people get killed doing that. Just get away so you don't have to fight right away."
"She's right," said Kanji. "Get some shelter, get a weapon, and then you can kick some ass!"
"It does bother me a little that they'll be sealing our Personas…" muttered Naoto. "But… I suppose it might be for the better."
"Wait, how'd you know they'll be doing that?" asked Yosuke.
"Well it makes sense. Any powers that give an offensive of defensive advantage are always sealed from the other Districts. There's no reason for us to believe they won't do the same for our Personas," explained the girl.
"But even with that, we've got everything we need," said Yu. "We've all fought Shadows before."
"These won't be Shadows, though…" Yukiko muttered. "They're going to be more kids… like us…"
"That's true… but if we want to come back, we have to fight," said Yu. "So… let's give it everything we've got."
The doors slid open and the Peacekeepers strode in to break up the group. The rest of the Investigation Team went quietly, knowing what Yu had said, and gave their friends one final, forlorn wave as they were led out of sight. Two more Peacekeepers beckoned the remaining tributes out the door, and Yosuke, Naoto, Yu, and Rise began the long journey towards their portal.
The station was crowded with well-wishers and reporters and both normal and floating cameras, each trying to get a final close-up of the tributes as they boarded the wizened train that would take them back towards the city. From there, they were due to board a jet supplied from the Kirijo corporation, which would bring them to the preselected portal location. Their final views of Inaba showed fans lining the tracks, holding hastily made signs and throwing roses and other flowers at their favorite tributes, as the train rounded the bend and disappeared into the forests and countryside.
"This is probably the most crowded this train has ever been," commented Naoto.
The double-car train was full with not only the tributes, but the delegation of Priests and their bodyguards, as well as a small, select group of reporters who were always given access to the Reaping. Thankfully, their cameras weren't on yet, so the four friends were able to relax out of the public eye; everyone else left them alone for the trip. But, even still, they weren't able to discuss anything, as their thoughts began to travel off into the distance, well beyond the reaches of District 12, District 7, and even their entire world, off into the Galaxies of the other Districts and the Gods who loomed imperiously over them.
This completes the introduction for District 12. Once the remaining introductions are uploaded for the remaining districts, I will finally be able to start writing the story of the actual games, starting with the introductory parade and interviews.