The rest of the six days passed by in a blur. Mostly, it was training, training, training. I grew closer to Vinyl Scratch, too. She would show up to watch me train, and I would smile at her. She would smile back mostly, and on the fourth day, she even came over and congratulated me on how well I was doing! I felt as though a swarm of butterflies had taken up residence in my stomach when she had done that.
On the seventh day, there was no training. That was the day we were to prove our worth to the judges, be ranked on a scale from 1-12, then in the night, we were going to be interviewed by none other than Spitfire Flickermane herself! She was something of a celebrity, everyone knew her as the friendly face of the Games. She was lovable, funny, charming, and had been there for as long as I, or my parents for that matter, could remember. Yet, she looked no more than a few years older than me.
We were all lined up, waiting to be called into the room for our private session. District 1 went first, then 2, then 3, and so on and so forth. I didn't really care what they saw me as, for I was going to be stepping off that plate and into oblivion less than twenty-four hours from now.
Pinkie Pie from 9 had just walked in to start her session when Vinyl showed up. The butterflies started up again in my stomach, refusing to leave.
"H-hey, Vinyl!" I stammered, smiling nervously. She grinned her wide, friendly, crowd pleasing grin back at me.
"Somepony's a little nervous about their first private training session. Don't worry about it, Octavia. It'll be fine. I went through there once, remember? They're nice! Mostly..." I felt a little better, not so much because of the meanings of her words, or her intentions, but more so of the fact that it was her talking to me.
I smiled. "Thanks, Vinyl."
Vinyl's face became very serious all of a sudden. "Hey, Octavia? Promise me you'll do well in the Games, ok? You have a lot of potential." They called District 11's stallion, and Vinyl left, winking at me as she trotted away. I could feel myself melt. Now, however, I was faced with a complicated situation. Vinyl had been able to do something my mentor had failed at, and that was to instill a bit of fight back into me. Hell, if I won the Games, I might have a chance with Vinyl!
"But you don't have a chance," I wondered out loud, and Hayseed jr., who had been sitting beside me, gave me a look.
"Hey," he said, speaking to me for the first time since our encounter on the first day "I'm sorry for getting all pissed at you a few days ago. You have to understand though... the careers are my only shot at winning this!"
I turned my head from him. "They're monsters, you've seen what they do in the other Games... they'll just use you as fodder, or when they're down in numbers, kill you themselves. You shouldn't ally yourself with them."
Hayseed just shook his head sadly, his mane sashaying from side to side. After a pregnant pause, he spoke again. "You really like that Vinyl mare, don't you?"
"Why? You were planning on going in on me?" I laughed a bit at the idea of us together.
Hayseed snorted. "Naw, it's just... well, you know. It's not good to have emotional attachments before the Games. Falling in love right before you kill yourself is a bad idea. For both of you." I looked at him astonished, and he continued. "What? I knew you would ignore my dad's advice. He's just a drunk who could care less about what happens. He hasn't even been trying to line up sponsors for us."
Hayseed's name was called, and he trotted off to the doorway that would take him to the private training area. "Hey, one last thing. Good luck. With your decision and all."
And the door closed, giving me some time with myself to think.
What should I do? I was obviously very in love with Vinyl Scratch. I wanted to be with her at every chance I got, I wanted to laugh with her, hang with her... just be with her. But I couldn't do that. I was going to die. But on the off chance I did win.. it could all become a reality. But then, I would have to take the lives of innocent ponies... and I was never good at fighting.
Maybe not so innocent... That was true. If I were killing a career, it would all be justified. It would all work itself out in the end...
"Octavia Violone." I jumped as my name was announced. How long had I lost myself to my thoughts? It couldn't have been long...
I slowly trotted to the doorway, and passed through into a room almost identical to the training area I had spent the past week in, except there was a side panel with several fancily dressed ponies, save for a white, blue maned pony, who was adorned in armour. I recognized him immediately as the head Gamemaker, Shining Armour. He was new this year, and had been introduced in the opening ceremony after the tributes had left. He had promised an exciting and rewarding Games this year...
The Gamemakers were not paying any attention to me, instead talking amongst themselves. This frustrated me to no end. Just because I was last didn't mean I was any less important!
What was I good at? What had I really gotten good at while I had trained?
Knives... I raced over to the knife rack, and pulled a simple throwing knife, and tossed it into the air, sending it flying into the dummy. It hit the mock pony straight between the eyes, an instant kill. I was pretty please with myself. A very excellent throw for my first try. I guess I was pretty used to knives now, I hadn't even tried any other weapon besides a slingshot for about thirty seconds. I looked over, smirking to see what the Gamemakers thought.
They thought the meal that was currently being brought to them looked pretty delicious.
I gritted my teeth, furrowed my brow, and scowled. How dare they continue to ignore me! I tried to impress them with more perfect shots, but missed three times, and hit the dummy in the left hoof the fourth time. Taking the last throwing knife from the set, I was beginning to become irrational. I grabbed the last knife, and threw it at the Gamemakers, not really aiming at them, just trying to get their attention.
I realized my dire mistake at just the last moment, and tried to grab the knife, to somehow stop it. It was too late. The deadly weapon soared gracefully through the air, heading towards the Gamemakers in what seemed like slow motion. I braced myself for the sickening shink that would foretell the death of my superiors at any moment.
Instead, something extraordinary happened.
The knife's hilt clacked against an open wine bottle, causing it to fall on a wine glass, filling it perfectly. The knife then sliced right through a cabbage, then lodged itself perfectly in a wedge of cheese.
No, I thought. No, that's not possible. Not in the slightest. I didn't even try, I've had only a week of knife training... no, I'm dreaming, I must be.
But, through some instance of miraculous luck, I had pulled off a seemingly impossible move, one that only gets accomplished once in a lifetime, and make the user look skilled beyond imaginable circumstances. A pity something like this couldn't happen in the Games, as I knew a chance like this would only happen once in a lifetime. i might have been able to make it out of that arena, and into Vinyl Scratches waiting arms...
The Gamemakers were all stunned, all staring in awe at the wineglass, the cut cabbage, and the cheese. All, except Shining Armour. The head Gamemaker simply levitated the glass of wine with his horn, and sipped it tentatively. He turned to me, and said "You may go now, Octavia."
I headed over to the elevator that would take me up to my suite, and left my head. What had I just done?