What was the point of fighting when you were weak?
A low humming caused Che to stir, suddenly aware he had no idea where he was or how long he’d been asleep. He could hear voices in the distance, faint whispers. It was probably his next-door neighbors gossiping outside like usual.
It would be the same routine as every other day. When he stepped outside, they’d ask him how his interview went, and he’d make up some half-answer to appease them. He never had the heart to pull out his phone and show them the rejection emails he received. It was already embarrassing enough he’d graduated college two years ago and still couldn’t land a decent job. He didn’t want to see the disappointment in their faces, sit through the mournful pauses, or watch them try to hide their pity. He simply couldn’t bare it.
Still, they weren’t usually out this late. What could have happened that was so interesting? Che sighed. It didn’t matter. He had another interview in a few hours, and he couldn’t afford to lose anymore sleep. He started to roll over but paused. Something wasn’t quite right.
There was still that weird humming sound, and with each passing second, he realized it couldn’t be his neighbors. So where was it coming from? It sounded like a commotion approaching from a distance, like several bodies were entering his space from all directions. Che struggled to open his eyes, opening and shutting them several times as the morning light faded in and out of view.
The morning light. It was morning already?
His eyes snapped fully open as he sat up. He should have been awake at least an hour ago! What time was it now? He quickly took in his surroundings, noticing how the sky was blue with not a cloud in the sky as the sun lazily made its way up. A breeze prickled his skin as he took in the smell of dirt and a spicy aroma, as if someone was cooking something nearby.
Wait a minute…
He looked down at the ground before yelping in surprise and jumping to his feet. He’d fallen asleep on the dirt floor? He whipped his head around, trying to quickly process the fact that he’d fallen asleep outside and had no idea where he was.
It was some kind of…arena? At least, it looked like an arena. There were marble-colored bleachers on either side and a large space in the middle that looked like it had been cleared out. The ground was some sort of strange, brown turf mixed with dirt. There were white lines and markings along the ground, like it was meant for some kind of sport. It all resembled a smaller, modernized Roman coliseum.
Che shook his head. No, that couldn’t be right. This was all wrong. He’d just left his latest job interview, where he was certain he’d done well. Except, mere minutes after he’d departed the lobby, he got an email saying otherwise. He’d then started towards his car, noticing the nearby traffic. Then, a strange figure appeared in front of him. Che remembered being startled. Then, he couldn’t remember anything else.
But then he’d gone home and went straight to sleep, right?
He put a hand to his head, trying to will away the throbbing headache. He needed to think. What was going on? The low humming grew louder as people began to file in, taking their seats throughout the arena. Che backed away instinctively, confused and overwhelmed. What was happening?
“Hey! You today’s fighter?”
Che spun around, where he was met by three girls wearing different colored tracksuits. The girl to his left wore a green tracksuit. She smiled at him through her glasses as she delicately patted her jet-black bun into place on top of her head. The girl next to her had on a blue tracksuit with long blue hair tied up in pigtails. She wore a white cone on her head that resembled a birthday hat. The girl to the right wore a red jumpsuit and looked as if she wanted to leave. She had short brown hair and an annoyed expression. Che noticed a small band-aid right above her nose. She was the one who asked Che if he was today’s fighter.
“I- I don’t know,” he managed to stutter out.
“You must be new here,” the girl in the green tracksuit giggled. “Don’t worry. You’re in the right place. All newcomers start here.”
“N-newcomers?” Che echoed. He didn’t like the sound of that.
“That’s right,” the girl in the blue tracksuit pointed a finger at Che. “If you’re going to compete in the regional tournament, you’ll have to prove you can handle yourself!”
“And what’s with those weird clothes?” the girl in the red tracksuit asked.
Che looked down, noticing he still had on the shirt and tie from his interview. Strange. He normally would have changed once he got home. He hated sleeping in anything much less work clothes.
“I- I don’t know,” he said again, feeling lost and confused.
“Well, you’ll have to change into something more appropriate if you want to compete,” blue tracksuit girl explained. “But for now, you’ll have to do. Now, choose.”
Che blinked. “What?”
Each of the girls inched towards him in unison.
Blue tracksuit girl gave a thumbs up with a confident smirk. “I’m Bella!”
Green tracksuit girl giggled with a hand over her mouth. “I’m Kim!”
Red tracksuit girl placed her hands in her pockets and sighed. “I’m Nikki.”
Bella pushed forward. “Choose which of us you’ll fight in today’s match!”