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Pepper stayed where she was following Tito’s departure, still crouched against the wall of what she suspected used to be someone’s home—though she knew not why someone would want to live in such a desolate place. Once again, a warm wind caused a symphony of clatter throughout the old town, disrupting the new silence and propelling the large girl further into herself. Still with clenched eyes, Pepper allowed Tito’s parting words to soak into her; the ‘game’.

Honestly, it was hard for her to wrap her head around the concept, to fully accept that people were going to be killing one another—it just didn’t seem plausible, even with the constant reminder of reality strapped tightly around her neck. There were kids back in Alderbrook she didn’t get along with, sure, but she’d never want anyone to die. It was barbaric, to say the least.

And it petrified her.

Pepper deftly slid a hand up her sleeve and quickly pulled out several arm hairs, savoring the satisfying ‘pop’ of the follicles detaching and the subsequent sting.

Her mouth felt dry and cracked, but she honestly couldn’t have cared less at that moment, reserving herself to an unobtrusive licking of her lips—a short-term solution until she got up the nerve to ask someone for help. Dust was already caking her face, she could taste it, leaving a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach as she began to realize that this was only to start of unpleasantness.

It was going to get much, much worse from here.

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I Can Hear the Bells · The Streets
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