1 DeathRow

Gasping breaths.

Loud cheers and whistling.

The frantic movement of the waving fingers on the controller, as the player's eyes followed the quick movements of the images on the screen.

Pupils widened to the maximum, as an adrenaline rush passed through their bodies, encouraging them to win.

Elijah was used to this competitive atmosphere, where victory was what mattered most. Of course, it was a friendly competition for everyone at the Gantz, with a hint of frank rivalry, but for Elijah, it was above all the perfect way to overcome their eternal boredom. But for now, it was relatively slow, almost boring.

After all, it's been a good three hours since they started Wednesday night's DeathRow, a rather impressing nickname just for a little gaming competition, and Elijah hadn't budged from their seat. They were the strongest at all the games available in the arcade room after all. Simply unbeatable.

It was boring.

It wasn't that Elijah was tired or anything. No, people were just extremely predictable. Elijah dominated the game every time, and five short minutes were enough to make their opponent lose. It was easy but very quickly dull. Elijah mastered all the combos in the game. Spending almost all their evenings at the GantzArcade lowkey helped.

A side glance at their opponent.

He was in the same condition as everyone else who had been sitting in this seat before him: a tight smile; clenched teeth; adrenaline and the urge to win clearly visible in his eyes. He, a nerdy-looking, dark-haired guy, held the controller as if his life depended on it, pushing all buttons forcefully with violent knocks on the joystick, rocking his body forward on his chair, his left leg hitting the ground repeatedly each time Elijah threw a damaging blow on Ryu, his character.

It was fascinating, or rather hilarious to see all the energy he put into beating Elijah, who on the other hand, didn't make any unnecessary movements, sitting cross-legged in their seat, hands relaxed on the joystick.

'Okay, time to spice things up a bit.'

Suddenly, Elijah relaxed their fingers a little more, barely brushing the thumbstick, and started to move them slower and slower, becoming more vulnerable to the guy's attacks. All they, or at least Sagat, their character, did was blocking, nothing more.

A new glance at their opponent. He now had a grin on his face as he saw his attacks hit home as Sagat's life gauge dipped. The kind of victorious, hopeful smile that made Elijah want to puke. But they let him bask in his joy a few more seconds, before violently regaining full control of his character and sending him a volley of special combos.

The completely bewildered gaze of his opponent, who in surprise had lost all his coordination was simply hilarious.

The exclamations of the crowd behind them redoubled in force before exploding into a cacophony of cries of joy as soon as the screen displayed the famous "FINISH HIM".

A 'Tiger Rampage' later, and Ryu collapsed to the digital floor under the gaze of the giant Buddha in the background.

"And another win for Elijah ! "

An explosion of applause and whistling echoed through the GantzArcade as Elijah put their controller down on their lap, the fakest smile plastered on their face, as they started high-fiving the people behind them.

The sound of applause became louder as the little neon crown next to Elijah's name on the digital dashboard blinked with its bright yellow light for the thirtieth time this evening. And Elijah basked in it, euphoric with the feeling of power tingling all over their body. Oh, how they loved this sound, they could never get enough of it.

The guy handed them a twenty-dollar bill, looking crestfallen.

A new smile, a carnivorous one this time, stretched their lips, as they snatched it from his hands. One of the other benefits of playing with these people. Seeing their confidence being crushed flattered their ego and gave them a sense of satisfaction that Elijah wouldn't trade for anything.

Waiting for other potential adversaries, Elijah took long sips of their pineapple soda, leaning back on the chair, loudly chatting with some excited people from the arcade, complimenting Elijah on their performance. The coolness of the can soothed their sweaty, hot hands.

Opal and Elios stood behind the crowd, not surprised to see that Elijah was still sitting on their seat, in the same position as they were when the DeathRow started this evening.

The two owners of the arcade knew no one in this place stood a chance against Elijah, and that's why they liked them so much. Elijah never lost, whatever the game. The more opponents came to defy them, the more they lost and the more they consumed, eager to try again. For this reason, they also turned a blind eye to the money Elijah was making with the victories. It was a win-win deal for everyone.

Except for their customers, they were disgusted to lose every time against Elijah, but then again, their loss meant more money for the arcade in the end, so no comments.

Elijah was beginning to find the situation laughable. They were using all their willpower not to explode into a sadistic laugh whenever their opponents lost. But it was hard. And the crowd standing behind them, showering them with applause, galvanizing their ego minute by minute wasn't helping. But they did a pretty good job hiding it behind the friendliest face ever, as always.

"Five years and no one is still able to whoop your pretty ass, huh ?" Elios approached Elijah, as a girl with long brown hair with green ends- Jan, a regular a the arcade- took place in front of the screens.

Swiftly throwing their head back to look at the long dark-haired man, Elijah stuck their tongue playfully at him.

"It's called talent at its finest, handsome." The black individual said, a smug smirk on their face.

"Okay, Eli', thirty wins, you know what this means..." Opal chirped while arranging her sparkling pink hair into a messy ponytail.

The Gantz was a place with very few rules, except the basic safety rules and the whole "respect each other, be friendly and have fun" kind of policy. A very chill place.

However, the two owners had to create a special rule, specifically applied for Elijah. The famous "Thirty-Ten" rule. Basically, as soon as Elijah hit the thirty wins mark, they had to stop playing for at least ten minutes before playing again. The dumbest rule ever really. Yes, fine, Elijah may have passed out on the spot when they accumulated seventy-five hours of gaming in the first week they started going to the Gantz.

This was one of the few things that really annoyed Elijah in this place and the major reason why they took an extra turn of mood stabilizers before heading out to spend their time here. Just a ridiculous caution to stop themselves from getting violent in the only place they kind of tolerated in this shit hole of a city.

"Thirty what? Nah, no. I'm like... only at my tenth win or something. Definitely not done here."

"Your lying ass..."

"Excuse you, Jan. May I remind your pretty self that you still owe me forty dollars?" Elijah paused for a second, before continuing, their smirk growing wider. "Wait, no, actually scratch that, make that sixty, cause I'm about to kick your ass again!"

Jan barked out a laugh as Opal looked at the upside-down face of the black individual, replacing their falling glasses on their nose.

"Come on, Eli', ten minutes isn't that bad. Plus, even if you leave, I strongly doubt anyone will be able to surpass you, even if they spent their whole day here. " The chubby woman softly said.

Annoying.

Their bored eyes got, even more, emptier as they straightened themselves back up, sighed, and put the controller down on their seat.

"Duh, sure they won't."

In all honesty, Elijah didn't feel like bullying the system today. They could, easily even, but not today. Too bored.

"Okay fine, I'm out for ten minutes then." They said with a soft pout, before smiling cheekily, looking at Jan right in the eyes. "You lucky for now, bitch. Hope your stupid ass doesn't get beat by someone else while I'm away, I want the honors!"

The both of them giggled as they fist-bumped with force. One thing with Elijah was how scarily quick they were able to adapt to any kind of situation, even though they couldn't care less. Reading people's expressions and morphing theirs was just a natural trait of Elijah. Easy as breathing.

And over time, they had learned exactly what kind of expressions they were supposed to adopt when they were at the Gantz.

Someone then began to pat Elijah timidly on the shoulder. It was the "Ryu" dude they had just beaten up. He seemed a little nervous, and Elijah knew perfectly well why he had just approached them.

He was lucky the mood stabilizers were still keeping Elijah in check. Otherwise, his face would have had a nice meet-up with the counter.

This shitty brat.

"Sorry about that, but I have something to deal with him. Be right back!" Elijah apologized with a soft smile before their expression dropped into something indescribably cold. "You, follow me." Elijah muttered to the young man, as they went down the stairs. The fresh spring breeze hit their face as the front door opened, contrasting while the cozy atmosphere of the gaming place.

Damn, that felt good.

---------------------------------------------

The sky was a pretty shade of pastel blue, turning navy with the wind, light-grey clouds hovering around lazily.

Elijah's eyes stung a little behind their glasses, now covered with a thin layer of mist.

Leaning against a wall behind the Gantz, Elijah watched the plume of smoke rising from the mouth of the guy in front of them, the faint sounds of the arcade still audible. They hated the smell of weed but refrained from pinching their nose. Nothing stranger for a drug dealer than to show their disgust for their own merchandise.

"Yeah, that's some good shit!"

Elijah returned their attention to the guy. He looked like he was obviously enjoying it. There were really only fuckers of his kind to appreciate this kind of poisonous shit.

"So... how much for three joints?"

"Ten dollars each."

Elijah shoved the three bills inside their pocket while handing him the promised three joints.

"Bye now."

"Hey, wait a sec !"

Elijah stopped as they were about to push the glass door to go back inside. Did he just grab them by the shoulder right now?

Thin fucking ice.

"I... I just wanted to... tell you that your skills are just fire."

"Oh wow, first news. Wanna tell me something else that I don't already know or can I go ?"

He stammered. Elijah raised a brow, annoyed.

It was almost cute. Or rather pathetic.

"Want to... meet again so ...like ... you can give me a couple of tips since ..."

"You suck? Yeah, sure, advice wouldn't hurt you too much considering how quickly I beat you. But see, I really don't have time to explain your sorry ass how to play video games, white boy."

He looked hurt and Elijah didn't care at all. Honestly, seeing his sad and ridiculous look of a desperate beaten dog just made them want to punch him really hard in the face.

"But if I have any advice for you, next time you gather the audacity to go against me, choose a game where you won't be fucked up so easily. It was boring as hell."

He didn't have time to reply that they were already gone.

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