A/N: Hello all. My name is M.C. Ashley and this is Pyrrhic, my novel that owes its existence as an Americanized homage to Battle Royale. Inside you will find a vast array of characters as they struggle through the turmoil of a group of high school students now being forced to kill one another when they were supposed to be graduating in only a few days. Partially I would like this intro to warn those who are squeamish about violence to ask yourself if you feel comfortable continuing with this story. I do not intend to ruin anyone's spirits who might not appreciate the content of this story. Not that this work will be all blood, gore, and sexual depravity with every passing sentence, but I know that there are those out there who will not be comfortable with what I have written. This work is not intended to provoke uproar or cause anyone to stumble. There will be scenes that may push the line of the T rating I have given this story. I have no wish to be graphic and blase about the subjects covered in the novel. Instead I wish to use them to provoke serious discussion about the issues involved and, providentially, give you something you can sit back and enjoy. I'm sorry for the long and what some may seem as needless disclaimer, but I wished to be clear what my thoughts were on the subject.

Now on to the fun stuff. I've been working on this novel for over a year now. It's seen many different changes, from character names to motivations for why people act the way they do. I intend for this to be 54 chapters long (with an epilogue), of which I have written half of it. It is also my intent to publish at least one chapter here once a week. This may not always be the case, but I will work to the best of my ability to keep this updated frequently. Life, as always, will get in the way.

If there are any grammatical, spelling, or continuity errors then please feel free to let me know. I would like my reviewers to give me an honest appraisal of the material. I need constructive criticism to get better as a writer, and I hope I can do the same for anyone else I review for as well.

Now that that's all said and done, please, sit back and enjoy.

Dramatis Personae:

Gwen Abernathy- science club member

DeQuan Andersen- basketball player/track runner

Tyler Bronson- football player

Joshua Carpenter- valedictorian/track runner

Don Carr- mercenary

Kylie Chalmers- cheerleader

Sonny Chance- football player

Xenia Daugman- band member

Sandy Foreman- cheerleader

Ryan Gomez- basketball player

Beth Gorman- band member

Darren "Corporal" Hawke- English teacher/former soldier

Hanako Heyerdahl- swimmer

Shinji Heyerdahl- loner

Patrick Iverson- private investigator

Jackson "Tank" Jefferson- science club member

Jackie "Dunce" Jones- repeating senior

Tina King- swimmer

Tyra King- "vampire"

Nathaniel Knight- author

Max Levin- Army recruit/wrestler

Danson Macabre (Dan Marsh)- foster child

Mack McLean- football player

Shawn Phillips- chorus member

Dana Riley- cheerleader

Benjamin "Ben" Rogers- football player

Mark Sanchez- Admiral

Mary Jane "MJ" Sanderson- salutatorian/cheerleader

Helmut Schuwald- exchange student

Zelda Swift- band member

Marie Summers- cheerleader

Jason Tennyson- science club member

Chase Traviss- basketball player

Tom Tucker- chorus member

Monica Williamson- chorus member

Part I: Final Exam

"Farewell, Halcyon Days."

— Unknown

Chapter 1

Joshua Carpenter stared out into the lonely countryside near Bladenboro, North Carolina and sighed, wishing the bus would hurry up and get them to Wrightsville Beach, and that his dream would leave his mind. He ruffled a hand through his jet-black hair, and looked into his reflection in the bus window, noticing the brown eyes that stared back at him, as he pushed aside a rogue thought about wishing to know who'd given them to him.

"What's wrong, Josh?" Hanako Heyerdahl asked, pulling Joshua from his train of thought.

"Huh?" he asked, as he looked into Hanako's dark blue eyes. "What did you say, Hana-chan?"

Joshua continued to stare at her, wondering what she'd done to entertain herself once he'd gone to sleep, not even once trying to stay awake to talk with his girlfriend of almost a year's time. Hanako had dazzling cerulean eyes, shimmering black-brown hair, stood just an inch beneath his six-foot frame, and was the school's champion swimmer, who'd led the team to victory in states the past year. She, like the majority of the students there, was the same age as Joshua, eighteen.

"She asked what was wrong with you, genius," Mary Jane Sanderson said, as she picked herself up from her seat in front of them to look at Joshua. "You're quiet. You've never been quiet for as long as I've known you. Usually you won't shut up."

Joshua turned to her and found his best friend since childhood, where they had met at the Catholic school Joshua's guardian had placed him in once she had obtained legal ownership of him. MJ had wavy red hair that she normally placed in a ponytail, cheerful green eyes, and was a little taller than him, a fact she never let him live down.

Joshua rolled his eyes and stuck out his tongue. "Ha-ha, MJ, very funny."

"But she's right," Hanako said. "What's wrong with you, Josh? You're never like this."

"I had a bad dream. Nothing to worry about."

"Uh-oh," MJ said. "That's never good to hear."

"What does that mean?" Hanako asked, looking at the redhead.

"I know you two have been dating for a year, so that means that you haven't quite been able to have the same amount of experience with this moron as I have. Whenever Josh says that there's nothing to worry about, then we should all start heading right to the nearest bomb shelter."

"Come on, MJ, you're just oversimplifying things," Joshua said. "There's nothing wrong."

"If I am then why don't you share your nightmare with us, ace?"

Despite his reluctance, Joshua smiled, knowing MJ only called him by the old nickname she'd given him years before as a child when they both knew that he needed to open up or whenever she just felt like it. "I had a dream where the bus was hijacked by terrorists and then we were all in two days time murdered when no one paid the ransom. There, are you happy now, MJ for bringing up such a morbid dream?"

"A bit, but don't you feel better now saying it out loud?"

Don't agree with her, don't agree with her, don't agree with her, don't agree with her, Joshua thought, but realized his face was telling her all she needed to know.

Hanako laughed heartily and smiled at Joshua. "Maybe you should stop watching so many movies, Josh."

"Oh don't do that," MJ said. "Then the poor thing won't have anything left to do with his time."

"Hey, take that back!" Joshua snapped. "I happen to have a wide schedule of stuff I do on a regular basis, and you should know, hothead, since you've participated in every single one of them save for what I shall list now: I'm the track team's one hundred meter sprint runner-up, the guy who works on my off time at the nearest Salvation Army, the one who helped to organize that prom you told me you so adored, and, oh, wait just a second, aren't I the one and only valedictorian of this whole school? Yeah, that's what I thought, Ms. Salutatorian. What now?"

MJ looked over at Hanako, saying, "Isn't he so cute when he gets angry?"

Hanako laughed. "He's got his charms."

"Hey, you're not supposed to agree with her!" Joshua blurted out.

Hanako hid a smirk. "You mean you don't think you could ever be cute or that I would ever think you look cute?"

"Uh…I, um—This is your fault for backing me into a corner, MJ!"

"Sheesh, calm down; I was only joking," MJ said, holding up her hands.

Joshua massaged his forehead. "Why does my best friend have to be a woman? And an argumentative ginger at that?"

"Because no one else would take the job," Chase Traviss said from the seats next to Hanako and Joshua, making Chase's girlfriend, Marie Summers, laugh.

Joshua had known Chase for about four years—two years before his guardian had died and had instructed him to change schools to East Lincoln, because it was where he was meant to go, whatever that had meant. Coincidentally MJ had gone with him when her parents moved to the same county. Chase had been the first person Joshua had met in the new school, and the two had quickly discovered that they shared a mutual love of basketball, and, even though they cheered for two very different teams—North Carolina and Duke, respectively—they'd developed a lasting friendship. Chase had blond hair cut short, blue-gray eyes, and was a few inches shorter than Joshua. Although he would never admit it out loud, Joshua was jealous of Chase for his natural basketball talent, and he had never beaten, despite playing him over many times in one-on-one games.

Marie shook her head and flicked the back of Chase's ear, saying, "Now be nice, Chase. You're not supposed to let him know no one likes him this soon."

Marie smiled at Joshua, revealing her sparkling white teeth, which her braces had finally taken care of after having with her for three years. Marie had long, flowing blonde hair, green-black eyes, and was the tallest cheerleader on the squad, which hosted three other members on the bus that day. Chase and she had been going out since early their senior year, and had gone through three separate breakups, but they'd always ended up back together a few weeks later. Joshua and Marie had suffered a wedge in their kinship thanks to Chase constantly having to choose between the two of them. Joshua normally didn't care that Chase was going out with Marie, as he went on dates all the time with Hanako, but he had gotten more possessive than he cared to recall and Marie had called him out on it, something he wished that he'd handled better.

"And yet you still claim me as your best friend, Chase," Joshua said sardonically.

"Nah, that's out of pity, Josh," Chase said, winking.

"Why must everyone gang up on me?"

"Because it's your lot in life, ace," MJ said. "You're doomed to forever wander the earth tortured by your friends and the people you love."

"Hurray for me."

"Now who's making fun of my good friend?" Max Levin asked, situating himself on an armrest near Joshua. "That's my job."

Joshua sighed, resigned to his fate, as he looked at Max, another friend he'd found at East Lincoln from something that had interested them both, this time national politics. Both Max and Joshua had founded the school's first and only Independents Club, which had been designed to bring out some awareness to the problems both the Republican and Democratic parties had caused, but very few students had wished to join them. Max had almost given up, but Joshua's general stubbornness to admit defeat inspired him to keep with it, and they managed to gain some more group members thanks to their efforts, but even still their club was the target of jokes for its being different.

Max had his hair in a buzz cut, mostly in preparation for his coming trip to boot camp for the Army, as he'd enlisted, and was prepared to join up once school ended in early June. He had piercing green eyes, bronze skin, and was the tallest out of all the students, save for DeQuan Andersen—the co-captain of the basketball team with Chase, the team's point guard—but Max was still quite intimidating to look at.

"Thanks, Max, that's exactly what I needed: One more friend to pile on what seems to be Make Joshua's Life A Living Hell Day," Joshua said.

"Oh, it seems we've offended the poor thing," MJ said.

"Yeah, and I know what would cheer him up even more," Hanako said. "How about we invite my brother over here?"

Everyone laughed except for Joshua, who kept sighing, but by then he was used to the abuse.

Hanako's twin brother, Shinji Heyerdahl, looked nothing like her, and many of their fellow students had assumed they weren't even related, which he took much offense to. While Hanako had taken after her mother—a Japanese accountant from Shinjuku—Shinji had always looked like his father, who had been a KFC sales representative to Japan, which had allowed him to meet their mother. He was farsighted and wore horn-rimmed glasses instead of the contacts Hanako wore, mostly because he despised them, but more because his father wore them as well. Much to his chagrin, Shinji had gained his father's time-honored Scandinavian features, which included his dull sky blue eyes and brilliant blond hair, which he'd dyed to look more like the way he wanted it to, namely more Oriental. Shinji and Joshua had been on bad terms ever since Shinji had figured out that Joshua was going out with his sister, making him refuse Joshua's attempts to get to know him. Whenever he tried, Shinji always ignored him and left the room.

"For some reason, I don't think that's a good idea," Joshua said.

"Okay, Josh says it's a bad idea, so let's do it," Chase said. "Who volunteers to ask him to come over?"

"Oh, I'll do it," MJ said. "I'll tell him that Hanako's lover wishes an audience with him."

"Hey, we're not—" Joshua started, but he was interrupted.

"Yeah, we know, Josh, we know, you're the only moral man left in the world, so you'd never do it yet," Chase said. "A shame too."

"That better not mean what I think it means," Marie said.

"Just kidding, sweetheart."

"So are we still going to ask him over?" Max asked.

"Sounds good to me," MJ said. "I'll ask for the biggest loser to walk over here real quick."

"Ooh, call him Shinji-baka; I'm sure he'd appreciate that," Hanako said.

Joshua laughed. "Now let's be fair to the poor thing, Hana-chan, and not call him an idiot. He gets enough abuse from you. He hardly needs MJ to add it on to him. Then again that does sound like a good idea. Why do you people bring out the worst in me?"

Hana-chan was Joshua's nickname for Hanako, developed from his many pathetic attempts to master the Japanese language, which was one of the few things he'd ever had a significant difficulty with. Hana was Japanese for flower, one of the few words Joshua had been able to retain, and he found it very clever that it happened to be a shortened form of Hanako's name, which meant "flower child." While he'd been forced by his adopted mother to learn Arabic, Hebrew, and Spanish—all of which he'd learned from his private tutors—the nature of the Japanese language had proved more difficult than he could have mustered originally, when he'd tried to learn it to impress Hanako.

"Who are you calling a poor thing?" Shinji asked from in front of them, surprising them all.

"Oh, hey, Shinji," Joshua said, keeping a straight face. "These morons I call my friends were trying to get me to pick on you, and I was defending you. I probably should have picked my diction to describe you a little better, though, so my bad."

Shinji huffed and headed to the back of the bus in order to reach the bathroom, which he shut behind him loudly, while Danson Macabre smirked for reasons unknown as he watched the scene unfold. He sneered at Joshua when he realized he was looking at him. Feeling a tense concentration of unknown origins, Joshua looked away from him.

"Man, he is creepy," Marie said, shivering.

"Actually Shinji's a nice guy once you get to know him," Hanako said.

"No, I mean, Danson. What kind of a parent names their kid Danson Macabre?"

"They don't," Max said.

"Huh? I'm still new to this school, you know. Well, was, now that we're about to graduate."

"Danson's a foster child. His real name's Dan Marsh Jr., but his parents died in a fire when he was just seven, and he's been kicked out of foster home to foster home ever since then. He legally changed his name two years ago."

"Yeah, to Crazy McSatan Worshipper," Chase said, laughing at his joke.

"Now we don't know if that's true," Joshua said. "Just because the guy dresses in black and listens to death metal doesn't mean he's a Theistic Satanist."

"Just because you're in denial and you wish to see the best in everybody doesn't mean you're always right, Josh," MJ pointed out. "But don't let him fool you guys at all, he really does think he's a Satanist…well a Theistic one, but he won't admit it because that means he'd have to admit Danson is a lost cause."

"Must you explain every single facet of my personality, sweetheart?"

"When you do it for me, I'll stop, but until that day that will never come, I'll take up the slack for you."

"What's the difference between the Theistic Satanists and Satanists in general?" Hanako asked.

"Your regular run of the mill Satanists just view Satan as a figurehead for the personification of evil, and just want to do whatever they feel like doing when they want to," Joshua explained. "Theistic Satanists see him as God and worship him as a deity."

"And Danson's definitely a Theistic, then," Max said, scratching his chin as he bent down closer to them and whispered, "Did you hear what he did to Tyra King?"

"Oh, not this again; listen, just because—" Joshua said, but he was interrupted.

"Denial!" MJ shouted, silencing her best friend. "Continue please, Max."

"Thanks," Max said. "You guys know about vampires, right? The spooky we're gonna suck your blood types?"

"Along with every other civilization in the known world," Joshua mumbled.

"Well here in America there are people who think they're actually vampires and they play this weird game called—" Max said, but he was interrupted.

"Vampire: The Masquerade," Joshua finished for him. "But what idiots who don't know any better say is that the people involved really think they're vampires, when the vast majority of them are just in it for the role-playing, you know, for fun. Just because there are some lunatics like Rod Ferrell who take things too far, it doesn't mean that every single member of the game thinks they're a real vampire."

"But there's still the minority who think they are," Max said.

"Yes, no one's denying that—"

"Denial!" MJ shouted again, eliciting laughter from everyone but Joshua.

"Anyways, before Mr. Denial here gets a chance to talk again, I'll tell you how Danson managed to convince Tyra to start it up, and now that's why she's all messed up in the head now," Max said. "Tyra thinks she's a vampire that's in training, so much that even Tina's getting scared of her."

Tina was Tyra's identical twin sister, who was sitting away from Tyra and was busy sleeping near the front of the bus. Soft-spoken and idealistic, Tina had taken her sister's transformation harshly, falling into a depression that only recently others had learned about.

"Now why would he do that, Joshua?" Hanako asked.

"Why do I always have to be the devil's advocate?" Joshua asked. "Why can't you people just deal with these things and move on? We all have phases in our lives. I used to have anger issues, but I changed my mind and decided not to get that mad ever again. It's just like that old saying, 'Well behaved women rarely make history.' It's the same principle."

"So now you're connecting vampirism and Satan worship with women's rights?" MJ asked.

Sighing, Joshua lowered his head. "I just can't win, can I, God?"

He was saved a response from his friends when they were alerted to the voice of their English teacher and chaperone, Darren "Corporal" Hawke, nicknamed so because of his former rank in the Army, where he'd seen action in Kosovo before he'd become a teacher. "Well, well, my wonderful and amazing students, it would appear that we are a good hour away from the beautiful North Carolinian beaches."

"Boo-yah!" Benjamin Rogers, the captain of the football team, shouted out.

"Yes, thank you, Ben, but here's what I really want you to be pumped up about: This weekend will be the last time we may ever see each other as a whole class and I also wish to celebrate that with you before we arrive for your senior trip. You see, I've been a teacher for many years, but I must say I've never had a class as engaging and fun to teach as you have been. Now if I can have my favorite students come up to the front to help me deliver these drinks so we may toast the beginning of a wonderful weekend. You two know who you are, so come on teacher's pets."

Joshua smirked and got up to follow Max, who waited for him to get past Hanako in order for them to reach Darren at the same time. When they arrived, he beamed at them and passed out the trays that held some cups that held tea inside of them to deliver to the others.

"Now you two I'm going to miss the most," Darren said. "You two are the single most amazing and smartest young men I've ever had the pleasure of being around. It will be a great shame when you have to leave forever."

"Ah, come on, Darren, it's not like we're on our deathbeds here or anything like that," Joshua said, sharing a laugh with Darren and Max.

Taking the left side of the seats, Joshua gave all of them a drink, and left two with Hanako, who agreed to hold his while they waited for them to finish delivering the drinks to all thirty students on the bus. Finishing almost a minute later, Joshua and Max left the trays in the back and returned to their seats.

"To the class of '16!" Darren said, raising his cup.

"To the class of '16!" thirty students repeated, as they drank their tea.

Joshua gulped his down, wondering what the odd taste in his mouth was, but then finding that the bus seemed to be spiraling out of control. It took him a moment to realize that the bus wasn't what was moving around and he slammed into the window, knocking himself out, while everyone else in the bus fell down save for two men: The driver, who took an alternate route from the other buses they were with, and Darren Hawke, who just nodded in contentment as they all lost consciousness from the drugged drinks, knowing his plan had finally had come to fruition.

30 students left

A/N: Thanks for reading this, everyone. I intend to post the next chapter next week. It will continue to focus on Joshua as the main viewpoint character for now. Until next time...