Hikaru barely had time to process the sound of her name being called before a commotion broke out on the boy’s side.
“Like hell you’re taking Hikaru!” She heard, but vaguely, as if in a dream. Was it? Was this all just a nightmare? Would she just wake up, go to the Reaping again, for real this time, and hear someone else’s name when the time came? Hikaru took one step forward, then another. The closer she got to the platform, the more reality set in. There was nothing to wake up from. She’d been picked as tribute for the Hunger Games.
“Hikaru!” She heard just before someone grabbed her from behind, knocking her out of her trance. Hikaru looked back over her shoulder to see Kakeru, glaring through tears at the stage.
“I volunteer!” He shouted, “I volunteer as tribute in her place!” The people onstage started whispering to each other. Hikaru was suddenly paralyzed in shock, not sure whether she was more terrified for herself or her brother. Finally, an exceptionally tall man (a former winner if she remembered correctly) stepped down to meet them. Hikaru soon found herself looking into a pair of the most heartbreakingly sad blue eyes she’d ever encountered.
“If you wish to volunteer, you’ll have to wait for the boy’s name to be called.” He said, without any feeling except that which his eyes betrayed. The point was made. Kakeru could not take her place.
“Fine.” Kakeru stood up tall, wiping the tears from his eyes, “Then I’ll do that.”
“No!” Hikaru shouted, “Only one of us can come back alive, you know that!”
“But-” He protested. She took a deep breath and smiled, burying her fear as deep down as she could manage.
“It’s okay.” Hikaru took both his hands in hers and squeezed them, “I’ll win, I promise. I’ll make you, our family, and our district proud. So, you’ll believe in me, right?”
“Don’t-” Kakeru let go of her hands and embraced her, still crying, “Don’t make me regret this.”
“You!” Suddenly he let go of Hikaru and went right up to the other man still standing there, “You’ll be a mentor, right? If she doesn’t make it back alive, there will blood to pay, you hear me?!”
“Kakeru…” Hikaru felt more tears welling up. The mentor said nothing in reply, merely stepping aside to let the Peacekeepers finally take Kakeru back to his spot. He then nodded at Hikaru, and the two of them headed for the platform.
“Just keep it together a little longer.” He spoke in a low voice, just to her.
“Once the Reaping’s done, we’ll go inside, away from the cameras. Then is the time to cry.” He continued. Hikaru nodded back, taking her spot on stage and putting on the bravest face she could muster.