All people from district 6 fall silent when they see the second boy, awarded cutie of 6 last summer, ascends the stage with heavy steps and tears polluting the corners of his eyes.
If this weren’t a quarter quell, this situation would’ve never occurred and that might be the reason why some guys seem to consider volunteering, but Wonhyuk is convinced the people’s fondness towards Wonjun is being the biggest trigger here. That jock in the front didn’t have to hold down his twitching hand when Wonhyuck’s name was called out.
To say Wonjun is overshadowing his presence already might be a bit exaggerated, even though he will later find out that, yes, Wonjun is already overshadowing him, so he just smiles and plays along until they’re seated safely in the train to the capitol.
Was Wonhyuk ever scared to get picked for the hunger games? Not really, district 6 isn’t that heavily populated, but his chances were still lower than 1% even when Mnet announced that both tributes would be picked from the same bowl. Of course deep inside he hoped it would be the girls’, all boys did. He wasn’t very concerned though when instead Mnet fished the slip of paper with the male gender out of its own personal bowl.
It’s only when Yunseong and Donghyun, their individual trainers, take a seat in front of them, that it dawns on Wonhyuk that he should’ve been more scared and maybe, maybe should’ve at least once thought about what to do if his name ever got drawn. He should’ve been taking the hunger games seriously.
“Wonjun, we can’t start planning our strategy if you keep crying.” Yunseong sternly obliges the other to quit sniffling already.
“Okay, so because my forte is fiercer and sneakier plans, I’ll be training Wonhyuk obviously.” He bluntely states, worsening the boy’s cries. “Keumdong is more of an emotional person so… yeah.” he watches his co-trainer and then the still sobbing boy.
“Let’s first all settle a little and calm down from the reaping, then we’ll discuss our strategy.” Yunseong wants to argue but Donghyun’s confident gaze and an awful sob rapidly silence him.
This is going to be a very unproductive train ride Wonhyuk and Yunseong unknowingly agree.
Wonhyuk isn’t allowed to greet the capitol, all attention has to go to Wonjun at this moment. Donghyun claims it’s because people are already weak for the flufball. Yunseong reassures him that it’s part of his ‘dark horse’ plan. Wonhyuk believes it’s unfair and gives him a disadvantage.
When no other tribute recognizes him as he jumps onto his carriage in full on red glowing attire, he can only feel overlooked. Wonjun is the white glowing ‘headlight’ while Wonhyuk stays unnoticed in the back, his red outfit again overshadowed by the other’s brightness.
It also doesn’t surprise him when he finds out he’s dead last in the popularity polls, how could anyone notice him anyway when he’s carefully been hidden away in the back. “Tomorrow, the weapon and survival training starts, that’s your time to shine.” Yunseong tries to lighten up the mood. Wonhyuk doesn’t tell him he almost died during a camping trip because he forgot to extinguish the fire.
The weapon training only proves to discourage all non-career tributes. When Suhwan throws his fifth knife in a row perfectly in the puppets heart, a unified sigh of defeat resonates through the weapon basement.
Survival skills is not any safer for Yuvin keeps finding ways to kill people with plants. Then a little further away in the survival section, there’s Wonhyuk who just tries not to set himself on fire as he keeps rubbing two sticks together.
“That’s not how you do it.” District 1, Yohan, warns him. Wonhyuk gives the guy an apologetic look before walking away. Yunseong made it clear that being a ‘dark horse’ means you can’t mingle with the popular tributes, so no conversations with tributes from 1, 2 or 4.
Every other training day goes down the same and Wonhyuk bleeds into the background more and more as days go by. He almost gets fire out of rubbing sticks together and learnt that Suhwan can throw exactly seven knifes accurately before he takes a breath and throws another seven spot on between the eyes. In the meantime Yuvin has shown that not only plants, but also water, air and whatever else he has in hand reach can be used to kill. Hangyul keeps creating electricity out of nowhere and Seungwoo is apparently Moses, cause water is not supposed to make way for you as you’re swimming.
He’s also learned pretty quickly that despite being from 1, Yohan is very not prepared for the games. That doesn’t stop him from repeatedly offering his help to any tribute in his vicinity though. “Maybe you should try something else? I’m sure there are other survival skills you’re good at.” Wonhyuk stares him straight in the eyes as he slightly changes the angle of the sticks and lets them catch fire instantly. He puts his shoe onto the flames while encaging Yohan’s gaze. “I know how to survive.”
He doesn’t offer his help again.
People keep asking how he got 10/12. Every time they do he shrugs and tells them with a smile that he just tried his best. “I can’t tell you all my secrets now, can I?” he actually lightens up as he’s discussing the scores with some other mid-tire tributes.
Wonjin, 9/12, pries out of curiosity while some eave dropping careers rather know what to expect from ‘dark horse’ Wonhyuk.
“I thought you couldn’t even make fire!” Hyungjun casually buts in. At that he laughs but doesn’t forget to make eye contact with Yohan before answering: “I’m not that pathetic.”
Eunsang is the first to know how he actually managed to secure that 10. They were talking about their hometowns, what they did to support their families, how Wonhyuk could make anything a fuel because they didn’t have money to buy some for their old motorcycle. Before he fully realized that Eunsang is smarter than he looks, the redhead had figured out how he fired up the evaluation.
“Burn some big guys down, yeah. That’d benefit us both.”
Wonhyuk doesn’t know if that was a declaration of partnership or not, but they do flock together more often after that conversation, raising suspicion amongst the other tributes.
“Since when are you and Eunsang so close?” Wonjin questions, again, out of curiosity, while Hyunjun blabbers on about his new ‘friendship’ with Mingyu. Eunsang’s district partner, Sihun, joins them too after he looks contemplatively at the duo for half of the training session.
To say their little click is expanding rapidly is an understatement. Soon Wonjun’s told to spend his free time with the group and the same goes probably for Jungmo although he did have some connection with Wonjin and Hyungjun already.
Now, they’re sitting at the empty cafeteria with the eight of them, in complete silence after Mingyu dropped the bomb of: “We’re teaming up during the games, right?” No one dares to look at each other, scared the others won’t look back.
Wonhyuk ticks his foot against Eunsang’s underneath the table and when the boy ticks back a second later he knows he can count on both tributes of 5 to make it through the games.
Interview strategies aren’t Yunseong’s favorite part of mentoring. He sighs every time they find a hole in their plan, he rolls his eyes any time Donghyun points out how hollow and boring he makes Wonhyuk sound. Wonhyuk himself turns to his designer more often than not to ask her opinion. Yoomi most often just tells him to be himself and proceeds to design his suit for the interview.
Walking mindlessly through the corridors isn’t a single time occurrence anymore too, especially when he passes the survival section for the twentieth time that day, he start to get the feeling that he’s going nowhere. Inside the room Yohan is eyeing him carefully when he passes, Suhwan and Yuvin are demolishing some puppets and Sihun is whooping a trainers ass in a one on one fight.
On his twenty-third run-by, Sihun waves him inside. “I heard we’re teaming up.” he throws inside the room, for everyone to hear and smirks at Wonhyuk when he loudly confirms.
The hesitation in Suhwan’s next throw reaffirms him that he is becoming a genuine threat.
Genuine threat or not, if he doesn’t make a lasting impression on the capitol now, he’s dead for sure.
Yohan entrails the public with his magical smile and impressive taekwondo kicks, Dohyun starts beatboxing and Seungwoo calls his so called ‘son’, Dongpyo, on stage. A whole family fest later it’s Sihun’s turn and Wonhyuk only has Eunsang’s faded red locks left in front of him.
“If he pretends he got that 10 by doing a handstand again, I’m going to expose him.”
“Do it.” Wonhyuk fires his teammate on.
Ten minutes later Eunsang tells the public Sihun still needed his support to stand two days ago, making the older go red in the face backstage. Wonhyuk makes use of the close-up of Sihun’s blush to wrap an arm around him and laugh at his friend.
Next Wonhyuk reveals that Eunsang can’t even do a handstand himself and proceeds to show the audience how to really walk on their hands. He sings one of Solji’s songs who’s coincidentally present and willing to join him on the stage, before entering the backstage again, being satisfied with his interview.
The suspicious gazes intensify and Wonhyuk happily replies to them with a confident smirk.
“‘Dark horse, Wonhyuk, rises from last place to top 5 in the popularity polls’!” he hears Yuri sneer a few tables away. The same kind of exclamations are coming from other tributes just softer and less aggressive. Wonhyuk is the talk after last night’s interview. He quiet likes the attention.
Yunseong pats him on the shoulder, a vague proud smile breaking through his cold demeanour.
“You’re going to make it, kid.”
Yoomi sends him off into the games with one last question: “What did Yunseong tell you to do when the gong sounds?”
Yunseong told him nothing.
It’s then that Wonhyuk realizes that his trainer and designer fully trust him to survive this on his own.
He sends a thankful glance in her direction before he’s rising into the arena without anything but his primal instincts and his knowledge about setting things on fire.