For this assignment, we’re supposed to put one of our novel project main characters on any reality TV show. Say hello to Seth Grayson from this semester’s upcoming Four Rules of Murder on Liar Game, a TV show from the Japanese manga/drama and the Korean drama adaptation.
Liar Game: a reality TV show where contestants are paid to trick others in any way possible. And Seth Grayson, agent of the government (sometimes informally called the “inexistent assassin”), has been sent to shut the game down as a planted contestant. As he faces the man behind it all, the masks will come sliding down to reveal everyone’s true intentions.
A Game of Deception
At least the name sounded interesting.
“Liar Game.” A show that played purely off people’s ability to deceive, trick, think. A program that drove its contestants with greed, hunger for the grand prize, to the point where they were willing to step on others to get to it no matter what. Ten million dollars? Such a sum would settle the winner for life regardless of any debt. This would surely bring out the worst in everyone.
Seth loathed it.
…Or did he love it?
No one bothers putting up the “nice” mask in a game of deception. People would show their true hideous selves rather than trying to conceal it behind the meaningless compliments and smiles they exchanged every day. No niceties, no fakeness, just… humanity. Humanity doing the thing it does best – being the worst.
“Isn’t publicity a problem?” Piper asked through Seth’s earpiece.
“Nope.” Seth shoved his hands into his sweatshirt pockets and slouched in his chair. “Perks of being a wallflower.”
“I wouldn’t know. We’re not supposed to exist, much less read for pleasure.”
“Stay on track,” the Babysitter interrupted. “And remember this isn’t about winning.”
Of course not. That doesn’t mean I can’t beat the others beyond recognition anyway.
Seth still couldn’t see how most of these people had made it on the show. The very way they were supposed to be here depended on them being nicer than everyone else on the street. Yet their very looks screamed their identities: swindlers, cheaters, and in short, losers in such deep debt that they would do anything for the prize money. You could see it in their smiles, in the way they talked, in their self-absorption even as they made their way one by one from backstage to be introduced on the show. These people would stop at nothing to get what they wanted.
But this was what this show wanted, wasn’t it?
The Host was wearing a mask – a physical mask, a grotesque one almost as bad as real human ones, with its gears and other unnatural features. No, maybe it wasn’t as bad as humanity’s masks. But behind it was concealed a man whose poker face could switch emotions in the blink of an eye, and convincingly, without any sense of conscience or feeling to hinder him from lying straight to your face with the friendliest smile. This could turn out to be very interesting.
“And now, ladies and gentlemen, please welcome your thirty-eighth contestant in Liar Game: Seth Grayson!”
The audience cheered as the teenager made his way to the middle of the stage. He was grimacing at the flashing lights, but it’s alright, it’s just for show, what’s with this smoke blowing out the sides of the stage? Hey, stay calm and keep your mind open, idiot. Focus on the crowd in front of you, don’t feel self-conscious, don’t feel embarrassed, don’t feel anything – no, I’m not feeling anything. Does it matter if people judge me anyway?
His charming smile revealed none of his feelings or thoughts as he coolly scanned the faces in the crowd. Most of them were Japanese and Korean, which made sense, seeing as the show had originated in Japan and then branched out to Korea. Most of them also looked pretty ordinary, which also made sense; it didn’t take celebrities or corrupt businessmen to be interested in watching something like this. But if humanity was interested in seeing a “game” where man tries to trick man into anything possible just for money, people must be in a worse condition than Seth thought.
This flashed through Seth’s head in a split second as he bowed to the audience. This show of respect wasn’t only in his blood; it was expected in both cultures that were now watching, and for situations like this, life was always about meeting expectations – meeting them just to betray them in the end.
What wretchedness. What life.
The Host gestured for Seth to take a seat on the couch in the middle of the stage, and the latter did so as the Host seated himself in the chair beside him, moving the mask he’d previously taken off.
“Well, Seth.” Look at his plastered smile. It could almost look real if it didn’t have the calculating look hovering behind it. “Here you are, the thirty-eighth contestant in Liar Game. How do you feel as you sit here on television right now?”
Huh. How should I feel? Will I play the idiot? The awe-struck nerd? The overly nice kid everyone pities? You should’ve thought through this before, Seth. Well, why not the last option.
Seth smiled and ran his fingers through his black hair, pushing it out of his dark blue eyes like it was an old habit of his. It would become a habit for the duration of this show, just for fun, just to see if he could remember to keep up a quirk like that. “Honestly, it’s…”
Short pause, then keep it going, just enough to keep it natural. Oh, keep up the smile, too, the slightly nervous one as your foot taps on the ground. “It’s… unreal. I mean, I haven’t even graduated from high school yet, but I have the chance to win… a million dollars?”
The Host smiled, his chiseled face looking a bit friendlier as he corrected, “Ten million.”
Seth widened his eyes and whistled in appreciation. “That would definitely pay off a college debt, wouldn’t it?”
Some people in the audience murmured in laughter, and the Host laughed along, though his eyes betrayed the slightest look of realization. He’s onto me, isn’t he? He knows his masks.
“But Seth,” the Host asked, watching him closely, “are you willing to step on others, deceive them, trick them in any way possible for that money? Are you here to win?”
Seth pretended to hesitate. Because you already know the answer to that; I’m not here to win. No, I’m here to bring you down. This game for me is just that – a game. And you’re going to lose to the government, all your secrets, all your thievery, all your work in the shadows and pulling of strings in the background.
But Seth smiled at the Host, giving the man a peek into his true intentions as he let his mask slip down for just an instant. “I’m here to beat the game.”
Not the contestants. Not the show itself. The game. And the one who made it, too.