The 76th Hunger Games

Ashby is the daughter of Katniss Everdeen. She has been told barely anything about the Hunger Games purely because of her mother's fear. This puts Ashby in a dangerous position. She and her family are being followed and it's up to Ashby to find out who they are and what they want. But what if ... they want her?

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7. Moving on

Hey guys, I'm sorry for the lateness (again) - I'm so rubbish at keeping up with my stories and this one is really nowhere near as long but I couldn't imagine ending the chapter any other way so I guess you just have to bear with me :P Anyway, enjoy...

 

Chapter Six

Moving on

The shock didn’t even register on my face. I didn’t hesitate. Fixing an arrow in place, I aimed straight for his head.

“Stay where you are.” I warned. Danyell froze only metres away but his sword was still poised to strike. “Drop the weapon.” I tried to keep my voice steady but it was difficult. I could feel my whole body shaking with the stress of the situation.

But he didn’t drop the sword. And his dark eyes fix on me. Quite frankly, I was freaking out.

He started moving towards me, awkwardly. Which made me realise that he’d been hurt. By the way he’s staggering, I’d say he injured his right knee.

God, where is Leonis when you need him? I thought in annoyance.

“Danyell, stay away from me.” I snapped but he ignored me. I realised in horror that I was actually going to have to shoot him. Okay... I thought, taking a deep breath. You can do this...

I let the arrow loose and it hit his injured knee, sending him crashing onto the floor. I cringed as the blood began to flood out of his freshly opened wound.

I knocked another arrow into place.

“Stay there.” I hissed. “If you move an inch, I will kill you.” Danyell didn’t move, thank god. And seriously, I was so relieved that he even bought it. I was lying my head off.

I felt sick to my stomach. The first time I’d ever shot someone, it had been an accident. And besides, Leo had been okay. But this... I had been well aware of myself and what I was aiming at. I was giving Mr Coin what he wanted!

But I held my ground. Danyell could still kill me, even in his condition. And I was sure if I gave him the chance he would.

“If you’re going to kill me...” Danyell spluttered and thick, congealed blood spilled out. I gagged. “You might as well get it over with.”

“I’m not going to kill you!” I cried incredulously. Danyell looked up at me, shocked. It was hard to believe I even knew this boy! Well, I didn’t really know him but I knew enough to see that he wasn’t a killer, just someone who wanted to fit in.

“You’re not?” He asked.

“No!” I replied indignantly. Did he really think I could kill someone? Did I appear that heartless?

“So what are you going to do with me?” He asked softly. I stared carefully at him, realising how pale he had become. He was losing blood. Red was spilling out from his leg where the arrow was still perfectly in place.

“First off, we need to do something about your leg.” I sighed. “Give me your weapon, Danyell.” His dark eyes widened and he looked up at me in shock. I could sense his unease with me.

“I won’t hurt you, I promise.” I told him gently. “I just need to be sure you won’t hurt me either.” He appeared to process it and after a moment’s pause, tossed his sword far to the left. I watched it land about two metres away.

Right... I thought. Now to treat his wound. Gross.

I knelt in front of Danyell and looked at the arrow wedged in his knee cap. That could be a problem, I thought in disgust. I knew from hunting animals that pulling the arrow out would cause him great pain, even led to him bleeding out. So, that’s a no go.

I snapped off the end of the arrow and looked around. I needed something to help me clean the wound once I managed to get rid of the arrow. I scanned the bushes one by one.

No... no... no... I saw what I was looking for. I got up and collected some of it. Danyell was getting paler and if I didn’t hurry up, he might die because of me.

I realised in horror that my only option was to pull the arrow out. I was aware of other ways to treat something like this... but I had none of the equipment necessary in these woods.

“Danyell, this... is going to hurt.” I gulped, shakily meeting his gaze. “You... you might even die so please just stay still and try not to make too much noise. If someone finds us now, we’re both dead.” He nodded weakly.

Here goes nothing...

I removed my jacket and put it to one side. I was going to need that to stop the bleeding.

“Right, I’m going to need you to lie down and rest your leg on that rock.” I pointed to a rock a few metres away. He looked quizzically at me but let me drag him over to it without a word.

He carefully rested his leg on the rock. Leg above heart level, check.

I took hold of the arrow head and quickly pulled it out, ignoring Danyell’s yelp as I applied the yarrow and firmly knotted my jacket around his wound. Hopefully that would stop the bleeding. If not...

I didn’t finish the thought.

I knelt down beside him.

“Danyell are you okay?” Small nod. “Can you breath okay?” Another nod. “Are you cold?”

“A... a little.” He replied. I’d expected as much. I grabbed the packs, yanked out the blanket and wrapped it gently around him. Just as swiftly, I swiped up the gloves and helped him get his hands into them.

“Can I sleep?” Danyell asked, his eyes fluttering weakly. I nodded and pushed his damp hair from his face. Not long after, his breathing fell steady and I knew he was asleep. Good, I thought. His body needs time to heal.

I ripped part of my sleeve and doused it in water from the bottle, placing it carefully on Danyell’s head. The fever was breaking, which meant he should be getting better.

I breathed out a sigh of relief and sat myself a few metres away from him, up against the tree. All my energy was gone. From arguing with Leo to shooting Danyell and then having to save him, I felt barely able to stand.

Maybe if I just... close my eyes for a moment... I thought wearily.

 

When I woke up, I was being shaken vigorously.

“What were you thinking!?” Leo shouted in my face, grabbing me by the jacket and yanking me to my feet. I struggled to get my bearings, finding myself leaning against him for a moment before I straightened up.

I blinked uncomprehendingly as he rambled on, trying to get to grips with what he was saying but not managing to even string together a single sentence.

“I can’t even believe – are you even listening to me?” He looked carefully at me with those eyes that were enveloping me in their gaze. God, he was too distracting for his own good.

“Umm... yes?” I pushed some hair away from my face and stumbled over to Danyell, gently laying the back of my hand to his forehead. The fever was gone. He’d be okay, by the looks of things.

“Ashby, how could you save him?” Leo sighed, kneeling down next to me. “I saw him with Rae.” That jogged me out of the state I was in.

“What? When were you with Rae?” I snapped, pulling away. Leo watched me in confusion before realising what I’d said.

“That’s what you took from that sentence?” He rolled his eyes in annoyance, laughing lightly to himself. “After I left you, I stormed off. I almost ran straight into them. He was there, out in the open, talking to Rae. Neither of them had weapons. And I’m pretty sure... I’m pretty sure she was... seducing him.” The words almost sounded like they were spat from his mouth. I stared at him, confused. I thought he’d said he didn’t care about Rae. His reaction to Danyell suggested otherwise.

I gently touched his upper arm.

“Leonis, we’re both tired... and slightly unravelled right now. You probably imagined it... Danyell, he’s not like that.” I told him softly. Leo pulled back and got up, going straight for the backpacks.

He started viciously searching through them, his face calm but his eyes blazing with fury. It was impossible... Danyell would never fall for Rae’s pathetic attempts to control people. Maybe she’d persuaded him to attack me but he’d seemed sorry afterwards.

And besides... I could never kill him. He was all I had left of home.

“We have to move him.” Leo stated all of a sudden, once he put the packs down. “We have to get back to the willow tree.” I stared incredulously at him. Was he serious? Danyell had been shot by an arrow and he wanted to move him?

“Leo... he’s hurt. We can’t move him. He needs to heal. He-”

“If we stay here, we’ll die!” He yelled, reaching for his axe. Something inside of me snapped and I swiped up my bow and a stray arrow, aiming directly for his chest. He froze and I realised he didn’t have the axe in his hand. All he’d done is wedged it in a tree to the left of us.

I lowered my weapon, feeling myself blush in embarrassment.

Leo walked slowly over towards me. Taking a firm grip of the bottom of my shirt, he pulled me towards him.

“When are you going to learn to trust me?” He asked, searching my eyes. I breathed out ruggedly.

“Whilst we’re here... I don’t know if I can trust anyone.” I replied, looking to my feet. His breath was hot on my face. I could tell he was disappointed in me... again. I wanted to trust him but here... we were both weapons. All we could do here was kill or be killed.

“Ash, whilst we’re here, I swear I will do everything I can to keep you safe. You might not believe me, but it’s true. You’re getting out of here, not me.” We were too close for comfort, close enough that I would believe anything he said. But I couldn’t trust him... couldn’t trust anyone.

I pulled back just as Danyell began to stir.

“Let’s get him back to the willow.” I told Leo, refusing to make eye contact. It was bad enough that I had to sleep unguarded near him... I could feel myself letting my guard down completely. That was a luxury I couldn’t afford... not here, not now.

And besides, having ties to Leo would end up hurting me. If he was hurt in here, I knew I’d risk anything to help him. That could get me killed. And, as much as it pained me, I knew he’d do the same.

Having Danyell around might prove to work in my favour. Surely Leo would back off now there was another guy around. I chanted the words in my head, trying to reassure myself. But I knew I was putting Leo in danger. Him even being anywhere near me was going to cost him his life. Rae was already out for me. The chances of her and the Careers coming for the both of us were high. It was only a matter of time.

Moving Danyell proved harder than expected. We’d had to wake him up and even then he could barely stand. He couldn’t put any kind of pressure on his leg and Leo ended up very nearly carrying him. I had my bow at the ready, scouting ahead to make sure we couldn’t be ambushed.

My head was throbbing from the day’s events. All I wanted to do was sleep. But I knew I couldn’t. I had to stay awake. Leo and Danyell were counting on me. If Rae and the Careers found us now, I was all that was between us and them. I was their only protection.

I worried my way through the journey back to the willow. All this madness was doing my head in. I didn’t have the mental capacity for this.

We set down the rucksacks and our weapons, knowing Danyell needed to be lifted into the tree, which would take all of our strength. I clambered up into the willow, yanking Danyell up by his arms with all of my might. It took a while, but eventually, we got him up.

Danyell fell asleep immediately and I slid back down the trunk, grabbing my bow instantly. Before I could take one step, Leo materialised at my side, gently but firmly taking hold of my arm.

“Where are you going?” He asked sternly. I pulled away from him, shouldering my quiver, which had a good dozen arrows left inside. He fell into step beside me.

“Rae’s out there.” I snapped. “I’m going to find her.” Leo’s eyes widened and he grabbed my jacket, anchoring me between his body and a tree. I rolled my eyes.

“Ash, don’t be ridiculous.” Leo replied carefully, his face screwed up with concern. “She’s dangerous.” I attempted to shove him away.

“So am I.” I told him in a pissed off tone. He leaned his forehead against mine, our noses brushing. It was like he knew when we were close he could get anything he wanted from me. I was paralysed, anchored to the spot.

“I know you are,” He muttered. “But we shouldn’t seek her out. I don’t want you to get hurt.” This time I shoved him away hard enough to give me some time to wriggle away.

She is the only one who’ll get hurt.” I replied coldly. Leo studied me for a moment and I wondered whether or not he’d try and stop me. “Whatever you had with Rae.... whatever it is you still have – it’s over now. It’s either me or her and I think you know that. And I can’t just sit around and wait for her to hunt me down!”

Apparently the guilt trip worked. Leo didn’t try to stop me, not that he came with me either.

That’s how I ended up storming around the forest in a mad hunt for Rae and the Careers. I realised a few minutes after I left Leo standing by the willow that the very idea of going after Rae was absurd but my stubbornness got in the way of any rational behaviour I might’ve taken. I couldn’t go back without at least trying.

And something about the way Leo had reacted to it made me jealous to the point where it was ridiculous, which I suspected was helping to fuel my crazy mood.

I just didn’t understand why he’d care what happened to her. He always seemed to be acting for her, playing the role of Leonis Coin, the perfect son, the perfect killer.

And the way he’d assumed I would be the one to get hurt made me angry too. I wasn’t incapable of looking after myself and he of all people should’ve known that by now. The reactions he could pull out of me were quite terrifying actually.

I sighed, gripping my bow tightly. This is mad, I thought. I knew I needed to go back, but facing Leo without having done anything... it was a thought that mortified me.

I leant against a tree next to me for support. My feet ached and I was burnt out from all my anger. This crusade for the Career pack had gone too far, and I’d have to face Leo eventually. Now is a better time than any, I thought.

To top off my bad mood, I was pretty sure I was sunburnt.

I got to my feet wearily and started the long trek home, running through my head what I could possibly say to Leonis without admitting defeat. He’d know if I came back looking like I did that I’d failed and I couldn’t bear to face him.

A twig snapped to the left of me. I paused, my body practically paralysed. Voices started coming closer. Oh God... It was the Careers. The stupidity of my actions hit me full force.

I did the first thing that came into my head; I scampered up a tree beside me in the hopes that I wouldn’t be seen. The branches would offer some camouflage... it would have to be enough. Otherwise, I was dead.

Rae approached first, shortly followed by the two other Careers, Braden and Angelyna. There were three others, unfamiliar faces, people I couldn’t recognise.

Clearly, they’d been bribed... or seduced. The very thought of the way Leo had said that word almost brought me to tears. How could he still care about someone like her? Or better yet... how could he ever care about someone like me?

The mere thought of Rae being capable of seducing someone was ridiculous to me... but then again, she was undeniably beautiful and probably knew how to use that to her advantage... as a weapon.

Had Leonis been seduced by Rae too? The mere thought of it made me sick. And judging by his reaction, it appeared he had.

They stopped directly below the tree I was perched in. I caught my breath.

“We should have found them by now!” Rae complained. “After days of searching, we should have killed that bitch and got Leo back.” I hated that she called him Leo. I resolved to never call him that again.

“Calm down, Rae.” Angelyna replied calmly. “We’ll find them.” Braden nodded in agreement. If they looked up... I’m completely done for...

“When we do...” Rae warned. “She’s mine.”

I didn’t climb down from the tree for at least ten minutes after that. I’d gone into a state of paranoia, thinking Rae was double bluffing when she’d walked away and would return to kill me at any moment.

And she wouldn’t kill me quickly, like she had done with Siena. Oh no, she’d want it to be as long and painful as she possibly could... and Leonis... he was in love with her... so he’d let her.

I never should have trusted him, I thought angrily. I never should have let him in.

He was softening me up for Rae. As soon as I let my guard down, they’d kill me. I was in a lose-lose situation.

But I had to go back. Leo was with all my stuff. As soon as he fell asleep, I could get as far away from him as possible. I started to hatch the plan in my head as I went along.

I’d get Leo to take first watch and leave as he slept with half the supplies. He wouldn’t need the other half as I’m sure he’d go and find Rae as soon as he could but I thought it fair. After all, it wasn’t like I couldn’t get more.

 

I reached the willows just as the sun began to set. Before I’d even started to climb up the tree, Leo was clambering down to meet me. His eyes were wild with concern.

Before I could protest, he grabbed me by the waist and pulled me against him in a long, warm hug. I clung onto him, realising leaving was going to be harder than I’d thought.

“I was so worried about you.” He let out a long, shaky breath. I rolled my eyes, not daring to let go.

“Why?” I laughed. “Nothing went wrong.” He pushed me away and grabbed my shoulders. His dark eyes studied my own, as if he were searching for the answers within.

“You found Rae?” He asked in disbelief. Ye of little faith, I thought sullenly. I realised his voice always softened when he said her name, like even that was precious to him. I felt like I’d been stabbed.

“Technically, she found me.” I shrugged. “She was talking about you.” His eyes widened... he wanted me to elaborate. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t talk to him about her. Not when my heart was aching this way...

“Leo...” I sighed, correcting myself. “Leonis, I’m not in the mood. I don’t wanna talk about this.” He nodded like he understood. But he didn’t. He couldn’t. It wasn’t his heart that was shattering. It wasn’t his mind on overdrive. He could trust whoever he wanted. He could love whomever he chose. He could take his goddamn pick between Rae and me.

And I hated that I might be second choice.

I tried to walk away but he caught me by the waist, dragging me closer. I clung onto his shirt for support.

“Ash, are you alright?” He asked, his brow crinkling. My eyes filled up with the tears I’d tried so hard to fight against.

“Leo... I don’t know if I can do this.” I whispered like a small, frightened child. He pulled me in for another hug, a tighter bear-hug that was scarily comforting. I snuggled into his chest, despite myself.

“Hey, you’re the strongest, bravest, most stubborn person I’ve ever met. If anyone can do this... it’s you, Ash.” He shifted slightly and suddenly, our noses were brushing. I caught my breath.

My arms were still looped around his neck and his arms around my waist kept me anchored to the spot. Leo began to close the small distance remaining between our lips.

I wanted more than anything to be able to kiss him back... to be able to trust him with all of me... but I didn’t. Yet somehow, I couldn’t force myself to pull away.

I could feel the heat of his lips, which were nearing by the second. This is wrong...

I ducked my head, breathing out heavily. Leo loosened his grip and I pulled away.

“Why do you keep fighting me, Ash?” Leo asked, frustrated. He looked hurt, rejected. It killed me to know I’d done that to him... that I had knowingly made him like that.

“You’re in love with Rae!” I cried angrily. “Don’t bother denying it. I can see it as clear as night and day.” Leo said nothing, confirming my suspicions. I sighed. I needed to leave... now.

I started for the backpacks, emptying them out.

“What are you doing?” Leo asked in confusion, watching me separate the contents into two piles. I ignored him.

 He forced me to my feet, staring at me in realisation.

“You’re leaving?” His voice broke. God, he was beautiful. This would be the hardest thing I’d ever done. Leo’s grip on my wrists tightened, as if that could stop me from going.

“You’re not safe with me, Leo.” I whispered. “And I’m not safe around you-”

“Ash, I would never hurt you-”

“That’s not what I meant.” I smiled sadly. “I know you wouldn’t hurt me. Not if you could help it. But every moment with you kills me inside, Leo. I can’t take it any longer.” He stared at me uncomprehendingly. He’d get it eventually.

I wriggled free and started packing the rucksacks again.

Once I was finished, I turned to Leo and offered him a smile. He stared blankly at me.

“Look after Danyell for me?” I asked, or half begged. Leo gave me a curt nod. His eyes looked hollow, as if he’d detached himself from the situation. Was that how he dealt with difficult things? Shut himself in his mind?

I began to walk away.

“Ash?” He called. I turned. “Be safe.” I was almost disappointed when he didn’t come after me.

 

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