23 Cannons: The 69th Annual Hunger Games.

24 tributes are reaped by the Capitol to enter the 69th Hunger Games, marking the end of the sixth decade of Games. And as they all prepare for the fight of their lives, none of them know the true extent of the twists that will face them in the arena. With rebels, liars, and killers thrown into a deadly arena governed by power-mad Gamemaker, who will live to hear every one of the twenty three cannons sound out?

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36. And Then There Were Eight

Overnight, the snow had melted, thawing the arena out. The trees once again were adorned with healthy green leaves, and there was a warm breeze blowing around. It was as if the arena had reverted back to the first day, except there were only ten tributes left alive. For the few that were alive, the springtime weather was a blessing. None of them would have to suffer the same tragic fate as Brinn did (although, only Kaye knew of this).

For Alexis, the warmth was the single greatest thing to happen to her since being thrown into this arena. The weather was pleasant, which meant that they could easily traverse the arena without worrying about exposure. And not to mention there were now only ten tributes left alive; the chances of her alliance getting sponsored were increasing with every passing moment. However, the time still wasn't quite right for the escape plan: ten was a good number, but Alexis knew that the sponsors would only care about her alliance until after the final eight. For a moment, Alexis' mind drifted to the Capitol, where their mentors would be trying to garner sponsors. She knew for a fact that two victors in particular would be doing all they could to get people to sponsor their tributes: Maia Kentner, and Elektra Sparke. Both victors had to deal with the fact that their best friends had been reaped. And even though Alexis had told Maia not to get upset about it (she did not let Maia know about the escape plan; Alexis knew that if Maia was aware, then once the tributes had broken out Maia would be tortured for information), she knew that Maia would be trying her hardest to get sponsors. And Alexis supposed it wouldn't be too hard to do; after all, she was a victor's kid. Alexis just hoped that Maia was not the one that would be sending the gift that would kick off the most drastic event to ever take place in the Hunger Games.

She looked out of the window, and saw the barren ground once more. Alexis was currently in the dining room, along with Xander, Rose, and Dixie. Rose and Dixie were eating. Xander was sat opposite Alexis, looking lost in thought. He ran his hands through his hair as he stared at the table.
"Something up?" Alexis asked. Xander looked up, seeming slightly startled. He adjusted his glasses.
"Nothing much," he said with a sigh. "It's just that I realised something."
"What?" Alexis replied. She wasn't sure whether or not to begin to speak cryptically in order to throw off the Gamemakers or not. Instead she waited for Xander to continue.
"Tomorrow will mean that we'll have been in this arena for an entire week," Xander said. "It just doesn't feel right, you know?"
"Yeah, I know," Alexis said. She chose her words carefully. "It feels like only yesterday I was at the reaping, and now there are only ten of us left."
"Yeah," Xander said. He slumped over into his arms. "And it's gotten to the point where I feel more familiar with this house than my own." It was now that Alexis realised that Xander was trying to play the sponsors. She winked at him. The action was done before the Capitol would be able to notice. Xander lifted his head ever so slightly to show that he understood.
"Tell me about it," Alexis said. She leaned back in her seat. The sun began to shine through the window, the light catching her hair. She realised how filthy it was getting. But there wasn't much she could do about it, really. "District what? I was born and raised in this arena!" Xander laughed. Alexis couldn't tell if it was acting or genuine. She laughed along with him. She wasn't sure about her own laughter's authenticity either.
"But who knows?" Xander said. "We might be out of here sooner than you think." 
"Maybe," Alexis replied nonchalantly. "I guess it sort of depends on whether or not we get our asses in gear." 
"But we can't exactly do much at the moment, can we?" Xander countered. "Sure, we have a Career on our side, but we wouldn't even know where to begin."
"Come on now, Xander," Alexis said. "Don't be like that. We'll be out of here before you know it." This conversation felt so awfully forced that Alexis was sure she was going to gag on her words. But it was staged enough for the Capitol to buy into it hook, line, and sinker. Hopefully they would get them to sponsor a ridiculous gift that would contain all Alexis needed to commence the escape plan. Maybe not now, but soon.

Alexis stood up, and walked across the dining room. She left the room, and walked into the hallway. It was now that she realised that the ticking of the clock that had been constantly sounding out in the background had silenced. A chill ran through her. Most people would not understand why this was worrying, but Alexis knew it clearly: the Gamemakers had killed the clock so that they would be able to hear every word spoken in this house more clearly. They were watching her closely. Very closely. Dangerously so. In fact, Alexis realised that they probably had several cameras trained on the every motion made by the tributes. Straight away, she relaxed her posture, and tried to make it so that her actions weren't suspicious: she had to let them know she was not aware of their increased surveillance.

With this in mind, Alexis continued down the hallway, and to the basement stairs. She quickly descended them, reaching the comfortable basement. To the Capitol, it looked as if Alexis was just going to the basement to perhaps check up on supplies or something. But to Alexis, it was a mission: she was going to search through every last bag, and see if any of them contained the item to get them out of here. She was aware that time was running short: they were beginning to question why four tributes were so perfectly living together without any form of suspicion. They would know that something was being planned. Something this little group of tributes did not want the Capitol to know of. And once they had enough evidence, Alexis knew the Capitol would kill every last member of the alliance. That couldn't happen. She had to begin the escape plan earlier than she hoped for.

Alexis rushed across the basement floor, and to the first bag. It was one of the bags taken from the first day, but Alexis did not think about this. She emptied the contents to the floor, and felt her heart sink as she saw only food and water. But that was only one bag: they had a couple more. Alexis filled this bag up, and repeated with the rest of them. Nothing. Only survival supplies. Nothing to start the escape plan. Right now, her token was still useless. Alexis was sat on the ground, and almost felt an urge to scream. The Capitol was closing in on them, meaning they had very little time, and the only way Alexis would be able to get out of here would be if she directly bargained with them. But she had enough sense not to let any of this show, and instead she casually stood up, shrugged it off, and climbed the stairs again. She hoped that the Capitol wouldn't find the actions too suspicious, but Alexis knew deep down that losing her cool like that was not going to have any positive effects. Hopefully it wouldn't condemn them to having zero sponsors.

The hallway didn't reach Alexis soon enough. By the time she was back to the location where she had discovered the lack of the clock ticking, the basement seemed like the most suffocating place imaginable. But she did not let this show, and kept her head held high, walking back into the dining room, where Xander was stood looking at her. His face was plastered with confusion.
"What was that about?" he asked. Alexis gave him a stern look, one that told him that it was going to be incredibly hard to tell him without seeming suspicious. A slight nod responded. He knew.
"I just got thinking about when we go out," Alexis said, carefully selecting every word down to the exact emphasis. "You see, I was checking that there was enough food and water to last us a while in case it's still a little while longer before we get things into motion." This would also match up with what the Gamemakers saw. Alexis felt a cold sweat run down the back of her neck. This was the hardest deception so far: they were being cornered.
"Oh," Xander replied. "You could have just said instead of storming off like that."
"Sorry," Alexis said. "The thought just consumed me without warning."
"It's fine," Xander said. He smiled warmly. "Nothing to worry about."
"Thanks," Alexis said. "I thought you wouldn't forgive me." She let out a sigh. "Now, whilst I now know that we have enough for at least two weeks, be prepared to set off earlier. I just have a feeling we'll be heading out sooner than planned." This was all she needed to say. The message conveyed to Xander, whilst the Capitol saw it as Alexis' anticipation to shed blood. She breathed a sigh of relief. They would be given a reprieve. For now.

--

Kylee was the first to wake. She blinked her eyes a few times, allowing the cave to come into view. Her body was tangled in the warm blanket. But then she realised something was different. Her face felt warm. Without a wasted second, Kylee glanced over at the mouth of the cave. Her jaw dropped. The huge wall of snow that had been partially blocking it had vanished. She noticed small flower buds blossoming on the green grass in front of the cave. 
"Hey, Markus," she called over to her ally as she freed herself from the blanket. "Get your ass moving: we've hibernated through winter." A small part of Kylee had actually considered this. But then she realised that there was no way the Capitol would let them sleep that long: they would have woken them up before that.
"What the hell are you on about, Harker?" Markus said groggily as he rubbed his eyes.
"The snow's gone," Kylee said flatly as she folded up her blanket. She carried it over to the bag, and placed it in with little effort. Markus would not have the same fortune.
"Really?" Markus exclaimed, raising an eyebrow.
"Just look outside," Kylee said. She pointed to the mouth of the cave. The morning sun was shining in brightly.
"Well I'll be damned," Markus said, standing up. "I guess the whole usefulness of following tracks in the snow is gone."
"Seems that way," Kylee said, shrugging her shoulders. "But it does mean that the tributes will be more likely to move about: we may be able to catch someone out in the open."
"Maybe," Markus said. He folded up his own blanket. It was not done as neatly as Kylee's was. Kylee did not notice nor care. "I guess we'll find out when we get going."
"Yeah," Kylee agreed. She reached into another bag, and grabbed two oranges. She threw one at Markus, and began to peel her own. He caught it perfectly. "Eat up. We might as well make use of the good weather while it lasts." Kylee discarded the peel of the orange, letting it fall to the floor, and after swiftly consuming it, she slung her bag over her shoulder, and stepped out of the cave. Whilst she did this, Markus ate his orange whilst struggling to place his blanket in the bag.

The sun was bright and warm, and the trees were lined with fresh green leaves. The air was pleasant, and smelled of spring. Birds sang in the treetops, and flowers were sprouting out from the grass under Kylee's feet. She had to admit it looked beautiful. However, at the same time, she ran through her head how this could affect the outcome of the Games: the thick foliage would mean that tributes would be harder to spot, and this could potentially give them the upper hand. At the same time, Kylee and Markus would be able to sneak about without being noticed, and catch some unsuspecting tribute by surprise. As Kylee thought this, she realised something. There were only ten of them left: last night's cannon had confirmed this. She wouldn't find out who the poor sucker was until tonight though, so Kylee didn't focus on the identity of the deceased. Instead she focused on how her rate of survival had now increased up to ten percent. It was still pretty low, but compared to how she had just over a four percent chance of survival at the start, it was a massive improvement. It was whilst Kylee was thinking this that Markus emerged from the cave, shielding his eyes from the sun.
"Hey," he said. "We still heading west?"
"Yeah," Kylee replied. "Why wouldn't we be?"
"Not a clue," Markus said with a shrug. "I was just making sure that you weren't gonna go change your mind because it's a beautiful day or something." Kylee punched him on the shoulder for this comment. His smug smirk remained.
"At least I don't resort to making comments about how you look like the type to be a mindless lackey," she retorted, folding her arms. Markus chuckled.
"Don't get your panties in a bunch Harker," Markus said. "I was just screwing with you."
"Whatever," Kylee said coldly. "Can we just move on already?"
"Fine by me," Markus said. He walked past Kylee, taking the lead. Kylee let Markus have this illusion of power, indulging his blind trust. If he was smart enough he would walk behind so that his back wasn't exposed to a girl with a proficiency for throwing knives. But Kylee would not act upon this impulse: there were still too many tributes out there. Disposing of Markus would be reckless at this stage in the Games.

Markus pushed through a thick bush, clearing the slightest of paths. Kylee followed him, taking in the greenery. Part of her was surprised as to why the Gamemakers had improved the living conditions of the arena. She supposed it was because the Capitol was finally satisfied after having a dry period consisting of no deaths, but had no definite proof for this. It might just be that the arena was on a timer, cycling through the seasons. The other part of her, though, was eyeing up all this lush plant life around her. Whilst it looked pretty, Kylee knew for a fact that the Gamemakers were far more deceptive than to just give them all something as nice as this. The flowers were probably laced with acid or something. Conscious of this thought, Kylee steered away from a red rose that bloomed in front of her. She fleetingly wondered if any tribute was going to be as stupid as to die as a result of these plants. Kylee did not know that only three tributes were currently in the forest, and one of them would soon be out. She could never be sure of this unless she somehow gained the ability to see across the entire arena. Kylee smiled at this. If she did have this ability, then it sure would be a damn sight easier to locate the rest of the competition, and win much sooner. But no, she still had to go through and search for them in a huge arena. At least it would wear Markus down, helping Kylee to gain a slight advantage over him. Not that she had to seriously consider fighting him for a while yet.

Kylee sighed to herself: these things weren't worth thinking about. Right now, she just had to focus on the task at hand: finding another tribute, and taking them out. But the longer they went without finding someone, the less likely it seemed to be that they were actually going to find someone. Kylee tried to not be discouraged by it, but she had a hunch Markus wouldn't take finding nothing very well. And she needed him to be stable. It would save time when they did find someone else. These thoughts were shattered when Kylee tripped on something.

She fell to the ground with a thud, the contents of the bag slamming against her from inside their container. Markus paused, and looked down at her.
"You okay, Harker?" he asked, offering a hand. Kylee took it, and stood up.
"Yeah," she said. "But what the hell caused me to fall?"
"Take a look for yourself," Markus said. He pointed behind her. Kylee turned, and looked down, staring at what was responsible for her fall. It was a discarded shirt and jacket, belonging to a tribute that was definitely smaller than both Kylee and Markus. She picked up the shirt, and found that it was stiff. A few slushy pieces of snow fell from the underside of the shirt, landing on the jacket. They melted in just over fifty seconds. Kylee and Markus did not time this. The only ones that would be aware of this fact would be the Gamemakers who were timing the Games down to the millisecond. One thing Kylee did realise, however, was that because of the snow, these clothes had been here since last night at the earliest. She was still confused as to how they got here though, and turned to Markus.
"Clothing?" she said. "But what sane rational human being would take their damn clothes off whilst the world's freezing around them?"
"Maybe they weren't that sane," Markus said knowingly. This intelligence that Markus never really flaunted irritated Kylee in ways he would never understand.
"What do you mean?" Kylee asked, humouring him. Markus flashed a smile at her. She resisted the urge to punch him in the jaw.
"They might have been suffering from hypothermia," Markus said. "In the later stages, you end up undressing because your body's temperature is so low that it's pumping blood fast enough to make you feel warm without actually helping you. People that reach this stage without any help usually die pretty quickly."
"Oh," Kylee said. "So you think that this might belong to whoever died last night?"
"It's a possibility," Markus suggested. "There's no way they would have been able to survive long without sufficient torso coverings. They probably froze to death in the night or something."
"Well, that doesn't matter, does it?" Kylee said. "What matters is that we now only have eight others to take out before the endgame."
"Yeah," Markus said. "I guess that's the most important thing."
"Although," Kylee said. "There might be a chance that the owner of this clothing was actually killed by another tribute last night, which would mean that their killer could still be pretty close by."
"Harker, you're a genius," Markus said. "Now, which way do you think they went?"
"I don't know," Kylee said. "But from a guess, I'd probably say north."
"Then we're heading north," Markus said. He began to run ahead. "Come on!"
"Fine," Kylee said, rolling her eyes as she jogged after him. His enthusiasm was unbelievably obnoxious. She clenched her scythe tightly as she followed Markus: if the tribute was close, then she would need to be prepared to fight if she found them first. If Markus did though, then Kylee 
would just stand and watch.

The two tributes kept running north for around an hour or so, until they became aware of the buzzing. Kylee was the first to notice, and slowed down as they passed by larger trees. Markus soon realised that Kylee was falling behind, and soon stopped. He looked at her quizzically.
"What is it?" he asked.
"Don't you hear it?" Kylee responded.
"Hear what?" Markus said. Kylee rolled her eyes.
"The buzzing," she said. Markus opened his mouth to respond, but she cut him off. "Listen." Markus fell silent, and listened intently. The same buzzing sound that had reached Kylee's ears also reached his. In this time, Kylee surveyed the trees, and her eyes went wide with surprise as she looked up the trunks. Countless papery nests were hanging off of them, each one swarming with billions of golden shapes. Markus noticed the look on Kylee's face.
"Are you okay?" he asked. Kylee shook her head.
"We have to get out of here," she said. Her tone was harsh, and fraught with panic.
"Why?" Markus asked. "What about the other tribute?"
"Tracker jackers," Kylee said, backing away slowly. The swarms of the wasps hadn't seemed to notice her yet. 
"What?"
"Look up," Kylee said, this time more harshly. Markus followed her gaze. His face turned pale.
"Holy crap," he said. "There are billions of them."
"And apparently we're still sticking around," Kylee said dryly. Above her, more tracker jackers began to emerge from their nests. The Gamemakers were preparing an attack. Because for some reason, the two of them were the scapegoats for Muttations. "You know, whilst we're about to be freaking murdered." Markus didn't reply. This lull in the conversation was enough time for the tracker jackers to begin to descend.
"Run for it!" Markus yelled as the golden cloud drew closer. For just a moment, Kylee found herself unable to move, enticed by the swarm as it increased in size whilst decreasing the distance between them and herself. Markus ran past her. This was enough to spur her into action.

Kylee did not look back as she ran in the opposite direction of the swarm of killer wasps. She was running faster than ever before, but she knew that it would be useless: the tracker jackers were known for being relentless. Markus was ahead of her, blindly pushing past trees and bushes in a desperate attempt to flee from the Muttations. One branch caught Kylee in the gut. She let out a wheeze of pain, and doubled over for no more than two seconds. This was enough time for Kylee to hear the buzzing clearly in her ears. She practically leaped into action as she darted through the forest, eventually catching up to Markus. He looked the most afraid she had ever seen him, and that was saying something. Kylee put these thoughts aside as she jumped over a bush, crushing some flower beneath her feet as she sprinted onwards. She had no idea how long they would have to run for. Kylee glanced behind her for just a moment. It was if an explosion had set off, and a cloud of golden smoke was rushing towards them, fuelled by the explosive force. Only this cloud was sentient and vicious. Her legs began to ache.

"What the hell do we do?!" Kylee screamed to Markus as she swerved out of the way of a tree. Behind her, the cloud of wasps merely parted around it, returning to their formation immediately afterwards. Not even the thick leaves from the branches stopped them; not a single wasp was left behind. There were eighteen million in total chasing the two tributes.
"You think I'd be still running like hell if I had a plan?!" Markus yelled back. His face was red, and he was panting. Even he was beginning to feel fatigue. Kylee knew it was only a matter of time before one of them collapsed. A plan formed in her mind, but it would be a last resort: if she could get Markus to keel over, then that would buy her just enough time to get as far away as possible whilst the wasps swarmed him. It would mean losing such a good asset, but at this point, it was a matter of life or death. And Kylee was not going to greet death. Not today. Not until she was out of this arena, and a rich old lady. Then, and only then, would Kylee allow herself to die. Not a moment before. Kylee was not going to mention this idea to Markus in case it truly did come down to it.
"Well, think then!" she screamed. The buzzing was so loud that it was as if a million tribute cannons were going off at once in her ears. If one of them didn't come up with something, then they were screwed. Kylee glanced at Markus, and saw the gears turning in his head. He was trying to come up with a solution that wasn't entirely selfish. It was in this moment that Kylee realised Markus was using her just as much as she was using him. This did not sit well with her.
"I'm trying, damn it!" Markus yelled back. He was beginning to slow down, Kylee noticed. She then became aware that she was doing the same. A chill of terror struck her as this realisation became apparent. They had been running for longer than she had thought; it was only a matter of time before one of them fell, and they would be lost in the swarm of wasps. The distance between Kylee and Markus was still too large for her to easily sacrifice him, so if she felt herself on the verge of falling, there was no way she would be able to make him fall first. Kylee jumped over another bush. A single green leaf floated off, and hung in the air for a few moments as the two tributes sped away. The leaf was soon consumed by the swarm of wasps, ceasing to exist.

Both tributes were now beginning to head south. Kylee was aware of this, and realised that it meant they were losing their chances of finding the tribute. But she did not give a damn about that any more: her own life was all that mattered, and by god did she need to live. Her heart was hammering mercilessly inside her chest, threatening to explode from the strain she was putting on it. Every muscle in her body was aching. She was not sure that she could keep going for much longer. But the thing that bothered Kylee the most was that Markus seemed to be in a better shape than her. He would not fall first. She would. This realisation brought a scream to the tip of her mouth, threatening to explode from her lips. Kylee swallowed hard, suppressing the urge. She was not going to show weakness. Especially not because of a few wasps.

They entered a clearing. The late afternoon sun shone down harshly on the two tributes without the thick leaves to help with obscuring it. It was much larger than the ones discovered by the other tributes earlier on in the Games. It would take at least thirty seconds to flat-out sprint to the other side. In this time Kylee knew she would not be able to outrun the tracker jackers; on a flat area, they were unbeatable. Markus darted ahead, sprinting across the clearing. Kylee did not hesitate to follow. Her feet slammed against the grass for all she was worth, and she did not look back. She couldn't. Every part of her was focused on surviving. Kylee only looked ahead. She did not look down, and as such missed the small root raised ever so slightly above the ground. Her right foot caught on it. She fell forwards, hitting the grass with a thud. For Kylee, time seemed to slow down as her head whipped around. She saw Markus' head turn around, and his expression just begin to contort in horror, before Kylee faced the swarm of wasps. The golden cloud was terrifying as it rushed up to her. Now Kylee realised she was going to die. She shut her eyes, and focused on nothing as the distance between herself and the cloud was minimised to a few inches. And then nothing happened.

Kylee opened her eyes, and stared in horror, still laying down, as the swarm of tracker jackers rushed at her. The wasps then seemed to encounter an invisible wall, and began to rise up, trying to move over. There was no way through. Kylee blinked slowly, ensuring that she was alive, and this was definitely happening. It was.
"Harker," Markus said. He tentatively stepped towards her. "What's happening?"
"I have no idea," Kylee replied. She did not take her eyes off of the skyward-bound wall of wasps. The invisible barrier was keeping them from reaching her. "But I think we've been saved." The tracker jacker swarm then descended to the ground level, becoming one huge cloud, and then retreated into the woods, back in the direction of their nests. After several minutes, Kylee reached a hand forward. She touched something hard and invisible, but then as soon as she made contact, she was touching air.
"Some sort of barrier?" Markus asked. Kylee nodded.
"I think so," she said. Kylee began to stand up. She leaned on Markus as she did so, the only time she would wholly trust him to help her out. "Whatever it was, it's gone now."
"I'm just confused as to why it prevented them from killing you," Markus said. "No offence, Harker, but it would have been so easy for them to just off you there and then."
"Perhaps it's marking the edge of their territory," Kylee suggested. She folded her arms, and stood away from Markus. "I guess it would be too reckless to have a massive swarm of tracker jackers without some sort of boundaries. We probably got incredibly lucky." Kylee did not know that the Gamemakers were in fact planning to kill her, but she was spared because the audience was bored of tracker jackers in these Games.
"Yeah," Markus said in agreement. "And I don't know about you, but I don't want to push that luck: let's keep moving."
"I suppose that means finding that tribute's out of the question," Kylee said.
"I guess," Markus replied. "Unless we want to risk fighting more wasps than there are kids eligible for reaping."
"No way in hell am I going back there," Kylee said. Markus grinned.
"In that case, let's stick to the original plan of heading west," he said. "We may still find something worth our time." Kylee's mind immediately went to Dixie. If there was something beyond these woods, then she was certain the girl from 9 was there. The idea of completing the task of wiping out all those involved with the Career alliance brought a twisted smile to Kylee's face. It would bring a sense of satisfaction after enduring this hellish forest: barely escaping freezing to death, and then barely fleeing from a swarm of tracker jackers were two close calls too many.
"Okay then," Kylee said. Markus took the lead. She followed silently behind him. In front of them, the sun was beginning to go down. It was only a ten hour walk to the collection of houses where Alexis and her allies were situated. Factoring in sleep, it would take them closer to twenty four hours to get that far. They were not aware of these timings, but both Kylee and Markus knew that very soon they would be out of the forest, and that it would affect things greatly.

--

Kaye had run into some issues throughout the night due to the melting snow; he had lost the tracks of the tributes he had been following. For the most part of the day he had been doing little more than heading in the vague general direction that the tracks were going. Until the trees bloomed. At around noon today, Kaye's map once again became useful. The arena matched the piece of paper's depiction of it. And from the map, Kaye had realised that he had gone beyond where the other tributes had been at the time of the sponsors sending him the map. He was incredibly close to the village, in fact.

Behind Kaye, the setting sun dyed the fertile trees a deep golden colour, whilst at the same time lengthening the shadows. Kaye wasn't worried though: he knew he would be out of the forest before night took hold once more. The thought then hit him: he would be out of here before night. For the first time since the start of the Games, he would see something other than trees. The forest was the only part of the arena Kaye vaguely knew about, but the map meant that he could easily see what was out there, and how to go about getting there. But he didn't really need the map to locate the village: he was so close now. And Kaye was certain that by tonight, three more tributes would be dead.

The trees began to become less dense, and Kaye realised that this meant that he was drawing closer to leaving the forest. A sense of joy filled him, and if it weren't for the fact that Kaye was feeling the effects of walking all day, he would have rushed straight ahead, leaving as fast as possible. He was too tired for that. Although, Kaye did pick up his pace, ignoring his burning muscles. He would have plenty of time for resting later.

Without realising it, Kaye did in fact end up getting faster and faster, until he was practically running through the trees. He leaped over freshly grown bushes, and swerved around low-hanging branches. In no way was this helping his fatigue, but he did not care: the village was close. And once Kaye located the tributes, there would be three more cannons to join Brinn's. Kaye then realised something else: once these tributes were dead, there would only be seven tributes left alive. He would be that close to going home. It took all his strength not to scream in delight.

Suddenly, Kaye pushed past another branch, and found himself running across an open field. He looked ahead, and in the dimming light he saw a group of houses. He nearly fell to the ground in surprise. The village was just in front of him. He had done it. He had found the village. And Kaye knew that after tonight, the peace that surrounded the place would be shattered with spilled blood. Three more tributes would depart from the arena, lifeless. It sent a thrill of excitement down Kaye's body. But he reminded himself to remain calm: there was a chance that these tributes would fight back, quite viciously. He clutched the dagger tightly, and reassured himself that whilst they would have strength in numbers, Kaye would have the element of surprise. And that would be enough to cause their downfall.

Kaye walked past the first house, admiring the brickwork. The entire village was quaint and seemed to have a nostalgic value. But more importantly, looking around, Kaye could see that the houses were empty. It was clear that no tributes had touched any of the houses on the street he was walking down. The one-storey buildings were not housing his victims. However, as Kaye looked ahead, he saw houses with two floors. A smile crossed his face. This would be where he would hide if he was an alliance of tributes. The houses were large enough to hide in without being too large to easily escape from. He would search these houses thoroughly.

However, a sharp rumble in Kaye's stomach stopped this thought process. He hadn't eaten since this morning, and he was beginning to feel extremely hungry. So he decided dinner first, killing later. Besides, it would be nightfall very soon, and he would be able to use the cover of darkness to take them out from the shadows. The plan was perfect.

So Kaye walked over to the first two-storey house, and entered. He walked through into the dining room, and sat at the table, close to the window looking out at the street. His bag was placed on the table, and Kaye quickly opened it up, pulling out a bag of dried fruit. It was slightly bitter, but filling. His dagger lay in front of him, and, after finishing the meal, Kaye dozed off into a light sleep. He was not aware that the house next door to the one he was in housed the alliance of tributes he was looking for.

--

Emily sat next to Liam as they ate dinner. Salvera sat across from them quietly, drinking from her water bottle. Emily and Liam were holding hands. A large smile was plastered on Emily's face as she ate an energy bar. It had nearly been twenty four hours since last night, but in Emily's mind it felt like it was still happening. Liam loved her. And she had admitted that she loved him back. They had kissed. It all felt so unreal, but the unthinkable had happened: Emily and Liam had become a couple.

Salvera hadn't been informed, but Emily saw from the way the quiet girl from District 6 looked at them that she knew. After all, Salvera was the one that had alerted Emily to Liam's feelings for her in the first place. Emily supposed she should thank Salvera, but right now, all Emily wanted to do was to run back up to that bedroom with Liam, and kiss him all evening. But Emily was still rational, and knew that whilst her new relationship was a great thing, she couldn't let it blind-side her from her survival instincts. Tributes were still out there killing each other, and Emily knew that at any moment, they could encounter someone who was very likely to kill them. However, for just a moment, Emily wanted to believe that there was no danger, no threat, and only the two of them together. She let out a sigh, and let a dreamy smile cross her features. She could dream.
"Hey, Em," Liam said, snapping Emily out of her trance. She looked at him, and felt her heart grow wings. She felt so light that she could just float up and out of the arena. "What's gotten you so smiley?"
"Something stupid," Emily said, smiling at him.
"Tell me," Liam replied. He smiled back. Emily felt the need to kiss him rise up. "Since I'm pretty sure I'm your boyfriend now." Those words made Emily feel a giddy rush. Liam had just confirmed it: they were in a relationship. It was real. The love was real.
"Fine then," Emily said, aware of how stupidly she was smiling: her infatuation was beyond obvious. "I was just thinking about how great it would be if we could just have one day where we wouldn't have to worry about the Games, or dying. A day where we would only have to think about each other. It's stupid, but a girl can dream."
"It would be nice," Liam said. "But miracles don't happen, Em."
"I know," Emily said. "Hence why I said I was just thinking about it. I don't see it happening, you idiot." She playfully slapped Liam. He laughed, shaking it off. Emily blushed.
"Hey, look," Liam said between laughs. "Your face blends in with your hair."
"How hilarious," Emily said, rolling her eyes in faux irritation. Her smile did not fade. Instead, she looked up at Liam, her heart pounding in her chest. And then, without even meaning to, Emily brought her face to Liam's, and kissed him. Liam kissed back. The two of them seemed to melt together into one, lost in the kiss. Liam pulled away some time later, smiling warmly.
"Come on, Em, not in front of Salvera," Liam said jokingly. Salvera offered a meek smile.
"It's fine..." Salvera said. "I'm just happy to see you two happy..."

Emily let out a light giggle of joy. Everything seemed so right. The three of them were safe, warm, and together. It was almost as if their camaraderie was keeping the evils of the Games away. And for the moment, it was as if they could all just forget about the arena, the Capitol, and the other tributes. She looked away from Liam and Salvera for just a moment, and instead Emily looked outside. The sun had almost entirely set now, and long, eerie shadows were creeping along the street. At least the snow had melted; this time yesterday the temperature would have started to plummet. But it was still quite warm and pleasant. In fact, from looking outside, it was as if the sinister atmosphere in the arena had vanished. But as soon as Emily thought this she realised something was wrong. They were in the arena: why the hell would she feel safe? A chill ran down Emily's spine at this. The Gamemakers were planning something big. She could feel it. The anticipation was making Emily feel on edge. She looked away from the window, back to Liam.
"You okay?" he asked, seeing Emily's change in expression.
"Fine," Emily said with a shrug. Her body language indicated her unease though. Liam saw right through it.
"No you're not," he said. "What is it?"
"It's probably nothing," Emily said. "But don't you feel that something's off?"
"What do you mean?" Liam asked.
"Doesn't it feel like we're being allowed this happiness for a reason?" Emily said. "I'm probably just paranoid, but I think that something bad's gonna happen."
"Em, you're being ridiculous," Liam said. He smiled at her again. It did not have the same reaction it did a few minutes ago. "Nothing's wrong."
"I don't know, Liam," Emily replied. "I just don't feel safe here any more."
"Is that it?" Liam said. Emily nodded. "It's probably because it's impossible to think that there could be any form of comfort in the arena. But if it makes you feel better, we'll leave in the morning. That sound okay?"
"Yeah," Emily said. The feeling of tension eased somewhat. But not enough to relax her. "I'd also like for one of us to keep watch tonight in case the Gamemakers try something so we have a chance of living. Because, Liam, I'm terrified of losing you just after realising how I feel about you." Liam's face darkened. He let out a sigh, and looked Emily in the eyes.
"Em," he said. "This is the exact reason why I didn't want to tell you about my feelings: I was terrified that you would die soon after my confession. There's probably nothing to worry about, but we'll have someone keep watch."
"Thanks," Emily said. "And Liam, if it's not too much, I'd like to be the one keeping watch."
"Why?" Liam said.
"Because I'm the one most worried," Emily explained. "And besides, I probably wouldn't be able to sleep much tomorrow." Liam opened his mouth to say something. Emily cut him off. "Don't worry: we'll have plenty of time together in the morning, so don't let the separation kill you."
"Whatever makes you happy," Liam said with a groan. Emily gave a playful smile. It helped to mask her nerves. Somewhat.

Emily looked out of the window, and saw that the light was fading rapidly. As the shadows grew, so did Emily's apprehension.
"Emily..." Salvera said, startling the red haired girl. "It's getting dark... so if you want to go out... I think now would be a good time..."
"Yeah," Emily said. She smiled at Salvera. Salvera smiled back. Emily turned to Liam. "I think I'll start keeping watch now."
"Okay then," Liam said. "I guess that means the rest of us should get some rest?"
"That's right," Emily said. She left her seat, and grabbed her staff. "So I guess I'll see you in the morning." 
"Goodnight then..." Salvera said.
"Goodnight," Emily replied to Salvera. Liam then left his seat, and walked over to Emily.
"Stay safe out there," he said, caressing her face. 
"I will," Emily said. "See you in the morning."
"Love you, Em," Liam said. He planted another kiss on her lips. It felt amazing.
"Love you too," Emily said. She looked over at her allies one last time, before walking out of the dining room, and to the front door of the house.

Once Emily was outside, she walked over to the pavement. The fading sun had turned the light grey a strange golden colour. It would be gone in about twenty minutes. Emily looked up and down the street, feeling the staff in her hands. She felt confident with the weapon, and was certain that she would be able to fend off any attacker, at least until her allies came to help her. They had strength in numbers, which was more than what most tributes could say. The windows of the houses across the street were reflecting the last of the sunlight, making them appear to be glowing. It all looked quite pleasant. Emily remained looking at the sunset, taking in its beauty, until the sun dipped below the horizon, and the moon rose up in the air. Inside the house, Liam and Salvera had fallen asleep.

--

It was night by the time Kaye woke up again. He looked around, bewildered, taking in the darker surroundings. It took a few minutes for his eyes to adjust to the darkness, but as soon as they did, Kaye breathed a sigh of relief. Everything was still as it was. Nobody had found him. But then he realised that night had fallen. He smiled. Finally, the time had come for him to find and take out the other tributes.

Kaye stood up, and quickly gathered his things together. He slung his bag over his shoulder, and drew his dagger. He was ready. The room was filled with deep shadows, and Kaye heard a clock ticking erratically from somewhere. He knew it was a message from the Gamemakers: hurry up, time is running out. And Kaye was not going to waste any time. He pushed the chair into the table, and absently glanced out of the window. The moon was shining brightly down on the village, illuminating the streets. If it weren't for that, then Kaye would have never seen the moving shadow. He crept closer to the window, and looked out at an angle. He saw the rest of the street, stretching on for quite a while. He saw the quiet, empty houses. And Kaye saw the figure standing on the pavement, looking across the road.

A sly grin crossed Kaye's face as he recognised who it was. It was Emily, his own district partner. And from the looks of things, Emily seemed to be keeping watch, guarding the house next door to the one Kaye was currently in. He immediately realised why: her allies were in there. He knew that one of them had to be Liam, but the other one was unknown, assuming that there was indeed a third member of the alliance. Although, it would be unlikely that an alliance of two would have three sets of tracks heading in the same direction. However, surprisingly, this thought wasn't the one that occupied Kaye's mind: what was occupying his mind was how brilliant his actions would be. To tear apart a tragic loving couple... it would be perfect. Kaye would completely have the emotions of the Capitol at his mercy. But before that, Kaye had another problem: Emily was situated too close to Kaye's house for him to leave through either the front or back without alerting her attention. If he just exited now, then Emily would be on him before he had time to react. Kaye stood there for a moment, contemplating how he would get past this, when a deep, brassy sound exploded throughout the arena. Kaye saw a bright light shining down on the street, and then heard the sound of the anthem. This was a perfect distraction. He looked over at Emily, who was looking to the sky to see the face of Brinn Redwood, and then rushed through the house, to the back door.

Kaye wasted no time in opening the back door as the anthem pounded throughout the arena. He did not close it behind him as he ran out of the house, holding his weapon. The screen showing the faces of the departed lit up everything in a blinding white light, and Kaye worried for a moment that if he entered the house with this light, he would be exposed. However, to Kaye's fortune, the anthem then faded out, and the light died, plunging the arena into darkness once more. Silence fell, and Kaye continued to creep across to the back door of the house Emily was guarding.

The back door to the house was just in front of Kaye. It was made of a sturdy wooden material, and there were large windows either side of it. One window was slightly open. Kaye walked past the window, and walked up to the door. He gripped the handle with his free hand, and pushed. Nothing happened. He tried pulling on the door. The same result. Kaye quickly realised that the door was locked; clearly, Emily's alliance was better prepared than Kaye thought. Then again, he should have realised this was not going to be as easy as taking out Brinn was. Brinn was not exactly in a sane state of mind when he came across Kaye. This alliance was.

Kaye's gaze then drifted to the slightly opened window. He recognised that it was the window that led to the dining room of the house. It was large enough for Kaye to get through. He was surprised that he hadn't thought of this first, but it didn't matter. The window was there, and it served as an entrance. Kaye walked over. He gripped the window, and pulled it open silently. As soon as the window was entirely open, Kaye peered inside the darkened dining room. The smell of energy bars reached his nose. Through the windows on the other side of the room Kaye could see Emily standing there, looking up and down the street. But not inside the house. Kaye pulled himself up to the window sill, and climbed through. He landed on the dining room floor without making any noise. The darkness of the house meant that Kaye was practically invisible to Emily if she did end up looking inside. He turned around, and promptly shut the window. He was not going to leave any signs of his entrance.

The first thing Kaye noticed about this house was the ticking clock. Every house seemed to have one, and this one was different to the one next door in that it was ticking more regularly. It was slower. It was telling Kaye that their time was nearly up. And Kaye would be the one to ensure that this happened. He looked outside again. Emily had left his range of vision. She was probably between the window and the front door. A thought occurred to Kaye. She could also be finishing her watch shift, and could be coming in to change places with someone else. Kaye was ready to take her on, but if the commotion alerted her allies, then it would be very hard for Kaye to get out alive. He could not waste any time.

Kaye walked across the dining room, passing the table. He noticed that there were a few discarded wrappers there. It was nothing important though, and Kaye soon put it to the back of his mind. He looked ahead, and saw the staircase in front of him. Oh, how stupid this alliance actually was. They had gone upstairs, and were sleeping in the bedrooms. It was too easy a hiding place. Any sane person would have slept somewhere less blatantly obvious. But at least it made the job easier for Kaye. He walked up to the staircase, and began to climb. His tread, as light as it was, still managed to make the stairs creak. It was not enough for Emily to hear it, though.

Kaye reached the top of the stairs, and quickly walked down the hallway so that he would not be visible from downstairs. He then looked down the hallway, seeing the doors. Two on the left, one on the right. The closest one to Kaye on the left was slightly open. He sneaked over to it, and peered into the room. It was hard to make out, but Kaye definitely saw a figure in the bed, their chest rising and falling in slumber. He pushed open the door, and entered the room.

Luckily, the person in the bed was snoring lightly, which allowed for Kaye's footsteps to go unnoticed. He kept his eyes on the sleeping figure, seeing them wrapped up in the blankets. He walked over to the side of the bed, and, not even daring to breathe, looked down at the person resting comfortably. Kaye had to clasp his hand to his mouth to stop himself from crying out in surprised joy. Salvera was sleeping in the bed that Kaye stood over, unaware of his presence. Oh, how fate worked in mysterious ways. Salvera had been the person that had spurred Kaye into killing, and finally, he had found her. His mind went back to that day, and he recalled the nightlock field. He knew just how he was going to do this.

The bag that was resting on Kaye's shoulders was soon on the corner of the bed as he rummaged through it. Hopefully it was still there. As Kaye dug deeper through the bag he kept an eye on Salvera: he couldn't have the girl waking up any time soon. And then, Kaye felt it. His fingers wrapped the object, and he pulled it out, sliding it past the blanket. It was hard to see in the dark, but Kaye now held the jar of nightlock juice in his hands. He silently chuckled to himself, before heading over to Salvera. Her mouth was slightly open as she slept. He opened the jar.
"Oh, Sally," Kaye said tauntingly. "I've been waiting a while for this." Kaye then tipped the jar over Salvera's face. The fluid dripped into Salvera's open mouth. She swallowed, and then began to choke and gag. Her eyes shot open, full of horror, and she glared at Kaye.
"Who.." she spluttered. "Who are you...?!"
"Just someone who's been hunting you down since the beginning of the Games, Sally," Kaye cooed back. Something flashed across Salvera's features, and she leaped up out of the bed, trying to claw at him. But as soon as Salvera touched the floor, she let out an awful gasp, and collapsed to the ground. Kaye grabbed his bag as she did so.

BOOM

Kaye grinned. Salvera was dead. He had finally done it. He had finally taken down the girl that had started his desire to kill. Kaye felt a buzz. This was far more satisfying than when he killed Brinn. Kaye then slung his bag over his shoulder again, but kept hold of the half-empty jar of nightlock juice. Salvera's face was dripping with the poison. He made a note to be more careful next time: he only had so much, and did not want to back to the field for more. However, these thoughts were shattered by the sound of movement from elsewhere within the house.
"Em?!" Kaye froze at the sound of the voice. It was Liam, Emily's loved up semi-boyfriend. But Kaye wasn't stupid, and knew that taking on Liam would be dangerous, especially if he believed Emily was in danger. Kaye had to think, and fast. But before he could, Liam opened the door to Salvera's room, and stared at Kaye.
"How perfect," Kaye muttered under his breath as Liam stood there, dumbfounded.
"How the hell did you get in here?!" Liam exclaimed. He then noticed the body on the floor. "Oh my god... Salvera..."
"Yeah, I killed her," Kaye said nonchalantly. "Like it matters. I've been following her for days. She had it coming."
"You monster!" Liam yelled.
"Not really," Kaye said. "Now calm down. I don't want to mess up your pretty face too much." The next thing Kaye knew, Liam was lunging at him.

Kaye leaped out of the way as Liam charged, watching as the District 11 tribute slammed into the bed. But Liam crawled out straight away, and glared at Kaye. Kaye was inching towards the door.
"And what the hell do you think you're doing now?!" Liam demanded. He took a step towards Kaye. Kaye didn't flinch; he was still in control of the situation.
"Oh, nothing much," Kaye said. He flashed a cocky smirk to Liam.
"Wait..." Liam said. His mouth contorted in surprise. "Emily! Emily!" Liam kept yelling Emily's name as he rushed across the room, darting past Kaye. Kaye sighed. This would have to end quickly.

Outside, Emily did not hear Liam's cries, but she did hear the cannon. For a moment, she worried that it was Liam, but dismissed the thought immediately. He was fine. Her allies were fine. She had nothing to worry about.

Inside, Kaye was in the upstairs hallway, following Liam as he rushed towards the stairs.
"Come on now," Kaye said. "Why are you running?"
"Emily! Emily! If you can hear me, get the hell out of here!" Liam screamed. Kaye rolled his eyes. How romantically pathetic. Even in his last moments, Liam was only focused on Emily. Kaye lifted his dagger. He threw it, and watched as it landed in Liam's back. The larger boy made a cry of agony. Kaye then walked up to Liam, who had doubled over in pain. He was about to pull the dagger out and stab again, when the sound of the door opening reached Kaye's ears.
"Liam? Salvera? Are you guys okay?" Emily called as she walked down the hallway, and to the staircase.
"Em! Get out! Quick!" Liam screamed at the top of his lungs.
"Liam?!" Emily exclaimed. Kaye watched as Emily appeared at the top of the stairs. "Oh my god! Liam!"
"Run!" Liam groaned. Kaye saw a pool of blood forming on the ground. He leaned over, and pulled the dagger from Liam's back, accompanied by a squelching sound. Liam cried in agony. Emily stood at the bottom of the stairs, paralysed with fear. Kaye gripped the knife tightly, before he kicked Liam's back. The force of the blow caused Liam to topple forwards, tumbling down the stairs. Emily leaped out of the way as Liam fell, collapsing in a heap at the bottom of the stairs. His neck had broken during the fall.

BOOM

Emily stood at the bottom of the stairs, numb. The pool of blood originating from Liam began to seep across the floor, and around her boots. She did not notice. She was too fixated on the broken form of Liam to do anything but stare. She wanted to sob. She wanted collapse to her knees. But somehow, she was still standing. Even though the boy she loved was laying dead in front of her. Everything felt disjointed, like a nightmare. But the smell of blood told her it was real. Emily then looked up the stairs, to see the form of Kaye Nylon, her district partner, standing at the top of the stairs, sneering at her.
"Long time no see, Em," Kaye said as he slowly descended the staircase. "I bet you thought you'd seen the last of me." The use of Liam's nickname was what caused something to snap inside Emily. Before Kaye had even reached the bottom of the stairs, Emily let out a warlike cry, and rushed at him with her staff.

But Kaye was one step ahead, and he leaped out of the way of Emily's blow. He landed on Liam's body, breaking the dead boy's wrist. The cracking sound did not reach Kaye's ears though. He was too focused on the mad frenzy that was Emily Horwitz. 
"You monster!" she screamed, but it sounded more like a sob.
"Come on, honey," Kaye said as he backed up through the dining room, holding the dagger closely. "I did you a favour by taking out the competition."
"I loved him, you bastard," Emily spat. "Christ, I loved him!" She suddenly rushed at Kaye, and punched him in the gut. Kaye let out a groan of pain, but he raised the jar of nightlock juice, and slammed it down on Emily's head. She screamed as glass and poison ran down the side of her head, but she did not give in. She raised her staff, and aimed to jab Kaye, but Kaye leaped back, dagger in hand. They were now in the middle of the dining room.

Kaye felt a mild sense of unease. He had expected a strong reaction from Emily, perhaps for her to curse him out, but she had turned murderously violent. There was a very real chance that he would die here. He needed to defeat Emily somehow, but it wasn't going to be easy. Not with her as vicious as a rabid animal. Just as he thought this, Emily ran at him with her staff, ramming it into Kaye's side. The blow was delivered with enough force to break the skin, but Kaye still stood, and swung his dagger. He caught Emily's cheek. Blood poured down from the wound, staining her face red. But she still did not stop, and grabbed Kaye by the collar of his shirt, and launched him into the dining table. It crashed around him, and splinters of wood flew everywhere. But the darkness and wood allowed for Kaye to temporarily evade Emily's vision. He rushed around the dining room, and sprung up behind Emily. He raised his dagger, but Emily spun around, and delivered a punch to Kaye's jaw which sent him reeling into the work surface.

Emily felt a burning rage inside her. It was as if a hole had been ripped in her soul, and pure fury had replaced it. Tears were streaming down her face, and every time she thought of Liam's body laying in a heap at the bottom of the stairs, she wanted to vomit and collapse to the ground. But she didn't; the need to avenge Liam by taking out his killer far outweighed the sense of grief. And currently, Kaye was trying to recover from being thrown into the work surface. But Emily did not let him. She ran up close, and once again jabbed with her staff, this time shoving it into Kaye's hip. He screamed in pain, but before Emily could react, he swung a leg out, and tripped Emily up.

Kaye rushed past Emily as she fell to the ground, crying in agony. Sweat was dripping down his face, and his side ached like hell, but he could not give in just yet. He had to take Emily down for his own safety. He looked back at Emily, and saw her running towards him again. He side-stepped her, and then sliced his dagger at her arm. He dragged it down her upper arm, tearing the skin and the fabric of her arena outfit. Emily screamed. She turned around to face Kaye, and punched him in the face. Hard. Blood poured from Kaye's nose, and he pulled the knife from her.

Emily's arm felt like it was on fire. Blood flowed from the wound openly, covering her arm in the red fluid. She held the staff in her other hand, so it was not going to hinder her in that respect. She looked at Kaye as he desperately tried to stifle the flow of blood before driving her staff into him again, this time getting his stomach. He doubled over, but as he did so he blindly swung the dagger in his hand, catching Emily's shoulder. She instantly clenched the shoulder, leaving herself open for attack. Kaye took this opportunity, and stabbed her in the side with the dagger, barely missing any vital organs. Emily felt faint, but did not stop. She could not stop. Stopping would mean death, and Liam's final thoughts were about her survival. She could not let him down.

Kaye moved in for another stab when Emily grabbed his wrist tightly, staring viciously at him. Her face was smeared with blood and tears, but her eyes burned with determination. He tried to struggle free, but as he tried, Emily raised her leg, and kicked him in the crotch. Kaye screamed in pain as he staggered backwards, but Emily then began to stab at him with her staff. Kaye felt like he was being pummelled, which was not too far from the truth. He felt himself weakening, and was beginning to panic that Emily was going to kill him. A plan then formed in his mind.

Emily kept attacking Kaye with her staff, confident that he would fall soon. She knew that she was slowly becoming closer to avenging Liam's death: Kaye had completely shattered her heart by killing her love in front of her. And he was going to pay for it. She was still crying, but she was sure Kaye did not notice or care. She didn't care herself. Emily raised her staff, aiming for Kaye's throat, when suddenly, Kaye placed his hands on her chest. A flashback to her father suddenly spiked up in Emily's mind, and she screamed, but not before Kaye pushed her backwards. She quickly regained her balance, and went to run at Kaye, but then she slipped on something on the floor: the nightlock juice.

Kaye watched as Emily fell to the ground face first. The staff fell from her hands, rolling to the ground. Kaye picked it up, and stood over her as she remained motionless. He raised the staff, and smiled despite the intense pain all over his body. If he were to lift his shirt, Kaye would see several perfectly round bruises scattered across his torso. But now Emily would feel the same: it would be the perfect way to kill her. Kaye brought the staff down on Emily's back with an extreme amount of force. His heart was pounding in his chest as adrenaline coursed through every vein. Emily twitched as Kaye drove the staff in deeper and deeper. And then she once again went motionless. Kaye had managed to damage the skin where her tattoo was. The white angel wings were broken and soaked in blood.

Kaye dropped the staff, and backed away from Emily as blood pooled from her. He was not sure if a cannon had fired or not. He didn't care. As far as he was concerned, she was as good as dead. The house reeked of blood, and his entire body ached. He was not going to stick around.

Kaye quickly fixed his bag, and stepped over the shards of glass as he walked to the open front door of the house, heading back to the house next door. In hindsight, Kaye realised he should have probably finished Emily off. But really, she was a lost cause. She would be dead within a day at the most. This was the last Kaye thought of Emily as he walked to the other house, the early spring night air colder than he thought.

Back inside, Emily had woken up. Her entire body hurt. She was face-deep in some foul-smelling liquid, and blood was pouring down her face. She found the strength to sit up, but as soon as she did so, she saw Liam's body again. And this time, without Kaye to fight, Emily wept openly as blood pooled around her, mixing with the nightlock juice on the floor. Everything was gone. It was all over with. Liam was dead. She was horribly injured. She would never go home.

Emily then passed out due to the sudden blood loss, and fell back into the pool of fluids, slipping into unconsciousness less than four feet from her dead lover. She did not realise that she was now part of the final eight.

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