“Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.” - Martin Luther King, Jr.
“No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.” - Buddha
Mina was gone before sunrise. The second alliance she had left in the darkness of night. She wasn't making many friends, but that wasn't what she was after anyway. She was tired of dealing with these people. Each time she thought that maybe she'd found a group she could put up with for a little while, but each time she was proven wrong. No one in this arena was her friend, and it was time she started acting like it.
What Mina failed to realize was that she wasn't really alone. She had been closely watched for more than a day now, and she wasn't getting away as easily as she had hoped.
Tiara watched closely as Tifanee slept in the midst of the rest of their alliance. Pieces of advice from her training long before the games kept flowed through her thoughts. “Never betray an alliance. It makes you look bad to the audience. It keeps you from getting sponsors. It's not worth it.”
She'd heard similar things a million times before, yet Tiara was itching to kill. She hadn't killed anyone since the bloodbath at the cornucopia, and all she wanted was another kill to her name. The small girl who had been frustrating her the past couple of days was the perfect target. The rest of their alliance was asleep. Tiara would drag the body away and make up some lie about Tifanee needing to pee and never coming back. They'd never know. Tiara would keep the area clean and make sure to go with the quietest method possible. No one would ever know, except the audience.
And she thought that was a risk she was willing to take....
“I think I'm going to head out on my own,” Demetrius announced to his companions over their “breakfast.”
The other three looked at him in mild surprise.
“It's just,” Demetrius hesitated for a moment before continuing. “Our biggest strengths as a group were having a career with us and Kahner's mines. Now Alissah and Kahner are both dead. For all we know Kahner had some mines around here that he didn't even tell us about. We could die any second just staying here. There are fifteen left, or fourteen, I guess, since we heard that cannon in the night. That's plenty of time for me to get lost without having to confront any of you.”
Ahnette watched him closely before nodding. “I understand. Do what you feel you need to do.”
“Thank you,” Demetrius said darkly as he walked away from the others into solitude.
Jocelin had been watching Mina closely ever since she left their alliance, just waiting for the right moment to strike. Even when Mina had joined a new alliance, Jocelin had stayed close by. It was difficult, but she'd become very good at staying hidden. No one suspected a thing.
She had hoped to deal with Mina quickly and get back to her previous alliance, but she had seen enough over the past couple of days to know that the alliance she had once been a part of was no more. Still, Jocelin was hoping to at least find Fayth. She knew from the nightly summary of deaths that Fayth was still in the arena somewhere, and Jocelin hated to think of what the poor girl might be going through now.
Even though she had yet to finish off Mina, Jocelin was getting restless for human companionship, and she found herself seeking out the large group of five tributes. They weren't far from where Mina had set up camp, although Jocelin was sure that neither Mina nor this group knew of the other's presence. Coale and Etin were both present, and Jocelin found herself irrationally angry that Fayth had been left somewhere behind. Upon seeing Tiara though, Jocelin wondered if it was the brash career's fault.
Jocelin made eye contact with Coale as she entered the small clearing. The others made no move to attack her, as they clearly sensed that she was no threat at the moment.
“Where is Fayth?” she questioned.
“She left,” Coale explained in regret. “In the middle of the night, just like you. None of us saw her leave.”
Jocelin sighed as she sat down next to the boy. “Great. I planned to come back. I just wanted to get Mina, but then that proved more difficult than I thought. I still haven't gotten her, and now I don't know where Fayth is either.”
“Who cares?” Tiara questioned. “You can't win with Crazy around. You're better off without her.”
“Shut it, Tiara. I'm not in the mood,” Jocelin growled.
Tiara shrugged. “Whatever. Are you joining us then? I'll be nice enough to let you since Tifanee disappeared last night.”
Jocelin shivered at the hostile gleam in Tiara's eyes, but she shrugged and murmured, “Yeah, I'll join you.” She hadn't given up on Mina, but some human companionship was nice for the moment.
“She's still alone,” Jocelin informed her five companions later that day. It was nearing sunset, and Jocelin had just returned from scoping out Mina's “camp.” “She doesn't seem likely to leave for the night. I want to get her before nightfall.”
“Great,” Tiara exclaimed excitedly. “I'll come with you.”
“No,” Jocelin replied firmly. “I want Coale to come. I know having back up is safer, but you'd steal the kill from me. With anyone else that'd be fine, but I'm getting Mina on my own.”
Tiara flopped back onto the log she'd been using as a stool and crossed her arms in indignation. “Fine. Go settle your grudge.”
“I plan to,” Jocelin replied determinedly before walking away to do just that.
Mina would put up a fight, but at the last minute, Jocelin would see the determination leave her eyes. Her acceptance of death would break Jocelin in a way. Jocelin who had been so consumed with revenge that she hadn't stopped to think that she was killing a girl. But by then it would be too late to stop, and Jocelin would be forced to walk back to her companions with her first kill weighing heavily on her mind.