"I'm taking a stand to escape what's inside me."

Day Eight

Kali Quinn, President

Kali scowled as she watched Syrene die again and again. Never had she felt remorse for anything she'd done so much as she did now. Never had something gone so wrong as it had with Syrene. She had done everything, everything, that she could've to protect her niece.

She sent sponsors herself, marked with a Q to pass off as Syrene's mentor. She led her to places of safety, away from the flood. She even placed her allies to die to prevent the inevitable betrayal that would be unstoppable, even to her.

But it hadn't worked. Three tributes remained in that arena, but Syrene Lovett was not one of them.

A hiss escaped through her lips. She had told him; she made herself clear. The only tribute allowed to leave that arena outside of a body bag was Syrene Lovett. There were no questions. There were no exceptions.

Han Ferring had failed her.

Kali slammed the stop button on the rerun of Syrene's death, which had been on loop for so long. She'd been so close. One jab to the heart and she would be there, not the other scumbag from Eight. A single tear welled in her eye as she gazed sorrowfully at the frozen expression of Syrene as she collapsed on the floor.

"Ms. Quinn," a meek voice interrupted. Kali abruptly turned off the television and blinked her tear away. A death glare was thrown at the subservient messenger that watched her with piqued interest.

"There's this lovely ideal of knocking; try it some time," President Quinn barked, not daring to make eye contact for fear of being noticed.

"I'm s-sorry, ma'am," the messenger girl whispered, eyes cast on her with slight fear. "May I speak?"

Kali rolled her eyes and gave the girl – whose name escaped her – the go ahead with her hands. "Mr. Ferring would like to see you. Considering the circumstances, he'd wanted to get you at a good time." President Quinn, now unafraid and shameless of her readable expression, glowered at the servant girl.

"Please, fetch him." The servant, who held her glare with surprising flare, nodded and skittered off. Within seconds, Ferring was in her line of sight.

He cleared his throat at the gate of the office. "Madame President," he murmured, bowing.

"Cut the crap," she heckled, slamming a fist on her wooden desk. "You know very well the odds of your head being on my fireplace within my next hour. If anything, you have balls coming here, Mr. Ferring. I do hope there's something behind that for your sake."

Han gulped anxiously. "Please, Madame, be reasonable. There was nothing I could do to save that girl."

"There was everything to do! Start an avalanche, bury the others, anything." Han only shook his head.

"You asked for a good show, first and foremost. I could not intervene without there being speculation amidst the districts, even in the Capitol. I did everything I could without starting an uprising." Unlike the servant, Han was unable to hold her death glare; he cast his eyes on his feet in fear.

"Do not pit my own words against me, Han. Do not question my willingness to have your head on a platter," she seethed.

Han met her gaze solemnly. "Madame, if there's anything I can do…"

Kali Quinn rose, dusting her suit off and brushing a hand over her tear-filled eyes. "Just give me a good show, Han. Is there anything else to do, now?"

Mizuko Hali, District Four Male

Words weren't needed anymore.

The age-long stare between broke as the two let it settle in. Only one competitor outside the two of them remained. A Career needed no assistance dealing with an outlier, not a single one. Two was a stretch, but there was no question that neither the boy from Eight nor the girl from Three truly stood a chance against either of them, not alone.

So which of them would test that?

An animalistic growl erupted from Minet as Mizuko lunged at her, pushing the both of them away from their respective weapons. Mizuko bit his lip as they tumbled down a small slope, slamming into each other with each hellish landing.

At the foot of the hill, Minet ended on top, digging her knees into Mizuko's arms. Despite her petite size, she was muscular, able to pin him down without so much as batting an eye.

Mizuko openly yelled in pain as Minet nailed him in the nose: once, twice, thrice. Only then, as blood clotted at his nostrils, did he manage to shove her off.

By adrenaline or by fear of death: was there a difference anymore?

Stumbling, Mizuko managed to avoid getting attacked again, sidestepping to avoid a left hook. He struck out with the top of his foot, managing to knock Minet down to the chipped concrete. She hissed, rolling and grabbing his leg while on the floor. With a hiss and a raise of the leg, Mizuko landed with a thud beside her, aimlessly batting her away with a half-curled fist.

As she rose, Minet struck him with her knee, forcing it between his shoulder blades. Her hands found the tips of his bloodstained locks, ramming his head into the concrete until he struggled to overthrow the creature.

Minet thudded against the building directly beside them, groaning and holding her head as she slid down the stone.

He grunted, hardly managing to rise. Minet hissed and jeered as she backed away, nursing her wounds just as he was.

A quick survey of the situation made the option to flee crystal clear. The door was open for every direction for him to run away and even in his state, Minet was in no state to give pursuit.

He could be out and about in a matter of minutes.

"Go on, Mizuko, run off like you always do," she said, laughing as she struggled to maintain an upright position. "Don't worry about the rest of us, just run off and find someone else to abandon." The laughter ceased abruptly.

"I fought for you," she whispered, a look somewhere between hurt and vengeful. "When the rest of them were out for your blood, I was trying to look for every reason not to. They said you were a traitor and I couldn't change what they believed, but like hell I tried."

"But that's just what you are, isn't it?" Mizuko began to cut off her off and she allowed it, waiting for something - anything - to excuse himself, but the words died on his tongue. Maybe he had been abducted against his will, but he stayed.

When he could've killed Graecus's murderer, he instead chose to protect her until Ira died. At the time, it only seemed reasonable, but now? Seeing Minet reduced to a mess, incoherent even to herself?

"You disgust me," Minet hissed, tears welling in her eyes as she edged on towards him. "And to think I trusted you! I did everything in my power to protect you and you do this," she barked, tears freely splattering against the concrete.

"I'm sorry," he murmured weakly, for lack of anything else to say. Shame was something he hadn't expected to feel in the arena, but it was all he felt at the moment.

Mizuko was a traitor.

"Sorry won't bring Graecus back, sorry won't right all your wrongs, and sorry won't make me forgive you in the slightest," she said, her voice escalating to a scream. The familiar rumbling of the ground that followed her outcry had originally been written off as Minet's prowess delving into the very arena itself in Mizuko's mind.

But then, Minet herself wildly searched for the origin of the noise.

From afar, Mizuko made out a foreign sight. The tallest building in the near distance crumbled to its very foundation right in front of his eyes. The magnitude of the quake that shook the buildings to its core threw both Minet and Mizuko off their feet and soon, they were both scrambling to hold their own against the tremor.

But as Mizuko rose, a boot slammed hard against his chin, cracking his jaw and leaving him to remain on the ground, painfully conscious still. Minet met his gaze with hard eyes as she edged away from him. "Tell Graecus I said hello," she growled, delivering another harsh kick in his temple before frantically eyeing behind him and sprinting off.

Mizuko watched her with something close to closure as she fled, becoming no more than a speck amongst the giant catastrophes that were buildings.

Mizuko forced himself; he forced himself to watch the end, the last bout of repayment for what he'd done. He edged out thoughts of Rain, thoughts of Mags, thoughts of Ira for as long as he could before the barrier broke. Memories of yesterday and hopes of tomorrow that would never be flooded his mind.

Everything he fought for, everything he killed for: gone.

But what he could feel proud of was that he had paid his debt. To Graecus, to Minet, even to Harleen. No longer would he be plagued with guilt eating at him, no longer would he have the death of one who trusted him on his soul.

So as the final stone came crashing down onto him, Mizuko let himself close his eyes.

Minet Nikelle, District Two Female

A ravenous cry erupted from her throat as the buildings collapsed one after another. Within some of the buildings, Minet could make out the detonations while others were silent until the building began to tumble.

Streaks of tears were painted on her face, lightening the thick dirt and blood that was caked on her face. The cannon that somehow made it to her ears through the explosions broke the last reserves of her strength, tears freely flowing from her eyes.

Mizuko's name might not go under her kill list, seeing as the buildings were the ones that took him, but his life was on her conscience. That last look he'd thrown her had been a plea for help and forgiveness that she couldn't grant.

No. She could've, but she chose to let him die, buried alone and afraid.

Three months ago, she would've rejoiced at the feat. Now, she could hardly live with herself, knowing that she killed someone that she trusted, even if she hadn't done so purposefully.

Choking on her sobs, Minet struggled to turn the corner and avoid being eaten alive by the industrial monster behind her. Animalistic screeches and crows seethed from within the monster, fleeing it and chasing her even more closely than the monster.

She didn't dare to look back.

The first creature zoomed past her, initially unaware of her presence. Minet swallowed hard amidst her sprint as it turned and hissed at her. The similar hisses and cries behind her confirmed her belief – Minet was being chased by a pack of these creatures just as she was being chased by the buildings.

They were scaly, four-winged bats, flailing through the air with eyes locked ahead. The first ignored her as it passed by; the second followed suit. It was the fifth that cut her, running a blade-like wing through her left arm and leaving a shallow cut.

Minet cried out as she turned another corner, following the bats. It was clear enough that she was being led – disobedience meant death. As the infamous horn came into view, battered and bloodied just as she was, the bats dispersed, flying straight into the sky.

Even though the buildings stopped well off where the Cornucopia sat, Minet refused to stop running until she was on the horn, clutching it as if it would save her.

After the past week, a steady hand was appreciated.

"Shit," she murmured, patting her pockets and belt furiously in search of anything she could wield to finish off whichever tribute remained. Empty. Minet groaned in horror; her rapier remained with Mizuko, and her knife in Naya.

Her mouth twisted in disgust as she scoured the area for something, anything she could fight with, but there was nothing.

The scream and growls left Minet in a defensive position that was pathetic without her rapier in her hand. The cry was all too human, but the growls were anything but. The noise didn't match the sound of the bats, either, but it wasn't Minet's problem. With any luck, the creatures would simply be guides like her bats.

She gulped. When had she started relying on luck to protect her?

Within seconds, Angevin burst from the edge of the Corncuopia, his eyes feral and bloodshot. A pack of blood-red panthers howled as they chased him, halting as he entered the Cornucopia ring.

Minet couldn't take her eyes off the knife in his hands.

He slowly made eye contact with her, an air somewhere between unsurprised and disappointed around him. Although she had her fair share of bat cuts, the panthers had clearly been more assertive than the winged mutts. Angevin's legs were lined with vicious, deep gashes and bites. The color in his face was as pale as she'd seen a living person, though his eyes were all too focused on the world around him.

They held resolve and poise that Minet feared she'd lost somewhere along the way. The grip on his blade was casually settled to where he could throw it while hosting small talk.

He was dangerous, yet she hadn't bat an eye at him until he came in running with the bulls at what seemed like ages ago.

"First the bulls, and now the panthers? Animals just aren't your forte," Minet chirped, throwing on a painfully fake smile. Angevin remained grimly indifferent as he eyed her cautiously, waiting for her to kill him just as she waited for him. And it dawned on her as he tentatively edged closer to her.

He thought she was armed.

As Angevin took his next step, Minet grappled at her belt. He immediately flinched into a defensive position. Her grin remained plastered on her face, but no longer was it forced. Even though she wasn't armed, Minet had a weapon.

"Don't be afraid, I don't bite," Minet chuckled as Angevin steadily backpedaled from her. "Careful, now, those kitties will."

Angevin peered over his shoulder before returning his sights on Minet and growling lowly. "Drop it, Two."

"Minet, sweetheart, my name is Minet - "

"Do you enjoy being here? That's why you're drawing this out, right. I suppose that's why you volunteered and forfeited your life, too," he says, sneering. "I'm not one to waste time, so if you'd like to shut up and play this damn game, then come and get it." The knife was pointed at her now, a mere toss from her, but Angevin held it in.

He only had the one, then.

Minet's smirk fell off her face as she dropped her hands from her hips. "You want to play? Fine. Let's play, bitch." Throwing caution to the wind, she broke into a sprint empty-handed.

Angevin Roi, District Eight Male

Angevin had no time to brace himself before Minet was on him, claws and fists aimed at every critical artery in his body.

He hastily dodged as she swung out at him with a curled fist. She anticipated his movement, swiping her foot against his ankle and bringing him to the ground hard. He shrunk away, awaiting the next strike to the throat or skull with her knife, but it didn't come. Instead, Minet dug her fingernails into his right wrist, wrenching his own blade out of his hand.

Pain seared into him as the first layer of skin was ripped off and Minet kneed him in the crotch. Angevin muscled through, landing a square blow against Minet's jaw. She sputtered, hissing as she retreated, kicking the knife astray in the process.

Blood seeped from his open cuts in streams – both from his wrist and his ankle. Minet nursed her bruising skin; blood steadily trickled out of her mouth. Neither dared take their eyes off the other in search of the blade.

Where was hers? Surely, she was armed; sponsors would trip over themselves to sponsor a Career, even if she was puny. Wouldn't they?

Angevin had no time to ponder as Minet charged from his left, sidestepping at the last moment to strike his right side. It was his turn to anticipate her movement, and he sent a knee into her chest and his elbow to the back of her neck.

Grimacing, Angevin raised his boot above her crestfallen head, but she managed to roll over herself and bite his already-wounded calf. The low blow elicited a scream from Angevin as he collapsed on top of her, landing blow after blow into her rib cage, but she didn't remove her teeth from his bloodied ankle.

Finally, Minet conceded, gagging as she scampered off. Angevin hissed as he tentatively gazed at the wound, the festering flesh evident. Bite marks - whether from Minet or the mutts – dotted his legs and standing suddenly became a strenuous task.

Minet, although bent over in pain from her bruised - if not broken - ribcage, refused to relent. She scrabbled upward, finding her footing far before Angevin even considered trying it.

In response, Angevin managed to crawl on all fours, leaning his weight on his left leg and right hand. From across him, he dully made out Minet's scoff. "On all fours, like the bitch you are," she jeered, limping over to him with a smirk.

He coughed, a dry cough that tasted of blood without the true substance anywhere in sight. Minet's limp brought her closer and closer as Angevin struggled to find an avenue to safety. "At least I didn't betray my ally. At least I didn't let my ally suffer a slow death like a sick bastard." Instead, he betrayed his ally and his district partner.

Minet's footfalls immediately stopped. "I did what I had to do," she remarked; her eyes shifted from control to the lack of it. Through the chutzpah of her words, it was clear to see she was lying, even to herself.

Her eyes became defiant as she continued to limp, but it was clear that he'd gotten to her. "How the hell did you find out about that?" she barked. Angevin failed to suppress the grin that bubbled from within him.

He'd guessed.

"You know what? It doesn't matter. Dead people's opinions aren't substantial, anyway," she barked as she swung her elbow viciously against his back.

But through the time he'd thrown her off, Angevin managed to lock his grasp onto the cool metal of his discarded knife, grinning ear to ear despite everything. He swung out, digging the knife far into Minet's exposed arm.

A hellish scream erupted from her as she withdrew hastily, clutching her hand and hissing like she did so often. "Maybe they don't," he murmured, rising slowly. "Maybe dead people are just things of the past."

"Tell me about it when I join you in hell, a year from now," he growled, escalating. He lunged for her, knocking his tattered opponent to the ground and pinning her there with the weight of his arms. The dagger was tightly squeezed between his two hands as he moved to plunge the blade in her neck as she fumbled to push it anywhere but.

"Do you still wanna play a game?" he snarled as the knife inched closer and closer to the exposed skin of her neck.

"Do you finally regret what you've done?" he whispered, audible only to Minet as she inched away from the ensuing blade.

Her ghastly face met the blade and then Angevin's seething eyes before she responded, slowly and meekly, so unlike the girl that stood rebellious and bold minutes ago. Her eyes fluttered as she slowly nodded. "Yes," she breathed, taking the knife into her own hands and plunging it below her neck.

The blade cut through her skin so decisively that Angevin suspected it belonged there. Lodged through her throat.

Angevin watched the knife, sunken into Minet, for what felt like centuries. The girl that had been so bloody absurd and ridiculous in putting herself here looked almost peaceful in death. Her hair, though matted with blood, splayed across the ground.

In another life, she could've been beautiful.

Finally, he stumbled away from her, clutching his wounds tightly before crumpling on the ground beside her. The wait for the hovercraft was daunting to say the least, but truly, there was no rush anymore.

Angevin Roi had no need to worry about getting attacked in his sleep anymore.

He had done it.

A low chuckle slid past his lips as he watched the last of the buildings crumble from afar. The panthers grunted disinterestedly before stalking off; streaks of red painted the grey rubble as they traversed to hell knows where. He grimaced as the sight of them intensified the pain in his leg; adrenaline abandoned him now.

Yet the pain seemed duller than it should, still.

Nothing would quite hurt him, not after this. Angevin was untouchable.

"The odds were in my favor," he said to no one, yet everyone. Let it be known that he conquered the unconquerable, stepping on those necessary along way. "And nobody else's."

"Were they really?" a hoarse voice growled. Angevin briskly spun around to see Minet, knife removed from her chest, which was now soaked with blood. He didn't have enough time to stand before the knife was buried in between his eyes, his cannon immediate.

Minet Nikelle stumbled, applying pressure to her wound to staunch the flow of blood even as she crashed onto the stony arena floor for the last time. The edges of her vision were blurred and her thoughts jumbled, but all she strived to do was live another minute, and another, and another.

Long enough to get out of this arena.

The blood pooled around her, but she continued to draw breath despite the pain each raspy inhale gave. She made sure she could hear the sound of heart, the beat that signified her success, her life, given another chance. Boom. Boom.

Minet knew that fatal danger from the knife wasn't for sure. With any luck, Minet hit the right spot. The knife would have punctured directly above and below major arteries. She would know.

She tried to put it there. Boom. Boom.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, I am honored to present to you the Victor of the Twenty-Third Annual Hunger Games, Minet Nikelle of District Two!

Minet collapsed onto the ground, blood spilling from her mouth and open chest wound. Stay awake, Minet, don't fall asleep… Don't close your eyes. Distant shouts and the whir of a hovercraft were faint from her position on the ground. Boom. Boom.

Just a bit longer.

The hovercraft came into view, lined with Peacekeepers and medics. Almost always, the tributes were fit enough to board the aircraft themselves, but Minet wasn't fit enough to draw breath herself. But as quick as they were, not soon enough did the first medic arrive at Minet's body.

She was consumed by blackness. Even in the blind darkness, Minet listened for the beat of her heart.

But she heard nothing.

A/N: R.I.P.

Mizuko Hali, District Four

Angevin Roi, District Eight

Fin, I loved Mizuko with all my heart, and very clearly, so did all the poll voters. In another world, he would've won. Thank you so much for giving him to me.

Blissy, Gev was a hell of a ride for everyone. Was he the most loved? No. But personally, I loved the diversity in his personality that delved into everything real and admittedly bad in people. Thank you so much for giving him to me.

And that brings us to the end of the Games. Your victor, Minet Nikelle, of District Two! :D

Minet has been my one and only choice for victor for quite a while now. No, she's not the one you root for, but the heroes don't always win. I found it both justified and reasonable to crown Minet because of her resilience and strength, despite her size.

Congratulations to Elim9, whose tribute beat the odds!


Thoughts on the Victor?

Favorite Alliance?

Favorite Tribute?

Who, out of all the tributes, would you've liked to see win besides your own?

Before you all scamper off, there will be an epilogue before we truly are finished with Blood Splatters. Until then!