Kari’s rage had subsided. She numbly watched the center screen; they hadn’t even had the decency to clean up Jenny’s body. The alarm had ended, signifying the end to Eric’s makeshift pack and all the girls she’d tried to protect from him. She didn’t know what to live for, what to do.
Killing Eric was the only thing she had left, which meant Aiden had to die, though she didn’t want that; he was just a puppet. She felt pinned; at the back of her mind, she knew that should make her angry, but all she felt was hollow.
Looking down at the floor, she let her head roll to the side, a few more tears sliding down her cheeks; she’d been silently crying off and on as her body gradually produced more tears.
If I had killed Aiden would any of this have happened? Eric couldn’t have gotten this far without him… was I too weak? After killing Eric… what do I have left? I’ll have… nothing; I don’t have anything. Mom’s gone, and everything I thought I built was a lie. What was there even to begin with? Eric won…
Her eyes didn’t lift as she senselessly listened to people walk into the room; they started unbinding the straps from the pillars. It took them several minutes, but they got her on a moveable table, strapping the chair down and making sure the thread was still securely tied around her. After triple checking her bonds, they wheeled her to the elevator.
She didn’t struggle. Is this it? Is it my turn? Maybe it’s for the best. I had nothing, except delusions. Illusions of freedom that could never truly be seen… my life was a joke, a cruel twist by fate. All those motivation talks were lies. No matter how hard I struggled, nothing came from it; nothing but pain…
The void expanded as she trembled; she could only see a blurred haze. She barely noticed the elevator doors shut as they descended even deeper into the base. Stopping, they pushed her cart onward as the doors opened. She didn’t have the will to ask where they were taking her.
Her escort moved into a vast hallway, larger than any she’d seen before. Support pillars were well spaced apart but linked together to provide a wide pathway. They passed many checkpoints that had their doors completely open. Continuing down the curved path, they stopped in front of an immense, dense metal door. There was a guard box sectioned at its side, halfway up the wall behind thick ballistic glass.
Upon seeing them, the man began working at a computer. A few seconds later, pressurized air hissed, and she heard the sound of alternating gears as the four-meter thick door peeled back to reveal an enormous area.
Domed, nearly thirty meters high and at least triple that in width and length. Six large pillars were erect, evenly placed to provide support, each one had scratches and small cracks spaced around it.
The floor seemed totally solid and held the marks of many vicious battles; Kari could smell hundreds of different creatures and humans’ blood that perforated the air. In a halo around the upper domed section, there was dark tinted glass she presumed was meant for personal spectating, while expensive looking cameras littered the walls and pillars.
Kari examined it all dully. Is this where I will die? Will my suffering end here? No more lies? No more pain, bliss, or nothingness? If there is anything afterward then will it be better than this?
Her head tilted slightly to see a troll walk through the open gate she’d entered through; he was escorted by several men that kept their distance, ready to react if needed.
Really… they expect a troll to kill me? I guess if I’m not going to fight back, anything could really do the job if I’m in this thread, but that’s a little insulting…
She let her emotions go and looked back down at the floor.
The troll huffed gutturally, and his harsh laugh echoed around the area. “Expect me fight small girl? She have no fight!”
Diane spoke from hidden speakers. “Whether you kill her or not is none of my concern. Do whatever you see fit, but she is not the only competitor.”
Kari’s vision narrowed. So I’m to be ripped apart by multiple beasts as they tear each other to pieces, some entertainment for these disgusting humans?
The troll swayed over to her as the guards retreated through the gate. He was muscular and tall, twice her own height. He bent down to examine her, his rancid breath coating her nostrils. “You not fear, Girl?” he chuckled.
Her emptiness began to fade in front of the filthy creature, filled by revulsion. Kari growled with disgust, “Get out of my face.”
The troll bellowed with laughter, which sent vile drool spraying all over her front. He inhaled, puffing out his chest threateningly. “You not scared? You stupid!” Her eyes followed the back of the troll’s left hand as it shot out and struck her body.
Wooden chair splintering, she was sent flying to the left with the cart she was tethered to; tumbling a few times, the cart smashing against her body, she finally stopped, releasing a low, annoyed growl.
The scrapes and cuts that marred her skin were light, yet considering what had hit her, it wasn’t bad—he was stronger than she anticipated—still, it swiftly healed. Since she had stopped struggling, her physical and internal strength was renewing itself, given her body a bit of resilience.
Her cords suddenly loosened and snaked into the air, shot toward the glass, and flew into a small box that retracted into the concrete; the voice that followed hardened Kari’s amber eyes.
“There,” Diane magically boomed around the area. “Come, Fenris Wolf. Give us a show!”
Shoving the cart and broken timber off, Kari sniffed indignantly. “You want me… to fight a troll?”
The troll looked stupefied as he watched her stand and brush herself off. “What you?”
Adjusting her clothing for better comfort, she glared at the troll. “No, I will not be disposed of by such a stupid thing. I at least refuse that!”
Walking to one of the pillars, she pressed her back against it and slid down to the ground, relaxing as best she could. “You’ll have to bring something a lot more capable than this vermin,” Kari huffed.
The troll looked confused but didn’t give chase after seeing her shrug off his attack; it stood still, eyeing her suspiciously. Both Kari and the troll’s attentions were diverted as a third monster entered the area—a tall black haired man.
Kari’s stomach churned at his appearance as a wave of energy seemed to emit from his body. He’s even taller than Eric, and this presence he has… Given how weakened I am… Yeah, there’s no doubting his strength. This is the kind of beast that has enough power to give me a fight at this point.
His eyes were stony, and he glared up at the glass with waves of malice expelling from his body, commanding voice exploding around the space, “Your word that she will not be harmed and that we may go free. Otherwise, I will kill every last human in this base and anyone that associates with you.”
The troll backed towards a pillar as the vicious energy leaked from the man.
“Of course,” Diane said with a sweet note. “We have problems that must be solved, and while we could correct these issues quietly, heh… I’m sure you understand human nature; curiosity can be such a strong motivator.”
A man’s grunt sounded shortly after with agreement.
Kari’s vision shifted to the four-meter metal door as it quickly closed, making her grimace. Something isn’t right.
She remembered her brother’s statement. A dragon attacked him… Is that the problem they are having?
The door sealed shut and then at the opposite side of the hall, a section of the wall started pushing outward to reveal a hidden exit; two large remote controlled containers entered through it, and the doors began to shut as they cleared its zone.
Kari’s breath locked in her lungs; Inside the containers were the girls she had seen with Sora. They both wore white elastic strips that covered their chests and some kind of spandex white shorts, yet it was the dozens of papers with cuneal writing lining their bodies that drew her attention.
Her focus was soon snatched by the scent of unease that came from the tall man; he clearly didn’t want to engage, even after his previous statement, and turning back to the tanks as they split off, Kari swallowed.
That atmosphere I remember at the parking lot, and the way that girl acted… It felt like the Asian girl was suppressing the blonde, as well… They’re strong, very strong.
The tank moving the light-skinned girl rolled to the wall, while the container carrying the short black-haired girl stopped a few yards away from the Troll.
Diane spoke over the speakers, “Jian, Kari, and… Troll, I would like to introduce Jin. She is perfectly contained and an excellent punching bag to relieve your frustrations.”
Kari and the tall man didn’t move as they glared at the container; there was no way she was going to trust anything that the woman said, even if she couldn’t sense anything from the small girl. Jin didn’t look conscious, yet she couldn’t get the skin-crawling feeling she’d gotten from the blonde’s threatening pressure from the parking lot.
Every eye locked on the troll as he laughed his unease away. “Punching bag? Me like!”
Kari tensed, and Jian leaped back several paces as the troll sallied up to the tank, expecting something ominous, and she didn’t blame him.
The troll threw his arm through the glass, striking Jin’s shoulder and sending her rolling across the ground, flipping like a rag doll; glass and water sprayed across the floor. Not a second after she came to a stop, Kari nervously bit her lower lip, instincts telling her to run as a soft, drawn-out breath left Jin’s lungs and she began to stir.
Jin rolled around her neck as she shifted to her side, luminous yellow eyes sweeping the scene with a cold edge. “Mmgm…”
Not a scratch was on her, yet she seemed to have trouble moving while getting into a sitting position to examine herself; running a finger down the runic papers on her arm, contempt shone in her eyes. “Runic wards… latched to my soul?”
Kari couldn’t move, there was something enormous hidden beneath the girl’s impenetrable spiritual shield, just outside of sight, yet the troll laughed mirthfully in total ignorance, its low intelligence unable to feel the sharp wave of danger that expelled around the girl.
“Yes, good punching bag!”
Jin’s baneful yellow irises smoothly shifted to the troll, nose twisting in what Kari took as mild disbelief at what she’d just heard. “Punching bag… Me? Heh… I must not have heard you right, and you think wards can restrict a dragon?”
Face showing no humor; she unsteadily got to her feet, breathing a deep hiss, all of the wards on her body started to shine with a brilliant crimson light; the papers on her arms disintegrating.
Jian became a blur, appearing in front of Jin for his fist to meet her skull; the dense, concentrated spiritual blow landed, making the concrete wall to the hidden exit fracture as she flew into it and fell to the floor, yet the man didn’t pursue.
Hot steam seethed through the small Asian girl’s teeth as she slowly rose to her feet once more, a tiny cut in her lip the only visible damage as she licked it away; her topaz eyes shimmering as a mirthless smile twitched at the corner of her mouth.
Judging by Jian’s frozen posture, his lungs were as paralyzed as Kari’s, and she knew he was questioning his own action.
“Hmm-hmm-hmm… Hmm…” Jin closed her eyes, easing out a slow, even growl before opening her vision, voice laced with virulence, “Try that again, Bai-Hu… and I’ll rip your arm from its socket.”
Diane’s thrilled voice spoke over the speakers. “If you let her destroy the wards, you will be hard pressed to win, Jian… If I were you, I would not let her focus.”
Jin’s teeth flashed as she gave the Bai-Hu a testing grin, the wards starting to radiate ever brighter, yet her disgusted glare shifted to the troll when it ran at her with boisterous laughter. “Me Clan make me Great Chief! Hugu, Dragon Beater!”
His fist struck Jin, sending her skidding across the ground, and breaking her concentration again, yet Kari could feel the mounting pressure and agitation reaching its limit for the Asian girl; Kari would have already snapped by this point.
The troll followed, kicking her side before she could land and throwing her into the nearby wall; it wasn’t nearly as strong as Jian’s, but it still broke off a small segment of concrete.
Hitting the ground with a deep growl, she lifted to all fours and breathed, fingers digging into the concrete as she made a concerted effort to keep herself in check.
Gurgling his enjoyment, Hugu raised his foot to stomp on Jin’s back. However, as he lifted his foot a sharp gust of wind exploded from around Jin, and a fierce, deafening roar echoed around the area with such force it blew the troll back several steps, “Enough!”
Paralyzed, Hugu quaked as a terrifying wave of fathomless power washed over him; lungs frozen, the only thing Kari could compare it to would be her mother, incomprehensible. The tips of Jin’s hair begin to shift from raven black to luminescent crimson red.
Jian was still in his original position, still staring at the spot Jin had been; he wasn’t breathing, and Kari’s ears pricked at the sound of shifting gears and depressurizing air.
Diane’s chilling words broke the ensuing silence. “Remember whom you fight for, Jian.”
A pained whimper made Jian’s entire body quake, fear in every pulse of his spiritual release, yet he didn’t hesitate.
Disappearing completely from Kari’s vision, he appeared behind Jin, foot smashing into her side; she heard Jin’s gasp as all the air was forced from her lungs and she was thrown into Hugu’s body, sending both flying into the air.
They struck the domed ceiling and began to fall with sections of the broken roof, and out of the corner of her vision, Kari saw the large steel door open, sirens screeching in the distance.
Soon after, her attention was brought back to the fight as Hugu heavily struck the ground, Jian snatching Jin’s resplendent hair out of the air, whipping her around to slam face-first into the floor.
Concrete shattered on impact, chips spraying in all directions, half of Jin’s raven locks had turned a deep ruby hue; the Bai-Hu dragged the girl in a sharp swing without pause and let go.
Jin broke through an entire support pillar and bounced off another, fracturing it before crushing a section of the wall from the impact; dust and debris fell with her to the floor below.
Sora’s voice called out for Jin and she noticed Aiden and Eric running into the room beside her; Kari’s emotions flared to life as she stared, full of rage, her brother now in front of her, and she lurched forward.
She didn’t care if she died, so long as she could take him with her, yet after her first lunge, horror gripped her breast; a pulse of odium and power overtaking her instincts as the dragon’s presence demanded attention.