The visions Karen endured during the toxic invasion of her mind and body were no daydream. She was forced to visualise everyone dying in front of her eyes hundreds of times over. Sometimes her parents died too, screaming to her for help. Each time her body would weigh more than concrete, and she would move as if walking through treacle. Not once did she succeed in saving anyone.
When the toxin faded and she saw Lillian's death in reality, her mind simply refused to believe it at first. She told herself she was still under the effects of the toxin as she saw the life drain from the fragile girl's eyes. She told herself that she was making up the change of round scenario. Karen watched through hollow eyes as the setting for the horrible games new round depicted in itself an equally horrible game. No, she corrected that comparison. Even that brutal game would not force a young girl like Lillian to die horribly, just to make way for the one winner.
When she was finally deposited on her own, she slumped to the ground, finding herself unable to support her own weight. She told herself over and over that this could not be happening. That she was going to see another horrible toxic horror and start the process all over again. She finally snapped, and tried to cure the toxins from her body with magic.
But afterwards, she found herself still in the new round, on a cold street and without Lillian.
Realising that the girl was dead Karen quickly broke down into tears. Lillian had been a sweet, scared little girl who didn't deserve anything that had happened. She clenched her fists, the urge to scream rising in her chest threatening to break free she wept for the fallen child. The tears escalated into streams, and wails. Why couldn't she have died instead? Why wasn't she able to protect anything? For years she had thought herself to be 'strong', but in reality she was the weakest among the remaining humanoids. She didn't notice the stares she was getting from passers by, most if not all noticing the large sword on her back, the smell of burning coming from her clothes and the ragged state she was in. -”maybe she got free from the last game, I heard it was a volatile last ten minutes!” -”Dude, she's kinda cute. I bet she knows all kinds of ways to kill you!” -”You always liked the creepy ones, but that sword is huge! I bet she can't even swing that thing.”
As the group of strangers decided her fate against her will, Karen simply cried into her arms.
Her mind was getting desperate, and she found her wishing Sarika was there. She would have failed to comfort Karen in the least, but she just wanted someone to console her, to tell her everything was going to be all right again. She wanted the lies, the sugar coating that every child would have been given.
Even the vile, battle lusting part of herself was silent in the matter. It wanted cold hard revenge, just to destroy Reudic and not think about anything until it was vanquished. She was too emotionally unstable to do anything to the plant, she would get careless, dangerously so. She tried wiping away her tears, noting far too late how dry her eyes were getting and how blurry her vision had become. Regaining her composure took longer than she wanted as she kept crying further each time she wiped her face. She would stop that with magic. It was necessary for her to survive, and for her to destroy Reudic. The berserk spell would suffice, but in her mind she thought of the spell as it currently was. It was self destructive, limiting and uncontrollable. So she decided to cast it differently. She willed it to change, giving herself complete reign on her strength and emotions. She would blot out the sadness and despair, and force herself to target Reudic with cold precision. Her body would not undertake the same change as she would in extreme circumstances, it was too tiring and caused too much strain.
With one final moment dedicated to hoping Sarika would stay safe, Karen cast the spell on herself.
She felt her mind become clearer bit by bit. The concept of loss, pain or even Lillian were wiped from her brain, soon replaced by the burning desire to kill Reudic. The tears had finally stopped.
Finding herself sufficiently composed, Karen finally noticed the spectators. They had been watching her for quite some time so the sudden movement took them by surprise. She strode up to them, allowing them to finally glance at her dark red eyes, almost hidden by her witch hat and hair.
One of them attempted to greet her, but he was shot by a piercing glare. It was unintentionally cold, devoid of emotion or contempt.
“The stadium. Where is it.”
It was not a question, as they recognised from her voice. It was a command. They would tell her where it was, and they wouldn't dare thinking of doing otherwise. One pointed to the street to their left, towards the traffic. A brief indication that if she travelled a mile in that direction would allow her to see it followed, and she turned to leave.
But one last thing kept her from walking away. She turned back and faced them again.
“How are contestants entered into that game”, she once again forced them to speak.
“Honestly, that's...” He tried not answering the dark topic, made taboo for all the fans lest a sense of morals finally crop up once again in the general public. Karen's icy stare eventually broke him.
“Kidnapping. Some people get rewards for finding people suitable, others are whisked off the street randomly. Look, just who the hell are you?” He asked her, finally snapping out of the spell her demeanour, not her magic, had cast on him
She smiled, in a way they found quite unsettling, “I'm a warrior. Plain and simple. I'll reward you. Somewhere in this city is a monster. I saw animals in the game, so they will be interested to know of a flying forest beast, capable of snapping necks and poisoning anything it touches. Alert them to it and they should pay you handsomely.”
Once again she turned her back on them, but quickly uttered, “And of course, you wouldn't tell them about me”, before she began running towards the Stadium.
'I will kill him. If they don't find him, I will. It'll just make things quicker for both of us. And I'll avenge... Avenge everything.' She thought to herself, not realising she had already forced the knowledge of Lillian to be completely locked away.