Chapter 88 – Karina
Karina no longer able to stand up due to the blood loss from all the deep lacerations on her body finally fell down to the floor onto her knees. Her head was tucked in-between her knees making it seem as if she was preying as a last action before death. Instead she was gathering her mana into her right hand and letting it flow into her sword.
‘Fine… If I’m going to die then I’m going to die… But… I’m going to kill you. I’m going to kill you if it’s the last thing I do!’
Karina was unattached, it allowed her to let the people around her to be killed off one by one as she felt little to nothing but apprehension for her foe. She was even able to use one of the others as a meat shield. In her mind she didn’t know any of these people, they were competition and nothing more. She was by no means a cold person, but she was certainly cold to those who had no meaning to her.
She grew up a commoner for the first ten years of her life. Her family lived outside of the barrier, where life was harsher. She was sold by her parents for enough money to buy food for a week to a group of men who were going to make her a “servant”. Except before these men could bring her back into the city, a horde of beasts attacked. A large group of beet wolves attacked the village. Chased out from their own territory by a stronger pack.
These savage wolves that had been starved for days devoured every human they came across, and among those people were Karina’s new owners. She escaped death by hiding under some of the corpses at the beginning as they’d fallen on top of her and then crawling her way underneath the foundation of a house. The blood and gore all around the village had dulled the senses of the beet wolves and by the time they made their escape with their new food supply, Karina had hidden so well that she had escaped death.
Karina had managed to avoid two fates worse than death that day. She stayed in that hole the entire night until dawn the next morning before crawling out and once she had, she’d already steeled herself to the understanding that this was the world she lived in. One where kindness was an illusion given to few and death and cruelty were an expectation. Instead of feeling hate or sadness for her parents selling her, she felt nothing. Even though she was a child, she’d grown up hungry her entire life. She knew how much food meant to them, and she understood how they would starve without doing what they’d done. She had two other siblings, two brothers and her parents had no way to feed her younger brothers.
‘They did what they needed to do…’
She didn’t go back due to a sense of obligation, or love either. She felt freed. Freed from a life where she was a bargaining tool. A life where her parents love could be measured by money. She had been sold, and her parents had received a sum of money to feed themselves for a week. She had given them enough by not struggling to leave or resisting her fate.
‘I did what I should have done… That’s enough…’
Instead she left for the woods. She began roaming around and avoiding beasts whenever she could. She’d been attacked by weak monsters on numerous occasions but had survived. She was a survivor. She had killed her first creature only weeks after that incident when she was still 10. She had gone from killing goblins with their own knives to deathly apparitions for their swords. Karina had survived a grueling life by using her wit and her strengths to overcome the obstacles before her. She would survive and live in the wilderness because she had no better option, and return and sell what she could in the city for meager earnings whenever she could.
When she was 13 she heard from some adventurers who were traveling into the woods to fight and kill beasts about the upcoming exam in a year. The exam for the prestigious Lumea Academy. Even she had heard about that academy growing up, and for a moment she let herself dream of what that could mean for her. A life where she didn’t have to fear for her safety every moment, a life where she didn’t have to constantly be aware of her surroundings and wary that something might kill her whenever she left down her guard.
A life with a future. ‘What a fantasy’ she thought as she put it out of her mind almost as soon as she’d thought about it. Instead she continued living her life, with no hope for the future but a refusal to die. A life focused on the present and not the future for another entire year until she was attacked by a group of commoners in the fields.
They saw her and after they got past the filthy clothes, dirt and grime on her face and body. They saw past that to the beauty that couldn’t stay hidden even while she was completely filthy from living in the wilderness. They desired her, and attacked her.
Unfortunately for them, she never rested anywhere without laying traps around herself, she had already dug multiple holes with spikes underneath and before either of these two men reached her they had already had their legs impaled. They weren’t deep enough to kill, but these men lost their mobility. Staring at their eyes full of fear, the desire long gone and the anger showing. She mercilessly sliced open their necks and let them bleed out before her.
These were the first humans she’d ever killed. It was a new experience and what shocked her the most was how little remorse she’d felt. She felt nothing except contempt. That was the day she begun to realize how her life impacted her view of the world. That was the day she begun to think about herself, her surroundings and her beliefs. Instead of focusing on her survival, she had her first thought regarding morality since she’d left the safety of her parents home.
Later that day, surrounded by as many traps as she could possibly make, she sat down and begun to think about what she wanted. Even without realizing it, she had begun to enter a natural form of meditation and after realizing she wanted more out of her life than merely to survive, she had finally noticed the mana around her. She begun to draw in this mana and she could feel herself getting stronger. She begun to hunt, survive, and meditate every day without fail. Her body grew stronger bit by bit, unbeknownst to her she wasn’t concentrating her mana into her mana pool, but born from a desire to survive in order to realize what she wanted in life, she had begun to fortify her body with this mana. Every since particle would be infused into her body, into her skin, her bones, her organs, her veins, her blood and every single cell of her body.
When she turned 15 she returned to the city, and immediately signed up for the Lumea Academy exam. She never needed to ask directions, the academy towers themselves were a guide as to where to go. She passed the exams with no notice. The examiners themselves thought her aptitude to be only average, had they known she had only begun to practice mana manipulation for one year, and with no guidance… They would have been shocked to the point of bowing and treating her like a prodigy.
Instead she stayed below the radar, when she left the city with the large group of participants she didn’t have a single shred of doubt in herself. She was wary of her surroundings, she slept with one eye open, she was tense but not out of fear, but expectation. The confidence and self-awareness is what caught the eye of Professor Lydia, to her it was rare to find a woman even slightly similar to herself and that was enough for her to add her to her group of participants.
When Karina saw Damien start his speech, as he rallied a large group of people to follow him. She hesitated for a moment, but followed. Not because she was moved by his speech, thought he could keep her safe or even because she knew who he was. She followed because she had observed enough beasts in the fields to understand group mentality. People would follow Damien, and he would either get them killed or keep them safe, but either way she could use him. There would always be safety in numbers rather than staying around hoping the other half of the participants grouped together as well.
When the imps had begun to attack them, and she realized they were under attack, she regretted her decision almost instantly. Seeing the others fall one by one like tofu she came to realize how useless everyone around her was, and how little they would be able to do to distract these creatures. In all her life she’d never encountered such fast creatures. The gore, the blood and the death didn’t faze her, but their effectiveness and intelligence drew an inkling of fear.
Unlike everyone else in the group including Damien, she wasn’t under the illusion that someone would step in and save her. She knew better from her previous experiences that the only person she could rely on was herself, if she wanted to live than she had to figure out a way out of this situation herself.
She steeled herself and took swings at these blurs, but even she couldn’t follow them with her eyes. Instead she hid underneath the biggest guy in the group and hoped that his size would draw attention away from her as she hoped to use him as a shield.
One by one heads began to be lopped off, falling to the ground with blood spewing from the necks of these now corpses. Everyone held it together for the first few but soon after almost everyone began panicking and screaming. Screaming in pain or screaming for help, they were all terrified and half of them were whittled down and killed within a few minutes.
Only the ones who could barely follow these blurs would move or dodge out of the way, and only be cut or scraped if they were lucky. before Karina had been noticed her meat shield had been stabbed through the jugular as blood spewed out on top of her head as she glanced up and saw his corpse falling on top of her as she jumped forward. Hitting the ground and rolling forward she a pain in her side as she struggled to get up to see a chunk of her waist missing. Shock evident on her face as she realized what had happened.
Another cut. She reacted the moment she felt the smallest tickle on her body, but not matter how fast she reacted and moved she would be cut. They cut her and the best she could do was avoid another deep laceration. After about a minute of drawing in their focus she had finally fallen on her knees.
Karina had never had hope, she had nothing but the will and desire to survive and even now that had been whittled away. Instead of feeling dread, there was a slight smile on her face as she gathered her mana into her sword and prepared to kill whatever tried to attack her next.
‘I survived for 15 years… I hope in the next life I have the opportunity to do more than survive. I hope I get the opportunity to live’ she thought as she prepared for death.