Raya is not sure she's the one for this...
Chapter Six: Raya
This is what the Morozov clan had been raised for. From the time any of the children could walk, they are trained to fight; when they become mature enough to hold a spoon, trained in weaponry. Before any of them step foot in the Durmstrang Institute for Magic, they know several non-Ministry-Approved (nor monitored) defensive spells and even more offensive ones. Grandmother Gyurgyik often brought this generation's girls into the gardens to learn the names and properties of various magical and non-magical plants and herbs. The Morozovs, while made wealthy through assorted legitimate businesses, largely maintained its wealth through illegal operations. Not one member of the family was excused from contributing.
In short, Raya and Teras Morozov were no doubt the most dangerous opponents in this year's Phoenix Games.
Those at Durmstrang Institute were proud to participate in the Phoenix Games for the first time. The ceremony for deciding its contributors -- the "Reaping" it had been called -- had been treated like a true celebration and Raya had also been excited at the idea. While not exactly fond of the idea of watching people be killed, the competition itself thrilled her. It was yet another chance to prove that Durmstrang was the best. It was better than the Tri-Wizard Tournament because rather than relying on a judge --and-points system, it was based on sheer skill. Who had the skills to survive, who had the skills to outsmart their opponents, who had the skills to be the last one standing. Death was just an unfortunate by-product.
Never had Raya believed that she would be one of the two to prove her school's superiority. Surely it would have been Iudita Szunucson or Belladona Blazychova. Not a Morozov, and certainly not Raya. She was more cut out for the quiet jobs, more used to remaining in the background, even within her own family. Cousin Nataliya would have been a better choice, she had the aggressive personality, was eager to prove herself. Nataliya was more cut out for this sort of competition than Raya could ever be. Of course, Raya had not let any of those questions or insecurities show across her face. It was one of the unspoken rules of the school and one she'd had beaten into her ever since she could remember. People take advantage of weakness. If Raya started letting her weakness show this early into the competition then her opponents, the kids from the other schools would surely take advantage and slaughter her.
A guy named Vladimir Djkovik had been named the male contributor. He strode up to the stage with a grin on his face, to the cheers of his Molokov House peers. Raya had been relieved that none of her siblings or cousins had been chosen, but that relief faded when that damned Teras stood up and challenged Vlad for the right to compete. The boy was just so simple-minded; never mind the fact that only one of them could come out of this game alive, and that it was a real possibility that one of them would have to kill the other -- no, Teras had to "protect" Raya, forgetting that his cousin has most of the same tricks that he did. Never mind that he is the heir to the head of the family. She was his Raya and he was going to protect her. Stupid, stupid, stupid man! Didn't he have a sense of self-preservation?
For the ten seconds that Raya Morozova is encased in darkness, she thinks about this. This will be the last time she allows herself to feel any sense of fear, dread, or weakness. For this last moment, she will let herself be vulnerable and childish. Because once the lift breaks the surface of the arena, there will not be a moment when she is safe to do so again. Not until she wins.
The twenty-four of them are standing on platforms all around in a circle. Teras stands across from Raya and she knows from experience that his dark-determined expression is in place and it mirrors her own. Cold. Calculating. Heartless. The same face they'd worn for the last two weeks while they helped one another sharpen the skills that were going to be the most valuable to them here. No amusement like in the eyes of the twin girls, no worry like in the eyes of the Malfoy boy. Somewhere to Raya's left, an explosion goes off. A girl screams, the pitch causing Raya wince. Taking the chance and a quick glance over, she notices that the Muggle boy who had been standing three platforms over was now just a red and dusty smudge on the ground. Raya recalls the advice from the woman who dressed her that morning, reminding her not to leave the platform before the gong sounds. Raya had not asked any questions at the time, but was now quite grateful for the advice, and thankful that Teras and his hot-headedness had not been the one blown to bits.
The gong sounds and Raya launches herself from the platform and towards her first goal: a roll of cloth that, from the way it folds, she is sure holds a set of knives. It is fifteen feet in, and another girl, two platforms over seems to be headed in the same direction. In her periphery, Raya can see another kid coming, a short but potentially effective blade poised in his hand. Not only that, but the little blonde bint is only just quicker, a yard ahead, and will get to the cloth before her. Internally Raya tenses, certain that her time in the arena is already up; he'll take down the blonde and then end Raya's life too. She'll disgrace her family and her school. She'll let Teras down.
But the boy hesitates when he faces the girl, bringing his blade up short with a tough-act order, "Don't you dare think about it. Don't even touch it, leave."
Raya's lips twitch into the tiniest of amused expressions. He is such a weak little boy that his voice quivers, his entire body shaking with adrenaline and fear. It's so obvious that Raya is embarrassed that she had felt threatened by him. Now was no time for chivalry and warnings. They'd had a weeks' worth of warnings during their training. Now it was life or death. He'd chosen the girl's life. Now, Raya is choosing both of their deaths.
"Make me," the girl growls back at him. She's pretty tough to try to pull that off, Raya has to give her that. She has no weapon, just two bottles of water in a sling, and the pack of knives a hand-span away from her stretched fingers. Raya surveys the area around them. Teras is already in the centre of the field, cramming materials from the giant treasure chest called the "Cornucopia" into a large canvas bag; four others, the brown-skinned Hogwarts boy, one of the twin girls, the French boy, and another Muggle are quickly approaching; around her, kids were scattering into the forest and collecting items. They were all moving so easily, so leisurely, as if this were a game and soon someone would call "Time Out!" and they could all go home safely. Instead of actually playing the game, they were going for manners and threats. Screw manners, Raya scoffed. I prefer staying alive.
Forgotten by the pair now arguing about who was going to kill the other, Raya crouches just like her father and uncle taught her, readying her attack.
"Look, I don't want to kill you, but I won't hesitate if you make me have to!" The boy can't hold his blade steady, and jumps when he hears Raya's voice behind him.
"You already did," she spits, just before she taking his head in her hands and twisting. She removes the short sword from his hand as his body falls. The girl still kneels in place, blinking, apparently in shock. "And you should have ran."
Raya's blade does not go in quite where she had intended it to; had she performed such mediocrity in the presence of either of the Morozov heads she knows that she would have endured so much pain, just for being a single inch off. Or rather, Teras would have endured the pain for her, and Raya would have had to put up with his misery.
Three down. Twenty-one to go.
Not pausing to even remove the blade from the girl's body, Raya moved quickly, snapping the necks of two more opponents and running another through; they were either too greedy or too foolish to run while they still had lives. When the clearing is empty of living bodies, Raya gathers two random ready-filled knapsacks and turns her sights to the centre of the arena. Teras should have been able to handle those at the Cornucopia, but she could not help but turn to watch. The dark-skinned Hogwarts boy is making a beeline for the forest with a canvas bag, a heavy limp, and a quiver slung over his shoulders. Raya does not notice a bow, but the boy is too far away for her to take in any other details. The twin girls seemed to have disappeared as well, unless they lay in the small pile behind Teras... and the Muggle boy he is dueling.
Their blades collide loudly and Raya finds herself wondering why neither of them have not simply grabbed another sword or knife from the box and slit the other's throat yet. Men, always so single-minded. Especially Teras; he only ever keeps a single goal in mind, always without a thought for the consequences. For the last five years his primary goal in life has been to prove to his father that he cannot be controlled, by directly disobeying any order he's received; Teras had even skipped out on Raya's fifteenth birthday ball just because Petr had told his son that he was going to attend. Raya loved her Teras dearly, but he really got under her skin sometimes.
With a growl, Raya removes a small, thin knife from the set she'd just placed in her belt. Its blade is needle-thin, and the girl hated that its usefulness was going to be wasted in such a fashion; knife throwing is Raya's primary talent and this truly was the best blade to kill with, it was so sharp and exact...
"This is bullshit," she swore to herself in Russian, something Teras doesn't approve of. "Well I don't approve of saving your ass," she mumbled at her imagination while taking aim.
The knife flies true and strikes the boy in the shoulder, right in his deltoid, where the shoulder connects with his collarbone. He gasps and drops his sword, while Teras pauses and turns. His eyes find Raya's immediately and she shoots him the one look he always obeys, the don't you dare argue, just do what I said NOW look Teras only receives when he's pissed Raya off exponentially. Teras raises a defiant brow to her. Raya sighs, reading the questions in his expression. Why did she interfere? Was the blade poisoned? What did he do this time? More concerned with escaping and finding cover, Raya spoke once, "Petrevik;" her cousin's middle name.
Now also irritated with his cousin, yet unwilling to keep "his Raya" neither waiting nor furious, Teras slams his blade point-first downwards, killing the boy, then takes his time about picking a new one. Always proving a point, Teras is, and this one states, "I am not controlled by a female." Morozov pride. He snatches up the two large canvas bags he'd discarded during their fight, and stomps past Raya following the path of the river. Rolling her eyes, Raya follows her cousin as he sulks.
"He was mine, Raya," Teras finally remarks in Russian.
"I saw no label. Besides, I did not kill him, just weakened him. You know I could have killed him if I wanted to."
"Then why didn't you?!"
"Because you wanted to kill him yourself," she tells him. "That is what you wanted, isn't it?"
"I do not care anymore. He is dead, and I've moved on."
"Sure you have."
"You don't believe me capable of killing him myself do you? I took care of almost --"
"You are putting words into my mouth! I disabled him because I saw you were open, and he would have taken the kill if I hadn't. I saved your life, Teras Petrevik, now act like it." Raya swings her knapsack around to hit him in the side. Teras stops, turns, and fixes her with a glare. The pair almost stand toe to toe, Raya at five feet, six inches, Teras at six feet one.
"I didn't ask you to save it," he growls.
"Then next time there is a fight to the death, do not join me. I didn't ask you to either."
"Will you let that go?"
"No, because at the end of this game, only one of us will be alive, Teras."
"You will live or neither of us will live, Raya."
"No, Teras, don't-" This is the argument Raya and Teras have had every day since the Reaping Ceremony. It would start with something small, such as what to eat for a meal, or how many laps to run, and escalate to why Teras had to volunteer for the arena and finally, who was going to get out alive. It hurt Raya's heart to think of Teras not being with her like it was supposed to be, but it hurt even more when he talked about killing himself for her.
"You are a hardheaded, stubborn, infuriating thing, do you know that?" Teras tells her gently, pulling her into him with his free arm.
"Now is not the time," she mumbles, not really fighting him off.
"Too bad, I'm making it time." Stubborn. But even against Raya's better judgement, she gave into him for a moment and just let him hold her. It really was terrible that she wouldn't be able to marry him like she'd always thought. After six years of stubbornly refusing his affection and threatening to runaway, to think that she really might have a life without him felt... strange. Empty. Frightening. Now Raya will probably be sent off to Bulgaria or Spain or something, to some other country to be the pureblood wife of some pansy who only expected her to raise the kids and gossip with other so-called "aristocrats." It's the sort of life Raya had secretly been thankful to escape and felt sorry that Nataliya would have.... Raya pushes away from Teras, not liking the direction her thoughts were taking.
"Let's go," she tells him coldly. "There are still fourteen more out there, and plenty of daylight." Teras looks hurt, but nods his understanding.