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It's Not the Fall That Kills You 6

RSanon Apr 13th, 2015 (edited) 1,725 Never
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  1. “I very much hope you have an explanation for this.”
  2.  
  3. Drew wilted under Liess’ glare, but refused to look away.
  4.  
  5. “Nothing was taken, and other than the window, there’s no damage to the car.” Though purely by luck.
  6.  
  7. “And? I do not care zo much for vat iz missink, I vant to know vy someone broke into my car!”
  8.  
  9. “There was no one nearby when I returned, and I scouted the immediate area closely. There’s little chance anyone was watching.”
  10.  
  11. “‘Leetle chanz?’ ‘Chanz’ tells me nothink! You should know this!”
  12.  
  13. “Liess--” His voice retreated back into his throat when she stepped forward, looming over his rigid body. “Liess, I couldn’t both find a stake-out spot and watch the car at the same time. Leaving the car is a risk I’ll always have to take.”
  14.  
  15. Slender legs and methodical steps carried Liess in a tight circle around Drew. “True. Paranoia cripples just as much as sloth. But you took such a great risk with so much information and materials in the car. What if this person had taken the papers? Not only is it physical evidence against us, but anyone could easily discern what our plans were. The explosives and the weapon I so carefully crafted could be traced back to the wrong people with enough diligence.” She stopped behind Drew. “Why leave so much unattended for so long?”
  16.  
  17. “The equipment was hidden and the papers were right where I left them.”
  18.  
  19. A sharp strike left Drew’s right shoulder numb. “That is no reason, that is bargaining. Do not try that with me. Now: why leave all of that unattended for so long?”
  20.  
  21. Drew’s face grew more heated with each second the question lay in the air. “I didn’t think it was a problem.”
  22.  
  23. “Clearly, it was.” Liess strode up to the car, laying her hand softly on the broken window. “Perhaps this assignment is too much for you.”
  24.  
  25. “I’ll take care of it.”
  26.  
  27. “Will you?”
  28.  
  29. Drew had to gnash his teeth from yelling back at that haughty voice. “Yes, I will.”
  30.  
  31. “Good. It seems you understand the weight of this. You may go.” With a dismissive wave, Liess shifted her attention to the car, no longer acknowledging Drew even existed.
  32.  
  33. Drew’s composure collapsed the moment he was out of the room. He made a bee-line for the couch and flopped onto it. Liess would probably be devoting her time to that car until the window was fixed and she was sure everything else was in top shape. Guns might have been her favorite pastime, but anything mechanical could still get her going. This left Drew with plenty of time to mope. Alone.
  34.  
  35. Or so he thought.
  36.  
  37. “Hi-yah!”
  38.  
  39. A talon dropped from the ceiling, aimed right for Drew’s face. He rolled to the side, purely out of instinct, but still felt the pang of impact on his cheek moments before hitting the floor with a loud thud. His first thought was, ‘I hope Liess didn’t hear that.’ His second was more verbal.
  40.  
  41. “What the fuck, Blitz!?” He checked his cheek for cuts. Thankfully, Blitz had kept her claws to herself.
  42.  
  43. Blitz struck a pose on the couch. “The ninja has been out-ninja’d! Agent Ch-- Blitz has won the day!”
  44.  
  45. “Is this seriously what you do all day? And don’t you dare answer yes.”
  46.  
  47. “Yes!”
  48.  
  49. Drew pinched her belly. Hard.
  50.  
  51. “Aaah! Ninja trickery!”
  52.  
  53. “I’m not a damn ninja. Now get off the couch before Liess kills us both because you couldn’t control your talons.”
  54.  
  55. She was off before Drew could blink. If only he could get that kind of discipline from her.
  56.  
  57. “Geezus fuck!” he yelped when a surge of electricity hit his arm. “Are you kidding me?” He made a grab at Blitz, but she was already running around the couch, wings up like she was pretending to be a plane.
  58.  
  59. “A-ha! Trickery will get you nowhere! It may have taken a while, but Blitz has finally wizened to your ways! Good shall prevail!”
  60.  
  61. “Leave me alone.”
  62.  
  63. “You’re grumpy.”
  64.  
  65. “What clued you in on that?”
  66.  
  67. “Your tone.”
  68.  
  69. Drew rolled his eyes. “Can’t get anything past you.”
  70.  
  71. Blitz cocked her head then cautiously approached the couch, eventually sitting down, her back against Drew’s. He still didn’t look at her.
  72.  
  73. “Why are you so grumpy?”
  74.  
  75. A long sigh spilled out Drew’s mouth. How the hell did Liess control her? “You’re all about good guys and justice, right?”
  76.  
  77. “Yes!” A wing shot out, pointing at the sky to punctuate her point.
  78.  
  79. “Then you don’t want to hear about me.”
  80.  
  81. He heard her wing flop back down to her side and she fell silent. One of these days she was going to realize the company she kept, might as well have been today. A more perceptive person probably would’ve figured it out a while back, but Blitz spent most of her time dreaming about superheroes and not in the present.
  82.  
  83. Drew had to learn the same lesson himself long ago.
  84.  
  85. A pair of wings grabbed his shoulder and gently rocked him back and forth. “Drew. Dreeewwwww. I wanna hear what’s bugging you. I wanna hear itttt.”
  86.  
  87. She had the memory of a goldfish.
  88.  
  89. Reluctantly, Drew turned onto his back and looked up at Blitz. “If I tell you, will you leave me alone?”
  90.  
  91. “Mmm-hmm.” Her vigorous nod betrayed her enthusiasm.
  92.  
  93. “Fine.” He knew he should not be doing this. “Someone broke into the car I was using. Liess was mad about it.”
  94.  
  95. She squeezed his shoulder. “But you don’t have to be grumpy about that. It’s just a car.”
  96.  
  97. “It’s not the damage I care about. It’s the fact I let it happen.”
  98.  
  99. Blitz gave the area a quick look before turning back to Drew. “Liess was being mean, wasn’t she? She’s a mean person.”
  100.  
  101. “Liess just told me the truth of the matter.” He removed Blitz’ wing from his shoulder. “Don’t worry about me Blitz, I’m fine.”
  102.  
  103. The wing went right back. “But you’re grumpy. You’re not fine.”
  104.  
  105. “This is hardly the first time something like this has happened. I’ll be over it before I fall asleep.” He nudged Blitz off the couch. “Now get. I told you what was bugging me, so leave.”
  106.  
  107. Her head fell, but she stood up and started walking out nonetheless. “Feel better,” she mumbled, and disappeared down the stairs.
  108.  
  109. Kids were always such trouble. Here he was in a bad mood, and he ended up being the one to comfort Blitz instead of the other way around. Maybe it was a little bit his fault for moping, but the kid let anything get to her. She could be bouncing off the walls one moment and in tears the next. Drew slapped a hand to his forehead. What was he worrying about her for? She was a nuisance--a temporary one at that. Soon Liess would send her off somewhere and Blitz would be someone else’s problem. He had a job to do tomorrow morning, and it was already getting late.
  110.  
  111. As he drifted off to sleep, he thought back to the hospital room, wondering why Blitz had insisted on being there.
  112.  
  113.  
  114. **
  115.  
  116.  
  117. The morning was full of chills and grumbling. Drew huddled up in his jacket and took another bite of his breakfast before checking the time. Ten minutes till the lamia would show up.
  118.  
  119. Getting back to his perch was easier than he expected. At three A.M., the building was unlocked and stair access was uninhibited. No one saw him, either. On top of all that, he’d gotten a parking spot along the street, so he could keep an eye on his car while he waited for his target to show. Normally, he wouldn’t be so comfortable with keeping something that could be traced back to him or his employer in the vicinity, but the car would soon not be his problem; Liess had told him it’d be going away in a couple days and they’d be getting a different one.
  120.  
  121. After waiting around for an hour, he was ready for the lamia to show up. His attention wandered around the area, watching other people headed to wherever their lives took them on a weekday morning. The sounds of the building coming to life echoed through the empty floor. Feet scuffed above, elevators ran up and down, and the buzz of electricity woke lights from their slumber.
  122.  
  123. Down on the street, Drew spotted an ad, one for a particular Love, Inc. His mouth curled into an empty smile. Love, Inc. was the name synonymous with monstergirls, a dreadfully large and powerful corporation grown from their image. It started as a refuge, a place for monstergirls to find a home and community when the world of humans so staunchly rejected them. Then the company branched out, tried to find jobs and created programs with the aim of integration. The industry they were most well-known for was sex. Strip clubs, prostitution, porno, you name it: Love, Inc had a hand in it. Maybe it was blind luck, or maybe it was a stroke of genius, but through their actions, it wasn’t long before monstergirls became accepted.
  124.  
  125. They also happened to be Drew’s employer. No one who worked for that side of them ever called them by name, though. They were always, ‘The Company’ and nothing else. Drew was privy to some interesting intel, but not an inch more than necessary. And what he knew told him they had their ambition had yet to find its limit.
  126.  
  127. But he wasn’t there to speculate about what the Company did or didn’t want. He checked the time again. Any minute now. He double-checked his telescope and camera and began to scour the growing crowd below. All drowsiness faded away. Once-dulled eyesight sharpened to a blade’s edge. Aches and minutiae disappeared as if they were never there. This was his element. He may not have been set on killing anyone, but he focused as if he was.
  128.  
  129. Just barely behind schedule, his lamia appeared. The moment his eyes locked on her, he knew. A million details ran through his head, every little thing that made her unique burning to memory. The sway of her slither, the way she wore her hair, which shade of brown it was and how far it fell down, the stiffness of her posture, that self-absorption in her eyes, the way they flickered when she stopped and turned around. Drew blinked. Why was she turning? He looked around the crowd; they had all stopped and turned as well. Furrowing his brow in confusion, Drew turned the telescope in the direction they were looking.
  130.  
  131. He found a ushi-oni charging down the sidewalk in the lamia’s direction, and across her chest, the pattern of a wave ending on her right breast.
  132.  
  133. Drew’s jaw hit the floor.
  134.  
  135. “What the fuck.”
  136.  
  137. All he could do was stare like an idiot as she rampaged down the street. Why was she here? What was she doing? Was this some monumental coincidence? It did him no good for her to show up as he certainly couldn’t take the beast on. He hadn’t a single weapon with him aside from his baretta, and that hadn’t exactly proven useful last time.
  138.  
  139. The ushi-oni, far from caring about Drew even if she knew he was there, was bowling people over, destroying any obstacle on her warpath. Most people and monsters were smart enough to get out of her way; many started fleeing outright. She didn’t care.
  140.  
  141. Drew shifted his focus back to the lamia. She hadn’t moved an inch, just as captivated with the scene as Drew… or perhaps paralyzed with fear. Drew remembered the sight of that ushi-oni bearing down on him, that greedy smile, wild stare, and ferocity barely bound within her body. It didn’t surprise him that some would be struck silly.
  142.  
  143. Which is just what happened to Drew when the ushi-oni stopped. Right in front of the lamia. Even from the fourth story across the street, he could imagine the heat of that gaze. His heart stuttered in fear and anticipation. The ushi-oni loomed over the lamia just long enough for the two to fully comprehend the other’s presence.
  144.  
  145. Then a claw was in the lamia’s chest. The lamia didn’t seem to register what had happened. The rapidly-growing blood stain on her shirt wasn’t hers, it was someone else’s, she seemed to tell herself. The ushi-oni placed her other claw on the lamia’s chest for leverage, and without a word, ripped out her heart.
  146.  
  147. “What in the shit-fuck!”
  148.  
  149. Drew stumbled back, yanking at his hair. “What the fucking fuck! God dammit! What the fuck! Why? Why!?”
  150.  
  151. He scrambled up to his camera and began taking pictures as fast as his finger could click. He could not let himself panic. Liess would personally remove his head from his body if he dared try to explain this without proof. Just--why? Why did that ushi-oni go after her? What possible reason would bring her here? And right at this moment, too! There had to be some sort of connection.
  152.  
  153. After watching the lamia flop over like a wet sack, the ushi’s eyes then went up, looking over the buildings, sending a flash of that deranged grin to any and all who watched. Drew couldn’t be sure if she was looking for someone, or what. The windows he was behind were tinted, so he knew she couldn’t find him.
  154.  
  155. That didn’t stop the hair on the back of his neck from rising when her leer passed over the building.
  156.  
  157. Content with her execution, the ushi-oni stormed off in the same direction she had come from, those six legs carrying her off with unnerving speed. Drew quickly began packing everything up. With the lamia dead, he had no reason to come back here. Also, the police would be arriving soon, and he needed to be gone by then. His work, however, didn’t stop a string of curse words and sharp questions from streaming out of his mouth all the way to the car.
  158.  
  159. He scraped up the parking meter on his way out of his spot. Cars gave way to his hot-tempered driving on the road home. He knew he should’ve been more careful, that getting pulled over right then with so much incriminating evidence would end poorly, but he couldn’t bring himself to care. One of his targets had just killed the other right in front of him by ripping her god-damned heart out. It wasn’t crazy enough that the ushi-oni did it when Drew was watching, wasn’t crazy enough that it was the lamia he was about to kill, no, she had to top it all off by shoving her claw into the lamia’s chest and spraying her life out all over the sidewalk. That ushi was a special kind of insane.
  160.  
  161. Drew stumbled into the house, panting. “Liess! Liess!”
  162.  
  163. No answer. He ran through the living room, the kitchen, the basement, even dared to walk down the hallway to her bedroom, calling out her name, but she never showed. Blitz, however, was popped out of her room the moment she heard Drew.
  164.  
  165. “What’s going on?” she asked.
  166.  
  167. Drew fell onto the couch, hand on his forehead. “Of all the times to be gone… Blitz, do you know where she went?”
  168.  
  169. Blitz shook her head. “I heard her on the phone. It sounded like someone wanted her to go somewhere, then she left.”
  170.  
  171. Blitz probably knew better than to ask Liess where she was going, too. For the briefest of moments, Drew wondered if this sudden call was related to what just happened. But he’d driven home so fast, there was no way there’d be time for the Company to hear about what happened and call Liess away. What would she do, anyway? Were they taking the ushi-oni job out of his hands and giving it to her? True, it would be something to see Liess in action, but they’d never taken such measures before, and Drew didn’t like what that meant for him if they did.
  172.  
  173. People useless to the Company tended not to last long.
  174.  
  175. “What happened?”
  176.  
  177. Blitz reminded him of her presence with the question not even Drew knew the answer to.
  178.  
  179. “Blitz, I have no idea.”
  180.  
  181. She grabbed one of his arms. “What does that mean?”
  182.  
  183. “I ran into that ushi-oni again, and she’s a psycho.”
  184.  
  185. “You saw the ushi-oni? Did she get to you?” Her grip tightened.
  186.  
  187. “No, she didn’t see me. She was too busy ripping someone’s heart out!”
  188.  
  189. “What? Why?”
  190.  
  191. “That’s just it, Blitz. I don’t know. She ran up to a lamia, killed her, and ran off.”
  192.  
  193. “W-what were you doing? Do you think she there for you, too?”
  194.  
  195. “I was-- I was just taking some pictures. No where in particular. She couldn’t have been looking for me, it wouldn’t--”
  196.  
  197. No, wait. She had stopped after she killed the lamia. She stopped and looked around, like she was hoping to find someone. Or wanted to make sure someone saw her.
  198.  
  199. No, no, that couldn’t be it. That couldn’t possibly be what that stare was for. She was just looking for someone that might try to stop her, a bodyguard or maybe the police. Fuck, maybe she was just straight-up crazy. There was no way she was looking for Drew.
  200.  
  201. Drew clawed at his face. If he just had a little more information, understood that ushi, or maybe why the Company had targeted that lamia, he could figure something out. Right now he felt like a fish out of water, a drunkard trying to drive down an unlit dirt road. Speculation would do him no good, he needed facts.
  202.  
  203. “Drew?”
  204.  
  205. Once again, he’d forgotten Blitz standing right there, clinging onto him, half for his concern, half for her own.
  206.  
  207. “Are you okay?”
  208.  
  209. A great load of tension drained out of his body with a loud sigh. Blitz. He comes running in the house, freaking out and looking for Liess, cusses his head off while describing how he’d just witnessed that ushi-oni tear a person’s heart out, and she asked if he was okay. ‘No, Blitz, I’m pretty damn not-okay,’ he thought.
  210.  
  211. “I’m fine. I just need to get back to work.”
  212.  
  213. “Are you sure?”
  214.  
  215. “Go back to whatever you were doing,” he said, hopping off the couch. “I’ve gotta go see someone about a ushi-oni.”
  216.  
  217.  
  218. **
  219.  
  220.  
  221. “Raphia? Yeah, she’s ‘round here.” The foreman’s eyes narrowed. “Why you lookin’ fer her?”
  222.  
  223. “Women trouble. Someone told me she could help.”
  224.  
  225. Spittle flew out the foreman’s mouth and he had himself a good laugh. “Yer pullin’ my leg. Raphia? Help with lady troubles? Shiiit, now I seen ev’rythin’.”
  226.  
  227. “Are you going to tell me where she is or not?”
  228.  
  229. “Calm down, pretty boy.” He pointed across the site. “She’s down on the other side that wall, moving some concrete blocks. Monstergirl like her don’t have a bit a’ trouble with it.” Drew turned to leave, but the foreman tapped him with a hard hat. “I ain’t gettin’ sued on account of yo’ ass not wearin’ one ‘na these. And watch yo-self, she’s alone.”
  230.  
  231. “I was planning on talking to her alone anyways,” Drew said, putting the hat on.
  232.  
  233. “Fuckin’ kid, she’s a ushi-oni. The boys here like that ‘bout her, but some scrawny thing like you may come out little worse for wear.”
  234.  
  235. “You don’t have to lecture me about being careful around those things.”
  236.  
  237. “She’s a monstergirl, not a thing. Ahh, fuck it, you ain’t my responsibility. Go get yo-self fucked.”
  238.  
  239. With that, he left Drew to his work. Luckily, he hadn’t needed to drop Fillian’s name yet, and he very much hoped to keep it that way. Invoking her influence always came back around to get you some way or another. And forget trying to keep it a secret.
  240.  
  241. Straightening his stance, Drew strolled the direction the foreman had pointed. He had to look confident, but not challenging. The ushi-oni he was hunting--well, he told himself he was the hunter--posed a very clear, qualifiable threat. This ushi, however… the thought of combining a construction worker’s mannerisms with a ushi-oni didn’t sit so well with him. Also, this was the ushi Fillian had recommended to him, so he’d be a fool to not suspect something.
  242.  
  243. The first thing he heard was the thud of a concrete block, little caution given to such a weighty thing. She came into view once he passed the wall she was working on. Drew’s first thought was that he never knew ushi-oni’s skin could vary in color. All the ones he’d seen were green, but this one was a mild shade of brown, with a round face hardened by years of physical work. Her seal was faded and covered with dirt, loose like it might fall off if she was jostled too hard. Her upper body was covered with a tight t-shirt, and fur spiraled down her arms, accentuating the muscles that strained as she worked. The constant movement of her legs grabbed Drew’s attention next, the ushi-oni’s legs like supporting pillars making small adjustments to keep her balance and allow those thick arms to move the concrete. It didn’t look easy for her, but then again, a human wouldn’t’ve even been capable of doing it.
  244.  
  245. After placing the next block, she caught eye of Drew. Her smirk was hardly as fearful as the one Drew knew, but he kept himself from relaxing.
  246.  
  247. “What’dya want, boyo?”
  248.  
  249. ‘Boyo.’ Fantastic. “I was hoping you could help me.”
  250.  
  251. “Oh yeah?” She stepped away from her work, flicking sweat away from her eyes. “What’re you comin’ to a random ushi-oni for help with?”
  252.  
  253. “I’m having some trouble with another ushi-oni, and I’m not really sure how to handle her.”
  254.  
  255. She threw her head back with a hearty laugh that filled Drew’s ears like thunder. When finished, she gave Drew another glance, as if to make sure he was being serious, then started all over again.
  256.  
  257. “I’d say thanks for the laugh and send you on your way, boyo, but from that look, you seem kinda serious.”
  258.  
  259. “Is there any way you could not do the ‘boyo’ thing?”
  260.  
  261. “Whatcha plannin’ on doin’ ‘bout it, boyo?” She took a step forward and straightened her back, reminding Drew of how little he was in comparison. He did not, however, back off.
  262.  
  263. “Fine. Just answer my questions so we can get this over with.”
  264.  
  265. “Now hold up a sec there, I haven’t agreed to a thing, yet. You’re pretty funny, you got that goin’ for you, but I’m kinda wonderin’ how you found me, cause I sure as hell don’t know you.”
  266.  
  267. Drew crossed his arms. Mentioning a third party would lead to the obvious question of ‘who?’, but this ushi-oni didn’t seem like she’d be forthcoming without a straight answer. Intimidation was out of the question. He could try to trick her somehow, but that would be a gamble, and if she wisened up, she’d be pissed and may not come up with the information even if he gave Fillian’s name. Like it or not, that tanuki had him by the balls. Best to be upfront about it.
  268.  
  269. “Fillian told me to come here.”
  270.  
  271. The ushi-oni’s smile faltered, but came back more somber. “Guess that puts you and me in the same shitty boat, don’t it?”
  272.  
  273. “Yes, I guess it does.”
  274.  
  275. “Well, if answering your questions gonna get me off the hook, you ask till your mouth falls off.” She turned back to her work. “But I ain’t stoppin’ here, boss’ll have my head if I fall behind.”
  276.  
  277. “Your boss is a human male, like me. How would he take a ushi-oni’s head?”
  278.  
  279. “He signs my checks, smartass.”
  280.  
  281. No ‘boyo’ this time. Fillian knew how to ruin someone’s mood without even being there.
  282.  
  283. “Alright, then, I’ll get started. What do you think is the best way to kill a ushi-oni?”
  284.  
  285. “Kill?” She paused. “Girl’s gotta crush on you and you just wanna kill her?”
  286.  
  287. “Yes, she’s got a crush. A rather violent one.”
  288.  
  289. “Okay, but there’s still ways to deal with that that doesn’t involve killing. There are few enough ushi-onis as is.”
  290.  
  291. “The world won’t miss this one. And I’ve already tried those other ways. This one doesn’t care about law enforcement or rules. She’s feral.”
  292.  
  293. “Sounds like a piece of work.” Raphia lifted the next concrete block with a huff and dropped it in place. “Can’t say I’m all about the killing, but if you had’ta do it, I’d probably find some way to knock her out or daze her, then blow or cut off her head.” She tapped her head. “Body’s real tough to take out with our regeneration, but gas, poison, all that stuff still works just fine. Hell, even smoke’ll knock a ushi-oni out faster than a human. Need a lotta oxygen to keep this body working. Take that away and it gives out.”
  294.  
  295. The second agent had tried something like that. Poison darts. They may be effective, but you have to actually hit with them first.
  296.  
  297. “Any places you think a feral ushi-oni would hide in the city? She used to live in the wilderness out west, but it seems like she’s moved to the city temporarily.”
  298.  
  299. “Your guess as well as mine on that. But if she’s feral, she’s probably not going to be hanging around populated places, and she’s want something like home, live a cave. Abandoned warehouses, parking garages, stuff like that.”
  300.  
  301. Drew wasn’t hot on the idea on roaming around the city, searching empty buildings alone with that ushi possibly inside, but it might become necessary.
  302.  
  303. “She’s been unpredictable with where and when she shows up so far. Is there I can lure her out? Force her to be somewhere?”
  304.  
  305. Grabbing the slack of her shirt, she wiped her face off, then shot Drew a sharp look. “This doesn’t sound like simple girl problems. Even for a ushi-oni.”
  306.  
  307. “Nothing’s ever so simple when Fillian gets involved.”
  308.  
  309. “Suppose you’re right about that. Ushi-onis got their own reasons for everything, just like everyone else. We’ve got the same tendencies that other monstergirls do, just with a lot more, eh, enthusiasm for them. And a body to back that enthusiasm up.” She pointed to Drew. “If she’s got a thing for breaking your bones, I’d guess she’s gonna pursue that with all she’s got. But I dunno for sure.” She shrugged. “I’m an expert on myself. Not so much ushi-onis.”
  310.  
  311. “So you’re saying I should be bait.” He certainly felt like bait already, so playing the part wouldn’t be much different. Didn’t mean he was thrilled about it, though.
  312.  
  313. “I ain’t sayin’ a thing about what you should do. I don’t really care. But you asked me if I knew how you might get a ushi-oni to come out of hiding, so I suggested something.”
  314.  
  315. “One last question.” At this point, there wasn’t much that could surprise him, but it wouldn’t hurt to ask. “There anything I should keep in mind that most people don’t know about ushi-onis?”
  316.  
  317. Laying another concrete block down, Raphia paused, tapping the concrete with a single sharp fingertip. “Humans think our lust is like their's, that our heads get all fuzzy when we’re horny. But it’s the opposite: no ushi-oni ever thinks as clearly as when she’s raring to go and her target’s in her sight. Doubly so without the seal. You want to outsmart her, escape her, kill her or whatever you’re planning to do? Don’t get her turned on.”
  318.  
  319. Great. Just ask the impossible, why don’t you? Everything turned that psycho on, and from the way she had at Drew last time, as soon as she laid eyes on him, things would get only worse.
  320.  
  321. “Somethin’ else, boyo. You seem pretty set on killin’ this ushi-oni. But you may not have to. Ever thought about wooing her?”
  322.  
  323. Drew leveled a stare flat as a pancake at her.
  324.  
  325. “Don’t give me that look. You came to a ushi-oni for help with a ushi-oni, and I’m telling you: woo her.”
  326.  
  327. “She’s already pretty infatuated, and that’s exactly the problem.”
  328.  
  329. “No, dumbass, it ain’t. The problem is HOW she’s infatuated. We ushi-onis get all riled up about a guy, and then we take what we want until we’re satisfied. Without a seal and some kinda self-control, that tends to leave guys a little banged up.”
  330.  
  331. “I was in the hospital for four days.”
  332.  
  333. Raphia gestured as if he’d said the obvious. “Like I said, a little banged up. But that’s just how we show affection. We don’t half-ass it. It feels right to do it, to pour everything out without reservation in order to make sure our man knows how we feel. It’s an instinct.”
  334.  
  335. “Okay, so is there someway to counter that instinct?”
  336.  
  337. “You meet it halfway. We go crazy because we have to know our man recognizes how we feel. So if you show affection yourself, if you woo her…”
  338.  
  339. “Then she won’t feel such a need to show how she feels and might tune the rape dial back to a nine.”
  340.  
  341. “I was thinkin’ somethin’ more like a five or six.”
  342.  
  343. “That’s still pretty rough.”
  344.  
  345. “But it won’t kill you.” She waved him off. “It’s ushi-oni, boyo, ‘pretty rough’ is a good deal.”
  346.  
  347. He pinched his lip, watching Raphia work a moment while he considered the advice. Wooing the ushi-oni might be a good way to catch her off-guard, too. It might end up being the first time anyone’s ever been receptive.
  348.  
  349. “Thanks for the info,” said Drew. Not all of it was helpful, but it wasn’t all useless, either. Only time would tell if he could make use of it. He started back toward his car.
  350.  
  351. “Next time you see Fillian, tell her she can go fuck herself,” said Raphia at his back.
  352.  
  353. “I’ll do that for the both of us.”
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