It's Not the Fall That Kills You 4

Nov 1st, 2014
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  1. “I said no touching!”
  3. “Oh! Sorry!” Blitz’ wings jerked away from Drew’s poor arm. While he wasn’t moving and didn’t have to breathe too deeply, the pain was actually bearable. But the moment he needed to bend, reach, scratch or anything, a million spikes would shoot through him to his very core. The ushi-oni had done her job well.
  5. Blitz fidgeted in her chair, eyes darting around the room. Liess must’ve filled her in on the basics of the situation, as she hadn’t asked the obvious the moment the nurse let her in. That didn’t mean there weren’t plenty of other questions to bug him with, though.
  7. “So what was the fight like?” Blitz put up her wings up like they were fists. “I bet you put some nasty scars on her!”
  9. “You can’t ‘scar’ a ushi-oni, Blitz,” Drew deadpanned. “They regenerate whatever you do to them. And I didn’t do anything to her. It was a one-sided fight. It would take some supernatural ability just to keep a ushi-oni at bay.”
  11. Unfazed, Blitz jabbed at the air. “She must’ve gotten off a lucky shot!”
  13. “Why do you even care? Stuff like this happens all the time to guys, just usually not with ushi-onis.”
  15. “But not to you! You’re the super-strong secret agent!”
  17. Secret agent? Is that how she saw him? Drew almost laughed. “You watch too much TV.”
  19. “Oh, c’mon! You work for a mystery corporation fighting evil in the depths of society. Criminals shiver in your presence, but no one knows your name.”
  21. She got further and further away from the truth with each sentence, but there was no real harm in letting her keep her little delusion. Liess probably had a hand in crafting it, too. “Sure.”
  23. “Who was she, anyways? A scorned lover? A ven--“
  25. Drew spewed intermixed coughs and hacks of pain. Laughter lit up his body with agony. “A sc--“ Another fit of coughs broke him off. “A scorned lover? Is that even possible for ushi-onis? Damn, kid, you need to tone down that imagination of yours. Seriously.”
  27. Her cheeks puffed out. “I am not a kid! I turn eighteen in just a few weeks!”
  29. “Oh, boy. Eighteen! What a font of age and experience you’ll be.”
  31. The screaming sarcasm blew by Blitz as if she was deaf. “Exactly!”
  33. “Just keep your expectations in check.” Drew rubbed his arm. That laughter had lit up all sorts of aches which refused to settle down. If Blitz kept this up, he’d be right back to square one of recovery. He glanced over to his feathered guest, currently nibbling at her wings. Harpies usually didn’t preen, they cleaned with more human methods, but the harpies less inclined to care about hygiene or how people saw them would sometimes do it in public. The edge of his mouth twitched. At least she wasn’t really going at it.
  35. “You say the company is mysterious, but you somehow landed in with them. How exactly is that?” he asked.
  37. “Hmm?” She immediately dropped what she was doing and stared at the far wall. “What do you mean?”
  39. “Don’t try playing ignorant, you’re horrible at it. And it’s pointless with someone who knows as much as I do about the company. So out with it.”
  41. “I, uh, I’m not totally sure on that myself…” Her voice trailed off.
  43. “You can’t be THAT clueless.”
  45. She played with her wings in her lap. “I think I made someone mad. The wrong kind of someone.”
  47. Drew hummed an acknowledgement. Pissing off the right people could easily put you in the wrong place… but he didn’t take the company as the kind of organization to protect silly thunderbirds out of the kindness of its cold steel heart. She was probably leaving something out, yet there was probably much about her own situation she didn’t comprehend.
  49. Drew blew into stale hospital air above him. Nothing for him to concern himself with as long as she wasn’t going to put him in any more danger with her presence. Knowing the company, she’d been well hidden, and keeping a low profile should ensure things stayed that way. As he looked back at the fidgeting Blitz, his eyes narrowed. For this one, a low profile might actually be a problem. Was that why they put her with him? Protection? He’d have to grill Liess about that later. Even if he got nowhere with it, at least it could help dull these persistent questions running through his head.
  51. “What are you going to do next?” she asked.
  53. “Next, I’m going to heal. Then I’m going to do my job.”
  55. “Ah! The cruel ushi-oni is going to feel the cold hand of justice!” Blitz jabbed at the air.
  57. “Don’t… don’t call it justice. It’s just the way the world works. My world, at least.”
  59. “So the cold hand of vengeance! She’ll regret raping you, cursing her foolishness with her dying breath!”
  61. “This isn’t a damn movie, Blitz. And I don’t kill monstergirls just for raping me. Otherwise, there’d be several more monstergirls underground.”
  63. Blitz’s arms went limp at her sides. “S-several? You mean, this has happened to you that much?”
  65. Drew rolled his eyes. “I just told you, stuff like this happens all the time to guys. I’m no exception.”
  67. “But, you’re, well… fine.”
  69. “Fine?” Drew could go into many different arguments about how his current status couldn’t be defined as ‘fine’, but most of it would be lost on Blitz. “You get used to it. You have to, or you either become some monstergirl’s plaything, or end up a broken mess with a fine chance of ending up dead in an alleyway somewhere.”
  71. Pouting, Blitz stared at the floor. “You shouldn’t *have* to get used to it.”
  73. Sucking in a breathful of the stagnany air between them, Drew turned away from Blitz. Almost eighteen, she said, but a kid through-and-through. Not even Drew was ever that ignorant, though as a monstergirl, she never had the troubles of a human male. Blame it on her upbringing, not her own stupidity.
  75. While that last subject seemed to quiet her down, Drew wasn’t a fan of the thickness that now hung in the room. He kept fidgeting, lighting up jolts of pain all over his body. He ran a tongue over dry lips and stared at the door.
  77. He was taken aback when it opened.
  79. Liess walked in… and not covered in grease. In fact, her clothing was actually somewhat presentable. Nothing fancy, of course--she would probably rather dote over Drew than get caught wearing a gaudy dress--but not torn up or revealing, either. A white undershirt covered her chest where her baggy, blue button-up shirt did not. The fact only a couple buttons were done could’ve been from laziness or to keep the thing from suffocating her. Slim, tight jeans hugged her slender legs well, rusting against each other as her practiced stride brought her up to Drew’s bedside. The one piece Drew was not surprised to see her wearing was that wry smirk.
  81. “Vy zittle agent haz gone und hurt ‘imzelf.”
  83. “Aww, bringing out the german just for me?”
  85. That dampened it. A little.
  87. “I should not be so surprised you were reckless enough to allow this to happen.”
  89. “This isn’t--“ started Blitz.
  91. Two dagger-filled stares silenced her instantly. Drew was rather certain Liess’ were sharper.
  93. “Blitz,” said Liess.
  95. Blitz tried to stare back, but her eyes couldn’t quite stay on her for more than a second at a time. She sat there, waiting for something more.
  97. “She’s asking you to leave, Blitz,” said Drew.
  99. Blitz’s face scrunched up into a frown, but she left nonetheless, letting the door close as loud as it could on her way out.
  101. “Are you two getting along as well as I’d hoped?” The way she could inject sarcasm without even changing her tone made Drew’s stomach churn.
  103. “Better.”
  105. “Good.” She took a seat, crossing one leg over the other and resting her hands atop her knee. “I’m here for a briefing.”
  107. Drew shrugged. “Unfortunately, I don’t think I know anything that could shed light on this. But after I left your place with the explosives, I scoped out the locations you suggested. Didn’t set anything up, just took a look. Afterwards, I headed back to my apartment, dried off from the rain, and sat down to relax. That’s when I heard the knock.”
  109. Liess’ eyes sharpened. She knew what came next.
  111. “If I had known it was that ushi, I’d have jumped straight out the window. But I just figured it was Blitz and answered the door. We got into it the moment we saw each other, and the fight went about as well as you’d expect. If you were the one to pick me up, then I imagine you saw the shape the place was in.” Drew shook his head. “I have no idea how she found me so quickly, and she didn’t give that information away. She was too busy plowing me like an ox.”
  113. “I believe I have the answer to that question.”
  115. Drew perked up with interest and suspicion. “Don’t tell me YOU had something to do--“
  117. “Do not sink I am zuch a fool to let harm befall mine agents,” she snapped. “I was inquiring about the ushi-oni with my contacts as you asked me to when I heard an interesting thing. They didn’t know if it was our ushi-oni, but one had shown up in the city recently, carrying around another monstergirl like some pet--or prisoner.” She leaned in. “A wolfgirl.”
  119. Drew paled. “One of the wolfgirls who’d been after me in the forest.” A ushi-oni finding him in a city on her own so quickly was out of the question. With a wolfgirl, his scent, and the scent of his car, however…
  121. Liess grimaced. “I did not know about ze wolfgirls, but after hearing that bit of information, I had a feeling things would turn zour quickly. I rushed over to your apartment to find her raping your unconscious body. I chased her away by blowing off a couple limbs, but nothing fatal. In order to get you to the hospital in time, I had to let her go.” She leaned back in her chair. “Besides, I am not the type to do her subordinate’s work for him.”
  123. “So she’s still out there.” He hadn’t expected anything different, though it would’ve been nice to see Liess in action.
  125. “Yes, she is, and that’s a problem.”
  127. “No need to rub it in, Liess.” He gestured to himself. “As you can see, I’m already reaping the consequences of my mistakes.”
  129. “Yes, but I haven’t had a hand in any of those consequences, leaving me somewhat unfulfilled with the current situation. A superior needs to chastise her subordinates, lest they become wistful and arrogant.” She stood up and walked to the foot of the bed, arms crossed as she stared out the window. “Missing your first shot was a stroke of bad luck. She leaned over at the wrong time and you missed. You should have been quicker to react to her movements, or acquired your target faster. These things can be learned and fixed through practice. Do you know what I find fault with most, however?”
  131. Drew straightened out his back. It would be a bad idea to disregard a lecture from Liess. “That I lost to the ushi-oni when she found me. I should’ve been able to end the job right there.”
  133. “Hmph.” She gave Drew’ leg a slap, sending fresh shocks of pain up his body. He winced, but kept quiet. “You would have to be quite something to defeat a ushi-oni in that situation. There are very few people who could, and even those would require a fair bit of luck.” She sat down on the bed, slipping her hand up to his knee. “No, I wouldn’t expect anyone to win that fight. What I WOULD expect is that you prevent that situation in the first place! How many times did you tell yourself ‘there’s no way she’d find me yet?’ Why did you not have a reserve plan should that first attempt fail? You took no action to cover your tracks, your scent, or even lay low in an alternate location for a while. You know the company has the resources for that and much more. Also, you never told me about the wolves in your debriefing. You were too frustrated with yourself at missing the ushi-oni that you left out an important detail.” She scooted toward his face and leaned in. “I just told you this extreme focus of yours was your weakness, yet you’ve made no effort since to work on it. Mistakes happen, and in our field, you’re very lucky to live through one. But how you follow it up is what turns it into either fortune or disaster. Do you understand?”
  135. Drew’s eyes burned, but he couldn’t bring himself to blink before the sweltering glare bearing down on them. “Yes, I understand.”
  137. “Good. I will expect more from you in the future. I hope you do not disappoint.”
  139. A weight lifted from Drew’s chest as Liess stood up off the bed and glided over to the window with eerily quiet steps. He’d gotten through her lecture intact, but that last statement had left a knot in his stomach. When Liess said she expected more, she didn’t say it lightly. In a way, Drew felt a touched honored by her willingness to place those expectations upon him, but at the same time, if she saw no results, his ass would be on the grill. He lightly rubbed the spot on his leg Liess had slapped. Wight strength was nothing to shake a stick at, but thankfully, it seemed this time she’d held back. Drew smiled to himself. This might have been the first time she’d ever shown him pity.
  141. “I know I mentioned Blitz before, but this time I’m more serious about asking: how are things with the two of you?”
  143. “Ask it like that, you make it sound like we’re together.”
  145. “No jokes this time.”
  147. Her sharp, lowering tone strung Drew up tighter than a drum and sapped the humor from the air in an instant. “We’re fine, I guess. She’s a monstergirl, so, there’s that, but you could’ve handed me worse.”
  149. “I happen to be a monstergirl as well, if you have forgotten.”
  151. Drew rotated his lower jaw. Liess had a tendency to interpret things the worst way possible when she knew the truth was the opposite. “You’re different. You don’t run around trying to show off ninja skills you don’t have or yap on and on about justice.”
  153. He couldn’t see it, but he heard her smirk. “She is perhaps younger than her age.”
  155. “Why did we take her in, anyways? Seems harmless to me. She related to someone important?”
  157. “In a way, though not by blood.”
  159. “How much can you tell me about her?”
  161. Liess glanced back at him. “About as much as you expect, I imagine. The best way to put it is that she’s a political guest.”
  163. “Guest as in prisoner? Or guest as in actual guest?”
  165. “Somewhere in between.” Drew’s annoyance got the better of him and he let out a huff. “She can leave if she wants, but it would be to her own disadvantage. Not even she entirely understands what she’s landed herself into.”
  167. "Makes sense." He looked out the window with Liess. She’d confirmed most of what he’d heard from Blitz: she was just someone who pissed of the wrong person and was now in over her head. As long as Blitz had no real bite, Drew could tolerate her for a little while. Hopefully she could make herself useful and help scavenge out the ruins of the apartment. Liess probably had people on it, but Drew’d rather they didn’t get their hands on his stuff and confiscate what they felt like. The ushi-oni had hardly destroyed everything, and Drew wasn’t interested in starting from scratch.
  169. “Where am I going to be living once I’m out of here, anyways?”
  171. “You and Blitz both will be living temporarily with me.”
  173. “What??”
  175. Smirking, she turned around. “So surprised your handler would be willing to house you for a while?”
  177. “Yes! You’ve never given me any hint as to where you might live or even what you do when you’re not in the workshop or finding me a job, yet now you’re suddenly fine with that?”
  179. “Yes, I am. My house is expendable, should I feel the need to move after this little ordeal, and I hardly believe there’s anything dangerous you or Blitz could do with knowledge of where I live.”
  181. Drew narrowed his eyes. “I’m not sure if I should be insulted by that or not.”
  183. Liess smiled. “It will help me out to be able to keep an eye on you with everything that’s happened, and I cannot deny some curiosity to how Blitz is doing. Or, more precisely, my subordinate’s ability to deal with her.”
  185. “I’m not your entertainment, lady.”
  187. “Oh? It ist odd you zay that, as you’ve been quite untertaining lately.” Her gaze sharpened. “And do not call me a lady.”
  189. Drew knew where the line was. “Fine. It’s your crazy idea. I’m not going to throw a fuss over living with you. It’s just… unexpected.”
  191. “Perhaps.” She headed for the door, gliding across the room with unconsciously smooth, sensual movement. “Or perhaps you just do not know me yet.”
  193. The door closed softly behind her, leaving Drew with a spinning head and a throbbing body.
  195. “Fucking Liess.”
  198. **
  201. Five days and a car drive later, Drew found himself halfway between shocked and curious staring at the house before him. It stood well on its own, outside of any neighborhood, with nothing but plains and forest on either side. A long driveway lead up to a modest building, dark stone walls alternating with large panes of glass as walls and windows. The roof was short and tiled a worn charcoal. From the height of the place, there was no way it had a second floor. Unless Liess had a monster of a basement carved out for this place, there was no way she’d be housing a family here AND be willing to take on Drew and Blitz. Drew shook his head. So she was single. He’d always suspected.
  203. “This it?”
  205. “I do not know if I like that tone,” she replied.
  207. “I don’t mean anything by it.” God help him if he honestly criticize something she took pride in. “I just mean I expected something a little more.” Maybe not a mansion, but more than this.
  209. “It is what it is. Which also happens to be your home for a short while, so you’ll have to get used to it. I find it perfectly livable.”
  211. Drew grumbled to himself as he hefted his bags. Liess could get defensive on the strangest things. Not only that, he couldn’t always tell if she was actually defensive, or just fucking with him.
  213. “I think it’s great,” blurted Blitz, hovering behind Drew.
  215. He was expecting something more from her, but her eyes kept darting back to Liess. Something had transpired between the two of them while Drew was still recovering to put the fear of God--of Liess--in her, and now she hardly spoke more than a few sentences around the wight. Drew wasn’t complaining, though he couldn’t shake the habit anticipating more from Blitz.
  217. “Get your bags and stop hovering,” he said, then headed toward the house, falling behind Liess.
  219. The deadbolt clunked and the door swung open without a creak or yawn. Unconsciously, Drew nodded a few times as he looked around the place. Polished wood floors, carpet cozy on the feet, subdued but expressive colors, spacious but still furnished to feel lived in. He winced when he heard the sound of talons on hardwood, but looking back found the floor undamaged. Liess must’ve had it proofed against certain monster parts. Fortification like that might’ve come in handy against a certain six-legged rapist last week.
  221. Liess leaned gently up against a wall, crossing one leg over the other before pointing down a hallway. “Down that way is my bedroom. Neither of you are to enter it under any circumstance.” She paused.
  223. “Yes, ma’am,” Drew and Blitz both chanted.
  225. Her finger directed them in the opposite direction. “There are the stairs to the basement. You’ll find two rooms and a bathroom down there. I don’t care which one of you uses which, but I expect to find both clean and undamaged when you leave.”
  227. “Yes, ma’am.”
  229. “I’m in the mood for a nap at the moment, so I’ll be asleep in my room. Make yourselves at home.”
  231. She glided down the forbidden hallway and closed the door behind her with a click, leaving two wary guests, bags in hand, standing in the middle of her living room. While she may have said, ‘Make yourselves at home,’ Drew had the feeling it meant more of ‘Don’t touch anything.’ He and Blitz exchanged a glance then headed down to the basement.
  233. It was just as well-furnished as the first floor, giving no hint it was an actual basement other than the utility closet they passed by. Without Liess to show them around, it took a moment to find their bedrooms. They were near each other, about the same size and layout, and a shared bathroom in between. Drew frowned. Sharing one bathroom back at the apartment was bad enough, but a bathroom with entrances from both bedrooms left more room for trouble from certain monstergirls. He shut the door behind himself and tossed his bags on the floor next to his bed before collapsing atop it.
  235. He couldn’t make up his mind about Liess’ decision to house him and Blitz here. She may have appeared a more brutish wight, but that didn’t make her any less calculating and intelligent. Did the company want something more out of him? Out of Blitz? Was Liess grooming him for something? Or was this really just an attempt to get Drew back on his feet, sharp as he had been before the ushi-oni’s little visit? Being around Liess every moment he wasn’t out working would certainly put him on edge.
  237. His cell buzzed in his pocket. Furrowing his brow, Drew dug it out. Not many people knew his number. He squinted at the phone and his frown disappeared. Mitch. He’d missed his meeting with Mitch, hadn’t he? The information broker probably already knew why, though. That was his job.
  239. “Hey,” said Drew.
  241. “Hey, yourself, bud.” Mitch always tried to give interactions with his customers a ‘personal touch’. Drew didn't care, he had simply toned out all the ‘bud’s and ‘pal’s. “Heard about what happened. Sounds like a real kick in the ass.”
  243. “Yeah. Or the pelvis.”
  245. Mitch’s high-pitched chuckle rattled through the phone. “Any chance that was related to what you were going to talk to me about?”
  247. Prying. It was in his nature as an information trader, but he did good work for Drew, so he didn’t mind. “Yes.”
  249. “Still need to chat?”
  251. “Can’t think of a reason not to.”
  253. “Good, good. How does tomorrow afternoon sound? One pm?”
  255. “Fine with me.”
  257. “Great. I’ll see you then.”
  259. Click. That was it. Calls with Mitch were always delightfully short and productive. Now Drew had something to look forward to, he thought as he stuffed his phone back in his pocket.
  261. Two gentle knocks came at the door. He was popular today.
  263. “Hey, Drew?”
  265. Blitz’s voice didn’t have her usual vitality. Maybe she was tired. Drew rolled over on his bed, remaining silent and stared at the wall for what felt like minutes, counting his breaths and tracing the detail in the wall. Not in the mood for her today. Not in the mood for anything, really.
  267. “Okay, then.” He felt her presence disappear from the other side of the door. He could almost see her walking away with a hanging head.
  269. Nap. A nap sounded great. Sleep came easy, taking him only moments after he closed his eyes.
  271. He didn’t know it yet, but he’d need it.
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