It's Not the Fall That Kills You 7

May 9th, 2015
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  1. For the first time in his life, Drew witnessed Liess being pissed at something other than himself. It was relieving in a way, knowing her mind was too preoccupied to focus on him and his colossal failure.
  3. He sat up straight on her couch, hands in his lap, patiently watching Liess’s composed pacing. The blue dress she wore told him she’d just gotten back from a meeting with someone above her; she’d never let a dress touch her skin otherwise. Her hair looked odd free of its usual ponytail, draped like a stained blonde sheet across her shoulders, static and stress beginning to pull at it. Focused, calculated eyes bore into the floor, occassionally darting to Drew the moment he let his posture slip. He yearned to spill out a dozen questions, but kept them all inside.
  5. “Und you are sure it was ze same ushi-oni?”
  7. “Absolutely. The pattern across her chest and the chipped horn were exactly like I remembered.”
  9. “Und she knew exhackly vho to kill?”
  11. “Ran straight at her, no hesitation. Left right away, too.”
  13. “No attempt to conceal ‘erzelf?”
  15. “If anything, it was the opposite.”
  17. Liess paced across the room several more times before walking up to the wall, spinning on her heel, then leaning against it.
  19. “She must ‘ave been ze one to break into your car.”
  21. Drew bit his lip, feeling a good reaming about to hit him. “I was just thinking that too.”
  23. “Yet she is clearly not a fan of conventional weaponry, seeing as she did not take the explosives or the rifle. Perhaps we can use this in the future.”
  25. Drew nodded, but wasn’t so convinced it would help. The ushi-oni had been getting along fine without guns or explosives, why would she need them now?
  27. “I was thinking, with all the witnesses, surely someone has--”
  29. Liess stopped him with a hand. “Something else has come up.”
  31. Drew swallowed. He hadn’t been expecting to hear about whatever she’d gone to talk with her bosses about so soon. But what else could this something else be?
  33. “You and the bird are to be relocated. There is a place already prepared.” Without turning from Drew, she beckoned with a finger down the hall to the basement. A second later, a timid Blitz appeared.
  35. “You are going to ‘ave to be much more stealthy than that to eavesdrop on me,” said Liess. “But I allowed you to hear because this concerns you as well. Get packed, the both of you. You will be leaving in twenty minutes.”
  37. “Where are we going?” asked Drew.
  39. “Further into the city. Not too far from where you were before that demon cow drove you out.” She shooed them both to their rooms. “Go!”
  41. Drew never had much to pack. In fact, he’d never owned anything he’d call precious. His parents hadn’t left him anything, and the Company moved him here and there whenever it pleased them, so he hadn’t grown attached to any one place in particular. All he really made sure he kept was his jacket; it had served him well for quite some time. His baretta, too, now that he thought about it.
  43. Blitz was an audible flurry of activity. The Company and the ushi had taken or destroyed most of what she owned, but from all the rustling and packing going on, Drew could tell she still had some things to her name. Who knew how long they would last.
  45. Twenty minutes later, they were both packed and loading up Liess’ car. Drew stole glances at Blitz, wondering how she’d handle another move so quickly, but it seemed she wasn’t about to break down. She kept a focused expression, one he’d seen in the mirror before. Her attention stayed more on what was happening at the moment than what was down the road. A healthy way to handle it, thought Drew. If you got too wound up in the future, you’d never find a way to settle for the present.
  47. She glanced over at Drew, probably wondering how he felt as well. He gave a noncommittal shrug before tossing the last of his stuff in the car.
  49. The drive passed in silence. Drew was content to stare out the window, but Blitz couldn’t stop fidgeting. She’d watch Drew for a moment, then Liess, then look out her window, but never kept her attention in one place for long. Ordinarily, Drew would attribute this to her hyperactive disposition, but this time it seemed like something else. Anxiety.
  51. Drew knew the area Liess parked in, and found himself even more curious. Cautious, too. They’d stopped in a monster ghetto, about a low-key as one could get, and somewhere the Company often stashed the hottest people, monsters, or cargo. The fact that this was where him and Blitz’d be staying for a while meant one of them had probably gained the interest of undesirable parties… and likely in danger. Could he have been spotted at the scene of the lamia’s murder? Or maybe someone recognized his car? That could explain all the fuss today, but Liess hadn’t been angry at him specifically.
  53. No use speculating it to death. Their new home waited for them, and with it probably an explanation from Liess.
  55. The apartment complex smelled of sex and damp cardboard. Drew was constantly watching his step, making sure not to step in the various puddles of mysterious liquid on the floor. He heard Blitz mutter “yucky” behind him, her feathers ruffled and sparks jumping between them. The stairs creaked beneath heavy steps, loud enough for the entire floor to hear. Drew frowned at the stains on the walls. He fought down a gag when the smell of the place forced its way into his mouth. Easily one of the worst places he’d stayed for sure, a consequence of sloppy work. He threw a quick look over his shoulder at Blitz; she wasn’t handling it any better.
  57. Liess stopped them both with a gesture, in front of what he assumed to be their new apartment. To Drew’s surprise, she looked like she was about to gag herself.
  59. “I suggest you keep that baretta holstered, Drew.”
  61. His face wrinkled in confusion, but she didn’t explain. When she opened the door and showed them inside, he had all the explanation he needed.
  63. The ushi-oni was waiting for them.
  65. Drew instantly dropped his bags and reached for his baretta. Liess was faster, snatching his wrist before he was halfway there.
  67. “I just told you to keep it holstered! Are you really so lacking in discipline?”
  69. “Are you blind!?” he asked, struggling to free his hand.
  71. “Are you deaf?” Liess stepped toward him, looming with a darkened expression. “You’re not here to kill her.”
  73. “Maybe that’s what you think! That bitch--”
  75. “--raped you hard enough to put you in the hospital for several days. I know. But you are still my subordinate and you will listen when I speak!” Her grip tightened to the point of pain. “Do you understand?”
  77. Drew’s glare burned red-hot hatred into the ushi-oni, only intensified by the deranged grin she shot back. His grip on the pistol tightened. Liess moved between him and the ushi to block his vision.
  79. “Step outside.”
  81. She spun him around, putting him face to face with a terrified Blitz. Liess shooed her away and dragged Drew down the hall out of earshot. She threw him against the wall and held him there with one hand on his chest.
  83. “You should know better than to question me.”
  85. “Liess, I’m not going to have anything to do with that insane, murderous bitch of a monster except to dig her grave!”
  87. “Drew.” She spoke with dreadful precision, but no anger. “I do not like this either. But the decision has been made, and we are to both accept it.”
  89. “Why? Why the hell do they want me living with that thing instead of killing her on sight?”
  91. She let him off the wall and wiped off her dress before replying. “They decided not to have her killed yet because they see value in her living. She is living with you because that is what she asked of the Company when she came to us.”
  93. Drew gaped at her for a minute. “She asked to live with me??”
  95. “Yes. If you want to know why, you will need to ask her.”
  97. “And we--your boss--agreed with this?”
  99. “She offered something the Company finds valuable at the moment: manpower. By killing three skilled agents, nearly crippling a fourth and eliminating the lamia, she has shown she’s rather capable. Plus, by using her, the Company no longer has to invest resources into killing her.”
  101. “Yeah, I’m not arguing she can’t maul the shit out of someone, I’m wondering how someone thought it would be okay to stick her in the same room as someone who she nearly killed.”
  103. Liess crossed her arms. “The benefits outweigh the consequences. If you end up killing her, it doesn’t matter, she was going to be dead anyways. If she kills you, the Company still gets to use her, and they aren’t so broken up about an agent incapable of taking out his target. If you two find a way to tolerate each other, the Company gets to keep one of their agents and retains a powerful killing machine.”
  105. “So you’re saying it’s still alright if I kill her.”
  107. Liess gave a cruel smirk. “That’s the plan eventually. Some people are still sour at losing three agents to that beast, and she’s far too dangerous to try to control. They only intend for her to be used in one specific operation before letting you do your job.”
  109. “And what about Blitz?”
  111. Liess’ gaze sharpened. “Since when did you care about your juvenile roommate?
  113. “I don’t--” He fought to keep eye contact with Liess, but couldn’t help looking down to the other end of the hallway where Blitz fidgeted about. “Look, it’s not right to stick her--or anyone, really--in the same room as that psycho.”
  115. “The ushi-oni said Blitz would not be harmed.”
  117. “And you trusted her?”
  119. “It’s not about whether I trusted her or not.” She poked Drew in the chest. “And if you are worried about her, then it will be up to you to keep her safe. Is such responsibility too difficult for you to handle?”
  121. “How long.”
  123. Liess cocked her head.
  125. “How long do I have to wait before taking her out.”
  127. “A week.”
  129. Scowling, Drew glanced at the open door where his opponent waited. “I can do patient. I won’t like it, but I can do it.”
  131. “There will be something in it for you if you do.”
  133. “Watching her die will be reward enough.”
  135. “I take it you are prepared to go back in there now and act with at least some sense of civility?”
  137. “I won’t pull my gun out, if that’s what you mean. Assuming she doesn’t do anything fishy.”
  139. “Good.”
  141. She lead the way back to the room. Drew’s gaze immediately darkened as he saw the ushi-oni once more. Her hair was as demented as she, unkempt and dark as ink, broken up only by the dirtied red seal over her left eye and her cruelly twisted horns. Recognizing the broken-off tip on the left one and the wave pattern on her chest dredged up grim memories of their meeting in the old apartment. The color of her skin reminded him of dark algae and her scent tasted like bile. She stood there like nothing else in the world mattered but boring down on Drew with that invasive, perverted stare of hers. Golden eyes flashed with focus and madness and he met them with discipline. He heard Blitz shuffle in behind him just before the ushi-oni spoke.
  143. “Hello there.” A dark, silky voice like molasses forced its way into his ears.
  145. She waited, perhaps expecting a response, but Drew wasn’t interested in giving her one. Undeterred, she began to step forward.
  147. Drew tensed, shifting his stance to be ready for anything. As much as his body demanded, he did not run. There were two people, two monsters in this room counting on him not to.
  149. When she raised a hand, he nearly lashed out, but all she did was rest it on his head and give it a little squeeze, tilting it back so their eyes could meet properly at such a distance.
  151. “I’m Ishawna. I’m looking forward to living with you.”
  153. Not for long, thought Drew. “Feeling isn’t mutual.”
  155. Her grin widened. “That just makes things all the more interesting.”
  157. A pair of wings grabbed Drew’s shoulder and tried to pull him away from Ishawna. Surprised, Drew looked back at Blitz to see her fighting to stand up tall. She wasn’t visibly quaking, but she wasn’t about to lash out at Ishawna, either.
  159. “I don’t like you. I know the bad guys when I see them.”
  161. “I really don’t care what you think.” She didn’t even look at Blitz.
  163. “What if I agree with her? What if I think you’d be better off rotting in a ditch off the side of the road somewhere?” said Drew.
  165. “That’s what makes this work so well. Both of us know how to kill and have every reason to kill each other, but we’re both still alive.” Her grip on his head tightened. “What made you miss me? You’ve competent enough with a weapon, yet that bullet missed its mark. And why are you still alive? Your wight friend may have driven me off, but I left you broken, unconscious, bleeding out of a dozen wounds.”
  167. “Thick bones,” said Drew. Her face, a foot from his own, was begging for a punch. Right in the chin, maybe. It would hurt his fist like hell, but seeing her bite her own tongue off would be well worth it.
  169. Liess stepped in before he could act. With a hand on each Drew and Ishawna’s shoulders, she pried them apart.
  171. “I take it you remember the conditions,” she said to Ishawna, who had yet to take her eyes off Drew.
  173. “My memory’s just fine.”
  175. “Then you know neither of these two are to come to any harm.”
  177. “Don’t worry, they won’t.”
  179. Her silky voice didn’t elicit an iota of trust from Drew.
  181. “Good. I will take my leave, but before I do, let me educate you on something.” She leaned into Ishawna’s face, ignoring the height difference. “I am not my student. If I find you have done anything to him or his charge here, then I will not wait for the order to take you down. I will hunt you, I will find you, and I will end you with such suffering you forget who you are before it ends.”
  183. “Fine with me. Bye.”
  185. Liess shot Ishawna one last glare before heading out the door. Drew could hear the aged floor creaking beneath her feet with every step, fading into the distance to nothing. He tensed, squeezing Blitz’s wing to make sure she was still there, and let his jacket fall open in case he needed to grab his baretta.
  187. Ishawna laughed. Her entire body shook with it. She placed a claw on her chest and her legs started skittering about. Even her pedipalps moved, swiping at the air in front of her.
  189. “You two look hilarious right now! Not just because you’re terrified, but because you think that if you were to try something you could actually stop me. I already said I wasn’t going to hurt either of you. Besides, we’re all living here together now. You’re going to have to get used to being around me sooner or later.” She looked at the bags they’d brought in. “Looks like you’ve got some things to move in. Would you like some help?”
  191. “No, we’re fine.”
  193. She gave Drew a look before heading out the door. He poked his head out to see her walking toward the stairs. “I said we were fine.”
  195. “I heard you. But I only asked if you wanted help. I didn’t say I would care which way you answered.”
  197. Drew kept an eye on her until she was out of sight, then turned back to Blitz. Instead of clinging to him, however, she was shying away.
  199. “Why did she say you knew how to kill?”
  201. Geezus. Drew rubbed his forehead. This was not a good time. Well, it wasn’t like he never expected this to come up, but he’d expected Blitz to already have the whole thing figured out. Apparently she was thicker than he figured. “Blitz, I’ll answer your question, but I’m not going to leave that thing alone with all our stuff. You can help if you want, or you can pick out a room, doesn’t matter, but I can’t talk right this second. Alright?”
  203. She nodded meekly, then hesitantly turned away and wandered further into the apartment. Drew couldn’t blame her; every second he spent with Ishawna made his skin crawl. And he was going to have to keep it up for a week.
  205. He caught up to Ishawna as she was walking out the front door. He spotted his and Blitz’s stuff on the sidewalk, next to the empty parking spot where Liess’ car had been. Part of him wished she’d stuck around a little longer, but he knew her presence would ultimately hurt more than help. He had to figure out how to deal with this ushi on his own.
  207. Rushing ahead of Ishawna, he grabbed his last bag and as much as Blitz’s stuff as he could. Ishawna grinned at him as he passed her. She’d deliberately taken up the entire sidewalk, forcing him to walk through the mud and weeds to get around her.
  209. What was she trying to prove, anyways? That she was stronger? That she could scare him? Those things were already pretty damn obvious. Did she get off on this? He wouldn’t put that past a ushi-oni. Grumbling, he shook his head. He couldn’t approach this matter with that attitude. Yes, Ishawna was a ushi-oni, but that wasn’t all she was. There was more to her, something that made her kill that lamia, made her drag Drew into this, made her kill those agents but oddly no one else, at least as far as Mitch’s information knew.
  211. Drew found the room Blitz picked out for herself and dropped her things in it. Blitz looked his way when he entered, but didn’t say anything. Her mouth tried at a smile, but Drew only saw the doubt in it. Soon, he told himself. He’d tell her soon.
  213. He stopped himself in the hallway. When did he start feeling like he owed Blitz anything? She’d be leaving soon enough. She was knee-deep in her own problems, just like Drew. He should be sorting himself out first.
  215. Back in the living area, Ishawna had tossed the remainder of Blitz’s bags in the corner and sprawled herself onto the couch. Half her legs were hanging off the back of the couch where she rested an arm while her others were braced against the floor. Drew hadn’t expected her to try to use the furniture, but it wasn’t the first time he’d seen an arachne-type monstergirl sit on a couch, either.
  217. “Sit down,” she said, pointing to a chair across from her. “I want to talk to you.”
  219. “Talk with yourself.”
  221. He made to pass her on his way to Blitz’s bags, but the moment he was within her reach she snatched his arm, yanked him over the back of the couch and plopped him down so his back was against her chest. He tried twisting out of her grip, but she held fast and her pedipalps were quick to pin him against her. With his other hand, he grabbed her claws to yank them off. She grabbed other wrist and held his hands away from each other. Drew squirmed and thrashed against her hold, trying to find some leeway with her hands and pedipalps, but failed miserably. When he realized he was only wasting energy, he began to kick at whatever part of her his legs would reach.
  223. “Stop throwing a tantrum or I’ll have to web you up, and that’d be more annoying for the both of us.”
  225. “Fuck off, psycho. Let go of me!” he said with another thrash.
  227. “First off, I want to know how you first found me.”
  229. Drew didn’t answer. He kept twisting and jerking his arms in an attempt to free them of her iron grip.
  231. “A bullet of that size through the chest is a very upfront greeting, though I would’ve preferred you stuck around so chasing you down hadn’t taken so long.”
  233. “Fuck. Off.” He tried shifting his body away to get leverage, using his feet to push, but her pedipalps were stronger.
  235. “It probably would’ve been more fun to find you without using the wolfgirls, but that bullet had me so hot I would’ve melted in my own juices had I been away from you for a second longer than necessary.” She collected his wrists in one hand and absentmindedly pet his head with the other.
  237. The moment those claws scratched his scalp, he saw red.
  239. Frenzy in his eyes, he thrashed, seized, and hollered. His body grew hotter and hotter with rage and effort, muscles straining to their breaking point. He kicked at her legs, bashed his forehead into her arms, fought he with everything he had. One of his headbutts connected with the right bone on her arm, and suddenly his hands were free. He was still pinned against her, but now he could fight. One, two, three solid punches connected with her face, the last actually wiping that insane grin off it, if only for a second. She tried to grab his wrists again, but a jab at her chin stunned her. He then moved to her pedipalps, trying to wrench them off, but they held fast. Drew didn’t know enough about ushi-oni anatomy to know where to strike, but he made his best guess, bringing his elbows down on either side of him, right where her pedipalps met her body.
  241. It was enough. She let go, and Drew immediately push off her. Yet just as he turned to put more distance between them, she hooked a claw on the collar of his jacket and dragged him right back into her grasp. This time, she held him close with a crushing hug, pinning his arms to his sides. Back to square one.
  243. She brought her mouth down to his ear. “Keep fighting. You have no idea how hot I am right now. Another minute of this and I won’t be able to hold myself back.” Her eyes opened wide, madness dancing in them, and her teeth gleamed in a wide grin. “Do you think you could make it all the way to the ground floor this time?”
  245. “U-unhand him, fiend!”
  247. No. Drew’s face paled. Damnit, Blitz, don’t do this. This is not the time for your stupid antics!
  249. Ishawna groped at his chest. “Well, do you think I should let you go? I’m not so sure with how rowdy you’ve been.”
  251. “I said unhand him!”
  253. Drew cricked his neck looking back at Blitz. She was smart enough to stay out of reach, but her reckless bravery was about to overcome her preservation instinct. Ishawna pat Drew’s head and gave him a look.
  255. “Blitz, go back to your room.”
  257. “No! She’s doing evil things! Even if--”
  259. “Blitz, room.”
  261. Her face soured with a frown. “Why?”
  263. “Because I said so, idiot.” She took a tentative step backward. “Go!” yelled Drew, and she was gone.
  265. Ishawna released Drew in a fit of laughter. He was halfway across the room in an instant but still glaring daggers at her. While smacking the couch, she’d laugh at the ceiling, look back to Drew, then break into more laughter.
  267. “You’re so protective! Is she your sister?”
  269. “Eat a flaming pile of shit.”
  271. She punched the couch, erupting into laughter once more. “And sensitive about it, too!” Eventually she settled down and got right back to business. “Now, how did you find me the first time?”
  273. Drew shook his right hand, the one that had connected with her chin. It’d be aching for at least a day.
  275. “A hint from my employer. They’d been on the lookout for you ever since the last agent died and someone spotted you out in the wilderness. Wasn’t that specific about it, but a general area, careful tracking and an element of stealth was enough to locate your cave.”
  277. “How long after you found it did you set your trap?”
  279. “Next day.”
  281. Ishawna bit her lip. “Eager? I can understand that.”
  283. “I wasn’t eager or hesitant, fucklegs. It was my job; I did it because I was supposed to. I’m not like you.”
  285. Her smile wrinkled her cheeks. “Really? Is that what you think?” She slid a finger across her chin. “How many people have you killed, I wonder?”
  287. “As many as I needed. I’m not lying to myself about that.”
  289. “See? A similarity already: we’re both honest with ourselves. But why do you do what you do? Why are you a killer? Why do you work for the people you work for?”
  291. “Circumstance. And killing’s the one thing I’m good at.”
  293. “Do you enjoy it?”
  295. “No. But I don’t hate it.”
  297. She shook her head. “That’s no way to live. Slave to circumstance, not doing something you love? Doing what you love’s the whole point of life.”
  299. A blast of laughter ran out past Drew’s lips. “Who the hell are you to say something like that? You’re a mindless psycho rape machine. What the fuck do you know about life?”
  301. “I know what I love doing, and I know I want to keep doing it.”
  303. Drew crossed his arms. “What’s that, raping people? Or do you like the killing part better?”
  305. “I love fun and excitement. Whatever leads me to that, I’ll follow.” She rested her head in one of her massive palms. “Things were actually becoming pretty boring before your company started sending men after me. My life was surviving in a wilderness full of inferior creatures, with the only thing even remotely thrilling being the minor raids I made in town. It’s so boring, just surviving. You breathe, you walk, you eat, and every now and then catch a fuck.” She rolled her eyes. “Even fucking was beginning to lose its luster. Can you imagine what it was like when that first explosion went off? When I found myself half-buried in rubble and for the first time in years, feeling pain?!”
  307. Drew yawned into his hand.
  309. “That first agent I didn’t even think about killing until he was already a mess on the ground. I’d lost myself in pleasure, something I hadn’t done in so, so long. That’s what living is! I almost feel sorry that you’re throwing your life away.”
  311. “Oh no, how unfortunate of me to not have your sympathy.” He jabbed a finger at her. “I never even wanted your interest in the first place. Could you try losing that, too?”
  313. “You are the first one to live after I had my way with you. Maybe you had a better doctor. Maybe it was because your wight friend made it in time to save you. Maybe you’re stronger than the others. Doesn’t matter. All I know is that you’re different, and that can lead to very exciting things.” Her claws clicked as she tapped them against her leg. “One day you may outsmart me and lead me into a trap. Or maybe that wight will make good on her promise after you’ve joined those agents before you. We may end up fighting each other to the death with nothing but will, muscle, and bone. I don’t know what will happen, all I know is that something very exciting is approaching, and you’re at the middle of it.”
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