Not enough screaming. That was the problem.
It had been bugging me the entire fight, like…well, like sampling a new food and you can’t quite make out what’s missing. Is it garlic? Or perhaps salt? Or maybe even some hot peppers?
Screaming was what was missing from this dish.
My blade hesitated over Medina’s throat. I wanted to kill her—oh, how I longed to kill her—but this wasn’t as satisfying as it could be. Like my sister always told me: Savor your food.
Also, it was possible the Nine still needed her for their stupid plan. They might get mad if I killed her. I probably should have paid more attention when Lakerine was ranting at me. I knew they needed Huntsman—something about symbols and rallying the survivors and whatever—but the rest were less clear.
I tossed Medina at Akiyama, who had finally managed to grow the balls she needed to attack me, and opened up my illusion interface while they were distracted trying to untangle themselves.
The interface was basically a computer that only I could use, a cybernetic implant that put the information directly onto my eyeballs. To me, it looked like screens were floating in midair, but no one else saw anything. I mostly just used it to cheat on tests. But the Nine had occasionally hacked the database to give me information or yell at me or whatever. Maybe they’d put a copy of their plans in there.
My skull exploded.
Right. Anders and his stupid guns. Well, at least the damage had been so fast I didn’t feel anything. By the time I woke up a couple seconds later, my head was already completely reconstructed, and the pain gone.
I was still pissed.
I stowed away the interface with a thought (it was tied to my regeneration, so it reconstructed along with the rest of me) and rushed at the bland little baseline, howling for his blood.
Before I got within five feet, Huntsman was there, one of his glowing blue barriers attached to his arm in the shape of a shield. I struck with my own orange sword-shaped barrier, putting all the strength I had behind the blow. The annoying blond hero skidded back a step, but he kept his guard up, and his shield remained strong.
But he hadn’t had his song for long—his voice would not outlast my own.
I considered switching instruments to match his shields, but decided against it. Beating someone with their own instrument is fun and all, but I didn’t have very much experience with shields, and they’re not very lethal anyway.
Besides—nothing is more fun than the feeling of a blade slicing through flesh.
I advanced on Huntsman, knowing I couldn’t kill him but still planning to cripple one or two of his limbs, when I saw a movement out of the corner of my eye. The whore, Yu, had gained her feet and was charging me again.
Tch. They never learn. I could have used my own petrakinesis to grab her armor again, but instead I met her charge with my blade, which I was more familiar with anyway.
She blocked my first strike by crossing her arms in front of her face, so I whipped a kick at her unprotected side. Not even Akiyama would have fallen for that, but Yu’s only combat experience was against my chorus. Normally, chorus were as smart as other people, but I had…tweaked them. My chorus were only slightly smarter than the ground they stood on. It had problems, but it made them easier to control.
It had been my sister’s idea, actually. I had been planning to—
Bullets tore into my side, interrupting my chain of thought, and this time I screeched in pain as they left white-hot wounds behind. But I found my strength again and rallied, even as the wounds healed themselves without my conscious attention.
Anders reloaded his automatic weapon as fast as possible, but not fast enough. I readied my sword to slice off his hand—
But a ten-foot wide glowing blue force field suddenly blocked my way.
I turned back with a snarl and let my blade fade, which freed up enough of my concentration to use my speed. In the blink of an eye, I had tackled the annoying monster slayer into a nearby wall.
Unlike Akiyama, my speed didn’t enhance my mind as well as my body. That meant I had less control over what happened while I was using it, but it gave me a huge power boost.
Before I could start beating on Huntsman properly, I felt a thin slice near my shoulder. I turned to see Akiyama speeding away. I hissed and started after her, but before I had a chance to retaliate, my arm fell off.
The entire limb, plus half my shoulder. Poof, gone. I stared dumbly at my arm, laying on the dirty alley floor.
Then the pain caught up to me.
I managed to keep from screaming, but only by biting down on my tongue so hard blood spurted out of my mouth. It only made the pain worse, but the tongue would heal, in time.
Sputtering in incoherent pain and rage, I threw a few knife-shaped barriers at the samurai girl. She deflected them easily enough, but she had to tap into her voice to do so, which gave me an opening.
Not for an attack, though. Instead, I grabbed my fallen arm and dodged to the side just in time to avoid another tackle from Yu. Stupid girl. Everyone knows you don’t try the same tactic more than once.
With the girls temporarily neutralized, I had a moment’s respite. Not long—Huntsman was already charging forward, and Anders was readying his pistol—but enough.
With a grunt of effort, I grabbed my severed arm and pressed the stump against my shoulder, hissing at the sudden sensation as the nerves reconnected.
The arm would have reattached on its own soon enough, and if that wasn’t possible for whatever reason my body would still have been able to flat-out grow a new one from nothing, but I didn’t have time for that. Reattaching it manually sped up the healing considerably.
And indeed, less than two seconds after I could move my fingers again, Huntsman had closed the distance and was throwing a punch at my face.
I took the punch—and the broken teeth it gave me—without bothering to dodge or block. The real attack was his other hand, grabbing my newly healed arm and trying to pull me into a hold.
I couldn’t use my speed. With him grabbing me, I’d just end up speeding him too. That was a desperation move.
And I wasn’t anywhere near desperate.
I hooked my foot around his ankle, tripping him. He was too good a fighter to let that force him to release me, so I got pulled down on top of him.
Of course, that was exactly what I had planned.
In the blink of an eye, I moved my knee into position and let gravity do the rest, driving the entire weight of my body sharply into his groin. With this, I would be free—
He didn’t let go.
And he didn’t seem to be in as much pain as he should be.
That’s when I identified the strange sensation under my knee.
He was wearing a cup? Who the hell does that? Who the hell runs around ready for a fight every second of every day?
I had to focus. Huntsman was bending my arm back, trying to break it, and things would only get worse from there. While I had the advantage when I was on top of him, wrestling simply was not my strong suit.
Sword fighting, however, was.
Using my free hand, I summoned a misty orange knife that I stabbed at his eye. He dodged, as expected, but he let up the pressure on my other arm, even if he didn’t let go. It wasn’t much, but it was was all I needed. I finally managed to wrench my arm free, and used a quick burst of my speed to increase the distance between us.
Once my song faded, my head exploded.
Thrice-damned Anders! Why was he still alive? He was supposed to be killed by…anyone! He shouldn’t have even managed to survive the stupid pyro he ran into on his first day in the city!
I struggled to my feet—having fallen while my brain regenerated—only to be immediately tackled by something small and hard.
Yu. The little whore clearly didn’t know who she was messing with. She slammed me into the wall, but not very hard, all things considered. It was odd; even discounting her song, she should have been able to use more force. Was I missing something?
When I tried to throw her off, I happened to look into her eyes, and saw it.
She was conflicted. She didn’t know if she should kill me.
Oh, that was rich! Absolutely hilarious! Didn’t she know she didn’t have a chance if she didn’t get serious? Stupid little sports girl, thinking she could play with the big kids.
I laughed as I threw her to the side, just in time for Akiyama to charge me again. But this time I was ready for her; Yu had cheered me up considerably.
My blade was out and ready almost before I knew the samurai was there, and I deflected her strike with the ease that only comes from centuries of practice. Akiyama’s iron expression didn’t waver, but I grinned. At least one of us was having fun.
“I think I’ll leave you alive,” I told her in my usual flawless Japanese. “That way, you can watch me kill your boyfriend.”
She gritted her teeth. “Shut up.”
“Oh? Something wrong, Ken-chan?” My grin widened. “I think I’ll rape him to death, how does that sound?”
“You heard the lady,” a rock-hard voice said from behind me. “Stop talking.”
An arm, muscled like an iron cable, wrapped around my throat. I didn’t even get a chance to react before my neck snapped like a twig, and I lost all feeling below my shoulders. I couldn’t even get enough power to my lungs to scream in rage and agony.
Huntsman dropped my limp body to the floor, and started stomping on my torso a few times. I could only feel it peripherally, but I could tell bones were snapping.
“She’s definitely paralyzed,” the man said in that same heartless tone as before. “Not sure for how long, though.”
I couldn’t shift my gaze to get a good look at them, but someone flipped me onto my side, then back again.
“Yeah, you’re right,” Medina agreed. “I think her reservoir might have finally emptied. She’s down and out.”
I watched Huntsman step over my body. “Let’s get her tied up. Adam, you have rope?”
Then I stood up and stabbed the annoying hero in the back.
“Reservoir?” I hissed into his ear, as I ground the blade to the side, eliciting a moan of pain from him, and the wonderful sound of dripping blood and gore from his belly. “My regeneration is not a song, not a power like my blades or my speed.” I grinned at his horrified allies, uncertain what to do in this situation.
Weak little humans. Grab their leader, and suddenly I had the entire group by the balls.
“Lizzy…” he managed, blood dripping from his mouth.
My grin faded. I jerked my glowing orange sword, and gore burst from his mouth.
“Elizabeth. And don’t interrupt.” I settled down a little, the feel of blood splashing onto my skin calming me. “Where was I? Oh yes: I am immortal. This is a fact, truer than the dawn. That’s not hyperbole—I will outlive your sun by a billion years. You simply do not possess the ability to end my life.”
“Yeah, but we can slow you down.”
I blinked. What? That wasn’t Akiyama, Yu, Anders, or Medina.
In fact, it sounded like it came from above.
As if to confirm it, three cans fell from the sky. Before I could react, they exploded into sweet-smelling white smoke.
I tried to cover my mouth, but it was already far too late. The fact that I had smelled them meant I had inhaled too much. I began to feel groggy, and I wavered on my feet.
I fell, my blade dissipating before I hit the ground, comforted only by the knowledge that the others were falling as well.
Through bleary eyes, I tried to get a look at my assailant. Who had attacked me? I had thought our battleground was secluded enough that no one would notice…
Someone fell from the sky.
No. Not fell. It was too slow and controlled for that.
Someone was flying down from the rooftops.
She was wearing a large gas mask—the one I had bought for her, for her birthday—but even without that, the long red hair and matching outfit was enough of a hint.
She landed on my stomach heavily and dug her shoe into my collarbone. Although I couldn’t see her face, I could feel her grin.
“It’s been a while, Elizabeth,” she said cheerily, her voice only slightly muffled by the mask. “I think we need to talk.”
Robyn Joan Clarke.
Behind the Scenes (scene 133)
Elizabeth isn’t very smart. That part was never faked. But the thing is, she doesn’t need to be smart. She’s a predator, she’s cunning. She just needs to play her strengths off of her opponent’s weaknesses. And as a thousand-year-old unkillable immortal with superpowers, she has a lot of strengths to play with.