turned her attention to the girl. She was sobbing and looking at Jerica with
wide, terrified eyes. Her shirt was ripped in three places to the point that it
barely covered anything and there was already a bruise forming across her
throat. Jerica felt even more rage bubble up in her; righteous indignation. But
she forced it down. For the girl’s sake. “Are you okay?”
girl shrank, whimpering and sobbing harder.
hurt a bit, even though Jerica knew this moment wasn’t about her. It was about
the girl. She needed to be the focus – not Jerica’s hurt ego of being viewed as
a monster. Especially since she was about to do something monstrous. As
soon as she verified that the girl was okay. “You’re okay. You’re safe now. I
girl looked at her fearfully, desperately trying to pull her shirt back
together. Jerica shrugged off her own tunic without a second thought and held
it out to her. “Here, put this on.”
girl stared at her with wide eyes, scandalized, and shook her head.
okay,” Jerica insisted, pressing it into the girl’s hands. “Please. Put it on.”
girl nodded fearfully and started to put it on.
glanced at the rest of the tavern. Her buzz was completely and thoroughly
ruined now, though she still felt uncoordinated and fuzzy. The crowd blurred
together as they all stared at her in silence. Rek had stopped playing.
away—” Jerica started to say, trying to give the girl some privacy to get the
shirt on and also some privacy for herself. She had on a skimpy undergarment
that covered her chest, but left her muscular abdomen bare, revealing scars she’d
rather keep covered.
she could finish her command, however, a hand clamped down on her hair and
yanked her back savagely. She ripped herself away and whirled around – straight
into a massive fist. Jerica staggered backward, nearly falling.
man spat profanity at her as he advanced swiftly. Well, it seemed swift in her
drunken state. It was hard to say how reliable either of their senses were in
that moment. Jerica caught her balance before he could get to her, though, and
ducked under his fist when he swung at her again. Instead, she plowed her
shoulder into his abdomen, driving him backward.
fell over a barstool, breaking it as he toppled to the ground on top of it.
caught a glimpse of motion to her left and whirled around. Another man was
charging towards her with a bottle raised over his head; greasy, stringy hair
in his face. She braced, trying to decide whether to dodge or lean into it to
keep him from making a solid connection. Her entire head throbbed from the last
blow that’d landed.
Akeno was between them in a flash, dagger drawn and pointed at the man. “One at
a time. If you want your ass kicked, form a line and she’ll get to you next.
But you’re not ganging up on her.”
glanced at him, grateful for the interception.
man hesitated, then muttered a curse and swung at Akeno. He blocked the man’s
arm with practiced ease, taking the bottle from him and tossing it away. He
clearly had that threat under control. Jerica glanced over at the girl and saw
Rek with her, so that was under control, too. She was safe. That left Jerica
with one job.
stalked towards the man as he picked himself up off the ground, grunting and
cursing loudly. She didn’t give him a chance to fully recover before she swung
on him again, making him stagger backward again. She advanced.
man caught his balance faster than she expected and dove towards her, clamping
his hands down across her throat and crushing her trachea. She coughed. He
squeezed hard, slamming her into the wall. Her entire head rang and her eyes
watered. Jerica clawed at his hands, but his grasp was true.
smirked, revealing his bloody teeth. He spat at her, spraying blood and spittle
and beer onto her face. His breath reeked. She grunted and got her leg between
them, then pushed off him as hard as she could, forcing him backward and
breaking his grasp. He dropped her. She fell, coughing too hard to gather
stumbled backward and it sounded like he broke more things, but she couldn't be
sure. She was too focused on picking herself up off the ground and finding her
balance, trying to clear her swimming vision. She swayed to the side, turning a
glower on the man right as he staggered to his feet as well. Her entire body
heaved for breath.
rushed forward and swung on him as hard as she could, catching him squarely in
the jaw. He grabbed a fistful of her hair and dragged her after him. She jerked
away and hit him once – twice – three times more and then—
yelped despite herself when he grabbed her leg and hefted her in the air over
his head. She tried to claw at his hand, but his grasp was like an iron clasp,
and she didn’t have the time to pry herself loose before he body-slammed her
into a sturdy wooden table. It collapsed, the legs falling off from the force
of her bodyweight. She coughed loudly; all the air knocked from her lungs.
man advanced on her, attempting to stomp down where her head had been moments
before. She rolled to the side in the nick of time and kicked him in the face,
hard. Her boot connected with his nose, making him stumble backward, spewing
profanity and blood. He tripped over his own feet and toppled over.
managed to get herself to her hands and feet and scuttle over to him before he
could gather himself up. She was gasping for air but knew she needed to finish
him off before he had the chance to recover. She tackled him and pounded him in
the face with her fists over and over and over.
bucked, managing to get her unseated from his abdomen. He rolled on top of her
and wrapped her in a headlock. She coughed and struggled in his grasp, clawing
at his meaty hand. He had her right where he wanted her. Her vision swam.
a flicker of motion caught her attention. A moment later, past the tears and
hair in her eyes, she got a glimpse of Akeno leaning down in front of her face.
“Want a hand?”
she spat, angry, but the word came out a bit strangled. She elbowed the man in
the side, making him loosen his grasp ever so slightly, though not drop it
entirely. Her pride wouldn’t let her admit she could use help. “I’m fine.”
Akeno stood and took a step backward, crossing his arms as he watched with a
dumb b—” the man holding her tried for an insult, but she used his distraction
to thrust her entire bodyweight backward, breaking his grasp. She was on him in
an instant, the battle raging on.