15. Falling Hard (Page 1)

Do you have a death wish, Hataru? Captain Levi thought, confined within the boundaries of his own mind as the Kresreb beast controlled his body. When I tell you to leave, you stay. When you really should stay where you are, you throw yourself right in the trajectory of harm's way!

“Zephyr, go back to your room,” she ordered with a voice much calmer than she could possibly be feeling, never breaking eye-contact with the monster. The boy offered no argument, tripping over his nightgown as he fled.

Hataru continued, “Captain Spry, I know you are still in there. Your grandmother told me to help you, remember? I─ I saw her in my dream…”

What?

“She said that you need to let go of your anger.”

The Kresreb growled. Didn't I tell you not to bring my grandmother into things? Hot, dank breath reeking of blood and death fired against Hataru's face, suddenly she was weightless. Icy claws clutched her waist, hard enough to elicit pain but not to sufficiently draw blood, and a horrified shriek worthy of the gates of hell erupted from her throat as the Kresreb began toting her up the main mast of the ship, its metal claw slicing through the wood as fluently as a knife through flesh.

Like a victim of sleep paralysis, Levi had no control of his physical frame, but he was more than awake, experiencing everything the beast sensed ─ the shouts of his men, the sickly yellow light of their torches, Hataru's frame in its clutches. It scared him half to death to have no decision over his own actions ─ a privilege taken for granted, he decided, by far too many ─ and that fear only stoked the flames of his fury.

The three rowboats that the mountain-climbers had used earlier that day materialized out of the air, circling the beast and its captive and pelting the monster with bullets that seemed to have no more of an effect on the beast than a minor annoyance. Hataru cried out, astray projectile seared across her left arm. Blue blazes, Firious! Call a ceasefire! You’re hurting her! Miraculously, the firing stopped immediately, but the Kresreb only continued to climb higher.

Reaching the top of the mast, the monster tossed the girl into an old, deteriorating crow's nest that looked like it hadn't been touched in over half a century, and sneered down at her as if she were a spider found living in the bathtub. The princess curled into the fetal position, trying to make herself as small as possible, as the beast crawled in after her, the aged wood creaking beneath its weight, threatening to break apart at any second. Levi felt a hunger growing stronger in the pit of his ─ its stomach. Levi didn't like that feeling.

Stop this! his voice screamed in his mind, Don't you dare touch her, or I'll... I'll─

Kill me? That is impossible. The reply wasn't so much of a verbal reply, but an innate understanding transmitted through emotion like the phenomenon Levi had often observed between the flock birds that landed on his ship during migration season ─ without so much as a chirp or a wing flap, they were able to take to the sky in perfect synchronization.

You can't keep my body forever.

Oh, but I can. As long as I'm alive, this body will be your prison.

I'll find a way to break free.

There is only one way, but there won't be for long. She will soon be eliminated.

What do you mean?

Watch.

The End

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