She smiled and came at me. She moved at a gentle, measure pace. Not cautious, but perfectly controlled. She was back to her graceful dancer’s movements. And suddenly I realised what the new stance was about.
When Kiru closed with me, she released her cutting string. The wide overhand movement gave it away and I moved aside, but when the line shot out, the other four did not follow.
Kiru pivoted as I moved around her and she rotated to catch me with the line, she did not retract the wire like she normally did and it came at me a lot faster on the back of the built-up momentum. If my legs were still flesh I would have risked popping an ankle from the turn I needed to get out of the way.
That clinched it. Kiru had taken her technique back to basics. She was using single-whip techniques and her mastery of the multi-line style gave her a fantastic level of control. Kiru stopped her spin, turned her hand around to allow the line to rotate again and came at me in the space of a heartbeat. I dodged again and again as Kiru kept walking slowly towards me, prancing and skip-stepping only when she needed to catch up.
She swung the line at my head height and when I pulled my neck back out of the way she immediately brought it back in a figure-eight pattern that forced me to step back twice. She then retracted the line, chambered her fist and shot out the fingertip at my face.
I jumped to my right and circled around her as she pranced after me, the lone finger spinning constantly. I wished she’d had a light or something on the end because a finger joint on an invisible line was impossible to follow. I had to guess a lot of her attacks from her hand movements.
Kiru swung at me with a long left to right arc, spun her line at the side and then crossed back right to left, striking at my sides and forcing me back bit by bit.
I only tumbled to what she was doing when my heel touched the kitchen counter. I didn’t glance back at it, didn’t dare take my eyes off her, but it was the only thing for me to bump into on this side of the deck. Kiru skipped up to me to maintain the pressure and swung at my head. I lay my top half on the counter as the line sliced right above my head and when it passed I kicked my legs up and rolled back over into the kitchen.
Kiru’s return swing sliced the tip off my boot, then the line continued down and cut clean through the counter.
I landed in another back roll and put another metre between us. Kiru vaulted over the kitchen counter, the line from her finger pulled taunt and sliced back through the counter as she cleared it, tearing out a chunk of what looked like bar fridge as she went.
I saw my chance and came at her while the line recoiled. I caught Kiru’s kick with a two-handed block before the ball of her foot could make contact with my face. As she pulled back her leg I saw her raise her hand for a downward swing and dived to the side.
Right into the fridge. I had just enough time to get back up when Kiru cleared the length of the kitchen and threw-out a step-up side kick, smashing a four-inch dent in the fridge door with her heel when I pulled my head away. Kiru fired that heel and pivoted 340 degrees to spin around and throw out a round-house kick. I ducked low and this kick bent the side of the fridge into a weird angle.
I went for the supporting leg, trying to catch it so I could pick her up and slam her into the ground. So Kiru fired that heel and jumped right out of my grasp. I looked up and watched the world slow down as Kiru turned over in mid-air and lashed out at me with the same foot she’d jumped off. I tried to get up and out of the way, but Kiru caught me in the middle of it and knocked me stumbling into the dinnerware cabinet. I tried to push myself up with my chrome arm.
Kiru stepped in with a backhand slash with her wire. I stole a plan from Kiru’s bag of tricks and fired my piston-punch. Throwing me into a clumsy lunge towards her. I caught Kiru under her arm, bumped my hips under hers and threw her back towards the remains of the kitchen counter. But Kiru wasn’t playing ball with me, she held onto me as I threw her and managed to flip around and land on her feet.
Kiru immediately brought both her hands behind my back. I realised she was going to pull the tip off her finger and slice me in half. Thinking fast I put my chrome fist into her gut and fired the piston. I must have got in just before she pulled the finger, because it knocked her back a foot and I stayed in one piece.
I came at Kiru while I waited for the piston-punch to recoil. Getting into dirty boxing range so she couldn’t cut me, but Kiru copied my own move. As she pulled her head back from my hook Kiru hopped up onto the kitchen counter, gripped the edges tight to brace herself and fired both heels into my gut.
I slammed back-first into the dinnerware cabinet. The weight of its contents crashed against the cupboard door and then spilled out over the floor (and me) as I bounced off.
Kiru reached me in the middle of the room with an elbow to my face. She followed up with a backhand I was certain was going to release her wire, I managed to catch the hand at the wrist, but then my foot slipped on a piece of broken plate and I dropped to one knee.
Kiru responded by round-house kicking me in the head. As I rode the impact and rolled away Kiru pirouetted in the middle of the room and threw her line out again.
When I came up out of the roll everything looked off somehow. Kiru smiled hungrily at me from where she stood beside the counter, but the whole frame looked flat. Like I was watching it on a monitor instead of with my own two eyes. One glance towards the pile of shattered crockery and everything made clear, horrifying sense.
Half my face lay amongst the debris.
Even knowing that wasn’t my real face, just a thin sheet of cloned flesh and hair over a prosthetic, seeing it there, complete with one of my cybereyes, stunned me with a deep numb feeling.
I looked up at Kiru, she retracted her line with a flourish.
“<Now.>” She said. “<It ends.>”
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