Chapter 18 - Letting Go

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"Tell me, pretty lady, are you afraid of death?" The man clutched her tresses even tighter and pulled back, exposing her delicate neck.

Shortly after the roar that had caused an arising in Zain's skin, the man appeared out of nowhere, seemingly traveling through the labyrinth walls. Dirty pants were the only bit of clothing the man wore; otherwise his feet were bare and his chest full of tattoos. On his right cheek was a symbol branded into his skin—a circle with an equilateral triangle inside.

Is another person going to die because of me? Zain approached, inch by inch. Gabrielle had lost her rapier sometime during the battle that ensued after he appeared. With his left hand, he dragged it up along his Gazo's uniform to the knife pocket strapped to his chest.

"It has been years since a woman has entered this labyrinth. I am going to slit your throat, then savor every crevice while you die, and then eat you. I can tell you will taste good." A long, blood-red tongue licked Gabrielle's neck as if she was food. "Your boyfriend there will watch it all." The man laughed and looked at Zain with those inhuman black eyes—eyes that had become as black as the clouds above them.

The man brought his sword to Gabrielle's throat. It was no normal blade though; it had teeth like a chainsaw—not meant for slashing, but for digging and dragging. Zain's eyes darted back and forth between the sword and Gabrielle's eyes. She was panting, but she didn't struggle. He unbuttoned the pocket where his knife was. He would only have one chance. He grabbed the hilt and was pulling it out when he caught sight of Gabrielle moving her right hand down her ballistic nylon one-piece. There was a flash of silver behind a fuchsia garter. Lower. And lower her hand slid.

It happened fast. Zain couldn't process it until its aftermath. From underneath her garter, Gabrielle whisked out a dagger and drove it into the man's leg. Then she tossed her head back, connecting her scalp with his jaw. Swiveling, she swept the man's legs out and pounced on him. While on the ground, Gabrielle yanked the steel from his leg and stabbed it into his chest.  

The man didn't cry in agony. Instead, he laughed. She held the dagger with both hands above her head. He continued to laugh. So Gabrielle stabbed him again. The harder and more raucously he laughed, the greater and more intense were her stabs. A fountain of blood spewed up onto her face and clothes.

What is going on? Zain ran to her.

The laughing slowly ceased, as did his smile, now just a grim line. "I can finally see . . . my family . . . again. . . . Brother, I will wait for you. . . ." His arms went limp.

Gabrielle stopped stabbing. The black eyes turned dark blue. She let go of the dagger and collapsed to her hands and knees. Zain heard her pants. He knelt beside her. She grabbed her dagger again and used her arm to wipe her face. His arm slid over her shoulder; at his touch, she pushed him back and held the steel up to his throat.

"Gabrielle, it's me. Just me."

She dropped the weapon and slunk back. Her shoulders heaved up and down for only a little while, then she regained composure. "Why didn't you do anyzing?"

"I . . . I was going to . . ."

"To wait 'til he slit my throat?"

No. Zain dropped his sword and clenched both fists. He shook his head.

"Zen what?"

Zain looked at Gabrielle. Her blue eyes searched his for an answer.

"I was afraid I was going to kill you too."

"Better you zan him." Gabrielle stood, tucked a strand of hair behind her ear, and crossed her arms.

Zain buried his face into his hands.

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