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Second Chance Slaughter

10

Chapter 10- Playing the Game

16

 

 

Avery’s body ached with every passing second, each relentless attack from the cleaner adding to the growing tally of wounds. But despite the blood dripping from his cuts, none were deep enough to be fatal.

 

Avery had abandoned his defensive stance, throwing himself fully into the fight, yet something was changing. The cleaner’s strikes, once so precise and deadly, were beginning to falter. Avery was adapting, his movements becoming more fluid, more instinctive.

 

“Monster!” the cleaner thought, a flicker of fear crossing his face.

 

He had always known Avery was a Monster, but not like this. He had expected to face a mere Artist-one committing a murder with no reason, untrained and easily broken. Instead, he was battling a combatant whose skills were far beyond what he had anticipated.

 

The cleaner hesitated, a sliver of doubt creeping into his mind. He realized he would need to elevate his efforts if he wanted to gain the upper hand. The fierce determination in Avery’s eyes was unnerving, a stark contrast to the desperation he had expected to see.

 

As their blades clashed, another battle raged within Avery’s mind.

 

Why am I risking everything to save Billy?

 

He was just a random acquaintance, someone he barely knew. But then, a realization struck him with the force of a thunderbolt. Billy wasn’t just some insignificant beggar. He was a reflection of Avery’s past life—a tool, used by others to further their own ends, to maintain the façade of their perfect, pristine world.

 

The image of Billy’s faint, bloodied smile resurfaced in Avery’s thoughts. It was the same smile he had given his enemies in his past life, a final act of defiance against those who had betrayed him. If Avery killed Billy now, he would be no different from those who had manipulated and discarded him.

 

With this newfound clarity, Avery’s resolve solidified. He could not betray Billy, nor could he betray the man he had become.

 

His movements grew more resolute, each strike and parry imbued with a purpose that went beyond mere survival. There was no more hesitation in his actions.

 

Avery’s breath came in ragged gasps, each one a struggle against the crushing fatigue that threatened to overwhelm him. His stamina was nearly spent, his muscles screaming in protest. He knew that if he continued to play the cleaner’s game, he would be defeated.

 

He had to end this now, with one decisive strike.

 

The cleaner’s patience was wearing thin.

 

He adjusted his grip on the knife, holding it like a viper ready to strike. His movements became more fluid, more serpentine, as if mimicking the swift, deadly motions of a snake.

 

Avery tightened his grip on the two makeshift weapons in his hands—the blade and the sharpened metal pole. He crossed his arms in front of him, forming a deadly scissor-like stance. This was a technique he had honed to perfection in his past life as Yeomra, designed specifically to ‘defang the snakes.’ It was a move that left no room for error, a last-ditch effort to end the fight.

 

The cleaner lunged, his knife flashing through the air in a rapid succession of snapping and stabbing attacks. Avery’s heart pounded as he calculated his timing. He waited, every muscle coiled and ready, for the cleaner to step into his range.

 

In that critical moment, Avery struck. His arms uncrossed in a powerful, sweeping motion, his weapons slicing through the air with deadly precision. The blade and pole moved as one, their paths intersecting in a perfect, lethal cross.

 

The cleaner’s eyes widened in shock as Avery’s blade severed his right hand at the wrist, the pen knife clattering to the ground. Simultaneously, the metal pole embedded itself in the cleaner’s left hand, pinning him in place. Blood sprayed from the severed wrist, painting the air with crimson droplets.

 

Before the cleaner could react, Avery spun the blade in a tight, circular motion, disorienting his opponent. The blade traced a deadly arc upward, slicing through the cleaner’s submentum and driving deep into his brain. Avery twisted the knife, ensuring the fatal blow, then yanked it free with a swift, fluid motion.

 

The cleaner’s body went rigid, his eyes glassy and vacant. He crumpled to the floor, lifeless, the last vestiges of his once menacing presence fading into nothingness.

 

Avery stood there, his chest heaving with every breath. His body screamed in protest, muscles trembling from the exertion and the pain of countless wounds. He felt as if even a stray breeze could knock him over, let alone a random thug prowling outside.

 

What a pitiful state he was in. He clenched his fists, resolve hardening within him. Once this was over, he would return to training. He needed to regain his former strength if he was to stand against the organization and preserve the semblance of an ordinary life he had come to cherish.

 

The cleaner’s once pristine suit was now a grisly mess, stained with dark, congealing blood. Avery’s mind whirled, grappling with the reality of his situation.

 

“How many more do I have to kill to earn a normal life?” he whispered.

 

Exhausted, Avery slumped down beside Billy, trying to steady his erratic breathing. The sight before him was a chaotic tableau of violence and desperation.

 

Blood smeared the floor, mingling with dirt and debris.

 

His thoughts turned to the formidable opponents still looming in his future. If facing a seventh-grade cleaner had nearly cost him his life, what chance did he stand against a fifth-grade one? The mere thought was daunting. He had to find a way to buy himself time, to train and prepare for the battles that lay ahead.

 

Gritting his teeth, Avery reached for Billy, gently repositioning him.

 

The man was still breathing, though faintly. Each shallow rise and fall of his chest was a fragile promise of life. Avery knew that if he could get Billy to a hospital immediately, he might just make it.

 

As the dust settled and the echoes of the battle faded, the six henchmen who had been sent outside began to creep back in, expecting to find their boss victorious. They had always seen him as an unbeatable force.

 

However, the sight that greeted them turned their confidence into stark disbelief. Their leader, the feared Cleaner, lay crumpled and lifeless on the warehouse floor, a pool of blood spreading beneath him.

 

The henchmen exchanged nervous glances. Their initial shock quickly morphed into a more pressing concern: their own survival. With their boss gone, their primary source of protection and income had evaporated. Fear gnawed at them as they wondered what the future held.

 

Avery, standing amid the chaos, bloodied and battered but still resolute, caught their attention. He wiped sweat and grime from his forehead and then looked at the group with steely determination.

 

“Hey, you,” he called, pointing to the thug with the thickest facial hair—the one who had tried to wrestle the cigarettes from Billy earlier. “Take two of your men and get Billy to the hospital. If he dies, you’ll be next.”

 

The henchmen stiffened, the threat hanging heavy in the air. They had just seen Avery take down their boss, and the message was clear: they stood no chance against him.

 

The thug with the facial hair nodded vigorously, signaling to two others to help him. They moved quickly, their previous bravado replaced with the obedience of loyal dogs.

 

They gently lifted Billy, who groaned softly but remained unconscious, and carried him, casting wary glances back at Avery.

 

Avery turned to the henchmen, who stood frozen like statues, unsure of what to expect. “Listen up,” he said, his voice firm and commanding. “I’m your new boss now. Do as I say, and you won’t have to worry about a thing. Understand?”

 

Their eyes widened, and for a moment, Avery saw something he hadn't expected: relief. It dawned on him that these men, despite their rough exteriors, had been suffering under the cleaner’s brutal rule.

 

They had followed out of fear, not loyalty. Now, they saw a glimmer of hope in Avery, someone who might offer them a chance at a better life. Avery will exploit this opportunity.

 

“Yes, boss!” they chorused. They clasped their hands together, rubbing them as if anticipating a fortune. “We’ll be your loyal dogs. Just tell us what to do!”

 

Avery’s gaze softened slightly. Perhaps this wasn’t just about survival—maybe he could bring some semblance of order and change.

 

He nodded, pointing to the body of the cleaner. “First, not a word of what happened here leaves this room. I need to create a video using his body without revealing his identity.”

 

One of the henchmen, a wiry guy with a quick, darting look, stepped forward. “We know a way, boss,” he said eagerly. “We can make it so no one recognizes him. Trust us.”

 

 

Sheriff Davis was in a bind. Billy Johnson had vanished without a trace, just like the other four before him. She cursed under her breath, gnawing at her thumb nail in frustration.

 

"Blast it!" she muttered, knowing she should've seen this coming. Tracking down a beggar like Billy Johnson in Third Street was like searching for a needle in a haystack—a place where survival trumped everything else.

 

"Twig!" she called sharply, and Deputy Jenkins hurried into her office.

 

"Yes, Sheriff?" he responded dutifully.

 

"Any updates on Billy Johnson?" she asked, irritation evident. Missing another lead meant losing a chance to crack a case and possibly escape this backwater district.

 

Jenkins looked down, defeated. "No Sheriff," he admitted quietly.

 

"What about his acquaintances? Anyone who might know where he's been?" Davis pressed, frustration mounting.

 

"They knew him, but mostly as someone in need," Jenkins explained. "He was a good samaritan when he had something to share, but otherwise..."

 

"People," Davis scoffed, shaking her head in disdain. "Have you searched all precincts and neighboring counties?"

 

"Yes, Sheriff," Jenkins replied meekly, still avoiding her gaze.

 

"What about hospitals or the morgue?" Davis asked sharply.

 

"I... I haven't checked those," Jenkins admitted.

 

Davis stood abruptly, her frustration boiling over. "Do I have to spell out every step for you?" she snapped, her eyes narrowing.

 

"Yes, Sheriff… I mean No, Sheriff," Jenkins corrected himself quickly, saluting.

 

Davis glared at him, tempted to shake some sense into him. "Leave. Get me answers before day's end. Dismissed."

 

"Yes, Sheriff," Jenkins said.

 

 

Avery carefully tended to his wounds with a sterile needle and ethibond. He couldn't afford to skip work today; losing his job would shatter his dreams. With meticulous care, he stitched up the cuts, applied gauze and large pads to cover them.

 

Thankfully, his uniform would conceal most of the injuries. He dressed in his old convenience store attire, checked his apartment lights. He encountered Mrs. Kim on the steps, her smile wider than ever since he'd paid rent two months in advance.

 

Reviewing his latest video views, Avery noted it was similar to his last tutorial, but this time, his precision cuts were flawless, preserving tissues perfectly. Lacking his old bunny mask, he improvised with a shopping bag from the warehouse, cutting eye holes.

 

Satisfied, he thought, this was perfect- he'd met deadlines, earned well, and maintained his mundane life intact.

 

But how long could this last?

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