Between a Rock and a Spider

Dark rain and heavy shadows fell, mixing with the mud and leaves in a sludge soup on the ground. A distant thunder rumbled through the sky and the damp oaks released their thick scent. Vin could hear the patter of thick raindrops on the canopy above, echoing throughout the cave he’d hastily found shelter in. Weather like this always seemed to sneak up on him, no matter how much attention he might give to the sky. He didn’t know how other merchants did it; whenever he’d run into someone in the same business and tell him about his troubles, they’d always laugh and tease like he was boy who’d forgotten how to put on clothes. Did they all have a weatherbone or something that told them when it’d rain? Or was he just taking it too hard?

“So much for making a fire tonight,” he mumbled, poking at the cave floor with a stick. He’d woken up just an hour ago with a real hunger, and had been excited about cooking dinner, but needless to say this storm had washed out his hopes. Not only that, but he was stuck in this cave as long as the rain persisted. He had places to be–merchants didn’t make money sitting on their rears in the middle of nowhere. Sighing, he rubbed his arms. The rain wasn’t exactly making things warmer, either. Autumn was just starting to come in, and today was worse than most. Vin couldn’t see his breath, but there was a constant chill settling in his spine, coaxing out short spasms when he least expected it. He needed to get moving before he caught a cold.

Standing up, he stretched his arms before huddling them back up to his chest. He looked around the area, hoping to see some hint of the rain lightening up, but it only seemed to come down harder to spite him. Screw you, mother nature, he thought. But if he couldn’t stretch his legs outside the cave, that only left him one option.

Removing his pack, he produced a lantern and flint. The thick scent of oil still radiated from it. Vin smiled. At least he wasn’t running low. He glanced back out at the rain. Looks like today wasn’t a complete disaster. It took a few tries, but eventually the oil caught flame and the lantern sprung to life. A flickering orange glow swallowed the cave and a dull heat warmed Vin’s hand and arm. Cautiously, he peered deeper into the cave. It could be a short, boring journey, or this cave could branch and actually lead somewhere. He had no intention of making a trek out of this, just a short walk to get his blood moving and get away from this dreadful weather. With no further ado, he started forward.

The cave, it turned out, was plenty large. He’d been walking for a couple minutes before the passage opened up into a cavern that somehow felt more cramped and enclosed than the plain path that had led Vin there. Stalactites and stalagmites littered the floor and ceiling, some so large they almost kissed each other at their points. The patter of rain echoed throughout the chamber, giving Vin’s soft footsteps some company. The cave couldn’t have been far from the surface. Vin let himself relax a bit. While he’d never been one for caves, knowing this one wasn’t buried under heaps and heaps of rock eased his mind, if only a bit. He lifted his nose to the air, trying to catch scent of anything interesting. Aside from stagnant water and the occasional gust of fresh rain, the cave was empty of scent. Oh well, it wasn’t like he expected much from this walk anyways. Carefully setting the lantern down, he plopped himself on the ground and leaned up against a stalagmite. He might be able to steal a nap.

The thought vanished when a new sound invaded his ears.

He didn’t jump to his feet right away, instead lifting his head and closing his eyes, trying to concentrate on his ears. Was he hearing things? That sound was odd, alien to his ears. It certainly didn’t seem like something one would hear in a cave, too. Bats’ screeches were high-pitched. Running water wasn’t so harsh. Tumbling rocks sounded rounder, more dulled. This was more like…

Legs.

The second time that sound rang out, he knew he wasn’t hearing things. Something else was in that cave with him. He scrambled to his feet, snatching the lantern and holding it out. He didn’t want to take off and blindly run into whatever what making that noise. Slowly, he began to back up in the direction he’d entered. The legs rattled closer. At least, he thought they did. It was difficult to tell with all the echoing. From the volume of the sound, it couldn’t have been something small. Vin swallowed. It was time to hurry out. At least he knew the way.

That was his thought until he turned around. Before him were two tunnels, practically identical, both leading to darkness, and he had no idea which one he’d entered through. One would lead him back to the surface, to freedom, and the other undoubtedly deeper underground and right into whatever was coming. This was why he didn’t like caves. Never should’ve come down here in the first place. He gnashed his teeth together at his own moment of weakness, letting his guard down and putting himself in this situation. No matter where he stood now, however, he had to make a choice. Doing nothing was sure to end in the worst fate possible. Vin entertained the idea of whatever it was not knowing he was there, but what other reason would it have for coming this way? He probably smelled like crap and the lantern wasn’t exactly inconspicuous.

He took a deep breath and went left.

His shoes pattered against the damp rock as he jogged, not wanting to exhaust himself, but not willing to walk either. His mind threw doubts at him, asking if he’d seen that particular curve before, or if that outcropping was there on the way in, or whether or not the path had gone on too long. He could hear his breath, growing heavier by the second, bounce off the cave walls. With his pathetic jog and the darkness swallowing everything beyond the tiny reach of his lantern, he couldn’t help but feel like a mouse fleeing an owl. And he couldn’t imagine any situation in which the mouse escaped.

A hiss chased him down the tunnel, louder and clearer than any of the other sounds he’d heard. His pursuer was closing, and fast. As if some alien force possessed him, he lost control of his limbs. His heart beat furiously, his arms pumped up and down with rigid routine, and his legs flew across the ground. There was no more time to worry about conserving energy. There was only time to run. No matter how much air he swallowed, it was never enough for his strained lungs. No matter how fast he ran, he wanted to move faster. No matter how much his body churned and pumped, he demanded more.

The torrent of the predator behind him came ever closer, the sounds ringing truer in his ears, those legs tapping on the rock floor with greater and greater clarity. When he was sure the monster was upon him, the tunnel ended.

Into another cavern.

He’d taken the wrong turn. The place was just as large as the last cavern, maybe larger. But the size didn’t matter. All he knew was that he was lost and whatever horror awaited him he could only hope it wasn’t worse than death. Just as he started to turn to face his pursuer, his eyes caught sight of something. A light, and one not from his lantern. Silky and blue, it spilled into the cavern through a hole just large enough for Vin to duck through. He dared not let himself hope, he hadn’t the time for that. He dashed forward as if his shoes had caught fire, diving into the opening head-first. The lantern struck the entrance and bounced away, but Vin didn’t need it any more. Light could only mean an exit. Panting, he stood up and appraised the area, looking for his way out.

Today was not his lucky day.

The opening which he’d dove through led to a small room, the ceiling a good five feet above Vin’s head. The light shone through three large cracks in the ceiling, though none large enough for Vin to fit through, even if he could find a way up there. He’d found a way to his doom, just one slightly different than the one outside this room.

The clicking sound of an approach took his eyes off the light and back to the opening. If there was no longer a means of escape, he’d have to fight for his life. Stepping away from the entrance, he bent his knees and raised his hands, ready as he could be for whatever horror came through that hole.

The first thing he saw was an arm. Long, thick, and furred, it probed around the entrance for anything to grasp. The arm ended in a hand with pointed, hard claws. They scraped against the rock, releasing a screech, as if the rock itself was recoiling from the touch. This was surely a monster. Vin’s hands tightened into fists so hard he could feel his fingernails bite his palms. He’d never heard of a monster a single man could defeat–but that wouldn’t stop him from trying.

Finding nothing, the arm withdrew. Vin could see in the light a much larger body shifting back and forth. The monster had several legs, and they moved unlike a human’s. Each looked much like the monster’s arm: covered in dark fur until near the tip, where it turned rigid, reflecting a threatening glint of light. This would have to be one of the more monstrous monster girls… the vicious and terrifying kind.

Her face came into view, and all the fight Vin had left departed his body in a rush. Curled horns, colored a grey-green that matched her claws and leg tips, hugged the sides of her head. Messy lengths of black hair oozed over atop her face and fell all the way down to where monster became woman. In a different light, it may have been a beautiful sort of reckless, but all Vin could stare at was the seal. The one thing that told him without a doubt the monster now grinning at him was a ushi-oni.

He’d heard tales. Every had heard tales. Fur black as the darkness they dwelled in, legs that blurred when they ran, claws sharp enough to shred clothing from your body, but precise and delicate enough to leave you unscathed–assuming, of course, the ushi-oni was in the mood for it. Strength enough to tear boulders from the ground, and stamina to hold you down and fuck for days on end. He’d heard tales, alright, but never first-hand. Because no one lived to tell them first-hand. The only time a man would escape with his life was at the expense of a traveling companion. Some men even traveled in pairs just so that if they did come across a monster such as this, at least one could get away, maybe even send help.

Alone, however, Vin stood less than the faintest chance. Ushi-onis never gave up, and with their speed and strength, once they decided to come after you, you were theirs. No exceptions.

Those curled lips and dazzling rows of gleaming teeth teased at him his inevitable fate.

“Look what I’ve found~”

Vin collapsed on the spot. His life was over. Even if she left him alive after the first round, he’d spend the rest of his life as her ‘husband’, forced to fuck impossible hours every day, reduced to nothing more than her toy until he was all used up. He gaped at the ushi-oni as she squeezed her upper body through the hole. Those claws came forward, closer, closer, reaching to pull their defeated prey into a hopeless embrace–until they stopped. The ushi-oni frowned, turning around and looking at the hole, then at Vin. She reached out again, but her claws came short. Somewhat significantly short, too.

It was then their situation dawned on the both of them. Vin had no way out, but the ushi-oni couldn’t reach him. The only way for her to have her prize would be if he willingly walked into her grasp. It was a stalemate.

“Why don’t you come here? There’s no way out, and I promise I will show you pleasures you never thought possible. My body is made to drive you wild. Once you experience it, you’ll never want to leave.” She licked her lips, making them glisten in the light, then bit down on her lower lip, half-lidding her eyes to direct a gaze of pure sex at Vin. Just her stare alone stirred him in his pants.

It would be a lie to deny the allure of a ushi-oni. Though they were ferocious monsters, this one lacked nothing for femininity. Her human half curved with a sleekness that made Vin’s jaw drop. Stripes of fur curled up her sides to cover her nipples, though the rest of her bountiful breasts laid entirely bare. Unblemished skin shone a dull shade of green, not too much unlike her claws and legs. With each of her breaths, Vin could see her stomach move in and out, even and slow. Even in the most mundane of movements, she was graceful, a terrifying sort of grace that betrayed her ruthless precision and sexuality. Laying her hand gently on her cheek, her claws ventured down her face and her neck to her breast, where she cupped and squeezed it, adoring her own body with one eye and watching Vin’s reaction with the other.

“Don’t you want a woman to take you away and show you all the pleasures of the body? You wouldn’t even have to lift a finger. Not that I would let you,” she said, widening her grin at the last statement.

Vin blinked. Then he blinked again. Somehow, that brief second in which his eyes were not fixed on the ushi-oni’s figure brought him back to lucidity. He pushed himself back into the wall, as far from the ushi-oni as possible.

“G-go away.”

“Mmm, but that’s not what I want to do. I want to fuck. And that’s what you want, too, even if you don’t realize it yet.” She bit her lower lip again, this so hard it turned white. “I could show you so many things…”

“Then, uhh, show me how to leave me alone.”

“Don’t be like that.” She extended her hand, palm up. “Take my hand, and I will soothe that itch with such voracity you–“

“Give it up, ushi-oni. I know exactly what will happen if I take your hand. I’m not ignorant; I know what your kind does.”

“Surely you don’t think we’re all the same? All humans are not the same, are they?”

His crossed his arms, looking away. Technically, she was right. But he didn’t have to concede that out loud. “You’re not giving me the impression you’re any different.”

“But you’ve yet to see anything. Feel anything. Come now.” She curled a finger toward herself. “I promise you won’t regret it.”

“I’m pretty sure my pelvis would regret most of the things you want to do to it. Nope, nope. Just go away.”

“And what are you going to do? Sit there, alone, without food or water? Do you think you have more patience than I? I can assure you, human, my patience long outlasts your need for sustenance. Don’t torture yourself. Come into my embrace.” She held out both arms, as if to hug him.

Vin didn’t move. “No.”

Shaking her head, the ushi-oni withdrew from the hole, giving Vin another glance at her arachnid body. He’d almost forgotten that was how she looked below the waist. When she’d shoved herself through the opening, all he could see was her human half, just shy of her lower set of lips. He flushed at the thought. It’d been so long since he’d known a woman, and the last time was with a stranger who’d disappeared before he even had the chance to wake. But this wasn’t the time to be thinking about that. He had to be strong, stay focused, lest he fall prey to that ushi-oni’s tricks.

After a short rustling just outside the hole, Vin saw the ushi-oni’s arm slide in, hanging lazily with the back of her hand resting against the cave floor. Her face was right outside, this time much more relaxed and whimsical, as if Vin was something to amuse her.

She hadn’t even captured him yet and he already felt used.

“So, what’s your name?”

Vin head jerked in surprise. “What?”

“Your name. If we’re to sit here until one of our patiences wear thin, at least we should know each other’s names.”

“How do I know you’re not trying something?”

“Trying something? With your name? My, my, you are awfully set against cooperating, even in the slightest. Why don’t I offer mine first? It’s Erise.” She gestured to Vin.

“Eri-what?”

“Air-rih-say. Erise. And you are?”

Vin narrowed his eyes, scrunching up his mouth into a frown. “Vin.”

“Well then, Vin, what brings you out here to my cave?”

“Are we seriously going to talk like this? Because I’d really you much rather leave.”

“I don’t see why we can’t. And I will let you know I am perfectly comfortable right here.” Her fingers danced along the rock, the hardened tips rattling as they went. “So, again, why are you out here?”

Crossing his legs and his arms, Vin forced himself to look away from Erise. “None of your business.”

Erise shot him a look, but wasn’t about to give up. “Where are you from?”

“Also none of your business.” Vin lifted his chin. Maybe if he bugged the ushi-oni enough, she’d leave him alone. And it wasn’t like he would give away where he lived so she could chase him all the way back home if he ever got out of here.

“Where were you headed?”

Vin snorted at the ‘were’. She hadn’t won yet. “Nowhere.”

“Hmm,” said Erise, stroking her chin as if deep in thought. “So you can’t remember why you’re here, where you’re headed, or even where your home is? That’s really unfortunate for you.”

“What? No, that no what I said at all!” barked Vin.

Erise shrugged. “You’re certainly not convincing me. I think you just got lost.”

“Absolutely not!” Vin slapped his knee, the smack echoing throughout the small room he was in. “I was right on the path to–“ He caught himself at the last moment. His eyes bore a gaze straight into Erise’s, growing sharp and narrow. “You think you’re so clever, don’t you?”

“Mmm, I don’t have monsters or people around to tell me that all the time, but I make due with reminding myself.” Her face grew a grin.

“Well, you’re not fooling THIS guy,” Vin said as he jabbed a thumb at his chest. “I’m not going to say another word.” With a sharp exhale, he hugged his arms to his chest and exaggerated closing his mouth while keeping his eyes locked on Erise.

“But you just said ‘another word’.”

“That isn’t–“ He cut himself off again, frown intensifying with a grump. Not only had he been found by one of the most ferocious species of monstergirls, but a cocky, clever one at that. He absolutely hated people like that. So sure they hadn’t a single fault, lauding their chins and brains about like they were the best thing to happen to the world. Part of him wanted to jump up and sock Erise right then, but he knew getting close to her would be the end of him.

If she wanted to talk so badly, then all he had to do was stay quiet.

“Well, if you’re not going to volunteer anything, why don’t we talk about me? I’m sure there’s plenty you’re interested in.” Her eyes appraised him as a single claw scratched along her jawline. “Yes, I can see it in your eyes. You do want to know more. Why don’t I start with where I’m from? Don’t worry, you can share later.”

Vin covered his ears as best his could, but Erise just raised her voice.

“I’m from the mountains a few days east of here. My mother raised me alone. No sisters or anything, just the two of us. She’s a demanding monster, but also very kind. I think she was always more worried about me than she wanted to admit. I was her only girl, after all.”

So that’s where she got her haughty attitude. An only child. But wasn’t that weird among monstergirls? Vin heard they usually had larger families. He tore his eyes away from the ushi-oni to stare at the ceiling. What did he care? She was a monster that wanted to capture and enslave him.

“It turns out most ushi-onis live in mountains or forests near mountains. I don’t really know why. Maybe they like to climb things? Or they enjoy the dark?” She smiled to herself. “It’s kinda funny I don’t even know why we do that. I mean, I should know. I’m a ushi-oni myself!” She gestured to the cave. “I ended up in this cave here without even really noticing. It’s fun to explore the place, set up webs to keep pests out or…” she licked her lips at Vin “…capture prey. Not exactly the most practical location, though. The nearest town is a couple days north. I wonder… what on earth would bring a human male out here?” Her claws clicked as they tapped against the cave floor. “I suppose if someone had a reason to travel from Loen, a half-day south of here, to Pallus, that city to the north, this would lie right along the shortest route. And if there were some sort of trouble along the way, like a storm, this cave would be perfect shelter.”

Vin froze up. His heart began thumping in his chest. She knew exactly why he was here! He couldn’t confirm her suspicions, though. They were nothing but a guess to her so far, and that’s exactly what they would stay. Still, that didn’t make him sweat any less. She said it with such matter-of-fact confidence, too! Everything she did just made him want to hit her more! Hmph. That had to be her plan. Rile him up until he did something stupid. Not gonna work on this guy. Just keep an even head, Vin, he thought. She’s all talk.

“Oh, but what am I doing, talking about stuff like that? I was going to tell you more about myself. I told you where I’m from already and why I’m here–anything in particular you want to know?”

“How to get you to stop bugging me.”

She put a hand to her chest and jerked back. “Oh, I thought you weren’t going to talk any more! Were you messing around with me? Are you one of those funny types?”

“I–“ Vin’s statement seceded to a grumble, deep enough he felt the vibrations in his throat. This ushi-oni would kill him from annoyance before he died of thirst.

“I’m the sort of ushi-oni that appreciates a good joke. It’s something I developed out of a sort of necessity growing up. Would you like to hear a joke of my own?” She grinned at him, not even waiting for a reply. “What did the human say to the ushi-oni?” She turned her ear to him, leaning in, waiting for an answer.

Vin was not forthcoming.

“Please stop!”

The void of laughter from Vin was drowned out by the cacophony from Erise. Slapping her pedipalps, she threw her head back and boomed laughter throughout the cavern. Her cackling was just as annoying as her humorless joke. What did she expect from him? He was her captive, the only thing separating them a cave wall and several feet of space. Of course he wouldn’t laugh at something like that! All this time alone must’ve made her loopy. She’d probably been so long without a man to rape that her libido had run off with her sanity.

After settling down, she pointed at Vin. “Of course, the ushi-oni didn’t stop. Just in case you were wondering.”

No, he thought. I wasn’t wondering.

“Well, at least for a couple days.”

More details he couldn’t care less about. Slacking his shoulders, he shot her a dry a look as his face would manage.

She chuckled at it. “See, I can tell you’re a guy who likes being teased. I’m glad we could finally get some real communication going!”

It took far more willpower than he expected to keep his hands from going for her throat. It’s like she was made to push his buttons.

“I’d tell you more, but we’d seriously be on that subject for DAYS if I kept going, and you’re going to need all the breath you’d use laughing to keep up with our intense fucking!” She licked her lips. “Oh, you know what? I haven’t even told you my age yet. How silly of me! You’re probably been over-concerned that I might be either too young or too old. I know us monsters develop,” she said, cupping her breasts, “rather quickly and don’t show our age until much later. But don’t worry about that. I’m only 28! The perfect age for a vigorous young man like yourself.” She squinted at him. “You ARE old enough, aren’t you? It’s hard to tell with how quiet you are.”

Was she insinuating he was child? “I’m a full-grown man who knows when to hold his tongue, not a child who keeps rambling about the most pointless things just so she can hear herself talk!”

“Well, of course I didn’t think you were the type to ramble, you’ve hardly said a word!” She waved her hand at him. “But you can change that, you know. If you’re talking, I can’t. I’m not the sort of woman to talk over someone else.”

“Monster, not woman. Women don’t go around kidnapping or raping men,” he said, crossing his arms.

“I’ll have you know, I’ve yet to kidnap or rape anyone. Though that might change fairly soon.”

You don’t have me yet, fiend, thought Vin.

“Still don’t want to talk? That’s fine, there’s plenty more for me to talk about. I could tell you more jokes, or about this lovely cave, or–“

“Gah!” Vin stuffed his hands in his hair, grabbed as much as he could, and pulled. If there was no way to silence this menace, and he wasn’t willing to give out any more information about himself, then the very least he could do was make use of her ramblings. She asked him if there was anything he wanted to know about in particular, right? Perhaps, if he dug deep enough, he could use some piece of knowledge against her. A traumatic event, her fears, insecurities, anything. “Okay, you wanna talk? Why don’t you tell me about…” He scratched scalp. He couldn’t be too obvious about his prying. “About your most significant memories.”

“You want to know more about me?” Erise clapped her hands together and pressed them to her lips. “Sure! Sure! I’ll tell you anything. My most significant memories? Hmm.” Her eyes went to the ceiling as she pondered, but it didn’t take long for her to come up with an answer. “The first time I left home! As in, actually leaving the mountain. My mom was really strict about sticking to the cave we lived in and parts of the surrounding forest, but when she felt I was old enough, I finally got to leave! I was so ecstatic the whole trip, anxious to finally break free of the forest and see the plains. I’d heard all about them, but never actually got to see them.” He shoulders swiveled back and forth as she talked. “When I laid eyes on them, I froze and gaped. Mom said it was like a sea of gold, but I hadn’t yet seen the sea, so I didn’t know what to think. It was like… like when you’d stand on the mountain, looking out over the forest and seeing the rustling treetops like a blanket over the land, only gold, and waving in the wind in such a unique way.” Sighing, she smiled to herself. “And that was just the plains! The real reason my mom and I left was to see the nearest city. We never entered because she said people feared us too much and might do something stupid, but we got to look at it from a nearby hill. Seeing it almost made it worse, as I yearned to get closer, to see it in detail, but I never got the chance.” Her eyes latched back onto Vin, as if just remembering he was there. “That’s where I saw my first man. Mom said I’d have to capture one myself someday–and look at me! I’ve finally succeeded!”

Vin shifted in place. That story was supposed to give him something to work with, not make him feel even more uneasy. Restricted to her home until she was old enough? Only seen one city, and never the sea? Erise had been so sheltered in her upbringing, she probably didn’t develop any sort of empathy.

Right now, Vin really was nothing more than prey. Something to be mindlessly fucked until she grew tired of him… or worse.

He couldn’t give in to despair, though. He had to try something.

“So, uh, why did you stick around caves? It sounds like you enjoyed exploring the land and you wanted to enter a city. You’re grown up now, right? Why not do that?”

“You know, that’s a good question. I guess the best answer I have is that I felt like it.” She laid a hand on the cave floor. “It’s comfortable in here, and it’s not like I’ve never left. I’ve been out to the plains plenty, poked around the closest cities a few times, eavesdropped to learn as much as I could. It’s hard being sneaky around humans with a body like this, but I’ve managed. For some reason, they don’t have nearly as much a problem with normal arachnes, so I take off the seal and pretend like I’m one.” She shuddered. “It’s incredibly hard to hold myself back like that, though.”

“It’s possible that if you took a husband right now you might not be able to leave. I mean, what if he doesn’t want you going anywhere like your mom did?”

“Would you ask me to do that?” she asked, cocking her head.

He tried straightening his back. He had to be confident about it. “Yes, I would.”

“Then that’s what I’d do.”

Geez. Without a second thought. “Why?”

“Because my mom said I had to be totally devoted once I picked a husband. ‘Keeping him captive is one way to hold onto a husband,’ she said, ‘but giving him incentive to stay is much better.’” She played around with her hands, he voice dropping a bit. “I think that’s why I never saw my dad.”

Ouch. This wasn’t some ploy to make him pity her, right? To trick him into giving himself over? Erise certainly wasn’t an idiot, though a touch single-minded as far as he could tell. Her mother’s work, he suspected. “And what if your husband didn’t want you? What if he wanted to live his own life, and not just have sex all the time?”

She squinted at him. “But don’t all men want that? I’m really good at it, too. I’ve had lots of training.”

He didn’t want to ask what she meant by ‘training’. “Not all men.”

“Then what do you want?”

This had to be a trick. She chased him into this prison, promised nothing sort of vicious rape the second he tried to leave, talked all about how she’d make him feel good, but now she wanted to know what he wanted? Yeah, right. “I don’t believe you.”

Confusion wrinkled her face. “What do you mean?”

“You asking what I want? You don’t really care. You just want to rape me. I told you I wouldn’t fall for your tricks.”

“But don’t you like aggressive women and being teased? I was just saying all that ‘cause I saw you had a stiffy.”

At that moment, Vin blessed the poor lighting in the room and the fact his face was currently hidden in shadow, for the blush that bloomed heated his entire face to the point of steaming. “W-well–! Th-thahh–! None of your–! No I didn’t!”

“Are you sure?” She leaned in, crawling through the hole into his shrinking room of safety.

“Y-yes! Back off!”

The look she gave him hardly accepted his answer, but she backed out nonetheless. “Okay, so, again, what do you want?”

“I just want a normal romance, alright? A nice date, hand-holding, then a hot tryst under the moon! Is that too much to ask for?!” He wanted to swallow the words back up the moment they left his mouth. The only time he ever spoke about stuff like this was when he got drunk and practically forced in to it. Sometimes he’d get laughs, sometimes pats on the back, but no one ever said, ‘Me, too’. Now he was spilling it out for this ushi-oni that cared for nothing but rape. She flustered him on purpose so he’d say something he’d regret, that sly little demon!

“Hand-holding?” She opened up one of her huge, fluffy, claw-tipped hands and stared at it. “What’s the point of that?”

“It’s… so…” The cat was out of the bag, might as well go all the way. “So… you can, you know, touch your partner. And show everyone else… aggh!” He buried his face in his hands. This was too ridiculous!

Erise opened her mouth to speak, but whatever she said was drowned out by something else much more fearsome. A deafening rumble shook the cave, jolting Vin up to his feet. Erise’s eyes darted back and forth, trying to find the source of the sound, but Vin only looked up. His entire body seized up, hands clenching into fists and eyes widening as the sound rushed closer.

Now staring at the ceiling, his eyes began to make out details he didn’t notice before. The ‘ceiling’ wasn’t a solid sheet of rock with a few large cracks like he first thought. Instead, it was many larger rocks stuffed together, the cracks merely gaps where the rocks didn’t meet smoothly. Hardly a stable ceiling, and from the size of those rocks, easily able to crush him if it collapsed.

“Is it coming from up there?” yelled Erise. “I can’t tell from the echoes over here!”

“Yes!”

A roaring crack reverberated through the cavern, so loud Vin feared he lost his hearing from it, like thunder exploding next to his ear.

“It’s a mudslide! The rain must’ve started it!” yelled Erise. “You have to get out of there!” An arm extended, palm open toward him.

Was this really how it would end? Forced to choose death-by-rape or death-by-mudslide? What had he ever done to deserve this fate? He was a good man who did good work. He never cheated his buyers or those he bought from, never killed or harmed anyone. Sure, he could have a temper sometimes, and when he drank too much his tongue might have gotten a touch too loose, but who wasn’t like that? He bit his lower lip. No matter how he might lament, the choice still lay in front of him.

“C’mon! You’ll die if you stay there!” She reached further in and at the same time, a few pebbles fell from the ceiling. The mudslide was rushing closer, and when it passed over Vin, the ceiling would surely fail. It roared so loud he could hardly hear himself think.

“I’ll only go if you don’t rape me! I don’t want to die like that?”

“What?” Erise’s brow furrowed. “You’d rather get crushed by rocks than risk a little rape?”

‘A little rape’? Is she serious? “Yes! You have to promise not to rape me!”

“Fine! Just take my hand!”

Flimsy as the promise was, a tiny chance was still better than none. He took one great step toward the exit and placed his hand in hers. Her claws clamped shut the second he did, their grip so tight he feared for his bones, and yanked him though the hole. He knew ushi-onis were strong, but to experience her strength was completely different. He hadn’t prepared himself for the force with which she pulled, and subsequently screamed as his weight flew through that hole, the one barely large enough for him to fit through. Relief swallowed his surprise in a thunderous boom when the flimsy ceiling in the room he’d been in came crashing down. Dust shot out the hole, forcing both Erise and Vin to squint and turn away.

After that the mudslide’s deafening roar faded, the rocks and dust settling as something of a farewell to the sudden, ferocious act of nature.

Vin sighed, tension draining out his body in a rush, but before he could go completely limp, he was swept off his feet, destroying his sense of balance in one swift motion. The world around him spun and when he reoriented himself, he found himself on his back, looking upward and held again something warm. Two warm, large hands crushed his body to Erise’s and a soft, scented breath beat down on his face.

He swallowed, stiff as a board. “There wouldn’t be some chance that you’re actually going to keep your promise, is there?”

She took her sweet time licking her lips and gazing up and down his body. “Not the slightest.”

Wrapped up in her embrace like a child carried by his mother, he stared at her ecstatic smile and feared.

***

Erise sighed, looking down at Vin’s limp body beneath her. She carefully removed the damp cloth on his head, then checked his temperature with the back of her hand. Still a little hot, but not too bad. Replacing the cloth, she sat down at the side of the bed. Her mother had told her men were resilient creatures, able to take any amount of teasing or punishing if they really set their mind to it. Vin must’ve been an exception. Maybe all that sweat from earlier had been from fear and not arousal. Erise paused to check her breasts, squeezing and pushing them upward. They seemed well-sized and perky to her. Her fingers ran a cursory check of her body, sampling her curves and stomach. Not too thin, but no real chubbiness. Stomach was mostly even, and her skin unmarred. According to what her mother had told her, she was perfectly attractive to any man that might behold her. Erise had even used all the tricks of seduction her mother had trained her on, but those didn’t have the effect she wanted.

Erise shook her head. Poor Vin. He passed out the moment she’d tossed him on the bed. She hadn’t even gotten to the first insertion! And she’d looked forward to her first time so much! Oh well, she thought, tapping her cheek. She’d get to try again when he woke up. Of course, she’d need a new trick if she was to have any real expectation of success. Everything thus far had failed.

She thought back to the conversation they’d had, running over everything he said about himself, then turned to his unconscious body.

“Hmm.” She wasn’t familiar with it herself, but if he said he wanted to…

Slowly, she reached out, laying one of her massive hands over his. His hands were warm to the touch, heat pulsing through them with each beat of his heart. Her claws explored, soaking in all they could but careful not to break skin. Eventually, she lifted his hand slightly off the bed, cupping it between both of hers.

When his next heartbeat pumped life though his hand, she swore she could feel hers respond.

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11 thoughts on “Between a Rock and a Spider”

  1. “Her mother had told her men were resilient creatures, able to take any amount of teasing or punishing if they really set their mind to it. ”
    o_O
    That…
    That explains so much…

    “She wasn’t familiar with it herself, but if he said he wanted to…
    Slowly, she reached out, laying one of her massive hands over his.”
    “Slightly misunderstood as being just a mindless savage, an ushi-oni will do whatever possible to please her new husband”
    ^_^
    ~happiness~

  2. This is actually very good. It’d be interesting to see this be a kind of series with the merchant dating the Ushi-Oni and teaching her the ways of not terrifying love.

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