Chapter 055: Archer girl

Carime flicked the whip in his right hand, hitting the arrow and sending it into a wall.

"You should know that won't work!"
"I'll make it work," Muse said and readied another arrow. But before she could fire, Carime swung both his whips towards her, forcing her to jump back. Moving to the side, she fired the arrow, but Carime dodged it easily. She pulled out another arrow, coating it with her incendiary gel. She let it fly, but again Carime managed to swat it out of the air, the arrow catching fire as it struck a wall.
"Fire, lightning, it doesn't matter what you make those arrows do when I can just deflect them!"
"Well, you asked for it!" Muse said and got another two arrows out of her quiver, coating her thumb with enough conductive gel for both of them. She fired them off in rapid succession towards Carime, who used both his whips to strike them. They harmlessly discharged in the air, but Muse noted that one of them didn't travel as far. Specifically, the one that had been hit by the whip in Carime's left hand.
"Too easy!"
"I see your left arm isn't fully restored yet."
"It's good enough to deal with you, archer girl!" Carime shouted. "I can adapt to a slight handicap."
"If you say so," Muse replied and fired another arrow, one that Carime easily dodged.

Despite his attitude, Muse had to admit he really had the ability to back up his boasting. Being able to accurately strike her arrows after she had fired them took some serious skill, and given the speed of them, being even the slightest bit off would mean missing entirely. She couldn't just fire indiscriminately, she had a limited number of arrows... running out would put her at a major disadvantage. She needed to wait for the right moment. No, scratch that—she needed to create the right moment. She took out another arrow, but didn't fire, instead just looking at Carime.

"Figured out you can't hit me? Well, if you're not going to do anything, then I will!" Carime exclaimed and swung one of his whips horizontally towards Muse. She dropped to the ground, and Carime followed up with a vertical swing of his other whip. Muse rolled out of the way, quickly got to her knees, and fired her arrow. Maybe with both his whips extended, it would work... but Carime simply jumped out of the way, and the arrow just hit the building behind him.

Muse quickly looked around to see if there was something she could make use of. Some crates here and there, but not anything that would really work as dependable cover. Flower pots hanging outside some windows, nothing to be done with those. Drain pipes and water barrels in some corners, also not immediately helpful. She'd have to figure this out with what she had on hand. Her bow, her arrows... and herself. When they had fought Carime at W4, stopping at least one of his whips had been key to their victory, but that had also involved multiple people to follow it up... and Rink had still taken a hit from the poison to allow them to pull it off. Muse knew that being hit by that would quickly leave her at a major disadvantage, so that was something she wanted to avoid. Still, she was going to have to take some risks to create the opening she needed.

For now, her arrows were what she had, so her arrows were what she was going to use. Perhaps she could find a pattern to exploit, a hole in his defense... his left arm was slightly slower due to his wound, but he was good enough to take that into account. She had to figure out more, she thought as she nocked the next arrow. She took aim and pulled the arrow back, but didn't fire. Instead, she waited. It didn't take long for Carime to grow impatient with her not firing, and swung one of his whips horizontally towards her legs. She let the arrow go, hoping to catch him mid-swing, but he sidestepped it. Muse, for her part, managed to barely get out of the way of the whip, only feeling the gust of wind on her shins as it passed.

"Are you just gonna keep stalling like that?" Carime asked and pointed at Muse. "I thought we were having a fight!"
"I'll do whatever I need to to get rid of you," Muse said and nocked the next arrow. "I hope you weren't expecting this to be a fair duel."
"I don't expect anything from lowlifes like you, especially not fairness!" Carime exclaimed and started spinning one of his whips above his head. He started walking towards her, moving the spinning whip around. Muse fired the arrow towards Carime, hoping that maybe him doing that meant he'd be less focused on other things, but he angled the spinning whip to deflect the arrow, before his whip came crashing down with full force in an overhead strike that Muse was very glad to have sidestepped just in time. "Why don't you just stand still and let me do my job?"
"You'd like that, wouldn't you?" Muse replied and started backing away. She really was in a worse situation here than she had initially thought, and maybe Carime had chosen this site of battle on purpose after all to give himself the upper hand rather than just having chased her until it was just the two of them. She technically had the range advantage outside of the reach of his whips, but firing from there gave him all the time to prepare his counter hits. Openly inside the range of his whips was the last place she wanted to be, but there was nothing to help her set up a sneak attack either. Getting to the other side of him was unlikely, and since he was so adamant on taking her out himself, wouldn't push her all the way back to the market square where the others were fighting—and going there wouldn't help anyway.
"Where do you think you're going, archer girl?" Carime said and started lashing out with his whips towards her. It was clear he was getting impatient... and Muse realized that she did have one more thing she could make use of. Carime himself. Or, more specifically, Carime's attitude and impatience. He did have the skills, but perhaps a bit too much pride in them. That could be exploitable, especially if she riled him up even more...
"The only place I'm going is the one where you lose this fight," Muse said and quickly fired an arrow to briefly interrupt his attack, not counting on it hitting anything. He pulled his whips in as he dodged, giving Muse time to ready another arrow, this one coated in her conductive gel. Aiming above his head, she fired. Carime struck it from below, sending it high into the air. By the time it discharged above the rooftops, she already had another arrow at the ready, aimed at Carime's feet. He took a step back as she fired, and the arrow went up in flames when it hit the ground. Carime shook his head and laughed.
"This is just getting sad now! Are you that out of ideas?"

Muse didn't reply, instead just following up with more arrows. She let loose with arrow after arrow, some regular, some using her coatings. Some she didn't aim directly at Carime, but just around him, some striking the ground and the surrounding walls. They proved to be little more than annoyances to him, easily dodging or hitting those that came his way. After about a dozen shots where none had even come close to hitting Carime, Muse pulled out two more arrows, and took aim with one of them, but didn't fire immediately.

"Finally realized that nothing you do is going to work? Go on! Take the shot, archer girl! I'm not even gonna move, your shots are too obvious!"
"If you say so."

Muse fired the two arrows, and as she expected, Carime again swatted them out of the air with his whips. But this time, just as she let the second arrow fly, Muse started charging towards him as well, something he clearly didn't expect. With his whips extended, she managed to grab hold of the right sleeve of his jacket, pulling on it to get him off balance. As he pulled back the whip in his left hand, Muse grabbed an arrow from her quiver, slashing with it at Carime's now partially exposed arm. She managed to land a cut in his forearm, piercing his skin and drawing blood.

"Hey!" Carime shouted and delivered a kick to Muse's stomach, sending her reeling backwards and dropping the arrow she was holding but managing to dodge the followup whip strike. He glanced at the wound she had given him before looking back at her. "All that, and all you achieved was a scratch! That's not gonna work again, and you haven't got unlimited arrows!"
"That's true," Muse said as she got back on her feet, getting out two of her remaining arrows and coating her thumb in the igniting gel. "I've only got five left. If you can hit all of those all as I fire them, I'll be practically unarmed."
"Then you've already lost, archer girl!"
"We'll see about that," Muse said and fired the two arrows in sequence, adjusting her horizontal aim slightly between the two.

Carime instantly threw his whips out towards the arrows, just like he had been doing since the start of their fight. But while the whip in his left hand deflected one of the arrows as expected, his right struck only the air that the other one had occupied a fraction of a second before. That arrow found its target, embedding itself in Carime's right shoulder and ignited, setting his jacket and hair on fire. The burning caused him to scream in pain and drop his whips, so he had no possible way to avoid the next two arrows that came his way. The first lodged itself in his left shoulder, the second in his right bicep, and both gave off a spark of electricity as they struck. He dropped to the ground, rolling and shaking before Muse tipped a barrel of rain water over him.

"I told you I'd make it work," she said before putting her foot on Carime's chest and aimed another arrow at his head. "How's that for an 'archer girl'?"
"H... how? I never missed..."
"You were too angry at me and full of yourself to notice that your right arm had slowed down too... after that scratch I gave you."
"I call it 'Fang of the Hydra'. I really have to thank you for the idea... and especially for the materials."
" didn't..."
"Oh, I did. I extracted the thorns from the whip we got from you, and put them on some arrowheads. The poison might only have slowed your arm down by a fraction of a second, but since you didn't realize that yourself, you couldn't adjust properly for something as fast as an arrow..."
"I could use some more of those thorns, so I'll be taking those," Muse said and looked at Carime's whips. "You won't be swinging any whips with those arms for a while anyhow. If ever again."
"Just... finish it."
"There was a time when I wouldn't have hesitated, but you're not going to be a threat to anyone anymore," Muse said and lowered her bow before picking up the whips. "I'm not like you. I don't enjoy killing. I will do what I need to to defend myself and protect my friends, but you're not worth any more of my time," she continued and started walking away from her downed opponent before looking back at him one last time. "And even though we won't meet again... like I said, my name is Muse. Not 'archer girl'. Make sure you remember this time."

Muse just kept walking back towards the market square, not acknowledging Carime any longer. The Marines that had observed the battle from the end of the street also came rushing towards them, but stopped where Carime was lying to make sure he was still alive. After what they had just witnessed, none of them were really keen to pursue Muse...