Seven Characters Die Unexpectedly

Content Notice: This article contains graphic violence, significant sexual themes, and parental misgendering. Reader discretion is advised.

rating: +71+x

Backdoor Soho's premiere hentai, absinthe, and industrial music rental shop was known as A Hole to China. This was a lie for legal reasons; the titular hole actually led to its sister shop in the Chūgoku Cellar, A Hole to Canada. Through this hole, the two shops swapped various products only purchasable—and, in many cases, only legal—in their respective home countries.

A Hole to China's most sought-after title was called Ultimate Wormwood Princess Death Bastard (the hentai)—essentially a highly erotic commercial for Ultimate Wormwood Princess Death Bastard Seven (the absinthe). It was for this legendary VHS that Rukmini Mahakali was currently perusing the shelves of A Hole to China. There! Right between Ultimate World of Bukakke XII: Final Cumsponge Tournament and Ultimate Wrestleman Versus the Dominatrix Guild. Her fingers made contact with the tape.

"Hey!" someone shouted. Rukmini glanced over to see Grilled Chickenhawk, local DJ and part-time homicidal maniac. Chickenhawk looked like—and was—the guy at every rave who sells ecstasy cut with meth and hits on the high schoolers. His arms were covered with enough plastic kandi crap to choke a whole pod of dolphins, and the rest of his outfit was all fishnet and neon, capped off by an indescribably terrible bleached-blond mullet. His left hand was outstretched, pointing at Rukmini; his right held a smartphone with a military-grade sonic weapon bolted to it.

"I'd like to rent that copy of Ultimate Wormwood Princess Death Bastard," he said, flipping his hair back dramatically. "I need to sample it for my next album."

"Oh," she said. "I want it for other reasons."

"Can you wait a couple weeks?" Chickenhawk asked.

"I'd rather not."

"Oh. What's your name?"

"Mahakali."

"Cool, thanks. I'm going to kill you now."

"Oi!" Rukmini and Chickenhawk both looked over at the half-Sidhe clerk seated behind the front desk. She pointed at a sign on the wall.

ALL MURDER MUST BE PRECEDED BY A DUEL OF HONOR1

"Oh, sorry," Chickenhawk said. "Mahakali, I challenge you to a duel for the honor of Ultimate Wormwood Princess Death Bastard!"

Rukmini's hand went for her waistband. "I accept."

Right as her fingers closed around her Sig Sauer, Chickenhawk pressed play on his phone. The sound that came out was comprised of Mongolian throat singing, trash compactors grinding glass, and samples of Afrika Bambataa, compressed so far that the first mix had crushed Chickenhawk's speaker setup into a naked singularity, and then remixed into an unholy fusion of Djent and nightcore.

The Blood Shock Drop. Grilled Chickenhawk's main claim to fame: a bass drop so intense it could induce hypoglycemic shock. The survivors agreed that it was totally worth it.

The beat hit Rukmini like an earthquake. Her head swam, her eyes watered, and her heart-rate hit two hundred as her knees gave out from under her. The clerk was already wearing earplugs and Chickenhawk had long since inured himself to his own sonic gu.

Rukmini slumped against the shelf of DVD porn. She scrabbled around the corner on all fours as Chickenhawk ramped up the volume and a sharp pain lanced through her chest and left arm. Was she really going to go into cardiac arrest in the snack aisle of a porn shop, surrounded by pocky sticks and Ramune? Of all the ways and whys of dying, a hypoglycemic-induced heart attack over hentai had to be the most humiliating. The Afrika Bambaataa definitely didn't help.

Ramune.

Rukmini crashed against the shelf of imported Japanese sodas. Heart pounding and vision whitening, she picked up a bottle and smashed its neck against the shelf, pressing the jagged end to her lips. The taste of blood and melon filled her mouth. More. More more more.

"Be blessed, babe!" Chickenhawk crowed. "You're the first person to hear my new single, Racism Sucks (But Eighteen Year Olds Suck Better)."

He turned the corner to find Rukmini on her feet, surrounded by broken bottles and frenching a bottle of grape Ramune. The soda bottle flipped in her grip to become a fat glass shiv that promptly turned Chickenhawk's neck into a faucet. Rukmini took a celebratory swig, died on the inside, then kicked him through the soda shelf.

"I like KMFDM better," she said. A quick rifle through Chickenhawk's pockets uncovered a platinum debit card that she tossed to the clerk. "Drinks are on him."

Rukmini looked down and scooped up an unbroken bottle from the ground. She peeled off the plastic cap, whacked its plunger down to unseat the safety marble, and pressed the bottle to her lips. She savored the artificial strawberry and grabbed the Ultimate Wormwood Princess Death Bastard tape from the shelf.

Or she would have, if a katana hadn't nearly chopped her fingers off. Rukmini spun around, pistol pointing at her assailant before the bottle could finish falling.

"Konnichiwa, m'lady." He could very well have stepped straight from Sengoku-era Japan, with his kimono, samurai topknot, and geta sandals; that is, if he hadn't been a fat white guy with a three-day neckbeard. "Watashi wa Rupert Smith desu, though my foes know me as the legendary sword-saint Guro Ahegao. I beg you to unhand that sugoi hentai before I need to go all bushido on your oppai."

"I'm going to kill you now. Honor duel?"

"I would not dare harm such a kawaii shojo—"

He was cut off by the clerk. "If you want to kill him, just go for it. I'll tell the cops it was a duel."

Rukmini fired before the second sentence. The sword in Rupert's hands blurred; a bullet hole appeared in each of the foreheads of the erotic Bayonetta and Luigi cardboard cutouts behind him. "You cannot strike me with your bullets, baka gaijin," he gloated, slicing up a second shot and a third. "I have studied the blade. I carry the Shimapan Masamune, the mirror-blade, with which the legendary samurai Netorare Paizuri gazed up the kimono of a thousand beautiful geisha."

Rukmini replied with three rapid trigger pulls.

The mirror-blade became a mirror-blender, sashimiing each round that entered its airspace and reducing Luigi and Bayonetta to cardboard colanders. Rukmini found herself on the defense, backpedaling in the face of the samurai's impenetrable defense and odor. She yelped as her spine stuck into a spike of some kind and simply sat down to avoid Rupert's slash. His blade wedged itself deep into the neck of a life-size Ultimate Wormwood Princess Death Bastard Black Metal statue (with fully articulated tentacles and usable orifices).

"Ahhh!~" Rupert wailed. "Wormwood Princess-chan, I humbly apologize for tainting your beauty!"

Rukmini shot upwards and headbutted him in the chin, forcing him to release the sword and stumble back. She almost ripped the sword from the statue, then reconsidered and wrenched a tentacle loose from the statue's base, wrapping its joints around her hand and pointing the sharp end at Rupert. The tentacle had definitely been in less unsavory places.

"Forgive me, sensei," Rupert whispered loudly. "I must go all out, just this once! Behold, Netorare Paizuri's most forbidden technique—「ヒンゲロ バング」! Kiaiiiiiiiiiii!"

Five fat fingers crashed down upon Rukmini's marital-turned-martial aid, transforming it into a tuning fork that vibrated through her and blew her off her feet. Rupert ripped his blade from the steel princess and stabbed downwards; Rukmini grabbed the closest thing she could find — a box of tester fleshlights — and did her best to block the strike. Their fleshy grip barely stopped the blade from pinning her carotid to the floor.

The two of them strained against each other. The tainted blade sank ever lower, pressing against Rukmini's jugular and then sinking into it. She gasped slightly as blood started to leak out and the samurai leaned forward, hoping to overpower her through sheer weight. Two combat boots hammered into his crotch; instead of keeling over, he stood up and laughed. "Ha! Just as the Masamune was tempered in the very onsens whereupon Paizuri ogled the okami Amaterasu and Inari, so too have I tempered my manhood in the onsens of battle and Tenga!"

Rukmini's fingers closed around the important half of a cephalopodal sex toy. At the exact moment Rupert said tenga, she sat up and rammed the tentacle's pointy end into his crotch. In lieu of a cervix to puncture, it settled for his intestines.

The weeb went slack and sat down heavily, driving the tool even further into his guts. Then he toppled onto his back with a sound like a deflating beach ball.

"Did I… lose?" he asked the air.

"Yeah, kinda," Rukmini rasped. Her hand came away from her neck slicked with blood. Rupert was absolutely not someone she wanted to drink from, so she ripped a strip of fabric from her sweater and tied the makeshift bandage around her neck.

"I have a last wish, kudesai," the dying weeb said. "Will you do me one kindness?"

He coughed up a lungful of blood. "This humble otaku wishes… to visit Nihon… just once before he dies."

The clerk shrugged and pulled a lever behind the desk, opening the shaft to A Hole to Canada — that redneck wonderland of guns, cowboy hats, and porn with guns and cowboy hats. Rukmini prodded Rupert through with her boot, and the portal closed behind him.

"Fucking weebs," Rukmini and the clerk said in unison. They locked eyes briefly; then the clerk resumed flipping through her unlicensed Mechagodzilla/Gundam yaoi doujin as Rukmini turned to grab her limited edition hentai. She barely had time to look at the Ultimate Wormwood Princess Death Bastard tape before the jangling of the front door raised her hackles.

"I cannot BELIEVE the FILTH you peddle here!" The store's newest customer headed straight for the counter to scream at the clerk, spittle flying from her lips. She wore a sensible cardigan and khaki capris; her hair was short and asymmetrical, with truly unfortunate blonde highlights; her sunglasses were Gucci, her charm bracelet Tiffany, her purse Coach, and her racism undisguised. "My little JASON came here ONCE and it SCARRED him!"

"Ma'am, we don't allow minors in here." The clerk was being remarkably patient. Rukmini would've already removed the bitch's teeth. "How old is Jason?"

"He's TWENTY-TWO! But he's still my BABY!" The woman was turning red now; more spittle coated the checkout counter with every word. "And you PERVERTS, you CORRUPTED him! Now he thinks he's a GIRL!"

The clerk's face instantly switched from customer-service fake-nice to barely-contained rage. "Ma'am, you need to leave immediately."

"NO!" It was more a screech than a word, an expression of primal indignation. "I'm not leaving without the CARTOON that stole my SON! It needs to be BURNED!"

Rukmini took that moment to speak up. "Hey lady? Fuck off before I fuck you off. Uh. Before I make you fuck off."

The woman turned on Rukmini, prepared to unleash a barrage of invective—then fixated her fury on the VHS behind her. "THAT ONE!"

She advanced on her prize, fingers curling forward like claws. "The ULTIMATE WORMWOOD thing! That's what turned my BABY BOY into a FILTHY SODOMITE TRA—"

Her shriek flattened into a gurgle. Three inches of wood and steel protruded from the woman's throat as she flopped face-down, revealing the antique crossbow in the clerk's hands. The clerk blew nonexistent smoke off the business end and tapped an autographed poster behind her head.

FUTANARI TITWHORE FIASCO: LIVE IN CRIMEA!

Rukmini raised an eyebrow. The clerk looked back and quickly tapped a different poster.

TRANS RIGHTS!!


She got a thumbs-up from Rukmini and returned it with a wink. "Hey, are you fr—" The door slammed open and cut her off.

"Stop right there!" An aggressively generic twenty-something white dude in an equally generic graphic tee dramatically posed in her direction.

"Who the fuck are you?" Rukmini said.

"My name is Johnny Crusader! I'm on a quest to defeat my crush's seven evil exes, and finally get to go on a date with her!" The dweeb posed again, clearly trying to look menacing. "And you're one of the exes. I challenge you to a duel for her honor!"

"No!" she exclaimed. "No more honor duels, we're in a fucking hentai shop! Just let me rent my porn and leave shamefully!"

"Shamefully?" the clerk said.

"Now get the fuck out of my face before I give you an atomic wedgie."

Then Rukmini's jaw hit the floor as Johnny burst into tears.

"I… I just," he choked out through his sobs. "I just want to impress her… And she's always talking about how she hates you… So I thought—"

"Kid. Who the fuck is this girl."

"Her name's…" He sniffed. "Her name's Naomi. Naomi Hancock."

The name was familiar; Rukmini racked her brains trying to figure out who he could be talking about. Hancock… Oh. She held back a laugh. "Uh… Green hair? Plays roller derby? Knuckle tattoos that say 'CAPS LOCK'?"

Johnny nodded. "Her hair… Her hair's pink now. But yeah."

"Ok, first of all, not my ex, we slept together like twice. Second of all? She doesn't play for your team." Johnny stared at her, his head cocked like a confused dog. "She's bent as a banana." Still no sign of comprehension. Rukmini sighed. "She's a huge lesbian, my man. You don't have a chance."

He burst into tears again, and fell onto his knees. Rukmini had no idea how to react to this. "Ah… Hey… Man… Don't cry, I can't stand it when people cry…" She groaned, and looked toward the clerk for help, but she'd picked up a new volume of her giant robot erotica and was ignoring the drama.

"Look," Rukmini said, squatting in front of the weeping geek, "If it'll make you feel better, I'll duel you. I'll go easy, give you a black eye, you can show it to Naomi and maybe she'll give you a pity handjob or something. Uh, that's a big maybe, don't get your hopes up."

"No! You gotta fight me fight me!"

"Pretty sure beating on someone whose shirt says 'Gamers Do It Online' is child abuse. Black eye. Take it or —"

"Fight me, you cunt!"

Johnny's teeth did not appreciate their engagement with Rukmini's fists, nor their shotgun wedding to the back of his throat. Rukmini stepped over his prone form and reached for the UPWDB tape. "Maybe I'll hit up Naomi later. Kicking your ass is probably worth a gratitude shaAAAA—"

Rukmini's words were lost in a rush of wind as something very large and very heavy grabbed her by the ankle and swung her into the shelf. She rolled over achingly, then looked over to see a massive hulking brute clad in the remains of a Gamers Do It Online shirt. Much to her relief, the crotch of Mega-Johnny's jeans had survived his growth spurt.

"What — the — fuck?" she said haltingly. Her ribs screamed as she pushed herself to her feet, then her skull did the same as a massive fist slammed it against a scattered pile of tenga eggs.

"How's that for a black eye?" Johnny said, rapping his chest with gargantuan knuckles. Rukmini rolled over and shot him in both eyes, then rolled again to avoid his collapsing form. She staggered to her feet, hand against her head. Thankfully her eardrums had survived the impact.

"What the fuck was that?" she asked the clerk.

"I don't — I don't know," the clerk said frantically. "There was a block in the air and he punched it and there was this mushroom and —"

"Oh, God, it's one of those nerds."

A thought occurred to her: Oh, God, it's one of those nerds. She ducked as a massive fist swung over her head and obliterated the shelf next to her.

"EXTRA LIFE, BITCH," Johnny said in a new pack-a-day voice.

I really hope that platinum card covers this.

Rukmini rolled backwards and then scrabbled up his back. Her gun met his neck, and then the barrel exploded.

"What the f—"

She had just enough time to see a scorch mark on the back of his neck before a massive meaty hand grabbed hers and threw her into the Ultra Wormwood Princess Death Bastard statue; her ribs made it clear they did not appreciate the greeting. Rukmini grabbed the statue for support and tried to assess the situation.

The situation was that an extremely large man-child was charging towards her. She ducked behind the statue, letting it take the barrage of beefy fists. Somehow, she doubted her backup knife could get through his abs… but there! Behind Johnny. The Shimapan Masamune. Rukmini swung out from behind the statue and sprinted for the sword. Johnny's size only made him even slower and dumber, so he simply turned around and watched as she whipped the katana towards him.

The sword bounced off a six-pack square enough to grate cheese on. Rukmini flushed and immediately hated herself for it.

"I am protected by the POWER of LOVE!" Johnny swiped for the blade, but Rukmini leapt back in time to keep her hold on it. He roared incoherently, and charged again.

Rukmini's quick feet saved her from becoming the second-sexiest roadkill in Manhattan. She hopped onto a low shelf of sushi-flavored lube, then springboarded off Johnny's shoulder as he lumbered past. Her fingers caught onto the harness of a shibari'd mannequin hanging from the ceiling, and she managed to swing herself up on top before Johnny turned around.

"WHERE ARE YOU?" He stomped through the store, knocking over shelves and overturning tables. "YOU CAN'T HIDE FROM ME, BITCH!" Eventually, he wandered below Rukmini's perch, and she struck.

"Hey, Johnny!" she said.

Johnny looked up, mouth open in a guttural howl, in time to see the Shimapan Masamune go down his throat. Feet planted firmly on his shoulders, Rukmini held the handle of the sword with one hand and slammed her other fist down on it repeatedly. Blood and incoherent gargles splattered her as she hammered the makeshift spike down his gullet. He grabbed for the blade, then at her arms, then dropped to his knees as the tip of the blade stabbed into the carpeted floor.

Rukmini waited for a tick, then dismounted. "No more extra lives, huh?" She wiped her face on her sweater. "God dammit. I liked this sweater. Blech." She reached for her spare holster to confirm the kill, but nothing was there.

"Where'd my gun go?" she said to the air.

"Right here," the air said.

That wasn't the air. Rukmini spun around and locked eyes with the worst thing to happen to hand-to-hand combat since the thermobaric missile: Roxanne Paperscizzorz (with three Z's), the local roshambo champion who'd spent the last two years trying to set herself up as Rukmini's arch-rival. Most of her original body had been replaced with cheap cybernetics, installed by the sketchiest back-alley bonesaws and heretic Maxwellists that she could afford on a discount razorgirl's paycheck. She needed all that chrome because of her most self-destructive habit: challenging Rukmini to duels. Roxanne never won and always left with a bit less flesh and blood than she'd started with, but refused to properly bugger off and die. She was the roach in the cupboard that was Rukmini's career as a professional ass-kicker.

And this time, the roach had gotten the drop on her. A bullet blew out Rukmini's shoulder as she went for her knife. She felt her own hollowpoint expand inside her joint, and her arm went limp.

"Finally got you right were I want you," Roxanne gloated. She kept the pistol aimed at Rukmini's other shoulder, pausing her advance just out of katana-range. "Now… Let's play a game."

"What?"

"Let's. Play. A game. I think you know which one." Roxanne grinned. A spindly mechanical fist extended from her back.

"Oh my God."

"Rock…"

"Please just shoot me."

"Paper…"

Rukmini sighed and held out her good hand, ready to throw.

"Scissors…"

"This is fucking demeaning."

"Shoot!"

Roxanne threw rock; Rukmini scissors. Another bullet blew out her kneecap. Rukmini screamed and fell backwards, cracking her head on Johnny Crusader's rigid corpse.

"Motherf—"

"Two out of three?" Roxanne asked, taking another step closer.

Rukmini groaned. "Would you please just finish me off? It'd be less humiliating for both of us."

"Tell you what," Roxanne said. "I'll put you out of your misery—if you win this round. Rock. Paper. Scissors. Shoot!"

Rukmini won this round, scissors against paper. This did not please her opponent. The gun went off again, destroying Rukmini's other kneecap. Roxanne stepped forward again, until she could press Rukmini's own gun against her forehead.

"One final game," Roxanne breathed. "Best two out of three—for your life."

Her finger tightened on the trigger. "Rock. Paper. Scissors —"

Rukmini's hand shot out; sliding the gun to an angle to throw off the first shot, then crushing Roxanne's fingers against the pistol to force her to release it and spinning it around into her waiting grasp. The trigger pulled five more times, drawing a line of holes through the middle of the razorgirl's forehead.

"If you're gonna shoot, shoot," Rukmini hissed. "Don't talk."

She pulled out a bottle of pills from her breast pocket. Powdered stomatodemon, from the Nine Planes of Hunger—she mostly used them for curing hangovers, but they had other uses. Two of them went down her throat and teeth sprouted from her wounds. Then she grabbed Roxanne's corpse tight and let the little mouths do their work: tearing into the razorgirl's corpse, stripping flesh from steel and imbibing it into Rukmini's own body. Refilling veins, patching holes, sewing nerves back together, toning her arms and abs and thighs. The teeth fell out with disgusting little pops, and Rukmini was renewed. She stood up, planted one foot on Johnny's Crusader's perfect abs, and wrenched the sword out of him in a splash of viscera. Would need to be burned.

"Okay," she panted, now thoroughly drenched in blood, guts, and ramen water. "Anybody else? Anybody fucking else wanna go?"

Nobody answered. Rukmini staggered towards the VHS aisle and slowly reached for the tape.

"Oh, hold up!" someone called. She pivoted, stolen samurai sword at the ready. A man in ill-fitting Hawaiian shirt and pink slacks flinched and drew back.

"What?" she said, twitching.

"Oh, uh… I reserved that tape yesterday for rental," the man said. "I'm the Clipper, from, uh, Are We Cool Yet? I was, y'know, going to copy and clip up the tape for my next project."

"Too bad," Rukmini said. "I'm going to go home and viciously get off to it."

"What? But I… called… dibs…"

His voice petered off as the sword aimed at his lower bits. "You know what? I'll just, uh, make a new reservation."

"That would be best."

The Clipper gingerly backed up. He was so busy backing up that he didn't notice the empty Ramune bottle underfoot. There was a single yelp as he fell backwards and slammed his head noisily against the base of the checkout desk.

"You saw that. Wasn't me," Rukmini said.

Blood pooled around the Clipper's head and his body twitched slightly. Rukmini waited. One second. Two seconds. Five seconds. Nothing.

"Fuckin' finally." Rukmini stepped over the pile of corpses to the shelf where her prize awaited. Or should have. Right between Ultimate World of Bukakke XII: Final Cumsponge Tournament and Ultimate Wrestleman Versus the Dominatrix Guild, there was a vacancy, a gap perfectly sized for a single VHS tape. She spun around, seeing nobody who could possibly have snagged her prize; then noticed the clerk waving it at her with a shit-eating grin.

"How…"

"Flash stepping," the clerk whispered into Rukmini's ear. She was back behind the counter before Rukmini could flinch. "So… That'll be five bucks for a week rental. Or…"

"Or?" Rukmini approached the counter, holding her katana warily. "I'm sick of dueling people and you do not want to die to a fucking panty sword."

The clerk shook her head. "Well, it's free with my employee account—and I live upstairs." She bit her lip and winked. "Sound like a plan?"

"I'm covered in blood."

"Shower's big enough for two."

"Oh. It's tempting, don't get me wrong, but—"

"I've also got the 1998 Sidhe dub of Revolutionary Girl Utena."


Rukmini woke up in an unfamiliar bed, an absinthe hangover pounding at her temples. She was wearing an official Ultimate Princess Wormwood Death Bastard t-shirt, a pair of official UPWDB thigh-highs, and a hopefully-unofficial UPWDB strap-on. "Oh, fuck me."

The blankets beside her stirred, and the hentai store clerk's head appeared. "No thanks, I think you broke my pelvis." She tried to sit up, and stopped. "Could you help me with these handcuffs?"

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