Zoë Marriott is the author of many critically acclaimed and beloved books, including The Swan Kingdom, which was long-listed for the Branford Boase award, and Shadows on the Moon, which won the prestigious Sasakawa Prize and was an American Junior Library Guild Selection. Zoë lives in Grimsby, Lincolnshire. Visit Zoë’s blog at thezoe-trope.blogspot.co.uk or her website at ZoeMarriott.com. Follow her on Twitter (@ZMarriott).
There is a deleted scene… with Hikaru!
And I get to share this with you *throws confetti* 😀
Deleted Scene #2
Miyako’s sickly sweet voice – and that sickening bloody nickname – sent Hikaru flailing up from his comfortable position nestled into a pile of pillows on the floor of the grand library. Spitting out a mouthful of hair, he nipped behind one of the bookshelves and plastered himself to the warm packed-earth wall, his grandfather’s copy of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland still clutched in his hand.
“Hika-chan!” A slight edge of annoyance cracked the edges of Miyako’s voice now. He could hear her coming closer, but … aha! She hesitated before stepping into the stacks.
Hikaru could picture her uneasy expression. There were a lot of books here, and a lot of them were old. Old and magical. Not everyone who wandered into the stacks came out exactly the same way that they went in. Especially the ones who were chasing after Hikaru. He patted the roughly carved bookcase next to him and felt a gentle vibration travel into his fingers. The library’s version of a purr. They were old friends.
“I know you’re in here. Hiro-san told me he saw you. Come out at once.”
Not in a million years, oh minion of evil. Not in .A. Million. Years.
“Your aunt wants you!” she snapped. As if that settled it. Which it did. Because there was noooo way Hikaru was delivering himself up for one of Midori’s lectures voluntarily.
“She wants you now! She’s not going to be pleased if you keep her waiting!”
Midori was never pleased anyway. It was totally, utterly, literally, impossible to please her. Hikaru had tried non-stop for the first fifteen years of his life and it had brought nothing but exhaustion and misery. Giving up had been a relief. These days when it came to his great-great-great-great (and so on for a few more generations) aunt, he found that the best – in fact the only – workable strategy was avoidance. If she couldn’t find him, she couldn’t suck the guts out of him and then use his finger-bones to pick her teeth. Simple.
There was a long pause.
“Fine,” Miyako said finally. “I’m going to go back and tell her that you hid from me and refused to come out.”
Rather than admit you refused to come in and look for me. Safely hidden, Hikaru rolled his eyes. Midori would see through that lie in less time than it took Miyako’s whiskers to twitch. It wouldn’t make Midori any less furious with Hikaru, of course – but she would probably singe her minion’s tail, too, to teach her a lesson. Miyako really was too stupid to serve one of the most ancient and powerful Kitsune in the Kingdom. Only Midori prized the ability to suck up more than intelligence, talent or a remotely attractive personality.
“Eugh, you think you’re so special, but you’re not, Hikaru-san!” He heard the slap as she stamped one of her feet. “You’re nothing but a stupid spoiled brat! No wonder everyone’s so disappointed in you!”
Apparently that was her last gambit. Her feet scuffed again as she whirled around and stomped out of the library. Hikaru let out a sigh that was a mixture of relief and weariness. Miyako really was very dim if she thought that insult would force him out of hiding. He’d been resigned to his position as the biggest disappointment in the Kingdom for about half a decade now – the scar tissue was thick enough that it was almost numb.
He looked down at his book, brushing his thumb gently over the tooled leather cover. How amazing it must be, to be mortal, human – to have magic happen to you instead of being expected to generate your own.
Not to mention that a human’s cranky elderly relatives eventually had to die off and leave them alone. A Kitsune’s cranky elderly relatives just kept on getting more elderly and more cranky until you wished you could die off yourself.
And humans got to have friends. Real friends their own age, who hung around with them just because they liked them, not because they wanted to get into the good graces of a potential future ruler, or that potential future ruler’s great-great-great (and so on for a few more generations) grandparent, who happened to be the current king.
Friends who expected nothing from you.
Hikaru had given up on that particular dream a long time ago.
He carefully reshelved his book, suddenly no longer in the mood for Alice’s silly, cosy adventures. Whatever had set Midori off this time, she wasn’t likely to let go of it until she’d had a chance to inflict her usual brand of passive-aggression, snide insinuation and guilt on her favourite victim, or until something else came along to draw her ire. It would probably be best if Hikaru made himself scarce.
Hmmm. He hadn’t visited the human realm for a while – wasn’t it nearly midwinter solstice up there? They had that festival, Christmas, like in The Chronicles of Narnia, with the presents and the parties and the pretty twinkly lights.
Time for an excursion, he decided. If he used the almost forgotten rupture that opened near Lincoln’s Inn Fields, he probably wouldn’t have to meet a single other person on the way out – and he could stop in at Starbucks before he went window shopping, maybe crash a party somewhere… His mood brightened at the thought of hot chocolate and whipped cream…
With the ease of long practice, Hikaru managed to sneak out of the library unnoticed. He was half a second from activating the unpopular rupture hidden in a damp, overgrown corner of the den when the king’s disembodied voice suddenly roared to life in the air, shaking the soft mossy walls of the little chamber.
“A favour has been called! Shinobu, helper of foxes, who five centuries ago in the old country freed me from a snare and saved my paw, has requested our aid – and the Kitsune Kingdom shall answer! Who is closest – who – ? Ah. Hikaru.”
“What? Me?” Hikaru yelped as he felt his grandfather’s attention, and the ancient ceremonial magic, focus on him.
“Yes, child, you,” the king’s voice rumbled, amused.
The spell of embodiment crashed down over Hikaru, making his vision fizz, his ears pop, and his knees tremble. His ordinary clothes – jeans, a T-shirt and a hoodie – vanished in a whirl of light, replaced by a shining white kimono. The weight of the king’s authority, and the collective power of all the Kitsune in Great Britain, settled over his shoulders like a yoke that pressed him down and bore him up at the same time.
“Quickly now,” the king ordered. In front of Hikaru, the rupture flared with brilliant copper light as the entrance into the mortal realm was activated. “It sounds quite urgent. You represent us all today, Hikaru. Make sure that you act as my descendant should.”
“Yes, grandfather,” Hikaru said, resigned. Well, at least it’s a change, I suppose. It probably won’t take long – and there’s nothing stopping me from getting a Starbucks once I’ve finished…
Squaring his shoulders, he stepped into the shining light of the rupture.
Next Stop for Zoë is www.sisterspooky.co.uk.
Click here to check it out and, if you haven’t already, pick up your copy of Zoë’s The Name of the Blade series at your local bookshop or online at Amazon, Book Depository, Waterstones.com and WHSmith.
I love this trilogy SO much, as I do all of Zoë’s books. You can read all about the wonderfulness of Frail Human Heart, the final book in The Name of the Blade trilogy, next week.
Until then enjoy this deleted scene and go pick up the first book, or probably all 3 to be honest because it’s like Alice once you’re down that rabbit hole you will want to read them all in one go. 😉