This is the opening for this year's Nano. Planned at 52 chapter with 3 POVs (Rio-29, Sou-15 and Matt-8). It's supposed to act as a standalone, but it's also in the same world as PAINTING and BURNING, and all three end at the same point.
I hope you enjoy. If you have any comments, ideas or thoughts, please comment below.
Goo opening the drawer for Feasting's opening
Despite the late hour, the cicadas screamed into the night, and Rio swallowed. Does this mean I’ll have bad luck tonight? Why are those noisy monsters out in June?
A heavy summer wind rustled the bush she hid in on the edge of the park, several branches picking at her dark-green tank top and exposed skin. They prodded more and more until they tangled in her shoulder-length hair. The constant poking tickled and sent icy chills down the back of her thighs.
She should have tied her hair back. Focus! As she glared at the top floor of the fifty-eighth prime minister’s five-story house, her heart pounded in her chest. Was robbing the most-powerful, Untalented person in Japan really a good idea?
Across the street, the large stone wall surrounding the prime minister’s house stretched to the sidewalk. According to the reports from their pack and how off-center the five-story house was, each side other than the main entrance held a garden between the wall and the house. Guards, too. There would have to be guards. Where were they? Could they see her or her brother?
Her breath caught.
Run. Run! Hide!
She dug her foot into the dirt and glanced over her shoulder, muscles tense.
Did the guards’ patrol extend into the park? A flash of light stung the corner of her eye, drawing her attention.
Her head jerked to the left.
The convenience store on the other side of the park glowed in the night, neon lights reflecting off the wind chime that hung above the doors. The lamp-posts spastically positioned throughout the park cast shadows in every direction. Guards could be anywhere. But nothing moved.
A sigh deflated her chest then she inhaled, filling her lungs with the thick, humid air. Maybe her gut was right. Maybe she should run. But the debt … . Sweat beaded across her skin, and a lump caught in her throat.
In front of her, Leo — her twin brother — peeked around the park bench and tapped his foot. His short, black hair bristled with perspiration, and his navy t-shirt clung to his muscled back. Unlike hers, his shorts reached his knees. He lifted his left hand, plated-gauntlet catching the light, and he waved for her to come forward.
On trembling legs, she edged from the bush and made her way to the park bench. “Are you sure he’s not home?”
Leo nodded, dark brown eyes — a shade lighter than hers — never leaving the target. “The other members of our pack said he took most of his guards — the Talented ones — to meet with this New Emperor.”
Her lips quivered. The Foreign Emperor.
After pulling his left hand out of the plated-gauntlet, he turned and placed a soft finger against her lips. “Calm down.”
A jolt of pleasure raced through her body, and her toes curled. Icky. But, if a touch felt like this, what would kissing a boy be like? Leo? No. Double no. He shouldn’t have touched her. Not like that. Though, he was cute. In another’s eyes, at least. No. The one she wanted to kiss was Zack, her teacher from a few years back. Strong. Handsome. Kind. He —
Leo coughed then replaced his gauntlet. “Focus, Rio.”
“Soon, the guards patrolling should pass by. Outside and inside the wall.”
Her hands brushed past a small Hello Kitty bag tied to her stolen leather belt and caressed the power-forged daggers strapped in sheaths around the pink bag. “Will we —”
“No. When the ones on the outside are out of sight, swallow a cat into socket five.” He brushed his armored fingers across the orbed necklace around his neck. A deep breath later, he touched his pelvis where the fifth slot rested inside his body. “It should give us enough speed and lift to clear that wall with ease.”
“But wouldn’t it be better to use a crow?”
“No. The crow’s flight wouldn’t get us over the wall fast enough, and we should save it for our escape.”
Leo-Nii is so smart. With him around, the fear stabbing into her gut vanished.
A group of Untalented guards wearing suits in spite of the heat marched along the sidewalk outside of the wall. One of the guards outside the wall kicked a small stone like a soccer ball. Clang! The rock hit one of the lamp posts. The second guard elbowed the first and shook his head as they turned the corner with the kindergarten across the street.
Rio glanced to her right towards the corner with another convenience store — probably a seven-eleven, but she couldn’t be sure since she wasn’t wearing her glasses or socketing an animal in her first slot.
The footsteps behind the wall moved on. A fancy-looking red car drove past the road then all fell quiet save for the noisy cicadas trying to find a mate.
Leo held his hand up and made a fist. Then, he sucked the spirit of a cat from his orbed necklace and swallowed it into his fifth socket. His hair gave off a faint blue light — his power residue. A translucent alley cat, the size of a large hamster, appeared around his waist, walking on the air as if it were solid ground. It phased through the park bench without concern and continued its stroll around his body.
She reached out with her mind and embraced the orb holding the spirit of a cat. As long as the orb touched her skin, she could suck the spirit from it. She inhaled, swallowing the cat spirit. The aftertaste of stringy, unsalted meat stuck to her tongue and carried a hint of rotting garbage. Why did they always have to take the spirits of alley cats? They tasted so disgusting.
“Meow,” the cat’s spirit said as it fell into her fifth socket.
Euphoric power surged through her entire body, and the muscles in both her legs bulged, expanding slightly as they facilitated the cat's borrowed strength. A heartbeat later, her muscles relaxed and returned to their normal size.
Her usually black hair glowed a bright purple and illuminated the darkness around her. She ran her fingers through the shining strands.
Her translucent alley cat, as large as a fat toy poodle, pranced around her body and made mental noises at her brother's cat.
"I'm ready." Rio breathed through her nose, trying to ignore the lingering taste of cat.
Leo pointed at the wall. "Go."
Ahead of him, she sprinted across the street and leaped over the three-meter wall with a meter to spare. Wind whipped at hear hair as she descended, turning in mid-air to land on her tiptoes like a ballerina. Or at least how they looked on posters. She had never had the money to see them in person or attend a ballet lesson. A shame, really.
Her brother's body crested the wall, and he placed his gauntleted hands atop it, flipping over to land beside her. He panted. "Why is your power output so much greater than mine?"
She shrugged. "Not sure."
After taking the lead, Leo led her through the prime minister's flower garden and to the backdoor.