This is the revised chapter 1 of my Nano novel this year: FEASTING ON THE SPIRITS OF ANIMALS aka Feasting. I finished Nano a winner, but I haven't finished Feasting yet. Still about 20 chapters to go, but that being said, I put this piece through my new writing group, and this is the revised version based on that. It was my first in person writing group like that, and it was a wonderful experience. I also put it in the format I use for print-books.
Chapter 1 (A quick break-in)
stealing research data from the prime minister — most powerful Untalented
person in Japan — really a good idea? Even if the client paid well?
swallowed. With the cicadas screaming into the night, she wished Leo hadn’t
moved from their hiding spot yet. She needed her brother’s support. Wanted to
be reassured this was the right thing to do.
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 six-story house, her
heart pounded in her chest.
Across the street, the
large stone wall surrounding the prime minister’s house stretched to the
sidewalk. Since the six-story house wasn’t in the center of the lot,
the layout information from their client must be accurate. It had to be. Each side other than the main
entrance held a garden between the wall and the house. A way
in despite the guards.
would have to be guards outside the walls, as well. Where were they? Could they
see her? Or her brother, who
wasn’t in the bushes anymore?
Her breath caught.
Run. Run! Hide!
She dug her foot into
the dirt and glanced over her shoulder, muscles tense.
Did the guards patrol
the park? A flash of light stung the corner of her eye, drawing her attention.
Her head jerked to the
The convenience store
on the other side of the park glowed in the night, neon lights killing
her night vision. One of the store workers — probably — held a flashlight by
the trashcans, and its light reflected 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, and she inhaled, filling her lungs with the thick, humid air. Maybe her
gut was right. Maybe she should run. But their debt. And if
they failed to complete the job without even trying and ran, their pack would
rip them to shreds. Sweat beaded across her skin, and a lump caught in her throat.
In front of her, Leo —
her twin brother and only family — peeked around a 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. The
mist-like aura that wrapped around his body when she focused on him for more
than a few seconds tasted like peaches.
No. Icky. Strawberries were the best. Like the ones Zack had always given her
Leo 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 Prime
Leo nodded, dark brown
eyes — a shade lighter than hers — never leaving the target. “According
to our pack, the
clients for this job said he took most of his guards — the Talented ones — to meet with this
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. Double icky. But, if a touch felt like
this, what would kissing a boy be like? Leo? No. Triple 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 before
replacing his plated-gauntlet. “Focus, Rio.” Like how she imagined a father
would act, Leo used a commanding yet kind voice. “Remember why we were chosen.”
“Soon, the guards
patrolling should pass by. Outside and inside the wall.”
Her hands brushed past
a small Hello Kitty bag tied to the back of her stolen leather belt then
caressed the power-forged daggers strapped in sheaths at her sides. “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. A
nervous habit of his when he was scared.
a good sign if he were as scared as her.
“It should give us enough
speed and lift to clear that wall,” he
arched an eyebrow, trying to act cool. “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
tension in his shoulders relaxed.
she also made him feel stronger.
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
Rent-a-guards. No real threat if handled right. Perhaps this job wouldn’t be so
Rio glanced to her
right towards the corner with another convenience store — probably a 7-Eleven, but she couldn’t be
sure since she wasn’t wearing her glasses. Though,
if she swallowed an alley cat into her first socket — No. Not worth it.
behind the wall grew louder before diminishing. A fancy-looking red car drove
past on the
road then all fell quiet save for the noisy cicadas trying to find mates.
insects being out of their holes early was such bad luck.
Leo held his hand up
and made a fist. Time to dance. 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. 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. For
Talented eyes only.
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
Ahead of him, she
sprinted across the street and leaped over the three-meter wall with ease. Wind whipped at her hair as
she descended, turning in mid-air to land on her tip toes like a ballerina. Or at
least how they looked on posters.
Her brother’s body
crested the wall, and he placed his gauntleted hands atop it, flipping over to
land beside her. He panted. “The difference in our power is
His petulant tone reminded her of how other siblings spoke to one
another. “So stupid.”
She matched the tone of his voice. “Jealous?”
It’s the only reason you’re here without being angry or frustrated, after all.”
taking the lead, Leo led her through the prime minister’s flower garden and to
the backdoor. “And I don’t like it when we split up.”
Silver English letters along
the top of the door and a golden door knocker in the center made her sick. How could rich
people be so wasteful? It was ridiculous. But. Maybe
they could pry them off. They could —
metal hit the floor on the other side of the door, and Leo’s hand froze a few
centimeters away from the door handle.
Rio’s heart rate spiked, and the hair on the back of
her neck stood on end.
This wasn’t good. If
stationed at this door weren’t just patrolling, getting inside without taking
would be impossible.
Her feet began
shuffling across the stone patio behind Leo while she chewed on her lower-lip.
Damn cicadas. This was
their fault. Super bad luck. What was wrong with them?
Rio opened her mouth.
“What do you mean you
saw something, Funa?” a husky, female voice asked from the other side of
a flower bush.
Juri. I saw
something above the wall just a few minutes ago,” a man
— Funa — said in a squeaky voice. “I think someone was climbing —”
“Don’t be stupid,” Juri said.
“Hey! Who are you
Smack! The sound echoed
through the garden and drew bile into the back of Rio’s throat. They were going
to get caught. Even rent-a-guards could be troublesome. Guards outside. Guards inside.
good. Terrible actually. This was —
Leo grabbed Rio by the
wrist and pushed the door open.
A large metal vase painted
a solid, beautiful purple lay sprawled across the fancy-looking blue and green
carpet. The carpet looked like it was some work
but the design didn’t make any sense. Pictures and wall hangings lined both walls,
most of old men doing old-men things. One had a man writing at a
One a man hunting. Another had a man sitting on what had to be a toilet.
Rio covered her mouth
as she began chuckling.
Click. The door shut
behind them, and Leo motioned down the hallway. “We need to hurry.”
Nodding, Rio fell into
step behind him, dancing between steps on the balls of her feet and using the
cat’s grace to avoid making any sound.
Left around a corner.
Right at the next intersection. Cut through a massive kitchen area. Mumbling
voices on the other side of the door leading out of the kitchen. The door
handle turned, and the door began to swing open.
Leo skidded to a stop.
The voices grew louder: six men. Wider
the door opened.
Her hands trembled, and she pranced across the
room and slid under a counter. She contorted her body into a ball and edged
into the small space behind a pair of hanging pots. I hope Leo-Nii made it out of sight.
“What do you mean?” one
of the six men asked. His icy voice turned the skin on her arms into the rough
side of a sponge.
“I mean what if this
Foreign Emperor gets tired of getting put off by Prime Minister Bea and decides
to come here directly?” a slightly boyish voice asked.
The prime minister was putting
the Foreign Emperor off? He could come there? How soon would he be there?
“Then we shoot him,”
the first voice said. “Might be nice to have something other than walking
around to do.”
A heavy pressure closed
in on her chest, and she began panting. The Foreign Emperor. This couldn’t be happening. If
the Foreign Emperor were coming here, they would all die. He was a monster. He
killed everything in his wake and left nothing behind. Each inhalation wheezed
through her contracting throat, and the pots in front of her spun.
Was she still
breathing? Nothing seemed to reach her lungs. She was suffocating. But. But
maybe it was for the best. To suffocate to death rather than fall prey to the
horrors of the Foreign Emperor.
climbed from her quivering lips, and one of the pots in front of her made a
“Stop,” the first voice
said. “Did you hear that?”
“No?” all five other
The first voice growled before a thwapping sound slammed against the
counter above her. “This whole business is driving me insane! Come. Let’s
finish this waste-of-time patrol so we can grab a drink.”
“Yes, sir,” the five
other men said.
Feet appeared in front
The Foreign Emperor is here! She screamed.
Leo bent down and
placed his hand over her mouth, muffling her voice. “Quiet. The Foreign Emperor
isn’t here. They were just talking about what-ifs.”
She lunged from her
hiding spot and wrapped her hands around his neck as tears rolled down her
cheeks. “Leo-Nii. Leo-Nii, I —”
“Shhhhh. It’s alright
now.” He wrapped his arms around her and patted her on the back. “I’m here for
you now. No need to worry.”
She sniffled. “But —”
“No buts. Just calm
down and relax. We have a job to do. Be professional.”
After wiping her tears
away, she pulled away from the comforting hug. “You’re right.”
He offered her his
Shaking her head, she
pointed to the door. I’m too old to hold
hands like that with you, Leo-Nii. “We need to be agile.”
“Okay?” He shrugged
then walked from the kitchen. He scratched his chin.
Was he lost already?
turned right and hurried through a series of small rooms.
Footsteps down the
Taking the next right and opening the first
door on his left, Leo gestured inside the closet as the footsteps grew louder.
“Stop wasting time,” he said in hushed tones.
Rio blinked then rushed into the closet beside
him. “I’m doing no such thing.” Frustration
ground her teeth together. “I —”
grinned. “Sorry. Just trying to bring the real
you out.” He slid the door shut.
don’t have to be angry or frustrated to be strong.”
The door slid shut.
“I know they must do it,” a familiar female voice — the
rent-a-guard, Juri — said from the hallway, “Wait. What are you eating?”
“I’m not —” Funa
grunted. “What did you do that for?”
you’re eating while we’re working,” she said.
just a stupid temp job.” He made a smacking sound. “Besides. I’m not eating
“Gum? How many times! Have I told
you! Not to chew gum at work?” She sounded angry.
But why would anyone care if
someone were chewing gum?
Several other footsteps
followed Funa and Juri then the large group divided into
off in different directions.
After counting to
one-hundred, Leo opened the door and peeked outside. “Clear.”
“Let’s get this
research data and get out of here.” Rio shivered. “This place is starting to
tap-dance across my skin with insect legs.”
“Me, too.” He hesitated
when he stepped into the hallway, sucking on his upper-lip.
Something was wrong.
“Leo-Nii?” she asked.
“Got it.” He turned to
the left and fell into a run down the hallway, passing the corridor they had
just come through. Four turns later, he led her into a dark stairwell and up five flights of stairs to
the sixth floor.
He made the right choice.
Though, didn’t he say
there were two staircases that led to the sixth floor? No matter. He knew the
directions. This had to be the right one.
Just outside the
staircase was an expansive room with two massive couches in and several drink
shelves along the side walls. The three doors on the other side of the room
called her name, but which one would lead to the research data? Or at least the
that held the research data. The plush carpet underfoot made her feel guilty
for wearing her sneakers inside.
“Which door should we
take?” Rio moved around Leo and approached the door in the center.
She spun on her heels
and put her hands on her hips. “What is wrong with you? Didn’t Yuuki-sensei
teach us not to use such language?”
Face turning red, he
rubbed the back of his head as if he were the younger twin rather than the
older. “Sorry. It’s just. Just. In the layout of this house. According to
our client. There. There should only be one door leaving from this room.”
opened his mouth.
held up a finger. “If you say another bad word, I’ll punch you in the nose.”
mouth snapped shut.
She glanced over her shoulder at the staircase behind them. “Let’s go back and
see if we can find the right —”
Footsteps echoed up the staircase. Crack-crack-crack. All three doors on the
other side of the room slammed open. Guards poured into the room,
surrounding Rio and Leo. By their lack of their auras, all
were Untalented with
either a club or a knife in their hands.
clenching, Rio wanted to curse for the first time in her life. No. That was
wrong. Instead, she balled her hands into fists.