The Art of Mirriam Neal

//a kitsune, an interrogation, and on-camera insults [or, a few snippets]

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“I need a left hand matching these dimensions.”


 

The guard glanced at the door. “Don’t worry,” Oscar continued, his anger softening just enough to allow him to say, “it’s not like I’m going to tell the P-R. Not sure we could communicate anyways; I don’t speak jackass.”

“You’re on camera,” said the guard blandly.


People thought interrogations and torture were the same thing, but they weren’t. Torture provided punishment or set an example. It could be vicious and fairly pointless. When torturing someone, you could use any method you liked. If the victim passed out, you let them wake up again or woke them yourself before starting again.

Interrogation was far more delicate; the difference between a finger painting and an original Hokusai. There were things you could and could not do – the subject had to remain alert, functioning well enough to correctly answer questions but too desperate to lie. Making the subject pass out was undesirable; it took more time and proved inefficient.


When she reached the bottom, she set the chair down and crossed her arms. “Happy?”

Kirikizu smiled mentally at the similarities between Haka and Otter, without allowing the expression onto his face. “Put it in the cell, on the opposite side.”

“Gonna throw shade at him first?” Otter rolled her eyes as she dragged the chair into the cell.

“Out of the cell now,” said Kirikizu, stepping toward the cell door.

“Do this, Otter. Do that, Otter,” said Otter, but it was half-hearted, and she cast a concerned glance at Winter’s impassive face before exiting the cell.


He lifted his head and met Winter’s direct, frozen gaze. The older man’s blue eyes were cold enough to draw all warmth from the room; at once broken and sharper than before. He was also done playing any game with Kirikizu.

“If you lay a hand on him,” said Winter softly, “I will kill you. Perhaps not today or tomorrow, but I will do it.”


“I made Nix’s acquaintance thanks to Matahachi,” said Kiba.

“Well, if someone’s going to tell the story, it has to be me,” said Nix, apparently regaining interest. “Because that is a truly awful opening line and I’d hate for a riveting story to drag on in that tone of voice.”

Kiba sighed and stepped back toward the wall, allowing the kitsune to continue.

“Thank you,” said Nix archly. “See, it’s like this, sweetheart – Matahachi took something very important from me, and I want it back.”

“That’s not good storytelling either,” said Kiba in a low voice, rubbing the back of his neck.

Nix opened his mouth, then squinted. “In fact, it’s terrible storytelling,” he conceded after a moment’s thought. “But I have a very good point, in that I don’t really think the young lady here needs to know the whole story.”


He reached the bottom of the stairs. Haka was doing pull-ups on the bars of an empty cell, and Otter was rattling off some kind of shopping list. “—expensive coffee, you’re going to have to shell out,” she argued as Kirikizu approached.


Tsuki looked up at the looming apartment building. A single light shone through a cracked window three stories up. “This yokai of yours,” she began.

“He’s not mine,” Kiba interrupted, “and he’s a kitsune. You should know before you meet him.”

Tsuki felt a heady thrill in spite of herself. Even those who believed in yokai and yokai-kin widely regarded kitsune as fables. The mountain fox-spirits whose number of tails increased their power, were legends, said to have been created by rice-farmers who saw things in the mist. Mist which may not have been entirely natural, Tsuki now thought.

“Let me guess,” said Tsuki, keeping her voice low, “he’s the only resident for miles.”

“He likes to keep to himself.”

“Then what makes you think he’s going to care about my request?”

“I never said I thought he’d care,” said Kiba. “A bribe may be in order.”


— The Dying of the Light

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