Bonus Scenes

For the blog tour celebrating the UK release of Frail Human Heart, I was asked to write some extra content - which, as per usual for me, took on a life of its own and became what are essentially three short stories totaling nearly four thousand words. Each one reveals a private moments for a character (or two) which could very easily have ended up in the books... but somehow didn't.

Now that some time has passed since the blog tour (long enough that this content definitely earned it's 'exclusive' label) I thought I'd post it here in one place for everyone to enjoy on a permanent basis. Be warned though - if you haven't read The Name of the Blade trilogy? These scenes are going to be 100% spoilerific for you! So if you don't like to be spoiled run far away now and don't come back until you've read all the books!

Deleted Scene #1 - Jackaru

It had been hours since they arrived at the human hospital.

At first Hikaru had been so ill and dizzy and confused that the bright lights and awful smell barely even registered. She’d been glad to collapse onto the little bank of seats – no matter how horribly uncomfortable – next to Jack in the waiting room and bury her face in her hands, to try to breathe through the lingering muscle cramps and the overwhelming, burning sting of the various puncture wounds all over her body.

The King’s healing magic was strong; strong enough to purge the poison from Hikaru’s system before it killed her or left her with serious brain damage. And start the wounds closing up already, which was part of why they burned so much. But nothing could entirely erase the side effects of being pumped full of enough supernatural neurotoxin to give a god a headache.

As the pain slowly passed off, Hikaru became more and more aware of Mr and Mrs Yamato’s strained grey faces as they talked to the doctors, scurried eagerly out of the room and then returned with dragging, shuffling steps after too short visits to Mio in intensive care. Gradually he gleaned the fact that doctors weren’t entirely sure why she was unconscious. There was no blood loss, no brain injury that they could find, nothing to treat. She just... wouldn’t wake up.

The news, when it came, that Shinobu was out of surgery and doing well, was a huge relief for everyone. Especially when Hikaru remembered the blood stained nightmare he had looked when the human healers pushed his stretcher off the bridge. If they could fix him, surely Mio would be all right too?

But another hour passed with no change in Mio’s status, and the pall of doom descended inexorably over the small waiting room again.

This is all wrong, Hikaru thought distractedly. We won. Mio defeated the gods and saved the world. 

We won.

We should be happy. We should be celebrating.

Mio can’t ... Not after all this.

Humans were so bloody fragile.

Mrs Yamato looked up hopefully as a new doctor, a cheerfully plump Asian man with kind eyes, came into the room. She nudged her husband, who jerked out of an uneasy dose. After a short, whispered conversation, all three headed out of the room. Mrs Yamato spared a moment to offer a slightly shaky smile to Hikaru, Jack and Rachel as she went.

“Back in a moment, kids.”

Hikaru stared after her, stricken. So fragile – and so kind.

“How are you doing, Furball?” Jack asked in a hushed, careful tone that was entirely unlike her. “You look a little better now.”

Hikaru risked a sideways glance in the other girl’s direction. Now was definitely not the time to ask if Hikaru had hallucinated that kiss while Jack held her limp body beside the river. Definitely not the time.

“Did you really kiss me, or did I imagine it?” Dammit, Hikaru.

Jack’s eyes went wide and she shifted a little uneasily, but she didn’t look away. “Um...”

On Jack’s other side, Rachel let out an ostentatiously loud sigh. “Hey, why don’t you two head down to the cafeteria and get us some new cups of tea? These ones are cold. And maybe some muffins or something.”

Jack twisted around and even though she couldn’t see the other girl’s face, Hikaru knew she was levelling a deadly glare at her sister. “You could give a sledgehammer a run for its money.”

“Coming from you, I’ll take that as a compliment,” Rachel said, shaking her head. “For God’s sake, both of you, stop making googly eyes and actually talk to each other! Before I lose it and strangle both of you.”

“But – Mio – ” Hikaru protested. “Mr and Mrs Yamato – ”

“They don’t need you right this minute,” Rachel said firmly but kindly. She lifted her arm and pointed at the door.  “Go. Shoo. Now.”

Hikaru and Jack exchanged a resigned look for a split second before they both remembered that they were being awkward with each other and quickly looked away. Hikaru felt that unaccustomed heat in her cheeks and leaped to her feet, trying not to wince as various injuries throbbed in protest. “Fine. Tea and muffins, coming right up.”

Jack got up a little more slowly. “That’s a line I honestly never expected to hear coming out of a Japanese fox spirit’s mouth.”

“I don’t see why,” Hikaru returned swiftly, trying to get back into the rhythm of their old banter as they headed for the door. “I’m as British as you are, you know.”

A tiny smile twitched at the corner of Jack’s mouth. The door of the waiting room swung shut behind them. “Hence why both us hate talking about our emotions so much, I suppose.”

Encouraged, Hikaru let her shoulder bump against Jack’s gently. “Speak for yourself. The way I see it, I’ve already laid my cards on the table. The emotional constipation is your problem.”

Jack stopped where she was, the smile leaving her face as she pressed her lips together. “I...”

“Sorry, I didn’t – ” Hikaru back-peddled hastily, feeling her stomach lurch.

“No. Don’t – you don’t have to be sorry for being right.” She nodded, as if to herself. “You’re right.”

Her eyes met Hikaru’s fully for the first time. They looked huge in her face, and Hikaru could see fear and uncertainty and a faint edge of panic in them. And something more. Something soft, that yearned for a connection in direct proportion to how much Jack feared it.

One of the first things that Hikaru had fallen for about Jack was her strength, her absolute refusal to give up, her take-no-prisoners attitude – but right now Hikaru felt as if she was being shown a whole different Jack, a part of her that was just as integral to her personality, but that lived deep down, hidden away most of the time because it was so precious and vulnerable.

Given the chance, Hikaru knew she could wrap her arms around Jack and spend the whole rest of her life just keeping that soft, loving part of the other girl safe and protected, and never want anything else in order to be happy.

The problem was... did Jack want that? Would she be able to accept it, from Hikaru or anyone?

“You’re right,” Jack repeated, and like a light had been switched on inside her, suddenly the smile was back, spreading slowly across her face. She reached out, a little hesitantly. The tentative brush of her fingers across Hikaru’s palm sent sparks of electricity shuddering through the kitsune’s skin. 

Hikaru quickly twitched her hand around and grasped Jack’s.

“So... are we... we’re doing this?” Hikaru asked, worrying she was ruining the moment, but needing something, some kind of anchor to attach all these feelings to.

Jack squeezed Hikaru’s hand, and her smile was a grin now – a little giddy, a little reckless, and a lot happy.

She turned and started pulling Hikaru down the corridor towards the lift, swinging their joined hands between them. “You bet your fluffy backside we’re doing this, Furball. Come on. I’m going to buy you a muffin.”

Deleted Scene #2 - Destiny

“Hika-chan? Hika-chan!”

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, o 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 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. She 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 instead.

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 re-shelved 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 practise, 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 upon! Shinobu, helper of foxes, who five centuries ago in the old country freed me from a snare and saved my paw, has requsted 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 of 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 activated. “It sounds quite urgent. You represent us all today, Hikaru. Make sure that you act as my descendent 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.

Deleted Scene #3 - Daisho


“Please, Mio-dono,” Shin-chan pleaded, his hands outstretched so that his bony wrists poked out of the sleeves of his kendo-gi. His eyes were wide and beautiful, and for a moment I felt my anger waver. That would not do. He must learn.

Pointedly, I averted my gaze and fixed it on the swaying green and yellow branches of the willow tree beneath which I sat. The wind stirred overhead, and the leaves parted to reveal a glimpse of the garden beyond, where my mother, her head shielded with a painted pink parasol, walked with my father, arm in arm. The long, low shape of the house drowsed behind them, its straw roof turned bronze and gold by the sun.

The leaves swept together again and hid everything with their gently whispering fronds. I sighed a little. What a waste of a beautiful morning.

“Mio-dono – ”

“You are forgiven. You may go,” I said coldly.

“I am not forgiven,” he grumbled, exasperated. “It is as plain as the freckles on your nose that you are still angry. Only tell me what I have done! How can I make amends if you will not tell me?”

“How dare – I do not have freckles!”

He gave a little choke of laughter. Normally I adored that sound, and would go out of my way to provoke it whenever I could. At this moment it made me more furious than ever, and I sucked in an angry gulp of breath, shaking my head sharply, once. “It is of no consequence.”

“Clearly it is of great consequence or we should not be out here,” Shin-chan said stubbornly.

“I did not ask you to follow me.”

“No. You only took a blow from my practise blade that would have stunned an ox, fell down at my feet and would not answer me for the longest three seconds of my life, and then laughed as if you had taken leave of your senses. And then you stalked off and hid under the willow tree. Everyone and their deaf uncle knows that you only sit under the willow tree to sulk. I have already said that I was sorry for knocking you down – ”

“Ack!” I snatched up my practise blade from the mossy ground and flung it at him, unable to stand it a moment longer. “That!” I cried, as he dodged the wooden sword, and it clattered onto the white stone path behind him. “That is why I am angry!”

“I am sorry – ”

“NO!” I almost howled the word and forced myself to take a deep breath before I went on. “I do not want you to apologise for hitting me. We were practising. We were sparring. The entire point of sparring with wooden swords is to try to hit each other. It was a good hit! An excellent hit! I laughed because I was happy and proud of you. And then – then – you ruined everything.

“What? How?” he sputtered.

“You apologised,” I sneered.

“But – you were hurt – ”

“I am not hurt. Do you think a little tap like that could injure me? I have trained by your side every day for the last four years, and my father trained me alone before that. I am your equal, Shinobu. I have hit you a dozen times! You have never hit me because I was better than you. Today, you finally defeated me and instead of being proud you were sorry because you thought I was hurt. As if I was some fragile flower, some easily bruised hot house peony whose petals could be crushed by a hit with the flat of a wooden blade. I am Onna-Bugeisha! We are daisho! The short blade and the long – two halves of one whole. How could you show me such disrespect?”

For the first time since he had followed me out of the dojo, stuttering apologies and pleas for forgiveness, Shinobu hesitated. He opened his mouth, closed it, then seemed to slump in place. His narrow, pointy shoulders poked up like wings as he slowly bowed to me, pressing his hands together above his head.

“You are right, Mio-dono. I see it. You are my equal, and I should have treated you as such. I apologise.”

 I let a long, shallow breath escape me. My anger and outrage flowed with it, leaving me empty, faintly trembling. But I must not allow him to see that – he would take it as weakness. Boys were such simple creatures. I hid my hands in the sleeves of my kendo-gi and bowed back courteously. “Your apology is accepted.”

Shinobu straightened, and his head tilted to one side thoughtfully. “So. In short, our argument today was because you... wished me to apologise. For apologising.”

I narrowed my eyes at him. “Correct. What of it?”

He shook his head. “Oh, nothing. Only I think I know now what your father meant when he said, when I came to live with you all, that I was sure to have an interesting life.”

“Really,” I drawled. “Interesting, you say? Hand me my practice sword, Shin-chan.”

He ducked back agilely and picked up the shinai, holding it bchind his back. “No. I do not think that would be a good idea.”

“Give it to me. I’m going to show you what ‘interesting’ looks like.”

“What does it look like?”

“Like my sword hitting you squarely in the gut.”

“Then I definitely shall keep hold of this for the moment.” Slowly, he began to back away.

I brushed through the willow leaves, holding out my hand commandingly. “Give. Me. My. Sword.”

Grinning, he shook his head, then turned and bolted in the direction of the house.

“Come back!” I shrieked, flying after him. “Come back here right now, you – you coward! Are you afraid of a fair fight?”

“Terrified, Mio-dono!” He yelled back at me over his shoulder, waving my wooden sword above his head. “Absolutely terrified!”

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