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The reporter cocked his head to one side and looked from Kiyoshi to the building just behind them. "Ah," he said with a nod. "Ah, yes. I take it you gentlemen would be some of the performers or maybe stagehands?"
"Stagehands?" Ryuhei's mouth gaped open in shock. "What an insult," he thundered in Japanese. "If this is your new admirer I'm seriously offended you'd pick an idiot like him over me."
"He's not my lover."
"So you're not stagehands?" the American asked lightly.
"No," Kiyoshi said, his tone sharp. "We're actors with the troupe." Now go away.
Kiyoshi focused his thoughts to a direct command, channeling them straight towards this intrusive newcomer. He rarely ever used his abilities as a kyuuketsuki to influence a mortal's mind, but this wasn't an ordinary situation. Pushing out with as much power as he could, he repeated the command.
And yet the American stayed right where he was, feet planted firmly on the ground, oblivious to what Kiyoshi was trying to do. He smoothed down the front of his frumpy suit and patted the sides of his face. "Phew," the man exhaled in relief and then chuckled. "I thought that with the way you were staring, my nose might've fallen off."
"Oh wonderful. A comedian." Ryuhei sighed dramatically. "And a most unattractive one," he added under his breath in Japanese, casting a disappointed glance to Kiyoshi.
Kiyoshi grimaced and turned once more on the American. "Leave us."
"Well, now, I'd like to oblige, but you see I've been given this assignment. I'm Carl Gavin of the San Francisco Register and I'm supposed to do a feature on you all and your opening of this Kay Bookie theater of yours."
"Kabuki," Ryuhei corrected with an annoyed expression. "The word is kabuki."
"That's exactly the kind of honest, from-the-source information I'm looking for." Gavin smiled cheerfully. "It must be somethin' performing miles away from your homeland. How do you gentlemen like it here in San Francisco?"
Ryuhei looked as if he might throw up or start throwing things. Or both. "I would've had a better time acting on the seat of a tired old ass than coming here," he said acidly. "Are you going to put that in your story?"
"Please, we're not really in the mood to talk about this now," Kiyoshi told the reporter. "Maybe some other evening."
Ryuhei shot Kiyoshi a glance both pained and furious. "Maybe after you've given him a shiatsu and sucked that barbarian-sized organ of his," he muttered, thankfully, in Japanese. It didn't keep an embarrassed blush from rising to Kiyoshi's cheeks, though.
"Let's talk about something else then," Gavin interrupted. "How about the dead bodies that've been turning up around here lately?"
Ryuhei gasped. "Bodies? Dead bodies? Near here?"
"Yes. Didn't you hear any talk in the streets?"
"We don't frequent the streets," Kiyoshi said sharply. Once more he tried pushing out with his thoughts. Go. Away. Now.
The man did not budge. He simply rubbed the back of his neck as if the hairs were bristling. "Well, rumor has it that them Chinaboys are after one another over this and that. But from what I've heard, those boys tend to take care of their own messes. Most of the time that is, unless I'm guessing they want to get a message across to their opponents."
Ryuhei whipped out a fan from inside the loose sleeve of his robe. "I don't like the way this sounds at all." He started fanning himself nervously, the gold silk flashing in the lamplight. "Vendettas, messes, killing ... I saw enough of that in the civil war back home, thank you."
The sight of a drop of a blood alone made Ryuhei Nakamura queasy, and Kiyoshi knew that during the Bakumatsu, the actor had been more than content to stay as far away from any sights of bloodshed as possible. He might be temperamental and throw loud tantrums from time to time, but as a whole Ryuhei was one of the most non-violent men Kiyoshi had ever known. For that reason among several others, Kiyoshi worked very carefully to keep the truth about himself a secret.
"I'm not sure you folks have anything to worry about," the reporter tried to assure them. "I told you-the Chinese just stick to themselves mostly. These assassinations don't mean there's a danger for you."
"Assassins?" Ryuhei squeaked. "There are assassins here?" His unease now was strong enough to tickle Kiyoshi's supernatural senses-especially that of taste. If he were to sample some of the man's blood at this very moment, the fluid would be deliciously flavored with Ryuhei's fear.
"If it doesn't involve us, then why ask us anything to begin with?" Kiyoshi turned on Gavin. "We don't need to be terrorized."
The reporter's sharp eyes narrowed a bit and he rubbed his chin with his thumb and forefinger. "I didn't know this would strike such a powerful chord."
"Well it does." Now go away.
The reporter blinked but didn't budge, and Kiyoshi had to bite back the snarl that threatened to erupt from within. Either this mortal's will was unaccountably strong or Kiyoshi himself was even weaker than Liu and Kuro had accused him of being so long ago.
Excerpted from Soul of the Night by Barbara Sheridan Anne Cain Copyright © 2006 by Barbara Sheridan & Anne Cain. Excerpted by permission.
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Posted May 3, 2012
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