Today I’m part of a blog tour for one of my most favourite people ever, Zoë Marriott. Here is a deleted scene from her new book and final in the series, Frail Human Heart
Deleted Scene #3
PLEASE NOTE: SCENE CONTAINS SPOILERS!
“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 practice 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 practice 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 apologize 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 apologized,” 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 apologize.”
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 apologizing.”
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 behind 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!”
Next Stop for Zoë is Serendipity Reviews Click here to check it out and, if you haven’t already, pick up your copy of Zoë’s The Name of the Blade series at your local bookshop or online at Amazon, Book Depository, Waterstones.com and WHSmith.
Zoë Marriott is the author of many critically acclaimed and beloved books, including The Swan Kingdom, which was long-listed for the Branford Boase award, and Shadows on the Moon, which won the prestigious Sasakawa Prize and was an American Junior Library Guild Selection. Zoë lives in Grimsby, Lincolnshire. Visit Zoë’s blog at thezoe-trope.blogspot.co.uk or her website at ZoeMarriott.com. Follow her on Twitter (@ZMarriott).