Young Adult Fiction posted February 3, 2020 Chapters: -1- 

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Hunted meets Hunter

A chapter in the book The Fox Girl


by Xia Thornwood

Circe lay stretched on her stomach, the peninsula sun warm on her back and hair. The target was making it almost too easy. She hadn't moved in over an hour, just sat on the edge of the marble fountain and watched the midday crowds shift through the plaza.

Circe sighed and settled her eye against the rifle's scope. She truly enjoyed observing people, but she ought to be about her business. She sighted in on the target's orange hair, piled high into a beehive, and moved the focus down to her heart. One shot. It would only take one shot, and she had endless time to aim. Too easy. She waited patiently as an old man dragged his fruit-laden donkey, who had rather be eating than carrying his load, through her line of sight.

When they had passed, the target was utterly unmoved.

"Girl, you'll spoil me," Circe whispered, her finger stroking the trigger. A deep breath. She let a chattering family of tourists pass.

When they were gone, the target hadn't even twitched.

Circe smiled sweetly and pulled the trigger.

Far above in the sky, a wisp of cloud passed the sun.

Far below in the plaza, a rice vendor loudly announced his wares.

Circe stared in disbelief. The target had sprung forward even as the bullet left the barrel. It bored through the air swirling in her wake and punched through the wooden base of a cart across the plaza.

Unheeding, the target capered over the rice vendor, pulling out a small purse.

"Of course it couldn't be that easy," Circe muttered under her breath. She left her rifle resting hidden on the top of the tower. The target may well come back to spend another few hours in the plaza. The rifle would be here if she needed it again. Like a lizard, long and lithe, she climbed down from her perch.

Kitsu devoured the rice with her face in the bowl, feeling her cheeks twitch with satisfaction. Few people here knew how to make a proper bowl of rice, but this one tasted like home.
She licked out the last few grains, then stared forlornly at the empty bowl. She had meant to savor it...

Seconds wouldn't hurt, right? Kitsu hesitated. Maybe?

Just this once, she told herself, twirling around to go back.

Just behind her, she heard a shattering crash. She spun. There on the ground lay a proud statue that had clung for centuries to the cathedral wall. Now it lay in stone fragments.

She pressed a hand to her heart. It pounded away beneath her fingertips, refusing to slow.

"Poor statue," she whispered, "I hope you had a long, fulfilling life. It'd be terrible to die very young."

A crowd had started to gather, and some very official person take charge, so Kitsu returned to her mission - the rice vendor hunt.

Circe glared at the retreating back the doomed girl. She was lucky to have escaped once, but no one - no one - twice cheated death in the form of Circe on the hunt. She licked her lips in concentration, and followed.

The target passed small booths and stores, a souvenir shop, a cafe...
Abruptly, the girl back-pedaled to the door of the cafe, and turned to enter.

Circe licked her lips again, this time in anticipation of success. After all, what is an assassin, if not an improviser?


"What may I get you today?"

Kitsu looked up from the object she held under the table. A tall, slender waitress was offering her a menu. The short silver locks of hair on the young woman's head caught Kitsu's attention. She smiled, unintentionally exposing her pointed canines.

"I like your hair," she said matter-of-factly.

"Thank you. Please take your time selecting your meal -"

"Oh, that's okay. I already know what I want." For whatever reason, it had taken a while for any service to arrive. She'd had plenty of time to decide. "I'll just have cup of green tea, please."

"Of course. And may I interest you in some shortbread to go with it?"

Kitsu simply shook her head, and the waitress glided away, her footsteps almost noiseless.

Kitsu returned her attention to the loop of silver chain hidden beneath the lip of the table. It was a beautiful object, as it caught the artificial light of the cafe, and sent it back out as starlight. But she was on a willing, even an eager, mission to destroy it.

Circe glided away from her target's table to return to the kitchen. One green tea, a short stop on the way back to the table...
She slipped a small glass vial out of her pocket and emptied the powder into the tea, quickly, but keeping her fingers well clear of the fine white dust. It dissolved instantly upon hitting the shimmering surface of the liquid.

Before long, she was back at the table's side.

"Here you are, dear." She offered the cup to the target. "Sorry for the wait."

"Oh no, that's all right," the girl responded cheerfully, looking up as if flustered. She must not have heard Circe approach. The girl reached for the proffered cup.

Circe's expression was a polite practiced smile, but inside she was grinning like a predator. This job had been more trouble than she'd had for some time, but it was almost over.

Kitsu grabbed the cup, still rather agitated. She hadn't expected the waitress back so soon, and was now desperately trying to keep the chain concealed beneath the table. As she hastily grabbed the glass with one hand, she felt the waitress release it. Kitsu's grip slipped.

For an instant, the cup and spilling liquid seemed to hang in the air like stars. Then they hit the ground, and shattered glass and tea bejeweled the floor.

Circe glared at the girl in seething incredulity. How ditzy and clumsy can one girl be and still avoid assassination? Was there some kind of award for the Luckiest Klutz that this girl was trying for? She would have drawn a weapon and finished it then, but the entire cafe had turned to look for the source of the noise.

Over the girl's flustered and rambling apologies, Circe assured her with false politeness, "That's alright, Miss. Shall I get you another glass?"

The girl shook her head. "I'm sorry. I have to be back in the plaza in fifteen minutes. Here you go." She proceeded to stuff the money for the drink into Circe's hands and, apologizing again, took her leave.

In three minutes, Circe was once more stalking her target.

"I feel like I'll never be doing anything else," she muttered. The target reentered the plaza and sat, again, on the edge of the fountain, unmoving. Circe put purpose into her steps and approached her.

"Excuse me, Miss..." The girl looked up with what seemed to be a habitual smile.

"You're the waitress from the cafe," she greeted. Circe acknowledged the recognition with a nod as she held out some folded bills.

"We don't charge for unconsumed drinks."

"Oh. That's okay, you can keep it."

Circe nodded and sat next to her target.

"Are you a tourist here?" she asked. The girl shook her head.

"Not really. I'm just stopping here as a pause on a longer journey. I'm expecting to meet someone."

"Are you going to do any sightseeing while you're here?"

"Will you come with me?"

Circe blinked. This girl seemed determined to make her job easier... until the moment it actually counted, that is.

"I would love to. But why did you invite me?"

"Well, I am rather lonely. I have nothing to do until the person shows up, and I rather like you. You seen like a nice person. I think we could be friends."

Girl, thought Circe, I wouldn't trust your judgment if my life depended on it. But out loud all she said was, "I'm Circe."

"Kitsu." The girl smiled brightly.

Twenty ways to die contest entry

This will become the first chapter in a book when I have a chance to create a new one - probably tomorrow.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

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