Brian realizes that the fight with Jian and his father was a distraction. Racing back to the house, he finds that Jordan and Elise are gone, taken to the river by Lien. Just as they take her out, they are greeted by Jordan’s brother, Scott.
“Good bind her well with ropes of air,” Scott said.
“Kinda harsh,” Caleb began.
Scott glared at him. “Kid, I don’t know you, but I assure you, it’s the only thing that will hold her. Brian.”
Doing as instructed, Brian lashed Lien with air. Lifting her to his shoulder, he carried her back to the house. She woke and tried to get free, but Caleb clunked her again, knocking her out once more. When they were back at the clearing, the found that Jian and Fēng were in the fire pit, also bound by air.
She hugged her brother almost fiercely. “Where is everyone?” she asked.
“I left most of them at the house before I came down to find Brian and you. Why don’t you go get them?”
“I’ll be right back.”
She trotted up the steps, searching for her mother and father. Those who could, came down to the fire pit where the prisoners were held. Some weren’t feeling well enough, so they waited in the house with Louisa, Andre, and Claude. They gathered around, battered and tattered, sitting on the benches and logs.
“Everyone, this is my brother, Scott. He’s got some information for us,” Jordan said, introducing her brother.
“I’ve had a hell of a time getting here, but I won’t go into that. What’s important is that somehow, these three were able to get loose. We’ll figure that out. When Jordan called me the other day, asking me for information, I had my suspicions, but I couldn’t be sure without doing extensive research. Unfortunately, it took longer than I intended and I apologize. Not the sort of thing I could do online, had to go to the source, a specialty library in Jackson.”
“My grandparents were there, too,” Brian interrupted.
“A few things Jordan said clued me in and I was pretty sure I knew what it was, but not how to stop it.”
“Well, what?” Jordan asked, threatening to hit him.
Scott laughed. “Kitsune—Japanese fox diety.”
“But they’re Chinese,” Jordan said, pertanent of nothing.
“Why should they tell even a modicum of the truth?” Scott asked. “Japan, China, Korea. The folklore is all mixed up and interconnected. The lines are blurry at best. Kitsune are shape shifters. Tricksters or down right evil.”
“So, who’s in charge?” Sweet asked. “Cause they all act like foot soldiers.”
“My guess is Su, the housekeeper,” Brian said. “She’s the only one who didn’t get into open conflict with us, but she sure tried her act on me in the parking lot. It almost worked, and it takes a lot to get around me.”
Lien glared at him, trying to talk around her gag. Brian smiled at her.
“You wanted to be in charge, didn’t you, Lien? What are you, Kitsune queen in training?”
“If it is Su, shouldn’t we be more afraid that she’ll come looking?” Summer asked, worried frown on her face. “Won’t she try to rescue them?”
“Doubtful. More likely she’ll cut her losses,” Brian said. “If I were and evil fox spirit, that’s what I’d do. Cut and run.”
“But that means she’s still out there,” Summer gasped.
“Can’t we go after her?”
“How do you propose we do that? Sniff her out? If anything, we have to wait for her to come back—if she’s that stupid. She’s got to know by now that she can’t take us out.”
Jian looked ready to burst. He badly wanted to speak. Brian was interested enough to know what he had to say, so he released his mouth.
“She will come for us. Our mistress is strong. She’s not afraid of you!”
Jordan flickered her fingers, gagging him once more. “Boring.” She yawned, patting her mouth delicately.
“What do we do with these?” Brian asked. “Obviously, we can’t lock them up again, she’ll let them out.”
“They are creatures of earth, fire or water,” Scott said. “So we trap them and contain them with air. I feel sure our parents or grandparents know a way to imprison them—that’s if you don’t want to execute them.” He raised an eyebrow at Brian.
“It’s one thing to kill them in battle, it’s quite another to kill them now. Maybe it’s foolish of me to show mercy, because you can bet they wouldn’t do the same for us, but I can’t do it. And I can’t order someone else to either.”
“This is a war,” John Curtis said quietly.
“But they lost the battle, John. It doesn’t feel right. If I do that, I’m stooping to their level,” Brian said quietly.
© 2018 Dellani Oakes