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Fiction Speculative LGBTQ+

It seemed to be a running theme today that Yamamoto talked longer and louder than anyone wanted. Kano could’ve sworn he saw his grandmother’s eyes flutter shut for almost a full second, but on second thought decided it was a trick of the light-- his grandmother adored Yamamoto far more than she did Kano. She thought every word out of his mouth was golden.

Even if it was in reference to a politics-fuelled rant.

“The Millers are nothing but modern-day wannabes,” said Yamamoto, “and you can’t convince me otherwise.”

Shiba stretched across the table for her glass of wine, puffy white sleeves inches from trailing in the sparrowgrass sauce. “No one is trying to, ani. Personally, I find that Hope Miller is a bit of--” she hesitated, cupped a hand around her mouth, and whispered, “A slut. She went out with four different men in six weeks according to Lilabeth.”

They all scoffed at this and reached for their own wine glasses. The poor girl, Kano thought. He didn’t think the Millers were that bad, just a little full of themselves. But with specialties in transformation, one of the more useful powers, who could blame them?

The Katayamas were well ahead of them politically, with illusion being what their family favored in terms of abilities. They were easily some of the most powerful magicians, but to Kano’s family, it wasn’t rank that mattered so much as making sure no one else could catch up with you. 

It was the main reason he was the family disappointment.

Even now he hovered nearly invisible, seated as far away from his grandmother as they could move him. She held the sway and the conversation. She was the powerhouse of the family. He supposed he should’ve been hurt that it was his two siblings, Shiba and Yamamoto, who sat nearest to her, but he was far too used to the family dynamics to feel offended. Instead, he swirled his wine around in his glass and wondered how long the dinner would drag on for.

“And then there’s the Macdonalds,” said Yamamoto, “lazy. Too lazy for their children to make a real dent in the world. They sit there in Scotland, tucked into that crumbling castle way up north, and don't interact with the real world. It’s downright shameful for our kind, not bothering to use their abilities in the public eye.” He shook his head as though the idea of the Macdonalds minding their own business was of great irritation. Kano knew it bothered him so much because the Macdonalds were free to hide away as much as they wanted, knowing the other families would come to find them-- it was them, after all, who were in the business of binding genies to their talismans.

Yamamoto was still talking. “And that insolent, headstrong Baroness--”

“She’s not insolent or headstrong just because she shot you down, Yamamoto,” Shiba interrupted. “Do stop. You’re boring Kano.”

Kano startled as the full force of the table swung their heads around to look at him, expressions ranging from irritated to sleepy. There were nearly thirty of them sitting there, all relatives with sleek dark hair and pinched, pale faces like snakes. Except for his tiny, gray-haired grandmother at the end of the table, who looked at him for a slow blink before turning to her plate.

“Ah,” said Kano.

Ujana, the young African genie bound to his sister Shiba, stepped over with a pitcher of wine and filled his cup to the brim. She gave him the tiniest wink, looking amused. Then she slipped away, the gold rings in her hair clinking together softly.

Yamamoto glared at him. “I shouldn’t be surprised. Kano hasn’t been a very good listener today.”

“Are you seriously bringing up the closing speech again?” Kano demanded. “Fine. I apologize for not sitting there enraptured as you dithered on for thirty minutes to a room full of creaky men who grew twice as old in the amount of time you spoke.”

Shiba hid her smirk in a napkin.

Yamamoto’s lip curled. “I know why you were distracted.”

“I did just tell you.”

“You were looking at my genie--”

“Who is in fact a person, not an object deserving the ‘my’ in front of--”

“--because you’re jealous that you don’t have one of your own.” Yamamoto finished triumphantly. “Daydreaming about giving him orders, perhaps?” His eyes were smug.

Kano’s cheeks heated up. Yamamoto was ridiculous, but he knew how to make his lies seem like half-truths in the right context. The suggestion of orders was just another way of Yamamoto taking a dig at Kano’s, admittedly kind of obvious, tiny crush on Eugene. 

Maybe not that tiny.

“I don’t care about not having a genie.”

Yamamoto snorted. “Sure you do. Even if you won’t admit it to yourself. No one wants to be powerless in a family of magic-wielders.”

Nearly powerless,” Kano mumbled under his breath, as if that mattered. He could do small, simple spells, but that was about it. It wasn’t like it was the most uncommon thing, but it was irritating, sure, when your brother could craft his own building from scratch and your sister could photoshop herself in everyday life. Big displays of power like that were the reason that magic-wielders needed genies to keep their power in check. He couldn’t do big displays of power. Therefore, no genie.

Kano sighed and leaned back in his chair. “Whatever, Yamamoto. At least I don’t treat my genie like a dog to be called.”

“What genie?” his brother challenged.

If he wasn’t careful, Kano was going to say something stupid. Probably with curse words in it. And this certainly wasn’t the place for it-- the quiet traditional music in the background, the ornamental rug and placid shrubbery in the corner, and the expensive golden lamp above their heads. There used to be a red lamp instead. When he was eight, Kano broke it after Yamamoto told him there were fairies trapped in the lamp above their heads, and the lightbulb burned their skin, which was why the lamp glowed red. The glass that fell on Yamamoto’s forehead meant a trip to the hospital, while the long gash in Kano’s forearm meant two hours of Eugene, not much older than he was, bandaging it and making him laugh through the tears as he did.

Kano didn’t respond, just drank more wine, and the conversation eventually devolved into polite comments directed towards his grandmother.

The genies hovered off to the side the whole time. He gazed at them. He wondered what it was like being a genie. They got to do their own thing and have their own families. They just had magic and a small talisman which bound them to their maker-- for example, Shiba. It couldn’t be that different from a regular job, though he’d only ever heard Eugene talk about it with disdain. That could be because Yamamoto treated his workers more like servants than workers. Or because Yamamoto was a prick. 

“Where is Eugene?” the grandmother asked from the front of the table, because speak of the devil. Yamamoto shrugged. 

“He has the weekend off, I don’t know what he does. But he can’t get past the tether.”

“Good,” said the grandmother. “I have a few questions for him. Make sure the tether is secure. I ask them on Monday.”

“Whoa,” said Kano. “Tether? What’s that for?” 

“So he can’t go too far,” said Yamamoto, as though it were obvious. “I couldn’t be the person who can’t keep ahold of his genie. Think of our family reputation.

Kano frowned. “But the other genies don’t have a tether on them… that’s, like, old magic.” He cast a quick glance to Ujana to clarify, and she gave him a tiny nod. “That’s like…” He cast his mind back. “That’s like some binding shit.”

“Kano!” hissed his mother, who had been silent up until that point. She cast a nervous glance at the grandmother, who was frowning deeply from her spot at the front of the table.

Yamamoto shrugged. “Eugene isn’t like other genies. And it’s really none of your business, little brother.” He stood up and threw his napkin onto his plate. “Business calls. Please excuse me.” He kissed the grandmother on the cheek, bowed to the rest of the table, and left, glossy ponytail bouncing like a mockery. He gave Kano one last disdainful glance as he went.

Kano leaned forward. “What’s the deal with Eugene?”

“Kano,” his mother whispered, her tone sharp. This was all very out of order. Disrespectful, even. But suddenly Kano couldn’t be bothered to care. The old woman had kept him at an arms’ length for years just because he’d been born nearly powerless. He thought ignoring her wishes for once was long overdue.

“What’s with Eugene?” he repeated.

Now the entire table was silent and staring between him and the grandmother, who took her sweet time to finish chewing, lay down her knife and fork, and pat her mouth with a napkin. She dropped it onto the china plate.

“That,” she said, “is none of your business.”

“You mean he’s not like a normal genie?”

Her lips pursed together, wrinkled and pale. “He is genie. But different. Not your concern.”

“He’s my friend.”

“Eugene isn’t anyone’s friend,” she snapped. “He is servant. He does what your brother asks. It is his job.”

“But he’s tethered? He can’t go far from the family?”

“He is sign of this family’s power and age,” said the grandmother. “To lose him is to lose our reputation. No more questions.”

Kano glanced around the table. From the puzzled faces of everyone else, he could tell that this information wasn’t known by anyone other than the grandmother, and the thought filled him with rage. “So you’ve been keeping something secret from everyone?”

“It is not of great importance.” The grandmother turned and spoke to the rest of the family.“Is merely that Eugene is more powerful than regular genie. Can cast as many spells as he pleases, so we keep him in check.”

“What?” Kano was confused. From the nodding heads of everyone else, he could tell that they knew that part… but there was something missing.

The grandmother pointed at the door. “You are dismissed. You have angered me and embarrassed the family. You will not come to dinner from now on.”

Kano sat there in shock. Family dinners were a big thing, a way of keeping up with the news and politics, of showing that you belonged. He glanced at his mother, who had her eyes down, and then his cousins, many of whom he had played with when he was little, now giving him a stony glare. Even Shiba wasn’t laughing anymore. She sat tracing her finger around the lip of her wine glass, not seeming to notice how she changed it from water to wine and then back.

“Fine,” Kano said in disgust. “Good night, grandmother.” He threw down his napkin and stalked to the door, not giving the customary polite bow or kissing his grandmother on her proffered cheek. His anger felt hot and bright in its embarrassment.

When he got to the door he paused, turned around, and hissed at them, “Fuck.”

 Just to see the looks on their faces.

December 07, 2022 01:41

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1 comment

Waverley Stark
01:45 Dec 07, 2022

https://blog.reedsy.com/short-story/dlmr5p/ link to part 4


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