Part IX: Confessions
“Since we have more time than I thought, want to go to my room? We’ll have some privacy there.” I offered.
“Sure.” Amber answered, taking my laptop with her.
Since I was roomed with Yougen who couldn’t exactly go up stairs in normal circumstances, although there was a special elevator in the dorm, so we had room one, which was literally just behind the couch we’d been sitting on.
“So, this is my room. Not a whole lot to see though. I was in a rush and didn’t exactly get the chance to pack.” I said, making a motion around. The room was really barebone, neither Yougen or I had really brought much of anything over.
“Eh, mine isn’t much better.” She said with a shrug. “Why were you in a hurry?”
“It’s a long story…” I said. In answer, Amber sat down on the bed, as if ready to hear it and I sat next to her.
“We’ve got time.” She said.
“Alright. So, it’s kind of a weird story… It all just started last sunday, I was just going out for lunch at a nearby place when the Shigeo-kai, they’re a yakuza group, came in to get their protection money… Those kinds of things happen all the time and normally you just ignore it.”
“That time, a local hero got in for lunch and saw what happened. One of the Shigeo-Kai grabbed me as a hostage and a standoff began.”
“Jesus…” She muttered.
“I thought I was going to die; I had a gun to my head and Slash, that’s the hero, wasn’t well known for his restraint… That’s when my powers awakened. All of a sudden I could feel this energy flowing through me and this overwhelming presence.”
“What happened then?”
“I unleashed the power and it’s lightning… It protected me at the expense of the others. I don’t even know if they survived. I ran away in a panic as fast as I could but one of the Shigeo-Kai marked me or something, I’m still not entirely sure. When my brain snapped back on, I was hiding in an alley and something found me…
They’re called Oni, they’re Japanese demons or ogres, depending on the story. And the Shigeo-kai controls them.” I waited for a second, looking for a reaction but didn’t see any. “Thankfully Abraxas found me and he helped me get out of the city. So here I am.”
“That is a long and weird story.” She said.
“Eh, my parents just signed me up.” She answered.
“I guess not everyone has got to have one hell of a weird story.”
I noticed a brief change in expression, as if a thought had just passed through her mind but didn’t push the issue. Amber gave another look around the room until her gaze fell on Emma’s bag which was propped against the desk.
“Is that your bag?” She said, nodding toward it.
“No, that’s my sister Emma’s I just borrowed it.”
“Oh. What does she play?”
“Lacrosse. She’s a midfielder.”
Unlike me, Emma was the athletic type, being the captain of her mixed-gender team and having won several medals and trophies over the last few years.
“So is she older or younger than you?”
“We’re twins, the identical kind. Well, not so identical… She’s smart, athletic and beautiful. And I’m just…” I couldn’t say the words. Amber’s hand slid over mine.
“Just beautiful and amazing in your own way?” She said, finishing my sentence.
She was flirting. With me. Holy hell; I wasn’t seeing things. That made me panic a little.
“So, what about you, do you have siblings?” I asked, hoping to change the conversation and trying not to think about her words too much.
“I did, yeah.” She answered, looking away.
“You did?” I asked, noticing the use of past tense.
“It’s a long story… One I’d rather not talk about right now…” She looked back at me and I could see the pain behind those steel colored eyes, pleading me not to open that scar.
“I’m sorry.” I said. I was about to hug them but stopped myself. “Can I?”
She nodded and I gently wrapped my arms around her. She went all tense on contact but didn’t otherwise resist. I didn’t extend the hug for too long, just briefly enough so that she’d know I was there.
“Not a hug-loving person, are you?”
“Not in the least bit.” She said.
“Alright then. Do you still want to play HotM?”
“Uh, sure.” She said, visibly welcoming the change to something less serious and personal.
I got up and plugged my laptop and set it all up on the empty computer desk before booting the game and loading her character.
“You sure you don’t mind me hogging your laptop?”
“It’s okay, I spend so much time on it that a break is welcome really. And hey, I can just get my sketchbook out. I haven’t worked on my art in ages.”
“Yeah, just pencil sketches, nothing big really…”
“I do too.” She said.
“Yeah, I’ve always liked drawing stuff. Mostly creatures though.”
“Oh, that’s nice. Say, do you want to see my art?”
“If you’re okay with it.”
I opened the drawer beneath the bed and took out my pads. I’d left so many important things at home but my sketchbooks had been one of the few things I’d brought. I took the one who contained some of my favorite artworks and gave them to her.
She carefully flipped it open and her eyes focused on the page for a moment before flipping to another. She continued for a few minutes, staying silent and quietly assessing my art, her expression remaining deathly serious.
“It’s interesting.” She said after a moment. “Kind of surreal and weird. But it’s really cool.”
“Yeah, I tend to draw the things I see or hear.”
“The things you see or hear?”
“I’m schizophrenic…” I confessed, the words were hard to say. Throught the years, I’d learned that admitting you were mentally ill was always a dangerous thing, so I’d learned to hide my symptoms. “I learned to draw to illustrate my warped thoughts.”
“Ah, I see.” Amber said, her body language neutral.
I innerly cursed, I’d kind of wished she’d given me a more overt answer. Was that a ‘Ah, I see she’s a dingbat and I should run’ or more of a ‘Ah I see, it’s cool’ kind of ‘Ah, I see’? The fact I didn’t know just made me uncomfortable.
“Here’s your sketchbook.” She said, drawing me out of my trance. “It’s really nice.” She said, giving me just the hint of a smile.
I took my book and then took out my pencils. The tiny smile she’d just given me, got my thoughts back to full spin. If she was freaked out by the whole neurodivergent thing, she wouldn’t have smiled would she?
“So, you talked about the prison break thing?” She asked, bringing both our attention to the game.
“Oh right.” I checked the time. “We still have plenty of time, BVPB only takes about twenty minutes with a half-decent group.”
I got up and showed her how to join the pick-up group queue for the instance and as we waited for it to assign her a group, I explained the basic gist of the instance to her.
“Just remember, when the chief starts casting ‘call backup’ use your interrupt. You don’t want to mess with the adds he summon.”
“That’s the fourth time you’ve reminded me.” She said with a chuckle.
“Ah, it’s okay. I think I got this in the bag, if I don’t I’ll just ask you .”
“Alright, I’ll leave you to it.”
I sat back on the bed, back to the wall. I spent a few minutes staring at my sketchbook, trying to figure out what to do. At least until I looked up to see Amber’s face; the drive and focus on it as she played.
The image just seared itself into my mind.
I knew what I wanted to draw…