Marked for Death
We got back to the New York dorm early into the afternoon without any further incident. It was safe to say whatever magic the Shigeo-kai had required quite a bit of prep. And with Síthmaith’s return to sender, it was likely that they wouldn’t get the opportunity.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” Emma asked me for the billionth time.
“Yeah, I’m just tired.” I answered, leaning against the table as I forced myself to swallow some food from one of the dorm’s TV dinners. Although I was hungry again, the fight against the Oni, even though it had only lasted a few minutes, had completely drained me of any form energy whatsoever.
“If you say so.” She said, frowning with suspicion.
“I’m going to get myself changed.”
At my request she wheeled me over to Amber and I’s room and closed the door behind me. I removed my grimy, sweaty clothes and into fresher ones. Thankfully I’d brought spares. I was just finished when Amber came into our room, having changed into a new set of jeans and shirt, still in her favorite and only color; black.
“You look better. I think, that’s not Síthmaith’s glamour is it?”
“No, it stopped working when I entered the shower.” She said, putting her things down. “How are you?”
“Exhausted but otherwise fine.”I said with a shrug. “Is your back okay?”
“Would you mind if I look at it? Please?”
She hesitated for a moment before turning around and half removing her shirt, keeping it around her arm and pressed against her chest but exposing her back and sides. It wasn’t pretty; a long pale line ran down the left side of her back, having thankfully stopped before hitting her spine.
I reached out and touched her back, She visibly flinched but didn’t say anything. I pressed my fingers over her naked skin, feeling the difference between the regenerated skin and the healthy one.
“So, how does it look?” She reminded me with a chuckle.
“It’s not too pretty, but I’m a lot more worried about how if feels and if it’s healed correctly…” I sighed. “Abraxas warned me that life magic requires tremendous focus and knowledge of biology… Neither of which I had…”
One of the things I had learned from Abraxas and experimentation was that just willing magic to manifest often wasn’t enough. When it came to altering the physical world, you had to know what you wanted to do. To turn lead to gold, you need to understand how gold works, its properties or you’ll end up with yellow-tinted lead. The same was true when working with living beings.
“I’m fine.” said, pulling her shirt back down. “It doesn’t hurt when I move, it’s a little stiff but really I feel just peachy.” She turned around and took my hands in hers “If you hadn’t done that magic thing, I would’ve bled out, might have been a goner.”
“But this only happened because of me.”
“That’s not true.” She said firmly. “I chose to help you. You didn’t drag me here, I volunteered because I care for you.” She said with a smile, taking my hand. “I’m here for you, no matter the risks, because I know you’d do the same.”
She wrapped her arms around me and squeezed gently, obviously trying to avoid doing too hard.
“Now, get some rest before you collapse like earlier. I’ll wake you a little before Doc picks us up.”
I didn’t argue, she tucked me in and I was already asleep before the lights went out.
I was woken up a few hours later when the Doc arrived. She didn’t protest when I asked for Emma to come back with us to Priest Island or seemed fazed at Síthmaith being mysteriously there now. We quickly got going, taking a taxi-van to the airport and then back onto the private plane, which was much more cramped with all five of us.
“You’ll have to talk to security about Emma.” Doctor Sij said once a car dropped us off from the Priest Island airport to the gate of Ravenhold.
We notified the guard at the gate and she called someone. A few minutes later, a tall nordic-looking woman arrived, flying through the air wreathed in an armor-like force field which dissipated ad she landed.
“I’m Catherine Lindström, head of security.” She said, her voice strong and authoritative. “I’ve been told you wanted to bring a guest.”
“Yes, this is my sister Emma.”
“Typically visits have to be preapproved for security reasons, which you’d know if you read the school rules.” She said with a stern stare at me. “But.” There was a pause. “Since you’re recovering from surgery, I’ll allow it just this time.”
“Thank you Ma’am.”
“You’ll have to sign confidentiality agreement.” She then said, addressing Emma. “Now, provided she doesn’t distract anyone, she may be allowed in the classrooms, gymnasium or the dojo at the teacher’s discretion. You or another student chaperone must be with your sister at all times, no wandering off on her own, if she isn’t allowed in a class then she’ll have to be escorted out of Ravenhold or wait for you in the security offices. These are my rules and there is no negotiation. Is that understood?”
We acquiesced, signed her agreement and she let us in but only after giving Emma a visitor’s badge that included a tracker, which Ms. Lindström was very insistent she had to wear twenty-four-seven. That done, we went back to the dorm. When the door opened, we found most of the others eating dinner. They all turned to see us, Ahti jumping up from their seat.
“Annabelle!” Ahti said with a squee before running toward us. They threw their arms around my torso and hugged me with all their strength in their tiny body. “You’re back! I missed you so much.” They said before letting out a series of ‘wun’ — That gentle throaty noise Itharii makes when they’re really happy.
“It’s good to be back.” I said, a smile cracking at my lips.
Amber went to her room while Emma was quickly snatched up by everyone else focusing their attention on her, so I got Ahti to wheel me over to my room to drop my bag. I put back my things as they enthusiastically narrated the last few days; how Sanjay had made an Indian dinner and how they had liked it, how Jaeger had made a new friend from another class and how they had baked a lemon cake.
“Ahti would you mind if I speak to Amber alone?” I asked, as we came back out of my room.
“Okay! I made tea, do you want some?”
“I’ll pass but thank you.”
Since Amber’s room was on the second floor, I had to make my way upstairs. Since despite my nap I was still tired, I used the mini elevator to reach it rather than take the stairs.
“Hey.” I said knocking on the frame of her open door to draw her attention.
“Hello again. Couldn’t get enough of me the last few days?”
“How could I? So, I was wondering if I could ask you a kind-of favor….”
“And that would be?”
“Would you be alright if I stay with you for the next few days? That way Emma can use my bed and she won’t have to blow her summer job savings on a place to crash.”
“Oh, yeah, that does make sense.” She said rubbing the back of her head. “I mean, I’d be okay with that.” She bit her lip. “Aren’t you afraid people might notice? I doubt Yikaru’s going to tattletale, I mean she barely talks to anyone, but y’know…”
“I’m a little scared… I’ve had such a horrible experience with my first coming out, that I’m always worrying about what other people will think or how they’d react… Even if I know they’d probably be okay with it…” I sighed. “But I don’t want to focus on other people anymore. Right now I want to think about us and forget the rest.”
“That, I can get behind.”
“Aren’t you worried about your strength?”
“I agree with what you said, I can’t worry about the ifs and whats, I have to focus on you, here and now. Beside, nothing happened last time, didn’t it?”
I gave her a smile. “You did tug the blanket a lot.”
“I plead the fifth.” She said throwing her arms up.
“But it was nice regardless. And you were as gentle as a teddy bear.”
“That’s good, I guess?” She said with a chuckle.
“It was perfect. I should probably get a spare blanket and we’ll be fine.”