Marked for Death
Part VI: Recovery
I spent the next day lying down in the sunroom, just relaxing for real and letting myself heal both from the surgery and from the fight with the Onis while reading about Korean mythology. After having been raised as Christian by my parents who’d converted away from Buddhism long before I’d been born, I knew little about the gods of my ancestors but after researching, I’d learned the name of the being that I’d seen; Haneullim, the divine reagent.
There was something about reconnecting with the culture I’d been denied that felt right and I could feel my magic growing from the connection, even if I wasn’t ready to make the jump to Sinism, Korean shamanism. So I focused on reading, I had even gotten my hands on books from Korea, which lacking an actual teacher were the best I had… But since my Korean was nowhere near fluent or even conversational, I switched back and forth between it and the dictionary I’d gotten, taking forever.
As I studied, Imugi lazily hung around my neck, soaking in my body heat. Imugi was the name I’d given the snake that had granted me my vision. According to Jaeger, who apparently knew a lot about animals, Imugi was a perfectly ordinary if rather young garter snake, not some kind of magical being — not that I’d told him about the vision — and in a way he was right, whatever power had flown through her was gone now, I could see it with my magical senses.
“Still holding onto the nope-rope?” Amber asked, coming into the sunroom with sandwiches for lunch. Nope-ropes was her ways of calling snakes. Obviously she wasn’t a fan.
“She’s not a nope rope, she’s my sweet little noodle.” I said kissing Imugi’s snout. She might have been a normal snake, but she was amazingly docile and responsive to handling, something even Jaeger had noticed. At least when it came to me, she wasn’t a fan of the others handling her and would usually bite.
“Snakes are deadly predators, I don’t think you should be calling it your baby noodle, like you aren’t its parent, y’know.”
“Amber, she got herself stuck in a toilet paper roll last week and I had to get her out, I think she needs a parent.”
That made her snort with laughter.
“Can you bring her back before she leaves a little gift on my neck?”
“And leave it on my hands instead?” She said rolling her eyes.
“Pretty please?” I said, faking a pout and giving her big eyes.
“Damn it, you know you’re too cute to resist when you do that.” She sighed.
She reluctantly extended her hands and I uncoiled the little noodle from around my neck and put it on hers. Smelling her still unfamiliar scent, Imugi reached and bit Amber’s thumb but she didn’t react. Amber wasn’t quite bullet-proof level superpowered resilience but she didn’t get scrapes, gashes, or bruises without some serious force behind it. She could even resist small blades if they tried to slice across her skin. So needless to say, Imugi’s not so mighty bite was no match for her.
She quickly left, holding Imugi away from her. Thankfully Charlie had given me an aquarium for her that had been lying around her nearby house. Unlike the rest of us she was a local. Nobody seemed to mind Imugi’s presence, although I’d wisely kept the divine messenger part to myself. And with Imugi’s miniature size, she wasn’t a threat to Charlie’s jackalope, I mean she couldn’t even fit his paws past her mouth if she’d tried.
After Amber returned, we ate lunch together with her slightly leaning against me and my arms around her waist. As the couch I’d picked faced toward the outside window, I didn’t mind a little bit of semi-public display of affection.
“Oh crap. I’m late.” Amber said after a few minutes of quiet snuggling, just enjoying each other’s presence and body heat.
“Sword practice with Mace again?”
“I’m glad you two are reconciling.”
“We get along a lot better when our swords do the talking.” She said with a shrug. “Want to come with?”
“It’s a bit too cold for me today, I’d rather stay in with a blanket, a warm coffee and my books.”
“Suit yourself. See you later.”
She leaned in and dropped a kiss on my lips before getting up and then jogging toward her room and then outside to meet Mace in the dojo. Meanwhile, I dove back into my book, slowly translating them myself. The result wasn’t perfect, but it tremendously helped my knowledge of Korean; a few weeks ago I could barely speak a few isolated works, now I was starting to figure out the basis of the grammar and common words.
I’d lost track of time when there was a knock at the door of the sunroom. I looked sideways and saw Tyler standing in the doorway.
“Hey, I’m not bothering you, am I?”
“No, I could use a break. Would you mind getting me a refill? I’m supposed to keep walking to bare minimum.”
He took the cup I handed him and went to the kitchen before coming back with my cup filled a moment later, giving it back to me.
“Here you go.”
“What are you studying?”
“Korean language and mythology.” I said, closing down the books. “Trying to catch up on what my parents didn’t think was necessary for me to know.”
“Ah.” There was a pause. “That must suck, I guess. I don’t really know much about culture. Unless you count living in trailers and doing meth to count as familial culture.” He said with a nervous chuckle.
“So anyway,” he began after a moment of awkward silence, “I was thinking that maybe tomorrow we could go to town, the new Star League movie came out and maybe we could go see it, together?”
“Are you asking me on a date?”
“Yeah…” He said looking away and chewing his lip.
“Oh wow… Eh, look I’m really flattered, but you’re… not quite my type…”
“Oh.” His entire body just sunk, looking like he’d just been punched in the guts. “I get it, don’t worry…” He muttered, a hint of bitterness peppering his words. He turned back and took a few hurried steps toward the door.
I got up and rushed after him, taking his hand and stopping him. I couldn’t lose him, he was nice and fun but above all, he was one of the few sane, stable and normal thing in my life, I couldn’t risk losing that…
“I like you, I really do.” I said, making sure to look him into the eyes. “You’re a great friend and I have amazing fun with you.”
“But you don’t see me that way…”
“When I say you’re not my type, it’s because my type is…” I swallowed hard, feeling my heart beating like crazy. “I like girls, only girls.”
“I kind of feel a little silly for feeling dejected just now.”
“If it helps, if you were a girl, you’d probably be my type. Although you’d have to contend with Amber.”
“Are you two?”
I nodded. “We’ve been together for about three week. We kind of rushed into things at first, but we’re taking things slow and we’ve kept it hidden.”
“Why? It’s not like people would care, I mean Caroline and Charlie aren’t shy about their snogging.” He said. And he was right, the two of them were pretty open about kissing, snuggling and all the lovey-dovey things, I kind of envied their courage…
“I’ve just had bad some experience coming before.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
I nodded and there was a bit of silence.
“But you know, I’d love to see that movie with you.”
“With Amber maybe?”
“Eh, she’s not a geek like us, I don’t think she’d be too interested. But if she isn’t we can totally hang out as friends.”
That was one disaster averted. And to be fair, after my awful stint in New York and the previous few weeks spent cloistered in the dorm, going out and having a normal evening sounded like the most amazing thing in the world.