Number: Part I

Yikaru Arc II: Number

Part I: Isolation

Three weeks later

In the weeks that followed, I somehow managed to adapt to life at Ravenhold. It was all so different from my home world. There was no worrying about attacks, no orders or drills. Nobody looked at me like a dangerous freak, here I was almost normal…

The teachers didn’t seem taken aback by my lack of knowledge. Everything I’d ever learned was practical; what berries and mushroom you can eat, how to maintain a weapon, how to patch a wound, how to read instructions, how to count. But now I was to focus on ancient history, on novels by famous authors, on the economic conditions of small nations,  how to make a graph or how to play piano… It was all pretty overwhelming to say the least.

On a late september Friday as we were going into the cafeteria for lunch, Yougen came toward me.

“It’s really warm today.” Yougen said. “Maybe we could go out and have lunch outside, together?”

“That would be very nice.”

We opted for Italian food went in the cue together, both taking some pasta doused in creamy sauce. Our meals in hand, we headed for the doors. Yougen held her platter with one hand and wheeled herself with the other, moving her weight about to keep herself going straight.

We found a nice space in the shade of a three and sat down, Yougen giving me her plater before briefly transforming to sit on the ground and then transforming back. Before eating, I redid my hair quickly, making it into a rough bun.

“I like when you do your hair like that, it looks really nice.” She said, a smile on her lips.

I blushed at the thought. I looked nice… Before, on my homeworld I had never had the time to think of these things… Every moment was spent focusing on surviving and with the looming threat of feralness looming above, it wasn’t proper.

“We have physical training after lunch, so it’s best if my hair’s not in the way.” I mumbled.

“Good looking and practical.”

As I tried to take the first bite of my meal, I dropped down my spoon onto the ground and bent down to pick it up. As I did, I felt Yougen’s fingers brush the base of my skull where the number ‘327’ had long ago been written.

“What’s that tattoo?” She asked.

“Just an old reminder…” I mumbled looking away.

She put a hand on mine and looked me in the eyes. I could see the worry in them.

“After I was infected I was captured and taken to a medical facility where they did tests on me. They gave me the tattoo, it was my subject number.”

“Mein Got!”

“I’m fine, I was only there for a short while before a fire freed us all. After that, I met with the militia and they took me in.”

“How old were you?”

“Eleven.”

Once more she swore under her breath in Saxos, our common native tongue.

“And you joined a militia?”

“It’s the law.” I shrugged. “All infected are drafted to defend the population. Wasn’t it like that in Lotharingia?”

“Hell no, we had rights. Sure we had curfew and were restricted to certain places, but they didn’t force us to fight. ”

I nodded. “I’m alright. The militia took care of me, feed me, lodged me, clothed me. We were kind of like a family in some ways. But other ways not.”

“Like how?”

“We weren’t allowed to get close and… personal.”

“Oh…” She blushed at the realization.

“Those who did were punished. They didn’t want us to risk compromising the unit in favor of someone else…”

“Were you ever… personal… with someone else?”

“No. I never really had the time.”

“Me neither.” Yougen said a little too quickly for comfort. “I mean I had my dad to help, I was studying mechanics, then there was the daily housework. I was always super busy… And it’s not like anyone would’ve noticed me…” The way she spoke, showed just a hint of melancholy… “Crippled and infected, I’m like totally radioactive, nobody in their right would ever touch me…” She looked down at her food but didn’t eat.

“That’s stupid.” I answered and her head turned back toward me. “You’re a great person and if they couldn’t see that then it was their loss.” She looked away and my hand brushed hers.

Before anything more could be said, an alarm rang on her phone.

“Oh crap!” She said. “We’re going to be late for gym! Well, I’m going to be late, today’s pool day and I need to go all the way back to the house…”

“We better go then.”

Every Friday, our physical fitness training would be scheduled inside the pool rather than on the ground. Thankfully for me it was kept fairly warm so I wasn’t at risk of dying of heat loss.

Once classes were over that day, finishing with Ethics after pool, we all went home to relax only to be mysteriously called there by our ID badges and our homeroom teacher, Mr. Martin, to step inside to inspect the place before unleashing a mass of people into the house. It took me a moment to realize they were people’s parents and families.

Those of us who didn’t receive any; Mace, Yougen, Annabelle, Tyler and I opted to stay together. After a few minutes, my phone rang and I left the house to pick it up. It had been a gift from Erna and she was the only person outside of Ravenhold who had the number.

“Yes, hi, hello, uh.” I said answering it.

“Hi Yikaru. It’s nice to see your phone skills haven’t improved since we last spoke.” Obviously, it was Erna. Her tone was definitely mocking.

“Hello Erna. Is there anything I can do?”

“Oh no, don’t worry I just wanted to talk to you. By now you’ve probably noticed something’s going on with everyone’s parents. I was going to come but something’s just happened and I have to focus on that.”

“Something?”

“Let’s just say an old acquaintance decided to show himself.”

“Oh I see.”

“But don’t worry, I’ll come and see you once it’s over.”

“You really don’t have to.”

“I insist.”

As we talked I notice Yougen leaving the others and retreating to her room.

“If you don’t mind, I’m going to go now.” I said.

“Of course. I’ll see you soon.”

I went to Yougen’s room’s door and listened in, hearing her sob gently. She hadn’t locked the door behind her so I slipped in quietly. She had moved out of her chair and lied on the bed now, face against her pillow.

“Hey… Are you alright?” I asked. I knew she wasn’t but I didn’t know what to say.

Rather than shoo me out, she turned on her side. I sat down on the bed and she did the same.

“I just miss them so much…” She began, sobbing between every few words. “I’ve been trying not to think about them too much, not to worry but with everyone’s parents here I just feel so lonely…”

I wrapped my arms around her. “I know it’s not the same, but I’m here for you.” She laid her head against my shoulder for a moment until the tears stopped.

“Yikaru?” She said gently.

I looked down only for her to press her lips against mine. In the surprise of the moment I froze.

“I shouldn’t have done that.” She said, pulling away, her tone alarmed. “It was selfish and manipulative and—”

I didn’t let her finish, pressing my own lips to hers. It was her turn to freeze under the shock of surprise.

“I like you.” I blurted out. “I have no idea what the hell I’m doing, I’m still confused about everything on this world and well aware that I’m a ticking time bomb, but you make me feel something I’ve never felt before… And you make my days so much easier to handle.”

“I like you too.” She said, quietly, almost out of breath. “You’re the first person who doesn’t treat me like I’m radioactive… Because I’m crippled or because being a black blood scares them away… Even Mace doesn’t flirt with me…”

“They are so wrong, if they saw you like I did, they would never let you go.”

I put my hands around her head, lifting it gently before kissing her again. This time nobody froze and we simply focused on enjoying the moment, thousands of nerves firing up at the contact.

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