Another New Life: Part I

Another New Life

Part I

September 5th 2016

I don’t think Charlie liked me much. I tried my best not to bother her, but she still seemed to hate me.

I kept my eyes down as I put the stuff Ian gave me in his car. I only looked up at Ian when he spoke.”I have to welcome the new student, Kioshi, you can join the crowd of students, you’ll be assigned to a class. Okay?”

“Okay.”

“And if you need something, call me okay?”

“I will.” I lied, giving him a grateful smile.

The car ride to Ravenhold was quiet but short.

“Here we are, your new home.” Ian announced as we exited the car, “Charlie will be staying there too from now on, but I checked the roster, you aren’t in the same class. Kioshi, your house will be just to the right of the entrance. Charlie, yours is right past the parking lot. I hope you’ll get along with your classmates.”

Charlie sighed, “Yes dad.”

“Thank you.” I muttered, my heart loud in my chest. More change…

“Are you alright?”

“I’m fine, dad.”

I tried to take in Ravenhold Academy but everywhere I looked there was more to see. I don’t belong here.

“Kioshi?” Ian asked, coming closer, “Will you be alright?”

I jumped at his question, then nodded.

“Well, you have my phone number, and I live right next door. Valeria Contreras will be your homeroom teacher, you can also go to her if you need help. Don’t worry, she’s been briefed on your condition and she won’t judge you.”

I nodded to show I understood.

Ian looked back toward the gate as cars and buses arrived at the parking lot. “Looks like the other students are early. Ready to go join them?”

I shook my head, then sighed and nodded.

I wandered towards where the students gathered, leaving behind the bag of clothes Ian had bought me and taking only the backpack of my things Nana and Aaron brought me.

I kept to the back of the crowd of new students, keeping far enough away that no one would touch me.

“Students,” A loud, booming voice quieted most of the talking students. I looked up to see Ian standing in front of the crowd in his Raven hero costume.“Let me welcome you to Ravenhold academy. I know you’ve come from far and wide to be here and the journey’s been long and tiring so I won’t hold you for long. Each of you have been selected by the Legion; because we think that you’re worthy, that you have the heart to be a hero, because you want to make the world a better place or because you needed a second chance to become better.” Better…  The word sat heavy in my empty stomach. “Whatever the reason, Ravenhold welcomes you as its first year class of two thousand sixteen. Over the next four years we’ll make heroes out of you, it’ll be hard, it’ll be dangerous, but I know you will persevere. And for those who truly shine; both in deed and character there will be a place for you in the Legion.”

A group of men stepped forward and one of them handed Ian something. “When I call your name, you will go to your assigned guide.”

I went where I was told to go and put the name tag they gave me on my shirt.

“Please follow your guides, they will show you around.”

Once again I kept to the back of the group and kept my eyes on the floor as we walked. My legs ached and my throat burned. I wanted water but didn’t dare ask for any. I kept my coughs as quiet as I could.

We stopped in a huge house. Our guide told us the rules before leaving us alone. The group all left in different directions through the house. I turned invisible and teleported in front of the room guide. I found my name and the room number next to it. I teleported up the steps, finding my room quickly, hiding from everyone else. I hooked my backpack on the frame of one of the beds and crawled onto it. I leaned against the wall and pulled my legs close to my chest, waiting.

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Kioshi Origins 3

July 29th 2016- Evening

I crouched, resting my chin on the crib railing and staring down at the sleeping Hikari. She made a weird, uncomfortable face and began to squirm. I stood up from my crouch, reaching down into the crib to pick her up.

“Kioshi! Stop picking her up everytime she makes a weird face! Babies make weird faces!” Mother shooed my hands away from Hikari, “She’s going to get to the point that she can’t sleep without being held if you keep coddling her!”

I backed away, “But-”

“No but’s. It’s time you headed out anyway!’

“Right.” I went invisible and teleported out of the house. With a brief pause to crack my neck, I started jogging towards the target…

I teleported through the window of the darkened jewelry store, still keeping invisible as I went between the cases, dumping all the jewelry I could into my backpack. It was quick. Less than 10 minutes.

And it fell apart even quicker.

I teleported out of the store and was hit with lights, shocking me out of invisibility for a second, “Hands up!” I turned invisible again but something exploded by my feet and another on my shoulder.

I needed to get out of there.

But the lights blinded me, I couldn’t see where it was safe to teleport to.

I tried to sneak away, past the lights, so I could get out of there. There were more shouts but my heart was beating too loud to make out the words…

And then there was a hand on my arm, my knees on the ground, a hand on the back of my head, forcing my head into the pavement…

… into the pillow, a hot hand on my hip, pulling my hips up, reaching for my…

“No!” I screamed, bringing my knees to my chest and wrapping my arms around my head.

Then I felt the rough material of my shirt… I slowly pulled my arms away from my head and opened my eyes.

I sat in a small, dark room with two men staring at me from across a metal table. There were strange looking cuffs on my wrists and my head felt heavy. I stared at the door. I didn’t know if the other side was safe but it was my only chance. I tried to teleport… but nothing happened. More than nothing. It felt like something was missing.

“What’s your name, kid?” One of the men asked.

I continued to stare at the door, trying to teleport. Mother told me to never talk to cops.

They continued to ask questions while I stared quietly. Eventually they gave up, leaving me alone. My head felt strange and uncomfortable and it was all I could focus on in the silence. Until someone else walked in.

I glanced up at the man in the black outfit and bird mask. I looked down at my hands, tugging at the cuffs, wondering if they were why I couldn’t teleport.

“You have quite the track record, kid.”

Don’t talk to cops or heroes…

“You’ve gotten quite talented at it too.” The man laughed, then added, “reminds me of someone.”

Talented? Me? My ears twitched at the thought.

“You have no legal ID’s, no fingerprints, no DNA records except from other crime scenes, CCTV visual identification software have picked up nothing on you before past few months. All we know about you is that you’re a Syndicate chimera. Where did you escape from? A lab…? A fighting ring…? A sex slavery operation…?”

The word sex sent a violent shiver up my spine.

“Nothing to say?” The man asked, putting his hands down on the table.

Does shaking my head count as talking? I decided it didn’t and shook my head.

The man sighed, “You’ll be happy to hear that considering your situation, the DA will offer you a plea deal; Four years probation, most likely at the chimera refuge. If you refuse it, it’s a coin flip. Lockland until you come of age or as you aren’t an American citizen, deportation.” He paused briefly, then continued, “Shame though, you’re talented, you could use those gifts for something better, make something out of you… but clearly, cooperation isn’t in you.” The man started to walk away, slowly.

Better? Like what? What could I possibly be good for besides sex and stealing?

“Wait.” I said, before I could stop myself, looking at the man as he paused without turning around, “Yes?” he asked, not even looking back at me.

“What… is something better?” I asked, a strange, sort of hopeful feeling in my chest.

“Well if you don’t feel like living among other chimeras in a tropical paradise, we could put you to use, send you to Ravenhold in a month’s time, make a hero out of you. Of course that’s provided you plead guilty and accept the plea deal.”

“A hero..” Aaron’s words were stuck in my head, ‘a hero, like I always wanted to be…’ I looked him in the eye when he turned around and nodded.

“Are you saying you’d like that?” I nodded, “I’ll make some calls then. Your court-appointed lawyer will be here within the hour to discuss your options. You should see a judge for your plea hearing by morning.”

He took a step away then paused and looked back, “Before I go, what’s your name, kid?”

I’m not supposed to talk to cops and heroes but what if I could become a hero…? “…Kioshi.”

“I’ll see you at the hearing, Kioshi.”

July 30th- Morning

Once the courtroom cleared and I had plead guilty, the man from the interrogation room, the hero Raven, walked up to me, “You made a good choice, kid.”

I nodded, unsure how else to respond to the odd praise.

“Come with me,” Raven said, pointing to the door with his chin. I nodded and followed him as he led me to the men’s bathroom. He moved quickly, avoiding people. Once we were in the bathroom he pulled out a bag and handed it to me, “Here’s some clothes, get changed.” He entered a stall.

I got dressed quickly in the hoodie and jeans in the bag, still in the open bathroom.

Raven came out of the stall, dressed in business clothes and no mask. “There’s a month before Ravenhold begins, you’ll be staying with me. I thought it’d be better than sending you to Lockland to wait.”

He’s letting me stay in his home? His personal home? “Thank you.”

“I have a car parked out back. Oh, call me Ian.”

I nodded and followed him out of the bathroom and out of the court house. A guard let us out through a back entrance. He headed for a blue SUV. “You’ll get to meet my daughter, my son, and my dog once we get there. It’s a long drive, though, I warn you.”

I nodded, getting into the passenger seat. Ian drove the car out of the parking lot before stopping. He pulled his phone out of his pocket, handing it to me, “Is there anyone you want to call?”

I took the phone but kept it in my lap, staring down at it. I wanna talk to Nana and Aaron but… “You won’t know where it is?” I don’t want to get the Phantoms caught.

“Have you ever heard of the gentleman’s agreement?” He asked, his tone serious.

I shook my head.

“Now, law enforcement doesn’t give a crap, but it’s an unwritten rule of being a cape; don’t kill people, don’t fuck with someone’s civilian identity,” Ian explained. “It goes both ways for villains and heroes, sure not everyone follows it, but those who break the agreement can expect hell to pay. So your friends, until they put on their capes, we’re not touching.”

We don’t wear capes? I didn’t correct him, instead I dialed the Phantom’s house number, hoping someone would pick up…

“Hello?”

“Nana,” I whispered.

“Kioshi?” She asked, I could hear Hikari fussing in the background.

“Yeah…”

“Are you okay? Where are you? How are you calling me?”

“I’m fine, not sure, and the Raven let me borrow his phone.”

There was a pause, the only sound coming through the phone being Hikari’s half cries. Then Nana whispered, “…Oh…” I heard her pull in a deep breath, “Are you coming back?”

I held the phone tighter and pulled my knees up to my chest. “No… I’m going to a place called Ravenhold Academy.”

“I’ll wake Reese up! We’ll find you and come get you!”

“No, no!… I think… I want to go.”

Nana didn’t respond for a while. I waited for her as she hushed Hikari. It was a long time before she spoke again. “We will still come see you, bring you your things… make sure this is what you want.”

Nana hung up before I could say anything in response. I glanced nervously at Ian, worried he’d heard but he kept his eyes on the road and nothing in his expression changed. I put his phone down in the cup holder between us and turned to stare out the window, pulling my knees into my chin.

“We’re here, kid.” I woke up to a somewhat familiar voice.

“Who’s that?” A less familiar voice asked. My head hurt, I didn’t want to open my eyes at all.

“He’s named Kioshi, I’m taking care of him for a few weeks before he’s set to enter Ravenhold.” A hand gripped my shoulder, sending an uncomfortable feeling down my back. I threw his hand off me, pushing away from the door, my seatbelt stopping me from getting too far.

“Hey, it’s just me.” Ian said softly, backing away. “We’re here.”

I glanced around the space behind him. A short girl stood behind him, a large, fluffy dog at her heels. And behind her stretched a large, beautiful, expensive house. I unbuckled the seatbelt and slide out of the car.

“Let’s get you upstairs and settled into the guest room… Charlie, can you get Kioshi something to eat, I’m sure he’s starving.”

“Alright.” The girl answered, uninterested.

I followed Ian through his home, up the stairs, pulling the hood of the hoodie he gave me tighter around my face. Eventually we reached a room with light blue walls and furniture that looked fancier than any I’ve ever seen. “This will be your room, I hope it’s alright?”

It’s too good… Why would he give me such a nice room? The last time I was in a room this nice…

I swallowed down my memories and suspicions and nodded at Ian.

“Alright, one last thing. Can you give me your hands?”

Why? Why? WHY? I held my hands against my chest and shook my head.

“Relax kid, I’m just going to remove those cuffs,” Ian held his hands up.

I slowly held my hands out to him. He removed the cuffs and my head finally felt right again. “There you go.”

“Oh and I know what you’re thinking. You can try to escape, you might even make it back. But once you do that, it’s over. You’re a fugitive, the day you get caught again, if you’re lucky they’ll send you to Lockland to finish your sentence. If not, maybe you’re judged as an adult or they increase your sentence.” His voice wasn’t threatening, just matter-of-fact, “But you stay here and in a few years you walk free, your criminal records are wiped and you can do whatever you want, you can be a hero or retire. Either way, people pay good money to hire Ravenhold graduates, even if it’s just to teleport around, delivering parcels. Just think about it before you make a decision.”

I held my hands against my chest, “Thank you… I won’t run..”

He smiled, “Alright, get some rest kid.”

The short girl entered the room, carrying a menu. “Fridge’s empty. Want to order something?”

Feeling the emptiness in my stomach, I nodded.

July 30th- Evening

When it got dark outside and the house fell silent, I moved through it invisibly, pulling useless decorations that looked expensive into a bag. As many as I could fit, until it was almost too heavy to lift.

Then I teleported out of Ian’s home and into the front driveway, I did a dozen or so small teleportations until I was a couple of miles away.

When I felt that  I was far enough away, I curled up around the bag of goods on the side of the road and waited. After about 20 minutes a pair of headlights blinded me as a car pulled onto the shoulder. Nana fell out of the backseat and ran towards me. I had hardly stood up when she threw her arms around me. I hugged her back as I watched Aaron slowly come out through the passenger door.

When Nana let me go I bent down to pick up the bag and place it in her hands. “I got the jewelry taken from me but that might make up for it.”

Nana hugged the bag to her stomach and leaned forward. “You really aren’t coming back? Are you sure? I don’t trust this.”

Aaron came up beside Nana and frowned down at me, “I agree with her… This seems fishy…”

“I think Ian is a good person…” I focused on Aaron. “If I stay there I have the chance to be a hero… and if I can than you can.”

“You’re going to Ravenhold Academy?” Aaron whispered, his eyebrows pulling together.

I nodded, “You should join me when you can.”

Aaron looked away, “I- I don’t know…”

“If anything bad happens, try and call us. We’ll come get you.” Nana said, still looking worried and unconvinced.

I nodded, “I should get back before they notice.” I gave Nana another hug, the bag smashing between us as she hugged me back with one arm.

“Aaron, can I have a hug?”

I don’t know why I asked, he just looked so confused and far off and it was the only thing I could think of when I saw his face over Nana’s shoulder.

“You know that’s dangerous! My powers-”

I let go of Nana, “That’s only a problem is it’s skin to skin, right?”

“Yeah, but-”

“You won’t hurt me.”

Aaron bit his bottom lip as I pulled away from Nana and wrapped my arms around his waist, laying my head on his chest. After a few strong beats of his heart, he briefly and gently hugged me back. When he let me go he did so carefully. “You should get back.” He turned and walked back to the car, his ears red.

“Please don’t die on me.” Nana muttered, concern in her eyes.

“I promise I won’t.”

I waved at Reese in the driver’s seat as Nana climbed back into the car. I couldn’t see if he waved back.

July 30th- Night

I teleported back into Ian’s home, near to the base of the stairs. Something came towards my face, landing by my feet, “You’ve got guts coming back.” the girl, Charlie, barked.

Startled, I turned invisible. She leapt forward to tackle me and I teleported partly up the steps to avoid her.

“Oh no, you’re not getting away like this!” She leapt for me again, catching my ankles. I fell, my shoulders hitting the stair. But the pain felt strange and muted and I couldn’t feel her hands anymore. I couldn’t feel anything. I couldn’t move I was being held down, I was-

“Charlie, let him go.”

“He stole from us!”

“Charlie, honey, we’re billionaires, a few cluttering trinkets aren’t going to be missed. Come on, let him go.”

Charlie mutters something I can’t hear and then there aren’t any hands on me anymore. My head felt clearer.

“Sorry.” I whispered, not moving but ready to run.

“It’s alright. I hated that ivory Buddha.” Ian said, walking down the stairs to me and holding out his hand. “Come on kid, it’s late, better get you to bed.

I stood up on my own, not taking his hand and started walking towards the guest room.

Once I was back in the guest room Ian asked, “Did you do everything you needed to do?”

Is he mad? Is he not going to let me go to Ravenhold now? Is he going to send me to jail? I nodded.

“This time, I can overlook it. But it can’t happen again. Okay?”

No yelling? No hitting? I nodded again and whispered, “Sorry.”

“It’s alright. Get some sleep. If you need something, come and ask.” The tone of his last word was commanding and I felt myself nodding to his back as he left.

Kioshi Origins 2

January 13th 2016 – Evening

I stared at the piece of paper that had fallen to the floor when I opened Nana and my bedroom door. I recognized a few of the letters but not much more. Aaron came out of the room across the hall, yawning. He smiled and came towards me when he saw me, “Hey, Kioshi! Sleep well?”

I nodded, my mouth dry.

He glanced down at the paper in my hands, “What’s that say?”

I shrugged. I licked my lips in order to p

ush the words through them, “I can’t read…” My cheeks grew hot and I looked away.

“Oh… Can I see it?” he asked. I handed him the paper, not looking up. “Oh! It’s a note from Mother. She wants you and Nana to meet her in the backyard when you wake up.” He handed the paper back to me. I glanced up, accidentally meeting his kind eyes. My ears burned as I turned to go back into my room to wake Nana and get dressed.

When I left the room again, Nana following behind me, Aaron was still waiting. “I want to see what she wants… If that’s okay with you,” he smiled brightly at us. I nodded, looking away and hurrying down the stairs.

Mother greeted us with her hands on her hips when we stepped into the yard. “How long were you planning to sleep?!” Twilight fell around us so she kept her voice quiet but it was still strong enough to shake me. Dead grass crunched beneath my feet. A tall fence surrounded us, blocking the outside from view.

Nana thumped her barefoot, crossing her arms over her chest.

Reese stepped out from behind Mother, grinning arrogantly, “It’s about time the two of you pulled your weight around here.”

“Nana is pregnant!” Aaron’s indignant voice sounded from behind me.

“We won’t make her work when she is closer to her due date,  but we can’t keep taking care of them for free.”

“But-”

“I want to help!” I spoke up, cutting Aaron off. I glanced over to see his look of concern. I repeated, quieter, for him. “I want to help.”

Mother clapped her hands together, “Excellent! Now come closer, let me teach you everything you need to know about the world.

February 23rd 2016 – Morning

“Damn Kioshi! You’re getting better at lockpicking than I am!” Reese laughed, following me into the Phantom’s home. He dropped his arm around my shoulders…

… “Kioshi? You okay?”

I blinked, my eyes refocusing on a gloved hand waving in front of my face.

I glanced around, my head feeling full of cotton. I was sure I had just walked through the front door with Reese but I was in the upstairs lounge with Reese nowhere in sight.

“Kioshi?” Aaron leaned closer, peering into my face, worry in his eyes.

I nodded slowly.

“Okay…” He drew out the last syllable, not looking convinced. He straightened up and glanced away, rubbing the back of his neck, his cheek red. “So uh, a while ago you said you couldn’t read and since you seem to have some free time finally I was wondering if you maybe wanted me to read to you because I was about to sit down and reread my favorite book and-”

I nodded when he paused to take a breath. He grinned, “Alright!”

April 3oth 2016 – Morning

Aaron never took off his gloves. Even as spring settled in and it grew warmer he still kept all his skin except his head covered.

His voice was soft and deep and soothing as he read to me. I curled up in a holey bean bag chair, watching through heavy eyelids as he sat on an old worn armchair, his eyes flicking back and forth across the page. His smooth voice halted. He struggled to turn the page with his gloves on.

“Are you that cold?” I asked.

He looked up at me, “Cold?” his eyebrows knit together. He looked down at his hands for a moment then his eyes widened, “Oh you think-” he laughed nervously, “I guess you would think that. This…” he held his hands up. “… is because of my powers. I suck the life out of everything I touch.” He clenched his fists, his eyebrows coming together and his lips trembling slightly. “I was so excited when I first let out an energy beam, I didn’t even notice that the dog that bit me was dead. I thought it was my chance to be a hero like I always wanted.” He stood up. I winced at the sound of the book in his lap hitting the ground. “But someone who killed his mom when she was bandaging his leg can’t be a hero! Someone who kills anything they touch can’t be a hero!” Aaron began to pace, filling me with his nervous energy. I got up, wanting to do something, anything to help. But I had no idea how to help. “I’m lucky Mother and the Phantoms took me in-” Aaron stopped his pacing and wrapped his arms around his body, “there’s no way anyone else would…” His voice was hollow.

I picked up the book and carefully unbent each page before holding it out to him. “I’m sorry about that I’ll get back to the story,” he said, forcing a smile and reaching for the book. He took the book and collapsed back into the armchair. “Please sit back down, I’ll read some more.”

Instead of curling back up  in my bean bag chair I stood in front of Aaron, taking one of his hands in both of mine and pulling it up to touch the back of his hand to my forehead, “Kioshi, what-”

“I want to help but I don’t know how.” My voice sounded louder than I wanted it to. “Tell me how I can be useful to you.”

Through my grip on his hand, I could feel the tension leave his shoulders. “Oh Kioshi, you don’t have to be useful to me, you’re my friend… but I appreciate it.” He pulled his hand out of mine. When I looked up his head was already down, searching for our spot in the story, “Let’s just get back to reading.”

July 7th 2016 – Afternoon

I covered my ears, my fingernails digging into my temples and my eyes screwed shut. I didn’t want to hear Nana scream or see her writhe in pain.

The baby is coming.

That’s what Mother and Reese kept saying over and over and over again. I didn’t know why that had to hurt Nana. I don’t think I like this baby very much.

I wanted to help but Mother didn’t want us in the room. She ordered us upstairs and for a while I obeyed with Aaron and Reese. But when Nana called out my name I couldn’t sit around anymore. I teleported downstairs and Mother begrudgingly let me give my hand to Nana to squeeze.

I think it hurt…

It took hours before Mother was holding an ugly, squirming, screaming thing. Nana’s hand slipped out of mine, falling onto her chest.

For a few seconds there was something almost like calm.

Then fear filled Mother’s face. She pushed the baby, now wrapped in an old towel into my arms and called loudly, “Reese! Call Mia and tell her Nana’s bleeding a lot!” Then Mother turned to me, “Sit on the couch and watch the baby.”

I did as I was told. I didn’t look at Nana’s pale, sweaty face. Instead I glared down at the ugly thing that caused Nana so much pain. “If she dies,” I whispered to it, “I will kill you.”

Surprisingly, the baby stopped crying when I spoke to it…

I wanted it to start crying again. Without it’s sound the minutes of nothing went by so slowly.

Eventually a woman with brown skin and curly hair arrived to help Nana…

… I awoke to Mother pulling the baby out of my arms. “Nana?” I asked, glancing around.

“She’s in your room… She’ll be fine-” I pushed past Mother, standing up and teleporting back upstairs.

Nana laid in our bed, her face still pale and sweaty but as I got closer I could see that her breathing was even. With a sigh of relief, I slipped into bed next to her. I put a hand on her neck to feel her warmth as I drifted off to sleep.

Kioshi Origin 1

December 25th 2015, Early Morning

“You useless piece of shit!” A shout shattered the silence and I woke up as Nana was shoved into the room.

I pushed myself to an upright position just in time to see Boss throw Nana against the table. She cried out and collapsed to the ground. I started to stand but Boss pointed his shaking finger at me, “Don’t you move, boy.”

I froze and sunk to my knees as Boss dragged Nana to her feet by her neck. “You think you’re more important than my reputation, kid?” Nana didn’t struggle, struggling only made things worse. I felt my nails dig into my knees. In the silence of the night, I could hear her gasps for breath in between his words. “You’re not even worth the upkeep!” Even in the darkness, even with the few feet of distance I could see the veins on the back of his hand pop out as he tightened his grip on her throat. Her legs started to kick and she started to claw at his forearm.

She’s going to die.

The thought had barely come to my mind before I transported onto Boss’s back, my arms wrapped around his neck, squeezing tightly. Nana fell to the ground and for some reason I didn’t know, I still held onto Boss. Even as he pulled on my arms and backed up, slamming me into the wall. Part of me, a large part of me, was still kneeling and watching everything unfold. I didn’t feel any pain, but even still I think I was crying. Or maybe I just wanted to. My vision narrowed until all I saw was a small square of Boss’s dark brown hair and my skin burned were my forearms touched his neck. I held on and held on and held on.

Until I heard my name being called over and over, “Kioshi! Kioshi! Kioshi!” I realized the burn on arms was a cold one and there were warm hands on my back. I blinked a few times. Boss was under me, not moving. Nana was shaking my shoulders and calling my name, tears streaming down her cheeks. “Kioshi, he’s dead!”

I stood up, stumbled on legs that weren’t all there, and collapsed against Nana. Wrapping my arms around her and squeezing tightly, I transported us away.

December 25th 2015, Early Evening

I woke up with my head in Nana’s lap. Her body hunched over me, shielding my head from the rain. When her eyes locked with mine, tears started pouring, “What are we going to do?”

I had no answer so I rolled over, wrapped my arms around her, and buried my face in her stomach…

“Rain on Christmas fucking sucks!” The sound of a young man’s voice, startled me into squeezing Nana tighter and turning us both unseeable. But I was still tired from transporting us and the unseeability wore off quickly and the two teenage boys saw us as they rounded the street corner. They stopped, “Are you okay?” the blonde one asked.

I jumped to my feet, holding Nana’s hand, dragging her with me as I started to run.

But I hadn’t run since before Boss, since before the Syndicate, since before my legs became like a cat’s. Pain tore through my legs and I fell, pulling Nana down with me. My heart beat rapidly as their footsteps quickly chased us down. The blonde one, his pale face red with cold, put a gloved hand on my shoulder, “Are you okay? Let us help you.”

December 26th 2015, Morning

I sat on the bathroom floor with my back against the sink as Nana threw up into the toilet next to me. Quiet voices drifted through the door, “We can’t just keep useless stray.”

“Come on, Reese. The girl is pregnant.”

“All the more reason to kick them out now! Cause we sure as hell don’t have room for three!”

“Kioshi?” Nana asked, her voice rough from the burn of puke. “I’m not going back. If they don’t let us stay, then I choose to die.”

I couldn’t respond to her…

I heard the sound of a palm connecting with skin, “If I had said that when you needed the Phantoms, where do you think you’d be now?” An unfamiliar woman’s voice cut through me. I found myself standing up and starting for the bathroom door, wanting to listen closer. As I reached my hand out for the door, it was thrown open and in strode a woman with tan skin and frizzy gray hair. “Welcome to the Phantom’s! Please call me Mother!”

December 27th 2015, Afternoon

I sat on the double bed Nana and I now shared in the Phantom’s worn down home, Nana’s head in my lap. Her long black hair and rabbit ears splayed across my legs as she hugged my thigh as she slept.

A light knock came at our bedroom door. I put a hand over Nana’s ears and answered, “Yes?”

The door opened slowly and the blonde one, Aaron, poked his head into the room. “Hey Kioshi, Nana – Oh.” His voice became softer when he saw Nana laying down. “I have some clothes for you guys.” He set a bag down and closed the door behind him.

January 1st 2016, Midnight

Sparkling grape juice spilled over my hand as Reese clinked his glass against mine. “Happy New Years and welcome to the Phantoms!” I flinched at the loud laugh Reese barked out.

He’s drunk.

Drunks tend to be rougher.

I scooted my chair a little bit away from him, closer to Nana, who was staring down at the worn table, her glass of sparkling grape juice untouched in front of her.

My heart jumped at the sound of a glass being put down too harshly. I looked across the table at “Mother”. Her hand held her glass loosely and she watched me intensely, her gray eyes cold and unblinking.

January 1st 2015, Early Afternoon

I didn’t sleep. As “Mother”, Aaron, and Nana went to bed shortly after one in the morning and Reese passed out drunk on the worn out couch in the living room right off the dining room, I stayed awake. Sitting at the table. Even when Reese woke up at four and passed me on his way to bed, I stayed.

We were useless. Dead weight. What could we even do for them, none of them even seemed to want to fuck us. The room around me was cold and the furniture old and falling to pieces. They don’t have that much and they are sharing it with us. I put my hand over my crotch. What else could they want from us? What else am I good for?

The light filtered through the broken blinds as dawn broke. And I still sat. As the sun climbed higher and the sounds of the day happened outside, I sat.

After a few hours, the coffee maker began to drip in the kitchen behind me. “Kioshi? Have you been here all night?” Aaron’s voice was tired and hoarse as he called to me from the  kitchen. I turned around to face him.

He wore an old stained T-shirt and boxers. His blonde hair was messy, falling into his eyes and his slender fingers were wrapped around a chipped coffee mug. I’d never seen him not wearing gloves.

“Have you been here all night?” He repeated, coming closer. I nodded and he frowned. “Is everything okay?”

“What do you want from us?”

He set his mug down on the table, rubbing the back of his neck and shaking his head. “Nothing really… I mean if you want to stay forever, you’ll have to pull your own weight eventually, but we’ll teach you everything you need to know.” He smiled down at me, the dimples on his cheeks so deep I thought I might get lost in them.

“All I’ve ever been useful for is sex…”

The chair beside me creaked as Aaron collapsed into it. I stared at his bare thighs as he folded his legs underneath himself. “Mother was right… You’re one of the Syndicate’s… Hey, look at me!” He snapped his fingers in front of my face, pulling my eyes up to meet his serious, determined ones. “The people who told you that are fucking liars, okay? You are worth so much more.” His eyes frosted over, “And if anyone touches you without your permission ever again… I will kill them myself.”