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