My wrists itch in the ruff woven ropes binding my hands together behind me. My thighs scream from kneeling for so long and my toes have gone numb. I’ve been kneeling for hours in this tatami-floored room, waiting for the Queen and her attendants to come to a decision of what to do with me. They had been quick to secure me, magically appearing in front of the Queen herself did not help my situation.
The Queen, who only speaks to the public through her brother. The Queen, who has hundreds of female attendants and rules peacefully. The Queen, who is also a shaman and can communicate with the gods. She is the same Queen who just ordered me bound while she decides my fate without even asking who I am. It hadn’t taken long for the language gimmick to kick in and when it did the slur of Japanese shouting became coherent.
“Quick, bind him, get him out of the Queen’s sight. How did this foreigner get here? Who is responsible?” They had quickly blocked me from her view and pulled me away. They surely have not forgotten about me. I’m definitely the talk of the palace now.
I work my mouth, it’s dry from lack of water and my eyes feel heavy from lack of sleep. It seemed to be morning when I first arrived. That would account for the time difference between the Guild and Japan. I’ve been awake for nearly 24 hours. I try hard to stay awake but as the time inside me tics, my head begins to sag.
Shuffling comes from behind the paper wall and it slides open. I jerk awake. I can’t see the door from the position I’ve been placed in, but I hear the slippered feet of someone come into the room and slide the door shut again. I wait for the person to come into view, but they don’t. They settle somewhere behind me and wait.
“My attendants do not know I am here. Please keep your voice down.” A soft voice says. I’m sure I look as though I am trembling. My legs cannot maintain this position forever. “What is your name, and how did you come here?” She asks.
I work some saliva into my mouth so I don’t croak, My voice still cracks, however. “My name is Andrei Hanganu. I came here by… time magic.” I say. There is no use lying to her. She might understand, being a shaman Queen.
“You do not look the same as us, you do not look like you are Japanese? How can you speak our language?”
I knew this might come up. I’d run through all the possible interviews I might get when they finally decided to ask me. “It’s a trick that comes with the time magic. We are able to understand one another as if we spoke the same language.” She grows quiet, I guess letting the words sink in.
“You are young. You are not from here. You have a strange name. You do not belong in this time.” She states. I couldn’t agree more with her at this moment, legs shaking, mouth parched and dying for sleep. I really would just like to go to bed. I hear her shuffle and suddenly her hand’s touch mine as she unties the ropes.
I let my arms drop in front of me and lean on them, relieving some of the weight on my legs as I slowly shift positions. The pins and needles are excruciating as my blood flows back into my feet. I don’t want to offend the Queen, so I ask first, “Can I turn around?”
She waits before answering. “Yes. You may.”
I slowly turn to face her, keeping my face bowed before I raise it to look at her. When I do, I’m awestruck by her youthful appearance. Like Kaede, it is clear to see how their ancestry is the key to their youthfulness. Her features are smooth and her black hair is bound into a fancy bun with a hair accessory for decoration. What stands out the most is her rainbow coloured eyes.
“I am Himiko, Queen of Nippon.” She says. I bow my head, trying to show her my deepest respect. “I am sorry you were bound for so long. I could not get away from my attendants. You gave them such a scare.”
“It’s alright. I deserved it.” I say. “You’re… eyes. They are spectacular.” I say quietly, still surprised.
“It is a mark of my power. I was born with it.” She says flatly. “It is why I do not see any outside of the palace. It would scare them, I think.”
I don’t know what 200 AD Japan was like, to be honest, but I imagine anyone in the normal world would be frightened by rainbow eyes, even in my time. “Have you tried showing them?”
“Heavens no. My brother is my spokesperson, that is enough.” Her eyes flutter and she quickly glances at the door. The walls are paper thin and the whole building is quiet. She looks back at me and suddenly her eyes are alight. She launches herself towards me and presses her lips to mine. I try to pull away, but she is surprisingly strong. She pins me to the floor in a passionate embrace and I struggle against her.
I finally manage to push her off of me and I scuttle across the room, legs still stiff from hours of kneeling. “What the hell!” I say loudly. She quickly looks around, listening for sounds of her attendants.
“Please, I have not been with a man in fifteen years. You will not be known by the people or my brother. Please don’t deny me this?” She pleads. She looks desperate but I couldn’t do that, not to Kat. She knows most of my secrets, most of the things that have happened in my life from jumping time. I couldn’t betray her like that.
“I’m sorry,” I say grimly. “But I have someone waiting for me. I can’t do this.”
She sighs heavily and sags. “I’m so sorry. Please forgive me. I fear I will not pass on my gifts to another. I have foreseen an heir to my blood in the distant future but I have no one to wed me. I fear.” She weeps.
“I’m sorry, I am not the one. If I am to be seen by no one, then I am not the one.” I remember the text, which Kaede sent me on his phone. The records said she had two male attendants, one being her brother. She still has hope for an heir.
“Please forgive me. In exchange for my horrible display, I will gift to you one of the precious mirrors the Emperor of China gave to me as a coronation gift. Please accept it and the care of my palace. I will inform the attendants that it was foreseen.” She bows humbly before me and it feels all wrong for this queen to bow like this, but I accept her gracious apology. “Will you not dine with me this evening?” She asks, adjusting her kimono and correcting her composure.
I relax a little, sitting cross-legged in the corner of the room. “I will.”
She bows her head again, apologizing with formality. “I will leave you then. I will have attendants wash you and send a kimono. She shuffles out of the room and thumps softly down the hall outside. These walls are seriously paper, how did no one hear us?
I stand up, stretching the ache in my limbs. I didn’t think women could be so bold! I mean… Caroline won’t even sleep in the same bed with Kae yet. But I guess I can’t blame her. Fifteen years without any men except her brother. Suddenly I’m sweating. How old is she?
It’s not long before I hear the soft padding of feet in the halls outside. I sit down again, facing the door and watch as it slides open. Two attendants, wearing white kimonos, sit crouched outside the wall. The first one holds open the door and scuttles aside as the second one enters, crouching on her toes carrying a cloth material.
“Himiko Sama has requested your bathing and dressing. Please follow us.” She says quietly, looking at the floor. I’m not sure what the customs are here so I don’t ask. I let her lead me out of the room. The first attendant slides the door shut. I wonder how they know where one room ends and another begins with every wall and door looking the same.
I’m led through a maze of halls until we reach a steaming hot room with the sound of bubbling water. Inside, the attendants immediately begin to strip me without asking.
“Woah woah woah, ladies. What are you doing?” I blush, trying to take back my shirt.
“We are to bathe you as Himiko Sama asked.” One of them says. They both look the same so I’m not sure which one said it.
“I think I can bathe myself, thank you.” I hold the shirt to my chest, trying to hide my scars.
“I’m sorry, but we cannot. You do not know the customs. We must bathe you.”
They are insistent and in the end, I cannot get them to leave. I am embarrassed the entire time as they first scrub my skin raw with pumice, rinse me and then have me soak in the boiling sulfur waters of the hot spring bath. After the scrub, I can’t say the soak was all that pleasant. I am impressed with how it relieves my legs of their tension though. As I climb out, they return, toweling me off and wrapping me tight in some white robes. When I’m ready, I feel like I can’t breathe without the whole thing coming undone.
“Do I really have to wear this?” I ask the one who is combing my hair.
“Yes. All must wear the white kimono when they are in an audience with Himiko Sama. It is custom.” She says. I get the feeling this girl doesn’t get out much herself. The customs are so restricting here, it’s a wonder anything happens at all. They lead me from the baths back to the room and have me wait. The light through the paper walls begins to fade and I make the mistake of laying down and closing my eyes.
I’m suddenly awoken by someone shaking my shoulders. “Andrei Sama, Andrei Sama! Wake up. It is time to go before the queen.” An attendant is shaking me awake.
“How long was I asleep for?” I grumble, sitting up.
“I do not know. Please come.” She says, pointing me towards the door. I stand up to leave and she stops me, pulling at the kimono and adjusting the seams. It seems to have shifted in my sleep. “There, you are presentable.” She says.
I follow her down the hall, stifling a yawn. They stop me in front of a uniform sliding door. She kneels and announces herself before gripping the door and pulling it open. She gestures me forward and I walk in. This room is larger, a brazier sits in the centre, alight with a small fire to warm the room. Himiko sits at a short table laden with clay bowls and plates of fresh fish and vegetables. My stomach growls loudly as it realizes food will come soon. It’s been so long.
I sit ungraciously across from the queen, who looks ever so gracious in her colourful kimono. It must have taken a lot of materials to dye the fabric of her kimono like that.
She claps her hands and bows. “Let’s eat.” She takes up a pair of sticks, their shape different than that of chopsticks today. “Please, enjoy the delicacies my people have prepared for us.” She says, waving at the table. I won’t deny, the food is exotic and looks amazing. It’s not every day you get the chance to eat food prepared in a two thousand-year-old style.
I ignore the logical part of my brain telling me to be careful and not to gorge myself since it’s been twelve hours at least since I last ate. I’ll probably regret it later. I eventually notice her watching me intently, as I shovel the food into my mouth.
“You can use these well. Do they have them, where you are from?” She asks, delicately placing a slice of fish into her mouth.
“We do. My friend is from your country. He taught me a few years ago.” I say between mouthfuls.
“I’m sorry. It must be my doing. I did not send you food while the attendants fretted. How do you say your name?” She asks, taking another bite.
I watch her closely. She seems a little different from when she came to my room and unbound me, more mature, reserved even. I repeat my name for her and she tries to pronounce it correctly. We finish our meal and she has the attendants bring out glass blown cups and a pitcher.
“This is the liquor of my country. I present it to you in good fortune. Please taste it and tell me what you think.” She says, having the woman in white pour me a glass. I take it reverently. I assume it will be an early sake of sorts. I admit, my knowledge of the country’s inventions are not well versed. It smells strong. I take a generous sip and nearly gag. It burns on the way down. I try to stop coughing it out at the queen.
She sits across from me with a bemused smile. “It is strong, is it not?” She asks though I think she knows the answer.
“Very,” I reply.
“Well, if it is strong to you than I am pleased. Please, drink as much as you like.” She says with a smile. The liquor is good after the first few cup fulls. I wonder if Kae would appreciate it. When I’ve had my fill and the twenty-four hours catches up with me she bows her head. “Thank you for joining me for this meal. I will have the attendants lead you to your room. Please rest well.” She says.
An attendant comes from the door behind me and leads me out. I stumble down the hall, the palace seems slightly off angle as I walk. I might have drunk a little too much. Eventually, we arrive at the place I assume is my room. I have no idea where in the palace I am. The door slides open and I see a padded straw futon with a stuffed blanket waiting for me. There is a small brazier next to the futon.
“Please rest well.” The attendant says, sliding the door shut.
She pads away and I flop myself onto the bed, ready to give in to sleep. It’s not long before the darkness takes me and a strange dream begins. Why can’t I just sleep this off peacefully? I feel heavy arms around me, pulling and pushing on me. I try to push them away but my sleep is strong. I toss and turn, feeling hands on my face and soft lips on mine.
My eyes suddenly snap open and I see Himiko, face pressed to mine, arms wrapped around me, my kimono half off. I push her away, forcefully. I don’t care now if I hurt her. She falls back, almost hitting the brazier, missing it by an inch. I wipe my face with my arm, pulling the open flap over my chest.
“That is enough. You tried once and I refused, and still, you try again. What is wrong with you?” I growl. She looks at me with big sorrowful eyes. Somehow, maybe it’s the lighting, she looks younger again, youthful and almost pathetic.
“You don’t understand…” She starts, righting herself and crawling towards me.
“I understand enough to know you are in the wrong. Get away from me!” I raise my voice. I hear the distant sounds of padded feet in the halls. Good. People are coming, and this will all end. I should have trusted my instincts and not drank so much.
The door slides open suddenly and I am shocked to see almost a mirror image of the woman in front of me, except, yes, I see it now, slightly older, more mature looking and a furious look in her eyes.
“What has happened here? Explain yourself.” She says forcefully. I can’t tell who she’s talking to, I’m still too shocked by her likeness to the woman who was trying to kiss me.
“Sister, I can explain!” Himiko, or rather, the younger Himiko cries.
“No. This is absurd! You are defiling my guest.” She says angrily. “You have brought shame upon yourself and this family. Remove yourself!” She shouts, pointing outside the room. The younger sister quickly conceals herself and scuttles out of the room.
Himiko, the woman I think I ate dinner with, stands boldly in the door. Her features soften and she falls to the floor and bows her head solemnly. “I am deeply sorry for the actions of my younger sister. She has deeply shamed me and this kingdom. For her actions I am responsible.”
My jaw hangs open and I don’t know how to respond. First I’m duped by two look alike sisters and nearly raped in my sleep and now the third century Queen of Japan is apologizing on the floor to me. I really need some sleep. I don’t think my brain can handle anymore.
“Please, please don’t bow to me. I’m not anyone important, though I thank you for coming and stopping this.” I say, scrambling from the bed and pulling her arms up off the ground. “You are a queen. You should not bow to me.”
“No, I should. You have been dishonored. I deeply regret this misunderstanding.” She sits on her knees before me and I’m somehow even more self-conscious of how the kimono hangs off me, torn open in my sleep. “I will ensure you are guarded while you sleep. I will assign the attendants myself.” She stands and calls out some names. The girls in white come quickly, bobbing as she directs four of them to each wall of my room.
“They will not rest while you are here. They will be vigilant in their duty. Please, sleep easy.” She bows again and leaves. The door slides shut and I let out a sigh of relief. I am so very tired. I wonder if I can have a dreamless sleep this time. I lay back, pulling the covers over me and rolling onto my shoulder. I’m still sort of frightened the sister will come back in and I find it hard to relax. I feel the faint tic of my inner time, small but soothing. Slowly, eventually, sleep takes me.
The light of the sun brightens the room through the paper walls. All is quiet except for the birds chirping outside. I roll over on the lumpy futon and pull the equally lumpy blanket over my face to block it out. I don’t want to wake up yet. The air is chill without the brazier lit. I hide beneath the warmth of the blanket, staving off wakefulness.
Suddenly the events of the night before come rushing back to me and I bolt upright, looking around. I am certainly alone in the room and, if I look closely enough, I can see the outline of an attendant sitting outside one of the sliding doors. That must be facing East, for her shadow to be cast through the paper. I pull the kimono tighter and brush my hair back with my hand. It’s getting a bit long, I could probably tie it back.
I give up on sleeping and crawl out of the bed. My own clothes lay folded at the foot of my bed. I remove the kimono and pull on my own familiar clothes. I also see the book that miraculously made it with me through the jump. I flip through the pages, curious if the letters would translate through time like my language does. I need to find a way back, but my inner clock is faint and distant. I feel drained. I don’t think I could force a jump easily. Maybe if I can meditate like I did before I could find the energy to make the jump.
A sudden worry grips me. Kaitlyn. What if Logan comes back? Is she okay? I left so suddenly again. I really need to work on this controlled jumping. I can’t keep letting this take over. I grip the book firmly and decide to find a calming place to meditate.
I slide open the panel and catch the attendants eye, “I’d like to… walk around.” I say. She nods and stands.
“I will follow.” She says. She quickly signals to the others and I hear them pad away. They must be tired, but this attendant seems alert. I wonder how that’s possible?
I barely hear her behind me as I walk through the halls, turning left and right, looking for a room or an exit to an outdoor location. I hear birds and decide to follow that hallway until I come to a sliding panel that looks different from the rest. This one is made of heavier wood and thicker paper. I slide it open to reveal a wooden porch and a garden. This must be the same location where I entered the previous morning.
I step out onto the porch and take in the exotic collection of ancient Japanese plants. The semi-tropical landscape is appealing to the eye. Palm trees hang over the space providing shade, miniature pine trees dot the tired garden, creating height and whimsical shapes. This must be similar to the art of bonsai. I can just make out the ropes and sticks used to change their shape.
I step off the porch. The attendant, who is mostly ignoring me, stands by the entrance. I don’t care if my feet become dirty. I plan to stay here a while. I choose a smooth rock to sit on, fold my legs and look around, memorizing the garden and listening to its sounds. It seems to be an inner courtyard, surrounded by paneled paper walls. It’s actually quite beautiful.
I close my eyes and focus on the ticking inside me. I let it thrum in my ears like my heartbeat. Soon the two beats are the same. I lose track of time listening to their synchronized beat until the sound of approaching footsteps pulls me from my trance. On the porch in front of me stands Queen Himiko. Standing behind her, shoulders rounded and face turned down, is her sister. Now that I see them together in the sun I can tell, the sister is much younger. I don’t know how I was so easily fooled yesterday. Perhaps the lack of sleep, or food.
“I see you have found my garden,” Himiko says with a smile. “I cultivated it myself.”
“It is beautiful,” I say, bowing my head respectfully from my spot on the rock.
“I’m sorry to disturb you, but my sister wishes to make her formal apology.” She says, glancing over her shoulder at her sister. She steps forward and falls to the ground, prostrating herself before me.
“I am so sorry for my behavior yesterday. It was unbecoming and shameful to my family’s name. I dishonored you greatly and will accept any request or punishment you see befitting of my actions.” She speaks to the floor.
Her apology shocks me, not just because she sounds sincere but also her offer of restitution. Despite feeling violated and embarrassed, I could never bring myself to exact a punishment on this young woman. I don’t know why she wished to bed me, but she must have had her reasons. Why would she ask punishment of me? I frown at her remark and it doesn’t go unnoticed.
“Does her apology displease you?” Himiko asks. I see her sister’s posture tense.
“No, it’s just… I cannot punish her.”
“You seek to humiliate her by withholding your judgment?” The queen asks.
“No, not at all. I…” I don’t know what to say so that I am not misunderstood. “I accept your apology. You know it was wrong. I don’t know your reasons but I accept that you are sincere and regret your actions.” I really hate apologies… giving or receiving them.
“Please, let me explain. I wish for you to know.” She looks up at me seeking permission.
I shift awkwardly on the rock, then nod.
“I heard my sisters prophecy that a child would be born of our blood. The gods spoke to her, therefore it must happen. But a long time has passed since then and I worry about her bloodline. No male has been granted access to the palace in such a long time, how are we to have an heir if there are no suitors?” She explained, pleading with her eyes.
“Sister, it is not your place to make prophecy happen. If the gods say it will be, it does not require our help to make it so.” Himiko answers.
“But, what if he,” she points at me, “is the one who the prophecies foretold?”
“He is not.” Himiko states.
“But-” Unconvinced, her sister attempts to continue her argument.
“He is not because I have already chosen a suitor!” Himiko says harshly. Her sister, the attendants by the door and I, all stare at her wide-eyed. The sister breathes heavily and the look on her face shows she does not understand.
“How?” She asks, looking up at her sister with desperation.
“I’ve been visited by a man who I have chosen as my concubine. That is all you need to know.” Himiko states bluntly, conversation over.
Her sister hangs her head sadly, turning back to me. Her eyes are full and sad, I see tears forming. “I am deeply sorry. I did not know. I am ashamed of myself.”
“Please don’t cry. You don’t need to cry.” I beg. It’s so much worse when they cry.
“She said she has promised you a gift. She will now present it.” Himiko continues.
The sister pulls out a glimmering round bronze mirror. The sun glints off it brightly, reflecting the engraved surface off the paper walls of the garden and causing me to blink.
“This is a mirror, presented to me by the Empire of China when I went overseas. I received many in honor of my title and we now present you with one. We believe you will have use of it.” Himiko speaks. I stand and take the mirror in my hands. The sister bows and waits until the Queen dismisses her. We are now alone in the garden, but for an attendant by the door.
“You came here by magic, so you will understand that this mirror has magical conductive properties. I don’t know how it will help you, but I have a feeling it will.” She says.
“Thank you. This is a wonderful gift. I am only sorry I am to receive it under these circumstances.”
“As am I. So in exchange, I would like to share with you why I am known as the Shaman Queen, at least according to your text.” She points to my book.
“Wait, you were able to read it?” I ask perplexed.
“No, but I had help.” She smiles. “I am marked by the gods with the eyes of Niji, as is my sister. We will pass on this talent, whether we remain in the ruling house or not. But it will pass on.” She holds out her hand and I watch it. A faint shape begins to appear and all of a sudden I see a palm-sized tornado spinning in her hand.
“Wind?” I ask.
She nods. “I hear the voices of the wind and they tell me things of the future. With this information, I help rule my country peacefully. I wish for my people’s happiness.” She lets the wind still and lowers her hand. Magnificent. I wonder if there is someone at the Guild in my time who can control the wind like her. Surely I would have heard of them from Kat. That also has me thinking, does the Guild already exist in this time?
“The wind tells me you are searching for something. I hope you find it.” She smiles with compassion.
I don’t know how the wind would know when I am not even sure what it is I’m searching for. Between Logan and the missing book and the scribbles written in the books back in the library, it could be anything. I smile hopefully. “I am hoping to get home soon. I need to save up my energy in order to do so.”
“I understand. I too use my abilities to help me get overseas. It can be taxing. If I might suggest, I find music can help speed up the energy, more so than sitting calmly in the garden.” She waves to the attendant and they bring out a stringed instrument that looks like a small horizontal harp with only six strings. “This is called a wagon. I hope the tune resonates with you, and your magic.”
I return to the rock, hold the mirror in my lap. I close my eyes and listen as she strums the wagon delicately. The tune sounds like chimes in the breeze and brings my focus quickly to the beating of time in my heart. I lose myself in the tune. The ticking does grow stronger. We are disturbed by an attendant who brings the noon meal to the garden. We take a break, eating another fantastic ancient meal together before returning to the meditation. I enjoy listening to her music.
The sun begins to dip below the roof of the palace and shadows grow long in the garden. She continues to play and the ticking inside myself continues to grow louder. I know that what I intend is insane, to quicken my recharge from three days to one. I have never done anything as reckless as this before. But with the pulsing in my ears and the urgency, I feel again for Kat and my friends, I feel it is time.
The music stops and Queen Himiko smiles. “Tell my descendant, when you meet her, that she is loved.” She smiles sadly. I feel a static jump and a wave of energy erupts all over my skin. I nod to the queen in understanding before ancient Japan is gone from my sight.
I find myself in a familiar place, surrounded by times and places pulsing with light. I lean back, looking for the one that is mine. When I find it glowing red I reach out for it and grip it tightly in my fist. I think I’m getting the hang of this.
I stumble into the library, tripping over the table and falling to the ground with a yelp. The furniture here is inconvenient. I right myself, straightening my shirt and making sure the book and the mirror made it with me. I see them on the floor next to me. Good.
I hear a sleepy voice from behind me, “Andrei?” I spin around and see Kat on the couch beneath the window, curled up like a cat draped over the arm.
“That’s me, Andrei. The one and only.” I say, scrambling to my feet and turning to face her. I set the mirror and book on the table as I feel a slight headache. Still a rush jump. I think I need more practice. I look at the empty spot beside her, a little hesitantly. I take a seat but more to the side so we don’t rub arms. I don’t think I’m ready for physical contact yet.
She sits up a bit more, rubbing her eyes. “Are you okay?” She asks.
I grip my head with my hand, “Yeah, just a bit of a headache. You won’t believe what I had to go through this time.” I groan.
She turns so she’s facing me, placing a phone on the table. The screen lights up, catching my eye and I see a card next to it. “Do you wanna talk about it?” She asks.
I wonder where she got a phone, and why she has a card on the table, but her question beckons my attention. “What? Uhh… I don’t know. I kind of want to forget the entire thing.” I say. This one goes down as one of the jumps I didn’t enjoy very much.
“What’s this?” I ask, reaching for the card.
She grabs the card before I can reach it, I must be pretty slow for that to happen. “Nothing,” She says quickly. “Where did you end up?”
I scrunch my eyebrows and look at the empty place on the table. “What? I… I said I’d rather not talk about it.” Why is she hiding the card from me? Why can’t I see it?
“Oh, uh, sorry. You’re probably tired. Do you want me to show you back to the dorms?” She shifts awkwardly avoiding my eyes. What’s she hiding?
“No, it’s just a small headache, I’ll be fine, but I wanna see that card. Show me.” I say, reaching behind her to try to get it from her hand.
She leans away, blushing. “It’s really nothing important, just something we found while you were gone…”
“Then why can’t I see it? What did you do while I was gone?” I ask a little too harshly.
She looks a little hurt, “I didn’t… just research…” She stutters.
I reach the limit of my patience, channeling a little energy into a speedy action I reach behind to snatch the card from her fingers. “If it’s nothing, then you won’t have a problem showing me then, will you,” I say leaning away and skimming the golden lettering.
“Hey!” She gasps.
I raise a questioning eyebrow at her, “Really? I’m not in the mood right now. Why can’t I know what you were doing while I was gone?”
She pouts, looking away, “Cause… you’re already angry.”
“Only because you won’t show me! That hardly counts!” I retort. The card has a business name on it, from New York, and I read Logan’s name. “You went to see Logan? What the hell were you thinking? What if something happened?! What if I came back and you were gone? You couldn’t wait for me?” I get a little defensive. My heart hurts a little, knowing she couldn’t wait for me.
She shuffles to the far end of the couch, curling into a ball. “I didn’t go looking for him. I went to see if he left any clues behind.”
“He’s dangerous, Kat. What if he thought you’d come back looking for clues. What if he planted clues just to manipulate you? I don’t trust him. If you ask me, you’re looking for trouble, going after him… Or would you rather him?” It hurts to say, but I don’t understand her actions… Why is she so obsessed with him? Can’t she forget him and move on? Am I not enough?
“What?” she gawks. “What are you talking about?”
“All you think about is him… You can’t stop looking for him. It’s like you miss him or something, yet I go to the past and nearly get raped and all I can think about is you!” I shout. I can’t believe I’m letting myself lose control. I stupidly let it slip and turn away, shamefully. I feel tears starting to form in my own eyes but I try to hold them back. I know I accepted her apology, but still, now, I feel those hands and I shudder… What would Kat think, I’d thought… And all she thinks about is Logan… Am I wrong?
“Andrei…” She whispers, then shakes her head, “I don’t want Logan. After all the things he did to me… You showed me what real love feels like.” I barely hear her speaking through the cacophony of thoughts swirling around in my head. I try to focus, but I continue to formulate my next response. “It’s not him I went looking for. I need the book that he stole.” She starts to reach out but hesitates. “I’m sorry, that you had to go through that. I didn’t want you to think… well, what you just thought.”
“If you don’t tell me, what do you think I’m going to think?” I say quickly, I still can’t look her in the face.
“I was going to tell you something else first. So you’d understand.”
“Like what?” I demand, harsher than I intended.
She looks at Rhoan, sitting on the table. I hadn’t noticed him there before. He’s has a way of going unnoticed until you realized you’ve said something you wouldn’t want him to hear. He nods once.
“Markus Halsey, the Founder… He’s … He’s my…” She pauses like she’s having a hard time saying it out loud. “Great-great-great, like twelve times over, great grandfather.” She points to the necklace around her neck, the ruby pendant glows faintly in the early morning darkness of the library. “He left this key with his descendants, magically hidden.”
It takes me longer to process what she’s saying considering my emotional state and physical condition. I replay her words in my head a few times. “Like… you’re related?” I ask.
“Yes, you dunce.” Rhoan snaps and I glare at him. No one asked his opinion. “What part of ‘grandfather’ was unclear?”
“Well…” I pause, processing this news. “That’s great Kat.” I’m rather glum, maybe now wasn’t the best time to have this conversation. My tiredness is beginning to show and I just want sleep.
She sighs. “This key opens the book. The one Logan stole. If I can get it back, maybe I can find out… I don’t know, maybe why my fire magic is so different.”
I guess that’s a good thing, right? She’ll figure out what’s different? How is her magic different from any other fire magic-user? Why does she think that? I exhale, trying to understand why the book would suddenly be so important to her, despite the fact that no one’s seen its contents in hundreds or thousands of years. I feel her gaze, watching me as I think.
I feel awkward. “What?” I ask. “That’s great Kat. I’m… I’m happy for you.” I try to stand, a little wobbly. I grab the mirror and books off the table and hug them close to my chest. “I think I need sleep after all.” I say quietly.
She looks down at the couch for a moment. “Rhoan, can you show him the way, please?” she mumbles.
“No, it’s fine… I can find it on my own. Thanks.” I step around the table, pausing for a moment to return the card to her. “Oh, you can have this back. Sorry I took it from you.”
“Forget about it.” She says without looking up.
“Fine.” I leave the library and head back to the dorms, lost in my sleepy thoughts.