<How are you today?> I type slowly, looking for each letter on the keyboard.
<Good. It is cold here. How are you, Himoti?> His response dings as my phone receives it.
<The weather is warm. I am -> How am I? I don’t feel particularly good, though I suppose I am much better than before when I had no clue where I was. But I still feel awkward, like, I don’t fit in. I am the youngest Guardian here and everyone seems to know each other fairly well. I don’t know if it’s the way I look or how I dress, but they all look at me and stare and then don’t say a word.
<I am OK.> I type. Then I send a simple sticker of a cat, smiling.
<Are you sure?> His reply comes quickly. Am I that obvious? It’s only a text, how can he tell?
<Yes. New house it is good?> I type. While I wait, I set my phone on my stomach and stare up at the ceiling. A breeze blows through the open windows of my room, some twenty stories off the ground. I managed to convey to Cliff kun, the tall blonde man with the large muscles, that I wanted tatami mats in my room. Somehow, he was able to have some installed. This made me very happy, though, I asked him about the price and he wouldn’t say. I’m not sure if it’s because he didn’t understand me or if he is refusing my money.
My phone dings.
I pick it up in my hands, looking up at the screen.
<Yes, my host family’s house is good. It is so big! I have one room to myself. Only me. They have a dog too. His name is Chimi. I like Chimi.> I read.
<I am happy. Chimi is cute? picture?> I hate that he’s made me promise to type only in English. He says it’s for practice, but I get enough practice here, don’t I? I don’t know if he means practice for him or for me. Either way, I can’t say much to him. I just don’t know how.
<Very cute. See.> A picture shows up under the text. A dark brown poodle with curly fur sits on a wooden board outside a house. His tongue hands out of his mouth as if he’s smiling. He does look cute.
<Cute! Wait!> I reply.
<Wait? Oh, Want. You want Chimi?> He asks.
I blush, even though he can’t seem me, I realize my mistake. <Yes. I want. He is cute.> I respond. I send a blush sticker afterward and Yuu kun replies with a laughing bunny.
<How is your place? What does your room look like?> He asks. I jump up, staring at my phone in my hands. He wants a picture of my room?
The room is filled with a strong wind, quite unexpectedly. I take deep breaths, trying to calm my racing heart. Why do I do this? Whenever I get flustered I cause a windstorm. Even before they made me a Guardian, nothing much has changed, except…
After returning from Japan with my things, I went to the baths to clean off. The baths are very much like an onsen, which was also unexpected. In there, I looked in the mirror and found a mark, a glowing white circle on my back, between my shoulders. It was strange, not only because it glowed, but also because… it moved. The image of a wind funnel spinning glimmers on my back, the sign of a Guardian.
I work through an exercise the Kannushi taught me to still my heart. I have always been easily riled. I had to learn many meditation chants in order to keep my emotions and the wind in check. Finally, the wind settles and I look back down at my phone.
<It is big. I will take picture. Please wait.> I press send then stand, looking around the messy room. I can’t just take a picture of how it looks. I need to tidy first. I run about, straightening the papers and fixing anything that looks out of place from the wind. When It finally looks presentable, I steady my phone and take a picture, sending it through LINE to Yuu kun.
He takes a moment to respond and this makes me nervous.
<Wow. It looks like ryoukan. Were tatami already there?> He asks.
<No. They made. No yen. I don’t know why.> I hope that made sense.
<Wow. You are lucky! I want to see! Can I visit you?> My face grows warm and I fall to my knees, heart pounding.
Ehhh!! He wants to come and see my room? Why?! I can’t come to any conclusion as to why he wants to come, let alone, knowing if it’s even possible. I don’t even know how I got here. Apparently, the handsome man named Andrei kun was able to move us across the ocean here. This nearly killed him, so I don’t know how regular people would come here.
<I don’t know. I ask someone later.> I write.
<OK!> a happy bunny throwing flowers.. This made him happy. Oh no… What if he can’t? Did I just get his hopes up? Oh, what will I have to do now?!
The chat stays quiet for many minutes while I stare at it. Maybe now is a good time to let it stay quiet and not respond. I just… I never know what to do! He makes my heart pound and I become so nervous. Maybe I’m ill.
I lay back down and pull my headphones over my ears, switching on the Bluetooth and scrolling through my playlists for a good album. Maybe this will calm my heart. I picked the right album, Yui has such a great voice. I know others my age think she’s old, but age matters not when you have a true voice.
I listen to her album for a while on repeat before my hunger overpowers my will to stay in my room. I sit up, reluctantly and stare at the door. Should I go to the caf? Maybe there will be someone to talk to… something else to do. I feel kind of… useless now. Everyone seems to be off doing their own thing. They don’t really notice that I’m around. Maybe that’s a blessing in disguise.
I stand up, straightening my sweater and slipping out the door. I might as well grab some food and take my mind of Yuu kun.
As I walk to the caf, a breeze joins me, matching my step. ‘Hello, Hitomi Hime, how are you today?’ he asks me with a coy grin.
[Daijoubu desu.] “I’m fine,” I say, accustomed to not looking at him as I walk.
‘Just fine? Nothing bothering you? He seems to already know that something is. I bet my erratic emotions about Yuu kun attracted him to me now.
“Nope,” I say in English, for extra finality.
I turn a corner and stop. It doesn’t look familiar. Did I pass the hall I was supposed to take to the caf? Or have I turned too early? I step backward, glancing around, unsure of where I am anymore.
‘Hmm? What’s the matter?’ Kaze Sama asks.
[Mayotte imasu.] “I’ve lost my way.” I say quietly.
‘I think it’s this way,’ he points, drifting down a hall. I watch his back, retreating down the hall, Kanata at his side. I’ve never seen him unsheath it, but it’s always there, at his side. I wonder why.
I step and follow after him. We don’t really talk the rest of the way. Turns out he was right, the caf was the next turn. I finally reach the caf and head to the kitchen. I love the magic note page Kaede kun showed me. As it turns out, I can write what I want in Japanese and it also gives me what I want.
I order an umeboshi onigiri and some sashimi and turn around, looking for a place to sit. I try to find an empty table, but it seems busy today. Unfortunately, I catch Nik kun’s eye and he waves me over. He’s sitting with the white-haired girl with the same accent as the iceman, Victor kun. What did Kaede kun say again? That they were brother and sister? I watch her nervously as I approach.
At the next table over, I spot Cliff kun, occasionally glancing up with a frown and looking back down at his plate of food. He doesn’t seem to happy to see Nik kun and Selene san, or me, for that matter. Did they do something to upset him? Usually, he’s very friendly and boisterous. I wonder…
I take a timid seat next to Nik kun, across from Selene san and set my plate down.
“Kon- uh…. Hello,” I say in English. The girl smiles at me.
“Hey!” Nik kun grins. “Where’ve you been hiding?”
“Hi-ding?” I repeat, not sure what that is. Yuu kun told me I had to look up words if I didn’t know them. His instructions feel an awful lot like English class in high school. I chew my lip, swiping my phone open and pulling up my Jishou (dictionary) app. I type.
It speaks back to me; It tells me, showing me the kanji. Ohhh…
“I was not hide…not… ano. Not hiding” I correct. I look down at my umeboshi onigiri. Maybe I should have taken this to my room… to hide.
Nik kun laughs. “I’m only teasing. Tell us, how are you liking it here?”
I look up. I think teasing is like joke, or jodan. I don’t know why that’s a joke. Wasn’t he asking me a question? Anyway… “Liking it, yes. It’s… big,” I say, remembering my text conversation with Yuu kun. That reminds me… maybe Nik kun or Selene san would know if he can come… should I ask? I suddenly find myself too shy. I pick up my umeboshi onigiri and take a small bite. Maybe I’ll ask after.
“So, I was just about to tell Selene here… Kaede mentioned something about arranging a trip back to Africa to find the stuff we left behind. I know you weren’t really… with us, at the time, but would you like to come along?” Nik kun explains, speaking slowly for me.
I still only catch about half the words. Something about Kaede kun, trip, Africa… I stare wide-eyed at him, trying to translate his words in my head. There seems to be a long awkward pause as I struggle through the message. “Ano… Yes…” I say by default. I really have no idea what he wants.
[Kaede-kun wa Afurika ni issho ni iku to iimashita. Nimotsu wo nokoshita. Issho ni kimasu ka?] “Going back to Africa to find our things.” Selene san answers in Japanese.
I nearly choke on my onigiri. “Mmm, ah, gomen. Hai! [I’m sorry, yes.] I reply, covering my mouth with my hand. She smiles.
Nik kun raises a thick eyebrow. “So, are you in?”
“In? I’m in what?” I ask. Why is his English so confusing?
“You’ll join us?”
“Ahh. Yes. I will join,” I say flustered. I notice Cliff kun stand and move his plate over to our table, a forced smile on his face.
“Hello! I hear you’re going to Africa. I could join you, perhaps. Never know when you might need a barrier or an alchemist.” He smiles broadly. With both Cliff kun and Nik kun at the table, a feel myself and Selene san are dwarfed by their brute size.
Nik nods. “Absolutely. Glad to have you on board!” Selene san does not look so happy. Is Cliff kun not welcome? I don’t want to ask, in case I make things worse. It’s not my business.
“That’s great! It’s been a while since I left the Guild. In fact, the last time I was out was when we found Selene. Do you remember that?” He asks, turning to her with an interesting expression on his face. I don’t really know how to describe it, except that he looks like he expects her to answer.
She glances at him from the side of her eye, her tone almost bored. “How could I forget?”
He laughs somewhat nervously. “I kept bringing her food because she wouldn’t talk to me. I don’t know why maybe she thought I was a bad guy. But I’m just a good friend. I was worried,” he beams.
“Ano… How do – did you meet?” I ask, hoping I didn’t miss that already. Cliff speaks rather slow, but I still only understand a little.
“That’s a good question, Hitomi,” he says. I blush at the use of my name without the honorific. I’m still not used to how foreigners don’t use them when they talk. “It was a few months ago now, wasn’t it?” he asks Selene san.
She nods, with a smile that makes me nervous. “Yes. I recall I was waiting to succumb to starvation so I could reform, kill you, and make my escape. I’d already figured you weren’t working with Logan; he wasn’t so naive.”
Cliff kun’s smile fades. He looks away and nods as if thinking to himself. “Well, whenever you go to Africa, let me know I’d be glad to help out,” he says if not a little sadly.
I nervously look between Selene san and Cliff kun as he gets up to leave. I can’t help be feel that was a little harsh, even if I didn’t understand every word. I slowly return to my own lunch, trying not to be in the way. This only seems to remind me Victor kun, though.
“Sorry about that,” Selene san smiles at me. “How do you like your new room?”
“Ano, I like. It’s very… Japanese,” I smile nervously. Did that make sense? I hope so.
“Good,” Selene chuckles. “I’m glad you’re comfortable.”
“Comfortable?” I ask her, confirming the word. “Nani?”
She purses her lips in thought, before responding with the Japanese word. “Kaiteki”
“Ahh, hai. Kaiteki desu ne,” [Yes, it is comfortable,] I nod. How does Yuu kun do so well at English? It just makes me… so nervous.
I hear a ding from both of their phones and nearly jump. I wasn’t expecting that. Selene pulls out her phone, checking the message. I finish my onigiri in silence, trying to work up the courage to ask them if I can invite Yuu kun to visit.
Selene san looks up at Nik kun. “I’m guessing you got the same message?” he nods. She hums, her eyes shift to me. “Kaitlyn wants us to meet her in the training rooms. Will you come?”
“Training? Ok,” I look up, pulled from my thoughts. Maybe I’ll wait. “My…” I gesture to my outfit, “Clothses, I change?” I ask. When I train I wear a traditional hakama, as the Kannushi do.
Selene san nods. “We should all change. Let’s head back to the dorms.”
We all stand, scraping the legs of the chairs on the floor. I pick up my plate and look around for the return place. When I don’t see one, I look to Selene san. “Ano… osara… bowl – no, plate. Doko… where put?” I ask, feeling heat in my cheeks.
Selene san blinks and points to the counter at the back. “There is fine.”
“Thank you,” I nod, returning the plate and joining them back to the dorms. I pay extra attention to the way back, just to make sure I commit it to memory. When we get to the hall, I place my hand on the handle, hesitating. I don’t know why, but… I still wanna ask Selene san.
“Anoo… Selene san. I have a question,” I say slowly. She stops at her door, turning to face me. I bite my lip working out the English in my head. “My friend is wanting to come… meet me here. Ano… this ok?” I ask her.
She blinks a few times. “I don’t see why not. We should ask Kaitlyn later. She’s been here the longest.”
I chew the inside of my lip, processing Selene san’s response. “Not ok?” I ask, unsure.
“I think it is ok.” She answers slowly. “Does your friend know about magic?”
“Oh, ok. Thank you,” I reply. I chew my lip again, thinking about her second question. “Yes. I think so. I say to him before I am Wind. He say… no… He said OK,” I attempt.
She stares at me for a long moment, nodding slowly. “Alright. I’ll talk to Kaitlyn, see what we can do.”
“Thank you!” I bow politely. I’m so happy! I will wait for her to tell me it’s OK. I straighten up look at them both. “Shitsureshimasu,” [Excuse me,] I say. I turn around and slip into my room, nearly colliding into Kaze Sama.
“Eee!” I jump, leaning back against the door.
‘You were great! Your English is improving. So, Yamaguchi Yuu, hmm?’ he teases with a smirk.
“Baka,” [Idiot,] I grumble, walking around him and roaming my closet for my Hakama.
‘Ohh, don’t be like that. It was adorable, Hitomi Hime. I am excited for this training. Shall we show them what we can do?’ he asks playfully.
I roll my eyes, pulling off my sweater and changing into the hakama. Kaze Sama can be so obnoxious. I’d rather not show off, that’s rude to do. I don’t know what the others can do, or how this training will go. I doubt it is anything like I’m used to. We’ll have to see.
By Kayla West