Sora made it to lunch without incident and walked to the meeting spot. She wasn’t surprised to find the two leaning against some trees by the sidewalk.
Jin observed the cars around the parking lot with interest as a few students went out for lunch. “Do you have a machine like these? I heard they’re called ‘cars.’ ”
How else did she get across town than take a car or bus? How did she get to America?
“You have to be sixteen to drive one of them and pass the right tests.” Sora watched Eyia’s blue irises assess every person in sight.
Jin nodded, watching a few cars pull out of the parking lot. “I see—of course, there would be a test.”
“I’ve already passed the tests; I just need to turn sixteen. So, I can drive in nine days, and my dad will probably try and surprise me with some car.”
Jin hummed curiously. “Your birthday is in nine days?”
Sora nodded as she motioned for them to follow her. “Yeah, I was born on August thirty-first—at twelve, midnight—like in the morning on the thirty-first—it’s kind of complicated explaining it.”
Jin nodded. “I understand. That certainly is interesting—nine days,” she said while looking her up and down, and Eyia followed her example. “Could it be possible?” Jin whispered, looking up to study the sky.
Sora glanced at Jin from the corner of her eyes. Shaking her head, she said, “I thought we’d eat at an Italian restaurant—but I only brought forty dollars with me. Restaurants like that are usually pretty expensive; so, we’ll probably have to buy two meals and split them.”
“That’s fine,” Jin said.
Sora began to feel a little self-conscious under Eyia’s continued scrutiny. They turned down the next block before Sora asked, “Is there something you want to say, Eyia?”
Shaking her head, Eyia turned to look at the landscape with Jin.
Well, okay then…
Sora’s eyes popped open, and a wide grin spread across her cheeks as the divine scent wafted through the air. This time it was even more angelic. “That’s the smell! I want it,” Sora whispered with saliva gathering in her mouth.
Jin and Eyia sniffed and frowned. “There’s a lot of food in the area. What are you referring to?” Jin asked.
“I don’t know,” Sora replied as she picked up her pace.
Following Sora’s lead, they made their way to Purdy Avenue. Arriving at the Italian restaurant, they went inside; she noted there were only a few customers as she went straight for a waiter. “Table for three.”
Nodding, the waiter led them across the floor. Sora stopped as she tracked the scent to a man in a booth playing with his cellphone. “I want whatever that man’s having,” she stated as she stared at the meat on the man’s plate.
“Okay,” the waiter said as he took out a piece of paper, “the Coniglio. It’s a classic Italian recipe, rabbit braised in dijon mustard and white wine added with some spices and bacon. It comes with leeks and sautéed spinach on the side. The cost is thirty-two dollars.”
“Thirty-two dollars,” Sora repeated with a pit growing in her stomach.
Jin giggled. “You don’t have to worry about me. I assume that your nose is telling your stomach it wants rabbit.” She stared down at the meat on the man’s plate with a distasteful frown.
The waiter gestured for them to sit at a four-seater table. Sitting with a slump, Sora nodded. Eyia and Jin took their seats across from her.
Jin rested her head on the back of her right hand. “Eyia would be your friend for life if you gave her the spinach and leeks.” Eyia’s brow creased as she looked between them, question in her eyes. “If you promise to take us back to your place after school and order something for me, I’ll be perfectly content not eating,” Jin added with a devilish grin.
“Deal,” Sora said, perking up.
The waiter had a smile on his face as he listened to the conversation end and said, “Right, water then?”
Sora nodded. “Thank you,” glancing at his nametag, she added, “Fletcher.” Fletcher left to deliver her order.
Eyia turned to Jin and started speaking Asgardian, probably trying to determine what was going on. Jin’s response must not have been satisfactory, because Eyia looked very suspicious as she scrutinized everyone around them.
Jin shrugged and turned to look at a man that was talking on a phone in another language at a table next to them. When his conversation ended, Jin turned to him and started speaking in the same language. He seemed to enjoy her intrusion; Sora got the word Français out of the man’s response, and the two began talking pleasantly.
[i.e. Français – French]
Maybe Jin can speak every language?
Eyia still looked uneasy as she stared around the room. Fletcher brought their waters shortly; Eyia eyed him and Jin warily, speaking several indistinguishable words.
Cutting the chat with the man for a moment, Jin made an extravagant gesture and spoke a few words of Asgardian before returning to her talk with the Frenchman.
Eyia huffed and folded her arms across the table, resting her head on them. She stared blankly at Sora, ignoring the water. Her infinitely deep blue eyes unnerved Sora as she stared into them. Finally, clearing her voice, Sora asked, “What, uh, do you like to do with your free time, Eyia?”
Eyia straightened as she thought about how to respond. After a moment, she worked through her statement. “I—war.”
Jin leaned back, breaking her discussion again, and let out an irritated sigh as she stared at Eyia, lifting a finger to let the Frenchman know she needed a second. Switching to Asgardian, she began talking to Eyia, who looked even more confused than before. Pressing her palm to her forehead, Jin said a few more phrases, before returning to the Frenchman’s conversation.
“Is something wrong?” Sora asked Jin, trying not to cut off their chat.
Sighing with frustration, Jin waved to the Frenchman, saying a few more words. Turning to Sora, she said, “Eyia doesn’t understand the concept of a restaurant, and she has a rather silly superstition that is making her think this is a trap. It’s hard for me to explain it in her language without it seeming a little suspicious, so obviously … we’re becoming vexed with each other. I say it’s fine; she sees a threat.”
Sora hummed with concern.
What kind of threat does she see? Is someone going to try and stab us or poison our food?
The three of them turned as Fletcher brought Sora’s order. She scooted back a little as Eyia pointed at the food and began talking to Jin in a heated tone; the outlandish dialect started to draw attention from the other customers. Jin’s fingers pressed against her forehead as she responded to Eyia.
Sighing, Sora took the second plate out from underneath the first and scooped the vegetables onto it, handing the plate to Eyia with an extra fork and gesturing for her to eat.
Eyia huffed with a furrowed brow but followed Sora’s example as she picked up a fork and started poking at the spinach. She soon got the hang of it and lifted a piece to her lips and bit into it. Her features shifted from uncertainty to a brilliant smile, and she began scarfing down the food. Jin threw her arms up in defeat, muttering a few words in French before sullenly watching her eat.
Sora noticed the Frenchman chuckling next to them. Licking her lips, Sora was about to look down at her anticipated food when she froze; a clear tinkle resounded around the entire area, muting all other sounds in Sora’s mind. Looking out the window, she found a thin black cat staring right at her from across the road atop a car hood.
Sora could clearly see its bright amber irises directly aimed at her. There was a golden earring attached to its left ear and a brass bell around its right back leg. Its most notable feature was the two tails weaving behind it. Both tails were ink-black with dark red tips. A large truck rolled by the window and the two-tailed cat vanished.
A cat with two tails … that’s strange.
She stared down at the cooked rabbit in front of her, mouth watering as the smell wafted up her nostrils. Fingers shaking, she stabbed the braised rabbit with her fork and cut off a piece with her knife. She bit into it, tears leaked from her eyes as the blissful flavor washed across her tongue and down her throat. It was sweet, and the spices made her tongue pop. She licked her lips and pressed her tongue against the roof of her mouth, savoring the flavor as she swallowed. Then she noticed Eyia and Jin’s startled expressions.
“Is it really that good?” Jin asked.
Wiping at her eyes, Sora nodded. “Yeah, it’s astonishing! Like a symphony of flavors washing through my mouth.”
Jin folded her arms. “Humph, in my opinion, rabbit has a rather dull flavor. Now yak, that’s a flavor!”
Within minutes, Sora had torn the rabbit to shreds, swallowing the pieces of food in bite-sized chunks.
How can anything taste this good? I’ve never had something with this much flavor and depth.
Eyia glared at Fletcher as he brought their bill in a black book. He left hurriedly as Eyia’s blue eyes scorched his back. Jin said a few words in Asgardian and Eyia turned her chary stare in her direction.
Jin’s head dropped to the table with a long, drawn-out sigh, her black hair falling around her. Sora barely even heard her responses as she ate the rest of her rabbit within two minutes. When she was finished, she sat back with a sigh.
It’s far from satisfying, but the flavor is phenomenal.
“What—now?” Eyia asked, still looking distrustfully around them at the waiters and waitresses.
“We go back to school for an hour and a half,” Sora said, wiping her mouth with a napkin.
Jin let a stream of air blow through her lips. “An hour and a half!”
Sora chuckled. “Korean schools are supposed to be much longer.”
“Really?” Jin asked.
Sora nodded and took her wallet out of her back pocket, placing the forty dollars in the booklet and shutting it. Setting it on the table, she gestured for the two to follow. Eyia lifted from her chair with a cold stare around the restaurant; it was so frigid that every customer diverted their eyes with a shudder and even Sora felt a tingle run down her spine.
The frosty environment shattered as Jin patted Eyia in the middle of her back, making her stumble forward a few steps; speaking in Asgardian with a shake of her head as they made their way out of the restaurant.
Heading back to the school with Jin passively talking to Eyia, they stopped as Sora’s ears picked up her name being tossed around; the tone made her skin bristle as a rancid scent drowned out the rabbit’s flavor. Staring across the school parking lot, she saw forty girls standing around a host of cars and in the center, Kari. She stared right back; her glare evident even across the lot.
“I doubt those are friends of yours,” Jin mused, studying the girls.
Sora shivered as an icy sensation spread across her body, and she could see her own breath; the chill radiated through her, suffocating the warm sun. Looking sideward, Sora saw Eyia standing tall, her head high as her glowing blue irises glared in Kari’s direction.
What’s going on?
Stunned, Sora watched every girl around Kari shiver sharply and quiver as their breath fogged. Kari’s eyes were cold as she scowled at Eyia; she was the only one not shivering, but Sora followed a lump in Kari’s neck that flowed down her throat.
The frosty atmosphere broke as Jin effortlessly pressed against Eyia’s lower rib cage, forcing her off balance and making her stumble a few steps. Sora noticed how great of a feat that was. Eyia wasn’t extremely muscular, but she seemed to be in fantastic physical condition, and over two meters tall. Yet Jin, this tiny Korean girl, slightly pressed against her and threw this giant off balance.
Sora’s eyes snapped back to Kari as a very small tremor ran down her frame, and she gestured for her group to follow her back into the school.
What … Kari’s backing off? She’s not going to come over and pick a fight?
Jin glared up at Eyia with an expression that said really. Eyia let a haughty huff shoot out her nostrils and turned away from Jin, looking off in the distance.
Jin sounded spent. “Don’t get the wrong idea, Sora. I like hanging around you, but I don’t want to get involved in any of your feuds.” Glaring up at Eyia, she said, “And Eyia isn’t going to either.” She switched to Asgardian, and they both seemed to get into another argument.
Drawing out a breath, Sora smiled, noticing the heat was back. “I understand.”
No, I don’t want to bring them into Kari’s crosshair, and now I really don’t feel like going into class. It’s not like I need to … I mean, I’m planning on homeschooling next week. They don’t seem too interested in school, and I doubt they’re even enrolled, but they could be … might as well ask.
Perking up with a grin, Sora broke her two new acquaintances’ heated conversation. “How about we ditch school and head back to my place?”
The two stopped talking, and Jin’s vexation flipped to anticipation. “And I can order anything off the—what do you call it—room service? Right?”
How does she know I live in a hotel?
Feeling slightly nervous, Sora nodded. “Anything you want—Eyia can too if she’s still hungry.”
Jin shifted to Asgardian, and she spoke quickly, almost bouncing on her toes. Eyia’s expression lit into a vision of expectation and awe as she shouted, “Feast!”
Sora forced a laugh. “Yeah—a feast,” she repeated.
What am I getting myself into?