B1 — 10. Never Good Enough

Rachel opened her eyes; she rose as sounds tickled her ears and the scent of food lifted up her nose, causing her to swallow.  I can’t believe I forgot to eat before going to bed.  Was I that distracted? She looked down at her hands.  I’ve never felt so alert when waking … Scarlet and Maria aren’t awake yet.  Her ears picked up a nurse recount the time, nine o’clock.

Pulling her hair to her side, she moved to the edge of the bed.  Julia and Richard brought food up from the kitchen, a soup.  I wonder if I can still eat meat? I smell it in the soup, and I’m not repulsed.  Wait, it’s almost pitch black in here, and I can still see perfectly fine. I guess I have night vision too, cool.  I could see perfectly fine last night, so I shouldn’t be surprised.

She noticed a new set of clothes by her bed with slight horror; a white fitted shirt, black overcoat, red tie, light pink skirt, white socks, brown leather loafers, red sports bra, and black underwear.  She thoroughly examined each item with desperate hope. They don’t have the Tempest brand, so, thankfully, I can’t wear them; I’ve never seen this moon shaped logo before.  Julia must have been noting my size when I was looking through all those clothes.

She breathed a sigh of relief.  I am not into the whole Japanese school-girl outfits, sorry, Julia.  I didn’t notice anyone walking into the room to drop these off. I thought I would wake up or realize something was wrong … perhaps it’s another skill to be unlocked.  Her vision lingered on the outfit before she walked out of the room.

Julia and Richard smiled as she exited.  Taking a quick scan of the area, she noted a few of Mateo’s men stationed around the room; two of them were asleep in chairs, gear still on.  Everyone but the two sleeping soldiers turned to acknowledge her.

Julia’s bubbly atmosphere hadn’t changed.  “Good morning, Ms. Park. Did you see the clothes I left for you?”

Adding a fake apologetic smile, Rachel sighed.  “Sorry, Julia, but they aren’t from the company I’m signed with, so I can’t wear them.”

Her bright smile didn’t diminish in the slightest.  “Oh, Moonlight or Gekkō, in Japanese, is owned by Uplift Inc., the same people that own Tempest; it’s perfectly fine within the confines of the contract.”  Crap, don’t tell me…  “I was able to talk to one of the board members, and we got talking about what clothes would suit you for the next photo shoot for an Eastern audience.”  I don’t think she just so happened to bump into a board member … what, is she my agent now?  She really wants to make this fantasy of hers come true…

She took a deep breath, keeping her smile in place.  “You shouldn’t have—and another photo shoot so soon?”

Richard seemed amused as he studied her.  “Indeed. Apparently, in just the last few hours, your photos have been a massive hit in Japan.  They want to keep that momentum.” Of course, why wouldn’t a big company have other brands … there goes my hopes at just sporting goods, but I did make the deal.  The photo shoots were a part of the contract, and it wasn’t specified that it would be only sports clothes … it’s not that bad, I guess.  I still get the sports clothes. “By the way,” his vision moved to the room Maria was sleeping in.  “Maria was able to shift around the contract since it wasn’t complete without both her and Scarlet’s signature.  You’ll have to sign the new document.”

Her brow furrowed.  “What did she change?”  Did she have something to do with this new clothing line?

He leaned back with a hum.  “You weren’t paying attention to her conversation?”  Crap, he’s pushing for a weakness on my hearing.  I could let him know I can only focus on one conversation at a time, but recognize keywords and people’s voices to refocus … no, that’s a bad idea.

“What did she change?”  She asked, bypassing his question.

“I see,” he muttered, but Julia cut in with a giggle.

“She worked out a deal by sales.  You get a small amount of money for each item you showcase; she’s quite the negotiator.  It’s a very small amount, but still amazing she was able to work out the deal. Oh, and we were able to find your citizen records and get in contact with your parents.”  Rachel tensed, every other worry vanished at Julia’s statement. Did they tell them about my change?

Richard’s lips dropped a little.  “We didn’t tell them about your change; we left it up to you on how to explain it.  We just let them know you were alright and that you’d call them when you awoke.”

“Thank you,” Rachel breathed a sigh.

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Julia nodded as she walked over to hand her a phone.  “You can use my phone; if you need it, your father’s number is the first one on the recently called list.”  She turned to grab a bowl and spoon on a tray. “We have two big pots of soup here. We didn’t know if you could eat meat or not; hares have been known to be omnivorous.”  She glanced at Maria’s room, “Horses on the other hand, while they can eat meat, studies show it is unhealthy for them. So we have one with chicken and one without.”

Richard hummed.  “For Scarlet, we assumed she would drink blood for all her nutrients, but didn’t want to assume either.  We brought some blood packs, just in case; it would be interesting to see if she could eat food mixed with blood.”  He mused.

Rachel smiled as she rubbed the surface of the smartphone in her hand.  “Thank you for thinking about us. I’ll just go back inside to talk to my parents.”  The butterflies in her stomach increased. This is it … what’s going on with the family?

They nodded, and she shut the door behind her.  Sitting on the bed, she inputted her dad’s personal phone number, but her finger hovered over the call icon.  How will it turn out?  I guess it depends on how Mythickin are being seen.  They wouldn’t want anything reflecting negatively on the company.  One of them could be changed too … I should prepare for the worst case … please, don’t resent me.

Swallowing, she completed the call; it rang a few times before her father’s calm, deep voice spoke Korean on the other end.

Sung, I hear that you are doing well, but why would you be at a hospital?  There was a CDC outpost at your school.”

Clearing her throat, she responded in Korean.  “Yes, I’m not hurthow is the family?”  She tried skirting around his question.

Her father was silent for a moment.  “Your cousin, Soo-geun, has changed into a Bear type Beastkin.  Your brother has developed an ability; he can create some form of energy based constructs to command at will.  He single-handedly put a stop to several escaped convicts that attacked the local police department; he will be awarded a medal of valor.”  He’s pleased with Nam’s accomplishment, even though he changed.  What have I done? I repelled a terrorist group, two ability users the military are having a hard time with.

Her attention snapped back as her dad asked, “I can tell by your voice that something has changed; your voice is less harsh on the ears.  How did you change?” That’s just like you…

Taking a deep breath, she said, “I changed into a Lunar Hare—a Mythickin.”  She hurriedly followed the statement, “I repelled two terrorist ability users; one was a teleporter, and the other had a shield ability.  They’re the ones that took over Miami Beach.”

Her father was silent for a moment.  “You turned into one of those Mythickin.”  He let the statement hang for a time, Rachel’s stomach squirming at his silence.  “You repelled—meaning they escaped. Tell me more about the incident.”

Rachel’s fingers gripped her side as she stared down at the floor, fear digging into her stomach.  “They—had a hostage. I broke their shield and seriously wounded one, but before I could rescue the hostage or finish off the terrorists—they teleported away…”  The following silence was painful.

“If you could not handle the situation, you should not have gotten involved.”  Her breath caught at the implication. Nam could have handled it … a failure again.  “Don’t cause any more trouble and let the authorities handle it.”  Don’t shame the family name…  He ended the call.

Her hand lowered, fingers trembling with frustration.  Nam goes out and saves a police department, and I let terrorists escape with a hostage.  Her teeth clamped together as she glared at the window for several seconds.  I can never do anything right!  Her fist slammed against the patient support bar attached to the bed; her fist cleaved through the first and second aluminum bar.  She cursed as she held up the destroyed phone in her grip. Julia, Richard, and a few of the soldiers jumped at the sharp sound she’d made.

“What was that?”  Julia asked.

“Sounded like screeching metal,” Richard muttered.

Cameron knocked on the door.  “Rachel, you okay?”

She took a deep, calming breath.  I’ll save everyone in Miami Beach; what can Nam do to top that?  “Yeah, sorry for startling all of you.”  She called back. Rising to her feet, she let some of the fragments of the smashed phone drop to the tile floor.  She stared at the fragments and damaged railing. I lost my temper … I don’t remember being so volatile, and it always happens with my family … I lose composure.

Sighing, she walked out of the room, both Julia and Richard looked concerned.  Swallowing as she looked down at the former phone in her grip, she said, “I’m sorry, Julia.  I crushed your phone.”

“It’s—fine,” she muttered, taking it back to examine.  “It’s under insurance and backed up…”

Richard moved to the door, looking inside to study the bed; his vision returned to Rachel.  “Ms. Park, did the conversation with your parents go poorly?”

Rubbing her shoulder, she shrugged.  “My brother rescued a police department, and I let terrorists escape with a hostage.”  Now I sound petty.  “It just reminded me that Maria’s brother is still being held hostage and I couldn’t stop it.”  Richard frowned with a few of the soldiers.

“You can’t blame yourself for that,” Cameron said with concern.

Roger nodded, posted up by the exit.  “He’s right, there was a teleporter, even with your speed you can’t beat an instant escape.”

Rachel resisted locking her jaw, only seeing her failure in his statement; she wasn’t good enough, but Nam would be.  “I guess you’re right,” she faked a smile, hearing Scarlet and Maria get out of bed. “It looks like Maria and Scarlet are…”  She paused as Scarlet appeared from the shadows a few feet away from her, eyes void black without the red glow.

Her arcus senilis returning to normal soon after.  “Rachel, why do I smell anxiety on you? Everything okay?”  Seriously, c’mon Scarlet!

“Anxiety?”  Julia questioned.

Maria yawned as she left her room, looking as radiant as ever with her faint glow, spotless skin, and perfect hair; she was dressed in the company’s sports attire.  “¿Que es eso? What’s the liebre blanca scared of?”

“I’m just concerned about your brother?”  Rachel dodged the implications with a depressed sigh.

“Eh?”  Maria’s eyes shot open.  “Did you hear something bad?  Esos wey lastiman a mi hermanito!”

Rachel shook her head, hair shifting gently.  “No, I haven’t heard anything; something just reminded me that he was still a hostage.”  All of this because I couldn’t hold in my temper…

She nodded.  “Right,” turning to Roger, she asked, “has the military rescued him yet?”

“We haven’t heard anything as of yet, but they’re doing everything they can,” Cameron said with confidence.  “They’ll rescue your brother; I know some of the men that are in charge of that operation, and they’re well trained.”

Scarlet was looking at Rachel with pursed lips, but she didn’t pursue the topic; her eyes moving to a cooler before she licked her lips.  “Blood bags.” She said with glee.

Maria huffed as she glared at Cameron.  “Fine, let me know if anything changes—by the way, what’s up with those prep clothes in my room?”

“Hey, I had some too!”  Scarlet said with a bright smile, vision glued to the cooler.  “It looked like something Japanese students would wear in anime.”

Julia cleared her throat, a bright smile returning.  “It’s a part of the contract that Rachel and Maria worked out with Uplift Inc.; the company is trying to appeal to some of its Eastern audience.  Your previous photos are a big hit out there, Maria.”

A charming smile lit her cheeks.  “Oh? We raking in cash?”

She nodded.  “I’d say a decent amount from what I’ve heard.”

Maria chuckled.  “This is way easier than hustling on the street!  A few pictures and we’re getting paid royalties. If I start my own healing practice with the photo royalties, then my neighborhood will be set.  Barbecues every week! By the way, what’s that smell? You got some food?”

Richard eyed Rachel for a few moments before turning his attention to Maria.  “Yes, we’d like to find out which one you like more. Why don’t you try a sample real fast?”  He asked, adding a bit of each in separate bowls. At least everyone’s attention is off me, and Maria has a point.  This could be a much better way to get money than a part-time job.

“Now you’re talking,” Maria said with a soft laugh that Rachel assumed was meant to be much louder.  She took the first bowl offered by Richard as Scarlet opened the cooler, examining each of the packs of blood with a scrutinizing eye.  “Bottoms up,” Maria said, taking a bite. Her face flushed a bit as she spat it back out. “Ack, what is this, rotten? ¿Tratando de envenenarme viejo?”

Richard hummed with interest as he took the bowl back, handing her the next one.  “I see, so, meat doesn’t taste good to Unicorns.”

“Excuse me?”  Maria muttered.  “I love meat! Me parrilla con los amigos todo el tiempo.”

Julia chuckled.  “What you just ate was a soup made from chicken; the other is potato soup.”

“No,” Maria said stubbornly.  “I’m a carnívoro! That was just rotten.”  She accepted the next bowl and swallowed a spoonful.  “See, this is good soup! None of that rotten stuff in that other one.  Should go double check the kitchens!” Rachel grabbed her own bowl of chicken soup as Scarlet chose a blood bag, smiling at Maria’s shaking head.  “I wouldn’t do it, liebre blanca.”

Frowning, Rachel sat down in one of the chairs near the wall.  “What does that mean? You keep calling me that.”

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“It means white hare,” Julia said with a bright smile.  Shifting to watch Scarlet tear into a blood bag.  “Scarlet, can you eat normal food too?” She responded by shaking her head, intent on sucking out the blood.  “That right,” Julia muttered as Richard kept writing notes in his tablet.

“Got it,” Rachel nodded.

“Tu hablas español?”  Maria questioned.

“Si,” Julia grabbed a bowl of potato soup before turning to Scarlet.  “How is that blood?”

Scarlet winked at her as the package dropped from her lips.  “Your blood is wonderful, Julia. Nice and peppy!” She said with a bright smile.  “It has a soothing taste with a dash of envy.”

Julia giggled.  “I guess I can’t hide that from a Vampire.  I am envious that I wasn’t affected by The Oscillation; I’m sure I won’t be the only one once things get a little more normal.  One out of every one-hundred and fifty people isn’t rare, but still rare enough. Not only that, but I’m around a few of the very small percentiles of Mythickin.  How could I not be envious and joyful at the same time?” Everyone fell silent as they ate; Maria grumbling as she watched Rachel eat the chicken soup without issue.  Richard invited the soldiers over to join them.

When Scarlet finished her bag, she went to grab another bag before returning to Rachel’s side.  “So, Rachel, what did you do this morning?”

She hummed.  “I tested out some of my abilities during the daylight.”

Scarlet sighed.  “Yes, daylight, the thing I’ll likely never feel again without risk of pain and death.  So, how was the sun?”

“Not that great; turns out Lunar Hares get weaker in the daylight … a lot weaker.”

Her eyes lit up.  “You’re nocturnal, like me!  So, I’m not alone.” She said with a bright smile.  “What about the Unicorn?”

Maria shrugged.  “Not a clue. So far, I’ve got pretty good ears, nothing like the liebre blanca, but decent.  Between a bit of abnormal strength and healing, that’s all I got. You know, I wonder if I could purify Vampires?”

Scarlet’s eyes widened.  “That’s a good question! We should find out sometime.”  Her smile was bright as she sucked a little on her blood pack.

“Tch, you scared of anything?”

Scarlet looked thoughtful as she hummed, bag dropping from her lips.  “Honestly, the biggest concern would be the sun, but other than that, not really.  Oh, but maybe ultraviolet light could hurt me! I’d be the easy sauce vampire from the movies.”

Rachel chuckled.  “Scarlet, how can you be so carefree?”

“That’s what I want to know,” Maria muttered, taking another bite of soup.

Scarlet went silent as she looked off into the corner, features passive for a moment before she grinned.  “I have to be; if I let myself feel emotion, then I could break.” A shiver ran up Rachel’s spine at the subtle tremors in her voice that only she could detect.

Richard’s hands paused against his tablet as Maria set her bowl to the side.  “I get that,” Maria huffed. “My life’s crazy too.”

“I’m sure it is,” Scarlet chuckled.

Maria’s lips turned into a scowl.  “You don’t think my life’s crazy?”

Scarlet’s brow creased with confusion.  “I didn’t say that?”

“No, but that wasn’t the truth.  I can feel it in my gut.”

Julia hummed with interest.  “Some Unicorn myths say they can detect lies.”  I couldn’t detect any lie from Scarlet’s body.

“Whatever it is,” Maria growled.  “You think your life is worse than mine?”

Scarlet’s cheer didn’t diminish.  “I think we all have things that are rough on us.”

“But your life is so much worse than mine.  Is that right?”

Rachel broke into the conversation.  “Hey, Maria … even if Scarlet feels that way, she’s not antagonizing you.”

Scarlet huffed.  “Maria, I’m sure you had a rough time, and I hope you never have to go through something like … let’s just drop it.”

Maria looked down at the floor.  “You actually meant that … why would you truly care for me?”

“I don’t,” Scarlet said with a sad smile.  “I just wouldn’t wish what happened to me to happen to anyone.”

“Huh,” Maria’s white eyebrows furrowed.

Scarlet’s bright smile returned as she quickly sucked down the blood pack.  “Julia, your blood is the best!”  

Breathing a sigh of relief, Julia chuckled nervously.  “Thanks, I’m glad you enjoy it.”

Red bag hiding her mouth, Scarlet whispered, “When are we going to leave?”  Maria stiffened.

“Whenever we get a chance,” Rachel whispered back, hiding her lips behind her bowl.  “Can you transport other people in shadows?” She looked off toward the left wall. Carter is hanging out near the photo shoot area.  I guess he’s heard about our deal.

“No clue; I’ve never tried.  We’d have to be close together; it only goes around me.”

Richard cleared his throat as he finished his bowl and typing a few things.  “So, Julia, when is the photo shoot set? Once we finish with that, we can test their abilities.”

She noticed the three of them were just about finished with their bowls.  “Whenever they woke up and took a shower. I think going down to the staff showering area would cause too much commotion; you should just use the showers in the rooms here.  I’ll hurry down and tell them to start setting up. You finish your food and shower; I have different products you can use—just behind here.” She moved behind the nurse station and pulled out some bottles and towels.

After handing them each a few containers, she raced out of the area.  She really wants us to get into these new clothes.  Is dressing in these ridiculous clothes worth free sporting goods?  Yes, yes it is. So, I shouldn’t complain. They get products sold, and I get clothes, and thanks to Maria, a bit of cash too.  She’s so touchy, but straight forward. I like that about her, but Scarlet seems to have a much deeper past than I first thought.

Making up her mind, Rachel whispered, “We can leave after the photo shoot.  We’ll try to teleport outside when Scarlet gets a pair of sports clothes.” She noticed Maria’s slight nod, showing she was listening.

Scarlet smiled.  “I’d like to take a shower before going out; I haven’t bathed since turning into a Vampire.”

“Okay,” she stood, stretching a little.  “We can just go into the rooms we chose.”

Finishing her last spoonful, Maria nodded, features serious.  “Right.”

They each went into their rooms to shower; finishing quickly, Rachel grimaced as she studied the Japanese sailor outfit, patting her hair down.  She heard Maria’s thoughtful tone before she muttered something in Spanish, examining her matching outfit a few minutes later. Julia’s squeals of excitement below caught her attention as she talked with the photographer downstairs.  She’s way too excited about this.  She giggled a little.  She’s so bright all the time, and since Scarlet changed when drinking her blood, it’s no act.

Taking a deep breath, she picked up her undergarments.  Let’s get on with this.  She dressed quickly but paused at the tie.  How the heck are you supposed to tie this thing?  Her attention shifted to Maria as she heard her put the tie on within seconds.  How did she do that?  What! Scarlet did it without a problem too … how do they know how to knot a tie?  She frowned, studying herself in the mirror.  At least the red bra doesn’t show through the shirt…  Giving up, she left the room, knocking on Maria’s door.

“What?”

“I need your help.”

“Eh?”  Opening the door, Maria studied her with a deep frown.  “What, you don’t know how to put on a tie?”

Rachel turned away, feeling her face flush a little.  “No…”

A smirk lit Maria’s lips.  “I had to do my little brother’s tie every Sunday.”  She chuckled as she took her tie, fitted it around her neck and tied it within seconds.  Loosening it, she handed it back. “There.”

“Thanks,” Rachel muttered.

“No—I should be the one thanking you.  You’re helping me get my brother back … he took—he’s had it rough.”  Her soft face lit with malice. “¡Quiero que arruines a esos wey! ¿Entendido, liebre blanca?”

Rachel sighed, “You know I can’t understand Spanish…”

“Beat the crap out of them for me, okay!”  She snarled.

She smiled.  “I plan on it.”

“Good, okay, let’s get the vampiro, finish this stupid photo thing, and ditch these fools.”

Scarlet appeared from the shadows in the corner.  “Both of you look really cute in those sailor outfits!”  Did she get some of Julia’s personality with her blood?

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