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B3 — 26. Shifting Focus

POV:  Rachel Sung Park

Recap:  Rachel did some self-reflection about her attitude toward her family and how The Oscillation may be forcing her to see things in a different light, and she’s shocked how much may have been tinted by her perception.  She got a call from Zoe, pleading for help as a gang stalks her.  Rachel directed her to Maria’s hood, telling her to drop her name and ask for protection.

Rachel pressed her tongue against her left cheek as her mom walked through the study to clean-up any leftover dishes from the morning, and her dad asked, “Has Rachel spoken to my dad yet?”

“I don’t know; she should be down in a bit, though.  She just finished up a shower.  You should mention Anthony,” she giggled.  “See if you can pull something out of her … oh, fudge, she can totally hear me.  Can’t she?”

“I bet she can,” Nam chuckled.  “Why are you suddenly so interested in Rachel’s love life?”

“Because she never even mentioned any boys in the past!  This is the first one,” her mother huffed.  “I just want to know what about him has caught her eye.  Scarlet paints quite the picture.”

“Molly,” her dad breathed out a soft sigh.  “Don’t get the girl in trouble with Rachel.”

“Nonsense!  Why would she be in trouble?”

Both Nam and her father took a long breath before letting the conversation die, returning back to the news.  Her mother lingered for a moment, likely giving them a challenging look, but after realizing they wanted no further part in the discussion, she left back to Scarlet.

Scarlet definitely heard them.  Rachel pulled her hair around while falling to her back, fingers twirling around a few locks.  I bet she’s red-faced right now.  She gets embarrassed so easily, and mom probably weaseled it out of her.  I guess it’s true I never really talked about any guys I liked, but it’s not like Anthony’s the first.

Her lips became a line as her vision closed, resting her forearm over her eyes.  Then I guess I fully admit it.  Yes, I’m attracted to Anthony … great.  It’s more than evident that he’s got a lot of baggage, and I don’t even know if he’s married, widowed, or anything in-between.

There’s no doubt he’s charming, and I believe he was attracted to me.  Of course, married guys can be attracted to other women, too.  Point being, I don’t know how far I could take a relationship with him … is that one of the reasons it’s so enticing?

Gah … now I’m trying to justify it like my mom’s standing in front of me, folding her arms with that impish smile.  She was always like that with Nam … I suppose it’s about time she turned that nose onto me.  No, I can’t make this into another competition!

Nam had plenty of girlfriends before he married Alexa.  I can’t believe I only thought about their marriage as some kind of business arrangement.  I only saw what I wanted to see, but ever since I got back … since my change, I’ve seen things a little differently.  I was extremely judgemental before; maybe I still am.

Still, before I would never have hung around someone like Scarlet … she requires so much attention; it’s harsh but true.  Now, Maria … there’s someone I’d never hang out with before The Oscillation, and I’d consider Fiona just a waste of my time.  I was so focused and driven that I probably pushed away any potential friends, either that or I was utterly oblivious to it.

She pressed her head back, ears held above her messy bed as she organized her thoughts.  The checklist … Zoe, grandpa, mom and dad’s stress, Scarlet’s internal conflict, and Soo-geun.  My immediate concern would be Zoe with her situation, but I can’t do much during the day; plus, I don’t know how I might act if I let the sun wash away the energy in my Lunar Pool.

“Huh,” Rachel mumbled, opening her eyes a little to stare around her arm at the ceiling.  I’m scared to lose this feeling.  I want to help Zoe, but I also want to enjoy it, and for some reason, I believe it would ruin the fun if I got rid of the energy I got on that alien moon.

I could have directed Zoe to the police or FBI.  I’m sure David would be interested, now that he’s been appointed as the new Assistant Director over the Department of Demi Affairs.  Demi being exploited by gangs would be a decent case to make a public address to score political points.  I could pass it up the chain … but I want to handle it myself, and the prospect that it could get bloody makes my blood burn with excitement.

Okay, but think first; I need to be smart about this.  What’s the goal?  Zoe not being bothered by the gangsters … but that’s not everything she brought up in that conversation.  Being the target of some furry obsessed mobster is one thing; how she got into that situation is the key.  What she’s expecting isn’t just help from the men that are chasing her … she needs help with her first concern: cash, room, and communication with her family.

A low moan left Rachel’s throat, settling into a soft growl.  How do I get myself into these situations?  Am I a charity worker now?  Somehow, I keep ending up helping people out and telling myself that aiding them is just a side-product.  Is that really true, or are the goals I tell myself just sweet words to not admit that I want to help?

If I brought her back here, then I’d just be putting more stress on mom and dad, and I don’t think Alexa could emotionally handle another girl in the house right now.  Scarlet might even become jealous … who can say?  No, I need to find a different solution.

She sat up, vision narrowing as her ears tilted to the left.  Maria said she wanted to start a company for healing; it’s one of the conditions she made with the government.  If that’s the case, then maybe I can get her a job with Maria.  Zoe would probably be a good front desk attendant.  It’s an option.  I’ll need to bring it up with Maria first, of course.

Alright, next, grandpa and Soo-geun … girl troubles, and grandpa’s attempt to have some one-on-one time with me.  Her lips fell into a deep frown as she glared at her lap.  Is that my ego talking?  I don’t really know if that’s the reason grandpa wants me over; I shouldn’t assume and just call him.

Taking a long breath, she made the call to her grandfather’s house phone.  It only rang twice before a very deep, angry voice answered.  “Clare, why won’t you…”

“Woah,” Rachel cut in, pressing the phone into her lap.  “What’s with the fire, Soo-geun?”  She asked, brow furrowed as she scratched her temple.

“I … wait, Rachel?”

“Yeah,” she chuckled.  “I take it Clare is your girlfriend?”

“Ex-girlfriend, and cut it out with the whole Korean garbage … I’ve had enough of it with grandpa.  Just call me Creed.”

Rachel’s eyebrow raised, and she smirked.  “Creed … seriously, what kind of name is that?”

“It’s my nickname, okay?  What, got a problem with it?”

“Chill,” she muttered.  “I just haven’t spoken to you in a while.  How was I supposed to know you had a nickname like that?  Anyways, my dad told me you were changed into a Beastkin Bear.”

“What about it?  You calling to judge me, too?”

Rachel’s lips pursed, and she took a quick breath.  “Okay, Creed, I’m getting a bit tired of the heat.  Could you dial it back so we can actually talk, and why would I be judging you about being a Beastkin when I’m a Mythickin Lunar Hare?”

Her cousin didn’t respond, and Rachel rubbed her tongue against her teeth as she waited.  “A Mythickin … grandpa didn’t tell me you changed.  So, like that Vampire Mythickin kind of deal, but what, a Lunar Hare?  Do you have ears?”

She didn’t know why, but Soo-geun’s questions were beginning to annoy her, which caused her ears and tail to twitch with irritation.  “Let me get this straight, cousin.  I call to check up on you and grandpa, and the first thing you do is yell at me, not even making sure who you’re talking to.  Accuse me of judging you with no basis, and now, you’re comparing me to a mass murderer that has the whole country carrying pitchforks and torches, ready for a monster hunt?  How many bridges do you want to burn with me?”

Soo-geun made a few sounds like he was sucking on his lip before breathing out a long sigh.  “My bad, Rachel.  I just … my parents have been crap, and my girlfriend broke up with me, wanted to get back together, and then broke up with me again today.  I’m mad … I’m just always so mad, and I can’t punch something, or I’ll break it!”

Rachel let herself fall to her back again, holding the phone above her.  “What’s your Kind?”

“My what?”

“When we changed, we each got a Type, Race, and a Kind.  My Type is Mythickin, my Race is a Hare, and my Kind is Lunar.  I’m friends with a Mythickin Sunlit Unicorn and Mythickin Prismatic Fairy.  What are you?”

Her brow furrowed as she recalled Zoe’s statement days ago.  She’s a Domestic Cat Beastkin … well, that’s interesting.  That could tell a few things about her personality, and even some things that she might be suppressing right now.

“Eh … oh, cool, I’m a Beastkin Bear Berserker.”

And there it is…

“Do you have a Passive Skill called Feral Instinct?”

“One second … yeah, yeah, I do.  Huh, that’s pretty sick.  You can just ask any question you want?  How’d you figure all this out … crap, why won’t it tell me how to fix Clare’s personality?”

“Don’t be a tool,” Rachel muttered.  “I call it System-jjang; it basically tells you about your skills and abilities, but there’s a process to get the right information.  I haven’t mapped it out completely; I’m slowly getting used to it, though.”

“What’s up with everyone and their Korean crap; we’re in America, you don’t have to add jjang to everything … it’s annoying.”

Rachel rolled her eyes.  “You going through a hate your own culture phase or something?”

“Something like that,” he grunted.  “And it’s not my culture; I was born and raised American, with American friends, and American fast food, and American bands.  Every Tuesday was Korean only day for my parents … I hated it!”

Only allowed on

“I think you’re projecting all that pent up anger, cousin,” Rachel sighed.  “I get it, I really do, but you need to channel it somewhere else other than your girlfriend, grandpa, and your parents.”  Her eyes narrowed as she imagined the future possibilities.  “If you don’t, you might end up killing one of them by accident.”

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“Killing them by accident?”  Soo-geun scoffed.  “You think I could kill them?”

“Yes,” Rachel replied in a crisp tone.  “I know it because I could see myself doing it if I didn’t check myself.  If I let my emotions run wild, then I have no doubt I could be no different than the Seattle Vampire.  I won’t, and I’m not like him, but do I have the capability?  Yes, I do, and so do you.”

“Wait … you’re serious?”

“I am.  Take a step back, and really think about it.  We changed, and not just a little.  You need to learn how to channel that rage.  You’re a berserker, and you should be just as aware of what that word means as much as I do.  My Fairy friend has a very similar problem that she needs to look out for.”

“Fairy friend … she has a similar problem?”  He asked, tone still showing his doubt.

“Okay … lookup on YouTube, fairy fireball Miami, and watch the video; it’s gone viral.”

“A Fairy,” Soo-geun chuckled, voice becoming distant as he fiddled with something.  “I’m heading to grandpa’s office; I left my phone at home to try and forget about Clare.”

“Didn’t seem to work,” Rachel noted with a wry smile.

He huffed.  “She got grandpa’s number somehow.”

“Alright … YouTube, and … grandpa has some weird fetish with necks, yo.”

Rachel didn’t reply, slowly shaking her head with a soft sigh as he continued.

“Wait … that little speck of light is your friend?  She’s tiny compared to…”  His words died, and it took him several seconds to say anything other than unintelligible mumbles as he rewatched the short clip.  “The whole place went up in flames … how much of that water evaporated?  She did that because she was angry?”

Rachel frowned, glaring down at her phone.  “There’s more to it than that, but I won’t say anymore, and I’ll just call you by your English name if you hate Korean.  Yes, Mason, you need to seriously take a step back and figure out a way to channel that anger.”

He popped his tongue a few times.  “Dang … there’s another video showing what’s left from someone else that posted the aftermath.  Umm, yeah … alright.  You going to bring that friend up to grandpa’s?  He’s been saying you’d come up.”

“Maybe another friend, but no, Fiona is probably in Ireland right now, bringing her family back to the States.”

“Cool.  So, eh … that Unicorn one, then?  Man, I’m looking at some videos of her on the YouTube news stations.  She’s pretty hot, and there’s … she just socked a reporter in the face!  That’s sick!  Dude … he’s out, like Mars out, man.”

Oh, no … now he’s cyberstalking my friends.

“No, Maria is doing things for the government right now.  I have other friends.”

“For real, though?  I can’t imagine you having friends,” he muttered.  “Although, yeah, they seem like your type of friends, though.”

“Wait, what’s that supposed to mean?  I attract violent friends?”

“Well, duh,” Mason laughed.  “My balls haven’t been the same since you kicked my butt two years ago; I think that’s why dad never had you guys over again, to be honest,” he mused.  “I always wanted a rematch.  I’m so much bigger now.”

“Is grandpa there?”  She sighed, changing the topic.

“Hey, no, really, Sung,” he pled.  “You always seemed to have a stick up your butt; you were always mad, but you never started crap.  I was the punk that always got up in your grill, trying to act tough.  You were like a role-model for me growing up, you know?  You were always so focused and strong, a real bad-a.”

What’s up with him suddenly losing the whole hate my culture spiel?  Rachel’s mind returned to her uncle’s house; whenever they’d gone over there, she’d spend most of the time in the basement using their gym and punching bag.  It wasn’t hard to see how he got that image of her, and why he was suddenly breaking down.

“Alright, when I come over, you can train with me.  I’ve needed to get back into a routine, and it might help you to develop the habit.”

“The punching bag?”

“Grandpa doesn’t have one.”

“Yeah, I know, but like a gym or something.  There’s got to be one in the city; there was a ton in Montgomery.”

“We can find one, sure,” Rachel said, scratching the base of her ears as they twitched.  It felt a little off, planning to go to the gym with someone, and she knew Scarlet would likely be attached to her hip, and a future image popped into her mind, making her repress a groan.

He’s coming off of a bad break-up, and I’ll probably be bringing Scarlet with me.  She’s only a year older than him, and there’s no way he wouldn’t be smitten by her.  She’s really too sweet, and she has a hard time saying no.  I’ll need to nip that in the bud quickly.

“And, Mason, don’t go swooning after Scarlet.  Okay?”

“What does that even mean … swoon?  Wait, no, no, I’m not going to hit on your friend!  I mean, yeah, your friend Maria is freakin’ hot, but na, that ain’t me.  I’m cool.”

“Right … just please don’t bug her.”

“Scout’s word!”

“Dude, Mason, don’t … I’m serious.  She doesn’t need you chasing after her.”

“I told you; I’m cool.  I got Clare; okay, don’t trip!”

Rachel shook her head, debating if she should bring Scarlet at all.  It’s going to be a problem … I already know it.  “Just go get grandpa,” she sighed.

“I’m on it … so, uh, you have ears then?”

“Of course, I have ears.”

“No, bunny-like.  You know, don’t play with me.”

“Yeah, I have long ears like a hare and a short tail.”

“Sick!  Yeah, my homies thought my bear-ears were awesome, but Peter was a little douchebag about my tail.”

She heard the heavy Korean-American accent of her grandfather yell, “No cursing!”

“Yeah, yeah, grandpa … so, umm, hey, Rachel’s on the line!  She changed, too.”

“Yes, I know.”

“The … heck,” he caught himself.  “You didn’t tell me?  I thought I was the only one that changed physically.  I mean, there’s perfect cousin Nam, but he didn’t grow ears.”

“It’s not about appearance,” her grandfather muttered, taking the phone from Mason.  “Rachel,” he swapped to Korean, pace quickening as he returned to his mother tongue.  “How was your reception home?”

“Warm.  Thanks, I heard you talked to my dad.”

“Bah, he was always a stubborn fool that didn’t know how to properly show his emotions.  I see you’ve talked to Soo-geun…”

“Creed!”  He yelled.

“Soo-geun,” her grandfather said, slowly and distinctly, “or Mason, is going through a bit of a tough time.  I feel like you must be as well.  I’d like to arrange for a retreat for both of you to get away from all the craziness happening around us.  We need time to take a breath and harmonize with the energy within.”

“Straight to the breathing exercises,” Rachel chuckled.  “So, you want us to go to the Everglades?  Can we even drive down to the National Park?”

“Yes, as of today,” her grandfather stated with joy.  “It would do you both good to get out of the city.”

“There are a few problems with that.  I can come up in a few days to discuss them with you, but I feel like I also need to spend some time with my parents.  They asked me to stay for a bit.”

“I can understand that,” he said with a disappointed tone.  “Soo-geun seems to be in brighter spirits after talking with you.”

“He needs to release stress … not breathing exercises, grandpa, but real physical labor.  He needs to go jogging, lifting weights, and maybe even sparring.”

“I agree.”

Rachel’s brow furrowed.  “You do?”

“Yes, Sung.  Martial Arts has a foundation in breathing techniques, but yes, stress and negative energy can be expelled in multiple ways.  A few days, then?”

“Yes, and I’ll probably bring up a friend … she may really enjoy your breathing exercises.”

“Ho, ho!  Well, I look forward to meeting your friend.”

“Alright, I love you, grandpa.”

“It was nice hearing your voice, Sung.  I’m glad you’re doing well; I expected you to be much more stressed than you sound.”

Rachel hung up, flipping to her stomach, she kicked up her feet; her dress folded around her body, and she readjusted her left strap.  She stared at her blank screen, mind working around the potential issues ahead, but after a minute, she took a long breath and let the worries fade.

I’ll warn Scarlet of Mason, and with Zoe … we’ll see tonight.

She spent the rest of the daylight hours bouncing between conversations with her family.  Scarlet helped Molly with a new bread recipe, and they made home-made spicy Korean clam chowder.

Scarlet and Alexa were a little shy about it, but with a few detours in the discussion, they got onto this season’s anime and went to her room to binge-watch episodes that were out, leaving Rachel with her mom.  She’d been giving her looks all evening, obviously wanting to know more about Anthony.  So, she finally gave in when Scarlet went upstairs with Alexa.

Rachel helped bring the dishes over to the sink as her mother washed them; Nam and her father had gone back to the study to resume a debate on stocks that didn’t interest her.  “Okay, Mom … I’ll tell you about Anthony.”

Her mother’s head snapped toward her, brown eyes glowing with excitement as she paused her scrubbing.  “Oh, I don’t want to intrude.  Only if you want to talk to me about him.”

“You’re too obvious, Mom,” Rachel said with a forced chuckle.  “Do I like him?  Yes, I think I do.”

“Oh?  Why?  It’s not just his looks, right?  Although, Scarlet said he was a looker.”

Rachel’s ears shifted to the left.  “He has red hair.”

“Scottish?  I didn’t think you’d be into red hair,” she mused.

“No clue, to be honest,” Rachel said, handing Molly a few plates.  “He’s a Legendkin, and his appearance was likely changed.  He doesn’t just have red hair, but it’s like fire, and yes, he’s got the looks and charm that would fit a Legendkin.  I … actually, asked him to fight me.”

“Oh?  Did he think that was odd?”

“Probably not as much as you, by the look on your face.  It has to do with my change, but you know I’ve always been competitive.”

“Well, sure,” Molly mumbled, “but I never thought you’d require a date to get punched to have a chance with you.”

“We sparred,” Rachel’s voice softened as she thought back on the incident.  “I lost … and no, it’s not all bloody like you’re thinking.  I just don’t know if it will work, though.”

“I’m still coming to terms with a guy beating you down … not a pretty image, I assure you,” Molly huffed.  “I’ll bite, though.  Why not?”

“He has a ring on his finger.”

“Oh … oh … hmm,” Molly’s lips pursed.

“Now, I know that doesn’t mean he definitely is married … but he did kind of refuse to talk about it, and it seemed to be a depressing topic.”

“So … she could have passed away?”.

“Maybe … I don’t know.  That’s the mysterious part that kind of gets my heart pumping.  You know?”

“I do!”  Her mother squealed softly, glancing toward the study for a moment before returning to her dishes.  “It sounds like a real-life drama.  Will you meet him again?”

“In a few days … probably.  I need to go back to the FBI to get a psyche evaluation.”

Her mother’s hands slipped on a dish, causing it to clatter against the metal sink, and she turned to her with worried eyes.  “Psyche evaluation?  Why would they need to do that?  It’s not like they’ll take you away from me again.  Right?”

Rachel cursed internally.  “No, no, it’s just routine, Mom.  There’s nothing to worry about.”

Molly took a long, shuddering breath before resuming her task, but the news clearly perturbed her.  “Have you told your father?  If you need, we can get the best lawyers.  No, we’ll get them; yeah, I’ll just talk to your father in a moment … I just need to collect my thoughts.”

“No, Mom.  I told you.  It will be fine.”  Rachel put her left hand on the small of her back, rubbing it soothingly.  “All the Mythickin and Legendkin have to do it; I’ve got a lot of weight in the government, remember?  I had the President call me.”

“I can’t help worrying,” her mom whispered, turning to embrace her, and she breathed while holding back tears.  “I can’t lose you again … not again.”

“I’m not going anywhere,” she whispered.

“But you will … you have to.  I know you do, but … just a little longer.  Stay a little longer.”

Rachel held her mother as she cried softly, letting the sink run; after several minutes, Molly collected herself and resumed her task, and once they’d finished, Rachel went to the front room with her to talk.  She directed the conversation to her mother’s interests, and there was one drama, in particular, that got her mother talking and fuming, but she had her clear bias.

After a time, her mother suddenly grew tired; her dad went with her to bed, leaving her and Nam to talk.  She learned about the struggles the business was going through and the weight that had been placed on her elder brother in running it.  Alexa may be a little kiddish at times, but it appeared like that’s what Nam liked about her the most; she wasn’t involved with the complicated mess of his work life and allowed him to unwind.  

She learned so much about her family in those hours that, in the past, she’d never had the interest to know, and it made her a little sad as he went upstairs to prepare for bed, leaving her alone in the study.  I was so selfish before … I suppose most kids are, and I’m still technically a teenager.  My mind’s changing, though.

Scarlet came down to join her, still wearing her PJs.  “Today was so much fun!  I got to watch all the episodes I missed this last week.”

“That’s great,” Rachel smiled.  “I’m glad you’re enjoying your time with my family.  Yeah, I had more than a few things wrong … I’m happy.  I really am happy to be home.  However, I need to go help an acquaintance.  There’s this girl named Zoe that helped me when I first changed; she’s in trouble with some guys.  I sent her to Maria’s neighborhood.”

Scarlet’s face set.  “Are we going now, or can I change my clothes?  I was able to bring a few sets in from the limo earlier.”

Rachel shook her head.  “You don’t need to come with me.”

“I want to!  If she’s in trouble, then I want to help, too.”

“Alright.  I want to handle this quickly, tonight.  It might get rough.”

“Rougher than what we’ve already been through?”  Scarlet asked with a smirk.

“No, I guess not.”  Rachel laughed.  “No, this will be a walk in the park.”

“So, umm … something black?”  Scarlet asked.  “And are you going to wear that dress?”

Rachel glanced down at her blue dress with a frown.  “You have a point.  Yeah, I’ll go see if my other clothes are done drying.”

“We’re back at it!”  Scarlet grinned.

“I guess we are and don’t mention this to my parents.”

“Hehe, yeah … sorry about the Anthony thing.  Your Mom’s so crafty!”

“I think you just have a hard time saying no,” Rachel said with a playful scowl.

“Yeah … I kind of do,” Scarlet mumbled, rubbing her neck.  “I’m working on it.”

“Well, let’s go and see who’s bugging Zoe.”

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