Chapter Seventeen

Bound

When I woke up, I was in my bed. I sat up cautiously, waiting for the pain to kick in. It started in my head and worked its way down, but it wasn't as bad as the night before. I slowly stood and made my way to the bathroom. I went to the bathroom, brushed my teeth, and washed my face. It made me feel a little better to freshen up.

"Oh, you're up," said Lani as she came into the room, carrying a tray. "Just in time. I made you some soup."

"I'm not sick…." My voice was sounding better.

Lani rolled her eyes at me. "I know that, but it's all you had. You really need to go grocery shopping. You feeling any better?" Lani set the tray on my lap and took a seat next to me on the bed.

"Yeah, a bit." I nodded over to the window, which was now fixed. "How'd that happen so fast?"

"I called in some help," said Lani with a shrug. "They fixed it last night while you were out."

"And you had me moved to my bed when they were finished?"

Lani shook her head with a laugh. "No, actually, I did that myself. You were starting to move around and I was afraid you'd fall off the couch."

"Oh. Well, thanks. You're freakishly strong."

"Vampire."

I blew on my soup a bit before starting to eat it. Lani kept me company while I ate, chatting about meaningless things. I knew what it was she really wanted to talk about, but she was nice enough not to bring it up again. Afterwards, I tried to rest a bit more.

Just as I was starting to drift off to sleep, I heard the doorbell ring. I opened my eyes and listened as Lani walked through the apartment to the front door. I heard the door open, and then I heard Riley's voice. She sounded a bit surprised, probably because she was wondering who Lani was. "Hey, um, is Han here?"

There was a pause before Lani answered. She was probably wondering whether or not she should tell Riley that I was in my room. "Um, yeah. He's upstairs. You're Riley, I assume?"

"Yeah. How'd you know?"

"He talks about you," Lani said, her voice full of kindness. "I'm Han's cousin, Lani. It's nice to meet you." There was a pause. I assumed they were shaking hands or something. "I'll go let him know you're here."

A minute later, Lani was entering my room. "Should I let her up?" she whispered to me.

I sat up and gave a nod. "Yeah. I'll think of something to explain all this."

"Okay. Um…I'll just step out for a bit. You can call me when she leaves and I'll come back." She turned to go, but then looked back at me one more time. "Call me when she's gone. I'm serious, Han. You'd better do it."

"I will, I will. Geez, Mom."

Lani rolled her eyes and left the room. I heard her talking to Riley and then the front door closed. I waited as I heard Riley come up the stairs. "Hey," she said with a smile, appearing in my doorframe. Her face suddenly fell when she realized the condition I was in. "What the hell happened to you?"

"I was mugged." It hadn't taken me long to come up with the lie. It was the most obvious one. "Three guys jumped me last night while I was getting out of my car at the gas station."

"Oh my goodness!" Riley gasped. She ran over to the bed and sat next to me. She gingerly touched the bruise on my eye. Then her hand trailed down to the line on my neck. "I can't believe it. Why didn't you call me?"

"It was late, I didn't want to wake you. Plus, I was fine. I fought them off. My cousin's a nurse, so I called her and she took care of me. I'll be fine."

"You don't look fine."

"I feel a lot better than I look, I'm sure." That wasn't necessarily true. All she could see was the bruises on my eye and neck. Those themselves didn't hurt so badly, it was everything else that she couldn't see that hurt the most.

"Are you sure you're okay?"

"I'm positive. Just a little beat up, but I'll be fine."

"I was a little worried when you missed school and didn't call me."

"Sorry. I was a little out of it. I've been sleeping most of the day."

"It's okay. Is there anything I can do for you?"

I shook my head slowly. "No. I'm good for now. I just want to rest, really."

"Yeah, you should rest. I should go."

Riley moved to get off the bed, but I grabbed her arm and stopped her. "No!" I said quickly. "Stay with me. Please."

Riley smiled at me. "Sure."

We both lay down and got comfortable. We were facing each other and I suddenly felt like I no longer wanted to close my eyes. I'd rather watch Riley.

"I was starting to think you were invincible," Riley said quietly. "Guess I should have known better. You did get your nose elbowed in gym that one time."

"I did that on purpose so you would take pity on me and agree to go to the party."

"Oh, shut up. No, you didn't."

I smiled at her. Riley lifted her head and leaned in to kiss me. She had meant it to be quick, but I wrapped an arm around her and pulled her body closer to me while deepening the kiss. I let my hand slide up her back, underneath her shirt. She didn't object to my touch. Rather, she pushed herself closer and wrapped an arm around my neck.

Just when I was thinking that I wouldn't mind getting a little carried away at that moment, Riley put her arm around me and applied enough pressure to make my body flinch in pain. Riley felt it and quickly pulled away from me. "Are you okay?" she asked, her voice full of concern.

I tried not to wince, but couldn't help it. My body had been protesting the activity for some time; I had just been trying to ignore it. "Yeah, I'm okay."

"Sorry."

"It's not your fault." I moved in to kiss her again, not wanting to let the desire go, but she pulled away from me.

"No way. You're hurt. We shouldn't be fooling around. You need your rest. Come on, turn around."

"What?"

"Turn the other way." Riley gave my shoulder a gentle push to prod me.

With a sigh, I reluctantly rolled over onto my other side so that I could no longer see her. I settled myself in. A second later, Riley wrapped an arm around me and lay at my back. I could feel her forehead resting against my neck, and the rest of her body pressed up against my back.

"I always wondered what it was like to be the big spoon," Riley said with a laugh. I couldn't help but laugh as well. After that, it wasn't long before I was asleep.


When I woke up, it was dark, and Riley was gone. There was a folded piece of paper next to me on the bed. I picked it up and read it. Riley's mother had come to pick her up, since apparently Riley had taken the bus most of the way to my place. She hadn't wanted to wake me. She wrote that she would stop by tomorrow as well, and bring my homework for me.

I supposed I should call Lani and let her know that I was alone once again. But as I was reaching for my cell on the nightstand, I heard the window slide open. I cursed under my breath. This was it, the moment of truth. I knew that my story would pan out when the mysterious man who called himself Riley's guardian looked into it, but I was still afraid. What if something had gone wrong and he'd gotten some faulty information? He could be here just to kill me. I hoped that wasn't the case.

The man suddenly appeared in front of the bed. I waited for something in my room to attack me, but nothing did. I let my body relax a bit. "Why'd you open the window if you were just going to teleport here?" I asked the first question that popped into my head.

"It was just a warning so that you'd know I was coming."

"So what about last night then?"

"I can't teleport to a place I've never been."

"But you knew where that drawing Riley gave me was."

"I could sense it. I have a very close bond with her."

I gave a nod, as if I understood all that he was saying. "You figured out that I'm telling the truth?"

"Yes. I know you're one of the good guys. I also know that your group, this Animagia, will use any significant excuse to get rid of Riley. So, you're staying with her to protect her. I understand that now."

"She was just here. Good thing you didn't pop in earlier."

The man gave a slight smile, something I thought he was incapable of. "Actually, I tried. But I sensed she was here and stopped just in time. I watched the two of you though, for a few moments, from outside. You really do love her, don't you?"

I decided to disregard the utter creepiness of this man watching Riley and I from outside the window. "I do."

"Then I shall tell you the truth."

I leaned forward towards him subconsciously, my pulse quickening as I waited anxiously for him to begin.

"I am a Hunter. The last one, raised from birth to kill all of the Valenteen demons."

That I had not expected. He claimed to be Riley's guardian, yet he was bred to hunt her? It didn't make any sense.

"I can see you're confused. I will explain my own story first. That might help. My name is Adon. You see, I was taken from my family when I was just a newborn. I had been blessed you see, with the tracker ability. The Hunters knew how to find it in people, and they found it in me. They kidnapped me and raised me to know only one thing—bloodlust for the Valenteen clan. By the time I was ready to hunt, only one of them remained, Ricavani. The Hunter who had trained me died, shortly after I had begun the hunt, leaving only me behind. So there we were, one Hunter and one Hunted. I tracked him for years. I was close to killing him several times, but he always bested me. But even when he was in a position to, he never tried to kill me. Throughout these games of cat and mouse, we conversed. I started to doubt what I had been created for. Eventually, I gave up. Ricavani and I became friends, oddly enough. He forgave me everything, and I realized all that I had been raised to believe was a lie."

"That's why he chose you to be Riley's guardian?"

Adon gave a nod. "Yes. Ricavani met and fell in love with a human woman. He thought he could live a normal life. However, someone else began to come after him. You see, Ricavani's powers were growing more every year. He realized it had something to do with being the last of the Valenteen clan. It was like all that the clan had once been was now within him. Other people, other groups, began to notice as well, and they came for him. They tried to kill him. He knew it was dangerous for the woman he had fallen in love with, but he didn't want to leave her either. He didn't know what he should do, but then something happened that made the decision for him. She became pregnant. He never even realized that was possible. He knew that if he stayed, his unborn child would become an even greater target than him. So he left, so that no one would ever know his child even existed. He lasted several years on the run, but eventually, he was killed."

Adon took a pause. His voice had begun to shake. I could tell that this part of the story was difficult for him to tell. He took a breath and continued. "I found him after the fatal attack. He was still breathing, and I tried to help him, but it was futile. Before he died, he charged me with the duty of finding and protecting his child. He was able to pass on some of his powers to me, to help me in doing so. That is why I have these gifts, despite the fact that I am just a human. I've watched after Riley ever since."

That did explain some of the history and Adon's involvement with Riley. But it still left plenty unanswered. "Shouldn't Riley have all this power, then? Just like Ricavani had? I mean, you said it was like he held the entire legacy of his clan in him, and that he was growing stronger and stronger. But Riley doesn't have any abilities, or magic, that I know of."

"Riley is indeed the Remnant. And as such, she should be a very powerful being. However, Ricavani bound her powers just after she was born. It was the only time he ever saw her. He snuck into the house and performed the magic required for such a large task. Riley has the magic inside of her. Sometimes it can escape in a wave of power, unbeknownst to her, like the spike your company registered. But she can't use the magic. However, the spell is simple. All it would take was the knowledge of her past and her abilities to be known to Riley, and she could have all that power at her fingertips. If she ever finds out, she'll have a choice, to either stay bound, or to use her abilities. If she chooses to stay bound, she will be bound forever. All that magic will stay, unused in her. If she chooses to use her abilities, then, she will begin to release all the magic that has been bound in her for so long."

The Remnant is Bound. I understood it perfectly now. And it gave me hope, to know that even if she did find out about her abilities, she would still have a choice. She could choose to stay bound, and she could live a normal life. Well, as normal as she could have while still knowing the truth.

Adon stepped to the side of the bed and looked down at me. "I do believe that you care for Riley. And I do believe that you want to protect her. But that's what I'm here for. And I fear that…you being involved in her life will only cause her to be in more danger. Also, I'm afraid that you will inevitably hurt her. I'm sorry. I think you mean well, and I think the work you do is great. But…I think you know as much as I do, you have no business being in Riley's life. Now that you know I'm here, and that I'll take care of her…well, there's no reason for you to stay."

I couldn't argue with Adon. It had been a risk to stay with Riley to begin with. I was doing it because I thought that she was better off having me around to protect her than without me. But she had Adon to protect her, and he was doing a damn good job of it. Now, if I stayed with her, it would most likely only bring her harm, one way or another. I knew what I had to do, but it didn't make me want to do it any less.

"I can ask for a transfer," I said slowly to Adon, not wanting the words to come out of my mouth. "I can say goodbye to her for good."

"It's for the best."

"I just…I want to have one more day. We were supposed to do something Friday. There's no school."

Adon gave a nod. "I understand. I'll back off. I'll give you the whole day. But after that, I expect you to be out of her life."

I nodded slowly. "It'll be done."

"Thank you, Han. Thank you for helping me to keep her safe." With that, Adon vanished with a burst of air.

I wasn't sure how long I sat there, completely motionless. I felt dizzy, and my chest was tight. I knew it wasn't from my injuries. I could hardly believe what I was going to do. I didn't want to think about it. But I couldn't think of anything else.