Chapter 3 — Fūjin's Wife (3)
It was already noon by the time Ingrid woke up. All Isei could hear from the living room were her fumbling around and loud footsteps. "Ingrid? You awake? We need to talk—" he said, knocking on the door. But before he could finish his sentence, she swung the door open and pushed past him, mumbling about being late for work. "Kei covered for you!" Isei grabbed her wrist before she could make it to the door and guided her to the sofa. "Sit down, we need to talk!"
She struggled to get out of his grasp and cried out, "I'm supposed to show the new guy the ropes! It's already 2 o'clock—"
Isei sighed. "Kei is the new guy, genius!"
She blinked at him, finally registering the whole situation. "Oh yeah," she said with an embarrassed look on her face. He pushed a mug of sparkling pink liquid into her hands and said, "Drink up." A strange feeling started forming in her stomach. There it is again. A strange feeling of unease in her stomach, like the first time Kei called her.
"What is this?" she asked.
"Something to speed up your awakening."
He nodded. "You need to awaken your Seed before you can actually use it. Usually, Seedlings awaken once they're exposed to the word 'Seedling.' We call this a prompt. Kei prompted you... in the store." She vaguely remembered her first meeting with Kei and nodded. "But so far, you show no signs of awakening."
She shrugged. "Maybe it takes time?"
"Yes. One or two days, at most. But it's been... more than three days now." He pointed at her Miniko. "It's already Saturday."
"Wait, Saturday?" she asked, finally pinning down why she's uneasy. "No, but someone wants to meet you. Can you come in on 3 o'clock this Saturday?" She sucked in a sharp breath of air and glanced at the time. 2:15 p.m. "Isei. Can you drive?" He nodded, a puzzled expression on his face.
Kei glanced around the empty convenience store and sighed. Although it was strategically located near an apartment, the store is unusually empty. "How can they afford two employees?" he mumbled and dusted the register for the umpteenth time. He recalled his first meeting with Ingrid at the very same store. She must've been bored outta her mind... She was supposed to show him the ropes today, but she seemed tired, so he covered her shift for her.
The bell rang and a petite girl with wavy blonde hair walked in. Her slanted crimson eyes widened when she saw Kei and she pulled out her earphones, gawking at him. "What the hell did you eat growing up, Sasquatch?" Red unfurled across his cheeks and he started stuttering incoherently. "Relax, Sasquatch. Where are the band-aids?" He pointed her to the medicine shelf and twiddled his thumbs nervously. She returned moments later with a small box of band-aids.
She noticed how pale Kei was and smiled. "Don't go under the sun often, huh?" She lifted her hand and pulled back the sleeves, revealing two dainty hands as pale as paper. He chuckled and replied, "I just can't seem to get tanned." Their eyes met and her cherry lips crinkled into a smile. "You're actually quite cute. Why are you so nervous?" she asked, taking a few steps back so she could stop craning her neck.
"I, well..." Kei began, struggling to find the words.
"If it's your height, I think it's just fine," she said and handed him some money. "I mean, look at you! You're what, six feet? I'd give anything to be a foot taller!" She gestured at him, then herself, revealing the outline of a green tattoo on her thigh when her fingers brushed against her skirt. Kei's eyes widened in surprise. A green tattoo? But she mistook his surprise for something else, because she smiled and gave him a thumbs-up. "See? Much better."
"T-Thanks," he said and handed her the change.
"Don't mention it—" she was interrupted by two girls opening the door and sticking their heads inside. "Iwa-chan, the movie is starting!" Iwa, the blonde shrugged and left after saying goodbye to Kei, who towered over her like a skyscraper once he stopped slouching. Iwa, huh?
He heard a loud tire's screech and saw a familiar red car drive past the store. Wait, is that my car? He rushed outside, managing to catch a glimpse of the license plate before it disappeared from view. "That is my car..." He pulled out his phone and dialed Isei's number.
There are many different types of drivers. A blue car stopped at a crossroad, letting other cars go first. A black minivan slowed down as it came to an intersection. A white SUV ended up behind the minivan and impatiently revved its engine, urging it to move. Then, a bright red car whizzed past all these different vehicles, swerving from one lane to another. Inside the red car were two teenagers, a horrified girl with her feet pressed against the dashboard, and a tall redheaded boy gripping the steering wheel with white knuckles.
"Stop the damn car, Isei!" Ingrid shouted at the top of her lungs.
"I can't, dammit! I'm trying my fucking best here!" Isei replied. His phone started vibrating. "Check who's calling," he said, too preoccupied to even glance at the screen.
She inhaled sharply when she saw the caller ID. "It's Kei. What do we do?!" She accidentally accepted his call before Isei could decide. He glared at her through the corner of his eyes and she shot him an apologetic look, turning on the speaker.
"Are you driving my car?"
"N-No," Isei lied. A moment of silence passed. He could tell Kei wasn't buying his lie. "Fine! Yes, I am driving your car," he admitted. "But I can't stop the car, I... might have used some Nectar."
"Whose Nectar?" Isei swallowed nervously. "Isei. Whose Nectar?" Kei asked again, panic rising in his voice.
"My... brother's," Isei answered timidly.
A moment of silence passed before Kei spoke again, "Ishiki?"
Isei shook his head, momentarily forgetting Kei couldn't see him shake his head. "N-No," he replied once he remembered he was on a call.
"You mean... Idate?" He could hear Kei cursing under his breathe. "He can control machines, and you decide to use Idate's Nectar on my car?! What were you thinking? If you don't return my car to me in one piece, I swear I will—" Ingrid ended the call before Kei could finish his sentence. The car stopped right as Isei turned to her, brows furrowed and mouth agape. "Why did you do that?" he asked, exasperated. She grimaced and pointed outside. "It was an accident... but on the bright side, we're here?"
Isei groaned and slammed his forehead against the steering wheel. He turned to face Ingrid, but she was already gone. She didn't even close the door. Sighing, he leaned over and closed the door. "Man, I should get my own car soon," he mumbled and tossed his phone aside, ignoring the avalanche of texts coming from Kei.
A policeman knocked on the window and motioned for Isei to roll down the windows. Isei complied and plastered the brightest smile he could muster on his face. "Good afternoon, officer." The policeman leaned inside, his face uncomfortably close to Isei's. "I would like you to step outside for a moment, son." He smiled, crow's feet forming around his eyes. Nodding, Isei slowly exited the small red vehicle. "I'm out now, sir. What's—" The policeman snapped a pair of handcuffs onto Isei's wrists and pinned him against the car. "You're under arrest for running six red lights, going past the speed limit, not wearing your seat-belt and reckless driving."
"Fuck," Isei muttered under his breathe. Ingrid disappeared at a good time.
He shoved Isei into his patrol car and slammed the door. "You have a right to remain silent," he said as he got in the car, nodding at his partner. "Let's get him to the station."
Isei looked up when he heard the door opening. "Someone bailed you out, kid," the policeman gestured at a furious Kei behind him. Isei shuffled nervously as he exited the cell, his eyes on the ground. "Thank you so much, officer," he heard Kei say through gritted teeth, his usually gentle voice filled with anger. His golden eyes shifted from the station's floor to Kei's feet and widened in surprise. Beside Kei's black sneakers were two other pairs of shoes, gray flats, and pink heels. Who's the other girl? He looked up and was about to ask, but shut up when he saw the anger blazing in Kei's emerald eyes.
Beside him stood an apologetic Ingrid and a petite girl with wavy blonde hair and crimson eyes. She looked like a child, being at least a head shorter than Ingrid and dressed in an oversized hoodie with bunny ears. "My precious daughter here pleaded for your case, seems like she knows you," the man said, glaring at Isei.
"I don't know her!" Isei exclaimed.
The policeman frowned, clearly doubting him. "He's right, dad. I only know his friends," she linked arms with both Ingrid and Kei. "He was driving Kawasaki-san's car here, whose car was due for repairs." Kei was too furious to notice Iwa's skinship and added, "The brakes were broken. I was planning on sending it to the mechanic after work." He narrowed his eyes at Isei and said, "I didn't know someone would be using my car today."
Isei's shoulders slumped. "S-Sorry," he said meekly.
"Otagi-san," a younger policeman walked towards them, tapping a clipboard. "I checked the lad's car. His brakes were severed and foul play is suspected." He turned to Kei. "Do you want to file a report?" Kei shook his head. "I think I know who's the culprit. I'll handle it myself," he replied. The younger policeman shrugged and walked away.
Since foul play was involved, they were let off without any charges. Isei, however, was fined and had to serve 100 hours of community service for driving recklessly. Kei and Iwa disappeared somewhere once they left the station, leaving Isei alone with Ingrid. "He's pissed, huh?" he asked as they sat down. She shrugged. "Pissed is an understatement. He was ready to murder," she said, staring at him. "Sounds like he's more mad about the Nectar than his car. Care to explain?"
Isei smiled wryly. "You're quick." She smiled triumphantly. "I have two older brothers, Ishiki and Idate. Kei and Idate... have bad blood. They were both in the national baseball junior league. Let's just say... Idate got him kicked off the team." He held up his hand before she could ask more questions. "You should ask Kei for the rest." She nodded in understanding. They waited together in silence for Kei's return.
Kei was sitting while Iwa remained standing so she could be eye level with him. "Sorry about your car." Upon seeing Kei's questioning gaze, she added, "Your brakes."
"Oh, I cut them. How else would I get out of this?" he smiled. "Thanks for, you know, talking to your dad. I didn't know he was a police officer." She looked surprised and broke out into laughter. "Oh man, I didn't expect that from you, Sasquatch," she said and sat down. "So, what do you want to talk about?"
He shrugged. "I... wanted to thank you." She raised a brow, obviously in doubt. "Alright. Who are you and what do you want?" he asked and produced a small blade within milliseconds, and pressed it against her neck.
Her crimson eyes started glowing. "I am Iwa Otagi, member of the Council." A soft red hue encased the blade and it slipped out of his grasp, floating in midair. "Fūjin marked me with its seal, and I need your help removing it."
— Chapter 3 End —
A/N: Sorry for not updating! I was busy preparing for Chinese New Year. On another note, how do y'all feel about a Valentine's Day special?