Saturday morning, when Daddy brought the car around and I piled in I’d have bet my good sweater that this wasn’t going to work. I still hadn’t figured out what Jack hoped this would accomplish. As far as Vinnie knew, he, Tresmayne and now I were all away. The only two active slayers were supposed to be gone – how do you stir up stuff without someone there to notice?
Daddy took me to a play, lunch, a movie and dinner. He finally – and none too happily – left me at Kimberly’s house. I waved as he drove off but he still wasn’t happy – he knew full well I had to get home tonight by myself. Well, almost by myself.
I left Kimberly’s house around eight. They thought I was walking a few blocks or so to where Daddy was waiting. There was a little music store in the neighborhood and Daddy did indeed frequent places like that – getting the pulse of the business, he called it – but in fact he’d already headed for home.
I’m a slayer. I had three blades on me – although I grant none were swords. Still, shy of shooting me from a distance, I’m anything but a pushover. Walking through the silent streets in the dark didn’t even make me think twice.
I got about five blocks – a few from my destination – when I felt a presence following me. I slowed down and after a minute, a small black and white cat caught up.
“You planning to stay that way?” I asked.
Ayami mewed at me in a definite no. When we got to a large enough hedge, she disappeared in the foliage. There’s a funny sound – no, not ‘poof’ – when creatures like Ayami transform. It’s harder to describe than sword singing is. Imagine being able to hear grass grow – soft, gentle, but fast as all get out. Yeah, that’s not a great analogy but it’s the best I’ve got.
Anyway, I heard the sound and after a minute, Ayami climbed out of the hedge in human form. “So sorry.”
I shook my head as she straightened her clothes, “No, not at all. You okay with doing this?”
Ayami nodded sharply, “Yes, want to do. Very bad man, that master. Want good master stop him – that what we do, yes?”
I nodded, “Yes, that’s right. But sneaking out and all…”
Ayami laughed – I was beginning to wonder if she could, “Ayami is werecat – cannot stay all time.”
“Do you mind if I ask a personal question? You don’t have to answer me.”
“Does Kagome know?” I picked up the pace a bit now that we were closer to a street light.
“That Ayami is werecat? Yes, she knows.” Ayami looked wistfully at the sliver of a moon just barely visible over the trees, “Parents die when Ayami very small. Ayami live with aunt and uncle and cousins. Kagome and Ayami more sisters than cousins.”
She paused, “We all go Okinawa for summer when Kagome and Ayami still young. First time Ayami see forest. Ayami get lost – looking too much at trees, not enough at path. Kagome come, find Ayami – it very late. We go back. But there was noise – Kagome say stay, she go see. Ayami wait but noise get loud, angry. Ayami go.” She looked at me suddenly, “Lady know what werecats do?”
I nodded, “They seduce young men and kill them. Was that what Kagome had heard? A werecat’s siren song?”
After getting a bewildered look and spending a few minutes explaining ‘siren song’ I apologized for breaking her train of thought.
Ayami nodded and continued, “Yes, siren song. Another woman – even girl – breaks spell. Young man run away. Werecat angry, attack. Ayami get in way, get bitten. Young man come back with his friends, werecat killed. Ayami think okay but when… older… transformation come.”
I got it. A prepubescent wouldn’t transform into a seductress at the first new moon – but once her adolescence began, so did the infection. “How long ago?”
“Two years. At first, just go hide under bush until dawn but it get harder. See boy, like boy, bad thoughts come at night. We try get big cage – Ayami break cage.” She blushed, “Little cat very strong.”
I nodded. Were creatures are usually a lot stronger than their natural counterparts.
“Finally, Kagome think we come America where boys not so cute, this be good. She find exchange program for Ayami. But it only one year. Ayami find new program in Korea – not like Korean boys, too stout.”
I stifled the urge to chuckle as we reached the main road. “Will that be the first time you and Kagome are apart?”
Ayami nodded, “But this good – Kagome take too much responsibility for what happen. Ayami not sorry save Kagome. Not sorry even when cat.”
I smiled, “I understand. Have you told her about Jack?”
Ayami smiled, “Yes, she not understand but feel better Ayami leave.”
“Why a tech school? Couldn’t you get a longer program with high school?” I asked.
Ayami flushed crimson, “Ayami not do so well in school. Not go very good high school – not do well on exams to get in high school.”
“Ah.” Kagome had mentioned Japan’s competitive system so while I didn’t completely get it, I had gotten the gist. “US or Korea, having a steward makes a big difference, doesn’t it?”
Ayami nodded, “No bad thoughts at night – they start when moon wane but not this time. Much better. And all cute boys stay safe in Japan.” She grinned.
We were going to have to work on her jokes but I laughed anyway, “How did you meet the bad master?”
“That strange. Ayami at school, working on plumbing, Teacher say Ayami have visitor at office. Ayami go to office, not see anyone she know. Man come up say he know Ayami. Hand paper to Ayami, say ‘read this and do what it say’. Then he leave. Ayami no can help – read paper. It say go to bus stop after class. Ayami go like paper say – not want to. Man there, tell Ayami get in car. We go park, away from other people. He ask many questions about what Ayami learn in school. Then he tell Ayami she must do bad thing to make man die. Ayami not want to – have to… Not know word for in English.”
“Compelled – compulsion.” I offered, “When you have to obey even though you don’t want to.”
“Com-pulsion. Yes, that what happen.”
“James said you post a lot on Thyspace.” I sat on the bench as we reached the bus stop.
Ayami sat beside me, “Yes, Ayami like posting before become werecat. It nice, find place where other people understand. Not many werecat but Ayami know several werewolf and even werefox. Feel sorry, werefox.”
I nodded, “Yeah, they have it rough.” Werefoxes are like werewolves and werecats combined – and not in anything remotely good. Seductress and half crazed – bad combination.
“Did you get the email from James?”
Ayami nodded, “Yes, Ayami do as faodahl say – make all profiles private. Ayami not mean do so dumb thing.”
I put an arm around her shoulders, “Hey, don’t feel bad – we’ve all done it. You should have seen James when he saw my profile on Slaybook. He actually yelled at me!”
Ayami smiled then sighed, “Ayami much careful on human sites but dumb on creature sites.”
“I know – did the same thing. All my friends know I’m a slayer but it was really nice to be able to get online with other slayers that understood – and had some good tips. I let my guard down, too.”
She nodded but didn’t look convinced.
“Wanna hear something funny?”
“Jack didn’t even think about there being sites for creatures and slayers for weeks. I didn’t think to ask for his handle so I never mentioned them. He has a computer – he just doesn’t do social media.”
Ayami gawked for a second before laughing. She was still snickering when the bus pulled up.
I’d memorized the schedule but I was looking it over again as we got close to our first stop. Ayami was raised in Tokyo – for her bus schedules were a normal part of life. She tugged my sleeve and pointed to the upcoming stop.
With Ayami leading, the multiple changes weren’t so bad. I’m still new to buses as transportation to anything but school but Ayami was an old hand. We made good time.
Once within a couple miles of home, we left the buses and started walking again. As soon as the buildings were tall enough, up on the roof tops we went. Ayami transformed and rode in my backpack. I concealed myself and started running. Slayer express made excellent time.
Once on my own rooftop, I glanced over at Jack’s building. A moving van was just pulling away, I chuckled – Kevin and Tim would have to wait a bit longer for their new apartment. Jack’s pet werewolves would be using it for a while.
Introductions and late night snack were next on the agenda. Daddy and Ayami discussed several Japanese groups that Daddy’s company handles US distribution for and Momma inquired as to why such a dainty thing (not her exact words – but she was thinking them) wanted to do construction work. That was fun – Ayami is passionate about Japanese construction and improving it. She lost me in the terminology but I got the idea that if she had her way, 90% of Japanese homes would be rebuilt to code.
Ayami had forgotten her PJ’s so she was draped in a pair of mine. I’m not that big – she’s just that tiny. She called Kagome – her disappearance had gone unnoticed. That, according to the cousins, guaranteed it would not be noticed until tomorrow evening when she was due back from school. Ayami was the earliest riser having the earliest classes. Kimberly’s folks worked from home and didn’t get up until 10, if then.
Ayami camped on the daybed in my room. We chatted girl stuff before saying prayers and going to sleep. No, I hadn’t known Ayami’s religion – hadn’t asked. But she was in the same habit – which got us discussing religion and how she had converted.
I went to sleep feeling a bit guilty – I hadn’t talked to any of my new friends about the most important thing in my life – and no, that’s not slaying. I’d have to give it some thought and prayer.