Our botany plans got derailed. A sign was left on the greenhouse saying to come back tomorrow.
That's how I found myself still awake at midnight, thinking about the day. Wondering how to pay off my debts and salvage my campus reputation.
Which is when it happened. I felt a pull, a strange compulsion to head out to... somewhere. I hadn't yet changed into pajamas, so I immediately crept out of the room to avoid waking Rose (who was asleep) and Feathers (who was cultivating again).
I looked down at my new cyber arm as I walked. I was pretty sure the sensation I felt of needing to get to a place had originated there.
It was tough to say whether it was the dragon spirit within, trying to get my attention, or whether this was part of the ongoing storm that this new spirit was having with my original grass spirit.
Maybe on some level, I knew I needed a checkup. Or maybe Muramasa was back in town, and he'd put a recall chip in me. Who knew.
I walked out and turned the corner of our building, only to find a pixie-faced woman standing there staring at me.
"Rose!?" I sputtered. I turned to look back the way I had come, then back at her.
"Song, you're sneaking out to steal credits and get into mischief without me? I'm hurt," Rose pouted.
"No. I'm not. And how are you there, when you were..." I pointed. Which was when I realized that she must have jumped out the window and come around to cut me off.
Had she been faking sleep? Goes to show that you should never underestimate an Immortal, former demon, or whatever other categorizations my new roommate might fall under.
Rose gestured vaguely. "Well, whatever you're up to, I'm in. We're a team, remember." She smiled, and then leaned in closer to me. "In fact one day, maybe we can be even more than that. Hmmm?"
Her eyebrows wiggled.
I stared. "More? Rose, we're already roommates, with a campus reputation for being Twin Devils. How much more is there?"
Rose elbowed me softly. "Oh, YOU know. I seem to recall you saying something about kissing me awake, that time we were in the church, surrounded by mecha beasts. Hmmm?"
"What? That was a fairy tale reference," I protested. She couldn't mean... there's no way she was being serious. "Besides, even though you look my age, you're clearly not. Aren't I a little young for you?"
"New freedom, new life," Rose said airily. "What's important is you're making excuses rather than rejecting the possibility. You know, you did look pretty hot in Lynn's leather skirt. Meow, as your room merchandise would say."
She clasped her hands behind her head and smiled at me knowingly.
I somehow resisted the urge to smack her while hoping I wasn't starting to blush.
I mean, yes, we know I wasn't the sort to be into boys and dating, and yes, I had rejected the advances of the guys at Yang's, but that didn't mean... and even if it did, with ROSE?
I hadn't forgotten that she was the reason I'd lost my arm in the first place.
And yet I couldn't seem to find my voice again. How had the conversation ended up on relationships? Apparently, whatever expression I had on my face, it caused Rose to giggle.
"Too fast, Song? No worries. Just, something Lessandra said earlier today about our rooming situation. Got me curious about what it might be like with you."
"Get uncurious," I shot back, my tongue at last untwisted. I pointed. "And stop distracting me, I need to go this way for... some reason."
I glanced at my arm before marching off.
Rose fell into step behind me. We managed to walk in silence for a short time.
"You don't know where we're going," Rose said at last.
I didn't have a good answer, but I liked this topic better. "I'll know it when we get there," I stated. I was pretty sure I would, at least.
"Uh huh. Given your track record, definitely would have been a bad idea for you to go alone then."
"Oh, hush," I sighed. There. That building right up ahead. "We're here," I said, pointing.
I hurried up to it, then stood out front, looking for some sign as to the place’s significance. Yet the house looked rather ordinary.
Except wait. It belonged to that male nurse who had treated me the last couple of times at the campus clinic. I'm not sure how I knew that, but I did.
Had he done something to me, under the guise of checking me over for bruises that day? Something that would bring me here? It could even have been done under the threat of blackmail from someone else.
Under those circumstances, I wondered if it made sense to knock.
As I thought, Rose simply walked up and opened the unlocked front door. I had to hurry to catch up as she strode inside.
"Rose, what's your hurry?" I objected.
"Why were you waiting?" she shot back.
The interior had some terrible wallpaper choices but was otherwise unremarkable. The sound of rustling sheets came from an immediately adjacent room.
It was followed by a female voice muttering, "Hello?"
I peeked around the corner along with Rose. A girl of maybe nine or ten years old sat there on a cot.
"Oh good, I did hear someone," she said. "Hello. Are you going to read me a story?" She clasped her hands together in anticipation.
"Oh, the stories we could tell you," Rose mused.
"Hush, Rose," I repeated. "No, we're just here because, um... actually, do you know anything about people dropping by unexpectedly to see your Dad?"
I saw Rose roll her eyes.
"My Daddy is Frank," the girl said.
I stared. "Good for him."
"Because he's only Frank, it's up to me to summon the people to read me stories," she continued.
"I think she means he's F-rank," Rose muttered.
Oh, the lowest grade of cultivation. That made a bit more sense, though I was probably always going to think of this girl as Frank's daughter now. No matter what that nurse’s actual name turned out to be.
Wait, had Frank's daughter said she summoned people?
"How is it you can summon?" I asked.
"I have more power than Daddy. I use it to call to low level spirits," Frank's daughter said, grinning. "They usually have good stories. About how they get defeated. Are you a grass type too, like the last guy?"
I glared at the young girl, then looked at Rose, who shrugged.
"Listen, this is ridiculous," I challenged, attention back on Frank's daughter. "I know there's more to this. Who are you really working for?"
She stared at me. And her expression changed.
Frank’s daughter smirked at me as she stood. "I work for the President of the Martial Alliance," she declared. "We've got you now, Meadow Song! Unless..." Her head canted to the side, like she'd thought of something.
"Unless?" I prompted, taking a half step back.
"Unless this is all some sort of bizarre vision," Frank's daughter decided. "Brought on by your spirit conflict. Meaning you should wake up now."
I flinched. "I should wake--"
"Noooo, wait, Song," Rose cut me off. "I want to try a kiss first."
Before I knew it, Rose had grasped me around the waist and was dipping me to the side, her face coming in far too close to mine. I tried to lean back further, out of the way, but lost my balance and fell onto the floor. I hit my head, hard...
And woke up on the campus lawn outside the greenhouse, with Lessandra staring down at me. Close enough to have been giving me mouth to mouth resuscitation.
Oh no. Had she been my first kiss instead?
Which was when I felt another strange compulsion, this time to check the date.