Chapter 15 - Dangerous Encounter
I sniffed myself and grimaced.
"Ugh, staying in the sun all day really makes me self-conscious."
It wasn't like I smelled bad, but it might be because I'm just used to the smell. For all I know, others might not think the same.
This was one of the problems I've discovered ever since I started taking the bus home. I was more worried about the opinions of the people around me.
At the front of the school, crowds of students could be seen waiting for their rides to take them home. A section of the parking lot was cut off from the rest for those that used public transportation to get home.
I wasn't sure how it was for other schools, but our school made use of the city's public services instead of those bright yellow school buses you often saw in popular media. Due to this, there were chances that our ride would be delayed due to multiple reasons.
With what I learned over the past (read: next) few years, I knew that I would be waiting for at least another ten minutes. So I decided to spend that time doing something else.
Walking by myself, I headed a small distance away from our school and found myself headed towards an open area with multiple shops set up. The nearby plaza was filled with other students waiting for their rides as well, mostly students who had parents that usually picked them up late due to differing work schedules.
A sandwich shop was open at the moment, and a line was forming with hungry students waiting to get something.
A grumble came from my stomach, and I quickly pulled out my wallet to see if I could get anything good.
"Four dollars?!" I stared at the contents inside. "The heck! What happened to the rest of my money?!"
It took me a second to realize why. I never really needed money as a high schooler. My lunches were either paid for by my school account or brought from home. The bus was paid for with my transit card. Until now, I never really needed to pay for anything except that one time I went out with my brother to eat burgers.
Guess I was too distracted by Dean at the time to notice.
"And I already gave all my savings to my parents," I sighed to myself. Something normal for me when I was younger, but not something I would have done if I was still in my normal time. No credit card or bank account at this time.
Still, I was able to buy myself a ham and cheese sandwich at least. But that left me with only a small change leftover.
"Guess I really do need to get a job," I said while biting into my food.
Walking outside, I passed by a certain area and realized something. Wasn't this the supermarket that was supposed to get robbed a few weeks from now?
Quickly finishing my food, I threw the wrapper in a nearby trash can and entered the store.
The doors opened automatically, and I felt the difference in temperature as the cool interior began to wrap around me. I saw several people milling about while I observed the interior of the store.
This was actually the first time I've been here. There was never a need for me to enter here until now, the only reason this time was different was because of what I knew of the future.
But from a casual glance, there wasn't anything special that I noticed so far.
"Hah, I really have no idea what I'm doing."
That was something I knew already. But Text seemed strangely insistent that I did something to change the past. What was it about the upcoming event that was so important?
These thoughts continued to fill my mind even as I bumped shoulders into someone.
"Ah, sorry." I turned my head to apologize, but I froze once I took in their appearance.
It was a short girl, one that could almost be considered middle school if you didn't look too closely. One could even argue that she was a grade-schooler based on her innocuous look and childish face. However, several other parts of her body told me that she was probably closer to my age.
What really drew my attention however were her eyes. I couldn't tell what color they were.
"Oh, you look interesting."
She was definitely talking to me, her attention was focused on my next words. It looked like she wasn't going to say anything else, so I spoke instead.
"...are you an awakened person too?"
I'm pretty sure it was okay to ask that. Granted, I still didn't know much about the etiquette of the supernatural world, but it was obvious that she wasn't a normal person either.
She gave me a wide grin. "You really are an interesting person. This one is named Rumi."
This one? That was a particular way of addressing oneself.
"Interesting? Is it because of my eyes?"
Because I couldn't figure out what else about me would stand out to her.
"Not really, but silver eyes are interesting in their own right." She gave me a scrutinizing look. "No, what's interesting is the fact that you seem to be giving off mixed signals."
"Yup," she replied. "Hey, can Rumi do her magic on you?"
That immediately sent alarm bells ringing in my head. I definitely couldn't say yes to that, since flippantly agreeing to things was what got me into this situation in the first place.
But it looks like she wasn't waiting for my reply. Because immediately after she said that, she began making a strange voice with her mouth.
"Zzzzztt zzztt zzttttt zzzttt zzzzzzzzzt."
As if she was trying to mimic the static noise of an electronic device, she continued to make that strange noise with her mouth. I could tell that something was actually happening, but I didn't know what. The entire time she spoke, she kept her eyes entirely focused on me.
A foreign presence could be felt washing over me, and I couldn't help the shiver of revulsion that ran down my body at the sensation. I didn't know what she was doing, only that it was probably too late to stop her.
She stopped making that humming sound and suddenly frowned. "That's strange, Rumi couldn't complete the spell."
I was still frozen in shock at the situation.
"W-What did you just do to me?"
She tilted her head. "Rumi used her magic on you. It was supposed to tell Rumi why you kept giving off those funny signals, but it didn't work."
Her grin began to grow until it stretched abnormally. "That's never happened before."
Feeling absolutely out of my depth at that point, I hurried to make an excuse to leave.
"W-Well, it was nice meeting you Rumi. B-But I really must go, I have to take the bus home."
Her strange eyes still watched me even as I quickly left the store. I couldn't shake off the feeling that I just made a mistake somehow.
Never in my life had I waited for a phone call with such trepidation.
Inside my room at home, I finally got a call from Anna. It took me only a few minutes to tell her everything I learned today, and a few seconds later I heard her yell at me.
"You what?!" She was definitely not happy with what I told her about my encounter with that Rumi girl. "You idiot! How could you let somebody just do something like that to you?! That's like letting somebody stab you after they asked if they could!"
I winced. "To be fair, it wasn't like she gave me enough time to react. She literally ambushed me out of nowhere with what she did."
"You should've run the moment you saw her," she told me. "That was stupidness to the highest degree. You're lucky you're even alive."
"Would she really have killed me though?" I asked her. "We were out in the middle of public. Isn't it a bad thing if people see the magic happening out in the open?"
"You still don't get it." I could imagine her shaking her head. "The awakened world doesn't care about things like morality. If normal people witnessed magic, it wouldn't be unusual if their response was to just kill everyone to keep the existence of magic a secret."
My blood froze at that. "What?"
"It's rare nowadays since most of us know better than to make that mistake in the first place." She sighed on the other end of the call. "That said, if you hear about crazy gas explosions or sudden illnesses on the news, some of that might actually be a cover-up for more mystic things."
What the absolute heck! Scary, too scary!
"I don't recognize the name Rumi," Anna muttered. "But that spell you mentioned her doing, you said that she was mimicking a static sound like an electronic device?"
"Yup. It was really freaky the way she just stared at me the entire time. It was like she was in some kind of trance."
"That might be because she was using the chant as a sort of self-hypnosis," Anna replied. "She was adjusting her mental state so that she could affect the world easier. It's a common tactic for those who want to increase the strength of their magic."
Mental ability did seem important in the supernatural world.
"But by her own admission, it looks like whatever she did to you didn't work." Anna sighed at that. "Which isn't really as nice as that seems. Failed spells are often worse than the actual intended effects sometimes."
I had a funny image of a chibi Rumi exploding in my head before I shook myself out of my thoughts.
"Guess there's nothing we can do about that for now. What do you think about what I said about Carlos?"
"I admit that it's worth looking into," she answered back. "That said, I don't know who this Carlos person is and I'm excused from all fitness classes this year."
"It was a waste of time," she answered. "So it looks like you'll have to be the one to check this out. I'll try and see if I can teach you some identification spells later tomorrow. Are you okay if we meet up at the library again tomorrow?"
"Then that should be all for now. Just practice on your own for now, and I'll review what you've managed to accomplish tomorrow."
"See you later then."
I ended the call and sighed out loud. The memory of running into Rumi still shook me somewhat, and I still had no idea what she wanted with me.
But the fact that I just casually ran into someone else from the supernatural world scared me. This was a new part of my life that I just had to get used to now.
Still, whatever she did to me must have done something after all. Because when I went to go wash my face in the bathroom, I noticed something.
My eyes, they were brighter.