Chapter 2

A Day Complete! An Unexpected Guest

It could not be understated just how happy she was upon returning home. What happened before did not matter; she felt perfectly fine. It was not enough that they had a proper conversation, but before leaving both would trade both cell and home numbers. In her mind, the day could not have gotten any better. Living down the street meant she could think to herself without being cut off by the constant noise coming from those riding the bus. Plus, there was a nice breeze out, making it good walking weather.

"I can't believe we got to talk today for the first time. Maybe I'll invite him out to the summer festival next month. Yeah, and when the firework starts, I'll finally…No-no, that's too quick, Mai!" he told herself, letting out a gentle breath. As happy as she was at the time, rushing into a relationship was never a good idea. Perhaps by the end of summer if they hung out a lot, but for now the best thing to do was settle down and focus on preparing for finals. "First things first, no more games until the end of the week. I've kept my 3.5 GPA and I'm not letting it slip over as something trivial as a boss monster."

The Marlin household was like any other house on the block. Two stories with a bathroom on each and three bedrooms located on the second floor. A nice, living room with a large, dark blue couch and tan recliner sat side by side, with a nice 4K T.V and disk player used for their viewing pleasure. The kitchen held a single circular dining table with four chairs surrounding it, a relatively new stove, microwave, and dishwasher, and pantries full of food. Overall, a pretty comfy place to live.

"I'm home!" she called out after placing her bag on the kitchen table.

"In here." she heard her sister call out.

Walking through the kitchen door, she was met with the sight the young high schooler surrounding herself in floating textbooks. Finals were a stressful time for everyone, even for herself. But for her sister, she took it as it came, never overworking herself and keeping focus on what she needed to work at. It's what kept her at the top of the class all year long.

"Are you busy, Kayla?"

"I'm about done. Just hold on a minute."

Enter, Kayla Marlain, a fifteen-year-old who could take certain situations a bit too seriously, though meant well in the end. Much like her older sister, she too had long, black hair, though it remained draped down her back. Calm and composed, young Kayla could accurately be described as her opposite. The look in her light blue eyes lacked any sort of innocence, but instead complete seriousness. It may have appeared to many others that she lacked emotions, but that couldn't have been further from the truth. She refused to let them get in the way of her own goals. To her, at times they could be a hinderance, yet she still cared about her big sister.

"Alright. So, what happened today during lunch?" Kayla asked with a raised brow, the books having been placed neatly next to her on the couch.

"…You saw?" she questioned.

"No, but a friend of mine told me before we left that they saw you in the arms of that guy you're after. He didn't do anything to you nasty to you, right?" she sternly questioned.

"No! Ew, that's gross. What kind of person do you think he is?"

"I've been told he's a good person, but I will reserve my judgement until I've met him myself."

"Sheesh. Kind of cruel of you to think he would do something like that in the first place."

"I'm merely being cautious."

"Yeah, a bit too cautious. I'll have you know; all he did was bring me to the nurse's office after I passed out during lunch. That's it."

"Passed out? Did an Awakening manifest?"

"I don't think so. I just started getting really worked up, then it all went black."

"That's strange. You didn't look or act sick this morning."

"The nurse said it could have been from too much stress."

"Well, it is finals week. But still, passing out? You would have had to been bottling up a lot of it for that to happen."

"I don't know, but I'm not going to let it distract me. Especially with exams coming up."

"If you're sure about that, but if it happens again, we're going to the hospital." Kayla stated while rising from her seat, the books following directly behind her. "I'm going to my room to study. And Mai, sorry for what I said. I'm sure he's a fine guy, and I'd like to meet him someday." she would say apologetically before ascending the steps.

Still, not much emotion behind those words, but she could usually tell when her sister was being honest. With a couple hours remaining before dinner, there was still some time left to study. With both mother and father having to work late at the hospital, it would be up to them to find their own grub. Thankfully, there was no shortage of diners and restaurants with take up in the area.

"Alright, let's get to work." she said confidently, before climbing the steps as well.

Just down the street, Trace had only just arrived home when he was greeted by his own mom the moment he entered through the door. Standing there, her dark blue hair was tied back into a bun, while dressed in a white, button up top, black suit jacket, matching black skirt and stocking, as well as heels, she would have a light smile on her face.

"How was your day?" she questioned.

"About the same. Nothing that special really happened aside from helping someone. No big deal though." he answered truthfully.

"As expected nowadays. Did you need a snack or something?"

"Nah. I'll grab something later. Plus, you've been at Collider all day. I'm sure you're pretty beat. Am I right?" he asked with another of his bright smiles. "I'll go out and grab us something for dinner."

"I suppose that's alright, though tomorrow I insist on making us a proper meal." she assured him.

"No objections here. I look forward to whatever you'll make." he said, heading for the steps leading to his own room.

As per usual, studying took top priority, especially during exam season. With a 3.0 grade point average he had proven himself quite intelligent, but there was still room for improvement. Mathematics were his biggest weak points, so he would start with that. To help their students, each teacher was given practice tests to hand out to students. It wouldn't be a 1:1 of the actual exam, but it would help them prepare. And as a bonus, on the school's website there were additional, online exams in case that one wasn't enough.

Time passed rather quickly as Mai finished up her practice tests. Using the answer sheet given, she would compare her own to those given on the document. History was by far her weakest subject, so that's where she began. Overall, she had scored a decent 78%. Not bad, but not as good as she had hoped. Booting up her desktop computer, she prepared for the online version when a loud grumbling came from her stomach.

"That's right. I said I'd grab us something to eat. What time is it though?" she questioned, glancing at the wall mounted clock to her right. "It's already five? I guess I was distracted. Alright, I think some Chinese will do for today." she said confidently, grabbing her wallet from her desk.

Chinese food, one of several types of culinary delights that both sisters shared equal interest in. It mattered very little which diner or restaurant it came from, so long as it tasted good. Though, there was one place they often frequented due to its good service and flavorful dished. The White Lily, a small yet respectable diner that had become well known for its great tasting good and appropriate portion sizes; there was even a little desert bar you could swing by if you had a sweet tooth. After grabbing her wallet, she swung by her sister's room to let her know before moving downstairs and out the front door.

Living in the city had its downsides, like traffic, cluttered sidewalks from time to time, and the noise of passing cars during the night, but there were just as many upsides as well. With plenty of places to visit, restaurants to try, and shops to browse through, there was plenty to do when bored. Thankfully, there weren't too many people walking the sidewalk, making the journey far less annoying. With the sun going down, it meant she would have to be careful when walking back home. Creeps were still a thing after all.

It wouldn't take but six minutes before arriving at her destination, smelling the fresh cooking coming from the vents. There was not much sunlight left as it began dipping below the city's skyline. Perhaps leaving earlier would have been a better idea. Or perhaps not? Upon approaching her destination, a familiar face would pop back up, causing her lips to curl into a big smile. It could only be one person.

"Oh, didn't expect to see you here, Mai." he said, still his usual, cheerful self. "Grabbing some dinner?"

"Yeah. Mom and dad are stuck at work, so me and my sister have to kind of fend for ourselves tonight."

"Can relate. I've had that happened quite a lot, but what can you do? It's good to see you though. I was wondering if you were still alright." he concerningly said.

"Nope! I feel energized."

"That's good. I didn't want you pass out on the sidewalk or something." he said with relief.

Heading inside, the smell of freshly prepared food filled their nostrils. It all smelled so good, but they couldn't dilly dally too much. There weren't but two people in front, meaning they had lucked out and beat the dinner rush. The diner itself was decorated with various paintings and pictures depicting different figures of Chinese mythology and folklore, such as Sun Wukong, Nuwa, and Bai Suzhen. Twenty tables were organized across the room, positioned to give those walking around enough room to move without bumping into someone. It was a nice place to sit down and have a meal if you had the time.

"Hey Trace, you walked here, right? How far away do you live?" she questioned.

"Oh, not far at all. Just head down the sidewalk for four minutes and stop at the first bright green house you see."

"He lives that close?!" she exclaimed internally. She had no idea. All this time she thought he lived further away when in fact they weren't that far apart to begin with. Clearing her head, she returned with a suitable reply. "Really? That's funny, I live in the opposite direction."

"Huh. You'd think we'd run into each other more often. I take it you walked to school then?"

"Yeah. You did too?"

"Nope. I use my good old bike, though I've had to walk recently since the chain broke."

"I guess that's why I never see you. You're fast than me." she said, giving a humored chuckle.

"Hah! You're not wrong. I'm usually pedaling like a madman. Got to get a bit of cardio, you know?"

Well, now that she knew where he lived, perhaps the two of them could hang out more during the summer. She would have asked him then and there when suddenly the reporter on the nearby T.V interrupted them with a news story that grabbed almost everyone's attention.

"Following an earlier awakening, Kyle Mason found himself emitting intense pulse waves that shook the very foundation of several small businesses in the area. However, due to the quick action of Leader Xeon and his fellow members from Collider, they were able to subdue Mr. Mason and nullify the awakening for the time being."

Awakenings: a new facet of their reality that many were still coming to terms with. Described as supernatural abilities, those affected often found themselves with only one unique power. The way in which they manifest would vary from power to power, but in some cases the individual may lose control or fly into a panic. However, thanks to the newly founded governmental organization known as Collider, they could be subdued and treated in such a manner until they gained control over their newfound ability.

"Man, what I would give to meet that guy in person." Trace said in amazement.

"He's pretty incredible, and to think, he didn't even come from Earth." replied Mai.

"Yeah, and maybe someday we'll leave a mark as big as his on this world."

"You think so? It's kind of hard beating saving the world." she reminded him.

"Okay, maybe not that big, but something will come along. I'm sure of it."

There was that optimism he so regularly exuded. It did not seem to matter what path laid before him, he would either follow or divert from it in order to achieve his goals. It was this aspect of him that she admired so much. Even if times were tough, his head would remain above the stormy clouds.

Several minutes would pass before either of them would receive their orders. From the smell alone they could tell a good meal was ahead of them. But when leaving they noticed the sun had already gone down, leaving them in the darkness of night.

"Dark already, huh? Guess I should have expected as much."

"Well, I guess I'll see you tomorrow." she said politely, taking her leave.

Before taking a single step though, he would stop her by placing upon her shoulder.

"Sorry if this kind of weird, but would you like me to walk you home?" he offered, feeling his cheeks turning warm for a bit. He couldn't quite explain it, but after what happened earlier, he felt a bit more protective of her. Granted, they weren't in the worst part of town, but scumbags could lurk anywhere. And if anyone were to take a hit, it would be himself. "I mean, it's pretty dark and I wouldn't want anything to happen to you on the way."

"You would really do that?" she asked, feeling her cheeks warming up as well.

"Of course. I wouldn't want some creep or bozo to get his hands on you."

His explanation had sent her heart into overdrive. Never would she had thought the day would have taken a sudden shift, but she had no problem with it. If it drew them closer together, why not?

"I'd love that. Thank you." she would say in return with a pleasant smile.

"Great! Just let me know when we're there and I'll take my leave."

With night having come, streetlamps had begun illuminating the sidewalk, giving them plenty of light. Thankfully, there were only a few others walking along as they were. While at her side though, he would glance over from time to time. What the others had told him had him from earlier that same day had wormed its way into his head. Something about her seemed different when he was around. The calm and collected exterior he would see during class would fall away, making way for one more flustered. But while looking, he couldn't help but notice a few aspects about her he hadn't before.

"You know, looking at her now, she's even cuter than I originally though, and she's really nice. She's smart as well and likes to play games too. So maybe…" he thought to himself. In the past, he had only looked at her paid attention to her during class but talking with her and seeing her up close was a much different experience. The studious attitude fell away, revealing a charming young lady underneath. "But does she really like me like that, though?" he wondered.

Before he could slip further into his own thoughts, Mai would pull him back with a question she had. It wasn't anything too person, just something to break up the silence.

"So, what are you going to do after graduation?" she pressed.

"Oh, probably construction. I like being active, so I figured it would be a good fit."

"Wow. That's going to take a lot of stamina and strength, huh?" she said, seemingly impressed by his answer.

"You have no idea, but nothing you can't get used to over time." he replied confidently. "What about you?"

"Maybe a news anchor."

"Really. I would have thought game developer."

"Maybe a few years ago, but after learning what that would entail, I switched over to something far more manageable."

"I've heard it can be brutal. But hey, news anchor is great too. I bet you'll bring lots of charm to the role." he enthusiastically uttered.

"Well, as much as an anchor can anyways." she replied, giggling at the enthusiasm in his voice.

Their conversation helped keep them busy, and in no time, they were standing before her front door. Before heading in though, she turned to him to offer some kind words.

"Thank you. I know you're probably hungry, but thanks for walking with me. It was fun." she told him, sounding rather happy.

"No problem. I wouldn't want you to run into the wrong people." he replied, giving her another friendly smile.

"Still, I'm glad we got to talk."

"Same. And if you want, we could hang out tomorrow, if you'd like."

"I'd like that."

With food in hand, she gave a little wave goodbye before turning towards the door, only for it to suddenly open. Stumbling backwards, he managed to place his order down and catch her under her arms before she could fall back too far.

"Are you alright?" he asked.

"Yeah. Thanks for that."

The one responsible would make herself known as her dear sister appeared in the doorway, her eyes focused on them both.

"I swear you're going to give me a heart attack one day, Kayla." she would tell her while standing back up.

"I see you brought him home." she pointed out, stepping closer.

"Oh yeah. I was just making sure she got home safe. That's all." he assured her, growing a bit nervous as she approached him.

"I think she knows that…" Mai would reply with a hand cover her face in embarrassment.

It would only get more awkward for him as she circled him while looking him from top to bottom.

"This is really uncomfortable…" he said under his breath, cheeks completely red.

"Please stop this." begged Mai.

She would ten seconds later, her curiosity having been sated as she returned inside, only giving them a thumbs up.

"What was that?" he asked.

"Kayla. She's my younger sister. As for what she was doing, I think she was seeing if you were real…"

"Is there a reason I wouldn't be?"

"It's nothing. Just her being weird. Anyways, I'll see you tomorrow." she said, following in her sister's footsteps, giving another little wave before closing the door.

"Well, that was…interesting."

Their little walk may have been nice, but knowing his mother, she was probably worried. Returning home, he took notice of the voices coming from the kitchen. One he recognized as his own mother, but the other sounded completely unfamiliar. Had she invited a friend from work over without letting him know?

Opening the door, he walked in to fight a most puzzling sight. His mother was sitting at the table with a cup of tea, that much was normal, however, her guest was anything but. A floating entity turned to face him, its white face was completely void of any eyes, nose, or mouth. A black cloak covered its upper torso, with its thin, white arms being the only other parts of it he could see. It had no lower body, and instead merely levitated above the chair across from her.

"Uh…mom, you want to explain this?" he asked as a cold chill ran up and down his spine.

"Oh sorry, we were just talking."

"Yeah, I could hear you. But what is-"

"Sweetie, there's something I've got to tell you." she would tell him in a softer tone.

"So, this is your son?" the creature asked.

"Yes, this is Trace. And Trace, this is Kyron."