Chetachi Just Wants to Eat in Peace
Che was beginning to feel relatively normal as he stepped into the main lobby of Legaros Tower. His next two classes, math and health respectively, were bizarre but relatively harmless.
Bella, Kim, and Tyson were in his math class, which was also taught by Coach Naul for some reason. Bella didn’t speak the entire period, no matter how hard Kim nudged her by poking fun at Che. Even Tyson noticed something was off.
“I haven’t known her that long, but is something wrong?” he asked Che, who shrugged in response. Was it really his place to tell Tyson what happened in choir? Maybe this was one of those things Bella needed to work out for herself. Even though she came off as mean and haughty, Che knew deep down she was still a kid trying to figure herself out.
He was in his twenties, and he still wasn’t sure about himself at times.
“Maybe she’s like me and needs some caffeine,” Che joked, trying to lighten the mood. Tyson chuckled in response and didn’t press any further.
Health class had been where things got particularly jarring, as Che realized he was in a room full of teenagers learning about anatomy. He’d barely had time to find a seat when Lorenzo plopped down right next to him, still sporting his exhaustively cheerful disposition.
“You look like you’re feeling better!” he exclaimed. “I was worried about you this morning.”
Che nodded and managed to smile, despite the uneasiness he felt around Lorenzo. That uneasiness turned into pure panic as Nurse Taffy walked into the room. As soon as she noticed Che, her eyes lit up like Christmas lights.
“Oh, Mr. Rowan!” she gushed. “I’m so glad you’re here! You’re looking much better than yesterday!”
Che heard a few of his classmates snicker, but he tried to ignore it. Word must have already gotten around about his two trips to the infirmary. He no doubt looked completely helpless hanging from Tyson’s shoulder one moment then Lorenzo’s the next. He’d become quite the damsel in distress.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Che ducked his head, trying to avoid further attention, but Lorenzo wasn’t about to let him off the hook that easily.
“So Rowan,” he said with a smirk, “any ideas on how to get you-know-where?”
Che felt his stomach drop. Why was he talking about this here and now? He glared at Lorenzo, hoping he’d take the hint, but Lorenzo’s amused expression never faltered.
“If you haven’t noticed, this is the first day where a million things didn’t go wrong for me,” Che retorted. “So no. I haven’t.”
Lorenzo’s smirk slid into a sly grin as he leaned closer to Che. “I think you should figure it out.”
Che rolled his eyes, hoping a distraction would at least shrink his apprehension. Still, It was always as if Lorenzo knew something he didn’t. Every time they encountered each other, Che felt like he was being tested, and he had no idea what the right answer was supposed to be. For a teenager, Lorenzo was surprisingly difficult to figure out the more you got to know him.
Tyson obviously had it out for him due to his crush on Nikki, but Che was certain there was more to the story there. He’d seen how mercurial Lorenzo could be firsthand, from his Mark to his shadowy motivations behind wanting to get into the Marbot Research Facility.
Plus, he was beginning to suspect Lorenzo was in the same predicament he’d found himself in and was simply a lot better at hiding it.
By the time the bell rang for lunch, Che was relieved to be able to take a break from classes and get a meal. In the main lobby, two receptionists – who he wasn’t sure were identical twins or if their uniforms and cheery dispositions made them look eerily similar – greeted him warmly as he made his way to the elevators.
Before he could reach them, however, he felt himself being pulled around a corner and into a nearby office. He barely had a chance to register what was happening as Lorenzo shut the door behind him, pinning his back against the wall as he listened for any signs of suspicious activity outside.
He then turned to face Che, his expression suddenly serious. “We’ve got a few seconds here before someone needs to use this office.”
Che sighed. “Lorenzo, what is this about? I’m hungry.”
“I don’t think you’re taking any of this seriously,” Lorenzo folded his arms.
Che’s shifted his weight from one foot to the other, sighing in frustration. “Of course not! What are we hiding for?”
“Today is Thursday,” Lorenzo continued. “Next Friday, when we’re allowed out past curfew to go to Astronomy class, that’s when I plan to get into the Marbot Research Facility.”
“Are you sure we should be talking about this here?” Che asked, his voice barely more than a whisper.
Lorenzo nodded, pressing his ear against the door to make sure no one was coming. “They don’t monitor this room that closely since it’s on the first floor and mostly used for conferences.”
Che noticed Lorenzo’s change in demeanor and furrowed his brow. He was completely different during class.
“You’ve been training, haven’t you?” Che accused, his voice still barely more than a whisper. “How did you even have time between health class and now?”
Lorenzo nodded, pulling away from the door to face Che again. “Haven’t YOU been training as well? That skirmish this morning?”
Che shook his head. “Those two are always after me, ever since I first…”
His words trailed off before he could finish his sentence. Lorenzo raised an eyebrow. “Since you first what?”
Che shook his head. “Since I first met Nikki, Bella, and Kim outside of Rose Coliseum.”
Lorenzo’s eyes widened, though his change in expression was still subtle. “Why are they after you?”
Che swallowed. How could he even begin to explain any of this to Lorenzo? “It’s complicated.”
Lorenzo regarded him for a moment before his expression softened. “Well, whatever the reason is, you don’t have a lot of time left.”
Che looked up in surprise. “Time for what?”
Lorenzo sighed and shook his head, his voice a little softer now. “Listen. We’re only going to be at this academy for six weeks, provided we don’t flunk or get kicked out. If you want to get inside, you need to get stronger. Quickly.”
Che nodded slowly in agreement, though he was thoroughly confused as to why classes would be over so soon. He was under the impression most students would be at Legaros Academy for months. Six weeks seemed like a glorified boot camp.
Which made Lorenzo’s reasons for wanting to get into the restricted area all the more intriguing.
“Why do you want to get inside so bad?” Che finally asked, his curiosity getting the better of him.
Lorenzo smirked in response. “I told you I have my reasons, and I could ask you the same thing.”
Che thought for a moment before he answered. Lorenzo had a point. Both of them seemed to have a strange need to get into a restricted area. He just wished he could gauge whether or not Lorenzo was actually from Eden or from another place entirely. He’d have to keep nudging him until the time was right to settle the matter once and for all.
“Fine,” Che finally answered.
“Good,” Lorenzo responded. “Because, if you’re not ready by next Friday, I’m going without you.”
Che’s eyes widened, though he knew better than to argue with Lorenzo at this point. Besides, if he was going to find Yokan, it made sense to do it as quickly as possible before the maniac ended up getting bored and finding another victim.
“I’ll be ready,” Che nodded.
There was a brief moment of awkward silence before Lorenzo smiled, though it was a little sad. “How is Tyson?”
Che furrowed his brow. Why was he asking about Tyson all of a sudden? “I mean besides this morning he’s fine, I guess. Seems to be anyway.”
Lorenzo nodded slowly and stepped away from the wall. “Good.”
Che watched as Lorenzo opened the door, peeking out to make sure it was safe. He started to step into the hallway when Che called out to him.
“Wait!” Che motioned for him to close the door. “Tyson won’t tell me, but I know something happened between you two.”
Lorenzo paused, his expression unreadable, before sighing. “He hasn’t forgiven me since a girl he was after chose me over him a year ago. They were pretty close.”
Che scrunched his nose up in confusion. “Wait, that’s it? This is all over some girl?”
Lorenzo chuckled to himself, though it was a sound that lacked any real humor. “Some girl, yeah.”
As he turned to open the door again, it swung open, revealing a figure in the hallway with a cold expression. Lorenzo and Che both jumped, though Lorenzo recovered quickly, straightening up and putting on his polite face.
“What exactly do you two think you’re doing in here?” Professor Avis demanded, her eyes narrowing as she looked from Lorenzo to Che. “This room is for faculty only. Isn’t it lunch hour at this time of day? Get back to class before I report you both.”
Che swallowed, nodding slowly. Lorenzo followed suit as they both started to walk towards the door.
“Oh, and Mr. Rowan,” Professor Avis called out before they exited the room. “I’ll be expecting you to stay out of the infirmary today. There are no makeup assignments in my class.”
She took a step toward him, her voice stern as she looked him straight in the eye. “Understood?”
Che nodded, his expression unchanging. A chill ran up his spine as she stared at him, and he started to feel a little bit of panic. But then Lorenzo took his shoulder, gently guiding him away.
“He’ll be fine, professor,” Lorenzo said politely as they both walked out of the room together. “We’re all looking after him.”
“I must say it’s quite interesting that you all go to such great lengths to coddle him,” Professor Avis said as she watched them go.
Che wanted the wave of relief to wash over him as the door clicked shut, but he still couldn’t shake the feeling that something wasn’t right. Lorenzo was up to something, and he was more certain than ever that Professor Avis was growing more suspicious with each encounter.