Halfling Chapter Nine: Humiliation

I was now one of a select few who knew that creatures from legends lived amongst us.  It was creepy; it was also quite heady.  Everywhere I went, I saw things differently.  I looked at people and wondered if they were yaojing, creatures who took on human personas and tried to fit into human society.

This didn’t mean I was paranoid—more like awed.  Khit had told me that the yaojing were not allowed to hurt people.  They only needed to steal energy from people occasionally in order to replenish their own life energy.  This was done in different ways, such as female white foxes morphing into beautiful women to steal energy in the form of sex.  Their male counterparts did the same.

Snakes, on the other hand, were tricksters.  They deceived people into investing in dishonest schemes that they thought would make them rich quickly.  The snakes fed off of the energy of the greed in people.

There were seven animals total that made up the yaojing.  Besides foxes and snakes, there were cats, wolves, falcons, rats, and pigs.  The yaojing chose to seek life energy in ways unique to their personalities.  And they all took advantage of the susceptibility of humans to sins, more specifically, the seven deadly sins.  Foxes were inclined to use lust, while snakes appealed to the greedy side of human nature.  Cats were paired with pride, wolves with anger, falcons with envy, rats with sloth, and pigs with gluttony.

It made me realize that if humans were not so morally corrupted, the yaojing would never get enough life energy to survive.

I had definitely become more cynical of the human race after knowing what I knew.

The week flew by, and before I knew it, I was taking another test in Khit’s class on Thursday.  It was only a short test, taking thirty minutes at most.  This time, Khit did not look over my shoulder as I wrote, and I was certain that he would not try anything else to make me drop his class now that I knew all about him.

At the Cliffs the other day, after he had told me everything about his family, we had talked about other things.  Our dreams and ambitions, life and love, our favorite music, movies, and books.  Then he had taken me out for lunch and dropped me off at my apartment.  Things were good between us, and I was sure there was a reason we were in each other’s lives.  I would say we were already good friends.

But after we had turned in our tests, and he’d begun the lecture, I couldn’t help but get the feeling that he was angry with me.  Every time I looked down to take notes, I felt his gaze boring into the top of my head, but when I looked up again, his gaze was focused elsewhere.

Another annoying thing I had to put up with during that lecture was Darryl.  Not to say that I no longer liked him…he was my soul mate after all.  It was just that all throughout lecture, he kept trying to brush his hand against mine and put an arm on the back of my chair.  He wasn’t all too subtle about it either.

I might have liked it better had we been watching a movie.  But this was lecture, and it was annoying having him brush his hand against mine as I was writing notes and putting his arm around my chair, which crowded me in so much that I had to sit uncomfortably forward.  It was a horrible angle for writing, and my notes became barely legible.

I probably had revealed my displeasure somehow in my body language because he leaned down to whisper in my ear.  “Sorry, I won’t do it anymore if it makes you feel uncomfortable.”

I might have whispered back a reply if the sound of something snapping in two had not made me jump.  The entire class was staring in horror at Khit, who had broken the dry erase marker in his hand in half.  I frowned disapprovingly at him.  Showing off his strength was not something he should do if he didn’t want to expose his identity to the world.

Then I noticed how red his face was, and I realized he was fuming.  His eyes were entirely focused on Darryl.

“Mr. Pyrrhus, maybe you need a reminder that you are in a lecture hall, not a movie theater.  If you are going to turn my lecture time into a make out session, I suggest you leave.”

I thought that nobody could have blushed harder than I did at that moment, but the shade of red on Darryl’s face could have made tomatoes and strawberries jealous.  I didn’t think I would ever feel this mortified again.

I thought wrong.

Apparently, I had mistaken Darryl’s red face for embarrassment, when it really was rage, plain and simple.

“How dare you criticize me, you sorry excuse for a professor!”

Now.  Now I didn’t think I would ever feel this mortified again.  Why had Darryl gone and said that?  He’d just made it ten times worse, and now the entire class, who hadn’t even seen Darryl brushing his hand against mine in the first place, probably thought we’d really been making out all the way.

I risked a glance at Liana, Stacy, and Nia, but they all looked excited, eager to see how this argument would play out.

But all Khit said was, “Get out.  Now!”

And Darryl stormed out.

After that, I didn’t think anyone would concentrate on lecture anymore.  Khit looked at us, his entire body shaking from rage.  “Class dismissed.”

The entire class rushed out the door, too afraid that they might provoke the wrath of the professor further.  This did not bode very well for our test scores.

Liana, Stacy, and Nia surrounded me.  “What was that all about?”

I buried my head in my hands.  “I don’t know.”

“Very interesting,” Liana said thoughtfully.  “Doc Inari used the words ‘make-out session’ when Darryl barely even touched you.  I think we have a case of jealousy.”

“But…he’s our professor,” I protested.  “He shouldn’t be interested in me that way.  Besides, we don’t even know each other well.”

That wasn’t precisely true as I knew more about Khit than the rest of the world did, but I couldn’t exactly tell Liana about that.

“So?” she said.  “He’s a young professor, five, six years older than us.”

“Six and a half,” I said, then bit my tongue.

My three roommates stared at me more.  “So you have talked to him outside of school,” Nia said.

“We’ve bumped into each other a few times,” I said.  “But we hate each other, don’t you remember?  He humiliated and stalked me.  He tried to intimidate me into dropping his class.”

“Again, he likes you,” Liana stated.  “And he apologized to you for being a jerk.”

Stacy sighed romantically.  “A three way love triangle, with little Caren in the center.  Two guys fighting over her.  It would make such a good story.”

“I don’t want to talk about this anymore,” I said, running ahead of them.  And true to my word, I was silent about the issue the whole way home, no matter how much they pestered me.

Despite Liana’s interpretation that Khit liked me, I really didn’t think that she was right.  Most likely, Khit was just afraid if Darryl became my boyfriend, I would spill out all of Khit’s secrets to him.  Maybe the solution was to talk to Khit again and reassure him that I would never tell anyone, not even my boyfriend.

As soon as we walked into our room, Liana closed the door.  “All right, Miss Caren…I’m your best friend.  I deserve to know everything.  What exactly is going on between you, Darryl, and Doc I?  Spill it.”

I’d already told Liana about all my meetings with Khit, except the time he had told me who he really was.  Obviously, I couldn’t tell Liana about that.  Besides, I didn’t even know what was going on between me, Darryl, and Khit.

I started to stutter helplessly.  “I—I…he…”

“Well, let’s take this slow,” she said.  “You still like Darryl, right?”

I nodded.  “He’s my soul mate after all.”

She frowned.  “Do you honestly like him, or do you just think you do because of that library dream of yours?”

“We’ve talked about this before,” I said.  “It doesn’t matter either way because one always falls in love with one’s soul mate.”

“All right,” she sighed.  “Let’s not get off topic.  So you like Darryl.  If that’s the case, have you in any way caused Doc I to think he had a chance with you?”

“No.”  This whole conversation was so pointless.  I knew that he didn’t like me, but I never could convince Liana without telling her that I knew Khit was half white fox.

“You need to talk to him,” Liana said.  “Tell him that you don’t like him that way and then promise that you and Darryl won’t attempt any more hanky-panky in his class.”

“You’re right,” I said, just because I didn’t know what else to say.  Then I remembered Darryl and groaned.  “What if he gives Darryl a bad grade?”

“He really lost it today,” she agreed.  “You should call him and see how he’s doing.”

She was right, but I felt so awkward about it.  It kind of was my fault for acting uncomfortable around him.  If he hadn’t whispered that apology to me, maybe Khit wouldn’t have noticed anything.

I waited until late that night to call Darryl, putting it off until I knew I couldn’t any longer.

He answered at once, telling me he had been expecting my call.  “Hey Caren.”

I wasn’t sure what to say beyond the hi, but after a bit of an awkward pause, he continued to talk.

“I dropped the class.  I decided that after today, there’s no point hoping for an A.  That guy is an unfair grader anyway.”

I was surprised at the protest on the tip of my tongue.  Khit had only been unfair to me, and there had been a reason for that, but in the end, he’d apologized for it.  But I wasn’t about to argue with Darryl when it was my fault he’d been humiliated.

“I’m sorry about everything,” I said instead.

“Why?  It’s not your fault I totally lost it.”  I heard him sigh.  “Something about that man irritates me to death.  I guess it’s the fact that he treated you so badly.  I just don’t understand…we did nothing wrong today.  He completely blew it out of proportion just to humiliate us.  A man like that…I refuse to take his class, but I admit, I shouldn’t have blown up either.”  He blew out another frustrated breath.  “I should be the one to apologize to you.  I probably made you more embarrassed.”

“No you didn’t,” I lied.  “I—”

“Hey, listen, I gotta go now.  I’ll talk to you soon.”

The line was cut, leaving me entirely confused.  He said that he wasn’t angry with me, and yet, he’d just hung up on me.  Maybe I was just thinking too much of it.  Maybe he really did have a legitimate reason for hanging up so abruptly.

But this was definitely not heading towards the direction I wanted.  At this rate, I would never go on a date with him.  Since he had dropped the class, I wouldn’t see him as much, and unless he called me, there would be no future opportunities for him to ask me out.  Maybe it was time for me to take the initiative.  If he didn’t call me within the next week, I would call him.

Meanwhile, I would have to survive the weekend and think about what I would say to Khit the next time I saw him.

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