Welcome to Spirit Hunger, a weekly urban fantasy romance story.
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Honi watched in incredulity as Adi walked away. His scowl deepened. If he had thought this through, he could have avoided the humiliation. There were very few students left after the lecture but some had overheard. And while they probably hadn’t understood what they heard, a group of girls close by snickered and threw pitying glances at him.
Of course they thought that Adi had blown him off. Honi shook his head and turned away. If she didn’t want his help, fine. Obviously she wasn’t in as much distress as he had thought she was. As he stomped away from the lecture hall, he began to feel a little childish. Ho’neo followed him, his tail wagging like a flag. Honi could have sworn the wolf was sniggering. He threw him a betrayed look that was met with more animal amusement. Honi rolled his eyes and moved faster.
So what if she didn’t jump at his offer. Maybe he had misunderstood the situation and she wasn’t freaked out about the spirit animals. Maybe it had nothing to do with that at all. And once his anger passed, he felt guilty again. He ate his lunch by himself as usual and came to a decision while trying to chew a chunk of meat into submission.
If she needed help and came to him, he wouldn’t turn her down. Otherwise he’d ignore her and continue doing what John and his family wanted him to do: concentrate on his studies and become the legal spokesman that his tribe needed. That resolution lasted exactly until the afternoon.
Honi was walking back to his room, when something odd tickled his subconscious. He couldn’t put his finger on it, but something was different. He stopped and looked around, really concentrating on his surroundings. This was odd. Maybe it was thinking about Adi and her possible predicament, or maybe it was the call with John that had him on edge, but for some reason he couldn’t tune out the spirit animals.
Not seeing until he wanted to see had become second nature to him, but today it didn’t work. They were everywhere. Some were lizard-like, wrapped around their person’s necks or perching on their backs. Others were large predators, following their humans with heads down but eyes alert and tails twitching. Honi knew that animal species had nothing to do with character. It was the state of the animals and their behavior that showed him whether a person was fundamentally good or evil.
He met a girl once, volunteering in a homeless shelter, who carried a giant tarantula on top of her ear. He shuddered at the memory. Even with the knowledge he had gained about the spirit world, even when the huge spider was incredibly healthy and non-aggressive, even though the girl was a saint to all that needed her, he couldn’t get over his arachnophobia. He had told John about it, and after John had recovered from a laughing fit, he had assured Honi that personal preferences absolutely meant that he didn’t have to love somebody if their spirit animal grossed him out. And he had never been happier than on the days when he didn’t have to talk to the lovely volunteer with that disgusting creature leering at him from the side of her head every time his eyes strayed from her face.
A hiss right next to him ripped him out of this memories. A black jaguar spat at him and Honi jumped back. A skinny guy with a shock of red hair glared at him suspiciously and Honi tried to smile in apology. His face fell when the cat tried to swipe at him with his paw. Honi tried to hide his shock – he had never encountered a creature that tried to attack him. Another person’s spirit animal had no power over him and he couldn’t be hurt. The owner’s intention was another matter but another quick glance showed no aggression, only a raised eyebrow at Honi’s erratic behavior.
Honi shook his head and continued walking at a greater speed. Every time he passed students, their animals hissed, growled or barked at him. No matter how hard he tried to tune them out, he couldn’t make them disappear. They were everywhere. The noise level began to hurt his ears. He walked faster, keeping his eyes on the ground in front of him and tried to keep the rising panic under control. And then suddenly – silence.
Honi looked up in alarm. Now what? Every animal, every creature, their owners unaware, were silently staring at one point in the distance. Even Ho’neo’s bright blue eyes were staring and a light growl worked its way out of his broad chest. Honi put his hand on his head, a gesture he had perfected to connect to his spirit animal while not drawing attention to a creature only he could see. The world seemed to hold its breath. Together they squinted at the person coming closer and closer until Honi recognized the familiar gray hoodie.
Adi had her head down and so far had not noticed anything. Her face looked sickly in the late afternoon light, and there were even larger circles under her eyes than before. Honi’s breath stopped for an instant. There was something really really wrong here and Adi was in the middle of it. She had now reached the intersection of paths when she hesitated. Obviously she sensed that something strange was going on.
Honi watched with wide eyes as Adi lifted her head. Another second of silence, then the creatures’ noise level went through the roof. If Honi had thought that the previous cacophony was loud, now that the animals had a focus, the noise became deafening. Adi’s hands flew up as if to defend herself, then covered her ears. She screamed, “No, stop it,” then turned around and ran back in the direction she’d come from. Immediately the animal noises died down again.
“What’s up with her? She looked like she saw a ghost!” Two guys had turned around and commented on Adi. A spark of defiance, of wanting to speak up for her, rose up in Honi before he swallowed it down. It was none of his business. But as he walked, a thought kept going through his mind.
There was something going on with the spirit animals that had to do with Adi. For some reason she was in the middle of it. There was a reason that a gift that was to Honi’s knowledge only ever bestowed on his people, manifested in this plain student with glowing amber eyes and the most beautiful smile he’d ever seen on girl.