Taming the Storm – Yumoyori Wilson

Sweet Crimson, you should be sleeping.” I pulled my eyes away from my canvas, my thin paintbrush inches away from adding the finishing touches to yet another masterpiece. I turned to meet the ruby-eyed gaze of my best friend, James Hamilton. His built, 6’3” frame stood in the doorway, a seductive smile on those smooth pink lips of his. He had dark red hair with hints of black at the tips which was currently spiked to complement his punk style. His black leather jacket, red dress shirt and black jeans that sported metallic red and black chains gave off bad boy vibes, and only served to make him more strikingly delicious to stare at. He closed the door, locking it, before setting the keys to our shared flat on the black counter top of the kitchen island. He waltzed over to me and from the way his body swayed, I knew he had been drinking. It wasn’t surprising behavior since we did love to drink and party, but I was more of an emotional drinker unlike James, who went out whenever he got a chance. “I got inspiration and wanted to draw a little bit.” I gave him a small smile and my heart skipped a beat. He reached my side and before I could say anything more, his lips smashed against mine. His hands landed on my hips, and I suddenly remembered I was still holding my palette of paint in one hand and my brush in the other. I’d learned enough times to not get lost in James’ play, but his lips were like an addiction — a drug I couldn’t give up just yet, even if it pained my heart every time. We broke apart, our soft exhales a reminder of our steamy kiss.

I loved the way the haunting rays of the moon glistened against his red eyes which stared at me with adoration and devotion; a look he only gave me when he’d had a little too much whiskey. “Come sleep with me,” he whispered. I gave him a flirtatious smile, leaning forward to kiss him again. “I need to finish this. Go freshen up and relax. I’ll join you after.” His swollen lips brushed against mine. “Okay, Crimson. Just don’t be too long. I missed you.

” He gave me a look of pure desire. “I missed you too, James. I’ll be there soon,” I reassured him. As much as my body craved to give in and share a lust-filled night with him, I knew I’d only be setting myself up for disappointment and heartache. I’d learned many times in the past three years of our on-and-off drunken flings that he and I would never become a real ‘thing.’ I’d met James when I was nineteen at a family gathering; both our families were high ranking in our community. We’d hit it off right away, having the same interests, similar artistic hobbies, and coming from a familiar upbringing helped us relate to one another. Aside from James being Chinese whereas I was Japanese, I once thought we were so alike and meant to be. But, once we started dating and I noticed his family’s expectations of me were just like everyone else’s, I realized I would never be able to be by his side. See, their expectations of me were non-existent, because I was nothing but a human.

I was born into a family with my father, a powerful warlock and my mother, a Kitsune shifter. Our family, and community had already planned for me to do great things before I was even born. But the disappointment started there — a baby girl born with no magic and was human. A baby named Crimson Arashi. From then onward, my life was never easy. I was the little girl no one wanted to play with, the girl alone in the corner of the room at every family gathering until I was old enough to stay home instead. I’d always thought maybe my power would unlock later in life, but as I got older and wiser, I realized I was just unlucky. I was my parents’ one and only child. It wasn’t like they didn’t try to have another one, but before long, they stopped entirely. I suspected it was because they didn’t want to take a chance of having a second human child and the shame it would bring to our family name.

I had caused more than enough collateral damage already. I’d accepted the fact I would never meet my father’s expectations. My mother wanted the best for me, but my father never made things easy for either of us. He was a strict man, more concerned with saving his image and position in the Magic Political Council for Magicians and Shifters than taking care of his family. He had to work twice as hard to obtain the position, again because of me, and now he’d do anything to protect it. I was just thankful he hadn’t discarded me, which was common when a child didn’t meet their family’s expectations. Cruel, yes, but our culture cared about status and power — potential I didn’t have and my status was only due to my last name. I could go on and on about our culture and politics, focusing on where we lived in Nokamato, a large urban city in our country, Homatomashi, but the discussion would just lead me down into a depression spiral. My family issues were one of the reasons why I drank to begin with, and I lived with James to get away from the family shrine. I took a deep breath, closing my eyes and trying to regain focus.

Art was my escape. It was where I could let my energy, emotions, and talent flow. I loved the sense of peace it gave me when I was lost in the world of acrylic paint. I didn’t have to meet anyone’s expectations when I painted. I could be true to myself and enjoy the rewarding feeling of being good at something. Of course, my father disapproved of my dreams of becoming an artist. He would rather I do what other successful human adults did at my age: go to medical school and become a doctor. I’d easily finished my Bachelor of Arts degree and had enough of a following and savings to do whatever I wanted with my life, but my father wanted me to do this for them. He thought at least if I was a doctor, it wouldn’t be as ‘shameful.’ I finished my masterpiece, needing to zone out to rid my thoughts of the dread of my family shit that already began to try and taunt me.

It was two in the morning and all the bars around this area would be closed by now. I did have plenty of wine and vodka, but something about being in the small, dimly lit bar helped sooth the growing depression I continued to fight on a daily basis. Any form of exercise did wonders for my emotions too, whether it was running in the calm early hours of the morning, blasting my music and tuning out the rest of the world, or my sword dancing class which combined the art of moving your body and mastering swordplay. It was a fun hobby to have and because I’d begun sword dancing when I was only ten years old, I now received advanced one-on-one training from my Master, Hakua. She’d become a dear friend to me, only sixteen when her father and mother began to teach her the art and how to instruct others in it. Now she was my best friend and my senpai. I truly did need at least one person who simply loved me for who I was and wouldn’t judge me on my list of achievements. I walked over to the sink to wash my used brushes and palettes. I shook my hands off to dry, while approaching the floor to ceiling windows of our flat. I raised the blinds high enough I could view the twinkling lights of the city below.

I could barely see my reflection through the thin glass; a faint specter of my short black hair with my silver highlights returned my gaze. My haunting blue eyes showed my exhaustion, having spent a good eight hours on the masterpiece that was now drying in our spacious living room. “I should sleep,” I mumbled to myself, my hand struggling to work out the knots in my short locks before turning back around. I glanced at the time, realizing two additional hours had gone by. I frowned, unsure whether I should really go to bed or get my run out of the way. Might as well get a run in. I hate doing it during rush hour. I walked to my room, peeking my head in James’ room as I passed to see if he’d made it to bed okay. I leaned against the doorway, smiling at the sight of him nestled in bed. I’d most likely be back before he’d have morning practice.

He was a strong warlock, already setting records with his skills. The fact that he was also a fox shifter made him quick and cunning on the battlefield, something looked highly upon by many of the elders in the Council. In Nokamato, both humans and shifters walked the streets, but in other places around the world, things weren’t as peaceful. It was always smart to know how to defend yourself, regardless of what race you were. The crime rate had increased recently due to political issues between humans and shifters; their debates only induced headaches rather than getting closer to achieving peace and unity. However, there were many good organizations who helped individuals and worked to stop mass crimes, as well as organizations that attempted to exploit flaws in the current system. The strongest magician with the highest crime-stopping rate was Storm Yuna. She was both beautiful and powerful, having multiple shifter animals within her and being able to host a familiar. She was one of a kind and even though she was the strongest in our country and second in the world, she was humble and sweet. I didn’t know much else about the “Storm Queen,” a title many people referred to her by, but I did know she was supposed to be in Nokamato for peace talks.

It would be an honor to meet her, but my father disapproved of my presence at the meeting which would be hosted at our family shrine. Figures. I went into my oversized room, leaving the door slightly open since it wouldn’t take long to change. I walked over to my white dresser which stood next to the large vanity. When you looked at me, you might automatically assume I was one of those tomboys. But I loved dressing up and applying all sorts of makeup, inspired by both Japanese and American models. If it weren’t for the fact I was more on the curvy side, having a small waist and a tad wider hips than the typical Japanese female, I would have gone into modeling. It was a fierce career to break into and even harder to maintain your reputation and success, but I wasn’t afraid of competition. I opened my drawer, taking out a pair of black tights and a white tank top. I stripped out of my jean shorts and white t-shirt, which was my usual casual wear when I wanted to paint and knew I’d get some paint splatter on my clothes.

I didn’t generally have a specific style of dress, but usually I either dressed up like a model in the most expensive brands that I’d purchased myself or was casual in jeans or fitness wear. It all depended on how I felt on any given day. I slipped on my tights, taking off my white lace bra and replacing it with a black sports bra — the 34C material outlined in white to make it pop. I had a variety of sports bras due to the intensity of my sword dancing training. The fewer clothes you wore, the lighter you were, which made it easier to pull off crazy moves. If only I had the wind element, I could be like those flying sword dancers in movies. I pulled on my tank top, walking over to my oversized mirror to make sure my attire was appropriate for running. I knew some girls didn’t like going commando when working out, but the worst feeling when running ten miles was getting a wedgie halfway through. No thank you. “Let’s do this.

” I gave my reflection a confident smile. I grabbed my iPod and wireless headphones, walking out of my room and leaving the door ajar. James would know I had gone out for a run if he saw it open. I walked over to our black fridge, pulling out the pre-workout shake I’d prepared during my painting break. I shook the bottle, chugging down the cool orange flavored liquid. Once finished, I placed it in the sink, filling it up with water to soak so I could wash it when I got back. I took a final glance at the time. Five-twenty. By the time I get to the trail it will be five-thirty. Perfect.

I’ll be back before James leaves. I headed out, locking the door and slipping my keys and access card into the pocket of my tights. I took the stairs down, loving the fifteen flight race to kickstart my adrenaline to train, something I didn’t take advantage of often enough. Within ten minutes I was on one of the many hidden trails around Nokamato. It ran through three different parks and had other shortcuts to different trails that wound through the outskirts of our city, which was filled with wondrous wildlife and shifters who roamed in their animal forms. I began to run, doing my routine of five minutes of intense sprinting followed by five minutes of light jogging, while blasting my workout music— KPOP being one of my favorites. I knew some thought it was weird for me to like KPOP when I was Japanese, but my likes and interests were my own and I wouldn’t let my choice of entertainment be tainted by the opinions of others. I smiled as I looked at up at the sky, enjoying the transition of all the different shades as the sun began to rise along the horizon. I returned my gaze to the path, moments before I bumped into another runner— both of us tumbling to the ground. “Ah, shit! Sorry!” I apologized, scrambling to my feet where I immediately bowed.

It was a habit I’d gotten used to and I always forgot I didn’t need to show the same level of courtesy to strangers. “It’s my fault. I wasn’t paying attention,” the soft voice admitted. “Don’t bow,” she ordered. I straightened to meet glorious silver eyes; my own turquoise blue ones grew wide as I took in the woman’s appearance. Her long silver hair was tied in a ponytail, the tips a sapphire blue. Her cheeks were flushed and her pink lips were coated with lip gloss. She wore black shorts and a white and navy blue tank top, short enough to show off her toned abs. I could see the muscle definition in her biceps as she lifted her hand to remove her white headphones, resting them around her neck. I followed her lead, taking off my own multicolored headphones as I continued to gawk at her.

No fucking way. “Ah, I guess you realize who I am, Sealed One.” She gave me a smile as her expression softened, her silver eyes showing hints of curiosity as she watched me. Sealed One? “Um. Yes! I’m terribly sorry, Miss Yuna. Please accept my humble apology.” I bowed again, wondering if I should kneel before the strongest magician our community had ever known. She laughed; the soothing sound calmed my frantic heart and nerves. I glanced up in confusion. “Please, it’s six in the morning.

No need for such formalities. Especially in the middle of nowhere. What’s your name?” she asked. I rose up, trying not to fidget at her request. “Crimson…Crimson Arashi.” I felt ashamed of having to use my full name. She frowned, noticing my embarrassment. “Why do you look discouraged? Arashi…ah. You’re Mosuki and Konashi’s child. I was disappointed to hear you weren’t attending the meeting.

” She looked curiously at me. “Ah…well…you should know about my predicament.” I lowered my eyes to the floor. “Which is?” “I’m human and have no magic abilities,” I admitted. She was silent for a moment. I looked up to see her eyeing me, her silver eyes glowing vibrantly, her head tilted in wonder. “Are you sure?” she pressed. “Yup. Can’t do anything magic-wise. Not even a simple candle can be lit by me and I’m no shifter.

Father…well, you know how it goes around these parts and in our culture,” I explained, knowing Storm was also of Japanese descent, but had Caucasian heritage since her father was Irish and mother was Japanese. “I know very well. Expectations and status are far more important than our surname,” Storm mumbled, looking deep in thought. “Very true. Ah… Well, I shouldn’t interrupt your run any longer. You’re a busy woman.” I realized I was holding her up with my family problems. “Crimson. Continue working toward what you want. And I suggest you have a serious talk with your father about your birth,” she hinted.

I blinked, confused by her words. “Serious talk about my birth? Um…okay. Thank you, Miss Yuna.” I bowed my head. “You’re welcome, Sealed One. I’ll be off. Have a pleasant day.” She returned my bow with one of her own, a gesture of respect no one had graced me with in years. I watched as she began to jog down the path, getting smaller and smaller until she was gone, leaving me standing in utter bewilderment. “Sealed One? Is that a term they give to us humans? Keep striving… huh?” I whispered, lifting my hands up to stare at my palms, wishing they could do more than just paint.

I longed to be as strong and confident as Storm and prove my father wrong. I sighed, ruffling my black and silver locks in frustration. I looked up to the sky, praying for guidance from our ancestors who watched over us. I’ll try and confront Father a couple of days from now. That will give me time to emotionally prepare. I went back to my jogging, needing a few minutes to warm back up before I started running full force again. After my conversation with Storm, I felt somehow rejuvenated and could push even harder, sprinting for the remaining ten minutes until I reached home. I smiled as I put my keys in the keyhole, opening the door and walking into my safe haven. I was so pumped from my workout, doing twelve miles in my allotted time frame. Even with running into Storm, I still managed to break my record.

“You look happy. Met a friend?” I turned my head to see James in his training uniform. The combat gear was black with Japanese symbols in gold and red, a specific uniform given to those of high rank at his training facility. “Hey. I did twelve miles today,” I announced happily, placing my keys on the table and heading to the fridge to grab a water bottle. “In the same amount of time?” He looked impressed. “Yup! I even got sidetracked a little, but still was able to surpass my previous best. Maybe today is gonna be a good day,” I rejoiced, drinking down the ice-cold water quickly. I sighed in relief, throwing the bottle in the recycle bin next to our garbage can. “That’s impressive.

You haven’t slept though, have you?” he asked. “Nope. After you went to bed, it took another two hours to finish my latest piece. My client is in Nokamato and paid a large deposit for multiple pieces. I decided I wanted to get it out of the way this week,” I explained. James turned his head to eye the masterpiece, a smile forming on his lips. “It’s beautiful. I’m sure they will cherish anything created by you,” he whispered. “Thanks, James,” I replied shyly. It wasn’t often I received a compliment from him, unless he was drunk, that is.

“What time did I come home last night?” he asked. “Around three. Was there a party?” I made my way toward him. “Nah. I just needed a few drinks. Training is getting a little hectic and my family…well, ya.” He sighed, fixing the long sleeves of his black shirt. “Ah. Your father is still pressuring you to take over as his first in command?” “Of course. He’s always nagging at me to stop acting like a child and take over like his other friends’ children have.

I wish our families would think about our well-being, rather than this hierarchical political bullshit. I don’t want to be a part of it. Not now, anyway,” he huffed. I slid my arms around his waist, looking up at him. I was a few inches shorter than him, standing at 5’9”. “Hey, don’t get upset so early in the morning,” I soothed. He nodded, glancing down at my lips. I leaned up to give him a kiss, but he turned his head. “Crimson.” I frowned at his cold tone, dropping my arms to my sides and letting him step back.

“James, we can’t keep doing this.” I walked to my room, knowing he would follow me. I pulled off my tank top, taking my drenched sports bra off and throwing both articles of clothing in the laundry bin. I could hear his footsteps as I pulled open the second drawer, which was filled with my loose tshirts. I threw on a plain shirt, not bothering with a bra. By the time he was at the doorway, I had removed my tights, tossing them in with the rest of the dirty clothes before turning to face him. I crossed my arms over my chest to hide my nipples that I knew would peek through the thin fabric of my white shirt. “Crimson. I didn’t mean it like that,” he began. “James, you can’t continue to play with my feelings like this.

One minute you’re kissing and fucking me, and the next you’re pushing me away! What are we? Friends with benefits? Drunken lovers?” I barked, frustrated with this back and forth problem between us. He was my best friend and I wanted more. Yet, here I was, arguing about the same thing we always did. I needed to know what I meant to him.

.

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