"I'm sorry who are you?" I ask the leopard.
" Clouded Leopard. Rukai. In," is the reply.
"I'm sorry?" I ask.
"In," he replies as he gestures to me room.
Oh. He must want to enter. "Come in I guess," I say. i didn't know what else to say. I can't leave him out in the cold. That was just rude.
"Who is it Liao?" Tiger asks.
"Han God," The leopard says.
"Aborigine," Tiger replies spitefully.
"Um what now?" I ask.
"I am a Han god. worshiped by the majority of the populace. He is an aborigine god, worshiped by the aborigines in Wutai. But due to dwindling followers he may as well be a nature spirit," Tiger says haughtily.
"Han god insult?" The leopard growls.
"Ok. Both of you knock it off," I sigh. this was not a good day. I was exhausted and my head was killing me. "So Mister Leopard, why are you here?"
"Liao come with me. to Wutai," Leopard says.
"You do not get to come in here and demand my boy leave with you without so much as an explanation. How rude," Tiger scoffs.
"Why should i come with you?" I ask, ignoring Tigers outburst.
"You see," Leopard says as he points at my eyes with long black claws. "I help you see,"
Oh. so he must've awakened my spirit powers.
"Need Oracle. Warn people. That why i awaken third eye," Leopard says.
"Why do you need an oracle?" I ask.
"So you were the one who awaken his third eye. Why him?" Tiger asks..
"He has spirit power. I awaken it." Leopard says.
"How did you find me?" I ask.
"I saw at dance. I need Oracle to warn people," leopard says.
The words he says are very crude but I feel the emotion behind it. He desperately wants to help someone.
"No. You are not welcome. Please leave," Tiger says as he stands between me and the leopard.
"I am not evil," The leopard says.
"Oh. But how do i know you're not some demon in disguise. Because to me there is almost no difference between your kind and demons." Tiger says with a grin.
"Not your business," Leopard snarl as he gets closer.
"No. It is my business and not yours," Tiger snarls back and cracks his knuckles.
crap. this is bad. "No! No fighting in my room," I shout as i get between them,"
Just as i think everything is about to explode, my phone rings. Who the hell is calling me right now? The two cats look at me while i pull out my phone. It's Shu-Chi Senpai from dance club.
"H-hey Senpai. What's up?" I answer.
"Hey Liao. Just checking in. You looked ready to drop after the performance and we wanted to make sure you were okay. So i am bringing by some food so we can eat dinner together." Senpai answers.
Crap this is not the time for this. If he comes over would he see the two fighting cats? Probably not. But i would have to pretend i can't see them and if manga has taught me anything it is that this will not end well. But it would be rude to refuse. It sounds like he already bought the food.
"Fine. Are you alone senpai? " I ask
"Yeah. Why?" He replies.
"Are you on your way?" I sigh. Some food would be good right about now..
"About that. . .... I'm already downstairs." Senpai says as he hangs up .
"Senpai?" I say. Crap. He's here.
I grab Leopard and put him next to tiger. "Ok. Here's the deal my senpai is coming over. Both of you behave. No fighting. Got it?" I say as they both nod obediently.
"Liao! I brought Lou Mei!" A cheery voice says as I whirl to see........a cat?
"Senpai?" I ask.
"Yeah Liao?" The cat responds. "What's with the weird look?"
"Why are you a cat?" I ask. I was pretty sure senpai was not a beast-man. That would be catastrophic.
"What are talking about Liao? Do you have a fever?" Senpai asks in concern before a strange look crosses his features. "Wait. Can you see me? Like "see" see me?"
"If you mean "see" as in you look like a cat wearing dance gear then yes," I say incredulously.
"What are you doing here kitten?" Tiger says as he walks up to us.
"Don't call me kitten," Senpai snarls.
"What are you exactly?" I ask, trying to deescalate the situation.
"I'm a leopard cat," Senpai says.
"See. You're a kitten," Tiger says with a shit eating grin.
"I. Am. Not. A. Kitten. Don't compare me to house cats. It's patronizing." Senpai snarls back.
" Anyway. How long have you been a leopard cat?" I ask.
"I've been possessing Shu-Chi for only about a few months. But now that you can see me i have something i wanna ask you Liao," Senpai says.
"What is it?" I ask. I have a bad feeling about this.
"I want you to come restore my temple. I'm something of a guardian tiger in my temple. But it is being abandoned. If i don't do anything my fudegong will.......disappear," Senpai tears up.
"That sounds doubtful," Tiger says. "Even if the temple is abandoned your fudegong will just become a nature spirit. But your chi is....unusual. You do have some divine chi,"
"Please Liao. I really need your help. You're the only one who can," Senpai says in tears.
"I said no. I am liao's guardian. I have guarded his family since he was a child. I guess you could call us.....childhood sweethearts," tiger says with a big smile.
More like creepy stalker.
"In any case. He will return home as is proper of his lineage." Tiger finishes.
Hold the phone. No. I'm not going back.
"No. Liao come to Wutai," Leopard says
"Ok no. All of you stop. I'm not going anywhere. I came to Taiwan to go to college and get a city job. I'm not going to be a priest and I'm not going home! I'm not my family!" I shout and the trio fall silent.
"Well you heard him that's enough for today. You may leave." Tiger sighs after awhile.
"I stay," leopard says, meeting tiger's eye with a steely glare.
"If you two are staying then I will too. Its not fair you guys get to be around Liao. You might convince him," senpai pouts.
I sigh. Looks like I'm having guests. "Theres not enough space here. You guys are huge," i say.
"It won't be an issue Liao. Spirits dont take up space. They jist float around since they dont have bodies. I'm the only one here who has one.....so it looks like we have to share the bed." Senpai winks.
"As if kitten." Tiger say as he picks up by the collar. "You can sleep on the floor. I've been sleeping with Liao since I arrived in Taiwan with him,"
Wait what! I've been sleeping with a massive buff tiger since I got to college? I can already tell my face burning up.
"Liao wants to sleep with me. Right liao?" Senpai says.
Leopard just stares very intently at the bed. Then at me. Damn . Was there no way to please all of them?
"Well.....if you all want to sleep with me then why dont we all sleep together on the floor?" I suggest quietly. I could already feel my face heating up. This was both heaven and hell for me.
"Won't the be uncomfortable for you?" Tiger asks.
"Eh. It's not the worst thing. We can figure this out tomorrow. Right now I dont want to deal with you all arguing," I say tiredly.
"You should shower Liao. You smell like a locker room," Senpai says as he grab some quilts from the closet.
"Do I have to?" I groan
The response is Leopard pushing me towards the bathroom.
"Fine. Fine. I'll shower. Let me get some clothes," i sigh as I pick up a pair of shorts and a t-shirt.
I enter the bathroom and lock the door. Would that do anything against spirits? He hoped they wouldn't come in. I turn on the hot water and sit under the steaming stream. My aching body finally stopped throbbing and my headache seemed to diminish. This was definitely up there in term of worst day of my life. I mean sure I had three muscular beast-men in my room who wanted to sleep in bed with me. But why did they also want a life promise as well? What was I even supposed to do about that? I couldn't just up and leave. It seemed that even as far away from home as I was. My family's life as priests still followed me.
I sigh and shut off the water. The hot shower made me even more exhausted. I dry off and put on my pajamas. I open the door to find the feline trio sitting on a nest of quilts that covered the remaining floor of my apartment.
"Liao! Come eat. I still have more Lou Mei.," Senpai says through a mouthful of tofu.
"Yeah. Sure." I put my dirty clothes in the hamper but I then notice tiger and leopard aren't eating. "Hey tiger aren't you going to eat?"
"spirit and gods dont eat in the traditional sense. We eat the chi of food offered in our shrine," tiger says as he gestures to the take-out. '" so be a good boy and give me an offering,"
"Oh. Um, ok," I say as i grab one of the take-out boxes and place it before Tiger. "I humbly ask that you accept my sacrifice, " I say like we did back home
"Thank you Liao. You're a good boy," tiger says as he picks up a piece of meat from the dish. Strangely enough no meat was actually taken from the bowl.
"Liao give me food?" Leopard asks.
"Oh. Yeah sorry. One moment," I say as I grab another bowl. Thankfully Senpai brought a lot of food. "I ask that you accept my offering,"
Leopard smiles and digs right in. It was kind of nice not being alone. But I realized that if no actual food was being eaten then I would have to eat all the food that was left. Crap. Well that was a problem for tomorrow that can be dealt with tomorrow.
I put away the left over food and after I convince senpai to clean up before bed we get ready for the tricky part. SLEEPING.
"Let me sleep with Liao!" Senpai says as hugs me from behind.
"As if kitten," tiger says as he untangles me from Senpai but then proceeds to sit me next to him
Leopard just stares at me. He really needed to use his words. Regardless if they were mandarin or not
"Ok is there any way you guys can compromise? Perhaps turns?" I ask, praying they'll say yes.
"No," was the unanimous reply.
Okay. Fine. "Okay. Here's my plan. I want to sleep so I'm not going to argue. If you all want to sleep with me. Then fine. Tiger and Leopard can sleep next to me and senpai can sleep near my head. Is that acceptable or will I have to kick someone out " I say. I was starting to get annoyed.
"It is.....acceptable," tiger grumbles with crossed arms.
Leopard just nods.
"Fiiiiine. But wouldn't you rather cuddle with just me?" Senpai says.
"Would you rather I kick you out?" I lash back. I felt kind of bad but I was so freaking tired.
"Fiiiine. You're so mean Liao," senpai says with a smile.
They all take their instructed places and it seems like a good arrangement everyone got what they wanted, mostly. Granted, because of space Tiger was wrapped around my waist, Leopard was nuzzling my throat and senpai was playing with my hair. They all seemed happy enough
"Good night guys," I say as i shut off the lights. It feel strange the sound of the three beast men breathing. It's something I never realized I wanted. I realized I missed having someone with me. I realized that for the first time since leaving home, I was lonely.
I mulled on these thoughts for a while until Tiger leaned in to me ear. "Sleep Liao." His rough voice tickled my ear.
I laughed and snuggled deeper into the nest of quilts. This was nice. It really was.
I woke to the feeling of being suffocated, and crushed, and being ripped apart.
I struggle around to see my head on Senpai's body, Tiger is wrapped around my front like an octopus and Leopard is sticking to my back like a leech. The combined pushing from both sides is stifling. It warm and not uncomfortable but i like being able to breathe.
Tiger......Leopard.......Back off.....I can't........breathe," I gasp as i jostle the two.
Tiger finally opens his eyes and upon realizing i am suffocating in his pectorals, he backs off. "I apologize Liao i did not realize i was smothering you. I normally sleep like that but it seems it is different now that you can discern us,"
"its fine. As long as I'm still alive," I say as I glance at my phone. "Fuck. I'm late for class!" I shake off Leopard and get dresses as fast as possible.
"What's the hurry Liao?" Senpai asks sleepily.
"We're late for class!" I say.
"Just skip. That's what I do," Senpai says as he returns to sleep.
"So that's why I never see you. In any case I need to study I have midterms soon," I say as I struggle with a shirt. Once I'm relatively not dead looking. "Okay guys I'm headed out. Dont trash my place, "
"I'm going with you," tiger says.
"Why?" I wonder. I dont need gods looking over my shoulder in math class.
"I am your guardian tiger. I have to protect you," he replies like its obvious.
"But I though you said you can be far from your statue?" I ask.
"That's true but as long as I'm near a worshiper then I can move within proximity to them. And you are my worshiper," tiger says as he moves to my side.
"No fair. I'm coming too," Senpai says as he struggle to his feet.
"I come too," Leopard says sleepily.
I sigh. This is not gonna be a good day.
When we finally get to to class i take the spot towards the back so i can keep an eye out for everyone. Senpai went to his own class soo it was just Tiger and Leopard. I managed to ignore Leopard and Tiger trying to one-up each other in whatever the hell they were doing. I tried to understand the basics of Calculus but i just couldn't. Why was math so hard? To make things worse the teacher was being drowned out by Tiger and Leopard's argument. Eventually it just get to be too much.
"Can you all please stop? I can barely pay attention as it is and i really need to pass this class?" I moan. I look up and realize everyone, including the teacher, is staring at me. I must have said it out loud. I could feel my cheeks flare, this was so embarrassing.
"Are you okay Mister Lin?" The teacher asks. his expression is confused with a touch of concern. "Are you feeling ill?"
"No sir. Just a bit stressed," I say with my head down and i turn up the hood on my jacket.
I sit quietly until class finishes then i make my way out as quick as possible. I sit in a corner in the cafeteria to try to avoid meeting any classmates. Thankfully it was friday so i didn't have to see anyone until monday.
"I'm sorry we embarrassed you in class Liao," Tiger says after a couple minutes of silence.
"it's fine. I just.......Nevermind," I say. I wanted to say life was hard enough with just being a student and i didn't need gods only i could see constantly arguing. That wasn't fair to them though. Tiger looked properly sorry and Leopard, i guess, only understood he did something wrong. I couldn't really be mad at them. I felt bad for being selfish but at the same time i had a say in my own life.
"Hey Liao wanna sit with me for lunch?" A voice asks.
I look up and see Senpai looking at me. "Oh. Yeah sure." I get up and look at the food served to see what i feel like. I'm not super hungry so i settle for steamed buns while Senpai goes for a burger. While we are sitting and eating i see Tiger looking longingly at Senpai's burger. "Hey Tiger. You want something?" I ask.
Tiger looks at me then looks away. "No it's fine. I was just....wondering what a burger tastes like. Back at the temple people normally offered us fried chicken."
I smile slightly. It was kind of a like a child looking at a new food. I realize Leopard is looking at the same thing. I go and order two burgers and set them on the table. "Consider this an offering," I say low enough to not catch attention. Thankfully Senpai and i had a booth so it had space for all of us while making it appear as though i was talking to Senpai.
"Thank you Liao. You're a good boy," Tiger says as he looks at the burger with a strange twinkle in his eye.
Leopard simply nodded at me before looking at the burger. He watched Tiger mimic Senpai and did the same. It was strange but amusing. Then i realized i have to eat 2 burgers.
"Senpai can you eat one of the burgers? I don't think i can finish both," I ask.
"No way! Eating food that another god ate the chi from is like eating food someone else licked. Its disgusting," Senpai turned his nose up.
"Oh Okay," I say. So that was how gods felt about that. I sigh and get a take out container for the burger. Looks like I'm getting another burger for dinner. I talk with Senpai about his classes for awhile before my last class of the day rolls around. Tiger and Leopard are more well behaved this time, they contritely behind me, not making a sound.
"Hey Liao!" A voice calls after class ends.
I turn and see Jia-Hao. He looks concerned.
"Oh hey Jia-Hao. What's up?" I ask as Jia-Hao gets closer to me. I can feel Tiger tense behind me.
"I heard about what happened in class earlier. Are you doing okay? You know you can ask me for help right?" He whispers to me.
"Thanks Jia-Hao but I'm fine. I just had some.......family problems. Plus the stress of school, you know how it is," I say gratefully, it was nice to know he cared.
He laughs. "Yes. It is pretty bad especially with Mid-terms. Let me know if you need a study partner or tutoring," Jia-Hao says.
"Thanks man. Have a good weekend," I say as i wave goodbye.
"Who that?" Leopard asks.
I look to see if there is anyone around who might hear me.
"He's a friend of mine," I say quietly.
"He is Rukai," Leopard says.
"Yeah i think. He said his grandmother is Aboriginal." I say as i draw the lines in my head.
"Bring him. To Wutai," Leopard says.
Of course that was what he wanted. "Look I'm still not ready to have that conversation yet." I say as i cut off the conversation then and there. I felt bad, i was wasting everyone's time, but i still needed to think. "Is there any way around me going? Could i send Jia-Hao instead?" I murmur to myself..
We walk back to my apartment in silence. I drop my bag on the floor and plop on my bed, I let out a huge sigh. Today was awful. I just wanted it to end and for the weekend to get here.
"Liao! I'm back!" Senpai announces when he enters.
"How did you even get in here?" I wonder.
"You left the door open," Senpai laughs..
"Whatever. Anyway i want to sleep so i would greatly appreciate it if we didn't have an argument tonight," I say sleepily.
"You need to eat first Liao," Tiger says.
"Senpai can you pass me the leftover burger?" I grumble.
"Here you go," Senpai says as he hands me the take out bag.
"Thanks,"I say as i force myself to eat. I was still full from lunch.
After i finish eating and showering Senpai laid out the same blanket nest as last night. "You okay Liao?" Senpai asks.
"I'm fine. I just had a bad day," I sigh as i lie back. Senpai's face is upside down in my vision as he plays with my hair.
"Let's do something fun tomorrow," Senpai says.
I start to say no but then i hesitate. "You know what? Sure," I say as senpai lights up.
"Yay!" Senpai exclaims as he turns of the lights and curls around my head. Tiger wrapped around me from behind and Leopard curled to my chest. This feels nice. I have a feeling tomorrow would be a good day.