I stayed in the forest until the sun started to rise. When the sky started getting lighter, I changed back to human. I walked back to the Shiba house to see Ji standing on the porch waiting for me.
"That battle took quite some time, are you alright?" he asked.
"Yeah, I'm fine." I replied. "Just took a while to defeat all the moogers he kept calling." I lied swiftly and smoothly, just like I had all throughout junior high school, when I was working after school to try to help get money to pay for Serena's treatments, but didn't want my parents to know. Taking all those drama classes really came in handy.
Ji nodded, then told me to get inside and get some sleep. I obliged immediately.
When I got to my room, I lay down on my bed, but I couldn't fall asleep. Something in me had changed, I could feel it. Even when I wasn't a swan, the bird was still inside me, hidden away, waiting for twilight, when it would awaken. It was an uncomfortable feeling, and I was scared it would affect my performance in battle.
Then another thought occurred to me. How was I supposed to hide this from the others? What if one of them walk into the room as I was transforming? I could always sneak out at night... But what if there was a battle in the middle of the night and I couldn't fight because I was a swan?
I supposed there were worse things to be... A frog, an ant, a (I shuddered) cockroach. Being a swan wasn't the worst animal. In fact, I loved swans. I just never thought I'd become one.
And I still didn't understand why I couldn't be a lion or a tiger or something fierce! But no... I'm a stupid bird.
I lay there pondering my entire existence until 9, when Ji came into the room to wake me. I, of course, was pretending to sleep.
The others had made miraculous recoveries overnight (got to love that ranger enhanced healing power) and were already practicing by the time I had arrived outside. I was absolutely exhausted, but I started training anyway.
I was sparring with Mike when a particularly huge yawn escaped my throat, distracting me for long enough to let him get in a good hit to my stomach. I fell to the ground and just sat there, dazed.
"Are you alright?" Mike asked as he kneeled next to me.
"Yeah," I replied, yawning once again. "I'm fine."
"Why are you so tired?" Jayden asked me as he walked over to where we sat.
"Midnight nighlock attack. Took a while to finish because I was fighting alone. Didn't get back until sun rise." I yawned yet again. "I'm fine," I insisted. "Let's keep training."
Jayden and Mike switched places, so Jayden was training with me and Mike with Antonio.
I could tell Jayden was going easy on me, and I was grateful for that. I was exhausted after staying up all night, and I felt my tired limbs getting weaker and weaker. After about 15 minutes of training, I could feel my legs buckling. The training sword slipped out of my less than firm grasp and I collapsed onto my hands and knees. Jayden immediately knelt at my side.
"Okay," he said as he pulled me back onto my feet. "Back to bed."
As soon as I tried to take a step, my knees buckled again. If Jayden hadn't been supporting me, I would've fallen again.
Jayden, having grown impatient waiting for me to gather enough strength to walk alone, scooped me up into his arms and carried me to my bed. The second he lay me down, my eyes fluttered shut and I fell asleep.
I watched Emily for a few minutes after she fell asleep. She looked so exhausted... She must've been awake for longer than just that one nighlock attack. The question was, why?
I left the room to finish training. When I got outside, Mike immediately approached me.
"What's up with Em?" he asked me.
"She's just really tired." I replied, masking my own worry for the sake of my teammates. The truth was I had no idea if she was really okay.
Kevin walked up to us. "See Mike, I told you she's fine." He smirked and lay a hand on Mike's shoulder. "No need to get so worried. Your girlfriend's gonna be fine."
A weird anger bubbled up inside me at these words. Which didn't make any sense. Why would Kevin calling Emily Mike's girlfriend bother me? But it did. I didn't like her… Like that anyway. Did I?
Mike blushed. "Dude, she ain't my girlfriend. You mean to tell me you weren't worried when she collapsed?"
I breathed a sigh of relief, then, after realizing what I did, stopped myself. Why should I be relieved that they aren't dating? Emily and I are just friends!
'Yeah,' said a small voice in my head. 'Keep telling yourself. I never knew denial was spelled J-A-Y-D-E-N.'
"Shut up," I told that voice.
'I can't. I'm your inner voice. I am you. I can't talk unless you think.'
I shook my head. It's one thing to argue with yourself. It's another to argue with yourself and lose.
"Alright guys, let's keep sparring."
I woke up and sat straight up at the sound of a loud alarm. Disoriented, I scrambled for my alarm clock and slammed down on snooze button numerous times. When the alarm didn't stop, I picked up my clock and stared at the red numbers, confused.
Then I realized why it wasn't turning off. The sound wasn't coming from my alarm clock.
It was coming from the gap sensor.
Still a little bit groggy, I jumped out of bed and ran outside to meet the rest of the team. Like it or not, it was time to fight.