When Richard woke up, his father and Jot were around again. His grandmother was gone, but that was probably for the best. Although his father and grandmother were very polite with each other, there was always an awkwardness when the two were in the same room. Perhaps it was that very politeness, since they were family it seemed strange. On the other hand Richard had heard about much worse relationships with mother-in-laws.
“Good um… morning?” Richard said cautiously.
“It’s afternoon, technically. Just about lunchtime,” Jot said.
“Your grandmother was in here earlier,” Richard’s father said, “How did that go?”
Richard started to sigh, but found that put too much pressure on his lungs, so he just grimaced. “Weirdly.”
Mr. Smith shrugged. “That’s fairly typical.”
Richard sat their for a few moments before continuing, “Do you believe in curses?”
Jot shook his head. “Not really.”
“Yes.” Mr. Smith nodded.
Richard looked at his father, “Does that have anything to do with grandma?”
“I won’t deny her involvement in my beliefs,” Mr. Smith shrugged.
Jot looked at Richard, “What about you?”
“I think… I might. I haven’t really had that much time to think about it though.” Richard paused again, “I know it’s a bit weird, but I certainly believe that something is happening. It’s likely that trouble will happen around me, and you might get caught up in it. I wouldn’t be offended if you stopped being my friend.”
“I hope that’s not true,” Jot said, “I would rather that you care about my friendship enough to be offended if I ended it.”
“I do, but I also don’t want you to be hurt.”
Jot nodded seriously. “Well, it is not a hard decision for me to make. I will of course remain your friend.”
“I appreciate that, but I want you to really think it through.” Richard tried to keep his tone neutral, but he knew he wouldn’t actually handle it well if he lost one of his few friends.
“I did think it through. There are only a few relevant points here. First, I do not believe in curses. However, in the case that this curse is real, it only affects you, correct? Therefore, any involvement in danger would be entirely at my option. I also have not felt even slightly threatened by the circumstances around you. Most importantly though… I am your friend, and what good are friends if they do not face adversity with you?”
Richard’s face felt wet, and he found that he was crying. He wiped his face. “Sorry about that… I just feel…” Richard shook his head, “I mean, you’ve only known me a couple months, do you even really know… me? Well enough to care that much?”
Jot crossed his arms, and his face continued to show very little expression, but Richard thought he detected a hint of a smile. “Is that so strange? I don’t think anyone ever completely knows someone. Besides, it is obvious that you have an investment in my friendship, why would that not go both ways?”
Tears continued to stream down Richard’s face. “I- I can’t really think of any reason why not. Sorry about crying, this is stupid.”
Jot shrugged. “Crying is not stupid. Xevaronians only cry when actually sad, though, and not just when in emotional turmoil.”
“Hah. I can’t imagine you crying Jot. You’re always so calm and collected.”
“Is that so?” Jot reached into his pocket and pulled out his phone. “This picture is from someone in the Xevaronian Martial Arts Association.”
Richard looked at the picture. “Umm… Is this the floor of the hallway somewhere? It looks broken.” There wasn’t really any other way to describe the floor. There was a large indentation, with cracks spreading out through the floor which was made out of some kind of concrete. “I’m not really sure what I’m looking at though.”
Jot shrugged. “This is proof that I feel things. Though, that’s not why the picture was taken.”
Richard thought for a moment before finally he realized what that meant. Thinking back, Jot had seemed angry, though Richard was barely cognizant of anything at the time. That spot was likely where the Ulph’s head had been… or rather directly beside it. “Ah… I see.” Richard felt glad that Jot would get angry for his sake, though he had to wonder what that would do to Jot’s foot… though looking down at his legs they seemed perfectly fine.
Richard was let out of the clinic later that day, though he still had to be careful not to further injure his ribs, and he was on pain medications. He didn’t actually hurt much, but he imagined he would without the medication, and didn’t plan to find out.
Although he didn’t particularly want to, in the interest of fairness Richard also told Elena about the curse. Her reaction went through several stages. First, she looked at him seriously to determine if he was joking. Then she frowned as she realized he was serious. Finally, she propped up her head with one arm as she stared off into the distance and thought.
She finally looked at Richard. “I’m not sure if you’re crazy or not. However, I have a response for you either way.” She paused to figure out how to properly word her next statements. “I like being your friend. You and Jot are enjoyable to be around, and also very helpful as study partners. However, I have goals that I need to accomplish, and I can’t afford to risk myself. That’s why…” Richard didn’t particularly like where this was going, but he completely understood. “That’s why, if you get in danger and I have to risk danger to myself, don’t expect me to help you. Not that I would be much help anyway.”
Richard thought about what had been said for a few moments, then nodded. “That’s… fine. Does this mean we’ll still be friends?”
“Of course. Just don’t expect me to fight an Ulph.”
Richard looked at her, taking note of her slight figure, “Yeah, I never really expected you to fight… anything.”
She shrugged. “That’s what weapons are for. No offense to Jot, but martial arts aren’t really a practical form of combat.”
“Unless you’re up close, in which case…” Richard pulled out the picture which Jot had given him a copy of, “Then it can be pretty effective.”
Elena looked at the picture, her eyes widening. “Remind me to never enter close combat against a Xevaronian.”
Richard shook his head. “Yeah, definitely. Well… I have to head to class. I’ll see you later.”