Sorry for the delay in getting this out to you, I was spending some quality time with my fiancée over Skype. Some things have to take priority, I'm sure you all can understand. I hope you enjoy this next installment! Let me know your thoughts! I own nothing except the story.
As soon as Hiro got home from dropping off Megan, the boy genius corralled Baymax into the garage and started taking off his armor. What made it more difficult though was about halfway through the process, Baymax's battery started running low.
"Baymax, come on, keep it together for just two more minutes!"
"I am together! You'reeeeee taking me apart!" Baymax stumbled into the wall with his helmet and rocket fist still attached. "You'llllll never take me alive!"
"Baymax!" Hiro groaned as he jumped and clambered up the deflating robot's body, managing to pop off the helmet which seemed to calm the robot down.
"Oh, I can see clearly now."
"That's right. Now lemme just take this off and we'll go get you recharged." Thankfully Baymax didn't fight him, and Hiro was able to pull the rocket fist off and safely store it away. "I guess the power surge messed with your supercapacitors. I'll have to check for damage later."
"Hey, Hiro." Baymax whispered into the boy's ear. "Hey, hey, Hiro. Hiro."
"Walk and talk, buddy." Hiro started pushing Baymax up the stairs to his room, passing Aunt Cass who was in the kitchen prepping dinner. "Sorry about this, Aunt Cass."
"Another full day with Megan, huh?" Cass smirked knowingly. "Diego told me she had a great time with you today."
"Meeeegan likes Hiro!"
"Oookay, Baymax! Recharge time!" Hiro laughed nervously. "I'll be down for dinner in a minute!" He rushed Baymax up the stairs, fighting to get him in his recharging station. "Come on, buddy, don't fight me now!"
"Megan liiiikes you, youuuu make her heart go pitty-pitty-pat-pat!"
"And in!" Hiro sighed as he finally managed to get Baymax firmly planted in his charging station, and the robot's eyes closed as he started inflating back to full size. "Phew…sleep well, Baymax." As he tossed his hoodie onto his bed, the words spewed by the power-starved Baymax swirled in his mind. "Megan…like-likes me?"
The idea that Megan liked him more than as a friend made a goofy smile form on his face. She was absolutely a ton of fun to be around. With her, it was easy to just be a kid, and so often he had to be reminded that he actually was a kid in spite of attending a top-level university. His responsibilities and obligations usually got in the way of his fleeting childhood. After all, who had time to be a kid when the world needed saving?
Then his phone went off in his pocket, and briefly his smile vanished, as he read the text on his phone. "Karmi's texting me!" He opened it up to read the message, a simple inquiry into how he was doing. He was about to start typing when his thumbs stopped just centimeters above the screen. "Wait…what about Megan?"
Time seemed to stop for Hiro, as he fell into his beanbag chair and stared straight ahead at nothing, his mind trying to process this new information.
He already knew Karmi liked him. Or at least, he assumed he knew, based on their last in-person conversation. Every vague implication Karmi made pointed towards him. She'd gotten over her infatuation with his hero persona, and traded it for one on his true self. She hadn't taken Captain Cutie's advice to tell him how she felt yet, but maybe she would soon?
But then what about Megan? If Baymax was to be believed, and even in his low-battery mode he didn't exactly tell lies, then that meant Megan had to have a crush on him too. Megan was kind, and fun, and she already knew about his status as a superhero.
"Ugh!" Hiro grabbed two fistfuls of hair as he slid further down in his chair, sighing with frustration as he couldn't make heads or tails of his situation. "Science is easy…girls…very much not easy."
Hiro turned his head to see Aunt Cass at the top of his steps, a concerned expression on her face. "Hey, Aunt Cass."
"Are you okay, sweetie?" Cass sat at the foot of Hiro's bed, her hands folded as she looked down at the despondent eyes of her nephew. "I heard the sounds of teenage frustration. You seemed so happy when you got here…did something happen?"
"Aunt Cass…I need some advice…serious advice."
"Oh, um…okay." Cass cleared her throat and tossed one leg over the other as she got comfortable. "Well you know you can always tell me anything, so I'm ready for anything you have for me."
"I-I mean it. I really need help making sense of all this, so I need you to be serious with me here for a second."
"I understand." Cass nodded once, a neutral expression on her face. "What's the situation?"
"Growing up…did you ever…I mean…did you…" Hiro ran his hand through his hair in frustration. "Gah, I wish Tadashi was here."
"Oh, Hiro…" Cass shifted to the floor so she could hug her nephew. "Listen, I know I'm not Tadashi, but if you need a male's perspective on this issue…maybe you could talk to Diego-" Cass blinked and then coughed into her fist. "I-I mean Chief Cruz."
"No!" Hiro's immediate protest caught Cass off guard, as her expression shifted to one that almost seemed hurt. "I mean…not that he wouldn't be able to give me advice but…given this particular situation, it's best if I keep him out of it."
"Okay." Cass nodded. "Well, then, all I can say is I'll try my best."
"Sorry." Hiro took a deep breath before finally answering. "I need advice on girls." His eyes widened when he saw a big grin start to form on his aunt's face. "You promised you would take this seriously!"
"Sorry." Cass cleared her throat again, compressing her smile down to a barely contained smirk. "This is the best I can do, so please continue."
Hiro just sighed. "What do you do when…you have more than one person you're interested in? Or if you find out there's more than one person interested in you?"
On the one hand, Cass wanted to squeal giddily. Hiro wouldn't be asking about this if it wasn't a situation he was currently going through. But her promise to him won as she forced herself to keep her composure. "Well, I guess that depends on the details of the situation. If you don't like one of those girls, then it's a no-brainer. If you don't like both of them, then you have to decide whether or not you want to turn them away, or maybe just keep them as friends. If you choose the latter, then you're going to have to keep some clear boundaries between you."
"Well…dating can be messy business." Cass's smile faltered. "I've had my fair share of struggles too, after all."
"How did you deal with it?"
"Well, I know you don't necessarily wanna hear this…but back in my day, your Aunt Cass was a catch." She giggled, and was surprised to see that Hiro wasn't cringing in disgust. "I had a lot of potential opportunities to date, and your father did everything he could to keep men away from me."
Hiro's eyes widened at that. "Dad got involved? Really? I never knew that…"
Cass hummed affectionately. "He was always the protective brother, but once he met your mother he mellowed out a little, and I finally got a chance to take care of myself for a change."
"Did it bother you that he kept trying to step in for you?"
"Honestly, a little bit." Cass nodded once, her face set in a neutral line. "But on the other hand, sometimes outside influences can see things that you can't in the heat of the moment."
15-year old Cassidy Hamada walked through the wide hallways of San Fransokyo High with her textbooks in hand and a smile on her face. Her standard fare. For a sophomore, she was one of the most popular girls in school, not that she ever acted like it, which was part of what made her so appealing. Cass always went out of her way to make sure she had a kind word for everyone she met. Practice, she called it, as she one day dreamed of owning her own restaurant.
In many ways she was blissfully innocent. She never suspected anyone of wrongdoing, her family did their best to protect her from the world and those who would do her harm. Who could blame them? Cass was undeniably beautiful. Long brown hair, eyes a sparkling green, and that aforementioned smile lit up every room she walked in. She received secret admirer notes almost every day.
But there was only one boy she had eyes for. He was a senior-year student by the name of Paul Cross. Every time he walked by, Cass would swoon, much to her friends' annoyance as they had to snap her out of it each time. But Cass was infatuated. Paul had everything she thought was needed in a man. Blonde hair, blue eyes, standing at 6'4" and with a six-pack that rippled when he flexed. Not only that, he was a member of the student council, was a linebacker on the school football team, and he even managed to be polite to everyone he met, even the school nerds.
"Have you ever seen anyone more perfect?" Cass sighed as she watched Paul help a fellow student who had dropped his backpack. "He's wonderful."
"Cass, you're a sheep. A crushing sheep."
Cass pouted and crossed her arms over her school uniform blouse as she glared at her friend. "Don't ruin my fantasy just because you're blind to perfection, Zoe."
"Not blind, my eyes are wiiiide open, me and your other friends, too." Zoe illustrated how wide they were with her hands. "We hear things, girl. Mr. Perfect ain't so perfect for you, he's got issues, trust me. Besides, he's a senior, he's got his eyes set a little higher on the food chain."
"Oh you know rumors fly around this school all the time." Cass scoffed. "Remember that one Cynthia started about you hiding in the girl's bathroom so you could-"
"Your point has been made!" Zoe closed the smirking Cass's lips with her fingers before walking away. "I'll see you after class, Cass."
"Bye, Zoe." Cass giggled and closed up her locker, and as she turned around, she bumped right into a very large object, and she looked up to see what it was…and her heart started threatening to burst out of her chest. "P-Paul!" She squeaked out.
"Hey, Cass, right?"
Words escaped the blushing schoolgirl, so she just nodded her head vigorously as she hummed out a strangled "Mhmm!"
"I've been meaning to talk with you. I gotta say…the way you carry yourself, always having a smile for everyone you run into." Paul shook his head goodnaturedly. "It's like…who needs cheerleaders when you're around, you're like the heartbeat of this whole school."
"What? Me?! No! Pfft! That's crazy!" She giggled and looked up at him shyly. Standing at only 5'1", Cass was tiny standing next to this tower of lean muscle. "Do you really think so?" She asked quietly.
"Well…yeah." Paul rubbed the back of his neck. "I mean…I know a lot of people personally that you just told them hi, and their whole day was made."
"I-I do try to give everyone a pick-me-up when I can."
"Exactly. That's why…if you want to…that is…I'd like to get a chance to get to know you better."
Cass heard a choir of angels singing in her mind. "Really?!"
"Yeah! So…maybe we could go to Joe's Diner after school? My treat, I'll even drive!"
Before words could even escape her mouth, Cass was already nodding her head. "Yes! Absolutely!"
"Great!" Paul smiled widely before walking away. "See you after school then!"
"Okay, bye!" Cass waved after him, and once he turned the corner, she couldn't help but let out the biggest squeal she could muster from her lungs. "Best! Day! Ever!"
Once school let out, Cass chased down Zoe, and told her the whole exchange. "Isn't this crazy? I'm going out to Joe's with Paul Cross!"
"You're right, it is crazy!" Zoe grabbed Cass's hand and held it tight, stopping her in her tracks. "Girl, I'm telling you, he ain't the one for you! You're not the kinda girl who needs to be on the arm of a jock, you need someone with more substance!"
Cass scoffed again, pulling her hand back as she continued walking. "Look, the only way I'll know for sure if you're right is for me to go out with him. If I find out he eats his Joe Dog with a knife and fork, I'll hightail it out of there. Deal?"
"Good." Now that they were out of the building, they made it to the student parking lot, and saw Paul in his convertible, eagerly honking the horn as he waited for Cass to begin their date. "There's my ride! I'll keep in touch, Zoe!"
"You better!" Zoe waved as Cass jumped down the stairs three at a time, and hopped into the passenger seat of Paul's car, and together they sped off towards Joe's Diner. Once they were out of earshot, Zoe reached into her pocket and grabbed her phone. "Yo, DC, it's Zoe. Can you do me a favor tonight?"
As soon as they reached Joe's Diner, Cass felt like she was on Cloud Nine. Paul did everything to make her feel like a queen. He opened doors for her, seemed genuinely interested in her, and the stream of compliments was endless. He was everything she imagined him to be and more. "So that's why I want to own a restaurant someday, or maybe a café of sorts. I just…I want to be able to make people happy, and I do have a talent for the culinary arts."
"That's amazing…you're amazing." Paul placed his hand on hers, his hand practically swallowing her tiny one whole from the size difference. And yet he was gentle with his touch. "Maybe you'll be able to make me something sometime? Beats whatever swill my mom makes every night."
"It can't be that bad."
"She once made a soup with just water and vegetables. Nothing else. It was just every veggie she could find in boiling water and she emulsified it into this puke-green goo that smelled like barf." Paul gagged at the memory. "Trust me, you could embarrass my mom in the kitchen based on what you've told me."
"Well…" Cass blushed and used her free hand to brush a loose strand of hair behind her ear. "I'd definitely love to try sometime."
"Awesome." Paul smiled and pulled his hand back. "Well…it's getting late, and I definitely don't wanna get your folks mad at me after our first date. I'm guessing you have a curfew?"
"Yeah, well, y'know," Cass shrugged. "I can kinda stretch it a little now and then, but it's only because they care."
"Read you loud and clear." Paul nodded. "Hey, Joe! Check please!"
The owner of the establishment came over and graced both teens with a humble smile. "It's been a pleasure having you two lovebirds here today. Paul, Cass, I hope to see you both again real soon."
"Thanks, Joe!" Cass waved kindly as she pulled out her purse to pay her half of the tab. But that's when Paul again gently grabbed her hand, stopping her. "Hey, what?"
"Nuh uh." He shook his head with a smile. "I'm paying for dinner." He pulled his wallet out from behind him. "After all, this is a date, right?"
Cass blushed again and leaned back in her seat, her heart no longer beating a mile a minute, but instead with a very warm glow of happiness and affection. "You're a gentleman to the last."
"It has its rewards." Paul handed Joe a wad of cash and started to get out of the booth. "Keep the change."
"Your generosity is appreciated as always, Paul."
Paul nodded and turned back to look down towards Cass. "C'mon, lemme walk you home."
"Walk?" Cass giggled. "Don't you mean drive?"
"Well you said you could push your curfew, and it's such a nice night out…and honestly, I'm not ready to say goodnight yet."
Cass looked down at his extended hand, her cheeks pink as she accepted the gesture. "Neither am I." Cass turned around to wave at Joe. "Bye, Joe! See you next time!"
"Goodnight, Cass!" Joe chuckled as he wiped down a drinking glass. "What a sweet girl."
Once they exited the diner, they started walking down the sidewalk. "So, do you do this for all your dates?" Cass joked with a mirthful sparkle in her eyes.
"No, just you." Paul answered seamlessly. "Y'know a lot of the girls I've been out with, they're all just trying to get in on the football star action. I get it, I check all the boxes. But no one ever wants to get to know the real me, y'know?"
"I understand completely." Cass sighed as she wrapped her arms around his much larger one, leaning against him. "It's so hard to find people who are willing to give people a chance to show their true colors."
"That's why I wanted to go out with you, Cass. You're an open heart. You make me feel like I can be myself, I don't have to put up this wall to keep myself hidden. It's exhausting, feeling like I have to pretend to be someone else all the time."
"It must be awful."
"It is." He stopped walking, Cass stopping along with him as he looked down into her hopeful green eyes. "So I just want to say thank you for tonight. This has been the best date of my life, bar none."
Without warning, Paul was leaning down with his lips primed for a kiss, and Cass was all too eager to meet those lips as she got on her tiptoes and matched the gesture as best she could. After only moments, Cass felt lightheaded, her heart once again racing with excitement. "That…was…awesome."
"And how." Paul smiled with his eyes half-lidded. "Wanna…do it again?"
Cass nodded shyly. "Mhmm."
"Me too…let's get some privacy first." Paul led Cass into the nearby alley next to the diner, and then with a dim fire in his eyes, he carefully pressed her up against the wall and leaned down to kiss her again, this time with just a bit more energy than the first one. "You have amazing lip gloss."
"Mmm…thank you." Cass pulled away to take a breath. "It's a new one I bought, just in case this ever happened."
"Well I'm so glad it did."
Cass was soon lost in a haze of passion and hormones. Each kiss sent a shock through her whole body that made her crave more. Soon she had her arms wrapped around Paul's neck, his own strong grasp wrapping around her thin waist as he pressed her chest against his own. He was getting more and more aggressive with every passing second, and without thinking, she kept granting him access, each time resulting in a new wave of feelings and emotions sending her tumbling deeper.
Then she felt his hands start to roam, going into places that she wasn't expecting. The intrusion briefly brought her out of her own foggy bliss. "P-Paul?"
"Shhh, it's okay." Paul's voice was like butter, sending shivers down her spine. "Do you trust me?"
Of course she did! After everything he'd done, surely he deserved a little leeway, right? After all, this is probably what the senior girls did. And he was making her feel soooo good. Then why did she feel so uneasy? Still. This was Paul Cross, he wouldn't do anything. He was perfect. "I…I trust you."
"Good." He went in for another kiss, and the top hand removed the first bra strap and then disappeared from her body. "I'm glad you trust me. Now, just let me-" But as he reached into his back pocket, his eyes widened as he felt nothing there. "Wait, where did I-"
Instantly, the entire mood changed, as both Paul and Cass turned to see a figure standing in the alleyway, his fists clenched and his jaw set with rage. "Um, do you mind?"
"Actually, I do. I mind a whole lot. I think you dropped this!" The figure tossed an object down at Paul's feet, and all the color drained away from his face when he saw that Cass had seen the labeling on the small box.
"Condoms?" Cass suddenly felt violated as she struggled and broke free of the larger man's grip thanks to his stunned surprise. "Paul, what were you-"
"Dude, what is wrong with you?! It's not like I would've hurt her! But you on the other hand?" Paul reached back into his pocket and brandished a pocket knife, charging towards the man who'd exposed his plan and swinging wildly. But Paul's opponent was ready, as he was already in the proper stance and managed to dodge every one of his attacks in spite of Paul being significantly bigger and stronger than him. "You think you're some kind of hero?! Doing your best Boss Awesome impression?! Why don't you just mind your own business?!"
The figure's eyes narrowed in anger. "I'm no hero." Dodging one last swing, the figure jabbed his fist into Paul's side, prompting him to drop the knife, then he grabbed that stunned wrist and twisted so that he was next to Paul instead of in front of him, sweeping his legs out from under him while pushing him down, causing Paul's face to connect with the side of a metal dumpster, knocking him out cold. "I'm just looking out for a friend."
By the time the fight was over, Cass had turned into a sobbing mess on the disgusting floor of the alley, her heart broken over the reality of what she'd almost done. "I-I can't believe…but why-" She then saw a shadow standing over her, and she was able to get a good look at her rescuer. Clean shaven, short brown hair, dark skin. Then she realized exactly who this was, and her eyes widened as she reached up and dragged him down to her level so she could crumble in his arms. "Diego!"
"It's okay, Cass. It's okay. I've got you."
"You were right. You were right. You were all right."
Diego Cruz felt his heart ache for his friend, as he glared in utter disgust at the pile of human debris who dared to take advantage and soil one of the most genuine souls he'd ever known. "I wish I wasn't, Cass. I wish I wasn't." He held her for a long time, until the police finally arrived and took control of the situation from there.
After hearing the story, fire blazed in Hiro's eyes towards this Paul person. "I can't believe it."
"I'm glad that you're angry." Cass smiled slightly. "It at least assures me that you recognize that what he wanted to do was wrong. And he almost got away with it too…but I had a guardian angel looking out for me that night."
That was the part of the story that left the biggest impact on him. "Chief Cruz. So when you said he was your friend…"
"Chief Cruz and I go way back, Hiro. You could even say he saved my life that night." Cass chuckled. "Paul didn't stand a chance. Diego was already training to join the San Fransokyo police on top of high school classwork. And I could see the righteous fury in his eyes before I even realized it was him."
"Wow. I had no idea."
"Mhmm." Cass nodded. "And that's why I say dating can be messy. Now…I'm not telling you this story to suggest that the girls you're talking about want to take advantage of you. But I am trying to give you a different perspective." Cass shifted so she could wrap her arm around Hiro's shoulders. "Think about who you believe would be a better match for you in the long run. Paul checked a lot of boxes I liked, but my friends all knew that he and I weren't a good match, although they didn't know the exact details. He wanted something I wasn't willing to give him."
"That's…really good advice." Hiro finally relinquished a smile. "Thanks, Aunt Cass."
"Oh, you're welcome." She hugged her nephew tight. "Last thing I'll say and then I'm starving. Don't feel obligated to make a final decision in a hurry. That's what dating is all about, to find a possible match for your partner in life. You're going to be 15, you still have more than enough time to figure things out. What would I do personally? Make friends. If one of them turns out to be a good partner, then you'll know."
"Yeah, you're right." Hiro got up from his seat and helped Aunt Cass up as well. "I'll be down in a sec, just gotta take care of something real quick."
"I'll hold you to that." Cass laughed. "I made those chicken wings you like so much!"
Hiro's eyes lit up ever so slightly. "I'll be right there!" As he watched Aunt Cass go down, he pulled out his own phone and made a quick video call to Megan, who when she answered, appeared to be in her room. "Hey, Megan!"
"Hey, Hiro!" She smirked. "Long time no see!"
"Yeah, feels like forever." Hiro played along. "Quick question. I'm the one in charge of the guest list, right?"
"Hey, it's your party." Megan pulled a potato chip from off screen and munched on it. "You can invite whoever you want. You can even kick me out if you want."
Hiro laughed. "You're most definitely invited."
"Reassuring." She laughed right back. "Why do you ask? Got someone specific in mind?"
"Yeah I've got a few people to add to the guest list. I'll make sure to give you the full list before the party. Saturday you said, right?"
"Yep, Saturday." She pointed an accusatory finger at him. "So you better make sure you get back to me soon, no procrastinating this time!"
"When have I ever procrastinated?"
She raised an eyebrow. "In the short time I've known you? Too many times."
"Alright, fine." Hiro raised his hand defensively. "I'll get back to you by Thursday at the latest."
"Perfect." Megan gave him a thumbs-up. "Night, Hiro!"
"Night, Megan!" Her face disappeared from his phone, and that's when he pulled up Karmi's text and bypassed texting altogether, opting to attempt a call yet again. This time, he was rewarded for his persistence, as Karmi's face appeared on the screen, and she beamed at him like she never had before. He also was immediately aware that her hair was out of its ponytail…and he thought her hair was long before. "H-Hey, Karmi."
"Hiro, hi!" Her smile was infectious. "I was wondering if you were gonna answer my text, was starting to think that maybe you were too 'busy' again." She airquoted him with a smirk.
Falling back into their banter was surprisingly easy. "Well actually, I was busy. I've been working on this new project to upgrade Baymax's battery reserves!" He pointed the phone's camera towards the charging robot. "I kinda wore him down today."
"Using his projector as a gaming screen?"
"No," Hiro smirked. "As a matter of fact, we were…helping Krei when there was a power surge! Yeah, Baymax kinda suffered a bit from that. Fortunately there was no damage to his programming or database."
"Well that's good." Karmi's eyes then started to shimmer with excitement. "Oh, hey, did you check out that article I sent you last night on the latest breakthroughs on infection prevention? Think you could cross-reference that info with Baymax's database and let me know what comes up?"
"Sure, I can do that."
"You're welcome!" Silence came over the two teens, as they just smiled at each other awkwardly for a few moments. "Anyway, Karmi, I realized I never actually specified when my party was taking place. It's this Saturday, at a brand new laser tag arena opening up about a couple miles from Fish Town. It'd be great if you could come."
But instead of excitement, Karmi frowned as she looked away from the camera, her hair obscuring her face slightly. "Hiro, I want to, believe me. You have no idea how much I want to. But…my parents really soured on San Fransokyo after the…" She shivered. "Sycorax thing. I was lucky to go do my signing, and even then there was a supervillain attack!"
"I understand." Hiro sighed. "Would it help if I told you the San Fransokyo chief of police was going to be at the party?"
Karmi raised an eyebrow. "That doesn't exactly fill me with confidence. Are you planning on getting arrested at this party?"
"Funny, Karmi, but no." Hiro mock-laughed. "As it turns out, my aunt is friends with the new police chief, and I'm friends with her daughter, so she's planning my birthday party. Hence, he will be there too."
"Oh." Karmi brushed her hair behind her ear. "That's cool. Um…well, if the police chief is an invited guest, maybe my parents will cave and let me go! I'll have to ask first though." She cleared her throat for a moment. "So, who else is going?"
"Well, the guys from the robotics lab, obviously. Go Go, Wasabi, Honey Lemon, Fred. Fred will probably bring Mini-Max, and Baymax will be there, although he's probably just gonna end up being a big target." Hiro chuckled. "Megan and Chief Cruz…Megan's her name, by the way."
"What's she like?"
"Megan? She's cool. Not a genius like us, she goes to a regular high school, but she's smart in her own way. She's been an awesome friend." Hiro's eyes widened slightly when he realized he might be hyping her up a bit too much. "I think you and her will get along great! I'll introduce you if you come, which I really want you to, by the way!"
Karmi smiled slightly. "Good to know."
"Anyway," Hiro sighed internally now that he was off that subject. "I'll definitely be inviting Aunt Cass…should I invite Prof. Granville, do you think? Not that I'm sure she'd come, but…would your parents be more or less likely to let you go if she was there?"
Karmi pressed her hands together. "Hard to say…my parents respect Prof. Granville…but at the same time they were a little put off by how…persistent she was in trying to convince them to let me stay at SFIT."
"Well, between you and me," Hiro's voice lowered. "I was…sad when I saw your lab was empty. The first thing that came to mind was…I didn't even get to say goodbye."
Karmi lowered her head for a moment. "I begged them. I begged them to let me stay. But so much stuff was happening in San Fransokyo that there was nothing I could say to change their minds. They just want to protect me. I even asked if I could find you and tell you I was leaving…they said no to that too."
"I get it, believe me." Hiro nodded slowly. "I hope someday you'll be able to come back for good."
Karmi smiled at that, looking at the camera off-center. "So do I."
"Anyway…guest list…I think that's everyone…" Then Hiro's eyes widened in realization. "Oh, Karmi…I don't know if you heard, but apparently Prof. Granville managed to recruit a new youngest student to enroll at SFIT."
"Wait, even younger than you?!" Karmi's eyes widened in shock before she covered her mouth to suppress a laugh. "Well, how's it feel to have your thunder stolen, Genius Boy?"
"Honestly it didn't bother me that much." Hiro couldn't help but be smug seeing Karmi deflate at his lack of frustration. "But Granville wants me to mentor him this upcoming semester…his name is Rishi Patel."
Karmi's face contorted into a rageful expression. "What?!"
Hiro pulled the phone away from his face, the shrill shriek of Karmi's voice nearly burning out his phone's speakers. "I take it you know him."
"He's my dweeby little cousin!" Karmi put her phone down and grabbed fistfuls of long hair and growled loudly as her head swiveled around the room, Hiro able to see the whole meltdown as she had left it so that her phone wasn't sitting flat. "Of course they sent him to SFIT! They were gonna have him take my title if you didn't!"
"This…sounds like there's a lot going on behind the scenes…are you okay with me hearing this?"
Karmi took a few moments to breathe before she picked her phone back up. "Okay…this is fine. As much as I hate the idea of being in the same room as my cousin, this might actually work out for the best. You confirm that Rishi is going to the party, Hiro, and it wouldn't matter if every villain in San Fransokyo was gonna be there! I will guarantee you that I'll be there too!"
"Wow, that's quite a condition." Hiro chuckled nervously as he rubbed the back of his head. "You sure this is okay? I don't wanna make things worse for you."
"Don't worry about me, you focus on Rishi. Besides," Karmi's mood mellowed almost immediately. "I'll just make sure I stick close to you the whole time, that'll make me feel better."
"Oh." Hiro felt himself blushing, as a smile involuntarily spread over his face. "In that case, you have a deal."
"Hiro! These wings aren't gonna melt your face anymore, they're barely even gonna get your cheeks red!"
Karmi smirked. "Was that your aunt?"
"Yeah, it's time for dinner…been time, actually. But…I really wanted to talk to you."
"Well…" Karmi hunched her shoulders and looked away with a smile. "I'm glad you did. Let's do it again soon, okay?"
"You bet. Goodnight, Karmi."
Hiro hung up the call, and after a few moments, he pumped his fist in victory. True, he had some work to do, but now he had a real shot at having all his friends come to his birthday party. "This is gonna be the best birthday ever!"