Heroes of the Past
Thursday Spring Break 2016 Day 4
“I apologize for the change in plans, Tomo. Jin was called in for a shift so I changed the exhibition match date,” Tess said as we walked up to the battlefield.
“It works out since my body’s still healing. Should I be worried I still feel aches?” I shook my head, swiping my card on the reader located outside the door.
“Yes, it’s quite normal. The recovery time varies depending on the individual. If the pain worsens, contact me immediately or go to a hospital right away,” Tess answered.
The area inside contained elevated seating, similar to bleachers in high school gyms. These were much nicer, however, with comfortable chairs. Ichaival was already inside, wiping sweat away with his towel.
“Kaze, you didn’t tell me you would be present today,” Tess said, greeting the woman who sat in the front row.
“I came by to make sure nothing happens. I’m not a hero anymore, but I still have some say, so I wanted to make sure Lionel won’t cause any trouble,” Kaze explained.
“That’s sound reasoning,” Tess agreed.
“I don’t know why he’s so concerned about his position. Champ’s been pulling strings behind Lilith’s back as well,” Kaze said, standing up from her seat.
“Champ is an issue that’s been dealt with. Right now, the main focus is retrieving the ultimate weapons,” Tess revealed.
“That’s the plan, huh? Sorry about all the trouble my sister has caused. I don’t know why she’s so obsessed with revenge. I’ve talked to Lilith and made my decision. When are you free, Tess?” Kaze questioned.
“I’ll be free on the weekend. You’re absolutely sure, Kaze?” Tess questioned.
“Yeah, I am. It’ll be helpful for you too, right?” Ruiqi confirmed.
“A valid point. Darryl, how are your preparations?” Tess called out to the man.
“Pretty good. I really want to beat him today! He got me real good last time and it’s not happening again,” Ichaival responded.
“Don’t do anything rash. Bartholomew is still Lionel’s protégé. He’ll pull off similar strategies his instructor employs,” Tess warned.
“Yeah, I know. I’ll be careful, Tess,” Ichaival said.
Zhuyu showed up a few minutes later, a notebook in hand. He greeted us and walked up the stairs. I saw an announcer’s booth protruding out at the top. Oh, must be the place Ace broadcasted from in all the battle videos. Zhuyu motioned at Tess and the Gatekeeper joined him up there.
Who else would show up? Shan for sure, considering his tight partnership with Ichaival. This wasn’t a rank-up match so it made sense if there wasn’t a huge turnout .
“It’s empty in here,” Kuan observed, walking through the doorway.
“You’re here too?” I asked, staring at the man with strange tastes.
“Yeah, always great to see someone kick Darryl’s ass. I’m actually here to set up the recording of today’s match,” Kuan revealed.
“Good luck with that. Oh, thanks for the access to the videos. I watched a few the other day,” I said.
“No problem. See you later, Tomo,” he responded, heading up to the booth.
Jen showed up next. No surprise there. She greeted me with her soft smile and sat in the middle row of seats. I glanced around and noticed small metallic glints in the corners. Probably devices for monitoring and recording battles.
“Yuki! I missed you!” Felicity came in full speed, hugging me.
“Shit, that surprised me!” I recoiled at her sudden embrace.
“Sorry, I was just so excited! You’re here to see Darryl win, right?” Felicity asked, twirling around in a light spring dress.
“Felicity, I just saw you on Sunday,” I remarked, wincing because her hug struck one of my sore spots.
“I was pretty out of it so that doesn’t count, okay? Anyone else here?” Felicity scoured the area.
She glanced at Jen but didn’t say anything. The expression on her face remained the same. Shan finally arrived and smirked when he saw Felicity.
“I’m not late, right? Darryl lose yet?” he asked.
“Hey, stop making fun of him! It’s why he doesn’t like hanging out with you. Seriously, that’s why he’s been with his other friends lately,” Felicity scolded.
“Yeah, Darryl’s been pretty cold lately. Senpai, why won’t you notice me?” Shan grinned in response to Felicity’s statement.
“What does that even mean? Whatever, has his opponent showed up yet?” Felicity glanced around again, way too hyped.
“Not yet. Did you see anyone, Shan?” I asked.
“I saw two unfamiliar cars. Probably a few more people showing up. I heard about Michi. How did the meeting with his sister go?” Shan inquired, taking out his phone.
“Pretty standard. Not a lot happened,” I replied.
“Yeah, good for you, right? Speaking of other people, here’s more,” Shan said, pointing at the entryway with his left finger.
Lilith, her second-in-command, and Ksi walked in. Tess was finished with her business upstairs and greeted them. It was cordial, no visible animosity between the two sides. That was probably the most reserved greeting of the day. Once Bartholomew or Champ showed up, there would be sparks. The three woman sat near Ruiqi.
“Man, this is my first time seeing an actual match,” Jacque exclaimed, gazing around in wonder.
“Jacque?” I questioned, surprised by his appearance.
“It will be the first real match he witnesses between heroes. I am sure he’s heard of them by word, but seeing it with his own eyes will help,” Tess explained, walking up to me.
“Yep, I probably just read manga when I’m home, so this is a nice change of pace. There’s a lot of scary people here. That girl glared at me when I came in,” Jacque said, glancing over in Lilith’s direction.
“She’s like that. I hope you enjoy watching. It should be a pretty good match up between the two,” I said.
“It better be, Tomo,” Jacque remarked, sitting next to Shan.
Bartholomew and Lionel made their appearance. Lionel didn’t carry his usual smug smirk and looked tired. What happened? Bartholomew remained calm and walked to battlefield center. Lionel headed toward Lilith. It looked like something devastating occurred to him.
Zhuyu exited the broadcast booth and re-entered. I guess he was commentating. Strange, I didn’t recall any of my previous battles being recorded. Maybe they were and I didn’t notice.
“How good is he?” Jacque asked Shan as I found a seat near them.
“Decent. He might have changed since last time. Darryl should be able to get in decent attacks. If he fucks up and makes the same mistakes as last time then he sucks,” Shan answered.
“So harsh, Shigetzu. Alright, I expect some good action. If I don’t see that, I might as well be reading manga than watch this,” Jacque remarked.
“You might be better off doing that,” Shan agreed.
“Seriously, knock it off. Why can’t you be nice to him for just a day?” Felicity chirped.
“I did and look where it got me. Darryl’s hanging out with his other friends and doesn’t even respond to my texts until two days later. That’s what being nice got me,” Shan countered.
“Darryl’s busy and has things to do. It’s not strange he doesn’t respond immediately,” Felicity argued.
“Yeah, sure he is,” Shan said.
Tess walked to the center, holding her tablet. She examined both heroes before stepping away. She glanced upward and the entire area dimmed. The light source shifted, focusing on Ichaival and Bartholomew. Ichaival wore a light hoodie with a black weight design. Bartholomew had on a dark gray jacket with a standing collar covering his neck.
“This is a one off exhibition match between Ichaival Darryl and Bartholomew. No ranks will change as a result of this match. Contestants, I will stop the match if I see anything wrong with either of you. If there is any outside interference, the match will be halted immediately. Is that understood?” Tess stressed the last part of her announcement, staring right at Lionel.
I expected Lionel’s usual smirk but he just nodded. Was he having a bad day? It felt strange seeing such a submissive face on the man.
“Both sides, the victory condition is when the other is unable to continue. If I determine one of you cannot, I will end it and declare a winner. Is that clear?” Tess asked, staring both of them in the eye.
“Yes,” both men responded and the battle was on.
Bartholomew dashed at Ichaival, delivering an uppercut with his steel studded knuckles. Ichaival evaded, sliding down to strike at his knees. Bartholomew leaped over his opponent, landing behind the false archer. He swung his fist, striking a wall of knives instead of Ichaival, falling downward. The false archer was going all out.
Ichaival manifested two portals, sandwiching the feline hero between them, striking him with dozens of knives. Lionel’s protégé stumbled and spat out a large fur ball. It exploded, fragments of it landing in Ichaival’s eyes. The false archer grasped at his eyes, blinded by the attack. Bartholomew yelped and all the knives vanished from his body. He then slammed Ichaival to the ground, scratching his face, leaving a bloody line across his cheek. Ichaival generated a portal, sucking Bartholomew in, transporting him to the other side of the field.
Ichaival cleared his eyes of the fur and dashed at Bartholomew. The man summoned his cat minions, directing them to strike at the false archer. Ichaival summoned his portals, but the cats all leaped in, jamming them like the last fight. I heard loud screeches as knives protruded out from the portal, stabbing into the felines. Damn, how brutal. Still, it cleared up the portal. Bartholomew clicked his tongue, dodging a slash from Ichaival.
“Oh, he learned. Good job,” Shan complimented.
Ichaival created a portal behind Bartholomew and the feline hero immediately jammed it with cats. But, it was a feint. Ichaival created another one in front of it, vacuuming up the cats. He launched each one back at their owner. Bartholomew weaved, avoiding direct contact. While he was preoccupied, Ichaival teleported beneath him, pulling the man downward. For a few seconds, they vanished. Then, Ichaival reappeared and Bartholomew plummeted from the ceiling. He struck the ground hard. I didn’t know if his bones were damaged, but even his feline agility couldn’t save him from such a high fall.
“Gotta give him credit. He’s doing a good job,” Shan complimented.
“Of course! He’ll win for sure!” Felicity agreed.
Bartholomew remained on the ground, not moving. Ichaival launched a flurry of knifes. The hero somehow rose up, covered in sharp projectiles, and a yellow glow emanated from him. The knives puncturing his body dropped out and his wounds healed. He slammed his steel knuckles against each other, snarling with anger.
“What just happened? Bartholomew doesn’t have regenerative abilities,” I inquired.
“It’s his ability, a powerful one. Cats have nine lives, as the saying goes. After sustaining critical damage, his wounds heal, and he gains increased strength. But, it only occurs once,” Tess explained, appearing next to me.
He delivered a strong punch to Ichaival’s jaw. Spit flew out of the man’s mouth and blood dripped down from his nose. Ichaival formed a portal, but Bartholomew delivered rapid punches, before it appeared. When Ichaival finally teleported away, his stomach was exposed, several gashes across it.
Ichaival went on the defensive, teleporting away from Bartholomew each time. Finally, one of the feline hero’s punches slowed down, and Ichaival capitalized. The false archer relieved him of his steel knuckles. Ichaival then stabbed a knife through Bartholomew’s exposed hand. Lionel’s protégé howled in pain. Ichaival swung an uppercut, knocking his foe to the ground.
“Come on! Let’s go!” Felicity shouted.
Ichaival donned Bartholomew’s knuckles with a confident smile. Bartholomew never saw the attack coming. Ichaival punched him in the back, piercing through his clothing. Ichaival aimed at his legs, but Bartholomew rolled away. He then bounded upward, spinning around, smacking Ichaival in the face with a…. tail? Bartholomew continued the assault, striking Ichaival’s face each time, never giving him a chance to form a portal. Ichaival appeared dazed, stumbling around with no sense of direction.
“A tail, really?” I looked over at Tess.
“It is part of his powers,” Tess simply responded.
Bartholomew’s ear twitched, rushing over to a random spot. I noticed the faint glow of a portal. He dove in without hesitation, landing on top of Ichaival, pummeling him with punches. The false archer finally kicked the man off, free to use his portals. He sent Bartholomew up into the air, dropping him down from a greater height than before. Bartholomew struggled, eventually landing on his right arm with a sickening crunch.
“Let’s go! Let’s go!” Felicity cheered.
Ichaival aimed for Bartholomew’s eyes with his blade, but missed after the feline user whipped his tail. Still, Ichaival managed to slash at the man’s face instead, inflicting a gash across his left cheek. The man stared at Bartholomew’s tail, generating a dummy portal. Caught off guard, Bartholomew spun around, his tail facing the false archer. Ichaival shot knives at the tail, pinning it to the ground.
“Good, he’s learning,” Shan said, an impressed look on his face.
Ichaival charged in, slashing at the pinned tail multiple times, before the appendage vanished. Bartholomew’s breathing turned heavy now but he wasn’t quitting. The feline hero snarled, fangs appearing. He knocked down Ichaival with incredible speed and bared his sharp teeth. He missed Ichaival’s neck, puncturing his upper chest instead.
“This is actually one of the best matches I’ve seen from Ichaival,” I commented, surprised by the resourcefulness displayed.
“It’s what he’s capable of. It’ s just things don’t always go his way,” Shan responded.
Bartholomew pushed Ichaival down again, decimating his right arm. Tess folded her arms, her eyes turning serious, more so than usual. Bartholomew lunged, grasping Ichaival’s right arm. He snarled, throwing him down to the ground, attempting to maul the man. Ichaival kicked upward, knocking Bartholomew away, and stabbed him in the right elbow.
“He’s nearing his portal limit. They will be soon reduced to pure fighting without any use of powers,” Tess informed us.
Ichaival fell to the ground, clutching his chest in pain. Bartholomew kept his distance, wincing with each movement. A small portal formed near the feline hero. Bartholomew punched it with his non-injured fist and knives pierced into his knuckles. Ichaival rushed over, tackling him to the ground. They rolled around and Ichaival smacked the man. Bartholomew eventually parried his strikes, clutching Ichaival’s left wrist and twisted it. Ichaival groaned in pain.
“Who wins is determined here,” Tess declared, taking out her notebook.
Both men stood up, obvious pain on their faces. Ichaival could no longer effectively wield a knife with his right hand. Bartholomew struggled, unable to claw at his opponent. Without his fangs and knuckles, Bartholomew lacked any strong offense. It was painful to watch as they missed attacks. Ichaival finally discovered an opening, punching him in the jaw. Bartholomew crumpled to the ground. Ichaival materialized one more knife in his hand. He aimed for his opponent’s neck but only grazed it. The feline hero coughed up blood. Tess leaped down to the field. Ichaival wobbled and fell face first into the ground.
“The match is over. Bartholomew is unable to continue. Ichaival Darryl wins,” Tess announced, pointing at Ichaival.
“Yes! I knew it! I knew….,” Felicity shouted with joy and then the entire area darkened.