Chapter 109:

Volume 4, Chapter 20: A Fresh Start and Familiar Faces

Heroes of the Past

“Yuki, wake up! We’re going to be late,” someone called out.Bookmark here

I opened my eyes and saw Zhuyu. What the fuck? The last thing I recalled was Mirei and her accomplices knocking everyone out, including me.Bookmark here

“Yuki, let’s go. We don’t have all day,” he urged.Bookmark here

“Zhuyu, what’s going on?” I inquired.Bookmark here

“Did I do something wrong? Yuki, I’m sorry about what happened yesterday. To address me like we’re strangers, I must have made you really angry,” Zhuyu remarked, an apologetic expression on his face.Bookmark here

Such a look on his face was very…. strange. It clashed too much with his usual flat demeanor. And when did Zhuyu care about me so much?Bookmark here

“Anyways, I’ll leave and let you change. Hurry up or we’ll really be late,” Zhuyu informed me before shutting the door.Bookmark here

Did Mirei pummel me to the point I lost my grip on reality? I picked up a phone from my desk. Hm, my room was different. This definitely wasn’t my reality. I opened my closet, finding a school uniform, and changed into it. Checking the pockets, I located an ID and school handbook. Of all the possibilities, I was thrust back into high school?Bookmark here

“Yuki, hurry up! You’re making Long wait!” Mom shouted.Bookmark here

“I’m coming down!” I replied, grabbing my school bag.Bookmark here

I rushed downstairs, going with the flow for now. Zhuyu stared at his watch, waiting for me. This was very awkward.Bookmark here

“I had a headache last night. Kinda forgot if we had any homework,” I made up an excuse.Bookmark here

“Are you feeling better?” Zhuyu asked, looking at me with worry.Bookmark here

Gah, so weird. Normally, his voice contained…. well, no actual emotion, unless he spoke with friends. The tone was softer too. I actually might prefer this version of him.Bookmark here

“Yeah, pretty much back to normal. So, did we have homework or not?” I asked again, digging through my bag.Bookmark here

“There’s nothing due today. We were assigned reading but that’s easy to do,” Zhuyu replied.Bookmark here

We finally arrived at a transit station and Zhuyu passed his ID badge over the scanner. I did the same, boarding a packed train.Bookmark here

“You sure you’re fine, Yuki?” Zhuyu glanced at my face.Bookmark here

“Of course I am,” I replied.Bookmark here

“Okay, I won’t keep prying then,” Zhuyu said.Bookmark here

I took out my phone, hoping it might reveal useful information. Let’s see… bunch of useless pictures. Social media was a dead end too. I looked up, seeing Zhuyu speak with Kyoi.Bookmark here

“Feng-senpai, why?” Zhuyu sighed.Bookmark here

“It’s fun to tease you. Why else? Yuki-chan seems a little quiet. Something happen?” Kyoi answered, shrugging her shoulders.Bookmark here

“I’m fine. Just recovering from a headache,” I revealed.Bookmark here

“Long’s too dense, so he might not care, you know. Perhaps it was just lack of sleep?” Kyoi hypothesized.Bookmark here

“Maybe,” I said, hoping to end the conversation there.Bookmark here

“I hope little Yuki feels better,” Kyoi said, walking away.Bookmark here

“Damn, I forgot to ask her about something,” Zhuyu muttered.Bookmark here

I inspected my phone again, checking call logs and text messages. No sign of Chihiro or Yuka anywhere. However, a familiar name appeared, Kaisi Konoe. Tess’ name and the other heroes were saved as well.Bookmark here

“Yuki, here. Your mom forgot to pack it in your bag,” Zhuyu disclosed, handing me a lunchbox.Bookmark here

“Thanks,” I responded, checking the contents.Bookmark here

It appeared normal enough with sliced octopus, bite-size sandwiches, and green salad.Bookmark here

“Still seems like I’m forgetting something. Maybe I’ll remember later,” Zhuyu murmured.Bookmark here

I stared out the window and saw our high school in the distance. What was up with that extravagant building? Students walked through a large ornate gate, some with downcast faces and others with huge smiles. Cherry trees lined the walkway, petals scattered across the ground.Bookmark here

“Yuki, should I take you to the nurse’s office?” Zhuyu offered.Bookmark here

“No, I’m fine, really. If you don’t mind, just take me to my classroom,” I requested.Bookmark here

“Yeah, of course,” Zhuyu agreed.Bookmark here

I counted at least five floors and saw more buildings to the side and in the rear. Did I attend a ridiculous private school?Bookmark here

“With Yuki again? Man, just ask her to be your girlfriend already,” Kisai greeted Zhuyu.Bookmark here

“What about you, Jin? When are you going to stop being so popular?” Zhuyu retorted, giving him a small smile.Bookmark here

“I’m not that popular, man. You know who is? Freakin’ Darryl. All the girls love him,” Kisai responded, his personality mirroring that of his counterpart.Bookmark here

“Yeah, you’re right. Jin, did you finish the chemistry homework?” Zhuyu asked, checking his watch.Bookmark here

“I’ll finish it during class. Magill-sensei won’t mind at all,” Kisai answered, flashing a brilliant smile.Bookmark here

“I’m pretty sure he cares, but doesn’t say anything since you always get everything right,” Zhuyu said, shaking his head.Bookmark here

A lot of things stayed the same, even in this alternate reality. The banter remained the same as usual. Same with Kisai’s amazing procrastination skills.Bookmark here

“Yuki!” someone shouted.Bookmark here

Felicity barreled towards me and I sidestepped her. She almost fell, but regained her balance immediately. The woman wore a track suit with biker shorts.Bookmark here

“So mean, Yuk! I just wanted to give you a hug. I finished my cross-country morning practice and saw you talking with them,” Felicity pouted.Bookmark here

“Give her a break, Konoe. She had a headache yesterday,” Zhuyu informed her.Bookmark here

“Is everything alright? Did Long take care of you? Tell me and I’ll make him take responsibility,” Felicity threatened.Bookmark here

“Everything’s fine. Zhu-, I mean, Long was pretty concerned about me,” I assured the woman.Bookmark here

“Really? You’re my best friend so no secrets,” Felicity questioned, glaring at Zhuyu.Bookmark here

“Damn, no trust. Are we late for the test prep yet?” Kisai questioned, staring at his watch.Bookmark here

“Yuki, here’s your classroom. If anything happens, ask Tess. Jin, Konoe, I are heading to test prep,” Zhuyu instructed.Bookmark here

A sign, “2-C” written on it, hung above the classroom entrance. Inside, there weren’t too many students and Tess stood in the front. She glanced at the blackboard, a piece of white chalk in her right hand, writing questions on the board. I approached Tess and sighed. This was embarrassing.Bookmark here

“Tess, where do I sit again? I kinda forgot,” I inquired.Bookmark here

“You’re in the third row, third seat from the left,” Tess replied.Bookmark here

“Thanks, Tess, I appreciate it,” I responded.Bookmark here

“Can you pass these handouts when class starts?” Tess requested, handing me a stack of papers.Bookmark here

“Sure,” I agreed.Bookmark here

I reached into my desk and pulled out several books. History, literature, math, science, and one with no title. I flipped it open and saw empty pages. I glanced around, not recognizing anyone, and placed my head down on the table.Bookmark here

“Yuki, you feeling okay?” someone sat down in the seat next to mine.Bookmark here

“Yeah, I’m fine,” I replied.Bookmark here

“Oh, that’s good to hear. Long-niisan told me you weren’t feeling well,” the girl responded, smiling at me.Bookmark here

“Class is starting in one minute. If you didn’t turn in your homework yesterday, do it now. Anyone writing once the bell rings will be penalized with a ten point deduction,” Tess announced, completing her questions on the board.Bookmark here

I passed out the handouts, making sure everyone received one. The desks were all occupied except for one in the back. I stared at the handout, noticing something about individual conferences with Tess. When first period ended, I heaved a sigh of relief. Tess’ lecture mirrored a one she actually gave me before. She left the room while everyone else remained seated. Guess it was teachers who moved around and not us.Bookmark here

“Yuki, can you give this to Long-niisan later? Feng-nee forgot this morning,” the girl from before requested, handing me a stack of papers.Bookmark here

Oh, it finally clicked together. She was Kyoi’s relative, much prettier than her. When I finished lunch, Tess walked in and headed towards me.Bookmark here

“Yuki, your presence is required in the faculty office,” Tess informed me.Bookmark here

“For what?” I asked, packing up my empty lunchbox.Bookmark here

“One of the teachers would like a word with you. I do not know the specifics,” Tess answered before leaving.Bookmark here

I exited the classroom and realized something. Where was the faculty office? Damn, should have asked Tess earlier. Might as well walk around and search. I should eventually find it.Bookmark here

“Hey, Yuki, you look lost,” Ichaival called out.Bookmark here

“Oh perfect. Do you know where the faculty office is?” I asked.Bookmark here

“Did they set you up for this? Those bastards!” Ichaival muttered.Bookmark here

“I’m not sure what you’re talking about, but can you tell me what floor it’s on?” I ignored his comment.Bookmark here

“On the first floor. You can’t miss it. It’s just past the first year classrooms,” Ichaival replied.Bookmark here

“Thanks,” I said.Bookmark here

I passed a stairway on the first floor and found it. A few teachers sat inside either eating lunch or typing on their computers.Bookmark here

“Tomo, over here,” someone directed and I saw a familiar face.Bookmark here

A man in his early forties with a rumpled suit and crooked tie beckoned me over. This guy…. was the substitute teacher during my latest mind dive at Shane and Emily’s lab. How was this possible? Thinking about it only hurt my head.Bookmark here

“Did I do something wrong?” I asked.Bookmark here

“No, why would you think that? Did Zha tell you that?” he questioned.Bookmark here

“She didn’t say anything. That’s why it’s scary,” I replied.Bookmark here

“I need you to fill in for the class representative during a meeting after school,” he revealed.Bookmark here

“Wait, why me? There has to be a vice class representative or something like that, right?” I questioned.Bookmark here

“They went home sick for the day and you were chosen by the great system of democracy. Isn’t it amazing?” he explained.Bookmark here

“Where do I have to go for this meeting?” I asked.Bookmark here

“It’s in the student council room. Now, excuse me as I grade papers, and give some zeros,” he answered, clicking a red pen.Bookmark here

“Actually, I don’t know where the student council room is,” I revealed.Bookmark here

“Not a surprise, most people never go there. On the fourth floor with all the other administrative crap. Sorry to foist all of this on you, Tomo. Isn’t it great to be liked?” he chuckled.Bookmark here

“Yeah, it’s amazing. Anything else?” I inquired.Bookmark here

“Nope. Did you want more work? You could grade papers for me,” he offered, waving his red pen around in the air.Bookmark here

“I’ll let you handle that,” I declined and headed back to the classroom.Bookmark here

Classes finally finished for the day. I sighed and ascended up to the fourth floor, searching for five minutes, before locating the correct room. Seriously, why was it that hard to find? I yanked open the door and saw a few people already seated inside.Bookmark here

“Did you have business with the student council president?” a man with glasses asked.Bookmark here

“I’m here to fill in for someone. The class representative for 2-C can’t make it,” I replied.Bookmark here

“You’re a little early. Take a seat. We just need you to listen in and sign something once the meeting ends,” the man said, pointing at a seat.Bookmark here

I sat down and he handed me a folder containing documents with spreadsheets full of numbers. A budget of some sort? Yeah, I wasn’t going to try and read that.Bookmark here

“Tomo, was it?” a man with gelled-hair asked.Bookmark here

I assumed he was the student council president. He placed his tablet down, giving me a smile.Bookmark here

“I’m surprised you even know who I am,” I confirmed.Bookmark here

“Your teacher sent word about your arrival, so I at least know your name,” he revealed.Bookmark here

“I don’t have to do anything hard, right? Because I have no idea what you guys do,” I asked.Bookmark here

“We usually just have papers for you to take back. We do vote but that’s not occurring today,” the man assured me.Bookmark here

“Great. I’ll just sit here and take everything in,” I decided.Bookmark here

Ten minutes later, all the seats were filled and the meeting started. I didn’t pay attention, and by the end, almost fell asleep. The student council president dismissed us at last, reminding everyone to check in with our homeroom teacher.Bookmark here

“Tomo, can you sign off here? It’s just for formality,” the president requested, handing over a sign-in sheet.Bookmark here

I scribbled my name and returned to the faculty office, dropping off the handouts at Old Stone’s desk. Exiting the main gate, I noticed Ichaival with a girl. They turned a corner and I couldn’t get a closer look.Bookmark here

“Yuki, I finally caught up with you. Feeling better yet?” Zhuyu suddenly appeared behind me.Bookmark here

“Son of a-, what are you still doing here?” I exclaimed.Bookmark here

“Waiting for you,” Zhuyu answered.Bookmark here

“Oh, I see. Let’s go then,” I said.Bookmark here

We walked to the train station and I paid closer attention to all the stops. I really hoped my time in this weird, alternate reality would end soon. It was a pain to relearn everything and pretend nothing was wrong.Bookmark here

“Hey, Shigetzu, you just finish classes?” Zhuyu inquired.Bookmark here

I saw Shan with a woman standing next to him. Oh, she was the person who utilized blood to materialize different weapons. So even the members of Lilith’s team existed in this reality.Bookmark here

“Yeah, stopping by somewhere with Natalia first,” Shan replied.Bookmark here

“How are your classes so far?” Zhuyu questioned, leaning on the train doors.Bookmark here

“Not too hard yet. What are you doing here so late? Classes ended awhile ago. Unless….,” Shan observed, glancing at me with a knowing smile.Bookmark here

“She stayed behind to fill in for someone. Yuki wasn’t feeling to well yesterday so I decided to wait for her,” Zhuyu disclosed.Bookmark here

“Wait, how did you know that I had a meeting?” I asked.Bookmark here

“Oh, Tess told me,” Zhuyu revealed his source.Bookmark here

Zhuyu and Shan continued talking until the older man got off at his stop.Bookmark here

“See you later. Darryl said he wants to do something this weekend,” Shan informed the man.Bookmark here

“Really? How rare. Okay, I’ll talk to him about it tomorrow,” Zhuyu said with a smile.Bookmark here

Still wasn’t used to that. Zhuyu smiled, but this version appeared more natural. Seriously, he was more approachable this way. Then again, I didn’t know Zhuyu too well, so maybe he was actually like this. However, the chances of that were pretty slim, considering his blunt attitude.Bookmark here

“Hey, who’s that girl with Sha-…. Shigetzu-senpai?” I inquired.Bookmark here

“That ‘s his girlfriend. You sure you’re fine? No fever or anything like that,” Zhuyu responded, placing his hand on my forehead.Bookmark here

Whoa, too close, too damn close. His actions were logical, considering the relationship with me in this dimension. But, I didn’t know him like that, so this was strange.Bookmark here

“It looks like you’re fine. Maybe you shouldn’t go to school tomorrow,” Zhuyu suggested.Bookmark here

“I just need to get more sleep,” I assured him.Bookmark here

We arrived at our stop and Zhuyu escorted me to my house. I went inside and sat down on the couch. How many more days would I have to endure?Bookmark here

“Yuki, you look stressed, something wrong?” Dad noticed.Bookmark here

“No, it’s nothing. just a little tired,” I replied.Bookmark here

“You sure? Need me to call the school so you can rest up tomorrow at home?” Dad questioned.Bookmark here

“No, it’s not that bad. I’ll lay down and see how I feel by dinnertime,” I said.Bookmark here

“Okay, I’ll start dinner then. Your Mom will check up on you when she gets home,” Dad said, exiting the living room.Bookmark here

“Wait, wait, you’re cooking?” I stopped him.Bookmark here

“What’s wrong, Yuki? I always do unless your Mom’s earlier than me,” Dad revealed.Bookmark here

“Just wondering what you were going to cook,” I said.Bookmark here

“Probably a roast. Your Mom seasoned something last night,” Dad answered.Bookmark here

“Okay, sounds good. Wake me up when it’s done,” I said.Bookmark here

“Of course. You sure you don’t aspirin, anything like that?” Dad asked.Bookmark here

“I’ll be fine,” I replied and headed up to my room.Bookmark here

Now was a good time to search around my room. I yanked open my closet, finding the usual assortment of clothes. The bottom section of it yielded nothing useful. Next, I inspected my dresser, discovering school supplies and more clothes. Oh, a yearbook, dated 2012. I flipped through and checked the table of contents. This was the year Shan graduated. There were photos of him along with all the other heroes.Bookmark here

“I learned nothing. Great,” I muttered and fell asleep.Bookmark here

Sometime later, Mom stood above my bed, holding a thermometer. Dinnertime already? I yawned and felt refreshed.Bookmark here

“Feeling better, Yuki? I heard Long took you home today. Doesn’t look like you have a fever,” Mom asked.Bookmark here

“Much better,” I answered, getting out of bed.Bookmark here

“I’m sure getting some food in you will help too,” Mom remarked, exiting my room and I followed behind her.Bookmark here

I saw a plate of roasted beef, steamed vegetables, and shrimp with chopped pieces of ginger scattered around it.Bookmark here

“Eat up, Yuki. You look better,” Dad observed, handing me a bowl of rice.Bookmark here

“I will,” I said.Bookmark here

The doorbell rang three times after I took my first bite of beef. Damn, this was delicious, on par with Yukie’s creations. Mom brought Felicity, who carried a sports bag over her shoulder, into the dining room.Bookmark here

“Yuki, sorry to barge in!” Felicity greeted.Bookmark here

“Don’t worry about it. You’ll be staying over tonight anyways,” Mom responded, retrieving another bowl for our guest.Bookmark here

“Did you forget, Yuki? My parents are out of town along with my brother,” Felicity explained.Bookmark here

“Yeah, I totally forgot,” I admitted.Bookmark here

After washing the dishes, I entered my room, and saw Mom setting up a bed for Felicity. My friend sat in the back, staring out my window. What was so interesting outside? I walked over and peered out as well. I only saw my neighbor’s lit up window with the blinds down.Bookmark here

“Hey Yuki, Long lives pretty close by, doesn’t he?” Felicity inquired.Bookmark here

“Yeah, I guess,” I responded.Bookmark here

Felicity remained silent afterwards. What was up with her abrupt question and no follow-up? Whatever, she was weird that way.Bookmark here

“It’s all done. I hope it’s comfortable enough,” Mom announced and then left.Bookmark here

“Thanks for all the hard work, ” Felicity thanked her.Bookmark here

Felicity unzipped her bag, placing a lab book on my table. It was the exact same one used in my current chemistry course in college. Were the classes at our school so advanced it already covered university level material? Considering how elite and posh the school appeared, that made sense.Bookmark here

“Sorry if I’m distracting you, Yuki,” Felicity apologized, flipping to a page containing a hand-drawn table.Bookmark here

“Don’t worry about it. What time are you planning on sleeping?” I questioned, checking the clock in my room.Bookmark here

“Probably around eleven. I have to finish my lab report since it’s due tomorrow. A lot of it is just writing and interpreting results, so let’s chat while I’m doing it. Anything new?” Felicity suggested.Bookmark here

“How about you go first? I’m sure you have way more interesting stories,” I deferred.Bookmark here

“I ran into Darryl and his girlfriend the other day.They look really good together. Yi’s lucky!” Felicity mentioned.Bookmark here

Oh, Jen’s actual name. She seemed awfully calm about the entire situation. Could it be the woman had her eye on someone else? If Ichaival was taken, who was left? Zhuyu, maybe? No, even here, he was pretty close with Kyoi. Shui, Zhang, and the other males didn’t stand out too much. Actually, Shui did, but Felicity didn’t know him that well. Leaving only Kisai as the most viable candidate. He was charismatic and pretty chill to hang out with. Of course, there could always be someone outside of the heroes I was unaware of.Bookmark here

“Yuki, you still there? What do you think of Jin?” Felicity’s words disrupted my trivial analysis.Bookmark here

“Sorry, I was thinking. What about Ki-, uh, JIn?” I asked her to repeat the question.Bookmark here

“I was wondering what you thought about Jin’s behavior lately. He’s lazier than usual, which makes me so mad. But, he still gets better scores than me. God, he’s just too special,” Felicity ranted as she filled in the table.Bookmark here

“Isn’t he always like that?” I countered.Bookmark here

“I swear he’s doing less work than usual. I wonder why?” Felicity sighed.Bookmark here

“Come on, Fel-, Konoe, he’ been like that since you’ve known him. Maybe it’s a sign he’s changing,” I offered a potential reason.Bookmark here

“You’re a silly goose for thinking that, Yuki,” Felicity dismissed my words.Bookmark here

This reality was comforting, too much of a pleasant break from all the heroes’ business. Everyone was nice and all, but things seemed too…. perfect. Similar to a storybook fairytale. That didn’t quite seem right at all.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.