For Your Sake.
A peculiar letter awaited Shinya in the morning. The sender was unknown and the envelope had ‘confidential’ written on it. Assuming it must have been some kind of mistake, he double-checked he was the intended receiver before opening it.
Inside the envelope was a document which bore the insignia of the military. Upon confirming the letter was for him, his breath got stuck in his throat. It was unbelievable to think that the military really addressed anything to him. When he read the contents, he could not stop his jaw from dropping.
The letter said that in consideration of his Sage potential and successful efforts to defeat a Mirror and protect civilians the previous night, he was forwarded a formal invitation into the Asteria Squad, a special military unit which dealt with the most severe of threats. It was a squad shrouded in mystery; he had heard its name in rumours, but information about it seemed to be classified. The rumours said that the Asteria Squad was a main line of defence against both Mirrors and enemy countries, and that they had been involved in numerous difficult missions which would have been hopeless even for experienced soldiers and Sages, though it was impossible to verify any of those claims. What he did know for sure was that they apparently operated on an invitation-only basis, each member being cherry-picked and sworn to secrecy.
If the rumours were true, he had no idea why they could possibly be interested in him. His abilities aside, he was just an average high school student. Sure, he had killed a Mirror yesterday, but that was the only time he had ever been able to control his ability at that level. Maybe in a few years he would become a person of interest to the military, but now, he did not meet their standards yet. Even so, if the invitation was for real, he had no reason to reject it; not only was the contract on a part-time basis with higher salary than some full-time jobs, but it would also allow him to gain valuable experience for his future career and protect people from Mirrors. To Shinya, it was literally an offer he could not refuse.
Through the letter, he received a summon to the army headquarters on the outskirts of the city to discuss the possibility of him joining the Asteria Squad further. It specified that if he was interested in the role, he was to report to the army headquarters to finalise his contract and begin the onboarding process the next day at six in the evening.
Tomorrow could not come faster. Shinya went to school for his first proper day with enthusiasm filling his heart. As if he did not already have something to be excited about since he had started high school, he now had one more thing to look forward to! Well, after he got his grandmother’s consent as his legal guardian to join the army, but knowing her, she would not stand between him and his dreams.
School passed by uneventfully. Shinya could not concentrate on anything in school that day, his mind being too busy with thoughts about the invitation. As groups started to form, at lunch, he sat with Shizuho and another classmate named Shimizu Yukari, whom Shizuho met during the entrance exams, albeit he spent the day chatting with Shizuho for the most part otherwise.
‘Your bento looks so lovely, Shizuho,’ the blue-haired girl said during lunch when they were in the cafeteria. Being a boarding school, Umiboshi had a cafeteria that was open at mealtimes, though whether students cooked food themselves or grabbed a bite from the cafeteria was up to choice. ‘Did you make it yourself?’
Shizuho averted her gaze, a light blush dusting her cheeks. ‘Yes, but I’m not that good. Yours looks even more wonderful!’
‘Oh, come on, you’re clearly talented! We should cook together sometime.’
‘Definitely! And Shinya should join us too.’
‘Honestly, I’m pretty bad at cooking. If you’re fine with that, I’d be happy to come along. I might learn something.’
From the corner of his eye, Shinya thought he noticed Mitsumaki glancing at him for the slightest of seconds. ‘Was that just my imagination?’
‘Speaking of food, I heard there’s a café with good reviews nearby. Would you two like to go sometime? Like, tomorrow or this weekend, maybe?’ Shizuho proposed.
Hearing Shizuho’s serene voice, Shinya switched his focus back to the girls he was with. Due to the letter he received earlier, his schedule for tomorrow was already full. He wanted to hang out with them sometime, though, so he suggested an alternative date. ‘Actually, do either of you have any plans after school?’
‘No,’ the two girls answered simultaneously.
‘Perfect. How about we go, then?’
The first one to reply was Shizuho. ‘Sounds good to me!’
‘That would work,’ Yukari agreed with a smile.
‘It’s settled, then.’
And so, they waited until the end of the day to meet up. If Shinya had to describe what he learnt in school that day once he finished classes, it was that school at Umiboshi was hard.
Today’s classes felt way out of his depth. As a special Sage training school, Umiboshi was free to set its own additional curriculum as long as they included state-dictated material too, but the nonstandard material felt more like what should be taught in university than in high school. And the hours were crazy! He was in school until five in the afternoon while most normal schools finished around three. That left students with no time for cleaning or clubs, not that they had enough students to form clubs anyway.
‘Seriously, what the hell is up with this school? The classes are insane!’ he could not stop himself from thinking when he stepped beyond the gate with Shizuho and Yukari. ‘At least classes take up so much time that there’s no cleaning time, but still, if this keeps going at this rate, I’m starting to think I’d rather have preferred cleaning time…’
Going out with Shizuho and Yukari helped him wind down after a long day. They had a fun time together, enjoying cake and drinks at the cafe while engaged in pleasant conversation before nightfall forced them to go home.
Overall, it had been a lovely day. However, the main event was not until the next day.
Fast forward twenty-four hours. At the moment, Shinya was in front of the army headquarters. He tried to enter the building, only to be stopped by one of the armed guards.
‘What business do you have here?’
Shinya expected something like this to happen, so he took out the letter from his bag and showed it to the guard. ‘I have an appointment at six.’
After examining the letter, the guard loosened up. ‘Follow me.’
To Shinya’s surprise, the guard did not take him through the front entrance. Instead, he took him into a narrow alleyway a short distance away.
‘We’re not going in the right direction at all. Don’t tell me he’s planning on killing me?’
Out of a sudden, the guard stopped. Shinya prepared for combat, not trusting him in this shady situation one bit.
His worries turned out to be unnecessary, for all the guard did was open up a secret passage hidden beyond a fake wall.
‘Oh, that’s all? Thank God.’
‘Come,’ the guard instructed.
The secret passage led to a futuristic high-tech door which the guard opened by scanning his pupil. Inside, there were metal detectors at almost every step before they reached what appeared to be the reception.
At the reception, the guard dropped him off and the receptionist requested to confirm his appointment. ‘Please take a seat and the one who called you here will arrive shortly, alright?’ the receptionist stated once she checked his appointment was real.
Not long after, a gorgeous foreign-looking woman with crimson eyes exited the lift in the parlour. Her blonde hair was long and silky, and her figure was shapely, with wide hips and a generous bosom. She looked like she was in her twenties.
The moment she spotted Shinya, she walked up to him. ‘Hello!’
‘Hi,’ he responded shakily, pretending he had totally not been checking her out.
‘You’re Amagiri Shinya, right?’ she asked in a friendly manner, a bright smile on her glossy lips.
‘I’m Shigemori Stella. Feel free to call me Stella. Nice to meet you!’
‘Nice to meet you too.’
‘Let’s go upstairs, shall we?’
Together, they got into the lift and entered an office with Stella’s name on it. It was spacious with a wide mahogany desk, a coffee table, a red velvet sofa, matching armchairs, bookshelves and plants all around. The shut vantablack windows were covered by burgundy curtains.
‘Take a seat.’
At the prompt, Shinya sat on the chair in front of the desk.
‘So, I’m sure you are aware of why I invited you here.’ Her tone was sweet and casual, and yet firm at the same time.
‘To discuss the possibility of me joining the Asteria Squad.’
‘Exactly. I’m the commander of the Asteria Squad. My operatives were quite eager to vouch for you, so I invited you here to talk about the Asteria Squad and see what you think. If you have questions at any point, ask away.’
Her operatives? Who on Earth was she on about? That question would have to wait since neither the letter nor the rumours were clear regarding day-to-day duties, so that was the first thing Shinya wanted to know. ‘Could you please tell me what the Asteria Squad is and what it deals with on a regular basis?’
‘Of course. To begin, the Asteria Squad is a special unit comprised only of people with more than one superpower.’
Eyes widening in realisation, Shinya involuntarily spoke. ‘That means…’
‘Yes. We all possess two superpowers, just like you. There are only three of us, though.’
‘I see. Are the others new recruits too or have they been in the squad for a while?’
Stella visibly stiffened at that question. Had he struck a nerve? Either way, she maintained her composure when speaking, so perhaps she felt comfortable divulging that information and the issue was something else. ‘They have been with me for five years.’
‘Noted. Please continue.’
‘As we are a very small squad with irreplaceable assets, the missions we are tasked with tend to be selective. Our missions are dangerous, challenging and of tremendous importance for national security. That being said, the nature of the missions we are equipped for results in suitable missions for us not popping up all the time. Outside of missions, we regularly patrol the streets at midnight to dispose of Mirrors before they cause any damage. Unlike other military units, we are not expected to take part in direct conflict unless it is an emergency, albeit we do provide support frequently and work with other military units if the need arises.’
‘Basically, you fight Mirrors, do covert missions and provide support to the rest of the army.’
‘You got it! Does it sound like something you would be interested in?’
For Shinya, joining was the easiest decision ever. He was sold when killing Mirrors was brought up. ‘If you would have me, I would most definitely like to join,’ he declared with determination.
‘That’s great to hear!’ A sharp look showed up in Stella’s eyes as her tone changed to mask the slyness underneath. ‘What motivated you to make up your mind?’
Without intention, he looked away with knitted eyebrows, a scowl taking over his expression. ‘When I was a child, a Mirror killed my mother in front of me. And I couldn’t do anything!’ His raised his tone inadvertently, for he could not suppress the anger that poisoned him down to the core anymore. ‘Even though I am a Sage with two superpowers, I couldn’t even move! That’s why I promised myself that as soon as I can, I will pay them back for what they did to my family and end them once and for all so that nobody will experience the sadness and guilt I did.’
By the end of his explanation, his hands were shaking uncontrollably, and he was trying his hardest not to let tears run down his face. ‘I’m sorry, I lost my temper,’ he spoke in a quieter voice once he was calm again.
‘Don’t worry about it, it’s fantastic to see your resolution is strong and sincere. There’s just one more thing we need to make clear.’
‘What is it?’
At that moment, Stella’s warm and charming eyes pierced through him with a graveness she had not shown him yet. ‘You won’t just be fighting Mirrors, you know?’ she started with seriousness in her voice. ‘You will be fighting people like you as well. In fact, you will certainly have to kill regular humans along the way.’
That reminder felt like a shot through the heart. Could he do it? Killing people? If he had a choice, he would much prefer not to do so. His goal was to keep people safe, not to take their lives. Murder was not the way to achieve that. The notion of killing others weighed heavily on his conscience; those people had families and friends who would miss them too. He was not sure he could swallow that.
On the flip side, he thought of how many people die to Mirrors because the army was perpetually short on staff who could handle Mirrors. While he did not automatically assume his feat was not a one-time wonder, he trusted that he could become stronger in the Asteria Squad and make himself useful by battling Mirrors with them, or at least by using his second ability. If he desired to defend people from Mirrors, joining them was the simplest way in, not to mention he was planning on joining the military later anyway. Besides, the fact that the Asteria Squad was not deployed in warzones often implied that murder was not their main activity. As long as he saved more than he killed and managed to destroy Mirrors in the end, he reasoned that he could forgive himself.
Resolve exuded from him with his final answer. ‘I don’t mind. From the beginning, I’ve been prepared to do anything I must in order to protect people.’
Stella smiled, returning to her relaxed self. ‘Excellent. Welcome to the Asteria Squad, Shinya.’
Her hand extended towards him, and they marked their new partnership as squad members with a handshake. ‘It’s my pleasure.’
‘Now that that’s out of the way, we’re going to need to measure you for your uniform and for you to sign the contract. Are you free to come in for your fitting tomorrow?’
Shinya wrote his name on the contract while replying. ‘Yes, that would be fine.’
‘Alright. I will see you tomorrow, then.’
There was just one more thing he needed to inquire about before calling it a day.
‘Before I go, you mentioned your operatives earlier. Who are they and how do they know about me?’
Stella grinned like a proud big sister the second her operatives were mentioned. ‘I’m glad you asked! If you want, we can go meet them right now. They are currently on the training grounds.’
‘That would be amazing, thank you.’
Five minutes later, they arrived at the training grounds. The training grounds were sealed beyond a door that required an ocular scan to pass through. Once they entered the training grounds, Shinya realised this was actually a control room of sorts, which made sense from a safety perspective to ensure nobody got caught up in a Sage’s superpower while they practised.
‘Hey, you two! Come meet our new squad member,’ Stella shouted through the microphone in the control room.
Shinya did not see who was on the training grounds, although he did notice the buttons on the lift on the other side of the room lighting up after Stella called their other squad members there.
When the lift’s doors opened, they were greeted by a familiar sight.
None other than two of his classmates stepped out.
It was Stella who broke the ice. ‘It’s time for introductions! This is Amagiri Shinya, who will be joining us on Monday.’
Shinya bowed. ‘Nice to meet you. Let’s do our best together from now on!’
‘Likewise,’ the silver-haired boy responded in the same soft, self-assured tone he had during his entrance ceremony speech. ‘I’m Mitsumaki Asahi.’
Next, the beautiful girl he had been talking to constantly on the first day spoke. ‘And I’m Mitsumaki Tsukiyo. Asahi and I have seen you in class.’
If the extremely respectful honorific Tsukiyo used to refer to Asahi was anything to go by, she was definitely Asahi’s little sister. Given how similar they looked and how they seemed to ignore everyone else in class, Shinya was not taken aback by that information.
Remembering that Stella mentioned her squad members vouched for him to join, Shinya expressed his gratitude. ‘Thank you for vouching for my recruitment into the Asteria Squad.’
‘No problem,’ Asahi said dismissively, as if recommending someone to join an elite squad were no big deal.
‘You held your own against that Mirror and defeated it with minimal spillover effects,’ Tsukiyo continued, ‘so we both agreed you deserve a place in the squad.’ Both siblings nodded at that comment.
‘I’m flattered. Uh, since both of you have the same last name, what should I call you?’ Shinya enquired awkwardly, not wishing to end up calling them the same thing.
‘Just call us by our first names, it’s okay.’ Surprisingly, it was Asahi who gave the reassuring response. He gave off a cold and detached feeling at first glance, but perhaps that was not the case. ‘We all call each other by our first names with no honorifics in the Asteria Squad anyway.’
‘We’re like a close-knit family with Stella as everyone’s big sister,’ Tsukiyo supplemented in a cheerful, matter-of-fact manner.
Instantly, Stella almost blushed, her mouth breaking into a kind smile. ‘Aww, you’re too sweet.’
‘Hey, since you’re in the same class, are you two twins?’ Shinya asked in confusion. He could have sworn the strongest Sage’s daughter was too young to be in high school yet.
‘No, I’m ten months younger,’ Tsukiyo replied. ‘I turn fifteen in November.’
Shinya raised an eyebrow. ‘Eh? How are you already in high school, then?’
‘I started school early to be in the same class as my brother.’
‘You can do that?!’
‘Not normally, no. My father is just very persuasive,’ she added with a wink.
‘I know, right? That aside… Do you have a codename yet?’
Unsure if he understood that correctly, Shinya repeated a word. ‘Codename?’
‘You’re going to need one to protect your identity for when we go on missions,’ Asahi clarified.
‘No, not yet. I don’t have any ideas about what I’d like it to be either.’
Stella gave them a cheery thumbs-up. ‘Leave it to me! I have the perfect codename for you.’
Everyone looked at Stella expectantly, eager to hear the new codename.
‘Taranis. The Celtic god of thunder.’
‘Taranis…’ Shinya uttered, feeling the name on the tip of his tongue. It felt right. ‘I like it. I’ll use that as my codename from now on.’
Tsukiyo clapped softly, looking forward to having a new member. ‘Yay! Congratulations.’
‘Congratulations,’ the other squad members promptly followed.
‘Thank you all.’
‘Well, then, let’s call it a day,’ Stella said, a smile present on her face. ‘Shinya, you should get your uniform and work phone on Sunday in time for you to start on Monday.’
‘I can’t wait.’
A few days later, on Sunday, Shinya received his bespoke uniform and work phone. The uniform was a custom dark blue army uniform with golden accessories. Over his heart was the symbol of the Asteria Squad. When he tried it on, he was impressed by how comfortable it was and how well it fit him. Like he belonged in that uniform as a member of the Asteria Squad.
Suddenly, a beep came from Shinya’s phone. Who could it be at this hour? It was past midnight, and while he would not put it past some of his friends not to be asleep at this time, it was very unusual for him to get a message late at night. Unless…
Noticing that the phone that beeped was his new purple work phone, he picked it up, which revealed a text from Stella to the Asteria Squad group chat. It depicted a map with a red indicator over a relatively large area under ten minutes away from his house. Before he could ask what that was about, the phone rang, so he clicked on the green telephone sign without delay.
‘Hello,’ the four members of the Asteria Squad greeted in succession.
On the other end of the phone, Stella jumped right to the topic in a sombre tone. Based on the background noise, it was obvious that she was engaged in combat on a battle zone. ‘Everyone, there’s trouble. I need you all to mobilise to the location I sent you as soon as possible.’
Asahi reacted in an instant, as if he had planned what to do in this unexpected situation in advance. ‘Phoenix, roger. Crystal and I will be there in fifteen minutes.’
‘Crystal, confirm,’ Tsukiyo affirmed.
‘This is Taranis,’ Shinya declared with pride swelling in his chest now that he had used his codename in an emergency call for the first time. ‘I can get there in less than ten.’
‘That would be brilliant,’ Stella said in a hurry. ‘I need to go; I’m fighting elsewhere. I will entrust that location to you lovelies.’ She hung up immediately.
Asahi spoke one more time before following suit. ‘We are counting on you until we get there, Taranis.’
‘Don’t do anything reckless, though!’ Tsukiyo interjected. With that, the call dropped.
Not wasting any time, Shinya set off towards the target location without looking back.
However, he was not prepared for what awaited him.
Near the location they received, the signs of destruction reared their ugly head. Several gigantic Mirrors and fleeing people were there. On the pavement, the remnants of bodies and buildings stood in pools of rubble and blood. This was far from normal even for a busy Mirror-infested night.
‘Something is wrong,’ Shinya thought to himself. ‘Usually, Mirrors spawn individually or in tiny groups.; there’s never this many Mirrors around! I’ve never seen this amount of Mirrors in one place before.’
The closer he got, the more the horde of Mirrors grew. He stood still, unsure where to even begin. Mirrors were crowding the streets to such an extent that safe evacuation and rescue were a huge challenge. The overwhelming size of the Mirror army loomed like a heavy dark cloud over him. In all truth, he felt helpless.
‘This is impossible.’
How could he, just one teenager with no training, have any hope of keeping Mirrors at bay for even a short period of time? It was ludicrous to think about.
Asahi’s words resounded in Shinya’s mind.
‘We are counting on you.’
He could hardly believe the trust placed in him, who had yet to prove himself as a squad member. Those much more experienced Sages believed in him. They were relying on him to stand his ground against a swarm of Mirrors at least until reinforcements arrived. Never could Shinya betray such trust, no matter how much adversity he faced or how many Mirrors he had to eliminate along the way.
‘No, I have to do this. I can do this. Haven’t I sworn not to let anyone else die? So, I need to beat these Mirrors. At least until Asahi and Tsukiyo can take over.’
Due to Asahi, Shinya regained his bravery. ‘Alright, let’s kick the hell out of some Mirrors!’ he yelled, more to boost his courage than anything.
Catching a glimpse of a Mirror coming towards him after crying out, he decided to start by shooting lightning at the Mirror. When the Mirror retaliated with a violent smash, he quickly leapt to the side and continued hitting it with the strongest electricity he could accumulate on the spot. Unable to withstand the high voltage, the Mirror went down.
Upon killing the Mirror, his confidence returned. ‘Nice, on to the next one,’ he said with a cocky smile.
Each Mirror he annihilated gave him more and more faith in his abilities. Obviously, he made a myriad of mistakes, got hit a few times when he could easily have avoided it if he were paying enough attention or if his reflexes were better and his superpower went out of control a few times, but he managed to fight back without everlasting damage to himself and his surroundings overall.
Unfortunately, the downside of getting comfortable is complacency. Amidst his skirmish, he temporarily forgot that Mirrors were ridiculously dangerous beings that could tear him apart in seconds.
On the battlefield, growing complacent was akin to a death sentence, for it made the person vulnerable.
What it took for Shinya to remember that lesson was the splitting pain he felt when a Mirror crushed his left leg.
‘Ah!’ he screamed loudly as he lost his balance and fell down. He had just defeated another Mirror and did not expect the other Mirror to ambush him while he was still distracted. Because of that, the entirety of his left leg below the kneecaps was gone. The pool of blood he was now in increased in size rapidly. He was already becoming light-headed from the blood loss…
‘Is this it for me?’
Shinya did not want to die. He wanted to be the one protecting others for years to come, not the one who died in his first battle. Alas, life gives no such choices, so it seemed as if his fate was set in stone.
‘I hope I managed to buy enough time, at least…’
The Mirror stepped closer, encircling him. Without use of both legs, even if he crawled, he would get nowhere in this nightmare that was brimming with Mirrors at every corner. Typically unintelligent as it was, it appeared that the Mirror understood that well. And so, it let out its creepy static-filled laugh, raising its disgusting claws, ready to pierce through his flesh and enjoy every millisecond of it.
Yet, the one who perished was the Mirror, not him.
Right before the Mirror got close enough to launch an attack, it was engulfed by pale blue ice.
‘Shinya!’ Asahi yelled while running towards him.
It was not just Asahi. Behind him, Tsukiyo’s hands shone with aqua light from whence more ice came, snowflakes falling around her the more ice she created. She kept a safe distance from the Mirrors while smiting them with ice shards and calling ice down upon on them. At the same time, she was slowly making her way towards Shinya to protect them both until they could enter the fight.
‘And Tsukiyo, too! Thank God you came.’
The moment Asahi was next to Shinya, he leaned down and requested to see his leg. ‘Let me see that.’
‘I’m done for,’ Shinya said in a resigned tone, not meeting Asahi’s eyes. ‘Sorry.’
At that, the tiniest of smiles showed up on Asahi’s face, his gaze softening slightly. ‘Not as long as I’m here.’
He could not prevent the shock from taking over his expression. ‘What do you mean?’
In reply, Asahi put his hands on the wound. A cyan glow engirdled them, and the missing leg was reconstructed in no time. Shinya watched the process with bewilderment in his eyes. His astonishment reached sky-high levels when he realised that he could move his leg flawlessly.
‘Healing wounds like this is a walk in the park to me. That’s my second superpower.’
‘You… You’re incredible.’
‘Just doing my part. Now, let’s go back into battle, shall we?’
In one swift movement, Asahi got up and helped Shinya get back on his feet. By now, Tsukiyo had walked to their position; she had been keeping Mirrors away from them while Asahi healed Shinya. Together, the trio of lightning, fire and ice re-joined the fight.
Within moments, the force of the Asteria Squad’s combined powers decimated the Mirrors’ numbers significantly. In spite of all the close calls they had, even if one of them messed up, the others had their back, so they managed to work more or less smoothly. Evidently, because Shinya was new and lacked combat experience, he could not synchronise with Asahi and Tsukiyo as well as they could with each other, but they were all aware of that, which enabled them to keep an eye out and take measures when need be. Soon, they eliminated most of the Mirrors.
But then, a loud roar reverberated throughout the air. It came from an enormous Mirror which had just come into view.
‘Asahi, Shinya!’ Tsukiyo called out to her fellow squad members. ‘I have a plan.’
‘I’m listening,’ both boys answered.
‘You two go take down that big one. Meanwhile, I will take care of the smaller Mirrors around it so that you can fight it without interference.’
Henceforth, Shinya and Asahi moved in position to follow the scheme. Truth to be told, Shinya was a bit reluctant as he did not really know Asahi and believed he might be a liability to Asahi instead of a help, but it was not like they had many other options. As such, they dashed towards the ginormous Mirror, ignoring all other Mirrors. In the meantime, Tsukiyo cleared their path with her ability.
Asahi, whose long-range control of his superpower was better than Shinya’s, shot cyan fire at the Mirror to divert its attention so that Shinya could get closer more freely. Intent on not being left behind, Shinya channelled purple lightning to strike the Mirror as soon as he got within range.
Having noticed that Shinya was more comfortable in close quarters, Asahi switched to close-range combat. The two of them imbued their fists with their superpowers and proceeded to punch the Mirror repeatedly, chipping at it with each hit until the last hit. Both of them raised their fists, aiming for a different side of the Mirror.
Purple lightning and cyan flames crashed into the Mirror at the same time.
The Mirror evaporated, leaving nothing behind. At that moment, after seeing how Asahi coordinated with him and Tsukiyo supported them from afar, reassurance made Shinya’s initial insecurity and hesitancy fade away. Maybe he could get along with them after all.
Shortly afterwards, no Mirror remained. The Asteria Squad successfully defended the area against Mirrors. Damage to the infrastructure was unavoidable, but on the bright side, no casualty occurred after they started to fight. All they had to do now was identify victims. For that purpose, they reconvened in the middle.
Since the wheel of fate turned in his favour so abruptly, Shinya thought himself so lucky that he could not trust it. How did they even know where in the wide area they were assigned to find him? Had they embedded a tracker into his phone or something?
‘As happy as I am that you came just on time, how did you even find me?’
Tsukiyo speedily elucidated the mystery. ‘That’s what my second superpower is for. I can predict the future. With foresight, knowing what will happen and where you will be at any point in time is a piece of cake.’
A single thing ran through Shinya’s mind. ‘Are you kidding me?’
Some Sages do not even have a useful ability, and those siblings got two? He was literally teammates with a guy who could control fire and heal any injury and a girl who could control ice and predict the future. That was like winning a double rollover twice. Granted, Shinya himself possessed two handy abilities too, although his were not quite as overpowered. Who thought matching him with those two was appropriate?
Tsukiyo put a finger to her lips and involuntarily looked up. ‘Actually, now that you mention it, you haven’t told us what your second superpower is, have you?’
Oh. True, Shinya had not had the chance to do so yet. He was supposed to tell them when he started training tomorrow; telling them a few hours early could not hurt.
‘Can you hear me?’
Both siblings were surprised to hear Shinya’s voice in their heads. ‘Yes,’ they thought at the same time, discovering they could hear each other’s voice too.
‘I understand,’ Asahi stated, using his mind to speak.
‘Telepathy, isn’t it?’ Tsukiyo double-checked.
‘Indeed. I can open a telepathic link with anyone. However, including myself, I’m limited to just ten people that I can be in a telepathic link with at once, and the telepathic link can’t last more than an hour.’
‘Ah, so it’s suitable for small squads like ours, but it wouldn’t work in a large squad?’ Asahi asked.
Seeing no further need to keep the telepathic link active, Shinya closed it.
‘You are a marvellous addition to our team,’ Tsukiyo complimented him with a sincere smile. ‘With you around, we can communicate much more easily.’
Shinya totally did not blush when a girl as beautiful as Tsukiyo praised him. ‘Thank you.’
‘Let’s go report now,’ Asahi suggested.
The urge to complain in Shinya’s veins was irresistible. ‘Eh? At this insane hour? Dude, it’s like, one or two o’clock! Aren’t we meant to check for victims first anyway?’
As if on cue, Asahi expanded on his proposition. ‘Stella texted to summon us to headquarters. The police will handle the rescue.’
‘’Tis the price we must pay to fight Mirrors, Shinya,’ Tsukiyo explained with a compassionate tone. ‘We usually report on the next day, but sometimes, we have to give our report right after we are done.’
That was enough for Shinya to give up on any protests. He was ready to do what he must to eradicate Mirrors, after all. ‘Understood. Let’s get moving.’
None of them got home before three in the morning. Needless to say, waking up on time for school and focusing on lessons the next day was a struggle.
‘Thank you for coming, Stella,’ a brown-haired middle-aged man with a stern face said. ‘As you are aware, I have called a meeting to discuss the Asteria Squad’s next mission.’
‘Certainly, General,’ Stella replied in a polite business tone. ‘What will it be?’
The general threw a thick classified folder on the table. A boy’s profile was on the first page.
She shuffled through a few pages and turned back to the man. ‘Got it. The Asteria Squad will take care of this.’
‘Do you think you can handle it? I know you have a new recruit, too.’
‘Who do you think you are talking to?’ she asked rhetorically with a playful smirk on her visage. ‘Of course we can! And our new recruit is very capable, for the record. He is a bit rough around the edges, but we can make up for that. In fact, I’m sure he will prove pivotal in this operation.’
‘That’s good to hear. Then, I leave these matters to you.’
‘Noted. By the way, have we found any potential explanation as to why so many Mirrors showed up last week?’
‘Nothing concrete. Nonetheless, we believe it might be linked to your squad’s next mission, albeit we need more evidence to support that hypothesis.’
‘Oh? How fascinating. We will investigate and complete our mission to the best of our abilities.’
With a confident stride, Stella started walking towards the door.
Stella looked over her shoulder, the certitude in her eyes and poised smirk not wavering. ‘We won’t need it.’
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