Chapter 116:

Volume 5, Chapter 1: Make a Decision

Heroes of the Past

???Bookmark here

I opened my eyes, no longer present in the room. I heard the ticking of a clock, but couldn’t locate the source. A strange, foggy mist surrounded me in all directions.Bookmark here

“Did you enjoy your vacation?” Mirei’s voice echoed.Bookmark here

“That’s some bullshit you pulled. You’ve made your point! The perfect life, right? All the heroes are your normal, everyday people! Yeah, I fuckin’ understand,” I shouted.Bookmark here

“Yuki, so correct! I just showed you what a good time you could have, free from the burdens of a hero. Isn’t that great and refreshing? Everyone’s so much calmer and nicer,” she responded.Bookmark here

“None of its real! Even if it’s another dimension, it’s not my reality. Don’t even try selling me any of that crap!” I yelled.Bookmark here

“It’s a glimpse into the possible. Everyone gives up their powers and it just might work out like that. Thats all I want,” Mirei continued, her voice remaining calm and steady.Bookmark here

“And if I don’t?” I countered.Bookmark here

“You’ll find out the hard way. I’ll give you two days! The exact same terms from before. Decide by then, Yuki,” Mirei’s voice faded.Bookmark here

“Like I care about what you say,” I muttered, glaring into the haze.Bookmark here

The strange mist dissipated. A large grandfather clock chimed behind me. Ace leaned her hands on a table in front of the couch she sat in.Bookmark here

“Welcome to the….,” she began.Bookmark here

“Cut the crap, Ace. What’s going on?” I interrupted her, not in the mood for her jokes.Bookmark here

“Michi Ichizen’s sister, Mirei, is quite dangerous. Much more than I even anticipated,” Ace replied, her face turning serious.Bookmark here

“And that’s enough of a reason for you to approach me?” I asked.Bookmark here

“Things aren’t always so black and white, Tomo Yuki. But, let’s assume I play the role of a villain. If I’m the big bad, then I’m a target as well. I have just as much of a reason to not want her around,” Ace explained.Bookmark here

“We’re going to be temporary allies just so you can hurt us later? Yeah, that sounds like a great plan,” I pointed out.Bookmark here

“Mirei’s a big threat, one that won’t vanish without any action. I won’t interfere any further unless you allow me permission. The decisions is yours, Tomo Yuki,” Ace stated, laughing at the end of her sentence.Bookmark here

“What can you do? Mirei has a counter for everyone’s powers,” I asked out of curiosity.Bookmark here

“So many questions. You’re becoming like your friend, Konoe, such a nosy little girl. That’s beside the point. My powers are more than enough to fend her off. She’ll most likely take everyone out, unless of course, you stall for me. Talk it over with Tess and everyone else. Show them your grimoire and it’ll do the rest. They’ll know. Give me your answer in two days. Just like Mirei’s deadline,” Ace replied, standing up as the clock ceased its chiming.Bookmark here

The scene around me once again warped. I saw a pool of water in front of me. This scene was…. very nostalgic. I agreed to give up peace and quiet to resolve the situation, ultimately resulting in Ichizen’s death.Bookmark here

“Tomo Yuki, it’s been five months since we last spoke. As I stated before, your commitment was registered and your path set. Whether you continue or give up, you must decide. I merely only provided a spark to set everything in motion. Let’s see how much you really desire that peace! Was it all just a misguided illusion you sought for self-satisfaction?” a voice inquired, soft in tone.Bookmark here

I stared downward. It seemed much longer than five months. You really have forgotten, Yuki. What was it all for? Originally, it was to regain my everyday life. Now, my goal shifted to mastering my powers and beating the shit out of Mirei, Ace, and whoever else appeared. My priorities changed. Time to become the fuckin’ hero on my terms!Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

Friday Spring Break 2016 Day 5Bookmark here

I heard the sound of birds chirping and bright sunlight streamed through the blinds. My window was open, allowing in a cool breeze. Finally back! I rolled out of bed and felt pain in my back and arms. There was a red stain on my shirt sleeve as well.Bookmark here

“Blood? I don’t remember Mirei doing that,” I muttered, changing into a fresh set of clothes.Bookmark here

I headed downstairs and saw Tess in the dining room. A large bandage covered her left cheek and her neck was wrapped in white gauze. Damn, did Mirei beat on us after I passed out?Bookmark here

“Tomo, we need to talk,” Tess said, her voice hoarse.Bookmark here

“Mirei gave us two days. I don’t what you plan to do but I’ve made up my mind,” I revealed.Bookmark here

“We’ll hold a joint meeting with Lilith’s team and decide on our next course of action,” Tess informed me.Bookmark here

“Tess, how bad are your injuries? You sure you don’t want to wait?” I questioned, noticing bandages around her wrist too.Bookmark here

“Minor inconveniences. My lack of preparation and foresight caused this. I assume responsibility for everyone’s injuries,” Tess replied.Bookmark here

“Tess, it isn’t your fault. A lot of it falls on me. I’m Mirei’s main target,” I disagreed.Bookmark here

“Perhaps. I’ll see you at the training facility,” Tess said before departing.Bookmark here

Training FacilityBookmark here

“How long did they wail on us?” I felt my right arm tighten up.Bookmark here

I pulled up my sleeve, revealing an entire bandaged arm, traces of red throughout. Not the most pleasant sight. Zhuyu limped out of his car. Shit, it was weird seeing him after that strange experience Mirei thrust me into. A small square bandage covered his left cheek and upper right eye. His left hand was also bandaged. Zhuyu’s friend, En, appeared in much better condition. Still, it looked like he favored his left arm. Both walked at a slow pace, dragging their feet.Bookmark here

“Lo-, Zhuyu, how bad are your injuries?” I corrected myself.Bookmark here

“Could be worse,” Zhuyu answered.Bookmark here

He walked away, clutching his right leg with every few steps. En trailed behind him. I expected the usual empty lobby, but saw everyone gathered there already. Shan’s forehead was wrapped up and he clutched the left side of his chest. Ichaival adjusted his pants leg, revealing a small brace. No cuts or any visible bruises for either men. Kisai, a cut on the right side of his face, sat on one of the couches. He propped his left leg onto the coffee table, massaging his kneecap, and wore a brace on his left wrist. Shui stood near the window, drinking a cup of water, bandages around all five fingers of his right hand. His left hand shook as the man pressed a button on the water dispenser.Bookmark here

Kyoi’s right arm was in a sling and she wore a brace on her left leg. Various cuts and bruises adorned her face. Like Tess, her neck was also bandaged. Kuan’s left hand was wrapped in gauze while his right hand contained a few minor cuts. He walked with a slight limp, not as pronounced as Zhuyu’s or En’s. Jen, a brace on her left arm, touched the bandages near her left eye. Jacque had a slight bruise on his forehead and a cut-up lip.Bookmark here

“Tomo, glad to see you’re okay!” Shui remarked as I stared at everyone in silence.Bookmark here

“Hey, um, I want to say something. Everyone’s injuries, they’re my fault. Mirei targeted me and you all ended up being collateral damage. I’m really sorry,” I apologized with a bow.Bookmark here

“What are you talking about, Tomo? Don’t apologize. Mirei and her team fucked us up because we aren’t good enough,” Kisai disagreed, shaking his head at my statement.Bookmark here

“Jin’s right. We got our asses beat. She surprised us,” Ichaival backed up Kisai.Bookmark here

“Bro, I just suck. I deserved to get beat on. Jin’s right like always,” Jacque agreed as well.Bookmark here

After speaking with Tess in the morning, I predicted they wouldn’t blame me. At least not openly. I prepared to respond but Tess walked in.Bookmark here

“Continue talking, no doubt Tomo has questions for everyone,” Tess directed.Bookmark here

“How did they get everyone?” I questioned the heroes about their injuries.Bookmark here

“Got me when I finished deliveries and was almost home. Pulled out my house key and they just appeared. Got fucked up, but I fucked them up too so yeah….,” Kisai explained, wincing when he leaned forward.Bookmark here

“I was careless. They honed in on me while I was training. Tomo, where does she live?” Kyoi stared at me with menacing eyes.Bookmark here

“Refrain yourself, Feng. Our chances of victory are low in our current state,” Tess warned her, a piercing expression on her face.Bookmark here

“Anyways, how about you, Shui?” I ignored Kyoi’s request, glancing at the water elemental user.Bookmark here

“I was about to fall asleep and there was a loud crash. Four people came in out of nowhere,” Shui replied.Bookmark here

“Damn, that sucks. Anything broke?” I asked.Bookmark here

“No, Tess said they used some kind of barrier, so nothing got busted,” he answered.Bookmark here

“En, how about you?” I inquired.Bookmark here

“I was outside getting mail and they were there,” En disclosed.Bookmark here

All their encounters resembled my situation. How could we even defend against that?Bookmark here

“Tomo, let me explain what occurred after I awoke. I’m sure you’re curious how you returned home,” Tess offered, walking over to me.Bookmark here

“Yeah, that’d be nice to know,” I said.Bookmark here

“I woke up two hours later. With the exception of you, Tomo, those present in the training facility recovered shortly after. I then drove you home and provided an adequate excuse for your concerned parents. Once in your room, I tended to your injuries and concealed your condition,” Tess explained.Bookmark here

“How they did inflict so much damage, Tess? You said any injuries sustained don’t transfer back here,” I questioned, staring at my bandaged arm.Bookmark here

“Mirei most likely inflicted more damage once she shut down the artificial dimension. As I stated before, if the injuries exceed a certain threshold, they will manifest,” Tess clarified, massaging her neck.Bookmark here

“Mirei really doesn’t care, does she?” I sighed.Bookmark here

“She is a formidable enemy. Now let’s discuss the ultimatum provided to Tomo, and by extension, everyone here,” Tess directed.Bookmark here

Everyone shuffled around in their seats, thoughtful expressions on their faces. I sat down in a nearby office chair and wheeled over to the water dispenser.Bookmark here

“We’ll take a vote, but Tomo makes the final decision,” Tess instructed, sitting behind the front desk.Bookmark here

My decision, huh? I thought Tess might handle this since she was the Gatekeeper.Bookmark here

“We’ll first consider the validity of Mirei’s statements. Can she resolve the situation with efficiency and minimize casualties?” Tess posed the first question.Bookmark here

“I’m sure she can. No offense, but she seems pretty committed to it, unlike us,” Zhuyu answered.Bookmark here

“Hey, we do…. stuff. But you’re right, Long, Mirei and her group are awfully concerned about what’s going on,” Shan agreed.Bookmark here

“You’re saying we just leave it to her?” I asked, feeling that the two men already reached a consensus.Bookmark here

“I never said that. Just pointing out the qualities that make her a good fit. And it’s true without our powers and responsibility, we would have much more free time,” Zhuyu denied.Bookmark here

“We aren’t exactly the most hardworking people, Tomo. I’m sure that irritates you. Not as much as Felicity, of course. Anyways, never said I would give up my powers. Might be the best decision in the long run, but can’t really trust her, you know? We’ll probably handle it, eventually,” Shan added worrisome words at the end of his statement.Bookmark here

Zhuyu and Shan listed reasons for supporting Mirei. Yet, they weren’t willing to let her handle things. Was it ego or were they providing counterexamples just because they could?Bookmark here

“I admit Mirei carries a strong passion and drive, but that only gets them so far,” Tess stated.Bookmark here

“Come on, we can’t just let them beat us up, and say it’s okay, right? Gotta return the favor,” Ichaival pointed out.Bookmark here

“Problem is, they’re way too strong. Maybe even surpassing the Traveler,” Shan countered.Bookmark here

“Wait, don’t you usually tell me to keep going, even if it’s hard?” Ichaival shot back.Bookmark here

“We have to make sure we don’t get this wrong. Do you understand the situation we’re in, Darryl?” Shan’s expression turned serious.Bookmark here

Ichaival sighed but nodded in understanding. Shit, Shan was serious? This meeting contained none of the usual joy and humor. I was curious about Kisai’s take. Could never tell if he was going to lead off with something funny or actually take things seriously.Bookmark here

“What about everyone else’s opinion? It’s crucial Tomo hears all your feedback. Speak now so you don’t regret anything later on,” Tess requested.Bookmark here

“I’d love another shot at Mirei, but we don’t have our ultimate weapons, not to mention our diminished physical conditions. Our chances of success are low. Unless, of course, you have information that could shift things in our favor?” Kyoi stared at me.Bookmark here

“I actually do. Ace left me with a message,” I recalled the former leader’s words.Bookmark here

“If she left it in your care, it must be important,” Tess surmised.Bookmark here

I felt my necklace shake. The grimoire appeared and I handed it to the Gatekeeper. Chains wrapped around the magical tome. Tess held it by the spine, as it flipped to a page near the end.Bookmark here

“Did she leave anything useful?” I watched the chains dissipate.Bookmark here

“Yes, Ace offered us an ultimatum as well. One buying us enough time to prepare and engage Mirei,” Tess revealed.Bookmark here

“What’s her plan?” I caught my grimoire as the Gatekeeper returned it to me.Bookmark here

“Restrict Mirei’s powers with my assistance,” Tess said.Bookmark here

“Can we even trust her? She must want something in return,” I second-guessed Ace’s motives.Bookmark here

“Yes, she wants us to not hunt her down once this is resolved. In other words, whatever she planned with the Traveler or any deals she brokered, we must not stop her,” Tess explained.Bookmark here

“And we’re going to accept?” I stared at Tess.Bookmark here

“Let’s see what everyone else thinks,” Tess suggested.Bookmark here

Aligning with Ace increased our chances, but I had no idea what Ace’s ultimate goal was. At least Mirei had somewhat good intentions. Ace was still a wild card and would betray us at some point.Bookmark here

“It’s simple, isn’t it? Accept the deal and not follow through. We’ll worry about Ace later,” Kyoi replied.Bookmark here

“That’s not a bad idea, except Ace might retaliate, which isn’t exactly great. But, I would be fine getting her help and deal with the messy aftermath,” Shan agreed.Bookmark here

“Before we discuss any further, we must return to the issue of Mirei first. If we all agree to relinquish our powers and turn over matters to her, there’s no reason to consider Ace’s offer,” Tess reminded us.Bookmark here

What would Mirei actually do if we let her handle things? She could take care of Ace but what would happen after that? Recalling Tess’ words, Mirei planned to seal off all entries into other dimensions. Did that really resolve anything? The Traveler would still be around. Did Mirei and her team have enough firepower to take him down?Bookmark here

“We’ve been doing a good job. Let’s keep doing this!” Jen spoke for the first time.Bookmark here

“She’s right! We can do this, guys!” Ichaival supported the woman.Bookmark here

“Jin, what is your view on the matter? You have not spoken yet,” Tess asked.Bookmark here

“Well, you know, it’s…. yeah. Might be nice to just not do this shit anymore. Able to relax, don’t worry about anything, it’s definitely something to consider. But, I’m not going to give up, who the hell do you think I am? So, like Darryl said, we’ll go out and finish it,” Kisai responded, giving a slight smile.Bookmark here

Okay, I was starting to feel it. He was right. It would be bad to just leave things like this. Maybe I was just biased after all the time I spent with them.Bookmark here

“If we’re going to do it, let’s get going already. We don’t have a lot of time, right?” Kuan looked over at me, adjusting his glasses.Bookmark here

“Yeah, you’re right. Tess, anything else?” I stared at the Gatekeeper.Bookmark here

“No, time to make your decision, Tomo,” Tess said.Bookmark here

I already knew my answer, even before the meeting. I was almost swayed initially by Zhuyu and Shan, but after hearing them elaborate, nothing changed. Time to deny Mirei and take her down!Bookmark here

“Let’s work with Ace and deal with the fallout,” I stated.Bookmark here

“If that’s your decision, then I wish to discuss a suggestion in more detail later,” Tess said.Bookmark here

What did Tess have up her sleeve? She probably already developed a contingency plan.Bookmark here

“We’ll head to the secondary meeting room. I’ve texted you the location. We’ll meet up with Lilith’s team there,” Tess ordered.Bookmark here

Kisai stumbled as he stood up. Shui and Jen supported him all the way to his car. Jacque and Shui appeared the healthiest. Kuan, too, but it looked like he might have some knee pain. I approached my car and saw Tess point at it. Jacque nodded and headed my way.Bookmark here

“Tess said I should ride with you,” Jacque informed me.Bookmark here

“I don’t really mind. Let’s get going or we’ll be the last ones there,” I agreed, unlocking the passenger door for him.Bookmark here

“Tomo, what kind of place is it?” Jacque asked, staring out the window.Bookmark here

“Sorta like a school auditorium with a stage and has a bunch of tables,” I described.Bookmark here

“That’s cool. I wonder how badly the other heroes are hurt,” Jacque remarked.Bookmark here

“Lilith and a few of her team members were there so probably the same as us. Maybe not as bad since we’re Mirei’s main target,” I guessed.Bookmark here

“Yeah, wish I could do something else. Being a rock isn’t exactly the most useful thing, especially against her,” Jacque lamented.Bookmark here

“I can’t actually disagree with you, Jacque. It sucks. You know what, I’ll just shut up now and not make things worse,” I decided.Bookmark here

“Nah, you don’t have to hold back, Tomo. How are your injuries?” Jacque inquired.Bookmark here

“It hurts. Felt my arm tighten when I was driving earlier,” I admitted, feeling the tightness return again.Bookmark here

“Damn, must suck. How’s it feeling right now?” Jacque questioned.Bookmark here

“It’s okay, I can still drive,” I answered, making a left turn.Bookmark here

“Good to know, good to know,” Jacque said with relief.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.