Heroes of the Past
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.
“Did you enjoy your vacation?” Mirei’s voice echoed.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“And if I don’t?” I countered.
“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.
“Like I care about what you say,” I muttered, glaring into the haze.
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.
“Welcome to the….,” she began.
“Cut the crap, Ace. What’s going on?” I interrupted her, not in the mood for her jokes.
“Michi Ichizen’s sister, Mirei, is quite dangerous. Much more than I even anticipated,” Ace replied, her face turning serious.
“And that’s enough of a reason for you to approach me?” I asked.
“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.
“We’re going to be temporary allies just so you can hurt us later? Yeah, that sounds like a great plan,” I pointed out.
“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.
“What can you do? Mirei has a counter for everyone’s powers,” I asked out of curiosity.
“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.
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.
“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.
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!
Friday Spring Break 2016 Day 5
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.
“Blood? I don’t remember Mirei doing that,” I muttered, changing into a fresh set of clothes.
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?
“Tomo, we need to talk,” Tess said, her voice hoarse.
“Mirei gave us two days. I don’t what you plan to do but I’ve made up my mind,” I revealed.
“We’ll hold a joint meeting with Lilith’s team and decide on our next course of action,” Tess informed me.
“Tess, how bad are your injuries? You sure you don’t want to wait?” I questioned, noticing bandages around her wrist too.
“Minor inconveniences. My lack of preparation and foresight caused this. I assume responsibility for everyone’s injuries,” Tess replied.
“Tess, it isn’t your fault. A lot of it falls on me. I’m Mirei’s main target,” I disagreed.
“Perhaps. I’ll see you at the training facility,” Tess said before departing.
“How long did they wail on us?” I felt my right arm tighten up.
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.
“Lo-, Zhuyu, how bad are your injuries?” I corrected myself.
“Could be worse,” Zhuyu answered.
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.
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.
“Tomo, glad to see you’re okay!” Shui remarked as I stared at everyone in silence.
“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.
“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.
“Jin’s right. We got our asses beat. She surprised us,” Ichaival backed up Kisai.
“Bro, I just suck. I deserved to get beat on. Jin’s right like always,” Jacque agreed as well.
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.
“Continue talking, no doubt Tomo has questions for everyone,” Tess directed.
“How did they get everyone?” I questioned the heroes about their injuries.
“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.
“I was careless. They honed in on me while I was training. Tomo, where does she live?” Kyoi stared at me with menacing eyes.
“Refrain yourself, Feng. Our chances of victory are low in our current state,” Tess warned her, a piercing expression on her face.
“Anyways, how about you, Shui?” I ignored Kyoi’s request, glancing at the water elemental user.
“I was about to fall asleep and there was a loud crash. Four people came in out of nowhere,” Shui replied.
“Damn, that sucks. Anything broke?” I asked.
“No, Tess said they used some kind of barrier, so nothing got busted,” he answered.
“En, how about you?” I inquired.
“I was outside getting mail and they were there,” En disclosed.
All their encounters resembled my situation. How could we even defend against that?
“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.
“Yeah, that’d be nice to know,” I said.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“Mirei really doesn’t care, does she?” I sighed.
“She is a formidable enemy. Now let’s discuss the ultimatum provided to Tomo, and by extension, everyone here,” Tess directed.
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.
“We’ll take a vote, but Tomo makes the final decision,” Tess instructed, sitting behind the front desk.
My decision, huh? I thought Tess might handle this since she was the Gatekeeper.
“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.
“I’m sure she can. No offense, but she seems pretty committed to it, unlike us,” Zhuyu answered.
“Hey, we do…. stuff. But you’re right, Long, Mirei and her group are awfully concerned about what’s going on,” Shan agreed.
“You’re saying we just leave it to her?” I asked, feeling that the two men already reached a consensus.
“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.
“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.
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?
“I admit Mirei carries a strong passion and drive, but that only gets them so far,” Tess stated.
“Come on, we can’t just let them beat us up, and say it’s okay, right? Gotta return the favor,” Ichaival pointed out.
“Problem is, they’re way too strong. Maybe even surpassing the Traveler,” Shan countered.
“Wait, don’t you usually tell me to keep going, even if it’s hard?” Ichaival shot back.
“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.
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.
“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.
“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.
“I actually do. Ace left me with a message,” I recalled the former leader’s words.
“If she left it in your care, it must be important,” Tess surmised.
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.
“Did she leave anything useful?” I watched the chains dissipate.
“Yes, Ace offered us an ultimatum as well. One buying us enough time to prepare and engage Mirei,” Tess revealed.
“What’s her plan?” I caught my grimoire as the Gatekeeper returned it to me.
“Restrict Mirei’s powers with my assistance,” Tess said.
“Can we even trust her? She must want something in return,” I second-guessed Ace’s motives.
“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.
“And we’re going to accept?” I stared at Tess.
“Let’s see what everyone else thinks,” Tess suggested.
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.
“It’s simple, isn’t it? Accept the deal and not follow through. We’ll worry about Ace later,” Kyoi replied.
“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.
“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.
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?
“We’ve been doing a good job. Let’s keep doing this!” Jen spoke for the first time.
“She’s right! We can do this, guys!” Ichaival supported the woman.
“Jin, what is your view on the matter? You have not spoken yet,” Tess asked.
“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.
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.
“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.
“Yeah, you’re right. Tess, anything else?” I stared at the Gatekeeper.
“No, time to make your decision, Tomo,” Tess said.
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!
“Let’s work with Ace and deal with the fallout,” I stated.
“If that’s your decision, then I wish to discuss a suggestion in more detail later,” Tess said.
What did Tess have up her sleeve? She probably already developed a contingency plan.
“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.
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.
“Tess said I should ride with you,” Jacque informed me.
“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.
“Tomo, what kind of place is it?” Jacque asked, staring out the window.
“Sorta like a school auditorium with a stage and has a bunch of tables,” I described.
“That’s cool. I wonder how badly the other heroes are hurt,” Jacque remarked.
“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.
“Yeah, wish I could do something else. Being a rock isn’t exactly the most useful thing, especially against her,” Jacque lamented.
“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.
“Nah, you don’t have to hold back, Tomo. How are your injuries?” Jacque inquired.
“It hurts. Felt my arm tighten when I was driving earlier,” I admitted, feeling the tightness return again.
“Damn, must suck. How’s it feeling right now?” Jacque questioned.
“It’s okay, I can still drive,” I answered, making a left turn.
“Good to know, good to know,” Jacque said with relief.