Chapter 120:

Volume 5, Chapter 5: Consecutive Mind Dives

Heroes of the Past


                                                                                ???


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“Tomo, you okay?” I heard someone’s concerned voice.Bookmark here

Champ stood over me, in a barren field, lines of doors on either side of us. He offered me a hand, assisting me upward.Bookmark here

“Where the hell are we?” I said, still feeling slight pain in my head.Bookmark here

“Gatekeepers’ Domain, Tess’ own personal dimension,” Zhuyu answered, walking towards us.Bookmark here

“Her dimension?” I asked, still confused.Bookmark here

“Yeah. Unlike us, Tess obtained her powers without a prophet. This place isn’t connected to any others as far I know. It’s special. She hasn’t told anyone much about it,” Zhuyu expounded.Bookmark here

“Where are they?” I noticed their absence.Bookmark here

“Jacque’s here. Tess went off somewhere. We’ll wait for her,” Zhuyu said, pointing in the distance.Bookmark here

I squinted, seeing a smudge. Jacque eventually joined us. His face was pale, drained of energy, more so than usual.Bookmark here

“Jacque, what happened?” I inquired as my headache intensified.Bookmark here

“Don’t know. It felt like motion sickness,” Jacque replied.Bookmark here

“Tomo, you don’t look so well yourself,” Champ noticed.Bookmark here

“It’s nothing. Just a slight headache,” I assured him.Bookmark here

“You sure? Zhuyu, should Tomo leave right now and come back another time?” Champ asked.Bookmark here

“If she said she’s fine, let’s wait it out. Tomo, any vision problems?” Zhuyu asked.Bookmark here

“No. It’s starting to get better. I don’t know why I suddenly felt so much pain,” I replied, the pain in my head subsiding.Bookmark here

Tess returned, still carrying her briefcase. She motioned for us to follow and pointed at a gate with chains across it.Bookmark here

“We’ll take care of Champ’s matter first. As for Jacque, his case will be a little more difficult. There are special steps for him,” Tess informed us, raising her right hand in the air.Bookmark here

The chains vanished and Tess pushed the gates open. We found ourselves in a room containing just a couch and table. Tess snapped her fingers and chairs appeared across from the couch, enough for each of us. Chains rattled but I didn’t see any. Champ sat near the table. Zhuyu picked the seat to his left, leaving Jacque and me the right side ones. Tess crossed her arms on the couch and inserted four different keys into the briefcase. She opened it, taking out a blank piece of paper. Words appeared but I couldn’t read them at all. Champ nodded as they filled up the page.Bookmark here

“Champ, before you sign, I must confirm this is your final decision. You choose to relinquish your current powers. However, there is no guarantee these new ones will suit you. The possibility of regaining your old powers are slim to non-existent. Do you wish to proceed?” Tess asked, leaning her elbows on the table, staring straight into his eyes.Bookmark here

“Tess, I accept any responsibilities that come with my new powers. I’ll do it. Sign here?” Champ met her serious gaze with a confident look.Bookmark here

“Your response has been recorded. Champ, sign your name here and the contract will be complete,” Tess confirmed, pointing at a signature line.Bookmark here

The Gatekeeper handed him a golden fountain pen with a key engraved onto the handle. Champ signed his name, the only legible words I could read on the paper. Tess nodded, placing the document into her briefcase. She then pulled out a key, placing it on the table.Bookmark here

“Champ, take the key,” Tess instructed.Bookmark here

Chains wrapped around him, trapping the man inside a makeshift cocoon. Tess slapped his contract onto the glowing chains. They shattered and Champ fell to the ground, clutching the key. She retrieved the key and contract, placing both into the briefcase. Tess then snapped her fingers. Another key appeared, landing near Champ. The man crawled over, finally clasping it with his right hand.Bookmark here

“It’s done,” Tess informed him.Bookmark here

“What are his new powers?” I asked.Bookmark here

“Champ, do you feel anything?” Tess looked over at him.Bookmark here

“It’s very rough. Tess, maybe a hint?” Champ shook his head.Bookmark here

Root Modification,” Tess stated.Bookmark here

“Oh! Very fitting for someone like me who loves to read. Did you set this up?” Champ asked the Gatekeeper.Bookmark here

“No. You’re lucky,” Tess responded.Bookmark here

“Yeah, I think I’ll like it. Thank you again, Tess,” Champ said, clutching the key in his hand.Bookmark here

No idea how Champ understood his powers with only two words, quite impressive. I glanced over at Zhuyu. He nodded with a serious look on his face as usual.Bookmark here

“Let’s attend to Jacque,” Tess decided.Bookmark here

“Wait, I still don’t know what Champ’s powers are,” I said.Bookmark here

“Oh, yeah, that’s right. Sorry about that, Tomo. I can see the…. I guess, essence of an object, and return it to its base form,” Champ explained.Bookmark here

“Anything else?” Tess questioned.Bookmark here

“No, I’ll probably see it in action. I’ll just wait until then,” I realized.Bookmark here

“We’ll relocate,” Tess revealed as the familiar outline of a door appeared behind the couch.Bookmark here

We all exited, returning to the field. Tess led us to a door, chains forming an X-shape across it, with a single padlock in the center.Bookmark here

“Jacque, insert your key,” Tess instructed.Bookmark here

The door slid open, chains vanishing, allowing us entry. Tess shoved Jacque in. We were inside a large classroom full of paintings and unfinished sketches plastering the wall. A large cloth covered something in the center, most likely a canvas. The artist glanced at Tess in confusion.Bookmark here

“I’m sure you know the circumstances. Jacque, will you break through?” Tess challenged him.Bookmark here

Zhuyu sipped tea from his thermos, observing Jacque. The man sighed and threw off the sheet, revealing a rough sketch. The face was well-drawn, conveying realism and solid textures. A lot of effort was placed into it. Everything below that was…. complete shit. It was a grating juxtaposition with an in-depth face resting on top of a stick figure body. The ones an elementary school student doodled. No, that was giving him too much credit, even preschoolers were more capable.Bookmark here

“The fuck is that?” I blurted out.Bookmark here

“A bad habit of mine,” Jacque answered, grabbing a chair.Bookmark here

“Something you drew? I’ve seen your them and they’re not this bad,” I responded.Bookmark here

“Like I said, I’m great at drawing the head, but suck at bodies. I’m super lazy and end up doing this,” Jacque explained.Bookmark here

“Jacque is fully aware. As such, he will fix it. I can show you to a different area while he works,” Tess offered, handing Jacque drawing utensils.Bookmark here

“You’re taking lessons, right?” I recalled Felicity’s offer to him.Bookmark here

“I’m lazy but I know the basics. Just that it takes a lot of time which is a pain. The lessons are helping. Let’s get this over with. I don’t have a choice, do I, Tess?” Jacque accepted his fate.Bookmark here

“Until you overcome that, I am one hundred percent certain your powers will not change. Give a full 95 effort or else,” Tess warned, swinging her golden key around.Bookmark here

Jacque nodded, erasing the stick figure body. The canvas adjusted, allowing him more room. He then sketched out the rough outline of a chest.Bookmark here

“Tess, will you permit me to test out my new powers while he does that?” Champ asked for permission.Bookmark here

“Yes. I will lead you to a different room. Long, keep an eye on Tomo and Jacque,” Tess directed.Bookmark here

“Got it,” Zhuyu agreed.Bookmark here

I pulled out my grimoire. An optimal time for another mind dive. It had been awhile since I performed one.Time to see what kind of bullshit would manifest this time.Bookmark here

“Zhuyu, I’m going to….,” I started explaining.Bookmark here

“Oh, mind dive. Yeah, go for it. Don’t know what you’ll see, but hopefully it doesn’t bore you too much. I’m sure it will though. I’m not that exciting,” Zhuyu predicted, pointing at the bookmark in my grimoire.Bookmark here

“How did you know?” I questioned, staring at him.Bookmark here

“Feng and Tess explained it to me before,” the man replied.Bookmark here

I flipped to the bookmarked page and stared at Zhuyu. Shit, this was really weird now, especially after what happened in the other dimension. My vision blurred and then I was transported.Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

Memory Dive 8: Contracts SuckBookmark here

Zhuyu, with only his right earphone in, walked alone. He arrived at his house and unlocked the door.Bookmark here

“Kyoi, how did you….?” Zhuyu stepped back upon seeing the woman.Bookmark here

“Hello there, Long. Nice to see you too. Your parents were kind enough to let me in after I spoke to them in Chinese,” Kyoi revealed.Bookmark here

“Damn,” Zhuyu remarked.Bookmark here

“How’s your body?” Kyoi inquired with a serious look on her face.Bookmark here

“Alright. I’m still sore but I’m able to move around without too much pain,” Zhuyu replied, a complicated expression appearing on his face.Bookmark here

“Good, that means you can still train. Call En and we’ll begin,” Kyoi ordered.Bookmark here

“Hold on, Kyoi. I signed that contract, but I have homework to do, and it’s only been a few days since we last trained,” Zhuyu protested.Bookmark here

“I’m sorry Long, can you repeat that?” Kyoi flashed her trademark smile, the one that instilled fear and panic into people.Bookmark here

“I heard you the first time. Listen, if we’re going to train, I want your help with something,” Zhuyu negotiated.Bookmark here

“I didn’t think you were that brave. What is your condition?” Kyoi nodded in approval.Bookmark here

“I’ll train but you help me with homework. I know you’re an honors student and in advanced classes. That shouldn’t be too much to ask for, right?” Zhuyu revealed his request.Bookmark here

Zhuyu, you’re such a dumbass. Out of all the possible favors, you choose that. Although, it was very much like him to do so. Still didn’t explain why Zhuyu owed a great debt to Kyoi.Bookmark here

“Of course, I can do that. Not only will I help you with homework, I’ll tutor you free of charge. Isn’t that a nice deal?” Kyoi chuckled.Bookmark here

“Yeah, I’m sure it is,” Zhuyu responded, the sarcasm apparent.Bookmark here

It then transitioned to Zhuyu, En, and Kyoi standing in a battlefield. Broken flag posts, damaged armor pieces, and blood were scattered across the ground.Bookmark here

“I don’t think I can do this,” En said to his friend.Bookmark here

“We don’t have a choice, man,” Zhuyu said.Bookmark here

“Yeah, you’re right,” En agreed.Bookmark here

“Don’t worry. It’s just taking out some puppets. No big deal,” Kyoi assured them, drawing her sword.Bookmark here

Both Zhuyu and En drew their blades too. I saw nothing at first, dead silence, except for when they moved their feet. A thunderous roar then occurred and knights, dressed in traditional Arthurian armor, charged in. They carried swords, lances, and other assorted weapons. Some arrived on horses and a group of five men wheeled in cannons.Bookmark here

“What the fuck? This is crazy, Kyoi,” Zhuyu shouted, parrying a knight who swung their weapon at him.Bookmark here

“Long, I can’t quite hear you. There are too many enemies right now. I’ll take care of this side. You and En handle it over there,” Kyoi feigned ignorance, heading straight for the cavalry.Bookmark here

Zhuyu and En held up decently. Small sparks appeared on En’s sword but fizzled out within seconds. They were still just beginners. The sky rumbled and lightning struck the knights around Zhuyu. En dodged an enemy but was struck in the leg by an archer.Bookmark here

“En, you okay?” Zhuyu asked, knocking a knight away.Bookmark here

“Oh yeah, just fine,” En replied, pulling the arrow out.Bookmark here

“En, pick up the pace! Use your fire to heal it!” Kyoi noticed his condition.Bookmark here

The man, hand shaking, summoned a red flame. He held it over his wound, the color shifting to a bright blue. The injury closed up, no signs it ever existed in the first place. En let out a sigh of relief. A knight suddenly stormed towards him. Zhuyu appeared in front of his friend immediately, stabbing his sword into the ground. A large crack appeared and the enemy fell into the ground. Heavy rain now fell. Zhuyu pointed at the soaked enemies. En stabbed his sword into one of the knights. They stumbled, electrocuted by his powers, and En kicked him into another man. Their fighting was sloppy but they repelled all incoming threats. Kyoi finished off the last enemy with an explosion.Bookmark here

“Good job,” Kyoi congratulated them.Bookmark here

En and Zhuyu sat on the ground, cuts and bruises on their body. En stumbled as he stood up, almost landing on one of the helmets lying on the ground. Who had enough time to conjure up so many knights?Bookmark here

“You did better than last time. En, I still need to teach you how to channel your electricity. It’s not stable enough. Long, your sword skills are terrible. Not up to my standards at all. I’ll have a fun time teaching you the correct technique,” Kyoi assessed.Bookmark here

“So, can I go back and do homework now?” Zhuyu asked.Bookmark here

“En, are you eager to go back and do homework?” Kyoi asked the man.Bookmark here

“Not really but….,” En replied.Bookmark here

“See, your friend agrees you need to train more. Let’s go, we’ll do some exercises,” Kyoi ordered.Bookmark here

“Damn it, I should have known. Sorry En, we’ll be here for a little longer,” Zhuyu apologized, stretching his arms.Bookmark here

“That was my fault, wasn’t it?” En realized his mistake.Bookmark here

“No, it’s my fault too. But, I’m sure she would have found some way to make us do it. Let’s go. Contracts are the best,” Zhuyu answered, following Kyoi.Bookmark here

MIND DIVE 8 ENDBookmark here

***Bookmark here

“Looking good, Jacque,” Zhuyu complimented his friend.Bookmark here

I glanced over at the easel and saw an actual body now. The proportions were off though, not by a large margin, but noticeable.Bookmark here

“Jacque, the proportions don’t seem right,” I commented.Bookmark here

“Huh? Oh yeah, I’m still working on it,” Jacque confirmed, picking up an eraser.Bookmark here

“Good luck. How close are you?” I stared at the picture.Bookmark here

“Maybe thirty minutes? No, more like five hours, to be honest. Fuck my life. But I don’t want to be a rock though!” Jacque went off on a tangent.Bookmark here

He continued drawing despite his negativity. Zhuyu drank more tea, keeping an eye on his friend. Another mind dive on Zhuyu? I never tried back-to-back before. Tess walked in alone, inspecting Jacque’s progress.Bookmark here

“Long, how are things progressing?” Tess questioned.Bookmark here

“Nothing bad has happened yet. Is Champ getting used to his new powers?” Zhuyu asked.Bookmark here

“Yes. He’ll continue training until Jacque completes this. Tomo, let’s do a mind dive,” Tess suggested.Bookmark here

“I just did one on Zhuyu,” I informed her.Bookmark here

“I’ll release the chains surrounding me and you’ll peer into my memories,” Tess elaborated.Bookmark here

I was curious about her experiences. I spent the most time with her, yet she was still the most mysterious. Okay, this was a prime opportunity.Bookmark here

“Alright, let’s do this,” I agreed.Bookmark here

“You’ll have to excuse me for a moment. It takes awhile for the chains to dissipate,” Tess said.Bookmark here

Tess finally gave me the okay. Shit, I was getting nervous. I stared into her eyes and heard the grimoire pages flipping. The pace was different, more rapid than a normal mind dive. I felt a sharp pain in my head, disorientating me. The scenery finally stabilized, allowing me to view Tess’ memories for the first time.Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

Memory Dive 9: Daily Life of a GatekeeperBookmark here

“Tess, I need your help,” Felicity requested.Bookmark here

She sat on the couch, a book resting on her left leg. There were three monitors on Tess’ table. Tess glanced back and forth, jotting down notes in two separate notebooks.Bookmark here

“Fel, didn’t you ask Long before? Why not turn to him for assistance?” Tess looked over at Felicity with a non-sympathetic look.Bookmark here

“You know what happened last time? He was just watching anime! Tess, you’re the only one I can depend on,” Felicity explained.Bookmark here

“Long would be willing to offer greater assistance if you were not so demanding,” Tess commented.Bookmark here

“How could you say that? I just asked him for help with two days worth of homework. He definitely had time to watch anime!” Felicity spouted.Bookmark here

“You’re doing well in classes. I don’t see the need,” Tess pointed out, staring at the third screen.Bookmark here

“Tess, I have to make sure that everything is right!” Felicity said.Bookmark here

“Why not turn to Jin? He is much more accommodating than Long,” Tess suggested.Bookmark here

“Jin is even worse than Long! He’s probably just playing games. Long and Jin are smart, but they’re not the greatest when giving help. Tess, come on, you’re my childhood friend right? Help out an old friend, please?” Felicity begged with puppy dog eyes.Bookmark here

Tess did not waver, saying nothing. She glanced over in Felicity’s direction after typing for five minutes. Her phone rang before she said anything.Bookmark here

“Ace is coming over,” Tess announced.Bookmark here

“Oh, do you think she’ll help me?” Felicity questioned, a hopeful look on her face.Bookmark here

“I doubt she would. You can certainly try,” Tess replied.Bookmark here

“Hey, hey, what’s her power, Tess? I need more material for my blog, Tess. Do you think I could tag along the next time you go out?” Felicity pestered Tess.Bookmark here

“Absolutely not. Your involvement in this is quite vexing to me. I was careless when you saw me use my powers. I should have been more careful,” Tess denied her request.Bookmark here

“Come on, Tess! Jin and Long are heroes, right? I’m sure it’ll be fine for me too. Oh yeah, who’s that girl I see with Long?” Felicity attempted to persuade Tess.Bookmark here

“Which one are you referring to?” Tess blinked, staring at Felicity.Bookmark here

“You know, the one with the crazy look. Wait, there’s another one?” Felicity exclaimed.Bookmark here

“Disregard my previous comment. I believe you are speaking about Kyoi Feng. She is an upperclassman,” Tess answered.Bookmark here

“She pisses me off, don’t know why. I just don’t like her,” Felicity remarked.Bookmark here

“Although you say it with confidence now, I highly advise you consider your tone if you ever speak to her,” Tess warned.Bookmark here

The scene jumped and Ace was now present in the room.Bookmark here

“Kaisi is here, huh?” Ace pointed at Felicity.Bookmark here

“She came over to beg for homework help,” Tess answered.Bookmark here

“I just wanted to talk about how everyone is doing,” Ace said, handing Tess a stack of papers.Bookmark here

“A progress report? Did you find mine unsatisfactory?” Tess questioned with a slight edge in her voice.Bookmark here

“I wouldn’t dare, Tess. Consider this an extension of your reports,” Ace denied.Bookmark here

“I will read them later,” Tess decided, placing them on her desk.Bookmark here

“Hey, Ace, I have a question for you,” Felicity spoke up, her eyes burning with curiosity.Bookmark here

“Kaisi, please refrain from asking so many questions. It’s a pain. I will not help you with homework either,” Ace shot her down.Bookmark here

“You’ll be here for awhile, right? I promise it’ll take only half an hour!” Felicity negotiated.Bookmark here

“How about this? I’ll call Darryl over. That seems fair, right, Kaisi? I want to discuss something with him anyways,” Ace offered.Bookmark here

“Darryl? He’s not even in the same class as me! But, I guess it’ll be nice to talk to him. What should I do?” Felicity pondered, tapping a pen on her notepad cover.Bookmark here

“Darryl, are you busy? Come over to Tess’ house. I know you are quite busy, but are you really defying my orders? You’re also offending Tess. This is quite worrying, Darryl. If such things were to happen….,” Ace ended on an ominous tone.Bookmark here

She spoke a few more words before hanging up. Tess focused on her screen, unfazed by the hero.Bookmark here

“Darryl will be here soon. Tess, can you pull up the report on the last battle Darryl was involved with?” Ace requested.Bookmark here

“Do you want the video as well?” Tess nodded, her fingers already clicking away on the keyboard.Bookmark here

“Yes, that would be perfect,” Ace replied.Bookmark here

I was treated to a second scene jump and Ichaival joined them. He wore a light gray hoodie along with two silicone wristbands on the left side of his wrist. The only noticeable difference was his physique. I was impressed he elevated himself within only a few years. It certainly showed his dedication, something the other heroes lacked.Bookmark here

“Nervous, Darryl? Is this your second time here? Third, maybe?” Ace teased.Bookmark here

“This is my third time. What did you want to talk about?” Ichaival questioned.Bookmark here

“Your chain combos with the Kali sticks have surpassed my expectations,” Ace praised, pointing at the video of Ichaival dispatching enemies with his weapon.Bookmark here

“That means a lot, Ace,” Ichaival responded..Bookmark here

“However, I want to highlight a weak point. Right here. See anything wrong?” Ace added, fast-forwarding the video.Bookmark here

“Sorry, I don’t know,” Ichaival replied.Bookmark here

“Your footwork. You can’t step forward fast enough and can’t respond. The enemy sidesteps and you’re vulnerable. See what I’m getting at?” Ace asked the false archer, crossing her arms.Bookmark here

“Yeah, it makes sense,” Ichaival answered.Bookmark here

“We’ll have to remedy this. Tess, who do you suggest that can help Darryl with this problem?” Ace questioned.Bookmark here

“You,” Tess replied, pointing at the woman.Bookmark here

“I don’t get what the big deal is. Why can’t he miss?” Felicity asked, drawing a crude diagram.Bookmark here

“Darryl, I’ll call you once I come up with a solution,” Ace ignored Felicity’s question.Bookmark here

“Why are you so mean? It’s not a big secret or anything. Darryl, you can tell me, right?” Felicity pleaded, making her voice extra sweet.Bookmark here

Ichaival glanced over at Ace. She reacted with an unsettling smile. He then checked in with Tess, but the Gatekeeper looked away. I feel for you, Ichaival.Bookmark here

“Sorry, Felicity. I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to know so much,” Ichaival said.Bookmark here

“You’re no fun, Darryl. Just tell me later, okay? That way, you won’t get in trouble,” Felicity suggested with a wink.Bookmark here

Ichaival responded with an uncomfortable laugh. If you really do tell Felicity, you’re fucked.Bookmark here

“Any other pressing matters?” Tess asked, shutting off her monitors.Bookmark here

“No. Darryl, tell Shigetzu he needs to train more. It won’t be pleasant for you either since you’ll be joining him if he doesn’t heed my warning,” Ace informed the false archer.Bookmark here

“I try, Ace, but you know how he is. I can’t really do anything,” Ichaival argued.Bookmark here

“You better hope he changes or it’ll be hell for both of you. If you thought Tess’ training was hard, mine is worse,” Ace threatened with a villainous smile.Bookmark here

“I know. I’ll try to get that piece of shit to do something,” Ichaival said.Bookmark here

Tess looked out the window, rain still pouring down. When Ace was the leader, Tess didn’t have as heavy of a workload. How did she manage all of it now? This didn’t provide any insight into Tess as a person. However, it did give me an appreciation for her hard work. Perhaps I would learn more next time.Bookmark here

MIND DIVE 9 ENDBookmark here

***Bookmark here

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