Chapter 122:

Volume 5, Chapter 7: Morning Preparations

Heroes of the Past

Sunday Spring Break 2016 Final DayBookmark here

I woke up to the clanging of a spoon striking against a glass bowl. The person responsible for that sound was obvious. Knowing Tess, she arrived at my house two hours earlier.Bookmark here

“Good morning, Tess. What time is it?” I greeted the Gatekeeper.Bookmark here

“9:30. Would you care for oatmeal?” Tess asked, showing me the contents of her bowl.Bookmark here

No way, that couldn’t be right. There was no way she arrived at her promised time.Bookmark here

“Tess, at least you’re not eating those weird….,” I started but paused.Bookmark here

Cereal, in the form of math symbols, was mixed with the oatmeal. I saw an integral sign, Greek letters, and variables.Bookmark here

“I’ll have to decline, Tess,” I replied.Bookmark here

I saw an unexpected guest downstairs. Ace spoke with Mom at the dining table. Ah shit. Such a combination could only mean bad news.Bookmark here

“Good morning, Yuki. I hope you had a good night’s sleep. You’ll need it for what we’re doing today,” Ace greeted.Bookmark here

“Yuki, you always find such interesting people. I’m proud of you, my daughter,” Mom declared, placing her hand on my shoulder and brushed away a mock tear.Bookmark here

“Mom, that’s not something you congratulate your daughter on,” I disagreed.Bookmark here

“You really do have to tell me when you’re having friends over so early. Ace was kind enough to cook breakfast for everyone. Tess donated several boxes of cereal for our enjoyment,” Mom revealed, pointing at two grocery bags.Bookmark here

“What did you make, Ace?” I questioned.Bookmark here

“Nothing special. Just scrambled eggs and bacon pieces, layered with cheese and tossed around in a pan. Even an amateur could make this,” Ace answered, bringing me a plate from the kitchen.Bookmark here

It smelled amazing. Where was Yukie? After the first spoonful, I was hooked, and stared at my empty plate afterwards. This exceeded Yukie’s food, not by a large margin, but enough for me to rank it so high.Bookmark here

“That was great, Ace. I’m surprised you’re so good at cooking,” I remarked.Bookmark here

“You pick up a few things when your parents aren’t around. Tess, has she made a move yet?” Ace questioned.Bookmark here

“She is stationary,” Tess answered.Bookmark here

“Might as well grill Yuki about a few things while we wait. Excuse us, Mrs. Tomo. We’ll have girl talk in Yuki’s room,” Ace decided, smiling at Mom.Bookmark here

This was a good chance to dig deeper about Ace’s connection with Ichizen. Ace sat cross-legged near my table, looking around with a mischievous smile. Tess stood near the window, peering outside.Bookmark here

“Ace, now that you’re here-,” I spoke first but she cut me off.Bookmark here

“I know you want to ask about Michi Ichizen. I will get to that, but first, let’s discuss the plan,” Ace interrupted.Bookmark here

“Proceed, Ace. I have a general idea, but it’s always better to hear it from the person herself, rather than just hypothesize,” Tess allowed.Bookmark here

“Stoic as always, Tess. I thought you might perk up a little since she joined the team. Has she made you even more serious than before?” Ace laughed.Bookmark here

“Just get to the point,” I urged.Bookmark here

“Someone’s impatient. Tess restrains Mirei with her chains. Normally, they drastically cut down someone’s power and seals them. There are only two people it doesn’t work on. Care to guess?” Ace glanced over at me.Bookmark here

“You and…. Kyoi? No, that doesn’t make sense,” I replied.Bookmark here

“The other is you,” Ace revealed.Bookmark here

“That doesn’t make sense. Her chains worked on me before,” I refuted.Bookmark here

“In your current state, that’s true. Once you reach your potential, it’ll be difficult. Once Tess restrains her, I’ll apply my powers. It should buy you enough time to retrieve everyone’s weapons and figure out other countermeasures,” Ace explained.Bookmark here

“What about Mirei’s teammates?” I questioned.Bookmark here

“You’ll deal with them,” Ace responded.Bookmark here

“Do you not see what condition I am in right now? Her group took care of us with ease,” I recalled.Bookmark here

“That was a joke, Tomo Yuki. I have a strategy for dealing with her lackeys,” Ace said.Bookmark here

“What is the max restrain time you’ll be able to apply? Mirei holds a powerful grimoire. There is a high probability it’ll break the seal within a short amount of time,” Tess remarked.Bookmark here

“My powers will ensure that it’ll be at least six months before she can strike. I’m sure you’ll be able to do it within that time limit,” Ace assured Tess.Bookmark here

“Half a year is more than an adequate amount of time to devise a plan and make necessary preparations,” Tess agreed.Bookmark here

“You’ll want Long to regain his old powers and Jin as well. Even then, you’ll have to be careful. But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” Ace said.Bookmark here

My phone vibrated. Must be Mirei. Bookmark here

"Meet at noon. I’m sure you’ll bring friends. Just remember that I have allies of my own”. Bookmark here

“She’s made her declaration. Tess, let’s move out in half an hour,” Ace suggested.Bookmark here

“Agreed,” Tess said.Bookmark here

“Ace, I have a question about Ichizen!” I brought up.Bookmark here

“Michi Ichizen. The catalyst for your and Mirei’s powers. Part of the responsibility falls on me,” Ace said, a serious expression finally appearing on her face.Bookmark here

“Why Ichizen?” I inquired.Bookmark here

“He had potential. I didn’t scout him. He happened to be a person I was looking for and you know the rest,” Ace replied.Bookmark here

“That doesn’t answer anything! I saw a picture of you with him. What was that all about?” I pressed her for more.Bookmark here

“Jealous? It’s natural for people who are friends to take photos. Just so you know, I wasn’t the one that requested it. Michi Ichizen himself suggested it,” Ace answered.Bookmark here

“Sounds like something he might do, especially around a beauty like you,” I said.Bookmark here

“I’m flattered. I can tell you one thing. The Traveler tasked me to find someone like Ichizen,” Ace added.Bookmark here

“There’s still something bothering me, Ace. Did you take his display case?” I inquired.Bookmark here

“Display case? I’ve only been in Michi’s room a few times. There’s no need for me to take such an object,” Ace reacted with surprise.Bookmark here

Did she really not know? Could it be Mirei then? She was the only other person. That didn’t make sense though.Bookmark here

“For what reason would someone take it?” Ace pondered, staring up at the ceiling.Bookmark here

“It was required to complete a process,” Tess provided an answer.Bookmark here

Still an hour left. I reached towards my table for a snack and then realized nothing was there. Shit, I grown accustomed to having food nearby.Bookmark here

“Tomo, are you sure you don’t need a quick nap before heading out?” Tess questioned.Bookmark here

“No, I’m fine. I’ve gotten too used to Mom bringing up snacks whenever someone comes by,” I explained.Bookmark here

“Tess’ suggestion isn’t a bad idea. It’s never good to head into a major confrontation without your best focus or max energy,” Ace pointed out, resting her elbows on the table.Bookmark here

“I’m fine. Let’s talk about something else,” I responded.Bookmark here

“Maybe the alternate reality Mirei showed you?” Ace provided a possible topic.Bookmark here

“Wait, how did you….,” I stammered.Bookmark here

“Mind dive, yeah, I can do that too,” Ace said.Bookmark here

“You can pinpoint exactly what you want to see?” I inquired.Bookmark here

“It’s a part of my powers. You should have considered taking Mirei up on her offer. It’s a sweet world. Everyone was a lot nicer and there aren’t any burden. What a masochist, Tomo Yuki, choosing such a hard path. I applaud you for your decision,” Ace answered.Bookmark here

“You saw everything then?” I wanted to figure out how much she knew.Bookmark here

“Most of it. Long fed you soup, huh? How heartwarming. You would never see him doing that here, unless Feng asked for it. And look at Darryl, all popular. Really, such an interesting world. I feel left out. Where was I?” Ace lamented her exclusion.Bookmark here

“Tess was there if that makes you feel any better,” I said.Bookmark here

“No matter what version we look at, it’s always the same,” Ace remarked.Bookmark here

“You had quite an adventure, Tomo. Tell me more when you’re free. I am quite interested in hearing all about it,” Tess requested.Bookmark here

“Yeah, definitely. Ace, what else do you want to talk about?” I looked over at the former leader with urgency, hoping she would take my hint.Bookmark here

“What do you want to know about the heroes?” Ace provided me a lifeline.Bookmark here

A tough question. Kyoi and Zhuyu’s contract situation intrigued me. Shan and Ichaival’s friendship also stood out. So many topics but which one to choose?Bookmark here

“I’ll just pick something random to tell you,” Ace decided, interrupting my thoughts.Bookmark here

“You can’t….,” I protested.Bookmark here

“Sorry, you should have decided sooner. I’ll talk about how Ichaival and Jen met. Does that seem good to you?” Ace offered.Bookmark here

“I rather learn more about everyone’s fighting techniques. I can see that anytime I do a mind dive,” I declined.Bookmark here

“That burns, Tomo Yuki. A battle story, huh? Maybe….,” Ace pondered.Bookmark here

“Perhaps it would better for you to not, Ace. Time is limited,” Tess interrupted, pulling out a ring from her pocket.Bookmark here

She placed it in my hand. It was simple in design, a silver band with…. rubies? Fine pieces of red stone adorned the band like spikes on a collar.Bookmark here

“Long’s gift for you,” Tess stated.Bookmark here

“What?” I almost dropped the piece of jewelry.Bookmark here

“I can’t imagine what Feng will do once she finds out. I will keep you in my thoughts,” Ace joked.Bookmark here

“Tomo, do you remember the salamander you defeated? The gem has been converted to this accessory. It’ll boost your magic output and also strengthen your mastery over the flame skills you copied from Zhang,” Tess elaborated.Bookmark here

“You should have just said that in the first place. Even Ace assumed things when you begin with a statement like that,” I said, slipping it onto my middle finger.Bookmark here

“I apologize for my wording choice. I hope you’ll gather more gems and convert them. It will boost your power significantly,” Tess advised.Bookmark here

“Tomo Yuki, the “Ring Queen”. It certainly will give you an edge especially when you’re still learning your powers. Anyways, it’s about time we head out,” Ace agreed.Bookmark here

“I will drive. Ace, I assume you’ll make your presence known and not hide yourself,” Tess said.Bookmark here

“Mirei said herself she doesn’t care,” Ace confirmed.Bookmark here

“Then let’s not delay the inevitable,” Tess said.Bookmark here

Mirei Specified Meeting Place, 11:45 AMBookmark here

I expected a house or building, but it was an open area. Was this even the right place? I opened up my messages, reading over the address again. This was definitely it.Bookmark here

“How fun! Mirei came prepared for a fight,” Ace commented, looking around the place.Bookmark here

“Let’s go. She prepared a pathway for us,” Tess directed, pointing at white chalk lines drawn on the ground.Bookmark here

We followed the trail until we arrived at a clearing. Mirei sat at a circular desk, pouring tea into four cups. I looked around, checking for her masked friends. I’m sure they were lurking around, ready to strike if needed.Bookmark here

“Yuki, you’ve already revealed your answer with the guests you brought. I can safely say you reject my offer,” Mirei said, standing up.Bookmark here

She wore a black dress, small frills at the bottom. Sunlight reflecting off her necklace, similar in design to mine. Now what?Bookmark here

“What a bold assumption, Mirei. What if we came here to show solidarity and arrived together to officially pass the torch over to you?” Ace gave her usual smile.Bookmark here

“I only wish that were the case. If you’re here, Yuki already has a plan in place. Tess and Ace, the two most formidable heroes. How very nice of you to set up this opportunity for me,” Mirei said, raising her hand in the air.Bookmark here

Shit, an artificial dimension already? She motioned for us to sit down. Ace complied, sipping the cup of tea Mirei provided. Tess followed and I was the last to sit down.Bookmark here

“Did you expect a big fight already, Yuki? I don’t do things that way. Let’s talk it out and maybe I’ll change your mind,” Mirei said.Bookmark here

“How can you be so calm, Mirei? You’re dealing with the most two dangerous people, inches away from you,” I questioned.Bookmark here

“It’s just the way I am. Now, let’s talk business. Ace, you’re going to oppose me no matter what. How about this? I can get what the Traveler needs, provided I take over for the heroes of course. I’m sure that’s quite enticing,” Mirei offered.Bookmark here

“That’s very sweet of you, but I refuse. The Traveler sees you as a threat. I can’t put him in a compromising situation, agreeing to your terms so fast,” Ace responded, refilling her cup of tea.Bookmark here

“There’s no use in negotiating with you. I’ll turn to you, Yuki. You saw a glimpse of the past that could have been. Now I’ll show you the future that could be,” Mirei said, scooting closer to me and placed her right hand on my forehead.Bookmark here

Tess didn’t react, watching things unfold. Ace did the same as well. They assumed Mirei didn’t mean any harm. Time for another one of those weird flashbacks. No, time skip was the appropriate term. What bullshit would I see?Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.