Chapter 33:

Volume 2, Chapter 9: An Icy Battle

Heroes of the Past

Winter Break 2016 Week 2 WednesdayBookmark here

“We can then calculate the potential energy,” Tess lectured, pointing at the drawing on her whiteboard.Bookmark here

I nodded, yawning. At least Tess arrived at a respectable time today. Writing down a few more notes, I glanced at my alarm clock. Move faster, time. It was brutal to be lectured during break. When the clock finally hit 2:00, Tess stopped. She erased everything on the whiteboard, packing up her things. Finally free!Bookmark here

“Tomo, I’ll give you a short quiz on all the material tomorrow,” Tess announced.Bookmark here

Knowing Tess, her definition of a quiz was a full blown test. Why do you test me so?Bookmark here

“I’ll see you tomorrow, Tess,” I said.Bookmark here

“Remember to study,” Tess reminded.Bookmark here

I debated whether or not to actually study. Was this the kind of dilemma Shan and Zhuyu faced? If I faltered now, that put me at their level. For the next three hours, I highlighted and searched up practice problems. Damn, this was really tough to maintain, but I couldn’t give up now.Bookmark here

When it was 7:00, I finally stopped. I gained a decent understanding of the material. Enough to hit average hopefully. Relieved, I sat down in front of my computer and saw my phone vibrate.Bookmark here

“Tess? Did you need something?” I asked.Bookmark here

“I just wanted to see check in. How’s the progress?” Tess inquired.Bookmark here

“Good. It’s rare for you to check up on me,” I commented.Bookmark here

“I’m just curious. You will gain that 95. Good night,” Tess replied.Bookmark here

Way to make me feel secure, Tess. Sighing, I rested my head on the desk. Your expectations are too high. Might as well keep studying.Bookmark here

Winter Break 2016 Week 2 WednesdayBookmark here

“Good job, Tomo, you got a 75,” Tess revealed.Bookmark here

“Tess, are you sure? I mean, it’s a 75,” I remarked.Bookmark here

“Although I usually expect a 95, this is adequate enough for you to succeed. That’s all I can ask for at the moment,” Tess explained.Bookmark here

“How many more days of lecturing?” I asked, stretching.Bookmark here

“Only one more day. I believe in you, Tomo. Are you free to head to the training facility right now?” Tess questioned.Bookmark here

“Yeah, who’s my opponent?” I asked, heading toward my closet.Bookmark here

“Shui,” Tess replied.Bookmark here

“Shui, huh? I hope you didn’t rig it like my match with En. He had two different powers,” I said.Bookmark here

“The match with Zhang was a good simulation when facing an opponent you lack information on. Enemies may have hidden talents or powers. I can’t stress how much that possibility exists when entering a different dimension,” Tess admonished, giving me a scary stare.Bookmark here

“I got it, Tess. I’ll keep that in mind,” I stuttered.Bookmark here

“Let’s depart then,” Tess decided.Bookmark here

I noticed a van and red SUV outside of the training facility. Pulling out my card, I tapped it on the card reader and saw a green light blink. Pushing down on the door handle, I opened the door. Someone unexpected sat at the front desk, normally unoccupied.Bookmark here

“Tomo, welcome. How are you today?” Ruiqi greeted me.Bookmark here

“Fine, why are you here?” I asked, looking around.Bookmark here

“Tess requested my assistance with your evaluation today,” she explained.Bookmark here

“Kaze, thanks for coming,” Tess said.Bookmark here

“No problem. I’m interested in seeing how Tomo develops. Her power intrigues me,” Ruiqi remarked, giving me a friendly smile.Bookmark here

I expected to see Zhuyu but he was not present. Instead, I saw Kyoi. She trained in the corner, striking targets with a wooden sword. Noticing us, she gave a wave and continued her training.Bookmark here

“Is Kyoi here often?” I asked, watching the woman practice.Bookmark here

“When she’s free,” Tess replied.Bookmark here

“I wish I still had my powers. I would love to fight her again. She was a formidable opponent,” Ruiqi revealed, a wistful look on her face.Bookmark here

“What rank were you?” I asked, looking at the older woman.Bookmark here

“Third, the spot Jin occupies now,” she answered.Bookmark here

“You must have been pretty strong,” I remarked.Bookmark here

“Sort of? Those were different times. Tess, are we ready?” she said.Bookmark here

Shui walked over, greeting us. This conversation flowed much better than the one with En. Shui was adept at speaking with people, similar to Kisai.Bookmark here

“Proceed to the center. Don’t be too hard on Tomo,” Tess advised.Bookmark here

Ruiqi stood next to Tess, glancing at her tablet. Tess then handed her tablet over. Ruiqi scribbled at a frantic pace, pointing at the screen with a motion similar to a coach. Tess nodded, a thoughtful look on her face. Please let it not be something painful. They wouldn’t do that to me, right?Bookmark here

“Tomo, this artificial dimension will be a little different,” Tess admonished.Bookmark here

What exactly did she mean? There wasn’t enough time to dwell on it. Puddles of water filled the area. I glanced around, seeing stumps and withered trees. Water, huh? If I recalled, Shui manipulated water. I copied En’s power the other day so this battle should be a cinch.Bookmark here

“Alright, Shui, show me your best!” I yelled, feeling confident.Bookmark here

I charged toward him with my sword. Channeling electricity through the blade, I went in for a fatal blow. However, something solid blocked my blade. A large wall of ice appeared, shielding him. He manipulated the phases of water. Pulling back, I formulated another attack plan.Bookmark here

I bypassed his ice wall using a portal. Shui jumped back as I neared him. Good, things were proceeding as planned. As I predicted, he formed another ice wall. Placing portals above him, I directed multiple blades through them. The man noticed, splashing water on them.Bookmark here

With a wave of his hands, my blades crashed down to the ground. He froze my blades, stopping them. I then stepped into a puddle of water. Ice encased my legs and more traveled up my entire body. Shui generated a large wave of water in the air. Icicles formed in the air, traveling straight for me. I failed to escape and the icicles struck me.Bookmark here

Wait, I was dumb. Placing portals underneath my feet, I focused. Yes, this would work. The ice vanished and I was free to move again. Avoiding the barrage of icicles, I reached Shui, slashing him across the right shoulder. Alright, I was feeling it now.Bookmark here

The hero then created a small drizzle, drops of water landing around me. I made a portal, but Shui reacted right away, jamming it with ice. Crap, not good. A large ice cube formed, trapping me inside. When I attempted a portal, nothing appeared. Tess’ words flashed back to me. Whenever I copied powers, I inherited their limitations. Fine, time to melt this ice cube. I placed my right hand on the icy surface, but nothing happened. Oh come on, don’t tell me this was another one of those dumb natural world limits.Bookmark here

“Time to call it, Tess,” Ruiqi suggested.Bookmark here

“Agreed. Okay, that’s enough for now,” Tess said, releasing us from the swampy artificial dimension.Bookmark here

I sat down on the ground, feeling more fatigued than the last battle. Learning to copy Shui’s power was one reason, but it was also the pace of the battle. Ichaival’s teleportation power drained me. Tess handed me a bottle of water.Bookmark here

“Good job breaking through my ice,” Shui complimented.Bookmark here

“If I didn’t have Ichaival’s power, I wouldn’t have broken free. I’m impressed, you know how to really use your water power in different ways,” I observed.Bookmark here

“It’s just practice. You’ll be there one day too,” Shui said.Bookmark here

“Yeah. Thanks for coming. It’s your day off from work, isn’t it?” I asked.Bookmark here

“I was free anyways. Feng wants to talk to you,” Shui replied, leaving me alone with her.Bookmark here

Kyoi sat down next to me, a subdued expression on her face. She draped a towel around her neck, sweat still coming down from her forehead. Her long black hair was tied back in a ponytail.Bookmark here

“You’ve improved, Tomo. I am impressed. Care to spar with me?” Kyoi requested.Bookmark here

“I’ll refuse. What’s wrong with you today, Kyoi? Why are you so nice all of a sudden? It’s freaking me out,” I questioned, moving a few inches away from her.Bookmark here

“Do you think I’m an intimidating woman preying on the weak? Even if I project that image, you don’t have to be so scared,” she replied.Bookmark here

“Yes I do. I’ve seen you serious before,” I disagreed.Bookmark here

“I should work on my image a little more. How are you progressing through Tess’ lectures?” she asked, her usual playful smile not present.Bookmark here

“It’s going well. Why the interest?” I questioned, suspicion setting in.Bookmark here

“You’ll need it for your powers. I’m just checking in. Contrary to your opinion, I do look out for the well-being of others,” she revealed.Bookmark here

“I’ll take your word for it. By the way, where’s Zhuyu? He’s always here when I’ve come by,” I wondered.Bookmark here

“Oh, he’s recovering from a wisdom teeth removal,” Kyoi answered.Bookmark here

“He’s doing fine now. Still feeling sleepy after taking his pain medicine,” Shui revealed.Bookmark here

“Good to hear. He should be fine the day after tomorrow,” Kyoi remarked.Bookmark here

“Guess you guys are normal people too. It’s kind of weird to think about, seems almost surreal,” I realized.Bookmark here

“Yeah, we’re pretty normal. Tess said we’re done. She wants to talk to you,” Shui said.Bookmark here

“Shui, how long have you known Zhuyu?” I asked.Bookmark here

“Since middle school. We met in sixth grade,” Shui replied.Bookmark here

“Wow, that’s a long time. How about you, Kyoi?” I commented.Bookmark here

“Not as long as Lau. I’ve known Long for about three years,” Kyoi answered, a thoughtful look on her face.Bookmark here

“Really? It seems you’ve known each other longer than that,” I said, surprised.Bookmark here

“Does it?” Kyoi replied, shrugging her shoulders.Bookmark here

“Yeah, it does. Did you go to the same high school as him?” I asked, looking over at Kyoi.Bookmark here

“No. Lau did. You can ask him for more details. Tess is itching to talk to you so let’s end it here for now. We can continue later if you wish. Good luck, Tomo,” Kyoi said and headed toward the locker room.Bookmark here

“See ya later, Tomo,” Shui said, departing too.Bookmark here

“Good job out there,” Ruiqi said, noticing me approach.Bookmark here

“How did I do? I’m sure you want to give me a lecture on what I did wrong,” I said, anticipating criticism already.Bookmark here

“I thought you did fine. But, Tess is the one who ultimately makes all the decisions,” Ruiqi responded.Bookmark here

“I saw you writing on her tablet. Weren’t those comments on my performance?” I pointed at the stylus in her right hand.Bookmark here

“No, those weren’t about you specifically. Those were more on Lau’s attack pattern and how you responded. I’m not a great strategist, but I can provide my personal observations about your powers,” she elaborated.Bookmark here

“Tess, what do you have to say?” I asked.Bookmark here

“Nothing much. Your performance has improved. Keep track of the portals you make and monitor your stamina. More detailed information is available in the report I’ll send later,” Tess replied.Bookmark here

“Is that really it for today?” I questioned.Bookmark here

“Yes, tomorrow will be the last day of instruction,” Tess answered.Bookmark here

“So we’re done for now?” I asked.Bookmark here

“Yes. If you wish to use the training equipment, you may do so. I will work on your report if you choose to stay,” Tess said, tapping her tablet screen.Bookmark here

“I think I’ll just go home. I feel pretty tired. I don’t exactly want to put more strain on my body,” I admitted.Bookmark here

“Kaze, I thank you for your assistance again,” Tess said.Bookmark here

“It was my pleasure. Tomo, take care. Make sure to not work too hard,” the woman encouraged.Bookmark here

The three of us exited the facility. Kyoi sat in the red SUV, adjusting her rearview mirror and noticed my gaze. Finished, she glanced down at something, presumably her phone. I thought she might have left by now. Did she stay behind to mock me?Bookmark here

“Kaze, where’s your car?” Tess asked, looking around the parking lot.Bookmark here

“Oh, I parked underground,” she revealed.Bookmark here

“I guess Shui left already,” I said, noticing the van gone.Bookmark here

“Yes, he probably had something planned,” Tess said.Bookmark here

“There’s an underground parking lot here. When were you planning on telling me?” I asked.Bookmark here

“I sent you a map of the area. Did you not check your email?” Tess answered.Bookmark here

“No, I’ll check when I get home,” I replied.Bookmark here

I stared out the window, realizing it was Christmas tomorrow. Tess’ lectures kept me so busy that I lost track of the time. Not that it mattered anyways since I would be spending my quality time listening to her.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.