Heroes of the Past
Winter Break 2016 Week 3 Friday
“Morning, Tess. Huh? Oh yeah, I already woke up. Sure, I’ll be fine with that. See you soon,” I said.
I knocked on Yukie’s door, hearing no response. She probably was downstairs already. Like I predicted, she sat at the table, staring at her tablet.
“Yukie, I’m heading out today. If you need anything, Dad’s in the garage,” I informed her.
“Ah, enjoy yourself, Yuki. I will test out the tools Uncle so graciously gave me,” Yukie nodded.
Tess arrived an hour later and I waved goodbye to Yukie. She waved from the front door, watching me enter Tess’ car. She made such a simple gesture so elegant. Truly, she was the epitome of a beautiful maiden.
“Tess, who’s joining us?” I inquired.
“Long, Lau, and Zhang are confirmed. Most likely Feng as well. Darryl and Shigetzu may join later if their schedules permit,” Tess replied, glancing at her dashboard.
“What are Shan and Ichaival doing?” I asked.
“Fel invited Darryl out somewhere. Shigetzu has a personal matter. I did not pry,” Tess answered.
“Must be hard to get everyone together. What about Jen and Kuan? I notice they aren’t around much,” I pointed out.
“It’s difficult considering everyone’s varying schedules. They are at the training facility on occasion. I will organize it so you are exposed to their powers eventually,” Tess replied.
“Are we going to Felicity’s house?” I questioned.
“No, we’ll meet up at Zhuyu’s house. The entrance is near where he lives,” Tess revealed.
“How convenient,” I remarked.
We finally arrived at Zhuyu’s house and Tess parked her car with precision. Her perfection at everything was getting to me. There must exist at least one weakness. I reached for the doorbell and stopped. Where did Tess go? She headed toward Zhuyu’s backyard without saying a word.
“Uh, Tess, I’m pretty sure the front door is right here,” I said.
“Sorry about the slight detour. I confirmed my suspicions,” Tess said, joining me again.
What was she talking about? Anything unexpected for me was normal for her. The front door opened before I even touched the doorbell. Deja vu. Did Zhuyu just stand by the window, waiting for his guests?
“Tomo and Tess. You took long enough,” Kyoi greeted me.
Zhuyu, En, and Shui all wore T-shirts and shorts inside, despite the cold weather. Zhuyu sat on the floor, head down, sweat dripping from his forehead. He gripped a bottle of water weakly. En sucked from an inhaler, coughing at times. His hair was drenched with sweat too. Shui tilted his bottle of water, draining it.
Did they just go for a run? But, they shouldn’t be this wiped out. They must have through a rigorous exercise regiment. Not just once, but several times, based on their haggard appearances.
“Oh, Tomo…. welcome,” Zhuyu said, coughing.
“Am I interrupting something?” I asked.
“No. Feng just… almost killed us,” Zhuyu wheezed.
Kyoi shook her head, feigning ignorance. Certainly something she would do. Tess sat down on the couch, ignoring their condition.
“What did she make you do?” I asked, distancing myself from Kyoi.
“Training. Simple stamina and strengthening drills,” Kyoi replied.
“Right, what does that exactly mean?” I asked.
“Nothing too bad. A four mile run and two hundred push-ups. And other things if they stopped at the wrong time or faltered,” Kyoi explained, a smile on her face.
The three men were disheartened, devoid of any strength. They were meek and defeated. Although, the circumstances made it hard not to.
“You make it sound so easy. It’s freaking hell,” Zhuyu retorted.
“I didn’t know it hurt so much. I’ll have to increase….,” Kyoi suggested, absolute joy in her voice.
“Forget I said anything. Zhang, you good?” Zhuyu asked, standing up.
“Water,” En begged.
Zhuyu tossed him a bottle of water from a nearby box. Wow, they were actually recovering. Shui coughed several times, wincing after standing up. Tess remained silent the entire time.
“Tess, when do you want to leave?” Zhuyu asked, finally standing up.
“I’ll give you ten minutes,” Tess replied.
“I appreciate that. Tomo, are you ready for today?” Zhuyu asked.
“Shouldn’t you be more concerned about yourself?” I questioned.
“I’ll be fine. It’s just bad since I haven’t done anything in awhile. You guys need anything?” he replied, looking at En and Shui.
“I’m good,” Shui answered, grabbing another bottle of water.
“Nope,” En replied.
“I heard you met Tomo’s mother,” Kyoi suddenly brought up.
“Yeah, she left her wallet here and Tess was kind enough to drive me over so we could return it,” Zhuyu nodded.
“Why not just give it to Tess? I don’t see a need for you to tag along,” Kyoi stated, a faint smile developing.
“I needed help from Tess anyways, might as well tag along,” Zhuyu revealed.
“Did Tomo’s mother reveal any interesting details about her?” Kyoi asked, glancing at Tess and Zhuyu.
“She’ll accept monetary donations in exchange for secrets and information about her daughter,” Zhuyu phrased his answer with unnecessary words.
“Really? Thank you for the tip,” Kyoi responded.
“Yes, Tomo’s household is quite interesting,” Tess said.
I was thankful for Shui and En’s silence. They didn’t chime in and make it worse. Tess pulled out a folded piece of paper, handing it over to Zhuyu. Zhuyu unfolded the paper, glancing at it. He thanked Tess and headed upstairs.
“What did you give Zhuyu?” I asked, curious.
“Notes on a mathematical subject. He asked for my expertise on simplifying a concept,” Tess answered.
“Oh, I thought it might be something more….,” I said.
“Exciting? Sorry to disappoint you,” Tess said.
“I’m a bit disappointed Long didn’t ask me,” Kyoi joined the conversation.
“Kyoi, did you actually work out with them?” I asked.
“Who do you take me for, Tomo? Everything I requested of them, I did myself as well. Ask Lau and Zhang,” Kyoi replied.
“She’s right,” Shui confirmed.
“Yeah,” En backed her up as well.
Yeah, seemed like the norm for a person like her. Zhuyu finally returned, wearing his regular set of clothes. En and Shui left the living room, returning with their everyday clothes on as well.
“Anything else you want to do before leaving?” Tess asked, looking over at Zhuyu.
“No, we should be fine. Feng, can you think of anything?” Zhuyu glanced at Kyoi.
“Let’s head out,” Kyoi decided.
Tess led the way, but Zhuyu overtook her eventually. He kept his hands in his coat pockets, a serious expression on his face. After a five minute walk, we arrived at a small field. Across from the field was a police station and residential houses. To our right, there was a brick building with a parking lot.
“What’s that up there?” I inquired.
“It’s a community center. There’s a park there too, but that’s not our destination,” Zhuyu replied.
“Is the entrance in some random place?” I asked, looking around.
“It’s not,” Zhuyu answered, walking down onto the field.
A medium height metal link backstop was located further down the field. There was a faded baseball diamond near it. Numerous redrawn chalk lines and flattened grass filled that area.
“Do people use this field often?” I asked.
“High school frisbee teams usually practice here,” Zhuyu replied.
“Isn’t this a bad place for a portal? There’s a lot of people stopping by, not to mention the police station,” I remarked.
“There needs to be a certain, let’s call it “frequency” for now. At the enclosure, it has that “frequency”,” Tess explained.
“All I see is grass. Is there a hidden door around here like Felicity’s house?” I asked.
“Nope. Get ready, Tomo,” Zhuyu said as Tess tapped a wall with her golden key.
I felt a slight headache and closed my eyes. A high pitched sound worsened it. When I opened my eyes, we were in a small office. There was a mahogany desk in the center and a window in the back with its blinds pulled down. A beat up locker on the side, stamped with a law enforcement symbol, caught my eye.
“What is this place?” I asked, looking around.
“A branch of the dimension Feng, Long, and Zhang are affiliated with,” Tess replied.
“Looks pretty modern,” I observed.
“The others are preparing already. You were out for five minutes. Don’t worry, it takes time to adjust,” Tess revealed.
Was travel to other dimensions this draining? I followed Tess out of the room and into a large office space filled with cubicles. Someone walked past us with a sword strapped to their belt.
“Took you long enough,” Kyoi said, approaching us.
“Is this some kind of police station?” I asked, recalling the badge on their belt.
“Yes, it’s the Knight’s Mountain Office. A prime location for hunting and an excellent practice locale for you, Tomo,” Kyoi answered.
“Hunting? Wait, what are we talking about here?” I sought more details.
“Call them crazy spirits. They bind themselves to the wildlife or any potential visitors,” Kyoi explained.
“You’ll see what she means, Tomo. Let’s get some equipment for you. Tess and Kyoi can take you there. I’ll gather reports and figure out where to go,” Zhuyu said, appearing with En and Shui.
“Are we in the right room?” I asked once inside.
“Yes. Didn’t you hear what Long said?” Kyoi asked.
“Yeah, but this looks more like an armory than a locker room,” I remarked, glancing around.
“Did I ever say we were heading to a locker room?” Kyoi responded, pulling open a cabinet drawer.
“I mean, there are lockers everywhere. Showers too and benches to sit down on,” I pointed out.
“This is an all purpose room designed to cut down on space,” Tess explained.
Kyoi opened a locker, revealing even more weapons and equipment. She pulled out a gun, examining the weapon with great care.
“Tomo, how good are you with a gun?” Kyoi asked.
“I’ve never handled one before. Don’t tell me you were thinking of giving that to me?” I questioned.
“It was on my mind. But, that would be a bad idea. Tess, how about you?” Kyoi asked.
“I’ll take a shotgun,” Tess replied.
“Alright. They should be in those lockers over there,” Kyoi directed.
The Gatekeeper inspected the shotgun pump, selecting one from a nearby rack. She also selected five boxes of ammunition, pouring the bullets out onto a nearby bench.
“Tomo, here’s useful gear for you. I don’t know how effective it will be for stronger enemies, but overall, it should provide solid defense,” Kyoi said.
She handed me a normal looking sweater. I inspected the fabric and it felt ordinary.
“You’re thinking about how plain it is. Don’t be deceived. All the clothes here are woven with special materials, imbued with protection magic. Best to stick with simple clothes like this,” Kyoi said, noticing my confusion.
I changed into the sweater and Kyoi handed me a coat as well. Tess’ slung the shotgun over her left shoulder and strapped a belt full of ammunition over her right.
“How cold is it out there?” I asked, noticing the warm clothes Kyoi and Tess picked out.
“Pretty cold. My magic only protects us from the weather so much. It’s best to be prepared,” Kyoi replied, loading a magazine into her handgun.
We exited the room after selecting all of our equipment. Kyoi strapped a gun holster and hunting knife onto her belt. What kind of hunt required so much preparation? I shuddered, fearing the worst.
“Did you even give her anything?” Zhuyu exclaimed, after we met back up.
“Of course I did. She’s wearing this,” Kyoi responded, unzipping my coat and pointing at the sweater.
“I was expecting you to give her backup weapons. Although, at this point, that might be too much to ask for,” Zhuyu commented.
“Long, I insist you take this,” Kyoi demanded as we approached the exit.
She materialized one of her twin swords, tossing it over to him. Zhuyu glanced at the weapon and sighed. A golden dragon design wrapped around the scabbard. The others did mention Zhuyu using a sword before.
“Things will get dangerous. You’ll want this more than some inferior weapon,” Kyoi suggested.
“Fine, but there’s no need for me to use the blade,” Zhuyu agreed, strapping the weapon to his belt.
“Isn’t that nice? I thought you might put up more of a resistance,” Kyoi remarked, a more humane smile than usual on her face.
“Isn’t that Kyoi’s weapon, though?” I whispered to Tess.
“It will be best for you to discover that connection on your own. I can confirm, however, it was once Long’s weapon,” Tess replied.
“Let’s make sure we actually have everything first before heading out,” Zhuyu said.
We inspected our equipment one more time. Shui didn’t carry a weapon, but with his water powers, he could just construct one. En held a katana in his right hand, the weapon used against me in the mock battle. A few light snow flakes fell down on us once we exited. The road in front of us was blanketed in snow.
“We’ll head to the garage. Long, have you confirmed the location?” Kyoi directed, leading the way.
“Yeah, we can input it into the navigation system,” Zhuyu answered, waving a piece of paper in the air.
“Lau, you’ll drive. Tess, support Zhang as he takes control of the turret. I’ll go over logistics with Tomo. Long, you’ll back up Zhang,” Kyoi handed out orders.
After a brisk walk in the light flurries, we arrived at a large building, armed personnel guarding the front. They stood in front of a large hangar door, stern expressions on their faces.
“Commander Kyoi, it’s been a long time. We’ve been informed of the situation. The vehicle you requested has been prepared,” a guard greeted, giving a salute.
“Thank you for your troubles,” Kyoi said.
Kyoi pulled out an ID card upon arriving at a large door, stenciled with the number “00”. She slid her card and then placed her thumb on the scanner. The door opened with a hiss, revealing an armored vehicle inside. I saw a medium sized turret at the top, with a seat available for someone to man it. The vehicle was red and phoenixes drawn on the doors.
“Lau,” Kyoi shouted, tossing the keys over to him.
Shui bobbled them in his hands but regained control. I expected the interior to be cramped but found it quite spacious. The back seats were set up where everyone faced each other. I also noticed a sliding compartment on the vehicle roof.
Tess sat next to Shui in the front, turning on all the screens. Kyoi took out a tablet from a bag, scribbling on it with a stylus. Shui started the engine and I felt the vehicle bounce.
“Zhang, get ready. Long, I want you to outline what we’ll do once we’ve arrived. Tess, how’s it looking?” Kyoi asked, continuing her scribbling.
“Conditions appear fine at the moment. But, as expected, there are threats along the way. Lau, go ahead and drive,” Tess replied.
Shui nodded, pressing a button on the rearview mirror. Our vehicle platform descended, transporting us underground. Lau turned the wheel and stepped on the gas, traveling along a dimly lit road until arriving outdoors.
“Zhang, your turn,” Kyoi commanded.
En nodded, popping the roof compartment open. Cold wind blew in immediately. I felt sorry for him. Must suck having to handle the weapon in such bad weather.
“Zhang, catch,” Kyoi yelled.
She tossed an earpiece upward. He caught it, sticking the device into his right ear. Tess spoke into her headset and En nodded in response. Several blinking lights on the screens moved downward at a rapid pace.
“Enemies incoming. Zhang, follow my directions,” Tess ordered.
The turret rang out a minute later. I peered outside and saw spinning shells hurtling toward us. En shot them off course one by one, preventing a collision. Tess threw off her headset after the initial barrage of enemies, opening a window.
“Feng, hand me a sniper,” Tess commanded.
Kyoi nodded, pulling out a sniper rifle from a hidden compartment in the floor. The Gatekeeper fired. Seconds after her shot landed, a burst of flames enveloped the target. Damn, this was pretty intense and we weren’t even at our main objective yet.
Enemies surrounded us but everyone maintained a calm composure. Shui drove with confidence despite all the commotion. In fact, I actually respected them a little now.
Kyoi showed me a list of potential enemies on her tablet. Some of it included:
The terrain itself. Since snow covers the foliage, it is important to be careful. Tess will lead us through most of this. Vulture-like creatures with steel wings that reflect light. They are able to launch metal pins from their wings. Bandits who have taken up residence, preying on unsuspecting visitors.
“Tomo, I’ll give you a quick rundown on potential enemies,” Kyoi said, flicking through photos of them.
Zhuyu pounded on the rooftop and En returned back down. He shivered, brushing snow off his shoulders.
“How did it look?” Tess asked, shutting her window.
“Okay,” En replied.
“En, you good?” Zhuyu asked, concern on his face.
“Yeah, it’s pretty warm with these clothes,” En answered, closing the roof compartment.
“Tess, give us an estimated time of arrival,” Kyoi requested.
“Ten more minutes. Cut through here and it’ll decrease travel time, but we have to fight through more enemies,” Tess replied, pointing at her middle screen.
“We’ll go with that one then. Tomo needs an introduction to enemies,” Kyoi decided.
Shui took a sharp left turn and I almost collided into Zhuyu. Damn, this was reckless driving. Kyoi stared at her tablet the entire time, circling the screen. Five minutes later, Shui braked and glaneced back at Kyoi.
“Alright, let’s get hunting. Tess, you’ll be Tomo’s caretaker today so make sure to not fail her,” Kyoi jumped out of the vehicle with absolute glee.
“Tomo, I’ll leave the ones leaping down to you. Long, take the left. Zhang, cover my back. Shui, provide cover for us!” Kyoi barked out orders.
Bandits leaped down from the sky right at me. One aimed for my neck. I teleported behind him, plunging my blade into his back. He fell and I felt my hands tremble. I pulled the blade out, feeling my legs shake a little. Two bandits trapped me from the front and back.
Fine, I’ll clear you out by creating an icy surface. One slipped, falling face down. The other maintained his balance, rushing toward me. I shot icicles, pinning the one already on the ground.
“How dare you!” the standing bandit screamed.
Wait, I could use En’s power to repel! Damn, how did he do it? This was the trouble with copying other’s powers. Finally figuring it out, the bandit flew back a few feet away. I dashed forward, feigning an attack. The bandit fell for it, swinging their weapon downward. I teleported his weapon away and sent ice flying towards him, encasing his legs.
Time to check on the others. Tess finally slashed a wire and the red blinking light stopped flashing. She stood up and our eyes met. The bandit I just fought was ensnared by the Gatekeeper's chains. Right, gotta finish off enemies.
Kyoi and En moved in a synchronized pattern. Anyone approaching them was knocked back with rapid slashes. Kyoi slashed one person’s arm off, kicking her down to the ground. En switched over to his secondary weapon. He wrapped his thin wire around two opponents, shocking them with electricity. Kyoi finished off the last opponent, leaving a red gash across their chest.
Zhuyu’s combat was more defensive. He neutralized one opponent with his zero vector power. At least one of the bandits was susceptible to his power. The other one pulled out a charm. Zhuyu clicked his tongue and then raised his sword sheath.
The enemy pulled out a scimitar, taunting Zhuyu. The hero made his way behind the opponent in an instant. He delivered a blow to the bandit’s neck using the sword hilt. The bandit spun around, thrusting his scimitar forward. Zhuyu blocked with his sheath, spinning it upward, and struck the bandit’s chin. Zhuyu accelerated, stabbing the hilt into his enemy's stomach. Zhuyu then snatched the charm away. He knocked the enemy down, stomping on their neck.
Shui’s battle was uneventful. He encased all his opponents in ice. Rather cheap but I couldn’t complain. Best to not drag out battles too long, conserving energy for potential future ones.
“Who’s your leader?” Kyoi asked, grabbing one of the bandits.
“Leader? I don’t know what you’re talking about,” the bandit replied, blood flowing out of his nose.
“Okay, no mercy for you then!” Kyoi decided.
Tess returned Kyoi's hunting knife. The older woman shook her head with pity. She slammed the bandit’s hand down onto the ground with a thud, plunging her knife through it. The bandit yelped out in pain, tears running down his eyes. Kyoi wiggled the knife, pushing it further in without any concern. A small pool of blood formed around the hand. Was no one going to stop her?
“Who’s the next of your friends to go through this?” Kyoi asked, surveying the fallen bandits.
“I’ll do it! You don’t scare me!” one of the bandits shouted out.
Kyoi nodded, leaving the fallen bandit there. She approached her next victim, pulling out her handgun. Placing the gun barrel near his kneecap, she raised her left hand.
“I will count down to three. What are the chances your knees or you will still be here?” Kyoi asked, a calm gaze on her face.
“Don’t.... mess with me. There’s no way a single bullet can blow off my legs. You’re bluffing,” the bandit said, fear creeping into their voice.
“Give up. You’re up against a paladin so I’m sure you know that means,” Zhuyu warned.
“A paladin? Dear god, what the hell kind of people are you?” the bandit asked, shaking at the word.
“Have you ever heard of how the kingdom was overthrown?” Zhuyu asked.
“I heard it was led by a paladin and two swordsman. Wait, you don’t mean....?” the bandit stammered.
“That makes things easier. Look, if you’re really just alone, then fine. But if you have a leader, then take us to them. It’s only a matter of time,” Zhuyu reasoned.
“Ah, why spoil the fun? With my magic, a single bullet can cause an explosion, right? It’s easier that way sometimes,” Kyoi complained, putting her gun away.
“Everyone’s already scared of you,” Zhuyu pointed out.
The bandit closed his eyes, trembling. He nudged one of his companions. The companion took out a device, handing it to Zhuyu.
“The information you need is on there. It’ll show you how to avoid the traps set around here. I swear that it’s all real,” the bandit revealed.
"We’re taking you with us. You’ll take the fall if something goes awry,” Tess decided.
She secured the bandit with chains, shoved him up front. Before leaving, Shui trapped everyone in a thin layer of ice, lining them all up. Would that be okay? Not all of them had magical protection, it worried me a little bit. Was it these kind of decisions that emphasized the difference between Lilith and the current group of heroes I followed?
“It won’t kill them,” Shui assured me, noticing my concerned look.
“Okay. This still seems kind of, I don’t know, bad,” I said, conflicted about how the situation was handled.
“You might be right, but it’s that kind of place. Can’t have enemies get back at us,” Shui revealed.
We finally arrived at a gate after a long trek. Kyoi pulled out her sword and a red glow appeared around her body. With one slice, the woman destroyed it. The bandit stared at the gate in disbelief.
“Lead the way,” Kyoi ordered.
The bandit led us up several staircases and we arrived at a gorgeous door. A crown was carved into it. Tess glared at the hostage.
“What’s wrong? I already told you everything you need to know,” the bandit stuttered.
“I’m surprised you’re still lying. Feng, assist me,” Tess requested.
Tess shoved the bandit over to the stair railing, dangling him over it. Hey, this was getting too out of hand now. We were three floors up so a fall from this height would kill.
“Where’s the boss?” Tess asked, letting the chain in her hand slip.
“They’re not here! This was standard protocol if anyone captured us. There’s a hidden passageway from here to the actual base. Please, don’t let me fall. I already told you everything I know,” the bandit blurted.
“We’ll compromise. I’ll tie you up here and if you are right, someone will come back for you. If not, then I’m afraid we’ll see how sturdy this railing is,” Tess decided, tying the end of her chain to the railing.
Kyoi kicked down the door. Tess pulled out her golden key and it pointed at a spot in the room. Kyoi punctured the indicated area, revealing a switch. She slapped it and the right wall of the room slid open, revealing a hidden door.