Chapter 59:

Volume 3, Chapter 6: The First Boss

Heroes of the Past

“How was your mind dive?” Tess asked, approaching me.Bookmark here

“Oh, you knew, of course you would. It worked so I’m glad about that,” I answered.Bookmark here

“Good to hear. Let’s head down to the meeting room. Feng wants to talk strategy,” Tess suggested, heading toward the exit.Bookmark here

I hurried after her. We walked in silence, arriving at the meeting room. Inside, the former princess and Kyoi viewed a holographic map containing red markers.Bookmark here

“You’re here early, Tess,” Kyoi remarked.Bookmark here

Damn, I got tricked. Might as well take a seat and wait. This was pretty boring, but it was my fault for chasing after her.Bookmark here

“Tomo, how confident are you with your powers?” Kyoi asked.Bookmark here

“Enough to fight enemies by myself without help. What are you planning?” I answered.Bookmark here

“Good. I’ll formulate a strategy with that in mind. We’ll be relying on you, Tomo,” Kyoi revealed.Bookmark here

“Wait, that’s crazy. You can’t expect me to take down a high level enemy all by myself. That’s suicide. You’ll get us all killed,” I protested.Bookmark here

“This is the perfect time for battle experience. Don’t worry about the small details. We’ll be there supporting you,” Kyoi reminded.Bookmark here

“I just..,” I began.Bookmark here

“Feng’s assessment is correct. This provides the perfect opportunity for evaluating how far you have come,” Tess cut me off.Bookmark here

The former princess remained silent during our short exchange. I hoped she might insert herself into the conversation. That was a foolish thought though considering she didn’t know me that well. Twenty minutes later, everyone else arrived and sat down, glancing up at Fei. She stood up front, projecting the map onto a screen. Kyoi stood beside her, holding a pointer.Bookmark here

“Fei will remain here in case the main enemy shifts locations. Our group will head out here. It’s a pretty simple plan, no complicated maneuvers involved. An all out assault,” Kyoi announced, shining her laser at the northern region of the map.Bookmark here

“Are we heading out in the morning?” Zhuyu asked.Bookmark here

“Yes, we’ll want an early start. One more thing, let Tomo handle the main enemy. We’ll take care of the copies,” Kyoi added.Bookmark here

“Will she be okay?” Shui asked, concern on his face.Bookmark here

“If we’re there, no problem. Of course, you’re not thinking about abandoning her during battle? You wouldn’t do that,” Kyoi answered, giving her usual trademark smile.Bookmark here

“I would never do that! Don’t worry Tomo, we got your back,” Shui assured me.Bookmark here

Kyoi spoke for a few more minutes and let Fei take over. The former princess discussed potential dangers involved at higher elevations, leaving us with helpful tips. I raised my hand before the meeting adjourned.Bookmark here

“Oh, how rare. Tomo, are you so excited about fighting your first strong enemy solo that you’re willing to head out now?” Kyoi teased, grinning.Bookmark here

“You know that’s not what I wanted to ask. I’m worried about what kind of enemy we’ll fave,” I voiced my concerns.Bookmark here

“Fei, herself, knows little about the enemy. You can’t expect me to give you any more details than what she knows. Tess warned you about such situations before,” Kyoi shrugged her shoulders.Bookmark here

“It’s true. The only reliable information I’ve learned is the enemy emits specific signals. If you manage to decode that, it’s possible you could slow it down,” Fei revealed.Bookmark here

“An interesting proposal. I’ll look into it,” Tess remarked.Bookmark here

In the end, no one alleviated my worries. Although this time, I couldn’t really blame anyone. There was a lack of information. Time to rest up and hope for the best tomorrow.Bookmark here

Next Day- 5:45 AMBookmark here

Someone shook me. Ugh, can't you just let me sleep in? It’s still winter break.Bookmark here

“Tomo, please wake up, all the others have already gathered downstairs,” Tess informed me.Bookmark here

I threw off my blanket, staring at Tess. Her blank face stared right back at me. That’s right, I wasn’t home. I expected breakfast, but Tess directed me to the front door. Shui and En yawned, drowsy looks still on their faces. Zhuyu appeared fine and Kyoi’s face contained her usual confident look.Bookmark here

“No food?” I asked, looking around.Bookmark here

“No time to waste. We’ll eat while traveling,” Kyoi replied, tossing me a plastic Zeta-Lock bag.Bookmark here

I inspected the contents, seeing trail mix. It consisted of a variety of nuts, dried fruit, and other snack foods. What the hell?Bookmark here

“This is breakfast?” I pointed at the bag.Bookmark here

“Yes. It’s quite delicious. And without any further questions, it’s time to head out,” Kyoi answered, exiting through the front door.Bookmark here

Everyone else followed behind her. I stood there, shaking my head. We headed up a steep path. A light flurry of snow fell, forcing me to wipe away the snowflakes bombarding my face. We continued traversing the long path and finally arrived on flat grounds again. Kyoi stopped in the front, deciding it was an appropriate time for a short break.Bookmark here

“This is not poisoned or anything right? I swear….,” I muttered, opening the plastic Zeta-Lock bag.Bookmark here

“Of course it’s not. You’re of utmost importance to the mission,” Tess assured, sitting next to me.Bookmark here

“I guess. This isn’t too bad. Who put this together?” I asked, finding the mixture edible.Bookmark here

“The former princess suggested it. Long woke up early to put all of it into bags for everyone,” Tess revealed.Bookmark here

“Zhuyu did? I didn’t expect that. If anything, Shui looks more capable,” I remarked.Bookmark here

“You still have much to learn. Let’s get going,” Tess said, standing back up.Bookmark here

We resumed our search, continuing our trek. A thick layer of snow now covered the rocky terrain. I almost tripped, but Tess saved me. Damn, I hated the snow here. It made things too difficult. After what seemed like two or maybe even three hours, Kyoi paused.Bookmark here

She glanced toward her left side, motioning at Shui. Large amounts of snow slid down towards us. Shui held his left hand out, transforming the snow slide into light raindrops. I pulled on my hood immediately, but the drops still splashed onto my face.Bookmark here

“That was….,” Kyoi started, pulling her sword out.Bookmark here

She slashed through the remaining snow still in the air. Black sludge splattered everywhere. An enemy already? Oh, come on. Was this the main enemy or a copy? I transported away, appearing next to Tess. The Gatekeeper fought bare handed, punching golems. She punched one in the chest, shattering it. I formed a fireball in my hand, hurling it at large tree-like enemies scuttling toward us.Bookmark here

“We got ambushed! Damn it, are any of these what we’re looking for?” I shouted, forming another fireball.Bookmark here

“Feng, do you have a reaction from the tracking stone Fei gave you?” Tess asked, grabbing a golem’s head and slamming it into the ground.Bookmark here

“I can’t pinpoint its exact location. Tess, can you identify the waves?” Kyoi responded, dispatching a sludge-like enemy with her glowing sword.Bookmark here

“Tomo, please buy me time,” Tess requested.Bookmark here

I nodded, forming a small portal near the Gatekeeper. In a worst case scenario, she could utilize it for her own personal use. The number of enemies kept growing despite our efforts.Bookmark here

Metal feathered birds joined the battle. Crap, their intended target was Tess. I formed a portal, ready to assist, but En resolved the issue. The bird’s flight path changed after a sharp crackle. He leaped into the air and with five slashes, decimated the enemy.Bookmark here

“Feng! I’ve locked onto the enemy. Tomo, head over there now. This key will lead you over there!” Tess reported, tossing a golden key.Bookmark here

“What about you guys?” I asked, catching it in my left hand.Bookmark here

“Who do you think we are, Tomo? The situation’s under control, see?” Kyoi retorted, pulling out her gun.Bookmark here

She fired two bullets into the ground and a large explosion burnt half the enemies. Couldn’t argue with that. I had my own assignment now. They would be fine. I glanced down at Tess’ key, relying on it for navigation. I finally stopped jogging, after hearing a loud sound. The golden key pointed straight ahead.Bookmark here

Taking cautious steps forward, I noticed Tess’ key stop glowing. Sounds of gnashing teeth grew closer. Where was this thing? Something shot out from the corner of my eye and I was too slow in dodging it.Bookmark here

Tiny spikes struck my left arm, lodging themselves in. I winced, forcing myself to endure the pain. No need to waste a portal. More projectiles flew at me and I knocked them all down with my sword.Bookmark here

A loud rumbling originated beneath me. I needed to find higher ground, but nothing caught my eye. Damn, the enemy was surfacing soon. In that case, I’ll seal off its exit point with Shui’s water powers. I created a thick layer of ice over the cracks forming.Bookmark here

“That won’t stop it. I’ll need to stall,” I muttered, feeling my grasp on the sword faltering.Bookmark here

Right now, I would lose in close combat, especially with my injury. Range was the way to go. I transported myself a safe distance away and waited for the enemy. Setting up portals, I planned to blast the creature with a barrage of knives. Now would be a good chance to endow the blades with an elemental power. Could I pull it off though?Bookmark here

A loud roar filled the area. It smashed through my ice with incredible speed. A sea cucumber like creature flew into the air. Now! I pelted the enemy with flaming blades. The creature flailed in the air, knocking away my projectiles with the large spikes on its body. It finally landed and wiggled right at me. Okay, so blades were no good. Time for icicles.Bookmark here

It shook its body and destroyed the majority of my ice projectiles. Okay, not effective. What else could I do in this situation? With close combat out of the question, I couldn’t rely on my sword. Direct elemental attacks it is then.Bookmark here

The creature shot out metal spikes again and I teleported away safely. Okay, time to test out my idea. The creature plunged into a hole in the ground. Next, I surrounded it with a circle of flames, hoping for success. The enemy yelled out in anguish and its cries eventually subsided. Wait, did I actually win?Bookmark here

I saw the enemy thrashing around in the flames. All of a sudden, it leaped out and almost tore off my left arm. Flames still covered its body and it roared. What the hell? It was shedding. The flames vanished from its body and now it shone with a metallic gleam. More spikes formed on its body and it rotated like a drill.Bookmark here

A large wall of ice might slow the enemy down. I hurled fireballs at it from a distance, but nothing fazed it. Crashing through the ice wall with ease, it resumed its path of destruction. My fireballs bounced off the enemy, melting the snow on the ground. What else did I have left in my repertoire? En’s electrical powers. It attracted and repelled, perfect for this situation.Bookmark here

“Alright, let’s try it out,” I muttered.Bookmark here

The creature continued onward, unaffected. Oh, come on! This was exactly what En did. I created a portal, but saw it fizzling. Crap, the worst timing too. Now I had no escape route. Light snow still came down and an absurd idea developed in my mind. I tried forming a path of ice in the air, but nothing appeared. My mastery of the power wasn’t at that level yet. Well, I would stall until the others came. Knowing them, Tess would probably be the first one.Bookmark here

I layered multiple ice walls. This would allow me a few seconds to think of my next move. Would En’s electricity even work on this thing now that it shed its original skin? It was worth a try considering the significant amount of water on it after crashing through the ice walls.Bookmark here

Forming an electric ball of energy, I hurled it at the enemy. As expected, nothing. Its body must have great resistance. How long could I keep stalling until help arrived?Bookmark here

“Tomo, sorry for the wait. There were hordes of them out there,” Tess said, appearing out of nowhere.Bookmark here

“Tess, thank god you’re here. Do you mind helping me remove these spikes?” I heaved a sigh of relief.Bookmark here

“Zhang, assist Tomo,” Tess requested.Bookmark here

En held out his right hand and my arm was engulfed in blue flames. I freaked out, glaring at the shorter man. Are you trying to kill me? I realized the flames inflicted no damage and instead contained a soothing effect. The spikes popped out and my wounds closed up.Bookmark here

“What was that?” I asked, inspecting my left arm.Bookmark here

“I’ll explain later. Zhang, please stall for me,” Tess directed.Bookmark here

He pulled out his sword which shone with an eerie bluish-yellow glow. Swinging it in the air, he shot out several waves of energy, striking the beast’s metallic exterior. Minuscule cracks appeared. Are you kidding me?Bookmark here

“En’s flames aren’t just for attacking. They can be used as a healing skill but are limited in how much damage they can mend. Enough talking. I believe it’s time to end this battle,” Tess explained, accelerating towards the enemy.Bookmark here

Tess dashed straight at the enemy’s mouth, punching its teeth out. Fangs flew into the air, scattering across the ground. She then delivered a wicked kick to the spikes near its mouth, breaking them off.Bookmark here

“Tomo, destroy the fangs and spikes now! We can’t let a single piece of this enemy remain,” Tess commanded.Bookmark here

“I’ll here to help out too!” Shui arrived.Bookmark here

“Lau and Tomo, I leave it in to you. En and I will take care of its main body,” Tess said, inflicting more destruction on the beast.Bookmark here

Shui encased the fangs in ice. I smashed the ice blocks with a flaming punch and the contents disintegrated into a wispy smoke. We repeated this routine until Tess knocked out every single fang and spike.Bookmark here

En hacked the monster’s body, meeting up with Tess in the middle. Tess punched her fist through the creature’s body and golden chains wrapped around it. En plunged his blade into the creature’s body and leaped away. Tess backflipped off as a surge of electricity coursed through the golden chains binding its body. The creature flailed around and eventually exploded.Bookmark here

“Is it gone? Did we finish the mission?” I asked, inspecting the area around where the creature exploded.Bookmark here

“Yes, I no longer sense its presence. Zhang, your sword,” Tess answered, picking up En’s weapon from the ground.Bookmark here

“Hmm, I wonder if that was really it,” Kyoi remarked, arriving on the scene.Bookmark here

“The main one is still out there?” I stared at the woman in confusion.Bookmark here

“No, I wonder if this enemy we fought and the one the former princess referred to are the same,” Kyoi clarified.Bookmark here

“How’s that possible?” I questioned.Bookmark here

“Well, that can be figured out later. How was your first solo battle with a threat, Tomo?” Kyoi brushed off my concerns.Bookmark here

“Unexpected, I still have a lot more to learn,” I replied.Bookmark here

“We all do. Let’s head back and tell Fei what happened,” Kyoi nodded.Bookmark here

We trekked back to the base and I felt exhausted upon arrival. Kyoi spoke with Fei, while everyone else returned to their rooms. I collapsed onto the bed, fatigue hitting me hard.Bookmark here

“Damn, using powers is so taxing,” I revealed, looking over at Tess.Bookmark here

“Yes, it drains a lot of stamina. But, you’ll feel the most tired since you employ a variety of different powers. We’ll have to work on that in the future,” Tess noted.Bookmark here

“Is there really another enemy?” I questioned Tess, curious about Kyoi’s concerns.Bookmark here

“If Feng feels that way, we must take it into consideration. This won’t be the final time you’re here. You’ll have plenty of time to find out more,” Tess responded.Bookmark here

After an hour of rest, Kyoi returned. She told everyone to meet in the strategy room. I hoped that meant we were leaving soon.Bookmark here

“Zhuyu, what happened?” I asked, noticing a bandage on the left side of his face.Bookmark here

“I got scratched up a little,” he answered.Bookmark here

“He’ll be fine. He’s taken worse after training with Feng. But, I thank you for taking care of the enemy. It saves me the trouble of having to hunt it down myself,” Fei said with a grin.Bookmark here

“No, we should thank you for your hospitality. But, I doubt the threat is actually dealt with. I’ll be back to investigate,” Kyoi commented.Bookmark here

“I have the same doubts as you. Very well, I look forward to your next visit. Maybe the girl will be strong enough to go one-on-one with me,” Fei nodded.Bookmark here

“Anything else?” Kyoi asked.Bookmark here

“No, I’ll be on the lookout. I’m sure you’ll do the same. It’s nice meeting you again, Tomo. I hope you show me how much you’ve improved the next time we meet,” Fei said.Bookmark here

After a few more words, everyone departed. I followed Kyoi and the others into a dining room. Glancing around, I saw plates of food on the counter.Bookmark here

“We get to eat before we leave?” I pointed at the steaming plates.Bookmark here

“No. Tess uncovered a return portal here. Instead of going all the way back to the mountain base, we’ll use this. It carries the same frequency as the one that allowed us to enter so we’ll arrive back in the field,” Kyoi answered.Bookmark here

Of course, when did I ever get treated to something nice? Tess pointed at a chute in the side of the wall.Bookmark here

“I’ll go first,” I volunteered, heading toward it.Bookmark here

Tess nodded and I jumped in. Not exactly I envisioned, but at least it meant I got to go home. Kinda fun too. It reminded me of the days I played with Ichizen at the park and he would try jumping off the slide.Bookmark here

EveningBookmark here

I blinked and found myself sitting down on dirt. I stood up and saw everyone else heading out of the enclosure. Catching up with them, we returned to Zhuyu’s house.Bookmark here

“Tomo, I expect more from you next time. You know where the facility is. Stop by when you have the time,” Kyoi recommended.Bookmark here

“Thanks, I guess,” I said.Bookmark here

Shui and En entered Zhuyu’s house. Maybe they were going to play games before leaving. During the ride back, Tess remained silent, surprising me. Maybe she just wanted to give me a break. Finally arriving at my house, Tess spoke her first words to me.Bookmark here

“Tomo, good work. Sleep once you’re done with dinner,” Tess advised.Bookmark here

That was weird. I thought she would leave me with more than just that. Unlocking my front door, I walked in and an amazing aroma wafted from the kitchenBookmark here

“Welcome back, Yuki. Did you have fun with your friends?” Dad greeted as I walked into the dining room.Bookmark here

“Yeah,” I nodded.Bookmark here

After finishing dinner, I limped up to my room, legs wobbling. What the hell? I never felt this bad before. Collapsing onto my bed, I immediately fell asleep.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.