Chapter 67:

Volume 3, Chapter 13: Of Course We Can't Leave Peacefully

Heroes of the Past

The train stopped, coming to a standstill. Zhuyu walked to the front car and returned a few minutes later.Bookmark here

“There’s a plant in the way. We’ll have to go by foot,” he revealed, breaking the glass covering the emergency evacuation button.Bookmark here

“Hold on, can’t the conductor just open the doors for us?” I asked.Bookmark here

“The conductor’s been gone for awhile now. No one likes to go here, so it’s not a surprise whoever drove bailed. I checked the messages on the control board,” he explained, jumping off the train.Bookmark here

“What kind of….? This sucks,” I muttered.Bookmark here

Walking along the tracks, our obstruction became clear. A large plant bulb spewed purple slime. I glanced at it, feeling great disgust.Bookmark here

“Tomo, burn it,” Zhuyu ordered.Bookmark here

“Tess said magic isn’t effective here!” I countered.Bookmark here

“We’re not in the proximity of the seal yet. Any magic used here will still work,” Zhuyu revealed, glancing over at Tess.Bookmark here

“Yes, Long is correct,” Tess confirmed.Bookmark here

I conjured up one fireball after another, hurling it at the plant bulb. More purple slime surrounded it, eventually coating its body. The flames dissipated immediately once it came in contact with the slime covered surface.Bookmark here

“Ugh, looks like flames won’t work,” I said, stopping my assault.Bookmark here

“Shigetzu, can you lift up the plant?” Zhuyu requested.Bookmark here

“Yeah,” Shan nodded.Bookmark here

He looked at the plant and then paused. Shaking his head, he glanced over at the tracks. What was wrong?Bookmark here

“We’re not close enough,” Shan revealed.Bookmark here

“You have a range limit on your powers?” I asked, surprised.Bookmark here

“Yeah. Um, looking at the tracks, we’ll have to be about five or six more train car widths closer,” Shan estimated.Bookmark here

“Wait, that’s really close. We don’t know dangerous that purple slime is,” I protested.Bookmark here

“We’ll take that risk. If we cut off its roots from the ground, it’ll give us a better chance at taking it out,” Zhuyu said, walking forward.Bookmark here

Shan stopped once in range. He stared at the plant bulb and a loud crack opened up in the ground. The plant roots wiggled around as they were torn from underneath the ground. I hurled fireballs at the exposed roots. The plant bulb vibrated as the flames burnt its roots and then purple slime burst out everywhere once its roots were destroyed. I hopped away from the slime, but some landed on my pants.Bookmark here

“Darryl!” Zhuyu shouted.Bookmark here

The false archer nodded and portals surrounded the plant bulb in the air. Knives flew at the enemy and Zhuyu turned his attention to me.Bookmark here

“Tomo, imbue Darryl’s weapon with the ice element,” he directed.Bookmark here

A white light surrounded Ichaival’s blades. Ice encased the creature’s body once the projectiles pierced into the plant bulb. I threw another fireball at the enemy, hoping for a finishing blow. The plant bulb exploded, chunks of ice flying everywhere. A large pool of purple slime covered the tracks where it previously rested.Bookmark here

“We can’t even use the train anymore,” Zhuyu commented.Bookmark here

“Of course this would happen,” I sighed, already expecting we would have to walk again.Bookmark here

I felt like throwing up when passing by the purple slime. It gave off a rancid smell, comparable to paint blended with rotten food. Tess knelt down, taking a sample of the slime. She capped a vial and with care placed it into her backpack. Knowing Tess, it probably meant some kind of research.Bookmark here

“How nice of them to place a lock on the entrance. Tess, can you break it?” Zhuyu questioned.Bookmark here

“There’s no one inside, right?” I asked.Bookmark here

“If there is anyone, they would have a hard time. This place should no longer be inhabitable,” Zhuyu replied.Bookmark here

Tess swung her key in the air and then the gates creaked open. Any buildings still standing were covered in an ugly moss with vines wrapping around it. The hell? This was a forest now.Bookmark here

“Guess they weren’t lying,” Zhuyu muttered.Bookmark here

“So what do…?” Ichaival asked, before slashing at something with his blade.Bookmark here

A mushroom like creature spat out spores. Ichaival dodged, driving his blade through the enemy, but spores landed on his shirt. He brushed them off, grimacing once his fingers made contact. Blood dripped out from his fingertips.Bookmark here

“Freaking…. I didn’t know they were like that,” Ichaival remarked.Bookmark here

“Everyone, get to work,” Tess said, swinging her weed whacker.Bookmark here

We hacked away at the green obstruction with our tools. Zhuyu sawed off branches with his pruner blade. Shan and Ichaival worked on clearing the thick moss covering the road, while I assisted Tess. An hour later, we cleared a path. Taking a short break, we all sat down, eating energy bars. There was no way we would get through the area with just these tools.Bookmark here

“This is crazy. There’s no way we can clear this in a few hours,” I complained.Bookmark here

“All we need is a little clearing and we’ve caused enough of a disturbance to get us through,” Zhuyu revealed, standing up.Bookmark here

A low buzzing filled the air and flies, the size of tennis balls, appeared. Oh come on! Zhuyu threw on his pack, running. Wait, we weren’t fighting? Everyone else followed suit. Vines and trees around us snapped as the flies pursued us. So that was his plan. It was nice and all, but it involved us sprinting. Did I have enough stamina to make it?Bookmark here

“Hey… how long is this… take?” I gasped for breath.Bookmark here

“Don’t know,” Zhuyu shouted, hopping over logs on the ground.Bookmark here

“This is perfect. Darryl, how are you?” Shan asked.Bookmark here

“Pretty good, but not as great as Tess. Look at her,” Ichaival responded.Bookmark here

Tess led the way, overtaking Zhuyu within a matter of seconds, after the chase started. The tools in my backpack clattered against each other, creating an unpleasant sound. The Gatekeeper raised her hand in the air upon reaching a huge crevice. No way we could jump over.Bookmark here

Zhuyu glared at the flies and they plummeted down. Ichaival’s knives pelted the flies, pinning them to the ground. I hacked at the creatures with my sword, eliminating them.Bookmark here

“Okay, looks like we got past that part without any issues,” Zhuyu evaluated, throwing off his backpack.Bookmark here

“The hell…. that was too much running,” I said, out of breath.Bookmark here

“Sorry to put you through that. But, we needed those flies to take care of the obstacles. Now we’re close,” Zhuyu apologized, catching his breath as well.Bookmark here

Tess stared down the deep crevice and then across it. I didn’t see a bridge or an alternative path around.Bookmark here

“Tomo, have you ever walked across chains?” Tess inquired.Bookmark here

“What?” I asked, confused about her question.Bookmark here

“I’ll create a bridge with my chains. Don’t worry, it’s safe,” Tess revealed.Bookmark here

“Can’t Shan just change the gravity?” I asked.Bookmark here

“The distance is too far. Shigetzu can apply it on himself, but he’ll be out of range to assist us,” Tess explained.Bookmark here

After seven minutes, the chain bridge was completed. Would it support our weight? Tess did know her physics though, so I would trust her. Zhuyu took the first step and I expected swaying, but it was solid.Bookmark here

“You know, Ichaival could just transport us over with his portals,” I realized.Bookmark here

“He needs to preserve his powers for an upcoming battle. Under ideal conditions, I would allow it,” Tess refuted my suggestion.Bookmark here

“I understand,” I nodded.Bookmark here

I crossed the bridge without any issues. So glad I didn’t look down at all. Tess was the last to cross, dashing across her chain bridge without fear.Bookmark here

“Okay, let’s go find the core. Tess, do you know where it is?” Zhuyu asked, stretching out his arms.Bookmark here

“Yes, it’s close by. I’ll lead the way,” Tess nodded, taking out her key.Bookmark here

We followed behind Tess, arriving at a dead end. Zhuyu glanced up at the sky, while Tess walked around the area with her key. It finally pointed downward at a spot.Bookmark here

After some digging, we uncovered a set of stairs. Walking down, I expected something to leap out at us, but nothing occurred. Once at the bottom, there was a pedestal. A stone tablet rested on top, glowing with an eerie light.Bookmark here

“This is the cause?” I asked.Bookmark here

“Possibly,” Tess answered, approaching the tablet with caution.Bookmark here

My necklace vibrated. Could it be this tablet was related to the one that killed Ichizen? Tess paused, glancing back at me.Bookmark here

“Tomo, you should check the tablet,” Tess decided.Bookmark here

I picked up the stone tablet, glancing at it. My necklace stopped shaking and Tess shouted out a warning. The stone tablet split in half and someone materialized from the shadows.Bookmark here

“No, it can’t be…,” I shook my head.Bookmark here

Ichizen, but he was dead. I froze, unsure what to do. Zhuyu reacted first, snatching Ichaival’s blade, swinging it downward at Ichizen. It never landed and the knife flew out of his hand, clattering to the ground.Bookmark here

“Everyone is still so weak. I did not come here for a fight. This is merely a warning, words from Ace herself. Go find your ultimate weapons and see if you can beat me,” the false Ichizen announced.Bookmark here

“The Traveler. Why are you taking his image?” Tess asked, chains wrapped around her fists.Bookmark here

“By Ace’s orders, she wants to provoke her. Until next time. Of course, I leave a little gift for you, so don’t expect to leave too fast,” the Traveler replied, vanishing.Bookmark here

We headed back up to the surface. Everything was wilted and an intense heat struck us. The sky was now a bright blue, no longer gray and overcast.Bookmark here

“The area has returned to its original state, but the seal is still active,” Tess observed, her key shining in the bright sunlight.Bookmark here

“Where’s the gift that bastard mentioned?” Ichaival asked, looking around.Bookmark here

The ground shook and a flame salamander stomped toward us. Flames burst out from its mouth. How were we going to handle this?Bookmark here

“Zhuyu, any ideas?” I yelled as the beast inched closer.Bookmark here

“Tess, does your binding magic still work?” he asked.Bookmark here

“Yes, but not at an optimal level,” Tess nodded.Bookmark here

“We need to lure it out. Without our magic at full strength, we don’t stand a chance. I rather not engage in physical combat,” Zhuyu ordered.Bookmark here

“More running?” Shan asked with a smile.Bookmark here

“Yeah, ditch all the equipment. It’s unfortunate,” Zhuyu answered.Bookmark here

Thus began the second time we ran for our lives. I let out a sigh of relief, seeing the gate in sight. They flew open and we sprinted for another five minutes.Bookmark here

“Here’s the plan. I’ll distract the flame salamander while Tomo creates ice walls. The rest of you will dig a large hole and Tomo melts the ice to create a large landing spot for the flame salamander,” Zhuyu directed.Bookmark here

“Wait, how are we going to dig that hole? We don’t have any equipment!” I asked.Bookmark here

“Shigetzu can handle it. Start making those ice walls now. Tess, direct them to a good spot,” Zhuyu responded.Bookmark here

“Long!” Tess shouted, throwing a sword over to him.Bookmark here

I saw a familiar dragon hilt. Didn’t Kyoi keep possession of that weapon? Most likely, she transferred ownership of it over to the Gatekeeper, knowing she couldn’t attend today.Bookmark here

“Tomo, stay focused. We’ll move back. Based on the flame salamander’s movements, it’ll arrive at this spot in ten minutes. But, it’ll take us longer to create the actual hole. Back up and start there,” Tess analyzed.Bookmark here

“No one has answered my question about how we’re digging this hole yet!” I shouted, running along Tess.Bookmark here

“Darryl, you remember where the train was?” Tess asked.Bookmark here

“Yeah, it was along the train track further up,” the portal user replied.Bookmark here

“Good. Create portals and bring that train over there. I’ll give you exact coordinates,” Tess directed, pulling out her notebook.Bookmark here

How did she keep track of that? This plan was reckless. I should have been bait, considering Zhuyu only had his sword and vector powers. The flame salamander was a magical creature, as such Zhuyu was inadequate. Could he actually buy us enough time?Bookmark here

“Do you understand?” Tess asked, confirming details with Ichaival.Bookmark here

“Yeah. I’ll be back right away,” Ichaival nodded.Bookmark here

Ichaival dove into a portal. Tess pulled out the vial with the purple slime inside, staring at it for a few seconds. Shan glanced up at the sky and I followed his line of sight. A large portal opened up and the train plummeted downward. Shan adjusted the gravity, causing it to crash at a rapid rate, sand flying everywhere. That’s what Zhuyu meant. Thanks to him, we had a sizable hole.Bookmark here

I still held doubts about the success of this plan. Tess reinforced the hole with chains, making sure any water remained inside without being absorbed. I created ice walls near the holes, fulfilling my role. With Tess and Shan’s assistance, I transported all the ice. I blasted flames into the hole, melting everything within a minute. Okay, Zhuyu, the rest is up to you.Bookmark here

When Zhuyu and the flame salamander finally came into sight, I stepped back. He led the creature over, deflecting its flames. Seriously, what was that sheath made of? I noticed burn marks on his hands, realizing why he volunteered instead of letting anyone else do it.Bookmark here

“Darryl! You have enough portals left?” Zhuyu yelled, rolling away from an attack.Bookmark here

“Yeah! I got it!” Ichaival nodded.Bookmark here

A portal appeared above the flame salamander, transporting it straight into the water. The creature flailed around, but the water extinguished all its flames. Tess sealed the hole with chains, preventing the creature from escaping. A golden light shone from the chains. After thirty seconds of wild movements, it ceased. Zhuyu peered down, poking the beast with his sword sheath. Tess’ chains dimmed and then a red light emanated from the hole. After a burst of intense light, I noticed a red ruby floating on top of the water.Bookmark here

“Is that the flame salamander?” I asked.Bookmark here

“Yep, this is what happens after defeating the creature,” Tess replied, retrieving the gem.Bookmark here

“I’m glad this is over,” I said.Bookmark here

“Yes. We gained a lot of information. Long, can you find someone who can modify the gem for Tomo’s use?” Tess asked, tossing it over.Bookmark here

“I’ll ask Feng. I’m sure she knows someone. Good job, Tomo. Not as much action as I expected, but good enough,” Zhuyu answered.Bookmark here

Not enough action? We just defeated a flame salamander! If this did not match expectations, then I shuddered at the alternate possibilities. We returned back to the training facility after informing city officials. Pain coursed through my body, causing me to almost collapse. Tess noticed, helping me back up. Zhuyu discussed something with Shan and Ichaival.Bookmark here

“Tomo, focus on school for awhile. The rest of us will scout while you heal up,” Tess suggested, leading me over to a bench.Bookmark here

“Tess, are we done now?” Zhuyu asked.Bookmark here

“Yes, thank you for your assistance today. It is regrettable Feng could not join us, but you did well in her place,” Tess replied.Bookmark here

“I’m sure she would disagree with you. We’ll be leaving then,” Zhuyu disagreed, shaking his head.Bookmark here

Tess nodded and the three boys departed. I felt no specific pain anywhere, but overall general fatigue. After Tess completed a quick check up on my health, she drove me back home. When I entered the house, Mom sat at the dining table. What a rare sight since she usually slept early. Yukie also was present, reading a book.Bookmark here

“Yuki, welcome home. Did you have fun?” Mom asked with a chuckle.Bookmark here

“Sort of. I’m surprised you’re still up,” I observed.Bookmark here

“I was hoping you might bring someone home so I could meet them. You’ve crushed my dreams,” Mom pouted, making a mock sad face.Bookmark here

“What’s the real reason you’re up so late?” I asked, ignoring Mom’s comments.Bookmark here

“I was making soup and it took more time than I thought. You disappoint me, Yuki! Yukie, prove that you’re better than Yuki by cooking some amazing food tomorrow. I want to bury my sorrows with your delicious dishes,” Mom joked.Bookmark here

“Ah, I didn’t know that would be the culprit!” Yukie said, a surprised reaction on her face, turning the page.Bookmark here

“She’s not playing along, too bad. I’ll be up for one more hour if you want to ask me any questions,” Mom said with a downcast look.Bookmark here

“No thanks, Mom, I’ll be going to sleep,” I declined.Bookmark here

“Too bad. Yukie, what about you?” Mom asked, looking over at my cousin.Bookmark here

“No, thank you. I’ve had enough reading for tonight. Yuki, you look tired. Did something happen?” Yukie noticed my condition.Bookmark here

“Not much. Good night, Mom,” I shook my head.Bookmark here

I fell straight into my bed. How did the other heroes deal with this? They looked fine so it was probably just my inexperience.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.