Chapter 79:

Volume 3, Chapter 23: Kuan Joins The Party

Heroes of the Past

Friday Winter Quarter 2016 Week 6Bookmark here

"This sucks I have to be here, especially on a day off," I said, sitting down on a bench in the training facility.Bookmark here

"It's an optimal time since you can go home and rest after finishing this," Tess noted, throwing me a water bottle.Bookmark here

"Weird to be here so early on a school day," I remarked.Bookmark here

"I'll head over to your house once we complete our operation. If what you said is true, then it might be helpful in learning about Ace's motivation. Especially if it reveals her method of coercion on Michi," Tess informed me.Bookmark here

"I'll have to find the final volume, since it's not on my bookshelf. Do you really think there will be something that you can use?" I asked with skepticism.Bookmark here

"No matter how small the detail, it warrants investigation," Tess replied.Bookmark here

"Okay, go ahead. I just happened to find it the other day, so I was a bit surprised," I agreed to her request.Bookmark here

I conversed with Tess about various things, while waiting for Kisai. It wasn't much of a conversation. More like me asking questions and then large pauses in between. It still felt awkward talking to Tess, especially since I didn't know any of her hobbies. Might be a good chance to do it now.Bookmark here

"Hey, Tess, what do you....?" I started asking, but Kisai arrived.Bookmark here

A man with long hair, wearing aqua-colored glasses and a silver beanie, accompanied the mage. Oh, Kuan was joining us today.Bookmark here

"Sorry for the wait, Tomo. I woke up late," Kisai apologized, greeting me.Bookmark here

"Let's get going," Tess glanced up from her tablet.Bookmark here

"I have something for you," Kuan relayed.Bookmark here

He handed me a USB drive. Oh, that's right, I requested battle videos. I thanked him, slipping it into my pockets.Bookmark here

"What kind of videos are on here?" I asked, looking over at Kuan.Bookmark here

"Actually, no videos. That will give you access to the server all the videos are on. Here's the stuff you'll need to type in," Kuan revealed, handing me a folded piece of paper.Bookmark here

"Okay, thanks a lot. What are we doing today?" I asked Tess.Bookmark here

"We'll head to Jin's dimension and locate the seal, determining our actions after that," Tess answered.Bookmark here

"Wait, it isn't a weapon, but a seal?" I inquired further.Bookmark here

"Jin is a rather special case. He doesn't have an ultimate weapon. You can ask him for details," Tess revealed.Bookmark here

"No ultimate weapon? Kisai must be pretty good then," I commented.Bookmark here

"Nah, I'm a scrub. You shouldn't think so highly of me, Tomo," Kisai joined in with an entertaining smile.Bookmark here

"He is, but at least he's useful, most of the time," Kuan agreed, nodding his head.Bookmark here

"Hold on, let's wait for Darryl. I prefer a party of five for this task," Tess revealed.Bookmark here

Kisai and Kuan nodded, walking over to a bench. I decided now might be a good time to ask them questions about Tess.Bookmark here

"How is Tess so persuasive?" I asked, curious how she convinced Ichaival.Bookmark here

"Well....," Kuan started, but Kisai cut him off.Bookmark here

"Cuz we're her bi**hes," Kisai replied with a goofy smile.Bookmark here

"Really?" I asked, not sure if Kisai was joking or not.Bookmark here

"Okay, I'll be serious. Darryl was probably just free or Tess is blackmailing him," Kisai gave a serious answer.Bookmark here

"Tess is good. I've been tricked by her before," Kuan admitted.Bookmark here

"I can see what you mean," I agreed.Bookmark here

"Hey, Jin, you have work later?" Kuan questioned.Bookmark here

"I'm pretty free. Something going on?" Kisai answered.Bookmark here

"Let's play that new game. The multi-player for it is stable, compared to the servers we're usually on," Kuan explained.Bookmark here

"Aight, let's do it," Kisai liked his friend's suggestion.Bookmark here

"I wanted to learn a few things about Tess. Anything I should know?" I requested.Bookmark here

"You seem pretty close to her. I don't know how much more I could tell you," Kisai reacted with surprise at my question.Bookmark here

"I do spend a lot of time with her, but don't really pry into her personal life," I said.Bookmark here

"I see very clearly. I don't think Kuan and I could tell you much more than you already know. Why not try Felicity? They've been friends for a long time," Kisai directed me to an alternative.Bookmark here

"I only deal with Tess when we're doing this stuff, can't say much about her as a person," Kuan elaborated.Bookmark here

"Can't you at least tell me what Tess likes to do in her free time and her hobbies, those sort of things?" I clarified my expectations.Bookmark here

"No idea," Kuan replied, grinning at my statement.Bookmark here

Tess wasn't exactly the most open person, nor did she talk about her own life. Damn, this was tough. Wait, I just remembered something.Bookmark here

"Hey, Kisai, you haven't answered my question from last time," I reminded.Bookmark here

"Oh, that one? Felicity is interesting like I said. She appears laid back about most stuff, but gets serious about the weirdest things. Not the most stable. Wait, don't tell her I said that. Anyway, good friend who will help you out. Better than Long, if you know what I mean," Kisai answered with his usual humorous expression.Bookmark here

"She's pretty angry about petty things. I have to be careful about what I say," Kuan voiced his opinion too.Bookmark here

"I already got a taste of that," I nodded.Bookmark here

"Oh yeah? Especially about Darryl. She'll flip out on you mentioning some other girl," Kuan shuddered.Bookmark here

"I made that mistake already," I recalled.Bookmark here

"I feel sorry for you," Kuan said, a sympathetic look on his face.Bookmark here

"Hey, let's not go too far here. Felicity may have her faults, but she's still a good person. Just remember that, Tomo. Or not, you don't have to listen to what I say," Kisai interrupted us.Bookmark here

"Yeah, I know," I nodded at his words.Bookmark here

Fifteen minutes later, Darryl arrived wearing headphones and a black brand name jacket. He greeted Tess first, before walking over to us.Bookmark here

"Hey, what's up?" he greeted.Bookmark here

"Darryl, the hell were you doing? What took you so long?" Kisai asked.Bookmark here

"What? I was just brushing my teeth and took a shower. It took awhile for me to get ready," Ichaival responded.Bookmark here

"Are you Felicity or something?" Kuan joked.Bookmark here

"What? No!" Ichaival exclaimed.Bookmark here

"Are you all ready? Let's not waste any more time talking," Tess walked over, signaling for us to move out.Bookmark here

Jin's Dimension, Parts UnknownBookmark here

I blinked, finding myself in a forest and heard the flow of water nearby. Tall trees and other foliage surrounded us. Didn't expect Kisai's area to be so.... natural. I anticipated a more medieval setting, appropriate for warriors and mages. Then again, Kisai wasn't a typical spellcaster.Bookmark here

"Pretty nice to be back here again, after such a long time. I definitely miss the place," Kisai said, glancing around the area with a smile.Bookmark here

"Are we gonna be attacked anytime soon? That's what I want to know," I asked, wary.Bookmark here

"Nah, it's peaceful around here. Tess, any information on the seal?" Kisai assured me, looking over at the Gatekeeper.Bookmark here

"No. The layout may have changed during our absence, so there's no guarantee the seal remains in its previous area," Tess shook her head, waving her golden key in the air.Bookmark here

"Sounds like a good time to gather info. Let's head out to the village. There should be a settlement close by," Kisai suggested, leading the way.Bookmark here

Walking as usual, huh? At least the scenery was improved, more relaxing than the dreary desert. Kisai's assessment of it being peaceful was spot on. I wouldn't mind visiting this area again. I walked next to Ichaival, while Kuan conversed with Kisai. Tess brought up the rear, swinging her golden key.Bookmark here

"Hey, Ichaival, Shan's not around today," I brought up.Bookmark here

"I'm not always with him. Don't need him to win either, I can handle myself just fine," Ichaival retorted.Bookmark here

"Sure. You're pretty capable from what I've seen," I nodded at his assessment.Bookmark here

"Thanks for believing in me, Tomo. Unlike those ungrateful bastards over there," Ichaival motioned at Kuan and Kisai.Bookmark here

"You still are pretty good friends with them. How's school been for you?" I brought up.Bookmark here

"It's been going alright. Classes have gotten kind of hard, but I have to push through," Ichaival responded, starting an ascent up a steep path.Bookmark here

"Yep, feel the same way. How did you meet Kisai and the others anyways?" I asked, interested in how they met.Bookmark here

"Around sophomore year of high school, we were in the same class. Same with Long," Ichaival responded.Bookmark here

"How convenient," I commented.Bookmark here

"Sort of? I guess that's how you make most friends, right?" Ichaival remarked.Bookmark here

"Can't argue with that. It is natural you get to know your classmates, much less in college though," I realized.Bookmark here

"Really? I still meet a lot of people, but I have smaller classes," the false archer said.Bookmark here

"That's certainly true. I was wondering, but have you always used blades?" I questioned.Bookmark here

"I actually used Kali sticks before, but haven't used them since they were sealed," Ichaival responded.Bookmark here

"Kali sticks, huh? Never heard of them before," I said.Bookmark here

"So, Tomo, how have you been? Jin's been training you, right? I'm sure he's done a really good job," Ichaival praised his friend.Bookmark here

"Yeah, he has. Kisai is pretty calm about everything," I agreed.Bookmark here

"That's great. It'll be nice to have someone else support us with magic. You know, since Long doesn't have his dragon powers anymore," Ichaival said.Bookmark here

"Isn't Kisai more than enough?" I pointed out.Bookmark here

"If Jin's busy, we don't have another option. Feng's amazing, but she's well, kind of hard to work with. Long and Zhang were trained by her, so they're the only ones who get how to do things when she's around. It's nice to have someone like you, good change from everyone else," Ichaival explained.Bookmark here

"Okay, makes sense. How much do you know about this dimension?" I understood his sentiments.Bookmark here

"A mix of old tradition and new technology. There are some really great nature places like this and then there are the super modern cities. There's three different ways of thinking here. Jin can tell you more," Ichaival attempted an explanation.Bookmark here

"Seems complicated. I'm amazed you actually managed to get here right after Tess asked," I remarked.Bookmark here

"We all owe Tess, so it wouldn't be good to refuse her. I'd feel bad about it, you know?" Ichaival phrased his answer in a peculiar way.Bookmark here

"You owe Tess? Like how Zhuyu owes Kyoi?" I questioned the validity of his claim.Bookmark here

"You know, things come up. Long's situation is complicated too," Ichaival shrugged his shoulders.Bookmark here

"Just shows how hard it is for me to figure everyone out. I should probably try hanging out with them more, right?" I chuckled at my own suggestion.Bookmark here

"Hey, that's not a bad idea. Might as well try, right?" Ichaival agreed.Bookmark here

We arrived at the bottom of a path, walking through a large Japanese style arch. Kisai stopped, taking a few steps back. Kuan inspected the ground, nodding his head.Bookmark here

“What’s wrong?” I asked.Bookmark here

“Traps,” Kisai replied.Bookmark here

“You’re gonna deactivate them?” I questioned.Bookmark here

“Kuan, demonstrate your other power,” Tess ordered.Bookmark here

He adjusted his glasses, staring at the ground. Kuan then tapped Kisai on the shoulder, who tapped the ground with his foot, giving a nod.Bookmark here

“What’s happening?” I looked around in confusion.Bookmark here

“Tomo, are you familiar with basic programming?” Tess asked.Bookmark here

“Uh, not really,” I replied.Bookmark here

“Kuan’s power is known as conditional execution. There are checks in coding where it’ll execute if certain conditions are met. That’s the basis of Kuan’s powers,” Tess explained, giving me her usual serious look.Bookmark here

“I’ll take your word for it,” I said.Bookmark here

“Jin’s familiar with the trap so that helped. My powers aren’t much use if I don’t know enough,” Kuan remarked.Bookmark here

“Let’s keep on moving. Kuan’s quite valuable,” Tess praised him.Bookmark here

We finally arrived at a gate with gray walls. This resembled a fortified army base more than an actual village. Kisai knocked on the gate, glancing upward at the lookout perched on top. The gate flew open with a loud whoosh and a small child stared at us.Bookmark here

“Hey, how’s it going? It’s been a long time,” Kisai greeted.Bookmark here

“Ah, Jin! I have to go tell everyone,” he exclaimed, scurrying off.Bookmark here

“You know him?” I asked, glancing over at Kisai.Bookmark here

“Yeah, he’s the kid of a mage I saved. Wonder if the council knows anything,” Kisai answered.Bookmark here

“Jin, you’ll take the lead,” Tess declared.Bookmark here

“Don’t want to do it?” Kisai asked with a slight grin.Bookmark here

“You know this dimension’s inner workings much better than me,” Tess answered, shaking her head.Bookmark here

“We all know you’re freaking capable,” Ichaival sighed, shaking his head.Bookmark here

“You’re right, man. Of course,” Jin agreed, nodding at Ichaival.Bookmark here

A group of five people walked towards us. Kisai glanced at them, and for a second, his face turned rather serious. It reverted back to his usual calm, amused look soon after.Bookmark here

“The legendary mage makes his appearance known once again,” one of them uttered in a nasally voice.Bookmark here

“Can’t seem to get enough of this place,” Kisai replied.Bookmark here

“Your appearance is no blessing to us,” another accused.Bookmark here

“Regardless of how you view Jin, we’ve come for information,” Tess declared, standing next to Kisai.Bookmark here

“You’re not a welcome sight either. Come to the counsel room, but only you and the mage. Boy, lead the rest to your house,” the first voice decided.Bookmark here

“That’s how you want to do things, huh?” Kisai muttered.Bookmark here

“Sorry to impose,” Tess said, looking over at the boy.Bookmark here

“Come on, follow me!” the boy offered.Bookmark here

We arrived at a medium sized house with a large pond in the front, filled with leaping fish. Our guide unlatched the gate, placing his hand on a digital panel. A pathway opened up for us.Bookmark here

“Hey, come inside. Dad wants to see you,” the child urged.Bookmark here

“Welcome. I heard you’re companions of Jin, the great mage,” a voice greeted.Bookmark here

A tall man, with a gash above his left eye, appeared. He wore a light blue kimono and the stubble on his face made him look rugged.Bookmark here

“We should probably introduce ourselves. I’m Tomo Yuki,” I said.Bookmark here

“Jeong Kuan,” Kuan finally revealed his family name.Bookmark here

“I’m Ichaival Darryl. Sorry for coming in so suddenly. Hope we aren’t bothering you,” Ichaival said, demonstrating the most courtesy.Bookmark here

“No, not at all. I’ve been just sitting around all day. It was a great shock to hear Jin returned, as we thought the entire incident had already been resolved,” the man laughed.Bookmark here

“Dad, Dad! You haven’t told them your name yet. How can you be so forgetful?” the child scolded him.Bookmark here

“How forgetful of me. I’m Ishi and this is my kid, Grant,” the man said in a booming voice.Bookmark here

“Jeez, you can’t really do anything without Mom around,” Grant scolded, shaking his head.Bookmark here

“Hey, don’t sell your old man short. Anyways, Jin’s talking to those five fools, right?” Ishi asked, his face now serious.Bookmark here

“Fools?” I questioned his choice of words.Bookmark here

“Our little five member council. At least that’s what they claim to be,” Ishi revealed.Bookmark here

“Can you tell us more?” Kuan requested.Bookmark here

“They’re extremely secretive. I wouldn’t trust any of them,” Ishi responded.Bookmark here

“And Jin’s relationship with them?” Kuan asked.Bookmark here

“Jin can alienate people, without him really noticing. Not that I’ve ever thought about him that way. He’s a damn good kid,” Ishi replied, pouring us tea.Bookmark here

“Of course,” Kuan said.Bookmark here

“How’s the seal related to all of this?” I asked.Bookmark here

“The location of it is here. Well, more like the portal leading to it,” Ishi revealed.Bookmark here

“Are you serious?” Ichaival exclaimed.Bookmark here

“Wasn’t there one more of you?” Ishi counted on his fingers.Bookmark here

“She’s with Jin right now. Do you know her?” I replied.Bookmark here

“I’ve seen her a few times before with Jin, but never asked her name. I’m impressed, but scared by her at the same time. Her magic reservoir is ridiculous,” Ishi answered.Bookmark here

“Do they suspect she knows something about the seal?” I followed up.Bookmark here

“They want to see how she reacts. Probably won’t get anything out of her,” Ishi answered.Bookmark here

Ishi excused himself, asking us to make ourselves comfortable, while he and his son departed the room.Bookmark here

“What do you think, Tomo?” Kuan asked.Bookmark here

“Kuan, you seem like a totally different person,” I observed.Bookmark here

“No idea what you mean,” Kuan denied.Bookmark here

“Where’s your usual, well, quirkiness?” I tried pinpointing what felt wrong.Bookmark here

“Kuan’s always weird, still is,” Ichaival commented.Bookmark here

“Damn, Ichaival, you figured me out,” Kuan smiled, sitting closer to Ichaival.Bookmark here

“Really?” Ichaival protested.Bookmark here

“Anyways, let’s be serious. Tomo, any opinions?” Kuan reverted back to his serious face.Bookmark here

“Either Kisai’s not telling us the truth about the seal, or Tess is lying,” I replied.Bookmark here

“True and the old man doesn’t know anything either. Ichaival, any thoughts?” Kuan looked over at his friend.Bookmark here

“Same as you guys. We can’t do s**t without Jin,” Ichaival replied.Bookmark here

“Hey, Kuan, how did you meet the others?” I asked about their origins.Bookmark here

“I met Long in freshman year. Jin too. I really started to get to know Darryl, probably around sophomore year, right?” Kuan answered, glancing at the false archer.Bookmark here

“That sounds right,” the Filipino man answered.Bookmark here

“What about all this hero stuff?” I elaborated on my previous question.Bookmark here

“Oh, you mean that. Probably middle of junior year, I honestly don’t remember,” Kuan ventured a guess.Bookmark here

“Definitely junior year. I got dragged into it with Shigetzu,” Ichaival added on.Bookmark here

“Interesting. You know….,” I started, but then felt drowsy.Bookmark here

I dropped the tea cup and my vision blurred. Kuan noticed my condition immediately, tapping his glass frames, but slumped downward. Really, this s**t was drugged? Of all the things, I swear….Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.