Chapter 85:

Volume 4, Chapter 3: Down Time

Heroes of the Past

“Well done, Tomo,” Tess complimented.Bookmark here

“Now, what were you looking for?” Kisai muttered.Bookmark here

“Hey, Ichaival, you still good?” I asked the man.Bookmark here

“Back still hurts, but I’ll be fine. Kuan, can you take me over to that big rock? I want to sit down,” Ichaival requested.Bookmark here

“Yeah, let’s go,” Kuan nodded, dragging him over.Bookmark here

Kisai raised his right hand, swiping the air with his palm, and green firefly-like particles appeared. The mage observed them floating into the air. After awhile, they shifted colors, turning amber.Bookmark here

“There’s a large amount of magical energy nearby. Might be an item,” Kisai reported.Bookmark here

After a few minutes of rest, we embarked toward the source. Kisai led us to a small waterfall, glancing over at the Gatekeeper.Bookmark here

“There’s an entryway, but it’s not guarded by anything. Why isn’t there a stronger defense mechanism?” Kisai pondered.Bookmark here

“Trap,” Kuan concluded.Bookmark here

“Could be,” Kisai agreed.Bookmark here

“Let’s just bust in. Not like you guys haven’t done anything like that before,” I suggested.Bookmark here

“Tomo has a point,” Ichaival agreed.Bookmark here

Kisai raised his left palm in the air, and the ground shook, revealing a glowing entryway behind the waterfall.Bookmark here

“Perhaps it would be best for Tomo and Darryl to remain behind. His safety rests with you. If something occurs, it is useful to have someone on the outside,” Tess advised.Bookmark here

“Fine by me,” I said.Bookmark here

The entryway suddenly pulsated abnormally. It shrunk in size and Kisai dashed forward. He dove in, Kuan and Tess following right behind him. Without Kuan’s support, Ichaival fell to the ground with a thud. I walked over, hauling him back up.Bookmark here

“Now what?” Ichaival asked.Bookmark here

“Wait, that’s the only thing we can do. You want to sit down or stand?” I asked, lending Ichaival my shoulder.Bookmark here

“I’ll sit. I don’t want to be too much of a burden,” Ichaival chose.Bookmark here

“Whatever you want,” I said, sitting down a few feet from the waterfall.Bookmark here

“Appreciate the offer though,” Ichaival thanked me.Bookmark here

“I’ve been wondering, why do you keep agreeing with me?” I asked, curious about his motives.Bookmark here

“I know what it feels like,” he responded.Bookmark here

“What do you mean?” I asked for clarification.Bookmark here

“Being surrounded by a bunch of smart people. Letting them do all the work because they’re that good. When you say something, they don’t pay attention. Anyways, you’re right about what to do, so no reason not to,” Ichaival revealed his true feelings.Bookmark here

“Gotcha. Sucks how Shan makes fun of you so much,” I sympathized with him.Bookmark here

“Yeah, he’s a f**king asshole. Still my friend though,” Ichaival said with conviction.Bookmark here

“Then switch partners, you can do that, right?” I offered him a solution.Bookmark here

“Shigetzu has helped me out a bunch, and even if he’s a f**kin’ bastard, I trust him to have my back,” Ichaival disclosed.Bookmark here

“All of you have f**ked up friendships,” I concluded.Bookmark here

Ichaival was right about one thing. It was hard to do anything when everyone else was so capable. Made me feel all self-conscious. Looking over at the man, what potential topics could I bring up? Felicity, no, that was dangerous territory. Jen? Same thing. Shan? Probably just get more of the same, ‘he’s a bastard’ routine.Bookmark here

“Tomo, how do you feel about this whole thing? It’s been awhile since you’ve joined,” Ichaival asked.Bookmark here

“I was starting to have doubts, but I finally figured out my reasons for sticking around,” I replied.Bookmark here

“Glad you’re brightening up. They don’t show it, but I’m sure they’re worried, especially with how things went down,” Ichaival said.Bookmark here

I heard footsteps approaching. Ichaival tried standing up, but fell down onto his right knee. I motioned for him to stay down, seeing three people in the distance. Two women and one man. The women wore magician robes, a bizarre symbol on their hoods, which obscured their faces. The man wore a shining, golden piece of armor with the same symbol. He carried a helmet in his left hand.Bookmark here

“Good day to you, my lady,” the man greeted.Bookmark here

“And to you as well,” I responded.Bookmark here

“I am in search of a certain person. Have you seen this man?” he asked.Bookmark here

One of his companions pulled out a picture from her sleeve, showing it to me. I stared at it, not recognizing them. I thought they might be chasing Kisai, but turns out my assumption was incorrect, good for us.Bookmark here

“That is a shame. Thank you for your time. If I may be so bold, is your companion okay? He seems to be in deep pain,” the man observed, looking over at Ichaival.Bookmark here

“Oh, he just stumbled a little bit. He’ll be fine after some rest,” I replied.Bookmark here

“That is good news. We must be on our way now. Farewell and may good fortune shine upon you in your future endeavors,” the man left us with a positive parting message.Bookmark here

When the three people vanished from our sights, I heaved a sigh of relief. That knight displayed great etiquette, but would have not granted mercy, if we fought. Not to mention the two woman following him. We would have been overwhelmed.Bookmark here

“That was close,” Ichaival said.Bookmark here

“Tell me about it. They looked really strong too,” I said.Bookmark here

The others finally returned after what seemed like hours. Kisai carried a tablet, containing indentations for items to be placed in. Looks like they had fun. Wish I could say the same about Ichaival and myself.Bookmark here

“Tomo, anything to report?” Tess asked.Bookmark here

“Yeah, three people passed by,” I replied.Bookmark here

“Were they hostile?” Tess inquired.Bookmark here

“No, they were looking for someone. They had these weird marks, some kind of symbol,” I reported.Bookmark here

“Tess, think Tomo could identify it through the SIU database?” Kisai inquired.Bookmark here

“Yes. Let’s return for now. We’ve completed our main objective,” Tess answered.Bookmark here

Training FacilityBookmark here

Ichaival sprawled out on a bench, falling asleep. Tess opened an entire slideshow of symbols, going through them one-by-one.Bookmark here

“Right there,” I exclaimed.Bookmark here

Kisai peered at the screen and a look of concern appeared. It vanished immediately and he was back to his normal self.Bookmark here

“Vagabond mages. The ones opposed to scientific magic,” Kisai revealed, tapping the screen with his finger.Bookmark here

“What’s the significance?” I asked.Bookmark here

“There’s a truce for now, but there will probably be war between the two…. no, three sides. The side of scientific magic, the side of pure magic, and finally the side of…. uh, how do I put it? Sort of indifference, I guess,” Kisai explained.Bookmark here

“Indifference?” I repeated his phrase.Bookmark here

“Yeah, they didn’t give a s**t one way or the other. Great, isn’t it?” Kisai smiled.Bookmark here

“No, it’s not. You’re telling me there’s going to be a civil war?” I questioned.Bookmark here

“It was my entire reason for being summoned there in the first place,” Kisai said.Bookmark here

“Hold on. Your goal was to incite civil war?” I was caught off guard by his answer.Bookmark here

“Of course, isn’t that what heroes do? Jokes aside, that’s part of the reason. I’ll tell you the other part once we break the seal. Secrecy and contracts, go take it up with Tess,” Kisai joked, glancing at the Gatekeeper.Bookmark here

“I’m used to it by now. You can at least tell me about that tablet, right?” I asked, curious about the item.Bookmark here

“Damn maze in there. Traps everywhere and logic puzzles. But I was there so we solved everything. Kuan kind of helped, not really. Anyways, we found this at the end,” Kisai recounted.Bookmark here

“Why is it so special?” I asked.Bookmark here

“Find all the pieces, you unlock an Artifact,” Kisai revealed.Bookmark here

“What makes Artifact so special?” I inquired about the term.Bookmark here

“An item that unlocks the potential of one’s powers. Hard to find them though. I suspect that’s what Lilith and her team are looking for. Anyways, we know what to do next. Find the missing pieces and see what we get. The Artifact isn’t super helpful right now but might in handy later,” Kisai expounded.Bookmark here

“Great. Tess, is Ichaival going to be okay?” I pointed at the sleeping man.Bookmark here

“He’ll feel sore but no major concerns. Jin, I trust you’ll get him home,” Tess replied.Bookmark here

“Yeah, I will. Kuan, can you help me with something over here?” Kisai asked.Bookmark here

“Tess, I’m going to head back home. You don’t need me for anything, right?” I asked, heading toward the exit.Bookmark here

“Not at the moment,” Tess replied.Bookmark here

Arriving back at my house, I saw Yukie with Dad in the kitchen. How rare. Dad never cooked.Bookmark here

“Hey, I’m home,” I greeted them.Bookmark here

“Welcome home, Yuki. Something’s wrong the stove,” Dad said.Bookmark here

“Did you break it cooking something?” I looked at him with suspicion.Bookmark here

“Come on, Yuki! Don’t look at me like that. Yukie was preparing dinner when it happened,” he denied.Bookmark here

“Can you fix it?” I asked, staring at him.Bookmark here

“Yeah. Yukie was helping me out. Dinner will be a little late today. Could you call your mom and tell her?” Dad requested, looking through his toolbox.Bookmark here

“Sure. I’ll be in my room if you need me,” I nodded.Bookmark here

After informing Mom about the delay, I opened my closet. It was still surreal to have so many clothes. Might as well start wearing some now. They wouldn’t do any good just hanging there. Yukie called me down for dinner at seven. Mom sat at the dinner table, staring at the kitchen with a piercing look.Bookmark here

“Did you have a fun time?” Mom questioned me.Bookmark here

“I wouldn’t say fun, but I didn’t hate it,” I answered.Bookmark here

“My daughter, that attitude of yours is still the same. I thought you might be more….,” Mom didn’t finish her sentence.Bookmark here

“I know what you want to say, Mom and you’re kind of right,” I said.Bookmark here

“Change is possible for you after all,” Mom said.Bookmark here

“Are those the type of words you should say?” I questioned.Bookmark here

“Of course. We can talk more about it another time if you truly wish,” Mom offered.Bookmark here

“I’m okay with how things are,” I declined.Bookmark here

“I’m always here. That reminds me, I’m a bit sad none of your new friends have accepted my offer from last time,” Mom lamented, clapping her hands.Bookmark here

“What offer?” I questioned.Bookmark here

“Exchanging information for money. Surely, you haven’t forgotten. I would have thought the boys would unload their savings,” Mom reminded me.Bookmark here

“No one in their right mind would do that. They would be embarrassed if anyone knew,” I disagreed.Bookmark here

“That makes me sad, Yuki. It just means the boys aren’t dedicated enough. They’ll realize the error of their ways,” Mom emphasized.Bookmark here

“Yeah, I’m sure they’re really heartbroken,” I said, my statement laced with sarcasm.Bookmark here

“Could we eat dinner now? Yuki is tired of your jokes,” Dad asked, pointing at the food.Bookmark here

“Yes, let us eat,” Mom said, picking up her chopsticks.Bookmark here

After dinner, I checked my planner. Homework was done, same with the assigned reading. Everything looked to be in order. S**t, finals were creeping up on us. I was actually a bit scared. Maybe I should ask Yukie and Tess to help me review.Bookmark here

Wednesday Winter Quarter 2016 Week 7Bookmark here

“Hey, Zhuyu, can I ask you a question?” I asked.Bookmark here

I was in the student lounge as usual, a habit since meeting the heroes. Zhuyu, Jacque, and Kisai were present. Zhuyu did homework from his textbook. Kisai stared down at his phone, earphones in. Jacque, well, he was himself. I grew accustomed to his pessimistic and bleak outlook on life.Bookmark here

“Go ahead. You don’t have to be so polite,” Zhuyu said, placing his mechanical pencil down.Bookmark here

His pencil was pink, cute rabbit faces plastered across it. Never expected Zhuyu to use something like that. I wonder if someone gave it to him as a gift, or if he bought it himself.Bookmark here

“Tomo, what’s your question?” Zhuyu asked, snapping me out of my thoughts.Bookmark here

“Oh, sorry. Um, this question here. It’s about center of mass,” I answered, showing him the problem.Bookmark here

“You don’t need to do the integration. It’s symmetrical so apply this formula. You don’t have to worry about the other side since it’ll be zero,” Zhuyu explained, drawing a line down the middle, showing me the steps.Bookmark here

“Makes sense. Thanks,” I said, grateful for his assistance.Bookmark here

“Have you watched any of the battle videos?” Zhuyu asked, continuing his work as before.Bookmark here

“I haven’t, been too busy with all my chemistry homework,” I replied.Bookmark here

“You might want to make skip through some of them,” Zhuyu warned.Bookmark here

“What do you mean?” I asked.Bookmark here

“Sometimes they’re just us messing around. Jin knows what I mean,” Zhuyu said, glancing over at his friend.Bookmark here

“We’re serious all the time. I don’t make mistakes. Every battle on record is me 100% at my best,” Kisai responded.Bookmark here

I pulled out my phone and the screen remained black, even after hitting the power button. I forgot to charge it last night. Oh wait, Yukie’s bracelet! The battery icon popped up, confirming it worked.Bookmark here

“You have a portable charger like Shigetzu,” Zhuyu commented.Bookmark here

“Does he?” I asked, not recalling ever seeing him with one.Bookmark here

“Yeah, he goes through his phone battery before classes are over, so it’s really convenient. Never seen a charger like yours before,” Zhuyu replied.Bookmark here

“Yukie made it,” I revealed.Bookmark here

“Pretty cool,” Kisai complimented.Bookmark here

“If I could design something functional like that, it would be awesome. Just the appearance, of course, I’m too dumb for the actual insides,” Jacque joined the conversation.Bookmark here

“Jacque, come on, what did I tell you before? You have to stop with the negativity. I see enough bulls**t from Shan and the others. You don’t have be like this,” I chided him.Bookmark here

“Tomo, who do you think I am? This is what I’m like every day. Except in the summer, but I have summer classes this year, so f**k my life again,” Jacque sighed, ignoring my message.Bookmark here

I checked the charge on my phone, before heading to English, and saw it three-fourths full. Better remember to inform Yukie about this when I got home.Bookmark here

“You leaving?” Jacque asked, placing an orange slice into his mouth.Bookmark here

“Yeah, I’ll see you tomorrow,” I nodded, unplugging my phone.Bookmark here

“See you later,” Zhuyu said, glancing up from his schoolwork.Bookmark here

“See ya,” Kisai said, still staring at his phone.Bookmark here

I arrived in English class, searching for seats. The professor liked picking on students in the back. I saw the middle row empty, picking a random spot there. I took out my notebook and looking up front, spotted someone familiar.Bookmark here

“Oh s**t,” I whispered to myself.Bookmark here

Bartholomew. Calm down, Yuki. He might be the protégé of a douchebag, but that didn’t mean it translated over to his real life persona.Bookmark here

“Unfortunately, a matter has come up, and I must leave in thirty minutes. We will have a shorter class period than normal. As such, there will be extra reading for tonight…,” the professor announced.Bookmark here

When class ended, I waited for Bartholomew to leave first, hoping to avoid him. However, he sat in his seat for awhile, jotting down something. I stood up in a hurry, rushing to the back exit. I heaved a sigh of relief, once outside. That was too close.Bookmark here

“Tomo Yuki, I never thought I would see you here,” a voice called out.Bookmark here

“Surprised to see you too,” I agreed, taking a cautious approach.Bookmark here

“How do you like the class so far? The professor is a bit eccentric, but his lectures are definitely informative,” Bartholomew questioned.Bookmark here

A normal conversation with no threats? I thought he might challenge me to a fight, but he was just making small talk. Maybe he wasn’t so bad after all. Without Lionel around, he was more reserved.Bookmark here

“The professor definitely is weird, but I like his little stories about all the books we’re assigned. Never really thought you were the type to take an English class though,” I replied.Bookmark here

“It’s a requirement for graduation and I am an aspiring English major. After all, we’re both freshman, correct?” Bartholomew revealed.Bookmark here

“Yeah,” I nodded.Bookmark here

“Tomo, one more thing. I have a message from Lionel,” Bartholomew said.Bookmark here

What kind of threat was it this time? Most likely one full of empty promises and false strength.Bookmark here

“Inform Ichaival Darryl that I desire an exhibition battle. Doesn’t have to be today, but sometime soon. Now for Lionel’s message. He wants a rank-up match against someone from your ‘litter of ugly kittens’. That’s about it,” Bartholomew relayed.Bookmark here

“Why aren’t you going through Tess?” I pointed out.Bookmark here

“I believe it’s better to be personal with messages, than have a third party involved,” Bartholomew answered.Bookmark here

“That’s what’s happening here,” I exposed the flaw in his answer.Bookmark here

“Yes, but it is hardly viable for me to go locate Ichaival down at his community college. So, Tomo, I would very much be grateful, if you can tell Tess and Ichaival,” Bartholomew said, departing after his explanation.Bookmark here

“Heading home already, Yuki?” someone asked.Bookmark here

Yuka walked up to me, holding a book. No Champ anywhere, good.Bookmark here

“Yeah, you still have class?” I answered.Bookmark here

“I am finished for the day. I was hoping to meet up with Champ later, but he’s busy,” Yuka said.Bookmark here

“I can drive you home,” I offered.Bookmark here

“That would be great. I’ve been carrying extra books, since I checked them out from the library,” Yuka accepted my offer.Bookmark here

She wasn’t lying. I heard them hit against each other, making a loud thud once the backpack tipped over. Yuka, I worry about your back.Bookmark here

“Anything new?” I asked.Bookmark here

“Not much. I’ve been looking at bookcases online and haven’t decided which one to buy yet,” Yuka replied.Bookmark here

“Bookcases? Don’t you already have one?” I asked.Bookmark here

“I wanted to get another one, so I could organize all my fiction and non-fiction. I’m running out of room,” Yuka said.Bookmark here

“I don’t know how you manage to do it. You spend more on normal books than textbooks,” I remarked.Bookmark here

“Don’t worry, I get free books from the bookstore I work at part-time, so I save money that way,” Yuka revealed.Bookmark here

“You’ve always been like that. How’s your classes this quarter?” I asked.Bookmark here

“I’m handling everything okay. I do have a ten page essay due next week and a five page essay due on Friday. I’ll work on that once I get home,” Yuka answered.Bookmark here

“Sounds terrible. Ichizen would have loved that. Too time consuming,” I voiced my opinion.Bookmark here

“It’s so fun, Yuki. Formulating the argument and finding evidence for it. There’s so many different sides you can take. Especially if it’s a book or topic other people have contributed to,” Yuka gushed.Bookmark here

“I still don’t like it very much. All of your classes this quarter are writing related, right?” I realized.Bookmark here

“Yep, I wanted to get them out of the way, so I could apply for the major. I really would love to do research on older stories, you know, trace their origins,” Yuka nodded.Bookmark here

“I’m still thinking about what I want to do,” I remarked.Bookmark here

“Isn’t that normal? You’ll find something, Yuki. You always do,” Yuka encouraged.Bookmark here

“Thanks. How’s Champ?” I inquired.Bookmark here

“You never like to talk about things like that, Yuki. When did you become so interested in other people’s affairs?” Yuka questioned.Bookmark here

“Just tell me already,” I said, stopping at a red light.Bookmark here

“Champ’s been acting kind of weird lately. He’s been reading a lot of introductory books on math and science,” Yuka confided.Bookmark here

He was trying to pinpoint the hero’s weaknesses. I had doubts he could do so. It wouldn’t matter how many books he read, especially concerning Kisai. Counteracting his magic and quick thinking required skills Yuka’s boyfriend lacked. That sort of thing stemmed from experience, more than research.Bookmark here

“Yuki, I noticed you’re wearing a new outfit. Who picked it out?” Yuka observed, pointing at my coat.Bookmark here

“Oh, Felicity invited me and Tess to the mall on Sunday. She knew this designer who hooked us up,” I replied.Bookmark here

“I never thought you and Felicity would become such great friends,” Yuka remarked, smiling.Bookmark here

“To be honest, I didn’t either. Felicity isn’t exactly the type of person I thought I could get along with very well,” I agreed.Bookmark here

“That’s so cold of you, Yuki, but that is you,” Yuka commented.Bookmark here

“I can’t help it,” I shrugged, pulling into Yuka’s driveway.Bookmark here

“You still ended up being her friend though. You’re slowly making progress. Thanks for the ride,” Yuka exited with a wave.Bookmark here

I shifted gears to reverse, but saw my phone vibrate. I glanced at the screen, seeing Tess’ name. Perfect timing.Bookmark here

“Hey, Tess, I have something….,” I began but Tess prevented me from finishing.Bookmark here

“I will be busy for the next few days. However, I will leave a portal open, which requires a key. Kisai will have possession of it, so contact him if you wish to head in,” Tess revealed.Bookmark here

“Okay. Oh, I talked to Bartholomew today, and he wanted an exhibition match with Ichaival. Lionel wanted a rank-up match,” I informed her of their request.Bookmark here

“I will approve Bartholomew’s match with Darryl. Lionel must wait. I apologize, but can you contact Darryl for me? Reach out to Shigetzu if you need his contact information. Goodbye for now,” Tess directed, hanging up.Bookmark here

Damn it, all this extra work foisted onto me. I checked my contacts, realizing I didn’t have Shan’s number. Hold on, I did have Zhuyu’s contact information. He definitely knew Ichaival.Bookmark here

“Zhuyu, it’s me, Tomo,” I greeted.Bookmark here

“Did something happen?” he asked, his voice not exactly pleasant, but not irritated either.Bookmark here

“Could you call Ichaival for me? Tess approved an exhibition match between Bartholomew and him,” I asked.Bookmark here

“I can try, but he probably won’t respond. Is that it?” Zhuyu asked.Bookmark here

“Yeah, thanks a lot for your help, Zhuyu,” I replied.Bookmark here

“If you really need to see him, I can show you where he lives,” Zhuyu offered.Bookmark here

“It would be weird for me to just show up,” I refused.Bookmark here

“Yeah, you’re right. Never mind then,” Zhuyu agreed, understanding my viewpoint.Bookmark here

Alright, onto the next thing. Ask Kisai when he wanted to head into his affiliated dimension. I would plan around it, doing homework and other stuff beforehand.Bookmark here

“Kisai, it’s me, Tomo. Tess said you have the key to enter your dimension,” I started off the conversation.Bookmark here

“Did you want to go this week?” Kisai questioned.Bookmark here

“I was thinking you should decide, considering you know the dimension better than me,” I replied.Bookmark here

“I have work this weekend, so how about Friday, after you’re done with classes?” Kisai decided.Bookmark here

“Works for me. Wait, are Ichaival and Kuan free that day?” I asked.Bookmark here

“Why can’t it just be the two of us?” Kisai said with obvious humor.Bookmark here

“Uh….,” I thought of an appropriate answer.Bookmark here

“Don’t worry, pretty sure Kuan’s free. If Darryl doesn’t show up, then he’s a scrub. He’ll be there though, trust me,” Kisai assured me of their participation.Bookmark here

“I leave it to you,” I said.Bookmark here

“We could get Feng, you know. Have her just tear through everything. Or even Long, he can just stand there and be bait,” Kisai offered alternatives.Bookmark here

“You’re just messing with me now, Kisai,” I said, a little amused by his statement.Bookmark here

“Okay, okay. I’ll be serious. It worked last time with just us, right? Without Tess, this could be problematic, but should be fine,” Kisai said.Bookmark here

“Just don’t get us killed, please,” I said.Bookmark here

“No promises. I’ll see you later, then,” Kisai hung up.Bookmark here

Friday, huh? There was chemistry homework due that night, so I should finish it now. Then, there were midterms to worry about too. I still had the weekend and Monday too. Everything would work out.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.