Chapter 86:

Volume 4, Chapter 4: The Crossroads

Heroes of the Past

Friday Winter Quarter 2016 Week 7Bookmark here

“Jen, you joining us today?” I inquired.Bookmark here

“Tess asked me to tag along. I hope I’m not in the way,” Jen replied, shooting an arrow and missing the bullseye by a few centimeters.Bookmark here

“Glad you’re here. Kinda awkward with just Kisai and the others,” I said.Bookmark here

“I’m looking forward to working with you today, Yuki,” Jen responded with a soft smile.Bookmark here

“Same here. Trying to get in some practice before we head in?” I asked, seeing no one else around.Bookmark here

“Yeah, I haven’t picked up a bow in two weeks, so this is a good opportunity. It would be bad if I couldn’t help you guys out,” Jen answered, notching another arrow.Bookmark here

“Must be hard with school and then having to come here,” I commented.Bookmark here

“You’re right, but everyone has it like that. You have it the worst out of everyone, Yuki,” Jen said.Bookmark here

“You think so? I haven’t really done anything besides just standing back and watching,” I disagreed.Bookmark here

“You’re still learning. Besides, your powers make it hard on you, having to pick up so many things at once,” Jen pointed out.Bookmark here

“I guess,” I admitted.Bookmark here

“Everyone around here is nice, so I’m sure they’ll help you. I was like you when I started out too,” Jen encouraged.Bookmark here

“Everyone’s nice, huh?” I muttered, not believing her words.Bookmark here

In terms of battle, Jen’s words were valid. I held reservations about them as people though. Especially Shan. He didn’t do it out of malice, but still. I couldn’t pass judgment on Jen yet. For all I knew, she was a secret sadist. I hoped she wasn’t.Bookmark here

“Hey, Jen, you’re already here. Tomo too. Perfect, we don’t have to wait,” Kisai greeted, making his appearance.Bookmark here

He wore a black trench coat, with his usual red checkered hoodie, and black jeans. His gray cap contained the school logo. I expected Ichaival behind him, but didn’t see anyone.Bookmark here

“Where’s Ichaival?” I asked.Bookmark here

“Kuan got him. I was feeling lazy,” Kisai answered, sitting down at a bench and taking off his cap.Bookmark here

“Are we finally storming that fortress today?” I asked about our goals for today’s mission.Bookmark here

“Yeah, what else are we going to do?” Kisai replied with his usual humor.Bookmark here

“What else is there?” I discerned the answer from his expression.Bookmark here

“I hate preparing, but we’ll have to. Without Tess around, it makes things harder. We’ll stop by somewhere,” Kisai revealed.Bookmark here

Kuan and Ichaival arrived soon after. Jen stopped firing her arrows, packing up her equipment. I looked around, expecting to see a portal.Bookmark here

“Shit, almost forgot. Something from Tess for you,” Kisai exclaimed, handing me a white key with my name engraved on it.Bookmark here

“Is this for entering that portal Tess talked about?” I asked.Bookmark here

“Sort of. Follow me,” Kisai replied.Bookmark here

He led everyone towards the locker room and then pointed to the left of it. Oh, the storage closet. I went in there a few times to grab cleaning supplies and never noticed anything special.Bookmark here

“Is there suppose to be something inside I don’t know about?” I asked.Bookmark here

“Uh, it’s not what’s inside that matters. I’ll show you,” Kisai answered, inserting his own engraved key into the keyhole of the door.Bookmark here

He twisted left and then opened the door. A bright blue light, quite relaxing in nature, shone from it. No signs of the shelves or usual items stored inside.Bookmark here

“This is how you enter the Crossroads. I’ll explain more once we’re there,” Kisai revealed, letting everyone else enter first.Bookmark here

Of course the Gatekeeper would have something like this set up. I was the penultimate one to enter and Kisai followed behind me.Bookmark here

CROSSROADSBookmark here

I saw a large number of reception booths all arranged in an orderly fashion. There was a central area furnished with sofas, desks, and other accommodations. Multiple sets of stairs led up to metal gates, glowing with a dim red color.Bookmark here

“What the hell is this?” I asked, looking around in amazement.Bookmark here

“The Crossroads. You’ve heard it about from us, but this will be your first time actually here in person. People come here so they can travel to different dimensions,” Kisai explained.Bookmark here

“We can go wherever we want from here then?” I guessed.Bookmark here

“Yep. You guys can hang out here. I want to talk to someone first,” Kisai said.Bookmark here

“Impressed?” Ichaival asked, taking a seat on a sofa.Bookmark here

“Yeah, I didn’t expect anything like this. I’ve gotten so used to Tess’ instant teleportation that this seems like a hassle,” I replied.Bookmark here

“I know what you mean. But, this lets us go where we need to when Tess is busy,” Jen said.Bookmark here

“Yeah, I’ve been spoiled by having Tess around all the time. I wish you’d taken me here sooner. Anyways, who’s Kisai talking to?” I asked.Bookmark here

“His girlfriend,” Kuan responded immediately.Bookmark here

“Who’s he really talking to?” I asked again.Bookmark here

“Probably an informant,” Kuan told the truth this time.Bookmark here

“Kisai’s pretty popular, isn’t he?” I brought up.Bookmark here

“It’s freakin’ Jin, he gets all the ladies,” Ichaival commented.Bookmark here

“Nah, Jin has pretty big faults,” Kuan countered.Bookmark here

“Like he’s a douchebag,” Ichaival followed up.Bookmark here

“Isn’t that Shan?” I questioned.Bookmark here

“Shigetzu’s more of a bastard than Kisai,” Ichaival clarified.Bookmark here

“What about Zhuyu?” I wondered.Bookmark here

“Eh, he’s not too much of a bastard. More like an occasional scumbag,” Ichaival replied, shrugging his shoulder.Bookmark here

“What about me, hm….?” Kuan asked, placing his hand on Ichaival’s shoulder.Bookmark here

“No, fuck you. Get away from me,” Ichaival shuddered, moving away.Bookmark here

“Why so cold, Darryl? Is it because you-know-who is here?” Kuan motioned at Jen.Bookmark here

“No,” Ichaival denied.Bookmark here

“Fine then. Tomo, I’m not sure what Jin wants to do actually,” Kuan relented.Bookmark here

“I thought he had a plan,” I responded.Bookmark here

“You were just assuming,” Kuan said.Bookmark here

I now had doubts. If Tess usually reigned everyone in, how would they act when she wasn’t around? Without her, I feared nothing would get done.Bookmark here

“Nah, Jin’s got a plan,” Ichaival assured me.Bookmark here

“I want to believe you, but at the same time, not really,” I hesitated.Bookmark here

“Can’t disagree,” Kuan backed me up.Bookmark here

“If you don’t even believe in Kisai, and you know him, what does that mean?” I questioned.Bookmark here

“It means I have to stop fucking around, and get things done,” Kisai returned with a grin.Bookmark here

“Are we ready?” I asked.Bookmark here

“One thing before we go. I’ll have my buddy, Long, give you a quick tour,” Kisai smiled.Bookmark here

“You dragged me over here for this?” Zhuyu sighed, adjusting his glasses.Bookmark here

“You’re perfect for this. Come on, you want to help out Tomo,” Kisai convinced him.Bookmark here

“Fine. Jin, I assume you’ll be here waiting,” Zhuyu said, looking over at Kisai.Bookmark here

“I will definitely be here. Kuan, let’s ditch Darryl,” Kisai nodded.Bookmark here

“What?” Ichaival retorted.Bookmark here

“Come on, Jen’s waiting for you, isn’t she?” Kisai whispered, patting him on his shoulder.Bookmark here

“Shut the fuck up, man,” Ichaival shook his head but went over to Jen anyways.Bookmark here

Zhuyu explained the services offered. There were a total of 30 booths in all. Ten dealt with interdimensional travel, filling out paperwork, providing the proper licenses, and other related matters. The rest were shops, providing a wide range of services, including weapons and relaxation.Bookmark here

“What’s upstairs?” I pointed upward.Bookmark here

“There are rooms you can stay in, like a hotel. That’s where Jin was,” Zhuyu responded.Bookmark here

“Pretty convenient. This place really has everything, doesn’t it?” I asked, impressed.Bookmark here

“Yeah, it’s great,” Zhuyu nodded.Bookmark here

“One more thing, remember what Kyoi told me about Felicity?” I questioned him.Bookmark here

“You’re talking about the name she mentioned, right?” Zhuyu asked.Bookmark here

“Exactly. Does Jen have the same thing going on?” I asked.Bookmark here

“Pretty perceptive, Tomo. A little bit different for Jen, though. Not uncommon for someone to have a Western name,” Zhuyu confirmed my suspicions.Bookmark here

“You’re not going to tell me, are you?” I guessed, seeing the expression on his face.Bookmark here

“You know us so well. Actually, I have an idea. Why don’t you ask Darryl?” Zhuyu changed his mind midway.Bookmark here

“Just tell me already,” I demanded.Bookmark here

“Darryl is definitely the better option. Anything else you want to know?” Zhuyu shifted the topic.Bookmark here

“Not especially. Wait, why are you even here today?” I asked.Bookmark here

“I needed to check on something. You remember Fei?” he asked.Bookmark here

“Yeah, something happen to her?” I recalled the powerful magic user.Bookmark here

“No, I just wanted to talk to her about the ultimate weapons and Artifacts. Jin told me about what he found,” Zhuyu responded.Bookmark here

“Can Artifacts really make that much of a difference?” I questioned their impact.Bookmark here

“Some Artifacts are dangerous because it autonomizes almost everything, no skill or experience required. You equip it and gain an extraordinary amount of power right away,” Zhuyu explained.Bookmark here

“Seems pretty overpowering. And there are no side effects at all?” I inquired.Bookmark here

“That’s part of what Emily and Zane are researching. In my opinion, after prolonged usage, something is bound to happen. We actually don’t know too much about Artifacts since they only appeared near the end of our final encounter with the Traveler,” Zhuyu revealed.Bookmark here

“Got it. Is Kyoi with you today?” I looked around, scared she might appear.Bookmark here

“She’s not here. You’re still scared of her, huh?” Zhuyu answered.Bookmark here

“Yeah. She’s crazy,” I nodded.Bookmark here

“I don’t blame you. She still scares me too,” Zhuyu agreed.Bookmark here

“Is that okay for you to say?” I asked.Bookmark here

“Yeah. She already knows. I’ll take you back to Jin,” Zhuyu informed me.Bookmark here

“You’re not coming with us?” I asked.Bookmark here

“Knowing Jin, he’ll somehow stall. Besides, I gotta talk to Fei and that takes awhile,” Zhuyu replied.Bookmark here

“Thanks for the quick tour,” I called out to him once he led me back.Bookmark here

Zhuyu nodded, waving his right hand in the air as a farewell. Jen and Ichaival discussed something, probably shouldn’t bother them. I walked over to Kisai and Kuan.Bookmark here

“Did Zhuyu do a good job?” Kuan asked, noticing me.Bookmark here

“Yeah. We ready to head out?” I answered.Bookmark here

“Once Ichaival finishes talking to Jen,” Kisai smirked.Bookmark here

Ten minutes later, we finally departed. I walked next to Ichaival. Jen talked with Kisai, discussing her role for the mission. Kuan was behind us, wiping his glasses.Bookmark here

“Ichaival, I have something to ask,” I said to the false archer.Bookmark here

“What’s up?” Ichaival said.Bookmark here

“Zhuyu told me Jen goes by another name. Is it okay if you tell me what it is?” I questioned.Bookmark here

“Did he tell you that? Freakin’ Long. Her actual name is Jian Yi. People have called her Jen for so long, it’s weird to call her anything else,” he revealed the name.Bookmark here

“Jian, huh? An interesting family name,” I wondered.Bookmark here

“He could have just told you,” Ichaival remarked.Bookmark here

“He told me to ask you instead,” I said.Bookmark here

“Of course. He’s just like Shigetzu sometimes. I seriously wonder why I’m friends with them,” Ichaival commented.Bookmark here

“Because they’re there for you? They help you out a lot even if they do make fun of you,” I ventured a guess.Bookmark here

“Yeah, I know. Those freaking bastards,” Ichaival agreed, shaking his head with a smile.Bookmark here

Kisai led us up to an unmarked gate with a large warning sign stapled on the top. A card reader device was located to the left of it.Bookmark here

“Oh, I forgot to tell you. You can use the key card for the training facility to get in,” Kisai said, pulling it out.Bookmark here

“Really? How does that even…. you know what, the less questions the better,” I decided.Bookmark here

“Nah, questions are good,” Kisai said, sliding his card.Bookmark here

We followed him inside. There was an elevated platform in the center of the room with a panel containing a keyhole in the corner of it. The rest of the room was decorated with tables, chairs, and sofas. Very much like a high class airport lounge.Bookmark here

“You’ll probably end up spending a lot of time here. So I’ll go over how things work. Well, really, you only need to know one important thing. Put your key in and select the destination. Once everyone is ready, twist your key and take it out. Pretty simple, right?” Kisai instructed.Bookmark here

“Why can’t we have something like this in the training facility? Make things a lot simpler, right?” I inquired.Bookmark here

“Harder to power everything with the extensive network that it requires. The Crossroads provides all of that and more,” Kisai pointed out.Bookmark here

“You’ll have plenty of time to learn, Yuki. There’s still a lot of interesting things in here,” Jen said.Bookmark here

“Let’s go. Tomo, why don’t you step on first?” Kisai directed.Bookmark here

I inspected the panel, seeing nothing on it yet. Pulling out my key, I inserted it in and a screen popped up with a scrollable list of locations. Some were grayed out.Bookmark here

“Oh yeah, there are certain places you can’t go. Probably just Tess’ idea of making sure you don’t do anything too dumb. Pick the one that has my name on it,” Kisai said, noticing my perplexed look.Bookmark here

I tapped it and the panel keyhole became illuminated in a yellow light. Right, next step was to turn the key. I twisted it and the color changed green. I glanced around, making sure everyone was ready. This was weird without Tess. I couldn’t help but worry something might go wrong without her guidance. I took a deep breath and exhaled. Let’s go!Bookmark here

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