Chapter 91:

Volume 4, Chapter 7: An Unexpected Hero

Heroes of the Past

Sunday Winter Quarter 2016 Week 8
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“Right now? Yeah, I’m free,” I said.Bookmark here

I turned off my monitor, grabbing my car keys. Damn, I wanted to relax after midterms. I bumped into Yukie on my way out and she flashed her usual pleasant smile.Bookmark here

“Heading out, Yuki?” she asked.Bookmark here

“Yeah, my friends wanted to do something,” I replied.Bookmark here

“Have fun,” she encouraged.Bookmark here

Training FacilityBookmark here

Zhuyu wrote on a whiteboard while glancing down at his phone. Shan peered down at his phone too, playing a mobile game as usual. Shui sat on a bench, humming a tune. No sight of Ichaival anywhere.Bookmark here

“Everyone ready to go?” I questioned.Bookmark here

“Yep,” Shan replied, looking up from his phone.Bookmark here

“Is it really that serious? You don’t seem to be concerned at all,” I noted.Bookmark here

“We’re always like this, Tomo,” Shan countered.Bookmark here

“Fine, let’s go,” I said, heading toward the supply closet.Bookmark here

I glanced over at the whiteboard, expecting equations, but saw a flow chart. Boxes contained phrases such as: “I don’t think so”, “Ignore her”, and “Don’t open the door”. What the hell was he pondering?Bookmark here

“So this choice leads to a route I have to do before going to that one. Okay, so then….,” Zhuyu muttered.Bookmark here

“Hey, we’re ready to go!” I informed him.Bookmark here

Zhuyu capped his marker and followed me. I swear, everyone had such weird quirks. Then again, it was better than being around uptight and bland people. Even if I hated to admit it.Bookmark here

Unaffiliated Dimension, Parts UnknownBookmark here

I shivered as snowflakes fluttered in the air. The entire sky was gray, with the ground blanketed in a crisp white.Bookmark here

“Damn, it’s cold,” I commented.Bookmark here

“Something wrong?” Zhuyu inquired, standing next to me all of a sudden.Bookmark here

“Son of a…., you scared me. How did you get here so fast?” I asked.Bookmark here

“You’ve been staring at that for awhile now. Probably why you didn’t notice me,” he replied.Bookmark here

“That snowman’s nose bothers me,” I said.Bookmark here

“What about it?” Zhuyu asked.Bookmark here

“It’s just weird someone used a daikon,” I answered.Bookmark here

“I guess? Lau, you’re having fun,” Zhuyu said, glancing over at the water elemental user.Bookmark here

“Of course! It almost never snows where we are. This is great!” Shui exclaimed, running around in the snow.Bookmark here

“Let’s see what we can find,” Shan suggested, trudging forward.Bookmark here

“Zhuyu, what’s here that’s so important?” I asked.Bookmark here

“Tess said something about detecting a weird signal. Also, an Artifact might be here,” Zhuyu responded.Bookmark here

“Shouldn’t we have brought more people?” I questioned.Bookmark here

“Jin has work. Darryl, well, he’s Darryl. And on it goes,” Zhuyu answered.Bookmark here

“We better not get ambushed!” I shouted.Bookmark here

“When is that ever something someone wants?” he shot back with a smile.Bookmark here

“When you play Monster Slayer, of course. We need the material!” Shan offered a scenario.Bookmark here

“You have a point, but Tomo has no idea what you mean,” Zhuyu agreed.Bookmark here

Shui lagged behind, infatuated with the snow. He personified a child seeing snow for the first time, moving around with a huge smile. Zhuyu and Shan, well, they looked pretty indifferent. If anything, these conditions annoyed them.Bookmark here

“Any luck?” I asked as the wind picked up.Bookmark here

“Nothing. Really wish Tess was here,” Shan replied, shaking his head.Bookmark here

We finally arrived at a small village. The roofs were all covered in snow, no light emanating from any of them. There was a well in the center, but not much else.Bookmark here

“Barge in?” I joked.Bookmark here

“Good idea,” Shan said, heading towards a nearby house.Bookmark here

“Wait, that was a…. fine, if it’ll get us out of the snow,” I yelled but reconsidered as the snowfall increased.Bookmark here

Shan knocked on the door, but no response. I peered through the window, noticing no movements inside. He called Zhuyu over, pointing at the doorknob.Bookmark here

“Tomo, know how to pick a lock?” Shan grinned at me.Bookmark here

“No. I doubt anyone here does,” I replied.Bookmark here

“I don’t want to break it down,” Shan contemplated.Bookmark here

“Hang on, we’re breaking and entering?” I glanced at him.Bookmark here

“Those are serious accusations, Tomo. All the houses here are dark, isn’t that weird?” Shan pointed out.Bookmark here

“This one’s open,” Zhuyu called us over.Bookmark here

There was a light switch near the front door. I flicked it, but nothing. Still complete darkness.Bookmark here

“Tomo, give us some light,” Shan requested.Bookmark here

I conjured a small fireball, providing adequate lighting. The furniture inside was sparse, only a couch and dinner table. There was small kitchen, but it was pristine, no dishes in the sink.Bookmark here

“Find anything useful?” Shan asked.Bookmark here

“Not really. Tomo, can you point it up here?” Zhuyu requested, opening a cabinet above the stove.Bookmark here

I redirected my light and he checked the contents. The man pulled out a single can. Oh great, nothing. At least we had shelter from the snow.Bookmark here

“Guess we’ll have to try the other houses,” Zhuyu decided, shutting the cabinet door.Bookmark here

“Are you serious? The snow is crazy out there,” I protested.Bookmark here

We checked several houses before arriving at an authority figure’s house. Every door was unlocked. Something bad must have happened for them to abandon the area.Bookmark here

“Documents, perfect,” Shan said, opening up a table drawer.Bookmark here

I saw a framed picture behind the desk. Upon closer inspection, it was a family portrait. There was a middle aged man, his wife, and two kids.Bookmark here

“There was a monster and it chased off the people,” Zhuyu read.Bookmark here

“Check this out,” Shan said, holding up a photo.Bookmark here

“That thing’s ugly,” Shui observed.Bookmark here

No disagreeing with you there. The picture depicted a round ball of fur, icicles protruding out from it in all directions.Bookmark here

“We fighting it?” Shui inquired.Bookmark here

“No idea,” Shan responded.Bookmark here

“This place hasn’t been abandoned for too long. Not that much dust yet,” Zhuyu observed, rubbing his thumb and finger together, after touching the table and chair.Bookmark here

“Now what?” I asked.Bookmark here

“The snow is slowing down. Maybe we can see what’s beyond the village. If it gets too dangerous, we can just backtrack and leave,” Zhuyu decided.Bookmark here

“Great, let’s get going,” Shan agreed.Bookmark here

We saw a temple in the distance after trekking for a few minutes. We ascended up the steep stairs, seeing two fox statues guard the entrance. The wind howled when we walked past. There was a wilted tree inside and even more steps to go up.Bookmark here

“It’s creepy,” Shui commented.Bookmark here

There was another large fox statue, a scarf wrapped around its neck. Shan and Zhuyu moved to the left, motioning at us. Shui and I followed, hiding behind a large pillar.Bookmark here

“Somebody’s here?” I whispered.Bookmark here

Zhuyu nodded. Familiar faces showed up, descending from the stairs. Champ, an agitated look on his face, slapped the fox statue. Stacia and two other women accompanied him.Bookmark here

“We still haven’t found anything! Lilith said there was something here,” Champ shouted, glaring at Stacia.Bookmark here

“Don’t blame me just because you can’t find it!” Stacia lashed out at him, ready to snap her fingers.Bookmark here

“Okay, okay! I won’t blame you. We got a useless captive too! Their power is trash. How befitting of those trash heroes,” Champ backed off.Bookmark here

“Maybe we should look someplace else,” one of the women suggested.Bookmark here

“It has to be here! I’m not heading back empty-handed. If I fail, who knows what she’ll do,” Champ disagreed.Bookmark here

“Champ, we have guests,” the other woman informed him.Bookmark here

Oh shit. Stacia was one crazy person, and with Zhuyu here, she would turn berserk.Bookmark here

“You tracked me down, Tess! Come out and get your ass kicked!” Champ screamed.Bookmark here

“Do we go or stay?” I glanced at Shan and Zhuyu.Bookmark here

“There’s no use hiding if he already knows,” Zhuyu decided, revealing himself.Bookmark here

“What a surprise! The Gatekeeper isn’t with you. Is my luck finally changing?” Champ noticed Tess’ absence.Bookmark here

“Not really,” Zhuyu denied, shaking his head.Bookmark here

Stacia glared at him, but restrained herself, not taking any action. The other two women remained silent, allowing Champ to ramble.Bookmark here

“Looking for the Artifact?” Zhuyu guessed.Bookmark here

“I’ve been looking for it to perfect my powers. I doubt a fool like you knows the location,” Champ belittled the zero vector user.Bookmark here

“We don’t know anything just like you said,” Zhuyu confirmed.Bookmark here

“I have a bargaining chip. You don’t report me to Lilith and I’ll return this worthless piece of shit to you,” Champ offered, pulling out a rock from his pocket.Bookmark here

“What?” everyone said in unison.Bookmark here

Champ held the rock as if it were a precious treasure. Had he finally lost it?Bookmark here

“This rock is very special. You know it well,” Champ declared, pacing around the statue.Bookmark here

“Right,” Shan agreed, playing along with him.Bookmark here

“In fact, it is a very dear friend,” Champ continued.Bookmark here

“Get to the point,” Zhuyu demanded.Bookmark here

“Fine, this rock is a hero,” Champ finally disclosed.Bookmark here

Hold on. Did Champ declare the rock was a hero? He made no sense at all.Bookmark here

“Long, Champ’s gone. How do we deal with those three?” Shan ignored the man’s claim.Bookmark here

“I’m serious! You don’t believe me. Catch!” Champ laughed, hurling the rock at us.Bookmark here

Shan conjured a tennis racket, smashing the rock back at him. It struck Champ in the left eye, bouncing down to the ground.Bookmark here

“Damn, you still don’t believe me! Fine, I’ll just try again!” Champ yelled, picking up the rock.Bookmark here

He hurled it with more strength, but Shan shot it back at him. Champ clawed at his eyes in pain. The three women only observed, allowing us to do what we wanted for now.Bookmark here

“You fuckers! Tell them already! I’m not lying. Xi, tell them!” Champ barked as blood spilled down from his forehead.Bookmark here

“I guess…. that…. it’s really…. a….,” she whispered.Bookmark here

The rock suddenly glowed, emitting a bright light. When it dissipated, a person lay on the ground. Jacque?Bookmark here

“Oh shit,” Shan remarked.Bookmark here

Jacque stood up, looking around. He stared at us and then Champ. This was awkward, didn’t expect anything like this.Bookmark here

“Fuck my life,” Jacque uttered, heading towards us.Bookmark here

“Jacque, you good?” Zhuyu checked in on him.Bookmark here

“Ah…. as much as I can be,” Jacque replied with a sad laugh.Bookmark here

“You’ll get used to it,” Shan encouraged.Bookmark here

“I’ll try…. nah, my life sucks,” the man disagreed.Bookmark here

“Are you guys done? I thought I could recruit someone powerful but no! A fucking rock. Tomo, do you see why our side is superior? That’s what they really are, summed up by that useless piece of shit,” Champ shouted, pointing at Jacque.Bookmark here

“Let’s not get carried away. Jacque may be a rock, but he still fucked you up,” Shan disagreed, grinning at Champ.Bookmark here

“That’s true. He’s lethal,” Zhuyu supported him as well.Bookmark here

“Just get them,” Champ ordered, touching his head in pain.Bookmark here

“I’ve been waiting for this!” Stacia ran straight at Zhuyu, no mercy in her eyes, snapping her fingers.Bookmark here

He stood still, extending his left hand out. Stacia stepped back, shock on her face.Bookmark here

“How is that possible?” Stacia attempted another attack but failed.Bookmark here

Shui constructed a large ice wall, blocking potential attacks. A sudden grating noise forced me to cover my ears. The ice wall shattered, leaving us open once more.Bookmark here

“Long, can you cut it off?” Shan asked, staring at the zero vector user.Bookmark here

“Yeah, but I won’t be able to do it multiple times,” Zhuyu replied.Bookmark here

“I’ll let you handle it!” Shan shouted.Bookmark here

I heard a shrill sound but it ceased immediately. Zhuyu collapsed to the ground, his breathing heavy. Shan flung the woman, producing the high pitched sounds, down to the ground with his gravitational powers. I ran over, slamming my hand down on the ground, freezing her. Shui created a thin layer of ice, causing Champ to slip and hit his forehead. My necklace shook, indicating a large amount of magical energy released. A mask silhouette appeared around his face.Bookmark here

“Are you kidding me? Xi, you’re useless. Go stall for time since that’s all you can do,” Champ ordered, clutching his head in pain.Bookmark here

When I attacked Xi, my attack was repelled. I tried again, but could not approach her. She picked up her frozen ally, sliding her into an opening portal. The woman rushed over to Stacia and hurled her into the portal too. Shan dashed after Champ, yanking off his mask. The man collapsed to the ground, shouting out in pain. Shan attempted an uppercut, but pulled his fist back at the last moment, staring at the quiet woman. She gave us a respectful nod, departing with the unconscious Champ into the closing portal.Bookmark here

“What now?” I looked at Shan.Bookmark here

“Report back to Tess. Don’t want to put Jacque in any more danger,” Shan decided.Bookmark here

Shui assisted Zhuyu up from the floor. He stumbled but managed to walk on his own after a few minutes of rest. I stared at the portal location, stretching my hand towards it. My necklace shook once more. This was a significant amount of magical energy. Was Champ really capable of that or did he have help?Bookmark here

Training FacilityBookmark here

“Jacque, you are officially a hero,” Shan announced, clapping with passion.Bookmark here

“That’s great and all, but I turn into a rock. Bro, seriously, I’m a rock. Come on, I can’t do shit,” Jacque lamented.Bookmark here

“Hey, I managed to throw you and inflict damage. You’re more useful than you think,” Shan argued.Bookmark here

“How do I even get home?” Jacque glanced around the facility.Bookmark here

“I’ll drop you off, don’t worry,” Shan offered.Bookmark here

“Thanks, that’d be nice,” Jacque nodded.Bookmark here

“You’re pretty chill for someone that just saw weird shit, Jacque,” I observed.Bookmark here

“Eh, I’ve been captured before. That’s how I first learned everyone had powers,” Jacque revealed.Bookmark here

“What? No one told me anything about that,” I accused Shan.Bookmark here

“Yeah, kind of forgot about that. Better leave this mask for Tess to check out,” Shan dismissed, dropping the mask into an evidence bag and leaving it in a secure box.Bookmark here

“Want to tell me how you got captured the first time?” I questioned Jacque.Bookmark here

“It’s a pretty long story, Tomo. And boring too. You don’t want to hear it,” he responded, shaking his head.Bookmark here

“I’m really interested actually,” I pressed him.Bookmark here

“He can tell you next time. Jacque’s pretty tired after everything that’s happened,” Shan interrupted.Bookmark here

“Sorry Tomo, next time,” the artist said.Bookmark here

I walked over to Zhuyu. His face complexion was back to normal. Now, time for him to explain how he stopped Stacia.Bookmark here

“Zhuyu, what did you do back there?” I asked.Bookmark here

“Something I’ve been working on. Applying the zero vector power to a magical situation, but it’s pretty difficult. Takes a lot of focus and energy. I only managed to barely stop Stacia’s wind and Steph. Enough time for Shigetzu to finish it off,” the man answered.Bookmark here

“How’s that enough to let Shan use his powers?” I asked.Bookmark here

“Steph’s a natural world user so his powers worked. As for Stacia, her magic levels were unstable. Shigetzu, nice work,” Zhuyu complimented.Bookmark here

“Anytime. Wish Darryl were here, would have been nice to have some support from the rear,” Shan insulted his friend.Bookmark here

“You leaving too, Lau?” Shan asked the water elemental user.Bookmark here

“Those two woman, tell me more about them,” I requested.Bookmark here

“Steph manipulates sound waves. When she locks onto the natural frequency of something, she causes resonance, breaking things. Xi is pretty much a defensive fortress. She repels most attacks, minimizes damage done, and creates barriers,” Zhuyu answered.Bookmark here

“She seemed to stay back for the most part though,” I recalled.Bookmark here

“The current limitation on her powers make it so she can only protect one target. That’s probably what happened,” Zhuyu replied.Bookmark here

I didn’t want to trouble Zhuyu any further and headed down to my car. I dialed the Gatekeeper’s number, informing her about the situation.Bookmark here

“One of Shan and Zhuyu’s friends, Jacque, awakened. Champ captured him and I guess that triggered it. I don’t know how it works but I’m afraid he might target Felicity’s sister next,” I updated her.Bookmark here

“That is indeed a grave matter. I’ll handle it. As for Jacque, I’ll initiate him, once I’m free. Thank you for telling me. I apologize, but I must go now,” Tess hung up.Bookmark here

I inserted my key into the ignition, feeling better. Champ was willing to go so far as to kidnap a potential hero. This made me uneasy, especially for Yuka. Hmm, what should I do? If anything happened to her, I would feel responsible. It might be a good idea to speak with everyone, before deciding anything. Yeah, that was a good plan.Bookmark here

Friday Winter Quarter 2016 Week 9Bookmark here

“Everyone, this is Jacque. He just awakened so be nice to him,” Zhuyu introduced our newest member.Bookmark here

“Nice to meet you. I go to the same university as Long. Um, not really much else to say,” Jacque said.Bookmark here

We convened around a table in the training facility. Well, this wasn’t very riveting. I thought there might be more fanfare involved.Bookmark here

“Jacque already knows most of us,” Kisai pointed out.Bookmark here

“What do you want me to do? Tess requested this. I’m sure as hell not saying no,” Zhuyu said, shrugging his shoulders.Bookmark here

“Yeah, you’re right,” Kisai agreed.Bookmark here

“Anything else I should do? I’m pretty afraid I’ll screw up,” Jacque asked.Bookmark here

“Just be you. Seriously, do you see any of us here being super dedicated?” Shan replied, giving a smile.Bookmark here

“Damn, that’s perfect. I can definitely pull that off,” Jacque responded.Bookmark here

We talked for awhile and everyone left, going their separate ways. Zhuyu called me over as I headed toward the exit. Today was a day off from school, and I really wanted to go home.Bookmark here

“Tomo, sorry to take up your time, but you’ll accompany us to the research lab,” Zhuyu informed me.Bookmark here

“Us?” I questioned.Bookmark here

“Jacque’s coming along. We’re getting him checked by Shane and Emily. Make sure there isn’t anything wrong,” Zhuyu revealed, pointing at the man.Bookmark here

“You can just take Jacque by yourself, right?” I stared at him in confusion.Bookmark here

“Tess wants you to get a checkup too. It’s not my call. I’m just carrying out orders from her,” Zhuyu answered.Bookmark here

“Fine. I might as well be sure nothing is wrong, than go out with faulty powers,” I relented.Bookmark here

Research Facility: Shane and Emily’s LabBookmark here

“Long, something wrong? It’s rare for you to pop in like this,” Emily asked.Bookmark here

“We got a new member, just awakened. Tess asked for you to give him the entire run through. Do a quick checkup on Tomo too,” he replied, gesturing toward the both of us.Bookmark here

“Sure. I’ll get it set up,” Emily nodded, walking over to the pods.Bookmark here

Zhuyu walked over to Shane, taking out a piece of paper from his dress pants. He pointed at the sheet of paper and Shane reacted with surprise and wheeled over a whiteboard. Zhuyu wrote down equations involving matrices. I wasn’t going to ask, beyond my understanding right now.Bookmark here

“I’m pretty nervous,” Jacque confided, looking around everywhere.Bookmark here

“I guess it’s pretty shocking the first time around. Don’t worry, it doesn’t hurt,” I assured him.Bookmark here

“That totally makes me feel better. What exactly will they do?” Jacque pointed at one of the pods.Bookmark here

“Hook you up and look at brain waves, something like that. You just relax and take a nap,” I answered.Bookmark here

“Oh, sounds good! I definitely can use some rest,” Jacque nodded with enthusiasm.Bookmark here

“You’re pretty tired every time I see you at school,” I recalled.Bookmark here

“That’s because I push things back too much and I end up doing homework late into the night. Totally my fault,” Jacque revealed.Bookmark here

“Sounds like something Kisai does,” I remarked.Bookmark here

“Except that Jin is lazy and smart. I’m just lazy and dumb. Doesn’t exactly make for a good combination,” Jacque countered.Bookmark here

“Yeah, I can see why you would be pretty sad,” I understood his pain.Bookmark here

“Exactly, Tomo,” Jacque nodded.Bookmark here

Emily called us over. I glanced at Zhuyu, who still conversed with Shane. The zero vector user pointed at the board and Shane looked up at the ceiling, thinking. They were probably discussing his powers, modifying them for effectiveness against magic.Bookmark here

“Tomo, I talked to you about this last time, but you might see a continuation,” Emily informed me.Bookmark here

“You mean the doppelganger thing?” I asked, sticking wires to my head.Bookmark here

“Yeah. I am really curious to see the results. It’s an anomaly, but if it happens again, I’ll have to spend more time looking into it,” Emily nodded, closing the pod cover.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.