Heroes of the Past
I heard a faint hiss and the pod cover opened. Emily stared at me, writing on a clipboard.
“Somebody woke up from a good dream. It’s remarkable you’ve managed to create such an elaborate alternate world,” Emily greeted, helping me up.
“It’s so real that I can’t even tell the difference,” I commented, stretching my legs.
“That’s the power of your grimoire. I’ll do some more research. It could lead to interesting results,” Emily said, returning to the control board and adjusted switches.
Zhuyu and Shane sat at a desk, staring at papers. The zero vector user nodded with a serious expression. Damn, it was weird to see Zhuyu now. Their appearances were similar, yet the demeanor and facial expressions varied. He appeared less dangerous here than in my dream world.
“Emily, how long was I out?” I asked.
“About an hour,” Emily answered.
“How’s Jacque?” I looked around but didn’t see him.
“Stable. Nothing is wrong so that’s good. He has an intriguing power,” Emily revealed, staring at multiple screens.
“He turns into a rock. Not that interesting, right?” I pointed out.
“There’s a very high probability Jacque hasn’t awakened to his true potential. In other words, he still has an unawakened power. We rarely see that occur,” Emily elaborated.
“Any clues on what it could turn out to be?” I wondered.
“With Tess’ assistance, he can meld it into something suitable,” Emily answered, walking over to another pod.
She pressed a button, opening the pod cover. Jacque stumbled out, a dazed look on his face. He rubbed his eyes, getting his bearings together.
“It’s not every day I get probed,” Jacque joked, laughing awkwardly.
“You got to sleep at least,” I said.
“Yeah, definitely more comfortable than putting my head on a hardcover book,” Jacque agreed.
“Is that how you sleep in the student lounge?” I questioned.
“I’m a pretty sad man, Tomo. Really wish they had beds. Ko talked about wanting something like that,” Jacque replied, a wistful look on his face.
“They have sofas in there, right?” I recalled people sprawling out on them before.
“Eh, that isn’t safe. Knowing me, I probably will get my stuff stolen, cuz you know, fuck my life,” Jacque said his signature phrase.
“You’re right, not exactly the best idea. Hey, if you have a friend, then you don’t have to worry!” I devised a solution.
“True, but everyone has their own schedules, kinda hard to get in a solid nap,” Jacque said.
Emily picked up papers from the printer, organizing them inside a binder. She placed it back onto a large bookcase, walking towards us. I wondered how many files they kept on record here.
“Jacque, congratulations! The checkup showed nothing wrong. There is a chance your powers will undergo a shift, morphing into something else. Can you take this back to Tess? She’ll know what it means,” Emily informed us, handing me a stack of papers.
“Tomo, you gonna help me get used to this heroes thing?” Jacque requested.
“I haven’t been a hero myself for that long. I don’t really know what I can teach you. Everyone is a douchebag, especially Shan,” I answered.
“Didn’t know you hated everyone so much,” Jacque laughed.
“It’s getting better,” I modified my statement.
“Seems like it’ll take a lot of work. I turn into a rock. I’m so fucking useless!” Jacque lamented, his face full of sorrow.
“You weren’t that shocked when we rescued you, so looks like you’ll adjust,” I encouraged him.
“Sure hope so,” Jacque answered.
“Yeah, you’ll be fine. Plus you know everyone already,” I pointed out.
“Nah, Tomo, I think you got it all wrong. I literally can’t do shit. In fact, I’ll probably get captured and I’ll be like “oh no”. Everyone will have to come and save my ass,” Jacque questioned my positivity.
“Emily did say your powers might change, so don’t be sad. You never know, might get some cool powers,” I said.
“I wish, but good things like that usually don’t happen. I can only dream, Tomo,” Jacque remarked.
Twenty minutes later, Zhuyu and Shane finished their mini meeting. He walked over, looking at Jacque.
“Everything okay?” Zhuyu asked.
“As good as it can be, bro. I slept like a baby in the pod. So how do we get out?” Jacque questioned.
“Tomo, I leave it to you,” Zhuyu said.
“Tess gave us these special keys. We just put them into any door and we’ll be back,” I revealed.
“Sweet,” Jacque said.
I inserted my key in. We all went inside, returning to the training facility. I handed the stack of documents over to Zhuyu, transferring the responsibility over to him.
“Jacque, let’s get you home,” Zhuyu said, accepting the papers without any complaints.
Great, one less for me to do. Alright, time to go home, and not worry about finals. Damn it, only two more weeks. Why did you have to be so cruel, school?
Friday Winter Quarter 2016 Week 10
“You really aren’t concerned about finals, are you?” I looked over at Jacque.
“I’m hella scared. Just because I’m reading manga right now doesn’t mean I’m not. At least, I’m heading to a review session later. I’ll be okay, I hope,” Jacque replied.
It was dead week and almost everyone was in the student lounge. Zhuyu, Shan, Kisai, and Jacque were all present. Ko was here earlier, but went off to who knows where. Felicity joined us earlier, but departed, after an urgent matter came up. Probably related to the company work she did for her father.
“The thing is, Tomo, you just have to not do work on the last day and it’ll turn out fine,” Shan said.
“Yeah, I call bullshit. I’m amazed how you guys manage to get good grades without studying,” I disagreed.
“That’s not true. Long studies pretty hard. Can’t get my types of results, but he does aight,” Kisai countered.
“Thanks, Jin. Don’t worry, it’s your second quarter here already. You’re getting used to the exam system,” Zhuyu said.
“That’s great and all, but you’re forgetting one thing. I don’t study like you guys do. I’m more like Jacque, no offense,” I pointed out.
“Damn, she just insulted you, Jacque,” Kisai commented.
“Nah, can’t be mad. Pretty bad if you’re near my standards, Tomo. Don’t be like me, it’s not great,” Jacque said.
“That’s not what I meant. I’m normal, unlike you guys,” I clarified.
“I’m flattered, Tomo, but we’re not that special,” Shan refuted.
“You keep saying you aren’t, but I think you definitely are. Ko said something about that too,” I insisted.
“Yeah, well, Ko says a lot of things,” Zhuyu remarked.
I somehow got dragged into their conversation again. Shit, now was not the time. I needed to focus. Maybe I should head to the library.
“We gotta figure out a battle plan for you, Jacque,” Shan said.
“I’m a damn rock. It’s over for me,” Jacque lamented.
“I can hit you with my tennis racquet and it’ll do a lot of damage,” Shan pointed out.
“Jacque, do you even take damage when you’re a rock? Did it hurt when Shigetzu hit you with the racquet last time?” Zhuyu brought up.
“That’s actually a good point. Do you?” Kisai repeated.
“I’m still aware of everything going on, but just can’t do anything. I feel some pain when I turn back, not a lot,” Jacque described.
“Interesting. We might be able to do something with that,” Shan said.
“I can’t help but feel sorry for you. If you’re ever injured, you gotta tell us,” Kisai said, looking up from his phone.
“Thanks, great to know you have my back. I’m still a noob but I’ll do what I can,” Jacque appreciated.
“When he’s meeting with Tess?” Kisai inquired.
“Oh, yeah. Tess asked you to meet with her after finals week,” Zhuyu informed him.
“Where at?” Jacque questioned.
“Her house,” Zhuyu answered.
“Seems kinda dangerous,” Jacque exclaimed.
“You’ve been summoned there as well, Tomo. Consider it the orientation you never received,” Zhuyu mentioned.
“Can’t help you there. Tess’ word is final,” Kisai said.
“Same. We all went through it, not jealous of you at all,” Shan added, the situation turning ominous.
“Why are you guys making it sound so scary?” I asked.
“What are you talking about, Tomo?” Shan denied.
“Shigetzu’s right, don’t take what we said so seriously,” Kisai backed him up.
“Something’s going on here. Zhuyu, what’s so bad about Tess’ house?” I looked over at him.
“Don’t listen to what they say. It’s not that bad, sort of,” Zhuyu replied.
“What if I refuse?” I asked, staring at the math major.
“Tess will find some way of getting you over there. Have you not noticed how she shows up out of nowhere?” Zhuyu shrugged his shoulders.
Zhuyu was correct. Fine, let’s see what everyone was so scared of. Hopefully they were playing a joke on me and doing a great job at selling it.
“Fine, I’ll go. What’s the address?” I asked.
“I’ll take you there. Gotta get Jacque anyways,” Zhuyu offered.
“Are you sure?” I asked.
“It’s more like Tess ordered me to drive both of you,” Zhuyu revealed.
“I’ll have to go since I can’t refuse, right?” I decided.
“Jacque, send me your address later,” Zhuyu requested.
“You got it,” Jacque nodded, pulling out his phone.
“Good luck, Tomo. I mean it,” Shan encouraged.
Fuck you guys. Maybe it was her parents that scared everyone? That could be a possibility, but probably more of a Tess thing. No point in worrying about it now.
“Worry about finals first. If you need to review anything math related, I can help you out,” Zhuyu offered, tapping his pink lead pencil against the table.
“I appreciate that. It’s two days from now, so I need all the help I can get,” I accepted.
“Hey, you didn’t have a calculator for your final, right?” Shan brought up.
“Oh yeah, I forgot my calculator at home. Professor Nen said it was doable without one, so I somehow pulled through. My highest grade for a math class is still from Professor Nen,” Zhuyu confirmed.
How could Zhuyu have been so calm? I would have gotten nervous doing that exam. He claimed he was normal, but it took skill to pull that off.
“Sucks that your finals on a Sunday. But what can you do? Just don’t pull an all nighter like Kristoph,” Zhuyu warned.
“I’ve never done that for a final before,” I said, sighing.
“You gotta try, it’s the best,” Shan commented.
“You seem like the type to do that, Kisai,” I judged.
“Damn, that’s harsh, Tomo. I try to sleep earlier now. I use to sleep at two or three in the morning, wake up at six or seven,” Kisai divulged.
“How did you even function?” I was in disbelief.
“That was before I started working. I still do it sometimes, gotta finish my homework,” Kisai replied.
“You guys, I don’t even know what to say,” I said.
The day passed by and I arrived home. What to study for first? The most pressing issue right now was my math final. The chemistry final was on Tuesday and my last final on Wednesday. Time to rush through a bunch of practice math finals. Around nine, Yukie came into my room. She brought her tool kit, asking to see the bracelet.
“Does it need maintenance?” I asked, watching her tinker with it.
“Yes, it’s important to make the adjustments,” Yukie answered.
“When do you have the tests for your online classes?” I recalled seeing Yukie study the other day.
“Next week. I’ll head to your university for the exams,” Yukie replied.
“If it’s on the same day as mine, I might as well drive you there,” I offered.
“I would appreciate that. How is your exam preparation progressing?” Yukie asked, holding an electronic chip.
“I’ll have to see what I don’t know first,” I replied.
“I apologize for not being available to help more,” Yukie said, finishing her adjustments.
“Don’t worry about it. I got above average on my midterms. Means I have a little leeway on the final. Still have to study hard,” I informed her.
“Ah, that is excellent news. Your friend, Zhuyu, provided great assistance. I just have to replace a few parts. It should be done soon,” Yukie said.
Friend, huh? I wasn’t sure if that was the correct word. For Felicity that applied. Even Tess might qualify. For Zhuyu and the others, I didn’t know yet. Comrade might be a better word. Even then, that didn’t fit either. It was difficult to describe.
“Yeah, Zhuyu was pretty helpful. He had the same professor before too,” I agreed.
“Which one is your type?” Yukie suddenly shifted the topic of our conversation.
“Huh?” I exclaimed.
“Oh, poor word choice by me. I was referring to which one provides you with the best help,” Yukie clarified.
“Um, I guess Zhuyu? I prefer Tess, but he’s fine. Kisai’s okay too, but the way he does things, I don’t know if I could keep up. The last person I ever ask is Shan. He knows things, but it’ll be a pain to get anything out of him,” I ranked.
“You’ve gotten to know them better. I am impressed, Yuki. The adjustments have been completed. Here you go,” Yukie complimented, returning the bracelet.
“Like I said, they aren’t…. whatever. They are helpful when they want to be. Good luck studying, Yukie,” I said.
“You too, Yuki. If something comes up, please be sure to contact me. I wouldn’t want you to be injured because of my invention,” Yukie reminded.
If Yukie designed and produced this with limited resources, I could only imagine what she could construct given technology from the other dimensions. Seriously, she would be a major asset. Still, I rather not have her become involved.
Saturday Winter Quarter 2016 Day Before Finals
“Given this population problem, then I would apply separation of variables?” I questioned.
“Yeah, move all the dy and dx to their own side. You’ll learn in more advanced classes that separation of variables isn’t the only solution method,” Zhuyu confirmed.
“Anything else?” I asked.
I reviewed material with Zhuyu. He corrected my mistakes, but other that, let me work it out myself. On occasion, he provided tips about problems to look out for and how to solve them.
“Oh, watch out for any cooling problems. Definitely put that on your note sheet if you’re unsure,” Zhuyu reminded.
“I remember them from the homework. How did you even do these without a calculator?” I asked, amazed he completed the test.
“Professor Nen writes problems that don’t need them. There was an approximation problem I couldn’t check, but other than that, not too bad,” Zhuyu replied.
“I’m surprised you like Professor Nen. He makes things too hard,” I noted.
“He cares about what you learn, so he goes over a lot of problems, which seems like a waste of time. Personally, I really liked that, since he wanted to make sure we knew why and not just how,” Zhuyu explained.
“You’re weird, Zhuyu. Who likes the hard teacher? I prefer an easier one. At least I know what’s going on and wouldn’t feel so scared about the final,” I said, not understanding his mentality.
“Guess I am. Anyways, there’s still a few things left to cover,” Zhuyu responded.
“Do you have time to help me? I don’t want to keep you from studying,” I inquired, not wanting to impose on him.
“My finals aren’t until Tuesday. I helped Kristoph and Ko when they took the first part of calculus,” Zhuyu assured me.
“Speaking of which, doesn’t Kristoph need help too?” I asked, jotting down the initial condition.
“He’ll be fine. I helped him earlier this morning. He’s actually messaging me right now,” Zhuyu answered, typing on his keyboard.
“He’s pretty damn sad every time he finishes an exam,” I observed.
“He always has that look. I can only help him so much,” Zhuyu dismissed.
“So moving onto this part….,” I said, checking my computer screen.
I finished speaking with Zhuyu at five. A very productive day. I leaned back on my chair, requiring a short break, after five hours of math. I stared up at the ceiling, closing the blinds. Flicking on the lights, I looked at my bookcase. When was Tess going to return Ichizen’s books? I wanted to finish the series.
“Yuki, you in there?” Mom knocked on my door.
“Yeah. Come in,” I said, sitting back up.
Mom walked in, no sign of her usual mischievous face. She sat down on the top of my bed, staring at me with a piercing expression. This was getting weird and scary at the same time.
“Yuki, I have something important to tell you,” Mom said, her voice very serious.
“Yeah, what is it?” I asked, expecting big news.
“Yuki…. it’s time,” Mom announced.
“For what?” I questioned, not sure if this was a set up for one of her jokes.
“To finally meet someone,” Mom replied.
“Who?” I asked.
“Ichizen’s little sister, of course!” Mom said some shocking words.
When did Ichizen ever have a little sister? In fact, that was impossible. I knew Ichizen since he was a child.
“Mom, how and when did the Michi family ever have a daughter?” I questioned, staring at her.
“The Ichizen family has an interesting tradition. When they have two children, one remains in the traditional rural home, and the other taken to the city,” Mom unveiled.
“Are you serious? It’s really hard to believe,” I asked.
“Yeah, I thought it was crazy at first, but I’ve seen their daughter myself. Ichizen never knew,” Mom confirmed.
“I keep thinking you’re pulling a prank, but even you wouldn’t construct such an elaborate situation,” I said.
“I wish I were. Anyways, she’ll be transferring into one of the local universities here. She’ll move in with the Michi family sometime after your finals,” Mom said.
“Why now though? Seems like a weird time. Kind of suspicious. I know that sounds bad, but…,” I wondered.
“Ichizen’s mother just told me today. Can you imagine the bad jokes I made before finally believing her?” Mom revealed.
“Thanks for telling me. You’re being serious, right?” I asked once more.
“I am. Sorry to put this on you, especially with finals so close. Dinner’s almost ready,” Mom replied, leaving.
I was curious about Ichizen’s little sister now. This better not a major plan the heroes or someone else set up. Sighing, I focused on my math, pushing it out of the way for now.