Chapter 100:

Volume 4, Chapter 12: Orientation

Heroes of the Past

Sunday Winter Quarter 2016 Day Before Spring BreakBookmark here

“Felicity, please just calm down,” I advised, watching her chug down another glass of liquor.Bookmark here

“No… you don’t understand, Yuki. I just don’t get it. How come no one talks to me like they used to?” Felicity complained, pounding the table.Bookmark here

Felicity invited me over because she wanted to hang out. The first location she led me to was the bar. Immediately after, Felicity grabbed a bottle and poured herself several drinks.Bookmark here

“Felicity, I can’t answer that for you. And why am I the only one here?” I asked, sighing.Bookmark here

“You see…. that’s what I’m shaying …. Tess was all like ‘oh I’m busy’. At least you’re here,” Felicity slurred, pouring yet another drink.Bookmark here

“Yeah, not surprising Tess is so busy. Felicity, let’s do something else,” I pleaded.Bookmark here

“No, you shee, you don’t get it, Yuki. I get it. What have I done wrong? Nothing!” Felicity exclaimed.Bookmark here

Where was Tess when you needed her? I’m sure she put an immediate stop to all of this. There was a knock and Felicity’s little sister entered.Bookmark here

“Yuki, Fel isn’t doing so well,” she observed.Bookmark here

“Of course she isn’t. Are you here to help out and stop her?” I questioned despite already knowing her response.Bookmark here

“Why would I end such fun times for you, Yuki? I’m just here to deliver food. Have fun!” Memoria departed and then there was a click.Bookmark here

I rushed to the door, twisting the doorknob, but it didn’t budge. Are you serious? This was a repeat of the Christmas party, except I was alone this time.Bookmark here

“Get back here, Yuki. I’m not done talking yet. You gotta accompany me…. you just gotta,” Felicity demanded, grabbing my arm.Bookmark here

“Yeah, guess I do,” I replied, sitting next to her.Bookmark here

“You’re damn right! I freaking need more drinks. Pour me another one!” Felicity slammed her cup on the table.Bookmark here

I obliged, pouring her another one, emptying the bottle. After downing the drink, Felicity hoisted the bottle upwards. She closed her left eye and squinted at the ceiling. Don’t drop it, please don’t drop it! Felicity placed it back down on the table and inspected the various alcohol available to her. This was not my idea of a relaxing Sunday. I expected a fun, low-key conversation over snacks, but this was too extreme.Bookmark here

“Yuki, how come you don’t…. hic… like anyone?” Felicity inquired, her head down on the counter.Bookmark here

“Felicity, calm down. You’re asking weird questions,” I said, tempted to drink now.Bookmark here

“You’re the one…. hic… who’s being weird. Iz a perfectly natural question. Come on, you’re hiding shomezing, aren’t you?” Felicity slapped the table.Bookmark here

“Felicity, I’m not. You do realize I don’t spend a lot of time with them, right? I’m more focused on figuring out everything,” I answered.Bookmark here

“Iz a lie, Yuki. Iz all lies you’re telling me. You just gotta… gotta….,” Felicity instructed before slumping down on the counter.Bookmark here

“Felicity, you okay?” I shook her.Bookmark here

“Of course! I’m Kaisi Konoe, daughter of….,” Felicity trailed off.Bookmark here

That name. Kyoi didn’t provide me false information. Felicity adopted her current name for use instead of the one she just uttered. What was her reasoning?Bookmark here

“Yuki, just promise me one thing…. just one thing,” Felicity spoke again.Bookmark here

“Yeah, what is it?” I asked, hoping for something coherent.Bookmark here

“You…. don’t ever take Darryl away from me. Jin and Long, I don’t really care. But Darryl, he’z mine,” Felicity said with a firm voice.Bookmark here

“I won’t. You’ve already had enough. That’s enough for today,” I warned.Bookmark here

“Iz my house so my rules! I No ifs and buts about it, Yuki! So fill ‘er up!” Felicity waved her glass in the air.Bookmark here

“Felicity, you’re going to regret this tomorrow,” I said, uncorking the new bottle.Bookmark here

“No one can tell me what to do,” Felicity emphasized.Bookmark here

“Whatever you say,” I said.Bookmark here

“Yuki, ya know what? Remember dat restaurant? I shwore I’m forgetting something. Can you tell me what it iz?” Felicity looked at me with an earnest look.Bookmark here

“Nothing. You just finished your food and went home. You were really tired,” I lied.Bookmark here

“You’re right. Nothing happened,” Felicity agreed.Bookmark here

“That reminds me, how do you know Champ?” I recalled how Felicity knew him previously.Bookmark here

“Who’s dat? Oh, Yuka’s boyfriend? His dad runs a pretty profitable company here. Iz pretty up there, you know?” Felicity answered.Bookmark here

“You’ve dealt with him before?” I questioned.Bookmark here

“Once or twice. Maybe three? Ah, who cares, pour me another one,” Felicity demanded.Bookmark here

“Felicity, are you in there? Felicity, I know you’re in there! Why would you lock it from the outside?” someone shouted before opening the door.Bookmark here

A woman, in her early forties, entered and shook her head at Felicity. She wore a dazzling necklace that shone even in the dim room lighting.Bookmark here

“Oh, I apologize for the intrusion. I didn’t know my daughter brought a guest over,” she said, noticing me.Bookmark here

I certainly saw the resemblance between them. Memoria stood behind her with a sheepish smile on her face.Bookmark here

“Memoria, did you lock them in here?” Felicity’s mother turned around, staring at her youngest daughter.Bookmark here

“Well….yeah I did,” Memoria confessed.Bookmark here

“How many times have I told you not to…. this smell. Felicity, how many bottles did you open?” she asked, examining the counter.Bookmark here

“Hey Mom! Care to join me for a little….,” Felicity offered before finally blacking out.Bookmark here

“I’m very sorry about all of this. Memoria, take her back to her room. This is partially your fault,” she ordered.Bookmark here

“Of course, Mom. I will be glad to,” Memoria said.Bookmark here

She lifted Felicity up from her seat, dragging her away. Was this just normal? Her mother took it pretty well. Felicity’s mother cleaned up all the bottles and then wiped down the counter.Bookmark here

“Once again, I apologize for my daughter’s actions. She really has no filter when it comes to drinking,” she said.Bookmark here

“Yeah, I was pretty worried there. Is this normal for Felicity?” I asked.Bookmark here

“No, but when she does, it’s always to the extreme. It is quite unfortunate,” Felicity’s mother shook her head.Bookmark here

“Well, she didn’t do anything too crazy, so there’s that,” I noted.Bookmark here

“Ah, I have forgotten to ask for your name,” Felicity’s mother requested.Bookmark here

“Oh, I should have introduced myself back there. I’m Tomo Yuki,” I revealed.Bookmark here

“Yuki, that’s a nice name. I hope my daughter hasn’t been too much trouble for you. She can be a handful sometimes,” Felicity’s mother complimented.Bookmark here

“No, not at all. Felicity’s been a really good friend. You don’t have to worry about that,” I assured her.Bookmark here

“That’s a relief. I’m afraid my daughter is very forceful, which doesn’t sit well with people. It’s nice to meet you today. Will you head home or wait for Felicity to awaken?” she questioned.Bookmark here

“I think I’ll head home. Give Felicity my regards. I think it’s best she sleeps it off,” I decided, heading toward the front door.Bookmark here

“I hope Felicity will be in a better mood the next time you visit,” Felicity’s mother said.Bookmark here

What a strange day. Oh crap, Tess’ house tomorrow. I wasn’t looking forward to that at all.Bookmark here

Monday Spring Break 2016 Day 1Bookmark here

“I see. That’s really helpful. Thank you for the information,” Zhuyu spoke with Mom downstairs.Bookmark here

“No, the pleasure is all mine. The payment was just a joke. I didn’t think you would take it so seriously,” Mom responded.Bookmark here

Zhuyu jotted down notes on a tablet while Mom spoke. She showed him photos from my childhood. What the hell was going on here?Bookmark here

“Mom, what are you doing?” I questioned, tapping her shoulder.Bookmark here

“Morning, Yuki. Your friend here finally paid money to obtain information. I’m so happy I could cry right now!” Mom joked.Bookmark here

This was very unexpected. Out of everyone, Zhuyu seemed the least likely to do this. He should have no interest in these things considering his relationship with Kyoi. There must be a specific reason for his sudden interest.Bookmark here

“Tomo, sorry for the short notice. I was going to pick Jacque up but he had to finish something first,” Zhuyu apologized.Bookmark here

“It’s Yuki~, you know!” Mom corrected him.Bookmark here

“Right. Anyways, I’m gathering information for Tess,” Zhuyu explained.Bookmark here

“You don’t have to put it like that. Yuki will understand if you’re interested in her,” Mom disagreed.Bookmark here

“So, To-, uh Yuki, are you ready?” Zhuyu paused at first, noticing Mom stare at him.Bookmark here

“Yeah, I’m ready to go. Anything I have to bring?” I asked.Bookmark here

“No, not really. Thanks for taking the time to speak with me, Mrs.Tomo,” Zhuyu said.Bookmark here

“Leaving so soon? I didn’t get a chance to show you everything. Next time for sure,” Mom lamented, shutting the photo album.Bookmark here

I followed Zhuyu to his car, debating whether to sit in the back or next to him. Fine, I’ll just sit next to him. I’m sure Zhuyu didn’t care either way but it mattered to me.Bookmark here

“How far does Jacque live?” I asked.Bookmark here

“Not too far. Ten or fifteen minutes,” Zhuyu replied, connecting an aux cable into his phone.Bookmark here

“Oh, not too far. So, about Tess’ house, why is everyone so scared?” I asked.Bookmark here

“Don’t listen to what Jin and Shigetzu said. It’s not that bad,” Zhuyu responded, playing music from his phone.Bookmark here

There were no vocals at all, just instrumentals, mostly piano. It wasn’t of the classical genre either, feeling more like video game music. Zhuyu arrived at a brick house, parking on the curb.Bookmark here

“Zhuyu, is this video game music?” I asked as he unplugged his phone to call Jacque.Bookmark here

“Huh? Yeah, some of it is, but it’s just visual novel soundtracks,” Zhuyu answered.Bookmark here

This visual novel thing again. Why was it so appealing to Kuan and him? I would have to do research on my free time. Three minutes later, Jacque exited. He wore a black leather jacket with faded jeans.Bookmark here

“Yo, how’s it going?” Jacque greeted.Bookmark here

“Good,” Zhuyu replied.Bookmark here

“Could be better. Pretty scared about what’s going to happen,” I admitted.Bookmark here

“It’s not that bad. I told you, they were just exaggerating,” Zhuyu disagreed, giving a thin smile.Bookmark here

We drove for ten minutes on the freeway before arriving at a large house. There was no gate but it was isolated from the other residences in the neighborhood. Zhuyu parked in a designated guest area.Bookmark here

Once out of the car, I glanced up at the house. Three floors, probably more if there was an attic and basement. There were various devices placed on the front porch which blinked.Bookmark here

“Let’s have fun,” Zhuyu said, his expression not matching his tone.Bookmark here

“You serious? You don’t even believe that yourself,” I observed.Bookmark here

“Doesn’t matter what I think,” Zhuyu denied, ringing the doorbell.Bookmark here

Tess opened the door after a few seconds. She wore a skirt with black knee stockings, the first time I ever saw her such a combination.Bookmark here

“Welcome to my house, Tomo and Jacque,” Tess greeted.Bookmark here

“Tess, I’ll update the records. Tomo and Jacque, you’re in her capable hands,” Zhuyu said, heading inside first.Bookmark here

“Thank you for your assistance, Long. Jacque and Tomo, follow me,” Tess directed.Bookmark here

Three large television screens hung in the living room with a very posh entertainment cabinet underneath them. There were four couches and two medium sized coffee tables. Damn, this was on the level of Felicity’s house.Bookmark here

“This is too much for me,” Jacque said to me.Bookmark here

“You’ll be more surprised by Felicity’s house,” I remarked.Bookmark here

“Would you like to rest first? You’ll undergo serious physical tests in a moment,” Tess asked, pointing at the couches.Bookmark here

No one told me about this. Is that what Zhuyu meant by the orientation we never received? Now I was definitely scared. Who knew what horrors Tess would subject us to?Bookmark here

“Let’s just go,” I declined her offer, noticing Jacque’s dismayed look.Bookmark here

“Let’s proceed then,” Tess said, leading us to a set of stairs.Bookmark here

We headed downstairs to the basement. Tess turned on the lights, revealing a variety of exercise equipment and a bookcase in the back. I wouldn’t even ask how her parents allowed this.Bookmark here

“What are we going to do here?” I asked, sitting down in a nearby chair.Bookmark here

“Run preliminary tests and evaluate your physical weaknesses. Excuse me while I grab something,” Tess answered, heading to the bookcase in the back.Bookmark here

She pulled out a binder and set it down on a table. Tess then instructed Jacque to get on the treadmill. The Gatekeeper then tapped her tablet, causing the exercise machine’s panel to light up with numbers.Bookmark here

“Jacque, keep running until I tell you to stop. Tomo, get on the other one,” Tess ordered, moving her fingers around on the tablet screen.Bookmark here

At first, the speed was manageable. However, it picked up after awhile and I soon struggled. I glanced over at Jacque, who looked worse than me. After awhile, I almost tripped. Tess noticed my stumble and stopped both of us. Jacque collapsed onto the floor, exhausted, sweat pouring down from his forehead. I felt woozy, my vision blurring, and legs burning.Bookmark here

“I see. We’ll move onto the next set after a five minute break,” Tess directed, checking her tablet screen.Bookmark here

I didn’t think my body could handle anymore. Did Tess did this every day? Just thinking about it made me shutter.Bookmark here

“Hey, Tess, you think we can get some water? I’m dying over here,” Jacque begged, still on the floor.Bookmark here

“That can be arranged after a few more tests. You can still talk so I can assume your focus is sharp enough to complete this,” Tess refused, handing him a clipboard containing a questionnaire.Bookmark here

“Damn, I should have kept my mouth shut,” Jacque muttered, finally standing back up again.Bookmark here

Tess handed me one as well. Wait, I didn’t even say anything. Fine, I guess it was part of her “orientation”.Bookmark here

“Tess, I’m feeling a bit woozy here. Can I get some more time to rest?” I requested, my eyes unable to focus on the words.Bookmark here

“Yes. Jacque, come with me. Tomo, you can stay here until we return,” Tess decided, hauling Jacque up from the floor with little effort.Bookmark here

Jacque gave me a forlorn look, full of sadness and betrayal. Tess went over to the bookcase, pulling out a thick sheet of papers from another binder. She handed them to me and descended downward with Jacque. How far underground did her house reach?Bookmark here

I finally regained my focus and inspected the thick stack of papers. What the fuck? This was a test, not an easy one either, written in the format of a college entry exam. Isn’t pushing us to our physical limit not enough? I sighed but picked up the pencil she left behind for me.Bookmark here

After struggling through half of the test, I finally completed everything. What was this madness, Tess? I filled out the questionnaire next and stood up.Bookmark here

Tess finally returned and Jacque looked dead inside. His entire face and T-shirt was drenched in sweat. He looked at me, unable to speak. The Gatekeeper deposited him down into a chair, handing him papers as well.Bookmark here

“Tess, I finished,” I informed her.Bookmark here

“Ah, perfect. I trust you feel much better now,” Tess said, taking both the questionnaire and test from me.Bookmark here

“Yeah, I think I’m fine,” I lied.Bookmark here

“That’s good to hear. Follow me, Tomo. I’ll run a few more tests and make sure everything is in order,” Tess directed.Bookmark here

Jacque gave me a weak wave as I left. Jacque, I’m sorry, but you’re not getting a chance to rest. You might think you are. Have fun with the test.Bookmark here

There was more exercise equipment, all hooked up to a machine full of flashing lights. Tess sat in front of the machine, adjusting knobs on a control board. She told me to sit down on one of the benches and lift weights.Bookmark here

“Keep going until I tell you to stop,” Tess requested, staring at the screen.Bookmark here

Tess stopped me five minutes later and attached a small lapel to my shirt. Probably a monitoring machine. The Gatekeeper then ordered me to run sprints back and forth. This wasn’t going to end well. I felt wiped out after seven minutes, but Tess didn’t say a word. Finally fifteen minutes later, she stopped me.Bookmark here

“Let’s see…. a two minute break and you’ll do four sets of crunches. Fifty in each set,” Tess informed me, no mercy in her eyes.Bookmark here

Each consecutive exercise drained my strength further and I was soon reduced to a sad heap on the floor. My head pounded and the sweat entered my eyes, blurring everything. Shit, I couldn’t even focus on the ceiling. Jacque, I can’t even imagine how bad it was for you. Tess remained calm, staring at the screen.Bookmark here

“Tomo, you still alive?” Tess finally asked, standing over me.Bookmark here

“Bare…. ly,” I uttered.Bookmark here

“Let’s head back up. I’m sure Jacque completed everything by now,” Tess said, hauling me off the floor.Bookmark here

I leaned on Tess the entire way as we ascended the stairs. Jacque stared at the exam, his eyes scrunched and complete confusion on his face. He saw us and gave a sigh.Bookmark here

“Tess, this is really hard. I can’t finish half of it,” Jacque admitted, placing his pencil down.Bookmark here

“Don’t worry about completing everything. Just do what you know,” Tess advised, walking back over to the bookcase.Bookmark here

She opened up a metal case, taking out a red pen. Ah, that brought back memories of the Christmas party. Fuck, why was I so nostalgic? That was an extremely dangerous situation. I just lived it again with Felicity being drunk the other day.Bookmark here

“Okay, that’s all I can do. No more, Tess, please,” Jacque pleaded.Bookmark here

“Very well. You two can return to the living room. Long will be present to speak with you. I will return these in about an hour. He also has water available for you so rest assured I am not a complete psychopath,” Tess instructed.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.