Heroes of the Past
Sunday Winter Quarter 2016 Day Before Spring Break
“Felicity, please just calm down,” I advised, watching her chug down another glass of liquor.
“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.
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.
“Felicity, I can’t answer that for you. And why am I the only one here?” I asked, sighing.
“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.
“Yeah, not surprising Tess is so busy. Felicity, let’s do something else,” I pleaded.
“No, you shee, you don’t get it, Yuki. I get it. What have I done wrong? Nothing!” Felicity exclaimed.
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.
“Yuki, Fel isn’t doing so well,” she observed.
“Of course she isn’t. Are you here to help out and stop her?” I questioned despite already knowing her response.
“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.
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.
“Get back here, Yuki. I’m not done talking yet. You gotta accompany me…. you just gotta,” Felicity demanded, grabbing my arm.
“Yeah, guess I do,” I replied, sitting next to her.
“You’re damn right! I freaking need more drinks. Pour me another one!” Felicity slammed her cup on the table.
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.
“Yuki, how come you don’t…. hic… like anyone?” Felicity inquired, her head down on the counter.
“Felicity, calm down. You’re asking weird questions,” I said, tempted to drink now.
“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.
“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.
“Iz a lie, Yuki. Iz all lies you’re telling me. You just gotta… gotta….,” Felicity instructed before slumping down on the counter.
“Felicity, you okay?” I shook her.
“Of course! I’m Kaisi Konoe, daughter of….,” Felicity trailed off.
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?
“Yuki, just promise me one thing…. just one thing,” Felicity spoke again.
“Yeah, what is it?” I asked, hoping for something coherent.
“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.
“I won’t. You’ve already had enough. That’s enough for today,” I warned.
“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.
“Felicity, you’re going to regret this tomorrow,” I said, uncorking the new bottle.
“No one can tell me what to do,” Felicity emphasized.
“Whatever you say,” I said.
“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.
“Nothing. You just finished your food and went home. You were really tired,” I lied.
“You’re right. Nothing happened,” Felicity agreed.
“That reminds me, how do you know Champ?” I recalled how Felicity knew him previously.
“Who’s dat? Oh, Yuka’s boyfriend? His dad runs a pretty profitable company here. Iz pretty up there, you know?” Felicity answered.
“You’ve dealt with him before?” I questioned.
“Once or twice. Maybe three? Ah, who cares, pour me another one,” Felicity demanded.
“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.
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.
“Oh, I apologize for the intrusion. I didn’t know my daughter brought a guest over,” she said, noticing me.
I certainly saw the resemblance between them. Memoria stood behind her with a sheepish smile on her face.
“Memoria, did you lock them in here?” Felicity’s mother turned around, staring at her youngest daughter.
“Well….yeah I did,” Memoria confessed.
“How many times have I told you not to…. this smell. Felicity, how many bottles did you open?” she asked, examining the counter.
“Hey Mom! Care to join me for a little….,” Felicity offered before finally blacking out.
“I’m very sorry about all of this. Memoria, take her back to her room. This is partially your fault,” she ordered.
“Of course, Mom. I will be glad to,” Memoria said.
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.
“Once again, I apologize for my daughter’s actions. She really has no filter when it comes to drinking,” she said.
“Yeah, I was pretty worried there. Is this normal for Felicity?” I asked.
“No, but when she does, it’s always to the extreme. It is quite unfortunate,” Felicity’s mother shook her head.
“Well, she didn’t do anything too crazy, so there’s that,” I noted.
“Ah, I have forgotten to ask for your name,” Felicity’s mother requested.
“Oh, I should have introduced myself back there. I’m Tomo Yuki,” I revealed.
“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.
“No, not at all. Felicity’s been a really good friend. You don’t have to worry about that,” I assured her.
“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.
“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.
“I hope Felicity will be in a better mood the next time you visit,” Felicity’s mother said.
What a strange day. Oh crap, Tess’ house tomorrow. I wasn’t looking forward to that at all.
Monday Spring Break 2016 Day 1
“I see. That’s really helpful. Thank you for the information,” Zhuyu spoke with Mom downstairs.
“No, the pleasure is all mine. The payment was just a joke. I didn’t think you would take it so seriously,” Mom responded.
Zhuyu jotted down notes on a tablet while Mom spoke. She showed him photos from my childhood. What the hell was going on here?
“Mom, what are you doing?” I questioned, tapping her shoulder.
“Morning, Yuki. Your friend here finally paid money to obtain information. I’m so happy I could cry right now!” Mom joked.
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.
“Tomo, sorry for the short notice. I was going to pick Jacque up but he had to finish something first,” Zhuyu apologized.
“It’s Yuki~, you know!” Mom corrected him.
“Right. Anyways, I’m gathering information for Tess,” Zhuyu explained.
“You don’t have to put it like that. Yuki will understand if you’re interested in her,” Mom disagreed.
“So, To-, uh Yuki, are you ready?” Zhuyu paused at first, noticing Mom stare at him.
“Yeah, I’m ready to go. Anything I have to bring?” I asked.
“No, not really. Thanks for taking the time to speak with me, Mrs.Tomo,” Zhuyu said.
“Leaving so soon? I didn’t get a chance to show you everything. Next time for sure,” Mom lamented, shutting the photo album.
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.
“How far does Jacque live?” I asked.
“Not too far. Ten or fifteen minutes,” Zhuyu replied, connecting an aux cable into his phone.
“Oh, not too far. So, about Tess’ house, why is everyone so scared?” I asked.
“Don’t listen to what Jin and Shigetzu said. It’s not that bad,” Zhuyu responded, playing music from his phone.
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.
“Zhuyu, is this video game music?” I asked as he unplugged his phone to call Jacque.
“Huh? Yeah, some of it is, but it’s just visual novel soundtracks,” Zhuyu answered.
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.
“Yo, how’s it going?” Jacque greeted.
“Good,” Zhuyu replied.
“Could be better. Pretty scared about what’s going to happen,” I admitted.
“It’s not that bad. I told you, they were just exaggerating,” Zhuyu disagreed, giving a thin smile.
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.
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.
“Let’s have fun,” Zhuyu said, his expression not matching his tone.
“You serious? You don’t even believe that yourself,” I observed.
“Doesn’t matter what I think,” Zhuyu denied, ringing the doorbell.
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.
“Welcome to my house, Tomo and Jacque,” Tess greeted.
“Tess, I’ll update the records. Tomo and Jacque, you’re in her capable hands,” Zhuyu said, heading inside first.
“Thank you for your assistance, Long. Jacque and Tomo, follow me,” Tess directed.
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.
“This is too much for me,” Jacque said to me.
“You’ll be more surprised by Felicity’s house,” I remarked.
“Would you like to rest first? You’ll undergo serious physical tests in a moment,” Tess asked, pointing at the couches.
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?
“Let’s just go,” I declined her offer, noticing Jacque’s dismayed look.
“Let’s proceed then,” Tess said, leading us to a set of stairs.
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.
“What are we going to do here?” I asked, sitting down in a nearby chair.
“Run preliminary tests and evaluate your physical weaknesses. Excuse me while I grab something,” Tess answered, heading to the bookcase in the back.
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.
“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.
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.
“I see. We’ll move onto the next set after a five minute break,” Tess directed, checking her tablet screen.
I didn’t think my body could handle anymore. Did Tess did this every day? Just thinking about it made me shutter.
“Hey, Tess, you think we can get some water? I’m dying over here,” Jacque begged, still on the floor.
“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.
“Damn, I should have kept my mouth shut,” Jacque muttered, finally standing back up again.
Tess handed me one as well. Wait, I didn’t even say anything. Fine, I guess it was part of her “orientation”.
“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.
“Yes. Jacque, come with me. Tomo, you can stay here until we return,” Tess decided, hauling Jacque up from the floor with little effort.
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?
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.
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.
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.
“Tess, I finished,” I informed her.
“Ah, perfect. I trust you feel much better now,” Tess said, taking both the questionnaire and test from me.
“Yeah, I think I’m fine,” I lied.
“That’s good to hear. Follow me, Tomo. I’ll run a few more tests and make sure everything is in order,” Tess directed.
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.
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.
“Keep going until I tell you to stop,” Tess requested, staring at the screen.
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.
“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.
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.
“Tomo, you still alive?” Tess finally asked, standing over me.
“Bare…. ly,” I uttered.
“Let’s head back up. I’m sure Jacque completed everything by now,” Tess said, hauling me off the floor.
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.
“Tess, this is really hard. I can’t finish half of it,” Jacque admitted, placing his pencil down.
“Don’t worry about completing everything. Just do what you know,” Tess advised, walking back over to the bookcase.
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.
“Okay, that’s all I can do. No more, Tess, please,” Jacque pleaded.
“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.