Chapter 101:

Volume 4, Chapter 13: Orientation Aftermath

Heroes of the Past

Zhuyu sat in the living room, drinking water. We were in more dire need of that than him! I then noticed the sweat on his forehead. Shit, did Tess make him go through training too?Bookmark here

“Welcome back. How was your orientation?” he asked.Bookmark here

“Bro, fuck…. damn, too tired,” Jacque answered.Bookmark here

“Now you see why I didn’t tell you anything,” Zhuyu pointed out.Bookmark here

“You could have given us a hint,” I sulked.Bookmark here

“Well, you got through it. Here’s water,” Zhuyu said, pointing at the box of water bottles.Bookmark here

Jacque rushed over, downing his first bottle right away. I never thought the taste of water could be so damn good.Bookmark here

“It wasn’t as bad as Shigetzu or Jin said, right? You survived,” Zhuyu remarked.Bookmark here

“Fuck you, Zhuyu. That’s complete bullshit. There was so much suffering. We had to do a damn test! Tess is a scary woman!” I disagreed.Bookmark here

“I’ve never felt my body hurt so much before,” Jacque complained, wincing as he sat down.Bookmark here

“She does work us pretty hard for these things,” Zhuyu said.Bookmark here

“What happened to you?” I asked, pointing at his forehead.Bookmark here

“Oh, this? Tess just made me do cardio,” Zhuyu simply replied.Bookmark here

“I’m impressed. Teach me how to survive,” Jacque begged his friend.Bookmark here

“I’m just desensitized to it,” Zhuyu revealed.Bookmark here

“Oh yeah, Kyoi trains you too. This must be nothing compared to her shit, right?” I asked.Bookmark here

“I wouldn’t say that. Tess’ are definitely harder. Kyoi focuses on a certain part of the body but Tess’ training hurts everywhere,” Zhuyu disagreed.Bookmark here

If someone who underwent Kyoi’s training found Tess’ stuff tough, what did that mean for me? Shit, what did that mean for Jacque?Bookmark here

“You should be proud. Not everyone survives Tess’ training the first time. Zhang did it twice before he made it. Hell, I did it twice too,” Zhuyu complimented.Bookmark here

“Doesn’t exactly make my body feel any better,” I pointed out.Bookmark here

“Nothing I can do about that. Jacque, here’s some presents,” Zhuyu said, pulling out an ID badge and key.Bookmark here

“Sweet…. oh, I thought you meant legit presents. What are these?” Jacque’s inquired.Bookmark here

“Yu-…. Tomo can tell you. Damn, I almost called you Yuki by accident. Your mom’s too scary,” Zhuyu said, pointing at me.Bookmark here

“The key’s for entering the Crossroads, you know the place we went last time. ID card lets you get into the training facility anytime you want,” I provided a brief summary.Bookmark here

“Okay, cool. Tess said you were suppose to talk to us about something,” Jacque said, sliding the ID card into his wallet.Bookmark here

“Let me see…. here you go,” Zhuyu said, digging through his bag before handing us a binder.Bookmark here

I flipped through the pages, discovering information on all the heroes, including Lilith’s team. There were addresses, phone numbers, email, social media handles, and much more.Bookmark here

“Is it okay to have all this listed on here?” I asked.Bookmark here

“If anything happens, it’ll be nice to multiple avenues of contact,” Zhuyu explained.Bookmark here

“I feel like you’re suppose to tell us more than just this,” I said, still uneasy about having so much private information.Bookmark here

“Yeah, one more thing. It’s about my job as the record keeper,” Zhuyu said.Bookmark here

“Record keeper?” Jacque inquired.Bookmark here

“For some stuff Tess gathers, I store and keep track of it by hand. Not digitally, all by hand,” Zhuyu disclosed.Bookmark here

“That seems a bit…. unnecessary,” I remarked.Bookmark here

“If anything happens online, it takes awhile to restore. Just a backup plan if the worse were to happen,” Zhuyu explained.Bookmark here

“I guess that makes sense. I think I said it before, that role fits you,” I observed.Bookmark here

“Yeah, you might be right. Anyways, I have records on enemies and history on our…. adventures. If you need anything, I’ll get it to you if it’s not online,” Zhuyu said.Bookmark here

“Wait, you keep all that stuff at your house? I mean, isn’t it dangerous?” I thought about a potential problem resulting from Zhuyu’s duties.Bookmark here

“You remember how Tess set up a barrier around your house the last time Champ came in? She did the same for me. Someone could break in, but no one wants to waste their time looking through papers. Right, Jacque?” Zhuyu looked over at the artist.Bookmark here

“Dude, totally,” Jacque agreed.Bookmark here

“How do you have room?” I wondered.Bookmark here

“I have a spare room in my house. I keep it all there. Doubles as my study room too so it’s perfect. I don’t have everything, just the most pertinent info,” Zhuyu answered.Bookmark here

I continued inspecting the binder contents. Half of it was information I already knew but organized into a more coherent collection. This was actually really useful.Bookmark here

“Damn, you even have stats? Wait, how come I have X’s everywhere? Does that mean I suck?” Jacque exclaimed.Bookmark here

“It means not determined yet. A zero would mean you suck,” Zhuyu clarified.Bookmark here

“Just like school, huh? That reminds me, I have classes until 4:00 next quarter. Why, Long, tell me why?” Jacque lamented.Bookmark here

“Yeah, I can’t do anything about that. I think that’s it from me. Anything else Tess will cover. Just relax for now. Your bodies will hurt a lot tomorrow,” Zhuyu concluded.Bookmark here

“No shit it will. By the way, Felicity was talking about throwing another party. Did she tell you anything?” I asked, glancing at Zhuyu.Bookmark here

“No. I don’t talk to Felicity that often. Makes me worried something bad will happen. That reminds me, Jacque, how’s the classes Felicity paid for going?” Zhuyu asked his friend.Bookmark here

“They’re pretty helpful. I’m shit at drawing faces. Well, different ones. They all somehow end up looking the same. Actually I suck at everything so there’s gotta be improvement no matter what,” Jacque answered.Bookmark here

“Damn, Jacque, that’s pretty…. depressing. I’ve seen your drawings before, they aren’t that bad,” I disagreed with his personal assessment.Bookmark here

“Eh, there are better people. My art isn’t anything special. It’d be nice if I could figure it out one day,” Jacque said.Bookmark here

“I believe in you, Jacque. Like I said, your art has potential. These classes will definitely help you reach that goal,” I supported him.Bookmark here

“Tomo, thank you. I might cry,” Jacque responded.Bookmark here

“Tomo, why can’t you be like that for us? Where’s your complete trust for Shigetzu or anyone else for that matter?” Zhuyu entered the conversation with a smile.Bookmark here

“Fuck you guys. You don’t need my belief to get through anything. You’re more than capable. Jacque’s different. He needs that extra push,” I replied.Bookmark here

“So cold, Tomo. Jacque, any questions for me? Tomo, you know everything so I won’t answer any of your questions,” Zhuyu said.Bookmark here

“That’s just your way of saying I shouldn’t ask unnecessary questions,” I accused the man.Bookmark here

“Yeah, you got me. But, it’s also Tess’ policy. Can’t go against her, you know? Or I might find myself doing tests for eight hours on a weekend,” Zhuyu confirmed.Bookmark here

That was a horrible punishment. Just thinking about it made my head hurt. Tess, why are you so cruel but incredible at the same time? The Gatekeeper finally arrived in the living room, holding our tests and questionnaire.Bookmark here

“Thank you for updating the records, Long,” Tess said.Bookmark here

“No need. I like doing that sort of thing. Makes me feel better about myself when Tomo insults me,” Zhuyu responded.Bookmark here

“Tomo and Jacque, here are your tests. I’ve written several comments on each page and attached three more pages containing additional information,” Tess revealed.Bookmark here

I checked the score and saw a 85 at the top. Was I hallucinating? This was a test Tess personally wrote herself. How was it possible I obtained such a high score? Jacque’s face also contained surprise when he checked. Tess excused herself, saying she would return in a few minutes.Bookmark here

“Hey, is this normal, Zhuyu?” I pointed at my score.Bookmark here

“Oh, nicely done. Better than me,” Zhuyu congratulated.Bookmark here

“Thanks… .no that’s not what I meant. Why is my score so high? There’s a bunch of answers I know were wrong,” I demanded.Bookmark here

“Tess told you she’s not grading on overall correctness, right? She’s just seeing how much skill you have based on the answers given and converting that to a number score,” Zhuyu explained.Bookmark here

“Wait, Tomo got a higher score than you? Jin must have gotten a 100 then, right?” Jacque’s eyes widened.Bookmark here

“No, Jin got a 70 and I got a 60. Shigetzu, if I remember right, was a 72. Feng was around 75. Zhang got 55 I think. Lau was a 70. Kuan got a 70 too. Darryl got a 65. Can’t remember anyone else’s,” Zhuyu revealed.Bookmark here

“Hold on, this is a 70. I did better than you? How’s that possible?” Jacque stared at his friend in confusion.Bookmark here

“It’s very much a test of potential and drive. When I took it, I didn’t have much experience or desire so that’s why my score sucked,” Zhuyu emphasized.Bookmark here

“This is good?” I asked, pointing at my score.Bookmark here

“Yeah, you definitely have what it takes. Oh, she also uses it to make sure you’re doing well in school. Watch out for that,” Zhuyu warned.Bookmark here

“Wait, Tess tests us on class material?” I asked.Bookmark here

“It’ll be a surprise when she does it. I was caught off guard one time when I went home to watch anime and it was waiting there on my table,” Zhuyu confirmed.Bookmark here

“Damn, that’s scary,” Jacque muttered.Bookmark here

“Is that why our class schedules are in here?” I suddenly recognized the significance of its appearance in the binder.Bookmark here

“Yeah. Also so you can track people down. Same for the addresses,” Zhuyu answered.Bookmark here

Tess returned with a folder. She placed it on the coffee table as Zhuyu smiled and stepped away. What was up with the shift in atmosphere?Bookmark here

“Both of you, read over this document and sign your name at the bottom. Also fingerprint it too,” Tess provided both a pen and the ink.Bookmark here

“What is this?” I inquired, making sure we weren’t selling our souls.Bookmark here

“A contract to be a hero. More or less, it’s an agreement to fulfill your obligations until you quit or until this all concludes. It’s a formality that can’t be ignored,” Tess answered.Bookmark here

I scanned through the single page and found nothing unusual in the wording. Tess wrote it herself so everything was crisp and straight to the point. If at any time I wanted to stop, Tess would find an appropriate replacement and transfer possessions of powers over to the successor. Also, she could strip us of our powers and place us on probation at her discretion.Bookmark here

I picked up the pen, signing it and stamped my fingerprint. Jacque did the same after ten minutes. Tess nodded, picking up our contracts and slipped them back into her folder. She left again and I glanced over at Zhuyu.Bookmark here

“We didn’t just give our souls away, right?” I asked.Bookmark here

“Didn’t you read it? There was nothing in there about that. Tess summons you at inconvenient times, well, that might be equivalent,” Zhuyu replied.Bookmark here

“Please, don’t say such things, Long. It makes me nervous,” Jacque said.Bookmark here

Zhuyu sat on the couch, staring at his phone with a serious expression. Jacque texted someone, swinging his earphones around.Bookmark here

“You’re free to go home. Tomo, I wish to discover what’s inside the fortress within Jin’s dimension. Whenever you’re free this week, tell me and I’ll set up a time matching Jin’s availability,” Tess informed me.Bookmark here

“Definitely not tomorrow after what happened today. I don’t even know if I can walk without hurting,” I said, standing up.Bookmark here

“An astute point. I rather have you in optimal condition,” Tess agreed.Bookmark here

Returning home, I felt pain with each step I took. Mom saw me struggle, not offering any assistance. I almost collapsed but Yukie caught me.Bookmark here

“Yuki, be careful,” Yukie said.Bookmark here

“Wish I could,” I responded.Bookmark here

Mom sat across from me with her usual smile, freaking me out.Bookmark here

“Mom, don’t say anything. I’ve had a really rough day,” I pleaded.Bookmark here

“Yuki, whatever are you thinking of? I just wanted to ask what your schedule looks like for spring quarter. What did you think I was going to say?” Mom played innocent.Bookmark here

“My schedule, here it is,” I answered.Bookmark here

It was about the same as this quarter, just the next class in the series. Math and chemistry again along with an English class meant to fulfill a graduation requirement.Bookmark here

“Have classes been rough for you?” Mom asked, actual concern in her voice.Bookmark here

“Some days. Overall, it’s been so-so,” I replied, feeling pain shoot up my back.Bookmark here

“Good to hear. Despite your lack of trust in me, I am still your mother after all,” Mom reminded me and left.Bookmark here

After dinner, only one thing was on my mind. Sleep. And a lot of it. I slumped down into my bed, not even changing clothes, falling asleep right away.Bookmark here

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