Volume 10, Chapter 5-1: Warm-Up

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Thursday Spring Break 2016 Day 4

“I apologize for the change in plans, Tomo. Jin was called in for a shift so I changed the exhibition match date,” Tess said as we walked up to the battlefield.

“It works out since my body’s still healing. Should I be worried I still feel aches?” I shook my head, swiping my card on the reader located outside the door.

“Yes, it’s quite normal. The recovery time varies depending on the individual. If the pain worsens, contact me immediately or go to a hospital right away,” Tess answered.

The area inside contained elevated seating, similar to bleachers in high school gyms. These were much nicer, however, with comfortable chairs. Ichaival was already inside, wiping sweat away with his towel.

“Kaze, you didn’t tell me you would be present today,” Tess said, greeting the woman who sat in the front row.

“I came by to make sure nothing happens. I’m not a hero anymore, but I still have some say, so I wanted to make sure Lionel won’t cause any trouble,” Kaze explained.

“That’s sound reasoning,” Tess agreed.

“I don’t know why he’s so concerned about his position. Champ’s been pulling strings behind Lilith’s back as well,” Kaze said, standing up from her seat.

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“Champ is an issue that’s been dealt with. Right now, the main focus is retrieving the ultimate weapons,” Tess revealed.

“That’s the plan, huh? Sorry about all the trouble my sister has caused. I don’t know why she’s so obsessed with revenge. I’ve talked to Lilith and made my decision. When are you free, Tess?” Kaze questioned.

“I’ll be free on the weekend. You’re absolutely sure, Kaze?” Tess questioned.

“Yeah, I am. It’ll be helpful for you too, right?” Ruiqi confirmed.

“A valid point. Darryl, how are your preparations?” Tess called out to the man.

“Pretty good. I really want to beat him today! He got me real good last time and it’s not happening again,” Ichaival responded.

“Don’t do anything rash. Bartholomew is still Lionel’s protégé. He’ll pull off similar strategies his instructor employs,” Tess warned.

“Yeah, I know. I’ll be careful, Tess,” Ichaival said.

Zhuyu showed up a few minutes later, a notebook in hand. He greeted us and walked up the stairs. I saw an announcer’s booth protruding out at the top. Oh, must be the place Ace broadcasted from in all the battle videos. Zhuyu motioned at Tess and the Gatekeeper joined him up there.

Who else would show up? Shan for sure, considering his tight partnership with Ichaival. This wasn’t a rank-up match so it made sense if there wasn’t a huge turnout .

“It’s empty in here,” Kuan observed, walking through the doorway.

“You’re here too?” I asked, staring at the man with strange tastes.

“Yeah, always great to see someone kick Darryl’s ass. I’m actually here to set up the recording of today’s match,” Kuan revealed.

“Good luck with that. Oh, thanks for the access to the videos. I watched a few the other day,” I said.

“No problem. See you later, Tomo,” he responded, heading up to the booth.

Jen showed up next. No surprise there. She greeted me with her soft smile and sat in the middle row of seats. I glanced around and noticed small metallic glints in the corners. Probably devices for monitoring and recording battles.

“Yuki! I missed you!” Felicity came in full speed, hugging me.

“S**t, that surprised me!” I recoiled at her sudden embrace.

“Sorry, I was just so excited! You’re here to see Darryl win, right?” Felicity asked, twirling around in a light spring dress.

“Felicity, I just saw you on Sunday,” I remarked, wincing because her hug struck one of my sore spots.

“I was pretty out of it so that doesn’t count, okay? Anyone else here?” Felicity scoured the area.

She glanced at Jen but didn’t say anything. The expression on her face remained the same. Shan finally arrived and smirked when he saw Felicity.

“I’m not late, right? Darryl lose yet?” he asked.

“Hey, stop making fun of him! It’s why he doesn’t like hanging out with you. Seriously, that’s why he’s been with his other friends lately,” Felicity scolded.

“Yeah, Darryl’s been pretty cold lately. Senpai, why won’t you notice me?” Shan grinned in response to Felicity’s statement.

“What does that even mean? Whatever, has his opponent showed up yet?” Felicity glanced around again, way too hyped.

“Not yet. Did you see anyone, Shan?” I asked.

“I saw two unfamiliar cars. Probably a few more people showing up. I heard about Michi. How did the meeting with his sister go?” Shan inquired, taking out his phone.

“Pretty standard. Not a lot happened,” I replied.

“Yeah, good for you, right? Speaking of other people, here’s more,” Shan said, pointing at the entryway with his left finger.

Lilith, her second-in-command, and Ksi walked in. Tess was finished with her business upstairs and greeted them. It was cordial, no visible animosity between the two sides. That was probably the most reserved greeting of the day. Once Bartholomew or Champ showed up, there would be sparks. The three woman sat near Ruiqi.

“Man, this is my first time seeing an actual match,” Jacque exclaimed, gazing around in wonder.

“Jacque?” I questioned, surprised by his appearance.

“It will be the first real match he witnesses between heroes. I am sure he’s heard of them by word, but seeing it with his own eyes will help,” Tess explained, walking up to me.

“Yep, I probably just read manga when I’m home, so this is a nice change of pace. There’s a lot of scary people here. That girl glared at me when I came in,” Jacque said, glancing over in Lilith’s direction.

“She’s like that. I hope you enjoy watching. It should be a pretty good match up between the two,” I said.

“It better be, Tomo,” Jacque remarked, sitting next to Shan.

Bartholomew and Lionel made their appearance. Lionel didn’t carry his usual smug smirk and looked tired. What happened? Bartholomew remained calm and walked to battlefield center. Lionel headed toward Lilith. It looked like something devastating occurred to him.

Zhuyu exited the broadcast booth and re-entered. I guess he was commentating. Strange, I didn’t recall any of my previous battles being recorded. Maybe they were and I didn’t notice.

“How good is he?” Jacque asked Shan as I found a seat near them.

“Decent. He might have changed since last time. Darryl should be able to get in decent attacks. If he f***s up and makes the same mistakes as last time then he sucks,” Shan answered.

“So harsh, Shigetzu. Alright, I expect some good action. If I don’t see that, I might as well be reading manga than watch this,” Jacque remarked.

“You might be better off doing that,” Shan agreed.

“Seriously, knock it off. Why can’t you be nice to him for just a day?” Felicity chirped.

“I did and look where it got me. Darryl’s hanging out with his other friends and doesn’t even respond to my texts until two days later. That’s what being nice got me,” Shan countered.

“Darryl’s busy and has things to do. It’s not strange he doesn’t respond immediately,” Felicity argued.

“Yeah, sure he is,” Shan said.

Tess walked to the center, holding her tablet. She examined both heroes before stepping away. She glanced upward and the entire area dimmed. The light source shifted, focusing on Ichaival and Bartholomew. Ichaival wore a light hoodie with a black weight design. Bartholomew had on a dark gray jacket with a standing collar covering his neck.

“This is a one off exhibition match between Ichaival Darryl and Bartholomew. No ranks will change as a result of this match. Contestants, I will stop the match if I see anything wrong with either of you. If there is any outside interference, the match will be halted immediately. Is that understood?” Tess stressed the last part of her announcement, staring right at Lionel.

I expected Lionel’s usual smirk but he just nodded. Was he having a bad day? It felt strange seeing such a submissive face on the man.

“Both sides, the victory condition is when the other is unable to continue. If I determine one of you cannot, I will end it and declare a winner. Is that clear?” Tess asked, staring both of them in the eye.

“Yes,” both men responded and the battle was on.

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