Volume 11, Chapter 2-1: Beat Up

Friday Spring Break 2016 Day 5

I heard the sound of birds chirping and bright sunlight streamed through the blinds. My window was open, allowing in a cool breeze. Finally back! I rolled out of bed and felt pain in my back and arms. There was a red stain on my shirt sleeve as well.

“Blood? I don’t remember Mirei doing that,” I muttered, changing into a fresh set of clothes.

I headed downstairs and saw Tess in the dining room. A large bandage covered her left cheek and her neck was wrapped in white gauze. Damn, did Mirei beat on us after I passed out?

“Tomo, we need to talk,” Tess said, her voice hoarse.

“Mirei gave us two days. I don’t what you plan to do but I’ve made up my mind,” I revealed.

“We’ll hold a joint meeting with Lilith’s team and decide on our next course of action,” Tess informed me.

“Tess, how bad are your injuries? You sure you don’t want to wait?” I questioned, noticing bandages around her wrist too.

“Minor inconveniences. My lack of preparation and foresight caused this. I assume responsibility for everyone’s injuries,” Tess replied.

“Tess, it isn’t your fault. A lot of it falls on me. I’m Mirei’s main target,” I disagreed.

“Perhaps. I’ll see you at the training facility,” Tess said before departing.

Training Facility

“How long did they wail on us?” I felt my right arm tighten up.

I pulled up my sleeve, revealing an entire bandaged arm, traces of red throughout. Not the most pleasant sight. Zhuyu limped out of his car. S***, it was weird seeing him after that strange experience Mirei thrust me into. A small square bandage covered his left cheek and upper right eye. His left hand was also bandaged. Zhuyu’s friend, En, appeared in much better condition. Still, it looked like he favored his left arm. Both walked at a slow pace, dragging their feet.

“Lo-, Zhuyu, how bad are your injuries?” I corrected myself.

“Could be worse,” Zhuyu answered.

He walked away, clutching his right leg with every few steps. En trailed behind him. I expected the usual empty lobby, but saw everyone gathered there already. Shan’s forehead was wrapped up and he clutched the left side of his chest. Ichaival adjusted his pants leg, revealing a small brace. No cuts or any visible bruises for either men. Kisai, a cut on the right side of his face, sat on one of the couches. He propped his left leg onto the coffee table, massaging his kneecap, and wore a brace on his left wrist. Shui stood near the window, drinking a cup of water, bandages around all five fingers of his right hand. His left hand shook as the man pressed a button on the water dispenser.

Kyoi’s right arm was in a sling and she wore a brace on her left leg. Various cuts and bruises adorned her face. Like Tess, her neck was also bandaged. Kuan’s left hand was wrapped in gauze while his right hand contained a few minor cuts. He walked with a slight limp, not as pronounced as Zhuyu’s or En’s. Jen, a brace on her left arm, touched the bandages near her left eye. Jacque had a slight bruise on his forehead and a cut-up lip.

“Tomo, glad to see you’re okay!” Shui remarked as I stared at everyone in silence.

“Hey, um, I want to say something. Everyone’s injuries, they’re my fault. Mirei targeted me and you all ended up being collateral damage. I’m really sorry,” I apologized with a bow.

“What are you talking about, Tomo? Don’t apologize. Mirei and her team f***** us up because we aren’t good enough,” Kisai disagreed, shaking his head at my statement.

“Jin’s right. We got our asses beat. She surprised us,” Ichaival backed up Kisai.

“Bro, I just suck. I deserved to get beat on. Jin’s right like always,” Jacque agreed as well.

After speaking with Tess in the morning, I predicted they wouldn’t blame me. At least not openly. I prepared to respond but Tess walked in.

“Continue talking, no doubt Tomo has questions for everyone,” Tess directed.

“How did they get everyone?” I questioned the heroes about their injuries.

“Got me when I finished deliveries and was almost home. Pulled out my house key and they just appeared. Got f***** up, but I f***** them up too so yeah….,” Kisai explained, wincing when he leaned forward.

“I was careless. They honed in on me while I was training. Tomo, where does she live?” Kyoi stared at me with menacing eyes.

“Refrain yourself, Feng. Our chances of victory are low in our current state,” Tess warned her, a piercing expression on her face.

“Anyways, how about you, Shui?” I ignored Kyoi’s request, glancing at the water elemental user.

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“I was about to fall asleep and there was a loud crash. Four people came in out of nowhere,” Shui replied.

“Damn, that sucks. Anything broke?” I asked.

“No, Tess said they used some kind of barrier, so nothing got busted,” he answered.

“En, how about you?” I inquired.

“I was outside getting mail and they were there,” En disclosed.

All their encounters resembled my situation. How could we even defend against that?

“Tomo, let me explain what occurred after I awoke. I’m sure you’re curious how you returned home,” Tess offered, walking over to me.

“Yeah, that’d be nice to know,” I said.

“I woke up two hours later. With the exception of you, Tomo, those present in the training facility recovered shortly after. I then drove you home and provided an adequate excuse for your concerned parents. Once in your room, I tended to your injuries and concealed your condition,” Tess explained.

“How they did inflict so much damage, Tess? You said any injuries sustained don’t transfer back here,” I questioned, staring at my bandaged arm.

“Mirei most likely inflicted more damage once she shut down the artificial dimension. As I stated before, if the injuries exceed a certain threshold, they will manifest,” Tess clarified, massaging her neck.

“Mirei really doesn’t care, does she?” I sighed.

“She is a formidable enemy. Now let’s discuss the ultimatum provided to Tomo, and by extension, everyone here,” Tess directed.

Everyone shuffled around in their seats, thoughtful expressions on their faces. I sat down in a nearby office chair and wheeled over to the water dispenser.

“We’ll take a vote, but Tomo makes the final decision,” Tess instructed, sitting behind the front desk.

My decision, huh? I thought Tess might handle this since she was the Gatekeeper.

“We’ll first consider the validity of Mirei’s statements. Can she resolve the situation with efficiency and minimize casualties?” Tess posed the first question.

“I’m sure she can. No offense, but she seems pretty committed to it, unlike us,” Zhuyu answered.

“Hey, we do…. stuff. But you’re right, Long, Mirei and her group are awfully concerned about what’s going on,” Shan agreed.

“You’re saying we just leave it to her?” I asked, feeling that the two men already reached a consensus.

“I never said that. Just pointing out the qualities that make her a good fit. And it’s true without our powers and responsibility, we would have much more free time,” Zhuyu denied.

“We aren’t exactly the most hardworking people, Tomo. I’m sure that irritates you. Not as much as Felicity, of course. Anyways, never said I would give up my powers. Might be the best decision in the long run, but can’t really trust her, you know? We’ll probably handle it, eventually,” Shan added worrisome words at the end of his statement.

Zhuyu and Shan listed reasons for supporting Mirei. Yet, they weren’t willing to let her handle things. Was it ego or were they providing counterexamples just because they could?

“I admit Mirei carries a strong passion and drive, but that only gets them so far,” Tess stated.

“Come on, we can’t just let them beat us up, and say it’s okay, right? Gotta return the favor,” Ichaival pointed out.

“Problem is, they’re way too strong. Maybe even surpassing the Traveler,” Shan countered.

“Wait, don’t you usually tell me to keep going, even if it’s hard?” Ichaival shot back.

“We have to make sure we don’t get this wrong. Do you understand the situation we’re in, Darryl?” Shan’s expression turned serious.

Ichaival sighed but nodded in understanding. S***, Shan was serious? This meeting contained none of the usual joy and humor. I was curious about Kisai’s take. Could never tell if he was going to lead off with something funny or actually take things seriously.

“What about everyone else’s opinion? It’s crucial Tomo hears all your feedback. Speak now so you don’t regret anything later on,” Tess requested.

“I’d love another shot at Mirei, but we don’t have our ultimate weapons, not to mention our diminished physical conditions. Our chances of success are low. Unless, of course, you have information that could shift things in our favor?” Kyoi stared at me.

“I actually do. Ace left me with a message,” I recalled the former leader’s words.

“If she left it in your care, it must be important,” Tess surmised.

I felt my necklace shake. The grimoire appeared and I handed it to the Gatekeeper. Chains wrapped around the magical tome. Tess held it by the spine, as it flipped to a page near the end.

“Did she leave anything useful?” I watched the chains dissipate.

“Yes, Ace offered us an ultimatum as well. One buying us enough time to prepare and engage Mirei,” Tess revealed.

“What’s her plan?” I caught my grimoire as the Gatekeeper returned it to me.

“Restrict Mirei’s powers with my assistance,” Tess said.

“Can we even trust her? She must want something in return,” I second-guessed Ace’s motives.

“Yes, she wants us to not hunt her down once this is resolved. In other words, whatever she planned with the Traveler or any deals she brokered, we must not stop her,” Tess explained.

“And we’re going to accept?” I stared at Tess.

“Let’s see what everyone else thinks,” Tess suggested.

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