“This place be spooky,” Jacque commented, looking around.
“Yeah, it kind of is,” I agreed, walking toward the open elevator.
Shan and Ichaival stood inside. The gravity manipulator extended his finger toward the control panel. If you close the door on me one more time…. however, he didn’t, and everyone ascended upward. The entire layout changed from my previous visit. Only the projector screen positioning remained the same. Recliners were set in the middle, enough seats for everyone. Tables, on the side, were filled with a variety of food and drinks. Lilith and her team were already present, looking worse than us.
Bartholomew’s left arm was in a cast and his right cheek wrapped in gauze. Lionel, now bald, sat in a wheelchair. He tapped his fingers against the armrest with a subdued expression. Mirei didn’t hold back at all. There were crutches propped up against Champ’s seat and his right hand was wrapped in bandages. Yuka’s boyfriend wore his usual glasses over his bandaged left eye.
Lilith, a small cut underneath her right eye, moved around with the assistance of a forearm crutch. Streaks of red ran across the left side of her cheek. Er Zhi, Lilith’s second-in-command, had a sling on her left arm. When she adjusted her shirt, I noticed bandages around her stomach. Ksi, a gauze pad covering her forehead, had a bandage on each cheek. Her fingers were wrapped up as well. She winced when moving her arm. I noticed a bulge on her knee too. Aside from a cut lip and a bruise on the left side of her face, Xi appeared fine. Her defensive powers must have minimized any serious damage. Xiu, the shadow user, had her right arm in a sling. A knee brace covered her left leg and wore finger splints on her right hand. Steph’s left hand was in a brace and facial wrap covered both the woman’s ears. Someone was missing. Where was Stacia? Given her aggressive attitude, her injuries should be the most severe. Ruiqi, her sister, was here though. She spoke with Lilith, handing her a piece of paper. Lilith nodded and they headed toward Tess.
“What’s going on?” I asked, interjecting myself into their conversation.
“A power transfer,” Ruiqi replied.
“Stacia’s injured that badly?” I questioned.
“Yes and no. It’s been a request I decided on several months back. I kept pushing it back because there wasn’t much going on. However, Mirei’s ambush changed the urgency. Besides, I don’t want her to continue fighting, especially with her injuries. Stacia won’t be happy but it’s in her best interest,” Ruiqi explained.
“So, you’re getting your old powers back?” I inquired, curious about the process.
“Not exactly. Shane and Emily’s research shows a possibility of it not being the same. I’ll just have to get used to things again,” Ruiqi answered.
“The fundamentals of her power should not change. There are rare cases where a mutation occurs,” Tess backed her up.
“Is everything in order, Tess?” Ruiqi glanced at Tess.
“Yes, I’ve been in contact with Lilith about it. We can do it anytime you and your sister are free,” the Gatekeeper confirmed.
“Perfect. Let’s do it later today. I prefer to get this done as soon as possible,” Ruiqi said.
Ruiqi replacing her younger sister would benefit Lilith’s team. It sucked Stacia was injured, but I lacked sympathy for her. Maybe I was just a terrible person.
“There a reason we’re talking here?” I asked Tess.
“It provides the most space and everyone has access here,” Tess answered before heading to the back.
Might as well chat with everyone while waiting. I wanted to see how they felt after declining Mirei’s request.
“Zhuyu,” I called out to the zero vector user.
“Something on your mind, Tomo?” Zhuyu responded.
My experience in the alternate reality made it easier to approach him now. It actually turned out useful after all. However, I was regretful I couldn’t uncover any blackmail material.
“How’s your leg holding up? Looks pretty bad when you’re walking,” I pointed out.
“Walking up and down stairs isn’t fun. Other than that, I’m getting by. Mirei and her team didn’t hold back,” Zhuyu replied.
“Yeah, she isn’t shy about it. You said before it might be for the best Mirei takes over. How much do you really believe that?” I wondered about his statement.
“Let’s say about half. I don’t know Mirei, but she’s crazy enough to willingly do this. Not exactly everyone’s idea of fun, unless she has bad intentions. We’re assuming she’ll keep her word,” Zhuyu answered.
“Alright, I’m going to talk to everyone else and see what they say,” I said.
“Tomo, how are you feeling?” Zhuyu inquired, staring at me.
For a split second, I thought Zhuyu might smile at me. But he didn’t, because this was fuckin’ Zhuyu, and not the other one. His expression contained compassion, but didn’t match the one I saw in that weird world. My expectations were all screwed up.
“Other than the occasional tightness in my arm, I’m doing fine,” I replied.
“Don’t strain yourself, Tomo. The responsibility isn’t all on you,” Zhuyu encouraged.
Was he just nice to me? No, I was just overthinking. Zhuyu was like this all the time.
“Tomo, what’s going on? You’re moving around pretty well. A lot better than me,” Kisai greeted.
“I’m lucky. I noticed your knee looks pretty bad. Did you see a doctor?” I recalled him massaging his kneecap.
“Damn Tomo, makes me feel weak. Maybe I am. It hurts but it’s tolerable,” Kisai answered.
“You were in pain back at the training facility,” I disagreed.
“Don’t worry, Tomo. I’ll be fine. I’m sure you have something else to ask though,” Kisai realized my intentions.
“Are you really all in on this? Zhuyu and Shan had reservations,” I inquired.
“No matter what Long said, he’ll stick around. He better, you know, cuz I’m here. Shigetzu too. Mirei could handle everything, but you always want to complete what you started, if possible. I don’t like leaving things half-finished. Even if I half-ass it, I’ll finish,” Kisai clarified.
“Right, thanks for your time, Kisai,” I said.
“Any time, Tomo,” Kisai responded with a grin.
Should I talk to Kyoi? She seemed pretty angry about Mirei’s assault. I feared she would do anything to obtain information about Ichizen’s little sister. Best to stay away from her. Ichaival peered down at his brace as Shan conversed with him.
“No, why would I….?” Ichaival shook his head.
“Come on, go for it. You have nothing to lose,” Shan countered.
“Maybe not for you, but I know it won’t go that smooth,” Ichaival disagreed.
“Guys, am I interrupting something important?” I interrupted their talk.
“Hey Tomo. It’s nothing important. You have something to ask us?” Ichaival glared at his friend.
“It’s totally important, but you just don’t want to talk about it in front of Tomo. I understand. Darryl and I will continue this later,” Shan emphasized, shaking his head at Ichaival with a mix of pity and mock sadness.
Ichaival gave Shan a sharp look. Shan only laughed in response. I wondered how Ichaival felt speaking with Shan. Must be an arduous process.
“Just wanted to check in and see how you were doing. Shan, how’s your head? One of them kicked you pretty bad,” I recalled, pointing at his bandaged forehead.
“Oh this? It’s great, love being punted, it’s the best,” Shan gave a sarcastic response.
“Okay…,” I said.
“Fine, I’ll be serious. My head’s alright, don’t have a concussion. My upper shoulder is wrapped up too but still can function,” Shan said.
“You’re not even hurt as much as I am!” Ichaival protested.
“Darryl, what the hell are you talking about? They didn’t target your head. You know how important that s*** is?” Shan pointed at his head.
“Of course I do. I can’t even work out because of this. Freakin’ sucks. I have to lie down in bed so it doesn’t hurt,” Ichaival replied.
“That’s what you do all the time! Doesn’t even matter your leg got targeted!” Shan shook his head in disappointment.
“Hey, I’m not in my bed all the time! Don’t lie,” Ichaival defended himself.
At least they were in high spirits. Good for them. Although, this raised questions about their friendship.
“So, in others words, you’re okay?” I summed up.
“Better than Lionel over there in a wheelchair. How about you, Tomo? Besides Jacque, you appear decent,” Shan inquired about my injuries.
“I guess. My arms have some tightness, but other than that, don’t feel a whole lot of pain anywhere else,” I answered.
“That’s great to hear. We never have these big meetings unless it’s really important,” Ichaival observed.
“No s***, Sherlocke. I have a pretty good idea of what Tess is planning. Hopefully, it works out like I think it will. A good opportunity for me,” Shan commented.
I half-expected Felicity to burst in and defend Ichaival’s honor. What actually happened to her? Her well-being didn’t even occur to me until now. I was truly a despicable human now. Damn you, Shan and Kisai. I should have asked about Felicity’s condition earlier in the morning when Tess was over at my house.
“Do you know what happened to Felicity?” I asked them.
“Darryl, you know anything about it?” Shan deferred to his friend.
“Don’t assume I know everything, Shigetzu. I heard she was taken to the hospital. Tess would know more,“ Ichaival answered.
“If you’re really worried, go ask Tess right now,” Shan suggested.
Shan didn’t care too much about Felicity’s condition. Actually, it made sense. Shan was a year older than her so didn’t have any classes with the woman. Their chances at any interaction were limited to ater school or anytime the heroes did anything. Still, he could show a little more concern.
“Tess, I forgot to ask you about Felicity,” I brought up.
She ignored me at first. I peeked over her shoulder and saw her scribbling something on her tablet. Tess finally looked up, providing an answer.
“She is currently resting in a private room at a hospital. Her injuries are not as severe as ours. She did test positive for a concussion. I do not believe Mirei inflicted any of the injuries she has. It appeared to be happenstance,” Tess answered.
“Did they stomp on her like Shan? Felicity isn’t a hero. There’s no reason to even touch her,” I pointed out.
“Either Mirei or one of her comrades threw someone into Fel and pushed her back into a chair or wall. It is unfortunate, but her parents accepted the excuse I constructed,” Tess replied.
“Sucks for Felicity. I never expected she would be caught up in this mess. Can’t really blame Mirei for that. I wonder if she was aware of Felicity?” I asked.
“Mirei would have known. She followed us for a significant amount of time and she would have seen Fel,” Tess answered.
“I wonder about that. Tess, you’re pretty busy, so I’ll catch up with you later,” I said, walking away.
Tess walked over to the other side, speaking with Lilith. The leader nodded, staring at a clipboard. How much administrative items did the two deal with? There must be a major development if the talks were so serious.
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