“Tomo, I’ve finally caught you,” a scary voice stated.
Kyoi tightened her grip on my shoulder. Even with injuries, her strength was still impressive. Damn it, nowhere to run. I searched for Zhuyu, but he conversed with Shui and En, unaware of my plight . S***, s***, don’t do this to me!
“The harder you resist, the more it’ll hurt,” Kyoi warned.
“What do you want to know? I won’t tell you anything about Mirei!” I tried putting on a brave face but my voice wavered.
“I don’t care about that. I’m curious about your little journey during the time you were unconscious,” Kyoi said.
“What are you talking about? You can’t expect me to remember anything,” I lied.
“Don’t play dumb, Tomo. If you communicated with Ace, then Mirei did something. What exactly was it?” Kyoi questioned.
She was perceptive as always. I came clean and explained the strange experience.
“Tomo, let me see your grimoire,” Kyoi requested.
She flipped through the pages, stopping at one. I don’t know what she was staring at since all I saw were blank pages. My necklace shook. What the hell? Her eyes were completely focused on the magical tome. My necklace swayed once more and Kyoi returned my grimoire.
“What did you do?” I stared at Kyoi.
“Nothing much. Let me remind you of something. Long’s still bound to me by contract. If you wish to challenge that, well, it will certainly be fun,” Kyoi said before departing.
I shuddered at her words and stared down at my grimoire. No doubt she knew what I saw during that weird dimension.
“Tomo, something bothering you?” Jen came up to me.
“No, it’s nothing. I should be asking you that question. Can you see?” I pointed at her bandaged eye.
“Some things are blurry. I can’t practice my archery for at least a week,” Jen replied, staring at her brace.
“It might be good for you, Jen. Get some time to rethink some things you might want to work on,” I pointed out a positive.
“That’s a good way to think about it, Tomo. I like that. Oh, the meeting’s about to start,” Jen said.
Tess and Lilith approached the meeting room center. All ongoing conversations ceased. Tess handed Lilith a clip-on microphone and motioned at Kuan. The man adjusted knobs on a silver control panel and nodded at the Gatekeeper.
“Because of Mirei’s brazen actions, I convened this emergency meeting. I’ve formulated a plan, in tandem with Lilith, to combat her. There will be a shift today, consider it a reordering between all present members. These new teams will work together in retrieving ultimate weapons and any other pertinent items,” Tess informed everyone.
“The teams Tess assembled will involve at least one member from our group and one from hers,” Lilith added, adjusting her microphone.
“Form the groups listed above and I will discuss in more detail what our next steps will be,” Tess directed.
She pointed upward at the descending projector screen. Two tables, containing everyone’s names, appeared. I noticed my name and Tess’ weren’t part of any groups.
For Ichaival to be separated from Shan, that was unexpected. Their chemistry was solid despite the gravity manipulator’s constant slandering of his friend. What prompted Tess to separate them? I felt sorry for Ichaival. He was paired up with a rival and stuck with Champ too. Kyoi and Ruiqi were a terrifying pair. Lionel stood out as well. I thought he would be involved with the main offensive units but was relegated to the reconnaissance teams. Lilith also wasn’t part of the offensive unit. As a leader, I thought Tess would assign her to the front line.
“Tomo, over here,” Tess called me over as everyone split into their respective groups.
“Am I with you?” I stretched, watching everyone familiarize themselves with their new teams.
“In a sense. Your goal remains the same as before, forge a working chemistry with everyone, thus you won’t be assigned to a specific team. I apologize if this is an inconvenience. However, I believe it is the best way to utilize your skills since they are a reflection of everyone else’s. I will join you whenever I have a lull in my schedule,” Tess answered.
“I understand, Tess. I’m fine with this setup. I’m learning everyone’s powers so it makes sense not to be stuck on one team,” I agreed, scoping out the room.
Kyoi and Ruiqi were familiar with each other, nothing too exciting there. Bartholomew wheeled Lionel over to Jen and Shui before departing to meet with his new teammates. Jen spoke with him, offering a smile. Shui stood behind her, joining the conversation. Lionel lightened up, chatting with them.
Bartholomew offered his hand out to Ichaival, who stared at the gesture with suspicion. Champ, a thoughtful look on his face, stood to the side. All three men stared at each other in silence. The false archer finally shook hands with Bartholomew and called Champ over.
Xi approached Zhuyu and En with caution. She was rather shy. Their team just might work out. Zhuyu was serious and En didn’t talk much. A good pairing of personalities.
Er Zhi was already scolding Kisai about something. Xiu stood next to the second-in-command in silence. The man smiled at her actions. She finally raised her hands in exasperation although with a slight smile. No problems there, Kisai got along with everyone.
Jacque looked confused. Shan spoke with Ksi, who only provided slight nods in acknowledgment. An odd mix of people. Still, it was rather powerful, with Jacque being the wild card. How would he contribute with his lackluster powers?
Lilith handed Kuan a piece of paper which the man scanned over. He pointed at a few spots on the page. She nodded in agreement. Steph, standing behind Kuan, didn’t speak.
“I know it’s spring break but head into the Crossroads. You’ll find instructions there, regarding training exercises, that will help familiarize everyone with their new teammates. I’ve capped it at two hours and you will be notified once time is up. Tomo will accompany various teams in the future at my discretion. She’ll join Bartholomew’s team today. I will join her as well. You are all dismissed,” Tess announced.
Of course she chose the most dysfunctional team. I half expected Champ to turn on Ichaival and fight him right now. Bartholomew seemed open to working with the man but that could just be a facade.
“Tess, hold on,” I said.
“What’s wrong?” Tess questioned.
“Is it really such a good idea to send everyone out like this? Everyone is…. well, f***** up. I mean, Lionel’s in a wheelchair,” I pointed out.
“I don’t see an issue. They’re not heading into combat situations, merely a quick test run so everyone gets accustomed to their partners,” Tess refuted.
“Wouldn’t it be better to just work it out here or the training facility?” I suggested an alternative.
“No, that would be counterproductive. It’s better to force them into scenarios where they rely on each other. While there is no fighting as of now, it’s crucial everyone moves past the initial awkwardness and learn about each other,” Tess disagreed.
“I’m still worried something bad might happen. The majority of us aren’t 100\%,” I pointed out.
“Such concern for others, Tomo. Your opinion on everyone has evolved since our first encounter,” Tess observed.
“Huh? I guess. I’m worried only because we need everyone to beat Mirei,” I said.
“It’s true there are risks, sending everyone out like this. However, the locations will be devoid of any serious threats,” Tess assured me.
“If you say so,” I relented, not wanting to argue with the Gatekeeper.
I looked around, watching everyone depart. Champ leaned on his crutches, pondering something, keeping his distance from Ichaival and Bartholomew. Bartholomew initiated a mundane conversation with the false archer, attempting to learn about his new teammate.
“Champ, something on your mind?” Tess inquired.
“It’s just…. I’m a liability, you know? Why would you pick me to be on an offensive team? It doesn’t make sense,” Champ revealed.
“I’ve already discussed this matter with you and Lilith. You’re safe from her. She already tried and failed. It’s not in her nature to pursue a lost cause,” Tess countered.
“I just… don’t want to drag everyone down. But, you’re right. I can’t keep sulking like this. I have to make up for my past transgressions,” Champ said, nodding to himself.
“That’s the spirit! We’ve all had our own issues in the past so let’s get this started right,” Bartholomew agreed.
“Guess I don’t have much of a choice. I’ll respect Tess’ decision and work with both of you. Bartholomew, if you pull any dumb s***, I’m not going to just let it go!” Ichaival warned, glaring at the man.
“Yeah, I deserve that. I swear, I’ll be on my best behavior. I’m a pretty chill guy, you know,” Bartholomew responded.
Huh, didn’t expect such a swift change in behavior from everyone. Champ surprised me with his remorse, considering his behavior from my last encounter with him. What exactly was going on?
Tess snapped her fingers, generating a portal for us to enter. Champ hobbled in first with Bartholomew following behind him. Ichaival allowed me entry first which I accepted. Time for some shenanigans as the false archer loved to say.