Another familiar face walked in. Jacque, a full beard on his face, stared at us in surprise. His hair was long but well-kept compared to his face. The artist resembled a person departing from the wilderness after a month.
“Ah s***, I’m interrupting something. Yo, Long, the hell? You can’t be having private talks with students. You’ll get reported, man. That s*** doesn’t work in real life. Only in manga, man,” Jacque warned.
“Dude, look at who it is!” Zhuyu pointed at me.
Jacque shut the door behind him and shock appeared on his face. He glanced at the math teacher and then at me.
“Yuki? But…. what the f***?” Jacque uttered.
“Weird as it is, it’s definitely Yuki. Not the one we know of course. She’s from the past. And we’re dragged back into it just like that,” Zhuyu confirmed my existence.
“Little hard to take in, you know. Last time I saw her, she was still in a hospital bed with wires hooked up to her. Wait, what does this exactly mean?” Jacque pondered.
“I don’t know. That’s what I’m trying to figure out. If Yuki was sent here, then something bad’s coming up,” Zhuyu replied.
“Pretty sure the only reason I’m here is because Mirei wants me to see the consequences of my potential answer. It doesn’t mean something bad will happen,” I spoke up.
Zhuyu and Jacque remained silent, staring at the floor.
“Hey Jacque, are you a teacher here?” I questioned.
“Me, a teacher, that’s crazy! I’m here because one of my friends is a guest speaker for an event tonight and I’m here to see her,” Jacque answered.
“What’s your job then?” I inquired, curious about the man’s employment status.
“I’m a street artist, Yuki. I’m the best,” Jacque responded with a smile.
“Are you serious, Jacque?” I looked at him with disappointment.
“Come on Yuki, don’t give me that look. I was just kidding, okay? I’m a graphic artist for one of Konoe’s companies,” Jacque told the truth.
“That’s more reasonable. I would have beaten the s*** out of you once I got back if you were really a street artist,” I threatened, glaring at the man.
“So harsh, Yuki. You’ve hurt the feelings of all the hard workers out there. What are you going to do now, Long? Get everyone together and talk about this?” Jacque questioned.
“Maybe, but not everyone cares. We could leave it as is. Yuki will be sent back to her own time sooner or later,” Zhuyu pondered their next steps.
“Bro, come on, we gotta have heart like those shonen mangas we read back in our undergraduate years,” Jacque encouraged him.
“Really? But it’s probably a good idea to see what everyone says. Alright, let’s go see Jin. Jacque, you free?” Zhuyu asked.
“Yeah. The talk doesn’t start until seven. I’ve got nothing but time. Wish I had that back in those days,” Jacque replied.
“You totally had time, Jacque. It’s just you mismanaged it,” Zhuyu disputed as he locked the office door behind him.
“Ehhhh…. yeah, you’re right,” Jacque admitted.
We headed out of the main campus, passing the physics building and arrived at a huge, fancy structure. On the lower floors, one could view the interior without any obstruction. I peered through and saw lab tables with a few students performing experiments.
“What’s up with this building?” I pointed upward.
“It’s the new biology department building. Used to be located near the lake, but they built a new one four years ago. Jin should be in here,” Zhuyu replied.
“Is he a professor?” I followed the zero vector user.
“Sort of. He doesn’t teach here full time, and travels around, performing research,” Zhuyu answered, pressing the elevator button.
“Didn’t expect Kisai to do that. People can change. Jacque managed to be respectable. I’m sure Kisai’s done pretty well for himself,” I remarked.
“Whoa Yuki, that’s pretty insulting, but true,” Jacque agreed.
“I should have called him. Oh well, it’s pretty important news. Relatively speaking,” Zhuyu muttered as we got off at the third floor.
The math instructor knocked on a door and Kisai opened it with his usual grin. Like Jacque, his facial hair was grizzled, but not as unkempt. His hair was medium in length, covering his forehead, with flat sideburns extending just past the bottom of his ear. The researcher wore a white lab coat over an untucked plain, rumpled white dress shirt and black jeans. Instead of his usual casual sneakers, Kisai wore a pair of dark brown leather lace up dress boots.
“Long, finally here to pay me back?” Kisai asked.
“I think you owe me money. That’s not why I’m here. Look who it is,” Zhuyu refuted.
Kisai glanced at me and his smile vanished. A difficult look appeared on his face for a brief moment but disappeared right away. He then nodded with his usual smile again.
“Yuki’s back, huh? We done f***** up?” Kisai’s words mirrored that of Zhuyu’s.
“Is my appearance that ominous?” I questioned.
“Could mean a lot of things. “Garbage” as Kristoph says,” Kisai answered.
“Bro, what’s the plan?” Jacque asked.
“Let’s talk inside,” Kisai decided.
I saw multiple lab tables and an assortment of equipment. Some I recognized and others were foreign to me. On the left side, there was a desk with dual monitors and an office chair. Kisai grabbed stools for us and we gathered around a table.
“Is it safe?” I pointed at the desk surface.
“I’m sure the radiation will turn out to be a good thing,” Kisai joked, unplugging one of the machines.
“What exactly is your job, Kisai?” I questioned, glancing around the room.
“The country’s most renowned researcher, Yuki. I’m so prestigious that campus presidents request me for guest speaking opportunities,” Kisai exaggerated.
“Most of that is true. Dr. Kisai is pretty well-known,” Zhuyu vouched for his friend.
“What are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be at a more prestigious place?” I countered.
“I’ve studied and done research at other universities. But, there’s a nice facility here and plenty of companies willing to donate money,” Kisai replied.
He stood up and checked his computer. He typed on his keyboard and jotted down notes on a nearby notepad. The man returned and stared at us with an expectant look.
“What are we going to do?” Jacque questioned.
“Kick some ass, right?” Kisai performed a finger gun gesture with both hands at Jacque.
“Hold on, is it really the best choice for us to do this hero thing again?” Jacque interjected.
“Damn, never expected Jacque to turn down ass kicking,” Kisai said.
“Maybe we should think about having younger people take over,” Jacque suggested.
“Takes too much time. Some of our powers require knowledge of natural world phenomenon. We’re well-versed enough that we can attempt new things we couldn’t pull off in our younger days,” Zhuyu argued, adjusting his glasses.
“Long makes a good point, but I understand Jacque’s feelings. Might be time for us to transfer our powers. But without Tess, I have no idea how to even do it,” Kisai considered.
“Guys, have you forgotten I’m here? I really don’t think any of you should be fighting. Still, if you manage to reunite everyone, I can see what Zhuyu means. If you really want to save this s***, it’s worth considering,” I provided my opinion.
Zhuyu and Kisai glanced at each other, exchanging knowing looks. I didn’t exactly care about the outcome since it was just Mirei’s way of scaring me. Still, this was a potential future. Whatever, things seemed to work out for them. Even without my input, they would figure out a solution.
“Speaking of which, how’s everyone doing?” I questioned, curious about their status.
“Pretty good. Some of them aren’t in the area anymore,” Zhuyu replied.
“Who left?” I inquired.
“I’ll let you handle it, Jin,” Zhuyu deferred to his friend.
“No,” Kisai refused, his voice flat and serious.
“The f***? Just do it,” Zhuyu said.
“Almost all of Lilith’s team isn’t here. Xi and Ksi are the only ones in the area. Long can tell you more about Xi. Darryl and Shigetzu left but they’re back. Oh wait, Lau’s gone too. He’s off doing something,” Kisai listed.
“I’m surprised most of you stuck around,” I noted.
“Jin travels a lot. Doesn’t stay around too long. Still, opportunities are here,” Zhuyu commented.
“Can you convince everyone?” I inquired.
“I’ll try. Not sure if it’ll work though,” Zhuyu answered.
“Sorry if we’re bothering you, bro. We arrived without asking first,” Jacque apologized.
“Jacque, get out. You just realized that now? Come on, I’m so damn busy. You too, Long. Yuki, you can stay,” Kisai joked.
“Are you in contact with everyone?” I ignored Kisai’s statement and looked at Zhuyu, the most competent person in the room.
“Might be hard since everyone’s working. Maybe tomorrow since it’s the weekend. Jin, you still in contact with Darryl?” Zhuyu questioned.
“Uh, haven’t seen him in awhile. Kuan too. What about Shigetzu? I’m sure he’s still connected with Darryl. Let’s go out for drinks,” Kisai suggested.
“I have Darryl’s contact information, but yeah, I haven’t talked to him in awhile too. Drinks, huh? Don’t know how Ksi will feel about that. I’m down though. Okay, I’ll try reaching out,” Zhuyu decided.
“Bro, what about me?” Jacque looked at Zhuyu and Kisai with an expectant look.
“Yeah Long, what about Jacque?” Kisa nodded at the graphic artist.
“Look after Yuki, I guess? Actually, where are you staying for the night?” Zhuyu brought up an interesting question.
I dug through my wallet, finding nothing of interest. I then checked my phone and found an address.
“This look familiar?” I showed them my screen.
“Those are apartments near the campus. They were recently built, outfitted with the latest amenities. Mirei sure hooked you,” Zhuyu answered.
“You guys are taking me there,” I demanded.
“Aight, Long can do it,” Kisai said.
“Jacque, sorry to do this, but you’ll be responsible. I have to head back and grade tests. You have any projects going on right now?” Zhuyu smiled at the artist.
“Huh? I guess since you guys are such big shots, it’s up to me,” Jacque agreed.
“I’ll swing by once I’m done. Jacque, you drive here?” Zhuyu asked.
“Yeah. I can take Yuki,” Jacque answered.
“Hold on, I have a call,” Zhuyu said, moving five feet away from us.
This was awkward. The outward appearance of such a setup looked really bad for him. What kind of excuse would he have to come up with?
“Yeah, I see what you mean. Okay, I’ll try to work on it later,” Zhuyu spoke on the phone.
“Who’s he talking to?” I questioned Kisai.
“Xi. She’s working on research and Long is checking her calculations,” Kisai answered.
“She’s so quiet. I’m surprised she would even ask Zhuyu for help,” I remarked.
“It’s the silent ones who are always the most surprising,” Jacque commented.
“Zhuyu’s not married right?” I looked over at Jacque.
“No. Shigetzu’s the only one. Actually Jin, you’re engaged, right?” Jacque peered over at him.
“Yep. Long’s pretty close though. He’ll do something sooner or later,” Kisai answered as Zhuyu wrapped up his phone call.
“I heard you guys. Yuki comes from a different timeline so it won’t be like this once she returns,” Zhuyu said.
“I thought Ichaival would be the first to get married,” I said.
“Nah, Darryl’s engaged like me. Saw his status update,” Kisai said, checking his phone.
“Yeah, I saw that too. Thought he was going to be with Jen or Konoe. He found someone different. Good for him,” Zhuyu confirmed Kisai’s statement.
“Darryl’s pretty smooth. We’re definitely going out for drinks tomorrow?” Kisai asked for confirmation.
“Sure, let’s see who even shows up. Jacque, what about you?” Zhuyu looked over at the artist.
“I’m in. Yuki, you’ll have to wait. I still have my friend’s presentation,” Jacque reminded me.
“I’ll find something to do. It’s so weird to see you guys like this. A bit uncomfortable, actually,” I said.
“Hopefully Darryl picks up. He just recently came back. Shigetzu will respond though. Just hope I don’t talk to Ksi first,” Zhuyu said, standing up from the stool and stretching his arms in the air.
“Oh yeah, I’m leaving on Sunday and won’t be back until Wednesday. So whatever happens, you know,” Kisai informed his friends.
“Yeah, we’ll see how it goes,” Zhuyu understood.
We departed after discussing a few more things with Kisai. Our next destination was the fountain.
“Jacque will take you to the apartments and make sure nothing bad happens. I’ll swing by later and we’ll go from there,” Zhuyu outlined, taking off his glasses and placing them into a case.
“Anything exciting to do?” I questioned.
“Watch people play MMORPG’s in the library,” Zhuyu suggested.
“I’m surprised the university hasn’t cracked down on that yet. I think I’ll just watch videos on y phone,” I decided.
“Sounds good. Jacque, when are you going to be done?” Zhuyu inquired, glancing at his watch.
“Around 8:30. I’ll message Yuki when I’m done,” Jacque waved his phone in the air.
“Kind of creepy you’re getting a number from a young girl like me,” I commented, pulling out my phone with hesitation.
Jacque and Zhuyu held their phones close to mine. Soon, two notifications appeared on my phone. I then wasted time at the library, not really thinking about my situation. Although, I was curious when Mirei would end this entire experience.
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