Volume 12, Chapter 1-1: A Decisive Showdown (I)

“My, my, that spiraled out of control. I never expected such a situation, crisp details too. Your powers synced with mine, but I’m not disappointed. Yuki, there you have it. A glimpse into a potential past and future. Anything to say?” Mirei sipped her tea with amusement.

Ugh, my splitting headache slowly ebbed. I downed my cup of tea in one gulp. Ace and Tess showed no visible expression, waiting for me to recover.

“How long has it been?” I asked, noticing my voice was raspy.

“Only an hour, everyone’s enjoying their free time,” Mirei replied, signaling for one of her comrades to refill the teapot.

“An hour? Unbelievable,” I muttered, finding it difficult six days passed by in such a short amount of time.

“You’re still determined to say no,” Mirei observed.

“I know you’re aware what happened. I came here with a decision already in mind. While it may benefit us to let you handle things, I’ve seen the disastrous results. My answer will have to be no,” I stated, expecting immediate backlash.

Mirei sighed. Her comrade returned with the tea pot. The others flanked her from behind, masks hiding their faces. Now what? Wait for Ace and Tess to make their move? I preferred not to fight, but that wasn’t a choice.

“Yuki, your answer disappoints me. I must remind you this involves everyone. The heroes have not accomplished anything noteworthy. If I allow this to continue, there is only destruction at the end. One last chance, Yuki, because I’m generous. Will you change your answer?” Mirei asked once more.

“And I’ll say it again, no! If you think you can take us on, then let’s get this started!” I stood up from my chair, staring straight at Mirei.

Her eyes indicated she would not back down. She raised her hand in the air and her associates moved. Ace and Tess reacted immediately.

Mirei charged at me. I kicked over the table, tea cups crashing down onto the floor with a loud crash. It provided me enough time to create a barrier of ice. That was only a temporary measure though. My assignment was to stall and allow enough time for Ace and Tess to execute their plan. I wasn’t privy to exact details, but I trusted them, even if I harbored doubts about Ace and questioned her morality. After all, Tess and the others showed patience with me, never disparaging me outright. That counted for something in my eyes. Besides, the heroes pulled out wins despite their personalities and obstacles placed in their way.

Tess and Ace fought off Mirei’s teammates but they were outmatched. It made sense. Mirei and her team were assembled together for the purpose of combating the heroes. However, Ace was our wild card and right now, it all hinged on the former number one ranked hero. Tess knocked down one of the masked enemies, pinning them to the ground. Ace kicked her attacker, tossing them into the table on the floor.

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“Tess, I’ll handle this one over here!” Ace shouted, delivering a devastating stomp that knocked out the masked assailant who went through the table.

Her next victim was a man wearing a masquerade eye mask with a hood draped over his head. He flicked his wrist downward and a blade, pulsating with purple light appeared in his hand. The man thrust his weapon forward, sending waves of magical wave flying at the woman. Ace remained still, disappointed with his first attack. She snapped her fingers and the magical energy broke down.

“What a cheap imitation. Let me show you how it’s really done,” Ace judged and then appeared behind him. 

He felt a sharp pain in his neck as the woman chopped him. To him, the speed of her movements suddenly increased, despite it remaining the same as before. When he finally recovered, the man no longer wielded his blade anymore.

“Lesson one. Charge your weapon up to capacity,” Ace said, running her pointer and middle finger over the blade. 

In her possession, the pulsating light shifted from its light purple to a dark violet. Unlike when he wielded it, there was no magical discharge from the weapon at all. The former hero then twirled the blade around, satisfied.

The man extended his left hand out, expecting his blade to return. When it didn’t, Mirei’s associate glanced down in confusion. He gave up on that plan and dashed at the woman, his right hand glowing yellow. Ace’s opponent decided to take it back by force.

“So eager to learn, but don’t interrupt when I’m teaching!” Ace scolded.

The woman rapped his knuckles with the blade and drained his magic. The man’s hand lost its brightness and he jumped back. He heard stories about the former number one ranked hero, but didn’t expect her to be this strong.

“Lesson two. Use all available resources. I’ve already demonstrated that but you weren’t paying attention. Allow me to show you again,” Ace said, raising her hand into the air.

Because they were still inexperienced and trained on such short notice, Mirei’s accomplices made small mistakes. Tomo Yuki, who lacked experience, couldn’t capitalize on them. However, a veteran like Ace punished the enemy for doing so. Even with their masks on, they couldn’t maintain absolute control of their magic just yet. Those small leakages would cost the man. Ace gathered the residue magic from the destroyed magical waves and from the man’s inexperienced casting. Her left hand became enveloped in a soft green glow.

The masked man leaped forward in an attempt to siphon her gathered magic. He wouldn’t give up, not after all the training and hours put into this. Plus, he had a crush on the leader and wanted to prove his worth. He was rewarded with a swift knee to his face, shattering the man’s cheekbone. Ace followed up with a kick, stepping on his neck.

“Lesson three. Break your opponent’s will and finish it off with a bang!” the woman concluded, stabbing her blade into his back.

The man stifled his scream, desiring to retain his dignity even in defeat. He suddenly felt disorientated and severe fatigue set in. The woman was draining him of his magical resources, creating a direct connection from his reservoir to the weapon. It was an advanced technique, only Kisai, Kyoi, and Tess could pull off such a feat.

“And here’s the finale!” Ace declared, pointing at the embedded blade in his back.

Right at the point where all of his reservoir depleted, Ace reversed the process. She overloaded the man with magical energy and then triggered a massive reaction by pumping in the magical energy she gathered in her left hand. His body lacked the resources to handle such a sudden large influx of energy and he entered into a seizure. The masked man wriggled around on the ground, foam leaving his mouth and cuts opened across his entire body.

“Ace, that’s enough!” Tess shouted, noticing her actions.

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“I know, I know,” Ace said, draining him of the excess magic and returning him back to normal.

She yanked the blade out of his back and shattered the weapon into tiny orbs of light. Tess thanked her, using the energy released from it to finish off her opponent. Ace rolled the masked man over with her foot and inspected his condition. He would survive.

“A copy can only go so far. Your plan won’t work,” Ace declared, her words intended for the masked woman she encountered throughout her travel across dimensions.

“Ace, regroup!” Tess ordered.

“Our time to shine, huh? Let’s go!” Ace joined back up with the Gatekeeper.

“Bravo, Yuki. Tess and Ace are no joke. With so little data, they’ve pushed back my companions. I have to congratulate you,” Mirei complimented, punching me in the stomach.

I stumbled but kept my balance. I repelled her with En’s power, but she broke through. Damn, her repertoire consisted of all our powers, which meant she knew counters for all my attacks.

“What’s your plan?” Mirei saw through my defensive attacks and paused.

I collapsed onto my left knee. Yuki, just endure it! I glanced over at Ace and Tess.Hurry it up!

“Tomo, thank you,” Tess mouthed at me, flying towards Mirei.

Mirei sidestepped, avoiding the Gatekeeper’s attack. Ace, however, already arrived at her backside. She mounted Mirei, jamming her knees into the woman’s spine. Mirei reacted immediately, grabbing Ace’s legs. Tess swung a chain, wrapping it around our enemy’s right ankle. The woman clicked her tongue, and with one tap of her finger, broke the restraint.

“A double team? I can’t hold back,” Mirei remarked, leaping away from the two of them.

A bright circle appeared on the ground, mysterious inscriptions on it. Ace only grinned in response. She slammed her hand down and the inscriptions vanished, dimming the outlined circle. In response, Mirei formed multiple new magical circles. Tess singled one out, hurling her golden key at it. It dissipated but the remaining circles grew brighter.

“Shouldn’t you be doing something about that?” I shouted, pointing at them.

“It’s part of the plan. Don’t worry! ” Ace leaped into the air, clapping her hands.

Like before, all of the magical circles lessened in brightness. Tess drew a circle on the ground with her golden key, etching symbols into the side of it. Mirei’s associates were all knocked out, unable to provide assistance. The Gatekeeper continued adding onto her circle, no audible sound despite her key scraping against the ground. A binding circle?

“Tess, won’t Mirei…,” I trailed off, realizing Tess paid no attention to me.

The leader’s focus never wavered even when one of Mirei’s attacks almost struck her. Her face was more serious than usual, leading me to believe this was a real gamble.

“Tomo, defend me!” Tess directed.

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