“Who am I training with next?” I waited for Tess to unlock a door.
“Jen. It’s a natural transition after Jin went over binding to an opponent’s magic,” she answered as we entered an underground walkway.
“Tess, what’s up with the huge number of bridges and paths around here?” I glanced over at her.
“Safety precautions. Multiple escape routes are useful if disaster struck,” the Gatekeeper responded, stopping at a door on the side.
“Wait, I thought Shane and Emily were just normal researchers. Are they really that much of a threat?” I followed Tess through the door.
“They are under employment of the Crossroads. In addition, the Special Investigations Unit often asks for their assistance in analyzing magical related matters. It is not surprising they should be wary of potential threats,” Tess revealed, pointing at at set of doors to my left.
I pushed them open, revealing an open field. Archery targets were positioned on the left side, arrows already embedded in them. Jen sat on a bench, staring downward at a clipboard.
“Yuki, welcome!” Jen walked over to us, still holding her clipboard.
“Good to see you again Jen. You’re not beat up,” I observed, noticing her clothes were in pristine condition.
“Yeah, Tess mostly had me just do shooting practice and fire off projectiles at everyone else. I can’t imagine what you’ve gone through,” Jen responded, accepting a piece of paper from Tess.
The petite woman wore a light green T-shirt containing a faint Sica logo on the upper left side. Her black athletic leggings, with a white curve in the middle, extended a little bit below her knees. Jen’s shoes were cyan in color, except in the back which were magenta, with yellow laces.
“I will take my leave. Someone else will join you later,” Tess said before departing.
“Who have you worked with so far?” I asked, helping Jen remove the arrows from her targets.
“Mostly just with people on Lilith’s side. It’s been a very interesting experience. What about you, Yuki?” Jen replied, pulling out the final arrow.
I spent the next five minutes recapping my experiences so far. Jen nodded every few seconds, never interrupting me. I couldn’t tell if she was bored or actually interested. The archer was just too nice for her good sometimes.
“So, what’s the plan for me?” I motioned toward her clipboard.
“It’ll just be going over status effects and what they do to opponents. It should be a much more relaxing time. I know Tess can seem distant sometimes but she really does care about all of us. I think this is her way of giving you a well-deserved rest,” Jen explained, wheeling out a full body training dummy.
“You need help with that?” I noticed her struggling to push it.
“I’m… fine, Yuki, just need to give it more of… a little push here!” Jen almost tripped as she finally positioned it in front of me.
“So we’re not going to actually spar or anything right?” I noticed her phrasing.
“I don’t think so. Just me talking, sorry if that’s too boring for you,” Jen apologized.
“No, no, don’t worry about it. I’m surprised Tess didn’t bring someone in. I expected Zhuyu honestly,” I said.
“Why Long?” Jen questioned with a perplexed expression.
“It’s a long story. I’ll tell you later,” I decided.
Jen dragged over a large plastic container. I watched her, unsure if I should offer to help out or not. She was considerate of others and that meant the hero preferred doing things without any of our assistance. In the end, I jumped in and we placed it next to the training dummy.
“I heard the sound of glass clattering inside. What’s in there?” I reached for the lid.
“Oh, not yet! Tess told me to save that for last after I’ve gone through the statuses and demonstrate them on here,” Jen shouted, the first time I ever heard her raise her voice.
“I see. Sorry about that. Let’s get started then,” I said.
Jen plunged a purple tipped arrow into the dummy’s left arm. It melted the plastic, causing a pungent odor. Red liquid shot out of its mouth and from behind it.
“Corrosive poison. It’s similar to a burn effect. Tess wanted to simulate the effects so that’s why there’s blood vomiting and instant diarrhea. There’s also regular poisoning too which is more subtle,” Jen explained.
“That’s quite volatile. Can you adjust when the poison actually hits with the regular one?” I noticed tearing in the stomach area of the dummy.
“Yes, it’s possible. I trigger it by strumming my bow string. The dosage of the poison can also be adjusted depending on what your goal is,” Jen replied.
“Hey Jen, you… didn’t happen to memorize everything for this little talk, did you?” I noticed her cadence was too stiff.
“You got me, Yuki! Tess handed me a bunch of stuff to tell you about and I ended up just repeating it word for word,” she admitted.
“I don’t really mind. Your voice was just really forced,” I said.
“I’ve calmed down now, Yuki. I don’t know why I was so nervous. Next one is burns,” Jen said, sounding more natural.
I could adjust the severity of the burn ranging from minor, a first-degree burn impacting the outer layer of skin, all the way to severe, a fourth-degree burn which damaged tendons and bones. A follow-up attack would be to freeze the burnt area, inflicting further damage.
“Paralysis is the next one, Yuki. Like the other statuses, you can adjust how bad you want it to be,” Jen said, watching the training dummy repair itself after burning it.
“Can you do localized paralysis?” I pointed at the training dummy arm.
“Of course! Be careful about not having too many active at once. It’s better to just stop their entire movement at that point,” Jen answered.
“There’s probably a time limit, right?” I asked, noticing the dummy move its arm again.
“You’re right! It depends on the person but usually it should stop them for around twenty seconds. Oh, if you keep doing it one after another, eventually it won’t work anymore,” Jen pointed out, stabbing multiple arrows into the dummy arm as a showcase.
The archer discussed the sleep status next. Larger targets required a heavier dosage whereas smaller targets were the opposite. Like paralysis, repeated uses resulted in a diminished outcome. Against skilled magic users, an improper dosage allowed opponents to become immune to further attempts.
“I didn’t know that these statuses required calculations,” I remarked, watching the training dummy’s head slump down.
“Tess lectured me on it so many times that I ended up crying since it was so hard. But, I finally mastered it in the end and I’m grateful she was so strict,” Jen revealed.
“That’s surprising coming from you, Jen. You’re always so composed,” I commented.
“It’s hard to be relaxed when Tess is really serious. I’m sure you know all about that, Yuki, since you spent so much time with her,” Jen said.
“You’re right about that,” I agreed.
Freezing was her next topic. It lowered the overall body temperature of a target, causing them to shiver. I could also cause frostbite, resulting in numbness. Eventually, swelling and blistering of the impacted skin occurred. Like burns, frostbite severity ranged from first-degree to fourth-degree. If bad enough, amputation was required.
“I kinda expected this to be like Shui’s ice where I could actually trap someone in ice,” I said, watching the target dummy’s skin swell up, turning a bluish-green color.
“That would make teaching my skill useless, Yuki! I wish I could do that too,” Jen responded.
“I remember you talking about ‘drowning’ before. That has to be related to Shui,” I recalled.
“Yeah, Tess taught me that one later. It’s pretty much just like how it sounds,” she said.
“I’d like to hear it from you anyways. If there’s anything I’ve learned, things aren’t exactly how they sound with the heroes,” I requested, amazed by the training dummy technology.
Opponents felt like they were trapped underwater with no incoming oxygen. They would start hyperventilating and gasping for air. Eventually, they would collapse to the floor, losing unconsciousness. I could delay the effect too, triggering it when needed just like the poison. Shui would teach me his version of it later on.
“That’s enough of the statuses you can do to opponents. Let’s go over skills that can help you out if you need to escape,” Jen said, pushing the training dummy aside.
“Before you talk about that, I want to ask you something. I remember Kuan applying statuses with his bullets just like your arrows. Is that part of his powers or something Tess did?” I asked.
“Um, I’m not really sure. He picked it up really quickly when Tess asked me to show him. You could try asking him later, Yuki,” she suggested, shaking her head.
“Yeah, I’ll try to remember. You’ve been talking for awhile now. Want to take a break?” I stretched my arms.
“I’m still good to go, Yuki! We only have a few more things to go over. I want to finish it before taking one,” Jen declined, a motivated expression appearing on her face.
Smoke flares were mainly used for signaling, emitting a specific magic that the other heroes were capable of tracking. They could also provide temporary cover if an enemy got too close. Her large smoke clouds helped Jen re-position herself if an enemy caught her off-guard or if she was at an disadvantage. It also halted someone’s magic like in her exhibition battle with Ichaival. However, it was ineffective against powerful mages like Kyoi or Kisai. Someone could reinforce her smoke with their powers and modify it to work.
“If you really need to get out, you can use an emergency escape smoke flare,” Jen revealed, hurling down an arrow.
She vanished, appearing on the other side of the room. Huh, just like one of Ichaival’s portals. That wasn’t a coincidence. Jen returned, giving me a smile.
“I’m guessing that’s based on Ichaival’s portals,” I said, staring at the arrow in the ground.
“Mmmhmm! Tess taught me the set-up,” Jen confirmed.
The archer shifted to the final topic, leeching. Hers removed any buffs an opponent had such as En’s sword charge. It also diminished an opponent’s magic, not necessarily nullifying it though. However, it couldn’t restore any damage I sustained.
“Alright, this is a good place to stop. Hope that wasn’t too confusing, Yuki,” Jen said, sitting next to me on the bench.
“You did a good job, Jen. I…,” I said as someone walked through the door.
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