Shan, a backpack over his shoulder, raised his right hand up in a greeting. He knelt near our bench, unzipping his bag.
“Shigetzu, are you the guest Tess talked about earlier?” Jen assisted the man with taking out items from his backpack.
“Probably, unless I’m in the wrong place,” Shan replied with a grin.
Various equipment, ranging from knife blades, a belt with pouches, combat gloves, and knee ebraces, laid on the ground. He explained this was anti-magic tools that the Special Investigations Unit utilized during encounters with magic users. Shan picked several pieces, equipping it onto himself.
“Tomo, Tess wants you to see what a fight looks like if you can’t use your powers. Jen’s powers are magical in nature but she can also pull off some interesting tricks too. You’ll get a chance to see that,” Shan said, checking the contents of his belt pouches.
“I feel like that every time I fight one of you,” I remarked.
“No way, that’s not possible, Tomo. You don’t know how it is to be truly hopeless unless you’re Darryl or me facing Tess with all our powers locked down,” Shan disagreed.
“Whatever, just do what you came here for,” I dismissed his claim.
Jen handed her bow over to me before meeting up with the older man in the center. Wait, why was she giving her main source of offense to me? I called out to her but the archer didn’t respond.
“Oh yeah, forgot to tell you Yuki. Tess wanted this to be a test of Jen’s close-combat skills with just her arrows. Let’s see how much you’ve learned from the master of knives himself, the great Darryl,” Shan informed us while mocking his friend.
“Shigetzu, that bracelet!” Jen glanced at his wrist.
“Oh this thing? Yeah, Tess locked me out of my powers for this training session. That’s why I got all the SIU gear on,” Shan explained, shaking his bracelet around.
Jen materialized a purple tipped arrow in her left hand, stabbing it toward his left shoulder. Shan roundhouse kicked her closed fist, knocking it out of the woman’s hand. He followed up with a knee to her stomach but the archer met it with a red tipped arrow. The gravity manipulator leaped back, throwing off his burning knee pad. The woman hurled an arrow downward, smoke pouring out. I anticipated a strike at Shan’s backside.
“Not so fast!” Shan shouted, firing a shot from his handgun.
The smoke vanished and Jen stood there in surprise. Shan kicked her kneecap, knocking the woman down into a kneeling position. He swung his right leg up, aiming for her upper chest. I noticed Jen smiling as she plunged an arrow into the man’s leg. He clutched his chest and spat out blood. The woman stabbed two metal stakes into the ground, setting up for another attack.
“Tomo, always carry antidote!” Shan pulled out a vial from his belt, drinking the contents.
A sudden explosion occurred near the man, sending him flying. Jen hurled two arrows at him, striking the man’s chest. Shan stood back up, yanking the projectiles out, revealing a thin layer of protective armor underneath his shirt. Jen hurled down another stake, sparks flying from it. Shan attempted to leap over it but he became stuck. The woman stabbed arrows into his stomach, arms, and legs. All the statuses Jen went over triggered. He collapsed to the ground, spitting out more blood. The man groaned before pulling out a syringe, jamming it into his left shoulder. His breathing became heavy but Jen’s status ailments no longer impacted him.
“F***, that was close,” he remarked and sprinkled powder into the air.
All of Jen’s arrow tips lost their color. Shan kicked her in the stomach, knocking Jen to the ground. He stomped his foot downward, narrowly missing her face. He extended his hand downward, helping Jen back up to her feet.
“Uh, Tess isn’t going to be happy about this,” Shan said, sitting down on the ground.
“Are you okay? Jen nearly killed you there,” I asked him as sweat poured down from his forehead.
“Yeah, I should be. Okay, it’s your turn without magic now, Jen,” Shan said, unsteady on his feet after standing up.
“Jen, what was that explosion?” I questioned, the burn marks from it still visible.
“Oh, I can lay down mines and trigger them. Same with that trap I set for Shigetzu. They’re just trap versions of my status effects,” Jen revealed, snapping on a power suppression bracelet.
“You’re just full of surprises,” I responded, watching her grab items from the large plastic container.
Jen strapped glass vials and small bottles to her belt. Shan observed her, not saying a word. There were different colored liquids and some of the containers looked transparent. Those were probably hand-mixed chemicals. So it looked like she would employ a similar strategy even without her powers. She also wore a small backpack, adjusting the straps on it. The woman let out a deep breath and then nodded at the gravity manipulator.
“I’m ready,” Jen announced, jumping up and down for five seconds.
Shan grabbed a baseball bat, holding it over his shoulder. He charged in, swinging for the woman’s stomach. Jen sidestepped him and shattered two vials onto the man’s weapon. Smoke poured from it and his weapon splintered in multiple locations. She reached into the side of her backpack, pulling on a gas mask, before shattering bottles on the ground near him. S***, that didn’t look safe at all. I constructed a defensive barrier, protecting myself from the fumes. Shan covered his mouth, coughing. He lost his grip on the bat and the man slumped to the ground.
Jen pulled off her mask and placed down two metal plates on either side of the man. She pressed a button on an electronic device hanging from her belt. A red band around the metal plates lit up. Shan finally regained consciousness and his hand struck one of the metal plates. An electric shock occurred and he pulled back his hand in pain.
“Tess really hooked you up,” Shan observed, removing a beeping spherical piece of metal.
He tossed it to the ground and the red band around both metal plates stopped glowing. Shan tapped the metal plate with his right toe and nothing occurred. The man unstrapped his knife, brandishing it at Jen. He nicked her in the cheek, blood dripping, before she dodged his next attack. She waited for an opening and slapped a square piece of metal onto his wrist. The gravity manipulator dropped his weapon, clutching his wrist in pain. Jen stared at the blade with a conflicted expression. Not good, she couldn’t hesitate, not with Shan as an opponent.
“You’ve improved, Jen, but you’re still not there yet!” Shan said, retrieving his weapon and arrived at her back.
He held the knife to her neck before releasing Jen. Shan rubbed his wrist, walking over to me. Jen unbuckled her belt full of vials, putting it on the ground carefully.
“That was shorter than I expected. Jen, you looked out of it, you okay?” I noticed her movements were not as refined compared to when she wielded the bow.
“Just out of practice, Yuki. Shigetzu, thank you for showing me what I need to work on,” she answered, glancing over at the man.
“Don’t thank me. It’s all part of Tess’ plan,” Shan said, shaking his head.
“Those vials, they’re full of chemicals for destroying weapons and defenses, right?” I inspected one of the vials in Jen’s belt.
“You’re exactly right, Tomo. I’m the one who mixed all of them for Jen,” Shan revealed, pointing at the vial in my hand.
Oh, that made sense. I sometimes forgot his major was bioengineering, specializing in paper products. Shan explained each of Jen’s vials were mixed with the intent of eating through common metals used in weapon production and material for defensive accessories. He pulled out a notebook from his backpack, showing me the ingredients and reactions for production of Jen’s vials. I had no idea what the hell was going on. It reminded me of his homework I saw in the student lounge.
“Jen, your defensive skills are still lacking. Continue to work with Shigetzu on them. Strictly close quarters combat with no weapons or items involved,” Tess instructed, standing next to me all of a sudden.
“It’s scary that I’m used to this now,” I remarked, watching Shan remove all of his equipment.
“Not at all, Tomo. It’s an indication of your comfort level with us,” Tess said, accepting the signed piece of paper from Jen and Shan.
“Thank you so much for sticking through my explanations and my poor showing against Shigetzu,” Jen said, clasping my hand before the Gatekeeper led me away.
“Don’t be so hard on yourself, Jen. I know that the stuff against Shan isn’t your specialty. Trust me, I know how it feels. Just keep at it,” I encouraged her, tapping her hand in response.
“S***, Darryl has not been keeping an eye on your technique. Let’s start from there, Jen,” Shan decided, pointing out how to position and maneuver her body.
“Is it Shui or Kuan next?” I went through a mental list of the heroes.
“Lau,” Tess replied, pointing at a nearby elevator.