“What do you have in store for me, Tess?” I glanced over at the Gatekeeper, worried about the session after the upcoming one.
“Whatever do you mean, Tomo?” she opened the door for me, a blank expression on her face.
“Don’t lie to me, Tess! Once I’m finished training with Kuan, you’re the only one left. There’s no way you’ll let me go with just a normal recap of everything,” I predicted.
“I’ll leave it as a surprise. Go on, I trust Kuan enough to take care of things without checking in n him,” Tess revealed, walking away.
Walking inside, I noticed the mini-shooting range in the left corner right away. A pile of paper shooting targets were crumpled in a medium-sized recycle bin. To my right, there were several desks containing multiple computer monitors. Blinking colored and glowing lights were visible underneath all of them. Ichaival, wearing brand name headphones, sat in a high-end gaming chair. He was focused on his screen, not aware of my presence. The middle resembled a military training field, full of obstacles, and then transitioned into a forest in the back. Why the hell was this area so large compared to all the other places?
Kuan and Zhuyu sat opposite of each other. They were seated in school desks, pushed together. The two heroes were… arm-wrestling? It was evenly matched at the moment, although Kuan held a slight edge. A very unexpected thing to see. Both of them weren’t exactly the strength type.
“Hey Tomo. I’ll get your training started once this is done,” Kuan informed me.
“What’s Ichaival doing over there?” I motioned toward the false archer.
“Practicing some coding. He told Tess about being interested so I set up him up with something. Jin was here earlier messing around with it too,” he answered, pushing Zhuyu’s arm down midway.
“Kisai probably was super good even though he wasn’t trying, I’m guessing?” I pulled over a chair, sitting down in it to observe their arm-wrestling match.
“You’re used to it by now. Looks like you’re finally one of us,” Zhuyu confirmed as he fought back and it was a stalemate again.
“That doesn’t give me great confidence, Zhuyu. So why’s this place so big? I can’t even see what’s even back there,” I questioned.
“There’s a survival course back there. Tess’ idea of testing everyone once they’re done training with a few people,” Kuan answered, securing the victory by slamming Zhuyu’s arm down.
“Damn, I knew it! Looks like I’ll be the next victim,” I guessed with a heavy sigh.
“I’m not too sure about that, Tomo. Tess probably has something scarier in mind for you,” Zhuyu disputed, rotating his right arm.
“You’re trying to scare me, Zhuyu? At this point, It’s just something that I have to get through,” I accepted, glancing over at Ichaival.
“My turn to go there. Oh, just freakin’ awesome,” Zhuyu said, throwing on a black hoodie.
“Wait up! I’m heading there too!” Ichaival pushed himself away from the desk and joined up with his friend.
“Wish us luck, Tomo,” Zhuyu said and the two men headed toward the back of the area.
Kuan lifted up his desk with ease and placed it against the wall. He did the same with Zhuyu’s desk before grabbing a drink from a nearby cooler. The man snapped off the cap, draining the pink contents. This was the one of the rare times one of the heroes didn’t consume straight water or a restoration concoction.
“Want to try some?” Kuan offered, tossing me a bottle.
“Strawberry?” I guessed, finding it sweet but not too overwhelming.
“Strawberry milk, straight from Japan. This stuff is addicting,” Kuan answered, strapping on equipment in preparation for my training.
“They don’t sell it here?” I finished off the drink, depositing it into the recycle bin.
“I wish. Felicity apparently has a contact that gets it for us. So, let’s get started. Don’t want Tess to get on me for being a s*** teacher,” Kuan replied, sliding a handgun into his holster.
The hero wore a white soccer training kit T-shirt with black cuffs. One single blue stripe ran from the collar all the way down the sleeve on both sides of it. A faint Sica logo was in the middle, just beneath the collar. He wore plain black goalkeeper trousers along with knee pads. I noticed his glasses were a different color than usual, leek green, instead of aqua blue.
“Ever held a gun before, Tomo?” Kuan handed me a firearm.
“A few times. Never have actually fired one,” I answered, flipping it over.
“Lucky for you, that’s what I”m here for. That’s just a model gun, pretty realistic including all the small details,” Kuan explained.
He went through the basics before delving into details about the weapon itself. The man showed me how to take apart the weapon and assemble it back together. Kuan pointed out areas where modifications were possible in addition to potential accessory spots. For more in-depth information, he pointed at a manual on a nearby desk.
“Written by Tess and edited by the Special Investigations Unit people,” Kuan revealed, taking out his handgun magazine.
“Of course she wrote it. How does Tess have time to do all of this? Felicity told me awhile back that’s she close to completing her masters program already,” I recalled.
“Who knows, Tomo? It’s just how she is. Just like how Long’s a robot with no emotion,” Kuan compared, removing bullets from the magazine.
“You’re not exactly wrong about that. Although, that really applies to Tess more,” I pointed out.
“You’re right, Tomo. Anyways, there are two main types of cartridges you’ll probably see. Normal ones like this for regular guns back in our world. And then we have these special magical ones that the SIU use,” Kuan explained, opening a locked cabinet to retrieve a cardboard box.
“Did you say cartridges, not bullets?” I wasn’t familiar with the terminology.
“Bullets are the actual projectile. Cartridges is the thing that wraps everything all up. I don’t really care which one you use since I know what you mean. Don’t think too much about it,” Kuan answered, opening the box to reveal a bunch of bullets.
“Looks the same to me,” I remarked, picking one up and contrasting it with a regular one.
“The internal components are different. Has the stuff to break through magical defenses and actually hurt magic users. I’ve made a few myself, still not exactly sure how it all works. I just get the material and put it together,” Kuan said, placing another handgun onto the table.
SIU bullets, or any magical variants, typically weren’t compatible with any guns from our world. It required a special model manufactured by a Crossroads factory or one from a dimension familiar with the technology. However, Kuan’s guns were an exception, since it fired off standard and magical ones. Like the other heroes, he could also materialize guns which operated in a different manner.
“This doesn’t actually use bullets. All you need to do is channel your magic into it and it’ll fire off a projectile with whatever you put into it. Basically, anything from Zhang’s flames to Lau’s ice will work,” Kuan said, firing off a test shot.
“Does it fire off as a bullet or actual magical energy?” I questioned, watching the shot pierce through a target and burn a nearby wall.
“Up to you. Use it as a bullet, and it’ll store the magic inside, releasing it upon contact with the enemy. Or it can be like the magical waves that Feng does with her sword. A lot of possibilities you can do as long as you control your magic,” Kuan replied.
I manifested a handgun, trying it out for myself. Aiming at a nearby target, I pulled the trigger and a flaming bullet shot out. It set the target ablaze before exploding the entire thing. My weapon turned unstable, leaving small burns on my dominant hand.
“That’s what I meant. Make sure to not overdo it. Good shot though. Almost like you’ve used one before,” Kuan commented, extinguishing the flames with water bullets.
“Might be my grimoire doing that,” I realized, noticing my aim was adjusted at the last second.
“Weird, I thought Tess locked you out of that. Oh, I know. Let’s try a normal gun,” Kuan decided, leading me over to the shooting range.
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