“Tomo, are you awake?” I felt someone shake my shoulder.
I opened my eyes and saw Tess next to me. F***, I had a headache again and my stomach hurt like hell too. S***, any mind dives involving Tess weren’t a fun time at all. I opened my mouth and couldn’t even utter a single word.
“Water,” Tess offered, placing a paper cup on the table.
I drank it, feeling much better afterwards. Tess sat back down, closing my grimoire. I slowly recovered, back to normal five minutes later. I could only imagine my state if I ever had the opportunity to view Ace’s memories.
“Great, I can finally talk again! Tess, what the hell? You could have at least warned me about what was going to happen,” I said, biting into an energy bar.
“I apologize for my lack of foresight. I did not anticipate the mind dives would occur in succession. As I stated the first time I introduced you to the concept of mind dives, my case is a bit special. However, I trust you gained insight during them,” Tess said, returning my grimoire to me.
“Yeah, I’m guessing you just wanted to show me even you stared off slow. That woman, Yamamura, who is she?” I scooted my chair back, my legs cramped underneath the table.
“Yamamura Kotomi, the former leader of Lilith’s team. One of the first people I met when I first accepted the role as the Gatekeeper,” Tess revealed.
“She’s super strong. I’m surprised you didn’t try to get her back with all of this happening,” I remarked, wondering why she wasn’t involved.
“She no longer lives in the area anymore. Also, Kotomi no longer wishes to partake in these activities. I respect her decision,” Tess explained.
Something was off. From what the other heroes told me, Tess could easily convince anyone. Was it because Yamamura was her senior? I glanced over at the woman, deciding not to inquire any further for now. I would track Lilith down later and see what she could tell me.
“What’s next, Tess?” I stood up, not comfortable sitting in the chair.
“A small sparring session to reinforce everything you’ve learned today,” Tess answered with a slight smile, lightening up the mood.
“I wouldn’t expect anything less from you,” I responded, following her out of the room.
We entered an empty room. Over the next hour, Tess pushed me to my limits. She reversed my kicks and punches, providing tips on how to break through her defenses. The Gatekeeper nullified most of my magical attacks, relaunching them back at me. My only real breakthrough were physical attacks. Then again, even those weren’t true successes. Tess immediately turned her counters into devastating blows, knocking me down to the ground each time. At the end, my breathing was ragged and I couldn’t even stand up straight anymore.
“That concludes my role for today. However, I have one more challenge for you, Tomo,” Tess announced, handing me a recovery drink.
“There’s still more?” I leaned against the wall, staring at her in shock.
“Indeed,” Tess said, departing the room.
Half an hour later, she returned with a bald man. He wore suspenders, a gun holster attached to the right side of it, over a lined dress shirt and matching dress pants. The man had a chevron moustache along with a faint goatee at the bottom of his chin. The design on his badge, strapped to his belt caught my eye. Oh, the Special Investigations Unit?
“Tomo, meet Captain Maka. He’s the head of the Special Investigations Unit. I’ve brought him here so he can demonstrate that even those without powers can fight. Tomo, feel free to use all the magic you’ve learned against him. He can handle it,” Tess introduced.
“Nice to meet you. I’ve read a lot about you in Tess’ reports. Come at me with all you got. I’m a trained operative, no reason to go easy,” Captain Maka said, shaking my hand.
Skill Exhibition: Captain Maka v. Tomo Yuki
Let’s start off with some ice. Captain Maka pulled on a pair of black gloves before slipping. His gloved hand made contact with the ice and then the entire layer vanished. Anti-magic equipment, yeah, that was expected. I accelerated forward, swinging a hunting knife at him. The SIU officer removed his gun from the holster. Nope, too slow! I slashed at him but didn’t expect the man to parry with his firearm. My blade bounced off the top of his gun. Fine, time for some portals. I transported my weapon toward his back with a portal. He responded by pressing a button on a device hanging from his belt. A shrill noise emitted from it, destabilizing my portal. My knife clanked to the ground, missing the intended target by a few inches.
“I’ve fought the false archer before. Glad the lab managed to figure something out for it,” Captain Maka remarked, picking up my knife from the ground.
Your gloves protect you from magic, but not real-life threats. I considered electricity, but suspected his gloves were insulators. Instead, I set the blade ablaze, engulfing his gloves in flames. The SIU personnel tossed my blade to the ground. My flames vanished three seconds later. Huh, his gloves were quite durable. I pivoted behind him, attempting a rear neck choke. This worked out well for me since we were about the same height. It would have been a hassle if I tried this against a taller opponent. Captain Maka foresaw my move and grabbed my arms. I constructed a portal but it fizzled out. Wait, what?
“Gotta be careful,” the man warned, tossing me over his shoulders.
He fired off three shots at me. I neutralized his bullets with Zhuyu’s vector power. Hold on, this situation felt oddly familiar. I flashed back to my training with Kuan. Damn it! These bullets weren’t meant to ever hit me in the first place. Smoke poured out from the projectiles, obscuring the entire area. No, this worked out for me. I cranked up the temperature, regulating my own body temperature to avoid the mistake during my training with Shui. When the smoke finally cleared out, Captain Maka was on the ground, sweating covering his entire face. Now for the extreme. I shifted the temperature down to below freezing. Something then struck me hard in the back. I turned around and saw Captain Maka holding a baton.
“Your eyes can be deceiving. Hone your other senses to make sure that doesn’t happen,” he advised, electrocuting me with his baton.
I fell to the ground, caught off guard by his attack. On his next swing, I raised my hand in the air, expecting an ice wall for protection. Instead, the man’s blunt weapon bashed my palm. F***! I pulled back my hand in pain, avoiding his next attack. A sharp pain ran through my back after rolling away.
“You’ve discovered one of my anti-magic measures,” Captain Maka stated as I pulled out the tiny needles embedded in my lower back.
I stare down at my hand, summoning a sword but nothing formed. The man dashed at me with a hunting knife. Fine, I could manage this without any magic. I jumped back, retrieving my original weapon. However, I was outmatched by him, but avoided damage. The anti-magic must have a time limit. Time to stall for long as I could. Captain Maka eventually knocked the blade out of my hand, pointing the barrel of his gun at my forehead within seconds. Not good, but my magic was active again. I switched the position of his gun and one of the grenades hanging from his belt. His firearm clattered to the floor. I stopped his movement long enough for me to pull the pin on his explosive.
“You got me but this is just a dud,” Captain Maka revealed, hurling the fake grenade away.
No way, this had to be a set-up by Tess. But, he did mention fighting Ichaival before. Either way, he was super lucky. My magic wasn’t looking too good either. Time to pull off one more move with portals. A circle of them surrounded him, forcing him to one spot. I then created a ring of electricity, followed by a ring of fire, a ring of ice, and finally a ring of sharp knives which exhausted all my available magic. Let’s see you get out of this!
The stability of the portals broke down one minute later. He attempted to dispel my elemental magic but was unsuccessful. Eventually, the deadly ring of danger collapsed inward, hitting him with everything that I created before. Chains covered up the SIU leader, protecting him.
“That was close,” Captain Maka said, heaving a sigh of relief.
“Well done, Tomo,” Tess entered the room, giving me an approving nod.
“Were you really not holding back?” I didn’t believe Captain Maka showed me his true skills.
“No reason to lie, that’s my best effort out there with my current equipment,” he confirmed.
“He is correct, Tomo. Captain Maka would have matched you if he came in with a different equipment set. However, that wasn’t my goal for this exhibition battle. I wanted to see how you would fare against someone who did have proper anti-magic tools at their disposable. You met my expectations,” Tess explained.
Captain Maka removed his suspenders and shirt, revealing a tight fitting body suit underneath. There were various tears in it, but his skin showed no signs of damage. Tess pointed a pen at his upper body, moving it downward and then back up. After thirty seconds, the Gatekeeper wrote notes down on her clipboard.
“Anti-magic clothing?” I pointed at his body suit.
“Sort of. It’s a special fabric that’s been enchanted by magic. Protects against standard stuff, not so good when fighting someone like Kyoi or Kisai though. They would tear through this in an instant,” Captain Maka answered.
“Thank you for your assistance, Captain Maka. I will keep in touch with you regarding the mask and orange haired woman,” Tess said.
The SIU officer nodded, leaving the room. This was the worst I felt since becoming a hero. Tess waved at me, requesting I follow her. At least I was done for the day. I glanced over at the Gatekeeper, hoping she wouldn’t add in something else at the last minute. She wouldn’t do that, right?