Ten minutes later, I sat in the stands, pressing an ice pack against my sore shoulder. Tess stood next to me, wearing an ear piece. These seats were much more comfortable compared to my last visit here. Shane and Emily, wearing athletic clothing, sparred with each other while waiting for the two heroes. I’m surprised Tess selected Zhuyu since he was involved with the last one against the two researchers. However, his powers meshed with Shan’s, so it was probably just a matter of synergy.
“How are you doing, Tomo?” Shan and Zhuyu walked past my seat.
“Why are you taking this way down?” I stared at the two men in confusion.
“We were finishing paperwork up in the laboratory. You know this connects up there, right?” Shan accepted the two bracelets Tess handed him.
“Oh, I guess it does. I feel terrible, way worse than yesterday,” I answered, glaring at Zhuyu.
“What did you do to piss her off?” Shan glanced over at his friend.
“I didn’t do anything,” Zhuyu denied, hopping down into the field.
“Right…,” Shan said, tossing him a bracelet.
Both men wore similar clothes from yesterday, the only difference was the coloring. They strapped on their bracelets, pressing buttons on them, and then waved at Tess. She nodded, still not sitting down. Knowing Tess, she would stand up the entire time. The participants met in the middle, conversing.
“You’re monitoring them through their bracelets?” I watched Tess tap her tablet screen.
“Correct. Gathering data from these exhibition battles is valuable for future training regiments,” Tess confirmed, plugging in a device onto the side of her tablet.
Tess signaled for the the battle to start. Zhuyu summoned his sword, letting out a sigh. He huddled with his battle partner afterwards. The two researchers spoke with each other too before making their first move.
Exhibition Battle: Shane & Emily v. Zhuyu & Shan
A star filled sky appeared, along with a bumpy rock terrain, resembling the moon’s environment. Everyone floated into the air immediately. Zhuyu stared at his opponents, glancing downward at his weapon. Oh, was he actually going to pull out his sword? He shook his head before plummeting into the ground. Shan grimaced, shouting out an apology. Emily kicked the zero vector user, sending him towards her husband. Shane grabbed the math major, locking him into a choke hold. Emily drifted toward the gravity manipulator, blocking him from assisting his partner.
Zhuyu, his head slumping downward, made eye contact with Shan. The gravity manipulator nodded at him, dodging the researcher’s tackle. The sword wielding hero slammed his sheath’s tip into Shane’s stomach. Zhuyu escaped, coughing afterwards. Shane, still stunned from the blow, floated back down. Shan juked Emily, joining back up with the math major. They conversed for ten seconds before separating. Shan sped towards Shane, holding a baseball bat now. He missed his first swing, but connected on the second, striking the same area Zhuyu targeted.
“Tess, how strong is the gravity in this area Shane and Emily set up?” I saw Emily sneak up behind Shan, brandishing her staff at the man’s neck.
“The amount varies depending on where one stands. It’s the reason Long and Shigetzu struggled at the beginning,” Tess answered, murmuring numbers after her response.
Zhuyu appeared from out of nowhere, blocking Emily’s attack with his sheath. The math major tapped his ally in the back three times before engaging the researcher. Huh, I didn’t expect those types of communications since they didn’t work together often. Shane finally avoided Shan’s bat, lunging for his opponent’s hand. The gravity manipulator released his bat, and the weapon rocketed up into the air, out of reach for both men. Meanwhile, Zhuyu and Emily exchanged blows with their weapons, neither giving an inch. She finally gained the upper hand, driving him back, and whacked his arms multiple times. On her next swing, Zhuyu stopped her motion midway. He slammed his sheath into her hand, knocking the woman’s staff out. Emily eyed her weapon, running towards it. Zhuyu applied his powers, causing her to fall. He arrived at her side within seconds, driving his sheath into Emily’s back three times. Zhuyu stomped on her arms before swinging his sheathed weapon down. His actions brought back bad memories of his future self’s beat down on me.
“That’s the exact same thing he did to me. Except he wasn’t as pleasant, let’s say,” I informed Tess, watching him pin Emily down with his powers.
“Long was trained by Feng. It’s a surprise to you he possesses such ruthlessness. But, he’s done so many times in the past,” Tess stated, focusing on the fight between Shane and Shan.
Shan and Shane attempted punches, but missed each other. Shan’s baseball bat floated high up in the air, traveling towards me. I glanced at it, anticipating him to utilize the blunt weapon again. Shane tackled Shan, driving his head into the ground. The researcher grabbed the science major’s head, ready to slam it down. Shan countered, jamming his knee into Shane’s stomach, before leaping into the air. He landed on his opponent’s stomach, wearing down the area. Displaying his strength, Shan hoisted Shane up and hurled him upwards. So that was his plan! Shane’s face collided with the bat barrel. The researcher and Shan’s weapon plummeted downward. Shan whistled and Zhuyu grasped Emily’s wrist in response. I saw his mouth move, probably timing his next attack. When Shane came within inches of striking the ground, the zero vector user kicked the woman towards him, and the couple collided.
“You’re not going to tell me that is their first time working together, right?” I stood up, leaning forward for a closer look.
“No, it is not. Long and Shigetzu work together on occasion. What are your thoughts on their teamwork so far?” Tess placed her tablet down on a seat before stretching.
“Their powers definitely compliment each other. Shan’s limited since Zhuyu’s not able to use any magic, but they’ve stopped most of Emily and Shane’s attacks. So I guess, good job?” I answered, watching Shan haul Shane away from his wife.
“I see,” Tess said, picking up her tablet again.
Shane escaped Shan’s hold and reached into his pockets. He crushed something in his hands. A bright blue sky replaced the stars. The rocky terrain transformed into a lush green scenery, full of plants and trees. Vines wrapped around Emily’s body, dragging her into the ground. Zhuyu finally drew his sword, slicing at them, but his weapon bounced off. Shan swung his leg at Shane’s stomach but struck a tree instead. He hopped around in pain afterwards. Zhuyu sheathed his blade, checking in on his friend’s condition. Shan flashed multiple signs on his left hand. The math major nodded before pushing Shan away from a falling tree.
Emily reappeared, swinging her staff at Shan. Zhuyu glanced over in his friend’s direction. Shane suddenly popped out from the ground, grabbing the man’s legs, tripping him. Zhuyu steadied himself and aimed his sheath tip at the researcher’s hands. Shane disappeared underground, avoiding the attack. That was annoying. Shane and Emily could just wait it out, catching the two men off guard. Shan sent Emily into the air before lifting up the tree near him. He swatted the woman down and then split the tree in half with a one powerful stomp. The gravity manipulator threw one part at Shane, shouting a warning at Zhuyu, and then hoisted up the other half. Shan slammed it down on Emily. The woman dove into the ground, escaping just like her husband. The hero tossed away his tree and stared at the ground. A large crack appeared, followed by several small ones, spreading throughout the entire area. Zhuyu sighed, leaping around, showing off a surprising amount of athleticism. Well, at least until he slipped and hung onto the edge, nearly plummeting into the deep crevice below. Shane and Emily returned to the surface, their faces covered in scratches.
A green light shot upward into the air and then all the damage vanished. Everyone stood on solid ground again. Shan wasted no time, kicking Emily into a nearby tree. He pinned her to it, striking her kneecap, and then elbowed her face. Zhuyu dodged Shane’s ninja stars, reflecting them back at the researcher with his durable sheath. Shane avoided his own projectiles as they struck a medium sized evergreen tree. Zhuyu stopped the researcher’s movement and pushed him in the direction of the falling tree. The researcher was crushed while the zero vector user barely avoided it.
“Um, they’re okay, right?” I shielded my eyes from the bright sunlight.
“Do not worry about their safety. Shane and Emily are experienced fighters. They will know when to concede the battle if necessary. It has not reached that point yet,” Tess replied, showing no concern for them.
“Right…,” I remarked.
Shane pushed away the tree, standing up without any trouble. What the hell? The researcher slapped the bark, manifesting a wooden sword. He stared at Zhuyu, as if daring the math major to engage in a sword fight with him. Zhuyu reached for his sword but didn’t pull it out. Shane shrugged his shoulder and swung at the zero vector user. The hero blocked with his sheath, still not willing to draw his blade again. There’s no way he could keep that up. I knew his sheath absorbed a ridiculous amount of damage, but it didn’t make sense for the math major to just defend. He was capable of offense. I witnessed it firsthand.
“Tess, I have a question!” I turned toward the Gatekeeper but she wasn’t there anymore.
I finally found her down on the field. She stood next to Zhuyu, holding her hand up in the air. Shan and Emily paused their fight upon noticing her presence. Shane stood back, leaning against his sword. The Gatekeeper pulled the math major aside, conversing with him. I thought she might scold him or even get physical. But, that wasn’t really her style. Tess stared straight into his eyes, a serious expression on her face. This was a serious talk, not just a reminder of pep talk. Three minutes later, Tess returned.
“Tomo, I know you’re curious, but I can’t divulge any information about my conversation with Long,” Tess said right away.
“Yeah, I wasn’t really going to try anyways. Can you at least tell me if it’s related to his Dragon’s Mandate power?” I sat back down.
“Yes,” Tess answered.
Shane thrust his blade at Zhuyu, sending small traces of magical energy toward him. The hero raised his sheath up in a vertical position, blocking the attack. Immediately after, he drew his sword for the second time, slashing the researcher’s upper chest in one continuous motion. Zhuyu pivoted behind him, slicing Shane’s left and right arm. He finished off his combo with a stab at Shane’s chest. The researcher deflected Zhuyu’s last attack at the last second but still sustained damage.
The hero followed up with a feint at Shane’s upper shoulder, before flicking his blade upward. He cut up the man’s face before pulling back. The zero vector user splintered Shane’s wooden sword when the researcher parried his weapon. With one slight swing, Zhuyu directed pieces of the researcher’s weapon at him. Wood shavings and splinters struck various Shane’s face and chest. Emily, escaping from Shan, protected her husband from Zhuyu’s next sword blow. She fell to her knee, grabbing her shoulder in pain. Her shirt sleeve tore from the impact. Emily suffered a small cut as well. Like her husband, the researcher reached into her pockets and modified the environment again.
Sand filled the entire area. The elevation wasn’t constant, containing steep dips and elevated levels. Shane and Emily slipped into the sand, disappearing from my sight. Unlike their previous escape, Shan neutralized their strategy, shooting them up. Zhuyu leaped into the air, hurling his weapon at the couple. His sword pierced Shane’s shoulder. The math major pointed up at the sky and Shan sent Emily flying into Zhuyu’s sword. The sand softened their landing but the damage was done.
The gravity manipulator kicked the sword hilt, driving the blade further in. Zhuyu prevented the couple from moving, allowing Shan to deliver hard stomps. They exchanged positions, and Zhuyu lifted Shane’s arm, kicking his elbow. The math major flung Shane’s arm into his knee before yanking his weapon out. He motioned at Shan and turned his attention over to Emily. Tess’ little talk really brought out his aggressive side. You know, it would have been super helpful if you showed this side more when you’re fighting alongside me, Zhuyu!
Shan drove his knee into Shane’s stomach before landing an axe kick. He followed up with a hook kick, driving the researcher into the sand. Shane slid down a slope, landing with a soft thud. The hero followed him, sliding down with his heel. He struck the man’s head, knocking him unconscious.
Zhuyu tripped Emily with a modified leg sweep and tossed his sword to the side. Don’t be dumb! I glanced over at Tess, who displayed no emotion as usual. He trapped her in an arm bar, wrenching on the woman’s wrist. He released her after a full minute and then stomped on her arm. Zhuyu grabbed his sword, stabbing her hand multiple times. He sheathed his blade and then jammed it into the side of her head. Emily spat out blood before passing out.
“That’s enough!” Tess leaped onto the battlefield.
“Took you long enough, Long!” Shane slapped Zhuyu’s back after everyone recovered.
“No idea what you’re talking about,” the math major responded with a slight smile.
“We’ll go back and check, Tess. Good job, guys! This will be great data for us!” Emily helped her husband up the stairs.
“Thank you for not beating up on us after yesterday’s training. You held back,” Shan remarked.
“Come on, let’s get you some drinks and food,” Shane offered.
Shan and Zhuyu glanced over at Tess before responding. She nodded and the two men followed the researchers back into the laboratory. Damn, I wanted to ask them questions!
“The next scheduled exhibition match will be a treat for both of us,” Tess revealed.
Kyoi and Kisai entered from the other side of the training field. Oh, I didn’t expect both top ranked heroes. She usually kept the teams balanced. Who were their opponents though?