MIND DIVE 16: Encounter with Tess (Shui)
“Morning Shui,” Zhuyu greeted his friend in the hallway.
“Good morning, Long! I’m nervous about our math test today,” the man said.
“Want to review notes? Oh, before I forget, here,” Zhuyu suggested and then handed his friend a familiar business card.
“What’s this? Wait, you mean like Zha Tess in our class?” Shui stared at the card in surprise.
“That’s the one. You’ll want to talk to her about what happened the other day. She’ll help explain everything,” Zhuyu confirmed, following his friend up the stairs.
“She doesn’t have any morning classes here, right? Isn’t she only here for fifth and sixth period?” Shui entered a classroom.
“She’ll be here during lunchtime. You usually can find her in the lunchroom,” Zhuyu revealed, pulling out his math book.
Zhuyu reached into his backpack, pulling out a highlighter. He asked for Shui’s notebook and highlighted important concepts and equations. Shui reviewed a practice test, flipping through the pages. There weren’t too many students yet. During our first training day, Shui said he wasn’t super great at math. But, it looked like he was putting in a good effort here. I understood his sentiments though. The difference between high school and college math courses was scary if you weren’t prepared. You could be top of the class in high school but drop off at the university.
“Shoot, it’s almost time for first period. I’ll see you in math class later!” Zhuyu packed up his materials and exited the classroom.
The scene fast forwarded, transitioning to the end of class. Shui and Zhuyu exited the classroom as the bell rung. Tess was already waiting for them outside.
“Punctual as ever, Tess. I told Lau to meet up with you already but I should have known you would be waiting for him,” Zhuyu said, splitting off from Shui.
Tess grabbed the math major, bringing him back. Students walking in the hallway stared at the scene, whispering to each other. Good old high school behavior. It happened everywhere no matter the location.
“You’ll join us, Long,” Tess ordered, pointing at the stairs.
Oh, already on first name basis. Strange, Tess addressed Kyoi by her family name in that mind dive from yesterday. Why did she change it for Zhuyu? The two men followed her up to the third floor and into an empty classroom. Science equipment was located throughout the room. No teacher was in sight either.
“Crap, I didn’t grab lunch!” Shui realized, heading towards the exit.
“No need, I’ve prepared enough for everyone,” Tess announced, bringing out a large lunchbox.
Shui nodded with an impressed look. Zhuyu bit into an apple, watching the girl reveal the contents. Tess revealed fried rice, stir fried noodles, steamed gai lan, and stir fried Chinese pea shoots. She reached into the cabinet underneath the desk, pulling out plates for both men.
“That looks amazing!” Shui filled his plate up, accepting a pair of chopsticks from her.
“I know, right! That’s why she’s the best!” Felicity burst into the classroom.
She reached for the food but Tess slapped her hand away with a pair of chopsticks. Felicity responded with a pitiful look but the Gatekeeper ignored her. Zhuyu, with reluctance, placed the food onto his plate. He tasted it, nodding in approval.
“Tess, how does it feel to call Long by his name?” Felicity whispered into her ear.
“No significant emotions. It’s the same as if I addressed him as Zhuyu,” Tess responded, cutting open one of her food tubes.
“You really didn’t feel anything at all? And why are you eating that again? You made all this amazing food!” Felicity hissed at her friend.
“Convenience,” Tess replied, squeezing out the contents into her mouth.
“Tess, mind telling Shui about all the hero stuff now?” Zhuyu removed a sandwich from his backpack, unwrapping it.
“Long! What are you doing?” Felicity snatched his food away with a horrified look.
“Hey, give that back to Long! It’s his food. What are you doing?” Shui returned Zhuyu’s sandwich to him.
“How can you eat your own food when Tess spent so much time making all of this for you?” Felicity accused, shaking her head at him.
“Tess’ food is great but I still gotta eat my own lunch,” Zhuyu responded, not comprehending Felicity’s reasoning.
“I’m not turning down free food. This is great, Tess! You gotta tell me the recipe for this!” Shui filled his plate with more food.
“May I please inspect the type of music you listen to, Shui? In exchange, here are the recipes you desired?” Tess suddenly brought up, sliding a miniature notebook over to the man.
Shui glanced over at Zhuyu in confusion. His friend shrugged, assuring him that was just how Tess operated. With reluctance, the water manipulator brought out his MP3 player, setting it onto the table. He removed his earphones and then flipped through Tess’ notebook. Tess borrowed Felicity’s headphones, listening to several songs.
“A variety of different genres including classics, R&B, hip-hop, and pop. I see,” Tess commented, removing her earphones after five minutes.
“What kind of songs do you like to listen to, Zha?” Shui closed the notebook, sliding it back to Tess.
“You may keep that, Shui. As for your question, I sample music in short snippets, never listening to a song in full. I prefer natural noise when traveling to and from school,” Tess replied.
“Cool, I guess,” Shui said, giving Zhuyu another confused look.
“Regarding your entry into another dimension…,” Tess said before her voice warped.
This was the end, huh? Tess never failed to show off her interesting personality. Good to know she was the same in the past. Actually, Tess seemed much more open now, compared to her high school days. Was it because of the heroes?
MIND DIVE 16 END
I woke up, dropping my grimoire onto the floor. Tess wasn’t here but… Shan was? He picked up my grimoire, placing it back into my hands.
“You still feeling any pain, Tomo?” Shan peeled an apple with a knife before cutting it up into individual slices.
“Not anymore. Future Zhuyu really f***** me up. Where’s Tess?” I sat up in my bed.
“She’s off doing her own thing. Darryl and I stayed behind to look after you,” he answered.
“Because you wanted to? Seems fishy to me,” I remarked, finding his behavior strange.
“Well yeah, I gotta make sure my teammate is okay. I’m not a heartless bastard,” Shan answered with sincerity, no hint of his usual comedic undertone.
“Yeah, still kinda hard to believe. So it’s just you and Ichaival? Everyone else already left?” I ate one of the apple slices.
“Yep, we’re the only ones with a heart, you know?” Shan switched back to his usual humorous tone.
“Don’t believe everything he says, Tomo. But, he wasn’t lying about making sure you were okay though,” Ichaival warned, entering the room.
The two men bantered, going through their usual routine. Shan made veiled insults disguised as compliments. Ichaival responded with indignation and outrage. Both eventually settled down and spoke to each other normally.
“You know how long it’ll be before I can go home?” I finished eating all of the apple slices Shan prepared for me.
“When Tess is back, I think. She has to sign all the paperwork,” Shan answered, glancing up at the clock on the wall.
“How long have you guys been here?” I coughed and Ichaival immediately handed me a glass of water.
“A couple of hours. We took over for Tess after you knocked out,” Shan revealed, refilling my glass after I finished drinking all of the water.
Tess returned ten minutes later. She informed us that I was finally free to go. Shan and Ichaival assisted me back to the main Crossroads terminal. From there, we went our separate ways. Tess gave me another booklet, full of information from today’s exhibition battles. She requested I also update her if my condition changed. I nodded and returned back home. I immediately collapsed into my bed, falling asleep.