Volume 12, Chapter 3-2: Jen’s Kindness

“Let’s see… there it is,” I murmured, noticing the center was near a fast food restaurant.

I parked and saw an unexpected person. Zhuyu walked along the street, carrying two grocery bags. Was he volunteering too?

“Zhuyu!” I called out.

“Tomo. It’s rare to see you around here,” he greeted.

“Where are you headed?” I asked.

“Back home, bought some groceries. Didn’t feel like driving,” Zhuyu replied.

“Oh, I thought you were helping out at the community center,” I said, pointing at the building.

“I’m guessing Darryl’s here with Jen today. Heard about it from Shigetzu. I actually live up from here. See you at school, Tomo,” the man said, climbing the steep hill.

Wait, did he really? I pulled out my phone and checked the map. I never drove down here before so I wasn’t familiar with the area. I headed inside and saw Jen in the lobby.

“Glad you could make it, Yuki! Follow me,” Jen instructed, leading the way.

She finally stopped at a door and knocked. Ichaival opened the door with a grin. When he saw me, there was slight disappointment, but it vanished. He welcomed us in, asking Jen to set her bag down on a table. All of the furniture was pushed to one side, leaving the central space open.

“You invited Tomo to come along too? It’s good to have some more people,” he said.

Ichaival, don’t make excuses. You can blame me if you want. Although, I didn’t feel bad about interrupting. Someone else would have it done eventually.

“Where should I help?” I asked Jen.

“Darryl can tell you. I’m leaving for a bit. I’m going to speak with the supervisors about the schedule,” Jen replied.

“Ichaival, sorry for intruding,” I apologized, peering outside the window.

“It’s no problem, Tomo. Things happen. Help me out with the decorations. I started putting some up already. I’ll get all the tables and chairs ready,” Ichaival directed, pointing at the lights hanging on the wall.

“Got it,” I said.

“Thanks for getting the lights. My leg didn’t feel too good. My injury is still bothering me a little bit,” Ichaival revealed.

“Hey Ichaival, there are a bunch of dead bulbs on this line,” I noticed.

“Let me see… oh crap, I know what went wrong,” Ichaival replied, staring at them.

Ichaival texted someone on his phone. I stepped off from the chair, looking around.

“They delivered the wrong ones. Can you take them down?” Ichaival requested.

“Who’s this party for?” I asked, pulling down the string of lights.

“It’s for one of Jen’s friends. I met her a few months back and she volunteered here all the time. Jen wanted to thank her for all the work she’s done here,” Ichaival replied.

“That’s sweet of her. How long until the new lights get here?” I questioned.

“Fifteen minutes,” Ichaival responded.

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“What do you want me to do now?” I asked.

“Here, help me out with this, Tomo,” Ichaival said, pointing at the three tables in the corner.

“Where does that door lead to?” I asked him as we draped a fancy cloth over it.

“There’s a game room in there. Ping-pong, darts, games like that,” Ichaival answered.

“Sounds cool. What’s next?” I inspected the remainder of the room.

Ichaival handed me a plastic bag containing ornaments and other items to hang from the ceiling. Jen was really dedicated. After we hung everything up, Ichaival checked his phone again.

“I’ll go get the lights. You can take a short break. You’ve earned it,” Ichaival said, departing the room with a grin.

I sat down in a chair and felt my phone vibrate. Wait, why did I set an alarm again? That’s right, there was a lab report due today. If I recalled, the turn in time was six.

Ichaival returned with a box, lights sticking out of it. He noticed my concerned look.

“You have something to do? I’ll be fine by myself. Jen’s been gone a long time though. I wonder what happened?” Ichaival said.

“Do you want me to ask the front? I have a lab report due so I gotta get home,” I offered.

“Thanks for offering. That would be great. Good luck on your report!” Ichaival said.

I headed back to the lobby. I asked about Jen and they directed me to the second floor. I saw Jen chatting with someone around our age. Must be the lucky person she was throwing the surprise party for. I updated Ichaival on the situation and then drove home.

“So lucky I already finished most of it,” I said, clicking the turn-in button.

Monday Spring Quarter 2016 Week 2

“And if we look at the line… I don’t know, it’s almost like he didn’t write it. It doesn’t fit in with the recognized canon of his work. I know some people would say that someone else tried putting it into one of the original manuscripts…,” Professor Rem lectured.

Jacque, eyes closed, leaned back in his seat and placed his legs up on the window sill, looking comfortable in that position. Kisai skipped class. Zhuyu paid attention but stopped taking notes midway through class like last week.

“Wouldn’t you say that’s because people only recognized how good his writing was after he died?” a girl in class asked.

“I know what you mean and it’s true. He probably knew he would have the last laugh when he wrote all these stories. The authors he mentions, who’s reading them now? No one…,” Professor Rem agreed, placing his book down.

Mercifully, the first half of class finally ended. Zhuyu took out his phone right away. Jacque woke up, a dazed look on his face. Only twenty people, out of a registered forty, attended class today.

“Yo, what did I miss?” Jacque asked, taking out a bag of spicy puffs.

“Just a bunch of history about the stories. Things you don’t need on the midterm,” Zhuyu replied, putting his phone away.

“I should probably just read manga. What to do?” Jacque said, unzipping his bag.

“Why is your bag so festive? It has Christmas trees,” Zhuyu pointed out.

“It’s just the kind of bags I have at home. Here’s one with dinosaurs,” Jacque responded, pulled out another bag with the prehistoric animal prints.

“Damn, I just have regular ass bags,” Zhuyu said, bringing out a bag full of yellow chunks.

“What are those?” I stared at his bag.

“Dried ginger. You want some?” Zhuyu inquired, opening up the bag.

“I’ll pass. Gotta finish these first. The thing I hate about these is that I always get my hand dirty. It’s annoying. You have a napkin, Long?” Jacque asked.

“Here you go,” Zhuyu offered, pulling out a small, cute packet of tissue.

He handed a sheet over to the artist. The package design was a small house, a single puff of smoke billowing out the chimney. A cute rabbit face was printed on the flap. Where did Zhuyu get this stuff? First his lead pencil and now this.

“Did Kisai skip because he had something to do?” I questioned.

“He has an assignment for another class due,” Zhuyu answered, eating his ginger.

I looked around the classroom. The girl who earlier chatted with a group of people near her. From what I heard, she was a literature major. Everyone else around her probably was too. I suspected the heroes and I were the only ones taking the class for a writing credit and not as a prerequisite. Three men, on the far right, typed on their laptops. Some took notes with diligence and others worked on assignments from a different class.

“Sorry about getting back so late… the machine wasn’t working so I couldn’t get any coffee. Well, it’s not even coffee really, more like hot liquid. Better than nothing, right?” Professor Rem shuffled into the classroom, carrying a plastic cup.

“Where do you get something like that?” a girl in class asked.

“If you uh go down into the janitor’s office in… what’s that building called? The one in the Quad, near the broken bricks. I just found it one day. You don’t even have to pay,” Professor Rem replied, setting the cup down.

Jacque said something to Zhuyu and the zero vector user laughed. I wasn’t paying attention to their conversation but it probably involved the interaction between our professor and the girl. He went on tangents but his stories were entertaining.

“Where were we? Oh, did I talk about this yet? Let me see…,” Professor Rem checked the board.

Class finally ended. Zhuyu threw on his coat, placing his earbuds in. Jacque wore wireless earphones and he pressed the buds into his ear.

“You’re heading the same way as me?” I noticed Zhuyu walking in the same direction.

“Jin’s not here today so I’m taking the bus,” Zhuyu confirmed.

“I have a quick question for you,” I said.

“Go ahead,” he responded, moving to the side as someone sped past us on their bike.

“Do you plan on being a teacher after you graduate?” I asked, recalling my experience two weeks ago.

“I’ve thought about it before. Don’t know for sure. We’ll see. That’s weird that you brought it up all of a sudden,” Zhuyu replied.

“Just curious. Tess is always telling me to learn more about everyone,” I said.

“What about you, Tomo? Have you figured out what you want to do yet? It’s still your first year so don’t be too hasty,” Zhuyu redirected my question.

I didn’t know yet. I was taking science and math classes but didn’t know what direction I wanted to head in. Everyone else seemed to hav an idea, except maybe Kristoph. They were a year older than me so it made sense for them to already have potential majors in mind.

“Maybe something in engineering? Seeing Yukie, she’s having fun with it. I do like the sciences too,” I replied.

“Go for it. You still have time to decide. You pick up things pretty fast. I’ve seen it when you use everyone’s powers,” Zhuyu complimented me.

“You’re unusually nice today, Zhuyu. Something feels off,” I remarked.

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“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Tomo. Oh yeah, Tess wants you to do some training. Everyone will meet up at the Crossroads. Just use your key,” Zhuyu informed me.

“Who’s going to be there?” I wondered.

“Tess will remain behind, monitoring the situation. It’ll be Kuan and Darryl. I’ll try to make it once I finish my homework, no guarantees though. I heard from Tess you finally managed to execute Shigetzu’s and my power. Good job,” Zhuyu replied.

Okay, he was definitely weird today. The man was more open than usual. It reminded me of my conversation with future Zhuyu. It was very natural and not forced, at the level of not good friends, but better than acquaintances.

I returned home and checked the time. I should probably eat dinner first. After enjoying a delicious meal made by Yukie, I stuck my key into a door lock. Opening the door, I found myself in the Crossroads.

“Tomo, over here!” Ichaival called out.

Kuan stared at a map on the coffee table, circling locations on it with a marker. Ichaival observed him, standing behind the man.

“Where are we heading?” I questioned.

“To the dimension where Shigetzu and I received our powers. We’ll visit our prophet and see if she can tell us anything about our ultimate weapons,” Ichaival replied.

“What kind of place is it?” I tried discerning details from the map.

“Depends on the area. It can be pretty bad,” Ichaival answered.

“What’s the map for?” I saw Kuan switch to a different color.

“There’s a network of instant teleportation in the dimension and I’m just marking out spots that still function,” Kuan explained, pointing at a color coded key.

“It’s that complicated?” I counted the large number of marks Kuan made.

“The grid that it runs on got really messed up. It’s also been awhile since we last visited too. A lot of things change,” Ichaival replied.

“I can barely read your list. Is this the last one?” Kuan referred to a lined piece of paper.

“That’s not my fault. Freakin’ Shigetzu wrote it. Don’t blame me,” Ichaival explained.

Kuan finished his color coding. Ichaival folded the map, sliding it into his pocket. Kuan tossed me a backpack. Wondered why we required supplies if we were just visiting the prophet.

“It’s over here,” Ichaival directed, leading us to the correct terminal.

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