“Kisai, what’s up with the Zhuyu impostor? Why’s he so strong?” I questioned.
“He’s weak, Tomo. I’m surprised you couldn’t handle him,” Kisai denied, flashing his trademark grin.
“Don’t give me that b*******, Kisai. He almost f***** you up,” I disagreed, glaring at him.
“Actually, that could have been really dangerous. Especially with how his left arm looked. Long’s pretty strong with those powers. Things is, those weren’t even his true powers. You’re lucky Lyra couldn’t construct a proper puppet emulating his real form,” Kisai revealed.
“Right. I guess you’re not telling me anything more?” I predicted.
“Feng can tell you all about it, if she wants to, of course,” Kisai replied.
We finally arrived at an unlocked door. Ichaival was stable although he required Kuan’s assistance. If Kisai and Zhuyu were that powerful after retrieving their ultimate weapons, then we were in good shape to handle the Traveler. The difference between now and my first encounter with the heroes all the way back in September was staggering.
“I’ll open it,” Kisai volunteered, grinning at Ichaival with false sympathy.
“No, let me handle it…. ah, that hurts. Lyra’s expecting me,” Ichaival said, pushing Kuan away, and yanked the door open before falling.
“You okay? Come on, get up!” Kisai hauled Ichaival up, lending him his shoulder.
I saw an entire wall of computer screens and a plethora of stuffed animals, along with dolls, placed around the room. The stuffed dog from before rested on a fancy coffee table. There was a larger table, big enough to seat six people, on the opposite side of the room. Ornate chairs with artful carvings were already pulled out, cushions resting on top of the seats for guests’ convenience. I glanced around, searching for Lyra, but saw no sign of her.
“Darryl, where is she?” Kisai inspected the room.
“I don’t know, she should be here,” Darryl responded, just as confused as us.
I noticed the closet door ajar and inspected it. Kuan accompanied me. I reached out with caution and motioned at the hero. He nodded, aiming his gun at the door, in case anything dangerous jumped out at us. I yanked it open and saw someone unexpected inside.
“Zhuyu, the f***? It’s you, right?” I saw the zero-vector user bound to a chair with rope and a handkerchief wrapped around his mouth.
Kuan pulled out a knife, freeing his friend. He didn’t seem too distressed. The man rubbed his wrist and stretched out his legs.
“What happened?” Kuan inquired.
“Wasn’t paying attention and Lyra captured me. I’ve been in there for half an hour,” Zhuyu answered, moving his neck around.
He noticed Ichaival’s condition but didn’t check up on him. Come on, you can show some concern. Zhuyu, instead, chatted with Kisai, getting an update on the situation. After hearing the entire story, he placed his hand on Ichaival’s shoulder, giving him a nod.
“You know where she is?” Darryl asked the man.
“No, but knowing her, she’s still in this room monitoring us,” Zhuyu guessed.
Something descended toward Zhuyu. I fired a bolt of compressed magic in response. A woman with black hair appeared, poking me in the shoulder, and I found myself sitting at the dining table.
“How fun! Everyone’s finally arrived for the tea party. It took you all long enough,” the woman announced, walking towards Zhuyu.
“Lyra, long time no see, uh…. did you really have to do that to me?” Darryl coughed during his greeting, pain on his face.
“You didn’t eat my cookies! Darryl, why are you so mean? Do you really hate me that much?” Lyra shouted, pointing an accusatory finger at the falser archer.
“Lyra, hang on, it wasn’t his fault. We must be on alert, especially since the Traveler is loose, and partnered up with Ace. You can’t blame him,” Zhuyu supported his friend with a serious look.
She pouted but nodded in agreement. The woman probably forgave the false archer a long time ago, but just wanted to put on a show. Lyra wore a summer dress and thick framed gray glasses. I noticed streaks of golden brown in her hair which dropped down below her shoulders. Her hair was curled, but not to the extreme, wavier than coiled. Hazel-green eyes stared back at me. The prophet was about the same height as Zhuyu, maybe taller.
“Take a seat, please,” the stuffed dog ordered, leaping off the table, and pointed his snout in the
I glanced over at Lyra. Her mouth didn’t move once. Wait, was this part of her powers, breathing life into inanimate objects? She appeared young, but certainly past the point of frolicking with stuffed animals as a pastime. Then again, I couldn’t exactly dictate what people did with their leisure time. To each their own. I certainly learned that lesson after being around the heroes.
“No talking about anything hero related,” Lyra announced when everyone assembled at the dining table.
“Damn, that’s why we came here,” Ichaival said, clutching his chest and stomach.
“Let me take care of that,” Lyra said, placing her hand on his forehead.
If she could alleviate Ichaival’s injuries, she must be very powerful. Ichaival winced, but his complexion improved.
“Lyra, I have a question,” I said.
“Yuki, hang on, let me prepare the tea first,” Lyra said, tapping the tea kettle lid before picking it up.
She poured warm tea into each of our cups, steam rising upward. The woman then produced a plate of cookies, slamming it down on the table with authority. A minor crack formed on the edge of the flatware.
“Eat!” Lyra commanded, staring daggers at Ichaival.
“What? I thought we already talked about this, I’m not going to….,” Ichaival refused, shaking his head.
She glared at the man and placed a cookie in her hand. The woman then shoved it into his mouth without asking for his approval. She utilized her teleportation powers, forcibly feeding Ichaival her handmade treats. No one said anything, just watching in silence. Kisai looked on with a smile, and at one point, looked like he might ask Lyra to stop. However, he changed his mind and sat back in his seat. Zhuyu sipped his tea, staring at the table with a thoughtful expression. Kuan did the same and conversed with the zero-vector user.
“Okay, I’m finally ready to answer any questions you have!” Lyra turned her attention to me as Ichaival gagged.
“What exactly do you do here in this dimension?” I inquired, curious about her occupation.
“Hello, hello! I’m Tachibana Lyra and I’m 25 this year! I help entrepreneurs get started and an entrepreneur myself! If you ever need my assistance, make sure to call me at 1-AB-PIALPHA,” Lyra introduced herself, removing her glasses at the end with a flourish.
That was certainly… one way of making a first impression. Lyra put her glasses back on and sat down, refilling Kuan and Zhuyu’s cup.
“Lyra, can you provide the locations of Darryl and Shigetzu’s ultimate weapons?” Zhuyu went straight to the point.
“Where is Shigetzu today? He and Darryl are always so inseparable. Don’t tell me he got a girlfriend and abandoned poor Darryl?” Lyra stared at Zhuyu in shock.
“That’s not it. He’s busy. So, can you tell us the locations, or want to hide it from us?” Zhuyu steered the conversation back on topic.
“I do know. If the Traveler’s back, you want to unlock their full powers. That’s why I gave Darryl a little test. He’s not ready to handle those weapons yet. I grade his performance against my clone a C+. By the way, Long, what do you think of this teddy bear?” Lyra asked for the man’s opinion.
“I like the little bowtie around its neck,” Zhuyu answered, providing an answer with actual emotion.
I didn’t quite understand her intention. They seemed to be on pretty good terms, which was strange considering his serious personality. Then again, Shan was lazy as f***, and those two got along well. Zhuyu was strange, not at Ko’s level, of course. It was hard to gauge him.
“Okay, Lyra, we’ll play your game,” Kisai spoke up, nodding with a knowing look.
“I knew that you would get it right away, Jin. Long, you know by now too, right?” Lyra glanced at the zero-vector user.
“Yeah. Jin, you’re the best. You play,” Zhuyu deferred.
I was very confused right now. Kuan whispered something to Ichaival. I stared at the teddy bear, discerning its true meaning. What was so special about the bowtie? I kept staring, and realized it was checkered, just like the buttons on its chest. Ah, so that was her aim. Lyra summoned a checkers board, setting up all the pieces. However, she wasn’t Kisai’s opponent. Instead, she set her teddy bear onto the chair.
“Let’s play chess instead,” Kisai suggested.
“Oh? Are you okay with that?” Lyra spoke to the bear.
I saw its head nod. Okay…. the f***? Lyra switched out the board and pieces, sitting next to the zero-vector user. Zhuyu and Ichaival observed from Lyra’s side, while Kuan sat next to the magic user. I expected Zhuyu to accompany Kisai, but it seemed Kuan knew more about the game than him. That’s right, I recalled Zhuyu mentioning he never learned how to play chess or checkers.
After half an hour, Kisai pondered his next move with care. The teddy bear, of course, maintained the same expression. I mean, it was inanimate, what could you really expect? After seeing it move though, it wasn’t crazy for it to change expressions. Another fifteen minutes passed, and he finally won. Lyra nodded, acknowledging the man’s victory.
“Okay, I’ll give you the locations, but both Darryl and Shigetzu must visit me next time! Don’t forget or I’ll have an even nastier surprise!” Lyra conjured a piece of paper in the air and floated it down onto the table.
The woman also produced a document, handing the false archer a pen. Darryl nodded, signing the paper. Lyra smiled and handed him a dollhouse appear.
“Huh?” Darryl questioned.
“I’ll handle that. Don’t worry, I’ll decipher the coordinates,” Zhuyu revealed, waving a booklet Lyra handed him.
“Thanks. I don’t know how to repay you for all your help, man. Lyra, I’ll be back with the bastard, Shigetzu. Don’t worry. I can’t really come back without him since I signed that,” Ichaival assured her, tapping the signed document.
“Make sure you do, or the dog will bite you,” Lyra warned.
Kisai pulled out his key, offering to take us all back. We returned to the training facility. Tess was already present, typing on her tablet. Zhuyu informed her about the dollhouse and predicted he would produce results by Saturday night. Tess opened a convenient portal, allowing us to go back home instantly.
I found myself back home and wondered why Tess didn’t utilize this before. Her powers were probably limited like everyone else. Perhaps she finally regained her powers, allowing the woman more options than before. Still, today was strange, especially Lyra. I didn’t know if she was the standard for all the prophets. If so, I was in for rough times when visiting other dimensions.