Volume 12, Chapter 6-1: Jacque’s Sketching Prowess

Wednesday Spring Quarter 2016 Week 2

“Professor, I don’t think that’s quite right. The garden is probably a reference to…,” the same student as usual disputed during lecture.

Lecture wasn’t the right word. More like half-ass discussions with occasional input from the class. Very minimal input. Professor Rem answered his own questions half the time. Jacque slumped over on his desk, not sleeping, but definitely unaware of anything occurring in the class. Zhuyu yawned, his focus waning. Kisai tapped his notebook, staring at a blank page. I sighed, checking my assortment of notes. I had no idea what I wrote half the time. Mercifully, the first half of class ended and the usual ten minute break ensued. Professor Rem claimed he would return once the bell rang, but he failed at accomplishing that goal so far.

“Oh s***, did I miss anything?” Jacque’s head shot up, no shame on his face.

“Nope, just some character introductions. Nothing too interesting,” Zhuyu replied.

“Check out this video, Long,” Kisai beckoned, pointing at his phone.

While Zhuyu watched the video, I spoke with Jacque about his progress in mastering his powers. I was curious his improvement.

“Jacque, how’s the training?” I questioned.

“What training?” Jacque looked at me with confusion.

“The training to improve your powers,” I clarified.

“Uh, well, you know…,” Jacque trailed off.

“Dude, you just read manga!” Zhuyu accused him.

“Hey, that’s… true, but I got my homework done. Read it before sleeping,” Jacque confirmed.

“Didn’t Tess assign a training schedule?” I inquired.

“She didn’t say anything. I’ve just been doing the usual,” Jacque revealed.

What was up with this discrepancy between my training and his? My powers did require more focus and knowledge than his. Plus, he was pretty good at drawing and was enrolled in art classes. Maybe it wasn’t too much of a stretch to believe Jacque enhanced his skills without doing anything special. Still, he should suffer through training too, experiencing the pain and perils of a hero.

“Jacque will show off his improvement today,” Zhuyu remarked.

“Huh? I don’t know anything about that!” Jacque opened up a bag of chips.

“Tess just texted you. You’re on assignment today with Tomo. You’ll accompany Bartholomew and Ichaival as they search for an Artifact,” Zhuyu revealed.

“Why didn’t anyone tell me?” Jacque glanced at his friend.

“I just did,” Zhuyu said, giving a quick smile, before reverting back to his usual face.

Jacque ate his chips in silence, staring at the board. It was just a mess, phrases and words scattered everywhere. A coherent idea connected them, but to an outsider, they were random words. Zhuyu dug through his backpack, pulling out a math book. Ten minutes passed but no sign of Professor Rem yet.

“Sorry about that, there was a bit of a line where I usually get my coffee. Someone else finally figured it out too. They were just standing there, deciding what to get. It’s all the same of course. I think we left off at…,” Professor Rem said, returning five minutes late.

Class finally ended. Jacque and I discussed a time to meet up at the Crossroads and went our separate ways. I should contact Ichaival too. Wait, I had his number right? Yeah, I did. Tess gave me that huge binder with everyone’s personal information. I spent an afternoon transferring everyone’s numbers into my contacts list.

“The number you are calling is either out of range or turned off. Please leave a message for…,” I heard the standard voicemail line.

Since that didn’t work, I wrote a quick text instead, and boarded the bus. Halfway home, I saw no new messages. Oh, maybe Shan could reach him.

“Tomo, this is the first time you’ve ever called me,” Shan said.

“Hey, I need to get in touch with Ichaival, but he’s not picking up. He hasn’t responded to my texts either,” I explained the situation.

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“He doesn’t pick up when I call him either sometimes. Hold on, I’ll try texting him,” Shan said.

He relayed Ichaival received my text, but couldn’t respond. The false archer saw my message after coming back from a run. Apparently, he planned to respond after taking a quick shower. Fine, whatever. I thanked Shan for his help and arrived home in an irritated mood. Hopefully there were no strange monsters this time.

I arrived in the Crossroads around seven. Jacque showed up a few minutes after me, carrying a large art tote bag.

“What’s up with the bag?” I questioned.

“Something Tess said I needed. Just has a bunch of art supplies. Oh, and my sketchbook, can’t forget that. I’m pretty useless without it,” Jacque replied.

Where were Ichaival and Bartholomew? They should be here by now.

“It’s sure taking them a long time,” Jacque remarked, flipping through the pages of his sketchbook.

Half an hour later, Bartholomew finally arrived. His beanie was titled to the left side, revealing a small scar above his right eyebrow.

“What took you so long?” I asked.

“Sorry about the delay. I needed to take care of something for Lionel. Did Ichaival already go ahead?” the man questioned, apologizing for his tardiness.

“I thought he might be with you,” I said.

“Did he get the wrong message about the meet-up time?” Bartholomew offered a possible answer.

“I don’t think so. I texted him and called Shan to make sure he got the message,” I replied.

“Something probably happened. The newbie is with us today?” Bartholomew pointed at Jacque.

“Yeah, Tess said he needs experience,” I answered.

Right after my sentence, Ichaival walked towards us. He had a downcast look on his face but it vanished upon seeing us.

“Ichaival, did something happen?” I asked.

“Just family stuff. Sorry about being late. Let’s go,” Ichaival replied.

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Bartholomew headed up to the information desk and returned with a piece of notebook paper. Tess left a message. She wanted us to split up.

“Ichaival, you’ll go with Bartholomew to investigate the tablet. Jacque and I will check out a potential Artifact spotting,” I directed, jamming the piece of paper into my pocket.

“Sounds good,” Ichaival said.

“You’re the leader then, Tomo. Not bad for your first time,” Bartholomew remarked.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I was just reading Tess’ notes. Let’s go already. I still have homework to do,” I dismissed his claim.

Fel-Claw, Central Square

“Jacque, how good are you at drawing portraits?” I asked him.

“Not great but the lessons are helping. I should probably practice more. You think I learn by now,” Jacque answered.

“Tess wants you to pose as a street artist, doing speed drawings. The person who knows info about the Artifact is a fan of street artists,” I explained.

“I’ll try. I don’t think I can do it that fast. Pretty terrible with proportions,” Jacque responded.

“Let’s see how your first one goes before complaining,” I said.

We made our way over to the spot Tess marked on our map. There were several areas containing an easel and stool. I saw a human playing guitar and singing on a makeshift stage. He tipped his hat at us.

“It’s pretty sketchy everything is already set up,” Jacque commented, picking a spot underneath a tree.

“Tess checked it out though, should be fine,” I pointed out.

Jacque decorated a sign advertising his services. After writing down all the pertinent information, we waited for interested customers.

“Make me good looking,” a buff cat instructed, his right arm in a cast.

Jacque finished five minutes later. It captured the spirit of our client. He nodded with satisfaction, tipping the artist, pleased with the sketch.

“You were worried for nothing,” I encouraged Jacque.

“He was easy since he was pretty ripped. I f***** up his face. Still need to work on that,” Jacque disagreed.

Ten more clients stopped by. Most of them were civilized but one threatened Jacque. I calmed him down, resolving the situation without violence.

“That was scary. Maybe I should draw you a badass sword,” Jacque suggested.

“It’ll probably end up being a stick,” I remarked.

“Damn, that hurts, but kinda true,” Jacque responded with a sigh.

A male cat with a kitten approached us. He glanced at me and I felt danger. Was this our guy?

“Mind drawing my daughter for me? Here, honey, sit up here. Don’t knock down the nice man’s stuff,” the cat requested, giving a bright smile.

The kitten did an excellent job staying still. While he waited, the father showed me previous sketches, done by other artists, of his daughter. This guys was obsessed.

“You really love your daughter,” I commented.

“She can be a handful sometimes. I wouldn’t want to bring her with me when I’m at work,” he said.

“What do you do for a living?” I nudged the conversation towards my target goal.

“I’m an archaeologist. You aren’t from here, right? Not a lot of humans around these parts. You look familiar. Tomo Yuki, right?” he inquired.

“You know what we’re here for, right?” I questioned.

“Of course. You want this,” the archaeologist replied, pulling out a brush from his bag.

“All done. Here you go,” Jacque stated, handing the sketch over to the kitten.

“It’s beowtiful! Thank you mister!” the kitten beamed, ecstatic about the drawing.

“Tell you what. You get this if I think your friend did a good job,” the feline offered.

“Sure,” I agreed.

It was pretty subjective though. I hoped his daughter’s satisfaction would sway him. The cat spent two minutes inspecting the sketch and rubbed his chin.

“It passes! I quite like this. Your name?” he extended his hand out.

“Jacque,” the artist answered, shaking it.

“I might ask you to do more drawings later. Very well, you may have the brush. Consider it my payment. Let’s go, honey!” the archaeologist handed us the brush before leaving.

“Wasn’t that too easy?” Jacque asked as we headed back.

“Yeah. There must be more to it than this,” I agreed.

While waiting for Ichaival and Bartholomew, Jacque worked on a sketch. Would I require an Artifact since I wasn’t an original hero? I would need to ask Tess the next time I saw her.

“Looks like you guys got something good,” Bartholomew noticed.

“Not sure if it’s an Artifact though. How did it go for you?” I questioned.

“I narrowed down the location to three possible spots. Ichaival was a great help, getting enemies off my back,” Bartholomew revealed.

“I was alright,” Ichaival said.

“No, you were great. I still can’t move around too much so this is good. Tess will be happy about our results,” Bartholomew said.

Everyone updated Tess after arriving back at the facility. Tess informed us she set everyone’s keys so we would return to our individual homes after twisting the key twice. Perfect, that saved me the trouble of driving here. Now I was curious. Why didn’t the Gatekeeper do this before?

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