“You’ll work with Feng, Long, and Zhang first. This door,” Tess directed.
We walked across a long, glass bridge which overlooked the laboratory down below. Zhuyu took careful steps, only glancing down when Kyoi teased him. En stared straight ahead, inhaling and exhaling multiple times. Kyoi moved around without any fear, pointing out various sights below to the two men. I accompanied Ichizen multiple times on hiking and climbing treks so this type of height posed no problem for me at all.
“En, you’re almost there. You got this,” I encouraged the short man as we neared the end.
“Thanks Tomo,” he said, letting out a sigh of relief once we made it across.
Zhuyu opened the door, revealing an outdoor dirt field. Four sealed cardboard boxes, each one labeled with names, were to our immediate right. Kyoi unhooked her knife, cutting off the tape to reveal a set of athletic clothes inside. It consisted of a T-shirt, shorts, pants, and two pairs of shoes. There were slight differences between everyone’s clothes.
The math major’s box contained a long-sleeve and a light, red hoodie. En put aside his white pull-over hoodie, inspecting his purple T-shirt. Kyoi checked the tag of her tank top with curiosity.
“I believe you are familiar with Sica, Tomo?” Kyoi led me to the changing room.
“Yeah, Jessica Staccato gave a bunch of clothes to Tess and me. Something wrong with the clothes?” I tied my shoe laces.
“I’m surprised Tess didn’t choose Miss Konoe for production of these clothes,” she remarked, pulling her hair back into a ponytail.
“Felicity? I didn’t her parent’s company sold clothes too,” I responded, throwing my previous clothes into the locker.
“Tess does do things her own way and Staccato makes quality clothes. It shouldn’t be surprising she commissioned these from her,” Kyoi surmised with a doubtful expression.
We exited and saw the two men conversing in the center of the field. Zhuyu wore a yellow long sleeve and black sweatpants with a thin, red stripe running down the side of it. His shoes were light red in color with orange shock absorbers on the back. En wore a standard purple T-shirt and gray, plain athletic shorts. The dual elemental user’s shoes were standard blue running shoes with white soles. Both had their necklaces out, instead of tucking it in as usual.
“I’ve never actually seen your necklaces up close. Sorry, do you mind?” I stared at their necklaces with interest.
“Go for it,” Zhuyu said.
A piece of green jade hung from a metal curb chain. It resembled Buddha but the design was too narrow.
“Buddha?” I questioned.
“I get that a lot. No, it’s Guanyin,” Zhuyu answered, startled by Kyoi suddenly putting her hand on his shoulder.
“You’re talkative today, Long. A good sign for Tomo’s training,” Kyoi said with a sadistic grin.
“Mind If I take a closer look, En?” I pointed at his necklace. in
“Go ahead,” En replied.
His was also jade except circular in design, containing a hole in the center. A red string looped around the center, securing it to the necklace.
“Yours isn’t as green,” I noticed.
“Rumors are the better of a person you are, the more green your jade turns,” Zhuyu informed me with a slight smile.
“But you’re such a scumbag, Long. That doesn’t make sense,” En shot back.
“You got me there, Zhang. The real reason is that our jade came from different stones so the coloring is different,” Zhuyu said.
“Tomo, let’s start off by having your observe Zhang and me in an unarmed battle. I’ll teach you the basics of the pivot, something both of them learned at the beginning. They’ve put their own spin on it now. I’m curious to see how you’ll modify it for your use,” Kyoi decided, calling En over.
I sat down on a nearby bench. Zhuyu stood near me, watching the two combatants discuss their battle plan. He crossed his arms with an intense look. Pivot, huh? I recalled Kyoi going behind opponents before and locking them into a neck choke. What kind of variation would En utilize?
“Hold on, how do you use your pivot? You’re mainly just support now, Zhuyu,” I questioned the man, glancing over at him.
“You’ll get a chance to see when I face off against Zhang next,” Zhuyu replied, his serious expression not wavering at all.
Skill Exhibition: Kyoi Feng v. En Zhang
Red, blue, yellow, and orange flames surrounded Kyoi. She nodded at the dual elemental user. En ran towards her, and once he was within three feet of the hero, accelerated behind the woman. Her flames pulsated, preventing him from getting any closer. He extended his hand forward. The red and blue flames wrapped around his wrist before dissipating. The short man leaped upward with his left knee, aiming for her back. His attack missed because Kyoi circled behind him and then applied her signature neck choke. The man faltered at first before driving his palms into Kyoi’s arms. An electric shock struck the woman and she released En from her hold.
“Now with weapons!” Kyoi spun around and two lines of crimson and golden flames shot toward her opponent.
En countered with pillars of flames, nullifying her attack. He leaped into the air, holding his katana. Kyoi summoned her whip, aiming for his left leg. Her weapon wrapped around his ankles and she yanked him down. En touched the whip with his left finger, freeing himself. He flipped backwards, shooting a coil of wire at the woman. It wrapped around her neck, glowing a dim yellow. The dual elemental user finally landed, pulling his wire backwards. Kyoi, forced to the ground, grasped at the wire around her neck. Red flames appeared, destroying the constriction. The man hurled four flying knives into the the ground around Kyoi. Electrical magic connected each blade, forming a rectangle around the woman with each knife serving as a corner.
“Tomo, this is what Zhang set up!” Kyoi stood up, extending her hand out.
Her hand was repelled back. She was restricted to the rectangular area, unable to escape at the moment. Kyoi snapped her fingers and then the electrical magic vanished. The blades erupted into flames and then disappeared. En adjusted his glasses, not surprised by her actions.
“Now for my pivot!” Kyoi appeared behind En with her sword.
She swung her weapon multiple times but was repelled by En’s power. The woman then broke through his defenses once a bright orange flame enveloped her sword. En turned around, meeting her sword with his own. A bright flash occurred, and seconds later, his greatsword was plunged into her back.
“Good distraction by changing his blade’s form,” Zhuyu commented, nodding with approval.
Kyoi tapped her shoulder and green flames surrounded the point of entry of En’s weapon. His blade shot out, clattering to the ground. Her wound closed up and Kyoi returned to optimal condition. The man retrieved his weapon, letting it vanish.
“We’re not done yet. Go again, Zhang,” Kyoi commanded, plunging her sword into the ground.
En held a knife in his right hand and hurled it into the air. Kyoi’s eyes tracked his blade, shifting her attention away from the man. With a sudden burst, he pivoted behind her. The blade zipped toward his hand and he stabbed downward five times. The hero avoided striking the woman, demonstrating the potential of his attack. He concluded his attack with a kick, pointing at her legs, and slashed in the air around the same area.
“Distractions are an important part of this maneuver. If the enemy is keeping a close eye on you, try using your weapon to move their eyes. It won’t always work of course. Kuan and eventually Darryl will teach you more about wielding a knife later on,” Kyoi explained, removing her sword from the ground.
One red ring of flames surrounded En. Another ring, this one golden in color, encircled that one. Ten seconds later, the man was locked inside multiple layers of circles. Each ring was brighter in color than the previous. Kyoi grinned at me before pointing at her handiwork. The rings converged and all the flames were absorbed into the man’s blade. He swung his weapon backward, generating an enormous amount of magical energy. En closed his eyes and the the magical energy level plummeted. I still detected a sizable amount but it was no longer in one centralized location. En tapped his foot and cracks appeared in
the field. Flames, tinged with a yellow glow, erupted from the cracks and scorched the entire field.
“What the hell?” I exclaimed, startled by the display of power.
“Hmm? Oh yeah, you’ve never actually seen Zhang do that. He’s scary as hell, Tomo. It’s the power of Feng’s instruction. Guess I’m next,” Zhuyu said, pulling up his sleeves.
Kyoi discussed strategy with Zhuyu and En. S***, that was crazy. The lower tier heroes were no joke. Despite their labeling, they were just as capable. It just happened people like Kyoi and Tess existed, making them seem normal in comparison.
“Don’t hurt me, man,” En said to his friend.
“That’s something I should say. Look at all these burn marks on the ground,” Zhuyu responded with a chuckle.
Skill Exhibition: Zhuyu Long v. En Zhang
Both men held their swords, watching each other with caution. Zhuyu kicked the ground with his left foot and then sprinted. I blinked, taken aback by his speed. He covered the distance between himself and En within three seconds. Their blades clashed repeatedly before En sped up, arriving at his backside immediately. He swapped out his blade for a knife, plunging it toward his friend’s neck. Zhuyu kicked his foot backward, making contact with En’s stomach. The zero vector user then spun around on his left foot, locking eyes with his opponent. The dual elemental user remained still, not moving. With a quick slap, he knocked the blade out of En’s hand, picking it up for his own use.
En, free of Zhuyu’s power, dashed away. Kyoi whistled and hurled a pair of black gloves at her protege. He snatched them from the air, donning them on immediately. A coil of wire appeared in his right hand and a kinfe blade was attached to the end. He swung it and the blade struck the ground near his friend. Zhuyu took a step forward and then retreated. I stared harder, catching sight of an electrical magical barrier. The math major slammed his blade downward, destroying the obstacle in his way. En whipped his wire upward, wrapping his blade around Zhuyu’s. Sparks flew everywhere and a severe burn appeared on Zhuyu’s hand. He relinquished possession of his weapon, gritting his teeth.
“My, my, Zhang is not taking it easy,” Kyoi commented, suddenly standing next to me.
“What the… ?” I clutched my chest, feeling my heart beat faster.
“Also part of your training, Tomo. Always have an idea of where enemies are. Maybe that was a bit too much for you to take in. Sorry for startling you,” Kyoi apologized with a sincere smile.
Did she just… actually apologize? I slapped my cheeks. Nope, not a dream. En started reeling in Zhuyu’s weapon. His friend stared at his blade and then it clattered to the the ground. Zhuyu walked with rapid speed, retrieving his sword. He took two quick steps and then appeared behind En. I rubbed my eyes.
“Your eyes did not deceive you,” Kyoi assured me with a grin.
Zhuyu sheathed his blade, flipping it around. He struck En in the back with the hilt and then chopped his neck with the sheath itself. The man pinned his friend to the ground with his vector powers and stomped on En’s legs.
“Time’s up,” Kyoi remarked, counting underneath her breath.
I though she meant Zhuyu secured a victory but En bounded upward. He kicked his wire, shooting his knife blade into his opponent’s stomach. The fire-electric hero grabbed his wire, channeling his electrical powers through it. Zhuyu stared down at the wire, removing his friend’s weapon. He coughed as blood spilled out from his injury. The math major entered a jumping stance causing En to stare upward. Within seconds, Zhuyu appeared behind his friend. He snatched En’s wire from him, choking out the dual elemental user. An electric shock stopped Zhuyu’s attack and both men collapsed to the ground. Kyoi, no concern on her face, said nothing.
En brushed the ground with his left hand and a large stream of fire sped towards Zhuyu. The zero vector user stared at the flames, muttering inaudible words, pausing his friend’s attack. Zhuyu stumbled, hurling his sheathed blade into the fire. Oh s***, Zhuyu’s weapon absorbed the magical energy from En’s flame. The zero vector user drew his blade once more, charging at his foe. En parried with his great sword, now illuminated in a white light. Zhuyu struck En’s blade multiple times, but the fire-electric user blocked, holding his sword perpendicular to his body.
“What’s going on?” I was confused how En defended against Zhuyu’s charged attack.
“Exchange the sharpness of your blade for an absolute defense. So that’s why his next attack won’t be a slash,” Kyoi revealed.
En tapped Zhuyu’s blade and then swung his weapon like a baseball bat. The side of his sword struck Zhuyu’s stomach, sending the math major flying. En stabbed his great sword into the ground, glancing back at Kyoi. She nodded and he rushed over to the zero vector user. En hovered his right hand above Zhuyu’s burn and light, blue flames appeared. It spread to his stomach, healing the man’s serious injuries.
“Zhuyu!” I jogged over and checked in on him.
“I’m good, Tomo,” Zhuyu responded, sitting upright with a slight smile.
“Of course he’s fine. You did well hanging in there, Long. Now, time for Tomo to take the stage,” Kyoi stated, pointing at me.
“I got him,” En said, helping Zhuyu over to the bench.