Volume 13, Chapter 1: Operation Follow Ichaival

Thursday Spring Quarter 2016 Week 3

Walking towards my class, I noticed Zhuyu ahead. I considered calling out to him but Ruqi approached the math major. Zhuyu wore earphones and flinched when Ruiqi spoke. Strange, I thought only Kyoi’s presence resulted in such a response. Zhuyu was in a precarious situation if that was the case.

“I told you to stop having such an angry and serious face on all the time,” Ruiqi advised, giving him a playful slap on the back of his head.

“What? This is how I normally am,” Zhuyu denied, shaking his head, and removed his left earphone.

“Don’t lie to me! I know how you usually are. Smile more Long. I promise it won’t hurt you,” Ruiqi chastised.

“Right. Did you need something?” Zhuyu’s expression never changed.

“Can’t I talk to you without needing anything?” Ruiqi flashed a smile.

“I guess. So, what do you want to talk about?” Zhuyu replied, shaking his head.

He finally noticed me and I waved at him. He acknowledged it with a slight nod. Ruiqi still didn’t notice me behind them. Zhuyu and Ruiqi appeared to get along pretty well. And she was the polar opposite of Kyoi. The zero vector user was an interesting person as always.

“Tomo, I didn’t see you back there. Are you heading to class?” Ruiqi suddenly stood in front of me.

“Yeah. Are you done for the day?” I nodded.

“Yep, just finished for the day. I was searching for Long, and lucky me, he’s right here!” Ruiqi wrapped her arm around his left shoulder.

“I’m an unwilling participant,” Zhuyu remarked with a slight grin.

“Tomo, I’ll see you later. Don’t be late for class because of us!” Ruiqi departed with him.

I overheard the woman mention training. That made me wonder about Lilith and her team’s progress. Chihiro did send me that weird text the other day about seeing Tess at the mall. Was that related to Lilith’s side since no one brought it up on our end?

Classes finally ended for the day. My phone vibrated and I saw a long string of missed messages from Felicity. The building did have poor reception so I finally received all of these at once. Felicity wanted to meet up with me. I checked the last message’s timestamp, only ten minutes ago. I headed toward the fountain and saw Felicity waiting on a bench.

“Felicity, what’s up with all those messages?” I questioned, setting my backpack down.

“Yuki, we’re head over to my house right away!” Felicity dragged me to her car without any explanation.

I had a really bad feeling. There wasn’t much homework so I could make time for her. Once inside the woman’s house, she led me to the same room as last time. Yes, that great time Felicity ranted for nearly an hour.

“Please tell me you’ll stay sober this time!” I realized my demands fell on deaf ears as the woman popped open a bottle of wine.

“We need to talk!” Felicity poured the contents of her bottle into a glass.

“You’ve already said that. Tell me why we can’t do this in a different room?” I rubbed my forehead, not looking forward to this conversation.

“Duh, it’s because I’m the most relaxed here!” Felicity sipped her glass, pulling out fancy snacks from the cabinet.

At least Felicity was more composed this time. Hopefully it would stay that away. But, things were never that easy.

“I have a plan, Yuki. You’ll be my support for it, okay?” Felicity didn’t even offer me a choice.

“Hold on, what are we even talking about?” I didn’t understand what her intentions were.

“Spying on Darryl during his date! Yuki, get with the program already!” Felicity held her glass in the air and stared at me with a haughty expression.

“Listen, you gotta tell me what’s going on first. What date are you even talking about?” I shoved snacks into my mouth.

“Ya see, I heard from a friend, hehe, that Darryl is going shomewhere with Jen this weekend. That’s where you come in!” Felicity finally slurred her words.

I finally understood the situation after listening to her ramble on for three minutes. Ichaival would accompany Jen this weekend and Felicity viewed it as a possible date. How she arrived at that conclusion was beyond me. She wanted me to join her in monitoring the false archer. So. pretty much stalking him.

“But, herez da most important part. I heard that your friend, Yuka, is inviting Jen and Darryl to eat out that day. See, double date, boom!” Felicity pointed a finger at me.

That’s where I came in. Felicity not only wanted me to stalk Ichaival, but also obtain information from Yuka.

“It’s really weird for us to just follow them around. We’re worse than stalkers at that point,” I tried reasoning with Felicity.

“No, you’re a silly goose, Yuki. It’ll work out, don’t cha worry at all. How about this? You help me… and I’ll ask Long to tutor you for free,” Felicity offered.

That was the worst possible incentive you could offer. Besides, how the hell would you even convince Zhuyu? The zero vector user was unlikely to agree unless Kyoi called the shots.

“No, no! What am I thinking? Bad Felicity, bad. New deal, Yuki. I’ll… schtell you about Tess. You like my best friend and you want to know more, right?” Felicity revised her offer.

Not actually a bad trade. I was curious about the Gatekeeper and Felicity knew her for a long time. I’ll go along with your shabby and ridiculous plan for the sake of learning more about the Gatekeeper.

“Fine, I’ll go with you, Felicity,” I reluctantly agreed.

“Yipee! I knew you…,” Felicity never finished her sentence and dozed off.

Felicity’s mother entered the room, apologizing for her daughter’s behavior. I said my pleasantries and left. Spying, huh? I could already predict a bad outcome.

Saturday Spring Quarter 2016 Week 3

I woke up to the buzzing of my phone. What time was it? Come on, Felicity, it’s only nine!

“It’s the weekend, Felicity, way too early!” I yawned, peering out my window.

“Yuki, it’s time to commence the operation!” Felicity shouted, her energy level way too high.

“Hold on, give me a couple of minutes,” I requested, putting her on speakerphone.

Today was pretty hot, an unusual occurrence so early in the spring. I selected a T-shirt and long sleeve, both clothes received from Staccato. After finishing breakfast, my doorbell rang several times in a row. I opened the door and saw the blonde dressed in a flashy one piece dress, sunglasses propped on top of her head.

“Let’s go! I’m putting my complete trust in you, Yuki. Don’t let me down!” Felicity grabbed my arm, dragging me towards her car.

“Where are we even going?” I strapped my seat belt on.

“The gym, duh,” Felicity answered, wearing her sunglasses.

“What?” I blinked, very confused about her thought process.

“Darryl is practicing archery with Jen. He recently started taking lessons, something about wanting to learn the correct posture,” Felicity replied.

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I sighed, preparing myself for a long day. It already was sweltering despite it being early.

“You have a call, Yuki,” Felicity noticed as she entered the freeway.

I gazed out the window, zoning out. I checked my phone and saw Yuka’s name.

“Hey, what’s going on Yuka?” I answered.

“Just finishing up homework so I don’t have to worry about it later. Champ wants to talk to you,” Yuka explained.

“Champ, what’s going on? Did something happen on your guy’s side?” I adjusted the air conditioning vent.

“Sort of. I’m not too sure about the details since Lilith didn’t tell me much. Lionel and Bartholomew were ambushed a couple of days ago at the mall. And now, Lionel has a favor to ask. Not sure if it’s related to what happened,” Champ revealed.

The mall? Chihiro’s text made sense now. So that’s why Tess was there a couple of days ago.

“Thanks for the message. How’s he going to contact me?” I wondered about his motives.

“He wants to meet with you at the training facility tomorrow whenever you’re free. He’ll wait there the entire day if he has to,” Champ answered.

“Fine, tell him I’ll get there around 1 or 2,” I decided.

“Thanks for helping him out, Tomo. I don’t know what’s up with Lionel but he’s been a little down these past couple of weeks,” Champ revealed.

“Anything else?” I pulled down the sun visor.

“That’s it. Thanks again, Tomo,” Champ replied and hung up.

Felicity turned into a parking lot, finding a spot near the entrance. She inserted her credit card into the parking meter before taking out a gym bag from the back.

“We’ll work out and check on Darryl at the same time. It’s the perfect cover,” Felicity informed me, opening the front door for me.

“Do you even have a membership here?” she approached the front desk.

“Of course! My little sister goes here so I’m just making use of the included guest perks. Pretty convenient!” Felicity pulled out a card.

After checking in, we headed toward the changing room. Felicity brought a variety of workout clothes, more than enough for both of us.

“Pick whichever one you like, Yuki. These are all prototypes,” Felicity directed, unzipping her dress.

“From Staccato?” I questioned, checking the tags.

“They’re all actually from the Shakai Group designer line. Just because we’re carrying Jessica’s products, it doesn’t mean we don’t have our own!” Felicity revealed.

After we finished changing, Felicity asked for directions to the archery room. An employee pointed down the hallway and we arrived there five minutes later. Felicity cupped her hands against the window, peering in. Yep, totally not going to blow our cover that way, Felicity.

“Do you see them?” I asked, stretching out my legs.

“No, we might be too early,” Felicity shook her head.

“I’ll be on this. Keep me updated,” I decided, walking over to a treadmill.

Felicity paced around the window, looking super suspicious. I ran on the treadmill, watching her. This was kind of fun, in a way. Twenty minutes later, Felicity departed from the window and headed towards the bathroom. A few seconds later, Ichaival and Jen appeared.

“I’m surprised they offer archery lessons. How long have you been doing practicing here?” Ichaival asked Jen.

“About a year. I wanted to continue practicing my archery even after we stopped being in the other dimensions. It’s really fun. I’ve been thinking about entering a competition. What do you think?” Jen answered.

“Oh yeah, you should definitely…,” Ichaival’s voice trailed off, the pair no longer within my hearing range.

“You see that, Yuki?” Felicity rushed over to me.

“Uh yeah, they’re just practicing archery. I really don’t think there’s anything more than that,” I replied.

“You’re so naive, Yuki. This is the perfect chance for something to develop,” Felicity disagreed, wagging her finger at me.

“I don’t know about that. All you can do is watch them. I’ll run around here to work on my cardio,” I decided, getting off the treadmill.

After running around the track a couple of times, I didn’t see Felicity anywhere. S***, I should have known not to leave her alone. She wasn’t dumb enough to charge in there and confront Jen, right? I walked over to the window and checked inside. Jen removed arrows from the target while Ichaival watched. Maybe I worried for nothing.

“Oh, you’re back Yuki,” Felicity said, appearing behind me with a towel wrapped around her neck.

“I thought you would watch them the entire time,” I said.

“No, that’s silly! I accessed the security cameras. I exercised and monitored them at the same time,” Felicity revealed with an evil grin, showing me her phone screen.

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I watched Jen fire her arrows, each one landing near the center. Ichaival adjusted his posture after speaking with an instructor.

“Nothing’s happening,” I remarked.

“Maybe you’re right. We’ll continue following them after they’re done,” Felicity decided.

Two hours later, we were on the move again. I kept tried convincing Felicity it really was just an archery lesson. However, she was determined to find dirt. What would finding something between Jen and Ichaival even accomplish? Unless… she wanted that.

“Where are we going next?” I questioned, peering at her phone screen.

“They’re grabbing lunch,” Felicity replied.

“You know that how, exactly?” I checked my phone for messages.

“Instinct. I have a good idea of where they would go if he’s the one suggesting a place,” Felicity answered.

“What if Jen decided?” I countered.

“Doesn’t matter. Just keep following them and it’ll all work out!” Felicity dismissed my concerns.

Ten minutes later, I saw a variety of chain restaurants in a strip mall. One caught my eye with its flashy sign.

“Are we going to follow them inside?” I questioned.

“No, that’s too risky,” Felicity replied, tapping her fingers against the steering wheel.

“We’re just going to sit out here?” I leaned back on the car seat.

Felicity pounded her head against the steering wheel in frustration, venting her anger. Okay, this was turning into a volatile situation. I suspected reassuring words wouldn’t make things better either.

“I’m gonna take a breather, Felicity. Take your time,” I decided, exiting the car in a hurry.

I sat down on a nearby bench. Decision time, either ditch Felicity or stick it out. I headed towards the restaurant, peeking through the window. Fine, as a good friend, I would scout out the situation for Felicity. I felt bad for her anyways.

Finding an open table near the two, I ordered a bowl of noodles. I already devised an excuse in case they saw me. I situated myself and eavesdropped on their conversation.

“You did a good job, don’t be so down on yourself, Darryl. There’s always next time. You can’t expect to be good right away. It took me a long time,” Jen encouraged Ichaival.

“Yeah, I just have to keep trying. How did you hear about this place?” Ichaival questioned.

Their conversation continued, not covering anything substantial. At least the food was delicious though. I peered down at my cell phone and saw twenty minutes already passed. I should report back to Felicity.

“Sorry Felicity, I felt hungry and grabbed something to eat,” I apologized, relieved she didn’t leave.

“No worries, Yuki. Let’s just move onto the main event tonight. I’ll fix things by then,” Felicity declared, a dangerous glint in her eye.

We finally halted our surveillance. Felicity dropped me off at my house, returning later in the evening. This was a bit concerning, seeing her in such a state. Tess was the only person capable of reigning Felicity in. But I doubt she would listen to the Gatekeeper at this point. Time to see how things would turn out. Besides, Felicity had time to regain her composure, so I hoped she wouldn’t do anything too crazy.

Later that night, Felicity and I sat a few tables away from the group of four. Yuka grilled the meat while Champ sliced it up. Champ passed by our table a few minutes later and pointed at the food station.

“Champ, what’s going on?” I filled a plate with raw pork belly and chicken breasts.

“Can’t you feel it?” he refilled his drink.

“Feel what?” I placed the tongs back down.

“Someone’s setting up an artificial dimension,” Champ revealed, sipping his soda.

I felt my necklace tremble. Champ wasn’t lying, but why here? It was just Champ, Jen, Ichaival, and me. There were bigger targets than us. I thought of Mirei but her powers were restrained. Was this a preemptive attack by the Traveler or Ace?

“Champ, keep monitoring the situation. Make sure nothing happens to Yuka!” I directed.

“Of course, I’ll protect her. Are you going to tell Tess?” he filled a plate with food too.

“Yeah, I’ll text her. Hey, will the artificial dimension affect an outsider?” I questioned.

“Only if it’s calibrated that way. I have no idea who’s making this one,” Champ replied.

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