MIND DIVE 16: The Twins
“A personal assignment from you?” En stared at Tess in confusion.
Oh, another one of these fixed perspective mind dives. I wasn’t free to move around like in past ones. En, wearing a white hoodie, stood near a bus stop. No one else was around except for the Gatekeeper. She sat on a nearby bench and grasped a plain lanyard containing one single key.
“Yes, that is correct,” Tess confirmed, handing the dual elemental user the lanyard.
“A solo mission?” he placed it into his jean pocket.
“No, you’ll have two allies. Twins, in fact,” Tess revealed.
“Twins?” En flipped open his phone.
“Correct. I’ve already sent over photos,” the Gatekeeper answered and departed without another word.
This was new. Tess usually didn’t leave until she made sure everyone understood the mission details. Guess she just trusted him enough. En closed his phone cover and sighed. Wait, he wasn’t even going to check out the pictures?
The scene shifted and it was now the Crossroads. En wore the same clothes except for one key difference. A small golden badge containing swirling butterfly wings was affixed near his left hoodie string. That design was so familiar. Where had I seen it before?
“Zhang, care to tell me what you’re doing here?” Kyoi walked up to the man with a grin.
“Mission from Tess,” En replied, pulling out the lanyard.
“Oh, I wasn’t informed of this. Just you?” the woman plucked it out of his hand before inspecting the key.
“No, working with two other people,” he replied.
“Hmm, okay, I’ll let you off the hook this time. Don’t be late for training tomorrow,” Kyoi decided, tossing the key back to him.
“I know,” En said, turning around as someone tapped his shoulder.
A man and woman, wearing office clothes and name badges, entered the area. A look of recognition flashed across his face. En handed Tess’ lanyard over to the woman.
“You’re the one who helped our older brother,” the woman said.
“My name is Jun. Her name is-,” the man introduced himself before his sister interrupted him.
“Zhang, what was it like working with our Ge?” she pushed her brother aside.
“This is quite a surprise. Zhang, good luck with these two,” Kyoi commented before walking away with a huge grin.
“Hold on, you’re the famous Kyoi Feng! I’m Ying! It would be an honor if I could duel you sometime,” she shouted out at the hero.
“I would love to. But, this is Zhang’s time to shine. Why don’t you test yourself against him? I trained him after all. Tell me all about it when you get back!” Kyoi suggested, amusement on her face.
“Mei, not now. Sorry about that, En. You’re being too familiar. This is our first time meeting him. It doesn’t matter if he worked with our Ge,” Jun chided.
“You’re no fun! I sometimes wonder if we’re even twins with how serious you are. Zhang, can I challenge you before we do the mission?” Ying stared at him with pleading eyes.
“Enough from you already. We don’t have time to waste, Mei. I’ll brief you on what the Gatekeeper wants us to accomplish for this task. Follow me, En,” Jun decided, leading the hero over to one of the terminals.
“He didn’t answer the question about our Ge yet! Come on, tell me about it on the way there!” Ying pestered him.
What a horrible pair up for En. Ying’s constant barrage made him uncomfortable. Jun wasn’t too bad since he respected the man’s boundaries but Ying was the complete opposite. I was curious how he would handle the situation considering his shy and subdued nature. Wait, did Tess set this up on purpose? She didn’t really care too much about the heroes’ personal lives, focusing on developing their powers. Maybe I was wrong about that after all.
Zhongjie, Lucky Cat Restaurant
“This is the target. A puppet constructed by the king’s top animator. It’s been used to mainly threaten local villagers before evicting them by deadly force if necessary,” Jun revealed, showing En several documents.
“From Tess or the guild?” En sipped his cup of tea.
“It’s a personal favor. Our Ge submitted it to the guild but they didn’t approve it. So he asked Tess after getting nowhere with the people there,” Jun revealed.
“This animator, I’ve fought him a few times already,” En remarked, picking up one of the papers and stared at the photos printed on it.
“I know! You fought him with our Ge!” Ying exclaimed, shaking the table in excitement.
“What’s the plan?” En handed the paper back to Jun.
“I’ll cause a distraction outside the place its being stored in. You’ll go in with Ying and take it out,” Jun answered.
“Let’s do this!” Ying raised her fist into the air.
A waiter placed a plate of enormous egg tarts down onto their table. She picked up their bill, making a mark on it with her red pen. Ying glanced at the bill and then her brother. Jun bit an egg tart and spat out a rolled up piece of paper. Ying covered it up with her hand immediately, sliding it underneath the table.
“Someone’s waiting for you outside,” Ying informed En.
“Any idea who?” En shook his head as the woman offered an egg tart to him.
“Lantern,” Ying responded and ate the remaining egg tarts.
“Damn it,” En said and then stood up.
“Oh, it’s time! Ge, let’s watch!” Ying grabbed her brother’s arm.
“Mei, we have to help him, not just sit back and watch!” Jun reminded her.
As En walked towards the restroom, all the patrons in the restaurant immediately left through the front entrance. It was serious if everyone departed so fast. Ying skipped behind the hero, no fear at all. Jun was the complete opposite, walking with deliberate steps and inspected his surroundings every few seconds.
The hero stopped and materialized his sword. He raised his blade, blocking an attack from an invisible foe. En parried more strikes before shooting out sparks of electricity onto the ground. A loud crackle filled the room and then his enemies finally were visible for the first time. Ying and her brother isolated one of them right away. Ying swung a Chinese halberd, forcing her opponent back while Jun closed in on them with his ax. I didn’t expect them to wield weapons like that. I just assumed the twins were sword users especially since Ying displayed such excitement about sparring with Kyoi earlier.
Their enemies wore tattered capes and carried ancient Chinese lanterns. Smoke poured out from it and formed into a wispy figure with glowing yellow eyes. En set his blade ablaze and sliced through the smoke apparition, destroying it with ease. He then jammed his blade into the floor, directing a line of flames at the enemy. En’s opponent threw their cape in front of them but it caught on fire. Within seconds, the hero’s flames engulfed their entire body, incinerating them.
“Zhang, great job!” Ying stabbed her enemy into the wall and her brother plunged his weapon into their stomach.
Huh, no blood at all. These must just be puppets and not actual flesh and blood humans. When En’s flames finally dissipated, a charred lantern took the place of his enemy. On Ying and Jun’s side, the shattered pieces of a lantern were strewn across the ground. I knew it! It was just like a couple of days ago where an inanimate object was transformed into a human-like figure.
“En, things are clear on the outside!” Jun reported after checking the exterior.
“So cool! Now I really want to see those flames up close and personal,” Ying gushed, staring at the smoldering lantern.
En unfolded a Zeta bag from his hoodie pocket and pulled on a pair of black gloves. He picked up the lantern and deposited it into the bag.
“Let’s hurry to the location before they transport the puppet!” Jun gestured at his sister and En.
Holding Facility A
“Hey Zhang, were you this stealthy when you worked with my Ge?” Ying tapped En’s shoulder as they crawled through a ventilation duct.
“Uh, didn’t really do this sort of stuff when we went on missions,” En replied, unscrewing the cover and peered downward.
“So weird you didn’t do any recon stuff with him. The guild has you ranked as a G-ranked operative. That’s amazing!” Ying hopped downward.
“I guess,” En replied and descended too.
They were in a laboratory filled with numerous metallic pods. A red light flashed on all the covers. The only audible sound was the low humming of electronics. Above each pod was a free-hanging plaque containing an identification code. This was creepy. However, En and Ying showed no discomfort as they inspected the room.
“Zhang, this one!” Ying jumped into the air, slapping the plaque with her left hand.
The hero placed his right palm on top of the pod cover and unleashed a surge of electricity into the machine. Shards of glass exploded into En’s face. He repelled them back with his powers and leaped back. A figure emerged from the pod, obscured by smoke at first. When it cleared, I saw a rooster head on top of a horse’s body. What the hell was this abomination? It unleashed a loud crow, breaking open the other pods in the room. That wasn’t good.
“Zhang, you handle that thing. I’ll take care of everything else!” Ying cleaved a seahorse and snake hybrid in half.
En nodded and leaped on top of his opponent. He stabbed his blade into the horse’s neck but was thrown to the ground. The hero looped a wire around his sword, mounting the creature once more. En shocked the enemy through his wire before somersaulting over to its front side. Was he always this agile?
Yanking on his wire, the hero pulled his blade from the horse’s neck. He transformed it into its great sword form and a purple hue surrounded the edges of his weapon. With one swing, En decapitated the beast. No blood again, huh? That wasn’t too unexpected since this was a storage area for puppets. The hero blasted the rooster head with a orange flame stream, turning into a pile of feathers. En tied up the horse’s legs with his wire, dragging it to the floor. Reverting his weapon back to its katana form, he sliced up the horse’s body with three slashes, and then a horse hand puppet appeared in its place.
“Damn, this isn’t it,” En said, dissipating his weapon.
“I’m done! Did we get the wrong room? I’m sure Ge gave me the right information though,” Ying responded, hurling a lizard tail into a raven’s body with her halberd.
“We have to check on Jun!” En furrowed his brows.
The scene transitioned to the outside of a warehouse. Jun lay on the ground, blood spilling out from his nose and mouth. Ying checked on her brother while En glanced upward. A raccoon with crow wings sped down and unleashed a shower of sharp feathers down on the two. En raised his gloved hand but Ying stepped in front of him, batting away all the projectiles with her weapon. She utilized her halberd as a vault pole, flying into the air. The woman then displayed her raw strength, ripping the wings off of the raccoon, sending it plummeting. Ying landed on the ground without any issues at the last second. En skewered the raccoon with his katana blade, turning it back into a trapper hat.
“It’s not here anymore. I am not looking forward to seeing Tess after this,” En said with a sigh.
“Ah don’t worry about it! I’m sure Tess will understand,” Ying responded, slapping En’s back.
“Ow, that hurt,” En said, wincing after the woman’s strike.
“Ying is correct. This was beyond your control. However, there is a follow-up assignment I have for you,” Tess said, appearing next to the hero out of nowhere.
MIND DIVE 16 END
Wait, that was it? That was an abrupt end. I stared at my grimoire, wondering if anything else would come up. But, it remained static, no sudden pages flipping or any magical glow. This mind dive resulted in more questions than any actual answers. For now, I understood the basics.
En worked as a contractor for a guild in Zhongjie and was a highly skilled operative. His ranking in the organization was pretty up there too. The main goal was to eliminate a powerful puppet created by an animator. Other than that, I still didn’t quite know what En actually did for other missions and the guild’s connection to the overall dimension. Tess claimed that the mind dive was a “solid starting point” but I disagreed. I exited my bed with a sigh. Like usual, I would just have to learn more as things progressed.