Volume 13, Chapter 12: Their Brother Kang

MIND DIVE 17: The Twins ‘ Ge

What just happened? I was scaling up the mountainside and saw that weird hole. I saw En and someone else in the distance. I tried calling out to them but nothing exited my mouth. Hold on, this sensation was familiar. How was I experiencing a mind dive right now? Damn it, nothing I could do but wait until this ended to figure everything out.

“You know Zhang, I don’t really know a lot about you even though we’ve worked together for awhile now,” a man sitting across from the dual elemental user remarked.

“I guess,” En responded, stirring around the contents of his bowl as steam wafted from it.

“You don’t eat much either. Can’t be good for you, man,” the man commented, dumping a large amount of chili sauce into his steaming bowl of food.

“I eat enough. You don’t have to worry about me, Kang,” En said, scooping up broth with his spoon.

So he was Jun and Ying’s older brother. He wore a thick fur hat with flaps, similar to the ones worn by Russians. He was definitely taller than the hero. His long legs were cramped underneath the dining table. Kang wore attire similar to his younger siblings except sloppier. The man’s red lined tie was crooked and his dress shirt contained noticeable creases. His rumpled suit was thrown onto a chair next to him.

“So what’s next?” Kang slurped his noodles before adding more chili sauce.

“Your stomach’s crazy,” En said, shaking his head in amazement.

“This is totally normal. You sure you don’t want any?” Kang pushed the container toward him.

“I’m okay, thanks,” En replied.

Was this before En met Jun and Ying or after? There weren’t a lot of details to go off of right now. These types of mind dives were informative but kind of boring to go through. Stil, this was my first time witnessing what type of person Kang was. His current demeanor didn’t match up at all with what I heard about him. Then again, En sure as hell didn’t come off as a contract hunter either.

“You’ve gotta drink after a mission well done!” Kang filled a cup and pushed it toward En.

“We still have something to do after this, remember?” En pushed the cup back toward Kang.

“Oh yeah. Forgot you’re not a drinker. That’s okay. We all celebrate in our own ways,” Kang sipped the cup before putting it back down onto the table.

“A request from the prophet,” En revealed, handng an envelope over to Kang.

“Something from the boss lady, huh? Pretty sure it’s gonna be a tough mission,” Kang said, perusing the contents before returning to his food.

“A huge serpent,” En commented as he finished his food.

“Been awhile since we’ve taken care of anything like that. Okay, this is gonna be a real fun time!” Kang stood up and tossed his suit over his shoulder.

“You still have some left,” En remarked, pointing at his bowl.

“Shoot, you’re right! Okay, let me finish this and we’ll head out. Let’s stop by Zhu’s place though. See if she has anything to say about our weapons. They’re pretty beat up,” Kang suggested, slurping down the rest of his food.

Zhurong’s Forge

Oh, this was different than her current set-up. It was much bigger with multiple work stations and an entire area in the back dedicated to displaying all types of weapons. There were also other people present, all busy crafting weapons.

“Kang, break your sword again?” Zhurong removed her welding mask, staring at him with a critical look.

“Hey, you know I don’t even use a sword that often, Zhu,” Kang refuted.

“That’s exactly why I asked,” Zhurong shot back with a grin.

“Nope, just here for a quick check-up before heading over to the boss lady’s place to get info on our mission. Actually, know anything about a big serpent?” Kang responded, showing her a photo of their target.

Damn, my viewing angle meant I couldn’t actually see the photo in question. The blacksmith stared at the picture for a few seconds before returning it. She walked away, coming back with a spiral-bound notebook, and opened it to a page in the middle.

“Someone came in with an interstin’ part couple months ago. This look familiar?” she pointed at the sketch on the page.

“A chipped tail? That’s the-,” En realized.

“Same as the one here. Who brought it in?” Kang finished the hero’s sentence.

“Wasn’t from ‘ere, different dimension,” Zhurong answered, shutting her notebook close.

“Really? I’m guessin’ they didn’t say exactly where,” Kang predicted.

“Yeah. All I heard from them was the name Za’ard,” she divulged before checking in with one of her workers.

Wait, the place where Shan and Ichaivial received their powers and operated in? I wonder if it was one of them. No, that wouldn’t make sense. Zhurong should know who they were by now. Unless, my assumption about the time period was incorrect. I recalled that when all the heroes received their powers, they didn’t actually come together until later. Tess was the one who set it all up. So if she hadn’t done that yet, the possibility of it being Shan or Ichaival was still valid. Damn, it was a pain to not know when events in mind dives occurred unless someone explicitly spoke about it.

“Zhang, Feng was here earlier. Had a message for you,” Zhurong mentioned, handing the man an envelope.

“Zhang the mailman,” Kang remarked with a goofy smile.

En didn’t respond and read the paper inside. He glanced over at Kang who was peering over one of the worker’s shoulders. Besides the actual letter, there was a also a tie clip. I knew what direction this was heading in.

“Kang, a gift from Kyoi,” En said, tossing it over to him.

“She shouldn’t have. Ah, I get ya, so that’s what she wants. I’ll take care of it later. Zhang, you did it again,” Kang pointed out, slipping the item into his pocket.

“What are you talking about?” the hero stared at him in confusion.

“Tsk, tsk. You must always address the boss lady by her actual name,” Kang scolded.

“I still don’t get it,” En said, shaking his head.

“You called Feng by her family name. Didn’t notice it, did ya?” Zhurong appeared behind him, tapping his shoulder.

“Oh shoot, you’re right. I have to be more careful next time,” En realized his mistake.

“Come on, let’s get your stuff checked out. You still have one more place to go,” Zhurong urged.

Their conversation confirmed the timeline. This was near the beginning, probably a month or two after receiving their powers. But En was already doing guild work. Hmm, I should ask Kyoi about this when I got back. Pretty sure En and Zhuyu wouldn’t tell me anything. Never thought there would be a time where I would have to go directly to Kyoi for information.

Sage Tower

En and Kang sat in a huge lobby, waiting for someone. There were six reception desks, each one with four people sitting behind them. On the right, there were ten elevators, but I didn’t see any buttons to press. The marble flooring was spotless, glittering from the sunlight that poured in from the large glass windows. This was an upscale place, reminded me of Shakai Tower, the main headquarters of Felicity’s father’s company. Just what kind of business did the two guild members have here?

“Always nervous to see the big boss lady,” Kang remarked, thanking someone as they handed him a cup of tea.

“I know what you mean. She’s just as scary as Kyoi,” En agreed, sitting upright on the couch.

“Zhang, what did you just say earlier?” Kang reminded him, leaning back on the couch.

“Shoot, it’s really hard to remember sometimes,” En said with a sigh.

“Sorry for the wait but Miss Yao still hasn’t returned yet. She said she’ll be back in half an hour. Will you continue waiting here or reschedule for another time?” an employee approached the two men.

“Shuyin must be really busy. I guess she does have other duties besides being the prophet. Zhang, what do you want to do?” Kang glanced over at the hero.

“Up to you,” En deferred.

“Making it really tough for me here, buddy. We’ll wait. Can’t do anything without her guidance,” Kang decided.

“Thank you for waiting. I’ll be sure to notify her of your response and inform you if anything changes,” the employee responded and bowed before leaving.

“What should we do, Zhang?” Kang questioned, yanking his tie knot.

“No idea,” En responded, shaking his head.

“Hey, I remember something that the big boss lady gave me. It’s a key card for one of the training simulators that the company is working on. Want to check it out?” Kang stood up with a huge grin.

“Sure,” En answered, following him to one of the reception desks.

Kang informed a receptionist about their plans before heading toward the elevators. He checked the numbers above each elevator before selecting the one labeled with the number “5”. The man tapped his key card against a reader on the side and then the doors opened. Both men entered and ascended up to their destination.

Sage Tower: Training Room A-0

Kang fired a glowing projectile into the back of his opponent’s head before leaping over them, arriving at their front side. He then unleashed a point black shot before dashing away in a hurry. A loud explosion occurred, shattering the practice dummy into burning bits of plastic. A gun user, huh? I was so accustomed to everyone using blades around me that it was refreshing to see something different. His style differed from Kuan’s though.

“Your turn, buddy,” Kang said, tossing his firearm over to the hero.

“You can keep practicing. I’m fine just watching,” En responded, bobbling the weapon in his hands.

“No way! I’ve heard some stories that you’re actually not too bad with things like this. Trying to be modest again, Zhang? Come on, show me how good you really are. I’ll shoot you if you don’t,” Kang threatened, pointing a gun at the man’s forehead.

“They’re just saying things. I’m just okay at using guns,” En refuted, inspecting the weapon Kang threw at him.

“That’s why it’s your turn to shine here!” Kang stood back and pointed at the battlefield.

Pulsating blue lines ran across white walls, dimming and then increasing in brightness. A glowing cylindrical object was located in all four corners of the battlefield. Once he stepped foot inside, a magical barrier activated and then the center of the floor opened up, revealing a platform containing five practice dummies.

As the practice dummies unleashed a barrage of bullets at the hero, he repelled all of them with his electrical powers, sparks appearing in the air. He pivoted behind one of them, firing a shot into the back of their head. The hero then fired two electrical orbs into the ground. Waves of electricity shot out, shocking all the enemies. En finished off his opponents with flaming shots to each of their chests, setting them ablaze.

“And you said you sucked. That was good,” Kang remarked.

“No, you’re definitely better than me,” En said, returning Kang’s gun.

En was pretty well-rounded. Well, Kyoi did train him though so that wasn’t too surprising. Most of the heroes were proficient with weapons other than their main ones. Was that a result of Tess or just a natural development because of their circumstances in different dimensions?

“I appreciate your efforts, Kang. You were listening when I lectured you last time,” a voice commented.

A woman in her early twenties, dressed in a suit, walked towards the two men. Her style was similar to Kang’s younger siblings. Hold on, that wasn’t a coincidence! I couldn’t obtain a great view of her ID badge but it resembled theirs too. That meant all three siblings were employed by this company. Based on her words, this must be Shuyin.

“I’m always listening to you, big boss lady,” Kang insisted, putting away his firearms.

“Mr. En, thank you for coming to confirm the mission details with me today. Please follow me up to my office,” she directed, pointing at the elevator.

“What about me?” Kang grinned, placing his arm over En’s shoulder.

“You are invited as well, Mr. Cao. I believe Mr. En is more than capable of handling this alone but it would be beneficial for someone like you to accompany him,” she answered, closing the door once everyone was inside the elevator.

She wasn’t messing around. Her black hair was pulled back into a tight bun, no loose strands sticking out at all. Her clothes were nondescript, most likely done on purpose. Her flats were also dull, nothing flashy about them at all. The elevator door finally opened, revealing a large office with a fancy mahogany desk situated in front of glass windows. There were also two medium-sized coffee tables in the center of the room. Four couches were placed on either side of them. Huh, I expected fancier. Honestly, I was thinking something on Felicity’s house’s level. This was tame compared to her place.

“Your target is a S-sized serpent. The goal is to capture this beast. Important information about potential weak points and strengths are included in the report that will be given to your handler,” Shuyuin revealed, sitting behind her desk.

“Who’s the handler for this mission?” Kang questioned, pouring himself a cup of tea.

“Unknown until the mission begins. I believe it should be someone you’ve already worked with before,” she answered, pulling out papers from a drawer.

“Okay, not much to go on, big boss lady. Very rare for you to not be prepared. Something’s off about all of this,” Kang remarked, sipping his tea with a thoughtful look.

“The serpent has been modified by an underground organization. Thus, details are scarce. It is one of the reasons why Mr. En was selected and you as well, Mr. Cao. I apologize if there is a lot of secrecy involved. The modifications made to the serpent are of interest to me,” Shuyin revealed.

“So that’s it, huh? Okay, I get it. Let’s head out then, Zhang!” Kang stood up, finishing his cup of tea first.

Shuyin nodded, signing the documents before waving them in the air. En walked over, retrieving them and thanked her before exiting. Finally, I was going to see the good part!

Underground Block #6

“Still no contact with the handler yet?” Kang climbed down a rusted ladder into a dark and damp underground sewer.

“No, just static, keeps breaking up,” En tapped his earpiece and shook his head.

“Weird, the coverage area should extend all the way down here. Guess we can’t do anything about it if they can’t reach us. I’ll try checking in with the big boss lady again,” Kang decided, snapping a flashlight onto the top of his gun.

“Yeah, keep trying. Sucks if we can’t get in contact with the handler,” En said as he removed his earpiece and shook it.

“Nothing there either. This place is cursed, Zhang. We’re gonna die here,” Kang concluded, adjusting the brightness of his light.

“Better not. Oh, something’s coming in!” En pressed his earpiece.

“Zhang, that you?” Zhuyu’s voice came through the device.

“Long, you’re our handler? Damn, I was hoping for the soothing voice of a lady. But, I’ll take you too,” Kang commented, taking slow steps forward.

“Sorry to disappoint. I’m only here until Yao can connect you with your actual handler,” Zhuyu responded.

“You have a map of the area?” En questioned, following Kang.

“I have blueprints but they’re not recent ones. Keep going and you’ll come to a split path. Take the right one. Left one is a dead end,” Zhuyu answered.

The two men trudged through the murky water in silence. There was a constant dripping of water from above, striking their hoods every few seconds. Kang stopped and raised his hand in the air. He pointed at the left wall in concern. Deep gash marks and fresh blood splatter, not a good combination. En pulled out a test tube, scraping material off the wall into it.

“This is recent. Only a few minutes ago,” Kang observed, shaking his head.

“It’s close by. Long, anything you see?” En glanced around the area.

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“Nothing,” Zhuyu replied.

“I think-,” Kang said but was cut off by a loud metallic scracthing.

The ground underneath them shook and then something burst out. I saw a snake head and the flickering of its tongue. It took thirty seconds for its full body to emerge. Its tail tip was a large sword blade, at least twenty foot in length, and ten foot wide. What the hell was this thing?

“What’s going on-?” Zhuyu’s voice devolved into static as the two men leaped away.

Kang unleashed a barrage of bullets at the snake’s belly but all of them bounced off. En fired a wire, wrapping it around the snake’s upper body. He mounted the beast but couldn’t maintain a solid grasp on it and slipped off. The snake reared its head back, spitting out a purple liquid. Pillars of flame shot up in front of Kang, protecting him from the attack.

“Zhang, tail!” Kang directed, switching out his handgun for a shotgun.

En nodded and materialized his katana. He switched it into its great sword form immediately and propelled himself into the air. His blade struck the snake’s tail but bounced off right away. What kind of research did they do to this snake? The dual elemental user fired another wire, tightening it around the tail, and engulfed the tail in crimson red flames. The snake didn’t react, focusing all of its attention on Kang instead.

“Everything about you is tough but you’re still just a normal snake underneath all of this!” Kang fired one shot after another.

I anticipated the shots going off like before but these ones pierced through the snake’s tough skin. Seconds later, there was a loud pop as the bullets exploded. The snake thrashed around and swung its tail at En. A glow surrounded his weapon as he swung his blade into the snake’s tail. I thought for sure En would be knocked back but he remained in the same position. Sparks flew around him as he pushed the tail back before his sword struck the ground.

“Nice one!” Kang leaped off the crumbling wall and unloaded a multitude of bullets, all different colors, into the snake’s mouth.

En switched his sword back into its standard form and unleashed waves of electrical magic into the cracked tail. Their target finally was down, electricity coursing through its body. Kang fired shots at close range and then waved at En. They ran away as a white light enveloped the snake’s tail. A loud boom occurred and shards of metal flew everywhere. Kang fired bullets into the ground and created a protective barrier.

“Hmm, not too tough, wonder why-,” Kang said but a loud hissing interrupted him.

The snake’s tail was blown off, chunks of it everywhere. However, their enemy was unfazed, lunging at them with its mouth open. For the first time, I saw its horrifying fangs. There was also a strange scraping noise too. Oh no, its tail was regrowing!

“Me and my big mouth!” Kang leaped to his left to avoid the attack.

En slammed his left palm into the ground and electrical orbs flew into the air. The snake’s head was repelled but its tail swung toward the hero. He couldn’t react in time and was sent flying into the air. Kang aimed his firearm but the snake already wrapped itself around him. Sharp pointed spikes now protruded out from its scales. These modifications were just ridiculous now!

The hero eventually recovered and hurled a fireball at the snake. The creature unfurled itself and then the spikes from its body flew out at En. He deflected them with his sword before leaping into the air. Once again, he switched his weapon form but the snake headbutted him. En crashed into the crumbling ceiling and then plummeted to the floor with a sickening thud. Kang was on the ground, coughing out blood. Not looking good for these two.

My surroundings suddenly blurred. Wait, not now! It was finally getting to the good part. Don’t end the mind dive here! It was blurry but I could make out the snake swinging its tail into Kang. The last thing I saw was the snake’s tail slapping Kang’s body, hurling him into En.

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