Volume 13, Chapter 16: Scouting Trip with Kyoi

Friday Spring Quarter 2016 Week 8

“How’s En doing?” I asked Zhuyu as we walked to the student lounge.

“I talked to him yesterday and he took a day off from work. Slept the entire day. Looks like he’s feeling some pain but nothing too bad,” he replied, opening the door for me.

“Glad En’s not suffering any side effects. Hard to believe we’re doing another weapon retrieval so soon already. It’s so rushed. Shouldn’t we have done this a long time ago?” I pointed out.

“When Tess sealed our powers, she also randomized the locations of our weapons. Finding them takes awhile,” Zhuyu explained.

“Seems like there should have been a better way of doing it, especially since it’s Tess we’re talking about. Whoa!” I jumped back as someone barreled towards me.

Felicity crashed into me, locking me in a tight hug. Zhuyu ignored us and walked forward.

“Let’s study together this weekend!” Felicity released me after ten seconds.

“How about Sunday?” I responded.

“Something to do on Saturday?” Felicity pointed at Zhuyu.

“Yeah,” I answered.

“Okay, okay, I know you can’t tell me everything. Sunday at my house then! It won’t be like last time. This is a serious study session,” she promised.

“It’d better be,” I said.

“See you then!” Felicity waved at me before dashing off.

Zhuyu spoke with Jacque at the usual table. Kisai watched basketball on his phone, not eating the food in front of him. Shan wasn’t here today, probably busy with lab work. I checked the cover of Jacque’s book and saw it was a graphic novel.

“Hey Tomo, heard you kicked ass. How’s the sword?” Kisai paused his video.

“Really nice to use. Zhurong added some modifications to it too,” I answered, setting my backpack down.

“Cool, she’s modded some stuff before for me too,” Kisai revealed.

“I need to thank you, Kisai. You modified the sword so I could actually use it,” I said.

“Nah, it’s pretty easy. Anyone can do it. You’re the one who’s impressive,” Kisai responded, adjusting his left earphone.

“What do you mean?” I said, confused by his answer.

“Your sword contained an exclusivity seal, preventing anyone other than the original user from using it. You broke right through that s*** without even trying,” Kisai explained.

“Oh, the knight said something about that. I have an idea of how the seal was broken,” I admitted.

“Your grimoire, right? I’m assuming it’s assimilating data and automatically performing background tasks you’re not even aware of,” Zhuyu guessed.

“Kuan said the same thing too during the training camp. Tess pretty much confirmed it later too,” I confirmed.

Jacque focused on his graphic novel the entire time. He usually contributed something during these little conversations so the silence was strange. Kisai resumed his video and finally ate his food.

“Jacque, Tess requested that you join Shan and Ksi for training,” Zhuyu informed him.

“That sucks. What day?” Jacque placed his book down.

“Uh, Sunday. You’re busy in the mornings, right? So in the afternoon then. It’s mandatory,” Zhuyu answered.

“I got it, bro. So much to do this weekend. F*** my life, I should have started this sooner,” Jacque lamented, laying his head down on the table.

“Hey, you should totally try this chocolate milk. It’s freakin’ good!” Kisai offered Zhuyu his drink.

Zhuyu snapped open the cap and tasted it. He nodded before taking one more sip.

“You’re right, s***’s pretty good,” Zhuyu agreed, returning the bottle back to Kisai.

“There’s just something about it. Not sure how to really explain it. Jacque, you know what I’m talking about, right?” Kisai looked over at the slumped over artist.

“Bro, I know what you mean. It’s just so satisfying. Other than the fact my bottle almost got stuck in the machine that one time,” Jacque agreed.

The conversation then shifted to a random topic. However, it was pretty entertaining so I didn’t care. It was one of those things I liked about the group since they covered diverse subjects.

“Tomo, I hope you’re free tomorrow. It’s my weapon this time,” Zhuyu informed me.

“Yeah, I’m ready to go,” I said.

“Dude, you didn’t ask me?” Kisai stared at Zhuyu in surprise.

“You’re working on your own thing. Besides, I already asked Kuan,” Zhuyu revealed.

“Tomo, after you’re done with Long’s thing, help me out too. I promise you’ll get more out of it. Long, you’re uh kind of uh…,” Kisai grinned, stretching out his sentence on purpose.

Zhuyu shook his head but grinned at Kisai. The heroes sure liked insulting each other, but it wasn’t malicious. Although I had my reservations about Ichaival and Shan. Kisai loved to “one-up” people as Tai phrased it. Regardless, I was ready for tomorrow.

Saturday Spring Quarter 2016 Week 8

“That route was pretty good, Kuan,” Zhuyu disagreed with his friend.

“It was just a bunch of complaining and crying. Didn’t click for me like the other ones. Her design was s*** too,” Kuan argued.

“Okay, I can see where you’re coming from. Which one was the best route?” Zhuyu finally noticed me, acknowledging me with a nod.

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“It has to be….,” Kuan said before someone tapped my shoulders.

My instincts warned me to not turn around, but yet my body moved despite that. I already knew who lurked behind me.

“It’s been awhile, Tomo,” Kyoi greeted.

She wore a white-collared buttoned up shirt and a red coat. Her hair was tied up in a loose ponytail. The woman’s glasses were slightly tilted on her face. I expected Kyoi to make fun of me but a serious expression was on her face.

“Everyone is here. Let’s move out,” Kyoi ordered.

“That’s a pretty good scene. It’s one of the few times I actually connected with the character. Other than that, I didn’t like how it was developed,” Zhuyu continued his conversation with Kuan.

The two men discussed a topic I was unfamiliar with. Still, Zhuyu was comfortable talking about both sports and anime-related stuff. Kind of a weird clash.

Zhongjie: Surveillance Center Alpha-2

The mood in here was sober. People sat behind screens, monitoring them with a silent intensity. Many of them wore headphones, but said nothing, typing on their keyboards.

“Did you find anything?” Kyoi sat down in a chair someone wheeled over to her.

“We discovered traces of foreign magic in the area Commander Fei asked us to scout out. It matches your provided data,” a woman replied, pointing at a nearby screen.

“Can you please print out a copy for me?” Kyoi crossed her legs, staring at the monitor.

“Understood!” the woman saluted before departing.

“Is this one of Fei’s bases?” I noticed all of the people present wore military-style uniforms.

“One of the many she has set-up during our absence. She’s not responsible for all of them of course. There are some that contract with her,” Kyoi replied.

The woman from before returned five minutes later. She held a stack of folders against her chest and handed them over to Kyoi.

“Thank you. Do standard protocol and tell Fei if anything goes wrong,” Kyoi said.

“Understood. Good luck!” the woman sat down at her desk once more.

“Let’s hope we make good progress today!” Kyoi scanned the documents inside all the folders.

Uncharted Grid Beta-Riemann

“Tomo, you’ll accompany me. Kuan and Long will take a different route. We must exercise caution since this is a part of the dimension I’m not familiar with,” Kyoi ordered, handing papers over to the zero vector user.

“You already highlighted everything, huh? Kuan, I’ll leave the directions to you. I’ve always been pretty bad at this stuff,” Zhuyu decided, rifling through the papers and handed ones containing red marker and yellow highlights over to his friend.

Damn, stuck with Kyoi? I glanced over at her but she was busy checking her copy of the map. Maybe this wouldn’t end in disaster. She wasn’t in hunter mode, much calmer and composed. This might just work out as long as we didn’t encounter any enemies. Once she did, I was scared about how drastically her mood would shift.

“A lot of things to climb. If anyone’s watching, they’ll think we’re unrelated?” Kuan traced over the right portion of the map.

“The paths are similar but different enough that if there is a lookout, they’ll think we’re two separate groups. Of course, that’s assuming they don’t recognize us,” Kyoi answered.

“Okay, guess that works,” Kuan said, satisfied with her answer.

They departed before us, leaving me alone with Kyoi now. She folded up her map, placing it in her back pocket. I was surprised she chose a paper copy when we could accesses it digitally. I checked the screen on my wristband, seeing a small blinking dot. To the right of that one was a blue moving dot.

“Don’t depend on it too much. There’s a high probability once we get far enough, it won’t match. The variance is very high but it’ll be easier to make changes on paper,” Kyoi warned and walked forward.

Gray clouds converged above us in an ominous manner. Please don’t rain, please don’t rain! Ten minutes later, a light drizzle fell. Kyoi ignored the precipitation, keeping her eyes forward. She slowed down her walking pace when I fell behind but didn’t say much. It was too quiet so I took the initiative to start a conversation.

“I learned you weren’t the only one who trained En,” I said.

“Ah, Zhurong. Yes, she provided a solid foundation for his fire elemental skills. I only polished it up from there. As for his swordsmanship, I take full responsibility for that,” Kyoi replied, pointing out a sudden dip in the ground.

“What about his electrical stuff? I don’t know anyone who has similar powers,” I questioned, avoiding a large mud puddle.

“Long wielded the dragon power. As you know, dragons are known for ending droughts with rainfall. There’s a chance of thunder and lightning coming along with it,” Kyoi revealed, incinerating a rotten tree blocking our path.

That made sense. I forgot about that since he always used his vector powers. Actually, I didn’t recall him using anything related to electricity or thunder besides in mind dives. Was it sealed or did he just choose not to use it?

“Let’s rest for a bit. I want to see how accurate the map has been,” Kyoi decided after we walked for about half an hour.

Her eyes turned a light shade of ruby when she examined the map. Portions of the map suddenly warped, new markings and areas appearing on it.

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“Shocked?” Kyoi wrote on it with her pen.

“That’s new,” I remarked.

“Just a little skill I call Data Accumulation. At its core, it’s a mathematical model adapted to work with magic. I released small flows of magic which captured data. It goes through the model and corrects any inconsistencies,” Kyoi explained.

“Why not just program it on this?” I pointed at the device on my wrist.

“Just my preference, I like doing it on paper. I’ll teach you the basics someday,” Kyoi answered.

The rain finally became heavy enough that we changed into heavy duty ponchos. Thunder roared in the distance. I was surprised nothing popped up during our travels so far. I expected resistance but no enemies so far.

“What do you think so far, Kyoi?” I avoided tumbling rocks.

“Too much open space. We haven’t found any signs of enemies either. This could get rough,” she answered.

“If anyone’s here, they’re all at the end waiting for us?” I felt my shoes sink into the wet ground.

“It’s a possibility,” Kyoi said.

A few minutes later, we discovered a large rock in the center of our walking path, blocking the way. Kyoi could blast it with her magic but she stared at it with suspicion.

Kyoi placed her hand on the rock and hopped back. She motioned for me to run. With the rain pelting us, I glanced back and saw the rock glow. A loud boom occurred as it exploded. The smoldering pieces on the ground detonated too, generating a loud chain of pops.

“There’s definitely people here!” I watched her walk forward.

“Yes, I doubt it was positioned there naturally. The magic level isn’t too high but it took skill to compress all that magic into the rock and then set it up into the individual pieces too,” Kyoi agreed, examining the charred rock bits.

She pulled out a small bag from her backpack and dropped pieces of rock into it. Samples? Tess did the same thing after defeating that weird slime monster. Probably for Shane and Emily.

“Let’s keep going. Make sure you can manifest your weapon as fast as possible,” Kyoi directed.

We moved past the broken pieces of rocks and arrived at a waterfall.

“There’s an alternate path but I don’t trust it,” Kyoi said, checking her map.

“What do you mean?” I jumped back as water splashed towards us.

“The alternate path was constructed using predictors from my model. I can’t guarantee it actually exists. If the variance is high, everything on the map is a lie,” Kyoi explained.

“What should we do?” I noticed the rain decreasing in intensity.

“We’ll take the safe way. I don’t want to take unnecessary risks,” Kyoi answered and folded up her map.

We descended downward, trees surrounding us on either side. I slipped on a rock but Kyoi caught me. We eventually arrived at the bottom of the waterfall. Water crashed down on us, soaking our clothes.

“What now?” I shouted.

“There’s something underneath the waterfall. Let’s check it out!” Kyoi pointed at a small opening near the waterfall.

Once inside, Kyoi removed her poncho, creating a fire. We huddled around it, warming ourselves up. I checked my hair, surprised it wasn’t drenched.

“How are the other two doing?” Kyoi drew on the map with a red marker.

I glanced at my wrist and zoomed out. A stationary dot was ahead of us. Zhuyu and Kuan were resting too. I summoned my grimoire, wondering if it would show me anything. I discovered a detailed map and a glowing compass on upper right corner of the page. Could it be my grimoire was showing us the proper way?

“Kyoi, check this out!” I showed her the grimoire page.

“Let me see how these align. Okay, we’ll depend on your grimoire to lead us,” Kyoi said.

Water dripped in the background, not a very reassuring sound. Soon, I saw the dim light of a torch. Kyoi raised her right hand in the air. She advanced slowly, making no noise. I stayed in my original position. There was a scuffle and she returned one minute later. When I passed the torch, there was a man slumped on the ground.

“Who is he?” I questioned.

“He’s wearing equipment of the former king’s army. Part of a faction, similar to Commander Yu,” Kyoi replied.

Kyoi confiscated all his weapons and tied him up. We continued traversing the cavern and finally arrived outside. It wasn’t raining anymore but the skies were still dark. We traveled along a rugged path until arriving at a bridge. It swayed wildly in the wind even though there was barely a breeze. Yeah, that was a definite no for me.

“I see Long and Kuan,” Kyoi observed, pointing at two figures in the distance.

“How good is your eyesight?” I only saw two smudges on the other side.

“It’s enhanced by my powers. Do we cross the bridge or find another way?” Kyoi tapped her foot on the ground.

“Is there even a different way around?” I wasn’t confident we could make it across.

“Your safety is my number one priority. We’ll get across if I do this,” Kyoi said.

She generated a small golden flame in her hand. Never saw this color before. The woman then set the bridge ablaze. Are you crazy, Kyoi? I stared at her in horror as the entire bridge burnt down.

“Kyoi, what….,” I couldn’t even complete my sentence.

“Just watch!” Kyoi pointing at the singed rope dangling from the edge.

The bridge reformed with a faint red outline. I tested my foothold on the first plank, ready to teleport if anything went wrong. Wait, I should have just used Ichaival’s portals instead of relying on Kyoi. Regardless, I was curious about this new bridge.

“What did you do?” I avoided looking over the bridge.

“Just an extension of my healing powers. Doesn’t work for everything. That’s why I was worried. If Jacque was here, he could just redraw it but that’s risky too. The easy way would be your grimoire but I avoided that on purpose,” Kyoi answered with a mischievous grin.

Zhuyu and Kuan had scratches and cuts on their faces. Kyoi updated them on our situation. Kuan pulled out his own map and compared it with her. The math major checked the screen on his wristband.

“Let’s stop here. We have a lot to cover,” Kuan suggested.

“I agree. Okay, we’ll start from here next time,” Kyoi agreed.

“Tomorrow?” I asked, hoping my body was ready.

“Yes, I want to complete this as soon as possible,” Kyoi replied.

“Works for me,” Kuan answered.

“Great,” Zhuyu responded.

“I was planning to study but I’m cool with it as long as we start early,” I said.

“We’ll meet at the Crossroads around ten. Might be too early for you, Kuan, but you’ll have to suck it up. Long, I’ll see if Zhang can join us,” Kyoi instructed.

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