Volume 13, Chapter 17: Another Scouting Trip

Sunday Spring Quarter 2016 Week 8

I woke up to the beeping of my alarm and staggered out of bed. No grogginess but it wasn’t a maximum energy type of day. After eating breakfast, I headed over to the Crossroads. Kyoi and Zhuyu were already in the lounge conversing. Kuan leaned his head back on the sofa, eyes closed. En sat on a recliner, going through papers Kyoi probably gave him.

“Morning guys,” I greeted everyone.

“Good morning, Tomo. How are you feeling? I need you at one hundred percent today,” Kyoi responded.

“En, did Kyoi threaten you?” I stared at him in concern.

“No, no, nothing like that. Just wanted to test out my new weapon,” En answered.

“If she did threaten you, I have your back!” I regretted my choice of words right away.

“You’re having an interesting conversation. Mind if I join?” Kyoi stepped in between the two of us.

“Just asking how he’s doing,” I answered, masking my fear.

“I guarantee Zhang showed up out of his own free will. I did nothing. Kuan, wake up!” Kyoi shouted, snapping her fingers at him.

Kuan rubbed his eyes and stood up. En recovered well, no signs of any limping or leg pain. Zhuyu strapped on the wristband device, adjusting settings on it. Kuan checked his map, confirming things with Kyoi. Splitting up again?

“I’ll do this one. If something goes wrong, double back and try here,” Kuan said, running his finger across a red line on the map.

“That’s what I was thinking too. I’ll take Tomo again. Zhang, who do you want to be with?” Kyoi allowed him a choice.

I expected him to join Zhuyu and Kuan. However, he walked over to us and surprised me. Do you know what you’re doing?

“Guess I’m having weeb talk with Kuan again,” Zhuyu remarked.

“Hell yeah we will,” Kuan confirmed with a smile.

Uncharted Grid Beta-Riemann

We returned to the area from yesterday. She spoke with Kuan and Zhuyu before they left. No idea what Kyoi had in store for us though.

“Fei discovered a strong magic beacon nearby. We’ll investigate it. Kuan and Zhuyu will check the surrounding area,” Kyoi explained.

“You think the weapon is around here?” I hopped over a small stream, following the woman.

Kyoi nodded. As we walked, the trees turned sparse, and the terrain became more open with cliffs and ledges. En matched Kyoi’s pace, not breaking a sweat. He showed no signs of any discomfort or pain despite his involvement in a major battle only a couple of days ago.

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“Wait, let’s stop here,” Kyoi ordered, pointing out a glint in the distance.

She crept over and then plucked an object out of the ground. Kyoi hurled it away from us and it exploded with a burst of blue light. Orbs of electricity appeared in the air.

“Zhang, it’s all you!” she commanded as the dual elemental user moved forward.

He swung his sword in the air, slicing the orbs, and created sparks in the air. They converged on his blade, charging up his weapon. En dissipated his sword after clearing all the potential shock hazards. Afer some more walking, we arrived at a ledge, with no more walking path in sight. Now what?

“Tomo, you’re free to use Shigetzu’s powers and float down. If not, Zhang can slide down and assess the situation,” Kyoi suggested.

Offering me an opportunity to test out my powers, huh? En unrolled his steel wire and attached a hook at the end.

“Yeah, I’ll go down first. I can always come back up anyways. Let’s not put too much pressure on En,” I decided.

“Up to you. Be safe! Zhang will head down if you get into any trouble!” she said.

I took a deep breath and summoned my grimoire. The sheer height difference between my current position and down there was scary. I didn’t have a fear of heights but this might just make me have one. I sighed before jumping down.

“Don’t break your legs!” Kyoi warned.

I gradually floated downward and finally hit solid ground again. Ah, another path right in front of me!

“Kyoi, there’s a way up here!” I reported.

“We’ll head down right away!” Kyoi said.

I saw a bright flash streak downward. En, hanging onto his steel wire, landed with a soft thud. I did remember him doing something similar in one of the mind dives.

Another bright streak descended seconds later. When she was close enough to the ground, Kyoi slowed her descent and landed without any issues.

“Good job, Tomo. Let me check the map again before we go anywhere,” Kyoi said.

We hiked upward, which drained a lot of energy. Once at the top, I collapsed onto the ground. En sat down and leaned his back against a nearby tree. His breathing was heavy as he chugged a bottle of water. Kyoi showed no signs of fatigue and marked her map without any concern for us.

“En, Zhuyu told me one of the reasons he signed a contract with Kyoi was because of you. Can you tell me more?” I wanted to learn more about their connection to Kyoi.

“Got into some trouble and Feng rescued us. She saved our lives,” En replied, not sharing anything more.

“You want to tell me more, Kyoi?” I watched the woman stare up at the sky.

“I did save them. They owe me their lives, you know? But, I can tell you about how I’m connected to this dimension,” Kyoi offered.

“I’d love to. Especially your relationship with Fei and her father,” I responded, intrigued about her past.

“I’ll cover some of it as we walk. I noticed how you’re uncomfortable with the silence so this should help. Don’t think that I don’t pay attention to you, Tomo,” Kyoi observed, grinning at me.

“You got me there,” I conceded.

“Where to start? Fei is a good choice. Her father was the king. The prophet assigned me to kill him,” Kyoi revealed.

“Was he doing anything bad?” I questioned.

“That depends on who you ask. That was my goal. This was a year before Long and Zhang arrived,” Kyoi answered.

I assumed the prophet would pick a goal that benefited the dimension. Killing him would cause chaos. The only prophet I saw in person so far was Lyra. If she was any indication of what the other prophets were like, maybe I shouldn’t be surprised.

“Did you actually kill him?” I questioned.

“When Long and Zhang arrived, I triggered events which led to key members of his inner circle either resigning or coming to rather unfortunate accidents,” Kyoi revealed.

“You were close,” I said.

“Having Long and Zhang made it easier, even if it took awhile for them to be useful. Finally though, I accomplished exactly what the prophet desired. Slay the king,” Kyoi responded.

“You killed Fei’s father but she doesn’t hate any of you at all,” I pointed out.

“Tomo, I never said I killed the king personally. Fei was all part of the plan. She has her own reasons,” Kyoi countered with a grin.

Was she implying Fei murdered her father? I wanted to question Kyoi further but someone interrupted us. He wore a black ski mask and his tattered cape fluttered in the air. The man stared at En in silence.

“A duel with En Zhang,” he stated.

“Why?” Kyoi summoned her blade with a dangerous glint in her eye.

“Not you, that’s suicide. I can take him though. I’m stronger than him!” he set his weapon on the ground.

“If it’s a duel, it’s only fair to have conditions attached, right?” Kyoi said.

“Don’t care as long as I can fight him,” the man agreed.

“If we win, you guide us. I will cut you down if anything goes wrong. You decide the punishment if it’s Zhang’s loss,” Kyoi offered.

“Fine. If I win, that woman accompanying you must assist me,” he responded, pointing at me.

“You want Tomo? You have prior knowledge on us. That makes things much more interesting. Fight Zhang then,” Kyoi decided without even consulting him.

En nodded. He was either really confident or just didn’t want to piss Kyoi off. Why did this strange man want to fight him? Maybe this was someone who knew the hero from before.

“I will referee, if that is okay with you. Or would you rather have someone more impartial like Tomo?” Kyoi walked towards him.

“Don’t care. I’ll set up the fighting arena,” the man said, pulling out four crystals from his pockets.

“Someone came prepared. Excellent quality too. I’ll extract all the information you know once Zhang beats you down,” Kyoi stated, tossing his crystals into the air.

Lines of light connected each of the crystals and formed a square. It expanded and resembled the formation of an artificial dimension. Kyoi called the two participants over. She fired a flame upward and the battle started.

En Zhang v ???

En fired his wire, aiming for the man’s leg. He displayed great agility, performing a back flip and avoided it. The hero retracted his wire and watched his opponent. The ski-masked man reminded me of Lionel. Athletic and versatile like a gymnast.

“Hey, what do you….,” I realized no one was next to me.

I hoped no one noticed. Kyoi tilted her head, giving me a friendly smile. Damn, she saw my mistake. I was accustomed to having someone next to me in fights so it turned into a habit.

The masked man locked his legs around En’s head and flung him to the ground. He reached for his blade and plunged it toward the hero’s chest. Electricity suddenly burst out from En, knocking the ski-masked man away. En stole his opponent’s blade, a golden glow surrounding it, and then stabbed it into the man’s legs. Paralysis? En summoned his katana, charged magic emanating from the blade. It struck the man, causing him to collapse.

“Hey, still want to go?” Kyoi snapped her fingers over him.

“Yes,” the man uttered with difficulty.

En’s slashed his enemy’s chest multiple times. His paralysis finally ended but the damage was done. Flame fissures shot up from the ground, trapping him inside. Red tornadoes eventually replaced the fissures, swirling around him, causing even more damage. I saw no possible escape path for the ski-masked man. All the flames finally dissipated, and En’s opponent coughed up blood, grabbing a fistful of dirt.

“Uh, you’re strong,” the man commented, spitting out more blood.

En was in control but I learned to not judge situations so quickly. Who knew what kind of tricks the ski-masked man still was capable of? Any regenerative or second wind skills would change the battle right away.

En slashed at him again but the man leaped over the hero. I saw shiny items in his hand. Explosives? En swatted them away with his blade. They landed on the ground before detonating. The dual elemental user switched his blade into its greatsword form before plunging it into the ground. He protected himself from the resulting explosion with this defensive stance as a thick smoke covered the area.

When the smoke cleared, the ski-masked man struggled to parry against En’s attacks. The hero pulled his opponent towards despite not the poor visibility. A gamble which worked out for him. En’s blade glowed a fiery red, wisps of flames rising from his weapon. He shattered the ski masked man’s sword, knocking him to the ground. The ski-masked man reached for his daggers, but the katana user fired off steel wires, delivering a strong electric shock. The ski-masked man wriggled around on the ground, multiple parts of his body twitching.

“Give up?” Kyoi smiled at him.

The ski masked man nodded. Kyoi shut down the battlefield and shattered the crystals floating in the air. En trapped the man in his wires, waiting for Kyoi. She shackled the man’s arms and feet, limiting his movement. The ski masked man complied without any complaints.

“Let’s see who you are!” Kyoi yanked off his mask.

She revealed a man, golden-colored eyes, with long hair dropping down to his neck. Kyoi chuckled with amusement on her face.

“Descendant of royalty. What are you doing out here so far away from your home?” Kyoi pushed him forward.

“Not going to say. I’ll help you like promised. This is a bit much,” he answered, jangling the chains on his shackles.

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“That’s tame compared to what other people might do. You haven’t ventured far enough, dear prince,” Kyoi warned.

What the hell was even going on anymore? Things just kept getting more complicated.

“How do you know who I am?” I walked up next to him.

“Research and information from someone you don’t need to know,” he replied.

“I have a good idea who you’re talking about,” Kyoi remarked.

“Why me? I’m not as strong as Kyoi or good with a sword like En,” I interrogated the man.

“Not going to say. Leave me alone. I’ll take you there,” the man responded.

We arrived at three pillars and a circle carved in the center of them. Strange characters and symbols surrounded the circumference. Kyoi checked the markings and glared at her prisoner.

“A sealed transportation portal and it requires a specific type of blood? Too convenient,” Kyoi stated.

The man grimaced. S***, not good. The ground shook and then the pillars crumbled. An ambush? I summoned my sword, anticipating enemies. A burst of light blinded me. Something struck the back of my head. I created an escape portal but didn’t set a specific destination. No, now wasn’t the time to worry about that. Be captured or get transported to a random place? I would take that risk. I hoped it would transport me somewhere far enough to evade our assailants.

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