All the vehicles on the street beneath me vanished. Everything around me turned quiet. I ran to the end of the skybridge, descending the stairs. No signs of anyone else besides me. I clicked the power button on my phone but the screen remained dark. Of course, I should have known it wouldn’t be that easy. I headed to my right, towards the building which housed the student financial aid office. I didn’t care about what was inside. The more important thing was its doors. I inspected them and found a keyhole. Perfect! Even if this didn’t work, I’m sure it would alert Tess to my predicament.
“Tomo, you have any idea what’s going on right now?” a familiar voice questioned.
As expected, inserting my key in failed. I turned around and saw Ksi. She wielded her blade, inspecting her surroundings with a critical eye. The woman was a powerful hero, capable of switching weapons, so she was a great person to have by my side right now.
“I don’t know. I was crossing the bridge when I felt this artificial dimension develop. Was it the same for you?” I walked with her, heading back to the main campus.
“I was rudely interrupted by this during the middle of class. You’re responsible for this, aren’t you?” she accused, staring at me.
“That’s crazy and you know it! There’s no reason for me to do something like this. It doesn’t help me in any way at all. Can’t you tell it’s a nuisance for me too?” I refuted, shaking my head.
“I guess you’re right. But, it’s possible you’re under the control of that masked woman, just like Champ was. Let’s figure out a way to get out as fast as possible,” Ksi decided as we approached the statue near the library.
“Where should we start?” I still saw no other people.
“The place with the highest magical output. If someone set this all up, it wold take quite a bit of magic to pull off. We find the source then we’ll also find the exit. Come on, let’s not waste time!” Ksi reasoned, dissipating her blade.
I summoned my grimoire, requesting it to find any abnormal or surges in magical activity. It flipped open to a blank page before text appeared. Multiple locations were listed with number values next to them. We waited for the complete page to be filled in before analyzing the results.
“Nothing stands out. It even says the error range is within an acceptable value. Something’s wrong,” Ksi said.
“All the places with values higher than zero are where I ran into everyone before all this happened. It makes sense why there’s tiny amounts there. But like you said, all of it is normal. So, where do we go from here?” I closed my grimoire, glancing at Ksi.
“Let’s-,” Ksi said before slicing an arrow in half with her blade.
I materialized my own sword in response, seeing a woman in the distance. She blew a bubble, popping it inside of her mouth with a smirk. Wearing an unbuttoned purple flannel and light yellow skinny jeans, the new arrival pointed at us. A plethora of arrows flew towards us. Ksi raised her blade to slice them apart but I shook my head at her. Instead, I constructed a multilayered ice wall in front of us. I motioned for her to step back. Once the projectiles struck the wall, a loud explosion occurred, ripping it apart into ice shards.
“Ksi, now!” I ordered, converting all the ice chunks into hot steam.
The hero changed her blade into a spear, hurling it at our enemy. Soon, the entire area became obscured in a thick layer of steam. After waiting two minutes, I dissipated the muggy steam and turned it into a cooling mist. Ksi glared at me, pointing at her wet clothes.
“Yeah, sorry about that. My bad,” I apologized, heading toward our injured opponent.
Ksi’s spear was lodged in her left shoulder. Minor burns covered her entire face. She grasped the spear but couldn’t remove it.
“Are you the one responsible for this?” Ksi questioned, standing with her arms crossed.
“This was just a test. I thought I blocked out all the heroes but I forgot about the group you’re part of!” she replied, collapsing to the ground.
“What do you mean it was a test?” Ksi asked but the woman was unconscious.
The hero pulled out her spear, glancing at me. I bent down, searching her clothes for clues, and found a prescription bottle along with an opened packet of gum. What the hell was all this?
“That’s a criminal offense,” Ksi remarked after checking the bottle.
“What do you mean?” I inspected the gum, finding nothing of interest on them.
“These are prescription pills you can only get from the production factory. They’re not authorized to be on the market yet,” Ksi explained.
“How do you know that?” I stared at her in surprise.
“I’ve read about a case involving this kind of thing before. But, I doubt these are normal pills,” Ksi answered, tossing the bottle back to me.
“Huh, I don’t think normal people just read about cases,” I pointed out.
“You’re right, Tomo. I’m a law major. It was one of my assignments,” Ksi revealed, checking our surroundings for more evidence.
She tapped the ground multiple times. I recognized it as Morse code because it was one of the lessons Tess taught me over the past couple of months. Looked like there was another person joining us. I felt a presence behind me and teleported away.
“Damn, I figured it would be easy to pick you off. You’re such a cheat with all those powers at your disposable,” a woman commented, brushing her hair aside with her left hand.
“Who are you?” Ksi summoned her sword once more.
“I’m here for her. She’s just a noobie and messed up her fist assignment. Who would have known that it just wasn’t you alone?” she pointed at me.
Twins? She looked just like the unconscious woman on the floor. Both wore similar clothing too except the colors were swapped. The woman snapped her fingers and trapped Ksi in a cube. You know that’s not going to contain her at all! With one slash, Ksi broke through her enclosure, and charged at her opponent.
“Why is it always so hard with all of you?” the woman lamented, surrounding herself with a defensive barrier matching Xi’s.
Ksi shattered the barrier with ease and left a large gash across the woman’s upper shoulder. The woman grimaced and hopped away. However, Ksi was relentless, pursuing her. She was in control of this, no need for me to assist her. Every defensive barrier and shield the woman utilized, Ksi destroyed it in seconds.
“That’s enough!” someone declared.
A third woman, wearing a fur coat, appeared. Ksi slashed at her but she evaded each time. I noticed a golden pin on her collar. The woman moved so fast that I couldn’t tell what was on it. Ten seconds later, she carried both woman on her shoulders. Ksi hurled her spear but it dropped to the ground before it even left her hand. The hero stared at her weapon in surprise before collapsing.
“Sorry about all the trouble these two have caused. It’s really not our time yet. Deal with the Traveler and that masked woman. Then maybe you’ll see us again!” the woman vanished along with her accomplices.
“Ksi, you okay?” I saw her blood tinged with a strange green sparkle.
“She did something to my blood. That’s why my spear didn’t go anywhere. What did she do?” Ksi nodded with a frustrated look.
“An infusion of foreign material caused an error. That resulted in the breakdown of your weapons,” Tess explained, appearing next to me all of a sudden.
“Not again,” Ksi muttered, shaking her head.
“Incorrect, Natalia. Jin’s disruption of your blood in a previous encounter differs from what occurred moments ago. I leave it to you to find a counter. You may of course ask me questions if needed,” Tess said.
“Tess, was that woman responsible for this artificial dimension?” I still felt it active.
“Correct, Tomo. It will collapse in five minutes. Natalia, return to your class,” Tess directed.
Ksi nodded, running back to her class. I handed Tess the pill bottle and opened packet of gum. She inspected both items, a surprised look appearing on her face.
“Something wrong, Tess?” I walked with her towards the main campus entrance.
“Artificial awakening of powers. These allow for such a thing,” Tess revealed, holding up one of the pills.
“Wait, so the masked woman and this new person aren’t connected?” I realized.
“It is clear they don’t share the same goals. I do believe they are at least aware of each other,” Tess replied, pocketing the items.
“Great, more mysterious things happening. Sorry if I interrupted you, Tess. I know you were talking with an adviser,” I apologized.
“It is of no concern, Tomo. You assessed the situation correctly. This artificial dimension was designed specifically to keep everyone out except for you,” Tess responded.
“Why me though? Wouldn’t it make more sense to target someone like you?” I asked.
“You’re undervaluing yourself, Tomo. Your raw potential and grimoire make you a valuable commodity,” Tess disagreed.
“That’s just great to hear, Tess. All I wanted to do today was walk around campus until class started. And then this happened,” I said with a sigh.
“This may just be an isolated incident, Tomo, if that woman’s words are to be believed. I will investigate further and contact the Special Investigations Unit for assistance,” Tess said.
The artificial dimension finally disintegrated and everything returned to normal. I passed by a large crowd of students, heading to my next class. Artificial powers, huh? I assumed my involvement was meant as a test for them. However, they weren’t anywhere close to us, except for that woman at the end. Mirei and her inexperienced group were better than them. What was going on?