Tuesday Spring Quarter 2016 Week 8
“Thank you so much! I really appreciate it,” I said, accepting my sword back from Zhurong.
“No problem, Yuki! You need a powerful weapon to take down all the baddies coming your way. Too bad I can’t join you. You’ve gotta tell me all about it later though,” Zhurong responded, removing her gloves.
“We’ll write you an essay,” Zhuyu joked.
“Please don’t! Yuki, that reminds me, want to give your sword a name? Might sound kinda lame but makes things personal you know,” Zhurong suggested, pointing at my sword.
“I’ll consider it. I don’t really have good name for it right now,” I decided.
“Yeah, definitely. Good luck and be careful! I don’t want to hear you four got your asses kicked, okay?” Zhurong waved goodbye.
The temple’s environment felt more sinister than before. The papers, hanging from the ceiling, thrashed about in a violent motion. All the trinkets and offerings were strewn across the room, many broken or shattered into tiny pieces. This was really unsettling.
“What’s special about this place?” I followed the two men up to the third floor.
“Zhang, your answer?” Zhuyu redirected my question.
“Something with cleaning. Don’t know what the word is,” En replied.
“A purge,” Zhuyu said, nodding in understanding.
The lack of decorations now made sense. The wall weren’t adorned with anything, just a bland white color. Nothing hung from the ceiling. No windows either. Up ahead, I noticed four chairs arranged in a circle. Someone was already expecting our presence. Zhuyu grinned upon seeing them. Not sure why you’re happy about this situation.
“Should we sit down?” I questioned.
“Anything else here?” Zhuyu glanced around the room.
“Dead end,” En responded.
The short man moved forward but an invisible force prevented him from making any further progress. Guess the chairs were our only option. They resembled the folding ones at school gymnasiums.
“Are you sure it’s safe to just sit down and assume things will be okay?” I tapped one of the chairs.
The zero vector user took initiative, selecting the far left chair. He crossed his right leg over his left and sat back. Nothing happened yet. A good sign? Shui sat next to him and then En.
When I sat down, the smell of incense filled the air followed by the pleasant jingling of wind chimes. Damn it, don’t fall for these tricks! I fought the tranquil feeling, refusing to accept it.
“So difficult, child, why don’t you just accept the fate you’ll never retrieve the holy weapon? It is not yours for the taking. The gods passed down the weapon to us. We must protect it until the chosen one shows up,” the voice from before whispered with a sweet and succulent tone.
“You sure about that? I have the chosen one right here. Don’t con us with these cheap tricks,” Zhuyu said.
The tranquility and peace vanished once he spoke. I didn’t even realize my eyes closed. The math major glared at the ceiling, placing his hand into his pockets.
“Fools, you still pursue this?” the voice hissed.
“That sword is ours. Open up the staircase!” Zhuyu demanded.
The voice did not respond and then stairs appeared. Just Zhuyu talking and whoever up there was willing to do oblige? This was a trap!
“Zhuyu, I don’t….,” I grabbed his shoulder.
“Tomo, you want to say it’s a trap. But we can’t always have things go our way,” Zhuyu responded and then went upward.
“I warned you and you still decided to come up here,” a figure in a robe greeted us as we arrived on the uppermost level.
They stood in the center, a hood masking their face. This was the same voice speaking to us the entire time we were in the temple. I expected Zhuyu to materialize his sword but the zero vector user stood still. En and Shui stood behind him, making no moves either.
“Are you really worthy or just frauds wishing for power you cannot control?” the figure threw their hood off.
No head, yeah, that didn’t surprise me anymore. Was this another creation of the true mastermind? Zhuyu took slow deliberate steps toward the headless figure. When he arrived, the man placed his right hand on their shoulder. With a whoosh, the figure collapsed, leaving behind only the robe. He gestured to En, who readied himself.
“Come out already!” Zhuyu shouted.
Someone dropped down from the curved rooftop. They wore a long coat and a visor which covered their eyes. A small golden sword hanging from a silver necklace glittered in the sunlight.
“Fuckin’ big shot, aren’t you? You’re not qualified to even lay eyes on the holy weapon!” the man screamed.
“It’s not me. Him,” Zhuyu pointed at En.
“What, that runt? Don’t even waste my time. You’re by far the strongest here,” the enemy denied.
“It’s true. My friend here fights you. He wins, the sword is his. There’s no way you’ll lose, right?” Zhuyu offered.
“Damn right! You got yourself a deal!” the man agreed.
“Let’s get started right away. What’s your name?” Zhuyu stepped back.
“You are not worthy, only the holy sword will remain privy to my true name. Just call me Summoner,” the man replied.
“Shui and Tomo, help me out!” Zhuyu tossed each of us a metallic cylinder.
The two of us followed his lead, jamming the cylinder’s pointed end into the four corners of the area. The top part of it opened up and an artificial dimension developed. Must be a barrier to prevent the battle from destroying the temple. Zhurong did warn them about bringing the entire place down.
“You guys can start anytime,” Zhuyu informed Summoner.
“Why don’t we just all fight him? Isn’t that faster?” I questioned.
“He doesn’t need our help. And I have a suspicion we shouldn’t get involved either,” Zhuyu responded, a serious expression on his face.
Summoner tossed rocks onto the ground, waving his hands over them. En carved a circle into the wooden planks, and flicked a small flame into it, creating a binding flame prison. A golem, created from the rocks, charged at the katana user. En led the creature into his circle, trapping it inside. Summoner wriggled out of his coat and flung it at En.
“Deal with that, you won’t catch me,” Summoner boasted.
En set it ablaze with dark blue flames before multiple slashes on Summoner. He was trying to animate the coat but En destroyed it immediately. Those blue colored flames were the key. I should remember that for future reference.
Summoner animated more objects but En sliced through them with ease. His blade appeared sharper, dealing more damage than before, no doubt because of Zhurong’s work on it.
“How am I suppose to atone for my failure? No, there’s only one thing left to do. The will of the holy sword is telling me to use it!” Summoner shouted, wielding a blade in his hand now.
I expected more from an ultimate weapon. It looked exactly like En’s blade. Was it really the authentic thing?
“Yes, I feel the power! Don’t worry, I will fulfill my goal of protecting you!” Summoner stroked the weapon with a demented expression.
“Is that really the ultimate weapon?” I shuddered at his perverted behavior.
“Uh, not exactly. It’s just a shell. I’m starting to think the ultimate weapon isn’t actually here. Summoner is redirecting the massive magic in this area so it sure feels like wielding the ultimate weapon,” Zhuyu explained.
Hmm, a shell? That meant the ultimate weapons were worthless in other people’s hands. Also, Zhuyu just slipped in something concerning. The ultimate weapon wasn’t here?
Summoner swung the blade in an erratic manner and En parried. Summoner grinned the entire time, the sanity in his eyes far gone. He clutched En’s neck and bashed the man’s head into the floor multiple times. Red waves appeared and blew Summoner back with a loud pop. Flames engulfed his clothes but that didn’t even faze him. Summoner cackled with amusement and stabbed himself in the stomach.
“Oh s***, that’s not good,” Zhuyu observed.
“What’s going on?” I watched Summoner’s blood coagulate onto the blade.
“Blood magic. Ksi uses it with her weapons but this is a different branch. Requires more blood and has unpleasant side effects,” he explained.
En winced, coughing after knocking Summoner away from him. He took a deep breath and then his sword became engulfed in a light blue flame. Kyoi and Zhuyu mentioned this color signified a healing mechanism. However, this was used in a more offensive manner. Were the blue flames a counter for strong magical opponents?
“Interesting. Is it the magic ley line around this temple?” Zhuyu pondered.
“Is this a good thing or bad thing?” I asked.
“I don’t know. We’ll have to see how Summoner responds. He’s strengthened by the magic in this area. With his blood magic, this could drag out,” Zhuyu answered.
When En’s sword struck Summonner’s, the blue flames grew brighter. A vortex of them buffeted Summoner, knocking him to the ground. En spun and blocked the red arrows flying at him, but couldn’t deflect three of them. En yanked the projectiles out of his right shoulder immediately. Faint blue flames flickered around his wounds.
As he healed, Summoner whacked his sword into the ground. Large cracks appeared, overflowing with a dark crimson color. Fissures burst from the ground, leaving behind small spikes which latched onto En’s legs. He collapsed onto his knees in pain. Summoner stomped on the man so hard it collapsed the floor beneath them. En crashed into the second floor while Summoner levitated in the air.
En groaned, blue flames enveloping his body once more. The spikes popped off from his legs but the damage caused wasn’t healed. His auto-healing wasn’t as potent as Zhuyu’s or Kyoi’s.
Summoner landed without making a sound. The three of us moved downward too. I wanted to help En but Zhuyu only watched his friend in silence. Damn, it sucked to see him like this and not do anything. En finally stood up, his legs wobbling underneath him. Summoner dashed at the man but was repelled by En’s electric field.
Flames spiraled around Summoner, trapping him inside a burning vortex. He eventually broke free, shooting out a blood stained blade from his hand. It exploded midair and thin red wisps wrapped around En, binding the hero. Summoner punched him in the face multiple times with no emotion.
“Zhuyu! We have to do something!” I grabbed his shirt collar.
“Relax Tomo. It looks bad but Zhang’s got this. Watch!” Zhuyu disputed in a calm but firm voice.
I almost punched Zhuyu but restrained myself. Even though he understood the situation better than me, that didn’t excuse his lack of concern. Show so damn emotion! Shui, on the other hand, was the complete opposite. He looked on with concern, wincing every time En was beaten down. Just like Zhuyu, he offered no assistance. I would take things into my own hands eventually if En suffered anymore.
The hero spat out blood and a bright golden light engulfed his body. The red wisps binding him vanished and almost all his wounds and bruises disappeared. En shot a wire up into the air, scaling a nearby wall. Summoner was caught off guard by his sudden recovery. En fired an electric ball at Summoner from above before descending back down. Summoner countered with blood magic but was dragged into the air by En’s floating electric ball. Eventually, it engulfed him and exploded.
En swung back up, driving his sword into Summoner’s legs. Summoner crashed down into the first floor. What was this crazy recovery En made all of a sudden?
“You remember Lionel and Bartholomew’s special ability? Zhang has a similar one except he must reach a critical threshold of damage. He gets fully recharged but only for three minutes. After that, he reverts back to 50\% of the damage he took,” Zhuyu explained.
En’s blade carried the glow of a hot furnace and a light blue flame surrounded it. Summoner writhed around on the ground, losing blood at a rapid rate. It all congealed, forming into a demonic figure.
It didn’t move, red liquid dripping from its deformed body. En raised his sword in the air and his weapon grew brighter every second. He was accumulating the magical energy in the area and charging up.
“It’ll be over soon,” Zhuyu commented.
“Guys, we should move somewhere safer. Right, Long?” Shui suggested as En swung his weapon downward into the demon.
“Good idea! Let’s go Tomo,” the zero vector user agreed.
We relocated and watched the scene unfold below us. When En’s super charged attack connected, I grasped his true strength. A large purple circle formed underneath the demonic figure and a barrage of meteors pummeled it. That lasted for twenty seconds before flames engulfed its body. A single bolt of lightning descended from the sky, striking En’s enemy with a loud cackle. Small waves of purple electricity appeared and shocked the enemy. The demon exploded and wafts of smoke rose from its remains. En stood in the center, his entire body covered in blood.
The hero collapsed as wounds opened up on his body again. Shui and Zhuyu immediately rushed down, checking on their friend. I searched for Summoner’s body, locating it in the corner. I was surprised he survived after that En’s powerful final attack.
“Good job! You remembered to actually set up a barrier!” I heard a familiar voice.
Zhurong rushed towards us, several villagers following behind her. They carried a stretcher, placing it near En. I heard a whistling noise and glanced up at the sky. A katana rocketed downward, piercing into the ground with a thud. The hero reached out for the katana but someone in a tattered cape appeared.
They wore a cracked white mask containing a sinister drawn red smile. They knocked En away, obtaining the blade for themselves. Zhuyu swung his sword at them but his blade only cut through air. The mysterious person already vanished. Shui suddenly pushed me away and an ice wall appeared in front of him. A Chinese butterfly sword flew into it, cracking the man’s defenses.
“Your suspicions were correct, Long and Zhang,” Tess said, standing next to me.
The Gatekeeper picked up the weapon, inspecting it. She pointed at a symbol on the sword hilt, showing it to the heroes. A black lotus? I recalled Zhuyu mentioning something about En’s past from yesterday. What was the connection?
“There remain loose ends, Zhang. You already know the culprits,” Tess said, handing the blade over to the dual elemental user.
“I know, Tess. Ugh,” En said, grasping his chest in pain.
“Come on, let’s get you treated before we figure this all out!” Zhurong carried him onto the stretcher.
“What the hell is going on here?” I stared at everyone in confusion.
“Zhang previously worked as a contractor, cleaning up and sweeping away unsightly matters in this dimension,” Tess explained.
“Wait, he was an assassin?” I surmised from her words.
“Zhang murdered no one. I believe a mind dive will explain matters far better than me,” Tess answered, pointing at the now unconscious man.
“Tess, I talked with Fei and she knows their hideout. She also mentioned that two people who worked with En before are more than willing to help out,” Zhuyu informed her.
“Understood, Long. Get in contact and we’ll complete this tomorrow. Tomo, the mind dive won’t explain everything but it is a solid starting point,” Tess said, pointing at my grimoire.
I returned home, very confused and concerned. I lay in my bed, flipping open to the bookmarked page. Time to check out how En’s past impacted today’s mission.