Volume 14, Chapter 8: Pre-Flight Activities

“How are we even suppose to get up there?” I pointed upward at the sky, the faint outline of a floating city visible in the distance.

“Usually would take a plane up there but that’s not really an option right now,” Kisai answered, leaning his left elbow on the counter.

Kisai, Kuan, and I were in the lobby of the Knight Guild’s headquarters. The Stellar Foundation, our next destination, was headquartered in a floating city above their territory. According to Kisai, permission from both the Stellar Foundation and the Knight’s Guild was required before we could advance any further. The Knight’s Guild was willing to help us out but there was nothing from the Stellar Foundation’s side even after multiple contact attempts.

“You really are not popular here at all,” I observed, watching people pass by glare at the magic user.

“Nah, they’re just jealous of me,” Kisai countered as he peered through the window glass.

“Sure they are. So are we going to just go back home if we don’t hear anything?” I was impatient after sitting around for half an hour.

“There’s always other ways of doing it,” Kisai pointed out, stretching his arms out before practicing a jump shot.

“Ways that will get us in trouble,” Kuan elaborated as he cleaned his gun.

“Uh, you sure it’s a good idea to just have something like that out in the open?” I glanced over at him.

“I’ve worked here a couple of times, they don’t care,” Kuan dismissed my concern.

“You really get around, Kuan. Kinda surprised considering how you always complain about not having any stamina,” I said, covering my mouth before yawning.

“It’s kind of a pain but Tess compensates me for doing it. Can’t really complain about it,” Kuan revealed, checking the gun magazine.

The door labeled “Authorized Personnel ONLY” opened and two unexpected people appeared. Zhuyu, one of the few times he wasn’t wearing dress pants, walked towards Kisai. A woman followed him. What was her name again? She was assigned to work with the zero vector user during the team shakeups a couple of months ago.

“Kuan, you remember her name?” I questioned, nudging the firearm user.

“Huh? Nope, no idea,” Kuan replied, shaking his head.

“You work with Lilith, don’t you? I’m surprised you don’t know more about her team,” I recalled.

“It’s not like we talk that much even if we’re assigned to the same team,” Kuan responded.

The woman noticed me looking at her and averted her eyes. She was pretty shy. Zhuyu handed Kisai a piece of paper and his friend smiled at him. Oh, was there a breakthrough?

“Nice! Did Tess set you up with this?” Kisai tapped the counter bell and slipped the piece of paper to the worker.

“Yeah, we have business there too. Darryl isn’t with you guys today?” Zhuyu noticed.

“Had something to do. You know how it is with him,” Kisai answered, waving three tickets in the air.

“Long, you check out that new anime yet this season?” Kuan caught up with his friend as we waited for the plane.

“Which one?” Zhuyu questioned, flipping through pages of a small notebook Kisai handed him.

While those two conversed, I glanced over at the woman accompanying Zhuyu. When she was aware of me, her mouth opened up slightly but I didn’t hear anything. Was I just imagining things?

“Oh, I probably should introduce you to everyone. This is Xi, she’s part of Lilith’s team and has been working with me after Tess reassigned everyone,” Zhuyu realized, gesturing towards her with his left hand.

“Nice… to meet everyone,” she spoke for the first time, her voice so soft and low that I struggled to hear her.

“Let us know if Long hasn’t helped you out with developing your powers. He’s not that great, you know. Kuan and I are more than willing to take over,” Kisai joked, grinning at her.

Xi shook her head vigorously, refuting Kisai’s words. Even though Kisai was obviously joking, it seemed she took his words at face value. Actually, wasn’t this kind of dangerous for Zhuyu? There was no way Kyoi would just let him tutor such a cute girl without getting on his case. I feel bad for you, Zhuyu. He glanced in my direction with a confused look as I stared at him.

“Jin, you’re going to the Stellar Foundation headquarters, right?” Zhuyu asked, returning his friend’s notebook.

“Yep, what’s Tess having you check out there?” Kisai confirmed, asking a question of his own.

“Having Xi practice using her powers more. But, Tess also wants more data on the stuff you found too. Pretty sure you’re the same,” Zhuyu revealed.

“Yeah, those devices are really intricate, way more advanced than when I first got here. If they’re able to distribute those outside of *, that’s when things could get dangerous,” Kisai said.

“There are prototypes already in Za’ard. Once they get more data from those, it’s only a matter of time,” Kuan added, placing his gun back into his holster.

A Knight’s Guild member, wearing a pilot’s hat, exited the “Authorized Personnel ONLY” door. She motioned for us to follow her. Three minutes later, we boarded a civilian plane with no other air crafts around us. There were a total of ten seats, each one with fancy upholstery. I took a seat in the middle row, no one sitting next to me. Kuan and Kisai sat next to each other in the front left row. Zhuyu sat alone on the opposite row, reading a book. Xi sat behind me on the last row, a timid expression on her face.

“Xi, wanna sit next to me?” I offered, pointing at the seat next to me.

She blinked at me and finally nodded ten seconds later. I was curious about what Zhuyu was teaching her but also definitely wanted to get a sense of what kind of person she was too.

“Xi, you’re a college student like me, right? What year are you?” I asked as the plane rumbled, ready for takeoff.

She held up two fingers with her left hand. Okay, this might be tough. This was the same as talking to En except this girl was even more reserved than the dual elemental user. But, she was willing to answer my questions so that was a good sign.

“Um, I’m a first year and it’s been an interesting time after getting involved in all of this. Oh, what’s your major? I’m still undecided myself,” I continued the conversation, really hoping this wouldn’t end up becoming one-sided.

Xi shook her head in response. Guess that meant she didn’t have one yet. Come on, think of a question that would make her talk more. Gotta come up with one that was open-ended so she would have to answer with words. By now, the plane was finally up in the sky. I checked the monitor at the front for an estimated arrival time, one more hour to go, longer than expected.

“I’m pretty sure this is making you super uncomfortable but I’m just trying to get to know you since we got so much downtime. Let me know whenever you want me to stop,” I said, allowing her to dictate the pace.

Xi nodded in agreement and motioned for me to continue. It took awhile but she eventually opened up, giving me insight into her background. She had two older siblings, one who was a professor at our university. Her older sister worked as a recruiter, scouting out people for local tech companies. In contrast to her brother and sister, Xi wasn’t as talkative or social. Kind of surprising that I never saw her before when I was walking around campus getting to classes. But, the university was huge so it was impossible to run into everyone. Although, it always seemed like I ran into someone from Tess’ side at least once.

“Your brother’s name sounds familiar. What does he teach?” I asked.

”Chemistry,” Xi replied, writing out her brother’s full name for me.

“Oh, he was my professor for chemistry last quarter. He’s been one of the better instructors I’ve had,” I realized.

Xi nodded her head with more energy than usual. Ah, she was proud of her brother, that was really heartwarming. Time to change topics and ask about her training with Zhuyu.

“If I remember, your powers focus on defense, right?” I asked, pulling up the shades and stared out the window.

Xi nodded in conformation. Oh, I understood why Tess paired her up with him now. Zhuyu’s zero vector powers focused on neutralizing enemies so that was definitely helpful for her. If I had to guess, he was most likely instructing her on advanced mathematics useful for strengthening her defensive skills.

“Has Zhuyu just been teaching you fancy math stuff?” I leaned back in my seat, amazed by the enormous leg room available.

“He’s a good teacher,” Xi responded, one of the rare times she answered with a full sentence.

Nothing too crazy there. Zhuyu was really helpful when I was studying for my math finals the past two quarters. I wanted to see her in action now. No, I was hoping to get a chance to go up against her. I felt like Kyoi all of a sudden, not the greatest position to find myself in.
“Yuki and Xi, get ready,” Zhuyu instructed, peering over at us from his seat.

“Huh?” I didn’t understand what he meant since there were still twenty minutes left.

“Something’s coming our way and there’s no way to avoid it,” he revealed, sword already in hand.

“Wait, wait! We’re gonna fight right here, literally on the plane?” I couldn’t wrap my head around that concept at all.

“Evacuating is too dangerous right now. Gotta hold them off right here,” Kisai explained, yanking open a compartment near the screen at the front.

“You’re talking about constructing an artificial dimension? That sounds crazy,” I realized his intentions.

“There’s a reason why we took this plane. As long as we protect the pilot, she’ll get us there,” Kisai responded, flicking switches on.

Great, we had to hold our ground here. Not the easiest thing to do in such a limited space. But, if we were working with in an artificial dimension, that wouldn’t matter too much.

“Xi, you’ll protect over here. If anyone breaks through, you’ll take care of them. Yuki, you’ll back her up,” Kisai assigned, pointing at the door leading to the pilot compartment.

“Hold on, how are you so sure that they’ll come in through here instead of directly attacking where the pilot is?” I questioned, standing in front of Xi.

“They just will,” Kisai stated with confidence.

Kisai was experienced with these types of situations so I wouldn’t press him any further on it. Huh, this was an interesting alignment, placing me in the rear with Xi. Zhuyu stood behind Kuan and Kisai, providing support for the two men. In the past, the zero vector user would be in my current position. Now that he unlocked his true powers, the man was a more of an offensive threat than before.

“How long?” Kisai glanced over at Kuan.

“Two, no, one minute,” he answered, tapping his glasses.

Just what kind of enemies would show up? I took a deep breath before exhaling. It didn’t matter who appeared as long as they didn’t breach the area back here. Xi was already busy reinforcing the door with a barrier in case anything got past us.

“Now!” Kuan shouted as the enemies entered from the windows, passing through the plane like translucent spirits.

They were all dressed in tactical gear and wore the prototype versions of Stellar Foundation devices. S***, that increased the difficulty. There was a total of six people, three lined up in the front and the other three behind them.

“Ichaival Darryl is not here! Where is he?” one of them demanded as they raised their assault rifle at us.

“You’re a popular guy, Darryl. Guess you won’t believe me if I say that this guy is him, right?” Kisai joked, pointing at Kuan with an exaggerated motion.

“You think this is funny? You won’t laugh after this!” they fired multiple shots at Kisai in anger.

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