Volume 2, Chapter 1-1: Other Heroes?

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Autumn Quarter 2015 Week 10 Saturday

A month passed since the incident. The official cause of death was filed as an accident with the assistance of Felicity and Tess’ connections. Ichizen’s parents were devastated and checked up on me every few days, making sure I was okay. Whenever they talked to me, it was hard for me to make eye contact with them.

I took a leave of absence for three weeks. I was fortunate since my professors were compassionate enough to send me notes on material I missed. Now it was the week before finals and I stared out my room window.

“Yuki, someone’s at the door. It’s for you!” my mom yelled.

“Okay, I’m coming down,” I replied, walking down the stairs.

When I arrived at the front door, I saw Felicity. She gave me a wave and I blinked, not sure what to expect.

“Yuki, how are you feeling?” she asked.

“Alright, what’s going on?” I asked, seeing Tess’ car.

“Tess wants to ask you something and if you’re willing, take you somewhere. You can say no if you want,” she revealed.

“No, I’m fine now. I have to get this over with sooner or later. Let’s go,” I said.

Felicity nodded and I followed her to Tess’ car. My mom waved from the door and I felt a little bad about not being able to tell her the truth. Tess opened her window, ready to talk. I stared at her hair and she didn’t have her trademark hairpins in today.

“Tomo, I apologize if we’re disturbing you. Are you well?” Tess asked, glancing at her left side mirror.

“I’m okay. It’s been a month already, time to get back into a regular routine again. What did you want to talk about?” I asked.

“I called a meeting with all the heroes. I hope that you’ll join us today,” Tess replied.

“All the heroes? Wait, how many are there?” I asked.

“Rough estimate, I would say at least fifteen in total,” Tess answered, adjusting her rear view mirror.

“I’ll probably learn more about everything at the meeting, right? I’ll go. I do at least want to get an idea of this entire situation,” I agreed to attend the meeting, getting into the back of the car.

“You do deserve to know what’s happening. Do you have the pendant with you?” Tess asked, turning into the road.

“I have it around my neck. It’s pretty important, huh?” I commented, clasping the one item Ichizen left behind.

“It is. Are the pages in the grimoire still blank?” Tess asked.

“I haven’t looked at it since that day. Should we go back and get it?” I replied.

“No, it should be fine. Felicity, could you call Jin and the others to see where they are?” Tess requested.

Felicity nodded and pulled out her cellphone. I grasped the pendant around my neck, moving my thumb across its smooth surface. It brought back memories of that day and I shook my head, clearing my mind. I needed to focus on what was happening right now, not the past.

“So where exactly is the meeting place?” I asked, curious about our destination.

“No idea. Only Tess knows. I’m just here to give you some support,” Felicity replied, giving me a big smile.

At a red light, Tess turned around and gave me a serious look. Unlike the time at the high school, I felt no fear but a sense of sympathy. She then focused her attention back on the road, saying nothing. Weird. But I sensed she was just trying to be nice.

We finally arrived at an entrance with a parking arm. Tess tapped a card against the reader, allowing us entry. The Gatekeeper went down several levels, until we reached the lowest one. Several cars were already present but plenty of open spaces.

“Fel, stay here,” Tess ordered.

“Wait, wait. You brought me here just so I can stare at a dark wall with this ugly lighting? I don’t like this one bit at all. I want to take pictures of everyone, get the scoop!” Felicity exclaimed, pouting.

“Exactly one of the reasons why I’m allowing you up there. I’ll be sure to give you a summary once we’re done,” Tess said, shaking her head.

“Fine but can I at least listen in on what you’re saying?” Felicity attempted a compromise.

“No, that would just enable your desire to snoop,” Tess denied her request.

Felicity stuck her leg outside, preventing Tess from slamming the door on her. With a quick flip, the Gatekeeper shoved the woman back inside and then locked the doors. Felicity banged on the car window but Tess didn’t look back.

“This is the right place, right?” I asked, finding it strange we parked on the lowest level.

“Yes. Follow me, we need to take the elevator up,” Tess nodded and walked ahead.

The dim lighting made it difficult to see far ahead. Following Tess, I counted ten cars during the walk to the elevator. Assuming each cars carried two passengers, there were at least twenty people.

“Be careful. The floor here is chipped,” Tess warned.

I stopped inches away from a gaping hole in the floor. Tess finally stopped at a set of doors and pushed them open. Inside, there was only one elevator door. A spot to insert a card and key replaced the traditional up or down button.

Tess pulled out the same card from before and inserted it into the slot. I didn’t notice it before but the Gatekeeper had a ring of keys hooked onto her belt. She removed a specific key from the ring and placed it into the keyhole. The elevator buzzed with noise and the doors slid open.

“Uh, there’s no buttons in here, Tess,” I observed, seeing a blank panel.

Tess hooked the key from before back onto the ring and then removed a different one. She held it up to the panel and the key stuck onto the panel. A magnetic panel? No, there was more to it than just that. I felt the elevator shake and then a soft whirring noise occurred.

“We’re here,” Tess announced as the doors slid open.

The first thing I saw was a carpeted hallway. A majestic oak door awaited us at the end. I looked at her when we got there, expecting her to open the door. Instead, she glanced at me and reached into her pockets.

She tossed a key over to me and pointed at the door. I looked down at the key and then at the door. I inserted the key and turned it. Feeling no resistance, I pushed down on both handles and opened the door, revealing a large room.

Wooden desks arranged in a random pattern separated the room into two distinct sides. I stared at the desks, confused by the layout. Tess pointed to the right side of the room and I saw familiar faces. I glanced over to the left and recognized no one. A heavy atmosphere hung in the air.

“Tess, what’s going on?” I whispered.

“It looks like there’s some disagreement like always. Don’t worry about it for now. I don’t have time to explain it,” Tess replied, heading over to the right side.

We finally arrived at the right side of the room after maneuvering our way through the tables. I noticed a projector screen in the front. This was some kind of meeting alright.

“Tomo, sorry to call you out like this,” Kisai said, rising up from his chair.

“No worries. I chose to so don’t feel bad. I want to find out about all of this,” I said.

“That’s good to hear then,” Zhuyu said, leaning against the wall.

I looked at him and blinked. He wore a pair of medium sized glasses with a traditional frame and red temples. Instead of his usual dress pants, he wore black corduroys with thin vertical ridges. He wore an unbuttoned green collared shirt with two breast pockets. Because of his different attire, I didn’t recognize him when he spoke.

“Zhuyu?” I said, stretching out the last part of his name.

“Yeah, are you sure you’re okay?” he asked, giving me a skeptical glance.

“No, I’m fine. I just didn’t recognize you for a second there,” I replied.

“Damn, that was a burn,” Kisai smirked at my statement.

“You met last time but didn’t get a proper introduction. I’m pretty sure you know her name by now but I’ll say it again. This is Kyoi Feng, she’s a junior like Shan Shigetzu,” he introduced, pointing over to Kyoi.

Kyoi smiled at me and I suppressed my urge to run away. Although her smile wasn’t as terrifying as before, it still gave me a chill. She wore a zipped up red hoodie with a phoenix on it. Zhuyu sighed and I took a few steps back, avoiding direct eye contact with the woman.

“Tomo, you appear to be well. That’s good to know. You have to be in good condition if you want to keep on going,” Kyoi stated.

“Of course, anything you say,” I stuttered.

I inspected the rest of the group. Ichaival wore a zipped up feather down vest and black jeans. Kisai wore an unbuttoned black soft shell collared jacket with an unbuttoned white dress shirt under it. Shan stood next to Ichaival, wearing a black jacket like last time. He said something to Ichaival and Ichaival looked at him with indignation. Shan smiled, shrugging his shoulders.

“Tess, I see some people I don’t recognize over here,” I said.

”That is Long’s friend. They’ve known each other since elementary school. He has a unique skill set as you will witness for yourself soon enough,” Tess answered, pointing to the man who sat near Zhuyu.

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“The new girl, huh? You don’t look like much of a challenge to me,” a man suddenly appeared next to me.

I blinked and took a few steps back. Not out of fear but to avoid him. He wore a white shirt with a striped cat’s face centered in the middle. Tufts of orange fur covered the top of the head. In addition, a black streak ran down the center of the forehead. I cringed at the sight of the cat’s face.

“Lionel, it’s been awhile,” Tess greeted him with no emotion.

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“Tess, it seems that you’ve been neglecting your duties as the Gatekeeper,” Lionel said, looking over at her.

“I’ve been busy as I’m sure you have been as well. We all thought that the Traveler was destroyed. Although that in the end may have caused me to overlook entry points,” Tess admitted.

“If only you were more careful, we might have been able to avoid this,” Lionel sneered at her.

“Hey, Tess did her job, let’s not keep talking about it. It’s done,” I backed Tess up despite not knowing the details.

“Hmm, aren’t you a good friend? I’ll be back soon enough though,” Lionel said, waving goodbye.

“He’s gotten worse, “ Tess remarked, watching him walk away.

“Personality-wise? He creeps me out,” I noted.

“No. His powers are far below than the norm even when sealed. There should be a re-ranking soon,” Tess explained.

“A reranking? Why do you need to be ranked?” I asked.

“A way to determine everyone’s skill level and also an indication of what they can be expected to fight. Not a strict determination of strength though. It also serves as motivation to improve,” Tess replied.

“I can see that. So, who’s that guy?” I pointed at someone talking to Ichaival.

“Shui Lau. Someone Long has also known for a long time. He often works with the person you asked about before,” Tess answered, directing her attention over to the projector screen.

I looked in the same direction as Tess and saw the screen descend down. The lights in the room dimmed and the sound of a humming projector humming started. A beam of light struck the screen and a list appeared.


See the ranking list here: https://lanterndragonworks.wordpress.com/volumes/volume-2/volume-2-references/

 

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