“Wait, something is awry,” Tess remarked, looking over at Lionel.
I saw Zhuyu brace himself for an attack as Lionel rushed over towards our side. Kyoi immediately reacted, dashing over in an instant. Two swords appeared in her hands and she pointed the blades at him. Lionel jumped back but maintained eye contact with Zhuyu.
“Hey, what’s going on?” I asked, looking around at everyone.
No one gave me a response. Kyoi acted as a barrier, preventing Lionel from reaching him. In addition, both of the men near Zhuyu stood on either side of him, ready for a fight.
“Really?” Ichaival shouted out as he rolled away from a burst of lightning.
A dark skinned man with an orange beanie was Ichaival’s opponent. He wore a simple singlet with black fingerless gloves. There was no fear in his eyes.
Ichaival charged at him, but his blade missed. Bartholomew already pivoted behind him, delivering a strong punch to Ichaival’s back. Ichaival stumbled and I saw a disappointed look on Shan’s face.
During Ichaival’s stumble, I heard the whizzing of blades. A dozen blades flew down from the ceiling. The blades split once they neared Bartholomew. Four curved in from the left and right. The remaining blades headed straight for the head.
Bartholomew, unfazed by the blades, locked his eyes with Ichaival. He raised his left and then right arm up. Cat-like spirits appeared, deflecting all the blades. Ichaival closed in on the man. Instead of brandishing his blade, he stepped to the the right. He disappeared and appeared behind Bartholomew.
Bartholomew swung his fist back. I saw a cat head materialize, striking Ichaival right in the face. Ichaival, blinded, fell backward. Bartholomew raised his right knee and jammed it into Ichaival’s stomach.
“Oh man, Bartholomew is really taking it to Ichaival,” I commented, checking on the showdown between Kyoi and Lionel.
Lionel, equipped with knuckles, took a deep breath. Kyoi, a bored look on her face, parried each of Lionel’s attacks with no effort. Frustration built up on his face and he dashed in for a power attack. Kyoi swung her left sword upward and I heard a crack. Both his equipped knuckles shattered and he looked down at the floor.
“Why?” he asked, pounding his fist on the floor.
“Because you’re weak. You’re not at that point where you can even think about beating me,” Kyoi replied.
“I won’t accept this. I can win. I believe in my feline charms enough that I will beat you!” Lionel declared, confidence on his face once again.
Kyoi shook her head, a look of pity for Lionel on her face. I saw her eyes turn serious for a brief moment as a large cat appeared behind Lionel. The cat had a fierce face, tiger stripes running across its body. Lionel ran straight at her, not even hiding his intentions.
Kyoi stabbed both her swords down on the ground and a large wave of energy struck Lionel. Lionel struggled against the wave of energy but lost. It knocked him into the tables. He coughed and blood spilled out of his mouth. He clutched his chest, trying to stand, but fell onto pieces of broken table.
“That’s enough. Bring him back,” Lilith ordered.
Two of the women from the left side dragged Lionel back to their side. Lilith gave Kyoi a quick glance but said nothing. I could tell she didn’t want to do anything right now, it was too dangerous.
Returning to the other battle, Bartholomew now stood over Ichaival. A grey cat purred near him. Ichaival crawled away, his mobility lessened by the repeated blows on his leg. The grey cat pounced on Ichaival’s chest. The cat sunk its teeth into Ichaival and a ring of fire surrounded him. The flames traveled up Ichaival and he gritted his teeth in pain.
“Do the thing I told you already!” Shan shouted.
Ichaival looked over at Shan and nodded. I saw him take a few deep breaths and he disappeared from the spot. However, the ring of fire also disappeared. Bartholomew spun around, catching sight of Ichaival. Shan’s friend, blades around him, crashed into Bartholomew. However, the flames remained on Ichaival’s body and he too sustained damage.
“Damn it! You actually did it, but not really,” Shan shook his head in disappointment.
Bartholomew brushed off the blades and glared at Ichaival. A golden glow surrounded the man. Ichaival, finally extinguishing the flames on his body, prepared himself.
A dozen blades, assembled in a circular shape, appeared and would shield Ichaival from a possible attack. Bartholomew’s eyes glowed with an orange-yellow tinge. The glow around him grew brighter. Ichaival’s face transformed into one of fear and I wasn’t exactly sure why. Shan looked away, perhaps disgusted with the way Ichaival performed in battle.
Bartholomew jumped into the air and dove straight for Ichaival. I finally caught sight of how Ichaival managed to vanish. It was faint but I saw a portal opening. That would have allowed Shan’s friend to escape.
However, three cats appeared and dashed straight into it. The cats reappeared, five feet away from Ichaival’s location. Ichaival attempted another portal but each time, cats dove in before him. A look of exhaustion crossed Ichaival’s face and he now readied his blades in anticipation for an attack.
All the cats targeted Ichaival. The cats disappeared once they made contact with the make shift blade shield. The blade shield broke down, allowing Bartholomew to strike from the air. He struck Ichaival in the right leg and I swore the sound of bone shattering occurred.
Ichaival raised his hand up but nothing happened. Not even a slight glimmer of a portal. A look of surprise appeared on Ichaival’s face and it quickly changed into one of pain. Shan’s friend lay limp on the floor, clutching his right leg. Bartholomew pointed at Ichaival’s chest and a final cat leaped up onto him. It spat out a fur ball and dissipated. Ichaival’s eyes blinked rapidly and closed.
“Well, I guess I should go get him,” Shan sighed.
Bartholomew walked away, not looking back. Shan, along with Kisai, walked toward the center. Shan slapped Ichaival’s face but got no response. He shrugged and signaled to Kisai. They carried his limp body back to our side.
Shan poured a bottle of water over Ichaival’s face. Ichaival finally reacted and coughed as the water splashed his face. Shan, satisfied, pulled Ichaival up from the floor.
“It hurts everywhere,” Ichaival remarked, falling down onto his right knee.
“How did the cats feel?” Kisai asked, pointing at the scratches across Ichaival’s body.
“Like crap. Things got rough,” Ichaival remarked.
“Maybe if you had listened to me, things wouldn’t be this bad,” Shan pointed out.
“Hey, didn’t you see me? I did what you told me and looked what happened!” Ichaival protested, pointing at his leg.
“You don’t carry the flames with you,” Shan argued, a look of pity and frustration mixed on his face.
“Okay, you’re right about that. I need someone to look at this leg,” Ichaival requested, clutching it in pain.
“I guess you can walk home today then,” Shan remarked, walking away.
“Wait, you can’t do that. I’m injured! Do you not see my leg?” Ichaival pointed at his limp leg.
“I think you can still walk on something like that,” Kisai said.
“No. Damn it, I hate you guys!” Ichaival shouted.
“Fine, let’s get going then,” Shan ordered.
He walked toward the exit and Ichaival followed behind him, hobbling. Shan waved at Tess and she nodded. I felt my pendant move again, this time with less motion. Shan yelled out a thanks and then both of them left.
“I still don’t really know what’s going on here,” I muttered.
Kyoi also left soon after, talking to Zhuyu one last time. Zhuyu nodded, a solemn look on his face. Zhuyu conversed with Kisai soon after and Kisai nodded with a smile. Zhuyu left with his short friend and Shui. Now it was only down to Kisai and Tess on this side.
“I actually have work in thirty minutes. But watching Ichaival’s battle was worth my time,” Kisai revealed, amused by the confrontation.
Kisai gave Tess a wave and left. On the left side, everyone else left except for Bartholomew. He adjusted his beanie and stared at me. His glance was not one of malice, but something about it bothered me. Damn, weird things were still happening to me. There was no peace at all.
“You ready to leave?” Tess asked.
“Yeah, let’s get going,” I answered.
We arrived back at the car. I glanced inside and saw Felicity sleeping inside. How long were we gone?
“Fel, wake up!” Tess said as she entered the car.
“Oh…good, wait! How did things go? Anything cool happen?” Felicity shot straight up, staring at me with a gleeful expression.
I glanced at Tess several times during my summary, making sure she approved. The Gatekeeper only cut me off a few times. At the end, Felicity got a general idea of how things went down.
“Are you sure that Darryl will be okay, Tess? He doesn’t need to go to a hospital for a checkup? I could take him,” Felicity asked.
“He will be fine. Although the damage appeared severe, the effects felt here are minimal. Darryl will feel like he sprained it but his condition will improve with rest,” Tess assured Felicity.
“Who is this Bartholomew? I’m going to see what I can dig up on him,” Felicity murmured, taking out a small notebook.
During the car ride back, I looked out the window. I went through the events of the meeting and came to the conclusion I still knew nothing. And there was still that math final coming up. I needed to get help as soon as possible.
Synopsis: Somewhere in the universe, there was an altar. On it, laid a bloody eye as big as the sun itself. It burst with light and bathed the entire star system in red.
"The aura of an ancestral artifact!" Someone's voice rose in surprise.
The Great Galactic Era had begun.