“Zhuyu and Shan? What are you doing at my house?” I asked, shocked by their sudden appearance.
“Blame it on Tess. She wanted us to give you a short lecture on the heroes thing,” Zhuyu said, exasperation in his voice.
“Why now? And how did you know I was just coming back to my house?” I asked.
“Yeah, it’s kind of hard to believe isn’t it? Well, Shigetzu and I just got texts from Tess a half an hour ago so great timing, I guess,” Zhuyu replied.
“Yep, it just happens sometimes,” Shan backed him up.
“Whatever. Ever since Tess woke me up early, I guess I can just expect these things. Come on in,” I offered and unlocked the front door for them.
“Actually, we need to get something from the car first so could you wait there for just a minute?” Zhuyu asked, looking over at Shan.
“Sure. Do whatever you need to do,” I agreed.
I shut the door and stood inside, watching the two from my front window. Shan opened up the trunk of the car and they pulled out what looked like a whiteboard. But something was strange about it. It appeared folded, like a table. Shan shut the trunk and Zhuyu carried the object up my front steps.
“What is that?” I exclaimed, opening the door for the two.
“A whiteboard,” Zhuyu answered.
“Yeah, just your average whiteboard. Nothing fancy about it at all,” Shan said, helping him bring it inside.
Shan and Zhuyu placed the whiteboard down near my couch. I peeked into the kitchen, but saw no one there. Guess my parents weren’t home yet. I was hungry too. I searched through the cupboard and found a tin box of egg rolls. I brought it into my living room and saw the two men setting up the whiteboard.
“Wait, you’re doing that here?” I asked, attempting to open the tin box.
“Do you prefer a different place?” Zhuyu asked, propping up the whiteboard legs.
“I guess I was thinking my room since you would have access to my computer there,” I said, taking off the lid on the box.
“I think there’s more room here. We have Tess’ tablet so here should be fine. There’s a sofa here so it’ll be easier seating than whatever else you had in mind,” Zhuyu made an argument for the current location.
“Whatever suits you,” I said, taking a seat on the sofa.
Pulling out an egg roll, I bit into it. Ah, sweet as always. With a hint of sugar, the texture was better than a wafer.
Zhuyu pulled out three Exponent markers from his dress pant pockets and placed them down on the board. Shan checked the whiteboard, making sure everything was propped up with nothing folded in. Today both of them wore hoodies. Zhuyu wore a heavy gray hoodie with a fur lined hood. Shan in contrast wore a lighter gray tennis hoodie.
“So how long will this take?” I asked, biting into my fourth egg roll.
“I’m not sure. Maybe half an hour. Could be more. Depends on the notes Tess left us. She always just shows up out of nowhere. It’s a bit unnerving,” Zhuyu replied.
“I know what you mean,” I agreed, nodding my head.
After a few minutes of adjustment, Zhuyu and Shan finally finished their preparations. Zhuyu moved the whiteboard a few feet to the left and looked at my TV. He glanced at the back of it, probably checking for connections.
“Seems good. I guess we’ll start with Tess’ slides first,” Zhuyu said and Shan hooked up Tess’ tablet to the television.
I glanced at the screen. Yeah, definitely just keeping it simple on the intro slide already. White background with no design and no fancy text.
“So Tess made this right?” I asked.
“Yeah, I think you can tell,” Shan answered.
It was certainly true what he said. The overall design just screamed Tess. I placed the lid back on after having my fill of egg rolls.
“Let’s see here. What do you really need to know? We can skip that and that. Okay, let’s start here. We’ll begin with the purpose of our powers and our roles in these alternate dimensions,” Zhuyu decided, his fingers scrolling down his phone screen.
“Uh, before we start, can I put this away first? I also want to grab something to drink,” I requested.
“Go ahead,” Zhuyu said.
I put away the tin box of egg rolls and opened up my fridge. Hmm, there wasn’t much in selection of drinks but I saw a bottle of lemonade. I grabbed it and returned to the living room. During my absence, Zhuyu and Shan were playing a game of tic tac toe on the whiteboard. I coughed and the two looked up from their game. Shan erased it and then glanced over at the screen.
“Let’s start now,” Zhuyu said, skipping past ten slides before stopping.
“Why is the prophet so important?” I asked, seeing the word on screen.
“Some kind of prophecy or oracle foresaw the arrival of a hero. In certain cases, multiple heroes. The prophet was how we got our powers,” Zhuyu explained.
“Pretty standard,” I reacted, a bit surprised by the simplicity.
“Yeah. We killed monsters and took care of bad guys. Pretty standard like you said,” Zhuyu continued, switching to another slide.
“That’s where the Traveler comes in. It wanted to merge all the distinct dimensions out there to form one big one. The keyword here would be assimilation,” Shan added.
“And I guess that it wasn’t doing that nicely, right?” I asked.
“Correct. It forcibly evicted residents that disagreed, locking them up and rehabilitated them so they would agree,” Zhuyu answered.
“And you guys were trying to stop that?” I questioned.
“Yeah, the dimensions where we got our powers in started crossing over. That’s how we learned about the Traveler. We originally only worked whatever the prophet had for us in each of our own dimensions. Tess and the number one ranked were the ones who reached out to all of us,” Zhuyu replied.
Shan outlined the flow of information on the whiteboard. I went through it, getting an idea of their origins.
“You might want to take a picture now since I’ll erase it,” Shan informed, the eraser already in his right hand.
Damn. That was such a hassle. I pulled out my phone and took a photo. Shan started erasing the moment I finished. Zhuyu skipped through slides again and then stopped at “Hero Profiles”.
“I’m sure Tess gave you a basic breakdown before. But each of our powers has a foundation, some kind of basis for their use. Before we go over that though, let’s review general stats. Shigetzu, your turn,” Zhuyu swapped places with Shan.
“Tomo, I now introduce you to the most exciting of lists. Basic stat breakdowns for each member that you’ve met so far. It’ll be so fun,” Shan said with obvious sarcasm.
“Right,” I nodded.
“We have five basic parameters for now. Strength, Magic, Defense, Speed, and Dexterity,” Shan explained.
Zhuyu switched over to a slide containing the parameters Shan listed. It provided a breakdown of what each stat meant.
“Stats are given out of ten, I’ll just go through slides and we’ll discuss them one by one later. Tess said they’re basic since she wants you to see for your own eyes everyone’s power,” Shan went on and then picked up the tablet.
“Not everyone is listed on here. Like Shigetzu said, Tess wants to leave some surprise for you,” Zhuyu added.
After seeing them, I nodded. Most of the stats made sense based on my previous experience with them.
“It appears Tess personally taped her own explanation about her powers. I’ll play it now,” Zhuyu said.
I saw a white wall in the background. Actually, I noticed the edge of a poster. Of course, Tess was just like anyone else. It wouldn’t be strange to see something like that in her room. Tess’ face finally came into focus and she wore a white long sleeve shirt. She wore a golden key around her neck.
“Hello, Tomo. I am the Gatekeeper. The one who controls access to dimensions and oversees the heroes. My powers are magic and natural world based. You’ve seen my power before, creating an artificial dimension, an area where powers can be used,” Tess said.
“But I also have another power. “Limiter”. When facing off against anyone who has powers, I can both lock and unlock their power’s full potential. I also open pathways, similar to Darryl’s portals, but not for combat purposes. As you will see, many of us have subskills to supplement our powers so I expect you to learn about them. Oh, one more thing, Tomo. Remember to give it a 95 or above whenever you’re fighting. Bye for now,” Tess concluded.
The video ended and Zhuyu resumed the presentation. Each time we finished one person’s profile, Shan checked it off on the whiteboard. Zhuyu glanced down at his phone again and switched places with Shan.
Shan finally checked off the final name on the whiteboard and a look of relief appeared on both their faces. Was it really that hard to lecture me or were they just embarrassed?
“I have a few questions. What about the other heroes? Like that person who used cats, Lionel, I think?” I pointed out.
“They don’t seem to like us that much. Although we worked together before. It seems as they have some kind of grudge against us,” Zhuyu replied, not answering my question at all.
“Fine. If you won’t give specifics, I’ll ask something else. Who’s the number one? I asked Tess and she kind of avoided my question,” I asked.
“She’ll tell you once you’re ready,” Zhuyu responded.
Zhuyu would not give any actual answers. Well, I couldn’t complain since he and Shan provided me a basic breakdown of the situation. Still a lot of pieces missing though. I guess I would eventually learn more just by hanging out with them.
“We’re good, right? Anything more?” Zhuyu asked, erasing the whiteboard content.
“It’s not as if you’ll tell me. I think that’s enough for now,” I replied, an edge in my voice.
“That’s true. Tess instructed us not to answer specific questions. It’s probably for the best,” Shan agreed.
The two packed up their portable whiteboard. Meanwhile, I walked into the kitchen and threw the bottle of empty lemonade into the recycle. I yawned and glanced at my oven clock. It flashed 3:30 PM. Man, what a strange day.
When I returned to the living room, Shan stared down at his phone. I peeked at it and saw flashing jewels and a fight occurring between characters on the top screen. It was his free time after all.
Zhuyu also stared down at his phone, his right thumb moving up the screen. I assumed he was playing a game like Shan but when I glanced at his screen, there was just text. Was he reading?
“Tomo, one more thing, Tess wanted you to have this,” Zhuyu said.
He handed me a stapled packet of papers. I flipped through it, catching sight of numbers and diagrams inside. What the heck? The front page resembled a university final or midterm cover.
“You have fifty minutes. Your time starts now,” Zhuyu suddenly stated.
Shan tossed me a pencil. I glanced at the papers and then them. Were they serious? I sighed and then read the first question. Looked like it was just questions about the material Zhuyu and Shan covered during the presentation.
When I got halfway through the test, the questions suddenly changed. The content no longer asked about heroes but now became math, chemistry, physics, and biology related problems. Struggling, I just guessed. There was no way I could do all of them in a short amount of time. When Zhuyu called time, I glared at him.
“Hey, it’s not my idea. Tess just gave this to me and I followed her orders. That’s all there is,” Zhuyu said, taking my quiz.
“Now it’s about time we left. Sorry Tomo about the intrusion. We’ll see you tomorrow at the party,” Shan declared.
The two quickly left before I could say anything more. I stared at the front door and then sighed. So much information given and to end it all, I had a quiz. I was on winter break, not at school anymore. Peaceful days, my ass, more like soul crushing, tiring days.
Find Tess’ hero profile slides here: https://lanterndragonworks.files.wordpress.com/2018/01/herobio.pdf
Get a taste of Tess’ exam here: https://lanterndragonworks.files.wordpress.com/2018/01/tessexam.pdf
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.