I wandered around, finally arriving at a beautiful bar inside one of the rooms. It was outfitted with expensive bar stools and multiple tables. The people inside caught my eye.
“Zhuyu and Shan?” I called out, walking inside.
“Tomo,” Zhuyu responded.
“This is an unexpected place to see you,” I commented, looking at the two.
Zhuyu wore a grey sweater vest over a white dress shirt and his usual dress pants. But these were a dark blue compared to his regular black ones. Shan wore a black lined dress shirt instead of his habitual rain jacket. Looks like I wouldn’t have to worry about how I dressed then. Felicity was the only one wearing anything holiday related.
“Is it? Felicity asked us to help clean and set up the room. One of my friends will be here later to serve the drinks,” Zhuyu replied, pointing at the white dishcloths on the table.
“She also told us to not let Ko in here,” Shan remarked, cleaning a shot glass.
“Oh, if I remember correctly, isn’t she the one…?” I recalled the red haired girl with the strange personality.
“Pretty much,” Shan said.
“So do you guys need help?” I inquired, checking if anyone else was present.
“I think we’re good. Hey, Darryl, how’s the counter looking?” Zhuyu asked.
Darryl, wearing a black puffy vest, appeared from behind the counter. He had a spray bottle of liquid and a sponge.
“It’s fine now. Oh, hey there, Tomo. How are things going?” he asked.
“Alright. By the way, is all of the alcohol in here Felicity’s?” I questioned, pointing at the large collection on the shelves behind the counter.
“Yeah, I think so. Although, my friend will be bringing some of his own to mix with Felicity’s,” Zhuyu answered.
“I’ll leave you guys to finish up. Actually, have you seen Tess? I haven’t seen her in awhile,” I asked.
“She was just here, telling us what to fix up. Probably still nearby,” Shan replied, changing a light bulb.
I exited the bar room, glancing around the hallway. The storage room was nearby. Was Tess in there? Knocking on the door, I waited for a response.
“Who’s there?” I heard Tess’ voice.
“Tess, it’s me. Everything okay in there?” I asked.
“Tomo, I’m just moving stuff around. I’ll be done soon,” Tess replied.
She knew Felicity’s house the best, no need for me to intrude. Time to check if Felicity required any help.
“Felicity, how are things?” I returned back to the kitchen.
“Almost done. Memoria, can you bring out the rest of these dishes? I’ll post a note here to remind the housekeeper about everything I did,” Felicity ordered.
Felicity tore out a memo, pasting it on the fridge. Piles of cooking equipment lay on the counter. I helped Felicity clean up the kitchen and then we headed out to the large living room.
By now, a sizable amount of people gathered in the living room. Zhuyu spoke with a man wearing neon green glasses. Kisai was also nearby, a smile on his face. Shan stood next to Ichaival with a smirk, as his friend spoke with a girl I didn’t recognize. Shui, wearing a green sweater with a cute dinosaur, spoke with a tall Filipino man holding a guitar in his right hand. Everyone else I either didn’t know or saw in pictures on social media.
“Fel, It’s done,” Tess surprised me with her sudden appearance.
“Oh thank you,” Felicity said with her usual bright smile.
Tess nodded, walking away. Her destination was the dining room. Maybe I should follow her. I didn’t know anyone else besides the heroes and Felicity. I should stick with those people at all times, avoiding any uncomfortable and awkward moments.
“Yuki, you should go around and introduce yourself. You really don’t know anyone yet so it’s a good chance,” Felicity suggested and then gave me a thumbs up.
I didn’t hate introducing myself, but with a party like this, everyone was already familiar with each other. I walked around and started small, short conversations in an effort to get a better feel of the people present. I started with familiar people first. Through them, I met their friends without too much trouble and repeated the pattern. Eventually, I reached Shan and Ichaival.
“Hey, guys, I still don’t really know people around here, so I was hoping you might help me out,” I said.
“Sure. We would be glad to,” Ichaival agreed.
Shan whispered something to Ichaival. He nodded and brought over the girl he conversed with before.
“Tomo, this is one of our teammates,” Ichaival introduced.
“Hello, I’m Jen. Nice to meet you,” the girl said.
She was small, petite in size, maybe around 5’3″. Her black hair was shoulder length, having a face reminiscent of a cute button. The woman wore a pair of medium sized rimmed glasses which accentuated her face. In addition, Jen wore a Christmas themed shirt with a brown reindeer.
”Nice to meet you too. I’m Tomo Yuki,” I introduced myself.
“Is it okay if I call you just Yuki? We’ll be teammates after all,” the woman requested.
“Sure,” I agreed.
I wondered what her powers were. How many possible variations could exist that were truly unique? Let’s not delve into such matters. This is a party, enjoy yourself and stop thinking about useless things.
After a short polite, but shallow conversation with Ichiaval, I moved onto someone else. Alright, Zhuyu and Kisai were next.
“Hey, Tomo! How are you enjoying the party so far?” Kisai checked up on me.
“It’s been fine. By the way, can you introduce some people to me?” I requested.
“Of course, it’s no problem. Hey, Meng, I’d like you to meet someone,” Kisai called someone over.
A man three or four inches taller than Kisai walked over. It was the guy wearing neon green glasses. His hair was gelled up, revealing his forehead. The most striking feature about him was his frame. Tall and skinny like a stick.
“Tomo, right? I’m Tai Meng,” he said.
“Yes,” I nodded.
“Meng will be our bartender for the night. Go visit him at the bar and drink away your sorrows,” Zhuyu said, a slight smile on his face.
Whoa, did Zhuyu just make a joke? I knew he was capable of such things, but still. There was still much to learn about everyone.
I at last obtained a rough idea about the people in attendance. About half Felicity knew from high school. The others were college classmates or friends. And of course, the usual friends of friends. I finally located Felicity again. She turned towards me a smile.
“It seems you’ve managed to talk to mostly everyone here. So, how do you feel about this party now?” Felicity questioned.
“About the same. Although, it’s pretty lively in here. So what’s going on in the dining room? I saw Tess head there earlier,” I answered.
“Oh, there will be game of beer pong in there. Of course, if you’re not comfortable with alcohol, then I will give you a substitution. However, Yuki, you’re more than capable of handling some alcohol, right?” Felicity said, challenging me.
“Sure,” I said, not sure why Felicity was so adamant.
“There are other games to play as well. Board games, card games, video games, and pretty much any sort of entertainment you can think of . Go around and see what you like. You won’t be bored, that’s for sure,” Felicity said, dragged away by the numerous people around her.
Damn you, Felicity. Fine, I would take her advice and check out the various attractions. What should I check first though? My phone vibrated as I considered my options. I checked my screen, seeing Yuka’s name.
“Yuki, where are you? I’ve been looking for you,” Yuka asked.
“Wait, what? You’re at Felicity’s party?” I responded.
“Didn’t I tell you? Actually, I probably forgot. Anyways, I’m in the bar right now,” Yuka replied and then hung up.
Well, this was very good news. Now I could depend on Yuka instead of Tess or Felicity, pretty reassuring to have another familiar face. Heading back to the bar, I found Yuka sitting down on one of the stools in the back. Tai stood behind the counter, but without his glasses, checking a notebook.
“Yuki! Good to see you!” Yuka greeted.
“Yuka, you too. When did you get here?” I asked, taking a seat next to her.
“About twenty minutes ago. I got lost and ended up here, but I like the lighting so I stayed,” Yuka answered.
I noticed Yuka’s left hand on a book. Even at a party, she still brought one. I looked around the bar and saw a few people already inside. Tai looked up from his notebook and started mixing drinks.
“Would you like anything, Tomo?” Tai asked, shaking his mixture.
Before I could answer, Ko burst into the room. Her eyes were focused on one thing only and that was the alcohol. Wasn’t Ko not allowed in here? I wasn’t too sure of the details so might as well watch and see what happens.
“I would love a drink right now! Give it to me!” Ko demanded with a wild look in her eyes.
Tai nodded, placing a shot glass down on the counter. He glanced back at the shelf and selected a bottle. Popping off the cap, he poured it into the cup. Ko picked it up and drained it with two gulps. Pounding the counter with her right hand, she stared straight at Tai. He hesitated, but refilled it. Ko once again chugged it and then without a word exited the room.
”Umm, I mean I don’t want to pry, but was that okay?” I pointed at the empty shot glass.
“She should be fine. Here, try this. It’s fruit flavored and it’s not too strong,” Tai offered, pushing a small shot glass filled with a red liquid towards me.
I picked it up, taking a sip. It was a pleasant cherry flavor with no alcoholic tinge. Finishing the drink, I complimented Tai. He gave a smile and then went back to preparing other drinks.
”Yuki, how did your math final go? I forgot to ask you,” Yuka asked, flipping a page of her open book.
”I think I did alright. I mean it’s a 65, but the average was around a 55, so it’s good, right?” I replied.
”That’s good to hear. Did Tess give you some good advice?” Yuka asked, her eyes scanning the page.
“Uh, I guess? She did give me a lot of material to look at so I’m quite grateful for it. To Zhuyu as well too,” I replied.
“You’ve changed a little bit, Yuki. I think it’s a good thing,” Yuka remarked.
“What do you mean by that?” I asked.
“You’re more mellow, let’s say. At least more calm than before,” Yuka replied.
I thought about Yuka’s words. I guess I could see that, but part of the reason was related to Ichizen. When Ichizen was still around, his actions exasperated me, which in turn made me irritable. However, I did miss those days though. No matter how much he made me angry, Ichizen was still a dear friend.
“Yuka, have you been around the other rooms yet?” I asked, pushing away the sad thoughts.
“Not yet. I think I’ll stay here for awhile and finish up this chapter. I’ll meet up with you later if you’re going to check out the other rooms,” Yuka answered.
“Okay, I’ll give you a text about where I am. Actually, will you be okay? I mean, you were lost,” I realized.
“I’ll be fine. I’m sure I’ll find someone to help me out if I do get lost,” Yuka assured me.
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.