Stacia glared at Zhuyu with vitriol. The man ignored it. I noticed bandages wrapped around his left fingers. Had he injured them during training? A golden glow emanated from Stacia. Zhuyu’s expression shifted to one of annoyance. He ran through his hair with his left hand, giving a sigh.
“What’s going on?” I asked Kisai.
“Not sure. Her powers are different than her sister’s. It looks like a barrier of some kind,” Kisai replied.
“How is that dangerous?” I asked.
“Zhuyu will definitely get his ass kicked. His zero vector power is useless against Stacia,” Kisai answered.
“I don’t really understand,” I remarked.
Stacia gave a cocky smile, once the glow from her body subsided. Zhuyu remained stationary, a thoughtful expression on his face. Stacia snapped her fingers, generating a loud pop. Zhuyu rolled on the ground, clutching his right arm.
“You don’t know how long I’ve been waiting for this. I trained to hone this power, after hearing about my sister’s loss to you,” Stacia said, snapping her fingers again.
“I can’t keep dodging your attacks, so I’ll have to go on the offensive, for once,” Zhuyu said, dashing to his left.
“That’s a pretty good idea, but it won’t be enough,” Shan remarked.
“I don’t get it. Isn’t he tiring himself out?” I asked Shan, watching Zhuyu run in a random pattern.
“Oh, he’s trying his best to counter her. Stacia’s power appears to rely on disruption of molecules in the air. When Long runs, it throws off her timing, and disrupts the air. She has to readjust, but Long can’t do it forever,” Shan explained.
“Kind of logical, even for magic powers,” I noted.
“Where’s your sword? Stop stalling and use it already! Do you think I’m not good enough?” Stacia demanded.
“I don’t have those powers anymore,” Zhuyu revealed.
His breathing grew sporadic. He clutched his right arm, gritting his teeth. Zhuyu fell to the ground, after consecutive pops. A line of blood trickled down his face, hitting the ground.
“This isn’t fair. This isn’t what I wanted! You lied!” Stacia accused him.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, but you need to calm down. You won’t be able to control your powers,” Zhuyu warned, coughing up blood.
He wiped it away with his palm. Stacia kept snapping her fingers, paying no attention to Zhuyu’s suggestion. Kyoi finally made her move, standing in front of Zhuyu, with a lopsided smile and her twin swords.
“Alright, you’ve had your fun. It’s my turn now,” Kyoi declared.
“You’re in my way! Get away from him!” Stacia screeched, staring down Kyoi.
Kyoi only smirked in response, daring the woman to do something. I looked around, expecting someone to step in, but no one moved. Zhuyu coughed up more blood, but no one took any action. Were they all heartless humans, devoid of emotion?
Kyoi swung her left blade downward. Tess finally interrupted the dangerous situation. Stacia gave Tess a scornful look, snapping her fingers once more. Tess clicked her tongue and chains burst out from the ground. They wrapped around Stacia, squeezing her. Stacia struggled, letting out a stream of curses at Tess.
“Stacia, calm yourself. Your sister would be ashamed,” Tess said.
“As if you know anything! Damn you, Gatekeeper, don’t think you’ve bested me!” Stacia shouted.
“Lilith, take care of your own,” Tess said, looking over her.
“I’ll make sure to reprimand her,” Lilith responded.
Tess released Stacia from the golden chains. Stacia looked at Lilith and then charged at Zhuyu. The artificial dimension shut down and a woman walked through the front door.
She grabbed Stacia, throwing her down to the ground, glancing at Lilith. Lilith acknowledged the newcomer with a nod.
“Your sister beat me,” Zhuyu said.
“Yes, but not with you at full power. She has potential. You’re out of shape, Long,” the woman remarked.
“Yeah, looks like I’ll have to try harder. Kaze, how did you know about this?” Zhuyu asked.
“Tess texted me earlier. Your foresight is good as ever,” the woman complimented Tess.
“Tomo, this is Ruiqi Kaze, Stacia’s older sister. She was the former second-in-command of Lilith’s team,” Tess introduced.
“You’re in a tough position, Tomo Yuki. I apologize on behalf of my little sister,” Ruiqi said, giving me a smile.
“I guess you heard about me from Tess,” I said.
“I’m still in contact with Tess, despite not being a hero anymore. I heard about the death of your friend, you have my condolences,” Ruiqi said.
Lilith bent down, checking on Stacia. Ruiqi joined her, assisting the woman. Lionel glared at us, not doing anything. He restrained himself, probably out of respect for Ruiqi.
“Long, what happened to your left hand? Did Feng train you that hard?” Ruiqi inquired, grabbing Long’s hand.
“No, I cut my fingers learning how to cook the other day. I should be more careful,” Zhuyu replied, pulling his hand away from her.
“Let me take a look. You probably didn’t even bandage it properly,” Ruiqi demanded, refusing to let him get away.
“It’s fine, don’t worry about it,” Zhuyu declined.
“If I recall correctly, you still owe me a favor,” Ruiqi threatened.
“Fine, do what you want,” Zhuyu relented.
“Everyone, this wraps up the meeting. You can all head home,” Tess declared, turning off the television screen.
“Are we playing that game?” Shan asked Ichaival.
“No. I’m going to the gym, once you drive me back, so maybe later,” Ichaival responded.
“I guess you’re walking home,” Shan decided, heading towards the door.
“You can’t do that. I’ll just ask Long,” Ichaival countered, a triumphant smile on his face.
“Please, you think you can even approach him now? It’s Feng and Kaze. You can try, if you’re brave enough,” Shan pointed out.
“Well, Jin’s here too,” Ichaival said.
“Sorry, Darryl, I have work. Can’t give you a ride today,” Jin revealed.
“You’re out of options now, Darryl. You don’t have a choice when you get home,” Shan remarked.
“Alright, I was the one who suggested it,” Ichaival gave up.
“That’s what I’m talking about,” Shan said.
Everyone was pretty good friends. En and Shui spoke with each other, while Ruiqi inspected Zhuyu’s hand. Tess picked up her tablet from the table, walking over to me.
“Are you ready to go?” she asked.
“Yeah. Is it okay for you to leave before everyone else?” I asked, motioning toward Lilith.
“They can’t use their powers, and if they try anything, it’s all recorded,” Tess explained.
“Hey, Tess, I’ve been thinking. How come Lilith hates you guys so much? Did you do something to her?” I asked.
“Not in a direct way. It’s more of a Lilith only issue, but it applies to the ones she leads as well,” Tess responded.
“Lilith’s the leader, huh? If Ruiqi was the previous second-in-command, then was Lilith the leader too?” I asked.
“No, but Lilith was a member back then. As for her grudge, it is because of our actions. She doesn’t agree with them,” Tess replied.
“What did you guys do? From what I’ve seen, everyone seems pretty lazy. That can’t be the only thing, right?” I pressed Tess for more details.
“I can’t deny your observations. Unlike Lilith and her comrades, we are unorthodox. I mentioned previously that calling us heroes is an incorrect classification,” Tess elaborated.
“What does that make Lilith? A model hero?” I questioned.
“Lilith follows the creed of a traditional, typical hero. She adheres to a certain ethic. Most of our actions unsettle her. That’s the main divide. We still cooperate despite our differences, even if it doesn’t seem like it,” Tess said.
I said nothing afterwards, letting Tess’ words sink in. In addition to their lazy natures, they weren’t the most righteous people either. Would I regret being a part of this group now?
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.