The hero then created a small drizzle, drops of water landing around me. I made a portal, but Shui reacted right away, jamming it with ice. Crap, not good. A large ice cube formed, trapping me inside. When I attempted a portal, nothing appeared. Tess’ words flashed back to me. Whenever I copied powers, I inherited their limitations. Fine, time to melt this ice cube. I placed my right hand on the icy surface, but nothing happened. Oh come on, don’t tell me this was another one of those dumb natural world limits.
“Time to call it, Tess,” Ruiqi suggested.
“Agreed. Okay, that’s enough for now,” Tess said, releasing us from the swampy artificial dimension.
I sat down on the ground, feeling more fatigued than the last battle. Learning to copy Shui’s power was one reason, but it was also the pace of the battle. Ichaival’s teleportation power drained me. Tess handed me a bottle of water.
“Good job breaking through my ice,” Shui complimented.
“If I didn’t have Ichaival’s power, I wouldn’t have broken free. I’m impressed, you know how to really use your water power in different ways,” I observed.
“It’s just practice. You’ll be there one day too,” Shui said.
“Yeah. Thanks for coming. It’s your day off from work, isn’t it?” I asked.
“I was free anyways. Feng wants to talk to you,” Shui replied, leaving me alone with her.
Kyoi sat down next to me, a subdued expression on her face. She draped a towel around her neck, sweat still coming down from her forehead. Her long black hair was tied back in a ponytail.
“You’ve improved, Tomo. I am impressed. Care to spar with me?” Kyoi requested.
“I’ll refuse. What’s wrong with you today, Kyoi? Why are you so nice all of a sudden? It’s freaking me out,” I questioned, moving a few inches away from her.
“Do you think I’m an intimidating woman preying on the weak? Even if I project that image, you don’t have to be so scared,” she replied.
“Yes I do. I’ve seen you serious before,” I disagreed.
“I should work on my image a little more. How are you progressing through Tess’ lectures?” she asked, her usual playful smile not present.
“It’s going well. Why the interest?” I questioned, suspicion setting in.
“You’ll need it for your powers. I’m just checking in. Contrary to your opinion, I do look out for the well-being of others,” she revealed.
“I’ll take your word for it. By the way, where’s Zhuyu? He’s always here when I’ve come by,” I wondered.
“Oh, he’s recovering from a wisdom teeth removal,” Kyoi answered.
“He’s doing fine now. Still feeling sleepy after taking his pain medicine,” Shui revealed.
“Good to hear. He should be fine the day after tomorrow,” Kyoi remarked.
“Guess you guys are normal people too. It’s kind of weird to think about, seems almost surreal,” I realized.
“Yeah, we’re pretty normal. Tess said we’re done. She wants to talk to you,” Shui said.
“Shui, how long have you known Zhuyu?” I asked.
“Since middle school. We met in sixth grade,” Shui replied.
“Wow, that’s a long time. How about you, Kyoi?” I commented.
“Not as long as Lau. I’ve known Long for about three years,” Kyoi answered, a thoughtful look on her face.
“Really? It seems you’ve known each other longer than that,” I said, surprised.
“Does it?” Kyoi replied, shrugging her shoulders.
“Yeah, it does. Did you go to the same high school as him?” I asked, looking over at Kyoi.
“No. Lau did. You can ask him for more details. Tess is itching to talk to you so let’s end it here for now. We can continue later if you wish. Good luck, Tomo,” Kyoi said and headed toward the locker room.
“See ya later, Tomo,” Shui said, departing too.
“Good job out there,” Ruiqi said, noticing me approach.
“How did I do? I’m sure you want to give me a lecture on what I did wrong,” I said, anticipating criticism already.
“I thought you did fine. But, Tess is the one who ultimately makes all the decisions,” Ruiqi responded.
“I saw you writing on her tablet. Weren’t those comments on my performance?” I pointed at the stylus in her right hand.
“No, those weren’t about you specifically. Those were more on Lau’s attack pattern and how you responded. I’m not a great strategist, but I can provide my personal observations about your powers,” she elaborated.
“Tess, what do you have to say?” I asked.
“Nothing much. Your performance has improved. Keep track of the portals you make and monitor your stamina. More detailed information is available in the report I’ll send later,” Tess replied.
“Is that really it for today?” I questioned.
“Yes, tomorrow will be the last day of instruction,” Tess answered.
“So we’re done for now?” I asked.
“Yes. If you wish to use the training equipment, you may do so. I will work on your report if you choose to stay,” Tess said, tapping her tablet screen.
“I think I’ll just go home. I feel pretty tired. I don’t exactly want to put more strain on my body,” I admitted.
“Kaze, I thank you for your assistance again,” Tess said.
“It was my pleasure. Tomo, take care. Make sure to not work too hard,” the woman encouraged.
The three of us exited the facility. Kyoi sat in the red SUV, adjusting her rearview mirror and noticed my gaze. Finished, she glanced down at something, presumably her phone. I thought she might have left by now. Did she stay behind to mock me?
“Kaze, where’s your car?” Tess asked, looking around the parking lot.
“Oh, I parked underground,” she revealed.
“I guess Shui left already,” I said, noticing the van gone.
“Yes, he probably had something planned,” Tess said.
“There’s an underground parking lot here. When were you planning on telling me?” I asked.
“I sent you a map of the area. Did you not check your email?” Tess answered.
“No, I’ll check when I get home,” I replied.
I stared out the window, realizing it was Christmas tomorrow. Tess’ lectures kept me so busy that I lost track of the time. Not that it mattered anyways since I would be spending my quality time listening to her.
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.