“Tess, will you join us?” Ichaival asked, handing a controller over to her.
“What game are we playing?” she responded, looking at the screen.
“Smash,” Kristoph answered.
“I see. I wonder if I still have my skills,” Tess said, her voice filled with anticipation.
“What the….?” Kristoph said after a while.
I spaced out for ten minutes, paying little attention to the game. There was a victory screen and Tess’ character leaped up and down. It listed the number of kills and deaths for each player. I blinked, checking Tess’ totals. 15 kills for Tess and only one death. She wiped out everyone and Kristoph was the only one who defeated her.
“You feeling salty yet?” Shan asked.
“My sodium levels are through the roof. I can’t even be salty about something like this. You’re too good, Tess, I’ll admit that. We’re doing this again,” Kristoph answered, staring down at his controller.
“I’m getting in on this. Time for those electric bolts,” Shan decided.
Ichaival handed his controller over. Felicity called him over, speaking with the false archer about something. The current players were Tess, Kristoph, Shan, and Shui. Zhuyu leaned his back against the couch, dipping chips into salsa dip. He watched them with a smile, something I didn’t see much of. In the presence of friends, even Zhuyu could be nice. I wished he showed that side more often. Everyone should be this loose, it would make my conversations with them easier. Perhaps, I just wasn’t close enough to them yet.
“Wha….?” Kristoph exclaimed.
Tess’ character was on the verge of being eliminated. She maneuvered back up, grabbing onto the ledge of the map. Within seconds, she executed a move, knocking Kristoph back. Shan’s character delivered a bunch of thunderbolts but Tess shielded on time or dodged them completely. She grappled his character and then punted him into the sky. Shui ran toward her but Tess came right after him. Grabbing a box, she threw it at Shui and grappled him. With one swift click of the analog stick, Tess threw him off the map.
This pattern repeated over and over again. Kristoph fought to the bitter end but sustained too much damage. Tess had the perfect reaction for every one of his actions, minimizing damage and demolishing him with hard hitting attacks.
“I can’t do anything against you, Tess. Why are you so good?” Kristoph said, placing his controller down on the floor.
“I’m not good. I can just tell what you’re going to do, nothing special. I’m sure you can pull it off you tried,” Tess replied.
Tess was just too good. I would probably lose to her in a simple game of rock, paper, scissors.
“I’m giving up. I can’t win against you, Tess,” Shui said.
“Tomo, care to try?” Tess asked, pointing at the screen.
“No thanks, I’ll end up losing like everyone else, it’s not even funny,” I declined, shaking my head.
“Go for it, Tomo. Test your strength against Tess and feel her destruction,” Shan urged, holding up his controller.
“Maybe you’ll actually win, who knows? Just try it,” Kristoph said as well.
Damn your peer pressure, Shan. I see your goal. Tess won’t go easy on anyone. You just want me to feel the humiliation and frustration of going up against her.
“I’ll try. That way, we can build up Tess’ legend and speak of the numerous foes she has crushed,” Zhuyu said, standing up.
“She’s gonna wreck you,” Kristoph said, pushing the controller over to him.
“I’ll do it so Tess can wipe the floor with everyone here, except for Felicity,” Zhuyu shrugged his shoulders.
“Hey, what’s that suppose to mean? Yuki, defend me,” Felicity demanded, looking over at me.
How did it become like this? Man, Shan and Zhuyu, I swear. You really do create the worse situations for me. I sighed, taking the controller Shui left on the ground.
“I’ll be taking this for now,” I said.
“Go ahead. I’m pretty tired of losing,” Shui motioned.
I glanced down at the controller, no idea what the controls were. I really should have thought more about this. Well, might as well figure it out while Tess destroyed us.
“Kristoph, give Tomo an overview of the controls,” Felicity said, watching from afar.
He taught me about the jump button, the shield button, power moves, and regular attacks. Shan and Zhuyu were smirking despite their inevitable fate of losing to Tess.
“I think I got it. Let’s start this,” I said, after a few practice rounds where Tess wrecked us in three minutes.
“This will be so fun,” Zhuyu said, obvious sarcasm in his voice.
On the character selection screen, Shan remained with his cute, yellow electric mouse. Zhuyu selected a pink puffball. Tess remained with her previous choice. I looked at all the characters, thinking about which one would actually allow me to survive. I settled on the swordsman. It seemed fast and I had seen Kristoph survive with it.
“Tomo, are you sure about that choice?” Tess asked, pressing the random button for the battle area.
“Yeah,” I nodded.
Oh come on. Tess came after me first. Shan and Zhuyu allowed Tess to dash after me, choosing not to interfere. At least keep Tess distracted. You can’t just leave such an open path for her. They were doing it on purpose. I will repay you in the future.
“Tomo, don’t worry. We’ll cover you, sort of,” Zhuyu said, finally moving his character away from the right edge.
The pink puffball floated up in the air and without warning, Tess’ character grabbed him. Zhuyu pounded on his buttons, unable to escape her grasp. With a charged attack, Tess dealt over 40\% of damage to him with the aid of an item box.
Shan stayed back, casting thunderbolts but his strategy failed. Okay, this was good, Tess finally shifted her focus over to them. Tess hurled the yellow mouse across the screen but Shan rocketed back up. In midair, Tess fired her secondary weapon and followed up with a vicious combo. Shan’s character went flying, slamming into the front of the screen with a bang.
“Ah crap, I messed up,” Shan commented.
Zhuyu’s pink puffball swung its hammer at Tess. She blocked, kicking Zhuyu’s character away. Why did you not buy me more time? I was hoping to avoid a direct confrontation. Shan’s character finally respawned. One more hit and Zhuyu would go flying.
“Not so fast, Tomo. You still have to deal with me,” Tess remarked.
She lured me into the perfect spot, dealing serious damage to everyone. Caught in the blast, I parried too late. Zhuyu’s character went blasting off and Shan was knocked off the map. Shan rebounded and landed back. Tess ignored him, coming at me. No, don’t do this to me, Tess. I suck at controlling my jumps. I double jumped, missing the ledge by inches and falling to my death.
“Tess, you must do secret training. How else are you so good at this?” I said.
“Just simple observations. Nothing more,” Tess answered.
Tess destroyed all of us multiple times in ten minutes. At the stats screen, she had all of the kills. Never again. I would not play against Tess unless there was some kind of handicap.
“We got totally wrecked. All good. Time for Felicity to fail as well,” Zhuyu said, placing his controller on the floor.
“What? No, I’m fine just sitting here. Uh, that’s right! I’m busy talking to Darryl right now!” Felicity said, her intentions obvious.
“Felicity, you’re letting Tomo down. She lost and you assigned her as your representative. She has tainted your name. Don’t you need to restore it by showing how good you are? If you can’t beat Tess, how can we take you seriously?” Zhuyu argued with a smile.
“If you put it like that…. hey! I’m not falling for that,” Felicity began.
“I guess from now on, we’ll have to give Tomo a nickname because you failed to come in and assist her. Long, what’s the best name you can come up with that will be both funny but also insulting?” Shan glanced over at Zhuyu.
“I don’t know, Shan. Felicity, why don’t you help us, considering you’re not going to be playing?” Zhuyu replied, shaking his head.
I was ready to punch both of them, but Felicity finally sighed. She went over to where Zhuyu sat and picked up the controller.
“Are you happy? I’ll play this game and prove you wrong,” Felicity declared, a dangerous glint in her eye.
Her confidence quickly dissipated. Tess destroyed everyone once again, everyone’s defeat courtesy of her. Although, it did feel nice to have someone new experience Tess’ mighty power. The clock finally struck one and everyone cleaned up. Did they do this all the time at Zhuyu’s house? It must suck for him. Zhuyu yawned, watching us pick up all the trash and depositing it in a paper grocery bag.
“I’ll take care of this after you’re gone. Don’t worry about it,” Zhuyu said.
“Thanks for having us over again, Long. We’ll probably see you one more time before break ends,” Kristoph said.
“Yep, thanks for letting us bum here,” Shan said.
“See ya later!” Shui said as he exited.
Everyone else left. Only Tess, Felicity, and I remained. I felt bad about staying so late, bothering Zhuyu and taking up his time.
“Thanks for having us over,” I said.
“It was nothing. Kristoph and Shan have done it a few times already. Nothing to be worried about. You should really train when you get the chance. I’m sure Tess has you covered though,” Zhuyu said, glancing over at the Gatekeeper.
Tess nodded and we all left. I got into Felicity’s car and shifted my attention to the situation at my house. I never did ask Mom which cousin it was.
“Yuki, how did you like today?” Felicity asked.
“It was surprisingly fun,” I replied.
“They’re your friends now too! I’m sure they welcomed you into their group like they did with me. Has hanging out with them changed anything?” Felicity asked, making a right turn.
“What?” I asked, not sure what she meant.
“Your opinion of them. Has it changed for the positive?” Felicity clarified.
“I’m still not really sure,” I answered.
“Too bad. I thought you might have reached that point, but I’m expecting too much. I really would love to see it,” Felicity commented.
We finally arrived at my house and I thanked Felicity for the ride. Walking up my steps, I saw the porchlight flicker. I walked in, seeing the dining and living room lights still on.
“Yuki! You’re home. Good timing. Your cousin just finished taking a shower. She’ll be staying in the guest room,” Mom updated me.
“Hey, Mom, I forgot to ask you before. Which cousin is this?” I asked, taking off my coat.
“Oh, I guess you haven’t seen her in a few years. She’s the one that shares your name. Yukie, that’s the one,” Mom answered.
“Yukie? I don’t really remember. Maybe when I see her, I’ll remember something,” I repeated her name.
“Can you take her luggage up to the guest room? Your dad should be done setting up and cleaning the guest room,” Mom requested.
“Yeah,” I answered.
“Yuki, how goes the progress?” she asked, grabbing me by the arm.
“Mom, I’m confused by what you mean,” I replied.
“Yuki, I’m sure you understand what I mean,” Mom answered.
“I’m pretty sure we’re not on the same page here,” I disagreed.
“How goes the search for potential boyfriends?” Mom finally revealed her true intentions.
“It’s the same as last time, Mom. Nothing has changed,” I sighed.
“I’m just kidding, Yuki. Although if something does happen, I won’t be against it,” Mom said, laughing.
“Yuki, is that you?” I heard Dad’s voice after knocking on the guest room door.
“Yeah, I brought her luggage up,” I answered.
“Okay. I’ll open the door in a few seconds,” Dad said.
I pulled the luggage inside and left it by the door. Looking around, the room had been cleaned up really well. The flickering light bulb was changed. The bed was made and it looked really inviting to sleep in. Dad hung new window curtains up as well, making the room brighter.
“This looks nice. Is she not out of the bathroom yet?” I asked.
“She should be done by now. Yuki, be nice to her okay. I wish they had told us sooner,” Dad lamented.
Dad finished adjusting the curtains and stepped back, pushing me forward. I saw a young woman with a white towel draped over her neck enter the room. She had long black hair, silver highlights in them, dropping below her shoulders. I caught a brief glimpse of her jade necklace.
“Hello, sorry to intrude on you like this,” she said, lowering her head slightly.
“You don’t have to do that. We’re all family here,” Dad said.
“Right. Uh, I guess you know my name. I’m Yuki. Yukie, right?” I said.
“Yuki, it’s been a long time. Please take care of me while I’m here,” she said, her head bobbing down again.
“I have a feeling that won’t be the case. Regardless, it’s nice to meet you,” I said.
This was different than expected. Yukie was elegant and calm. Maybe I had been with Felicity for too long. Yeah, that was probably it.
“It’s getting pretty late. Both of you should sleep. There’s plenty of time tomorrow to talk,” Dad directed.
What a strange day. Oh well, things were going to be more lively with Yukie around. I realized something was missing when changing clothes. Oh, I dropped my wallet at Zhuyu’s house. It was late. I would contact him tomorrow about it.