Volume 5, Chapter 3-3: Underground Passage

“Having fun yet, Tomo?” Kyoi asked, giving a quick smile.

Not really. I followed the others into a dimly lit corridor. Great, another one of these.

“Tess, I want to talk to you for a little bit,” I requested.

“What worries you Tomo?” Tess replied.

“Everyone’s psyche. I mean, Kyoi almost killed a bandit and you left someone hanging from the third floor. No one has said anything either. I’m starting to think something is wrong,” I confided.

“Tomo, you must understand the circumstances. Sometimes certain actions must be taken in order to move forward. As for whether our actions are right or wrong, that’s hard to say. If you’re that worried, I can relieve you of your powers. Perhaps that will bring you peace of mind,” Tess offered.

I remained silent, unable to respond. She could take away this power? This wasn’t an ideal situation, diving into other dimensions and confronting enemies. No, giving up my powers was an easy way out. There were still too many mysteries surrounding Ichizen’s involvement. The least I could do was see it through all the way.

“No, I’ll keep going,” I decided.

“It’s your choice after all, Tomo,” Tess ended our short conversation.

I observed the others after our little chat. It was true I held reservations about everyone but I still didn’t know them too well. As Tess stated before, if I learned more about them, it might alleviate my worries.

“Hey, Tess, quick question. When I mind dive, is it possible for me to view the contents at a later time?” I suddenly asked.

“In theory, your grimoire stores such data within it. You can try,” Tess replied, walking ahead.

Fair enough. There were times I didn’t want to space out during the mind dive and miss something. If this worked, it would cut down on time. Now, who to choose? Kyoi and Tess were eliminated immediately. I already seen Shui’s once so it was down to Zhuyu and En. I was interested in figuring out the contract thing between Zhuyu and Kyoi. En was pretty quiet though. Yeah, time to learn more about his and Zhuyu’s friendship.

“Hey, En,” I called out.

En turned around and I took the opportunity to activate the process. As the scene started, I envisioned the grimoire with its cover closed. That should do it, right?

“Are you okay?” En asked, a confused look on his face.

“Oh sorry, thought I saw something near you,” I lied, realizing how bad my excuse was.

“Okay,” En said, not convinced by my poor lie.

“Tomo, you’ve made up your mind. I trust we won’t be having that conversation anytime soon,” Tess spoke, breaking the silence.

“I’ll take your advice and see where it takes me,” I nodded at her words.

“Good. You can’t win if you don’t put a 97% effort into things,” Tess said.

After what seemed like an hour, we arrived at a large door. Kyoi stepped back from the door, staring at it with her arms crossed. Why waste your time even looking at it?

“What’s wrong?” Zhuyu asked.

“This door, it has protection and alert magic cast on it. I thought the bandits were just all physical fighters but their boss is more skilled than I originally thought,” Kyoi answered, placing her left hand on the door.

“Can’t you just slash it?” I asked.

“No, I rather not risk tipping off anyone. I’ll undo the magic on the door but it’ll take awhile. Tess, can you give me a hand?” Kyoi asked.

Tess nodded, placing her key on the door. Strange, why was Kyoi so cautious now? Whoever cast the magic must be worthy of her respect. Zhuyu, En, and Shui watched the two woman without talking. This was getting unnerving. Please, someone talk already.

“Okay, I’m going to talk now,” I decided.

“Go ahead,” Zhuyu said, giving me a skeptical look.

“Look, it was too quiet. It’s fine when it’s just you guys, but when Kyoi or Tess are here, somebody has to keep talking or it gets uncomfortable,” I rambled.

“Um, sure? What do you want to talk about?” Zhuyu responded, playing along.

“Thank you. When did you first get into this mess?” I asked, taking the chance to discover more about their past.

“Around junior year of high school. I dragged Zhang into it so he didn’t have a choice,” Zhuyu replied.

“That makes sense, you’re both are part of the same dimension. Wait, how did it happen?” I questioned.

Tess called us all over before Zhuyu answered. Damn it, I was about to find out something good too. Sighing, I walked to the door, awaiting our next orders.

“It should be safe now. We’ll see what kind of opposition there is on the other side. This magic though, I have a good idea about who it is,” Kyoi announced.

“Someone we know?” Zhuyu asked.

“Yes. But I won’t say anything until I’m sure. Tess, what do you think?” Kyoi asked the Gatekeeper.

“There is validity to your suspicions,” Tess answered.

Kyoi pushed open the door, revealing a stone floor and lit torches lining the walls. Did this mean I walked through a tunnel only to enter another one?

“What is this crap?” I asked, pointing forward.

“Another passageway. These bandits have too much time on their hands,” Kyoi replied, shrugging her shoulders.

This was ridiculous. Trudging through another tunnel, so fun! Zhuyu and the others said nothing, moving forward. I swear, if this path led to another one, then I would slap someone.

“How long will this one take?” I asked.

“Judging from the torches on the wall, I would say quite a distance. These aren’t flames lit by human hands, but magic. What a waste,” Kyoi answered.

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We finally arrived at an unlocked door. Finally! The blandness and repetition of my surroundings wore me down. Tess opened the door this time, revealing the outdoors again.

“We’re close,” Kyoi commented.

I tensed up, seeing wispy figures surrounding us. Would Ichaival’s power even damage these things? I might have to use elemental powers instead of physical attacks.

“Don’t even try, Tomo,” Kyoi warned, pulling out her sword.

Kyoi closed her eyes, plunging her sword into the ground. I felt a small tremor in the ground and pulsating red flames surrounded the woman. The wispy figures attempted an attack but were repelled immediately.

She yanked out her blade. With three slashes, the number two ranked hero wiped out all the enemies. I didn’t even try analyzing her attacks. Her swordsmanship was something I could not copy right now.

“Tess!” Zhuyu shouted, rushing over to her side.

Two armored enemies advanced toward the Gatekeeper. Zhuyu appeared as if he was going to finally pull out his sword from the scabbard. The enemy looked at the zero vector user and Tess made her move.

A chain wrapped around their adversary’s neck. The enemy’s partner was stopped immediately, encased in a block of ice by Shui. Damn, everyone’s coordination was really good. As it should be, considering their experience and time working with each other.

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“Thank you for the distraction, Long,” Tess said, knocking the enemy unconscious with a flick of her chain.

“It’s the only thing I can do now without my old powers,” Zhuyu responded.

I really expected Zhuyu to save Tess from the sudden attack. She was at or even above the level of Kyoi. Why then was she ranked so low?

“Shui, can you clear the path for us?” Kyoi requested, pointing at the snow covering the road.

After about fifteen minutes later, I saw a simple two story brick building. I trekked through two underground paths for this crap. Were you kidding me? I almost felt like grabbing the nearest person and slapping them. However, I didn’t since the nearest person was Tess. I shuddered at the thought of her possible retaliation.

“This seems to be the right place. Hey! Come out! I know you’re in there. Stop sending your useless henchmen, they’ll only get their ass kicked!” Kyoi confronted the occupant of the house.

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