Volume 6, Chapter 2-2: Slight Change of Plans

Winter Quarter 2016 Week 1 Friday

I stood in front of the library, waiting for Kyoi and the others. Finally Friday, the day of training and my second major time entering into another dimension. I pulled out my phone, ready to call Kyoi, because it was already four.

“Tomo, sorry for the wait,” Zhuyu arrived first.

Shan and Tess appeared soon after, but no sign of Kyoi. Wait, the person who suggested the training wasn’t even here yet?

“Zhuyu, where’s Kyoi?” I inquired.

“She’s actually sick. One of the really rare times,” Zhuyu replied.

“What? She looked fine on Tuesday,” I remarked.

“Things change pretty quickly. You’ll learn that soon enough in battles. Ask Tess for details,” Zhuyu revealed, pointing at the Gatekeeper.

Tess wore her usual hairpins, arranged in a…. square root? First time seeing that kind of arrangement. She handed me a folder with papers inside. I checked the contents, finding pictures of all the heroes, along with their profiles. It appeared similar to a police report.

“What’s this for?” I asked, raising it in the air.

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“Data on all the heroes. You might find it useful for formulating strategies. Use it as you wish,” Tess answered.

“What time are we heading into the dimension?” I questioned.

“Sometime around six or seven. I wanted to inform you about the party we’re entering with. It’ll be you, Long, Shigetzu, Darryl, and me. I’ll come pick you up unless you want to drive there yourself,” Tess announced.

“I would appreciate the ride,” I decided.

Tess nodded, departing. Zhuyu and Shan left as well. I headed down toward the parking garage. Getting into my car, I peered through the folder again. Tess even provided data for Lilith’s group too.

“What does she exactly want me to do with this?” I muttered, placing my keys into the ignition.

I thought about the upcoming training. Without Kyoi, I felt relieved, but had no idea what to expect. Assuming Tess led the operation, no doubt she would put the focus on me. Man, I hoped to stand back and watch. Pulling into the garage, Yukie waved at me. She wore a welding mask and pulled it up. She turned off the blowtorch and greeted me with her usual etiquette.

“Yukie, how long have you been in here?” I asked, glancing over at the worktable.

“Approximately three hours. The mini-project I’ve been working on is almost done,” Yukie replied, taking off her equipment.

“Is it time for dinner yet?” I asked, grabbing my backpack from the trunk.

“Yes,” Yukie nodded, heading back inside the house too.

I sat down at the dinner table. Yukie, not noticing Mom’s grin, brought out the dishes from the kitchen. Mom continued her grin, like a maniac.

“Mom, what’s making you so happy?” I finally asked, picking up my chopsticks.

“I’ve been observing you, Yuki. And I’m really glad about all the new friends you’ve made so far. They seem like a dependable bunch of people. I’m sure your father agrees too,” Mom began, accepting the bowl of soup from my cousin.

“I know where this is going and I don’t really want to hear it,” I predicted my mother’s topic of conversation.

“Yuki, I think you’re mistaken. There’s nothing going on like you think. I just felt like having a heart to heart talk with my beautiful daughter,” Mom continued, taking a sip of her soup.

“Something’s definitely wrong when you say start off with that,” I muttered.

“Auntie may simply just be praising you. You should accept it with gratitude,” Yukie suggested, finally sitting down.

“You don’t know anything, Yukie,” I commented, shaking my head.

“I believe in you, Yuki. So continue what you’re doing. That’s all I have to say. Yukie, how are your online classes going?” Mom ended the topic.

I stared down at my bowl of soup. She dropped the topic pretty fast. Was she finally giving up or just waiting things out?

“Oh, Mom, I forgot to tell you. I’m heading out later tonight. I should be back by nine or ten,” I informed her.

“Have fun!” Mom responded.

After dinner, I helped Yukie with the dishes, and waited in the living room for Tess. Bored, I turned on the TV, flipping around channels, searching for anything entertaining. The local news mentioned something that piqued my interest.

“There were reports of broken windows at a local high school. Police have been unable to find the culprits despite looking through the security footage. Over the past three years, there have been multiple incidents of this nature prompting school officials to put in new windows every three months. We talk with a few students….,” a field reporter said, as the camera zoomed in on the broken shards on the ground.

Wasn’t this the high school Zhuyu and the others attended? The faded sign in the background looked familiar. I would ask Tess about it when she picked me up. One of the interviews was with Felicity’s little sister.

“This has been happening since my sister’s year. It’s such a hassle since the cold air blows in and the school has terrible heating, especially when the boiler fails so much. I wish they put a guard here so they can catch whoever keeps breaking them,” Memoria said.

My high school looked amazing compared to theirs. My cell phone rang and I peered through the blinds, seeing Tess’ car. Yelling my farewells to Mom and Yukie, I exited the house. I resolved to ask her about the broken glass. Instead of a square root, they now formed a star. She wore her hair in a long ponytail wrapped around the right side of her neck.

“Tess, can I ask a question?” I asked.

“Of course,” Tess nodded.

“I saw a news story about broken glass at the high school you went to. Is that related to the heroes?” I asked, hoping she provide a solid answer instead of dodging around it.

“The broken glass occurs when an entryway to a dimension becomes unstable or used too often. In the past, Zhuyu and the others entered from the school. As of now, I can only assume it’s partially related to Ace and Felicity’s little sister,” the Gatekeeper revealed.

“Felicity’s little sister? Ace, I get, but how’s Memoria connected?” I asked, harboring suspicions of my own.

“She’s in a dormant state. I suppressed her potential powers. Perhaps the entryway is reacting to her. It’s only a hypothesis,” Tess explained, no concern in her voice at all.

“Does Felicity know?” I asked.

“Yes. The shattering windows only cause a minor annoyance to the school,” Tess answered, entering the underground parking lot.

The lights in the training facility were dimmer than usual. Zhuyu stretched his leg out on a bench. Ichaival wore a gray T-shirt, weights on it, and a black vest. Shan wore his usual rain jacket.

“Will it okay with just the five of us?” I asked.

“Why not? We have Tess and in the worst case, Darryl will bail us out,” Shan pointed at his friend with a smile.

“What? You’re more capable of that than me,” Ichaival protested.

“Where are we heading, Tess?” Zhuyu asked, finished with his stretches.

“We’ll travel to the Broken Outskirts. Long, you’ll take the lead in lieu of Feng’s absence,” Tess decided.

What? Zhuyu nodded with a rather serious look. Instead of his usual composed, but malleable expression, when talking with Shan and the others; his eyes now held a dangerous glint. Kyoi obviously fit the role just because of her battle skills. Perhaps Tess was just using this as a chance to test him?

“Take the one that has your picture,” Tess said, handing out ID badges with clips on them.

The ID badge contained a tinted crossroad within a police insignia. I clipped it to the hoodie Felicity gifted me for Christmas. Zhuyu removed his coat, revealing a black striped dress vest over an orchid colored dress shirt. He clipped it near the bottom vest pocket. An expensive looking silver pen stuck out from his breast pocket.

“What’s up with the ID?” I asked, pointing at the badge.

“Tess, is it okay?” Zhuyu glanced at the Gatekeeper.

“Yes, it’s not a classified matter,” she confirmed.

“You know how we use the Crossroads to travel difference places? Well, they have a branch of the police force that deals with interdimensional matters, called the Special Investigations Unit. When they have a case that overlaps with our interest, we help them out. Consider it as sort of being part of the SIU,” Zhuyu explained.

Huh, that would take awhile to digest. Tess briefed us on the area we were going to enter. A desert within neutral territory, or in others words, not a dimension the heroes were part of. It would be daytime during our arrival with a light sandstorm occurring. Great, so much fun.

“We’re heading out. Darryl, why are you even here?” Zhuyu suddenly asked, looking over at the Filipino man.

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“What do you mean? ‘Course I’ll be here,” Ichaival responded.

“He means why aren’t you at home preparing for your date with Felicity? I agree, it’s a great question,” Shan translated.

“What are you talking about? It’s just a movie,” Ichaival shook his head, fed up with his friend’s bull.

“Nah, not even, we all know it’s a date. You’re the only one who doesn’t think it is,” Shan retorted, shaking his head in disappointment.

“Tess, open up the portal please,” Zhuyu requested.

“Damn you guys. You did that on purpose,” Ichaival muttered as Shan laughed.

I didn’t know the circumstances surrounding Ichaival and Felicity. Still, Shan and Zhuyu were just messing with him as usual. It appeared there was actual sincerity and well-being within those light-hearted remarks. Tess tossed her key in the air and a golden shimmer appeared. Zhuyu stepped in first and everyone else followed. I was the second to last, hoping for a seamless adaptation to the sudden new climate.

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