“The area has returned to its original state, but the seal is still active,” Tess observed, her key shining in the bright sunlight.
“Where’s the gift that bastard mentioned?” Ichaival asked, looking around.
The ground shook and a flame salamander stomped toward us. Flames burst out from its mouth. How were we going to handle this?
“Zhuyu, any ideas?” I yelled as the beast inched closer.
“Tess, does your binding magic still work?” he asked.
“Yes, but not at an optimal level,” Tess nodded.
“We need to lure it out. Without our magic at full strength, we don’t stand a chance. I rather not engage in physical combat,” Zhuyu ordered.
“More running?” Shan asked with a smile.
“Yeah, ditch all the equipment. It’s unfortunate,” Zhuyu answered.
Thus began the second time we ran for our lives. I let out a sigh of relief, seeing the gate in sight. They flew open and we sprinted for another five minutes.
“Here’s the plan. I’ll distract the flame salamander while Tomo creates ice walls. The rest of you will dig a large hole and Tomo melts the ice to create a large landing spot for the flame salamander,” Zhuyu directed.
“Wait, how are we going to dig that hole? We don’t have any equipment!” I asked.
“Shigetzu can handle it. Start making those ice walls now. Tess, direct them to a good spot,” Zhuyu responded.
“Long!” Tess shouted, throwing a sword over to him.
I saw a familiar dragon hilt. Didn’t Kyoi keep possession of that weapon? Most likely, she transferred ownership of it over to the Gatekeeper, knowing she couldn’t attend today.
“Tomo, stay focused. We’ll move back. Based on the flame salamander’s movements, it’ll arrive at this spot in ten minutes. But, it’ll take us longer to create the actual hole. Back up and start there,” Tess analyzed.
“No one has answered my question about how we’re digging this hole yet!” I shouted, running along Tess.
“Darryl, you remember where the train was?” Tess asked.
“Yeah, it was along the train track further up,” the portal user replied.
“Good. Create portals and bring that train over there. I’ll give you exact coordinates,” Tess directed, pulling out her notebook.
How did she keep track of that? This plan was reckless. I should have been bait, considering Zhuyu only had his sword and vector powers. The flame salamander was a magical creature, as such Zhuyu was inadequate. Could he actually buy us enough time?
“Do you understand?” Tess asked, confirming details with Ichaival.
“Yeah. I’ll be back right away,” Ichaival nodded.
Ichaival dove into a portal. Tess pulled out the vial with the purple slime inside, staring at it for a few seconds. Shan glanced up at the sky and I followed his line of sight. A large portal opened up and the train plummeted downward. Shan adjusted the gravity, causing it to crash at a rapid rate, sand flying everywhere. That’s what Zhuyu meant. Thanks to him, we had a sizable hole.
I still held doubts about the success of this plan. Tess reinforced the hole with chains, making sure any water remained inside without being absorbed. I created ice walls near the holes, fulfilling my role. With Tess and Shan’s assistance, I transported all the ice. I blasted flames into the hole, melting everything within a minute. Okay, Zhuyu, the rest is up to you.
When Zhuyu and the flame salamander finally came into sight, I stepped back. He led the creature over, deflecting its flames. Seriously, what was that sheath made of? I noticed burn marks on his hands, realizing why he volunteered instead of letting anyone else do it.
“Darryl! You have enough portals left?” Zhuyu yelled, rolling away from an attack.
“Yeah! I got it!” Ichaival nodded.
A portal appeared above the flame salamander, transporting it straight into the water. The creature flailed around, but the water extinguished all its flames. Tess sealed the hole with chains, preventing the creature from escaping. A golden light shone from the chains. After thirty seconds of wild movements, it ceased. Zhuyu peered down, poking the beast with his sword sheath. Tess’ chains dimmed and then a red light emanated from the hole. After a burst of intense light, I noticed a red ruby floating on top of the water.
“Is that the flame salamander?” I asked.
“Yep, this is what happens after defeating the creature,” Tess replied, retrieving the gem.
“I’m glad this is over,” I said.
“Yes. We gained a lot of information. Long, can you find someone who can modify the gem for Tomo’s use?” Tess asked, tossing it over.
“I’ll ask Feng. I’m sure she knows someone. Good job, Tomo. Not as much action as I expected, but good enough,” Zhuyu answered.
Not enough action? We just defeated a flame salamander! If this did not match expectations, then I shuddered at the alternate possibilities. We returned back to the training facility after informing city officials. Pain coursed through my body, causing me to almost collapse. Tess noticed, helping me back up. Zhuyu discussed something with Shan and Ichaival.
“Tomo, focus on school for awhile. The rest of us will scout while you heal up,” Tess suggested, leading me over to a bench.
“Tess, are we done now?” Zhuyu asked.
“Yes, thank you for your assistance today. It is regrettable Feng could not join us, but you did well in her place,” Tess replied.
“I’m sure she would disagree with you. We’ll be leaving then,” Zhuyu disagreed, shaking his head.
Tess nodded and the three boys departed. I felt no specific pain anywhere, but overall general fatigue. After Tess completed a quick check up on my health, she drove me back home. When I entered the house, Mom sat at the dining table. What a rare sight since she usually slept early. Yukie also was present, reading a book.
“Yuki, welcome home. Did you have fun?” Mom asked with a chuckle.
“Sort of. I’m surprised you’re still up,” I observed.
“I was hoping you might bring someone home so I could meet them. You’ve crushed my dreams,” Mom pouted, making a mock sad face.
“What’s the real reason you’re up so late?” I asked, ignoring Mom’s comments.
“I was making soup and it took more time than I thought. You disappoint me, Yuki! Yukie, prove that you’re better than Yuki by cooking some amazing food tomorrow. I want to bury my sorrows with your delicious dishes,” Mom joked.
“Ah, I didn’t know that would be the culprit!” Yukie said, a surprised reaction on her face, turning the page.
“She’s not playing along, too bad. I’ll be up for one more hour if you want to ask me any questions,” Mom said with a downcast look.
“No thanks, Mom, I’ll be going to sleep,” I declined.
“Too bad. Yukie, what about you?” Mom asked, looking over at my cousin.
“No, thank you. I’ve had enough reading for tonight. Yuki, you look tired. Did something happen?” Yukie noticed my condition.
“Not much. Good night, Mom,” I shook my head.
I fell straight into my bed. How did the other heroes deal with this? They looked fine so it was probably just my inexperience.
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