Volume 6, Chapter 5-1: Shady Recruiting

Winter Quarter 2016 Week 1 Saturday

Yuka sat in my room reading a book. I stared at the integral sign on my math homework, sighing. I knew how to do the problem, but the steps were so long. Crap, I forgot to ask Zhuyu about the professor for my class too.

“Yuki, you look troubled,” Yuka said, flipping to the next page in her book.

“This problem will take awhile. I shouldn’t have woken up so late,” I said, writing down numbers for the problem.

“What were you doing last night?” Yuka questioned.

“Flame…. uh, I was doing some things with Felicity,” I blurted out.

“You’ve really gotten to know her, huh?” Yuka questioned.

“Yeah, but I end up spending more time with Tess than anyone else,” I admitted, checking the boundaries of integration.

“That’s not a bad thing. Tess is a good person to know,” Yuka remarked.

“I guess. How’s everything with you and Champ?” I inquired.

“We went to a book signing a few days ago to meet one of my favorite authors. It was pretty cool. How’s your love life going, Yuki?” Yuka chuckled.

“What? You know I don’t really care about those kinds of things right now,” I said, caught off guard by her sudden question.

“Really? Well, I won’t pry then. That reminds me, I saw this picture on Felicity’s social media,” Yuka brought up, taking out her phone.

She showed me a photo of Felicity holding a pair of movie tickets. Oh, this must be the date Shan and Zhuyu teased Ichaival about. Damn it, I needed to stop getting distracted. Focus, Yuki!

“I wonder if I should ask Yukie for help,” I wondered, swiveling around in my office chair.

“She is just next door. You might as well take advantage of it,” Yuka said.

“That’s true, but I always feel bad asking her for help. I’m sure she has her own things to do,” I admitted.

“She’s willing to help you so it doesn’t matter, right? Unless she’s busy,” Yuka countered.

“Yeah, but I can solve this though. It would be lazy of me to ask her for help,” I decided, continuing my work.

“I wonder how Chihiro’s doing. They’re still on break right now, so jealous,” Yuka wondered.

“They’re still on break?” I exclaimed.

“Their finals are a week after ours. She starts school on Monday,” Yuka explained.

“Yuka, can you grab the red notebook from my shelf?” I requested, pointing at it.

“Sure,” Yuka agreed, placing her finger on the page.

She crawled over, pulling it off from the shelf. I checked the cover, making sure it was the correct one.

“Do you have all of Tess’ notes? There’s six notebooks,” Yuka asked, picking up her book again.

“She left them for me so I might as well use them. It’s better than calling her right now,” I explained.

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“I’m just surprised she’s willing to hand over all her notes. Guess she doesn’t really need them though,” Yuka remarked.

I flipped through the notebook, finding the section I was working on for homework right now. Despite Tess’ dry style of writing, it was effective in teaching the subject. After three minutes, I finished the problem, but did not feel happy at all. Ten more problems remained on the online assignment which I lacked motivation to complete. Yuka took out her phone, surprise on her face, scrolling through something.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, taking a short break.

“Shinji’s here,” Yuka revealed.

“Is he looking for you?” I inquired.

“Actually, he wants to talk to you,” Yuka said.

“What? I don’t even know him. Why does he want to talk to me?” I asked, confused.

“I don’t know. He’ll tell me once he’s done speaking with you first,” Yuka answered, a concerned look on her face.

Yuka walked downstairs with me. Mom already opened the door, letting him in. This was Champ Shinji in person. He had rather plain hair, but I noticed a few strands in the front colored white. He wore a pair of thick rimmed glasses, accompanied by a nice smile. Comparable to Felicity, but something felt off about it, as if it was out of obligation. Mom pulled me aside into the kitchen, letting Yuka and Champ talk.

“Yuki, is this what I think it is?” she hissed.

“What kind of nonsense are you thinking?” I denied.

“Are you stealing away Yuka’s boyfriend? That’s quite bold, but I will support whatever decision you make,” Mom questioned, giving me a thumbs up.

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“No, no! This is my first time meeting him in person. I have no idea why he’s here. Stop thinking about weird things, Mom,” I gave an exasperated sigh.

“I know, I know. I’ll bring snacks up later,” Mom decided, freeing me from her interrogation.

I returned upstairs, seeing Champ alone in my room. This was an awkward situation and one I wished to avoid.

“Tomo, I want to talk to you about something,” Champ called out to me.

“Sure, where’s Yuka?” I asked.

“She’s in the bathroom. Let’s talk about business,” Champ said in a very serious tone.

“What do you mean by that?” I blinked, not sure what he meant.

“Don’t play dumb with me, Tomo. I know about you and your powers,” Champ revealed, pushing his glasses up.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I refuted, feeling imminent danger.

“Tomo, it is in your best interest to join our side. The people you’re with right now aren’t exactly the best,” Champ continued on.

“I still don’t know what you’re talking about. Champ, are you okay?” I bluffed, hoping he would relent.

“You still won’t admit it, huh? Fine, I’ll have to force your hand then, Tomo,” Champ decided, taking off his glasses.

I expected glowing eyes, but he only placed his glasses down on the ground. My necklace shook. I thought Tess was the only one. From my observations, everyone had some kind of unique power or at least a variation, making it special.

“Tomo, by now that you’re ready to tell me the truth. I’ll offer you a deal. Join us and you get an instant power up. I promise you it’ll be worthwhile. All I ask for is information,” Champ laid out his terms.

“Champ, what the hell are you talking about?” I continued my denial.

“Tomo, you want to play that game? I really don’t have the time for that. As you know, I think your so called comrades are already on their way. No doubt I’ve set off Tess,” Champ sighed, looking around.

“If I accept your terms, how can I be sure that you’ll fulfill your end of the deal? I’m very skeptical about anything you have to say,” I asked.

“We’re the heroes of righteousness. It would be strange for us to not keep our word. Unlike the people you associate with, we are true to our word. I guarantee it,” Champ replied, picking up his glasses.

“I’m hesitant about this. You just came out of nowhere and expect me to believe you,” I shook my head.

“And your original meeting with them wasn’t the same? Tomo, don’t try to twist my words because it won’t work. You met Tess and the others under less than ideal conditions too,” Champ pointed out.

“I can’t deny that,” I responded with a weak answer.

“I would….,” Champ started, but then turned around.

Chains flew at him from all directions and I heaved a sigh of relief. Tess stood behind him. Champ placed his glasses back on and dodged her attacks. From his movements, I knew he was more experienced than me.

“Gatekeeper, don’t bother me when I’m engaging in a nice conversation with Tomo,” Champ shouted, rolling away from chains.

Tess pulled back and a golden glow appeared beneath him. Champ escaped, but one single chain caught him in the leg. It wrapped around his ankle, slowing him down. More chains binded him, forcing him down to the ground with a thud.

“Champ, what were you trying to do?” Tess asked.

“Just negotiating a deal. Nothing more. I haven’t heard Tomo’s response yet, so cut me some slack,” Champ responded, gritting his teeth.

“No, Champ Shinji. You’ve failed. There’s no more discussions. Tomo doesn’t agree,” Tess denied his request.

“We haven’t even heard the answer from her yet. At least grant me that mercy, Gatekeeper,” Champ implored.

Tess snapped her fingers and the chains tightened. His plea fell on deaf ears. She hauled him up from the ground. A chain fell from the ceiling and the Gatekeeper hung him from it.

“Ignoring him for now, Tomo, are you okay?” Tess asked.

“Yeah, I’m fine. What’s going on here? I thought you were the only one who had these kind of dimension twisting powers,” I questioned, looking at Champ.

“His powers are different than mine. He doesn’t control entry to different dimensions. He just distorts reality,” Tess revealed.

I stared at Tess, digesting all the information. Champ was part of the other heroes. Did that mean he befriended Yuka for the exact purpose of convincing me? If so, that was unacceptable. Tess turned around, lunging forward with her fist. The chains loosened around Champ and he sunk down into the floor, as if caught in quicksand.

“Did we just let him escape?” I asked.

“It’s fine. No need to pursue him,” Tess replied.

She snapped her fingers, returning me back to my room. I glanced at the clock on my table, only three minutes elapsed. Tess pulled out her phone, making a call. Someone knocked on the door. Oh, damn, how was I suppose to explain Champ’s disappearance?

“Yuki, sorry about Shinji. He had something to do so he left early,” Yuka informed me, looking down at her phone.

“It’s fine, I don’t mind,” I said, blinking at her statement.

“Oh, Tess, you’re here too. Looks like you might be busy, we can talk more next time,” Yuka said, giving me a wave.

“Yeah, come by whenever,” I nodded.

“Your friend is now involved whether she likes it or not. Make sure to be normal around her when she’s with Champ. Although, I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that,” Tess finally broke the silence after Yuka’s departure.

“Why do they hate you guys so much? He went as far as to use his powers just to convince me to join them. What did you do?” I questioned.

“Nothing much. Our actions deviated from their philosophy and that is the main reason. For more details, it may be helpful to ask the others, but you don’t have to worry about Champ. He won’t try this again,” Tess replied.

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