We arrived at the bottom of a path, walking through a large Japanese style arch. Kisai stopped, taking a few steps back. Kuan inspected the ground, nodding his head.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“Traps,” Kisai replied.
“You’re gonna deactivate them?” I questioned.
“Kuan, demonstrate your other power,” Tess ordered.
He adjusted his glasses, staring at the ground. Kuan then tapped Kisai on the shoulder, who tapped the ground with his foot, giving a nod.
“What’s happening?” I looked around in confusion.
“Tomo, are you familiar with basic programming?” Tess asked.
“Uh, not really,” I replied.
“Kuan’s power is known as conditional execution. There are checks in coding where it’ll execute if certain conditions are met. That’s the basis of Kuan’s powers,” Tess explained, giving me her usual serious look.
“I’ll take your word for it,” I said.
“Jin’s familiar with the trap so that helped. My powers aren’t much use if I don’t know enough,” Kuan remarked.
“Let’s keep on moving. Kuan’s quite valuable,” Tess praised him.
We finally arrived at a gate with gray walls. This resembled a fortified army base more than an actual village. Kisai knocked on the gate, glancing upward at the lookout perched on top. The gate flew open with a loud whoosh and a small child stared at us.
“Hey, how’s it going? It’s been a long time,” Kisai greeted.
“Ah, Jin! I have to go tell everyone,” he exclaimed, scurrying off.
“You know him?” I asked, glancing over at Kisai.
“Yeah, he’s the kid of a mage I saved. Wonder if the council knows anything,” Kisai answered.
“Jin, you’ll take the lead,” Tess declared.
“Don’t want to do it?” Kisai asked with a slight grin.
“You know this dimension’s inner workings much better than me,” Tess answered, shaking her head.
“We all know you’re freaking capable,” Ichaival sighed, shaking his head.
“You’re right, man. Of course,” Jin agreed, nodding at Ichaival.
A group of five people walked towards us. Kisai glanced at them, and for a second, his face turned rather serious. It reverted back to his usual calm, amused look soon after.
“The legendary mage makes his appearance known once again,” one of them uttered in a nasally voice.
“Can’t seem to get enough of this place,” Kisai replied.
“Your appearance is no blessing to us,” another accused.
“Regardless of how you view Jin, we’ve come for information,” Tess declared, standing next to Kisai.
“You’re not a welcome sight either. Come to the counsel room, but only you and the mage. Boy, lead the rest to your house,” the first voice decided.
“That’s how you want to do things, huh?” Kisai muttered.
“Sorry to impose,” Tess said, looking over at the boy.
“Come on, follow me!” the boy offered.
We arrived at a medium sized house with a large pond in the front, filled with leaping fish. Our guide unlatched the gate, placing his hand on a digital panel. A pathway opened up for us.
“Hey, come inside. Dad wants to see you,” the child urged.
“Welcome. I heard you’re companions of Jin, the great mage,” a voice greeted.
A tall man, with a gash above his left eye, appeared. He wore a light blue kimono and the stubble on his face made him look rugged.
“We should probably introduce ourselves. I’m Tomo Yuki,” I said.
“Jeong Kuan,” Kuan finally revealed his family name.
“I’m Ichaival Darryl. Sorry for coming in so suddenly. Hope we aren’t bothering you,” Ichaival said, demonstrating the most courtesy.
“No, not at all. I’ve been just sitting around all day. It was a great shock to hear Jin returned, as we thought the entire incident had already been resolved,” the man laughed.
“Dad, Dad! You haven’t told them your name yet. How can you be so forgetful?” the child scolded him.
“How forgetful of me. I’m Ishi and this is my kid, Grant,” the man said in a booming voice.
“Jeez, you can’t really do anything without Mom around,” Grant scolded, shaking his head.
“Hey, don’t sell your old man short. Anyways, Jin’s talking to those five fools, right?” Ishi asked, his face now serious.
“Fools?” I questioned his choice of words.
“Our little five member council. At least that’s what they claim to be,” Ishi revealed.
“Can you tell us more?” Kuan requested.
“They’re extremely secretive. I wouldn’t trust any of them,” Ishi responded.
“And Jin’s relationship with them?” Kuan asked.
“Jin can alienate people, without him really noticing. Not that I’ve ever thought about him that way. He’s a damn good kid,” Ishi replied, pouring us tea.
“Of course,” Kuan said.
“How’s the seal related to all of this?” I asked.
“The location of it is here. Well, more like the portal leading to it,” Ishi revealed.
“Are you serious?” Ichaival exclaimed.
“Wasn’t there one more of you?” Ishi counted on his fingers.
“She’s with Jin right now. Do you know her?” I replied.
“I’ve seen her a few times before with Jin, but never asked her name. I’m impressed, but scared by her at the same time. Her magic reservoir is ridiculous,” Ishi answered.
“Do they suspect she knows something about the seal?” I followed up.
“They want to see how she reacts. Probably won’t get anything out of her,” Ishi answered.
Ishi excused himself, asking us to make ourselves comfortable, while he and his son departed the room.
“What do you think, Tomo?” Kuan asked.
“Kuan, you seem like a totally different person,” I observed.
“No idea what you mean,” Kuan denied.
“Where’s your usual, well, quirkiness?” I tried pinpointing what felt wrong.
“Kuan’s always weird, still is,” Ichaival commented.
“Damn, Ichaival, you figured me out,” Kuan smiled, sitting closer to Ichaival.
“Really?” Ichaival protested.
“Anyways, let’s be serious. Tomo, any opinions?” Kuan reverted back to his serious face.
“Either Kisai’s not telling us the truth about the seal, or Tess is lying,” I replied.
“True and the old man doesn’t know anything either. Ichaival, any thoughts?” Kuan looked over at his friend.
“Same as you guys. We can’t do s**t without Jin,” Ichaival replied.
“Hey, Kuan, how did you meet the others?” I asked about their origins.
“I met Long in freshman year. Jin too. I really started to get to know Darryl, probably around sophomore year, right?” Kuan answered, glancing at the false archer.
“That sounds right,” the Filipino man answered.
“What about all this hero stuff?” I elaborated on my previous question.
“Oh, you mean that. Probably middle of junior year, I honestly don’t remember,” Kuan ventured a guess.
“Definitely junior year. I got dragged into it with Shigetzu,” Ichaival added on.
“Interesting. You know….,” I started, but then felt drowsy.
I dropped the tea cup and my vision blurred. Kuan noticed my condition immediately, tapping his glass frames, but slumped downward. Really, this s**t was drugged? Of all the things, I swear….