“Well done, Tomo,” Tess complimented.
“Now, what were you looking for?” Kisai muttered.
“Hey, Ichaival, you still good?” I asked the man.
“Back still hurts, but I’ll be fine. Kuan, can you take me over to that big rock? I want to sit down,” Ichaival requested.
“Yeah, let’s go,” Kuan nodded, dragging him over.
Kisai raised his right hand, swiping the air with his palm, and green firefly-like particles appeared. The mage observed them floating into the air. After awhile, they shifted colors, turning amber.
“There’s a large amount of magical energy nearby. Might be an item,” Kisai reported.
After a few minutes of rest, we embarked toward the source. Kisai led us to a small waterfall, glancing over at the Gatekeeper.
“There’s an entryway, but it’s not guarded by anything. Why isn’t there a stronger defense mechanism?” Kisai pondered.
“Trap,” Kuan concluded.
“Could be,” Kisai agreed.
“Let’s just bust in. Not like you guys haven’t done anything like that before,” I suggested.
“Tomo has a point,” Ichaival agreed.
Kisai raised his left palm in the air, and the ground shook, revealing a glowing entryway behind the waterfall.
“Perhaps it would be best for Tomo and Darryl to remain behind. His safety rests with you. If something occurs, it is useful to have someone on the outside,” Tess advised.
“Fine by me,” I said.
The entryway suddenly pulsated abnormally. It shrunk in size and Kisai dashed forward. He dove in, Kuan and Tess following right behind him. Without Kuan’s support, Ichaival fell to the ground with a thud. I walked over, hauling him back up.
“Now what?” Ichaival asked.
“Wait, that’s the only thing we can do. You want to sit down or stand?” I asked, lending Ichaival my shoulder.
“I’ll sit. I don’t want to be too much of a burden,” Ichaival chose.
“Whatever you want,” I said, sitting down a few feet from the waterfall.
“Appreciate the offer though,” Ichaival thanked me.
“I’ve been wondering, why do you keep agreeing with me?” I asked, curious about his motives.
“I know what it feels like,” he responded.
“What do you mean?” I asked for clarification.
“Being surrounded by a bunch of smart people. Letting them do all the work because they’re that good. When you say something, they don’t pay attention. Anyways, you’re right about what to do, so no reason not to,” Ichaival revealed his true feelings.
“Gotcha. Sucks how Shan makes fun of you so much,” I sympathized with him.
“Yeah, he’s a f**king asshole. Still my friend though,” Ichaival said with conviction.
“Then switch partners, you can do that, right?” I offered him a solution.
“Shigetzu has helped me out a bunch, and even if he’s a f**kin’ b*****d, I trust him to have my back,” Ichaival disclosed.
“All of you have f**ked up friendships,” I concluded.
Ichaival was right about one thing. It was hard to do anything when everyone else was so capable. Made me feel all self-conscious. Looking over at the man, what potential topics could I bring up? Felicity, no, that was dangerous territory. Jen? Same thing. Shan? Probably just get more of the same, ‘he’s a b*****d’ routine.
“Tomo, how do you feel about this whole thing? It’s been awhile since you’ve joined,” Ichaival asked.
“I was starting to have doubts, but I finally figured out my reasons for sticking around,” I replied.
“Glad you’re brightening up. They don’t show it, but I’m sure they’re worried, especially with how things went down,” Ichaival said.
I heard footsteps approaching. Ichaival tried standing up, but fell down onto his right knee. I motioned for him to stay down, seeing three people in the distance. Two women and one man. The women wore magician robes, a bizarre symbol on their hoods, which obscured their faces. The man wore a shining, golden piece of armor with the same symbol. He carried a helmet in his left hand.
“Good day to you, my lady,” the man greeted.
“And to you as well,” I responded.
“I am in search of a certain person. Have you seen this man?” he asked.
One of his companions pulled out a picture from her sleeve, showing it to me. I stared at it, not recognizing them. I thought they might be chasing Kisai, but turns out my assumption was incorrect, good for us.
“That is a shame. Thank you for your time. If I may be so bold, is your companion okay? He seems to be in deep pain,” the man observed, looking over at Ichaival.
“Oh, he just stumbled a little bit. He’ll be fine after some rest,” I replied.
“That is good news. We must be on our way now. Farewell and may good fortune shine upon you in your future endeavors,” the man left us with a positive parting message.
When the three people vanished from our sights, I heaved a sigh of relief. That knight displayed great etiquette, but would have not granted mercy, if we fought. Not to mention the two woman following him. We would have been overwhelmed.
“That was close,” Ichaival said.
“Tell me about it. They looked really strong too,” I said.
The others finally returned after what seemed like hours. Kisai carried a tablet, containing indentations for items to be placed in. Looks like they had fun. Wish I could say the same about Ichaival and myself.
“Tomo, anything to report?” Tess asked.
“Yeah, three people passed by,” I replied.
“Were they hostile?” Tess inquired.
“No, they were looking for someone. They had these weird marks, some kind of symbol,” I reported.
“Tess, think Tomo could identify it through the SIU database?” Kisai inquired.
“Yes. Let’s return for now. We’ve completed our main objective,” Tess answered.
Ichaival sprawled out on a bench, falling asleep. Tess opened an entire slideshow of symbols, going through them one-by-one.
“Right there,” I exclaimed.
Kisai peered at the screen and a look of concern appeared. It vanished immediately and he was back to his normal self.
“Vagabond mages. The ones opposed to scientific magic,” Kisai revealed, tapping the screen with his finger.
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“What’s the significance?” I asked.
“There’s a truce for now, but there will probably be war between the two…. no, three sides. The side of scientific magic, the side of pure magic, and finally the side of…. uh, how do I put it? Sort of indifference, I guess,” Kisai explained.
“Indifference?” I repeated his phrase.
“Yeah, they didn’t give a s**t one way or the other. Great, isn’t it?” Kisai smiled.
“No, it’s not. You’re telling me there’s going to be a civil war?” I questioned.
“It was my entire reason for being summoned there in the first place,” Kisai said.
“Hold on. Your goal was to incite civil war?” I was caught off guard by his answer.
“Of course, isn’t that what heroes do? Jokes aside, that’s part of the reason. I’ll tell you the other part once we break the seal. Secrecy and contracts, go take it up with Tess,” Kisai joked, glancing at the Gatekeeper.
“I’m used to it by now. You can at least tell me about that tablet, right?” I asked, curious about the item.
“Damn maze in there. Traps everywhere and logic puzzles. But I was there so we solved everything. Kuan kind of helped, not really. Anyways, we found this at the end,” Kisai recounted.
“Why is it so special?” I asked.
“Find all the pieces, you unlock an Artifact,” Kisai revealed.
“What makes Artifact so special?” I inquired about the term.
“An item that unlocks the potential of one’s powers. Hard to find them though. I suspect that’s what Lilith and her team are looking for. Anyways, we know what to do next. Find the missing pieces and see what we get. The Artifact isn’t super helpful right now but might in handy later,” Kisai expounded.
“Great. Tess, is Ichaival going to be okay?” I pointed at the sleeping man.
“He’ll feel sore but no major concerns. Jin, I trust you’ll get him home,” Tess replied.
“Yeah, I will. Kuan, can you help me with something over here?” Kisai asked.
“Tess, I’m going to head back home. You don’t need me for anything, right?” I asked, heading toward the exit.
“Not at the moment,” Tess replied.
Arriving back at my house, I saw Yukie with Dad in the kitchen. How rare. Dad never cooked.
“Hey, I’m home,” I greeted them.
“Welcome home, Yuki. Something’s wrong the stove,” Dad said.
“Did you break it cooking something?” I looked at him with suspicion.
“Come on, Yuki! Don’t look at me like that. Yukie was preparing dinner when it happened,” he denied.
“Can you fix it?” I asked, staring at him.
“Yeah. Yukie was helping me out. Dinner will be a little late today. Could you call your mom and tell her?” Dad requested, looking through his toolbox.
“Sure. I’ll be in my room if you need me,” I nodded.
After informing Mom about the delay, I opened my closet. It was still surreal to have so many clothes. Might as well start wearing some now. They wouldn’t do any good just hanging there. Yukie called me down for dinner at seven. Mom sat at the dinner table, staring at the kitchen with a piercing look.
“Did you have a fun time?” Mom questioned me.
“I wouldn’t say fun, but I didn’t hate it,” I answered.
“My daughter, that attitude of yours is still the same. I thought you might be more….,” Mom didn’t finish her sentence.
“I know what you want to say, Mom and you’re kind of right,” I said.
“Change is possible for you after all,” Mom said.
“Are those the type of words you should say?” I questioned.
“Of course. We can talk more about it another time if you truly wish,” Mom offered.
“I’m okay with how things are,” I declined.
“I’m always here. That reminds me, I’m a bit sad none of your new friends have accepted my offer from last time,” Mom lamented, clapping her hands.
“What offer?” I questioned.
“Exchanging information for money. Surely, you haven’t forgotten. I would have thought the boys would unload their savings,” Mom reminded me.
“No one in their right mind would do that. They would be embarrassed if anyone knew,” I disagreed.
“That makes me sad, Yuki. It just means the boys aren’t dedicated enough. They’ll realize the error of their ways,” Mom emphasized.
“Yeah, I’m sure they’re really heartbroken,” I said, my statement laced with sarcasm.
“Could we eat dinner now? Yuki is tired of your jokes,” Dad asked, pointing at the food.
“Yes, let us eat,” Mom said, picking up her chopsticks.
After dinner, I checked my planner. Homework was done, same with the assigned reading. Everything looked to be in order. S**t, finals were creeping up on us. I was actually a bit scared. Maybe I should ask Yukie and Tess to help me review.