Volume 4, Chapter 6-1: Hack And Slash
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Winter Break 2016 Week 3 Tuesday

“I don’t like where this is heading,” I remarked.

“Don’t worry so much. We’ll have fun,” Felicity said.

Felicity convinced Tess to allow me a rest day, declaring I needed a break from training. Our destination was Kisai’s house to do…. something.

“I’m helping you out. You’ll get to know everyone better,” Felicity said.

“Fine, but if something goes wrong, you’ll take me home,” I decided.

“Nothing’s going to go wrong,” Felicity assured me.

“Right, I totally believe you. I’m surprised Kisai doesn’t have work today,” I said, glancing out the car window.

“Can you grab my phone? It’s ringing,” Felicity requested.

“Are you sure? I can answer it for you,” I offered.

“It’s fine, I got it. Huh? Oh, okay. Yeah, that’s fine. Can you text me the directions? I’ve only been there once,” Felicity said.

She relayed the address and I inputted it into her navigation app. Propping her phone on the dashboard, Felicity give it a quick glance.

“What’s going on?” I inquired.

“Change of plans. Jin has to do something but he’ll make it up by having us over on New Year’s. We’ll go to Long’s house since everyone is already there,” Felicity revealed.

After fifteen minutes, we arrived at a medium sized house. There was a van parked in the front. I noticed the back tilted away from the curb.

“I don’t think that’s legal parking,” I commented, pointing at the van.

“It’s not blocking anyone,” Felicity said, glancing at the spot.

Felicity parked a few feet away from the van. She checked her phone for the house number and we walked up the steps.

“Tomo, go for it,” Felicity directed.

“You know Zhuyu better than I do. It’s weird if I do it,” I protested, stepping away from the door.

The door flew open before either of us rung the doorbell. Zhuyu stared at us with an exasperated look. Today, he wore a blue zipped up sweater and jeans.

“I can hear you,” he said.

“Sorry about that. I hope it’s not too much of a bother,” Felicity apologized.

“Just don’t break anything and we’ll be good,” Zhuyu said.

I saw a strange scene once inside. Kristoph was on top of Shui. They appeared to be wrestling and Kristoph raised his arms in the air with excitement. What was this? Felicity ignored them, speaking with Zhuyu instead.

“It looks like you brought food already,” Felicity noticed, taking off her scarf.

“Yeah, there should be enough for everyone,” Shan said, pointing at the assortment of snacks.

“Sorry to intrude,” I whispered, heading further into Zhuyu’s house.

I looked around his living room. There was a medium sized LCD TV placed on top of an oak table. Underneath, there were a bunch of wires hooked up to game consoles. To my right, there was a stereo system with a CD player on top. There were two couches in the room. One was beat up with a hole on the left armrest. The other couch was newer, peach in color, but showing signs of wear.

“Sit down and make yourself comfortable,” Zhuyu directed, exiting the living room with a quick wave.

“What game are you playing?” Felicity asked, pointing at the screen.

“Dynasty Conquerors. Why don’t you try it out?” Kristoph suggested.

Who else was here? Shan, of course. If he was here, then Ichaival was close by. The false archer sat on the newer couch, staring at his phone. That seemed to be it.

“Looking for someone?” a familiar voice inquired.

Tess stood behind me, wearing an interesting sweater. It had a smiling snowman, waving its right stick arm. Not the type of shirt Tess would ever wear. More importantly, she sneaked up on me again. Did she just teleport here?

“Just seeing who was here,” I responded.

“Everyone is accounted for then?” Tess asked, taking a sip out of a plastic white cup.

“Yeah. I didn’t see your car outside, so I thought you were busy,” I explained.

“I parked a little farther away. Shui’s parking was a hindrance,” Tess answered.

“So that’s Shui’s, huh?” I nodded to myself.

“If you’re curious, Feng isn’t here,” Tess informed me.

“Good to know,” I said, relieved.

Zhuyu returned, carrying paper plates and napkins. He slid them over to Shan, who opened up a bag of chips, pouring it onto the plate. Kristoph and Shui walked over, grabbing food too.

“Does this happen a lot?” I asked Zhuyu.

“What does?” he asked, glancing at the TV screen.

“People coming over to your house,” I clarified.

“Not too often. This is one of the rare times there are this many people,” Zhuyu replied, pouring a drink into his cup.

“Must be nice for you to have so many people over,” I commented, watching Kristoph and Shui teach Felicity the game controls.

“Sometimes. I’m sure you appreciate being alone from time to time. It just depends on the day,” Zhuyu remarked.

His facial expression remain unchanged. Hm, an interesting point. Never really occurred to me since Ichizen or somebody else was always close by.

“Oh, this is kinda fun. How do I block?” Felicity asked, looking at the screen.

“Just press the right button on top. Yeah, there you go. Okay, now look at the map and check where the goal is at,” Kristoph replied.

“Go and join her. You’ll be bored out of your mind talking to me. I don’t have anything else to offer you,” Zhuyu suggested with a small smile.

I didn’t know what Zhuyu thought sometimes. He was insightful but also an ass. Were all the heroes like this? I finally understood why the mundane scenes in my mind dives were helpful.

“Tomo, come join us!” Ichaival called me over.

Shui and Kristoph gave me a quick rundown on the game. There was a cutscene at the beginning with moving portraits overlaid on a static map. Even for a person who rarely played games, that was kind of lame. The graphics were alright but that interface was really sad.

“It’s so sad that it’s just moving pictures,” Zhuyu voiced my thoughts.

“Yeah, it’s a bit sad,” Shan agreed.

“It’s whatever. As long as the game works, it’s okay with me,” Kristoph said, raising his two hands, indicating his indifference.

“Felicity, I’ll sub in when you’re done,” Tess said, sitting next to her friend.

“Let’s go, Yuki! We can do this!” Felicity shouted, raising her controller in the air.

Once we entered the game, I tested out the controls. Felicity seemed more comfortable than I did, pressing buttons and moving the analog sticks more naturally. After some practice, we were ready. Exiting the gate, hordes of enemies charged in. I mashed the attack button and my character swung his sword multiple times, pushing back enemies. At the top screen, I saw Felicity’s character riding a horse.

“How did you do that?” I asked, peering down at my controller.

“Just press here. It should call a horse near you,” Shan replied.

Within a few seconds, the horse arrived. Getting on it, my character charged forward and I eliminated enemies at a rapid pace. One glowed red, charging at me.

“Oh damn! He’s here, Lu Bu is here! Run!” Shan shouted.

“Man, you better get out of there. Just keep running. Don’t let him hurt you!” Kristoph followed up.

“Damn. He’s hella strong!” Shui shouted.

My health plummeted by half with one strike from the enemy. Damn, that was pretty brutal. I titled the analog stick to the max, running away.

“Head to that point on the map! Go before he catches you! Come on, he’s so close,” Kristoph pointed at the green square on the mini map.

I nodded, watching Felicity escape too. We finally arrived at the point Kristoph indicated and the battle finally ended. Wow, that was pretty fun. It took me back to when I played games with Ichizen.

“Good job,” Zhuyu said, picking up chips from the plate.

“Here you go, Tess. Time for some food,” Felicity decided, handing her controller over to Tess.

The Gatekeeper tapped all the buttons, not practicing moves, but more like calibrating. There had to be a limit on her range of skills. Maybe this could be the one thing I beat her at. Even though we were working together, I still wanted to see if could obtain a higher score.

“Tess, you need to know the controls?” Shan asked, looking at her.

“No,” Tess replied, shaking her head.

Oh, she seemed quite confident. Let’s see how you do. As the game loaded, I gauged Tess’ mood. A futile attempt by me, considering Tess always kept her poker face on.

“Before you start, you might want to pick better weapons,” Zhuyu reminded, pouring out more chips onto a plate.

“Oh, you should pick her. She’s a beautiful character!” Felicity said, pointing at a woman with two sticks in her hand.

“What do you think?” I asked, looking around at everyone.

“Eh, whatever you like,” Kristoph said, shrugging his shoulders.

“Up to you,” Zhuyu responded.

“If you like it, go for it,” Ichaival answered.

“She’s a magical girl idol,” Shan revealed.

Would she give me the advantage over Tess? I wanted to get the most points after all. Tess selected one with a sword and waited for my decision.

“I guess I’ll go with her,” I finally decided.

“I forget if it’s this level or another one, but Lu Bu is there again,” Kristoph commented.

“It might be this one,” Shui said.

Once the wooden gates opened, I charged forward with only one goal in mind. Get the highest point total, it was certainly petty, but just one time I wanted to best Tess in something.

“Tomo, head to the right and wipe out the troops there. I’ll go to the left and take care of the officers. There’s a boss officer on your side so take care,” Tess directed.

Of course Tess assumed the role of tactician. Following her orders, I realized the boss officer was quite tough. I filled up my special bar, executing my finishing move to finally take it down. Damn, that took awhile. Checking Tess’ screen, I saw her points already double mine. I would not give up. Time to go on a rampage!

“Uh, Tomo, you might want to go a little slower on that button. Especially on that one,” Zhuyu warned me.

I ignored his words, focusing only on amassing more points than Tess. But, I could not catch up. Tess led large groups of enemies into corners and with three swift swings cleared them all out. Even in games, Tess showed her prowess. I felt a sinking feeling but could not let up now. If I could not catch up, then I would try to lessen the sting of defeat.

By the end, Tess’ score outmatched mine. Damn, I just wasn’t talented enough. A small black jagged of the controller fell to the floor.

“That’s what I was talking about,” Zhuyu said, picking the piece up.

“Sorry about that,” I said, realizing my mistake.

“Don’t worry. It was already loose, so it was only a matter of time. It still works,” Zhuyu said, placing the piece down on the oak table.

“I can buy you a new one. Um, how much are they exactly?” Felicity offered, pulling out her phone.

“No, you don’t have to. Like I said, it’s still usable,” Zhuyu declined.

Why would you not accept her offer? I mean, Felicity was loaded. Come on, Zhuyu, don’t be dumb. Probably didn’t want to feel in debt to her. After all, Zhuyu seemed like that kind of person. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact he was bounded by contract to Kyoi.

“Tess, you are surprisingly good at this,” Zhuyu commented.

“I have played these kinds of games before. Once you master the controls, it is pretty simple,” Tess said, placing the controller down.

“I don’t think it’s that simple,” Zhuyu said.

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