Volume 14, Chapter 52: Summer Winding Down
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Tuesday Summer Quarter 2016 Week 8

“Huh, that’s rare. I’m with Zhang today,” I murmured.

Hmm, where was he? Everyone usually came here to hang out during their breaks. Although, some people went to their cars. But Zhang didn’t drive. I offered to drive him the few times we had the same shift but he always refused. Whenver I saw him leave, he headed in the direction of the nearby train station.

I pulled out my phone, ready to waste my remaining break time watching videos. The manager suddenly burst into room. I almost dropped my phone. She looked at me, concern on her face.

“I’m glad you’re here! I misplaced my ordering sheets and probably used it as a bookmark for one of the books,” she explained.

“Should I go through all the books?” I offered.

“Perfect! En’s not here?” she moved her finger down the shelves of the book case.

“I haven’t seen him today. How thick are the sheets?” I asked, watching the manager pull out books.

“Around five pages. Sorry to surprise you like that!” the manager apologized.

I located them five minutes later. The manager dashed out of the break room. Damn, I couldn’t finish the video from yesterday. Might as well walk out to the parking lot and get some fresh air.

Outside, I saw a coworker in her car eating lunch. She probably just bought it from a nearby fast food place. Most of my co-workers didn’t bring their own lunches. Mom insisted on packing food for me so I always ate in the break room. I walked around and noticed Zhang on his phone.

When I approached him, he already finished his call. I heard bits and pieces from Long about how he got involved with all of this hero stuff. However, I wanted to get the full story. What better source than from the person himself?

“Break time is almost over,” I informed him.

“Yeah.” he nodded and followed me back inside.

Since we worked together in the back, this was a great opportunity to question him.

“So Zhang, how did you exactly become involved in all of this?” I asked.

“Huh?” he responded, confusion on his face.

“You know the heroes thing,” I lowered my voice, making sure no one was around.

“It’s not that interesting. Long probably told you all about it,” he said.

“But I want to hear it from you.” I pressed Zhang on the issue.

“We had gym class together during sixth period. We were about to go home when the windows shattered. After that, it wasn’t the normal school anymore,” Zhang explained, lifting up a box and placing it on a shelf.

“I’m starting to get why all the windows at your school are new,” I recalled.

“We tried to leave but couldn’t. All we could do was to head back inside the gym. We found out later the broken glass was Feng’s fault. She was fighting someone. I still don’t really get it but something went wrong and the place she was in got connected to a portal in our school,” Zhang continued.

“Long said something about Feng saving both of you. That’s how he ended up in the contract with her.” I pieced together everything I knew so far.

“Yeah. When we passed the broken glass, the portal activated. The person she was fighting got me. Feng saw something in Long or maybe she just always wanted someone to boss around. Don’t tell her I said that!”

“Hold on. Feng wasn’t going to save either of you if Long didn’t agree to the contract?” I questioned.

“That’s what we thought. Turns out she was expecting people to show up because she already met with the prophet. I’m pretty sure she would have saved me no matter what,” Zhang replied, handing me a box cutter.

I cut the tape, digesting what Zhang told me so far. She used the situation to her advantage. Long wanted to save Zhang. Zhang was captured so he couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t blame Long for agreeing to whatever Feng wanted.

“That’s about it. She saved me and ended up training us after that. I didn’t want to but she’s scary so I wasn’t going to say no,” Zhang concluded.

“Okay, things make more sense now. I remember you telling me that you have younger siblings. How old are they?” I handed the contents of my box over to him.

“One is two years younger than me. The other is four and the last one is ten. That’s why I work a weird schedule. My parents don’t trust them yet so I have to go pick them up and be home before they get off school,” he revealed.

“That sucks. Ever considered trying college?” I inquired.

“I’m pretty bad at school. I need money so I gotta do this. Still don’t know what I want to do yet.” He shook his head.

“What about trade school or apprenticeships?” I offered alternatives.

“Long said the same thing. I don’t know,” Zhang said.

After that, we didn’t talk much. It felt awkward but I’m sure most of it was Zhang not wanting to say anything else. He was a quiet person anyways. Besides, I learned what I wanted to know. That was enough for me. Still, the contrast between Long and him intrigued me. What made them such good friends? It was a question that applied to everyone actually. The heroes were a diverse group. Then again, Tess was pretty weird so maybe it wasn’t strange that everyone had their own idiosyncrasies.

Friday Summer Quarter 2016 Week 8

I stopped near the park, finished with my evening jog. Since it was already ten, the park was empty, or at least it should have been.

“What are you guys doing here so late?” I yelled.

Shigetzu, Long, and Darryl were standing inside the park. Shigetzu pushed Darryl forward. The false archer glared at him.

“How are you tonight, Yuki? We just finished eating and Shigetzu suggested we move around to get rid of that bloated feeling,” Darryl explained.

“I’m surprised you aren’t on your knees, throwing up. Well, I shouldn’t expect anything different considering how weird you all are,” I remarked.

“Hey, I’m pretty normal. They’re the weird ones. Oh, you’re running this late? Pretty dedicated,” Darryl complimented.

“Not really. It’s something Tess wrote down for me. I’m sure you’re more dedicated than I am considering you go to the gym every day,” I disagreed.

“I guess that’s true. You’ve improved a lot, Yuki. It’s pretty amazing to see where you were in the fall compared to now,” Darryl said.

“Thanks for the compliment. How much did you guys have? You don’t look too bad,” I questioned.

“We had quite a bit. Most of it out of spite,” Long replied.

“They deserved getting no tip. Questioning our ability to eat that much, who do they think they are? Just bring us the food and there are no issues,” Shigetzu added.

These people, I swear. Shigetzu went down the slide multiple times. Darryl took it slower, walking around the border of the playground equipment. Long sat down on one end of a balance beam, staring up at the night sky.

“Darryl, come over here,” Shigetzu directed.

“No! You’re planning something,” Darryl refused.

“Long, get over here. I’m not doing anything, see?”

Long and Shigetzu stood near the miniature zip line. Darryl, don’t fall for it. I already anticipated what Shigetzu had in mind. Darryl made his way over, shaking his head.

“Long, you go first. I’ll give you a gentle push,” Shigetzu ordered.

“Fuck, this is a bad idea. Whatever, let’s do this,” Long said, grabbing the zip line harness.

The gravity manipulator gave a gentle push and Long flew down the line. In the middle of his descent, the zero vector user lost his balance, almost falling off. There wasn’t too much to worry about, considering he wasn’t too far up. He let go early and landed on his right shoulder.

“You good?” Shigetzu shouted.

“Yeah!” Long responded.

“I’m not getting involved in this. I know your little plan,” I accused him.

“Whatever do you mean, Yuki? It’s all harmless fun. I would never hurt my friends,” Shigetzu refuted.

I met up with Long at the bottom. Darryl yelped and he came careening down the zip line, three times faster than Long. The false archer flipped upside down near the end, landing on his butt. Long hauled the man up with a genuine smile.

“That piece of shit. Should have known. Well, it was pretty fun though,” Darryl remarked, brushing dirt off his jeans.

Shigetzu cruised down at a normal speed, leaping off with no problems. He patted Darryl’s shoulder, a mocking gesture. No matter what, you could always count on Shigetzu finding some way to mess with Darryl. Shit, I got sucked into their nonsense, losing track of time.

“You need a ride back, Yuki?” Shigetzu offered.

“My mom is in the parking lot. She’s waiting for me after visiting her friend that lives around here,” I answered.

“I thought someone was watching us. It must have been her,” Long noted.

“Damn it, Mom. Sorry about that,” I apologized.

“Don’t worry, she’s definitely seen worse,” Shigetzu said.

We all headed to the parking lot. Once inside the car, I expected Mom to needle me about them. To my surprise, she didn’t say anything. We were going to play this game, huh? Fine, I would just wait for her to bring it up.