Volume 14, Chapter 53: Summer Training Camp Day 0 (I)
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Friday Summer Quarter 2016 After Finals Week

“Felicity’s paying for all of this?” I questioned, admiring the scenery through the van window.

“Yes, Fel’s gracious enough to provide transportation and equipment for this excursion. She already scheduled a prior engagement unforunately,” Tess replied.

“Hmm, that’s too bad, seems like the type of thing she would love being a part of. How much longer before we arrive?” I questioned, checking my phone.

“There will be a break for the drivers in thirty minutes. If I recall, there is another hour before arriving at our destination,” Tess answered.

Tess, Shigetzu, Jacque, and Jin rode in my van. Everyone else was in the van behind ours. Long didn’t participate, still away for personal reasons. I asked Tess for an update and she told me he would return once things “stabilized”.

“Damn, I’m already at six damage. Come on, don’t fail me now, deck!” Jacque exclaimed, checking his drawn card.

Jacque and Shigetzu dueled, using cards based off of anime and other related media. The game mechanics were strange. Ichizen played his fair amount of trading card games and yet this game didn’t resemble any of them.

“Come on, I can’t let Long down. He did lend me this deck after all,” Jacque said, flipping over his card.

He let out a sigh, placing it down on the bottom with six other cards. Shigetzu laughed, grabbing all his cards, shuffling them back into a full deck. The artist did the same but pulled out a different deck from his bag.

“Alright, sorry I let you down, bro. Gotta get my revenge with this deck. Actually, Long helped me build this deck, so I’ll probably let you down again,” Jacque realized.

“Nah, that actually gives me trouble. Besides, you aren’t familiar with the one you just used,” Shigtezu disagreed.

Jin glanced up from his phone. I peered at his screen, noticing a science video playing. Every time I thought he was watching basketball highlights, it was the opposite.

“Interested in learning advanced physics?” Jin questioned, pulling out his left earphone.

“No thanks. I’m sure it’ll be useful for something, but not in the mood right now,” I declined.

“Makes sense. If you’re interested, I can send you the link later,” he offered.

“I don’t think I’ll accept but I’ll keep that in mind,” I said.

“Yo, let me get in on this,” Jin said, sitting next to Shigetzu.

“Do you even know how to play?” the gravity manipulator questioned.

“Somewhat, I learned the rules when Kristoph and Long came over. Just stop me if I do anything illegal,” Jin replied.

Shigetzu nodded, allowing Jin to take his place. Jin inspected his hand and asked the original deck owner about effects. I caught sight of a river flowing underneath a nearby bridge.

“When did you come up with this, Tess?” I asked her.

“While writing my masters’ thesis. It is beneficial for everyone to get fresh air and relax a bit. But, it also provides an opportunity for everyone to work on a few things,” Tess replied.

“I’m looking forward to seeing what’s up there,” I said.

Both vans finally stopped at a gas station for a short break. I stretched my legs, chatting with Jen. Ruiqi joined us today as well, wanting to spar with Feng and go over battle strategies.

“Want to switch vans?” Feng asked me.

“Not really, I’m good,” I replied.

“I should have clarified. Tess already authorized the switch. It’s you, Kaze, Zhang, and Kuan,” Feng revealed.

“Fine,” I said before heading towards Tess.

“Did you do this on purpose?” I questioned her.

“Clarify,” Tess responded, giving a slight smile.

“I should have known. You’ll probably tell me it’s something to do with getting to know each other. Mixing it up, right?” I guessed.

“Indeed,” Tess confirmed.

At least I wasn’t stuck in a vehicle with Feng for the next few hours. Climbing into the other vehicle, I saw Kuan and Zhang peering at their portable gaming systems.

“Joining us Yuki?” Kuan took off his left earphone.

“Yeah, Tess’ orders. What are you guys playing?” I inquired.

“Monster Slayer. You heard of it?” Kuan revealed.

“Shigetzu and Long mentioned it before. You’re going around killing monsters?” I replied.

“It’s much more than that. Wanna give it a try?” he offered.

“Maybe later,” I declined.

“Let me know. I have another character that’s lower ranked on here so it should be easy for you to pick up,” Kuan offered.

“Oh, welcome, Yuki,” Kaze greeted me as she entered the van.

“Hey. Have they been playing the entire time?” I gestured at the two men.

“Yep, it’s frustrating to learn, but I can see why they enjoy it,” Kaze answered.

“Wait, you’ve played it before?” I stared at her in surprise.

“Awhile back. You’re thinking I’m not the type to play games, aren’t you?” she said.

“You can’t blame me. I don’t see you as much as Tess and the others,” I responded.

“I enjoy playing the occasional game. Monster Slayer’s one of those where you have put in the time to be really good,” she revealed.

“That’s something new. Kaze, I’ve heard bits and pieces, but when’s the first time you met Long? Kinda curious especially since he’s not joining us,” I questioned.

Zhang coughed after my question but didn’t follow up. Oh, must be an interesting story. I pestered the dual elemental user for details before but nothing.

“Since we have so much time, let me tell you the story, Yuki. Zhang, don’t give her the wrong idea,” Kaze offered, leaning back on her seat.


“I do not believe your choice is correct, Kyoi.” Tess poured a cup of pu-erh tea and passed it over to her.  

“With all due respect, Ms. Gatekeeper, I know the dimension better than you do. Whatever information you’ve gathered won’t match up to mine no matter how many analyses you do,” Kyoi countered. 

“Then you won’t reconsider?” Tess let out a rare sigh.  

“No. Besides, he’s already out there. It’s time for him to see what they’re like. Do you know who Kotomi sent out?” Kyoi sipped the tea and nodded in approval.  

“It’s Ruiqi, do you understand my reasoning now?” Tess responded.  

“Oh, her. I didn’t think Kotomi would pick someone so high up. Is it just a coincidence or part of a long-term plan?” Kyoi leaned back on her chair.  

“Are you keeping an eye on him?” Tess questioned, opening up her notebook.  

“That’s kinda your job, right? Don’t worry, I’ll step in if things get bad. I know you scouted him already. You think I made the wrong choice?” Kyoi responded with a piercing stare. 

“No, he is more than qualified. However, this mission could end with long term psychological damage. Not everyone has your mental fortitude, Kyoi,” Tess answered, unfazed by Kyoi’s expression.  

“Fair enough, I guess. I appreciate that compliment. So, are we finished here?” Kyoi stood up.  

“Consider the matter resolved for now. If he sustains serious injuries, physically or mentally, I will take action. Is that clear?” Tess poured boiling water over Kyoi’s tea cup. 

“Of course. Hey, stop calling me Kyoi. Just use my name, we’re not strangers,” Kyoi suggested.  

“That’s not for you to decide. I will not address you as such until I deem it appropriate,” Tess refused.  

Kyoi grinned and exited the park. She understood the Gatekeeper’s rationale but it didn’t sway her decision making. After all, Tess wasn’t a participant of her training sessions with Long. From her observations of Long’s progress, he was more than ready. She didn’t expect him to succeed but that wasn’t the goal. She was interested in how he would respond to actual adversity without a safety net.  

Zhuyu stared at the ripped map Kyoi provided him. His navigation skills were atrocious without a map but he felt more lost when checking it. She intentionally wrote random strings of letters and numbers to confuse him. He knew it was an attempt to test his skills but her scrawls on the map just didn’t make sense.  

“Guess this kinds of lines up,” he muttered to himself.  

“Halt! Present your identification at once,” a police officer requested, performing a random search.   

“Here.” Zhuyu handed the officer a doctored ID card.  

“Hmm, okay, everything checks out. Sir, if you don’t mind me asking, where are you headed? You appear very lost,” the officer commented.  

“You could say that. I don’t have an exact destination. I’m doing a scavenger hunt and my friend gave me this really bad map,” Zhuyu explained.  

“That is unfortunate. If you do need assistance, stop by any of the police stations. They’re pretty much everywhere!” the officer informed him before departing.  

Zhuyu sighed and immediately glanced upward. Kyoi’s training enhanced his observations and he felt someone’s presence nearby. They weren’t tailing him by ground either. However, the man wasn’t skilled enough to pinpoint their exact location. It was just another nuisance to deal with. 

Thirty minutes later, he finally arrived at the target location. It was an abandoned house with chain link fencing around it. The man searched for an entry point and found a hole on the east side. He crawled through and the magical energy levels surged. Raising his right hand into the air, the hero immediately summoned his sword, ready for a fight.  

“Shoot, you’re more observant than I thought,” a female voice said.  

“Who are you?” Zhuyu questioned, not in the mood for a chat.  

“I’m an acquaintance of Kyoi’s. I’m surprised she sent you out here with no backup. You must be pretty good.”  

A woman descended from the sky and the wind speed immediately increased. Zhuyu tightened the grip on his sword, no visible emotion on his face. This was a dangerous person, on the same level as Kyoi. He couldn’t win no matter how he tried. The best strategy was to escape but there were no openings.  

“My name’s Ruiqi Kaze. What’s yours?” she introduced herself, floating in the air.  

“Don’t think it’ll matter since you’re gonna beat my ass,” Zhuyu responded, taking one step back.  

“I’m not as violent as Kyoi. Still, it’s unfortunate that you’re my target. I’ll let you go if you don’t carry out your mission,” Ruiqi said.  

“Right.” Zhuyu dissipated his sword and hopped over the fencing with his powers.  

“Not fast enough.” Ruiqi caught up and slammed him to the ground with her wind manipulation.  

Zhuyu rolled to his left but Ruiqi stomped his left arm. He winced but maintained his composure. Summoning his sword again, he slashed at her leg but she was no longer there. Ruiqi disarmed the man and pointed the sword tip at his neck. 

“Give up yet?” she questioned.  

“Can’t really do that. If you know Kyoi then you have a good idea of what situation I’m in,” Zhuyu answered, taking one step forward. 

Two seconds later, he was at her backside and regained possession of his weapon. He swung his blade downward, aiming for her back. Ruiqi spun away from his attack and fired a blast of wind at him. Zhuyu’s back struck a light pole and he slumped to the ground. 

“Sorry about that but I’m under orders to stop you. Like I said before, you give up on what Kyoi told you and I’ll let you go,” Ruiqi offered.  

“Pretty sure that’s not an option for me,” Zhuyu refused and a golden glow surrounded his entire body.    Ruiqi admired his tenacity but the gap between them was too large. She tapped her left foot and trapped him inside a swirling tornado. The woman felt bad about her next move but it was necessary to demonstrate just how far apart they were. Adding multiple layers of rotating air within the main tornado, she bounced the man back and forth like a pinball. If he was still conscious after that, then Ruiqi knew her judgment about him was correct.  

One minute later, she released him from the tornado. Zhuyu, cuts across his face and arms, remained standing. He spat out blood onto the ground as his wounds slowly regenerated. Although his powers allowed him to heal, the man still felt pain associated with any attack.  

“Are you crazy? Never mind, that’s a dumb question to ask considering who’s mentoring you.” Ruiqi rushed over to the man and checked his condition.  

“You’re as scary as Kyoi. Going to finish me off now that I’m like this?” Zhuyu asked, wary of her.  

“Please don’t compare me to her. I know when I’ve gone too far,” Ruiqi replied.  

“Really? Doesn’t look like that to me.” Kyoi appeared out of nowhere.  

“Kyoi, you picked a convenient time to show up. And you brought a guest too,” Ruiqi commented. 

Zhuyu, his vision blurry, noticed En standing next to Kyoi. Finally losing his strength, he fell but Ruiqi caught him. 

“You need to take better care of your mentee, Kyoi. But knowing you, this was all planned from the start.” Ruiqi brought Zhuyu over to Kyoi.  

“Thank you for your cooperation. By the way, Zhang already completed the task I assigned Long. I’m surprised you didn’t realize sooner.” Kyoi grabbed Zhuyu before letting him fall to the ground. 

“You’re right. Consider my interest piqued. The next time we meet, I expect him to survive longer than today,” Ruiqi remarked before departing.  

En helped his friend up before leading him over to a tree. Kyoi stared up at the sky as Ruiqi vanished from her line of sight. She grinned and walked over to the two men. With her guidance, they could defeat almost any member of Kotomi’s team. However, she required outside assistance in order for Zhuyu and En to truly achieve their potential.  


Sorry about the lack of chapters in the last two months. I was dealing with some personal matters but things should be back on track with either one or two chapters per month depending on my school and work schedule. Thanks for sticking around!