ToKyotchi Chapter 16
There was an odd sense of foreboding in the air as the trio approached the colossal stone doors that led inside of the observatory. Che couldn’t decide if it was due to Lorenzo’s close proximity to him, or if it was something else. Either way, he wanted to be as far away from the mercurial teen as possible.
Nikki’s brow furrowed in concentration, as if she too could sense something was off. Che shot her a questioning glance, but she could only shrug in response. Che sighed, but at least he wasn’t the only one unnerved by what just happened.
Lorenzo was the first to reach the door, confidently pushing it open without a second thought. The entrance hall was dark save for a few scattered candles that provided very little light. It took a moment for Che's eyes to adjust to the darkness, but when they did he noticed a long spiral staircase that ran along the walls of the tower's interior.
"We have to climb all these steps?" Che muttered, already feeling winded.
Nikki sighed. "You gonna be okay, old man?"
Che groaned in response as they began the long trek up the staircase. The higher they got, the more Che felt as if he was going to pass out. Was he really that out of shape lately? Nikki noticed him trying to power along and slowed down her pace out of mercy.
"What do you think all that was back there?" she whispered.
"No idea," Che said, shaking his head. "But I don't like it. Plus, why were they acting like they didn't remember Yokan?"
"Well..." Nikki thought to herself. "Yokan must be a Mental type, right?"
"Definitely," Che nodded.
"Well, do you think it's possible they're under mind control?" Nikki asked.
Che considered this for a moment. "It's possible, I guess. I just don't understand why. He obviously wants me to find him, so why go through the trouble of making his henchmen forget who he is?"
"I don't think someone like that is capable of making sense," Nikki rolled her eyes, though her expression remained thoughtful.
"Unless..." Che continued to ponder. "What if they're not his henchmen at all?"
"What are you two rambling on about back here?" Lorenzo called down as he descended the staircase towards them.
"Nothing," Che and Nikki said in unison, their expressions stern.
Lorenzo narrowed his eyes, his intense gaze being in complete contrast with his cheerful demeanor mere minutes ago. "I don’t think you’re being honest with me. And after I saved you both back there."
Che felt his skin prickle all over. He was certain now. There were two Lorenzos, the weird flirty one and the somewhat weirder, slightly emo one. They were now speaking to the latter, but there was something more to the personality change. Lorenzo's voice wasn't just cold and aloof. It sounded a bit...menacing.
"We didn't ask you to help us," Che pointed out.
"And we could have taken care of those two fine on our own," Nikki added.
Che waited for the status menu to appear in front of Lorenzo again, though he wasn’t quite sure why he thought the moody teen would start a fight here. Still, he didn’t know what to expect from anyone anymore, especially after the day he’d had. Lorenzo folded his arms and stared down at them from the tip of his nose.
"It really is a shame you don’t trust me, Rowan," his voice was almost a whisper. "And you, Nikki?"
Nikki flushed at the sound of him calling her name and quickly averted her gaze. Lorenzo regarded her for a moment before turning to continue up the stairs. Che glanced over at Nikki without fully turning his head, catching her pained expression at making Lorenzo upset. She could claim she wasn't mesmerized by him all she wanted, but it was so obvious to anyone else. Poor Tyson. He had his work cut out for him.
As they reached the top of the staircase, they noticed a wooden door above them that seemed to lead straight into the ceiling. Lorenzo, once again with no hesitation, pushed it open and climbed upward. Nikki and Che followed close behind, and they found themselves in a dimly-lit circular room with a large telescope in the center. There were several charts and maps taped to the walls and a small ladder that led up to a trapdoor in the ceiling. Rows of desks surrounded the telescope, and several students were already seated and busy taking notes.
"This is weird," Nikki muttered, her brow furrowed in confusion.
"Eh," Che shrugged. "Looks about how I would expected."
"Well at least SOMETHING didn't catch you off guard for once," Nikki teased.
"Hey, I'm not that bad," Che protested.
"Oh really?" Nikki challenged. "What about every hour since I first met you?"
Che frowned. "Look. I’m doing my best here, okay?"
"Don't worry, I'm sure you'll grow out of it eventually," Nikki said, patting him on the shoulder.
"Oh, I'm sure," Che said sarcastically.
Che half expected Professor Lelele to be some sort of eccentric old man with a long white beard, who would absent-mindedly fumble through his lessons and forget half of what he was saying. Yet, Che knew better than to try to guess what was going to happen next at this academy. So, instead, he took his seat and waited for class to begin.
And he was not disappointed.
Professor Lelele swooped down from a dark corner before settling in front of the class. It took a few seconds for Che to notice she was hovering above the ground and...translucent. Vampires and ghosts all in one day? This world was getting more interesting with each class period!
Professor Lelele’s powder blue eyes scanned the room, and Che noticed she was quite pale, though that could have been due to her ghostly aura. A golden tiara was perched at the top of her head, and her long, silver hair swept the air around her as she took in the sight of her students. Like the other professors, she too wore the standard Legaros instructor uniform, which elicited a raised eyebrow from Che. He started to wonder how that was even possible before shaking his head, deciding he’d answer the dozens of questions that popped into his mind at a later time.
Instead, he looked up at the various star charts placed around the room. He didn't recognize any of the constellations, and he figured it would be best to just wait and listen to the lecture.
“Does anything look familiar?" Nikki whispered, gesturing to the star displays on the ceiling.
Che shook his head. "No, I don't think so."
"Hmm," Nikki mused. "So maybe it's not just amnesia after all."
"You thought it was?" Che asked, glancing over at her.
"I still wasn't sure at first," Nikki replied. "But maybe it’s something more than that."
Che smiled. At least he had someone to talk to who understood how bizarre his predicament was. Professor Lelele cleared her throat to get their attention, and they both quickly turned their focus to the front of the room.
"Welcome, students," she began in a booming, theatrical voice as she gestured around the room, “to astronomy class!"
Before she could utter another word, however, the door to the classroom was flung open, nearly coming off its hinges. Every head turned to see who had made such a grand entrance, and Che couldn't help but feel his heart skip a beat as he waited to see who it was. Several seconds passed before two figures leaped from below, each taking on an exaggerated martial arts pose.
"Oh, you can't be serious..." Che groaned.
"Throw your worries over the deep end!" Reagan shot a finger in Che's direction, yelling as loud as he could.
"Into new dimensions you can't comprehend!" Vista followed, her black eyes gleaming in the torchlight. Che shuddered. She looked even creepier than usual at the moment.
"Let the sheep and followers sleep in!"
"Hustle as if you have three bands!"
Professor Lelele's once blue aura was now bright red as she glared at the intruders. She placed her hands on her hips, and Che was certain she’d have steam flowing out of her at any moment.
"How dare you two disrupt my class!" she exclaimed. "This is a place of learning, not some circus sideshow!"
"Oh, we know that," Reagan kept his eyes trained on Che as he took a step forward. "But we just couldn't resist the urge to drop in and give our fellow students a little pep talk."
"A pep talk?" Professor Lelele repeated, her voice laced with disbelief.
"Yes," Vista replied flatly. "And revenge."
"Revenge?" Professor Lelele frowned. "For what? What in the world are you going on about?"
"This lame ass dude got some girly boy to put us to sleep out there!" Reagan once again pointed at Che, his finger trembling as he spoke. "That's why we're late to class!"
"Oh, what a load of rubbish!” Professor Lelele threw up her hands. “I think I'll deduct points from your grade for being tardy anyway. You're both having to retake this course, aren't you?"
Reagan and Vista's mouths dropped open simultaneously as the room began to fill with snickers. Che let out a low chuckle as he watched the two of them try to come up with some sort of retort, but they both came up empty.
"And if you flunk my class THIS time, you'll most certainly be discharged from the military," Professor Lelele continued. "So I suggest you both take this class a little more seriously."
The room was dead silent as Reagan and Vista slowly turned to face each other. They both looked as if they had just seen a ghost, and Che couldn't help but feel a little sorry for them. It was clear that they were both in way over their heads.
"Now, if you'll kindly take your seats," Professor Lelele’s voice returned to its normal, though still mystical, volume.
Reagan and Vista hesitated for a moment before turning to face Che, their expressions resolute.
"Right after we get even with him," Reagan pounded his fists together. “Won't take long, teach. I promise."
"Did you not hear? She said find a seat."
Everyone turned in unison to see Lorenzo had risen from his chair. His hair had fallen over most of his face, giving him the appearance of one of the professional wrestlers Che used to watch on TV as a kid. Though he could barely make out Lorenzo’s eyes underneath his wavy hair, his piercing glare was unmistakable. Reagan, ever oblivious, clenched his fists in frustration.
"Man, mind your-"
"If I use Vicious Mist against you again right now," Lorenzo's voice was now a low growl, "you won’t just fall asleep this time. In fact, you may never wake up again.”
"What? You wouldn't!" Reagan exclaimed. "You gonna do that with everybody sittin' in here? You crazy!"
"One way to find out," Lorenzo brought his hand up to his lips like before.
"Alright! Alright!" Reagan and Vista both raised their hands in surrender. "We'll take our seats."
"And you'll be quiet," Lorenzo added as he sat back down.
Reagan and Vista both shot Che dirty looks as they made their way to the back of the room, grumbling under their breath. It was clear that they were both planning to get even with him, but Che was more concerned with Lorenzo’s threat. He had no idea what was going on with him, but he knew that it couldn't be good.
"Well, then..." Professor Lelele said after a long moment of awkward silence. "Now that that's settled, let's get started."
She raised a finger to begin speaking but paused for a moment. Then, she slowly brought her hand back down.
"Actually, I didn't even have a lecture planned for today," she chuckled. "We'll pick up on the first chapter tomorrow. However, on Friday, be sure to report to this classroom at 9 'o clock. Every Friday evening class will be held at that time so that we can properly observe the stars."
There were a few murmurs from the students as they began to pack up their things. Che couldn't help but feel a little disappointed. He had been looking forward to learning about astronomy.
"Oh, and one more thing," Professor Lelele said just as Che was about to leave. "There will be a test next week."
Che groaned inwardly as he made his way out of the classroom. How could he have forgotten about tests? This was a school, after all, and he'd have to do well if he wanted to stay enrolled here. He started to commit the Friday schedule to memory when a thought overcame him. Friday evenings. At least one night per week, he'd be permitted to roam the school grounds after curfew.
Which meant he had until Friday to figure out how to skip class and make it into the restricted area.