ToKyotchi Chapter 22
The True Objective
Nikki wasn't usually an early riser. She'd long mastered the art of waking up at just the right time as if she could sense when the sun was peaking over the horizon. So, when she'd gotten up much earlier than usual, she couldn't help but wonder what her body was trying to tell her.
Not that it mattered much. She had a mission to accomplish.
Yet, she couldn't shake the feeling that something was off. This feeling only grew as she stepped into Battle Skills, the glass door gracefully closing behind her with a soft click.
To her surprise, the classroom was already full. Lorenzo was engrossed in a magazine, seemingly oblivious to everyone else's presence. He seemed to be in his regular mood compared to the total shift yesterday. Nikki didn't let her eyes linger too long as her face filled up with heat.
What was it about him that made her so flustered? Sure, he was handsome and already had half the academy after him, but was that the only reason? Nikki cocked her head to the side as she placed her bag in her seat. No, it wasn't just that he was attractive. There was something more to him. She just couldn't put it into words yet.
Chetachi and Tyson had made it on time, unlike yesterday, even though Chetachi was slumped over his desk. Tyson was patting him on the back, and Nikki shook her head as she rolled her eyes in frustration. That guy was always getting himself into bad situations.
She made her way towards his desk, crossing her arms as she looked on in confusion. "What's wrong with him now?"
"We got attacked by some Legaros goons," Tyson gave her an apologetic half-smile. "We're fine. He's just not feeling well, I guess."
"I just...need...coffee..." Chetachi muttered, barely audible.
"Well, at least that's ALL it is this time," Nikki sighed. "Was it Reagan and Vista again?"
Chetachi nodded his head, though he didn't look up to face her.
Nikki groaned. "What's their deal? Seriously, they woke up this early just to wait to ambush you?"
Tyson shrugged. "Guess so, but we beat them and got stronger."
"YOU beat them," Chetachi held up a finger as he corrected Tyson. "With your amazing superpower that activates when you-"
"Whoa, bro! Not in front of-" Tyson cut him off, eyes widening as his face turned the deepest shade of red.
"What?" Chetachi raised his head and squinted his eyes at Tyson before seemingly noticing Nikki's presence. "Oh! Aw, come on! It's not even that big a deal! It's pretty funny actually."
"Shut up!" Tyson hissed, but Nikki couldn't help but laugh.
"What did I miss?" she gave Tyson a sly wink.
Tyson's face softened a bit. "Nothing, I just...uh...let's just forget about it."
"Oh, what have they done to my poor Rowan?" Lorenzo glided over toward them, seeming to appear out of thin air. His usual admirers swooned, blushed, and clasped their notebooks to their chests. Nikki felt heat rising through her body and quickly looked away, trying to divert her attention back to the conversation as Lorenzo came to a stop right next to her.
"It's nothing," Tyson said flatly, glaring at Lorenzo with such intensity that Nikki was sure he could have melted him with his eyes. He then returned his attention to Nikki. "Nikki, I really like your...um...bracelet."
Nikki blushed as she looked down at her wrist, absently turning it over so that the charms on her silver bracelet clicked together. She'd almost forgotten she still had it after all this time. It was the one she, Bella, and Kim made before Bella's seventeenth birthday. It represented the promise they'd made to always stick together and protect one another.
Nikki sighed as the memories returned to her. She hadn't kept that promise at all. She'd only made things worse.
She could picture the day they were all standing in Professor Eminal's dining room, Bella's arm outstretched with her bracelet clasped around her wrist. Her eyes weren't as bright as usual, and her lips were quivering ever so slightly. She'd looked up at Nikki, who was the only one not wearing a birthday hat. She didn't feel she deserved to wear one.
"Now, Nikki, aren't you going to put yours on?" Professor Eminal asked, his voice dripping with its usual rented kindness. He would only be this way until Bella blew out the candles on her cake.
"Nikki, it's alright," Bella's voice was soft. Too soft. "You already have on the bracelet-"
"I think she should put the hat on," Professor Eminal interrupted, his smile starting to fade.
Nikki looked over at Kim, whose eyes were trained on the floor. Nikki wasn't even sure she knew what was going on. She liked to go to some far-off place when the four of them were in the same room.
Nikki took a long, deep breath before deciding it was best to comply. She strapped the birthday hat to her head, taking care not to mess up her hair. She could feel the tears pricking her eyes and the lump in her throat growing larger.
She then held up her arm, showing off the silver charm bracelet the three of them had made together. Kim seemed to snap out of her daze as if she too was remembering the promise they'd all made back then. She quickly flung up her arm just in time to be in sync with Nikki, her bracelet glistening on her wrist. This was it. This was the signal for them to put that monster to sleep.
"Professor," Bella began, her voice like a gentle wind. "You always said you liked my singing. I think I'll sing you a song."
Bella didn't have a chance to begin before the sirens started going off, followed by the ground beneath them rumbling and shaking. She remembered Professor Eminal's complete look of terror as the walls around them began to crumble. He'd never looked afraid, not once. Nikki was certain that nothing scared him except himself.
"Nikki, you alright?" Tyson's voice snapped her out of her thoughts, and she looked up to find both he and Chetachi looking at her with concern. Lorenzo, on the other hand, was now hovering over Chetachi like a mother sick with worry.
Nikki swallowed hard, suddenly feeling like she didn't belong in the classroom anymore. "Uh, yeah, I'm fine. You two don't seem to be too hurt, thankfully."
"They were so brave!" Lorenzo draped himself across Chetachi, who quickly pushed him away.
"Stop! I don't need a hug right now!" Chetachi groaned. "I need caffeine."
"What seventeen-year-old has a caffeine addiction?" Nikki raised her eyebrow and gave Chetachi a knowing look. Was he ever capable of not giving himself away?
"Well, I mean, Rowan's really mature for his age," Tyson tried to come to his defense. "I think it's cool."
"I'm not sure he should be a role model for you, Tyson," Nikki rolled her eyes.
"You're sure you're not hurt?" Lorenzo continued to assess Chetachi. "Are you still woozy from yesterday? You'd tell me, right? You'd go to the infirmary, wouldn't you Rowan?"
Chetachi slowly nodded his head and sighed. "Yes, I'm fine."
"Good because..." Lorenzo started, but then he looked around the room and narrowed his eyes.
"Because what?" Chetachi asked.
Lorenzo reached forward and cupped Chetachi's chin in his hands. "Because if something happened to you, I'd die. I'd just DIE Rowan!"
The classroom erupted in gasps of shock and awe. Nikki felt her face flush as she looked away.
"Stop. Being. Weird," Chetachi said through gritted teeth, but his face had softened slightly. Tyson bit his lip and looked away, obviously embarrassed.
"If the four of you back there are quite done, I'd like to begin class soon," Professor Avis said from her desk, her face stern as the bell sounded. Nikki froze, a chill running down her spine. She hadn't heard the professor enter the room at all.
"Oh, Professor Avis! We didn't see you there!" Lorenzo said, jumping away from Chetachi and quickly bowing his head. "My apologies for the interruption."
Nikki sighed as she made her way back to her desk. Now it was time to go back to pretending any of this mattered to her, the classes, the tournament, anything. Professor Avis moved from behind her desk and cleared her throat.
"Apparently," her eyes scanned the room until they landed on Chetachi and Tyson in the back, "there was a bit of a skirmish this morning near the dormitories. I would remind you that you are not allowed to spar or use your techniques outside of a classroom setting."
The professor's gaze swept the room, and Nikki quickly looked away. She knew she hadn't done anything wrong, but still couldn't help feeling like she was in trouble.
"Yesterday, we briefly touched on Types," Professor Avis continued, "but I believe today, given that some of you have a penchant for unconventional fighting styles, we should cover the basics of how matches work."
Nikki did her best to avert her gaze, hoping she wouldn't catch Professor Avis' attention again. Yet, as if sensing her anxiety, Avis' eyes seemed to immediately lock on to her.
"Nikki," she smiled, though it didn't reach her eyes as usual. "Tell me. What are the three types of matches ToKyotchi contestants can participate in?"
Nikki swallowed the growing lump in her throat, but she knew she had to answer.
"Well..." she cleared her throat. "I don't know."
"How disappointing," Professor Avis said crisply. "I was hoping you would be able to answer this question, as it's quite basic. Nonetheless, let me explain."
"261, 231, and 262."
The entire class turned to see Chetachi with his hand raised in the air. Tyson sat next to him with a big, goofy grin plastered across his face.
Chetachi massaged his temples as he continued. "261 matches are where two teams of six face each other in one-on-one fights. 231 is where two teams of three face each other in one-on-one fights. 262 is where two teams of six face each other in two-on-two fights."
Professor Avis looked at him with an approving nod. "Very good, Mr. Rowan. You'll wait until I call on you next time, though, won't you?"
Chetachi nodded sheepishly, and everyone else in the room let out a collective breath. Nikki even felt her own shoulders relax. As bumbling as he could be at times, Chetachi didn't seem to be completely dumb. After all, he'd managed to answer her question correctly yesterday as well. She'd heard about people who were book-smart but severely lacking in common sense. That sounded right up Chetachi's alley.
"Yes, there are three types of matches, as Mr. Rowan so generously woke up to expound upon," Professor Avis continued. "In each scenario, the team that wins the most matches claims complete victory over their opponents. However, in the world championship tournament, there is only one round, and it is a battle royale between all of the year's regional championship teams."
Nikki couldn't help but feel a little bit of dread as the professor talked about the championship tournament. She wasn't sure if she'd ever have to compete, but she knew it was a possibility.
Reagan and Vista were nothing compared to the real soldiers. She'd seen that firsthand many times. In the end, tournament rules wouldn't matter to her so long as she became strong enough to take down any opponent.
She would even drop out of Legaros Academy if she had to.
"Now, of course, you'll need to claim all of this region's medallions from the dojos spread across the land," Professor Avis' voice sharpened as she began to pace around the room. "That's what will qualify you to compete in the regional tournament. Can anyone tell me what makes each dojo unique?"
Nikki couldn't see Chetachi raise his hand so much as she could feel it and couldn't help but smirk. He was probably the annoying class know-it-all when he was a kid. Professor Avis paused to allow other students to answer, but when no one did, she finally pointed at Chetachi.
"Yes, Mr. Rowan?"
"Each dojo specializes in a specific Type," Chetachi said. "For example, the...Lilac City dojo specializes in Air Types, so all their team members will have that Type."
Professor Avis nodded. "Correct. This means it will be crucial for you to understand Type differences before you graduate and challenge the dojos. If you arrive unprepared, you'll find yourself swiftly defeated."
Tyson's hand shot up in the air as he eagerly waited on Professor Avis to call on him.
"Yes, Mr. Tyson."
"Lilac City is also where Alistar trained. It's his hometown!" Tyson said with a grin.
"Ah, yes, a superhero fanatic," Professor Avis rolled her eyes, eliciting a few snickers from the other students. "Surely you didn't come here to become a superhero? I'd expect such a dream from our younger students but not from you."
The snickers grew louder as Nikki watched Tyson's grin slowly fade.
"Well...not exactly..." Tyson's hand drooped to his side, and Nikki couldn't help but notice Chetachi's change in expression. She'd seen the same look yesterday as if he wanted to say something very obscene.
"Moving on," Professor Avis shook her head and sighed. As the lecture continued, Nikki felt her attention slipping further and further away. She thought about Chetachi and Tyson fighting off Reagan and Vista. The two of them had once worked with Yokan, though they later claimed they didn't know who he was.
Nikki sighed. She still wasn't sure whether or not she believed his story, that he and Yokan were from another world. Still, she couldn't imagine why someone would lie about something like that. If he was just trying to sneak into the academy, would he need a scheme that elaborate?
Chetachi had also mentioned seeing Yokan in his dreams. Yokan was a Mental Type, so it was definitely possible that he was lurking somewhere on campus. Was he responsible for the uneasiness she was feeling? Tyson said Chetachi had a headache, but what if it was something more?
"Your objective today," Professor Avis finally concluded her lesson, "is to study chapters one through five tonight and complete the questions at the end of each chapter. Tomorrow we'll begin discussing tournament rules and restrictions."
Nikki huffed as everyone stood up and began to leave. She still didn't know what was wrong, but she figured it wouldn't be long before she figured it out. In the meantime, she had no interest in studying or doing the required reading by Professor Avis, but she knew she had to play along just until she was so strong nothing else mattered.
Professor Avis had given them their first assignment, but she only had one true objective. She was going to bring down Legaros Academy, no matter what it took.