The maglev finally stopped in front of the dormitories, sinking into the earth once again. This time, Che didn’t stumble and nearly make a fool of himself. He figured he’d raised enough suspicions for one day, and what a day it had been.
The dorms themselves were ordinary-looking rectangular buildings that were at least five stories high. There were only two of them, and they were separated by a wide courtyard.
Che turned to look back at Legaros Tower, which somehow seemed more imposing from far away. He recalled Professor Avis saying it had twelve floors, with the top floors being separated according to age and whether one was an academy student or an army recruit. He also remembered how her expression shifted when he asked about the classified areas. If he wanted to learn more about this place, he’d have to avoid asking faculty from here on out. Still, that Lorenzo kid seemed to know a great deal. Maybe Mystery Boy would have more information.
Looking over at Nikki, Che saw that she was studying his face with a raised eyebrow.
“What?” he asked sheepishly.
“You okay?” she inquired. “I mean…you’re being really quiet. You haven’t asked me anything since we left.”
Che sighed again and shook his head. “I’m just…trying to process everything that’s happened today. It’s a lot to take in.”
“Yeah…” Nikki agreed, her expression softening. “Well…class starts tomorrow, so maybe try to get some sleep? Not a lot we can do right now, right?”
Che nodded and the two of them stepped off the maglev. Lorenzo was ahead of them, making his way towards the building to their left.
“Looks like that’s the boys’ dorm,” Nikki said as she started off in the other direction. “Guess I’ll see you in class…Rowan.”
“Yeah…see you,” he replied, watching her until she disappeared inside.
He then turned and made his way to the boys’ dormitory, his mind still racing with everything that had happened. The stadium match, the soldiers, what Yokan had told him, it was all too much, and he wasn’t sure if he believed Yokan or not.
The memory of Yokan approaching him after yesterday’s interview flashed through his mind. His eyes were wild, and he looked like he hadn’t slept or bathed in days. Yet, just hours ago, he appeared well-groomed and confident. Che chuckled darkly. That confidence was driven by pure delusion.
Che reached the dormitory and stepped inside, shaking his head to clear his thoughts. Despite what he felt about this world or going back to school, he needed to get some sleep if he was going to figure out what to do next. The dorm lobby was empty, and Che noticed an elevator in the corner. He pulled out his pamphlet, thumbing through its contents to find out where his room was. He found the section on dormitories and scanned through the rules before finding “Rowan’s” assigned dorm number: 3-11. Included in a sleeve on the back of his pamphlet was a key card with the same number.
He proceeded to the elevator and pressed the button for the third floor. The doors slid open, and he stepped inside, waiting for them to close. As the elevator made its way upward, he realized he’d been holding his breath and exhaled. He leaned against the wall of the elevator, letting his head fall back with a thump.
The elevator doors opened with a ding, and Che stepped out into the third-floor hallway. He consulted his pamphlet again and followed the numbers to his room. Thankfully, he found it easily enough and swiped his key card to open the door.
The room was small, with two beds on opposite walls and a window in between them. Both beds already had sheets and quilts on them, and there was a dresser against one wall and a desk against the other. Che sighed and dropped his pamphlet on the bed closest to the door before flopping down on the mattress, letting out a tired groan.
There was a loud commotion at the door, and Che looked up to see a tall, muscular boy with short-cropped blonde hair barrel into the room. He had a gigantic backpack strapped to his body, and he was wearing what looked like athletic gear. He dropped his backpack on the floor and let out a loud bellowing laugh. He then spotted Che and stopped short as if someone had caught him off guard.
“Oh hey bro!” he waved. “Sorry, thought I was the first one here. Didn’t mean to do all that. I’m Tyson!”
“Hi, I’m Ch-Rowan,” Che stuttered, getting to his feet.
“Nice to meet you man!” Tyson said enthusiastically, offering Che a fist bump. Che hesitantly bumped Tyson’s fist with his own, not entirely sure what to make of the boy.
“So where you from?” Tyson asked as he started unloading his backpack. “I’m from Camellia City, born and raised.”
Che hesitated, unsure of how to answer. He didn’t want to lie, but he wasn’t sure if he should tell the truth either. “I’m…from a place called Dallas. You’ve probably never heard of it. It’s quite a ways away from here.”
“Yup, never heard of Dallas,” Tyson continued emptying his backpack, its contents ranging from clothes to sports equipment. “What made you want to come all the way to the Tomore region?”
“I wanted a change of scenery, I guess,” Che watched Tyson, realizing he didn’t have a change of clothes. Or anything for that matter. “And to enroll at the academy.”
“The academy, huh?” Tyson said. “So you’re gonna compete in the tournament?”
Che hesitated for a moment, unsure of how to answer the question. He’d certainly made it clear earlier that he had no intention of fighting anyone, but that was before Reagan and Vista tried to attack him. It was before Yokan dropped down from the sky and dropped his insane bombshell.
Still, Che had to maintain his cover as much as he could. “Yes. I’m going to enter the tournament.”
“That’s what’s up!” Tyson pumped his fist into the air. “Maybe if we both graduate at the same time, we can team up. What’s your type?”
It took Che a few seconds to catch onto what Tyson was asking. “I’m a Brawl type.”
Tyson’s mouth dropped. “No way! I’d never expect that just from looking at you. I’m just a boring Neutral type.”
Che wasn’t entirely sure what to say to that, so he just nodded. He didn’t really know much about the different types outside of what the status menus told him, but he thought Tyson looked much more like a fighter than he did.
“Hey, how old are you?” Che asked.
“I’m sixteen,” Tyson said. “You?”
“Um, seventeen,” Che’s skin prickled. Everyone around him was so young!
“Really?” Tyson gaped. “You look younger than me! Looks can definitely be deceiving, huh?”
Che nodded, not trusting himself to speak. He was feeling more and more out of place by the second, and he had a sinking feeling that this was going to continue.
“Hey, um…” Che started, not really sure how to phrase what he wanted to say. “Did you get your uniform already?”
“Oh, they didn’t tell you?” Tyson said, already rummaging through his things again. “They should already be delivered to our dorms. Check the drawers.”
Che opened the drawer next to his bed and found a neatly folded school uniform along with underwear, socks, and toiletries. He looked over to see Tyson going through the drawers by his bed, and he had a similar pile next to him.
“Yeah, these are mine,” Tyson said, picking up his things. Once he’d completely emptied his bag, he began putting things away in the empty drawer, humming to himself.
Che took out the uniform and held it up, his stomach sinking as he realized it must all belong to Rohan. A teenager. He was likely impersonating a sixteen-year-old who was possibly dead. Yokan…
“So, what do you want to do?” Tyson broke into Che’s thoughts as he flopped down on his bed, finally finished with his unpacking. “We’ve still got a little bit before curfew. I’m up for anything.”
Che thought for a moment, trying to decide what would be the best way to spend his first night at the academy. He wanted to explore more of the campus, but he was too tired to do much more than that. He stuffed the uniform back into the drawer before turning back to face Tyson. “I think I’m just going to go to bed honestly.”
Tyson nodded, though his expression was a little disappointed. “Yeah, I’m pretty tired too. Plus, we have to be up pretty early tomorrow.”
Che nodded in agreement as he thought about tomorrow’s class schedule. He quickly pulled out his pamphlet, looking over the list of classes. There were seven periods in a day, and each one was an hour long. Che had to cup his mouth to stop himself from cursing. Seriously, what kind of world was this where you had to basically go to high school to learn how to compete in a fighting tournament? His first class of the day was going to be Battle Skills, whatever that meant.
“You got Battle Skills for first period too?” Tyson asked as he started to get ready for bed.
“Yup. Do you know what that is?”
“Not a clue,” Tyson said with a shrug. “Maybe they’ll teach us how to fight or something.”
Che hoped that wasn’t the case. Truthfully, he had no desire to learn how to fight. All he wanted to do was find Yokan and get out of this place as soon as possible.
“Hey, uh…” Tyson said, looking a little hesitant. “I’m pretty laid back, but there’s just this one thing I ask.”
“What is it?” Che asked, looking up from the pamphlet.
“Just, um…don’t wake me up,” Tyson said, rubbing the back of his head. “I’m a pretty heavy sleeper, and I really don’t like being woken up.”
“I won’t,” Che said, wondering why Tyson felt the need to tell him that. He didn’t want to be responsible for waking up a teenager anyway. If Tyson overslept, that would be his own problem.
“Okay, good,” Tyson said with a sigh of relief. “I’m gonna crash now. See you in the morning.”
“Yeah, see you,” Che said as Tyson turned off the lamp next to his bed.
He sat in the darkness for a moment, letting his eyes adjust. He really didn’t want to go to bed yet, but he was exhausted. It had been a long day, and tomorrow promised to be even longer. With a sigh, he crawled under the covers and tried to get comfortable. Maybe things would look better in the morning.