Che’s eyes shot open as he came face to face with blurry black lines stretched over a white canvas. He normally slept in awkward positions on his stomach, but now he felt especially uncomfortable, his face smushed against the strange white surface he was still trying to make out.
As words began to come into focus, Che sprang up, realizing he’d fallen asleep at his desk while studying, nearly tearing the textbook page glued to his face in the process. What time was it? He scrambled to look at the clock, noting the time read 5:30 AM. His shoulders slumped as he let out a sigh of relief. His first class wasn’t until 8:00 AM, so he had plenty of time to get ready.
Che rolled his chair back, stretching as he stood up. He looked over to see Tyson sprawled over his bed, his blankets tangled and thrown about. Che shook his head and was just about to call out to him but stopped, remembering Tyson had asked Che to never wake him up. Che glanced back at the clock before quietly gathering up his materials and finding fresh clothes to change into.
After showering, he quietly tip-toed back into his room, his eyes trained on the alarm clock. It was 6:30 AM now. He let out an exasperated sigh. Had he really been in the shower that long? Then again, he couldn’t deny how wonderful it felt to be refreshed and ready for the day. At least this time he’d be ready for it. Somewhat.
He took great care packing up his textbooks, making sure he had the right ones for each class. Despite his quiet movements, Tyson stirred and sat up at the sound of Che rustling about in the room.
He gave a sleepy wave in Che’s direction and muttered, “You’re up early.”
Che smiled back at him. “Yup. Gonna try to make this day better than yesterday. Plus, I need to find that cafe you told me about.”
“Oh cool!” Tyson sprang up and began to eagerly gather up his own stuff. “Let me get cleaned up, and we’ll go!”
Che smiled and chuckled to himself. Of course, Tyson had all the energy in the world at 6:30 AM. He was sixteen. He probably ran on pure sunshine and rainbows. Luckily, he made good on his promise and was ready to go in about fifteen minutes. The two of them were soon out the door and headed to Legaros Academy, where Che was determined to make this day a good one.
The sky was just beginning to light up with a mixture of orange and pink clouds as they made their way to the maglev train stop. Che noticed there weren’t many soldiers patrolling the area, likely because it was still so early in the morning.
He allowed himself a brief moment to smile, feeling inspired as he watched the colors of the sunrise shift and blend into one another. All that was missing was a fresh cup of coffee! He and Tyson paused as they waited for the maglev train, allowing the cool morning air to fill their lungs. Che was certain he could spot the train hovering towards them from across the courtyard when a familiar voice rang out from above.
“Throw your worries over the deep end!”
Che froze, his jaw clenching with frustration. No. Not now. He just needed to get a cup of coffee before making his way to Battle Skills well before the bell rang so he could take a few notes at his desk. The last thing he needed was an actual battle before he even got on the maglev train.
Reagan and Vista appeared in their usual fashion, seemingly dropping out of thin air. Tyson gave Che a confused look, likely wondering why they were getting a spoken word performance at six in the morning. Che just shook his head and sighed. He’d explain it all later.
“Into new dimensions you can’t comprehend!” Vista gracefully waved her arms around as if she was casting a spell. Che was beginning to notice she became partially expressive at this part of their routine. It must have been her favorite part.
“Let the sheep and followers sleep in!”
“Hustle as if you have three-“
“I JUST WANT TO GET MY COFFEE!” Che yelled, causing Vista to stop mid-sentence as she stared at him in confusion.
“Ayo!” Reagan shouted as he flung a finger in Che’s direction. “How many times I gotta tell you to stop interrupting us? Vista!”
“Right!” Vista took on an exaggerated yoga pose. “Bands!”
“We hold it down for Legaros! Reagan!” Reagan struck the same over-the-top martial arts pose from the day before.
“Give up now and leave behind your sorrows! Vista!” Vista took on a similar pose to Reagan’s but with a slightly more graceful twist.
“Thought we forgot about your lame ass, huh?” Reagan’s silver teeth caught the sunlight, giving off a piercing glare as he winked at Che.
“No distractions now,” Vista monotoned, her voice heavy with her usual mysticism.
“Rowan, who are these guys?” Tyson asked, his eyes darting from Reagan to Vista.
“They’re annoyances,” Che replied matter-of-factly before returning his attention to the duo. “Look, we don’t have time for this! Don’t you have class soon too?”
“Bruh, it’s only 6:45,” Reagan rolled his eyes as he glanced over at Vista and sneered. “This asshole wants to go unlock the door to his first class and shit.”
“Shameful,” Vista’s face moved ever-so-slightly, and Che figured this was as much of a smirk as she was capable of.
“Hey, what’s your problem?” Tyson stepped forward, his fists balled up with righteous indignation. “You picking on my roommate?”
“Oh, ya’ll roommates?” Reagan’s eyes widened with mock surprise. “Man, that’s wild! Also, I don’t know you! What are you two, Team Whack Ass Shoes?”
“Tyson…” Che sighed resignedly, giving his friend a gentle pushback. “It’s alright. Let’s just head to the cafe, okay? We don’t have to fight them.”
But Tyson wasn’t about to let it go that easily. He huffed and stepped closer to Reagan, who cracked his knuckles as a wide grin spread across his face. Che, in return, stepped forward, determined to keep the peace.
“Look,” Che said firmly, “It’s a new day. We can leave all the clashes for another time. Plus, I REALLY need to get some coffee right now.”
Reagan and Vista exchanged glances. Without a word, Reagan shot forward, his fist colliding with Tyson’s jaw and sending him flying backward. Tyson quickly recovered and managed to regain his footing.
Che glowered. “What is it with you and taking cheap shots? Neither of us was even ready!”
Reagan shrugged, a sly smile playing on his lips. “I’m just a man of the moment, bruh, and the moment called for physical contact!”
Che huffed before shifting into his own battle stance. The status menu screen appeared instantly, showing him Reagan’s battle stats. He was at level 9 now, a little stronger than their first encounter. Still, he hadn’t learned any new moves from what Che could tell.
“Fine,” Che sighed as he felt the familiar dull pain beginning to pulse in his temples. “I guess I have no choice.”
“No way, Rowan! He’s mine!” Tyson sprang to his feet, pushing past Che and toward Reagan. He then dropped into a crouching position, placing two fingertips on the ground. Che felt a chill run down his spine as Tyson’s stance was instantly familiar. It was the very same stance football players used when they were about to tackle an opponent.
He could now see Tyson’s stats as well. He was level 5, Neutral Type, and knew the moves Thunder Rush and Sleep Beam. The last move elicited a raised eyebrow from Che. What in the world was a Sleep Beam?
“I’m not a fan of bullies,” Tyson stated calmly as tiny electrical currents winked in and out of sight all across his body. “So let me show you what happens when you pick on someone.”
“Absolutely nothing, I’m sure,” Vista stepped forward. “Doze Petals!”
The grass beneath her feet glowed a brilliant pink, sending out a gentle wave of flower petals that engulfed Tyson in a magenta-flavored cyclone. He was out cold in mere seconds, his body lying still and silent on the ground.
Che’s eyes widened as he watched the scene unfold. He didn’t remember Vista knowing that move the other day. When had she learned it?
“I was inspired by your friend,” Vista shrugged as if reading Che’s thoughts.
“Yeah, your little sneaky friend used that cheap ass move and got away with it!” Reagan sneered. “He’s not here to save you today, and this loser can’t help you either with that ole weak ass three-point stance of his!”
“Oh, shut up already!” Che’s headache was now starting to intensify, and his patience was wearing thin. “Let’s just get this over with!”
“Fine with me!” Reagan pounded his fists together, the ground beneath him rumbling with anticipation. Che was momentarily caught off guard, nearly losing his footing, but managed to quickly regain his balance. They’d definitely both gotten stronger since yesterday somehow. He had his work cut out for him this time.
Che barely had time to make out a blur of motion and electricity as Reagan was knocked off his feet. He quickly hopped back up, his eyes darting around wildly.
“How the hell did you do that?” he growled.
Che held up his hands and shook his head. “Wasn’t me.”
Another flash of movement, and Reagan once again found himself knocked to the ground. This time the figure came to a stop beside Che, still positioned in the three-point stance from mere seconds ago. Tyson slowly rose to his feet, his eyes firmly shut. Che looked at him in awe. Was he still asleep?
He then tried to pull up more of Tyson’s stats. He found Tyson’s Mark and read through it carefully. His was called “Sleep Walker,” and apparently he could still move and use techniques even if he was put to sleep. Che chuckled. Well, that was convenient when someone like Lorenzo was your sworn enemy.
“Unexpected,” Vista narrowed her eyes. She then turned to face Che. “Your turn.”
Che braced himself for Vista’s Doze Petals attack, knowing there was no way for him to defend against it. Nowhere in his studies had he found a way to evade being put to sleep yet, and he wasn’t certain it was possible outside of having some weird Mark like Tyson’s. The ground beneath Vista’s feet once again glowed a dazzling pink before Che heard Tyson take in a deep breath. At first, Che expected him to fall back asleep, but Tyson continued to inhale, going on for an astounding amount of time considering the effects of Vista’s attack.
“Um, Tyson?” Che asked. “You okay, bud? What are you doing?”
Then, Che saw it, a small globe of blueish, violet energy filled with what looked like tiny white stars glowing inside of it. Tyson still didn’t stop inhaling, seeming to get louder with each passing second as the globe grew larger and larger until it was bigger than his entire face.
“What the hell is he doing?” Reagan moved to stand in front of Vista.
Finally, Tyson paused for a moment as the starry globe began to stabilize. He then shot his palms forward just as Vista sent her rose petals flying toward Che.
“Sleep Beam!” The globe exploded into a beam of starry energy that collided with Vista’s petals, instantly disintegrating them as it hurled towards Reagan and Vista. It engulfed them both, knocking them several feet away, before dissipating into nothingness. Che’s jaw dropped in amazement as Tyson slumped to the ground.
“That was… remarkable,” Che whispered.
He watched as Tyson stirred and slowly rose to his feet, rubbing his eyes in confusion as he gazed at Reagan and Vista’s unconscious forms. “What happened?”
“She put you to sleep,” Che explained. “Or at least I thought she did. You were still fighting.”
“Oh no!” Tyson’s face turned pale as he glanced around. “I’m so sorry! Did it happen again? Was I sleepwalking? What did I mess up this time?”
Che smiled and moved to pat him on the back. “The only thing you destroyed was their pride. Now I know why you don’t want me to wake you up in the mornings.”
Tyson chuckled, a slight blush rising on his cheeks. “Yeah, I wasn’t sure you’d believe me if I told you.”
Che’s smile faded as his headache began to intensify. He needed to get to the cafe.
“Tyson, I…” Che massaged his temples, a wave of dizziness washing over him. “I need to get some coffee…”
Tyson nodded in understanding and gestured to Reagan and Vista. “Should we do something about them?”
Che shook his head. “No, they’ll be fine. I’m pretty sure by this afternoon they’ll be trying to fight us again anyway.”
Tyson nodded without saying anything else, and another maglev train arrived just in time to take them to Legaros Tower. Che felt relieved that his headache would soon be gone, and he was determined to get to class on time without any more interruptions.
As they boarded the train, another status menu appeared in front of Che, and he froze once more. Were Reagan and Vista about to attack them again? He quickly scanned the menu displayed, expecting to see either Reagan or Vista’s battle stats, but instead discovered a new message he’d never seen before.
After reading it, he fought off the urge to do a victory dance in front of Tyson. Today was already off to a great start, and Che was one step closer to being strong enough to take on Yokan.
Because, according to the message, he and Tyson were now at level 7.