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ToKyotchi Chapter 37

Time for a Rematch

Che could try to rationalize that everyone hadn’t been staring at him all day. He could perhaps convince himself that nothing had changed since Yokan’s attack, but that blissful ignorance had already been shattered.

He’d been having trouble sleeping ever since he and Lorenzo snuck into Legaros Tower. It had been nearly midnight when he finally nodded off, only to feel like minutes had passed before being shaken awake by Tyson.

“Dude, you heard that right?” he stood over Che, his eyes wide with terror. “The voice?”

Tyson’s expression caused Che to bolt upright, quickly scanning his surroundings for an intruder. “What voice?”

Tyson’s brow furrowed in confusion. “You didn’t hear that freaky voice say someone is impersonating a dead student on campus? They said they’ve taken fifteen students and will continue taking more until he reveals himself!”

Che’s blood ran cold as he processed the gravity of what Tyson was saying. He could have dismissed it as Tyson having a dream, but it was too specific. An imposter? A dead student? He shuddered as he became fully alert despite the lack of sleep.

It had to be Yokan.

“Did the voice mention any names?” Che tried to keep his voice steady so as not to give away the growing panic within him.

Tyson shook his head again. “No, it seemed like a broadcast, you know? Like they were announcing it to a whole bunch of people.”

Che sighed and closed his eyes, his heart pounding in his chest. There was too much to unpack, the idea that students were being targeted because of Yokan’s sick, twisted mission he’d concocted for Che. That lunatic! Why was he getting everyone else involved?

Che jumped out of bed, startling Tyson as he brushed past the teen to grab his clothes for the day. “We need to get to the tower now, Tyson.”

“You really didn’t hear the voice?” Tyson asked again, not moving from the spot he was standing in.

Che shook his head as he pulled out his uniform. “No, but we’re definitely not safe here.”

Tyson pondered Che’s words for a moment before the two frantically got cleaned up and dressed. On their way to the tower, Che could hear the other students whispering about the imposter and how they didn’t feel safe anymore.

He looked down and realized he was clenching his fists so hard that his knuckles felt like they would soon explode. Not wanting to give himself away, He closed his eyes and took a deep breath to relax his muscles. He had to find a way to stay focused.

Why was Yokan doing this? Was it because Che was taking too long to find a way to the Marbot Research Facility? That must have been it.

Still, it wasn’t Che’s fault that Yokan had chosen to hide in a restricted area. Besides, the only other person who’d shown any interest in infiltrating it was a teenager who had decided he was now going alone.

“Dude, you alright?” Che looked up to see Tyson regarding him with concern.

Che nodded but couldn’t bring himself to speak, still trying to process what was happening. He even tried his best to read ahead during first period but couldn’t focus on a single word, instead gazing at all the empty desks around him.

He didn’t want to believe it until he saw it for himself, but Yokan had done it. He was actually kidnapping innocent students for who knows what purpose.

Che sighed a lot louder than he had intended, catching the attention of Professor Avis, who eyed him suspiciously before returning to her lecture. Che bristled. He wondered if she’d already compiled a list of potential suspects.

He couldn’t deny he stuck out like a sore thumb at times, but he tried to hold onto the hope that she wouldn’t jump to conclusions just yet. Still, the shame Che was feeling seemed to only grow with each passing moment. All this time, it hadn’t dawned on him that Rowan might actually be dead, but there was no denying it now.

Yokan had killed an innocent teenager and stolen his student ID to give to Che. Che felt a wave of nausea wash over him, and he struggled to prevent it from spilling out. What kind of sick game did Yokan think he was playing? What was he gaining from all of this?

After first period, he’d tried to talk to Nikki only to find her with Lorenzo, the two engaged in a private conversation that made Che uncomfortable given their impromptu stealth mission a few nights ago. He tried to ease the anxiety he felt watching them, but it was no use. He would just have to wait to talk to her later.

The rest of the school day passed with Che feeling more and more uneasy. He couldn’t stop himself from looking around at the other students, wondering if one of them would figure out he was the imposter. It was only when they arrived at Sparring Class that he at last couldn’t be distracted.

Coach Naul gathered all the students (a much smaller crowd than last week) near the practice rings, the white, circular puffs of smoke rising from his pipe like always.

“Guess now’s as good a time as any,” he grumbled as he folded his arms, instantly silencing all chatter. “The military recruits are trained for attacks like the one on Friday. I know you’re only here to prepare for the tournament, but you have to be ready for anything out there. Fights don’t just happen in the ring. People come in all sorts, but there’s no such thing as a Friendly Type.”

Che shuddered, realizing he felt colder than usual. The sun would be setting soon, and he could feel his body calling out to him. He was running on caffeine and pure willpower at this point. He needed rest soon.

Coach Naul took a moment to pause and scan the faces of the students. “You were all attacked Friday. Let’s get that out of the way. We don’t know who the attacker was or his motivation. We also don’t know why you were all sent that telepathic message this morning.”

He started pacing now, his hands behind his back. “But what we do know is that starting now security will be tighter. You will all need to take precautions when moving around and make sure you are never alone. We will have more guards patrolling the grounds and more surveillance cameras around the school.”

Che nodded and saw that several other students were doing the same, though it didn’t make him feel any better. Yokan was far from done, and he’s more than proven a few more guards wouldn’t make much of a difference.

“Now, for today,” Naul finished, dissipating the smoke from his pipe. “I want you to partner up like normal but choose carefully. Your selection will be permanent. I’ll start over here.”

He motioned towards Che. “Rowan, you get first pick.”

Che froze. The last thing he wanted was to have a practice match right now. He glanced around, hoping to find Nikki, but he didn’t see her. Where could she have gone?

He felt Tyson nudging him in his side, but there was truly only one other person he had in mind. Without blinking, he turned around, scanning the crowd until his eyes found Lorenzo, who glared at him with an intensity that made Che shudder. Still, if he was going to need a training partner, it would have to be him.

“I pick Lorenzo,” Che turned to face Naul again, whose great white eyebrows raised in confusion.

“You sure that’s a good idea?” he asked.

“Yeah, dude, what if he poisons you again?” Tyson whispered, but Che simply shook his head.

“I’m sure,” he answered confidently. “I trust him.”

Naul nodded, not bothering to press further. “So be it.”

As Che approached Lorenzo, the latter folded his arms as if to protest the decision.

“I stand by what I said the other day,” he stated coldly. “I’m going alone.”

Che sighed. “Yeah, whatever. Here’s the thing. Whether you take me or not, I’m going to get stronger. And what better way to do that than to practice with someone who’s preparing to do the same thing as me?”

Lorenzo regarded Che, his expression a mixture of annoyance and hesitation. Che knew, at level 8, he wouldn’t stand the slightest chance against Yokan, who was at level 30 when Che first arrived in Eden. He had a lot of catching up to do, and time was of the essence.

“Look at it this way,” Che shrugged. “You win against me today, and it’s another level gained for you.”

Lorenzo scoffed as a sly grin crept across his face. “So, it’s that easy, huh?”

Che shrugged again. “Maybe.”

Lorenzo sighed and started towards a nearby practice ring. “Fine, but don’t think for a moment I’ll go easy on you.”

Che nodded. “That’s what I’m counting on.”

He followed Lorenzo into the ring, each taking their place on the opposite side.

“Start your matches whenever you’re ready!” Che heard Naul call out.

“I said I wasn’t going to go easy on you,” Lorenzo had already slipped into his battle stance, “but I won’t be a complete barbarian this time. I’ll let you go first.”

“Thanks,” Che replied before moving to sit cross-legged on the ground. Lorenzo eyed him warily as Che closed his eyes and went very still.

“What are you doing?” Lorenzo asked.

Che shushed him. “I need to concentrate if this is going to work against you. Meditate!”

Che focused on relaxing every part of his body, allowing it to match the surge of energy coursing through him. He used the breathing techniques he’d learned in his vocal studies and could feel himself grow warmer. A calmness washed over him as he gently raised his palms.

“Fine. Have it your way,” Lorenzo brought his fingertips up to his lips before kissing them. “Vicious Mist!”

He exhaled, sending a cloud of purple smoke hurling in Che’s direction. Yes, this was it! This was the attack he had to learn to overcome! As the smoke reached him, Che felt himself growing warmer still. He opened his eyes, and the mist began to dissipate.

And Che was now covered in a brilliant silver light.

Lorenzo stepped back, his expression morphing into awe. “What in the world did you do? It didn’t even hit you!”

“You were kind enough to explain your Mark to me the other day,” Che slowly moved to stand, the aura growing in intensity as it flickered and danced around him. “So I decided to figure out how to use mine. It’s called Silver Aura. Whenever I completely relax and clear my mind, I gain this…protective light thingy around me. While it’s in effect, it will block my opponent’s strongest offensive move. You only have two techniques, and the only offensive one is Vicious Mist.”

“Which means…” Lorenzo’s eyes grew wide.

Che nodded. “That’s right, and I’m sorry. But you have to lose today.”

He launched forward, extinguishing the rest of Lorenzo’s Vicious Mist attack as he charged through it. He watched as Lorenzo readied to pivot, but Che was already in position, fully intending to reach Lorenzo before he had a chance to dodge. All he needed to do was get close enough to touch him.

“Star Wall!” Lorenzo shot up his barrier, but Che could sense it wouldn’t be enough. No longer needing to hesitate, he sprang forward, bringing his fist up with a shout.

“Ace Punch!” Che’s feet left the ground as he flew toward Lorenzo, his Silver Aura still blazing around him. Lorenzo’s Star Wall was useless, as Che soared through it as if it was simply a hologram as he continued hurtling toward his opponent. As the punch connected with Lorenzo, Che pulled back, making sure the force of the blow didn’t do any serious damage.

Lorenzo was sent flying back, though the punch didn’t knock him off his feet. He stumbled over himself, trying not to fall over, before facing Che, whose Silver Aura had now dissipated.

“Good match, Lorenzo,” Che extended his hand.

“What are you talking about?” Lorenzo scoffed, his expression still incredulous, before looking down at the ground. While he’d managed to land on his feet, he was now standing outside of the ring, just as Che had intended.

The status screen materialized just as he expected. He was now at level 9, and whether Lorenzo liked it or not they would have no choice but to train together until Friday. Lorenzo dusted himself off, smirking as he mentally worked out Che’s strategy.

“Alright. Maybe you are ready to take this seriously.”