Che jolted awake, his head spinning and heart pounding. His eyes darted around the unfamiliar room in confusion.
As he struggled to sit up, he realized he was lying on a cot of sorts that was attached to the concrete floor. He coughed as the metal air vent a few inches from his feet blew hot, stale air into his face. He noticed several more scattered across the ground along with black and yellow tape most likely meant to denote safe distance parameters.
Metal pipes lined the walls, stretching up to the ceiling where a single bulb had the overwhelming job of casting a dull light over the entire vicinity.
At a glance, Che felt as if the chamber could stretch on for miles. He continued taking in his surroundings, noticing several corridors on each side that were framed with steel beams and big enough for armored vehicles to pass through.
Che rubbed his temples, trying to make sense of everything. He had so many questions, so many more since he’d departed his dorm room to chase after Lorenzo.
“Oh, bro, you’re awake!” Che turned to see Tyson sitting in a chair. Nikki stood beside him, watching Che worriedly. He felt a wave of relief wash over him at the sight of them, which quickly changed to concern.
“Where are we?” Che asked, his voice hoarse from all the shouting he’d done earlier.
Tyson and Nikki exchanged a glance before Nikki answered. “The guards that swarmed us brought us to a bunker underneath Legaros Tower.”
Che wished he could let out a sigh of relief. At least they weren’t in imminent danger anymore, but he knew this wasn’t the end of their troubles. “The explosions. Do they know who started them?”
Nikki glanced at Tyson nervously, and that’s when Che figured out that she hadn’t told him she and Lorenzo were behind tonight’s chaos. Of course, any mention of planning anything with Lorenzo would set Tyson off, and Che didn’t want that to happen.
“They, um…they don’t know yet,” Nikki answered, clutching her arm nervously.
Che nodded slowly, though he had even more questions for Nikki. Why was she trying to get into the restricted area now? Why hadn’t she told him about any of it? Yet, he couldn’t risk trying to talk about it at the moment, not with Tyson present. Besides, he didn’t know if they were being watched or monitored.
“Tyson, when you sleepwalk, do you normally travel that far?” Che asked, desperate for a distraction.
Tyson shrugged and smiled nervously. “I guess I subconsciously wanted to make sure you were safe.”
“Is that also roommate code?” Che smirked.
“Roommate code!” Tyson chuckled.
Nikki rolled her eyes and snickered. “You two are unbelievable.”
Che and Tyson exchanged a look and laughed. Honestly, things had gotten more than a bit ridiculous tonight. Still, Che couldn’t help but feel moved by his friend’s act, even though he unwittingly put himself in extreme danger. “Well, I’m glad you woke up during the fight. I’m not sure we could have managed to fend him off without you.”
“It was that guy, right?” Tyson jumped up, his voice filled with a rage Che was all too familiar with. “It’s the same guy who attacked us the other day and threatened to kidnap more students! Do you think that’s what tonight was?”
Che contemplated Tyson’s words, feeling a chill run down his spine. Besides the fact that Nikki was the one who started the explosions, Yokan didn’t seem to be interested in anything except toying with Che during their encounter.
Che scoffed. It didn’t seem like his objective involved kidnapping more students at all. Yet, the fact remained that someone was kidnapping students and had sent a telepathic broadcast threatening to kidnap more if Che didn’t reveal himself, and Yokan was the most likely suspect.
A Mental type was entirely possible of sending a telepathic message. Yet none of Yokan’s techniques revolved around mind control or telepathy. Plus, his Mark was Disturb, which only lowered his opponent’s physical and mystical attack power.
So, how did he send the message to everyone, and why hadn’t Che heard it? He shook his head. It didn’t matter right now. Yokan had to be stopped before he hurt anyone else.
Thankfully, Che could now be certain of a few things following his encounter with Yokan. Reagan and Vista definitely knew who Yokan was and had probably been working with him all along, and Lorenzo had some sort of credentials to get into the restricted area.
Che recalled how the mercurial teen was able to casually stroll inside the gates, how the guards just let him in without a fuss. Why would he go through all the trouble of helping Nikki organize a way to get inside and not tell her the plan had changed? Even during the chaos, he didn’t appear to be alarmed by any of it. It was as if this was all to be expected.
What was Lorenzo truly after?
“Well, now we know for sure,” Che broke the silence. “Reagan and Vista are working with him.”
Nikki frowned. “I just don’t get why they’d help someone like that.”
“They’ve had it out for us since we got here,” Che reminded her, “and they’ve been harassing us ever since.”
Tyson crossed his arms and huffed. “But why us, though? We don’t even know them.”
Che felt the familiar pang of guilt as he watched Tyson struggle to piece it all together. All of this was because of him. Reagan and Vista were teens just like Tyson and Nikki. They had no idea the kind of monster they were truly working with. This wasn’t just mischief. Yokan was a murderer with likely countless victims.
“Well, we can’t just sit here!” Tyson shouted, breaking Che’s thoughts. “We need to go after him before he does anything else!”
Che nodded. “I agree, but we don’t know where he is. He can teleport, remember? He could be anywhere at this point.”
Tyson slammed his fist into the metal floor and let out a frustrated growl. “Sitting here and doing nothing is a waste of time! We need to go after him now!”
“You will do no such thing.”
The three turned to see Professor Avis standing on the edge of the dim light’s glow as if she’d been there all along. Her face was as stern as Che had ever seen it, her eyes so narrow they could cut glass with ease.
“What the three of you did tonight,” she spoke slowly, her voice as cold and sharp as ice, “was incredibly foolish and reckless. You were to QUICKLY make your way to a safe location, yet you were found engaging the assailant directly. Do you know how much danger you put yourselves in? Do you care?”
Tyson clenched his fists, wanting to protest, but he remained silent. Nikki was equally quiet, her eyes glued to the floor.
“I’m sorry, Professor,” Tyson hung his head in shame.
Nikki folded her arms, looking away in her usual fashion. “We didn’t mean to put ourselves in danger.”
Professor Avis fixed her gaze on Che. “And you, Mr. Rowan?
Che wanted to tell her right then that she knew who was behind the attack, that it was a lunatic who killed him on Earth and sent them both here, but he was certain he’d be locked away the moment the words escaped his mouth. No. He had to come up with another explanation.
“We panicked,” Che explained. “We just wanted to get away from the explosions. We didn’t know who was causing them. I was primarily responsible for engaging the…assailant. These two just wanted help.”
Professor Avis nodded slowly as if assessing them. “I’m sure you recognized the assailant as the same man from the student assembly last weekend. You also foolishly engaged him then.”
Che felt another chill run down his spine. The other two nodded in agreement, although he could tell they were just as scared as him.
“And I’m sure you think you were brave in both of those instances, facing down an enemy instead of running,” Professor Avis’ tone remained firm, “but you failed to realize that you were placing yourselves in unnecessary danger. The three of you are lucky to be alive. You should have run.”
“Alright, Avis, I think they get the point,” The four of them startled as Professor Lelele floated down from the ceiling, yawning. “After all, my class was the reason Rowan and Nikki were out past curfew anyway, and they were pretty much on their own at that point? Remember the unconscious guards we found?”
“That does not excuse their recklessness,” Professor Avis replied, folding her arms. “And as a faculty member, I would expect you to have more control over your students.”
“Avis, I already told you,” Professor Lelele’s blueish hue turned pinkish as she swirled around Professor Avis like a mischievous sprite. “There was no way I could have predicted someone taking down their escorts. They’re students. They still have to attend classes.”
Professor Avis waved Professor Lelele away before returning her attention to Che and the others. “Which brings me to my next point. In light of tonight’s events, classes will conclude early this year. The headmaster has decided that we should give you all of the remaining coursework to study, and you will be permitted to take your final exam at any point. However, you will only have until next Friday to do it. After that, you will need to wait until enrollment opens up again.”
Tyson groaned. “What? How in the world are we supposed to learn six weeks’ worth of material in one week?”
“That’s your only option for now,” Professor Avis said, her voice stern. “The headmaster wants to make sure everyone is safe and secure before any more students are allowed to enroll in the academy.”
Che glanced at Nikki and Tyson, who were both nodding in agreement. Truthfully, he hadn’t planned on staying longer than he had to, just long enough to find Yokan and a way back home.
Still, he knew they had no choice but to accept the headmaster’s decision, but he couldn’t help but feel a twinge of disappointment. He was running out of time, and the pace seemed to be increasing rapidly with each day.
He still wasn’t strong enough to face Yokan. That much had been made certain tonight during their encounter. If he could just drop the facade and focus on finding him instead of pretending to be a student, perhaps he could make some real progress.
“Alright,” Professor Avis’ voice broke the silence. “That about covers it. We’ve conducted a thorough sweep of the area and weren’t able to find any signs of the assailant, so we’ll be escorting students back to the dorms shortly. Tomorrow, you can decide if you wish to stay or return home.”
Che allowed himself to feel a small amount of relief. It wasn’t the best news, but it wasn’t the worst either. Professor Lelele waved to them as she vanished from sight, while Professor Avis turned to leave the room. Once she once again at the light’s edge, she stopped and called back to them.
“And if any of you thinks about sneaking into the conference room again, please know that it’s been under surveillance since classes began.”