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ToKyotchi Chapter 46

Last Class

Che felt like he was walking underwater as he approached practice ring, the sun’s heat and humidity wrapping his body in a liquid embrace. This was the last place he wanted to be at the moment.

He’d been so certain he wouldn’t make it to Sparring class to begin with after his disastrous confrontation on the rooftop of the girls’ dorm. Now that Tyson knew the truth and Nikki thought he was deranged, he expected guards to show up any minute.

So, when he managed to not only make it to class on time but walk amongst the other students unscathed, he felt an odd sort of freedom, though he knew he couldn’t welcome it.

Coach Naul stood at the other side of the field, the smoke from his pipe curling around him like a guardian spirit. Che thought he could certainly use a guardian angel of his own, especially as more people found out his true identity.

He slowly shook his head, trying to clear away the worry and focus on the task at hand, but what was the point? What task? Yokan would find him sooner rather than later, whether it was in the middle of practice or his dreams.

So many questions raced through his mind. Why did Yokan want Che to find him at this place? Why did he seem to favor randomly attacking and then vanishing for several days? What was his motive? Was it even worth trying to figure out anymore?

“Are you going to step into the ring any time soon?”

Lorenzo’s voice jolted Che from his thoughts. Che looked over at the teen, whose wavy black hair glinted in the afternoon light. His dark eyes were full of curiosity as he waited for an answer.

Except Che wasn’t sure where to begin. He felt like he’d been fighting with questions since he’d woken up this morning. Each time he took one on, it felt like two more showed up to fight alongside it. He wasn’t sure he had the energy to tackle them all, let alone a practice match with Lorenzo.

Still, Che couldn’t let him off that easy. It was time to get the truth.

“I know something about you,” Che blurted out. “It’s time to cut the act, Lorenzo. I saw you last night. You planned to sneak into the restricted area with Nikki, but you left her behind. We watched you walk right inside the gate like it was nothing. You’ve been able to get inside all along, haven’t you?”

Lorenzo’s expression changed from annoyance to something darker, a look that gave Che pause. But he had gone too far to back down now.

“Well…” he began, seemingly searching for the right words. “I could say that’s quite the accusation, but you’re not wrong.”

Che’s heart raced. He had been right all along. He also felt a strange sense of relief wash over him as he realized his suspicions were confirmed. Lorenzo wasn’t just a normal student. He was something more.

Lorenzo, as if expecting the entire exchange, continued. “And I know something about you as well.”

Che’s heart skipped a beat. “And what is that?”

“You’re not Rowan, and I’ve known that all along.”

Che was nearly speechless. This wasn’t the response he’d been expecting at all.

“W-what do you mean you’ve known all along?” he managed to sputter.

Lorenzo smiled, though it didn’t reach his eyes. “I’m guessing someone else found out, didn’t they?”

Che clenched his fists as he recalled the exchange he’d just had with Tyson and Nikki. He didn’t know if it was possible Lorenzo knew about it, but he couldn’t put it past him either.

Still, Lorenzo shrugged, signaling none of Che’s speculation truly mattered. “I think the real question is what will you do now? You know that man is after you.”

Che balked, taking a step back. How was Lorenzo unfazed by all that was happening around him? There was a flying lunatic kidnapping students just like him who had probably killed several more in his wake. Yet, Lorenzo was more concerned with being mysterious and floating through it all, as if he wasn’t in as much danger as everyone else.

It was almost as if he knew he wouldn’t be harmed.

“Lorenzo, who are you?” Che asked.

Lorenzo sighed. “That boring question again. I already told you. I’m the person who ends up being the bad guy eventually. Just give it time.”

“Is he making you do something?” Che looked down and realized his hand was outstretched. “You don’t have to go along with it. If he’s threatening you, let’s go to the headmaster and alert everyone. You’re not alone, Lorenzo.”

“I don’t have the slightest idea who you’re referring to or what you’re talking about,” Lorenzo smirked, and Che couldn’t help but feel like Lorenzo understood something he didn’t.

“Lorenzo, please,” Che pleaded. “Drop the act for a second. The man who attacked us at the student assembly and who showed up last night after you walked through the gate, his name is Yokan. He did something terrible to me, and I think he’s done it to several others. I just want to stop him.”

“You always think you can save everyone,” Lorenzo droned, pressing on with his unfazed attitude. “Despite everything, I do admire that about you, even if you are a liar.”

Che closed his eyes, allowing the words to sink in. He felt a wave of guilt wash over him. Tyson was right. He HAD been lying to everyone. The real Rowan’s family probably thought he was at Legaros Academy attending classes, unaware their son had all but vanished thanks to Yokan.

“But you can barely manage to protect yourself,” Lorenzo continued. “What makes you think you can protect anyone else? Why don’t you just turn yourself in and explain the situation?”

“Because I can’t get stuck here!” Che’s voice was much louder than he intended. “Look, it’s hard to explain, but Yokan is the one who brought me to this place, and he’s the only one who knows how to get me home.”

“So, that’s what this really is,” Lorenzo folded his arms, a self-satisfied smirk creeping across his face. “You just want to get home. So, what if this Yokan person offers to take you back? Will you just leave?”

“I don’t like what you’re implying,” Che felt his jaw and shoulders tense up. “He needs to be stopped.”

Lorenzo shrugged. “Just thought I’d ask. Besides, you may even get a chance to test that theory later.”

Che felt a chill run down his spine. What was Lorenzo suggesting? Did he know something Che didn’t? “What do you mean?”

“Since I can get into the restricted area, you can just accompany me inside next time,” Lorenzo explained. “Nikki mentioned wanting to get into the Marbot Research Facility, but I’m guessing that was your idea?”

Che nodded, though he now understood Nikki had her own reasons for wanting to go there.

“Then it’s settled,” Lorenzo continued. “When this class is over, meet me in front of the dorms. I’ll take you there, and perhaps then you can have a much-needed heart-to-heart with this Yokan person.”

Che was silent for a moment, trying to wrap his head around the situation. He was completely over Lorenzo and the mysterious, ambiguous game he was intent on playing, but the mercurial teen was his only way inside the restricted area without drawing too much attention.

He’d have plenty of time to run from guards and faculty once Tyson told them who the imposter was, assuming he hadn’t done so already.

“Okay,” Che finally replied. “Let’s do it.”

Lorenzo smiled as he turned away from Che. “Good. I had a feeling you’d agree. So, why don’t we cut today’s practice short?”

He stepped out of the ring, and the status menu appeared before Che, informing him that he was now level 16.

“Wait, why are you just throwing the match?” Che asked, his brow furrowed in confusion. “Don’t you need to gain levels too?”

“Oh, darling, don’t worry about me,” Lorenzo called behind him as he flipped his hair and made his way toward the locker rooms. “You’re going to need much more of an advantage than I ever will.”