ToKyotchi Chapter 50

Time for the Truth

Nikki gazed up at the 3D aircraft hologram rotating in the center above the receptionist’s desk. Even though the lobby of Legaros Tower was packed with students, it was completely silent, the air buzzing with anticipation.

Professors Stufford, Nine, Avis, Lelele, and Naul circled the receptionist’s desk as if their job was to prevent students from pouncing on it. Their expressions were grim, and their collective body language signaled that something serious was about to occur.

Of course, Avis didn’t look much different than she usually did, but it was strange to see Lelele and Nine not smiling or laughing. Nikki tried to steady her breathing, to maintain as neutral of a facial expression as possible. She knew exactly what was coming; this was the moment when everyone would find out the truth, or at least part of it.

Nikki had been sound asleep when the sound of banging on her door nearly startled her out of bed. She’d jumped to her feet, hastily cleaning herself up and putting on her clothes before rushing into the hallway, where she found Legaros guards collecting the other students from their dorm rooms. Soon, they had all escorted down to the maglev cabs and sent on their way.

The sun hadn’t yet peeked over the horizon as they sped toward Legaros Tower. Nikki had scanned the cab and was surprised to see Bella and Kim standing beside her. Neither spoke a word the entire ride, but she couldn’t deny their presence brought her a small bit of comfort as the eerie silence seemed to spread with each passing moment.

Still, Nikki kept looking around for any trace of Chetachi, even though she knew deep down she wouldn’t find him. He’d probably gone to find Yokan the moment he left the roof.

She sighed and shook her head as she now tried to drown out the conversations happening throughout the lobby, wishing that none of this was even happening. Why hadn’t Chetachi just waited until they all figured something out? Tyson had overreacted when he found out Chetachi’s true identity, but there was still time. They could have found another way into the Marbot Research Facility by now.

Once they’d arrived outside of Legaros Tower, the guards had instructed them to wait in the lobby for an important broadcast. By the time Nikki stepped inside, the hall was full of whispers as students tried to guess the topic of the broadcast, but nobody knew for sure.

Nobody except Nikki and Tyson.

That was when she looked down and noticed the goosebumps on her arm. When did it get so cold all of a sudden? From what she could tell, the air conditioning wasn’t on full blast, yet it felt like an icy draft was seeping through the walls.

Nikki barely managed to stop herself from audibly gasping as the realization washed over her. She knew exactly what was happening; It was her Mark, but why now? She closed her eyes, thinking of all the possible reasons her Clairvoyance was active, and the answer quickly became clear.

He was here somewhere. He had to be.

Nikki looked over at Bella and Kim, who also had their eyes trained on the hologram. She opened her mouth to speak before quickly shutting it again. Neither one of them would want to hear anything she had to say about her Mark. It wasn’t as if it had made a difference in the past anyway. She’d simply have to figure it out on her own.

“Do you think they found that maniac?” Bella finally broke the silence, keeping her voice as low as possible.

“Let’s hope that’s what this is all about,” Kim shook her head and sighed.

Nikki spotted Tyson across the room, his head down and fists clenched. He didn’t seem to be paying attention to the buzz of conversation in the lobby, but Nikki knew Tyson was just as anxious as everyone else. After all, he must have been the one who alerted everyone about Chetachi. That was why they were all here, after all.

Nikki continued scanning the lobby, searching for anyone else she recognized, before returning her attention to Bella and Kim. “Has anyone seen Lorenzo?”

Kim gave her a sideways glance, though she spared Nikki from her usual taunting. “I haven’t seen him since Sparring class yesterday with Rowan. You should know by now he likes to wander, Nikki.”

“Geez, just ask him out already!” Bella exclaimed.

Nikki rolled her eyes. “That’s not why I’m asking.”

“Whatever,” Bella said, though she gave Nikki a knowing smirk.

Nikki’s anxiety only seemed to grow as the minutes ticked by. Where was Lorenzo? Had he gone to the restricted area alone again? Why was he even able to get inside in the first place?

The hologram above the receptionist’s desk began to flicker, and everyone immediately turned to face it including the professors. The hologram continued to wink in and out of sight and shifted as a figure appeared onscreen. It was Headmaster Chapman, stern-faced and serious.

“Good morning everyone,” his voice boomed over the intercom, though it sounded gravelly as if he’d been up all night. “My apologies for herding you into the lobby so early in the morning. First, I commend your bravery in continuing your training and studies during this distressing time. Please know that such fortitude will be taken into consideration should you choose to take your final exams this week.”

Nikki noticed many of the other students nervously nodding in agreement. She felt her body tense up, the feeling of dread settling in her stomach. It was just as she’d feared.

“I am pleased to announce we have apprehended the imposter,” Chapman continued. “A student known to many of you as Rowan was actually a man named Chetachi Johnson. We have contained him in a secure facility and have notified your families and the authorities.”

The room filled with a collective gasp of shock at the news, which was quickly replaced with applause as cheers rang out. Bella and Kim, in particular, seemed relieved. Nikki, however, felt a different emotion entirely.

“I knew something was off about him!” Bella exclaimed, her eyes burning with fury.

“I can’t believe it…” Kim shuddered as she covered her mouth in shock.

“What’s not to believe?” Bella retorted as she turned to face Kim. “It was so obvious from the day we met him that he was completely out of place!”

“Yes, but…” Kim trailed off, her eyes falling to the ground.

“But what?” Bella prompted. “Oh, what, you think just because Nikki said he could be trusted that it meant anything? She’s always wrong when it counts. You know that.”

Nikki winced at the cruel words but didn’t argue. Bella was right; Nikki had been wrong before, and it had cost them all greatly. She clenched her fists against her sides and turned away, wishing she could disappear at that moment.

“In the end, he was just some weirdo who used us to sneak into the school!” Bella continued, her voice rising with each word. “He’s no different than the professor.”

Nikki wanted to speak up, to tell Bella that she still had it all wrong. Yes, Chetachi was an imposter, but he wasn’t the dangerous man everyone was now making him out to be. There was more to all of this, something that had yet to be revealed.

“This concludes my announcement,” Chapman nodded his head as he reached over to a device next to him and flipped a switch. “You may all return to your studies now.”

The hologram went dark before returning to the 3D aircraft model. The lobby erupted into a flurry of chatter as everyone exchanged their thoughts and opinions on the announcement. Nikki kept her eyes trained on the ground, trying to process her feelings while staying out of it.

Soon, the professors began ushering the students out of the lobby and into the courtyard, where Legaros guards waited to escort everyone back to the dormitories. Bella and Kim stayed beside Nikki, who took a deep breath, feeling relieved as she made her way down the corridor. She could finally be alone with her thoughts, even if it was only for a few seconds.

She looked over at Tyson, who had a satisfied but somber expression on his face. He probably thought he’d accomplished something now that Chetachi was in custody, and she wanted to scream. To him, the mystery was solved.

Except, all he’d managed to accomplish was make it nearly impossible to find out the truth. What had they done to Chetachi? What would happen to him now that he was in custody? She recalled the mission Yokan had given Chetachi in his dreams, now certain that it wasn’t Yokan at all who had been calling out to him but someone else.

Chetachi may have been pretending to be a student, but the true enemy was someone who was far more deceptive. There was still time to find him. There had to be.

“Bella…Kim…” Nikki spoke softly, her voice raspy from the tension in the room. “I think Professor Eminal is here.”