ToKyotchi Chapter 58

Illusions Shattered

Che had always considered himself a relatively good student despite the odds. Sure, his college professors had undermined him at several opportunities, but he’d never so much as failed a homework assignment let alone a test.

Yet, he’d never felt as unprepared as he did at the moment, even given the current circumstances. Yes, most people’s final exam didn’t involve having to rescue someone from being trapped in their own memories, but Legaros Academy expected quite a bit more from its students than academies on Earth.

Any normal person would have considered a final exam to be the least of their worries right now, for instance.

Even though it was all an illusion, the surrounding debris assaulted Che’s senses with a startling cacophony of smells. There was a harsh, metallic odor from the devastated machinery, a scent so potent it tasted like pennies on the tongue.

Che could feel the air wafting against his face, its presence heavy with the acrid stench of burnt rubber and plastic, the remnants of items lost in the blast. Overlaying it all was a thick, smoky fragrance, the residue of scorched timber and paper, making the air taste of soot and despair.

It was a sensory testament to the destruction, an olfactory reminder of the chaos that reigned. Nikki was the one who had endured all of this on her own, and Che couldn’t help but admire her for that.

He stepped forward, watching as the silver flames flickered all over his body, dancing around him like ribbons. He then carefully raised his fist, his brows furrowed in concentration.

If he struck hard enough, he should be able to shatter the entire illusion and take them back into the ring. There, he’d be able to stop Professor Avis, or perhaps it was truly Eminal now, once and for all.

He was just about to pull his arm back when he felt a gentle touch on his shoulder. He turned to see Nikki, whose expression was pure determination.

“No,” she shook her head, her eyes reflecting the ominous light of the horizon. “I need to be the one to break it.”

Che hesitated at first before nodding in understanding and extinguishing his Silver Aura. If anyone deserved to do this, it was certainly Nikki. “Okay. I leave it to you.”

“It’s going to get really hot in here,” Nikki nodded as she slipped into a fighting stance, slowly exhaling. “Sunstorm!”

Che stepped back and watched as the red horizon seemed to spring to life, the clouds swirling and folding into one another until they were a blazing inferno. Nikki then shot her fist forward, the flame she had been holding onto now bursting forth and engulfing everything around them.

The illusion gave almost no resistance, shattering like glass as Nikki’s power erupted around them. Che watched as the boulders began to evaporate into the sky, while Nikki and Lorenzo’s forms twisted and blurred as everything went dark.

For a moment, Che thought they’d all been put to sleep by Avis’ powers. Then, as if a heavy fog was lifting, he saw Nikki struggling to stand. Lorenzo appeared just after her, his form flickering and wavering as he fought to maintain consciousness.

Within seconds, it was as if all their senses returned at once. Che cupped his ears as the roar of the crowd overwhelmed him, while his body jerked forward as if the ground beneath him was shaking.

He blinked, and there was no longer any trace of rubble, glowing boulders, or a red horizon. They were back in the stadium just outside of the headmaster’s quarters, the clear blue sky a complete contrast to the chaos they had just experienced.

Che couldn’t help but smile in relief as he looked around at the familiar surroundings. They had done it! They had broken through and returned to reality. Nikki stood next to him, her fists still clenched as she caught her breath.

“That was amazing,” Che whispered in awe. “I knew you could break it.”

“It wasn’t enough,” Nikki replied, her voice hoarse.

Professor Avis stood on the opposite end of the ring, though posture wasn’t as straight or rigid as before. It was almost as if she was struggling to keep her balance. Che felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. She truly was a Mental type after all! And a powerful one at that.

Che began to consider all the times he could have been under an illusion before dismissing the intrusive thoughts. They still had an opponent to face, and there were probably several more waiting to make an entrance.

Yet somehow, Che wasn’t all that worried for once. He wasn’t sure if it was Nikki and Lorenzo’s presence, but he had a feeling that they could handle whatever came their way this time.

The crowd continued cheering wildly, snapping Che out of his daze. As he scanned the risers, he couldn’t find a single empty seat among the spectators. Hundreds of people must have come out today to watch the final exams, an amount he wasn’t expecting. Still, he figured it made sense given the circumstances.

After all, people loved a good sporting event, and everyone now felt safe because the “imposter” was locked away. Che closed his eyes and slowly shook his head. That was all about to come crashing down momentarily.

“Whoa! Looks like that freaky cloud is gone now, Dale!” Che heard one of the announcers call out.

“Yeah, what was up with that, Fritz?” the one Che assumed was Dale asked. “One minute they were arguing, and the next they vanished. What kind of technique was that?”

“I don’t know, but look!”Fritz replied excitedly. “Now there’s four people in the ring!”

“Hey, that’s not allowed, is it?”

“Wait! Isn’t that the imposter guy from the news?”

That was when Che noticed the gigantic projector screen that had been set up on the north side of the stadium, showing the audience live, close-up footage of what was happening in the ring.

Che felt a chill run down his spine as he felt every single eye in the stadium turn on him. He glanced over at Nikki, who simply grinned back.

“Hope you didn’t think they wouldn’t notice,” she said with a wink.

Che groaned, slumping his shoulders. Yes, he figured his status as a dangerous imposter wouldn’t make things easy for him, but it was still incredibly inconvenient at the moment.

The other professors looked on with shock and confusion. Coach Naul didn’t look any different than normal, the circular puffs of smoke escaping his pipe unchanged, but Lelele’s aura was so red that Che was sure her head would explode.

Professor Nine regarded the entire scene with a mournful expression, while Stufford looked as if he’d start sobbing hysterically at any moment. Che’s heart ached for them. They clearly didn’t sign up for this today.

“Stay away from Nikki!”

Che turned to see Tyson marching toward the ring, his eyes blazing with rage. His fists were clenched, and Che could see the whites of his knuckles from where he stood.

“You! Lorenzo!” Tyson snarled. “Whatever this scheme of yours is, leave her out of it!”

“Chetachi,” Che heard Lorenzo next to him. “If he charges at us using his Thunder Rush attack, my Star Wall technique won’t be able to block it. It only blocks Mystical-based attacks, remember?”

Che recalled their sparring session where he finally managed to knock Lorenzo out of the ring. His Ace Punch technique DID manage to break through Lorenzo’s Star Wall, and now it made more sense why it didn’t seem to affect Che at the time.

Lorenzo must have noticed Che’s realization as the teen’s eyes narrowed, his habitual smirk more prominent than ever. “You didn’t even know Star Wall had that condition, did you?”

Che shook his head. “You can make fun of me later. We’ve got to figure out what to do about Avis.”

“Water Shot!” Tyson was knocked sideways by a powerful water jet. Che followed its trail to see Bella facing Tyson with an outstretched hand. Kim stood behind her, her battle stance indicating she’d probably launch several Leech Flowers at Tyson the moment he stood up again.

“Kim? Bella?” Nikki whispered, and, as if she could hear Nikki, Bella turned to face everyone in the ring.

“That cloud!” Bella called to her. “It was an illusion…wasn’t it?”

Nikki opened her mouth to speak before closing it and simply nodding. Bella’s expression hardened before she turned back to face Tyson, her hand still outstretched. Che expected Tyson to jump back up ready to shout at Bella, but he didn’t move.

“Stay right where you are!” Bella shouted at Tyson before calling back out to Nikki. “Find out if he’s really here!”

Che took that to mean they suspected Eminal was behind the illusion, and he wasn’t ready to count their theory out just yet. Lorenzo finally assumed his own battle stance, prepared to fight alongside them.

“She really knocked out Tyson,” he chuckled. “My, my…we’re in big trouble now.”

“He faced Avis right before I did,” Nikki explained. “She didn’t go easy on him. He’s probably still wiped out from their match.”

“Of course she didn’t,” Che muttered as static from the intercoms drew everyone’s attention once more.

“What’s that guy doing HERE of all paces? isn’t he supposed to be locked up?” Dale’s voice blared through the speakers, and, as if on cue, the crowd erupted into a frenzy of excitement and confusion before descending into screams of terror.

Che watched as dozens of spectators began fleeing the stadium in fear, while others stumbled and fell to the ground, shrieking as if Che was slowly stalking behind them.

“Whelp! Looks like you’ve managed to send the crowd into a panic!” Fritz observed. “Gotta say, Dale, I was not prepared for total mayhem today.”

“Should we even keep commentating at this point?”

“Well, why not? There’s still people watching!”

Within a matter of seconds, Legaros guards had swarmed the field, appearing from seemingly every possible corner and circling the ring. From a quick count, Che determined there were more than twenty at the very least.

Wasting no time, they began advancing on the ring before Avis held up a hand, bringing them all to a halt.

“There’s no need!” she called out to them. “This will all be over soon! Just a few more minutes!”

“Don’t underestimate him, Avis!” Everyone looked up in unison to see Dr. Chapman off to the side of the ring flanked by more Legaros soldiers, his expression twisted with fury and determination. “Reinforcements are on the way! Get away from the ring!”

“I will handle this!” Avis’ voice boomed, resonating much louder than usual. “In just a few moments, none of us will even have to act! Do NOT interfere!”

Avis then took a deep breath before straightening her posture and dusting off her suit jacket. Time seemed to come to a complete stop as everyone waited to see what she would do next.

Che expected her to launch some new, complicated attack at him, but Avis simply patted a few stray hairs back into place as her usual cold demeanor returned once more.

“Besides, I have reinforcements of my own.”