Echoes of Power
Parts 21 – 25
The young woman simply shrugged before closing the little pouch and printing a receipt from a small device attached to her belt by a small chain. Alexandre was almost surprised not to see a skull attached to it. She quickly gave him the ticket and wished him a good night before turning around and walking down the stairs, climbing on her motorbike in a swift and gracious motion. Alexandre expected her to leave without a word but she turned around to him.
“Ugh, almost forgot… Giovanni’s Pizzas thanks you and wishes you a nice meal and a nice evening, et cetera…” She exclaimed in an almost disgusted voice before revving her engine and shooting off towards her next delivery.
Well, cute girl but what an attitude… Thought Alexandre, not knowing if he should smirk or look surprised. Relatable though, it mustn’t be the nicest of jobs to do at this time of the day… The teenager then walked back in the house and closed the door behind him
He put down the pizza boxes on the table, in a line so that they could choose which one they wanted to eat or not. Three extra-large pizzas were more than enough for both of them but Alexandre knew that his father would probably be hungry after his night shift and therefore needed something to eat quickly.
“Itadakimasu!” Exclaimed the teenager with a smile as he opened the box in the center and discovered, to his greatest pleasure, a cheese and mushroom topping with hot sauce.
“Yeah, you’re welcome.” Replied the older man with a smirk before also digging in.
They ate while watching the evening news, exchanging a few comments here and there about the events of the week-end that were being explained, detailed and debated inside the channel’s studio. Finally, as the anchorman wished them a good evening, they had eaten two of the three pizzas and a slice of the third.
“Put it in the fridge if you’re not hungry anymore, I’m stuffed.” Said David Parson as he stood up and grabbed his plate. “I’m going to take a shower and read a bit before going back to work. Don’t worry about locking behind me, I’ll take my key.” He added as he walked in the kitchen where he put his plate in the sink, then he disappeared in his room to take a shower.
“Ok!” Simply replied the teenager before grabbing the remote and looking through the channels.
He ended up watching the end of an episode of the new Power Rangers show. The whole production crew had changed the past year and they had decided to bring it back to life from scratch, beginning the story anew and changing the actors. They had managed a small miracle by making it interesting and fun to watch again, at least in Alexandre’s mind. For the first time he really enjoyed watching the show.
Once the credits started rolling on the large screen he also stood up with a contempt sigh and turned the television off before walking to the kitchen to also put his plate in the sink and the pizza in the fridge. Then he walked up the stairs and turned on his computer, decided to play a bit of DtR, Defend the Ruins, a new and revolutionary mmorpg that had been launched a few years back.
What he loved about the game was the freedom of actions that was offered. That coupled with the beautiful graphics, the immersing storyline and the fluidity of the gameplay had made it a precious gem in his eyes. Defend the Ruins offered a near infinite universe, possibilities of actions that far surpassed any other game made before, from the creation of the character to the immense choice of action at each moment and the complete customization of the character’s abilities and powers. The main difference from other mmorpgs was the absence of inventory panel and ability tree, which made the game much more realistic and difficult.
The teenager only realized he had been playing for almost an hour and a half when his father came int he room to tell him he was leaving. The older man had changed his shirt and had combed his hair, making sure he was presentable again before going off to work.
“Okay, see you tomorrow then!” Replied Alexandre with a smile as he took of his headset and turned towards his father.
“Thanks, have a good night Alex. And since I’m not going to come home early I dare think you’ll already be sleeping for a while when I’ll be back. I trust you to take care of yourself but if you ever need anything, don’t hesitate to call!” Said David with a small smile.
“Yeah, of course, I’m off to bed in ten minutes I swear!” Exclaimed the teenager, raising his hand as he did.
“Right…” Commented the man with greying hair, apparently not believing his son completely. “Anyway! Good night and sleep tight!” He added with a smile before turning around.
“Yeah, I will! Good night to you too dad!” Replied the light-haired teen as his fathered disappeared in the corridor.
He heard the door open and then close a few seconds later, the key turned in the lock and Alexandre found himself alone once more. He heard the sound of the car driving away and smiled as he resumed his game. In the end he stopped only five minutes after the time he had allowed himself, a quarter of an hour after his father had left, and turned of the computer before walking towards the bathroom to take a warm shower. At eleven p.m. he had cleaned himself, dressed for the night and was lying in his bed, reading a book. He stopped about half an hour later and turned off the light after having programmed the alarm clock on his night stand, the teenager drifted off to sleep in a matter of minutes after that.
He woke up the next morning to the sound of said alarm clock which was blaring loudly, it took him a few seconds of blind groping before he managed to find the right button and turned it off. A few more seconds to completely wake up and motivate himself. The teenager slowly got up and walked into the bathroom across the hall, still half asleep, to wash his face before going to eat breakfast. His father wasn’t up yet when he finally reached the table, but that was predictable after the night he had probably spent working, perhaps he only had just gotten back a couple of minutes or hours ago.
Finally, after eating his bowl of cereals and quickly getting dressed he left the house, closing the door and walking off towards the Bartholomée Santana highschool. He noticed he was almost ten minutes earlier than the previous day. Great, I can take my time today. He thought with a contempt sigh before slightly slowing his pace down. He passed through the school gates only a few seconds before his best friends who, once more, had come riding his bike.
“Wow, you’re early today! Surprising!” Exclaimed the dark-haired teen with a smirk as he was putting away his bike.
“Well hello to you too Bryan, I’m also very happy to see you my friend.” Replied Alexandre with a half smirk and a frown.
“Oh come on! Can’t I have a bit of fun with you now?” Asked Bryan, his smirk turning into a wide, playful smile.
“Not even a little.”
“Well… At least I’ll have tried…” Bryan finally surrendered as he shot his hands up for a second. “So, you’re evening?” He then asked, quickly changing the subject of the conversation as they both walked towards the buildings of the school.
Alexandre told his friend about his progress on Defend the Ruins, which Bryan knew a little since he played from time to time, though much more rarely than his friend. They talked about it all the way to the classroom, debating what was the best way to follow the story while completing the quest the fastest. The light-haired teen also tried once more to convince his friend to play more regularly but, as always, it was to no avail as Bryan replied that he would think about it but that he didn’t have enough time between all his other activities and duties in the Dojo.
The day started with a philosophy class for two hours and then switched with physics, which lasted until the lunch break. Contrary to the morning which had seemed to go by extremely fast, at least to Alexandre, the afternoon felt like and eternity. The biology class he usually enjoyed a lot passed by so slowly he thought he was going to fall asleep. The reason was to that ways very simple: Alexandre was in a hurry to get to the gym class to finally let off some steam, he wanted to run, jump or at least be able to move!
Finally, as he felt like he was about to snap the bell rung and they were released from the lab room. They all rushed off to the locker rooms to get changed before meeting before the track field behind the gymnasium where the teachers were already waiting for them. The beginning of the year meant that they had to choose different sports that they would have to train in during the year and be marked after a test at the end of each period. Alexandre already knew which he would choose from the list that was proposed: 100 meters dash, high jump and soccer, he loved the dash and the high jump even if they weren’t his forte and soccer had always been a sport he enjoyed playing and which he was proud to say he wasn’t bad at.
When the bell rung the end of class the group went back to the locker rooms to take a shower and get changed. Alexandre and Bryan were both sweating profusely, each of them was completely drenched, but the dark-haired teenager seemed to struggle a lot less to catch his breath and calm his beating heartbeat. Alexandre knew that this was due to the fact that his friend spent a lot more time than him exercising, Bryan spent long hours training in the dojo each day whereas he didn’t do any most of the days. Of course there was another reason why Bryan was much more physically fit than his friend but he would never dare point it out, especially in front of him.
“Next time I’ll beat you, I swear!” He exclaimed as he and Bryan quickly got dressed.
“Yeah, whatever you say man!” Replied the tan teenager with a smirk.
“You better believe it!” Added Alexandre as he straightened and threw his fist in the air, his expression much too serious to be really believable.
“Hey, to each his own thing. You’re far better than me in speaking Japanese for example!” Said Bryan as he defensively held his hands up.
“Yeah, because I actually take classes to learn it.” Replied Alexandre, poking and accusing finger at his friend’s torso.
“Hey, I can’t help it if I find it easy to understand!” Bryan defended himself with a chuckle. “I’m better than you in all aspects, I can’t help it…” He added, smirking again.
“What luck I have to be friends with such and incredible person!” Commented Alexandre, his tone full of irony.
“Come on, hurry up mister unhappy or I’m leaving you behind!” Replied Bryan as he finished dressing up and grabbed his bag.
“Yeah yeah, coming!” Exclaimed Alexandre as he rushed to get his sports clothes in his bag before closing his gym locker and catching up to his friend.
They walked out of the smaller building and towards the central courtyard of the school, they walked across the large space where a large number of student was pouring out from the surrounding buildings as the classes ended. The two teenagers separated and went their own way as they reached the commercial zone, about halfway down the road that led from the highschool to the light-haired teenager’s house, Alexandre kept going straight while Bryan took a right, towards the east of the city.
He walked for another ten minutes before finally reaching his house, taking his time to make the most of the good weather. His father hadn’t come back yet when he opened the door, he sat down in the kitchen and proceeded to work on the little homework they had been given while having a snack, carefully making sure he wasn’t spreading crumbs all over his school books. Once he deemed he was finished with his homework he put his stuff back into his bag and quickly climbed the stairs towards his room to put away the bag. He then proceeded to turn on the computer and logged in to his account on DtR, he was pleasantly surprised to find his best friend already logged in and waiting for him.
They played together, communicating through the audio channels that the game servers provided, until Bryan was finally called for dinner. Alexandre then looked at the time and noticed they had been playing for almost two hours. Dang it! He thought as he realized he had to prepare dinner, I played too long! He closed the game and put the computer in sleeping mode before hurrying to the kitchen. 8:32 p.m. He still had time to prepare some food, his father wouldn’t be home soon if he guessed right, probably not before 10 p.m. at least. He was finishing the cooking of some sausage with carrots and peas when he received a message from his father telling him he would be home late in the evening.
The teenager took advantage of the fact that he was home alone once more and sat in front of the television to watch a movie while he ate. He flicked through the great number of available channels and ended up watching the last movie of the Hard Death series, one of the rare action movie franchise he actually enjoyed watching. Plus he hadn’t seen the last one so this was a win-win situation. If he had been asked, in that precise moment, how he would describe his life, the teenager would have very easily and with certainty answered normal, commonplace even, with the exception perhaps of his best friend’s condition. There also was the question of his sanity, but that was another matter, the answer to the voice’s existence was very probably psychological. Nevertheless, the teenager could never have been able to guess what was soon to come.
He had sometimes wondered, quite often actually, if anyone else knew about Bryan. If his parents and his family knew who, or rather what, he really was? Or had his best friend struggled all his life, alone and scared, to keep it hidden from others? It had been so long since he had seen his friend transform, couldn’t it have been an illusion? A creation of his mind? Much like the strange voice? For a second he almost believed it, but then he remembered very vividly what had happened that evening. No, it was real. His best friend was… different, he was something else. He couldn’t ignore the signs. Someone who didn’t know the tall dark-haired teenager would have shrugged at these details but Alexandre knew better, his best friend’s physical shape, his great eyesight and insane sense of smell.
Plus he always seemed calm but, from time to time, Alexandre could see the glimmer, a strange light in his friend’s eyes, going as quick as it came. But it was there, Bryan’s face grew pale for a second and he would become incredibly tense, before relaxing and acting as if nothing had ever happened. No, there were these show and tells that he couldn’t ignore. But, if it all was true, what did it mean? What else was there, out there in the world? What other strange things really did exist? He had asked himself the same question a number of time over the years but he could never formulate an answer… All he knew was that the world wasn’t always what it seemed to be, it was a much more wild and dangerous place than he could ever have imagine.