A/N: This chapter contains a trigger warning for child abuse.
Chapter 8 - Not So Different
After the dream I'm lost and alone.
Quickly falling right through the unknown.
So I will fly and be free.
Escape this awful wasteland.
I will not worry!
Compared to the other days, Shiron woke up way too early. His yawning, tired eyes and overall sluggish posture proved it. Even while walking. If anything, walking made it worse. At least he had breakfast.
…Why do I need to go to this old man anyway? They know I'm not a fighter. There's no way this guy can make me strong in just a morning.
With another yawn, Shiron stretched his arms. The streets were mostly empty, being early in the morning, and the breeze felt nice on his scales. Windy, a tad salty. Not the best, but there wasn't any swamp nearby;
But—they're counting on me to help. And win this stupid competition.
Shiron sighed, his friends' dreams weren't stupid, it was just the tiredness speaking. Hm. Wonder what they're making us do. Can I even help…? Bein' useless is my thing, but… gotta try.
He stopped, taking a look around. Shiron was back in the center of the town, and now all he had to do was go down one of the streets to find that house. If Nick told him correctly, it's…
"Left!" Shiron said, only to himself. Part of him wanted to make a quick stop at Magnus' bakery, but it was too early, the place probably wasn't open yet. Maybe he could find another excuse to go?
Okay what am I thinking? Having responsibilities sucks, but it is what it is. Just need to meet this "Ronan" guy.
Now that he stopped to think about it, this world was weird
. There's a Rowan, a Ronan, and a Charmeleon named Onyx. Y'know, maybe being reborn into an odd world is my punishment for… existing.
Defying all odds, Shiron was still alive. He turned left and continued on his way.
As he walked, Shiron saw more houses, all normal. Not too big, not too small, some made of wood, others with bricks… nothing that caught his attention.
That was, until his eyes landed on a large, white house. Of course, it could be just another one, if not for the large open field on its left, full of wooden, featureless mannequins.
Target practice…? Or some kinda graveyard?
Shiron gulped. It better not be a graveyard. Wait, it doesn't look like a graveyard. I'm an idiot! Why am I like this?
After a quick slap on his cheeks, Shiron grumbled. That had to be the house! Now for his greatest weakness: asking for the guy to help him. Or… old man. Yeah, old man. More respectful that way.
Okay, stop getting distracted by random stuff. Just gotta go, knock on the door, hope he doesn't instantly want to skin me alive, and—and I'm going on a tangent again, because why not?
Shiron clapped his hands, laughing out loud in an attempt to calm down, or at least ignore the oppressive anxiety of having to go
there and do
Okay! On three! Three… two… two and a half… two point six… two point seven…
He gulped, charging ahead as fast as he could, quickly getting to the door. Shiron knocked three times.
Seconds felt like hours, while Shiron waited for someone to answer. Maybe there wasn't anyone home! He could hope for that. Then nobody would need him to do
things and he could just… help with the competition. With emotional support.
Alas, luck was not in his favor, as the door creaked open. Shiron's heart thumped
, eagerly waiting for whoever was on the other side—
"Hm?" A Houndoom answered. The same one from before. Shiron forgot his name… but it had to be. With that stern, yet soft expression. "Oh, you're that kid from before! Are you here to ask for assistance? I was just visiting Ronan, he's an old friend of mine."
"O-Oh, hi!" Shiron waved. Ivan! His name was Ivan! The third name that ended with "-an"! How could he forget? "Yup. Some friends said he could help me control my moves better, and he's a st—water-type like me! Two Starly with one Rock Tomb, amirite?"
Shiron felt himself die inside from that sentence. When did he learn it…?
"Kids these days… you never know what they are talking about." Ivan hummed. "Ah, where are my manners? Ronan was preparing tea for us, perhaps you wish to join? I am sure he will accept your request. He hasn't tutored anyone in a very long time."
…Y'know, maybe this won't be that bad. I get to be more useful to them, which means it's less likely they'll abandon me. Everyone wins!
Shiron nodded. "I'm gonna be honest with you, I'm not a fan of tea. It's like, hot leaf juice. So, uh, I'll just wait for him outside?"
Ivan wondered for some seconds, then nodded. "Very well. But are you sure you will be alright? It's a little hot, even with the wind. Not to mention there could be a storm at any moment."
"I'm fine!" Shiron said. And I've been through worse…
"Alright. I will—"
"What is this ruckus?" Another voice said. Ivan stepped aside, leaving space for Ronan to appear. The Samurott eyed Shiron, rubbing his beard. "Oh, a youngster?"
"His name is Shiron." Ivan added. "He wanted to talk to you. Perhaps the tea can wait. I am… curious about his prowess. I have heard a lot about Swampert and their supposed boat-lifting strength."
Surely I'm not that strong.
Shiron tilted his head. Alright then. "Uh, mister Ronan? My friends told me you could help me get stronger, can I… can you teach me the ropes? Of being a water-type?"
Ronan opened his mouth, gasping weakly. "A student? Hmmm. Curious. I'm not entirely sure how much help I can be, but I suppose there's nothing wrong with trying it."
"Is that a yes…?" Shiron asked, eyes sparkling. Maybe he really could
"Of course," the Samurott turned to Ivan. "Could you check the tea? I am going to prepare the training grounds for him."
"Understood." Ivan nodded, walking inside the house.
After seeing him enter, Ronan eyed Shiron. "Alright, we will commence soon. I just need to prepare something. Wait here, I won't take long."
Shiron nodded. His gills began twitching.
And wait he did. For a short amount of time. Ronan went inside his house, and when he was back, he wore a black belt, like some sort of martial artist. He also put gray, fingerless gloves on his paws.
"Hmph." Ronan eyed him, fierce, powerful. "We will commence your training right now. Follow me."
Ivan left the house as well, not expressing any discernible emotion. His tail flicked just once, and he followed Ronan to the area with mannequins. Shiron gulped, then did the same.
Once they arrived, Ronan turned around, facing Shiron. "For this part of your training, we will measure your strength. I want you to hit one of my mannequins, and attempt to destroy it."
"Huh," he looked at the one closest. It was just… wood. Destroying it would be incredibly easy. Alright, let's see… I know Liquidation, apparently. Maybe Tackle? I'm sure I can tackle this thing.
Deciding to go for a simple tackle, Shiron charged, punching the mannequin straight in its featureless head. The impact produced a loud sound, but to his surprise, it was intact. Shiron blinked, maybe he needed more power…? That had to be it.
So he backed down and tried another punch, followed by a flurry of them. Ivan watched it, intrigued. Ronan simply glared, arms crossed.
Come on! budge! Or crack, something!
"Enough." Ronan said, and Shiron instantly stopped his attacks. "They were designed to withstand great force. However… you did well, really well for someone untrained. You are
"...You could say that." Shiron sighed, looking at his fists; both unharmed. This body's really tough… last time I tried punching my problems away, my hands were bleeding…
"I can see you have good physical strength," he added. "...But why a tackle? You're evolved, why haven't you attempted another attack?"
"Can't." Shiron shrugged. "I mean, I used… err, some weird drill thing, my friends said it was liquidation?"
Those words seemed to make Ronan's eyes widen. "Liquidation? At such a young stage? Fascinating! And you're not capable of controlling it?"
"It is intriguing," the Houndoom pointed out, scratching his chin with his right paw. "Very rare. I won't press you for details, however."
Ronan nodded. "Hm. And besides those two, do you know any other moves?"
Shiron stopped to think. He didn't even try
more moves, how was he supposed to know
which ones he could? The only reason he got Liquidation was through the heat of the moment.
"Your silence speaks a thousand words." The Samurott sighed. "I know of something that can help you figure it out, but I don't have it with me. Perhaps for a future session. For now, we should focus on your two attacks."
This is going well… more than I thought it would.
Shiron smiled weakly. "What now?"
, you will attempt to use Liquidation again." Ronan said, walking towards him. "Since you're new at this, I don't believe you can generate your own water. Can you?"
"Seems the answer is no." Ronan rubbed his beard, thinking. "Normally, trained Pokémon are able to draw in their aura to summon elemental attacks. Of course, not all attacks are elemental."
He yanked the swords on his legs, Shiron gasping once he saw they weren't as pointy as the Samurott in his world. Ronan closed his eyes, an aura of dark energy surrounded his body.
Shiron tilted his head. "What are you—"
In the blink of an eye, Ronan was gone. Shiron was only able to hear the sound of slashing and of cuts surrounding him, seeing flashes of dark light attacking all of the mannequins at once. And then Ronan returned, putting down his blades.
"Okay. Okay." Shiron clapped his hands together, inhaling. "What
"Ceaseless Edge." Ivan answered. "Samurott's signature move."
No it isn't?!
Shiron blinked. What.
"...At least my type of Samurott," Ronan said. "I am a water and dark-type Samurott. Much like there are ice Vulpix."
Shiron simply nodded, having no words to say. Of course there was a dark-type Samurott. Why wouldn't it be real?
"Regardless, that was a demonstration. Shiron, I would like you to attempt using Liquidation."
"Aye. No idea how, though…" Shiron extended his left arm, just like that time at the dungeon.
"Ivan, could you grab some buckets of water?" Ronan asked, to which the Houndoom nodded, heading inside the house. "Shiron. Focus on your aura, on yourself. You are a waterfall. Strong, powerful. Your aura flows through
you. It envelops you, strengthens you."
Many kind words. Shiron took a deep breath and closed his left fist. Thinking… remembering what he saw at the dungeon, of how useless and weak he felt. How powerless
he was. Unable to even hurt a wild Pokémon, much less help his team.
I don't wanna… be useless. My life is worth it. I'm worthy. I deserve to live! And I will use my life to help my friends… to help this world!
Shiron roared! Exploded with power and energy! Like he could take on the entire world with nothing but his fists and friends to keep company!
…His fist was still normal. No water.
Ronan couldn't help but chuckle a bit. "Maybe you're a little too excited, youngster. I wasn't expecting you to be that strong. At least not yet. But it's good, you have motivation."
Shiron started blushing, and slowly lowered his arm. "M-My bad… why am I s-such… such an i-idiot…"
"Once you get a source of water, it'll be easier to do it." Ronan nodded. "Besides, why don't you check what you did?"
change. The air around Shiron's mouth got cold, and on the ground next to him, a stream of ice formed.
"I-I know Icy Wind?!"
"Seems like it. Good, now you have a weapon against grass-types. Your kind is very weak against them."
Shiron smiled, stuttering. "W-Well… gonna try L-Liquidation next, r-right?"
"Yes." Ivan said, carrying a large bucket of water in his mouth. He walked next to Ronan, and slowly put the bucket down. "I will observe from afar. Do not worry about me."
Ronan grinned. "Now… are you ready to make use of your power?"
Shiron didn't bat an eye. "I am! I'll do my best! I-I can do this!"
Ronan nodded. "Good. Now, follow my lead. Liquidation is a special move. It resonates well with your emotions. I've heard that most types have a move like this, however…"
"You can't tell me the other cuz you don't know about 'em." Shiron said, rubbing his head. "Gotcha, gotcha. No problem! But, uh, what does this mean?"
"You said it was a drill. For some, it can be a sword, for others, a gauntlet. It depends from mon to mon." Ronan explained, extending his arm slightly. "I will demonstrate. Remember, you are like a stream of water, you dictate how it flows."
Shiron closed his eyes, and started picturing it. Himself, deep inside a lake, water flowing from all sides. It followed his every movement, every little gill twitch, it all changed the flow. Shiron was in command.
Repeat what I say." Ronan moved his arm like a wave, water forming on the top of his palm, up and down. "...I'm a stream. Water flows within me, strong and free."
"Water flows within me, strong and free." Shiron repeated, his arm already up. Slowly, the water on the bucket began to rise up and cover his arm. He noticed his scales becoming wet, but remained focused.
"Good, good." Ronan chuckled, then flicked his ear. "...Don't repeat that last part. Just focus on stabilizing your move. Can you feel it?"
Shiron did, indeed, feel it. The water in his arm wobbled, taking shape. Could it be any shape?
"...Do you know why it's a drill, Shiron?"
"No—wait, wait…" Shiron raised his watery arm in the air, the water now fully turned into a drill. "With this, I will thrust through every adversity, opening my way to the future! Kicking logic to its curb, and doing the impossible!"
Ronan clapped. "...Well done. You have successfully used Liquidation."
Shiron panted, looking at his arm. It was so eery, but calming at the same time. "I-I did it! I actually did it! I—"
His momentary distraction made the water destabilize, falling on top of him. Shiron grumbled, taking off his scarf. "...Well, better than not doing it at all."
Ivan stepped in. "Congratulations, kid. But if I may, why are you in such a hurry to learn?"
"Daichi and his goons challenged my friends," Shiron wrung out the scarf, trying to get rid of the water. "And if we win, we get to properly act as a rescue team, or something like that."
"Ah." Ivan said, bluntly. "I see… do take care."
"Would you like to train more, Shiron?" Ronan asked. "We can take a break, and drink some tea."
"I'll… pass." Shiron had considered it. Just for a little while. "I don't like tea all that much. Besides, Nick asked me to not take too long here."
"Alright. When am I expecting to see you again?"
Shiron was already turning to leave, but took a moment to look at them. "Uh, tomorrow! I'm gonna show up at around the same time, so wait for me!"
The jog towards their base was fast, Shiron had enough energy to spare, even after using so much for that training. He smiled. So far, the day had been pretty good! Hopefully it would stay that way. Shiron already heard sounds of huffing and grunting, and a whip. Were they training…?
Well, only one way to find out! Hopefully it's training and not, y'know, killing each other.
Shiron gulped. They better not
be killing each other.
He stopped right in front of the office, sighing in relief, rubbing sweat off his head.
What happened was Liz creating thorny blades out of hervines, and Nick dodging multiple in a row. After three dodges, his palm turned light blue, and he aimed at the Roselia, firing a wave of energy, not exactly wind
, no, Liz noticed it felt like a vacuum, sucking the air in, and it was aimed right at her face.
"U-Urgh!" Liz was hit, retreating her vines and rubbing her eyes with the roses, panting. Once she opened them again, she saw multiple Nicks, running towards her, their claws extended, shining like metal, and he slashed at her.
"G-Guys! Calm down, you're fighting too hard!" Terry said, waddling towards them, gasping and stuttering. "C-Can't we find a safer way to spar?"
"Sire, stay back!" Liz said, seeing the Nicks getting closer than was needed. Instead of trying to find out which one was real, she focused, her entire body glowing yellow, and soon enough, Liz stepped back.
Where she once stood was a lifeless substitute, entirely made of aura. Nick slashed it into pieces, watching it dissipate. He grinned, smiling and flicking his tail.
"Hm. You know Double Team, I know Substitute. Perhaps there is merit to working together after all." Liz flicked her cape, flashing a smile of her own.
"H-Hey, guys." Shiron stepped in, gulping. That was an intense fight, he could tell, and wondered if he'd ever get to that level, or remain a "wee little Marshtomp", like he called himself. "...What'd I miss?"
"Ah, Marshtomp." The Roselia turned to him, her smile gone in an instant. "I expected you to take longer. But for important matters first: you and I will work on this competition. At least, for the first challenge."
"H-Hi, Shiron!" Terry waved with his tiny arms. "They were just sparring. No need to worry. I say… worrying. Heh."
"Heya," the Riolu grinned. "Yup, what Liz said. We figured you two were the best match for this. And—"
"You could become friends!" Terry said, chirping, eyes sparkling.
"Marshtomp. We have a lot to discuss."
"And that's our cue to make it like a Liz and leave!" Nick smirked. Terry laughed at the joke, and the two entered the office.
Liz watched them leave and took a long, deep breath. Good. She was all alone with that Marshtomp. Her mental gears were already grinding, thinking, planning her next words.
"You alright?" Shiron asked, tugging on his scarf nervously. "D-Did I do something wrong? Usually, when someone says they need to talk, it's because I screwed something up. A-Actually, not usually. I-It's… it's all of the time. I'm used to it, b-but—"
"You have done nothing wrong, Marshtomp," she replied, crossing her rosy arms. "But if we do not do something, you will
. Losing this little competition would crush my sire's heart, and I cannot let it happen. If I must work with you to win, then so be it. And we will
"...Do we even know what it's gonna be? Hard to be prepared for something if we don't know what it is."
As much as it brought her pain to admit it, Liz knew he had a point. It didn't mean that it was pretty. Not at all. Her normal expression turned into a frown, an angry frown.
"We do not. Which is why we must prepare for everything
, Marshtomp." Liz glared at him, pouting. "...I already failed to convince my Highness to stay out of this little friendship party you seem to have, but he has grown fond of you, despite how little time you spent together. I can at least respect his wishes, even if I do not agree with them."
"Terry seems nice," he shrugged. Shiron raised a brow, curious. "But also, what? We can't prepare for everything. I mean… I get that, but yeah. I don't wanna lose either."
Shiron took a look at his arms. Even if they were small, he still saw the scars on his wrists. Maybe he should find a way to cover them… they started aching just by thinking of losing. "...We can try our best."
"I know we cannot, but our best is not enough—" Liz's eyes widened as she looked at the scars. They almost looked like someone whipped that area. "...What happened, Marshtomp? You say you do not know how to fight, but those are the marks of a fighter."
He was visibly taken aback, trembling. "...Did I ever tell you about my memories?"
"This is the first time we are having any kind of conversation."
Was it a good idea to share this with her? They were nothing more than acquaintances, at best
, but… something in him told Shiron it was okay to be vulnerable.
"...M-Mom and dad. If I wasn't the perfect son they wanted, well, they'd… punish me." Shiron tapped his stomach, gills flopping down. "Sometimes, it was starvation. Other times, they whipped me. It was their way or no way at all."
Oh. This explains… a few things. Is that why he is so anxious? And hungry, too.
Liz stared in silence, then wrapped a vine around her cape, pulling it down and turning around to him. On her back was a large burnt mark, almost like someone marked her with hot metal.
"I could not afford to lose. Protecting the royal bloodline was my job. Always."
"Oh, you—you… heavens, I'm so sorry you had to go through that!" Shiron said, trembling. That was why she was so stiff and responsible? He never expected their backgrounds to be so similar.
Liz didn't either. Her frown turned into a soft smile. "...Shiron. What is your reason for joining this team? Glory?"
"I wanted to help a friend," he said, smiling as well. "A-and I thought it'd help me find my place in the world. That kind of thing."
"...I see. Well, I have not found my reason yet. Perhaps this challenge will help me find it. We will win. I will think of something, and then let you know. Is that alright?"
"G-Got it." Shiron nodded. Now
he could find a spot to get some food. The talk about starving reminded him of how fun it was to visit Magnus' bakery. "I'm gonna get some snacks for us, can you wait? I'm sure we can plan something."
Liz turned back, facing the entrance of their office. "Meet me here in two hours."
One thing Shiron learned during the time he spent there—was it a week? Two? Probably two—was that he could count on Magnus for mental support. And food, but mostly support. And he could really use a break from that talk with Liz. It hit a little too close to home.
It had been a while, too, and now the streets weren't so empty. Shiron simply followed the smell of food, feeling like he could almost fly
, like he was in a cartoon.
Well, that was impossible, but the thought was there. Shiron followed along the streets, smiling more the closer he got to that place. And he got just in time! Magnus was opening the bakery with a key, wearing that little apron he always wore.
"Heya!" Shiron appeared from behind, grinning. "Howdy, Mag Mag! Or Magnus. Sorry, I'm bad with nicknames."
"Gah!" Magnus nearly jumped, if he wasn't used to Shiron just appearing
out of nowhere. "H-Heya, Shiron. How're you doing? I'm just opening the place up, I take it you're here for the usual?"
"Yup. And for a talk, if you wanna!" Shiron smiled, but then began to stutter. "C-Cuz… don't need to talk to me if you don't."
"You're my friend
. Why would I not
want to talk to you?" Magnus raised a brow, opening the door. "Just need to set some stuff up, turn on the fridge, but yeah, we can talk. You'll want the usual, right?"
"Chocolate cake…" Shiron rubbed the drool off of him. "That's right! You know me really well."
"Alright. Won't take too long, I promise!"
Too long definitely didn't mean "half an hour", as that was the time Shiron took waiting, sitting on a table all on his own. But eventually, Magnus came, holding a large slice of chocolate cake, along with oran juice, on a black platter.
"Here ya go!" Magnus put it down, and then sat. "Alright, what's up?"
"...Workplace competition's tomorrow." Shiron said, already eating half of the cake. "It's putting a lot of pressure on me, feel like I can't fail—if I do, I'm letting everyone down."
And if I let everyone down, they'll abandon me…
Magnus smiled softly, shaking his head. "You're not letting anyone down! It's gonna be alright, Shiron, just wait! Even if you guys lose, it's not like it's the end of the world, right? Besides, the rules are: whoever wins three times first wins."
"Yeah, yeah, I know…" he sipped a bit of the juice, pouting. "Seems like Liz'll be my partner for this. She's scary."
"I get that, honestly.' Magnus nodded. He noticed the cake was already gone, and sweat dripped. "Errr… I believe in you! You saved my little bro, that's enough for me. And if you don't believe in yourself… how about believing in me?"
Why does that sound like it's from an anime… do they even have it here?
Shiron blinked, sipping the rest of his juice at once. "I get it, I really do. Liz said my best won't be enough, and I dunno. I kinda heard that enough in my life already. I think she feels the same way."
"Then make use of that, buddy! She gets how you feel, and together, you can win and kick that Golem's ass!" Magnus smiled, wagging his tail "...Metaphorically speaking."
Can this guy stop being so good and friendly for five minutes? I can't take this.
Shiron smiled in return. "Alright, I'll try to train more. Before I go, can I take some slices for them? Promise I won't eat 'em all!"
Magnus sighed. "Okay, I believe you. But tell you what, I'm gonna prepare snacks myself, and I'll take it to them when it's break time."
Shiron gave him a thumbs-up. "Fine by me! Before I go… can I have more cake?"
"...Yeah, yeah you can."
"We aren't changing anything." Nick crossed his arms, stern. "Liz, there's a reason we decided you should pair up with him."
Liz huffed. We? That meant her Highness and the Riolu both did it. Behind her back. Of course.
"...May I ask what that reason is?"
"I wanted you to get a friend." Terry said bluntly, shrugging. "Nick said it was a good way of getting you to bond."
Nick leaned against the wall, smirking. "And I was right. Besides, it's good for team building and all that jazz."
"Hmph." Liz grumbled, looking down. "Shiron is too kind. I do not believe he has what it takes to win. Yet, you, Riolu, seem to trust him. And Sire…"
"They saved us," the prince added, blinking. "It's the least we can do! And I feel like if we stay, I'll be able to learn more about the world than I did at home… so yeah, even if we lose, and I know that you hate
losing, we can still all be friends!"
She bit her lip. Friends… something never necessary. Not for someone like her. Liz thought Shiron was the same, but he wanted
friends. There was something different about them.
"I just do not understand how me and him could make a successful team." Liz sighed, eyeing Terry. She had an unusual soft expression, even for how much he knew her. "...I need to trust him, correct? That is hard, but… if you two are able to trust him, then I will do my best. Even if it is not enough."
"Good. That brings us to our next topic…" Nick rubbed his chin, thinking. "How to win this in an effective way. We don't know
what they're planning, but we can try to maximize you and Shiron's strengths."
Terry nodded. "Yup, so, uh, Liz, mind sharing your strengths? Might be useful, you know."
"My strengths…" Liz began to wonder, taking a seat. Her mind, like the office, was mostly empty. It was harder to think than she expected, like trying to find someone in a large crowd.
As a Roselia, she was equipped with tools that could incapacitate. Poison powder, for one. Sleep powder, stun powder… she could use all of them in the competition. Hm, she was good at supporting, but had access to more damaging attacks, like Leaf Blade. She could use a decoy, which was effective at distracting opponents.
"A little of everything, I suppose," she finally said, nodding. "I am not sure how to describe it, but since Shiron is not trained, I can try to support him. Or rather… I must
, if we are to have a chance. He is not so reliable in terms of combat."
"If there's even combat to be had…" Nick muttered. True, they all expected
combat to be a part of it, but it wasn't certain. Who knew what those guys had going on. "...If not, we can try coming up with a plan B. Maybe you should find him and train? I think Shiron tried training with Ronan, but I'm not sure how well that went."
As they were talking, the door creaked open, and Shiron popped in, holding a large bag of sweets from Magnus' bakery. He already had a donut stuck in his mouth, and was currently chewing on it.
"Perfect. Just who I wanted." Liz stood up. "Shiron, I would like to spar with you. For some hours, at least. So I can have an idea of how you fight, and so we can plan our strike tomorrow."
"W-Whoa, whoa! Slow down!" Shiron shoved the donut down, coughing. "S-Sparring? I… I guess I could do that. After this snack, I mean."
Liz nodded. "Perfect! We shall spar until the sun sets. And… word of advice? I will not hold back."
Terry waved. "She really won't! You gotta take care! Nick, maybe you should prepare some orans, just in case."
With that plan, the quartet set out to do another training session, extending for most of the hours they had left that day.
Another day, another opportunity to fail at everything Shiron set out to do! He groggily got off his bed, yawning and rubbing his eyes. Today was the day. Their contest was starting, and obviously, his heart had already turned into a ticking time bomb the more he thought about it.
I can't lose. I won't lose. Need to win, need to be worthy… if I don't win, it means I'm not!
Shiron frowned, his gills drooping down. …And if I win, I'm still not worthy, because it's just gonna be luck. It's always been luck, hasn't it? Lucky to die, lucky to be reborn, to find friends… always luck. Never a sign of me being anything other than meaningless garbage.
Shiron sat down, tugging his scarf again. His mind began to drift apart, far, far away from anything resembling this world, these people. No… he was thinking of a different life entirely.
Of his hometown, Lilycove, of that region full of water, of everything he once knew. Of a day, oh so many years ago, when he was just a child. Ten years old, he remembered well. Just a child.
It was a stormy night, Shiron remembered. He was hiding under a bed, inside a room shared by many other children. Children that left, being taken by their new moms and dads, some with two moms, some with two dads, others with just one of the two. But never him. Never, never him.
And he sniffled. His hands—human hands—were pulling away at his hair as he screamed, trying to understand why everyone else but him could find a family. Was it something wrong with him? It had to be. If he was a good son, then he wouldn't be there, at that orphanage. If he was good, someone would have adopted him by now.
Shiron wasn't good. His heart sank, and he began to cry, right there, under the bed. Dreaming about a future that would never come, because why would it? He was always alone, and Shiron would always be
He heard footsteps, barely, his crying muffing them out. Shiron trembled. Could it be…? There wasn't anyone else in the room but him, as all the kids had left already. It had to be! But… it couldn't."
"This one hasn't been visited by many. Are you sure—?" Shiron recognized the voice as belonging to the headmaster.
A second voice grumbled. "My wife and I have decided. We want him."
…They want me?
Shiron crawled out of the bed, coughing up some dust and standing up. He rubbed more dust off his shirt and waited, still shaking. The door slowly creaked open, revealing a large man, well in his forties, wearing a tuxedo. The man eyed him intensively, like he was having second thoughts. His face looked weary and old. Very old.
"...Hello, child. My name is—ah, it doesn't matter. From this day onward, I am your father. Is that okay?"
He didn't even need to react, jumping straight ahead to hug the man, tears flowing down his face without any resistance. "Y-Yes, yes, please!"
The man didn't smile in return. All he did was lightly tap Shiron's head. "Come with me, I already made arrangements. You will be very useful, or I will make
Useful! Shiron was useful! He liked to think so! It had to be the case! He wanted
it to be the case. With his new family, new home… Shiron wanted to be useful.
Oh, how he was wrong. And how long did it take for him to find out? From ten years old to… fifteen. Five years to realize that nothing in his life came for free. He grumbled, remembering one particular incident, one that he wanted to forget, to erase from every corner of his mind.
A hot, summer day. Shiron was in his room, a large, open room, with a bed, a table for studying, and a closet. His windows were open, though with that unbearable heat, it hardly mattered.
As a matter of fact, he was studying
, Shiron could remember that much. A subject, math, probably, something that was hard to grasp.
Honestly, calling it studying would be a compliment. Shiron was, at most, trying to, but it was hard to focus with the hunger he felt, with how thirsty and tired he was.
So many formulas, so many numbers, letters… and some symbols he never even heard of! It didn't help that he smelled something being baked outside.
"The square root… I can't—what even is
this? I don't understand a single thing!" Shiron panted, feeling his stomach growl. He looked at the door. Could he…? "Dad? Can you let me out? I-I haven't finished studying, but I'm hungry! And—well, if I starve to death, I can't be useful to you!"
"Dad? Can you hear me?! I know
someone's there! I-I'll be good! I'll finish this after I eat! P-Please!"
The growl got worse. Shiron hazily hopped off the chair, panting. "D-Dad… dad, please. You can't—just let me out! Please, dad, please!"
Shiron fell on his knees. Tears rolled down again, and for a moment, he thought about trying to drink them, to not let that tiny bit of water go to waste.
He did it, but that didn't help. They were salty, and only made it worse. He kept crying, more, more. Hoping for something to change.
Finally, Shiron heard footsteps, quick, angry footsteps. He instantly
stopped crying, holding back the tears as the door opened. His father… he was there, holding a whip on his right hand.
"I already told you… you're only leaving when I say
you can. Do I need to teach you a lesson, kid? I don't expect anything other than perfection out of you."
"D-Don't need… to teach me a lesson. I-I'll… I'll try… just please… let me ea—"
The whip hit his hands, and Shiron fell to the ground, screaming.
Shiron snapped back to reality after hearing Nick close the door in a hurry. The Marshtomp panted, now seeing he was sweating through all possible pores.
"Heya—" Nick quirked a brow. "...I'd ask if you're alright, but huh, maybe not. Bad dream? Bad… human dream?"
"Something like that, yeah." Shiron stood up, slowly, checking in to see if he really was alright. Yup, still a Marshtomp. And no signs of his… father. Yikes. "We're getting ready?"
Nick nodded. "You overslept, but uuh, pretty much," he offered a paw. "C'mon! We gotta meet the others at the office! With that training you got yesterday, things should be easier!"
Shiron thought. An intrusive thought was creeping in, he just knew
it. …No. I suffered. I really suffered, can't deny that. That's why I'm here—why I'm gonna be a hero. So nobody suffers the same way I did.
"...Why are you standing there? Dude, c'mon."
Shiron followed him outside the room, and then, outside the house. On their way to HQ, he let the breeze course through him. Once a gentle breeze now was an oppressive one, that reminded him of home. Shiron frowned; he had to win. Nothing mattered other than perfection. A hero had to be perfect.
He looks odd… or, feels odd.
Nick twitched his sensors, frowning, and cursing his inability to be accurate. …I can't feel it well, maybe I'm wrong? Honestly, let's hope I'm wrong. And if I'm not, that Shiron opens up about what's bothering him so much…
They soon arrived at the office, already seeing their teammates—Liz, in particular, seemed a little wary, her flowers even looked a tad tittered. Shiron frowned after seeing it. He couldn't help but worry.
"We're all here!" Nick said, tapping Shiron's back. "And up early! Well, at least you guys are. Where's the rest of them?"
"Didn't get here yet," Terry shook his head. "Amelia, Audrey and Magnus are inside. Magnus is making some cake, I think?"
For once, Shiron didn't immediately start feeling hungry. That could wait. "Okay, then. We should get ready?"
Liz nodded. She was all but ready, but it'd take a million years before she told anyone that. The training the day before alleviated some of her worries, but some of them were still
there. How much the wound on her back hurt just by thinking
they could lose.
Maybe Shiron could help. She did feel like he was a kindred spirit, with similar experiences to her own.
Experiences… Liz closed her eyes, reminiscing. The wound ached, and she felt like it was just yesterday she got that scar. She remembered it all, how it happened. It kept aching, even as she closed her eyes, grunting.
They were gone. Her new teammates. Instead, Liz saw a grassy, open field, where she stood at one side. On the other, she saw an Accelgor, adopting a battle stance. She knew this moment very well, a minor—major test of strength.
"Remember, Elizabeth." Accelgor said, crossing his arms and giving her a stern look. "We are members of the royal guard. Our lives are meaningless
compared to the King. You are to lay down your life if it means protecting the heir."
Liz—Elizabeth nodded. She was well aware of the implications of this job, this duty of hers. "I understand, master. My job, my life is for the Prince."
"Good." Accelgor nodded, extending both his arms. "Then prove it to me. Show me your determination to protect him."
The Roselia stepped forward, charging. Accelgor grunted, dusty spikes protruding from his palms. He threw them, scattering all across the ground.
"Ah… You will need to do better than that." Elizabeth jumped in mid-air, spinning and readying her rose. It released a green powder that crackled with static. She spinned, making the powder cover more ground, spreading more evenly across the arena.
"Good. Stunning your opponents, preventing them from acting. But do you have the strength that it takes to—" As soon as the spores hit him, Accelgor faded into nothingness.
Elizabeth bit her lip, falling on her feet. Him disappearing could mean a few things. Double Team, Quick Attack, Purs—
Something struck her from behind, knocking her away. The Roselia spun, creating vines that stuck to the ground, stopping her from being pushed back further. However, this made Elizabeth touch the spikes and grunt in pain. Accelgor's body glowed with dark energy.
"Pursuit, hm? I should have expected as much."
"There is merit to paralyzing your adversary, but if they hit you before that… then it is pointless. Put more heart into it, Elizabeth. You are a proud bodyguard; act like one!"
First, I must get rid of those spikes… or perhaps… use them to my advantage.
Elizabeth ran, wrapping as many of the spikes as she could with vines, and then spun, launching them towards Accelgor. His eyes widened, dodging as many as he could. It left him open for an attack, and Liz took this opportunity to close in the distance to wrap her vines around his body, sucking his energy into herself.
"Well done," he said, raising an arm in the air. A single star made of energy formed, and was launched at her, cutting through the vines like they were nothing. Elizabeth jumped back to avoid being hit herself, and screamed, feeling the pain of being cut open.
"...That was nothing," she panted. Her gambit cost her some energy, and Accelgor was barely hurt at all. She had to think of a way to turn the tides, and fast
"Quick reflexes, a sharp brain that adapted to another attack. You are doing well, Elizabeth." Accelgor nodded. "...But can you keep up? I will no longer hold back."
Liz simply smiled. "Come at me, then."
Just like she requested, Accelgor charged, moving in zigzag, then began spinning around Elizabeth. While he did so, Accelgor buzzed loudly, creating a shockwave that spread through multiple directions in order to hit her. She was hit by each one of the bug's buzzing, grunting. But she didn't give up.
Elizabeth waited, waited, and heard. She could do this, predict his next move. So Liz waited, focusing on nothing more than her hearing, and found the moment, making her grin. She shot a vine straight to her right, hitting Accelgor instantly.
"Hmph." Liz pulled him closer with one arm, and with the other, her rose sprouted a seed, which she launched, making it explode right as it came into contact with Accelgor. Liz retreated the vines.
"I won." Elizabeth exclaimed, smiling. "...Was that it? Have I proved my worth to you, mas—"
She screamed in pain as something struck her from behind, Liz falling to the ground, shouting.
"Arrogant, full of yourself." Accelgor said, watching the Swift star dissipate. "...No, you lost. Despite your best efforts, you lost, Elizabeth."
"W-What? You coward, you attacked me from beh—"
Another star struck, but this time, the ground, only inches away from her.
"A savvy warrior uses all his tools." He said, bluntly. "...That is all. I am sorry, Elizabeth. But you do
know what this means, don't you? To lose. You are unworthy."
"Unworthy… no." Liz stood up, slowly. "I can still fight. I will
fight. It is what I was born for, and it is what I live
for. I will prove my worth."
." Accelgor demanded, furious. Liz simply stuttered, bowing slowly.
"...Good. I believe you know what this means."
"I… I do, Master." Liz turned around, her back facing Accelgor's front.
Accelgor's palm began to drip with poison; it coated that area in its entirety. Thick, purple poison. "I apologize, Elizabeth. But some warriors only learn through pain. I hope it makes you understand me. This mark will remain with you for as long as you live."
Elizabeth trembled, if only for a moment. She was ready for it. She had to be. Accelgor approached, touching her back with his poison-coated hand. She screamed, feeling the poison erode her. Ironically, since normally it would hardly give her this much pain. Accelgor—her master was much stronger, and this technique proved it.
She was weak. Pathetically weak. It was no surprise she didn't succeed, but that didn't mean she was accepting it. Elizabeth held back the tears; showing this type of emotion to her master and mentor would only make things worse. Besides, she knew he was right.
Liz remembered this day, so many years ago… how long? Five, no six, probably six, and how much it shaped her personality, her devotion to protecting Terry, and her drive to win at any cost. She opened her eyes, now back to that familiar area with the other teammates. Her eyes burnt with fire and determination. They would win
"...These guys sure are taking their time showing up, huh?" Nick flicked his ears. If only he was able to sense them… but alas. "Maybe they gave up! Who knows, they could be coming in with a white flag to offer a peace sign."
"Doubt it," Shiron frowned. Honestly, he wanted
that to be the case. But the previous encounters told him it wasn't the case. It'd never be the case.
And then, they finally came… Daichi, Jackett, and Onyx. Daichi wrapped a blue bandanna around his right arm, and once he saw Nick and Shiron, grinned.
"There they are!" Terry said, still keeping up the smile. "Think we can start this soon!"
Liz stepped forward, flicking her cape. "We can. I am warning you… I do not intend to hold back at all. I will achieve victory, and grasp it with my own…! Roses…"
She looked down, feeling her face start to heat up. How embarrassing…
Shiron walked next to her, trembling. "W-We're gonna win. I'm doing my best, okay? I know we talked about it before, L-Liz, but this time I mean it. I'm gonna help! I'm not strong, o-or smart like you and Nick, or a prince like Terry… all I can really do is give it my all."
Onyx picked her hat, throwing it in mid-air and catching it without any effort. "Well, partners, we'll see about that."
Liz bit her lip. "...Your all. You keep saying that. Yet, I have—hm. Perhaps I should trust you more. At least a little more."
Daichi snapped a finger. "Jackett, will you do me the honors?"
The Beedril buzzed, nodding. "Of course. The rules are simple: we put a flag on the beach, and the contestants… Onyx and who—?"
Liz pointed at Shiron. "Me and him."
"Very well. You three will race to the beach. Whoever brings the flag back first wins."
"Sounds pretty simple, right?" This time, the Golem intervened, raising his hand. "You're allowed to use moves, as long as it's not like… Quick Attack, Extremespeed. Those are ruled out, alright? And 'course, you can fight! Just don't kill anyone."
"I ain't a murderer," Onyx put her hat on. "And that'll do it. Think I'm good to go, if y'all are too."
Nobody even called her that. Weird.
Nick looked at his Marshtomp—human friend. "C'mon, Shiron! We'll be here, waiting for you!"
Terry's tail wagged. "Liz, you did an incredible job protecting me, you got this!"
Shiron tugged his scarf. I can do this… I can do this… we can—we can, I'm sure we can.
"I am ready." Liz smirked. Despite how obsessed she was with winning, this was nice
. She missed a challenge like this, a chance to test her skills, to show off how strong she really was. If she had blood, it would be pumping.
"If you three are ready, then let's start the countdown." Jackett raised his arm in the air. "Five, four, three…"
With every second that passed, Shiron's heart beat. This was fine, he was fine. There was no use in letting his anxiety get the better of him. They could do this!
"Two… one… ready… GO!"
With those words ringing in all their minds, the three contestants sped up, running with all they had.
Apparently, Onyx had more than them. Her speed was higher, and she had the advantage of not having to deal with teammates to slow her down.
How Liz wished she could say that. Shiron was slow, sluggish, and had to stop to breathe every few seconds. At this rate, they'd be biting the dust sooner rather than later.
"W-Wait, Liz! They said we could fight…. y-you think we can try something?"
"Y'all are free to!" Onyx gave them a quick look, and continued running. They were at one of the streets now, moving closer to the center of the village.
Shiron frowned. "...How good are you at adapting?"
"I like to think a lot. Why?"
"Cuz of this!" Shiron inhaled as much air as he could, then unleashed a stream of frosty wind towards Ony—rather, the ground she was standing on.
Although short, it managed to distract her, as she had to shake off the bits of ice stuck to her. Liz readied her flowers, watching them turn into grassy blades, and she fired them while Onyx was busy removing the ice.
"What the—" Onyx roared, flames streaming out and burning the blades to a crisp. "Heh. Not bad, not bad! Didn't think y'all would think of something like that."
None of the attacks hit her, but Shiron still had a smile on his face; Onyx stopped running. If they could keep this up…
"...My master once told me that a savvy—"
Onyx rushed forward, trying to slash away at Liz. Shiron stepped in front, taking the hits without a single complaint. He resisted it all, retaining the smile. Shiron opened his mouth to release more icy wind, hitting the Charmeleon's face.
"Don't… hurt my friend!"
Onyx jumped back, hissing. She grinned "...Good plan, I'll give you that much. Constant attacks. Good. But there's more to fights than just strength! Or like… there's other types of strength. One of them is called: strategic retreating!"
She inhaled, bursting a single, black ball that split open into a large smokescreen. Shiron closed his eyes, grunting, while Liz cringed, covering her face with her roses.
"Damn it… Shiron, I remember the layout. If we keep heading forward, we can catch up!"
"Took the words outta my mouth," Shiron grunted, running ahead, pulling Liz with him.
They soon managed to escape the smoke, only a few more feet until they entered the center. Onyx was still far ahead, much to their disdain. Shiron panted, thinking
"...Liz, I'm pretty strong. You think I can throw you really
"I will abstain myself from replying. That is not an ideal plan." Liz said, but then she actually started to consider it. With a grunt, she slowly nodded. "...Yet, it is the only plan we have."
"Ready or not, here I come!" Shiron grabbed her back, aimed as far as his eye could see, and launched
She screamed in the air, landing very close to Onyx, but not quite. Liz stood up, dizzy, watching the Charmeleon look at her and chuckle.
"Whoa. I didn't think you guys were that crazy." She turned back. "...But I don't got time to waste talking to all y'all, so see ya!"
Liz grunted, extending a vine and wrapping it around Onyx's feet just as she was about to leave, making her trip and fall.
"A-At least… I… I… am not named after a different Pokémon entirely!"
Yes! Liz said something mean! Onyx better watch out!
…Her face turned a deep shade of green. Liz regretted saying those words the second
they came out of her mouth.
"That's not my name, dipshit." Onyx slashed away the vine, standing up. "...Daichi gave it to me. I don't even have a name. Ask him, for all I care."
"...That makes no sense!" Shiron said, finally catching up to them. And his luck ran out, so he fell to the ground, panting, face full of dirt and mud.
"What are you talking
about?" Liz tilted her head. Weird thing to say, especially to her adversaries.
"Doesn't matter. You guys want to win, I wanna win, let's cut the chit-chat already." Onyx's nostrils flared up with smoke. "I'm not taking it easy anymore. Can't disappoint Daichi. Not now, not ever!"
Shiron coughed out the dirt on his mouth. So she had a reason to win like they had? Seemed like everyone had their reasons. His was… helping everyone. Being a hero. Just thinking about it flared up his own determination.
"Well, I'm not losing to the likes of you!" Shiron proclaimed, punching the ground with his left fist. He roared, shooting balls of mud out of his mouth.
"Tch!" Onyx jumped back again, just in time to dodge another mud ball. "Huh… didn't think you were capable of that. Is that… the extent of your determination?"
"Shiron, will you please inform
me if you know any other moves?"
"I know what now?" Shiron blinked, confused. All he really did was focus and try to strike… he didn't know
he could do that. Like most things. Note to self: try and thank Xerneas later.
"But to answer your question… yes, that is our extent!" Liz rushed in, trying to whip with her vines, only for Onyx to torch a few of them. Still, she ignored the pain and continued on, screaming. No matter the pain, no matter how much it hurt, she pressed on.
Onyx cringed. They were different, different than what she thought. This team… they weren't so bad, were they? Maybe they had what it took.
Regardless of her thoughts, she still planned on winning. She couldn't lose. "For Daichi, I'd do anything. Bring it on, you overgrown weed!"
Liz jumped, slashing with multiple vines, some that Onyx dodged, but most of them were burnt. The Roselia grunted, but kept pressing forward, her body splitting into two. It was time for the decoy to attack, while the real Liz began to take in the energy of the ground beneath her to heal.
"Tch, coward!" Onyx's mouth burst with flames, incinerating the substitute completely, and she soon set her sights towards Liz, who, due to being ingrained, could hardly do anything to dodge.
Shiron watched it, his heart beating faster and faster. He kept watching, seeing more fire begin to form around the Charmeleon's mouth. His eyes widened, and his body—it moved, even without him trying, all on its own. With speed he never knew he had, with more strength that he thought possible… Shiron ran, stopping in front of Liz just as Onyx unleashed the flames.
Needless to say, he began to scream in pain, his scales burning, even his scarf was damaged by it. Despite all
of it, Shiron never budged or moved, taking in the full power of the attack just so Liz didn't.
Even when the flames settled down, he remained there, standing still. Onyx panted, staring at him in complete disbelief, not even able to say a single word.
"Don't… d-don't… don't hurt… my friends!"
"Shiron… why?" Liz shouted, watching him. "You idiot! You did not need to do that! W-Why?!"
"You and I… we're not so different." Shiron chuckled, mustering strength to grab on to his scarf, or what remained of it. "...Besides, we're teammates, and friends. We look after one another, till the end of the line."
"...You're an odd one." Onyx said. She definitely had the time to keep going while the two talked, but for some reason… she didn't want to. "I know of some that would simply leave their friends to die to save their own skin. And yet, you didn't do any of that."
"T-That's cuz… cuz that type of person isn't who I am." Shiron said, hissing from the pain. "...A-And besides, you didn't need to ask the reason why. You're still with us, despite us being your opponents. O-Or your enemies. You're not so bad… yourself."
Liz opened her mouth, then looked at Onyx. The Charmeleon tried to speak, but only a stutter came out. It looked like she also didn't know why she stood there.
"I… I'm conflicted." Onyx replied. "But… I think you have a good heart."
I would… would I do the same for him?
Liz wondered, unsure. "For one to be a hero, they must have a good heart."
"Yeah, that's really obvious." Shiron said, chuckling, only to grunt afterwards. "And you're weird, Onyx. Think we all are, my friends, and yours."
"What? Daichi's not my friend. He's my tra—" She shut herself up, before something larger spilled out. "...But I understand what you mean. Look, for what is worth, I think you two won, regardless of picking the flag or not."
Shiron blinked. Right, the flag! They had to get it, soon. And where were
they, anyway? He stopped looking, focusing on fighting.
…At the beach already? Or at the hill that led to it, at least. So if he could at least hold off Onyx, then maybe Liz would be able to grab the flag!
"That being said, I can't just give up on this, so… my bad." Onyx shrugged, turning around and getting ready to bolt. Before she could, she felt the same vines from before. Weaker, but still there.
will not quit either. I am doing this… until my last breath." Liz said, retreating the roots on the ground. She had been healed enough, anyway. "Victory will
"So determined…" the Charmeleon hissed, pulling the vines, and by extension, Liz, closer to her. "Let's see just how much of it is worth a damn!"
Shiron tried to attack again, but he gasped in pain, falling to the ground. No, no, no! Get up, body! Get up, please get up!
With the rest of his strength, Shiron fired another mud ball, hitting Onyx without much resistance, if at all. This set Liz free.
"Go! Don't worry about me, just grab it and run, Liz!"
Onyx rubbed the mud off and ran after Liz, the latter already on her way to the beach, finally setting sights on the flag. Shiron roared, rolling down the hill. If he didn't have power, he'd just use physics to get to them!
Liz rolled on the ground, dodging another fire blast, it almost
hit her cape, and she pressed on. Closer to the flag, closer to victory. Meanwhile, Shiron had rolled far enough he could clearly see the water, an idea popped in his mind.
"L-Liz! Grab it! I know what to do!" Shiron focused, like the day before, with the training, with Ronan's words echoing in his mind. Water slowly streamed from the ocean into his arm, shaping into that familiar drill.
"Very well!" She hesitated for a moment, struggling to think if she should trust him. Liz did.
Onyx got on all fours, and pounced on Liz. She was one inch away, when—
Shiron rammed against the Charmeleon with his drill, sending them both into the side. They both grunted and screamed from the injuries, while Liz watched it happen.
She turned back, eyes locked on the flag. On that white flag that flowed with the wind. Liz could catch it, there was no resistance left, nothing that would prevent her from doing so.
Words rang inside her head. What Onyx said before, that she'd do anything for Daichi. That level of trust… she had that with Terry.
"What're you doing? Liz!"
"I…" she reached a vine to the flag, close, but not touching it. "...Char—Onyx. You said we have won, correct?"
"If it was up to me—get off!" She shoved Shiron aside and got up, nostrils flaring. "...Yes."
"Shiron, you said you and I are the same." Liz took a look at him, frowning. "...I have reasons to believe Onyx is too."
"You do…? B-But the game!"
"I know, I know!" Liz stepped back, grunting. "Trust me! I… trusted you. I am asking you to do the same."
Shiron blinked. She asked a simple thing. Well, not simple
, but… Shiron gulped, nodding slowly. "A-Alright."
"...I cannot believe that I want to say this, but… Onyx." Liz stared at her, moving aside. "Take the flag. You won this challenge."
Onyx's eyes widened. Was that some sort of prank? Were they backstabbing her the moment she let her guard down? "...I don't understand."
"Neither do I. I have someone I would do anything for as well. And they would tell me…" Liz muttered. "That there are other types of victory."
"Other… types of victory?" Shiron whispered. This was a loss
. But… it didn't sting as much as he thought it would.
Onyx sighed, walking to the flag and grabbing it. "Alright, weed. I'll respect your wishes. You'll have to tell me more about this someone."
Liz finally turned to Shiron. "I will help you walk. We need to go back to the others."
He couldn't agree more. Shiron slowly stood up, much to his own surprise. "Let's… just go."
Eventually, the trio returned to the starting spot, where everyone was. Daichi was the first to notice them, specifically, the flag on Onyx's hand. His crooked smile grew.
"Nice! You did it! Was it a piece of cake or not?"
Onyx bit her lip and shook her head. "Nope. These guys are tougher than I thought. You should've seen 'em. I'm lucky to have grabbed this thing."
Nick made his way towards Shiron, as did Terry. Both of them looked more worried than disappointed.
"...You alright? Your scarf's all burnt up." Nick rubbed his arm, gulping.
Terry eyed his bodyguard with a frown. "Liz? Sorry you lost, but we'll get them next time!"
"Yes, yes we will." She managed to smile at Shiron, who simply nodded at Nick's question.
"When's the next time anyway?" Shiron pulled away from Liz, sitting down. "Daichi? When's the next time?"
The Golem wondered for a moment, still smiling. "Let's say a week! We got the advantage now! Heh!"
"Good luck, y'all." Onyx gave them a thumbs-up, flicking her tail.
"We will meet again," the Beedrill buzzed, flying away, while his teammates walked downhill.
Shiron sighed in relief. "Thanks, Liz."
"Here." Liz wrapped vines around Shiron's left arm. Her equivalent of a handshake. "...I did not consider this before, Shiron, but… perhaps we can
be friends, after all."
Shiron shook her vines with a bright, goofy smile on his face. "Thank you! We're gonna win next time! I just know it!"
"If I hear the word 'win' one more time today, I might just throw up…" she grunted. "...But yes, we will. For now, you need to recover."
"Yeah, I'm gonna have to get you a better scarf." Nick lightly tapped Shiron's back. "Let's go inside, Magnus made us lunch."
A loss was a loss. Shiron figured things would only get harder from now on, but… he had friends. He could count on them, for sure.