Thanks to GraceHeart27, That-Stubborn-Biotch, SongsofSiren, Pandakat312, Yukio00, Arrow-chan3, Rsur Thorai, and emoBUTshy for F/F!
GraceHeart27: Glad you enjoyed it! Here's your next chapter sorry it was so late!
[A/n]: So sorry that I've taken this long to update! I've been in a bit of a slump lately so I should be able to update more frequently now that I've gotten out of it. I've been MIA for the last two weeks and a half because I was going up to my cottage which, unfortunately, doesn't have any internet. (Teenage horror story right there).
I promise that there'll be more interesting stuff coming up soon!
"Tsukasa," I growled irritatedly as I laid on the couch of his apartment, going through the pictures on his phone. "Stop taking candid photos of me!" There were at least ten randomly taken photos of me in the past few weeks. How many he actually had was beyond me.
"Says the girl who's going through someone else's phone," He chuckled from the kitchen, making some sort of snack for himself. I could sense a wave of amusement come from our telepathic connection. It kind of automatically started up whenever I was around him. It was uncomfortable, to say the least, that he could tell what I was feeling at any given moment. "Anyway, how's the assignment going, Alexis?" I let out a huff and patted the pages on the table in front of me.
"There are a few jealous boyfriends but other than that, there are no threats to Tadase-kun," I drawled uninterestedly. "Just like last week, the week before, and the week before that." Every week I had to come and report to Tsukasa about any problems within the school or any complications with the Guardians/Tadase. It was boring, to say the least.
You would think that someone as nice and "princely" as Tadase would have some type of dark side or double life, but no. Of course not. Once I followed him to double check about word of a stalker, and he just went straight home! How dull is that?
Okay, so maybe I was overreacting but still. Couldn't he have something other than the "I hate all black cats" thing?
"Good," Tsukasa hummed, the green bar floating over his head indicating that he was pleased. "Remember to stop any harmful thing from getting to my dear nephew, would you?"
"Yeah, yeah," I grumbled, remembering his order. "Don't let Tadase get a scratch." Although, if he gets a bruise or two, it won't be against orders. "Gimme some of that cake." Tsukasa floated into the living room and placed a piece of cake on the table, much to the delight of my charas.
"Ne, Alexis, have you ever tried Yoga?"
"Aki~," Ran drew out the two syllables of my name, lying on the counter of Hana's cafe - Sweets and Treats- lazily, obviously unhappy. "I'm so bored! Why do we have to come here every day?"
"It's not every day," I hummed to her quietly, making sure the customers wouldn't hear. There weren't many today and all of them were our regulars. I didn't want to scare them off. A lot of our regulars were police officers too, so I had to be careful. "It's usually only four times a week and I have to, otherwise I would get in major trouble with a bunch of "important people". Besides, I like it here and Hana-san could always use the help."
"That's for sure," Shouta groaned, coming out of the break room with Masaya, a smile on his face. "It gets pretty busy around here during lunch time." The redheaded chara floated down to mine, a grin on his face.
"Hey, Ran, why don't we go and play some soccer?" He offered. Ran jumped up, happy to have anything to do, her sisters being on some errands I sent them on. I wanted to keep Su in the store, so I asked her to clean the storage room and I sent Miki on a mission to buy some more erasers. I gave her some money so that she could pay the store and pick out her own things that she wanted as well. She probably knew more about art supplies than I did, to be honest. I only drew for fun, but I still wanted to get better at it.
Maybe I could ask her for some tips.
"Yeah!" Masaya was a Godsend, really. He always entertained the girls when I was trying to finish up some of my work, and occasionally hung out with us when my little brother was busy.
Speaking of little… I glanced over at my younger brother who was now almost taller than me. It was kind of annoying but he was only half a year younger than me - well, Aki- so it wasn't surprising that he was growing. Doesn't make it any less irking.
"Good afternoon," A meek voice greeted, drawing my attention to the door. In my musing, I had missed Shima coming through the door.
"Hi," I grinned back at him, having a slight soft spot for him. He was pretty shy, polite, and quiet- a rare occurrence in my hectic life. "Green tea, peanut butter and chocolate cookies?" He gave me a small smile.
"Yes, please," Shima responded, seeming to scan the area behind me. "No Akira-san or Shiori-san today?"
"Nope," I scowled, pulling out six cookies and waiting for Shouta to grab the tea. "The cat skipped even though he used the shop as an excuse to stay home. And who knows where that girl is." I sighed and shook my head, placing the cookies on a plate and handing it to Shima. "Oh well, it wasn't like I would've done anything besides chores and training if I stayed home." I sighed again, missing Yuji, who kept Akira on track. I supposed I could've kicked his butt and dragged him back, but Akira would just escape again anyway.
Speaking of Yuji, I hadn't seen him in almost a year and a half now. I probably wouldn't recognize him if I saw him.
"I understand," Shima let out a deep sigh, following my lead. "My parents have really been on me about my studies lately. I have good marks, so I don't know why." Shouta came back out to find Shima and I looking depressed.
"Woah, what happened?"
"…Everything," I groaned, stepping out from behind the counter to check on the other guests.
I weaved around the empty tables, making a note to wipe a few dusty ones down, moving towards a middle-aged woman sitting with a man of the same age.
"-I'm just saying, love is more than just a mixture of chemicals in the brain," She protested, aiming the words at the brown haired man sitting across from her. "It comes from the heart!" He scoffed at her words.
"Yuki, there are no reactions in the heart able to create the similar feeling to love." He paused for a second, thinking. "However, they did find that if you get stressed out enough your heart tendons can break." Yuki let out a groan, slamming her head against the table.
"Mara-!" I chuckled at their antics, having seen them around fairly often. I never learned their last names because they requested to be called by their first since "calling a married couple the same thing is difficult.". It was entertaining, to say the least. "Ah, Aki-chan, you can clear this up for us, can't you?"
"Yes, be the decider for us, would you? Love is a chemical reaction in the brain, not something that occurs in the heart tendons, correct?" Yuki giggled dreamily.
"It's your metaphorical heart," Mara stared at his wife blankly for a second before turning to me. Despite his serious exterior, he was actually a kind man.
I answered slowly, trying not to aggravate either side.
"Well, personally, I agree with Mara-san," I started, frowning in thought. "But I suppose it could also come from your metaphorical heart or soul."
"There's been no evidence that humans have a soul," Mara disproved.
"Well, I've never seen a kangaroo. Does that mean it's impossible to find one?" Yuki laughed at his resigned face.
"She got you, sweetheart," She chuckled. "Thanks, Aki-chan. Do you mind if I have a top up of my coffee? I think I'll need it for the rest of the day."
"Okay now, let's take roll call!" Our new teacher, Nikaido, scrambled to find the attendance sheet. His acting was pretty good. I'd originally planned to tell Tsukasa about him, but I figured that if Nikaido didn't get in, he'd probably just find a different, less trackable way to take the heart's eggs. Besides, knowing Tsukasa, he probably already knew about Nikaido's collaboration with Easter. "Uh, the roster was…" Nikaido piled books on top of each other and fumbled with a few papers, eventually managing to knock over one of them with his elbow, sending them tumbling down on his face, to the floor.
The class was instantly filled with laughter as I eyed Nikaido with disbelief. Sometimes I had to wonder if he was actually that clumsy. It was almost too convincing.
"But I guess you'd call this a 'lucky score'," He pulled the small black book off of his head, showing it to the class. "See, here's the roster." The class laughed even harder, prompting him to start calling the roll. "Let's see… Ando Inka-san?"
"Here!" Nikaido went through various other names before reaching mine, obviously mispronouncing it on purpose, just as he did with Amu.
"Hinamori," I corrected him. Nikaido gave me a bright smile.
"Ah, sorry, sorry, Himamori," He laughed, making me irritated. A lot of things were making me irritated lately. I blamed the hormones. Damned puberty.
"Have I ever told you I hate school?" I complained to Shiori as we walked through the halls during lunch break. She grinned at me. "It's so boring!"
"Many times. Mostly after a school day ends."
"I don't need that sass from you," I muttered, ignoring the giggles of my charas. "I mean, have you seen how he acts?"
"Nikaido," I opened the door to go outside, walking towards the path, not noticing the flash of surprise in her eyes. "He's awful. He mispronounces my name on purpose."
"What does he call you?"
"…Himamori," I huffed, making her snicker.
"Well, you do have lots of-" I groaned, cutting her off. "Fine, fine, no puns." She leaned forward, her blue eyes sparkling with mischief. "So, any dark secrets in the Guardians?" Did I mention that my best friend was part of the newspaper club? No? Well, she was and it was oddly fitting for someone like her.
"No, not really," I lied, not telling her the truth for obvious reasons. "We just do a bunch of boring old paperwork and eat snacks." And shoot pink lazer beams out of my hands and talk to magical tiny humans, but y'know, all in a day's work. Shiori looked a bit disappointed.
"Aw, that's boring,"
"What did you expect? It's the student council."
"Well, I figured that there would be some weird love triangle, blackmailing, hidden information, etc. That's what always happens in the manga."
"Life isn't a manga."
"But it could be," She winked at me. "Anyway, how's it going at the martial arts zone?" I rolled my eyes with an annoyed huff.
"Sensei keeps wanting me to take on an apprentice or something like that but…"
"But?" Shiori pressed curiously.
"But all the beginners he's shown me are a bunch of useless bananas*. They have no incentive to train! What's the point of having an apprentice if they're just going to ignore you?" Shiori shrugged, shifting her bag strap onto her other arm.
"I dunno, maybe you just haven't found the right ones yet?"
"Maybe," I grumbled, noticing something ginger out of the corner of my eye. "…Is that Kukai? Where's he going?" There were a lot of people down the hill and lots of screaming too. Fangirls. Joy.
"Well, considering he's the captain of the soccer club and it's after school, he's probably going to the soccer club," Shiori guessed. "Wanna go take a look?"
"Let's go, Aki!" Ran cheered, pumping her fists excitedly.
"It's not like you have anything else to do," Miki snickered, starting to float down the hill we were passing by. I glared at them but it was true. I had no work to do today and I didn't really feel like doing homework either.
"C'mon, Kiki!" Shiori called, dashing down the hill. She almost fell on her face at one point.
"I'm coming, I'm coming," I replied, making my way down. "Jeez, could those girls shriek any louder?" My ears were starting to bleed. Maybe I could lie and say that I have to train? I was starting to regret agreeing to check this out.
"Send the ball this way!"
"Gah!" I had to admit, it was entertaining to listen to the shouts of the soccer players and watch someone else other than my brothers play soccer. The only thing I was good at in soccer was playing goalie since I would instinctively punch the ball away.
While I glanced away, making sure my charas were still in one place - they tended to wander off when I wasn't looking- a ball hit my feet, rolling back a little from where I stood. Kukai waved at me from the field, wearing a blue vest of some kind.
"Hey, Hinamori, the ball, please!" I picked the ball up, noticing how beaten up and dirty it was, even for a soccer ball. I'll have to mention the sports equipment conditions to Tsukasa…
"Do it, Aki!" Ran gave me a crazed smile, horror dawning on me when I realized what was going to happen.
"Chara-change!" The odd bubbling sensation happened again, spreading warmth through my body. I still had yet to figure out why that happened - but it wasn't really my main concern at the moment.
I leaned back and dropped the ball, swinging my leg forward to boot it up high in the air, speeding back down and past the goalie. Poor kid, probably absolutely baffled. The whole team gaped at me in shock, making the internal me cringe. Oh god, oh god, I did not want to gain any more attention from this school than I already had! Damn it, Ran! I was trying to be much less well known than the original heroine and be able to get information discreetly, but that didn't seem like it was going to happen anytime soon.
Regardless of what I did, the chara-changes always affected me at the same time, way, and place as Amu.
Kukai was the first to snap out of the stupor.
"Substitute!" He declared, pointing at me with a large grin on his face. I gave him a thumbs up.
"Yay!" Oh. My. God.
Kill me now.
"Ran…" I hissed, grabbing my chara tightly. "I'll flush you down the toilet!" We'd somehow managed to completely annihilate Kukai's entire soccer team - much to everyone's shock and thanks to the help of one of Kukai's team members. I think his name was Yamada? Shiori only saw the beginning since she had to go home to help out at her family's shop.
The worst part was that the eighth-grade gym teacher who was the club coach saw all of it. He looked very impressed and told me that he would recommend me for the girl's soccer team.
I can't remember… did this happen in the anime? My memory of the episodes were fading which was starting to make me panic. I couldn't change whatever Rei wanted me to change if I didn't remember what was going to happen. I could only hope that it didn't follow the manga closely since I hadn't actually read the entire thing. Wait… Will this last the entire three seasons? I hated the last one since it was focused towards toddlers, essentially. I scowled and Ran let out a terrified squeak.
"Aki-chan, don't be so hard on her," Nadeshiko, who I also discovered was watching later on, scolded me. "She just wanted to help." I sighed and released the pink haired chara who "hmph"ed at me, floating away. "You were great out there, Sohma-kun!"
"Of course!" Kukai puffed out his chest proudly. "I'm the captain, after all."
I need to start writing down what I remember, I thought to myself. Or maybe I can use the old camcorder Shisui gave me for that too. I'd started making video diaries to keep track of how long I'd been in the world. It didn't really serve any useful purpose but it made me feel a bit better.
Nadeshiko leaned forward in front of Kukai to see me, looking slightly worried.
"Something wrong, Aki-chan?"
"…It's nothing," I murmured, still only half paying attention. I needed to stop thinking so much. Go to the dojo and burn off my energy to the point where I didn't need to think. Unfortunately, I couldn't until the doctor cleared me from my injury. I wish I could just turn off my brain.
"I bet she's just hungry," Kukai teased, giving me a grin. I rolled my eyes and walked over to the catwalk where I would usually go to the park. "Come watch the match tomorrow, yeah?"
"Hmm… I dunno, if the captain can't even beat a newbie at soccer, I think it'll just be a one-sided annihilation," I drawled in amusement, making him gasp in mock offence. "Oh! I guess that'd be entertaining to watch, though."
"Why you-!" I laughed and gave a small wave, jogging down the catwalk as Kukai cursed at me. I sped up and reached the end of it within seconds, rapidly changing over to a new, abandoned street.
"Inventory- granola bar," I ordered as soon as I was out of sight, holding my hand out as I slowed down my pace. It instantly appeared in the palm of my hand, still in the wrapper. I double tapped my bag, making it go into my inventory. I only carried a bag so I wouldn't look like a master magician. I'd actually had a few close calls when I've made things disappear by accident. For example, double tapping on my computer, phone, on a book while in thought, stuff like that. I actually once made my clothes disappear, but that's a story for another time.
I unwrapped the granola bar and started eating, watching as my hunger and stamina bars went up. I had to be careful since they were directly linked to each other. If one went down, so did the other. The worst part would be when I had dinner and I had to double tap my food discreetly so that it wouldn't look like I was skipping meals.
That's the price I have to pay for having a convenient shortcut, I supposed. I had five bars measuring my overall wellbeing in total, Stress, sleep, stamina, food, and health bars.
It was getting darker and the streetlights were starting to come on. My parents wouldn't notice I wasn't home until around 7:00 and it wasn't my turn to make dinner tonight, so I could stay out later. I decided to walk over to the park and sketch for a little while.
"Aki-chan, where are we going, desu?" Su questioned, floating behind me. For whatever reason, the charas didn't have levels but I could still locate them on my map. Weird.
"To somewhere quiet," I answered vaguely, taking a sharp left into the gravel path.
"Ah!" Ran exclaimed in surprise, looking in the opposite direction of where we were going. It was the path home over the bridge. "It's Yamada-kun!" The soccer kid? Sure enough, it was. He was shooting a soccer ball at the wall repeatedly. I hope he doesn't kick it into the lake by accident.
"He's practicing alone," Miki observed.
"He's a hard worker," Su smiled at him, Miki agreeing.
"It's great that he's practicing even when he's not a starter," She looked impressed. "Go for it!"
"Go for it!"
"Go for it!" They all turned to me expectantly. I gave them a small smile before turning to Yamada.
"…Go for it."
"- not really a genius," Some guy on the TV protested, looking somewhat smug anyway. He was kinda cute. He looked very flustered as the woman on the right continuously praised his work. Shisui snorted and rolled his eyes, stabbing at his dinner in amusement. And people wonder where I get my attitude from.
"Ne, ne, onee-chan," Ali leaned over to whisper to me. "Where were you today?" I shrugged, not feeling like giving her an answer. If she really wanted to know, Ali would've located me on the map. Our youngest sister gasped and jumped up, standing on her chair.
"That guy is cool!" Ami squealed, looking star-struck, meat sauce all over her face. He reminds me of all those "nice" popular guys in the manga that turn into jerks to the protagonists. I stabbed a meatball with my chopsticks. Eating with chopsticks had taken a lot of getting used to, among other Japanese customs and traditions. Bowing at people was something else that definitely took some getting used to.
"Ami-chan, you shouldn't fall for this type of guy!" Dad was devastated, just as he always appeared to be whenever the topic of boys came up. He'd been twitchy around Akira and Yuji for a long time. I'd actually considered pretending I had a boyfriend just for the sake of freaking him out.
"Okada Shingo," Mom's eyes lit up and looked delighted that Ami liked him. "He's mysterious." Ali nodded in agreement. "The charismatic musician who automatically wins every award in every category he becomes active in!" Impressive.
"And he's cute," Ali added with a grin.
"No, not my darling Ali-chan too!" My father wailed. Shisui glanced over at me curiously as I used a paper napkin to wipe off the mess on Ami's face. She squirmed but allowed me to scrub it off.
"What do you think, Aki?"
"What do you think about that guy?"
"When did this become a conversation about my preferences on guys?" I grumbled, but all eyes were on me. "I guess he's kinda cute. Not really who I'd go after though."
"Oho?" Shisui leaned forward, looking interested. "Does my baby sister have a boy she likes?" I gave him a deadpan stare.
"No," I answered flatly, much to his disappointment. Dad sighed in relief, his heath bar turning from a dark blue back to a green.
"I can't imagine Kiki-nee getting a boyfriend," Shouta commented in amusement. I waved a threatening chopstick at his face.
"Watch it, Shouta," I warned teasingly. "You're treading on thin ice there." I picked up my plate and ignored my father's wailing.
"Aki-chan getting a boyfriend?!"
"She's at that age, dear," My mom consoled him, making me snicker. "Oh, and Aki-chan, I made an appointment with the doctor's tomorrow. They'll be checking to see if you can go back to doing your martial arts again."
I went upstairs to get some peace and quiet for the night. I also did a quick video of what happened that day and then flopped on the bed.
I hated how I could lay there for hours and not fall asleep unless my sleep bar was low.
[Quest: Gain One or More Apprentices (Optional but Recommended)]
[Quest: Heal Heart's Egg (Mandatory)]
[Quest: Go to the Doctor's Office (Optional but Recommended)]
"Remind me why I'm here again?" I eyed the Guardians sitting on a blanket laid out on the grass. Shiori had joined me again and was chatting with Yaya. They'd hit it off at some point, chatting about candies and boys. Nadeshiko gave me a friendly grin.
"Because you're here to show support for your friend," Nadeshiko offered me a spot on the blanket which I accepted grudgingly.
"Kukai isn't my friend yet. He's a club mate."
"Isn't that the same thing?" I shook my head.
"Just because I'm forced to spend time with you all doesn't mean that I particularly like any of you."
"Aki-chan's brutal," Miki informed the black haired girl. "It takes her a long time to warm up to people." Nadeshiko looked surprised.
"You have friends other than us?" My eye twitched in irritation. "Sorry, sorry, that came out wrong."
"Kiki has friends," Shiori interjected happily. "Only four her own age but she still has friends."
"Heh? That's surprising." Tadase noted, taking a bite of the food. I was going to comment something but bit my tongue to stop from starting a fight. I knew they didn't mean it the way it sounded. "Amazing! You made all of this, Fujisaki-san?" Nadeshiko looked pleased at the compliment.
"Yeah, that's right. Please have as much as you'd like." She winked at me. "You too, Aki-chan!" She offered me a pair of chopsticks.
"When did you- no, how did you even carry this much food to the-" She shoved a piece of sausage in my mouth, cutting me off. I made a noise of surprise and swallowed.
"That is good," I admitted, giving her a small smile. She smiled back happily in return. Damn, I really was getting attached to anime characters.
"Caramel!" Yaya squealed.
"Shiori," I dragged out her name. The blue eyed girl grinned.
"What? She likes candy."
"Yaya, eat your food before your dessert, that's not healthy," I scolded, gently taking the caramel away from her. "You should make sure to eat fruit and vegetables more. All I ever see you have for lunch is sweets." Shiori snickered, finding my mother hen behaviour funny.
"Big sister Kiki comes to the resc-ack!" I swatted Shiori and leaned back, ignoring her cries of betrayal. Tadase and Nadeshiko watched us in interest. "Spare me, almighty Kiki! I have so much to live for! I have children!" I snorted, earning the chuckles of the Guardians.
"Yeah, you have a child's mind."
"So cruel to your best friend- Ah, they're starting." I glanced over to see Kukai waving at us as he walked past, prompting the others to wave back. A gaggle of preteens thundered toward us, completely out of breath.
"Kukai-sama~!" The girls cheered exhaustedly, dashing to wherever Kukai was looking. When he moved his gaze, they darted over to where he was, constantly cheering for him.
"Fight! Fight!" Yaya shouted, Tadase and Nadeshiko joining in.
"Hey you!" Nadeshiko shrieked angrily, the flowers on her hair tie changing. "Don't act like you're still in bed! Go full power from the start!"
"If he goes full power from the start, he's gonna get tired halfway through," I muttered, incurring her wrath.
"FULL POWER!" She insisted.
"Okay, okay!" Jeez.
They were losing badly and some of the players weren't taking it very well. I watched Yamada slip away from the bench and walk past the crowd, into the forest. Tadase pried his gaze away from the game and onto me as I stood up, knowing what I had to do. I had to follow the original plot line otherwise the world would make it even worse - like Nadeshiko trying to push me onto Tadase, or having to protect Tadase, or… That kid seemed to be the source of all my problems, really.
"What's wrong, Hinamori-san?"
"Nothing important," I dismissed casually. "I'm going to the bathroom, so I'll be back in a bit." I lied, walking calmly towards the path I'd seem Yamada take. Tadase clearly didn't believe me but left me alone, whispering something to Nadeshiko.
After I reached the top of the hill, I broke into a run to reach the forest, pausing as I heard someone call out my name.
"Oh, Himamori-san," Nikaido purred, giving me an innocent smile. "What's the rush? You should stay and watch the game." I narrowed my eyes on him.
"Listen, Nikaido-sensei," I put air quotation marks around his title. "I know who you work for and I'm not dealing with your crap right now." His eyebrows raised in surprise and his facade lifted for a moment. I didn't bother to stay and watch. I spun on my heel and started jogging into the woods but stopped after a few steps. "Oh, and one more thing-" I kept my back to him but made my voice carry across the wind. "-Touch Tadase and you're dead."
"Oi, oi, Ali-chan," A boy with dark brown hair poked Hinamori Ali's cheek, startling her out of her thoughts. "Have you heard the rumours? They say your sister is plotting to take over the entire district." Ali leaned her head against her desk frustratedly.
"For the last time, Tomoda-kun, my sister isn't a raging warrior, she's just a martial artist." The boy named Tomoda grinned at her.
"Then what about that incident last year when she took down an entire class because she was in a rotten mood? I heard that at least fifteen people had to go to the ICU!
"It was ten girls who attacked her and Shiori," Ali corrected slowly, starting to snap. "And my sister only attacked them after they hurt her friend." A couple did have to go to the hospital, but I'm not telling him that. "Anyway, my sister took most of the blame. She actually can't even do her martial art classes because her ankle is still damaged." Well, it would be if we didn't have the magical HP healing process. Tomoda held his hands up in surrender.
"Alright, alright," He grinned at her cheerfully. "I'll trust you. Hey, do you think I could meet her someday?"
"Hah. She'd kick your butt if she heard some of the things you said."
"Perfect. I love strong girls."
"And she'd definitely be weirded out by you." Tomoda gasped at her in mock offence.
"Me?" He pointed at himself dramatically. "No way. Everyone loves me."
"Uh huh," Ali rolled her eyes at her classmate. "Tell that to the four popular kids who want your head."
"Hey, Yamada!" I called loudly, running around the forest. The goddamned map wasn't very useful if I couldn't locate someone I wasn't close to. "YAMADA!"
"Aki, this way!" Ran soared ahead, leading me to an open area that I recognized. The gazebo? Sure enough, Yamada sat on the bench in the cement gazebo, staring down at the grey stone. He was murmuring something under his breath that I couldn't hear.
"Yamada?" He didn't acknowledge me but lifted his head slightly as I approached cautiously. "You okay, dude?" He let out a bitter laugh.
"Kukai is definitely the best," His face wrinkled in disgust. "Someone like me can't even compare to him."
"He's acting strange," Ran commented, clearly unnerved. Su floated behind me nervously.
"I've got a bad feeling about this," Miki fiddled with her hat restlessly. I kneeled down where he was looking and placed a hand on his knee.
"Hey, Yamada, listen to me." His eyes widened in shock.
"Kukai missed the shot…? And the ball was stolen." Yamada whispered hauntedly. I bit my lip in frustration as he lifted his head. How was I supposed to comfort him? I couldn't even make my brother feel better after a failed test. "It doesn't matter. It has nothing to do with me…" He growled lowly. "It doesn't matter!"
My hand stung as I pulled it back, internally feeling horrible when I saw the red mark on his cheek. I'd slapped - but on the fleshy part so that it wouldn't massively hurt him. Yamada gaped at me in a daze.
"Enough," I snapped, glowering at him. "Stop getting all whiny just because someone's a little better than you. So what if someone's a genius? If they put in no effort, a genius won't be any better than a beginner," I scolded, hoping that my words were sinking in. "Saying that it doesn't matter because you're not playing is a lie. I saw you practising by the river late last night and judging by the dents on that wall, you've been doing it for a long time."
"Ah, ah! Don't you "but" me!" I cut Yamada off, not letting him get a chance to speak. "Stop being so hard on yourself and you'll see a better side to you." For the first time, Yamada looked at me, his expression telling me that he desperately wanted to believe in me.
"I-" He stopped mid sentence, sucking in a gasp, purple light coming out of his body.
"Damn!" I cursed, getting up from my crouch and jumping back. I thought I was getting through to him but Nikaido must've interfered, the ass. A purple egg floated above his head, cracking to reveal an X-character.
"Kick!" It shrieked delightedly. "Dribble, dribble, shoot!" It made a 'come here' gesture as Yamada fell on the bench. "Pass, pass, pass, pass~!"
"Urgh," I groaned, recognizing the chara. Why do they all somehow know English? It was the super accurate kicker. Actually, what happens if you get hit by the negative energy? They never really covered it in the anime or manga… A part of me was tempted to let myself get hit, but I knew that it wouldn't be good, whatever it was.
"Hat trick!" It giggled, a glowing purple ball kicked at us at high speeds.
"Look out!" Ran squealed, going every which way to avoid them. I shifted slightly to either side to avoid using up my energy. It only seemed to piss off the x-chara even more, shooting two or three negative balls of energy at a time.
"Hinamori-san!" I spared a glance to my left to see the Guardians - minus Kukai- dashing towards me. Where's Shiori? Did she stay behind?
"Stay back!" I ordered, keeping one eye on them and the other on the chara. It snickered again and shot a volley of balls over at the Guardians.
"This match doesn't matter," Yamada's voice echoed clearly through the field. "No matter how hard I try, it means nothing since I won't get to play." I grit my teeth in irritation.
"Dumbass," I hissed, startling the X-chara and most likely the Guardians too, judging by their gasps. "Do I have to slap you again?!"
"Aki!" Ran called, looking at me seriously. I nodded and placed my hands around the lock dangling from my neck.
"My heart, unlock!" The air hummed with energy, the ribbons that I was getting used to wrapped around me, enveloping the area in a bright, warm light. I reached out a hand for Ran's egg, pulling it close as it disappeared into my chest. The ribbons popped out of existence, leaving me once again with a bright pink cheerleader outfit. "Character Transformation! Amulet Heart!"
"Go, Aki-chan!" Yaya cheered from the side. I flashed her a quick smile, turning my attention back to Yamada's chara. I pointed an accusing finger at him.
"You say it doesn't matter if you lose since you don't get to play?" I repeated his words from earlier. "Then why did you practise so hard? Why were you so upset earlier? Why did you look so depressed just now?" I pressed. "You helped me when I was playing against Kukai and you were awesome! Copacetic! You even do extra work and try hard off of the field!"
"You're lying!" Yamada's voice started picking up in volume, turning into enraged shouting. "Even you think I have no talent!" The x-chara fed off of his anger and shot twice as many balls as before, prompting me to jump up into the air.
"Yellow card!" It shrieked when it was me, continuing its attack.
"Who gives a crap about talent?" I scoffed, ducking out of the way of a few negative energy balls. "Talent won't get you anywhere if you don't put in the work! Besides, those who have that so called "talent" trained to get where they are today, just like you! Don't X yourself out like that!" I felt something powerful tug at my hands. I let the feeling lead me through a series of hand motions, two pink puffballs appearing in my palms. "…Pompoms…?"
"Red card!" I whacked the last of the shots out of the air, creating a blanket of sparkles that floated down to the air.
"You're pretty cool, man! Don't let your pessimistic side take you out like that! Look at all that you've accomplished before you start degrading yourself!" That finally seemed to get through to him and I grinned, feeling pretty smug about myself. I placed my hands around the locket again as it started to glow.
"Negative heart, lock on!" I focused in on Yamada, aiming the light at him as it powered up. "Open heart!" The x-chara screamed, the X on its head cracking into pieces as the colour returned.
"Obrigado, Aki-chan!" A small boy wearing a brazil team shirt and a soccer ball grinned at me.
"No problem!" I gave him a thumbs up. "You stay good now, 'kay?" He gave me a salute as the egg closed in on him.
"Yeah! Ciao!" It beelined right back into Yamada. I jogged over, ignoring the Guardians, and checked on his body. It was interesting how they collapsed as soon as their heart's eggs left them. I'd have to watch for that kind of thing, especially if they were near the water. I wouldn't want to accidentally drown someone because their chara left their body. Or would they still survive? I'm not quite sure how all of that works.
"Huh? Hinamori-san?" While I'd been thinking, Yamada had sat up and was staring at me in bafflement. Whoops.
"C'mon, you gotta hurry!" I grabbed one of his hands and pulled him up, starting to drag him away. "You need to substitute for the game!"
"Substitute? Why? What've I been doing?"
"Dude, come on!"
"Uwah! I'm coming, I'm coming!"
"Aki-chan, you didn't really slap him, right?"
"He wouldn't snap out of it, okay?! Don't judge me!"
"…I can't believe you slapped him."
[Quest Complete! Rewards: +15 EXP, +7 Friendship with Guardians, +1 Companion]
*Aki doesn't like bananas very much.
[A/n]: I'm going to touch up a few of the other chapters - especially the beginning - to make them more… I don't know, flowy?
[Yaya]: Thanks for reading!
[Aki]: All reviews are appreciated!