That was the one word Chrom would use to describe the atmosphere of the Smash Mansion. Every morning the lofty silence of the night would be overtaken by the sound of friendly laughter, casual conversation, and the snarky remarks between opponents. With so many people attending and staffing this tournament, there was always some form of noise filling all corners of the mansion throughout the day. The people, more than anything else, are what made the Smash Mansion such a lively place full of enthusiastic energy.
None of the noise was typically a problem for Chrom. Far from it, as he was used to being in the middle of some kind of commotion from his time spent on the battlefield and ruling a large kingdom. However today was an exception.
Sitting upright in his chair with a studious posture, Chrom was trying his best to pay attention to the match being televised on the monitor in front of him. What made this difficult was the small crowd of people huddling around the area next to him, all shouting in excitement. Everyone present in the lounge was watching a different match play out on all the different TV monitors. It was hard to tell who was watching what.
Truth be told, the lounge wasn't Chrom's favorite place to be at in general. It always seemed so disorderly compared to other places in the mansion like the Wii Fit studio or the cafeteria. But it was the best place to view the monitors up close and get clear footage of what was going on in any fight.
The match that Chrom was intensely watching featured his daughter Lucina and her team in the midst of a large team battle; two teams, four fighters each, one that had been going on for quite a while now.
In terms of the ruleset put in place, it was a "first to elimination" match meaning that the first person to be knocked out of the arena or be unable to fight further would be counted as a loss against the individual's the whole team. This was considered the most difficult ruleset to be put in place for any team battle as it meant even a single tiny mistake could cost a team the match.
Since the tournament began, Chrom had made it a point to watch Lucina's matches at every opportunity he could, which meant anytime he wasn't obligated to fight in his own team battles. It was his way of cheering on his daughter on from afar as she battled fiercely in this competition.
Amongst all the chaos that was happening around him, Chrom heard his name called out behind him. As he turned around, Chrom saw the man he had come to know as Ken Masters walk over to him with Guile and Samurai Goroh close behind.
"Hey there Chrom, Ya busy at the moment?" the renowned martial artist asked.
"Um, kinda. Is there something I can help you gentlemen with?" Chrom replied.
"No, me and the guys just got word that the bar opened up and we're heading over there. We were wondering if you'd like to join us for a drink."
"I see. Well thanks for the offer but I'm gonna have to decline. I'm not really one for drinking. Plus, I'm in the middle of watching my daughter's team match." Chrom stated respectfully. "It's a bit early in the afternoon to start drinking anyway",he thought.
"Well that's a shame, best of luck to your daughter." Ken said.
"Aye, she's gonna need it." Goroh uttered, feeling inclined to add his two cents into the matter. "Her team's going up against Captain Falcon and he's no pushover. Ol' Falcon hits as fast and hard in the ring as he does on the track, I know from experience!"
Chrom simply turned his head back to the TV monitor unamused while Ken nudged Guile on the shoulder, motioning that they should leave. It was clear to all but Goroh that no one really cared to hear his opinion. Nonetheless, he continued:
"Your daughter is the one in the blue right?" Goroh asked pointing to the screen. "She doesn't look like she has much muscle on her. Sorry to say but she ain't gonna be able to tangle with the best if she can't match opponents in power."
"Perhaps. But a battle isn't always won by strength alone. I'm willing to wait until the match is over before I make my judgement." Chrom stated. He was starting to get a little annoyed, quite an accomplishment on Goroh's part considering how reserved Chrom normally was.
The screen cut to Lucina, standing still while catching her breath. Then just as quickly as she appeared, she ran off-screen. A camera from another angle followed her running across the battlefield, sword at her side, ready to make an assault.
"Hey, your funeral then." Samurai Goroh casually replied as he left to go catch up with Ken and Guile already on their way out the lounge exit. Out of the corner of his ear, Chrom could just faintly hear the rowdy bandit racer whisper to his drinking buddies: "Twenty credits says her team chokes and loses".
Chrom shook his head in disappointment. This was typical behavior he had come to expect from many of the fighters and spectators of the tournament. So many people here were focused more on who would come out victorious in a match than what was truly important: self-improvement.
This was a quality Chrom knew Lucina had in spades, He knew that no matter what challenges his daughter faced she would always give her best to rise above them and improve herself. That was just the kind of person Lucina had grown up to be in his absence in her alternate timeline.
In truth, the outcome of the match wasn't much of a concern to Chrom as he was filled with pride in his daughter for how far she has improved since fighting alongside her on the battlefield, something that was reflected in her efforts in this tournament.
And while it was true that the other team seemed to have the upper hand at the moment, the match wasn't over and Chrom wasn't willing to count Lucina and her team out just yet.
"Hey Wolf, you need to try and aim your shots lower to the ground around their feet." Young Link said as lined up his sight using his bow and prepared to fire another arrow. "Remember the plan, we aren't trying to hit them, just restrict their movement while Lucina holds them off and Isabelle finishes setting up her trap."
"Don't tell me how to aim kid." Wolf barked back.
"I'm not, I'm just telling you to stick to Lucina's plan."
As he finished speaking, Young Link shot an arrow in front Captain Falcon and Ryu causing both of them to jump back. Wolf then aiming his blaster and fired three shots in-between all four fighters of the enemy team to keep them out of arms reach of each other. Luckily, as Young link and Wolf were high atop a raised platform, that meant they were out of reach of the enemy team and could continue to put pressure on the opponent's movement.
Lucina had Instructed Young link and Wolf to keep the enemy team grouped up on one side of the stage as well as divide them from each other in the limited space they had once the time limit reached the halfway point and the platforms of the stage would rise to their highest altitude.
The match in question was taking place on a replica of one of the many training coliseums native to Marth and Lucina's homeland of Ylisse. The stage itself was considered a difficult arena to navigate due in no small part to the ever-changing platforms and walls mechanically alternating their elevation through the use of ancient industrial gear mechanisms housed in the ground below the fighter's feet. Specific portions of the stage would elevate at timed intervals causing not only unbalanced terrain but walls of machinery to divide the stage up into maze like sections. To the casual spectator, the entire arena was a marvel in ancient technology from the era Lucina was from.
It was fortunate that this stage was chosen for Lucina's team as it gave them two main advantages. For one thing, the enemy team comprised of Captain Falcon, Little Mac, Bowser, and Ryu. All four being heavy hitters that excelled in close quarters combat but were lacking in ranged attacks, having no substantial ones of their own with the exception of Ryu's legendary Hadoken. The shifting walls made navigating through the structure risky and the distance between fighters could be easily closed with an arrow or a shot from a blaster.
And second: this stage was the one Lucina was most familiar with. Ever since the fourth tournament, Lucina had fought in this arena more than any other. It felt like a home away from home, the days of training with her comrades on her travels brought to life again every time she fought there. Due to this accumulated experience, Lucina had long since memorized the layout of the stage as well as which platform sections would raise and lower and when.
All of these factors combined gave for a huge advantage to Lucina and her team. However, this was still not an easy battle. The enemy team proved more difficult to match in strength and keep at bay while Lucina's plan was put into motion.
Out of the four, Bowser was the most problematic to deal with due to his size and durability. With his tough reptilian scales and spiked shell, it was hard to damage him enough to make him stagger or push him back. A feat Lucina was discovering firsthand.
Facing backwards and letting his large shell take a few hits from Young Link's arrows and Wolf's blaster shots, Bowser managed to sneak out of the corner the rest of his team was in. Lucina rushed in to push him back into it.
His arms raised defensively with his hands curled into fists, Bowser was attempting to block all of Lucina's strikes as she coordinated an assault of swift sword slashes against him. Some made contact but were rendering ineffective while the rest that were aimed at his vulnerable sides caused Bowser to rapidly sidestep left or right but never backwards.
With the Koopa King not backing down and holding his position, Lucina realized that she needed to alter her attacks if she wanted to force Bowser backwards, and she knew how she was going to do it.
Sword fighting is just dancing with sharp objects between you and your partner. Both of you move across the floor in an ever-changing rhythm, your feet trying to match the other, your bodies sometimes in sync, other times in opposition, reacting to each other in fluid, coordinated movements. If your opponent does not have a sword, the dance is simply between you and your blade. Your sword, a mere extension of your hand, moving when and where you tell it to move. This is what Lucina had learned while trying to capture and replicate the elegant fighting style of the Hero King Marth.
Bowser was trying to simply predict Lucina's attacks instead of relying on his reflexes to block her sword. He'd rather take the brunt of her attacks than move or try to attack. She played along. Up, down, across the shoulder. Down, up, side to side. With the control of an orchestra conductor she swung her blade against the tough skin in a pattern she knew Bowser would pick up on. Each of her attacks a single movement, each of them seamlessly flowing into the next into a flurry of strikes and slashes.
As Bowser adjusted the position of his arms to block the next slash he thought would come from above, Lucina pulled back her sword and thrust it forward. Bowser's scales were tough enough to take grazes from sword slashes, but not a straightforward stab aimed at his unexposed gut.
Caught off guard, Bowser jumped back far enough to get out of the reach of Lucina's attack, unfortunately ending up back in the corner with the rest of his team, still under fire from Young Link and Wolf's barrage of projectiles.
"Success." Lucina thought to herself.
She immediately retreated back to a safe distance positioned below of to the side where Young Link and Wolf were perched at to regain her stamina.
With Captain Falcon's team all stuck in one place, everything seemed motionless as both teams were at a standstill. No one moved, for fear of making an opening for the opposing team. It was now a matter of waiting for the first attack so a counterattack could be set up.
Keeping her focus on the enemy team, Lucina could just barely make out Captain Falcon saying something to his surrounding teammates. They were too far away for her to make out what they were saying but Lucina was sure they were devising a way to breakout from their compromising position. She braced herself for what was what was about to happen, but she was not afraid. She still had her plan set in motion. The next move could secure their victory if it was successful.
Two more minutes and all the platforms would reset for a brief minute, lowering themselves back down to the ground and causing the stage to have a flat surface. Once this happened, the trap would be complete. It was all a matter of holding out until then.
Just then, without warning, Captain Falcon made the first move, sprinting forward to try and close the gap between him and Lucina. Though the path was only a straight line, it was enclosed between two massive walls that held up the platforms above. One of them was the platform Young link and Wolf were standing on. Despite their ongoing barrage, the captain continued running forward at full speed as Lucina took up her defensive stance.
"Captain Falcon's on the move! Wolf, take care of the other three!" Young link shouted, shooting off an arrow.
As Young link began his ranged assault, Captain Falcon took special precaution with his movements, keeping his attention split between Lucina and Young Link above him. The fire arrows aimed around his feet did little to stop the captain's momentum as he alternated between forward and backward short dashes in-between shots, a common speed technique now known as "dash dancing" among most of the fighters. He slalomed and serpentined like a bolt of lightning in a pinball machine.
It seemed as though Lucina wasn't the only one dancing in this fight. Remove the sophistry of battle and camaraderie and dancing just becomes really just fancy footwork.
Captain Falcon was able to maneuver around all the arrows shot by Young link, even in the narrow hallways and corridors formed between the walls. Even with all his experience with a bow, Young Link couldn't reload his arrows and aim fast enough.
Wolf continued the volley of laser blasts toward the cornered team. While his blaster shot out decent sized laser bursts, it fired almost at the same speed as link pulling back the drawstring, aiming, and then firing an arrow. The loss of support from Young Link was noticeable. He would also not be fast enough.
With the break in formation, the other three members of Captain Falcon's team saw an opportunity and ran in three separate directions as fast as they could.
"Great..." Wolf huffed as he saw the other team scatter.
Wolf lowered his blaster realizing that his role as a sniper was no longer ideal since everyone had split off from one another. Their makeshift choke point in the arena was no longer necessary. His eyes darted to each one of them, gauging their trajectories, assessing their threat level. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Little mac sprinting down the opposite side of the wall Captain Falcon had, the side Wolf was on.
He was probably trying to surround Lucina from the backside. But Little mac was unintentionally making his way to where Isabelle was around the corner, trying to complete her part of the plan.
"Damnit!" Wolf thought.
Wolf jumped down from the platform and landed in front of Little Mac, cutting off his pathway to other side and where Isabelle was.
"Not so fast there little man. Can't let you do that." Wolf said, taunting the boxer into a fight.
Around the corner, sandwiched in between large walls from nearly every side, was Isabelle.
Due to her small size and the height of the walls created by the elevated platforms, Isabelle was able to remain out of sight for most of the match as she navigated the arena. While remaining hidden from the enemy team, Isabelle had carefully unraveled and placed fishing line down on the ground all throughout the stage in a certain pattern by Lucina's instructions.
The fishing line was practically invisible while placed inside the tiny crevices of the floor tiles and positioned amongst all the dust and dirt on the coliseum floor.
"There, that's the last of it." Isabelle said as she finished laying fishing line down on the ground. She had used up her entire spare roll that she had brought with her for the trap. Now the only fishing line she had left was what was currently on her fishing rod.
"I hope this works. Mr. Tom Nook assured me this fishing line was very strong when I bought it from him. I just hope it's strong enough to do what Lucina wants it to do."
As she stood up, Isabelle could hear the distinct sounds of an intense battle happening from all around her as her teammates were fending off their opponents as best as they could. Though she couldn't tell what was happening, Isabelle knew that it could throw off the plan if she were to leave her spot and disrupt the flow of the battle. Lucina played to her strengths after all. Isabelle wished there was more she could do. But the plan…Isabelle simply stayed put and trusted her team to come out on top.
Back on the front lines, Lucina was currently struggling against Captain Falcon who was outmatching her in speed. Of course he was. He was a racer. The track was his battlefield. One mistake, one degree off from his intended path was all it would take to send him careening off and into a fiery explosion. Needless to say, his reflexes were finely tuned. Equipped with only his padded gloves, he was parrying all of Lucina's sword strikes, diverting each one from their intended path.
Lucina was on the offensive. Trying to lead this encounter but more and more felt like she was being led instead. Her previous opponent was large and difficult to miss. Due to his much slimmer build compared to Bowser, Captain Falcon had a much easier time side stepping direct attacks at his body. He was watching her fight Bowser, and found that some of her attacks were obviously telegraphed. Series of steps that followed patterns.
Lucina pulled back her hand preparing for another thrust, taking aim at him. Captain Falcon rushed forward with a series of jabs in the gaps in her light armor, knocking her out of balance. He charged forward, his fist rocketing towards Lucina like a battering ram. She instinctively pulled her sword in front of her to take the hit but there wasn't enough time or energy to prepare a counter for this attack.
The impact of the punch was powerful enough to knock Lucina backwards a considerable distance. The Captain was strong, perhaps just as strong as Bowser was, that much was clear to Lucina.
She tumbled along the stone floor, dust clouds flying into the air. Her feet quickly found their grip again and she stood.
"It should be about time for the stage to reset" Lucina thought to herself. Perhaps it was her time traveling habits but she had an innate sense of time. How long does a battle take? How long did it take for her to respond to each rising action and falling comrades and enemies? There were timers in her head, starting and stopping at different intervals; She didn't need an announcer to tell her when the match timer was half over. She already knew. And she's fought on this stage enough to hear each subtlety in each gear of the ancient machinery surrounding her. The creaking wood, the scratching metal, the gentle sigh within the walls, just before the platforms mark their descent.
She stood her ground and counted down. "3…2…1…"
As if on cue, all the interlocking gears and pulleys housed on the mechanical walls began to turn. The raised platforms started to sink back towards the ground. The two minutes had passed by and the stage was resetting itself back to a flat battle arena. In a matter of seconds, the surface of the arena was completely flat, revealing Isabelle off in the corner near the stage's out of bounds line.
This was it, the moment of truth.
"NOW!" Lucina shouted.
Hearing the signal, Wolf broke away from his little boxing match with Little Mac and ran towards where Isabelle was standing. He and Lucina grabbed the ends of the fishing line from opposite ends of the stage. Both Young Link and Isabelle crawled down and hugged the floor as Wolf and Lucina pulled the line as fast and hard as they could.
In the blink of an eye, the fishing line ascended upwards from the miniscule ridges in the floor tiles as it constricted around the center of the stage where Captain Falcon, Ryu, Bowser, and Little Mac were standing. All four of them getting caught in the tangled fishing line closing in all around them.
Unable to escape, the fishing line started to constrict even tighter causing the four fighters on the enemy team to get pulled closer together at the dead center of the stage.
Before the match had even started, Lucina had worked out how the fishing line would be placed in a strategic manner that would cause it to form multiple layered knotted loops around the target when pulled tightly. Taking into account how the stage surface would change throughout the fight and figuring out how to lay down the fishing line accordingly so it wouldn't be compromised by the raising platforms and walls was a heavy task, but it was one Lucina and her team had managed to overcome.
It was finished.
The plan had worked, the opposing team were all tied down together. All that was left was to knock them off balance and pin them down or push them out of bounds. Considering the combined weight of all four fighters the former method was by far more practical.
Seeing the chance to win the match in front of him, Wolf got a running start to build up speed as he leaped forward in a jump kick aimed at Bowser. If he could just hit Bowser hard enough in the opposite direction, his weight alone would likely cause the tied-up group to topple over.
Before Wolf could make contact, Bowser put all of his strength into his arms and with one mighty flex, snapped the multi-layered fishing line, freeing himself and his teammates.
Missing Bowser due to a quick dodge on the Koopa King's part, Wolf tumbled a little bit as he rebalanced himself on the ground.
With the trap having failed, both teams froze in place.
"Split up!" Falcon called out, signaling his team to spread out once again, each targeting a member of the opposite team.
Falcon's plan was a simple but effective one, rush down an opponent before the platforms elevated again and created walls. It was their turn to take advantage of the battlefield.
Bowser launched towards Lucina as if to resume their earlier skirmish, Captain Falcon grappled Wolf who was standing close by due to his failed attack, Ryu made his way towards Young Link, and Little mac ran towards Isabelle.
Everything was happening so fast. Lucina and Young Link were both forced on the defensive as their opponents charged at them with an unrelenting flurry of powerful blows. Wolf was trying to keep Captain Falcon at a distance with his blaster, and Isabelle could only run away from Little Mac.
The platforms began to raise again, though only a few near the south end of the stage, right where Isabelle was fleeing to. Hiding behind it wouldn't help as Little Mac knew her location but Isabelle couldn't think of any other option. As her nerves were getting to her with everything that was happening, Isabelle didn't realize she was just cornering herself from her opponent.
Pressed against the mechanical walls, Isabelle turned around to face Little Mac. She had hoped to create some distance between him and her so she that had a chance to pull out her slingshot and hit him with it from afar, but sadly Little Mac was too quick for that. Having already caught up to with Isabelle, Little Mac was directly in front of her.
Face to face with his small opponent, Little Mac stepped back and took a familiar stance. Isabelle could see Little mac winding up for one of his signature KO punches. With nowhere to go, Isabelle froze up in anticipation of the immediate knockout strike. She squinted her eyes shut in dismay and covered her head bracing for the impact that was about to come.
"ISABELLE! WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING!? GET OUT OF THE WAY, YOU'RE GONNA GET HIT!" Wolf shouted across the arena, turning his attention to Isabelle when saw Little Mac had cornered her.
A loud crashing noise radiated all across the arena, that halted the fighting for a single moment.
It was strange, Isabelle couldn't feel any pain. She opened one of her eyes to see what had happened. There was Little Mac hunched over her, with his right boxing glove smashed into the wall beside her forming a small crater.
Isabelle just stood there, not knowing what to think as she looked up at Little Mac's face. Judging by his ashamed expression, it was not hard to tell that Little Mac deliberately missed his target.
"What the hells going on over there?" Wolf thought to himself.
That word rang in Wolf's ears, snapping him to his senses as he turned around to see Captain Falcon charging up an attack of his own.
"-PUNCH!" He shouted, loose a powerful falcon punch straight to Wolf's chest. Unable to react fully in time, the punch made contact. Nearly getting the wind knocked out of him, Wolf was launched with enough force that sent him flying over the arena boundary line and out thus out of bounds.
"MATCH OVER! Victory by out of bounds!" the announcer shouted.
"Fuck." was all Wolf said as he lay there in the gravel still a in daze from the powerful hit he just took.
"Wolf!" Isabelle shouted as she, Lucina and Young Link were making their way over to him to see if he was okay.
Although well planned and hard fought, their team had lost the match.
Mild bruising in the center of his chest, with some slight swelling here and there. As per usual Wolf scoffed at the news from the medical staff, having known full well that his injury wasn't serious even before he had left the arena. Despite this, the staff still felt it necessary to tell Wolf that he was lucky the injury was as minor as it was, as it could have been a lot worse considering the direct blow he took.
When the match had ended, Wolf's team had made sure to escort him to the medical wing, much to his chagrin. Wolf felt like too much attention was being placed on his injury and by extension, his loss against Captain falcon. But he had promised Isabelle he would be more diligent with seeking medical help when he needed it so his hands were tied in the matter.
As soon as he got patched up by the staff, Wolf stood up and left without a word.
As he made his way to the waiting room, Wolf noticed that Lucina was the only there left waiting for him. She stated Young Link had to go get another spare shield in the storage room. His last one got destroyed during his bout with Ryu in the match. Isabelle simply left saying she had to go get something.
Whatever the reason, Wolf didn't really think to question it. He was tired after the match and decided to retire back to his living quarters for the day.
Currently He was sitting in his dorm room smoking one of the few cigarettes he had left, doing what he could to just unwind. The thoughts of what happened in the match replayed in his mind as he thought of what could have been done differently to secure the victory. Lately the team's ranking had increased a little bit over the past week, though they were still somewhere in the general middle. Their slow upward climb would probably start to plateau after this loss.
Just then, Wolf heard a knock on the door.
Although he was not expecting any visitors, Wolf had a pretty good hunch on who it could be.
As he got up from his chair to go open the door, his suspicion turned out to be true as it was none other than Isabelle standing in front of the doorway with her small medical kit in her arms.
"Hello Wolf." Isabelle spoke up. "I had a feeling you'd be in your room. I left to go get my medkit and by the time I came back to the infirmary the medical staff said you had already left."
"Eh well, it was a quick in and out visit. A slight bruise on the chest isn't anything to worry about so I saw no need to sticking around." Wolf replied.
"I see. I guess I was just being paranoid then. I can't imagine anything keeping you down." Isabelle chuckled with a warm smile on her face. Wolf's physical stamina was something that continued to amaze Isabelle the more time she spent with wolf in battle.
"But there is another reason I came here. It's been about five weeks since I stitched up your cut. It should be about time to take the stitches out and I wanted to check and see how well the wound has healed up since then. Call it a hunch but I had a feeling that even though you were with the medical staff you would probably still be too stubborn to let the look at it."
A bit surprised, Wolf turned his head slightly to glance at his left arm, having forgot about his injury a while ago.
"...sure, that sounds fine. Come in." Wolf said as he held the door open for Isabelle.
From there, the two canines got themselves situated. Having put out his cigarette, Wolf sat down and removed his jacket and under shirt while Isabelle pulled up a stool and opened her medkit, taking out the necessary tools. Before getting started, Isabelle inspected the cut on wolf's arm and was happy to see that it had completely healed up. His fur had even grown back around where the cut used to be, covering up whatever remains of a scar there was.
Wolf still wasn't used to such a tender touch. Soft paws moving against his fur, revealing the skin beneath.
"Well it looks like everything's healed up nicely." Isabelle said cheerfully.
"Speaking of, here." Wolf said as he grabbed the tube of ointment on his nightstand and handed it over to Isabelle. "Thanks for letting me borrow this. Sorry I used most of it up."
"That's perfectly okay Wolf. As long as it did what it's supposed to do then that's what matters." Isabelle replied while taking the now virtually empty container and placing it back inside the medkit.
"Now let's remove those old stitches, shall we?" With a hot bowl of water set up next to her for sanitation, Isabelle cleaned her paws with disinfectant and got to work. The process would normally be rather quick, but Isabelle wanted to take her time as she grabbed her medical snippers and carefully cut the intersecting wires along the stitch pattern. With each stitch removed, Isabelle would go back and wash over the area with warm soapy water to keep it clean. With how precise and meticulous Isabelle was being, Wolf almost had to wonder if she at one point volunteered as a nurse.
Other than a few tiny grunts here and there from having the stitches pulled out, Wolf remained very still and silent. He was doing his best to not disrupt the removal process and let Isabelle do what she needed to do. This was something that was not lost on Isabelle.
She noticed that Wolf had a very calm and dare she say it, relaxed posture to him, not at all like the first time when she had put the stitches in. Thinking back, an odd sense of deja vu washed over Isabelle as she was reminded of that day. A day that was still within recent memory yet felt so long ago with how her interactions with Wolf had changed.
As she continued removing the stitches, Isabelle couldn't help but be drawn the few bandages wrapped around Wolf's chest, covering the bruise he received from Captain Falcon. Looking at Wolf now, Isabelle couldn't help but feel a creeping sense of guilt build inside her.
"I'm sorry..." Isabelle said faintly. A frown had formed on her face as the words escaped from her mouth.
"What for?" Wolf asked, slightly puzzled at the apology.
"For being the one responsible for you getting hurt...and for losing the match."
"Don't worry about it. It's not your fault." Wolf replied.
"But it IS! when I got cornered by Little Mac and saw him winding up for a punch I froze up and just stood there. You tried to snap me out of it and got punched by Captain Falcon for doing so. If I would have been able to hold my own, then you wouldn't have gotten hurt and we might not have lost the match today."
"Listen. Don't go being all hard on yourself because of something like that. It's my own fault for getting hit due to taking my focus off the enemy in front of me."
"You still got hit pretty badly because you were watching out for me" Isabelle said, looking yet again at the wrapped bandages around Wolf's chest.
Now turning his head so he could face Isabelle, Wolf spoke up.
"LISTEN! It's fine, really. Like I told everyone when the match ended, this little bruise is nothing. It'll be gone in a day's time, no big deal. Honestly, if Falcon wanted to really hurt me, he wouldn't pull his punches like he's been doing. I can tell he's got a lot more strength than what he's displaying in these tournament matches." Wolf sighed.
"So. Don't lose sleep over this. Okay Isabelle?" Wolf said. He looked intently at her.
"Okay." Isabelle replied softly.
Something was still off though. Wolf couldn't figure it out but looking Isabelle in the eyes he swore he could make out a small noticeable look of disappointment on her face.
"Hey, what's with that look? Something still bugging you?"
Isabelle took a moment to respond, debating on whether or not she should say anything until she finally spoke up. "Yeah, kinda."
"Is it something you'd want to share?" Wolf asked, trying his best not to sound pushy.
"Well it's just that...what happened today isn't anything new. I don't know if you saw it as you were getting hit, but Little Mac intentionally missed me when he threw his punch. He hit the wall right next to me instead.
"I think…" Isabelle had stopped what she was doing and just lowing her gaze until she was staring at the floor. "…he did it out of pity, thinking I'm not strong enough to take his hits. I mean, I did freeze up in fear just looking at his attack.
"I know a lot of people in this tournament think that way about me. Pretty much all of the victories I've had in my solo matches have been because my opponent either forfeits the match not wanting to fight me or they deliberately go easy on me and lets me win."
Isabelle voice was starting to crack a little.
"And I understand it to an extent, I really do. I know I'm not a fighter like almost every other person here, but it feels horrible knowing that nearly everyone looks down on me enough to just brush me off like I'm not trying. And it's even worse knowing that on top of all that I'm dragging the team down and getting other people hurt."
"The plan was hinging on my skills. Leaving string around. And I still messed it up."
Her eyes looked wet.
"I don't want to be seen as weak! I want to be seen as myself! I want to be the same as all of you!"
Isabelle was now on the verge of tears. She was doing her best to hold them back and remain composed.
"I don't know why I'm even here…"
Wolf was silent, He honestly wasn't aware of just how much this had been affecting Isabelle. It actually came as a bit of a surprise to him considering how well she had been able to hide all of this behind her usually cheerful demeanor.
"Hey." Wolf said putting is left hand on Isabelle's shoulder in gesture of consolation. "Don't be so hard on yourself ya hear? You're doing fine. No one on the team thinks you're dragging us down."
Isabelle looked up at Wolf as he said this. Behind the all the gruffness the sincerity in his voice put her at ease.
She then took a moment to compose herself. She was getting all emotionally wound up and the last thing she wanted to do was to start crying in front of Wolf. Before the tears started to form, she put down the snipping utensils and took a deep breath.
"I know. Everyone on the team has been so thoughtful. I just wish I could do more to pull my weight." Isabelle said between tiny sniffles.
"You're doing the best you can do. You may not believe it but I've seen improvement. You're getting faster on your feet and a little stronger with how you swing your tools around. So don't be so hard on yourself. If you want to do better there's always the next match." Wolf assured.
Isabelle sniffed a little "Thank you Wolf. For the words of encouragement. And…thank you for letting me get this off my chest."
"Don't mention it." Wolf said stoically. Seems like the walls were coming up again.
As she cleared her eyes, Isabelle began chuckling a little.
"And what's so funny all of a sudden?" Wolf asked.
"It's just that, from all the things I've heard about you, none of them seem to line up with the person I've come to know.
Curious on what she meant by this; Wolf flipped back to his usual demeanor.
"Oh? And what exactly have you heard of me exactly? And by who?" Wolf questioned in a serious tone. He was a bit worried on where this was going.
"Well it's a bit of a long story but, you remember when you came to apologize to me all those weeks ago? Well after you left, I got a surprise visit from Fox about a few minutes afterward."
Hearing Fox's name mentioned, Wolf's eye sharpened into a glare and his claws curled into tight fists as he started down at his feet. What the hell did Fox have to do with any of this and why would he bring Isabelle into it?
"He said he just wanted to have a quick talk with me regarding you."
Wolf snarled. "About what?"
"Well, It happened like this…"
It was moments after Wolf's apology for snapping at her the night prior that Isabelle could say saw him be open and gracious for the first time since meeting him. Though it was sincere, the apology was quick and Wolf had left shortly afterwards.
Alone once again, Isabelle had resumed her mourning routine. She was currently organizing her subscription contact lens she had brought with her to the tournament until another interruption occurred breaking her brief solitude. With another knock at the door she got back up to see who was at the door now. My, she was certainly popular today wasn't she?
"Excuse me. Isabelle, right?" Fox McCloud asked politely as she opened the door.
"Oh ah yes, hello! What can I do for you Mr. Fox McCloud?"
Isabelle had never interacted with him directly before. Though she had signed his paperwork and notarized all his supply requests at the initial tournament registration. She noticed that Wolf always seemed to tighten his posture every time he was mentioned.
"Eh, that's quite alright, you don't have to address me so formally." Fox said somewhat flustered. "Just Fox is fine." He then did a quick look around the hall before continuing.
"I hope this won't seem rude but I'd like to have a small talk with you regarding a certain someone. Can I come in?"
"Oh um, sure." Isabelle replied.
As Fox walked through the doorway, he made sure to close the door tightly behind him to prevent eavesdropping.
"Would you like to sit down?" She asked.
"No, this should only take a minute." He walked away from the door, towards the middle of the room. The amenities in the mansion were nice but the walls carried sound through them easily.
"So here's the thing." He began. "I wanted to talk to you about your current teammate Wolf O'Donnell."
"Oh, what about him specifically?"
There was no easy way to say this. Fox decided to just be straightforward. "Isabelle…has Wolf...threatened or harmed you in anyway?"
Isabelle was shocked at the question, she couldn't imagine why Fox would say such a thing.
"W-WHAT? No! why would you think that?"
"I'm just making sure. The reason why I'm asking you this is because…well there's no other way to put it other than Wolf isn't exactly a "good" person."
Isabelle started to look a little concerned. "What do you mean by that…?"
"Well, you've seen the tournament roster right? So you've probably also looked through our little bios already while you were working in the main office. We've got some famous folks coming here all through the multiverse. Famous, and infamous. Good people and… bad people."
"I have. But like Master Hand said at the opening ceremonies, what happens outside of the tournament is just that. It shouldn't restrict anyone's enjoyment here. This is a fun event. For pleasure."
"Oh no, I think you know as well as I do that everyone's pasts are the reason why we're here in the first place."
This was true.
"Fox, I know that Wolf is a mercenary—"
"So you know what he's capable of." He stopped her.
Isabelle turned away. She knew Wolf was dangerous, but had not considered just how dangerous he was. Is. Will be. Why? She was his teammate. That's all. This was a chance for everybody to meet new people, have new experiences. It was silly to let their reputations get in the way.
"I mean, take what I have to say with a grain of salt. I am obviously biased. For as long as I've known him we've been enemies on the battlefield." Fox continued. "Wolf is a dangerous person to be around. Without getting into overly complicated details of his exploits, he's a space mercenary like me, and we've had many violent run-ins with each other.
"I'm being dead serious when I say this: be cautious around Wolf and just be on your guard. He's helped me through a couple of tough scrapes, but he only thinks about himself. I don't know him well enough to know what he's like on a day to day basis, but I've seen what he's like when he gets angry or dead set on getting what he wants.
"True be told, I actually wanted to meet up with you and talk about this much sooner back when the teams were first being decided. But I got sidetracked. I just got a little worried seeing Wolf walk over to your room a little while ago so that's why I'm here now."
"Why?" She asked. "What is there to worry about? What don't you want to tell me?"
She crossed her arms and frowned. Stared at his metal boots and her distorted, murky reflection in them.
"Has he killed people?" She asked quietly.
Fox frowned in turn. His eyes darted away from her for a brief moment.
He bent down on one knee and put his hands on Isabelle's shoulders, face to face with a serious look.
"Promise me this Isabelle, that if anything does happen and Wolf tries something funny, come to me and I'll deal with him. Don't be afraid."
Isabelle's mind was racing, this was a lot to take in so suddenly. She wasn't sure what to make of it either, especially considering her prior encounter with Wolf moments ago.
Exactly. It was too soon to tell.
Taking a deep breath, Isabelle put an understanding smile on her face as she looked back at Fox.
"Thank you for your concern Fox, but it isn't necessary. I'm happy to report that Wolf was simply returning some medical supplies to me that I left with him yesterday. There have been no threats of acts of violence from him directed at me." Isabelle stated.
"Oh. I see. That doesn't sound like him but so long as you're okay it doesn't matter. I'll take your word for it." Fox replied.
"I suppose if everything is alright, then I'll head out and let you carry on with your business." Fox added as he stood up and opened the door.
"Thank you for stopping by Fox."
"Alright. Have a good rest of your day Isabelle." He began to walk out but stopped and turned back to her. "And uh, no hard feelings on the match yesterday. Your team put up a great fight. He headed out of the doorway.
Isabelle was alone once more. Thoughts swirled around in her head. She returned to checking her contact subscription. Thankfully, enough to last the whole tournament.
"Well. Guess we'll see what happens."
"-And then he left."
As Isabelle finished recounting of her talk with Fox, Wolf became enraged at hearing what had transpired. His fur stood on edge, his tail pointing up in the air, and his teeth grinded against each other. The nerve of that runt Fox to go and do something like that right under his nose! Trying to make his team distrust him from the very beginning. Like usual, Fox was setting Wolf up for failure.
Though Wolf did his best to hide his rage (and doing a terrible job at it), Isabelle could clearly see he was visibly upset. It was kind of hard not to notice considering his fists were so tightly curled up and his body language was very ridged and tense.
"Please don't be angry Wolf. Fox was just looking out for me. My point in telling you this was to show that the things Fox was saying about you weren't true." Isabelle pleaded.
"Yeah?! Well that's just great. I'm so glad I proved him wrong!" He snarled. He saw her flinch at this. It made him consider what he'd do next. Why was he getting so worked up anyway?
Wolf took a deep breath and lowered his head slightly, making sure to avoid looking Isabelle in the eyes.
"The things he said… aren't entirely wrong either." was all Wolf uttered, his tone sounded so defeated which was unusual for him.
"The part about me being a mercenary, a wanted one at that, back in my home star system is true. I have engaged in "morally questionable activities" that has brought the attention of Fox and authorities many times before."
"I see…" Isabelle replied.
The room became quiet again, though this time for a different reason. For the first time, Wolf was actually afraid of what Isabelle might say next. Getting a bombshell dropped on you like this generally never yielded a positive reaction in the aftermath.
"This certainly is a lot to think about. I'll say it's never a dull moment with you Wolf!"
Wolf ears perked after hearing this; he then slowly turned his head back over to Isabelle out of curiosity. She was smiling. But Wolf knew Isabelle well enough to know that this smile was one out of reflex. Her customer service smile. One of accommodation and uncertainty. To defuse conflict and avoid arguments. He wondered how much had she smiled when he fought with the rest of the team just to attempt to keep things peaceful? Or maybe it was sincere, accepting him for who he is and was? Wolf honestly couldn't tell in this instance.
"With everything that has been said I still think you're a nice person Wolf. At least from my perspective. I might not know everything that has happened between you and Fox, but I don't think its right to judge someone solely based on what you hear from other people. It's important to get to know a person before forming an opinion on them."
A small sense of relief came over him. He let his shoulders relax. "Hmph, such naïve mindset can get you killed." Wolf retorted.
"Well that's too bad because it is a principle I strongly believe in. And it's one that I'm not gonna disregard so easily!" Isabelle stated firmly.
Wolf couldn't help chuckle a bit.
"Fair enough I guess."
With that Isabelle resumed her procedure and finished removing the last of Wolf's stitches. She tucked the remains into a small plastic container labelled biohazard, the kind you'd find at a hospital. For health and safety regulations, she insisted. Wolf still thought it was too thorough for a simple medical kit. She packed all of her supplies back inside the container and stood up to leave.
"Well It's been nice, but I have to go. Master Hand wanted to see me about something."
As Isabelle walked through the door frame and was about to leave, she stopped suddenly and quickly turned around to face Wolf.
"Oh I almost forgot. Before I go, I wanted to give you something."
Isabelle then took out a small box from her medkit.
"Here." She held out the box in front of her which Wolf accepted. He opened the plastic clasp on it to find a number of white squares each wrapped in wax paper.
"What's this?" Wolf questioned.
"They're nicotine patches."
Wolf looked completely dumbfounded at her response, it was as if he didn't register what Isabelle said.
"I don't want to be rude, but I've been able to smell cigarettes on your breath a lot lately. I didn't want to say anything at first, but I figured I could get you something to help kick the habit. So I got these patches while I was at the infirmary looking for you. I'm sure I don't need to tell you how bad smoking is for your health."
This was possibly the most passive aggressive thing she's ever done since he's met her.
It was starting to become apparent that he was changing. And She was the one changing him. Since when did she get a say in what he can or can't do?
"Um, thanks Isabelle." Wolf said awkwardly staring at the box of patches in his hand.
For all the time Wolf has been at the mansion, he had drawn a line in the sand. Don't get too close to anyone, don't let anyone influence you. And now, the line had been crossed.
"You're welcome. Let me know how they work, and I'll see you later Wolf."
"Yeah. Bye Isabelle." He said flatly.
Wolf gently closed the door and waited until he couldn't hear Isabelle's footsteps anymore. He looked down at the box for a few moments thinking about everything he and Isabelle had just talked about. At once, a scowl formed on Wolf's face. His canine snout scrunched up in rage, baring his fangs as he threw the box across the room. It hit the wall and clattered to the floor, the patches escaping and scattering out of the box. Wolf quickly rushed to grab his jacket and blaster. He slammed the door to his room shut as he left running down the hallway.
There was a certain fox he knew that was in for a very rude awakening.
Author's Notes: Okay so a few things to go over. For one, this was a really long chapter to write out and edit so I hope the wait was too bad. Second, I took some liberties with how the Coliseum stage works in this fic for the sake of created an interesting fight. In the original draft I actually confused the origin of this stage with Arena Ferox and had to rewrite a few things to work around it.
As for the match itself, I hope it wasn't too dull to read through, especially since I skimmed over the beginning of it. Writing fight scenes (especially ones with 8 different people engaging in the same battle at the same time) is a lot harder than most people think.
I would also like to make mention of the scene with Chrom. I added in his bit at the beginning of the chapter to make up for the fact that I don't have him and Lucina interacting all that much in this fic. For that I'm sorry but that's something I'm not able to do at this time given that I'm trying to focus on the dynamic of the main group, especially Wolf and Isabelle's above all else.
and if anyone is still wondering, no Samurai Goroh didn't win any money because Ken and Guile never agreed to his bet. (Even if they did, their currencies wouldn't convert properly into each other for obvious reasons).
Lastly, I want to make a small announcement to something that has happened recently. I was invited to a Super Smash Brothers fan content server on discord. If you're a fan artist or a fanfic writer who wants to share their work on this server feel free to check it out. The server ID: gDK48ua.
Until next time, thank you everyone who follows this story!