Author's note: This fic is way late. Like, almost two weeks late kind of late. I'm so, so sorry, fyerigurl, this crappy fic was all I could manage for your birthday even after all this time. Anyway, HAPPY BELATED BIRTHDAY! Everyone should check out her OC girl's team fic if you haven't already.
"THREE TWO ONE – FIGHT-O!" enthused the girl.
She could barely be heard above the din in the arcade. Evidently, however, she did not mind. She was still rather annoying anyway.
"Do you mind?" a nearby boy said to her irritably.
"Mind what?" the girl said confusedly. Then a look of comprehension dawned across her round features. "I get it! Mind over matter, right? FIGHT-O! FIGHT-O!" And so she went on, in terrible English.
Listening to her, the boy promptly decided that he was never coming to this arcade ever again. But first, he wanted to finish this particular round in his game, since he had paid the money and all.
The girl, who was, by the way, a complete stranger to him, hovered by his shoulder.
"So what's your name?" she asked.
"Are you trying to pick me up?" he asked her back.
"Aren't you're a bit heavy for that?"
The boy sighed in exasperation and shook his head, very, very slowly.
"I'm Inaki Madoka," said the girl. She pointed her thumb at her chest rather enthusiastically. (She was flat.) "Now you can tell me your name," she continued, with a blithely eager grin that the boy did not particularly like the look of. "Or else I'll call you Mushroom Head! Or Toad! You know, from Mario."
He rolled his eyes. "It's Hiyoshi Wakashi."
"Well, Hiyoshi-kun, wanna play me next?"
"Because playing is fun." She nodded earnestly here.
Hiyoshi searched hard in his mind for an excuse not to play.
"I'll pay," Madoka added.
Hiyoshi looked her up and down. She was evidently from one of the nearby all girl's schools seeing as she was dressed in a long, plaited school skirt and red necktie. Judging from how well she wore the uniform, she seemed like the type to actually have money. And also the type who would probably suck at video games, too, Hiyoshi reminded himself. Did she come here with a boyfriend or something?
"Well, all right," Hiyoshi said finally. Just one round, he told himself. Besides, arcade fighting games really were more fun when more than one person played.
Madoka took her place beside him. As the game started up, Hiyoshi suddenly noticed that a crowd had gathered around them.
"Pick your character, quick!" Madoka giggled. She had already picked for herself a cutesy animal character that vaguely resembled a big-eyed squirrel.
Suddenly feeling unnerved, Hiyoshi made his selection.
Their battle ended within a minute.
"Oh, yay!" Madoka chirped happily. "I won!"
Hiyoshi stared at the screen, then at his hands, then at the grinning Madoka.
"… The hell?" was all he could muster as a response.
Someone patted him on the back.
"There, there, you're not the only guy to lose to Inaki." It was one of the boys from the crowd. "Inaki's not the Queen of the Arcade for nothing."
Hiyoshi said nothing. He simply walked out of the arcade with his hands in his pockets.
"Oh dear," said Madoka, abruptly snapping out of her euphoria when she noticed Hiyoshi was gone. "Why'd he go? I thought we had a good bromance going on."
That was essentially the beginning of Hiyoshi's life story. If he wanted to be technical, it probably started when he was born, but he was only a squealing, blood-covered infant then and he had no concept of winning or losing. So when Hiyoshi looked back on his life, he preferred to think his story began on a tennis court or in Hyotei Academy, but grudgingly, he had to admit to himself that everything really started the moment Inaki Madoka flayed his behind at an arcade game.
He could remember, for instance, every tiny gruesome detail that was poured into that fateful match. How Madoka's squirrel character did spinkicks in the air and totally avoided Hiyoshi's punches, and then with one combo move obliterated all of his hit points. It was unceremonious, it was traumatic, and Hiyoshi couldn't help but mentally replay the events at every inopportune moment. It would haunt his dreams for a long time afterwards.
He never let on to anyone about any of this, of course. An astute observer would perhaps have noticed that Hiyoshi was spending far more time than should have been healthy practicing combo moves for a fighting game, but that was it. Hiyoshi was never going to admit that he had suddenly come to regard a girl as a rival worthy of Atobe Keigo. It was probably the 'Queen of the Arcade' title that did it for him. Hiyoshi inwardly snorted every time he recalled that particular nickname.
At that time, Hiyoshi was a freshman at Hyotei Academy. He was twelve years old and for the very first time in his life, he couldn't stop thinking about a girl.
She must be destroyed, Hiyoshi concluded.
Two weeks later, after the appropriate rigorous training, Hiyoshi steeled himself and entered the arcade once more.
It took him some diligent searching, but he eventually found Madoka at a simulator in the far corner of the arcade. She was shooting down zombies.
Hiyoshi did not greet her. He stared intently at her ponytail and waited for her to notice him.
It took about an hour for Madoka to lose her credits. Hiyoshi was still staring at her.
"Oh, hello there!" said Madoka. "You look kinda familiar for some reason."
"Play me," said Hiyoshi.
"We can team battle," Madoka answered. "I'm in the mood for co-op today."
"No," said Hiyoshi. "Battle."
"Awww, okay," said Madoka. "But can we co-op later?"
"No," said Hiyoshi.
"Okay," said Hiyoshi.
He lost again.
The problem, as he discovered, was that Madoka had more than one trick up her sleeve. She still OH-KO'ed him, but it was with a different combo move this time.
At this point, Hiyoshi would have left again in a huff and refocused his strategy, but all of a sudden, Madoka grabbed his sleeve and whined. "You promised to co-op!"
"I didn't pinky promise," Hiyoshi told her irritably.
"You traitor!" Madoka pointed a finger at him. "I remember you now! You're Hiyoshi-kun! You ran away!"
"Don't worry," Madoka told him, smiling suddenly. "I'll still be friends with you if you play with me."
Somehow, everything she said annoyed him. Hiyoshi ended up playing with her anyway. (Because, he told himself, if he found out more about her playing style, he'd be able to beat her.)
She was good. She covered his back when he was in trouble, but she also let him take the kills when he wanted them so that he ended up with the higher score than her. It was actually kind of fu-
Hiyoshi refused to finish that sentence.
"Done yet?" he grumbled once they used up their credits. Madoka was panting from laughing and screaming at the screen too much. Her way of laughing was peculiar – it was like a hiccough and a giggle working in unison. No wonder she exerted herself. Just listening to her was tiring.
"Yep!" Madoka chirped. "Come again tomorrow, please!"
And so the days went by in the arcade, and somehow, they turned into weeks. Hiyoshi learned a lot about the arcade in those days. He discovered which games offered the most time for the credit bought and which games ate up your money and never gave you anything back. He discovered which games had the best controls and which ones were chewed up by toddlers. Madoka always knew the best games and there was seldom an occasion when she wasn't in the arcade.
Hiyoshi quickly discovered her routine. After school, she made her way to the arcade and played there until around six o'clock, when she would leave, presumably for dinner. Sometimes she would return later in the evening, but usually she simply waited until the next day.
Their conversations were strictly game-related. "So how do you access the secret stage?" "How do you beat this boss?" And so on. Hiyoshi was gaining knowledge in the art of gaming. Once, he did ask her, out of faint curiosity, why she spent so much time in the arcade and why she wasn't broke yet. Madoka flippantly replied that her uncle owned the arcade and he gave her free credits. Then Hiyoshi decided he resented her even more.
And so it went on like this for many days. Then one day, Madoka turned around to him after a particularly enjoyable game and said:
"Do you play any sports?"
"What, why?" Hiyoshi asked suspiciously.
"You have really good coordination," said Madoka. "It's like whoa sometimes!"
Hiyoshi thought he was pretty good, although it peeved him that Madoka was still better.
He explained to her that he played tennis and that he was in the Hyotei tennis club. Madoka listened to him for a moment and then grinned.
"Can I watch you play?" she asked.
"Well," said Madoka thoughtfully. "We're friends, aren't we?"
"No, we're not," he said quickly. He didn't refer to Madoka by name. He called her 'Hey, you'.
"Oh," said Madoka. "Oh."
Even though it was noisy in the arcade, suddenly it was like everything was quiet for them.
And then Madoka started sniffing.
For Hiyoshi Wakashi, it was the first time in his life, really, that the sensitivity of a girl really struck him as something that he needed to be aware of. For all her cheerfulness, Inaki Madoka was the sort of girl who was hurt by words easily.
The first time he made a girl cry, Hiyoshi felt like an idiot. But really, it was so sudden, her questions especially. Hiyoshi was very, very confused, so when Madoka started sniffing, he awkwardly looked around and equally awkwardly walked away and left her there. There wasn't much he could do for her anyway.
And then, after that, he started to feel really bad.
That was mean of me, he thought. So roughly five minutes after walking out of the arcade, he walked back in and he found her where she was when he had left her. She was rubbing her eyes with her sleeves.
Hiyoshi struggled with his words for a moment. There was something he knew he ought to say, but he just couldn't for the life of him remember how to say it.
"Uhhhhhhh…" he began awkwardly, and Madoka looked up at him. Her eyes were puffy.
She looked really bad, Hiyoshi thought.
Madoka sniffed again, loudly enough for him to hear over the arcade noises. "It's okay," she said, and broke out into a brave smile. "I'm not mad at you, I was just a little sad, that's all. Can we still play games?"
Hiyoshi opened his mouth, then closed it, then opened it again and left it hanging open slightly.
"Okay," he said finally.
Hiyoshi finally remembered.
"Sorry," he said quickly, and shoved his hands into his pockets.
Then after that, they really were friends.
It took Hiyoshi a while to acknowledge that he liked having Madoka around, but he had to by the time he let her come over to Hyotei's tennis club after school. He still remembered that his primary objective was to defeat her but that could get done these days among other things. As long as she didn't cry again was the important thing. He didn't want to feel like a jerk again.
So he shoved her in the bushes and told her to stay quiet and not talk to anyone.
"It's stuffy," Madoka complained.
"I don't care."
"I want to cheer you on openly!"
"Stay in the bushes," Hiyoshi told her again grimly. He didn't want the other members of the club thinking he was bringing his girlfriend around (because Madoka wasn't his girlfriend). But more than that, the club members were one type of friend, Madoka was another, and for some reason, Hiyoshi didn't want his two worlds to intermingle.
Finally, Madoka agreed, and proceeded to make herself comfortable in the bushes. "Have fun!" she called out to him enthusiastically. The bush quivered like jelly. Hiyoshi winced.
At tennis practice, the coach assigned all the first years to bouncing tennis balls on their racquets. That was all they did for the entire practice.
Hiyoshi approached Madoka afterwards. "I told you not to expect much," he said.
"That's okay," Madoka said cheerfully. "I watched the older players."
"Oh," said Hiyoshi. "Right."
"They were really good!" Madoka insisted. "Um, there was this guy... Atobe-kun was his name?"
Madoka giggled. "Gekokujou!" she declared, and spread her arms wide. "You should Gekokujou him!"
"Yeah." This time, he was going to agree with her. It was his plan all along.
Then Madoka asked, "Are you trying to Gekokujou me?"
Hiyoshi choked on oxygen.
He said, after spluttering helplessly for a minute, "How did you know?"
"I'm smart," she said simply. She laughed. "Nah, it was just kind-of-sort-of-a-little-bit obvious, but that's okay!"
Hiyoshi was unimpressed. "Shut up," he said.
"Atobe-kun should acknowledge you as his rival," Madoka said, rather than shutting up. Hiyoshi didn't say anything, so Madoka continued, "Because you're not really my rival, you're my friend. But Atobe-kun isn't your friend, so he should be your rival! He'll be the Ken to your Ryu, the Edgeworth to your Phoenix!"
Hiyoshi grunted, not liking where this conversation was going. Besides, Ken and Edgeworth were friends to their rivals, thus totally invalidating whatever meagre argument Madoka had conceived.
"I'll tell him right now!" Madoka announced.
And before Hiyoshi could stop her, she sprang out of the bush and ran all the way over to the tennis courts where Atobe and Kabaji were playing.
THE STUPID GIRL, Hiyoshi thought. He was frozen to the spot and could only watch, as if it was all some kind of farce.
Madoka returned approximately five minutes later, an indignant pout fully formed across her features.
"What did he say?" Hiyoshi asked anxiously.
"He said, 'The fan club's that way'."
"Sorry," said Hiyoshi, for the second time.
"Don't say sorry! You should beat him! I'll cheer you on, okay?"
And thus Hiyoshi Wakashi encountered his very first fan.
Later on, Hiyoshi found himself thinking about that conversation and, far from being touched by Madoka's evident concern, he found himself somewhat depressed by something she had said. "...you're not really my rival, you're my friend." Her voice echoed in his mind.
Was this, he thought tentatively, what it really meant to seek to overcome some higher opposition? As far as Hiyoshi was concerned, no one ever had seen him as a rival. He was always picking them for himself.
As the summer came, Hiyoshi practised tennis harder than ever and as a result, came to the video game arcade far less frequently. Madoka was always there when he came, silly grin plastered on her face. Her skill with fighting games never declined and though Hiyoshi longed to beat her, sometimes he forgot all about her altogether. Seasons changed and suddenly Hiyoshi was in his second year of middle school, and that was the year he was placed as a reserve player on Hyotei's regular team. He told Madoka the day the news was announced and she spontaneously broke out into a dance.
Hiyoshi was used to it.
"Let's play," he said to her abruptly.
She stopped. "Games?" she said questioningly. "Don't you want to celebrate? You know, like this!" She twirled on the spot. "WHEE! WHEE!"
"No," said Hiyoshi. "And don't start pouting."
"But I like pouting!"
"No," Hiyoshi said again. "I want to play with you."
"Whee!" Madoka exclaimed again, evidently pleased.
That day, Hiyoshi beat Madoka for the first time.
It should have been a rush of glorious, triumphant pleasure, but it wasn't. It wasn't quite an anticlimax either.
Hiyoshi enjoyed himself quite a lot. It was a close call and his palms were sweating, but when he executed his final combo move, he turned to his friend and for the very first time, broke out into a grin as wide as Madoka's.
She brofisted him.
"I'm proud of you," she told him happily. "You Gekokujou'd me!"
"Yeah," was all Hiyoshi could say. "I did."
Then she went quiet.
"What is it?" Hiyoshi asked her concernedly. He was getting somewhat used to picking up on Madoka's moods now.
"Will you still want to play with me?" she asked slowly. "Now that you've overcome me?"
Hiyoshi thought about that. It wasn't smug satisfaction that he felt from beating her, it was just... something. Something he couldn't quite put a label on at the moment. What he did know was that something had suddenly ended between the two of them, a feeling that Hiyoshi could never reclaim.
"Yeah," he said to her, because he knew that much, at least. "I still want to play."
Some rivalries, he thought, just weren't to be.
Author's note: Special thanks must go to The Jabberer for somehow being almost exactly like Madoka in every conceivable way. Why are you so awesome, Jab?