A/N - 25th February 2013 : I'm happy to announce that this fanfiction has finally been edited!

This story is meant to be a fanfiction of Tag Force 3, which will be centered around Asuka and her 'Heart Events.' For those who haven't played the game, you can watch each event in Youtube or other media.

Chapter 1

Your Own Path

"You're alright?"

That question snapped Asuka off her own world. She quickly looked up to meet a pair of hazel eyes staring at her with a slight concern. She forced a smile at the red capped guy sitting before her.

"Don't worry, I'm fine," she replied. "I... I was just a bit dizzy, that's all. I guess the last assignment from Prof. Satyr really exhausted me these last two nights."

The red capped man nodded, his expression back to his usual facade of placid mask and composed look. "It really was a tiring one," he commented while sipping his coffee. "I never really understand what he wants; why does he always have to make us recompose our deck according to the theme he proposes. Sometimes I think he's just using us as guinea pigs."

"Well, that's him." Asuka smiled while forcing down a sigh.

The two fell into silence afterwards. Osamu, her partner, was not a type to strike a conversation without a bait or dangle in one long chit-chat if he could help it, so it didn't really bother her. But her mind was ringing a bell of alert: she had to speak with him. She had to speak with him about the real matter which had consumed all her energy and mind last night. It wasn't about the assignment, of course. It was their soon-to-be-graduation—which was coming fast.

She had thought of numerous possibilities in the future, and along with those thoughts, she had also wondered of what she really wanted to achieve in the upcoming years. Sure, the letter from Mr. Chancellor had really surprised her she wanted to scream in delight at the news. For Obelisk's sake how could she not? She was chosen to be an exchange student to an elite Duel Academy in a foreign land! The invitation was usually given to the best student of the year in the Academy, and there she was! How it would open the doors to many great chances and opportunities! Everyone knew that any duelist who was sent there would be promoted to a higher rank in the world of duels. Fame, money, knowledge and skills were to be expected running to anyone who received the blessing.

But Asuka hadn't rushed to the Chancellor's office to say yes to it. She had the urge to do so, but she restrained it. There were... things, that she should think over before making the big decision. One of those things, she realized, had to be talked over with her partner, the one who had accompanied her for these last, and may be the most fenomenal, three years.

So many things had happened in just a short amount of time. So many things she would never have dreamed of happening to her. The red capped guy, who always wore a placid mask and, sometimes, a teasing look, was someone she needed to talk to. She knew he held the answer she was seeking. Or rather, she hoped that he could bring some light to her confusion.

Three years of partnering and spending time with him had taught Asuka that outside looks never determined a person's inner side. A quick look on him would suggest that he was just a young man of his late teens with a calm demeanor and average skills in dueling. His red cap, which hid most of his short brown hair, added to the humble appearance of the tall young man. But when one really looked inside his deep hazel eyes, then everything would be different.

His eyes had this depth of someone who had been through the experience of life and death more than once. There were scars hidden in his gaze, and at the same time, there were this mysterious character of wisdom, honesty and also darkness which Asuka found not to be the kind that would shoo people off, but rather, draw them to him. It was kind of a calming darkness rather than a bottomless, frightening one. Experience, emotions and loss of precious comrades and idealism had made him the man he was now. And as much as it hurt Asuka to see him changed so drastically during a short period of time, she knew it also had shaped him to be a wiser and matured man then he had been previously.

Exhaling deeply, she began. "Osamu... I'd like to hear your opinion with something..."

Her companion looked up from his cup, his gaze was colored by bewilderment. He must have noticed a troubled look in her voice; three years of companionship had never failed him to recognize Asuka's mood so far. "What is it?"

"It's... It's not really an important matter, you see," she continued on, laughing bitterly. She was still unsure on how her partner would react to the news, much more to her plea of assurance. "Last week, a letter came and—"

The sudden entry of a group of Obelisk girls to the place interrupted her with their loud chatters and giggles. They were in the cafetaria in which Asuka and her partner had been enjoying their evening snacks after their afternoon classes. She paused in mid-sentence as some of them passed to greet her and threw an uneasy look at Osamu's presence. Well, not that she could blame them since the two made quite an odd couple in the first place: an Obelisk girl with a Silfer guy—sitting together in a public place.

Different uniforms aside, everyone knew that the only Silfers in the dorm were Judai Yuki and the red capped guy, and they both had the reputation of saving the dorm more than once, not to mention winning several tournaments that had been held there. So, it was out of the question to ask why an Obelisk duelist like Asuka would want to partner up with one of the Silfers.

"Asuka-san," one of the girls greeted her when the group walked by their table. "And hey, Osamu-san," she added, turning to nod at Asuka's partner which was returned by only a silent approval of his head's inclination.

"Hello, Yukino," Asuka greeted back.

The girl with purple hair, whom Asuka had called by the name of Yukino, lingered. "Uhm... Asuka-san, do you... do you mind if we talked for a minute?"

Asuka raised an eyebrow. "Is there anything I can help you with?"

"Well, actually... I want you to help me with this deck," she said nervously, glancing from Asuka to Osamu. "And, of course, if it doesn't bother you—I don't want you to waste your time just because of me."

Asuka was a bit hesitant, but when she looked at Osamu, he gave her a nod and finally made up her mind to help the younger girl. The talk with Osamu could wait. Maybe... Just maybe, she would need a distraction. "Of course. I'd be glad to help," she replied while giving away a subtle smile.

Yukino was a year younger than her, and everyone knew how ambitious she was to win the next tournament which was especially held for the first and second year students. "I'll see you again tomorrow, Osamu," Asuka said while getting up from her seat. Before she headed off the room, she turned back to give him a look which said, "We'll continue on it later,"at which he once again nodded at.

~ xx 0 xx ~

Moon had risen when Asuka had finished with helping Yukino in composing a new deck. She'd found that it was a bit hard to concentrate on cards and dueling tactics when her body and mind were both exhausted and her thoughts were elsewhere. She was going to be sick, she assumed, by the lack of rest during these past two nights of doing the crazy assignment Prof. Satyr had given to the third-year students.

Walking back to the Obelisk Dorm located not so far from the Main Building, she stumbled against a dry root on the ground and almost lost her balance if her reflexes hadn't taken over to regain her footing. She gave an audible sigh, and when her head only became more and more dizzy afterwards. Never in her life she had been so stressed and exhausted at the same time more than when she had lost her brother.

Before she could manage to continue walking, a familiar, deep masculine, voice called out.

"Need a help, Miss?"

Asuka almost jumped when she spotted Osamu leaning over a tree just some feet from where she stood. The darkness which had engulfed the area plus the shadows from the woods and leaves had covered the young man for who knows how long he had been standing there. "You... What are you doing there?" asked Asuka, trying to walk limply to where he stood.

"Waiting for an irresponsible partner who has failed to keep her health," came the reply.

Asuka smiled weakly. Even in the darkness, she knew that he was throwing his usual mocking, playful smile on her. "And I never expected to have a partner who likes to stalk his female companion at night."

"Oh, don't worry, I didn't do it on purpose." He walked towards her and grabbed one of her arms lightly, balancing her steps and supporting her weight. Osamu had grown to surpass her height even more, she noted, judging from how easily he slipped on her arm. He was now a head taller than her, which showed just how much time had passed since their first meeting as freshemen. "I simply saw a pale young woman who was walking across a forest like a zombie and thought that she would collapse in any minute if her partner hadn't showed up for her."

They both laughed at his remark, then the two walked to where the Obelisk dorm was in a calming silence. She was thankful that Osamu knew when to be silent and give her a silent comfort and assurance. He had always been like that, at least for this past year: a silent companion whose simple gestures were always more encouraging rather than a cheer from a mass of people in podiums. She had always admired him for that: he never really needed words to communicate his thoughts and feelings to people, and she had never met anyone with such a gift.

Of course, he had been her opposite in every manner and character at the beginning, but as the time flew by, she had learned many things from their differences. She'd learned how to mature in character as he did, had learned how to treasure feelings and emotions by actions rather than words, and the most important of all, she'd learned that people could change, no matter how impossible it would seem.

Judai and Ryo were fine examples.

After what seemed to be ten minutes of walking, the gates to the dorm were in sight. The two stopped and Osamu's hand slipped off from Asuka's arm. "There," he said. "Rest well and don't push your body too hard: it also needs rest just as your mind needs it."

Asuka shot a tired smile, closing her eyes in disbelief. Is my troubled mind a clear sight for him to see through, now?

"Tomorrow's a day off, so you better take the chance to rest."

"I will. And, Osamu." She looked up to meet his gaze directly. "Do you think you shouldn't ask the Chancellor to promote you to be an Obelisk?"

At the mention of the subject, he gave away a tired sigh. "We've talked about this, Asuka. I don't really mind whatever rank they're giving me as long as I can duel properly."

"But it might be good for your career in the future!" she said, taking a small step foward. "Even if you're just promoted a day before graduation, it would help. People in this Academy may know of your dueling skills and deeds, but those who reside far from this island don't! If it's the Chancellor and the teachers, I can talk to them and—"

Osamu laughed, much to his partner's bewilderment and slight annoyance.

"I was being serrious here. What's so funny, now?"

"No, it's not what you think," said he between his laughter. "It was just... You don't understand how deep duelling connects people together." His laughter finally ceased. Asuka waited patiently for the capped man to elaborate. "We have discussed this together with the others when the Assassins attacked, haven't we? I think you've heard well what Judai said about how dueling deepens the bond between duelists and the cards' souls, but now I see you're not getting it at all."

"And what's that supposed to mean?"

"It means that you haven't grasped the concept fully," he said with a smile. Asuka was about to retort, but she held herself and waited instead. She hated it when Osamu pointed out her flaws like this, but knew better than to object. It would seem... childish.

"True, there are some people who only duel for money, fame or career," he continued, "but it's not what dueling is about. Maybe I will be judged by my rank quite often when I leave the Academy, but being well judged is not the point of being a high-ranked duelist. It is useless to hold a high rank without mastering the way of the cards. I don't want people to see me by my rank. Not me, not any duelist."

Asuka fell silent for a moment before she spoke again, "So, you're saying that you will prove who you are and what dueling is about your own way?"

"You could say so."

A talk between her, Judai and Fubuki was sparked in her mind. "I really can't understand you. What is it with you and Judai, taking such a great deal in dueling? Is it because you two can see the cards' spirits and we—normal people—cannot?"

Osamu's smile bloomed into a more tender one. "That's not it at all. True, there are some things that we learn from the spirits of the cards and by being held in their world for some time, but that's not how everyduelist should learn. There are many paths to achieve that understanding, the understanding which points out who you are in this world of cards battle. And it's just a coincidence that he and I share a gift that brings us a bit faster to the point." When he saw how Asuka's face saddened by the remark, he added, "Your brother and Ryo also have understood this."

Tears were threatening to fall from her eyes, but she tried to hold them from spilling. When she spoke, her voice trembled in a way that she had not hoped it would show how confused and helpless she was. "I... I really am a child, aren't I? I do love dueling and I sincerely believe that it does bring people to understand each other... I also know what you, Judai and Nii-san have been talking about it, but still, I can't picture things in my head the way you guys do."

"You don't have to figure it in a way that we do," he replied calmly. "You're meant for a path of your own creation, for your own understanding and belief. Maybe you haven't found it, but it doesn't mean that it's not there for you. Keep seeking it in your own way."

When she didn't respond, Osamu placed a hand on her head. "Sometimes," he added in a playful tone, "you can be so childish."

"Hey, now you're going too far, Mr. Red Hat," she quickly replied while giving away a small laugh, her hand moving to push his hand off her head.

He avoided the movement and stepped back, laughing a little. "Well, a child always thinks too hard on her own and gets more confused thereafter, isn't it? Whoa—watch it." Asuka stumbled when she tried to counter Osamu with a playful punch, but luckily, he caught her left arm quick enough before she hit the ground.

"Rest now. I'll come over tomorrow afternoon. I bet you'll sleep like a log for, say, more than ten hours tonight."

Asuka stood up and nodded weakly. "Yeah, that I agree. You too, rest well." And before he let go of her arm, she pulled him over and gave him a small, weak hug. It was rather a sign of friendship and a gesture of thanking than a romantical one. Before letting him go, the Obelisk whispered softly to his ear: "Thank you."

~ xx 0 xx ~

A/N : Trust me, I'd been longing to write this fiction eversince I played Tag Force 3 in PSP. Well, the OC, or the Red Hat Guy, in this fiction is a bit refined, considering that he had been through so many hardships in the GX Tag Force series. And as a result, his persona is somewhat a merge of his 'official defined' self from the GX series and the 5D's. (I've gathered the materials through playing the game first hand and noting every comment the in-game characters throw upon him).

Thank you for Reading! Do Review if you're interested!