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Solace Originate

Discussion in 'Literature Library' started by DiancieIsBae, Jan 19, 2017.

  1. DiancieIsBae

    Merio12
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    Yache Berry ★★Amulet Coin ★★★Skull Fossil ★★★
    Hello everyone...aaand already I am at a loss of what to say. Uhh...oh. So this isn't actually my first Pokémon fanfiction. I've written a few other one-shots before, plus a planned-to-be-long series that I inevitably lost interest in due to several factors. But this one I consider to be my first real series for uhh...uhhhhh...I'm...out of words again. Uhh anyway, enjoy. ^.^

    Story Summary: In a town called Asanagi, one of the biggest towns in a gijinka-only world, there lies Asanagi High School, created 50 years ago and now one of the most prestigious schools in the country. A young Eevee by the name of Keyori Zanpachi recently moved to Asanagi alone to study at this high school. On the first day, he meets the Espeon Espy Noriyama, the most beautiful freshman in the school, and is immediately starstruck by her appearance. Throughout the next day, he also meets Espy's Flareon sister Flare, as well as local school bully Machoke Nozote Tsubake who seemingly stalks Espy wherever she goes. Later on, they also meet the rather shy Jolteon Maya Runaze.

    Over the course of time, these five learn to accept each other's differences and form comraderies with one another as friends. However, these young freshmen know not what dark secrets the town of Asanagi has in store for them. These five students must band together as a team to defend the town against whatever evil comes their way while also trying to live a fairly normal school life. Can they succeed?

    The wondrous world of Pokémon. A world where mythical and fantastical creatures called Pokémon live alongside humans. Most of these Pokémon live alongside regular human beings as equals or sometimes superiors in their respective habitats. Some humans see this equality as a chance to study them up close, gaining as much information and knowledge as they can about each and every Pokémon known to man. Others keep them around as household pets. There are even those humans to have their Pokémon bout with other humans' Pokémon in battles. These particular humans are known as Pokémon Trainers. Some Trainers work as police officers to protect the citizens and their Pokémon from harm. Others work as Rangers to protect the wildlife Pokémon from disasters. There are also those who work as Nurse Joys to heal and care for injured Pokémon. No matter which way you look at it, humans and Pokémon have coexisted for centuries after their full discovery.

    However, as time went on, some of these Pokémon began to develop their own human intelligence outside of the usual Psychic-type intelligence. This type of intelligence further led to researchers frantically trying to decipher each individual Pokémon's brain waves in order to figure out how this new Pokémon intelligence came about. Then, due to some outside force unknown even to this day, these particularly abnormal Pokémon vanished from the world and taken somewhere else. A world much like the previous - lush white grassfields, vast blue bodies of ocean, and large erupting volcanos. And then, it happened. These Pokémon began to take humanoid forms, becoming Gijinkas. Humanoid Pokémon that act and think like human beings, but still retain their respective Pokémon abilities. This new Gijinka race would come to live in this new world, called Futomari, for the next millennium. Which brings us to the present day.

    Welcome to the town of Asanagi. A town full of vast open fields, rich wildlife, and an amazing amount of industrial and technological advancements. This town stands as one of the biggest towns in Futomari, with only two other towns surpassing its sheer size. However, its popularity is second-to-none, as its attractions such as its amazing theme parks and its monumentally notorious King Celadon statue are unmatched anywhere else in the world. However, its biggest attraction by far is Asanagi High School, one of the most prestigious schools in existence. This school has an impeccable ability to turn casual students into young prepared adults better than most other schools while still being able to retain its status as a regular high school for students.

    Chapter 1: Starting in Asanagi

    It is the day before the start of the new school year for Asanagi, and the subway was rolling around towards its stop at the station. "Now arriving at Asanagi Station. Please hold on to your belongings and hold on to the nearest pole as we begin our stop." The announcement went on over top of the passengers, one in particular being a young 14-year-old male looking to live by himself and become an adult early. What was visible through all of the passengers was that this boy had brown ears, resembling those of an Eevee. He also seemingly wore a shirt that had a long light brown sleeve, and was holding onto a large black suitcase while wearing a rather heavy-looking blue backpack.

    As the subway came to a complete stop, the doors opened and all of the passengers were let out. The young boy came out in the middle of the passengers with his belongings. He had short, straight brown hair, a light brown long-sleeved shirt, brown pants, and dark brown shoes. His ears and bushy tail were also brown, with the tip of the tail being light brown and the inner lobes of the ears being a very dark shade of brown. As he walked through the subway station, he grabbed himself a snack on his way out - a simple doughnut, nothing more. He managed to finish the doughnut and throw away the napkin he was holding said doughnut with before he left the station. When he fully entered the town of Asanagi, he looked around with his hazel-colored eyes, breath taken by the beautiful scenery he laid eyes on. The vast grass and flower fields, the rich amounts of wildlife, and the sheer amount of buildings and people walking around the sidewalks.

    "Wow, this place looks even better than it did on the pamphlet," the young boy said, still holding onto his belongings as he started walking through the streets. "I could walk around here a multitude of times, and I would still be in awe of this place's gorgeous scenery." The young boy looks at his smartphone in his right hand. The time was 2:47PM. "I just hope I can get to my new house and get everything I need unpacked before 3: 30. I do have somewhere I need to be at that time. After all, I did say that I would be available today. Don't wanna disappoint them."

    As the young Eevee continued to walk through the streets of Asanagi, he eventually took a turn to his right down another street connected to the "main" one. Down this street were numerous houses on the right side, and a vast grassfield in front of a large body of water on the left. The young Eevee boy was amazed by the scenery.

    "Yep. This is definitely where I'm supposed to be," he said in a happy tone, walking slowly down the street whilst looking at all of the houses and their numbers. "Now I just gotta find my house number, and then I can get to moving my stuff out into their respective rooms."

    We was walking for a good 5-10 minutes searching for his number. Then, however, he found it and approached the house.

    "137. Yep, that's the one," he said, comparing the house's appearance to that on the sheet of paper he was holding. He then approached the doorway, and opened the mailbox to see what was in it. "Just a bunch of junk mail. I'll look through it later." As he closed the mailbox, a shining plate with "Residence of Keyori Zanpachi" was seen on the lid. The Eevee, apparently named Keyori, took out his key, unlocked the door, and went into his house. "*sigh* Home sweet home."

    Through the door, Keyori instantly entered the house's living room, which had a couch against the windows next to the door and loveseat, conveniently placed perpendicular to one another, as well as a high definition plasma TV sitting across from the couch.

    "Huh. Guess they moved everything in already," Keyori said, scratching the back of his head with a nervous look on his face with an anime sweatdrop running down his face. He then walked to his left into the supposed dining room, where only a lone dining room table and six chairs sit in the center of the room. "Yep. They definitely already moved everything into this house." He said with the same expression as before.

    Keyori then went up the stairs to the second floor. Not much to note here other than that there's a completely ordinary bathroom with completely ordinary items in it. But to the right of the stairs was a small bedroom area. Keyori walked into this bedroom and saw a small bed to his left and a dresser just slightly farther up than that.

    "Up these stairs too," Keyori said, laying down his suitcase and opening it. Inside were a bunch of his clothes that he packed, as well as an apron that had a particularly strange logo below the circling words "Reality is what you make it" in Japanese kana and kanji. He put it on, grabbed his keys, and walked out the door. He then locked it behind him, and walked out back into the streets while putting on his apron.

    After a few minutes of walking down Asanagi's sidewalks and looking around more at the scenery, Keyori eventually comes to a convenience store right next to the street with all of the households. The logo above the front door was the exact same as that on Keyori's apron.

    "Well it's time now," Keyori said to himself with a determined expression. "Time to introduce myself to my boss and coworkers as the newest employee."

    Keyori then walked into the convenience store, titled Korono Market, with his head held high with confidence. As he entered, he saw presumably a middle-aged male Stoutland in a professional business tuxedo, whom Keyori assumed was his new boss.

    "Afternoon, sir," Keyori said gleefully upon seeing the Stoutland.

    "Hmm?" the middle-aged man rected, turning around to see who was speaking to him out of the blue. "Ah. You must be Keyori Zanpachi. Right on time, as you promised. Though I wouldn't really have minded you being late today. You did just arrive here today after all, so it only feels right to cut you some slack."

    "Thank you for the generosity sir, but I did promise you," Keyori said, smiling cheerfully. "And I did intend to keep that promise."

    "Ahahaha," the Stoutland chuckled a bit. "You youngsters these days. You're always such mixed bags. But enough with the small talk. I haven't introduced myself yet. I serve as the owner of this particular Korono Market location. Mukuro Takafumi is my full name. Pleasure to meet you." Mukuro then stuck out his hand towards Keyori.

    "Likewise," Keyori replied with a big smile, holding out his own hand to grab and shake Mukuro's.

    "Ahahaha," Mukuro chuckled again. "So then, why don't we go over your new job today while I still have free time?" Keyori nods. "Good. You will be starting off here as a sales clerk, standing behind this cashier stand to take sales transactions from customers." Mukuro pointed towards the nearby cash register as he said this. "But I'm sure you already know what a cash register is. You must've been with your parents at the local supermarket many times when you were younger."

    "I'm sure everyone has," Keyori replied, an anime sweatdrop on his blank expression as he took sudden stops at the beginning and end of his sentence.

    "I bet you even wanted to take that sightseeing a step further if you know what I mean," Mukuro said with a smile. Keyori simply replied with a large exasperated sigh as he lowered his head's height, his eyes completely covered by black lines the size of Brock's eyebrows. "Ahahaha, I only kid, I only kid." Mukuro sighed for a bit.

    "Well, unfortunately my time here is up for now," He said, looking over the corner. "Oh, and it seems we already have customers waiting for you."

    "Ah yes, welcome!" Keyori exclaimed to the customers with a smile on his face, turning back towards them. He then walked into the back of the cashier stand to the cash register. "How may I help you today?"

    The first customer, a female Raichu who looked like she was a mother, put her items on the countertop - a bottle of Pepsi and a couple of sticks of Starburst candy - and then took out her wallet from within her purse.

    "I don't think I've ever seen you around these parts of town," the Raichu said to Keyori. "Is this your first time working here?"

    "A-Actually I just moved to this town today," Keyori replied with a smile. "I decided that I wanted to live on my own here after I graduated from middle school a couple months ago."

    "Oh, you're gonna start high school here tomorrow, are you?" the Raichu said. "Wow, and already you have a job. You're already an adult, more so than most people your age."

    "Heh, thanks a lot," Keyori replied, scratching the back of his head.

    "Who knows? Maybe you'll have kids at age 16 at this rate," the Raichu remarked.

    "!!!" Keyori reacted with a look of great shock. [Why would she try and insinuate THAT?! I would never do something like that! Ever!!]

    "Hahahahahaha, I was just kidding," the Raichu joked. "Ohh boy, I haven't laughed like that in a while. But speaking of high school, I guess you wanna attend Asanagi High, right?"

    "Well yeah," Keyori replied. "That's actually one of the main reasons why I chose this town to move to. That and the scenery is amazing."

    "You miss your parents yet?" the Raichu asked Keyori.

    "Not really," Keyori replied. "Truth be told, I honestly didn't think my parents would support my decision of moving out all by myself."

    "Hmm," the Raichu smiled. "Oh. Look at the time. I-I gotta get going, sorry."

    "Oh right," Keyori said in a panicked tone, his forehead covered in sweatdrops. "Uhh, that'll be..."

    Keyori's voice drowns out at the end of the sentence as the day slowly goes on for him and his customers. He was constantly greeting every one of them with a kind smile, taking their payments for their respective groups of items - usually just sodas and candy, with the occasional biscuit sandwich or Rice Krispy Treat. Eventually sunset came around. It was 7:43PM, and there were no other customers for his shift. Mukuro came out from the back of the store, motioned Keyori to come out from behind the cashier stand.

    "That's all for today, Keyori," he said as Keyori came to him. "Thank you for your hard work today."

    "Eh? Did I do something?" Keyori asked nervously.

    "Oh no no no, it's not that," Mukuro replied. "It's just that your shift for today is over, that's all."

    "My shift?!" Keyori said, a look of pure shock on his face.

    "Ahahaha," Mukuro simply chuckled. "My apologies, I forgot to tell you your shifts before I left. But I brought with me a sheet that you might need for the future." Mukuro pulled out a piece of paper from his binder and handed it to Keyori. He took a glance at the paper itself, and noticed the days and times separated by rows of periods.

    "Huh. So these are my shift times, huh?" Keyori said.

    "Correct," Mukuro replied. "Don't worry about having to be here before those times, even on weekends. Youngsters like you should enjoy your youth, and be free. I understand that you want to live like an adult. But your youth still exists nonetheless, and you should cherish it while you still have it. Besides, you start high school tomorrow. You should head home and get some rest so you'll be rested for that."

    "Understood," Keyori replied, smiling cheerfully. "Thank you, sir!"

    Keyori then walked out of the convenience store, taking off his work apron in the process. He decided to stop by the local McDonald's for dinner. He ordered a McDouble cheeseburger, a medium fries, and a medium diet coke for about $4, which he paid for with a $5 bill that he had in his wallet for snacks and such. He then went straight home and into his kitchen, which had a silver-colored refrigerator and freezer against the east wall, and a counter on two walls with cabinets above, an oven and stove on the south side, and dishwasher on the west. Keyori went to open his refrigerator and...realized that he has absolutely no food or drinks whatsoever. A look of pure exasperation and annoyance came across Keyori's face.

    "*siiiiiiiiigh* Just great," Keyori said. "Guess I need to go and get a few groceries for tomorrow."

    Keyori grabbed his keys again and walked out the door. Again. He went back to where Korono Market was, and then walked further, all the while looking around at the scenery at night.

    "Whoooaaah, this place really is amazing to look at," Keyori said, breathtaken for a bit. "Let's see, it shouldn't be too much farther. I do remember seeing a supermarket on my way home from the subway." Keyori only walked for about two more minutes from the Korono Market when he found the supermarket, called Suketto. "Ah, there it is."

    Keyori noticed that there was no logo for this place, unlike what Korono Market had. He also saw the parking lot almost completely empty. So he took out his phone to check the time. 8:49PM.

    "Huh. It's not that late," Keyori said. "Guess everyone is trying to rest up for school tomorrow. Me, on the other hand." Keyori sighed as he walked down the parking lot and entered the supermarket. The layout of the supermarket's interior was like that of your typical Wal-Mart, if you've ever been to one before - fresh produce in the back corner, clothing in the middle, and multiple aisles of different food and drink products. Keyori just went and grabbed a small basket to hold his groceries in.

    "Let's see, what will I need for tomorrow morning?" Keyori muttered to himself, heading all the way back towards the fresh produce section. "Well for one, I'll want some milk for a breakfast drink and just in general. I might get some cereal for breakfast too. Maybe some cookies for a snack too." All the while, Keyori is typing in his phone the miniature grocery list he was thinking out loud.

    Eventually he made it to the milk section, where there were (of course) many different types of milk. 2%, whole, reduced fat, skim, even chocolate and strawberry milks.

    "Do they really have to have chocolate and strawberry milks here?" Keyori said with a blank expression on his face. "You can just mix syrups in regular milk, and you would get the exact same thing."

    Keyori grabbed a gallon of whole milk from the selection, and walked over to one of the food aisles. Specifically, the one that had all of the cereal selections that everyone spends forever and a half just deciding on ONE cereal, sometimes two or more. Keyori spent barely any time at all there, grabbing a box of his favorite cereal, Fruity Pebbles, and immediately heading over to another aisle - the snack aisle. Then after grabbing a pack of cookies and putting it in his basket, he headed over to one of the checkout lanes and took out his wallet.

    "I don't think I've ever seen you before. You look like a new face here," the cashier, a male Kadabra, said. "Tell me, young man, did you just move here?"

    "Yeah, I did," Keyori replied with a cheerful smile, putting his items onto the counter. "In fact, I came here all by myself."

    "What?" the Kadabra exclaimed. "But you look so young. Why would you come in here alone?"

    "It's simple really," Keyori said. "I wanna live life like a regular adult. I know I know, a 14-year-old like me would usually never think of such things. But I want the experience for the future."

    "D-Do your parents know about you doing this?" the Kadabra asked Keyori nervously.

    "Yeah," Keyori nodded. "Actually my mother supported my decision of moving out here. My dad saw this as an opportunity to get back to doing what he likes. Plus, the high school I would be going to over there...isn't exactly known to be the best." Keyori's expression changed from a smile to a nervous doze-off of sorts.

    "I...see," the Kadabra, completely at a loss of words, replied. "So you wanted to attend Asanagi High School, is that right?"

    "Yeah," Keyori nodded. He then looked at his phone's time. His expression turned into shock. "Oh uhh, I should get going if that's alright with you."

    "Ahh yes," the Kadabra replied. "That'll be $10.45."

    Keyori paid for the items as the Kadabra put them into a plastic bag using his telekinetic Psychic abilities. Keyori then put his wallet in his pocket, grabbed the plastic bag from Kadabra's telekinesis, and walked out of the supermarket after waving goodbye. He walked back to his house as quickly as he could, put the milk into the refrigerator, placed the cookies and cereal on top of the refrigerator for now, and went upstairs to unpack a few clothes. Specifically a pair of underwear, shorts, and a short-sleeved shirt.

    Keyori went into the bathroom to get changed into his night clothes that he got out. But first, he turned on the shower to clean himself for his first day of school tomorrow.

    "Ahhhhhh, this feels so nice after the long day that I had today," Keyori said, cleaning his hair and ears with shampoo and conditioner. Afterward, he cleaned his entire body with soap applied onto a pouf. After about twenty minutes of cleaning himself, Keyori got out of the shower and got changed into his night clothes. He brushed his teeth immediately afterwards, spending another 2 minutes in the bathroom.

    After that was done, however, he picked up his dirty clothes and put them into his laundry basket outside of his room before heading in there and falling onto the bed. There was a medium 4: 3 television across from his bed, and the remote for it was right next to where Keyori landed. So he grabbed the remote and turned on the TV. The news channel was on as the newscaster were discussing Asanagi High School's new year starting tomorrow, and its staff members already prepared beforehand.

    "*sigh* Tomorrow's the beginning," Keyori said to himself as he listened to the news. "I've got everything I need for tomorrow all ready to go."

    Keyori then turned off the TV after the school discussion was over, set his alarm to wake up, and turned over on his bed to fall asleep.

    The next morning...

    *BEEP!* *BEEP!* *BEEP!* *BEEP!* Keyori's alarm went off at 7:00AM sharp.

    "Uuuuuuhh...Jeez..." Keyori mumbled as he turned off his alarm clock and yawned as he stretched outward. "Man, that alarm never gets any quieter no matter how many times you hear it." Keyori mustered himself out of his bed slowly, and went downstairs to eat his breakfast. He grabbed a bowl, cup, and spoon from out of the cabinet, got out his milk, and grabbed his cereal and cookies and brought all of that (in that order) to the dinner table.

    "*sigh* Might as well eat some of both of these, shall we?" he said to himself as he poured cereal into his bowl, then opened milk and poured it over top of the cereal and then into his cup. He first started off by eating some of his cereal (about a third of it to be specific), then opened his pack of cookies and took out one. The cookies he got were small chocolate chip ones that are about half the width of a coaster. He dipped it into his milk, and then bit into it. The rest of his meal then consisted of switching between eating his cereal and eating a cookie, then finally drinking his milk after three cookies.

    "Ahhhhh, that was good," Keyori said, smiling as he put his dishes in the dishwasher and the other things where they were earlier. "*sigh* Now I should go and get changed for school today. It is the first day of the new year, after all."

    Keyori went back upstairs and grabbed a pair of clothes exactly like the ones he wore yesterday, and threw them on the bed. Then, after brushing his teeth in the bathroom, he changed into said clothes, grabbed his backpack and phone, and walked out the door. He locked the door, and was on his way to the main street. As he looked off in the distance, Keyori noticed a giant building standing out among the rest to his right.

    "That must be Asanagi High School," he said to himself as he walked towards it. "They weren't kidding when they said it was Asanagi's main attraction. It stands out like a sore thumb. But like, in a good way. I wonder if I'll be able to fit in easily enough. Ah, who am I kidding? They'll accept me in due time."

    As he approached the school grounds, the schoolls design became more and more apparent. Much like most other schools, the exterior was made of brick walls with some windows spread out among the classroom and hallway positions, as well as a small flight of stairs leading up to the front doors. A multitude of at least 250 other students of all grades were waiting outside near the fountain in the middle of the grounds, which was surrounded by grass patches and sidewalks, which in turn were also surrounded by grass fields.

    "I guess I'm still early despite how much I walked to get here," Keyori said. "Huh. Everyone looks so different from each other. And yet, all the same."

    At around this time, a lot of other students started to arrive by car or bus. Keyori soon joined the crowd himself, blending in with all of the different species of Pokémon gijinkas. One of them saw Keyori as someone he didn't recognize, and tried speaking to him.

    "Never seen you before," he said. "You new around here, pal?"

    "Err, yeah I am," Keyori said, smiling. "In fact, I moved here yesterday."

    "Oh, cool," the male - a Cinccino with a short-sleeved shirt, khaki pants and semi-long hair, all white - said. "Hope you enjoy your time here then."

    Suddenly, Keyori heard the voices of many students behind him all commotioning about something.

    "Oh, she's here," the Cinccino exclaimed, grabbing Keyori's left arm and taking him over to the side. "Come on, we'll be better off over here."

    The two of them then looked toward what everyone else was looking at. They saw a rather elegant-looking Espeon girl with long and straight bright pink hair being carried behind her by the wind, as well as long pink ears with black inner lobes, a dark pink casual buttoned blazer, dark grey knee-high boots, and double skirts - the top one being grey, and the bottom being dark pink. All of the male freshmen were falling head over heels for her, but in a way that made Keyori think that this wasn't the first time they had seen her.

    "WE LOVE YOU, ESPY!!" all of the male freshmen, having hearts for eyes now, shouted in her direction.

    One thing was for certain, however. As the girl passed by Keyori, her hair still being blown back by the wind, Keyori's eyes widened in awe of her beauty. He was beginning to fall in love. Not only that, but the girl took a glance at Keyori with a curious expression on her face. She too noticed that he was a new face around here, like the Cinccino did. But she quickly redirected her attention to the school in front of her as she walked up the stairs. Most of everyone else followed her.

    "Shall we head inside now?" the Espeon girl said to the crowd as she opened one of the doors. The other three doors opened quickly from the crowd wanting to get in as well. Keyori just stood there for a bit in awe, and the Cinccino next to him just smiled.

    "Beautiful, isn't she?" he said to Keyori. Keyori nodded back, his cheeks starting to become a little red. "That girl was the most popular girl in middle school during her time there. I guess most of her popularity traveled with her to high school. But I'm curious about something."

    "Huh? What's what?" Keyori asked, finally snapping out of his little daze and looking towards the Cinccino.

    "Amongst all of that excitement, she looked at you," he replied. "Maybe she didn't recognize you like me. Or maybe, she's interested in you."

    "Maybe she is," Keyori said, cracking a smile, "It wouldn't be that farfetched either. I mean, think about it. An incredibly popular girl falling for the new kid in town. What do you think?"

    "Heh. I think you might be a little in over your head," the Cinccino replied, looking up at the sky. He then looked back over at Keyori. "Actually I take that back. You're really in over your head there. She doesnlt know anything about you. And you don"t know anything about her either. Although..."

    "Although?" Keyori wondered.

    "Now that I think about it, you might actually be onto something," the Cinccino said. "Best of luck to you though. I'm a freshman like you and her, and she is quite hard to please."

    "Speaking of freshman, we should probably get inside," Keyori said, sweating a bit.

    "Youlre right," the Cinccino said as Keyori started to turn towards the door. "Wait!" Keyori stopped, and turned back around. The Cinccino held out his hand towards Keyori. "Hayato Kanai." Keyori immediately knew he was introducing himself, and grabbed his hand much like he grabbed Mukuro's hand yesterday.

    "Keyori Zanpachi," he replied with his own name. "Was nice speaking to you."

    "Same," Hayato said with a cheerful smile. "Now let's head inside. We'll be going to the auditorium first. It's just across from the school entrance when you enter."

    "Lemme guess, the freshman opening ceremony?" Keyori said.

    "More or less," Hayato replied. "Though all grades will be there. It's an assembly for the beginning of every new school year. I wonder who the speaker will be this time."

    As the two of them entered the school, Hayato waved goodbye to Keyori as he went towards the right door.

    "Best of luck today!" he exclaimed on his way in. Keyori simply smiled in response and went through the left door.

    The auditorium of this school was huge - over a thousand seats spread out among 5 sets of 15 or so rows, each having 15-20 seats in them. Keyori sat in the one between the center and leftmost sets, around the front third of the rows somewhere. The rest of the students all sat wherever they wanted, next to their friends and the like.

    [That girl from earlier...] Keyori thought to himself, the image of the Espeon girl from earlier still fresh in his head. [The others called her Espy. Is that actually her name or something?]

    Just then, however, a young girl was seen walking across the stage. It was the Espeon girl from before, and it seemed that she was going to be the speaker this year. As she approached the podium, all of the freshmen cheered for her - the male ones having hearts for eyes again. A lot of the sophomores and even some of the juniors were able to acknowledge her beauty as well. The seniors, on the other hand, were a bit confused as to how this new girl gained so much popularity even from people who were freshmen before her.

    [No way,] Keyori thought to himself. [She's the speaker?] The Espeon girl then began her speech.

    "My fellow freshmen and upperclassmen. It is a great honor for me to give a speech in front of all of you today. I would like to start off by welcoming everyone here, both new and returning, to Asanagi High School. I will admit, I am quite nervous standing up here in front of all of you like this. But I had confidence in this school's decision, and I still do. Much like I have confidence in all of you in your efforts to achieve your greatest dreams. And I don't mean what a lot of you freshmen are thinking of." As soon as the Espeon girl said that last sentence, every male freshman's jaw dropped in a look of pure shock, disappointment, and failure.

    "Trust me, I meant no ill will when I said that," the Espeon said with a rather troubled smile, as well as an anime sweatdrop on her face. "But our lives as students of Asanagi High shall drive us to become better than we ever imagined. And to always remember one thing. That there is never an end to growth as a person. And there never will be one." The Espeon girl then raised her left arm up to the air. "And now, it is time. To begin our journeys anew. Once again, welcome. To Asanagi High School!"

    Everyone got up out of their seats, and cheered wildly for her speech. Even all of the seniors were impressed. Never in their school lives have they listened to a freshman that was this capable at anything.

    [Amazing,] Keyori thought, just clapping.

    A few seconds later, the auditorium started to clear out as everyone went to their homerooms for their schedules. The homerooms that everyone had were designated by papers on the school's bulletin boards outside of the auditorium that showed which students would go where based on last name. Of course, Keyori's last name started with a Z, so he ended up in the room farthest back in the homeroom wing.

    "I wonder what classes I will get for this semester," Keyori said on the way. "I know I'll have to get English, Biology, World History, another language, Phys Ed or Health, and a lunch period. And I took Algebra 1 in 8th grade, which means I will most likely be getting Geometry as well. Which leaves me with one elective, and I don't remember which ones I picked." Keyori sighed. "Guess I'll find out which one I get soon."

    Keyori entered room 219, the room farthest back in the hallway. His last name started with Za-, so he was one of the students in the front row. They weren't there for long, just some announcement about schedules and such. The teacher then handed out everyone's schedules quickly, and left everyone to review them. On the top-left corner of each sheet was also the respective student's vice principal, guidance counselor, locker number, and locker combination.

    "Geometry is my first period, eh?" Keyori said. "Let's see...Ahh, seems my elective this semester is Sales Management." A sweatdrop rubbed down Keyori's face. "I don't remember choosing that one."

    Keyori disregarded the schedule as an announcement came on over the speakers. "All students please report to your Period 1 class. All students please report to your Period 1 class." The hallways quickly filled up as most of the students were let out of their homerooms. Thankfully, however, they all moved fast enough to where the homeroom wing wouldn't be too full by the time Keyori left the room.

    "Alright then, so my Geometry class is somewhere on the second floor," Keyori said to himself. "But I have absolutely no idea where any of the staircases could--" But Keyori stopped himself mid-sentence, as the Espeon girl that he had seen twice now appeared from his right. She stopped walking as soon as she was in front of Keyori, turning her head to notice him. Keyori's face lit up with a smile.

    "Uhh, h-hi there," Keyori said to her.

    "Hello there," the girl replied. "Need something?"

    "Uhh well, I'm new here and don't know where much of anything is," Keyori replied. "A-And I was wondering if you could show me around a bit."

    "Oh. Alright then," the Espeon girl said, grabbing Keyori's schedule. "Let's see where you need to be..." The girl looked at the first period class and teacher, and her eyes widened a bit. "Oh. We both have the same first period class. In that case, why don't I walk there with you?"

    "Oh uhh, alright," Keyori replied, smiling with a nod. [This could be my chance. I get to walk with the most beautiful girl I have ever seen in my life.]

    The two of them began their walk around the auditorium's entrances. Keyori looked around a bit during the walk.

    "So, are you new around town?" the girl asked Keyori.

    "Yeah, I am," Keyori replied with a casual smile. "Actually I moved here just yesterday. Got a job and everything."

    "Really?" the girl reacted with a surprised expression. "I figured someone like you would be relaxing the whole day."

    "Guess so," Keyori said. "That explains why you looked at me funny while we were outside."

    "?!?" The Espeon girl reacted with a more surprised and slightly embarrassed look.

    "That reminds me," Keyori followed up "The other freshmen outside called you Espy."

    "Ah yes, that's my name," the girl replied. "Espy Noriyama. Nice to meet you."

    "Name's Keyori Zanpachi." Keyori, smiling, stopped before the staircase and brought his hand out in front of Espy. "Pleasure to meet you as well, Espy."

    Espy felt a little nervous then. "Uh, do you always shake hands with people?"

    "What? It's common courtesy," Keyori replied.

    "I guess," Espy said, shaking his hand. She then turned towards the door. "Well this is the staircase that leads upstairs. There was a staircase on the other side of the school, but it leads downstairs only."

    "One of these layouts, is it?" Keyori said with a blank face and an anime sweatdrop. "Oh well."

    "I never said I liked it either," Espy replied, with the same troubled smile that she had back in the auditorium.

    As the two of them went up the stairs together, Espy was thinking to herself for a bit. [Wow, this Keyori kid is actually pretty charming. I-I think I might be...] She was looking away from him, smiling to herself and blushing a bit as well.

    As the dismissal bell rang at around 2: 30PM, all of the students went straight to their lockers if they needed to, otherwise they walked out of the school building. Espy came out after most of the students already left the grounds as a whole, smiling to herself as she looked down a bit. Her blazer was unbuttoned, revealing her bright pink undershirt with red collar.

    "Heeeeey! Espyyyyyy!" Suddenly, Espy heard Keyori yell her name from behind her. She turned around to see him running towards her.

    "Oh, Keyori," Espy said cheerfully. "How was your first day?"

    "Well, I'd say it was about average," Keyori replied. "Wh-What about yours, what with being chased by fans and all?"

    "Wh-No no no no no, it really isn't like that," Espy said, a nervous look on her face. "I'm not at that level yet, otherwise that actually might've happened."

    "I-I see," Keyori replied. [This is my chance. My one shot to seal this before it's too late.]

    "Hmm? Something wrong?" Espy asked, seeing Keyori in thought.

    "Well..." Keyori replied slowly, looking to the side. He then reverted his eyes back towards Espy. "I'm sure a lot of people have told this to you, but...I like you, Espy."

    "Ehh? W-Well yeah I do," Espy said, rubbing her finger against her cheek. "But why so soon? We only just met today."

    "Well, I think you're the one for me," Keyori replied with confidence in his voice. "I got that feeling when I first met you. And I know that...that we were meant for each other."

    "But what makes you say that?" Espy questioned a bit. "A-And how will you be able to prove that?"

    "Well..." Keyori closed his eyes as he envisioned something in his head regarding him and Espy being together. He grabbed Espy's head softly with his hands, and then kissed her in the lips.

    "!" Espy gave off a look of surprise as her eyes widened as much as they could. After a couple seconds though, she stopped being so tense and closed her eyes. The kiss went on for a couple more seconds before it ended. Espy reopened her eyes in slight surprise that Keyori kissed her.

    "Like that," Keyori said, smiling cheerfully at Espy.

    "W-Well I-I guess we are meant for each other," Espy said, her left hand covering her left cheek as she was blushing madly and looking off to the left side. "Hmm..."

    Keyori then took out his phone to check and see what time it was. 2:40PM.

    'Aah! Crap! I gotta hurry!" Keyori exclaimed. "Uhh sorry Espy, but I-I gotta get ready for my shift in a few minutes."

    "That's fine," Espy replied, smiling. "You do what you need to, 'k?"

    "Thanks," Keyori said, running off. But not before turning around mid-run to wave at Espy. "See you tomorrow!"

    "You too!" Espy exclaimed back. She then turned back at the school. "*giggle* You really are charming, you know that?" She then walked off the school grounds and headed home herself.

    Meanwhile, at the Korono Market, Mukuro was standing there looking out the windows from across the place. Suddenly, he noticed Keyori in his work apron run towards the door and enter the building, panting. "Ah, Keyori. In a rush?"

    "Did I...make it?" Keyori said, looking up at the clock. 2:57PM. "Oh good, right on time."

    "Well you got a couple minutes to spare before your shift starts," Mukuro told him. "Why not relax for a bit."

    "Sure," Keyori replied, still panting a bit. "I still need to catch my breath."

    "So I see you're in a chipper mood today," Mukuro said, seeing a faint smile on Keyori's face. "Something good happen to you?"

    'Well I'm sure you heard the loud cheering at the high school this morning," Keyori replied.

    Mukuro nodded. "So what's her name? From that smile on your face, you probably have a girlfriend now. So tell me."

    "Her name's Espy Noriyama,' Keyori said with a smile. "She's the one everyone was cheering at. She's so beautiful too. I was lucky to have 1st period with her."

    "Really now?' Mukuro said, a bit surprised. "But...how were you able to win her heart over past all the other male freshmen, who have known her a lot longer than just a day?"

    "Well to answer your question..." Keyori said, looking around before putting his right hand left of his mouth. "I kissed her."

    Mukuro's entire body turned manga style in a state of pure shock. "You kissed her? Already?!"

    "Well yeah," Keyori said, smiling still. "I knew that she was the one for me the moment I laid eyes on her. I just couldn't resist any longer."

    "...W-Well I'm glad you at least have someone now." Mukuro shrugged off his surprise. "Well your shift is about to start, so I'll leave you to it."

    "Right!" Keyori exclaimed.

    No real outstanding customers came to Korono Market today. In fact, it was mostly a vacant shift for Keyori. That is, until around 6:15PM when an interesting-looking girl came in. She had short, semi- spiky yellow hair, green eyes, baby blue sweater, knee-length light pink skirt, yellow-and-white striped pantyhose, and red shoes. Keyori was looking at her curiously, since there were no other customers there at the time.

    [I'm not gonna lie, she's pretty cute,] Keyori thought to himself, trying not to look like a total creep. The girl went all over the place, and grabbed the following items in this order: a Diet Coke, a Mountain Dew Voltage, a Pepsi, 2 sticks of Starburst, and a bag of Skittles. She then went up to the counter where Keyori was.

    "Good evening," Keyori said cheerfully. "How may I help you?"

    "Oh uhh, hi there," the girl said in a soft, slightly squeaky voice, looking a bit worried.

    "You're probably the only person that decided to come here on my shift today," Keyori said to her. "It's mostly just been vacant and boring. Nobody to talk to. Really the main reason why I decided to take this job is so I get to talk with customers to pass the time."

    Maya slowly put her items onto the counter while Keyori was talking. "I wouldn't worry about it too much," she said. "But I haven't seen you before. You new around here?"

    "W-Why does everyone see me as a new face around here?" Keyori exclaimed, an anime sweatdrop on his head.. "Isn't everyone unfamiliar to each other too?"

    Maya shook her head no in response with a smile on her face. "Mmm-mmm. Everyone knows each other in Asanagi. In fact, we don't get a whole lot of new faces very often."

    "That so, huh?" Keyori said with a blank expression.

    "Mmhmm." The girl nodded. "So did you come here with your parents?"

    "No, I moved here alone," Keyori replied, smiling. "I started my new life here yesterday, in fact."

    'Huh?" the girl exclaimed, her eyes and forehead completely covered by red lines. "Wh-Why did you move here alone? W-Were your parents abusive? Or-Or did you not like them? Or-O--"

    "No no no, it's none of that," Keyori said, stopping her as his eyes were thick black lines. "I just wanna live an adult life from now on, that's all."

    "Oh. And your family supported you?" the girl said.

    "Well my mother did, at least," Keyori replied, scratching the back of his head. "My father, well...he supported it, but only because he could finally stop parenting. He's kinda selfish at times." Keyori puts in the items that the girl put on the counter. "That'll be $8.56, by the way."

    "Ah, right." The girl took out her wallet, grabbed her card, and handed it to Keyori so he could swipe it. Keyori did just that.

    "Hmm...You actually look around my age," Keyori said, handing the girl back her card. "But you're most likely living with your parents. So why aren't your parents with you tonight?"

    "Oh no, it's not that," the girl replied, putting the card back in her wallet. "This card is actually my mother's. She let me use it today after school." The girl's look then became a slightly troubled smile. "I didn't really buy much for myself though. The only reason I came here is because my father texted me saying that he wanted me to get something for him. So I figured I'd get something for me and my mother as well." Meanwhile, Keyori was bagging up all of the items the girl bought.

    "I see," Keyori said, smiling. The girl then took out her phone to check the time.

    "Ah! Oh dear, it's almost dinner time!" The girl exclaimed. She put her phone back in her hoodie's left pocket, and grabbed her bag. "Sorry, I gotta go." She then ran towards the door.

    "Wait!" Keyori stopped her before she moved much. "I-I never asked for your name earlier."

    "Oh sorry," the girl replied, turning back towards him with a smile. "My name's Maya Runaze. Nice to meet you."

    "Likewise, Maya," Keyori said cheerfully. "Keyori Zanpachi." Keyori put his hand out towards Maya in greeting. Maya shook it happily. Keyori's face turned into a troubled smile as they let go. "...You should probably get going now."

    "Oh right," Maya said with the same troubled face as before. She turned towards the door and exited the building. But not before waving goodbye. "Bye Keyori!"

    "Bye!" Keyori waved back. Then, Mukuro came out.

    "I see you've made yourself a new friend," he said to Keyori.

    "I guess you could say that," Keyori replied, turning towards him. "It's honestly been pretty vacant today."

    "No worries," Mukuro said. "Now get on home. You need your rest for tomorrow."

    "A-Actually I need to go to the store and get school supplies first," Keyori said, an anime sweatdrop on his head. 'B-Bye!" He ran out the door and took off his apron as he dashed straight home.

    Once he got home, he put away his work apron, grabbed a piece of paper he wrote in at school today, and dashed straight out again towards the Wal-Mart. When he arrived, he opened up the piece of paper. The items on it were as follows: a pack of pencils and pens each, 4 notebooks, a binder, a ream of paper, a ruler, a protractor, and a highlighter. He also wanted to get some food items for the week, but he decided to worry about that tomorrow night. For now though, he grabbed the items on the list, checked out at the same lane, and headed home.

    [Jeez, I'm hungry,] Keyori thought to himself. [I should probably grab something to eat from McDonald's again tonight.]

    So he did, and got the same thing he ordered last night. A few minutes later, after he finished his meal, he headed back home for the night. He packed his school supplies into his backpack, leaving room for potential textbooks that he might get in the future.

    Afterwards, he took a relaxing shower for about half an hour, and then changed into his night clothes and brushed his teeth. He then got into his bed, and messed around on his phone some. After a few minutes, however, he plugged up his phone and tried getting some sleep.

    [You know, this new life isn't so bad,] Keyori thought to himself. [I already have myself a decent job to sustain myself with. I confessed my love to the most popular freshman in my school. And I've made a couple friends along the way.] Flashbacks of the scenes appeared as he thought them. Afterwards, the scene shifted to him starting to fall asleep for the night.

    The next morning, Keyori arrived at school fully prepared at around 7:45AM. The students outside were now starting to enter the building around this time. Keyori decided to look back behind him to see if Espy arrived yet. Sure enough, she was walking up the first flight of stairs to the school grounds.

    "Morning Espy." Keyori waved at her.

    "Oh, hello," Espy replied, smiling. "You're here early today."

    "This is considered early?" Keyori said, scratching the back of his head. "Actually I'd consider this to be normal time. In fact, I had to be at Period 1 by this time in my old middle school."

    "That so?" Espy said, still smiling. "I guess our schools are a bit more easygoing than yours were."

    "Schools? There are other schools here?" Keyori asked, surprised.

    'Well we have a couple of elementary schools around the place," Espy replied. "There's also a middle school near one of those elementary schools. Sadly none of them are as popular or well-known as our high school.'

    "They're probably not as good as other schools either,' Keyori said with a cheerful expression. The two start giggling cheerfully as a result. They were giggling for a couple seconds before...

    "Heeeeey! Espyyyyy!" Someone was calling out to them. Both of them turned to the stairway up to the front doors. Who they saw was a young freshman with semi-long and wavy yellow-orange hair that looked almost yellow blonde, bright yellow eyes, orange ears with black inner lobes, a bright orange short-sleeved shirt, blue skinny jeans, yellow-orange socks, and a pair of dark orange sneakers. "You coming in or what?" The girl then noticed Keyori smiling as he waved at her. [Hey, is that...?]

    "Come on over here!' Keyori exclaimed over to her.

    The girl then ran over to the two as fast as she could. "Well now, you look like a new face here." She was grinning cheerfully at him.

    'Gee, how many times have I heard that now?" Keyori said in a monotone voice, looking off to his left.

    'Heh heh, I'm just messing with ya,' the girl said a bit loudly, still grinning as she wrapped her left arm around Keyori's neck. "Sis told me all about you last night."

    "Err, sis? Who are you talking about?" Keyori asked nervously, looking around.

    "Er, she's referring to me actually," Espy spoke up, raising her right hand up next to her head as she had the troubled smile on her face that she had yesterday, as well as an anime sweatdrop on her head.

    'Oh," Keyori said casually. He then waited a couple seconds to process that in his brain before... "Wait, you two are twins?!" he blurted out.

    "Hard to tell, isn't it?" the girl said. "Espy's beauty and intelligence being associated with my less than flattering traits. It's normal really. I've gotten used to it by now."

    "Come on, what are you saying?" Keyori said cheerfully, wrapping his right arm around the girl's neck the same way she did. "You look great to me."

    "Heh?!" the girl blushed madly as she heard this. Keyori giggled a bit. "Uhh hey sis! Uhh help?! He's your boyfriend, isn't he?!"

    "I don't see a problem," Espy said, smiling cheerfully at the two. "I think you two will get along swimmingly, mmhmmhmmhmm."

    "I-I think so too," Flare said as she and Keyori let go of each other. She then whispers to Keyori. "Now let's not do that again, 'k?" Keyori nodded back. "Anyway, my name's Flare. Nice to meet you."

    "Likewise," Keyori said, the two of them shaking hands afterwards.

    The three of them decided to head into the school and head to their first period classes. Flare unfortunately had a different class than keyori and Espy, so they had to part ways for now. The rest of the day went by normally; nothing too special happened outside of everyone each getting a few school textbooks.

    After school, Keyori and Espy met up at one of the side hallways on their way to grab Flare so they could walk home together. Espy remembered that her last period is upstairs, so they went to the stairway and headed up to the second floor. After a bit more walking, they found Flare walking towards them.

    "*yaaaaawn* Today felt longer than it should have," Flare said, stretching. "So hotshot, any other girls catch your fancy?"

    "Not in particular," Keyori replied. "I'll give it some time though, that's bound to change."

    The three of them went to the other staircase and went back downstairs. Along the way...

    "So tell me something," Flare said to Keyori. "Espy told me that you moved here all by yourself. Where do you work exactly?"

    "You know the Korono Market south of the school grounds?" Keyori replied. "Yeah, I work there on afternoons. Even though my boss gives me a lot of leeway in terms of scheduling and stuff. He told me day 1 to enjoy my freedom as a high schooler."

    "Well it's our time to shine," Espy said, smiling. "Won't last forever after all. Gotta enjoy it while you still can, otherwise it'll just slip away."

    "Yeah yeah, he told me that too," Keyori said.

    "That's why we're here!" Flare exclaimed cheerfully. "We're your friends!"

    As they walked up to the nearest side hallway to the front doors, the three of them heard a loud thud coming from that hallway, followed by feminine screams and sounds of shock and terror. When they looked over into the hallway, they saw a girl being thrown against the lockers against her own will, followed by someone's arm being slammed to the left of her head. That arm belonged to another freshman, this one a male Machoke with semi-spiky dark red hair, a semi-masculine frame normal of Machokes, grey short-sleeved shirt, orange wristbands, black jeans that surprisingly weren't ripped at all, and black-and-white sneakers. The kid's face at the time was also entirely black from the shade, and his eyes simply fear-inducing red dots that stared directly at the pinned girl.

    "Tell me something. How does it feel to be trapped in a state of fear, unable to move because of your opponent?" The threatening boy tried breaking down the girl's psychological barriers in an attempt to make her squeal out in terror once more. "Hmmhmmhmmhmmhmm..." The boy smirked.

    "What's he doing to her? And why?" Flare wondered. Espy wondered the same thing. Keyori, on the other hand, wanted none of this and started approaching the scary-looking Machoke, who was still smirking. The girl he was pinning had a frightened expression on her face as she looked at the kid's menacing face. She was also making sounds of pure unadulterated terror.

    "So then, what will you do next?" The boy's eyes went back to normal. 'Will you try and escape my grasp? Or will you cry out in terror, hoping that someone brave enough to take on me, Nozote Tsukabe, will come to your rescue?" The boy, who called himself Nozote, laughed to himself for a bit until the girl spoke up.

    "W...Wouldn't I b-be doing b-b-both?" the girl said to Nozote, her voice shaking in fear.

    "That's a good point you're making there. You should do both, at the exact same time." The boy then laughed slightly maniacally until he heard someone to his right yell out "That's enough! Stop this at once!"

    Nozote's face lost its menacing black shade and went back to its normal skin color as he looked over to his right. When he did, he saw Keyori stop approaching him. Keyori also had a very angry look on his face, almost like he was trying to intimidate Nozote.

    "Well well well, looks like someone came to your rescue anyway. And you didn't have to do anything at all, girly." Nozote laughed to himself again. "So, tell me something. What makes you think that a snotty little Eevee such as yourself has what it takes to take on me, Nozote Tsubake?"

    "I guess we're gonna find out," Keyori said in an angry tone. Suddenly, however, Espy cut in front of Keyori.

    "Let me handle this one," Espy asided to Keyori.

    "Espy! It's been a while. How've you been, beautiful?" Nozote's tone switched from menacing to slightly cheerful when he saw Espy. He was also smiling.

    "You're not sweet-talking your way out of this one, Nozote." Espy's tone made it clear that she was being serious. "I don't know what the hell made you think that this was alright, but you need to stop this. It's bad enough that you threw her against the wall. Why go even farther than that?! I know you! You're better than this, Nozote!"

    "Yeah yeah, say what you want," Nozote replied, in a "I don't really care" tone as he looked off to one side. "But that kid behind you." He redirected his attention to Keyori. "I wanna see what he's all about. To see if his skills can match his guts."

    "Heh, be my guest," Keyori said, smirking a bit. "Nozote, was it? I hope you'll be able to entertain me for a bit."

    "Cocky one, aren't you?" Nozote remarked, smirking at him as he got into his battle stance. "Well let's see if you can back that up, kid." Nozote noticed that Keyori didn't move from his casual stance, which started to irritate him. "Are you gonna take this seriouslyyyyyy?!" He then ran straight for Keyori, winding up a punch in the process. As soon as he got in range, he threw that punch straight at Keyori...only for him to block it without effort by holding up his index and middle fingers in front of Nozote's fist in the blink of an eye.

    "!" Nozote and the others were surprised by this. "H-How? I-I didn't even see you move your arm!"

    "Hmph, predictable. But not bad. You've got some raw strength behind those fists of yours." Keyori backhandedly complimented Nozote's skill.

    "Damn YOU!" Nozote kept throwing punches with incredible speeds, each of them being almost a blur to anyone around him. Keyori, however, was still able to block every single one of them with just his two fingers. "Wh-What the hell?!"

    "And you've got speed to back them up as well," Keyori acknowledged his swift punching. "You're definitely a capable fighter. This is actually starting to get fun."

    Meanwhile, Espy and Flare simply looked at them from a safe distance in awe.

    [Incredible. I had a feeling that he was good from what he said to Nozote, but I never thought he would be this good.] Espy thought to herself. [At this rate, there's no way that Nozote can win.]

    "Don't think just because of your sweet-talking that I'll let up," Nozote snarled at Keyori.

    "Nor do I expect you to," Keyori replied. "In fact, let's see if you can take it a step further."

    "!" Nozote's expression became surprised again. He then tried sweeping Keyori down to the ground. "Why you little!" But Keyori jumped up only slightly, just enough to dodge the attack.

    "Though as fun as this might be, I really should just end this now." Keyori then prepared his left leg for an attack, smirking in the process. "Sayonara!" Keyori then kicked Nozote in his right rib, sending him flying toward and against the lockers in his way. Thankfully none of them broke whatsoever. And neither did any of Nozote's bones, despite how strong the kick was.

    "Argh...How...You...beat me..." Nozote collapsed on the floor. Everyone around him gave off a look of pure shock. Nozote Tsubake, whom the freshmen knew as one of the strongest students in their grade, was defeated effortlessly by the new kid in town. Keyori then landed on the ground, and looked over at Nozote.

    "Now stop bullying others, you hear?" Keyori exclaimed to him.

    [Wow. He's amazing,] Espy thought. [Not only did he block all of Nozote's punches with ease, but he also defeated him in one attack. Just how strong is he?]

    "Wow Keyori, you're really something," Flare exclaimed cheerfully, approaching Nozote slowly. "Though seriously, just what the hell was he thinking trying to threaten her like that?"

    Suddenly, however, Nozote eyes opened back up, and he slowly started to get back up. "Oh Flare, you're always there to stop trouble with violence, aren't you? Heh, you're just as bad as I am."

    "Shut up!" Flare yelled. "I'm not like you who causes trouble needlessly like you do!"

    "Settle down, you two! The fighting's over!" Espy exclaimed, trying to reach them. Both of them, however, ignored them as Nozote tried rushing Flare.

    "Let's see how you like this!" Nozote exclaimed, laughing afterwards.

    "Oh, you little punk. If it's a fight that you want, then it's a fight that you'll get!" Flare exclaimed back, readying a punch to counter Nozote's rush. [Idiot. I think he's forgotten how many times I've pummeled him during middle school. Maybe I should pummel him again here to help him remember.]

    But as Flare was getting ready to throw her punch straight at Nozote when he was in range, Nozote suddenly felt a strike to the back of his neck. A surprised look came over his face as this happened. Flare also showed a surprised look on her face; she was about to beat the crap out of Nozote just then.

    "What...What the hell..." Nozote said, grunting a bit from the shock. When he collapsed back onto the floor, Keyori was behind him. It seems he was the one who chopped the back of his neck and knocked him back down.

    "I applaud your ability to second wind, but the fight's already over," Keyori said to him with a serious expression on his face.

    "And I was about to pummel him too," Flare said to Keyori, a troubled smile and an anime sweatdrop on her face. "But in all seriousness though, that was actually really cool. You must've been going all out then or something."

    "Oh that?" Keyori replied, scratching the back of his head. "That was nothing really. To tell you the truth, I was only using 12 percent of my maximum power level."

    "12 percent?!" Espy and Flare both exclaimed at the same time, both having extremely surprised anime expressions on their faces.

    "You're kidding me, right?" Flare exclaimed afterward. 'Only that much, and you were still able to do all that? Holy hell."

    "I think we should get going now," Keyori said. "That was entertaining and all, but I really need to be at my job soon."

    "What about Nozote?" Espy asked.

    "Let's leave him be this time," Flare replied. "I think Keyori beating the crap out of him is enough of a punishment."

    The three of them then left the school grounds together. The setting then cut to nighttime after Keyori bought all of his groceries for the week and brought them home.

    "That incident was intriguing," Keyori said to himself. "I guess life here will be full of surprises for me." Keyori then fell asleep at about 10: 30PM.

    Feel free to read at your own pace.
     
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    #1 Jan 19, 2017
    Last edited: May 24, 2017
  2. DiancieIsBae

    Merio12
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    Chapter 2: Life in Asanagi

    -1-
    *BEEP!* *BEEP!* *BEEP!* *BEEP!* As usual, the alarm goes off at 7AM sharp, waking up Keyori in only a couple seconds. Keyori let out a big yawn as he stretched his arms outward. Over the next half hour, Keyori did the process of eating breakfast, brushing his teeth, and getting dressed for school.

    When he arrived at school shortly after, he saw Espy and Flare seemingly waiting for him as they both were facing the grounds entrance from near the fountain.

    'Morning. You're on time as usual," Flare said to him as he got closer to them. He heard Flare and looked towards the two girls partway through her sentence. "Seriously, how are you able to get here on time just by walking? Better yet, where exactly do you live?"

    "Judging from my walk, about 15 minutes from here," Keyori replied, smiling cheerfully. "It's down the street next to the Korono Market I work at."

    "Wow, that close?" Flare said, also smiling. "I completely forgot about that street."

    As the three were talking to each other for a few seconds in the slight distance, a close-up of the back of a person's baby blue hoodie and yellow Jolteon tail were seen on-screen. The Jolteon seemed to recognize Keyori from her distance, and slowly approached him and the girls as the camera panned all around her wardrobe - her light pink skirt, then her red shoes and striped pantyhose, then to her yellow Jolteon ears and spiky yellow hair.

    "I-Is that you, Keyori?" the person said in a female voice, one that was familiar to Keyori. He and the girls' attentions were directed at the Jolteon girl. 'I didn't know you came here too."

    Keyori looked at the girl for a couple seconds until finally giving off a surprised expression - one where his eyes were giant white circles. 'Wait, Maya? You're a student here?"

    "Well yeah, of course she is," Espy said to him. "You know her from somewhere?"

    "Yeah, we met at Korono Market during my shift a couple days ago," Keyori said, grinning cheerfully as he scratched the back of his head. "Guess that explains your curfew of getting home by dinnertime."

    "Yep," Maya said, nodding her head with a smile. All of a sudden, the other students started to head inside the school. "Should we head in too?"

    Espy and Flare nodded. Keyori simply shrugged as the four head into the school building. Past the lockers next to the auditorium's entrance, a young boy with a semi-masculine frame was waiting for them up against the wall.

    "Hey kid." The boy called out to Keyori, attracting the attention of him and the girls.

    "Oh. Hi Nozote." Maya happily waved to him.

    "Oh, it's you," Espy said in an annoyed tone. Her eyes were small dots, the tops of which were covered by her rectangular eyebrows. Maya stopped waving, and looked curiously at Espy.

    "Yeah, it's me," Nozote replied, smirking as he pointed his left thumb at his own head. He then closed his eyes. "Sorry about what happened yesterday, by the way."

    "Hey, don't sweat it," Keyori said, smiling. "I already punished you enough yesterday, so let's just leave it at that."

    "Gotta hand it to ya though," Nozote said, still smirking. "You're pretty good. Most people like you who try to challenge me can't even lay a finger on me. And here you come, schooling me without any effort whatsoever."

    "I wouldn't brag about that if I were you," Flare remarked, her eyes and eyebrows the same as Espy's were earlier.

    "Yeah yeah," Nozote said, looking over annoyedly at Flare before redirecting his attention back to Keyori. "By the way, I never got your name yesterday. You probably already heard my name. But if you need a reminder, Nozote Tsubake is my name."

    Nozote brought his hand out in front of Keyori. Keyori smiled as he shook Nozote's hand. "Keyori Zanpachi is mine. You could say I'm the new face in town."

    "Heh, you've got a firm grip alright," Nozote said, chuckling a bit. "I can tell someone like you is an outsider. Tell me, where you from?"

    "He never did say where he came from, did he?" Flare said with a troubled smile.

    "One of the only things I wanted to know that he didn't tell me," Espy replied, her right hand in her hair.

    'Oh yeah, you're right," Keyori replied to Espy, scratching the back of his head with a cheerful smile. "I'm from Kayagame actually."

    "Kayagame, huh?" Espy said, her left index finger right on her lower lip as she looked up a bit with her chin slightly up. "I've heard of that place. Can't say I've been there though."

    "I took the subway directly from there to here," Keyori continued. "About a 5 hour trip one way. Probably longer the other way though."

    "Definitely longer," Espy said with an annoyed expression.

    "We should probably get going to class now," Maya said nervously. "The first bell's about to ring."

    Everyone looked at the clock above them. 7:53AM. The first bell rang just then as they were looking.

    "Yeah, let's get going," Espy said starting her walk. "Don't wanna be late now, do we? Especially you, Nozote."

    "Hey, I'm always on time," Nozote replied, smirking as he pointed his left thumb at his own head again.

    "Hey Nozote," Flare said, approaching his right side.

    "Huh? What's up?" Nozote replied, turning his head a bit to his right to see Flare while his left hand went back a bit.

    After a second of silence, all of a sudden Nozote was socked square in the mouth and nose by Flare's left fist. Nozote was then seen crashing down onto the floor on his back. His facial expression was one of writhing in pain. "Owwwww! What the hell was that for?!" he exclaimed at Flare.

    "That was the pummeling I gonna give you yesterday," Flare replied. "Now we're even."

    Flare then walked off towards her first period class, leaving Nozote there still on the floor. His facial expression was no longer one of writhing in pain, and was now one where his eyes were completely covered in red lines and his mouth was an open black rectangle.

    As Keyori and Espy walked towards their first period class upstairs, they heard the voices of several female students along the way. "Hey, is that Keyori?" "I heard he beat Nozote in one hit." "He's so cool." "And handsome." They all seemed to be gossipping about him.

    "Guess you've gotten pretty popular since yesterday," Espy said to him, smiling.

    "Yeah," Keyori replied, nodding his head.

    Over the entire school day, Keyori and his friends all went to their respective classes for each period. A narrator took over for going over the schedules for everyone. During each narration, the setting shifted to the respective class told, through different angles around the class and characters. First, Period 1. Keyori Zanpachi and Espy Noriyama have the same class - Geometry Academics. Flare Noriyama had a science class - Biology Academics, listed on the schedule as Biology A w/ Lab. Maya Runaze started learning about Futomari's overall past in World History Academics. Nozote Tsubake, meanwhile, was learning his second language in the form of Spanish 1 Academics.

    Next was second period. Keyori was running his butt off at the gymnasium during Physical Education. Espy wished to learn herself a romantic language - French 1 Academics. "Bonjour," Espy said in front of the camera, smiling cheerfully as the background was all bright yellow-orange with sparkles flying everywhere. Of course all of the male freshmen in the same class started having hearts for eyes as they chanted "WE LOVE YOU ESPY!!" Flare was the opposite spectrum. She was taking English 1 Academics. Maya started learning basic equations in Algebra 1 Academics. Nozote Tsubake - World History Academics.

    Period 3. Keyori - Biology A w/ Lab. Espy and Flare - World History Academics. Maya - Spanish 1 Academics. Maya didn't seem to be enjoying the class. Nozote - Algebra 1 Academics.

    Period 4. Keyori - Spanish 1 Academics. Keyori didn't seem to enjoy the class either. "Spanish is such a boring language," Keyori said to himself. Espy and Nozote - Biology A w/ Lab. Flare - learning how to sew in Homec 1. She seemed to be enjoying herself in this course. Maya - learning about music.

    Period 5. Keyori - learning how to easily crunch numbers and keep track of inventory in Sales Marketing. As Keyori entered the room, he saw a familiar face. "Wha- You're that Raichu from the other day!" He had a look of pure shock (white circles for eyes and all), and so did the Raichu - she didn't expect to be teaching the sales clerk from the other day.

    "Uhh hi Keyori," the Raichu said in response. [This is really awkward.]

    The class then started. [All this stuff is relevant to my job,] Keyori thought a few minutes in, diligently writing down every note he could.

    Espy - English 1 Academics. Flare - Spanish 1 Academics. Flare, unlike the others, seemed to enjoy the class...even if only a little bit. Maya - Biology A w/ Lab. Nozote - learning how to draw basic shapes in Intro to Art. "...I've finished it. My masterpiece." Nozote said proudly to himself. The student to his right looked at the drawing, then her face turned troubled a bit. The camera then panned to his drawing - a poorly and messily-drawn incomplete circle with all sorts of squiggly lines all over. Nozote felt an anime sweatdrop come onto his face.

    Period 6. Keyori and the others all had lunch this period.

    "Jeez, these language classes sure are boring," Keyori said with a dead expression on his face. "Why is it that Spanish is always the one everyone gets?"

    "Hmm? I don't mind it," Flare replied, a pocky stick in her mouth. She apparently snuck in some pocky in her backpack for a snack of sorts. "It is easy though. Guess that's why."

    "Oh dear, and we have to take at least two years of it too," Maya said worriedly.

    "No kidding," Nozote followed up.

    "I think it's fun to learn," Espy said, smiling.

    "You don't have Spanish, so shut up," Flare remarked in a slightly irritated tone, her expression being one of annoyance. Espy just giggled casually in response.

    "So Espy, how's French for you?" Keyori asked curiously.

    "C'est merveilleux!" Espy replied cheerfully. Keyori and the others had blank expressions on their faces. "Oh sorry. That means "It's wonderful!"" Everyone's expressions then turned to those of surprise. Keyori's cheeks were also red.

    Period 7. Keyori - World History Academics. Espy - Intro to Business, where she learned how business operate. Flare, Maya, and Nozote - Physical Education. During this class, Flare managed to give her specialty pummelings to Nozote. The other classmates watched with blank expressions on each of their faces. "Oh Nozote. How the mighty have fallen." Flare has a cheerful grin on her face.

    Finally, Period 8. Keyori, Maya, and Nozote - English 1 Academics. [Why do all of these language classes have to suuuuck?] Keyori thought to himself with a dead expression on his face, leaned over on his desk. Maya seemed to agree a little bit. Espy - Health class, where she learned about physical health and nutrition. Flare - Algebra 1 Academics.

    After the day ended, everyone started to make their way out of the school near the fountain. Keyori and Nozote were already outside when Maya walked out towards them, smiling.

    Nozote saw Flare waving as them, she and Espy exiting the school. "Hey guys," she said as they got closer to the fountain.

    "Hey," Keyori said casually at them both.

    "Bonjour," Espy said to the others, smiling cheerfully as the background was again all bright yellow-orange with sparkles flying everywhere. Keyori's cheeks were red again. "Oh. That means "Hello"."

    "Jeez, how much did they teach you in that class?" Nozote said, his facial expression being one of slight annoyance mixed with perplexity.

    -2-
    A couple hours later, Keyori was at the Korono Market serving his shift for the day. About 5 or 6 customers came by that day. Then, all of a sudden...

    *ring ring* "Hey, we're here." Flare and Espy decided to pay a visit halfway through Keyori's shift, both of them waving at Keyori while smiling.

    "Oh hey," Keyori said cheerfully. "How may I help you today?"

    "We're just here for a visit mostly," Flare said. She read the writing on Keyori's work apron with a confused look on her face. ""Reality is what you make it", eh? Can either of you tell me what that means?"

    "I dunno." Keyori shrugged. Espy shook her head no in response as well. She seemed to be getting herself a soda - Dr. Pepper to be specific. "Wonder what type of candy she would get," Keyori asided to Flare.

    "Usually she gets a Mountain Dew for a drink, but this is the first time I"ve seen her get a Dr. Pepper before," Flare replied. "Might go for a different candy too." Espy then went over to the candy aisle and picked up a pack of Skittles. "...Or she can go for her usual pack of Skittles."

    "What about you? What do you usually go for?" Keyori asked, facing Flare.

    "I usually go for a Fanta Blueberry and a chocolate bar," Flare replied casually, her head laying on her crossed arms on the counter.

    "That sounds nice actual-" Keyori started.

    "Usually I like to double up on both though," Flare interrupted Keyori, smiling as her eyes were looking off to the left. Keyori was left with an expression of pure shock. His eyes were white circles, with his mouth gaping open. "What?"

    "Just surprised, is all." Keyori managed to regain his composure.

    "Hey, nobody said I eat it all in one sitting," Flare said, looking back towards Keyori.

    "Oh yeah, you're right, I never thought of it that w-" Keyori said, smiling cheerfully as he scratched the back of his head.

    "Maybe," Flare smirked, her eyes looking off to the left again. Of course, Keyori's expression turned into that of pure exasperation. Flare then got off of the counter. "Guess I should go get myself something as well. Maybe get myself seconds for later." That last bit was barely heard by Keyori's ears as Flare walked towards the bottled drinks section. As Keyori looked at her, Espy came towards him.

    "I wouldn't worry about her," Espy said Keyori, redirecting his attention to her. "She's always like that with snacks and the like." Espy put her items onto the counter...her two sodas and bags of Skittles. Keyori felt an anime sweatdrop come onto his face. "Might as well get seconds for studying later tonight. Preliminary exams are next Thursday after all."

    "Never heard of them. What are they?" Keyori asked.

    "Right. Keep forgetting you're new around here," Espy replied, chuckling a bit afterward. "Preliminary exams are Asanagi's way of determining each student's potential. They also determine which electives would fit best for your career."

    "I see," Keyori said.

    "I wouldn't worry about it too much though," Espy followed up. "As long as you study at least somewhat frequently, you should be fine." Espy then deadpanned her new look of annoyance over to Flare. "Unlike some people."

    "Hey, I study too," Flare said back in an annoyed tone, walking towards her and Keyori. "Not very often, but I do."

    "Hmm..." Keyori decided to punch in the items that Espy and Flare were getting. "$11.56." Espy took out her debit card, and Keyori swiped it real quick and then gave it back. The Eevee bagged up all of the items, and then handed the bag to Flare. "Here you go."

    "Thanks," Flare replied, smiling as she walked towards the door. "See ya tomorrow." Flare then walked out of the store. Espy, however, stayed behind for a bit.

    "Well I guess I should get going too. Got a few other things to do before we get home." Espy then grabbed Keyori and kissed his left cheek, making Keyori blush slightly in surprise. Espy then ran happily towards and out the door. "Bye!" Espy exclaimed, waving on the way out.

    "Bye," Keyori replied, waving back.

    Espy joined Flare outside. "So where to next?" she asked.

    Back inside, Mukuro came out of the back of the store with a gleeful smile on his face.

    "My my, looks like you made another friend," Mukuro said, grabbing Keyori's attention.

    "Yeah, she's Espy's sister," Keyori replied, smiling cheerfully. "But I guess since you're out here, that means my shift is over, right?"

    "Correct." Mukuro nodded. "You've done well today, young man. I'll let you off for the night."

    "Thanks," Keyori said, smiling as he took off his apron and walked towards the door. "See you tomorrow!" Keyori waved to Mukuro as he left the store to head home. Mukuro simply waved back in response.

    That night, Espy and Flare were seen in Espy's quite luxurious room studying together. "Let's see, so you solve this by applying...this and doing...that." The two appeared to be studying Flare's Algebra 1 formulas together. They were also eating their candy and drinking their sodas they got at Korono Market earlier today. Shifting over to Keyori's room in his own apartment, he was studying Geometry with his book on his bed, as well as the textbooks for Biology and World History.

    "*sigh* How big are these preliminary exams anyway?" Keyori said to himself, a bit exasperated. "Oh well. If Espy tells me to study for it, then it must be an important test."

    The camera then pans to Maya and Nozote each in their respective rooms studying the material covered in their respective classes...which were basically the same ones. Nozote seemed a bit bored of studying, and Maya was starting to become tired, as evidenced by her yawning.

    A week has passed since then. It is now Thursday, the day of the preliminary exams. Everyone, even the lazy students and seniors who have already caught senioritis, have studied up for these important tests. The next scene was inside Keyori and crew's various homerooms as they are vigilantly taking their exams. After about 6 hours, everyone finally finished their exams, and were let out of school for the day.

    The next day, at around noon or so, everyone was given their exam results. Since it was also a half day, they were also let out of school to let them enjoy their afternoon...or get scolded by their parents and/or guardians. Maybe both though.

    "A B, huh? Not bad," Espy told Nozote. She and the others were gathered in front of the school near the fountain where they usually meet up. "Usually you get at most a high C, but I'm impressed you managed to get this high of a grade. You know, with your studying patterns and all."

    "Well I guess you could say I've reached average level now," Nozote said, smirking as he gave a thumbs up to Espy.

    "Let's just see how long you keep that B average, eh?" Flare jabbed, smirking as her eyes were looking right at Nozote's face. Nozote's expression was that of slight irritation in response, growling at Flare a little bit.

    "I got a B+, miss Espy," Maya said.

    "As usual. You've always been pretty decent with studying," Espy told her, smiling cheerfully. "Better than Flare is anyway."

    "Hey, for your information, I study enough. I got a B on my exams for crying out loud." Flare retorted in a slightly irritated tone, her expression mostly representing that tone.

    "What about you, Keyori? How'd you do?" Espy asked him directly. Keyori responded by happily handing her the paper, saying "Here you go" along with it. She looked at the overall grades - Geometry, Biology, History, and English - and then down at the final grade average. Her expression turned to a look of surprise when she saw the score. "89. That's almost an A-. I may have underestimated you in my head."

    "Well I did study a lot this past week," Keyori replied, smiling cheerfully as he scratched the back of his head...then looked off to the side with an annoyed expression. "Damn English."

    "Yeah, I can see that," Espy said, an anime sweatdrop coming onto her head. "A-'s everywhere else but English, with a B."

    "Let me see that," Nozote said, taking the paper off of Espy's hands and looking at the individual grades. 93, 93, 92, and 85. Nozote paused for a second, then yelled. "How in the hell do they average these grades?"

    "What are you talking about?" Flare said, grabbing the paper next and looking at it before yelling herself. "Wait, you're right! The average of these numbers should've been at least a 90! How did they get an 89?"

    "Maybe they rounded down?" Espy replied a bit nervously. "Either way, yeah you're right." The others let out a heavy sigh. "But at least we have the weekend to ourselves, right?" The others then nodded.

    The next day, Keyori, Espy, and Flare were walking about in the nearby mall district. The place was your typical run-of-the-mill mall district - lots of stores, lots of restaurants, lots of plants, lots of places to sit, and two floors.

    "Surprised you wanted to shop with us, Keyori. Usually shopping in a place like this would seem girly to normal people," Flare said to Keyori, smiling.

    "Well I was bored and didn't really have anything to do today, what with my boss not calling me in today and what not," Keyori replied, smiling cheerfully as he walked up closer to Espy. "Besides, it gives me a chance to spend time with you." Espy looked off to the left in response, blushing a bit. She was smiling a bit too.

    "You little dog," Flare said, grinning cheerfully at Keyori.

    After a while of looking around in the different shops around the district, trying out different clothes altogether, and just browsing goods, Keyori and the girls decided to head over to a nearby Sonic and grab themselves something to eat for lunch. Keyori ordered himself a chili cheese dog with fries and a diet coke, Espy ordered herself a cheeseburger with fries and a diet pepsi, and Flare ordered herself the same thing Keyori got.

    "So who's your boss?" Flare asked, completely catching Keyori off guard.

    "Well this is out of the blue," Keyori replied, glaring at Flare a bit.

    "I'm just wondering, is all. I think Espy wants to know too," Flare said casually.

    Keyori sighed. "Well long story short, he's a bit strange. Somehow he knows the basics of what I do with you, even though I don't tell him much. For some reason, he might also have been able to check my class schedule."

    "What do you mean?" Espy asked.

    "You know how my elective for this year is Sales Marketing?" Keyori said. Espy and Flare nodded. "You wanna know who my first ever customer on the job was?"

    "Might as well," Espy replied, sighing.

    "She was a Raichu, seemingly in her mid-30s from what she said about being a mom and all," Keyori explained.

    "Ok then," Flare said, an anime sweatdrop coming onto her head.

    "She also just so happens to be my teacher for Sales Marketing," Keyori said, having a troubled smile on his face. Espy let out a surprised "Ah!" sound when she heard this.

    "What?!" Flare yelled, slamming her open hands onto the table. She also had a very exclaimed look on her face, her eyes being small white circles while her eyebrows were in a slightly angry curve high above her eyes. "Are you serious?" Keyori nodded. Flare put her right arm up and balled her fist up as she looked slightly up with the same expression. "Now everything is starting to add up. There can be only one explanation for this!"

    "Maybe it was coincidence?" Espy said to her with a slightly troubled smile and an anime sweatdrop on her face. Flare and Keyori simply looked at her with blank dots for eyes on their faces.

    Flare turned her head away from Espy, her facial expression being one of pure annoyance. "You're such a buzzkill sometimes sis, you know that?" she said. Espy laughed uneasily in response, with the same expression she had.

    -3-
    A couple hours later, Keyori and the girls were back to walking around the mall district and browsing the wares of the other stores. Along the way, however...

    "Hi there everyone." Keyori and the girls stopped and turned around to see who grabbed their attention.

    "Oh, hey Maya." Keyori waved at her, smiling cheerfully. "Mom let you loose again?" Flare snickered in response, while Espy giggled a bit.

    "H-Hey, not you too," Maya said with a worried expression on her face, her eyes being black dots. A question mark appeared over Keyori's head as he tilted his head in confusion.

    "We used to make that crack a few times whenever we saw her here," Flare said, still snickering a bit. Maya made a pouty face towards Keyori and the girls, her hands balled up and her arms straight down next to her legs. Keyori just chuckled at her a bit in response.

    "So what do you think of the town so far Keyori?" Espy asked happily at the four of them walked down the mall walkway.

    "My opinion still hasn't changed. It's such a beautiful town," Keyori replied, smiling cheerfully.

    "It is quite lovely," Maya followed up, smiling. "How were you able to live in Kayagame your whole life up until now?"

    "Kayagame isn't that bad of a place really," Keyori said nervously. "It's a different kind of beautiful - quiet and peaceful as opposed to Asanagi's active and rambunctious. Not many places can pull off both at the same time." Partway through Keyori saying the last word, he and the girls all heard a generic ringtone coming from Keyori's pocket. Keyori took out his phone and looked at the number.

    "Oh, it"s my boss. Sorry, I gotta take this." Keyori then walked off a bit as he answered the phone. "Hello, Keyori Zanpachi speaking...Uhh, sure...I'll be over there soon." He then hung up the phone, and turned back to the girls. 'Sorry but I'm gonna have to go now, I just got called into work."

    "Sure, go ahead. You've been here all day with us after all," Espy replied with her usual smile. "Least you had somewhat of a day off today."

    "Actually I might wanna come with you Keyori," Maya said to him. "I've been here all day too, and I'd rather be closer to home once dinner time comes."

    "I can see that. The less walking distance towards home you need to be, the better," Keyori said, smiling cheerfully as usual. Maya nodded. "Well, we'll be going now. Bye!" He and Maya waved towards the other two as they walked out of the mall. Espy and Flare waved back.

    A few minutes later, Keyori and Maya made it to the Korono Market by running. "Hey Maya, do you mind if I run by my house real quick and grab my work apron?" Keyori asked.

    "Sure," Maya replied, nodding with a cheerful smile.

    "Thanks." Keyori gave a thumbs up as he ran off towards his house. A couple minutes later, he returned with his work apron on. When he went and opened the door, he saw Maya talking with Mukuro. "Oh hey there boss." And then he looked to his right and noticed an employee with her hand on her stomach area. "And you are...?"

    "Hello Mr. Zanpachi," the employee said, looking ill. "I'm feeling ill so I'll have to head home. Sorry if I disturbed your day off or anything."

    "No no, it's fine really. I didn't really have much planned for today anyway," Keyori replied, scratching the back of his head. "Actually Maya and I just got back from our mall trip with the girls. They stayed behind though to continue shopping for a bit."

    "Well aren't you Mr. Hotshot." The employee snickered a bit. "Well I'd best get going." The employee then left the building to head home and rest.

    Keyori pulled out his phone real quick to check the time before speaking to Maya and Mukuro. 5:13PM. "So yeah, this i--"

    "The owner of Korono Market, right?" Maya said cheerfully. "I told you, everyone knows each other in Asanagi."

    "More specifically, the owner of this location. I doubt I'd even be here right now if I owned the whole franchise after all." Mukuro chuckled. "And you are correct, but everyone only knows each other in reputation, not necessarily name. Mukuro Takafumi. Pleasure to meet you, young lady." Mukuro brought out his hand in front of Maya. She shook his hand a couple seconds after. "Well I'll leave you to your shift Keyori."

    "Oh. Can I help out too?" Maya asked eagerly.

    "Sure. I don't see a problem," Mukuro replied, nodding his head. "Oh, give me a second." He went into his office momentarily, leaving Maya and Keyori alone. After a couple moments, he came back with something in his hand. "Here. You'll need this." Maya grabbed it and opened it up. It was...

    "Huh? A work apron?" Maya said, confused. A question mark formed over her head as she said that.

    "Even though it's temporary, you'll be acting like an employee here. So you should look the part for the time being," Mukuro replied.

    Maya slowly put it on herself, tying the straps behind her back into a cute ribbon style. She smiled and twirled around a bit in happiness afterwards. Keyori let out a heavy sigh with an exasperated expression on his face, anime sweatdrop included.

    "Oh, look at the time. Sorry, but I must get back to my job too." Mukuro chuckled as he made his way towards the back door. He turned back and waved. "Tata."

    As Mukuro left to head back to his office, the front door's bell rang as the door was being opened.

    "Afternoon." Nozote was seen walking into the Korono Market. As he looked to his right, he noticed Keyori behind the counter and froze in place with a rather surprised look and white circles for eyes on his face.

    "Good afternoon. How may I help you?" Keyori had his eyes closed with his gleeful smile. He opened his eyes and... "!!!" Keyori was surprised when he saw Nozote in front of him. "Nozote? What are you doing here?"

    "I should be asking you that same question!" Nozote exclaimed, moving up to the counter with the same expression. He then looked over at Maya, who was prancing about happily, placing items onto their respective shelves - candy, sodas, etc. "Wait, does she work here too? She never told me she got a job."

    "Oh no, she's just volunteering today," Keyori replied. "As for me, yes. I do work here."

    "You said today was your day off," Nozote said next. "So why are y--"

    "Employee feels ill, so I'm taking my shift back. More of less." Keyori had an exhausted expression on his face.

    "Oh. That's just great." Nozote had the same expression on his face that Keyori did. "Wait Maya, where are your things?"

    "Oh, I left them with Flare." As Maya said this, the scene turned to Espy and Flare still shopping in the mall district. Flare was also carrying a few bags that she didn't have before, presumably the stuff Maya bought.

    "*sigh* Yeah, she left them with me." Flare's eyes were looking off to one side.

    "Well, guess we'll have to stop by her place on the way home tonight," Espy said, her right hand on her right cheek and her elbow on her left arm, which was wrapped around her body.

    "Jeez, what exactly did she buy anyway? This stuff's a bit heavy." Flare was naturally able to carry a lot of weight, but she wasn't used to carrying something heavy from inside a shopping bag.

    "You bought what?!" Nozote yelled, trying to process what Maya bought. The camera was pointed at a diagonal angle of the Korono Market from outside.

    "It was only a couple of manga volumes," Maya said with a nervous smile and anime sweatdrop in her face. "I saw the latest ones for the main series I follow, and decided to buy them for myself."

    "You read manga?" Keyori said with a surprised look.

    "Not often," Maya replied.

    "I read occasionally," Nozote followed up. "But a lot of the stuff that Maya reads doesn't interest me all that much." Nozote then got up to Keyori to lower his voice to a whisper. "Surprisingly though, she likes some of the shorter Shounen."

    "Really? Someone like Maya likes Shounen?" Keyori whispered back, surprised. "I read several of those myself, but Maya? Never would've thought."

    Customers then started to come in, so Nozote let Keyori get back to work. As his shift continued, the call he got from Mukuro ran into his mind.

    Keyori then walked off a bit as he answered the phone. "Hello, Keyori Zanpachi speaking."

    "Y-Yes Keyori, I'm sorry to bother you on your day off today but I'm going to have to ask you to come into work today." Keyori heard Mukuro's voice on the other side of the call.

    "Uhh, sure," Keyori replied. He then lowered his voice. "But why?"

    "Well you see, the sales clerk that said she would take over for you today started to feel ill just now. And I didn't know of anyone to fill the spot but you," Mukuro replied.

    "I'll be over there soon," Keyori said. He then hung up the phone call.


    After all of the customers were taken care of, Keyori's shift ended as Mukuro came back out once again.

    "Oh hey, you must be Keyori's boss. My name's Nozote Tsubake." Nozote brought out his hand.

    "Ahahaha," Mukuro chuckled, shaking Nozote's hand. "My my, what a polite young man you are. Mukuro Takafumi is my name." Mukuro then faced Keyori and Maya. "Anyway, your shift is over now. You can head on home if you want."

    "Uhh, what about your apron sir?" Maya asked, taking it off.

    "Oh no, you can keep it. I won't be needing it anytime soon, I've got a lot more in back," Mukuro said, rubbing Maya's head a bit. Maya closed her eyes in surprise.

    All of a sudden, all four of them heard another ringtone, this one much different from Keyori's ringtone. "Ah. That's my dad calling me." Maya quickly took out her phone, and walked towards the door. "Sorry, I have to take this. I'll be back in afterwards."

    "You do what you need to," Keyori replied, smiling as Maya exited the building.

    As soon as Maya exited, she answered the phone. "Hey dad...Huh? What is it?...Oh. Ok then...Uhh, four others...Sure. Thanks dad...Bye." Maya then came back inside.

    "That was fast," Keyori said. "What did your dad wanna tell you?"

    "Hey, so you wanna have dinner at my place tonight?" Maya asked in a bit of a nervous tone.

    "What?!" Keyori and Nozote exclaimed with vastly surprised looks on both of their faces. Yes, they have white circles for eyes again.

    'My dad was asking me if you and the others were coming over tonight for dinner," Maya said, smiling. "So?"

    "S-Sure, why not?" Keyori replied. "Gives me an excuse not to have to make my own dinner tonight."

    "I'll let my parents know real quick on the way," Nozote said as the three of them walked out of the Korono Market and towards Maya's house. Keyori also texted Espy that they were going to Maya's place for dinner. A couple minutes later, they all regrouped in front of Maya's place.

    "Here you go." Flare handed Maya the stuff that she bought. "What exactly did you buy anyway? These bags were a bit heavy."

    "Oh, just a few manga volumes really." Maya chuckled a bit as Flare's expression turned to one of both annoyance and irritation, her eyes looking off to her left.

    "Why am I surprised?" Flare said. Keyori rang the doorbell. A few seconds after, a middle-aged male Jolteon with yellow hair that's slightly darker than Maya's, a moustache of the same color, and a regular work suit minus the blazer and tie.

    "My darling. How was your trip to the mall today?" The man spoke in a cheerful tone, despite the slightly gruff voice he had.

    "Daddy!" Maya exclaimed, running up to glomp the man who happened to be her father.

    "Oof!" The older Jolteon felt the glomp, and grunted a bit in response. "Hahahah, your tackles still hurt quite a bit, that's for sure." The man patted and rubbed Maya's head a bit. The others had looks of confusion.

    [She isn't that strong, how can her father still be hurt from those?] Flare thought to herself.

    A few minutes later, Keyori and the others were all sitting around the rather large glass dinner table. The dinner meal was a standard pasta dish served with a side of salad. Everyone introduced each other before dinner.

    "So Keyori, how's life been so far here?" Maya's mother - a 42-year-old Espeon woman with darkened pink hair and the like - asked.

    "I swear, I have gotten questions like that way too many times for me to care to even remember. So since you probably know the answer from Maya already, can I just choose not to answer?" Keyori replied in a slightly annoyed tone, his expression matching his tone.

    "Oh don't worry, I'll relay it to her after you all leave," Maya's father told him.

    "Jeez, you ever wonder if you're secretly a tourist here?" Flare said, cracking a smile. Maya's parents laughed a bit. So did everyone else except Keyori, who had a very annoyed expression on his face.

    "Yeah yeah, laugh it up already." Keyori looked off to one side while continuing his meal.

    After everyone finished eating, they all headed home after saying and waving goodbye to Maya's family.

    "Well I guess we should all head home for the night," Keyori suggested as he turned towards the direction of his house, still holding on to his work apron. "I'll probably be at home most of tomorrow. If not, then I'll be at work. Either way, I'll see you Monday." Keyori waved goodbye to Espy and the others as he ran off towards his house. They waved back and headed home themselves.

    Once again, feel free to read at your own pace.
     
    #2 Jan 26, 2017
    Last edited: May 24, 2017
  3. DiancieIsBae

    Merio12
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    Yache Berry ★★Amulet Coin ★★★Skull Fossil ★★★
    Chapter 3: Are You Game?

    -1-
    A few days have passed since last time. The current date is Tuesday, September 27th - midway through the second full week of the school year. It was around 8:15AM during Period 1 class, and Keyori and Espy were sitting in their respective seats - Keyori sitting in the middle-back seat of the row closest to the door, and Espy sitting at the back of the row directly left of that - taking Geometry notes. On the teacher's desk, which could be seen in front of the room's whiteboard, was a nametag that read "Mr. Readuh". The teacher - a somewhat old male Farfetch'd with light grey hair and a regular business uniform who used his stick to teach class and also revealed that he was 43 years old on the first day of school - was teaching the current basic curriculum, the order of operations. Otherwise known as the PEMDAS method.

    "So the order of operations goes as follows," Mr. Readuh said, giving his lecture. "Parentheses, Exponents, Multiplication, Division, Addition, and Subtraction." He then wrote out a specific equation from his textbook - 4+3(2*7)^2/4-9. "So let's say we were to try and solve this equation. Let's run through it together, shall we?" Everyone then readied their pencils and notebooks as Mr. Readuh started to solve the equation. Keyori, however, decided to do it himself. "First, we remove the parentheses by multiplying 2 by 7, which equals 14. Then, we square it. Doing so gives us 196. And then we divide that number by 4, and we get 49."

    [Wait what? That's not right,] Keyori thought to himself. Mr. Readuh, however, continued his lesson, not noticing his error.

    "Then 49 times 3 equals 147. Then we add 4 to get 151, and then subtract 9 to get 142." Mr. Readuh finished solving his equation. Keyori, at this point, started to become annoyed at the teacher's blatant ignorance of his own error that forced the equation to be wrong. "Does everyone understand it? If so, we're moving o-" But as Mr. Readuh was almost finished with his sentence...

    "Hey teach." Keyori spoke up in a slightly irritated tone, causing Mr. Readuh to look back at him with an irritated look on his face.

    "What is it, outsider? Are you confused on this material?" the teacher asked Keyori. "It's very simple really. I thought someone like you would be able to understa-"

    "Your process is incorrect," Keyori exclaimed in a more serious tone, his expression matching his tone as his head was laying on his right hand, which was up in the air while his elbow upward on his arm was on his desk. "You did the equation wrong."

    Espy had a very surprised look on her face. [What are you doing, Keyori? You might get written up for challenging a teacher!]

    Wha- How DARE you!" Mr. Readuh yelled out in a very angry tone, his eyes white circles. "How would you know that is the wrong answer?! I did it up on the board, step by step!"

    "You did. In fact, that's how I was able to identify your little mistake," Keyori stated.

    "Then tell me, little outsider! Where did I go wrong, huh?!" The teacher started to lose it.

    Keyori then got up out of his seat. "I'll tell you." ...and pointed at the whiteboard very dramatically. "You did division as the third step, when after exponents should've been multiplication!" The rest of the crowd made an "Ohhhh!" sound as Mr. Readuh started freaking out.

    "What?! I-I-I did?" Mr. Readuh looked at the whiteboard, and retraced his steps while mumbling to himself. When he realized his mistake... "!! You're right!"

    "If you multiply 196 by 3, then you will get 588. Dividing that by 4 gives us 147. Your process otherwise is correct. The answer is still 142." Keyori got the same answer, but did the order of operations in the correct order. The rest of the classroom made impressed sounds as the teacher felt an anime sweatdrop on his head. Espy, in particular, was smiling as she stared at Keyori, blushing madly.

    [Oh, Keyori. You're really charming,] she thought and sighed as she laid down on her desk a bit.

    [Oh dear, I knew I should've drank my morning coffee,] Mr. Readuh thought with a very nervous expression on his face. Then, the end-of-period bell rang. "Er, homework today is page 237 of your textbook. Have a good day, class!" All of the students then packed their belongings and left the room. Keyori, however, was on his way out when... "Young man, can I talk to you for a minute?"

    Keyori stopped in his tracks to turn towards Mr. Readuh. "Sure thing, teach. What's up?"

    "Er, I was wondering. How were you able to find my equation's fault?" Mr. Readuh asked Keyori.

    Keyori opened his notebook to the page where he solved the equation step by step. "You shouldn't trust your superiors 100%. Sometimes it's better to do it yourself, so that you'll be more able to point out his or her flaws."

    Mr. Readuh shrugged. "To each their own, I suppose."

    Espy was then seen looking diagonally into the room. "Uhh Keyori? Next period will be starting soon. Let's go."

    "Oh right. Gotta go!" Keyori then ran off.

    "Er, be mindful of the others in the hallway!" Mr. Readuh exclaimed, waving to Keyori on his way out.

    A few hours later, the final bell rang, signalling the end of the school day. Keyori and the others met up in the middle of one of the hallways instead of their usual spot outside near the fountain.

    On the way out towards the front door, however, the group saw an adult female Raichu with very generic ponytail-style yellow hair walking down the opposite direction they were going. As she got closer, the Raichu also appeared to be a bit busty. But the exact size was hard to determine since she was holding her folder against her chest with her left arm. Keyori recognized the Raichu as one of his teachers instantly.

    "Hey teach." Keyori waved to her. The Raichu made a "Hmm?" noise, and gave off a surprised expression as she heard and saw Keyori, making a surprised noise.

    "Keyori! You're in a chipper mood." The teacher replied, smiling cheerfully herself. She then looked at his group of friends, and looks slightly surprised again but still smiling. "And Miss Espy too." Then, seeing as Keyori was slightly ahead of Espy and the others, she walked in and leaned towards Keyori and lowered her voice to a whisper, her eyes little black vertical ovals slightly covered by rectangular eyebrows as they deadpanned towards Keyori. "Wait a minute, is she your girlfriend or something?"

    "Yep. I confessed to her on the first day." Keyori whispered back cheerfully.

    The Raichu then backed away to her old position. "Anyway, I'm Keyori's teacher for Sales Marketing. My name's Hizuru Nayano. But please, call me Ms. Nayano."

    "Wait, Keyori mentioned on the way here that he met you in your classroom on Thursday. But the school year started on a Tuesday." Espy started explaining.

    "Oh, I took the first two school days off. The principal called me Monday night telling me not to come in until Thursday and that he mailed me some paperwork regarding finances and stuff." Ms. Nayano replied.

    "And you didn't think to ask why he sent them all to just you?" Nozote asked, his hands in a typical thinking position.

    "I asked him before school started the Thursday I came in. He told me that the other business teachers didn't have the leisure that I did." Ms. Nayano had an exhausted expression on her face. "I worked my butt off those two off days. Too much paperwork if you ask me. I'm dedicated to finishing my papers, but I have my limits. I need a break every once in awhile."

    "Especially with that family of yours," Keyori followed up with an exasperated expression.

    "Nah, I made up that part," the slightly busty Raichu replied.

    "*sigh* Of course you'd make that up." Keyori had a very annoyed expression on his face.

    "Well I had to lie. Can't have any random people knowing about my actual job." Ms. Nayano chuckled nervously. "But you five seem fine to me." Ms. Nayano brought her right hand out in front of the group, turning her body slightly to her left with a cheerful smile. "Now come on. Shake hands?"

    Maya went up first, smiling herself as she shook hands with Ms. Nayano, who still had that cheerful smile on her face. The rest of the group (minus Keyori, who already shook hands with her when they met at class) shook hands with Ms. Nayano afterwards - Flare, then Nozote, and finally Espy.

    "Well I should be going now. Gotta head home and grade these assignments for your class." Ms. Nayano then walked towards the door. Then turned her upper body to look and wave back at Keyori and crew. "See you tomorrow!"

    Keyori and the others waved back, Keyori also having a smile on his face as he looked at his teacher's amazingly beautiful ponytailed hair sweep back to the left as she turned back to leave the building.

    "Man, she's hot. Nice body all over, and she looks fresh out of college." Keyori seemed to be admiring Ms. Nayano's absolutely magnificent and youthful figure. He then slowly turned towards Espy, smiling. "Kinda like someone else I know. Heeheehee."

    Espy, knowing that Keyori was talking about her, started to blush madly with a surprised look on her face.

    "Well of course she looks attractive. She is my beautiful sister, after all." Flare smiled cheerfully. "But I'm curious. How do you think we look, Keyori?"

    Espy looked off to one side nervously. [If she liked how me and his teacher look, I hope he'll be able to appreciate others' appearances.] She thought to herself.

    "Well Flare, you look almost as attractive as your sister does. Your outgoing and easygoing nature also helps." Keyori gave Flare a thumbs up, making her blush as well. He then turned to Maya. "And Maya, you're pretty cute yourself. But it's mostly because you sound so sweet."

    "Ah! Err, thank you." Maya replied with a very nervous but happy smile.

    Espy, now hearing Keyori's opinions, smiled at him happily. [Oh Keyori.]

    "And you!" Keyori exclaimed, turning around and pointing right at Nozote, who had a bit of a surprised look on his face. "...You're a guy." Keyori's expression turned from a smile to an uneasy expression, feeling an anime sweatdrop on his face.

    "Heh. Kind of expected you to say something like that," Nozote replied with a cocky smirk, his arms folded. "Anyway, did your boss give you the day off for coming in Saturday?"

    "Yeah. He switched my off day to today." Keyori replied, looking slightly back at Nozote. "Why?"

    "Well I figured we could all go to my house today. I doubt any of you have seen it yet." Nozote addressed both Keyori and the others, who were all standing next to each other. "Wanna come?"

    "Nah. The two of us decided we're gonna go look around some more at the mall." Flare replied, smiling.

    Maya smiled. "Sure. I-I'll come Nozote."

    "Cool. I think I have a third controller you can use." Nozote said, the three of them beginning their walk towards Nozote's house.

    "Uh, controller? Why?" Maya asked nervously.

    -2-
    Nozote's house was apparently down the same street that Keyori's house was on, only his was a farther than Keyori's. House number 172, to be specific.

    "We're gonna game!" The next scene was the three of them in Nozote's room, which had a very decorative shade of orange painting on the walls, which were also covered in various video game and pop culture posters.

    As for the furniture, his bed was up against the wall slightly to the right of where you walk through the door. His entertainment center was directly across from that, and his dresser up against the same thing. Keyori and Maya were sitting on the ground against the bed, while Nozote was standing up over them setting up his Xbox One.

    "Game? Like, an actual game?" Maya replied, a bit surprised mixed with worry. "Are you sure this is an actual game? Why not play something like Monopoly?"

    "Our family used to play those games years ago. But then we started to fall out of them." Nozote replied, smirking as he turned on the Xbox One. He turned to look at Keyori and Maya. "Plus, in this day and age, most actual games that matter are video games." Maya looked off to one side, her expression a bit nervous. "Besides, I think you might like this game." Nozote pulled out one of the game cases on top of his Xbox One. The cover read Star Wars: Battlefront.

    "Star Wars: Battlefront," Keyori read. "Huh. Didn't think someone like you would like Star Wars." Keyori then grabbed one of the three controllers. "Either way, I haven't played video games in a while so I'm game."

    Nozote looked over at the other two controllers, and noticed that the leftmost one looked familiar to him. "Wait, this is my dad's controller. What's it doing here?" Nozote mumbled to himself, picking it up. Nozote then turned around to notice his father walking past his room. "Thanks pops!" Nozote exclaimed his way.

    "You three have fun now." his father waved back.

    Nozote then turned on his Xbox One, and synched up all three controllers to it. He handed Maya his dad's controller, and then grabbed his controller to join the other two beside Maya. "Oh dear, it feels hot in here," Maya said as she unzipped her baby blue hoodie, revealing a white short-sleeved shirt underneath.

    "......" Nozote was speechless, with a surprised and slightly embarrassed expression on his face - white circles for eyes and red cheeks included. Keyori simply looked casually down at Maya, then up at Nozote.

    "I-It isn't that revealing, is it?" Maya stuttered with a troubled expression on her face after taking off her hoodie and looking up at Nozote's surprised face. "I-It's only a white shirt."

    "I think it's the thought of a girl taking off her top that arouses him a bit," Keyori said, smiling cheerfully. "It would definitely arouse me if it were Espy doing it."

    The next scene was Nozote starting up Star Wars: Battlefront for the three of them. The camera then slowly zoomed in on Maya's face, the background then transitioning to a military battlefield seemingly on Endor.

    All three of them were wearing military uniforms of sorts - Maya wearing a camo buttoned jacket and knee-length skirt with light brown socks and brown shoes, Nozote wearing a short-sleeved and slightly tight super dark grey shirt with camo pants and shoes, and Keyori wearing a camo jacket and pants along with black short-sleeved undershirt and light brown military hat.

    For weapons, all three were wielding the Scout kit - which contains a Personal Shield, a Thermal Detonator, and an Ion Torpedo. Nozote and Maya were both wielding the DH-17 blaster pistol, which can be fired at high frequency with decent accuracy and range. Keyori, on the other hand, was wielding the E-11 blaster rifle, which was the standard weapon of the Imperials and could fire at decently high frequency at long range and high accuracy, but its damage decreases the further away you shoot it from.

    "Alright. In Survival, we must work as a team to clear 15 waves of enemies. Every second wave, several Charges will spawn. They are shaped sorta like lightning bolts.Every third wave, there will be a drop pod that we must secure. If we do, we will gain three power ups at our disposal. After each pod wave, an extra life will spawn somewhere in the map. We all share lives, and the amount we start with is determined by how many players are participating in Survival mode. Since there are three of us we will get 3 lives." Nozote explained the mechanics of the game. "Now, our guns. Every time a gun is fired, a red bar will start to form around the aiming reticule. Once that bar gets halfway around, your weapon will overheat. Once that happens, you must wait a few seconds for your weapon to cool down. Or, if you time your X button at the green area, you can instantly cool down the weapon. Keep in mind that it gets harder to do this every time, and if you fail it you must wait longer for your weapon to cool down." Nozote then brought up his kits weapons. "Now, these weapon cards. If you press either of the bumper buttons, you will switch to the card if it is an actual weapon, or instantly use it if it's a utility. Each time you use it, it will be put on a cooldown timer before you can use it again. The gold cards, however, have uses depending on how many Charges you have. Also whenever you get a powerup, you press both bumpers together to use it." Nozote put his cards away, and took out his blaster. "You get all that?"

    Keyori and Maya nodded, also taking out their blasters as the first wave was about to begin. 5 Stormtroopers were coming their way. Nozote motioned his hand at Keyori and Maya to move out towards the enemies. As the Stormtroopers came into their line of sight, all three of them readied their weapons - Maya a tad slower than the boys were. Maya was a bit nervous of shooting a gun, despite it being a video game. Keyori, on the other hand, fired at the 4 Stormtroopers one after another in quick succession, leaving Nozote with the last Stormtrooper. He pulled out a Thermal Detonator card while yelling out the card's name, and then tossed it straight at the Stormtrooper. Partway through the travel, the card turned into a grenade that exploded after a couple seconds, exploding and killing the Stormtrooper.

    "Heh. Easy," Keyori said, smirking. "Bring on the next wave."

    The next wave had a bit of a twist - amongst the regular Stormtroopers was an incredibly bulky Shock Trooper with a heavy blaster. "Ok. That Shock Trooper has a high amount of health, and its heavy blaster fires off an immense burst of shots at a time. We can either go in guns blazing, or we can be crafty and use our cards to blow it up. Unfortunately our Ion Torpedo cards cannot target anything that isn't a vehicle-type enemy like AT-STs or Probe Droids." Nozote explained.

    Keyori gets up, and looks at the regular Stormtroopers. "I say we lower their numbers first, then deal with the Shock Trooper."

    The other two nod, and they begin running towards the enemies. The next few scenes shown are of the three blasting Stormtroopers with their guns and using their Grenade cards to blow them up, as well as AT-STs being hit by Ion Torpedo cards. On the twelfth wave, however, as the enemies were approaching the three of them, Nozote declared to each split up and take care of each group of enemies.

    "Psst, Keyori. Come over here." Maya was trying to get Keyori's attention from a nearby bush she was hiding in. Keyori saw her, and went over to her. "Let's stay here and hide while we watch Nozote."

    Keyori giggled and nodded. Nozote noticed their giggling, and turned to their direction. "Hey! What are you two doing? Quit hiding and help me!" All of a sudden, Nozote started looking around him and noticed that he was completely surrounded by the enemy - Stormtroopers, Shock Troopers, Jumptroopers that have jetpacks, and Shadowtroopers that can camouflage themselves and throw Flash Grenades. His expression then turned into one of nervosity. "Uhh, hi there e-everyone. You wanna talk this ou-" Nozote didn't even get to finish before they all started blasting the hell out of him. Nozote made screams of pain and anguish as his health slowly went down. When his health hit 0, his body fell over with a face of white circles for eyes and a huge gaping open mouth.

    "......" Behind the screen, Nozote had a slightly dead expression on his face as the other two were giggling to each other. "Having fun over there?"

    "*giggle* I knew that would be hilarious, hahahahahahaahaha!" Maya kept laughing along with Keyori.

    "Yeah yeah, laugh it up." Nozote still had that dead expression as he looked towards a laughing Keyori and Maya.

    Suddenly, after two more hours of playing together, Keyori's phone went off. "Hmm?" Keyori took out his phone to see that he received a text message from Espy.

    It's almost dinnertime. Wanna come over to the mall? ^.^

    "Ok, so you two wanna head over to the mall now?" Keyori asked Nozote and Maya. "Espy just texted me."

    "Sure. Lemme just turn this off real quick." Nozote held the Xbox button down on his controller, and then selected Turn Console Off.

    "Actually I need to ask my parents first," Maya said, taking out her phone, "Curfew and all that." She texted to her dad the message "my friends wanna take me out to dinner tonight, can I go?" After a few seconds, she received his father's answer "sure have fun".

    "Hooray. Let's go," Maya said. The three of them then put their controllers on top of the Xbox One, and left the house.

    A few minutes later, Keyori, Nozote, and Maya met up with Espy and Flare at the nearby local Wendy's.

    "Paaaaah hah hah hah hah hah hah, you left him to bite the dust?" Flare was laughing hysterically after Keyori and Maya told their story. "I would totally do that too. Nice work, you two."

    "*sigh* Of course you would." Nozote had a very annoyed expression on his face as he deadpanned Flare. "You always liked ditching me so you can watch me die."

    "Well it's just, hahahaha, that you, hahah, always die, hahahaha, in the most hilarious fashion, hahahahahahahah." Flare just couldn't stop laughing. Nozote's expression became more annoyed.

    All of a sudden, Maya heard her phone go off. She pulled it out and saw a text message from her dad. It read "your friends can sleep at our place tonight". Her cheeks went a little red after reading it, and her expression became a nervous one. "Err, m-my dad just asked i-if you guys wanna sleep a-at my place tonight."

    Espy facepalmed and sighed. "Doesn't your father realize there's school tomorrow?" she said, getting up with a stern look on her face as she grabbed her embroidered bookbag and walked off. "Tell him I'm not coming this time."

    Flare had an anime sweatdrop on her face. "Err, sorry but I'll pass too. Sis would get mad at me for not studying tonight." She got up out of her seat to follow Espy. But not before turning back towards the others and waving goodbye. "Later."

    Nozote looked at Flare and Espy leaving. "I guess they're right," he said, getting up. He scratched the back of his head a bit, "Sorry but my parents won't let me sleepover on school nights." He then started walking. "See you tomorrow."

    All who were left at the table were Keyori and Maya. "What about you Keyori?"

    "Sure why not?" Keyori replied with a smile. "Be nice to sleepover every once in awhile. Just lemme stop by my house real quick and get a change of night and day clothes, ok?" Maya nodded. Keyori ran off towards his house as fast as he possibly could. Maya sighed and got up out of her seat, pushed it in, and then walked towards her house.

    -3-
    A couple minutes later, Maya was already in front of her house waiting for Keyori...who she then saw running towards her at a normal pace. "*whew* I got everything I need for tomorrow now."

    Maya opened the front door. "I'm home!" she exclaimed gleefully. All of a sudden, she amd Keyori heard a semi-loud "Arf!" from nearby. Keyori looked down with a perplexed look on his face, and saw a small corgi with a goldish-brown fur body, a white fur belly, hazel eyes, black nose, and mid-length ears. "Arf! Arf arf!" The dog was barking at Keyori and Maya at the front door. "*gasp* Diamond!" Maya exclaimed with a smile on her face. The corgi then jumped into her arms. "Aww, did you miss me today? Who's a good boy?" Maya was petting her dog as she was saying that.

    Suddenly, the dog wanted to jump onto Keyori next. He jumped out of Maya's arms, barking along the way. Keyori managed to catch him with his arms, chuckling. "Is he your dog?"

    "Mmhmm." Maya nodded with a cheerful smile on her face. "His name's Diamond. I gave him that name myself."

    "Alright dear, time for you to get ready for bed now." Suddenly, they heard her father come out from inside the kitchen.

    "Ok!" Maya exclaimed happily, running off towards her room.

    Keyori let Diamond go run around, and then looked at May as father. "Uhh, isn't it a bit early for most teenagers' bedtime?"

    "Oh, she's not going to bed just yet. We're just having her change into her night clothes before lights out." Maya's father replied, walking towards his couch on the living room.

    "Lights out? I didn't know high school families still followed that term." Keyori chuckled a bit.

    "Ah, but I suppose while my daughter gets changed, why don't we discuss a few things?" The middle-aged mustachioed Jolteon sat down on the left side of the couch.

    Keyori went over the the loveseat perpendicular to the couch, and sat down on the right side. "Sure. What's up?"

    "Well I was wondering. You and Nozote are the only guys in your circle of friends. The rest of it are my daughter and the two Noriyama girls. One of which you happen to have the hots for. So tell me, do you like all three at the same time?" The fatherly man said the last term all fancy.

    Keyori smiled. "Of course I do. I do like Espy the most, but the other two are also pretty cute," he replied. "You probably already know about Nozote's strength just by looking at him. But Flare is actually almost as strong as he is. I mean, she's the one who carried all those bags the other day. Espy seems pretty smart to me. She has the highest grade average out of all of us. And Maya, well...you probably already know how huggable she is." Keyori chuckled a bit.

    "I see, heheh. My daughter is pretty cute, I hug her a lot myself and she gets embarrassed every time. She's so innocent." Maya's father looked up a bit and sighed. "But her innocence is her biggest weakness, I'd say. Eventually it'll just get in the way of her life, I fear. Part of me wants her to lose it. But the rest says that it's too early. But I won't be here forever to help her." He sighed. "Being a parent is hard, you know."

    "I know it is," Keyori replied. "I know I'm too young to know that, but I could tell how stressful being a parent will be. Settling down and starting a family may sound nice at first. But if you know what it entails, it doesn't have the same ring anymore."

    "True love is a one-way street. It may start out as a two-way, but once you commit to that one girl, then there's no turning back." Maya's father seemed to be lamenting. But then something else came to his mind, and he cheered back up. "Speaking of love, did you ever have a girlfriend before Miss Noriyama?"

    "Well yeah, of course I did," Keyori said with a cheerful smile. He then felt an anime sweatdrop on his face. "...Sorta."

    "S-Sorta?" Maya's father had a rather surprised look on his face, including an anime sweatdrop.

    "Well there was this one girl I was really sweet on back in 3rd grade," Keyori started. The setting shifted to one of Keyori's memories as an 8-year-old. Opposite of him as he was walking out of his classroom was a young light-orange-haired female Ninetales with a top-buttoned peach long-sleeved shirt with orange undershirt, and a short purple skirt. "She was a lot like Espy is; mature, a bit stern, and the smartest in her class. She actually gave me cold shoulder when we first met. But after a couple days, she started being nice to me. She even invited me to studying sessions in the library on occasion." The scenes shifted as such.

    "Well how did that relationship go?" Maya's father asked.

    "Well we got along for a couple days until I decided that it was time to ask her out." Keyori felt an an sweatdrop coming onto his face. "When I did ask her out, she...told me that we were too young for a relationship. So we just stuck to being friends and left it at that. Come to think of it, we haven't spoken in a while. Might call her soon to see how she's doing."

    "I...see. She definitely had her own priorities, that's for sure." Maya's father chuckled. "Any others?"

    "Actually there was one other girl I liked." This time, the flashback was Keyori at 12 years old in Kayagame Middle School. "It was in 7th grade. I had 6th and 7th periods with another girl." The girl in question this time was a Clefable with short silver hair and an outfit similar to the previous girl's, but both shirts were short-sleeved and a combination of white and light grey. "Again, just like Espy. But she was more stern than mature. She still had a sense of youth to her. Anyway, I sat next to her in both classes, and as such, I got to know her a good amount. After school ended, I decided to ask her out in the school yard. So I asked her...and she said that she already has a boyfriend. She did at least find me charming though. Still friends with her too." The scene then shifted back to reality with Keyori looking upward a bit. "But that scenario gave me a bit of advice. If there's someone you like on the first day you meet her, you let her know immediately. Because you never know when that opportunity might slip away from you forever."

    "Yeah...So you're more into the stern and mature girls, are you?" The middle-aged Jolteon chuckled a bit, remembering his own youth. "I can see why Espy would he the perfect girl for you. She seems to like you too."

    "I actually get along with all different types of girls, young and old. Most of my friends back in middle school were actually female. Not a lot of guy friends, a lot of them are a bit too geeky for me," Keyori said. "I guess you could say I prefer having at least one girl near me. Just so I'm in my natural habitat. People call me a ladies' man, though occasionally others call me a pervert. To which I respond by saying that I'm a guy."

    "Heh heh heh, you sure are. But that's life, you know," Maya's father said, sighing. "I think Maya's done changing now, so you can go pay her a visit in her room."

    Keyori got up off the loveseat and walked towards Maya's room in the back of the connected hallway. When he opened the door, he saw Maya in her night clothes. Said night clothes were just simple light blue buttoned short-sleeved shirt and running pants. She was still wearing her socks though. Keyori was a bit surprised, to say the least. "Hi," Maya said to him, smiling as usual. "S-Something wrong?"

    Keyori then started to look around Maya's room. Her room has bright pink walls with a few removeable stickers on them, and against the wall opposite of the door was the bed, and end table left of the bed holding the room's lamp. There was also a diagonally placed TV to the right of where you enter the room. And there were quite a few stuffed animals lying around in different places. There was also another door left of the bed from the front door's view that led into Maya's closet. "N-Nice room," Keyori said a bit nervously, not knowing how to react from seeing a girl's room.

    "Uhh, thanks," Maya replied cheerfully but also a bit nervously. "A lot of people keep saying it's a bit too girly. It's nice to know someone appreciates it."

    The next couple of hours for the two were spent watching TV and playing cards with the deck that Maya had laying around on her computer desk next to her TV stand. They started by playing Palace - where you start with a back row, a front row, and 3 cards in hand, and the objective of the game is to exhaust your entire back row before your opponents do.

    They then transitioned over to trying to complete a full Solitaire game together. Needless to say, they didn't do so well - the probabilities were mostly all against them. "You know, this reminds me. Cassie was also into card games, though she played the more direct ones like Magic The Gathering and Yu-Gi-Oh!. She can get competitive at times when she really gets into it. I've played her a few times in both games."

    "Uhh, who's Cassie?" Maya asked.

    "Oh, right. She's a Ninetails I used to know and have a slight crush on back in elementary school," Keyori replied "*sigh* Those were the good old days. Those days where we could play around in recess without a care in the world."

    After that, Keyori noticed the light under the entrance door get a bit dimmer. Then Maya's father opened the door. "Lights out, everyone."

    "Aww darn, we failed." Maya slowly put her cards away. "Ah well, it was fun playing with you Keyori."

    "Same with you," Keyori replied, walking out the door alongside Maya's father. "*yaaaaaawn* Man, it's been awhile since my last sleepover. So is it ok if I sleep on the couch tonight?"

    "Sure. No one else is here, so I don't see a problem with it," the man replied with a smile.

    "Thanks." Keyori went into the bathroom after getting out his night clothes from his backpack. He only took about 5 minutes to undergo the process of brushing his teeth and changing his clothes. "Ugggh...Man, I'm beat." It didn't take him very long to cover himself up on the couch and pass out. However, he was so tired that he didn't set an alarm on his phone. Though he did manage to plug it into the charger.

    After a couple minutes, Maya's father came into the living room again and noticed Keyori passed out on the couch. "Hmm...I'm sure he won't wake up if I pick him up. He must be really tired to be asleep in such a short amount of time." The setting then faded to black.

    The next morning, Maya was shown still asleep in her bed. The alarm clock read 7:33AM. Keyori was then seen...sleeping on the floor?

    "Hey, stupid." Nozote was also seen standing in front of the sleeping Keyori, trying to wake him up by nudging his body with his foot. "Come on, we don't have all morning. Wake up already!" Nozote then kicked Keyori's right arm.

    "Mmmmmm..." Keyori slowly started to wake up and look around. He noticed Nozote above him with an annoyed look on his face. "Morning..."

    "You know, you must have been pretty tired to have slept in a girl's bedroom," Nozote said.

    "Huh? I-I did?" Keyori started looking around more and realized that he was indeed in Maya's room. "Huh. I remember sleeping on the couch in the living ro-...Oh...Her father probably carried me in here."

    Then Maya started to wake up and notice the two next to her bed. "Morning...Why are you two in my room?"

    "Hey, I came here to wake you two up. It's almost time for school to start, and you're still here sleeping," Nozote said.

    "Oh..." Keyori let that last sentence process in his head before reacting. His upper body sprang up, his face having white circles of shock for eyes. "Wait, really?! We overslept?! Aw crap, I forgot to set an alarm on my phone!"

    "Ah! Oh dear, you're right!" Maya exclaimed after looking at her alarm clock. "But if Dad really brought you in here, and we overslept..." Maya then looked back at her alarm clock, and noticed that the dot that showed that alarm as being on wasn't on anymore. "AAAAHH!! Dad turned the alarm off!! Oh no, we're gonna be late!!"

    Keyori rushed into the living room towards his backpack, and took out his change of daytime clothes, then rushed into the bathroom. Meanwhile, Maya quickly went over to her closet and grabbed her change of clothes to put on. Nozote' on the other hand, casually walked out of Maya's room and decided to wait in the living room for them.

    After a couple minutes, the time was 7:46AM. Keyori and Maya were now ready for school, despite having nothing to eat for breakfast or else they would be late.

    "Alright, let's get going now!" Keyori exclaimed as he opened the front door with the utmost haste.

    The three of them then ran out the door with their backpacks on. "Bye dad!" Maya yelled on the way out, waving towards the living room. Afterwards, they started running towards Asanagi High, which Maya's house was surprisingly far from.

    "Thanks for waking us up, Nozote!" Keyori said. "I doubt we'd make it if it weren't for that."

    "Don't sweat it! To be honest, the only reason I came down here is because Espy saw you weren't there when she and Flare arrived!" Nozote explained as a flashback occurred where Nozote and the Noriyama sisters were in front of the school.

    "That's strange. Keyori's not here. Usually he's here around this time," Flare said, wondering what Keyori was doing. "Come to think of it, Maya isn't here either."

    Espy sighed. "I was afraid this was going to happen. I guess Keyori did take up the offer last night. Her father probably turned off both of their alarms so they could have the day off or something. *sigh* I knew he would try and pull something like this, so I declined." Espy looked towards Nozote. "Hey, would you mind going to wake them up real quick?"

    "Uhh sure, but isn't her house far away or something?" Nozote replied, then asked. "I'd be late with them if I tried."

    Espy put her left hand up towards Nozote. "Don't worry. I'll get you there instantly. Just trust me on this one." Her hand then started glowing and emitting a visible pink aura. Nozote also gave off this same visible aura. "Teleport!" All of a sudden, Nozote's aura instantly turned into a bright flash of light surrounding Nozote completely before disappearing, taking Nozote with it.


    "And that's how I got to your house before it was too late!" Nozote exclaimed as the scene was back to the three of them running towards school.

    "Actually I think the only reason Maya's dad put me in her room was because I told him about some of my past relationships!" Keyori exclaimed.

    "Relationships? Like with Cassie?" Maya asked.

    "Yeah!" Keyori exclaimed back.

    After a couple minutes, the three of them arrived at Asanagi High School out of breath.

    "There you are." Espy saw them running up the stairs. "Jeez, your father must be an idiot or something." All of them went inside for 1st Period.

    After 1st Period ended, Espy and the other classmates immediately left the room. Keyori, on the other hand, took a few seconds to pack up fully. But afterwards, he walked out the door.

    "Wait." Espy was right beside the door on the right side with her eyes closed and a stern look on her face, and she grabbed Keyori's wrist as he walked out. He stopped and looked back at her.

    "Huh? What's wrong?" Keyori asked. "Wait, is this about last night?" He turned towards her fully now. "Look, how was I supposed to know that her father would do something like that? None of you told me." Keyori's eyes looked off to the lower-left. "In fact, all you did was say it was a school night and walk off."

    Espy looked away from Keyori and tilted her head down a bit in guilt. "I know. And..." She then turned towards Keyori and walked up to him. "...I just wanted to say that I'm sorry."

    "Hey, don't worry about it. It was still fun," Keyori said, scratching the back of his head with a cheerful smile on his face.

    "Also one more thing. Let's not sleepover at Maya's place on weekdays anymore, 'k?" Espy asked.

    "Alright," Keyori replied. Immediately afterward, Espy went up to Keyori's head and kissed him on his right cheek, surprising him a bit.

    "Well our second period is gonna start soon." Espy's left hand was glowing and emitting a visible pink aura, just like how it did in Nozote's flashback.

    "Wh-what are you doing?" Keyori asked. He then noticed that he himself, as well as Espy's entire body was was giving off this visible aura. "And why are we both glowing?"

    "Bye!" Espy exclaimed happily, waving at Keyori.

    Almost instantly afterward, the two were engulfed in a bright flash of light before disappearing. Keyori ended up near his second period class instantly. "!!!" He was quite shocked, to say the least. Espy just Teleported both him and herself somewhere else. He then rubbed his right cheek and smiled before entering his second period class.

    As usual, feel free to read at your own pace.
     
  4. DiancieIsBae

    Merio12
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    Yache Berry ★★Amulet Coin ★★★Skull Fossil ★★★
    Chapter 4: This. Is. Halloween

    -1-
    A couple of weeks have passed since Keyori slept over at Maya's house. It was now the week of Halloween, and the spirit of the holiday was all around the entirety of Asanagi. Almost every retail store in the vicinity minus Korono Market was selling Halloween costumes for the big night at the end of the week. Keyori and crew, meanwhile, were relaxing in Nozote's room at his place. They were taking turns playing Battlefront. Nozote and Flare were holding the controllers from the previous VS Battle round.

    "Hrrrrrgh...Ahhh..." Nozote stretched his arms upward.

    "So what exactly are we doing today? Are we just gonna hang out here all day playing this or what?" Espy asked, holding one of the four controllers in the room. The other controllers were held by Flare, Maya, and Keyori - who decided to give up his controller.

    Nozote grabbed the controller that Keyori handed to him. "I dunno. What even is there to do?"

    "I'm personally fine with just being here whooping you in this game." Flare chuckled a bit.

    Nozote sighed. "Yeah yeah." He looked at the calendar on the wall left of him. The date was Sunday October 26th. His expression turned to a surprised one as he let out a scream.

    Everyone looked towards him with skeptical looks on their faces. "Err what's wrong?" Maya asked.

    "Today's the 26th of October. And it's a Sunday." Nozote exclaimed, his face still looking surprised. "That's means...that this Friday..." The camera then showed the calendar - specifically the day Friday. "Is Halloween!!"

    Everyone screamed when they heard Nozote say that. "I haven't even picked out my costume yet!" Maya exclaimed.

    "I completely forgot about Halloween!" Keyori exclaimed.

    "I don't know what I want my next costume to be!" Flare exclaimed.

    Espy sighed. "Yeah, last year's costume wasn't great for you." She gave off a cheerful smile. "Mine, on the other hand...ahahaha."

    Flare started to get a bit angry at Espy's remark about her costume. "Hey, that wasn't even my fault! You just picked out a random costume and walked off! You didn't even let me try it on, and yet you still thought that thing would look good on me!" She exclaimed towards Espy with an anime-style angry face.

    "I did? Huh. I don't recall doing that actually." Espy said, looking a bit confused.

    Flare let out a big sigh. "Anyway..." she says as she walks out of the room, presumably to get herself a snack or something.

    Keyori and the others looked back towards Espy. "Did you actually pick out Flare's costume yourself and walk off?" Keyori asked.

    "Yep," Espy nodded, smiling. "I just felt like toying with her a bit last Halloween. It was pretty funny when she wore it. She kept pouting whenever I said something about her costume in general."

    "Hmm...you think you could show it to us later?" Nozote asked.

    "Nah. I'll probably just throw it away once we get home," Espy replied. "It honestly doesn't look good at all, I only got it just for her just to amuse myself a little."

    "Eh, suit yourself." Keyori looked at his smartphone. "Guess I should probably get going. Gotta run by the store for my weekly groceries." Keyori made his way out the door as well. "See ya."

    The others waved goodbye to him, then returned to their conversation. "So what are we gonna do about your costumes?" Espy asked.

    Meanwhile, Keyori was walking towards the Suketto for his grocery run. [What am I going to be for Halloween this Friday? So many interesting options are open to me. I could be one of the Mario brothers. Or I could try my hand at styling my hair to be Cloud Strife. Or maybe...] Keyori thought about his different choices for Halloween costumes along the way.

    -2-
    The next day, Keyori walked into the school grounds and noticed that none of his friends were waiting outside for him. He shrugged it off and went inside to find different Halloween decorations being put on the walls by some of the other students - mainly enthusiastic freshman girls. Stuff like paper and cloth ghosts, pumpkins, vampires, cartoon zombies, random orange shapes, stuff like that.

    "Are they decorating for Halloween already? I figured they'd wait until Wednesday or so to put all this up," Keyori said to himself with a slightly perplexed look on his face as he looked around the walls. On the way to his Geometry class, he saw Espy looking at some of the decorations. "Hey!"

    Espy heard Keyori call out to her, and turned towards him. "Hi!" She waved back to Keyori and started walking alongside him.

    "So curious, why are the putting up Halloween decorations today? Wouldn't they normally wait until Wednesday or something?" Keyori asked Espy.

    "Well maybe in your previous schools, they would do it then. But Asanagi is very enthusiastic when it comes to national holidays," Espy replied, smiling.

    Keyori's face turned into an annoyed one, complete with Brock-sized eyebrows and purple forehead covered by blue lines. He let out a heavy sigh.

    Espy's facial expression turned to a troubled and slightly worried smile, with an anime sweatdrop on her face. "Don't worry, I'm not trying to nitpick Kayagame's traditions."

    "I get it already," Keyori said, waving his right hand towards her.

    One of the female students up top of one of the nearby ladders stopped what she was doing and turned her head towards Keyori. "Umm, excuse me sir." Keyori heard the girl's voice and turned around to look at her. She appeared to be a Vulpix with semi-long ponytailed bright red hair, cute pointed red fox ears, short-sleeved yellow-orange shirt, knee-length dark red skirt, white pantyhose, and black single-strap shoes. "Ah, Mr. Keyori." She noticed him and looked surprised.

    "Yeah, what is it?" Keyori asked the girl.

    "Umm, can you help us put up these decorations right now? I really don't wanna be doing this all day." The Vulpix looked a bit shy around Keyori. Understandably so considering he's the most popular male freshman in the school.

    Keyori looks at his phone real quick to check the time. "Uhh sure, I got time to spare," he replied afterward.

    Espy smiled at Keyori. "I'll let you do that with her. I got picked as class representative, so I have to be there early." She kissed Keyori on his cheek, making his cheeks a bit red. "Bye!" she exclaimed to him as she walked off.

    Keyori then started climbing the unoccupied ladder right next to him. "Wow, you're just as handsome as they say you are," the Vulpix girl said to him, embarrassed.

    "Thank you," Keyori replied with a smile. He noticed the tall table to his right holding the decorations, and pointed at them. "So you want me to hang these up, right?"

    The Vulpix girl nodded. "Mmhmm. Just like the other decorations, ok?"

    The two of them started putting up decorations together. The Vulpix's heart was beating faster than normal. [Wow. I'm hanging up these decorations next to the most handsome boy I have ever seen.] And within only a couple minutes, all of the decorations that were on the table were put up on the walls. "Thanks for helping us out," she said to Keyori after they both got down from the ladders.

    "Heh, no problem. Glad to help," Keyori replied, smiling. He then paused for a moment to look at the Vulpix's hair a little more. "Hmm..."

    "Eh? Wh-What's wrong Keyori?" the redhead Vulpix asked, seeing Keyori's face.

    Keyori was actually judging how well her hairstyle went with her overall appearance. After judging in his mind, he raised his right hand behind the Vulpix's head, grabbed the hairbow, and pulled it out of her hair. She had a surprised look on her face when he did this as her hair came down to about 2 inches under her shoulders. "Mmhmm...Actually you look better with your hair down instead of up."

    "Huh? You think so?" she said.

    "Yeah, of course you do. Most girls I see are that way," Keyori replied...then continued to stare at her for a bit until...

    "Why are you staring at me like that?" she asked nervously.

    Keyori closed his eyes and tilted his head down a bit. "You wanna know something?" The Vulpix let out a "Hm?". "Your appearance reminds me of someone I knew a few years back."

    "Really? What was she like?" the Vulpix asked.

    "Well-" Keyori was about to tell her. However, the first bell started ringing before he could say anymore. He had a very shocked look on his face. "Ah crap! 1st period's about to begin soon!" He then calmed down a bit instantly after remembering something. "But before we go, can I ask your name?"

    "Oh right." The Vulpix raised her eyebrows a bit in surprise. "My name's Shino Kusarami," she told him cheerfully.

    "Nice to meet you, Shino." Keyori said as the two of them shook hands.

    After school ended, Keyori went straight home, grabbed his work apron, and ran straight to Korono Market for his shift. There, the customers were all talking to each other about what costumes they and their children (for some of them) were going to wear.

    "Hey, what are you thinking about being this Halloween?" one of the customers asked Keyori.

    "Actually I have no idea. Too many choices really," Keyori replied nervously, scratching the back of his head.

    "Oh. Well you should pick something soon. Not much time left after all, the front customer replied. "Maybe you can be..." The conversation then drowned out after everyone else started talking again.

    Over the next few days, Keyori and crew separately got their respective Halloween costumes from the local Suketto. First, on Tuesday Nozote was looking around for different types of clothing for some reason. A black leather jacket, dark purple long-sleeved shirt, black khaki pants, and black leather belt.

    The next day, Espy and Flare went and looked around for an interesting costume before Flare thought up an idea and went scrambling for random different clothes.

    Finally, on Thursday Keyori finally decided what he wanted to be for Halloween thanks to his customers. He too grabbed random different clothes for his idea. [I hope this idea pays off tomorrow night,] he thought.

    Then the day of Halloween came. Throughout the school day, instead of the teachers giving long (sometimes painfully long) lectures about ten next lesson or the previous quizzes or tests, they instead handed out fun Halloween-related papers, which would be turned in by the end of class for a grade. Stuff like crossword puzzles, word searches, those kinds of things.

    Flare was attempting to do one of the crossword puzzles assigned to her during 3rd period, which was what the camera was pointed at. "Jeez, are any of these supposed to make sense?" she said to herself, sounding rather irritated. The camera then showed Flare's both annoyed and irritated look. "This is supposed to be a Halloween assignment, right? So then why are the clues like freaking hieroglyphics?" Admittedly the clues were very difficult to understand. Even Espy had a little trouble with them. Eventually she did get it done...at the very last minute of class. "*whew* Never make me do something like that again, alright?" she told the teacher when she handed it in right at the bell was ringing.

    As for the word searches, a lot of the words were cleverly hidden between possible correct words that in reality were only parts of the words. Keyori and Maya were doing them, and both were struggling about halfway through. "Are all holiday assignments this difficult?" Keyori exclaimed with an irritated look on his face.

    Maya, on the other hand, had a very dead-looking facial expression. "Not the ones I've done."

    "Jeez, this feels like torture for my eyeballs!" Keyori exclaimed, his expression becoming more exaggerated.

    Eventually the school day ended as a whole. Everyone met at the front door of the building, and this time they all looked dead. Like they had just survived hell on Earth, or something of that nature. "Hey everyone." Flare looking the most dead.

    "So what's next for today's school Halloween extravaganza from hell?" Nozote asked, his tone exhausted.

    "Heeeeeey! You guuuuuys!" Suddenly, they all heard a familiar voice nearby. They turned towards it to see Ms. Nayano walking towards them.

    "Oh hey, Ms. Nayano. You survived too?" Keyori replied, waving at her.

    "It was torture!! How can this school expect students like you to complete holiday assignments of that difficulty before the end of class?!" Ms. Nayano's tone was one of panic.

    "So I'm guessing none of your classes finished either paper?" Keyori asked with a nervous expression and anime sweatdrop on his face.

    "Well, some of them finished one of the two. But I just gave everyone a 100 for trying," Ms. Nayano replied, smiling nervously. "Anyway, I think everyone went home to get ready for Halloween tonight. But I think we should look around just in case."

    Everyone nodded to each other. "Sure, why not?" Keyori replied.

    The five of them followed Ms. Nayano around through the entire school building. But really all they saw out of all of the hallways and rooms were just decorations and empty classrooms.

    "Did all they really do is just the decorations or something?" Keyori asked, his tone slightly irritated.

    "I guess so," Espy replied. "Maybe high school doesn't focus on Halloween much anymore since we're supposed to be older and more mature than the other schools. Oh well, guess we can have our Halloween fun tonight then."

    A couple hours later, Keyori and crew decided to eat and hang out at the local McDonald's. Keyori had the day off from his job since it was a holiday, but it was mostly spent at the school.

    Afterwards, it was getting dark out so everyone headed home to change into their costumes. Everyone but Espy in particular put on their costumes in a very specific order of clothing, so as to not mess up the styling of said costume idea.

    -3-
    A few minutes later, Keyori was the only one waiting at the park area. His costume was a bit...odd. He decided not to be any one specific character, and instead mix and match clothes to see what worked and what didn't. For his outfit this year, he was wearing a short black cloak over a dark green sweater, a pair of khaki pants, and some casual brown shoes. He was also apparently wearing a makeshift greatsword on his back...for some reason.

    "Hey there Keyori." He heard a familiar voice from behind him, so he turned around.

    "Hi the- !!" Keyori stopped when he saw Espy in her costume. She was wearing a girly pink buttoned top with white middle columns and fluffy short white sleeves, along with multiple white skirts stacked on top of one another topped with a pink flowery skirt. She was also wearing white gloves, white socks, and red heeled shoes with bows on the back. She was cosplaying as Madoka Kaname for Halloween. Keyori's cheeks were completely red.

    "How do I look?" Espy asked happily.

    Keyori looked at the costume for a couple seconds, and then turned away. "Hmm, how do I put this?" he told himself. Then after a couple seconds, he turned back towards Espy. "You look cute, I guess."

    "Hmm? What's wrong with it?" Espy asked, concerned.

    "Well to me, it just doesn't fit your overall style. It looks too girly," Keyori answered. "I always thought you to be wearing a Wizard costume or something. I think an outfit like that would suit Maya though. Maybe you should give it to her for next Halloween."

    "I thought it would look nice on me. Flare thought so," Espy said, smiling. "Maybe I will give it to her next Halloween." Her cheeks were red too. Then, all of a sudden...

    "GET BENT!!" They heard a loud male voice to Keyori's right and Espy's left. They looked to see a folded chair headed straight for them. Both of them dodged the chair, but then the person who threw it walked out of the shadows and revealed himself. It was Nozote, but he looked like someone else. He was wearing a dark purple long-sleeved shirt with a skull-and-bones icon on it, with a black Japanese-looking uniform blazer worn as a cloak, along with the uniform pants with white belt, and what looked to be bark brown business shoes. "So what did you think of that entrance?"

    "Nozote, please try to restrain yourself from throwing anything else tonight," Espy said sternly.

    "Pretty sure that wasn't meant to hit anyone. The line gave it away," Keyori told her. He then turned towards Nozote. "Kanji Tatsumi, huh? Gotta say, you're the only one of us who can pull that off."

    "You bet I am. You're a bit too lean to be him," Nozote said, going over to pick up his folded chair prop. "Besides, I had to throw my chair. It's the only way people would believe me to be Kanji."

    "Yeah, about tha-" Espy said.

    "THE ONLY WAY!!" Nozote shouted at her with an anime angry face.

    "Ok ok, I get it." Espy had an anime sweatdrop on her troubled face as she was motioning her arms in a pushing manner, almost like she was telling Nozote to back off a bit.

    Keyori then felt someone touching his right shoulder a couple times. "Umm, e-excuse me, um, Keyori?" Keyori and the other two turned around to see a nervous Maya in a yellow-and-black striped costume with flimsy fake insect wings attached to the back and a cute ball for a tail, along with a black hairband with bee antennae. "Umm, h-how do I look?" Keyori and Nozote were blushing madly.

    "You look pretty cute. It suits you," Keyori said, smiling.

    "Yeah, you look adorable," Nozote followed up.

    "Err, thanks." Maya was still nervous around the others. "But, isn't there someone missing here?"

    "That someone has yet to reveal her new identity!" And then Keyori and the others heard a heroic-sounding voice coming from the top of a nearby building. And when they looked towards the top of said building, they saw the silhouette of a familiar girl...but at the same time, not that familiar. "Evil is lurking in the shadows. The town of Asanagi is without a hero. I shall become that hero! For I am Saikou! The hero that this town needs and deserves!" As her silhouette was undone by the moon's light, Keyori and the others could see the 'hero's' familiar yellow-orange hair.

    "Saikou? Who the hell is that?" Nozote asked the others.

    "I dunno." Espy shrugged.

    The girl who called herself Saikou jumped down off of the building and landed perfectly on the sidewalk. She was wearing what looked to be a black leather one-piece swimsuit with long sleeves and a seatbelt around her waist, a leather eye mask, a pair of spy gloves, and over-knee heels. Also from the sight of her ears, she was a Flareon - which gave her away to Keyori. "So this is your Halloween costume, eh Flare?"

    Everyone else looked at her with blank expressions on their faces. AKA their eyes were dots.

    Flare then took off her eye mask while chuckling. "Yep. A hero of legend. Supposedly anyway," Flare replied. She then put her eye mask back on.

    "Now then. Since we're all here, let us commence Halloween!" Keyori exclaimed, everyone raising their buckets to the sky while exclaiming "Yeah!!"

    They first decided to head down Keyori's street. On all of the houses were the same old boring Halloween stickers that were on the school walls. Sometimes, however, Espy and Maya would both be creeped out by a unique prop, usually a plastic ghost or a spooky noise. Nozote and Flare felt a bit of a chill up their spine. Keyori, on the other hand, was completely unfazed by the scare attempts. "I'll at least give them credit for trying," Keyori said.

    At one of the houses, Keyori and the crew all knocked on the door simultaneously. "Trick or treat!!" they all yelled at the door. The door was then opened by a young male Hawlucha who greeted them by putting some of his candy into each of their buckets. Just Kit-Kats, Jolly Ranchers, boxes of Nerds, stuff like that. This happened for the entire street of houses, until they were all done with the street and moved onto another street.

    "This street's decorations don't have the same spirit as my street's do. It's like they're not even trying anymore," Keyori said, sighing.

    They continued knocking on people's doors until they came up to one particular house that unnerved everyone except Keyori. It was a two-story house, but the second story bedroom window looked incredibly creepy. It was stained in blood that said "YOU'RE NEXT, KIDS" followed by a creepy grin face, almost as if the killer intended for the trick-or-treaters to be the next target. Not only that, but the entire house's exterior was covered in spray paint of various colors, all of it saying different terrifying messages. And to make things even creepier, there was actually a makeshift thunderstorm above the house occasionally making a rumbling sound that resembled thunder. Espy and the others, especially Maya, was becoming legitimately scared of the house. They didn't wanna go near it. Keyori, on the other hand...

    "*whistle* Man, they really pulled out all the stops on this one. It looks amazingly creepy," Keyori said, praising the house's look as he walked up to the entrance. "Now come on, let's go get some more candy."

    Espy and the others reluctantly followed him up towards the doorway. Keyori rang the doorbell, and a young female Floette opened the door. "Trick or treat!!" everyone exclaimed to her. The Floette gave off a cheerful smile.

    "Nice work you did with the house, by the way," Keyori said, smiling. "Definitely gives off the murder feel if you ask me."

    "Oh. Well, my parents designed the house, so I'll thank them for you," the Floette replied, giving the crew some candy.

    A couple streets later, it was almost midnight and everyone was starting to head home for the night, all of them satisfied with the amount of candy they got. Keyori and crew went back to the park for one last stop of sorts. "Wow, we scoured all of the house streets in Asanagi tonight. It's a good thing we brought big buckets tonight," Espy said.

    "No kidding. Everyone liked my costume too," Flare replied cheerfully, her eye mask off.

    "S-Some of those houses were s-scary," Maya said nervously.

    "Yeah, those houses were nice. Didn't really scare me at all though," Keyori replied nonchalantly. "Least they tried though, I'll give 'em credit for that."

    "That's actually something that's been concerning me about you, Keyori." Espy decided to confront him. "You haven't been at all scared of any of the Halloween houses, no matter what they were."

    "Hmm? Well yeah, of course not," Keyori replied rather casually. "Maybe if I were just under a decade younger, then I would definitely be scared of them. But ever since i turned seven, I stopped being scared of traditional horror attempts." Keyori's eyes and forehead were completely covered in black shading.

    "So then, Keyori." Esyp spoke in a stern tone.

    "E-Espy, please don't," Maya asked nervously in a scared tone. She was hiding behind Flare when she said it.

    "No Maya. I will get to the bottom of this," Espy sternly replied. "Not only were you not scared of any of the houses, but you judged them based on their effort to scare people. So I wanna know one thing." Espy then dramatically pointed at Keyori. "Just what exactly is your definition of scary?"

    Keyori's entire body then slowly started turning black from the shoes up. Espy started looking shocked and a bit scared. Nozote and the others became more scared. "So you wanna see scary, huh?" Keyori said menacingly. Espy and the others became more and more scared the longer he stood there and the more his body turned black. And as his body turned more and more black, all of a sudden black shadowy tentacles and hands started appearing on top of the ground. Espy and the others' foreheads were covered in blue shading that was gradually watering out the lower it was, showing fear from them. Everyone around the park was also like this. And then Keyori's entire body turned black, almost like he was possessed by something. But then his body grew larger in size and shape. "I'll show you." Keyori's voice echoed throughout the park, as the shadowy hands unsheathed claws from its fingers. The whole park was incredibly frightened. Keyori's shadowy demonic form then unsheathed claws from its fingers as it finished growing in size. It then tried to rush towards Espy and the others. "I'LL SHOW YOU SCARY!! AAAAAAHAAHAAHAAHAHAHAHAAAAA!!"

    And just like that, everyone let out a terrified scream and ran for cover. Espy and the others, specifically, turned around and ran towards and hid behind the nearby trees and playhouses. Then, the next second, Keyori was laughing his butt off and everyone looked towards him and blinked. When they did, he was back to normal and all of the black tentacles and hands disappeared. It was like it never happened at all. "I got you all good, didn't I?" Keyori managed to say in between laughing.

    Everyone around the park then started laughing in joy and excitement. "I don't know how you pulled it off, but that was the scariest thing we ever saw tonight!" One of the townsfolk praised Keyori's sketch of sorts.

    Espy then came out with a very dead expression on her face, and approached and walked past Keyori a bit before stopping. "Never do that kind of thing again, alright?" she told him in a worried tone.

    Keyori had a troubled smile and an anime sweatdrop on his face. "You were the one that asked though," he replied.

    "I know," Espy said in the same tone.

    Everyone then went home to sort out their candy. Everyone got a couple Kit-Kat bars, a few Nerds boxes, loads of Smarties sticks, packets of SweetTarts, and a bunch of mini chocolate bars.

    As usual, feel free to read at your own pace.
     
  5. DiancieIsBae

    Merio12
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    Yache Berry ★★Amulet Coin ★★★Skull Fossil ★★★
    Chapter 5: Take Me Out To The Ball Game

    -1-
    Four days have passed since Halloween. The town seemed to calm back down to normal for the most part - everyone took down all of their Halloween decorations, ate most (if not all) of their candy over the weekend, and school went back to normal come Tuesday November 4th. It was Keyori and crew's lunch period right now, and they were sitting together at their usual spot just like most everyone does. Most of them had already finished their lunches.

    "So what do you think? If a world you were really connected to was suddenly destroyed, would you give up your own soul to bring it back?" Keyori asked, eating some applesauce.

    "That's a tough one. What would giving up your own soul imply?" Nozote replied with a contemplating expression on his face.

    "I, for one, would never give up my soul even for that world," Espy replied sternly. "For one, that world must have been destroyed for a very good reason. Not only that, but giving up your soul would mean certain death."

    "Not necessarily death. Sometimes you become something else," Keyori said.

    But before the conversation could go any further, the dismissal bell rang. Keyori and crew were left with expressions of blankness crossed with annoyance. "Guess we'll just leave it at that, huh?"

    After the school day ended, Keyori and crew met up at their usual spot - in front of the school fountain in case you forgot already, which is highly unlikely. The five of them were talking about something else - something unrelated to what they were talking about earlier in the day.

    "Good afternoon everyone." Suddenly, Keyori and crew heard an upbeat male voice that was gradually getting louder. They looked over to their sides (for Keyori, behind him) to see a quite electrifying male Electabuzz approaching them. Maya seemed to blush a little, her cheeks red after she noticed the boy looking at her. Handsome chin-length yellow-and-black hair, and a completely stereotypical-looking red-striped green baseball jersey and khaki pants, as well as a pair of average white sneakers and a green strapback hat that had a peculiar logo on it. He eventually noticed Keyori, and looked surprised. "Keyori! And Espy too. The two most popular kids in the entire school, side by side."

    Espy's cheeks turned red as she looked away from him and Keyori. Keyori, on the other hand, just smiled and closed his eyes. "Hmph, afternoon. So what brings you here?" Keyori asked.

    "Hold on a second!" Flare exclaimed rather loudly, backing up a bit with a super surprised look on her face.

    "Please Flare, try to keep your voice do-" Espy tried telling Flare to keep quiet, so as to not attract unwanted attention.

    "Aren't you a member of the school's baseball team?!" ...Unfortunately, much to her dismay, Flare instead shouted louder - this time with a bit more of a shocked expression on her face as she moved back forward, pointing at the boy as well. Espy just sighed in response, looking away from her.

    "Why yes I am. Though it's quite obvious from my uniform," the boy replied. "Satoshi Nakata, third baseman of the Asanagi Replicas baseball team." Keyori and Satoshi then shook hands. "Well I should be getting to practice now. See ya 'round!" But as the casual baseball Electabuzz started to walk away, a thought came to him. "Actually, that reminds me..." He turned back towards Keyori and crew. "Hey, can you five come with me to the baseball field? I think one of our coaches would like to ask you something."

    Keyori shrugged and started walking. The others did too, but then Maya spoke up. "I-I'm not so sure about this," she said. "What would they want with us?"

    "Well we won't know for sure until we go there ourselves. Besides, I don't think any of us have much to do today otherwise. Now come on, let's get going. Don't want them waiting on us forever," Keyori told Maya, him and the others continuing walking. Maya just sighed worriedly and walked along with them.

    A few minutes later, Keyori and crew arrived at the baseball field behind the school through one of the open fences. The place looked like any other run-of-the-mill baseball field - a grassless sandy field with slightly darkened straight lines connecting four outer plain-looking bases together, each base representing first through third and the home base. There were also a few baseball club members there, specifically a Marowak with long blonde hair who had the baseball hat on backwards and two hair strands went through the open area of her hat, a Farfetch'd with short grey hair who swung at the ball with his leek instead of a regular baseball bat, and an admittedly ordinary and surprisingly dignified Cubone who was too focused to even notice Satoshi come back with Keyori and crew. There was only one coach supervising these players, and all that Keyori could see other than his baseball uniform was his white hair and fluffy tail.

    "Sorry I'm late, sir. But I ran into some other students who might be able to help us out," Satoshi reported in, approaching the coach.

    The coach turned towards Satoshi, showing a rather...familiar face. "Oh hey, there you are. I was wondering if you were gonna come today at all," he responded. He then glanced towards Keyori and crew, not noticing Keyori right away. "So are they the ones you're referring to?"

    Keyori noticed his face, and immediately recalled the first day of school. He then gave off a surprised look on his face. "Hayato? Is that you?" he said in slight shock.

    The coach, hearing Keyori's voice, finally looked at him and let out a happy smile. "Keyori! How've you been, buddy?" he exclaimed Keyori's way.

    "I should be asking you. How'd you become baseball coach so quickly?" Keyori wondered. It was a logical question: Hayato didn't necessarily look the type to be a coach for any sport.

    "Are you implying I can't coach properly?" Hayato's left eyebrow kept twitching as he had an annoyed expression on his face, but still had some sort of smile. He then sighed, and his expression flushed. "I guess you're right. This is my first time being a coach, so I'm still learning the ropes, ehehehe."

    Hayato chuckled to himself a bit. Keyori also chuckled. Espy, on the other hand, looked a bit concerned and nervous at the same time as she glared over at him. "You two know each other?" she asked.

    "Yeah, we met on the first day of school." Keyori replied, looking back at Espy.

    After Keyori finished speaking, Hayato had a shocked expression on his face as he noticed Espy in the group. He ran over and grabbed Keyori. "Wha- Hey!" Keyori exclaimed as Hayato dragged him over a short distance away from the others. The white-haired kid then put his left arm over Keyori's head, and lowered both his and Keyori's heads together. "I can't believe you actually managed to win her over. Never thought you could do it." Hayato spoke to Keyori in a lowered voice, so as not to let anyone else hear.

    "Oh, I just told her after school. It was pretty simple," Keyori said back, smiling.

    Hayato's facial expression was definitely one of shock when he heard that. "Seriously? That's it?"

    "Well yeah, that was it." Keyori then felt an anime sweatdrop on his forehead - a bigger one than usual. "Did anyone here even try to confess to her?"

    "W-Well a few of us tried sending her love letters and such, but you're probably the first one who outright told her." Hayato said in a slightly surprised tone. Then, Satoshi approached him and Keyori by circling around them towards their front.

    "Uhh sir? Not to be rude or anything, but weren't we gonna ask them something?" Satoshi told them, mainly directed at Hayato.

    Hearing this, he immediately let go of Keyori. "Oh yes, right." He then directed his attention back to Espy and crew as Keyori rejoined them. "To start off, allow me to introduce some of our team's players." The white-haired coach then looked over towards the others. "Hey! Timeout for a bit!" He made a T with his hands, signaling the players to take a break. One by one, they all walked over to Keyori and the others. All of them except for the young Cubone, that is - as he seemed too preoccupied with practicing swinging his bat than listening to Hayato. He noticed this, and called out to him specifically. "Hey! Mr. Nakatomi! Break time!"

    "*sigh* What for? Can't you see I'm practicing?" the obviously annoyed Cubone replied in a quite unpleasant tone.

    "Hey, don't be that way Yuki. Come on over!" the older, more energetic Marowak girl yelled his way as she waved over at him.

    The snarky Cubone, whom the girl referred to as Yuki, sighed as he started walking towards the others, looking off to one side. "You too, eh Nanase?" Afterwards, when he joined the others by the fences, Hayato started pacing around a bit.

    "Right. Before we get down to business, let us properly introduce ourselves," the capped Cinccino said. "My name is Hayato Kanai. I am here as one of the coaches of this school's baseball team. The other coach, Tetsu Wakatsuki, is not here with us today. Nor will he be with us over the next two weeks."

    Satoshi, the yellow-and-black-haired Electabuzz, walked forward next. "Although I have introduced myself before, I shall introduce myself again. I am Satoshi Nakata, the team's third baseman." He tipped his hat downward a bit, smirking. "When it comes to the team, nobody is as fast a runner as I am."

    "He's not wrong. Not even our coach here can match him," the cheery Marowak girl confirmed as Satoshi stepped back to where he was before. "Anyway, I'm up next. Center fielder. Nanase Shiro is my name. I may not have anything special going on with me, but I still do my best no matter what!"

    "Your hat's on backwards," Espy told Nanase, pointing to it with her left hand as her body was faced towards Nanase's left and her arms were crossed.

    "Ehehehe, yeah I know. I just like having it on this way." Nanase was scratching the back of her head with a gleeful smile. She then changed her expression to a less so but still happy smile. "Say Espy, how's it feel to be back on the bottom again?"

    "That's not funny, Nana." Espy turned her head away a bit more than she already was, her face looking quite annoyed.

    "I take it you two know each other?" Keyori asked, confused and looking slightly towards Espy.

    "Everyone here knows Nanase. Everyone except you, that is," Nozote answered his question.

    Keyori turned his head the other direction, still keeping relatively the same angle as before, only negative. And his time, his eyes were vertical ovals cut off at the top by lines for eyebrows. "Ah I see."

    "If I may continue." The Farfetch'd kid, who looked quite a bit more matured than anyone else there, stepped forward.

    "Oh right yeah, go ahead," Nana said, walking back herself.

    "Thank you." This Farfetch'd had a seemingly distinct pair of eyes that stood out among all the others there. They looked frightening to the average unknowledgeable high schooler. "Please excuse my rather scary-looking eyes, I mean you no harm. I serve as one of the baseball team's ace hitters and the shortstop. My full name is Teiljo Asato. But if you can't remember that, then feel free to simply call me Tei. Whenever our second coach is not here, such as today, I dedicate some of my practice time to helping the other players with their own practice. I hope to be of some assistance to you all."

    "And last but not least." Hayato announced in a rather energetic manner as his right hand easy extended out towards the youthful Cubone. Teiljo walked back towards Nanase and Satoshi. The lone Cubone boy, however, looked off to one side, specifically the left side. "...Come now Mr. Nakatomi. Why don't you introduce yourself?"

    The kid just sighed as he unwillingly walked forward. "Fiiine."

    Flare had a confused look on her face. Keyori looked back at her and noticed this. "You ok Flare?" he asked.

    "That kid...his attitude..." she replied slowly.

    "Yeah he's something else, alright. We'll just have to get used to it for now." Keyori shrugged.

    "I guess," Flare said back. But her thoughts conveyed otherwise. [That kid...I don't know why, but his attitude seems very familiar to me. Not only that, but his appearance also looks like someone I've seen before. But...who?]

    "I'm Yuki Nakatomi. Backup ace pitcher of the team. Don't expect me to be nice towards any of you. You all may be in the same grade as me, but that doesn't mean you're the new talk of the town or anything." The kids snarky attitude continued to run through Flare's mind. But then Yuki pointed his bat towards Espy. "Especially you, miss Espy." Espy's expression became surprised as she turned her head towards him. "Don't think I've forgotten what you did to me last year!"

    All of a sudden, Flare's expression became a smile. She walked in front of Keyori and the others, approaching Yuki...who turned his head to the left away from her. "Oh yeah, I remember you now. You're that one kid we met in the lunchroom last year. Wasn't expecting you to get on the team." Flare opened her eyes slightly, looking a cross between creepy and devious. "Got what you deserved last year, didn'tya?"

    The Cubone then looked towards Flare in an attempt to reply to her comment, but instead opened his eyes wide, blushed madly, and tilts his head back a bit after looking at her expression, letting out a semi-loud "Aah!" He then calmed back down instantly, but was still blushing madly, and looked his head back to the left, a smirk on his face and his eyes closed. "Please. Trying to come off as a flirt won't work on me."

    "Eh?" Flare responded semi-softly. Then, after a second, she reacted by tilting her body away from Yuki, with a madly embarrassed expression on her face. "Ehhhhhh?!" Her entire face was red, and her head was fuming bursts of steam as she was waving her hands up and down in front of Yuki. "W-W-Wait! I-I-I didn't mean it that way! I-I swear!" Flare then tilted her body back forward, her expression now a worried yet cheerful smile while still blushing and her eyes now closed, and was also scratching the back of her head. "Ehehehehehe..."

    Yuki then stepped back with an annoyed expression on his face and his eyes closed. Hayato stepped forward afterward. "Well now that we're all acquainted with each other, let's get down to business." He was holding something in his left hand as he approached Keyori and the others, handing it to Keyori. It was a pamphlet.

    Keyori read the title real quick, which looked like it used the font for the Atlanta Braves. "Homerun?"

    "It's the 43rd annual Futomarian High School Baseball Tournament," Hayato replied quickly with a bright smile. "Each yearly tournament has its own name, and this year's tournament is, fittingly enough, named Homerun. We're participating in this tournament because we believe as a team that we have what it takes to take home the trophy. Asanagi High School may be well known for its education and students' growth potential. But the school's performance in competitions go unnoticed. Our goal this year in entering the baseball tournament is to show the world our true potential outside of education." Then, Hayato's smile turned into a slight frown as he looked down to his left. "But, there's a problem. Only three days after we won our first match last month, our two best players - Natsuo and Misoka Yamazaki, our main ace hitter and ace pitcher respectively - were involved in an unknown incident, and are now unable to play for an amount of time."

    "Unknown incident?" Flare asked.

    "Nobody knows exactly what happened to them. In fact, nobody knows anything at all about this incident," Yuki, seemingly angered judging by his tone, replied. He too then looked down to his left, with an apparent angry look on his face. "Those two were our team's star players in our last match. And now they've been put out of commission somehow."

    Keyori and Nozote pondered this for a bit. "Star players, huh?" Nozote said to himself.

    "Sounds like someone has a bit of a grudge against Asanagi," Keyori deduced. "I don't know who though, or for what reason."

    "To make matters worse," Hayato continued, "our second match is coming up in two weeks. And we don't know if Natsuo and Misoka will be able to recover by then. Which means we'll most likely have to play the match without them."

    Keyori and the others, as well as the entire baseball team, went completely silent. Only the wind could be heard. But then, Nanase spoke up. "Wait a second!" Everyone looked towards her, all with surprised expressions on their faces. "When we registered for the Homerun tournament, did we register as a 9-player team or an 11-player team?"

    Tei began pondering again. "If memory serves, I believe we registered as an 11-player team." Suddenly, a realization came to him. "Oh!" he exclaimed. "That's right. We played our first match with only 9 players, yet we registered as an 11-player team. That means we still have 2 open slots on our team for the tournament!"

    "Precisely." Satoshi answered him, pointing his right index finger up towards the sky. "And it's exactly the reason why I brought them here." He motioned toward Keyori and the others.

    "Hmm..." Hayato thought to himself for a bit, his ears his mouse-like ears flat. "Considering our current situation, this may be our only option. Although I normally don't like bringing outsiders into our problems like this..." He sighed to himself, then briefly looked as Keyori and the others, whom all looked pretty casual with their expressions, before redirecting his attention to Satoshi. He also brought his voice down to an aside only heard by Satoshi. "I'd say it's worth a shot. We'll ask them to join the team, but only for this upcoming match. By the match after, Natsuo and Misoka will most likely have healed up enough to return to playing."

    Hayato then directed his attention back to Keyori and crew, this time for more than just a subtle glance. He stuck out his right hand towards them. "Well, what do you say? Care to help us out?"

    Keyori and Nozote glanced at each other and smiled. "W-Wait." However, just then Maya spoke up. Keyori and Nozote had a surprised expression on their faces as they looked back at her. "Umm...The unknown incident...does nobody really know what happened? S-Something about this worries me."

    "She's right. This could just be a setup to get rid of all of us at once," Espy added. "We need to consider the risks of agreeing to this. But at the same time..." Espy went silent, seemingly thinking to herself. Her expression said so to the others.

    Nozote and Keyori looked back at Espy, then afterward just smirked at each other as they both closed their eyes. They then slowly reopened their eyes and walked towards Hayato. "We're in," Nozote said. "I may not play it much, but I like baseball. Besides, his seems like a serious case for you guys, and I wouldn't wanna let whoever's behind this to continue either."

    "Whoever's behind this...I wanna find out who it is myself," Keyori followed up in a slightly serious tone. "There's something about this whole ordeal that has me concerned, and I wanna get down to the bottom of it before it's too late, otherwise it won't be just the baseball team that takes an impact." Keyori seemed determined, but then eased up as his expression turned into a troubled smile with an anime sweatdrop on his face. "Plus, I haven't gotten any real exercise since I moved here."

    Espy let out an exasperated sigh, a troubled smile on her face as well. "I knew they would say that."

    "Yeah. Nozote's always been into physical activities ever since childhood," Flare replied, smiling as the two sisters looked at Nozote and Keyori. "I guess he's always been noble too."

    "But...I'm worried," Espy said, looking a little down. "This culprit...what if he or she manages to get Keyori? Or Nozote? What then?"

    "Come on sis, cheer up a bit. If anyone can stop this culprit, it's Keyori," Flare said cheerfully. Espy looked back up at Flare, a slightly less worried expression on her face with a slightly open mouth. A flashback then played in her head where Keyori kicked Nozote in his right ribs, sending him flying towards the lockers. It then smoothly transitioned to Keyori casually scratching the back of his head saying "I was only using 12 percent of my maximum power level".

    Then the scene transitioned back to reality, and the youthful Espeon put on a smile. "You're right," she said back to Flare before looking back at the boys chatting a bit with Hayato and the other baseball players.

    Flare then lost her smile in favor of a more determined expression as she stared at her sister, thinking to herself. [You don't have to say it, sis. I understand. You and I walked down this exact same path side by side.]

    -2-
    A few minutes later, it was back to baseball practice with the players. Nozote knew the basics somewhat, but quickly figured out that he was way out of practice with all of the motions. Keyori, on the other hand, didn't know much about how to play baseball at even a basic level. So Nanase, the long-haired backwards-hat-wearing girl, decided to teach Keyori herself

    "So Keyori, how 'bout we get you started with the basics, alright?" she said, sounding rather upbeat and cheerful. Keyori, while listening, was holding a standard baseball bat on his right shoulder with his right hand. He nodded in response. "Now, hold your bat out like this." Nanase held her bat out in front of her, her left hand directly under her right while both gripped the handle portion of the bat tightly.

    Keyori had an annoyed anime expression on his face. "I know how to hold a baseball bat, you know. I've had to play baseball a few times in elementary school," Keyori replied, holding his own baseball bat in front of him very similarly to how the Marowak was. Only his right hand was on bottom, and his left hand was on top. "You place your dominant hand below your other hand when holding the bat's handle, making sure your fingers line up well enough with your knuckles."

    "Yeah, there you go. You got it!" Nanase energetically exclaimed, smiling cheerfully. "Now, let's practice proper swinging. We'll start with posture."

    At the same time, the girls were standing near the gate they came in. Espy let out an exasperated sigh. "I think I should head home for now. I'm feeling a little exhausted," she said to her Flareon sister and Jolteon friend.

    "I'll come with you, sis." Flare replied, smiling as she put her left hand on Espy's right shoulder. She looked towards Maya. "What about you?"

    Maya let out a slightly surprised "Eh" as her eyes turned towards the other two. "I'll stay here and watch them for a while," she said with a cheerful smile.

    "K. Later." Flare said as she and Espy walked out the gate. Maya waved goodbye to them before walking over to the other side of the field to the stands.

    Meanwhile, as she was walking over there, Nozote was already getting the hang of proper swinging posture and was ready to start swinging. Satoshi was in charge of helping him out, though he felt that Nozote knew enough on his own to skip on ahead to swinging practice. There were a couple machines already set up ahead of time and ready to fire, two of them already being used by Tei and Yuki and the third one Satoshi brought over to Nozote. He also brought over a rather odd-looking small LED screen with a sensor on its side, seemingly attached to the baseball machine. "Now, these things can fire baseballs at various rates. So be ready." Satoshi then turned on the machine, set the firing rate to once every 10 seconds, and walked over to the side to observe Nozote's swings. Both Nozote and Satoshi heard a whirring sound coming from the machine after it was turned on.

    [Ok me. Just relax, and hit your mark.] Nozote thought to himself, in an attempt to ease himself up as he felt that he was being a bit too tense for just practice. Maya, in the meantime, arrived at the stands and sat near the right stairway she came up. Just then, however, the machine shot out its first baseball with a puffing sound, its speed clocking in at around 90 miles per hour. Nozote's eyes widened in surprise as he looked at the speedometer for a split second. [What speed!] he exclaimed in his head as the ball flew straight at him. In an almost panicked state, Nozote swung at the ball as fast as he could. He did manage hit the ball close to the edge of his bat, and in doing so he swatted it towards the sky above the stands. The speedometer showed a 107, showing that the ball was sent flying outward at 107 miles per hour, as well as the speedometer having a second sensor on top. Maya looked in shock and awe at the ball, letting out a long but soft "whoa".

    Seeing both the ball's trajectory and the speed on the speedometer, Satoshi whistled. "That's a home run right there, pal. You put quite the power into your swing," he commented. Then a slight smirk came onto his face as he tilted his baseball cap a bit downward. "Now let's do a few more hits just like that." [I'm not doubting his abilities, but part of me is under the impression that maybe that hit was just dumb luck on his part.]

    Then, after a couple seconds of waiting and Nozote regaining his posture, the next baseball was fired off - the speedometer once again showing a 90. However, unlike last time, Nozote was calm and hit the ball exactly the same way he did the first one. The ball's trajectory was relatively the same, and its speed was a whopping 101 mph. Satoshi's eyes widened a bit in surprise of the fact that Nozote's second hit, while being slightly slower than his first, was still faster than 100 mph. He relaxed once more, looking over at Nozote with confidence. A dnas the next few baseballs were shot out and hit by Nozote with consistent trajectories and speed outputs, Satoshi thought in his mind, [No doubt about it. He definitely has similar abilities to Natsuo.] Maya was also watching all of these hits, and no matter which baseball hit it was, she was always in awe of Nozote's skill.

    She then looked over at Keyori hitting his first baseball - one thrown by Nanase herself. There was another speedometer right next to her that tracked the baseball's speed, which showed a solid 87. Only 3 miles slower than the baseball firing machines. Keyori was calm when he hit the ball, and did manage to send it into the air. But it was at a slightly lower trajectory than Nozote's hits, and the ball's speed was only around 85 miles per hour. "Not bad, not bad. Still got a ways to go though," Nanase remarked, looking at the speedometer.

    After a couple more minutes of Keyori and Nozote learning and getting the hang of swinging the bat and hitting the baseball, it was on to pitching practice. Nanase and Satoshi decided to pack their belongings and head home for the day after Hayato told the two of them that they were done with practice. So instead, Teiljo was in charge of teaching the pitching lessons, as designated by Hayato before the batting practice ended. Yuki was there alongside him because he needed someone helping him out, and Yuki was the only other member there. Keyori was on the right side and Nozote was on the left.

    Maya, who was still sitting at the stands, started to feel a bit tired as evidenced by her yawning occasionally. In fact, she was laying against the concrete wall to the left of her, her eyes starting to close. She was also starting to see herself in a classroom much like her English class. That is, until she heard a plastic crate full of baseball gloves being dropped down on the ground. The sound it made alarmed her, and she jolted off the wall with her face having wide scribbled circles and a big red line running across her cheeks. "Aaahh! I-I-I'm wide awake, I-I-I-I promise!" she blurted out loudly. Everyone then turned towards her, wondering what she was talking about. She noticed this, and laughed nervously while scratching her head. "Sorry I uhh, guess I was imagining things. Ehehehe..."

    Tei raised a brow. "You feeling ok over there?" he asked Maya. "Maybe you should go get a soda or something. There's a vending machine near the school' side entrance over there." He pointed to the distance towards the school.

    "Ok." Maya nodded, and got up to go there.

    As the same time, the Farfetch'd grabbed two baseball gloves from the crate, and handed one each to Keyori and Nozote. "Put these on your non dominant hands, since you'll wanna be using your dominant hands for throwing." Teiljo said, Nozote and Keyori both putting their gloves on their left hands, as both of them were right-handed. There were speedometers on Yuki's left and Tei's right sides, facing towards them so they could see the speeds of Keyori and Nozote's throws.

    "Alright. We'll only do about 5 or 6 throws to each other. It's getting rather late, after all." Tei said, glancing up at the sun and noticing that the sky was getting a bit darker and the sun was starting to set a little. "You ok with that, Yuki?" he then said, looking over at the young Cubone. Yuki, however, did not give a response. He didn't even so much as glance towards Teiljo. Instead, with a determined expression, he was staring intently at Keyori, who was staring back with a smile. Seeing this, Tei closed his eyes, smirked to himself, and opened his eyes again as he looked back towards Nozote. "Well, time'sa wasting. Let's get this underway."

    Nozote then readied up his stance, then went through the motions of throwing his first ball. Teiljo readied himself to catch it, and the ball impacted his glove. Satoshi's hands were pushed back a little bit from the added force, the speedometer clocking in at 94 miles per hour. Maya was amazed by this, looking in awe at the throw. [Incredible. Not only is he excellent with hitting, but his throws pack a punch as well,] Tei thought to himself, smirking. "Alright Keyori, you throw next." But Keyori and Yuki just stood there, continuing to stare intently at each other, Keyori also still smiling casually. The Farfetch'd then tried approaching the Cubone. "Hey Yuk-"

    Then, Yuki finally glanced over at the approaching Tei with a serious look. "Teiljo," Yuki exclaimed to him in a similar tone. Tei froze, his face showing a look of shock before he returned to his original position. Yuki then continued staring at Keyori as the wind began to blow calmly towards his left and Keyori's right, their hair blowing slowly to those two's respective directions. [Keyori...] Yuki thought to himself, a flashback occurring where several of the freshman girls were gossipping about Keyori. Saying stuff like "Hey, is that Keyori?" "I heard he beat Nozote in one hit." "He's so cool." "And handsome." [Ever since the second day of school, every freshman girl in school has been talking about you.] All the while, Yuki was seen among the crowd turning away and walking off. The flashback then ended, and the scene went back to reality.

    Then, after a couple more seconds of waiting, Maya came back with a bottle of Mountain Dew and went back to her spot on the stands. As she was doing this, Keyori's casual smile turned into a slightly arrogant smirk. Yuki noticed this, and braced himself as Keyori went through the same motions Nozote went through, ultimately ending in him throwing the ball directly at Yuki. When it passed the speedometer, it showed a similar speed to Nozote's throw - 91. And when it impacted Yuki's glove, he was pushed back a few centimeters. Maya's eyes widened in shock; she didn't think Keyori could be this good. In fact, after the ball hit Yuki's glove, it was still spinning for a couple seconds before slowing down and ultimately stopping. Tei whistled seeing this in front of his very eyes. "Not bad. You two seem to have quite the power in your throws," Teiljo commented.

    Yuki then closed his eyes, making a "Hmph" sound. He then starts to walk off to his left. "Let's get going. It's late," he said to everyone in the process.

    Teiljo let out an "Ah" of surprise, looking towards Yuki. "But what about the other throws?" he asked Yuki.

    Yuki stopped where he was, and reopened his eyes. "I don't see a need. They pushed us both back with their throws. Besides, we still have the next two weeks to practice. And it's already 5:30. We should get home and do whatever homework we have." Then, Yuki noticed Hayato to his right walking up to everyone. "Right, boss?"

    "I agree. We've had a long day of practice. Let's let these three process today for now," Hayato replied, addressing the two boys on the field and Maya on the stands.

    "Yes sir." Teiljo said, everyone taking off their gloves and caps for the day and cleaning up the field. This meant putting the speedometers and baseball machines back where they used to be - inside the gymnasium closet. On the way out, Hayato also handed Keyori and Nozote each a baseball uniform to wear in two weeks' time.

    That sunset, before dinner, Keyori and Nozote continued their training with each other at the park. Flare decided to come visit about 20 minutes in when Keyori was practicing hitting the ball, and she appeared to be alone. "Oh hey Flare. Just you?" Keyori asked.

    "Yeah. Just bored," Flare answered, sitting down on the nearby seat. "Espy was still asleep when I left. She'll most likely wake up soon if she hasn't already." The scene showed Espy asleep on her bed in her room. "And I got a text from Maya after I walked out the door, saying that she'll be helping out around her household before dinner."

    "I see," Keyori said.

    Nozote started looking anxious. "Hey. Wanna continue yet?" he said to Keyori, who looked back at him and readied up again.

    About a half hour later, Nozote heard his phone's ringer go off. "Huh?" he reacted, taking it out to see what it was. The camera showed his phone's screen. It was a text saying "dinner time. time to come home". Nozote put his phone back in his pocket, and took off his baseball glove. "Sorry, I just got told by my mom that dinner was ready. So I gotta head home for the night." He said.

    "No worries. It is getting pretty late, after all." Keyori replied, looking up at the sky and seeing that it was quite a beautiful shade of orange mixed with light red. Nozote then grabbed his backpack that was up against the bench Flare was sitting on, and walked away. "See ya." Keyori said his way. Nozote simply waved goodbye in response without turning his head.

    Keyori decided to pack his belongings as well, seeing as how he wouldn't be able to practice by himself. During this, Flare got up and stretched a bit since she was sitting for the entire half hour. Then she pulled out a phone, which was on silent, and saw that she got a text message from Espy saying "once you get home we'll discuss dinner tonight". After Keyori was fully packed, he put on his backpack, which was right next to Nozote's before he picked it up and left, and started walking. "Hey. Wait." Flare spoke up, stopping Keyori as he looked back at her wondering why she stopped him. She slowly walked up to Keyori, looking to her lower-left and holding her left arm with her right. "...Thanks," she said a bit somberly, redirecting her eyes back up to Keyori.

    "?" Keyori looked a bit confused. "For what?" he asked.

    "Well..." Flare closed her eyes, as the camera swooshed to the right, her bright light orange hair blowing in that direction as it transitioned to another flashback. It was of what appeared to be a young Espy walking slowly, looking rather somber. A young Flare was seen running ahead of her a little bit, smiling and giggling. "You see, sis and I were always lonely in our lives," she narrated. The young energetic girl stopped and turned around. Seeing her sister looking gloomy, her expression changed from a smile to a worried look. "I was always energetic and lively, while she was more lonely and such." The next scene, which was simply just cut to, was the pink-haired child sitting alone against the tree at their elementary school's playground during recess. "She never really liked talking to people back in grade school," A couple of her classmates approached her, all with various expressions of concern. "Always preferring to be alone." When the classmates approached her, she turned away and laid against her legs, which were wrapped around her arms. Flare was seen looking back at her with the same worried expression as she had before. "Of course I was worried about her." The young girl then approached her sister and sat down next to her so she could comfort Espy. "I may be more bright and cheerful, but...In the end, all we really had was each other."

    "W-What about Nozote? And Maya? Aren't they your friends too?" Keyori asked, the flashback swapping to reality real quick.

    Then the flashback returned. "Not at the time, no," Flare continued to narrate. "Nozote and Espy clashed a lot during grade school." The flashback showed young Espy and young Nozote facings towards each other, Nozote smiling arrogantly and Espy looking unamused. "Their almost complete polar opposite personalities, on top of how Espy was back then, clashed almost every time they crossed paths." The young pink-haired Espeon looked to her lower-left, seemingly trying to hold back her annoyance of Nozote. "I knew his intentions were good, but give the poor girl some space." Eventually young Flare stepped in front of Espy and raised her arm horizontally, as if to block Nozote from her sister. "Sometimes I'd have to step in and stop him. It usually results in, well," A few seconds after Flare started interfering, Nozote tried throwing a punch at her since he took her interference as a challenge. "...I'm pretty sure you can figure it out from there."

    "Y-Yeah." Keyori replied nervously as young Flare, without Nozote noticing, threw her punch and hit him square in the face. The result was Nozote falling on the floor with swirls for eyes, an open mouth, and a red bruise on his right cheek. Flare smirked triumphantly. The students around them were shocked at a girl beating a boy. The flashback then ended, shifting back to reality like it always does. The sky was already dark, and the sun had fully set.

    "As for Maya, we...never really walked by each other often." Flare closed her eyes, and breathed in and out real quick. "Well I should get going. Sis is probably wondering where I am right now." She shrugged as she said this, and then opened her eyes back up. "Again, thanks for being there for sis. It really means alot to us." She then ran past Keyori, turning around mid-run to wave back when Keyori turned towards her. "Well, later!" She then ran off supposedly towards her and Espy's house.

    Keyori turned his head towards the direction the sun set at, thinking out loud to himself for a bit. "Espy...Flare..." Flashbacks of both of them appeared when he said their names. His expression then turned into one of determination. "I promise I won't let you down. I'll make sure this culprit gets what's coming to him."

    The next few scenes shown were of the next few days after school during baseball practice time, and during Nozote and Keyori's practice at the park. The girls each came by at different times during different days, but either way they kept on practicing and practicing. Eventually, after two weeks had passed, the big day was upon them. The day of the Asanagi Replicas' second match in the Homerun Tournament. Keyori and Nozote each arrived on the scene wearing the baseball uniforms given to them by Hayato. The girls were sitting in the middle of the stands among the other students and fans there, all three of them sitting next to one another in the order of Flare, then Espy, and then Maya.

    Keyori and Nozote looked to their left and saw that Hayato and the rest of his team were in front of the center stands, a couple of which the boys didn't recognize. The long-haired Cinccino looked over at Keyori and Nozote, and waved at them to come over. The whole team looked over there as well after they saw Hayato's arm motions. The two made their way to join them. "You're here," Hayato said, smiling. "Just in time. Our opponents haven't arrived just yet, so we still have time to relax."

    "W-Wait, where's Tetsu? Didn't you say he would be with us today?" Keyori asked.

    "Something came up, and he couldn't come today. Shame though, he would've been a great ally to have today. Considering he didn't play alongside us in the first match." Hayato sighed. "For now though, let me introduce you to our other two team members."

    "Kenji Tsunoi is my name. Sophomore second baseman." To the right of Hayato was a kind-looking, almost gentlemanly Combusken with rather sleek light orange hair similar to Flare's and spoke suavely. In fact, after Keyori and he shaked hands, he noticed off in the corner of his eye that Flare was staring in awe at him. But when Kenji looked over at her, she looked away blushing. Maya seemed to be doing the same.

    Nozote then walked up to the other team member, who was a very tough-looking Mightyena with the most Grey-like hairstyle he has ever seen. "And you are...?" Nozote asked, sticking his hand out towards the boy.

    "Okura Shibuya," he said, shaking Nozote's hand. Afterwards, however, he simply turned to the opposite side of the field.

    Nozote had a slightly perplexed look on his face. "...What's up with him?" Nozote asked Hayato.

    "H-He's always like that. Don't worry about him," Hayato nervously replied, an anime sweatdrop running down the side of his face. "He's a sophomore, and our first baseman. Doesn't really like speaking to others very much."

    "I see," Nozote said, scratching the back of his head.

    Keyori then decided to stand against the wall of the stands behind him with his hands in his pockets. "Took you long enough to get here. The rest of us already got here 15 minutes ago." Yuki, who was seemingly waiting for Keyori to be freed up, said to Keyori while walking over to him. A second after Yuki finished speaking, however, everyone in the field could hear a slightly loud mic screech from the nearby speakers, followed by the voice of the announcer in the room on the opposite stands.

    "Alright everybody, welcome to the second round of the 43rd Annual Futomarian Homerun Tournament. This is the third match of this round, and we have two very capable teams going against each other in an attempt to move on to the third round." the announcer said.

    "Well now, looks like it's about to start." Yuki said.

    Keyori got off the wall. "So which opposing team are we going up against today?" he said, the announcer still continuing his opening speech in the background.

    Yuki seemed to have ignored him entirely as he listened to the announcer. "On the left corner, we have our home team. The underdogs who have no experience with tournament-level play, yet took home their first victory due to their amazing team coordination and excellent player performance. They train long and hard day in and day out to make sure their games are at their peaks. It's...the Asanagiiii Replicaaaaas!!"

    The overall crowd, even the opposing side, cheered wildly when the team's name was called out. It seems even the opposing crowd had at least some respect or liking for the team, which came as a slight surprise to most of the team members. Of course, excluding Hayato. Yuki took this crowd cheering as an opportunity to answer Keyori's question. "So I hear you're from a town called Kayagame, is that right?" Yuki asked him.

    "Err, yeah. W-Why?" Keyori replied, looking over at Yuki. He didn't know why Yuki would answer such a question.

    Then the announcer continued. "Aaand on the right corner, we have the fan favorites. The overachievers."

    While the announcer was doing his whole spiel to generate hype from the fans, the young Cubone's eyes subtly looked over at Keyori. "Well then, you're in for a surprise." He then looked forward to see faintly lighter bodies coming towards the outside. "Look. Here they come now."

    As Keyori looked over to the other side's entrance to indoors, the lighter bodies of darkness slowly became lighter and lighter as they approached the outside light. And after a couple seconds, the team members came into the light, revealing their base red uniforms with grey vertical stripes, and unique One Piece-style emblem with the bats as bones and the skull being one large baseball with a cap on. "!!!" Keyori looked quite shocked; it was a team whose members he was very well acquainted with back in middle school as just casual friends. "That's-"

    Keyori was cut off by the announcer ending his introduction. "Give it up fooor the Kayagameeeeeeee! Styyyrikerrrrrrs!!"

    The entire team came out, all of the team members' appearances looking almost the complete opposite of the Replicas'. One of the Kayagame team members looked over at the Replicas, and noticed one thing. "H-Hey, isn't that Keyori?" one of the team members, a quite youthful-looking (for his age) Fall Sawsbuck, pointed out to his teammates. The other Strikers all had reactions of "Yeah you're right.", "Yeah, that's him.", and "I heard he planned on moving somewhere. I didn't think it would be here though."

    The commotion between the Strikers continued between each other, unable to be heard by anyone except them. "Seems they still recognize you, Keyori." Yuki told him. "We get the bottom innings this game, so we'll need to get into our positions. You and Nozote are on the right side of the field from here."

    Keyori nodded as he ran out to his general position, putting on his baseball glove in the process. On the left side were Teiljo and Hayato, with Satoshi on third base, Kenji on second base, okura on first base, and Yuki on pitching. The umpire was of course not on either team, but rather one supplied by the Homerun Tournament staff. "The Asanagi Replicas have all taken their positions on the field. Now, without further ado! Let's! PLAY BALL!!!" The crowd cheered wildly when this was said.

    -3-
    And thus the top of the first inning began - The Kayagame Strikers batting against the Asanagi Replicas. The announcer lowered the tone of his voice so as not to completely distract the players from playing, low enough to where the players zoned it out completely. The audience was also mostly silent, with only a few whispering or low-toned voices being heard. The batter, who had the baseball hat covering all of his hair so the audience couldn't tell his species, stood up, walked over to home base where the umpire was, grabbed the baseball bat off the ground, and readied his batting stance. He was left-handed, which was a rarity for baseball players, or really for any sport in Futomari for that matter. Yuki looked like he was deadpanning the umpire's glove for a couple seconds before bringing his arms up above his head, lifting his left leg upward, and then throwing the baseball directly at the umpire and batter. The batter tried swinging at the ball, but missed narrowly as the ball slipped just past the bat's edge and raced into the umpire's glove.

    "Styyyrike one!" the announcer yelled into his microphone. The second throw went pretty much the same as the first - the batter just missed the ball and it went into the glove. Yuki, knowing full well that the batter might be used to his fast throw, decided to throw a slightly slower ball. However, the batter managed to hit this one...though only just. The ball didn't really go very far, and Keyori lunged towards the ball and caught it before the batter could make it to first base. "Yer out!!" the announcer shouted.

    "Alright! Go Keyori!" Flare cheered with the girls from the stands, their side or the field all cheering wildly.

    Next scene shown was of the bottom of the 1st inning. A couple of the Strikers managed to get on bases, but received two outs before even scoring one point. First up on bat was the scary-looking Farfetch'd Teiljo Asato, who instead of picking up the bat off the ground like most of the others did, kicked it aside a bit and held up his leek for batting. Keyori, from the sidelines, batted an eye at this. "A leek? Is that legal?" he asked.

    "In theory, any type of stick that gives an unfair advantage in batting is considered illegal. However, Tei broke off one of his leek's ends, and straightened the other end with the rest of the leek. Thus, he can indeed use his leek in official baseball matches." While Hayato was speaking to Keyori, the camera was centered right at Tei's leek, which was straight and had only one end instead of the usual two, just as Hayato said. "It's only a tad weaker than the regular baseball bats, but he's at his best when using a leek." Tei was readying his batting stance to hit the pitcher's oncoming baseball, which was just thrown. Tei hit it splendidly into the air, and then started his run around the field, putting his leek against his right shoulder. "Nanase's bone is a different matter altogether. The bone itself is as hard as actual bones, meaning it can hit most objects harder. However, for some unknown reason, it can't hit baseballs nearly as hard as other objects, and it almost resists the bone's force for a few milliseconds. Therefore, bones are allowed as baseball bats." Hayato finished speaking as Tei managed to get to second base before the ball landed on the ground, meaning he made a solid double.

    Next up for batting was Satoshi, who was ready to electrify everyone's expectations. As the pitcher began to throw the ball, Satoshi noticed that the ball was being amplified by an energy the likes of which he had never seen before. It was surrounded by a visible aura colored red. "!!" Keyori noticed the energy as well. "That energy..."

    When the pitcher threw his baseball, it was engulfed in a blazing fire. Seeing this fireball come toward him, Satoshi hesitated and froze in place. But the fire dissipated as soon as it was within Satoshi's range so it wouldn't burn the umpire's glove or the wooden less flame-resistant baseball bats. But by the time he noticed it, it was too late as the ball went right into the umpire's glove without resistance. Once again, the audience hears a loud "Styyyrike one!" from the announcer, this one snapping Satoshi out of it. It seems the fireball not only froze him in place, but also put him in a bit of a daze.

    "What just...What just happened?" he said softly to himself, looking around. Then he noticed the ball in the umpire's glove, and immediately realized what just happened. "Oh...I guess I must've gotten faked out there." He put his hand on his forehead as he said this. He then sighed and readied himself again for batting. Once the pitcher was readying up his second throw, he noticed the ball be amplified by the same fire aura as the first. The ball was thrown, and engulfed in a fireball once more. However, Satoshi knew what it would do, and started charging his baseball bat with electricity and he instantly hit the ball the moment the fire dissipated. The ball was engulfed in all of the electricity Satoshi charged into the bat, causing it to fly right towards the sky. The announcer yelled out a resounding "Hoooooooome ruuuuuuuuuun!!" as both Teiljo and Satoshi ran around the field and touched home base. The left side of the crowd was cheering wildly at the new score of 2-0, with the Replicas in the lead.

    However, over the entirety of the 2nd inning and a good majority of the 3rd inning, the Asanagi Replicas were seen struggling quite a bit. From Yuki's pitched baseball throws being hit quite frequently and the hits resulting in at least doubles, and the Replicas missing their hits altogether and the hits that to land ending up being instantly caught, resulting in an instant out every catch. The score right now was 2-3, with the Strikers in the lead. Yuki was up next to bat, with Keyori on first base and Nanase on second.

    "Hey Yuki! Just take it easy out there, ok?" Hayato yelled from near the stands to Yuki, who was at home base getting ready to bat.

    Yuki looked like he had something on his mind. [In the previous game, Natsuo and Misoka were always cheering us on when they weren't betting or pitching. It's what allowed all of us to stay in high spirits throughout our match. But...with what happened to them, and how this match is playing out, I don't know if we'll be able to keep this up for much longer.] He grabbed the baseball bat off the ground, and started to ready up. However...

    "You can do it, Yuki!" Suddenly, everyone on the field heard a loud, high-pitched female voice coming from nearby. Yuki's eyes widened; he knew whose voice it was.

    "Yeah! Give 'em hell!" What followed was a medium-pitched male voice of the same volume. Yuki's voice then widened some more as he turned towards where he heard the voice coming from - the stands. The rest of the team also looked up there, some of them getting up first. And in the middle of the stands were two young adolescents, presumably a sophomore and a junior. The older one was a long, dark green haired Sceptile girl who had a small twig in her mouth, while the younger one was a Grovyle boy with short hair of the same color. Both of them seemed to be wearing your typical everyday casual wear, all colored different shades of green with some variation of yellow.

    "Natsuo? Misoka? Is that you?" Hayato yelled toward them, quite shocked.

    "The two and only!" Natsuo replied cheerfully, the two siblings pointing their thumbs towards them while they smirked.

    "But aren't you supposed to be in the hospital right now?" Hayato hesitated a bit before speaking again.

    "Well our doctor wanted to watch the game tonight, and he figured he could bring us with him no problem. It took a bit of explaining to the hospital staff, but in the end they allowed us to leave for now." Natsuo replied. He pointed to the left side. "Our doctor's over there." Over there, which was only briefly shown, was a man who had sophisticated dark purple hair, and a full doctor's uniform - complete with a lab coat because why not.

    Over on the field, Yuki was feeling and looking confident once again knowing the Yamazaki twins were there cheering the team on. He readied up fully this time, looking the pitcher right in the eye. Slightly alarmed at this, the pitcher just simply threw the ball as fast as he could without charging up any amount of fire energy into it. Yuki smirked slightly when he saw the ball come into his rage, making some of the sand beneath him float very closely around his bat, almost as if it were on the bat. "Hrrraaah!!" Yuki made his swing, hitting the ball successfully causing it to swirl around clockwise with sand dust spiraling around behind it. "!" Yuki wobbled around a bit, slightly exhausted from using his abilities, before beginning his run around the field while Nana and Tei continue theirs. Everyone cycled two bases, meaning that Yuki stopped on second base, Nana made it to third, and Teiljo scored a home run bringing the score back up to a tie of 3-3.

    The Replicas' crowd was cheering wildly from the excitement of Tei's home run. "Alright! Go Replicas! Yeah!" Maya, in particular, seemed to be brimming with energy. So much so that Flare and Espy felt an anime drop of sweat on their nervous faces when looking at her.

    Next up on batting was the team coach Hayato, who looked like he had a trick up his sleeve by the look on his face. [What's he up to? He's smirking in our direction.] Keyori thought, a perplexed look on his face as he stared at Hayato's smirk. The Cinccino picked up the bat, but dropped his subtle smirk as he faced towards the pitcher with a determined look. Instead, the pitcher had the smirk as he charged the ball in seemingly an instant, and threw it right at Hayato. But right before the ball got in range, Hayato swing at it. This shocked the entire audience, and even the pitcher. Keyori also had a surprised expression on his face, but then noticed that Hayato's swing slowed down immensely. [He slowed? Why?] he thought. Then the camera panned back over to Hayato, now the background completely black. Then, suddenly, another image of Hayato appeared and swung at the ball. [!!] Keyori reacted. And then a third. And a fourth. [Wait. That's-] Keyori was stopped mid-thought by the sight of a fifth image, which successfully hit the ball as it joined the other four images. The ball was sent flying tremendously high into the air, and Hayato ran as fast as he could across the field, along with Nanase and Yuki. Both the Marowak and Cubone made it past home base successfully, while Hayato made it to second before the ball landed on the ground and was grabbed. The announcer, of course, yelled out "Hoooooome ruuuuuuuun!!" when both players touched the base. The crowd cheered as the Replicas took the lead 5-3. [That was Skill Link. At will, the owner of this ability can create 4 other images of his or her own self. He can direct those images to either all of them replicate an action or each separate image make a different actions, all through his or her mind. The user can also mentally determine which images will make contact, and which ones won't. It's almost impossible to predict. You would have to successfully read their mind as the ability is being used in order to completely counter it. However, the images individually are only 20% as strong as the user, meaning they won't have much in the way of power unless they all make the same move.] Keyori thought as a low-quality demonstration was given on-screen. [That was Hayato's trick. He was using Skill Link to fake out the pitcher into thinking he completely missed the ball. Of course he would have a tricky ace up his sleeve. He is our coach, after all.]

    Nothing happened in the 4th inning at all, the score retained as 5-3. At the top of the 4th inning, Nozote caught a hit baseball from decently high in the air while the batter was heading towards third base smirking. When he heard "Yer out!!" he looked surprised until he noticed Nozote with the ball in his glove, then he walked over to his team looking disappointed.

    In the bottom of the 5th inning, however, with the score at 5-4 now due to the Strikers gaining a point in the top of the inning, Nanase was walking up for batting when she noticed in the corner of her eye a glimmer out in the other side's entrance. "!!" She looked quite surprised. Then, almost as if it knew it was seen, it vanished. Nanase still looked a bit surprised as she arrived at home base for batting. [Wha...What was that? And why did it vanish like that?] She thought to herself as she took her bone off her left shoulder, and readied her stance. She then noticed the exact same glare reappear. "!!" But then, the pitcher threw his ball without building up his flames, expecting Nanase to be too distracted to react in time. However, she noticed the ball being thrown, but wasn't focused enough to use her sand ability like Yuki was. So she simply opted for swinging at the ball, which she did...to pretty much zero success. The glare being on her mind caused Nanase to miss all three of her swings in a row. "Styyyrike three! Yer out!" she heard the announcer yell out, followed by the awws of the crowd. She let out an exasperated sigh as she walked back to her team.

    Keyori looked like he had seen a ghost or something. [!!] he reacted in thought. [I...I don't know why, but...For some reason I felt an imposing presence.]

    Then came the bottom of the 7th inning. The score didn't change at all up to his point, it was still 5-4 with the Replicas in the lead. Nozote was on second base, and Keyori was ready to swing his bat around. They had two outs at the time as well. He seemed confident in his abilities, as evidenced by the smirk he gave to the pitcher. This angered the pitcher, causing him to instantly throw the ball as hard as he possibly could. Hayato, from the sidelines, saw that the ball was going at speeds faster than 100 miles per hour, though only barely. However, Keyori didn't panic. Instead, he effortlessly swats the ball away into the sky, all the way past the stands resulting in what the announcer yells out as a "Hooooooome ruuuuuuuuun!!"

    The crowd cheered wildly as they usually do. Espy jumped up and clapped in pure excitement, shouting "You go Keyori!" while Flare and Maya slightly glared at her. Nozote simply ran for home base, while Keyori slowly walked around the perimeter seemingly to figure out where and how the Strikers were positioned in relation to how the Replicas were. The pitcher, on the other hand, was shaking in utter shock.

    "There's no way...That was my fastest ball...And he swat it away without any effort." The pitcher said as a flashback showing that exact scene played on screen. He then looked over at Keyori, who was walking past third base now. "Who...Who is this guy?"

    "He's nothing, that's what!" Suddenly, all of the players heard a menacing male voice coming from the Kayagame Strikers' entrance. The pitcher and Nanase both reacted with "!!", while Keyori simply reacted with "!" as he was walking towards home base. Most of the rest of the crowd were surprised, if not shocked, as well. They all heard footsteps that got louder and louder the closer they came to the outside. He was also chuckling a bit. And then, the light started to engulf the boy coming out - a normal-framed Gurdurr with black hair down to his shoulders, and a set of creepy-looking eyes. Also his forehead down to just below his eyes were covered in a menacing shadow. Natsuo and Misoka up in the stands immediately recognized him, and reacted with the same "!!" that the pitcher did. "There's no need to worry about these Asanagi Replicas. They're down two players and a coach today. And now, I'm here to help bring them all down for good."

    "Huh? Who is that?" Flare asked.

    "Ah! Ace Pitcher, sir!!" the pitcher nervously said.

    "So you're the rookie pitcher who's played up to this point. Thank you," the new boy told the pitcher. "Allow me to introduce myself. I'm Eichiro Higuchi of the Kayagame Strikers. I'll be taking over for the rest of the game. You just sit on the sidelines and watch for now."

    "Ah! Y-Yes sir!" The pitcher exclaimed as he ran off towards his teammates. Meanwhile, Keyori just stepped on home base and was now walking back to his team, bringing the score up to 7-4.

    "He's the one," Natsuo growled. The Replicas could all hear him in that tone.

    "! What do you mean, Natsuo?" Hayato said, everyone turning back to face him and Misoka.

    "That unknown incident," Misoka replied. Then a flashback played. "We were practicing baseball in our usual alleyway, where we always practice. Then, in the middle of our pitching and catching regimens, all of a sudden we see in the corner of our eyes a blazing fast knuckleball coming straight towards us!" Said knuckleball clocked the speedometer at well over 110 miles per hour. The two siblings managed to dodge it, but just barely. "Then he appeared. The boy named Eichiro Higuchi." Misoka stopped.

    "We don't know how," Natsuo picked up where his sister left off. "But someone must've given him our location. Since the alleyway we usually practice in is only known to us Replicas. Not even temp members would know about it." The outsider, Eichiro, then picked up a baseball from the bin. "But that wasn't all." ...And swung right as Misoka! The blow he gave her was a tremendous one, as it sent her back towards and impacting the wall, and left quite the bruise on the top of her left arm. "He was strong with his swings. He swung almost with the intent to kill us." Then he swung at Natsuo, striking him in the chest area and sent him flying in the air towards the garage door behind him.

    "Of course, we also didn't know his reason for attacking us like that." Misoka took over again. "But one thing was for certain. That boy, Eichiro Higuchi." Then, the flashback ended. "He's the one who gave us our injuries that day," Misoka exclaimed in response.

    All of the other teammates reacted with "!!!" while Flare looked slightly perplexed. "Wait, did I hear that right?" Espy and Maya turned to her, wondering. "That new pitcher that just came in is the one that caused this whole conflict?"

    "He doesn't look very pleasant either," Espy followed up. "At the same time, however, that pitcher spoke to him with fear and respect. If he's as capable as we've been led on to believe, then winning this game won't be so easy for them."

    Over on the field, Eichiro looked up at the stands to see who the Replicas were speaking to. Sure enough, he saw the Yamazaki twins up there. "Oh! Natsuo and Misoka Yamazaki! Aren't you supposed to be in the hospital a bit longer?" he mocked them. "But I guess it doesn't matter, since you're not playing in this match, are you?" He laughed to himself, while Natsuo and Misoka growled at him. "Now then, who's first to face me?"

    Hayato, knowing full well that this was his chance to avenge the Yamazaki twins, walked over and took up the baseball bat. "So the first to go down will be the other coach, Hayato Kanai. How sad; your ability may be unpredictable, but it's weak. It couldn't possibly compare to mine." The menacingly creepy Gurdurr, smirking, held his baseball glove in front of him, with his right hand holding the baseball in it. He started his motions to throw the ball, a huge surge of power building up in his right hand.

    Keyori's eyes widened as he saw this. "Be careful, Hayato. He's being serious." he yelled out to Hayato as Eichiro threw his knuckleball, its speed over 110 miles per hours, much like how fast it was in the flashback.

    Hayato didn't so much as bat an eye at the speeds. Rather, he seemed to have expected it from him if he was revered by the old pitcher. "Well so am I!" Hayato yelled as he swung his bat at the ball, triggering his Skill Link images to come one after another. And when the final one connected, he hit the ball. However, the ball's speed was simply too much for Hayato's somewhat lackluster physical strength, and the bat was knocked right out of his hands and sent flying towards Eichiro. "!!" he reacted. "W...What?" The umpire, on the other hand, managed to catch the ball. But he was slid back a couple inches due to the sheer power of the knuckleball.

    The bat, however, landed in the sand near the pitching spot that the Gurdurr was on. "My my, how the mighty have fallen. I told you your ability couldn't stand up to mine, and yet you challenged me anyway. Hmph." He picked up Hayato's bat off the ground with his right hand after temporarily taking off his baseball glove. "I guess people like you are too stubborn to realize when they're outmatched. But then, I guess crushing your very pride to the ground is also a reward in and of itself, now isn't it?" The menacing boy then took the baseball bat, grabbed it with his left hand as well, and then snapped it in two by slamming it down to his knee, which he brought upward in the intent to break the bat.

    Hayato felt his pride be crushed to the ground in one fell swoop, just as Eichiro said he would do. From the sidelines, Keyori had an angered look on his face. [Hayato. You fell right into his trap. I told you to be careful.] he thought to himself as he saw Hayato walk back towards him and the team with a disappointed look on his face. Keyori then directed his attention towards Eichiro. [So that's him, huh? The culprit who injured Natsuo and Misoka Yamazaki. His power...It's certainly strong. I can somewhat feel it from here.]

    The Gurdurr started chuckling a bit to himself. "Oh dear, how thoughtless of me. This whole time I was playing, I completely forgot to mention something." He looks towards the Replicas team. "Say, did the other coach Tetsu Wakatsuki ever tell you why he didn't show up today? Like, maybe he was asked to do a few house chores or something?" Eichiro was smirking all through his words.

    Most of the team started wondering themselves after he asked. Keyori's expression, however, seemed to not change at all. "While that may be a valid reason, wouldn't most coaches get those chores done beforehand anyway?" he replied. "And besides, I think Hayato would've told us his exact reason earlier if he knew."

    "Yeah...I really don't know why. All I know about Tetsu's absence was that I got a text message from an unknown number before I arrived here saying that he wasn't gonna be showing up." Hayato replied to Keyori. "I assumed it was his mother, so I didn't think too hard into it at the time. But now that you mention it, the exact reason was never given."

    Eichiro chuckled to himself, this time a bit more menacingly than before. [These guys know more than I expected them to,] he thought to himself.

    Meanwhile, Espy looked like she was zoning out a bit. [He keeps chuckling like that. He has to know something about Tetsu. But...what?] she thought.

    "It was last night. The incident happened last night," the Gurdurr boy began as the flashback did. An average-looking Pidgeotto with typical jock clothing (sports jacket and blue jeans) was seen walking down what looked to be a sidewalk near some alleyways. "Tetsu Wakatsuki was taking a casual stroll down the street, when out of nowhere he saw something gleaming to his left." Tetsu looked over to the alleyway and noticed that exact gleam Eichiro mentioned. Inside the alleyway was a shadowed boy who looked familiar to the reader, but the camera was pointed at an area below the boy's eyes so the reader couldn't tell. However, the boy was smirking. "He saw someone over in the alleyway, who looked back at him with quite the arrogant smirk. And then..." The shadowed boy raised his right arm in a familiar way, revealing a baseball in his hand. "...it happened."

    And then the kid threw it towards the alarmed Pidgeotto as fast and hard as he could. In almost an instant, it seemingly impacted something as the screen flashed white for a couple seconds before dimming back to normal again. Tetsu was shown lying on the ground, writhing in pain from the injury to his left shoulder, as evidenced by the dust and unnatural foldings on his jacket around that area. The flashback ended right then and there, Eichiro chuckling to himself.

    The team all had faces of shock and surprise after they heard this. Keyori, however, while he did look slightly surprised himself, still seemed rather suspicious of something. "Hold on a second. How exactly do you know about all of this anyway?" he asked the menacing Gurdurr boy out on the field.

    [He's right. It doesn't add up. How could he have known about Tetsu's injury?] Espy thought to herself afterward. [!!] Then it came to her instantly, her eye pupils shaking a tad. [Unless...!] She then got up instantly, turned towards the Replicas, and yelled in their general direction. "Keyori! The one who caused that was-"

    "!!!" Keyori reacted with great shock. "You mean... that it's..." he turned towards Eichiro and pointed at him angrily. "It was you, wasn't it?!"

    Eichiro was simply giving off a menacing laugh in response. "Indeed. It was me." The rest of the team gave off looks of pure shock and terror in response. "That's right. Your precious coach, the Pidgeotto known as Tetsu Wakatsuki, was taken out by yours truly! And you wanna know something else, Hayato? It was me who sent you that text message. At least I was kind enough to let you know ahead of time about his absence. But why isn't he here today, you might ask? Wasn't he supposed to be in the hospital along with the Yamazakis? Well, his sports jacket gave his shoulder some padding from my knuckleball. So his injury wasn't considered hospital-level. I can only assume that he is resting at home right now."

    Keyori looked angered at this. Suddenly, however... "You're wrong!" Everyone on the field heard a voice from the far side. It was the doctor from earlier. "Tetsu Wakatsuki, was it? He showed up in my office just this morning. He told me that he felt severe pain in his left shoulder, and that he wanted to rest in one of the open rooms for a time. I asked if he wanted to come with me to the game today, but he declined, saying that he was perfectly fine with watching the game on the TV. Speaking of TVs, take a look around you."

    Eichiro and everyone else on the field looked around some more. "!!" Eichiro looked quite shocked when he noticed one particular thing. The others looked his way and noticed the same thing. On the far left and far right ends of the field were giant LCD displays showing the doctor on screen. "What...What the hell?"

    "That's right, young man. This entire game has been broadcast on these screens this entire time, generally going unnoticed. They also amplify the voices of anyone zoomed in on the screen." Everyone in the stands could all hear the doctor's voice coming from the display's attached speakers. "Meaning that your schemes were all broadcast to everyone here!" Eichiro looked quite devastated by this; he was exposed practically the entire world, all because of his carelessness.

    ...Or so they thought. He eased up once again and regained his menacing smirk. "You're mistaken. Aren't there supposed to be announcers speaking on the TV broadcast?" Everyone reacted with "!!" at this thought. They knew he was right, especially the doctor; nobody thought to take that into consideration. "Now then, I grow tired of talking. Let us continue, shall we?"

    And they did, the rest of the 7th and 8th innings playing out rather quickly. The Replicas were unable to gain any points during their bats. Rather, all of the batters were struck out due to Eichiro's blazingly fast knuckleballs. The score when it reached the bottom of the 9th and final inning was 7-8, with the Strikers in the lead. The Replicas had two outs up to this point; they had their backs against the wall.

    Just then, Nozote got a text message on his phone. He had it on vibrate the whole time, but this one in particular caught his attention. It read 'Can you please come up to the room opposite of you?' He wondered why he of all people would get a text message from the announcer. But at the same time, he knew it would be important. "Hey guys, I'll be right back for now. You guys play without me, ok?" The rest of the team nodded, and Nozote ran off around the edge of the field behind the LCD display so as to not be seen by the other team. Meanwhile, Yuki walked up to the bat next. He seemed determined, almost as if he knew something that nobody else did.

    "So Eichiro. Do you think this will play out like every other throw?" Yuki told him, Nanase's Thick Bone up against his right shoulder. "Or have you really improved so much since then that you can actually defeat me?"

    Nanase saw her bone in Yuki's possession, and not against the wall like it usually was. She reacted with "!" and looked straight at Yuki. "Hey! Couldn't you at least ask before taking it?!" she yelled with an anime angry expression on her face.

    Keyori looked curiously as Yuki again. [Wait, does he actually know Eichiro or something?] he thought to himself.

    At the same time, Nozote entered the room and saw a familiar face. "!! Mukuro? Wait a second, you're the announcer?" he exclaimed.

    Mukuro nodded. He looked like he was playing in the game himself. "Their announce called in sick today, and they asked me to announce for him. It's done a number on my throat, so I'm taking cough drops in between speaking. Anyway, I called you here to tell you something." Nozote showed curiosity in his facial expression. "Keyori and Yuki might be capable as players. But you're the one who can defeat that Eichiro kid and teach him a lesson." A scene showing Nozote's body silhouetted with a quite relaxing background with different shades of red was shown. "You still haven't used your abilities just yet. What's holding you back from harnessing your potential?"

    "Potential? Abilities? I-I haven't felt anything yet," Nozote replied, the image still being shown.

    "Ah, so that's what's stopping you." Mukuro continued. "You simply don't know how to activate them in the first place." Mukuro smiled and closed his eyes.

    Over on the field, the menacingly creepy Gurdurr chuckled like always, and readied his throw. Yuki readied his swing at the same time, building up the sand nearby up around the bone. It was almost like the two were in a duel against each other. Eichiro charged his throwing arm with his powerful aura, and then threw his usual knuckle at blazing speeds. However, Yuki was used to going against these speeds, and effortlessly hit it into the sky. He then tossed the bone into the air, and started running around the field.

    "I'm sure you'll figure it out on your own." Mukuro said up in the stand room as this was going on. He looked outward and then back to Nozote. "Now go. It's your time to take home this victory." The ball landed on the ground after Yuki ran past first base. He stopped on second before the ball was grabbed, netting himself a solid double.

    "Hey, I'm back." Nozote said, rejoining the team.

    "What was that all about?" Keyori asked him.

    "Announcer wanted to say some choice words of motivation to me, that's all." Nozote then walked towards the home base near the umpire. "Now then, it's time we end this." [My set of swings will determine the end result of this game.]

    [If Nozote does end up missing all three of these shots, then Eichiro will have won and nobody will be able to stop him.] Espy was also deep in thought as she looked from the stands at Nozote. [But if Nozote somehow finds a way to completely counter Eichiro's knuckleball, then we might just win this. Espy's expression became a more determined look. [And I think Nozote still has something within him that just might do it.But the question is, can he use it in time?]

    Back over at Nozote, he picked up the bat and readied his stance the same way everyone else did. The Gurdurr pitcher just chuckled again. "So, you're the last batter up. Nozote Tsubake. You've shown no real outstanding ability all game, what makes you think you can pull an ace now? Trust me, even if you do manage to pull something off, it won't end up helping you in the end. My knuckleballs can't easily be countered by rookies."

    [Yeah, keep talking. But something tells me you've got a blind spot,] Nozote thought to himself.

    Eichiro, without winding up, powered up his arm and made his first throw. It was a knuckleball going at a standard speed for him, which went too fast for Nozote to successfully hit with his swing the first time. He came pretty close though, the bat's edge just missed the ball. "Styyyrike one!" the announcer called out as the umpire tossed the ball back to Eichiro.

    [I don't get it. He said I could figure it out on my own, but I can't seem to find the beginning.] Nozote thought. Then came his next throw, which Nozote successfully hit with his bat. Normally however, the ball would force the bat to be knocked out of the batter's hand. However, Nozote was strong enough to keep his grip for a few seconds before ultimately losing it and having the bat be tossed into the air by the force. The ball, on the other hand, lost a tremendous amount of speed and completely missed the umpire's glove. "Foul ball!" Since the ball landed within the area behind or parallel to the batter, it is considered a foul ball. Foul balls give strikes if the batter doesn't already have two strikes, so as not to stall the game endlessly.

    [I can only assume Eichiro has his abilities awakened a long time ago. That bastard. He's so cruel, even to the core.] Nozote continued his thought. Then, his face changed to one of surprise. [Wait. Core...That's it! Maybe since I'm a Fighting-type, my abilities come from the heart.]

    Meanwhile, the bat was in mid-air moving in slow-motion towards the Gurdurr, who stuck out his right arm to catch it. "Well now you put up a good fight with that second hit. But it looks like I have won this match." He then laughed out loud.

    "!!!" Espy was shocked; Nozote couldn't awaken his powers in that second hit, and now he might've just lost the game for everyone. [If that bat breaks, it's over. I know he can do it with this next hit. But...No! I can't just sit around and watch this happen!] As Espy was in thought, the scene kept transitioning back forth between her and the slow-motion moving bat. But then, before the bat fell into Eichiro's hand, it slowly became engulfed in a pink aura and froze in place.

    "? What the hell? Why is it stopped?!" Eichiro exclaimed at the bat. He then looked around him, panicking a bit. "!!" Then he looked up at the stands, and noticed it. Nozote looked up at where he was looking too, and saw Espy. She was standing up, her left arm stuck out towards the bat and engulfed in the same pink aura as the bat. She was using her telekinetic abilities to hold the bat out of Eichiro's reach so he wouldn't grab and break it. "You stupid girl! Don't you know that interference is illegal?!" Eichiro shouted in her general direction.

    "U-Uuuurgh! After what you did up until now, I think this is more than fair!" Espy shouted in response. "You've harmed three of our teammates so far! Who knows how many other innocent people you could hurt, or even kill?! I won't allow it! Not now! Not ever!" Espy then managed to move her arm to the left to the bat would fly back towards Nozote before her powers gave out on her. She almost completely collapsed back down on her seat.

    "!! Sis!" Flare yelled.

    "!! Espy!" Maya yelled.

    Espy chuckled a bit, her left hand on her forehead. "It's been awhile since I used my powers like that."

    Over on the field, the bat continued flying towards Nozote's direction. Ultimately Nozote caught its handle with his right hand as it flew over his head. He was smirking when he did this. Eichiro, on the other hand, looked shocked and quite terrified as evidenced by his facial expression. "You know, you've been a thorn on our side for a long time Eichiro. And now it's time; we're ending this now!"

    "You...You brats! You have humiliated me for the last time!" Eichiro blurted out suddenly. "I was supposed to claim victory effortlessly against you losers! But then, you exposed me. All of you exposed me! And then, you have the nerve to fight back against ME! Ace Pitcher Eichiro Higuchi!! But now! All of this will end in your defeat! Right here! Right now!! And then, I...I will revel in it! Do you hear meeee?! You all are nothing compared to me!" It seemed that Eichiro was losing it. So much so that he didn't even ready up a throwing stance, he just went for the fully charged knuckleball throw. And when he threw the ball, his cap flew right off his head. Nozote didn't even say anything, he just simply swung his bat and clashed it onto the ball with ease. However, the ball was slowly pushing Nozote's bat back ever so slowly. Nozote was gritting his teeth the entire time. Eichiro was laughing at this. "Do you see now?! Do you see how weak you are, Nozote Tsubake?!" He continued laughing.

    [He's lost it completely. All he cares about now is humiliating me and shutting us down,] Nozote thought, the background around him completely black as he was thinking. [Now is the time. Now's the time I show him who's boss.] All of a sudden, Eichiro stopped laughing and looked at Nozote's arms. They started, only faintly, to glow a bright red. [My heart trembles with strength! My soul burns brightly!] And then the glow became a strong flaring aura, a vast amount of white coursing through it. All of a sudden, Nozote started pushing the ball back towards Eichiro slowly.

    "What? No! It...can't be! Your power! It can't be this strong!" Eichiro exclaimed in absolute terror.

    "Say good night!" Nozote yelled out. He then effortlessly swung the knuckleball back to Eichiro as it raced toward him at blazing fast speeds. The same speeds Eichiro threw the ball at initially. The ball impacted the Gurdurr's face, specifically his mouth and nose, causing him to lose his footing and slip into the air, blood coming out of his mouth. When this happened, the knuckleball flew up into the sky without ever coming down, Eichiro losing a couple teeth as a result and falling flat on the ground in defeat. "Hoooooooooooooome ruuuuuuuuuuun!!" The entire crowd on both sides was cheering wildly as Yuki and Nozote both made a mad dash around the field. And when Nozote stepped on the home base, the scene froze on that exact frame for a couple seconds.

    In the end, the Asanagi Replicas took home their victory with a score of 9-8. Nozote was next seen staring at his arms, which still had the flaring red-and-white aura around them. "So this is my power, huh?" he said to himself.

    From the announcer's room, Mukuro was looking at Nozote from the window. "I knew you'd figure it out, young man." He said before turning around and walking out of the room.

    A couple hours later, Keyori was seen chatting it up with some of the Kayagame Strikers. They had a nice time catching up with each other on life. It was definitely a relaxing and heartwarming moment after the game. "Hey. Keyori." Just then, they heard Hayato's voice as he was walking up to them. "I need to speak with you and Nozote for a moment."

    Keyori nodded and walked over to him. The Strikers decided themselves that it was time they got going to the bus to head home. They were all exhausted from the game. Slightly disappointed as well, but they were glad that the schemes of Eichiro Higuchi were put to an end.

    Keyori and his friends all met up in front of the entrance gate. Hayato and his team, including the Yamazaki twins, were in front of them. "Well I can't thank you enough for helping us out here today. It's kinda sad to see you have to leave the team after this," Hayato said. "But hey, a promise is a promise. These two will be healed up before our third match, so you don't have to worry." He addressed the Yamazaki twins.

    "Have fun with your little lovebird, Espy!" Nanase said cheerfully.

    "Oh shut it," Espy replied, looking away. Nanase and a couple others laughed in response.

    "Well so long, you guys. Later!" Hayato and the others all said goodbye before heading back in front of the stands.

    Keyori and the others turned around and walked through the entrance gate to head home together themselves. "You did it, Keyori. Nozote." Espy cheered with glee.

    "No Espy," Keyori replied, closing his eyes and then reopening them. "We did it."

    As usual, feel free to read at your own pace.
     

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