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Arena Buddies

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Maybe it's odd, but you like it in the arena. It's not as noisy as the underground caves, and the fellow warriors' idea of being friendly involves a lot less stabbing. The fighting is still tough sometimes, but you're pretty good at dishing it out, even if you're not that strong yet. It's actually kind of fun!

You've had a lot of teammates over the past few weeks; fiends come and go, joining up and then realizing that they have unfinished business that they need to do. You're happy enough sticking around, but you've heard a lot of sad stories from other fiends, and you don't blame them for wanting to leave. Still, sometimes it's hard to make friends and then have them go away. Sometimes you think it might be easier not to make friends at all.

Still, when Shinra puts you on a team with a new recruit - a little green cactuar with bright orange head-spikes - you find it hard not to take a shine to him. He's so happy and energetic and fast, and you're not sure how he does it.

He chirps at you when he sees you. "You're a tonberry!" he says, then immediately pauses. "Sorry, I know that's kind of lame to say, but I've never met a tonberry before!"

"No, it's okay. I'd never met a cactuar either." You slowly wobble over to him. "The desert is too bright for us, so we never go there."

"Aw, too bad! It's really nice and sunny and warm." He jumps around. "Anyway, so how does this place work? That Shinra kid said it was a battle arena, so do we just fight?"

"Well, you and I don't fight. They'll probably find someone else for us to fight with, then have us battle the other teams. Until you want to leave, that is."

"Well, we'll see! I think it might be cool to see what I can do in a fight for a while." He flipped around, waved one arm, and shot a cluster of needles into the nearest energy shield. They flared brightly as they disintegrated. "That was cool, right?"

You nod. "Pretty good," you say. You think that the two of you will get on just fine.

He's really fast in battle, just as fast as he is outside of it. You have a hard time keeping track of him in the first few fights, because he's so fast - you'll be plodding towards one foe, in no particular hurry, only to see him dive in and skewer the monster with the needles. It takes you a while to get used to his patterns, or even to see them - but he always talks about his battles after they're over, and after some time you can work them out.

He talks a lot about anything, really. He would talk about anything and everything after battle, mostly about the desert and how nice and warm it was. He was really kind of soothing to listening to.

"What do you want to do when you leave?" you ask him once during a lull. He bounces back and forth, legs curled up in front of him, spiky arms wrapped around his knees. You wonder how he hasn't poked a hole in himself yet - you're a lot more careful with your knife than he is with his spines.

"I wanna play blitzball!" he said, chattering quickly. "An old friend taught me how and I used to practice every day so that I could go to Luca and play for a real blitz team!"

"Sounds like fun," you say, "but would they let a fiend on their team? I don't think they ever have before."

"I don't know," he says, drooping a little. "But I still wanna try!"

"Well," you say, "why don't we try asking if we can go to Luca and find out? They let some of us leave the airship sometimes, as long as we stay with Miss Yuna and the others."

"That's great! Yeah, let's do that!"

You don't get to go right away - it takes them a while to agree. You think that maybe they want to make sure you're both strong enough. But after a while Shinra tells you that you can go to Luca, but you'll have to make a few more stops afterwards.

He's happier than you've ever seen him when you arrive, and he nearly flies to the locker room. But it doesn't take him long to come back, and he's drooping and dragging his feet on the ground.

"They won't let me join," he says, sighing deeply. "I asked everyone, but they all laughed at me!"

"I'm so sorry." You'd been hoping that you would turn out to be wrong that time. "Um, is there any way I can help?"

He shook his head. "No... I'll have to think of something else, I guess. I don't want to disappoint that man who taught me how to shoot! I was just hoping that if I went to Luca, I'd see him, or someone would know who he was when they saw me using his move, or...."

You aren't much of a hugging type. It's hard to hug when your hands are full. But you kind of wish you could hug him, even if he might prick you a little bit. "Maybe if we ask to come back later, we can talk to someone else. Maybe he'll show up here."

"Hmmm. You might have a point there!" He perks up a bit, although his hands are still dragging. "Well, let's finish up whatever they want us to work on and we'll come back here!"

They walk was all right at first - Miss Yuna and the others even let you ride on the hover with them! It feels really strange, having the hair rush past your robes that quickly. Strange, but kind of nice. Maybe that's why he jumps around so much, you think.

But then, when you reach the road, you barely have time to turn around before you hear a cry behind you. You turn your head and see a gigantic bird hovering around you, eyeing you with hunger.

"A bad fiend!" your companion shouts, spinning around. "Wait, we get to fight out here too? All right!"

"Just be careful," you say, readying your knife, although it's not going to be easy to reach the This is the first time you'd had to fight a fiend on the road, and it's just the two of you - usually that strange Al Bhed man would be with you, or Miss Yuna. You shouldn't be nervous - you were a good fighter in the arena! - but you suddenly know very well that you're not in the arena, that you don't have the medicines that kept you going after the battle. If you get hurt or die out here, what'll happen to you? What would happen to him??

"Don't worry! I'll be just fine -"

He's interrupted when the giant bird swats at him with his claw, and you can't help it - you shriek when you see the gigantic thing engulf him, and then toss him across the highroad like he was nothing. You shriek, and your lantern responds to your anger, releasing a cloud of dark smoke that engulfs the angry giant roc. You can hear the bird cry out, begging for mercy, but you don't stop until it falls, its wings twitching as it dissolves into a cloud of pyreflies.

You're panting by the time you find his body, lying limply at the base of a statue. "Hey," you say, dropping next to him. "Hey, wake up. Please wake up!"

He's not moving, though. For a second you feel something in your eyes, and you try to blink it away. But if he dies, isn't it your fault? You were the one who suggested they go out to Luca. You don't want him to die -

Then you see him twitch, and his eyes opened, and he makes that familiar little squeak as he leaps up. "Oh my, I just had the best idea!"

You step back quick so that he doesn't stab you with his head-spines, and smile. "You're okay!" you say, your voice wavering. "I thought you were a goner!"

"You did? Why would you think that? I jump around all the time like that - well, sort of. I mean...." he trailed off, staring at you and going momentarily still. "Your eyes are losing water," he said. "That would be really bad back home. Are you all right?"

"Y-yeah," you say, smiling and quietly wiping the corners of your eyes with your robes. "I was just worried."

"Awww!" He made an awkward little chirping sound, turning himself away just a bit. "You don't have to worry about me!"

"I know, I know... it's just that I want to worry about you." you insist. You reach out and touch his hand with your knuckles, and maybe there was something else you were going to say, but you're just so happy he's there and okay that you decide not to worry about it. "Um, so... what was your idea?"

He's looking down at his hand-stem, and you see his round mouth twitch a bit. "Oh, um... well." He's tongue-tied, but only for a few seconds. "I was just thinking, we could make our own team! I'll talk to the other fiends in the arena and maybe train them if they wanna play, and then we could play in the tournament and win and surprise everybody!"

You grin. "That sounds really good," you say. "I don't know if I'm fast enough to play, though."

"Well, you're slow and you're pretty tough and nothing ever gets past you, so why don't we train you to be a goalie? I mean, you won't know til you try!" He giggled.

"Hmm," you think. "Do you think they would let me carry my knife to stab the ball?"

"I don't know... but we can find out!" He looked away again for a moment. "Besides... I really want you to be a part of this, so you'll at least give it a shot, right?"

"Yeah, I'll give it a try." you say. You feel unexpectedly warm, and not just because of the lantern this time. Even if you never find that person he keeps talking about, you'd rather spend time with him than go back home alone.

"Hooray!" He flops back on the ground. "I'm a bit dizzy, though. Can we take a break for a while?"

You look back and see the girls running up to you, and relax. They can take care of things. So you settle down on the grass next to him. "Yeah," you say. "I'll be right here."