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On Opposite Shores

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Present Day: Hasetsu, Kyushu, Japan

Yuuri Katsuki stares at the rolling waves amidst the sun-kissed sand. Shadows of seagulls dance across the sand, the occasional white-grey feather blown past by the salty breeze. His eyes hold no hide no tears, all of which already spent three months ago in Sochi. His arms fold around his knees, and except for the pounding of the sea, all is quiet.

He ignores the gentle notification pings of his neural processor, whispering of unread but downloaded net-sends and emails from Minako, Phichit, Ciao Ciao, Mari. . . Even Otabek sent one. Although if he really needs help with programming in PL+, he should know by now to ask Phichit or Ciao Ciao.

He has been watching the ocean move for over a week now, far away from Washington D.C. or a neural access port. It’s a good thing. He would rather not see the other combatants glare at him for dying so quickly in the Eighteenth Amendment Battle, where six Sino-Russian combatants and six Euro-American combatants use drones in space to fight each other. And shot to smithers by Nike of all combatants possible within the first ten minutes. . .

How embarrassing.

Plus almost all of his sponsors, including the mega-corporation Komodo United Company, left him after dying fast to Nike. He didn’t bother showing up for All-Asia Combatant Competition or World Championship, especially with Vicchan—

Vicchan.

The truth is that Yuuri doesn’t even know how he even passed the two qualifiers to become one of the six Euro-American combatants. As only a dime-a-dozen combatant from Japan, Yuuri should had not been in the high-stakes Amendment Battle, in which the outcome determines whether or not an amendment to the World War III Treaty passes.

But as his dark eyes focus on the grey-blue waves drawing themselves back again, a sudden thought strikes him.

He is completely bored.

*OOS*

That realization has Yuuri dragging his feet back to his room in his family’s onsen. Splattered across the walls are posters of Nike’s call sign, a golden laurel wreath simple but elegant in design. Several promo posters for various games popular in Yuuri’s childhood decorate the space in between. Yuuko’s gift to Yuuri, a beautiful poster of Viktor Nikiforov in his Olympics free program costume, hang overhead Yuuri's bed.

He remembers that poster. It is the last one he put up before he became a combatant full-time and simply didn't return home for six years until now.

Sighing, he picks up his suitcase, dig through his unpacked clothes, and finds the black box containing the satellite connector. He gently places it on his desk, plugs it into an outlet, and begins setting up the connection. A light on the box flickers orange than switch to green.

Yuuri climbs onto his bed and lays back. Readying himself after being offline for over a week, he turns on his wireless receiver.

He closes his eyes.

Streams of data and information processes through Yuuri’s neural processor. To a normal human being, this large input of data would be enough to send them into a sudden seizure and potential sudden cardiac arrest. But to Yuuri, it is something normal.

He completely ignores the net-sends from friends and the emails from Minako and his old sponsors. He finds his way to his newsfeed, finally catching up to the outside world.

The Onion: Florida Man Looks Forward to World Not Ending Again 2 days ago

Combatant World: Opinion - There is no room for romance in combat in the messy aftermath of Russia’s Diva - Blue Fairy split 3 days ago

Business Weekly: Komodo United Company moves 100,000 American Jobs to 3rd World South American Country; American wages “are too high” say Komodo CFO 1 week ago

NPR: President Plisetsky’s Senior Advisor Steps Down Amidst Sex Scandal 4 days ago

Ruska News: Opinion - Viktor Nikiforov, Men’s Figure Skating Olympic Gold Medalist and Russian President’s New Junior Political Advisor, Knows Nothing About Politics And Should Stay Far Away From Government Issues 2 days ago

Entertainment Weekly: We are in LOVE with Yuri Plisetsky’s State of the Union Address outfit 2 weeks ago

Entertainment Weekly: King JJ Announces collab with a rock band for new combatant music! 3 days ago

Combatant News: Russian Government Announce Nike’s Retirement From Combat 4 hours ago

The last headline has Yuuri freezing. His newsfeed stops running, and he pulls up that article. That one article he really hopes is clickbait and not actually truth. But he knows Combatant News has always been truthful.

Combatant News Report

Russian Government Announces Nike’s Retirement From Combat

4 hours ago

By Ana Dorsey in Moscow, Russia

At the footsteps of the Office for Russian Combatants, a planned news conference about this season’s combatant placement turns into a media storm when Yakov Feltsman, Director of Russian Combatant Program, announces Nike’s sudden retirement from combat.

As many people know, Nike’s career as Russia’s combatant spans over a decade long. His debut in the Annual Treaty Amendment Battle #5 remains one of the best combat in Nike’s career and ended the two-year streak of America’s Nightshade. Nike retained World Champion title for World Championship #9 to #14, a five year streak only broken when the Russian government announced he would not be returning for World Championship #15.

Nike is considered Russia’s top combatant and perhaps the greatest combatant of all time, despite government-controlled media claiming Georgi Popovich, who is better known as Diva by the general public rather than his current call sign “Maleficent” and is the official representative of Russia, is Russia’s top combatant.

“It is really surprising,” says Dr. Francis Reeves of Harvard University. “Nike was in top form in the Eighteenth Amendment Battle. Cao Bin's retirement is not that surprising, because he is expected to leave for his successor, Green Dragon. I could had easily seen Nike combatting for the next three years.”

Nike debuted at the same time as China's Cao Bin (call sign: White Dragon). Cao Bin's fifteen-year career as China's top combatant has prepared him for his new role as Assistant Director for Chinese Combatants.

A tweet from Oxford University's Christian Brown says, “Nike is one of the few government-sponsored combatants Russia has. I wonder if President Nikolai Plisetsky has a hand in Nike's sudden retirement.”

Yuri Plisetsky, First Son and currently a state-sponsored combatant, is better known by his call sign, Ice Tiger. Affectionately known as the Russian Punk by the general public and his fans, Plisetsky is the grandson of Russian President Nikolai Plisetsky.

Christian Brown isn't the one who suspects deeper plots in Nike’s retirement. #WhyDidNikeRetire is now trending on Twitter. A look at the hashtag will find general accusations throw at Yuri Plisetsky's Twitter account.

Regardless of why Nike retired, current and future combatants are eager to fill in the space Nike left behind.

Canada's JJ Leroy (call sign: King) latest tweet sets the challenge for the next top—

Yuuri closes the article. He glances up at the ceiling up ahead, ignoring the symbols of Nike on his walls.

Nike. . . Retired.

He doesn't understand why.

*OOS*

10 Years Old: Hasetsu, Kyushu, Japan

Stuck to the flatscreen in the onsen's eating area was Yuuri's nose. Playing the live feed of the Annual Treaty Amendment #5, the flatscreen flashed between various cameras. Close ups moved into panorama shots as fighter drones weaved between each other. Vicchan wiggled in Yuuri’s lap.

“Yuuri!” called his mother. “Too close to the screen. The guests can't see!”

Hugging Vicchan close, Yuuri scooted back. “Sorry!”

His breath held as he watched as America's Nightshade danced through weak spots until she killed yet another Sino-Russian combatant.

“What's the score?”

“Four Sino-Russians dead. Only one Euro-American down,” answered Minako, downing a bottle of sake. Minako worked for the Japanese military, but that was the most he knew about her. She was better known for her awards in ballet.

“Wow, Nightshade is killing it today.”

Allied with the Euro-American alliance, Japan should be rejoicing in victory tonight , Yuuri thought. Another easy year. There will be parties. His father might open more bottles of sake at Minako’s request.

A sudden flash of light at the screen jolted a camera. The livestream pulled back in time to see the explosive death of a Euro-American drone. A fast-moving dark object spiraled at two Euro-American drones in battle formation. Swerving into a barrel roll, the faster drone pulled into the direct flight path of a Russian F-64 space missile and burst into nothing but dust.

“Whoa! What was that?”

Yuuri's eyes widened, squeezing Vicchan in his arms. He could not look away from the screen. The second drone smashed against a hidden satellite surrounded by space dust. Just within two minutes, three Euro-American combatants were knocked out of the battlefields, evening the numbers between the two warring sides.

Quickly flying through the remains of man-made debris, a Sino-Russian drone fired three missiles in rapid-fire succession. Nightshade cleanly avoided the missiles, only for the missiles to knock out the other Euro-American combatant flying in the two-drone formation. Two missiles enter Io’s exosphere.

Blinking at the screen, Minako drank her cup empty and then commented, “I warned them of the new Russian combatant. To not underestimate him.” She loudly planted her cup down on the table.

Yuuri examined the Sino-Russian drone that took out three, maybe four, Euro-American combatants, and his mouth dropped in surprise at the deft movements the Sino-Russian combatant displayed.

Minako moved to sit by Yuuri, her head facing the screen. “The Russian government calls him Nike.” She curled her arms around her stomach, her legs crossed on the floor.

Nike weaved in and out of space junk, moving fast enough to the point Nightshade could not lock him with her missiles. The other Sino-Russian drone followed Nightshade, the two Sino-Russian combatants cornering the American.

Yuuri could not remember a time where Nightshade fought a two-against-one battle. She was always more of a team player, stronger when someone had her back. This new player, this new Sino-Russian combatant, was a mystery. His first debut, and it was on an international stage with a name that was either true or arrogant and egotistical.

“Nike. After the goddess of victory.”

The three drones circled around Io.

“Most people believe it’s arrogant for a combatant to name themselves after a god,” Minako continued. “But I think for this Russian combatant, it fits.”

Nike suddenly braked in the turn around Io, sending Nightshade into a dangerous spiral as she desperately tried to avoid him. Both Sino-Russian combatants launched a missile at the American drone, sending it into oblivion.

Completing the orbit around Io, the two surviving drones dropped their flags. Nike pulled the Russian flag behind him, displaying the full pride of the flag to the cameras. The vibrant colors of Russia flew by in a stream, seemingly glowing in the sunlight. Behind Nike was his fellow Sino-Russian combatant, the red-yellow flag of China dragging.

As Yuuri watched the Russian drone flew out of the camera’s view, a single thought marched through his head.

I want to play on the same battlefield as you, Nike.

*OOS*

Present Day: Hasetsu, Kyushu, Japan

“I’m glad to see you still practicing ballet, Yuuri,” says a familiar voice behind him. “I’m surprised you remember the security code after all these years.”

Yuuri blinks into the mirror to see Minako at the door of her private ballet studio. He spins around in a perfect pique turn. “Minako-sensei!” His neural processor instantly brings up her military profile.

Name: Minako Okukawa / 奥川 ミナ

Military: Japan Air Self-Defense Forces

Rank: Major General, OF-6

Status: Active

Origin: Hasetsu, Kyushu, Japan

Security Status: Top Secret Limited LANDLOCK-16

Yuuri clears it away. Her profile is nearly the same as the first time he ever saw her profile. The only difference is her rank and security level. Wiping the sweat at his brow away, he asks, “What are you doing here? I thought you are still in France.”

Minako-sensei was a renowned prima ballerina as a teenager before she spent the mandatory two year conscription for Japanese military service. She even won a Prix Benois de la Danse award and then reenlisted as an officer in Japanese Air Self-Defense Forces. Last thing Yuuri heard about Minako is that she was in Normandy to oversee the launch of a few Japanese drones, though clearly that information is outdated.

“I came to see how you are doing.”

Yuuri turns around and begins moving into an arabesque, his muscles stretching without falter or hesitation. Lifting his chin, he looks away from Minako’s reflection. “The Russian government announced Nike retired.”

Minako nodded. “I heard. I think out of all the Euro-American combatants, both past, present, and future, you are the only one who mourns his retirement.”

“He retired unbeaten.”

“Regardless of what Nike did, what are you going to do, Yuuri?”

When Yuuri handed in a notice of indefinite vacation to his boss, he had plenty of paid vacation leave he never used. Theoretically, he could stay in Japan for another four months while still being paid, but his commanders, which include Minako, would never approve of that long of a vacation. If Nike never retired, Yuuri might have stayed another week in Japan and then maybe return to being a combatant for a chance to be on the same battlefield as Nike.

But now. . .

He isn't sure what to do with himself.

“Celestino would be happy if you return, Yuuri,” Minako tells him, pulling off her black suit jacket. She stretches in the mirror, the fluidity of a prima ballerina evident in her graceful limbs. “As a combatant or strictly as a full-time instructor.”

“Instructor?”

Minako pushes on. “Yes, he told General Yang that he would like to have a more relaxed schedule so he could focus on the Spire’s firewalls and security.”

Ciao Ciao usually teaches the combatants programming and tactics. Before Sochi, Yuuri was his assistant instructor who sometimes taught basic programming while mainly focusing on his career as Japan’s ace combatant.

The first word on the tip of his tongue is no, but what came out is something else. Yuuri lowers his leg and turns to face Minako, who is perfectly spinning in a pirouette.

“I’ll think about it.”

*OOS*

Yuuri zips up his Japanese windbreaker jacket as he passes through the sliding doors of the Ice Castle. The rink is freezing, but then again, it has always been. He moves past the front desk, looking for any signs of life. He moves to the rental desk where there is a pile of brown skates of various sizes. A brown-haired woman reaches up the shelf to place a pair of skates away, the hem of her skirt lifting up slightly and her feet standing on tiptoes. Skates safely stowed away, she leans her weight back and brushes a hair away from her eyes.

She is still as pretty as the last time Yuuri seen her.

“Can I rent some skates?” he asks.

“Sorry, public practice is over—” Yuuko stops mid-sentence, her eyes widening at Yuuri.

As soon as Yuuri sees her face, her military profile instantly pops up in his neural processor.

Name: Yuuko Nishigori / 西郡 優子

Call Sign: Amaterasu

Military: Japanese Air Self-Defense Forces

Rank: Second Lieutenant, OF-1

Status: Reserved

Origin: Hasetsu, Kyushu, Japan

Known For: Figure Skating - Women’s Singles; 1-time Junior World Championship Bronze Medalist; 1-time Junior Grand Prix Silver Medalist

IP: 8372:jp3:yn83::029:dk9:001

Security Status: Top Secret Limited LANDLOCK-8

Yuuri quickly ignores her profile. Smiling broadly at her, he asks, “Do you still remember how to skate, Yuuko?”

“Of course, she does!” pipes up three identical voices from behind the counter. Three heads with pigtails glare at Yuuri for even daring to ask. Their tiny fingers rest between the blades of the ice skates.

She laughs. “Yuuri, you still remember Axel, Loop, and Lutz?”

The triplets.

He nods. “They have gotten bigger.”

“Yuuri! Last time you have seen them was three years ago when I took them to Washington! They are proud figure skating fans now!”

“Yuuri, long time no see!” says Takeshi, putting keys onto the counter and planting a pat on Yuuri’s shoulder. He pivots around the counter and strolls through the staff door, standing behind his daughters.

Like Yuuko, Takeshi’s military profile appears in his neural processor.

Name: Takeshi Nishigori / 西郡 豪

Call Sign: Tsukuyomi

Military: Japanese Air Self-Defense Forces

Rank: Second Lieutenant, OF-1

Status: Reserved

Origin: Hasetsu, Kyushu, Japan

IP: 8372:jp3:yn83::029:dk9:002

Security Status: Top Secret Limited LANDLOCK-8

Yuuri files the profile away.

Yuuko and Takeshi. Amaterasu and Tsukuyomi, named for the Japanese gods of sun and moon. They were Japan’s top combatants before Yuuko retired seven years ago due to her pregnancy with the triplets. Takeshi retired six years ago after he realized he couldn’t split himself evenly between Washington D.C. and Hasetsu, where Yuuko raised the triplets with her mother. They used the money they earned as combatants to buy the aging Ice Castle cheaply and then renovated it to its former glory.

Yuuko plops a pair of skates on top of the pile of skates. “These are your size, Yuuri. Come back here when you have a clear mind.”

He freezes, his hand mid-grab for the skates. “Did Minako—?”

“Phichit net-send me a message,” she explains, petting the top of Axel’s head while she is occupied with a smartphone. “Plus, Takeshi and I always knew how much Nike meant to you.”

*OOS*

If combat is his first love, then ice skating would be his fourth love. Nothing too serious like Yuuko, who represented Japan at ISU Junior World Championship and Junior Grand Prix Series when she was thirteen years old. But he and Takeshi practiced long enough with her back in Washington D.C. to know the basic spins and jumps.

He skates every month or so, just enough for the ice to bite its way into his mind. The grace he learned from ballet easily transfers through every turn, every step, every push he makes, letting him glide over the smooth ice as if flying.

He pulls himself into a tight sit spin, his thoughts growing more and more clearly. Unlike Yuuko and Takeshi, he has no place to settle down. His family’s onsen runs well enough without his help, and he would rather be by the sea than smiling prettily at the occasional guest checking in. If he returns to Pentagonal Spire, then he could teach combatants and stay close to what he loves. And maybe, he’ll find a reason to retire like Yuuko and Takeshi one day.

He finds himself at the rental skate desk in front of Yuuko and asks, “Do you have a neural access port?”

*OOS*

Yuri Plisetsky ✓ @yuri_plisetsky 3 hours ago

Does it really matter why the Old Man decided to retire? Stop tweeting me about it, hags! #WhyDidNikeRetire

JJ Leroy ✓ @jjleroy15 6 hours ago

KING JJ is ready to be KING OF COMBAT! #NikeRetirement #AfraidoftheKING

Yuri Plisetsky ✓ @yuri_plisetsky 6 hours ago

@jjleroy15 still died to Nike. #NoOneIsAfraidofWhatsThisGuysName

Christophe Giacometti ✓ @christophe-gc 6 hours ago

I’ll be missing you in combat. Be well in whatever you do or wherever you go in the future, Nike. #NikeRetirement

Viktor Nikiforov ✓ @v-nikiforov 8 hours ago

A quick snapshot of the new treaty correction I’m writing up for President Plisetsky!

[img]

President of Russia ✓ @KremlinRussia_E 12 hours ago

Telephone conversation with Chinese Martian Exploration Council in regards Mars’ Hellas Planitia.

[link]

Euro-American Combatants Program ✓ @EACProgram 13 hours ago

We’re proud to announce a successful defense of Ceres by Combatants: Canada’s King (@jjleroy15), South Korea’s Thinker, and Kazhanstan’s Bear