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Beyond the Dream

Chapter Text

It was late. The moon was out, shining brightly. Perfectly illuminating the room that two girls were sitting in. They were watching a movie together, but neither of them were actually paying attention to it.

One of them spoke first. "Lisa."

"What's going on, Yukina?"

"Do you remember…?"

"Mmm. It really depends on what, so you've gotta be specific~ I remember lots of things, you know."

"The promise… The one we made when we were younger…"

"That promise, huh…" Lisa muttered.

 

In a field of flowers, two young girls were standing, facing each other. A man was standing slightly in the distance, smiling at the sight. The two girls had just finished a battle, and while one side lost, both of them were still smiling.

"Yukina. Do you like battling?" The man spoke.

The girl who had won turned to the man. "Of course, Papa! It's awesome!! Being with your Pokemon and being able to battle is the best thing ever!!"

"Then I'm sure one day you'll be amazing at it, Yukina." He stated, with conviction in his voice.

Yukina then turned back to the other girl. "Hey, Lisa. We should practice so we can become really good and be in a Pokemon league together!"

Lisa stared at her best friend for a moment, processing what she meant by that, before bursting into a smile. "That sounds like so much fun!" She wanted nothing more than to be able to be with Yukina forever, after all.

Yukina's dad turned around. "Do you two know what these flowers around us mean?"

The two of them looked at each other.

"Mmm… No." Yukina spoke up first.

"They represent gratitude. Whenever you feel lost about yourself and any choices you may make, think back to this time. Let the flowers ease your worries."

"Hmm, Yukina!" Lisa suddenly said, fully turning to face her best friend. She grabbed a couple of the flowers. Then, she put one behind Yukina's ear, and one behind her own. "We match! Thank you for being my friend."

"...Of course." She was blushing. How cute!

Lisa took Yukina's hands, holding them in her own. "I want to be with you forever. Can we make this a promise?"

"Yeah. That sounds nice, Lisa." Yukina smiled.

The memory was always a nice one to look back on. It was when she had finally obtained her first Pokemon, her beloved Shaymin. Yukina's dad had brought them to this field of gracidea flowers, and given her the opportunity to catch and battle with her first pokemon. Yukina won their first proper battle, of course, as she had been training her own pokemon for several months. However, that hadn't stopped Lisa from enjoying herself.

She kept that flower, and it was very dear to her. Good thing they didn't seem to wilt after being picked. Maybe it was some sort of sign…? She had no idea how that sort of thing would work, though.

Her friend seemed tense. "I can't help but feel like we've almost forgotten that promise."

"Hmm… Maybe. Why's this coming up? Getting all sappy on me~?" She teased.

Yukina glared at her, a slight blush forming on her face. "...It's nothing, actually."

Lisa narrowed her eyes. Something was definitely up with Yukina. What was it, though? It could be like six different things, knowing her.

"Are you doubting yourself again?" She hesitantly asked.

 

Yukina didn't respond for a few minutes. The movie was continuing in the background, but even that noise didn't fill the gap in their conversation.

After an awkward silence that lasted way longer than it needed to, she finally broke it. "I'm going to bed. We have a big day ahead of us tomorrow, Lisa. You should head back home."

"Mmm, you're cold as always~. Fine, I won't stay the night. Get some good sleep, you need it more than I do." Lisa said, standing up, stretching.

Right. It was finally going to be time for them to try and fulfill Yukina's dream.

Chapter Text

The next day, they woke up, packing their bags immediately. It was too early in the morning, but they had a train to catch, and it would be a couple of hours before they got to where they were headed. Unfortunately for both of them, that meant they had to get up at five in the morning. Lisa was more of a morning person than Yukina was, but neither of them particularly liked getting up early. Yukina's dad briefly wished them luck on their journey, well aware of what Yukina was about to set out to do.

"Ready?" Lisa asked, once they were out the door.

"Ready as I'll ever be, I suppose."

There was that familiar attitude Lisa had grown used to over the years. The nonchalance she'd grown to love.

 

"So, where are we actually beginning? I only have a vague idea of what you've got planned." Lisa asked, as they sat together on the train.

"Obviously, there's the tournament in the city we're headed to. It's a fairly large one. I'll be participating in it, but I doubt I'll really find most of the challengers to be difficult to face." Yukina stated. She wasn't even acting egotistical at all, it was just a fact. Both of them knew this. "The reason why I'm interested in it is because of some rumors I've seen online about several Hanasakigawa students participating."

That caught Lisa's attention.

"Hmm, you mean that school known for being super successful in teaching trainers?"

"The one and only."

This was going to be interesting. Maybe Yukina would finally be able to find trainers good enough to help her improve. Lisa was better than average, but due to… a falling out of kinds, for lack of better words, she was almost kind of rusty with battling. She wasn't good enough to really help Yukina out.

"Well, I hope you find the kind of people you're looking for. It sounds like things are going to get interesting from here on out-"

Their conversation was interrupted by an attendant asking if they needed anything.

"No, but thank you for offeri-" Yukina was interrupted by a yawn.

"Ah, actually, can we get some coffee?" Lisa asked, winking to Yukina. "Don't worry, I'll make sure yours has an ungodly amount of sugar."

"...Thanks."

 

Sayo was slightly nervous. It was going to be her first time participating in a larger tournament, and she had been chosen as a representative of her school. What if she wasn't prepared enough? Was her training good enough?

"You'll be fine, Sayo-chan." A voice cut through the chatter around her. Chisato's voice was confident, a confidence she only wished she could share. "I've been watching the previous rounds. There hasn't been a single trainer that could give you trouble yet."

"...Right, I probably should have been watching. Anything you've noticed?"

"It seems like most trainers here have lopsided teams that lean towards attack. Not many are thinking about the survivability of their Pokemon."

Another voice softly chimed in. "...There's been a lot of hyper-offense, yes… Some teams seem to be leaning towards trying to set up to sweep..."

How long had Rinko been there? "...Thank you both. Hmm. I've already submitted my team for this round. I'll have to plan accordingly."

"You should… be able to shut down any setups pretty quickly… Since you're allowed to see the other person's team, you can see... if you need to put your defogger up front..." Rinko offered.

Right. She had that as an option. Sayo blinked. She had been so busy thinking about simply having Intimidate up front to shut down the physical attackers that she forgot she had a disabler in the back.

"Oh, the current battle on the far side of the stadium looks interesting." Chisato suddenly said.

Sayo looked up to the screens. Then, she immediately found the one showing the battle Chisato was talking about.

A girl, presumably about their age, looked bored. She had long hair in a peculiar shade of lavender, and piercing golden eyes. She stood there, nonchalantly, and gave her Pokemon simple commands. The man she was facing had to be nearly thirty years old, yet he was clearly angry about how the battle was turning out. "If you had even an ounce of actual strategy, maybe you'd stand a chance against me." The girl spoke, the tone of her voice just as cold as she looked.

Sayo found herself captivated by this mysterious girl. She couldn't help but feel like she was similar to this girl in terms of ideals, and now she needed to know more. "...What's her name..?"

"...It hasn't said… They're too busy focusing on their… talking right now to show the names of the battlers…" Rinko muttered, clearly also shocked to see something like this unfolding.

"Sayo Hikawa, please report to the exit of the locker room. Your battle begins soon."

...Already? Just when she thought she may have found the type of person to help her improve…

"Make sure to take note of her name for me." Sayo said, turning around to head out to where the staff was expecting her.

 

She was anxiously waiting in the entrance for further instruction for what felt like an eternity. Everything from outside was muffled, but from the sounds of it, that girl from earlier won. She hadn't been able to catch the name, though.

Stop thinking about her, you need to focus on your own battle.

"Sayo Hikawa, please head out to the stadium now."

She did as asked, and walked out into bright lights and loud cheering.

"Now, everyone! Here's a representative of Hanasakigawa, Sayo Hikawa! She's one of the top students of the academy, and has had an incredible track record. Can she remain on a winning streak?"

It seems they had announced her opponent first, probably because she was the anticipated winner of the match. It was all part of a marketing strategy to make battles entertaining, one she didn't particularly agree with, but she just had to focus now.

"We'll allow the battlers two minutes to look at the other trainer's teams and pick four Pokemon to bring to the match. Here it goes!"

On the screen above, their teams were revealed. The audience went surprisingly quiet, which helped her to actually focus. As her two friends and classmates had predicted, this man's team was hyper offense. This was going to be boring, actually. Assuming the young man leads with a physical attacker, it'd be best for her to lead with... Mmm.

No other choice than Arcanine, really. What are the four he's most likely to bring...?  Hmm.. his lead is probably the Haxorus. He's probably got coverage moves on it, and thinks he can easily set up with swords dance. I can easily shut that down, though. Okay. Arcanine in the front... 

She had formulated a plan that would probably work. It would surely be fine... right?

"Okay! Time's up! Send out your first Pokemon, battlers!"

Both her and her opponent threw their pokeballs without saying a word. Who would it be...?

As her Arcanine came out, so did the opponent's... Haxorus. Her guess as to who he'd lead with was correct, but it didn't mean she had determined its moveset yet.

On cue, one of the announcers shouted, "Oh! Arcanine's Intimidate has dropped the Haxorus' Attack!"

The man looked vaguely irritated. "That's alright... Swords Dance, Haxorus!" He commanded, and the Haxorus started quickly darting around in an attempt to boost its attack back up from its lowered stage.

Sayo sighed. She hated being right, actually. "Arcanine. Will-o-wisp." Her Arcanine leaped forward and spat out fire, leaving the opponent's Haxorus with a burn.

"The Haxorus is now burned! It may have had the offensive advantage before, but it sure doesn't anymore!"

"What?!" He jumped back, genuinely shocked. "Haxorus, just go ahead and use Earthquake!"

The Haxorus was readying its move, for a moment too long. It seemed it wasn't fast enough.

"Before it can hit you, use Play Rough!"

Luckily, her Arcanine reached the Haxorus before it could attack, smacking it around in a hilariously playful manner. The Haxorus was letting out screeches of what could only be pain. Sayo felt somewhat bad. If only its trainer had trained it better...

 

"Oh, that was a critical hit! The Arcanine just got incredibly lucky... were the two evenly matched in speed?"

As the dust settled, her Arcanine jumped back, and it was clear the Haxorus was no longer standing.

The crowd yelled . "Haxorus is unable to battle! The battle is now 4 to 3, in Sayo's favor!"

Sayo let out a small sigh of relief, one that would hopefully not be noticed by the audience. "Good work, Arcanine." She said as it returned to her side while her opponent seemed to think about what to send out next.

"Go, Gallade!"

Sayo blinked. That wasn't necessarily what she was expecting. What was he planning...?

It's likely some kind of set that either utilizes a choice item or an assault vest. Except I already revealed that my Arcanine is a physical attacking one, so either he's a choice item user, or he's not thinking this through at all.

Given how stressed the man looked, it could easily have been both.

"Not switching, huh?" The man tried to ask, but was cut off by Sayo's command.

"Play Rough again, Arcanine."

"Gallade, Rock Slide! Try and keep it from getting close!"

That won't work, Arcanine is faster...

The Gallade was desperately pulling rocks out of the ground and trying to hit her Arcanine, but the dog Pokemon was too fast, and managed to dodge everything thrown at it.

"Oh, so close! It looks like the Play Rough connects! Will Gallade be able to withstand the onslaught...?" The announcer excitedly narrated.

 

 

Yukina was watching the battle currently going on with heightened interest. She was offered to be able to stay close by to watch the current match, as the staff suspected that she would end up facing this girl later down the line. Lisa was with her, allowed to be on the field only because Yukina had specifically asked for permission. 

"She's reading every move he's trying to make~."

Yukina simply nodded in response. This girl, Sayo, seemed to have a deep understanding of how to battle.

Her eyes were sharp and focused, not betraying any of her thoughts at all. Yet Yukina was able to see a brief lapse in her cool demeanor when she sighed after the Haxorus went down. Nobody else seemed to, though.

Was she just watching too closely..? Was she imagining that? No. She sensed something similar in this girl to herself. There had to be meaning in that.

"She's playing a very safe game, actually." Yukina finally spoke.

Lisa stopped and looked at her.

"Let me elaborate. She could have switched, and made a risk by doing so. She's given this man practically no information to go on. She could have switched to a different Pokemon and ended up revealing something she has hidden in the back. She could have also used a different move just now, and revealed that by doing so. It's also hard to tell what item the Arcanine is holding, if it's even holding any item at all."

"Oh, I see~! I kind of figured she just went with the best coverage move she had available to hit the Gallade with just now."

"Well, there's that as well. It's better to go for the move that will hit it the hardest, but it's also about not giving your opponent any more information than necessary."

"And the Gallade remains standing! A lucky break!" The announcer cut in.

Remains standing was an overstatement. The poor Pokemon was staggering. It kept on raining its Rock Slide, however, and finally managed to hit the Arcanine.

The Arcanine staggered, howling. If Yukina had to guess, that was probably about half of its health gone. It could easily keep going. The same couldn't be said for the Gallade, however.

Sayo's voice rang out. "Finish it off, Arcanine."

It used yet another Play Rough, and the Gallade fell over.

The crowd erupted into a roar. Why was everyone so shocked? It really wasn't a surprise that a trainer who clearly actually put time into learning to battle was defeating one that wasn't.

"Am I missing something here, Lisa?"

"What?"

"The crowd seems overly excited."

Lisa laughed. "Ahaha, yeah, they kind of do. Maybe that's just how this tournament is~. They were like this for your battle too, you know."

Yukina blinked. "...Really? I didn't notice."

"I kind of figured. You always get so focused when you battle."

True. She couldn't deny that at all.

"With the battle now at 4 to 2, still in her favor, what could happen~? Can he turn this battle around?" The announcer continued to narrate.

Would all tournaments be like this? Annoying commentary? Was this really the only way to reach the top...?

How did my father deal with any of this?

Yukina shook her head, and noticed Lisa glancing at her. "It's nothing."

"Dragapult, go!" The man shouted.

Sayo stood there, clearly deeply in thought.

"Phantom Force!"

The Dragapult quickly faded out of a visible plane of sight, into a different dimension.

For the first time in this whole battle, Sayo seemed to look surprised. The man was now making a strange move to try to turn the battle in his favor. What was his plan, though? To try and bait a switch here?

Actually, it's still possible that the Dragapult can make her Arcanine faint from the current health range it's in, especially if it completely lacks any training in defense. However, it seems like she's split the investment between speed and survivability. It could still take a full force Dragon Darts or Phantom Force. It's about a 50-50 shot. What are Sayo's options here...? Oh. That's an obvious one. Switch to Porygon2 and take absolutely no damage. It could also have learned a couple of coverage moves that could hit Dragapult's weaknesses. That is, however, assuming she brought the Porygon2 to this battle.

 

 

Phantom Force...? That is not the move I'd expect. Wouldn't Dragon Darts be a safer option?

Sayo thought to herself for a moment. She needed to decide on what she wanted to do, fast. Her Arcanine was at a bit over half health now, thanks to its leftovers. However, the Dragapult was likely trained properly, just from a glance. It would hit hard.

She didn't want to have to do this, but after hesitating briefly, she finally made her choice. Holding up the pokeball, she shouted, "Arcanine, Return!"

"Thank you, Arcanine. You've done well." She stated as it went back into its pokeball.

It was fairly obvious this man wasn't deliberately trying to bait a switch out of her. However, it seemed in his recklessness, he forgot she had an incredible counter to this situation.

Or maybe he didn't think she'd brought it.

"Come on out, Porygon2." 

The man's eyes widened.

"Did you really not expect me to see an obvious opportunity here...?" Sayo asked. "Since you can't change the Dragapult's command right now, it was the perfect opportunity for me to bring this out."

On cue, the Dragapult phased back into existence, except its attack completely phased through the Porygon2. The creature turned back, looking confused.

"Now, while it's close, Ice Beam!" Sayo commanded.

The Porygon2 quickly retaliated, able to smash the Dragapult from a close range with a huge Ice Beam. ...That hit harder than it would've normally. Did my Porygon2 just land a critical hit?

As the Dragapult screeched, a small cloud of fog from the cold air surrounded the two Pokemon on the field, just barely obscuring them from view.

"And it looks like the Porygon2 managed to land a critical hit! Can the Dragapult withstand such a devastating attack from such a close range?" The announcer excitedly spoke, a little bit too close to the microphone. The feedback rang through the stadium as the crowd went quiet, trying to see the result.

It would be close. She had no idea if this man had trained his Dragapult to be defensive or not. Sayo's Porygon2 was defensive, with little investment into its Special Attack. It wasn't trained to hit hard, but Dragapult had low defense and special defense naturally. Would it really be enough?

In a fit of panic, Sayo quickly tried to tell her pokemon, "Porygon2, come back where I can see you-"

The crowd erupted into noise before she could finish. The Dragapult was on the ground.

"No! Get up, that shouldn't have-"

"It looks like Dragapult is unable to battle!"

The crowd's cheering was so loud, it was almost hard for her to focus at this point. Three down. You can do this. What will his last Pokemon be, though...?

She knew what the options were, but glanced up at the display anyway.

As he returned the Dragapult to its pokeball, the man cursed something quietly enough that she wasn't able to catch it. He was very quickly losing his composure, possibly the worst thing someone could do in this situation.

"Okay, bring out your last Pokemon." The referee called out.

"Right. It's not over yet! Come on out, Charizard!"

Charizard... He could possibly be trying to bait me into switching into my Lycanroc, if he's thought that far ahead. However, it could be holding choice specs... He'd be locking himself into a terrible move for the rest of my team if he did end up using Solar Beam to read my switch. So he might not be trying to use Solar Beam at all here... What is he trying to do...?

 

 

Yukina couldn't take her eyes off this battle. This Sayo girl... They needed to battle. She needed to feel Sayo's conviction for herself.

As the man's Charizard came onto the field, the crowd was going wild.

"Will he be able to turn it around? A true reverse sweep? This battle really is keeping us all on the edges of our seats!"

"...I really can't help but feel the commentary is unnecessary." Yukina muttered.

Lisa laughed, but said nothing.

Charizard... It could easily be a choice user, perhaps Specs? It wouldn't really make sense for it to be Specs in this situation, but he likely didn't expect to have to save it for last. He could have decent coverage on it, but if it's locked into using one move, that is thrown out the window. If Sayo has brought her Lycanroc, this would be the perfect way to bait it out into a Solar Beam. However, Lycanroc is faster, and there is no bright sun to immediately charge the move. If he has taught it Solar Beam, it wouldn't even be the best choice.. I suppose another option to take care of the Lycanroc would be Scorching Sands, but if he guesses wrong and she sends out Crobat instead, he can't do any damage to it. Even if he did manage to take out the Lycanroc in one hit with Scorching Sands, she could still have Crobat hidden away in the back, actually... His least risky move would be just going for any Fire or Flying type moves he has for the extra power, even if they're not super effective. At least with Flamethrower, he'd have a small chance of burning the Lycanroc, which could be enough to allow the Charizard to stay standing for longer, if being generous.

"What will you do, Sayo Hikawa...?" Yukina thought aloud.

Lisa glanced at her, raising a brow.

"You really are invested, wow~ What's going through your mind, though? All I can tell is that it's going to be hard for her to defeat the Charizard without switching."

"Put simply, yes... If Sayo has brought her Lycanroc, now would be the perfect time to reveal that."

"Porygon2, come back!" Sayo's voice rang out, as if she had heard Yukina say that.

Time for you to reveal it, I suppose.

It looked like Sayo muttered a thanks to her Porygon2, but it was inaudible to anyone watching. Good to know that she not only has trained them well, but also appreciates them...

"Come on out, Lycanroc." She said, nonchalantly throwing the ball to send out her next Pokemon. She looked so detached to most, but Yukina could already tell she was actually analyzing every moment of the battle. Maybe it was because she was the same.

Is she... smirking? Am I the only one who noticed that just now?

As the Lycanroc was now fully visible, the audience went into a fit.

Yukina blinked, furrowing her brows. "Not only is it in dusk form which requires specific conditions to evolve, even moreso than either of the other two forms..."

"It's... it's the... shiny, right? That's what you guys into battling normally call the alternate colors Pokemon come in, right?" Lisa asked, clearly just as surprised as she was.

Yukina could only nod. The odds of getting one were so low... How on earth had Sayo managed to find one?

"Charizard, use Solar Beam!" The man quickly shouted upon seeing the Lycanroc, clearly panicked.

"Too bad you can't charge it in time... Lycanroc, Stone Edge!" Sayo countered.

The wolf Pokemon quickly stomped into the ground, summoning huge rocks that quickly grew in size, until the biggest one slammed directly into the Charizard.

The audience let out a roar as the Charizard promptly collapsed. There was absolutely no way it was able to battle after a hit like that.

"Charizard is unable to battle! The victory goes to Sayo Hikawa! She pulled out a 4 to 0 victory, and advances to the next round! As expected as one of the challengers representing Hanasakigawa!"

Sayo's Lycanroc approached her, and she uttered something inaudible yet again. There was a small smile on her face that most wouldn't catch.

"I need to talk to her, now." Yukina spoke, quickly trying to head over to where Sayo was.

Unfortunately, Sayo left the stadium too quickly for Yukina to catch her.

Lisa was running after her, shouting something at her that she didn't quite catch, probably something along the lines of "Wait up!", but she couldn't be sure. She finally stopped after a couple of minutes, when she was in a hallway on the inside of the stadium.

"Yukinaaaa! Why do you move so fast only when you're determined to do something?" Lisa asked, finally catching up to her.

"...Do I?" She asked, pausing to think for a moment. "...Never mind that, I need to ask staff where she went. I would assume she went back to one of the preparation rooms..."

Before she could even begin to try to find someone to ask, the speakers interrupted her. "Battles for today have finished! Trainers, you may now leave. We look forward to continuing round two tomorrow!"

It had hardly been ten minutes since Sayo's battle. There was one round after Sayo's, so it had managed to start and finish in that time. That would have interested Yukina, but she was preoccupied with trying to figure out how to find Sayo.

"Come on, Yukina... She may have left already, you know. We should just go out and see the city a bit, and come back tomorrow. I'm sure with how the tournament is ending up, that you'll be able to battle her yourself at the end of it."

Wait. She had forgotten in her state of focus that Lisa was absolutely right. She would almost surely have a chance to battle Sayo if the battles continued the way they were.

"...Fine."

For the first time in a while, Yukina was actually excited to see what the next day would bring.

Chapter Text

"Ooh, this place looks good. Come on, Yukina~" Lisa said, practically dragging Yukina inside.

"A table for two? Here, come right this way!" The girl serving them said, leading them to a table.

"...Did we really need to go out to eat?" Yukina asked as they sat down at a table next to a window.

"Of course~☆! You don't eat well unless I cook for you, and we're staying at a hotel for now anyway. While it does have a kitchenette, I thought it would be good to try out one of the local restaurants."

Yukina sighed. Lisa was always pushy with these sorts of things, so she couldn't really argue against her at all.

"I can't help but feel like I'm wasting my time. I could be planning out new strategies for the next round right now."

"You need to eat, though! You and I both know that if left to do your own thing, you would forget to eat."

Yukina stared at her for a moment.

"...Okay, maybe you're right."

"Soooo~ What'll it be?"

"We haven't even looked at the menu for a minute yet."

"Joking, joking~☆" 

They sat in silence for a couple of minutes as they both flipped through the menu. Yukina wasn't particular about food, unless it was bitter. However, because she wasn't particular, she tended to annoy Lisa when they went out to eat, because she would always take forever to decide what she wanted.

"Hmm, I'll probably just try out today's special, it sounds so good!"

"What is it..?" Yukina flipped to the corresponding page of the menu.

"...Spicy curry… Yeah, you're not a fan of spice at all… Hmm, why not try the ramen?"

"I don't particularly care, honestly."

Lisa sighed. "You only care about sweets~. That's okay, though. I like you that way~!"

Yukina felt her face flush, and she couldn't bear to look at her childhood friend. She quickly glanced away, finding herself looking out the window.

"...When did it start raining? Wasn't it just fine a couple of minutes ago?"

"Hmm. Dunno. Ah, don't worry, I brought an umbrella~ I checked the forecast because I noticed it was cloudy outside this morning. Best to be prepared, right?"

"...That's good."

 

 

"I can't believe you, of all people, forgot to bring an umbrella."

"...I was busy trying to prepare for the tournament."

"Does that not at all include, you know, checking the weather?"

"That was the least of my concerns…"

"What if you had suddenly gotten sick?"

The door to their hotel room opened suddenly. They both turned their heads immediately to the noise. In the doorway stood Rinko, looking scared.

"...Sorry, was this… a bad time?"

"Not at all, Rinko-chan. Sorry, could you hear us through the door?" Chisato said with a smile, her voice laced with that sweet venom Sayo had come to know, love, and hate.

"...A little." She admitted.

"...Did we really raise our voices that much?"

"That was mostly you, Shirasagi-san."

Chisato glared at her for placing the blame.

"Why are you looking at me like that? You're the one who was getting all worked up."

"...I'm going to sit out on the balcony for a little bit." Chisato said, grabbing her cup of tea and phone.

She quickly opened the sliding door, shutting it right behind her. They saw her take one of the seats out there, and she was presumably going to talk to someone. It was best to leave her alone for now.

"Sorry about that." Sayo quickly apologized. 

Rinko seemed to relax when she said that, and came to sit next to her.

"...You two sound like… an old married couple… It's kind of cute."

Seriously? I haven't told anyone about that, not even her. There's no way she figured it out… right? Sayo felt her cheeks heat up. She quickly turned away, she didn't want Rinko to see her like that.

Unfortunately, it seemed like Rinko noticed. "..Ah, that was kind of weird for me to say… Sorry…"

"...You don't have to apologize. It just caught me off guard." She quickly responded.

"...Right…"

The silence between them at this point was crushing. She needed to change the subject. "Oh. I didn't get a chance to ask earlier. How did your battle go? I wasn't able to watch, so I wanted to ask. It sounds like it ended pretty quickly."

"Oh..! Uh, yes.. it did… It was… surprisingly easy…"

"I've told you many times now, more confidence truly takes you a long way." Sayo looked back at Rinko, now that she had regained her composure.

"Mm, you're right… The time you… explained to me that I was giving my opponents too much credit… really opened my eyes…"

"When the opponent is on a lower level, you have to stoop to theirs. It's quite simple. Though… I apologize for losing my composure before I could properly explain that back then."

"It's.. in the past now… You already apologized for it…" Rinko offered a gentle smile.

Sayo could get lost in that smile.

She cleared her throat, quickly changing the subject yet again. How did this keep happening? "Why don't we watch some of the matches we missed? I believe they said they would be showing replays of the tournament on a streaming site."

"Oh! Right… Ah, I forgot about that… Having so many people watching me…"

"Well, you won. You did so in less than ten minutes, if I recall. Most of the battles of the tournament dragged on due to stalemates, so the fact that you ended it so quickly is impressive. It shouldn't be embarrassing at all, but I understand."

"I'm kind of curious about… that one match that went on before yours… We only caught parts of it because we were talking…"

"Hmm. Let's see." Sayo muttered, checking the site to try to find the stream.

"Oh. That's a disappointment. We missed the replay, and they don't have it archived."

"...Really? That's… strange…"

 

 

Chisato had a phone call to make, so she was glad she managed to excuse herself without specifically saying what she was doing.

"Hello. This is Chisato Shirasagi. I will cut straight to the point here." She paused. Why was she hesitating now ? "Why did you take down the video of the tournament?"

There was a pause on the other end.

"...Please give me a moment to confirm something. I need to ask a higher up. If you're alright with waiting a few minutes for an answer."

"Alright. That's fine. I have time."

She was put on hold. She hated waiting, but at least the receptionist seemed to be cooperative.

A couple of minutes later, the receptionist picked up again.

"...I'm afraid we cannot answer that, Shirasagi-san. It seems to be an error in the site, not one on our end."

"It just seems very unprofessional. Shouldn't the agency have looked into this prior? You people are the ones hosting this tournament."

"If we get any updates, I will be sure to let you know. I apologize for the inconvenience this has caused."

The woman on the other end was absolutely infuriating her, but Chisato knew this was just a receptionist. Her response was very rehearsed.

"Actually, could I speak to a higher up? I would appreciate some further clarification on the issue if possible." Chisato asked.

"...Unfortunately, they are busy in a meeting, I believe they are discussing exactly this issue right now."

"...Of course. Thank you." She replied, trying to not let her anger show in the tone of her voice.

She quickly hung up, annoyed.

"...One more phone call. Hopefully I can actually get an answer this time." She muttered to nobody in particular.

She glanced inside to see what Sayo and Rinko were doing. They were both looking at something on Sayo's phone, but Chisato couldn't see what it was from the distance and angle she was at.

She went to the contact she needed, and took a deep breath before pressing the call button.

Two rings. Then, she picked up. The usual. That was good. It meant the call was probably secure.

"Hello, Maya-chan. I'm sure you know why I'm calling."