Bluebells Are Forever

Courtyard Clash

Accelgor and I walked out to the courtyard and watched the knights as they participated in their usual training routines. They were divided into pairs and fought one another in single combat. General Rhydon stood along the side to oversee each session.

My eyes darted over each pair as they fought: Typhlosion used his silver battle-axe was able to overpower a blue beetle named Heracross, who had a metal shield thrown away. Scizor and Bisharp were locked in a stalemate, each using their arms to block and hold a strike from one another's swords. Samurott flipped over a red and gray lance strike from Escavalier.

Nearest to us, Armaldo was able to knock a sturdy wooden staff straight from Chesnaught's arms and held his pincer to his opponent's throat.

"You lose," Armaldo laughed.

Chesnaught blinked and shook his head. "Good work," he mumbled.

Armaldo turned his head in confusion. "What's with you? Every movement you've had has been sluggish, and I'm not exactly our best knight."

"Maybe it's because he was out late last night," I heard my voice ring out, with a hint of a tease on it. The two knights gazed over at Accelgor and I.

"How did you know that?" questioned Chesnaught while I bit on my tongue and cheek. When I glanced away, Accelgor also gave me a look of curiosity.

"Because you walked right past us through town last night," came a response from behind me. We turned to watch Delphox and Gardevoir walk out to us, and Delphox patted his rod against his open hand. "Gardevoir cried out to you, but you didn't even so much as blink, let alone turn around."

The knight's face went a little pink. "Oh, r-really?" He bowed his head. "My apologies, Lady Gardevoir. And to you, Lord Delphox."

"It's…!" Delphox was ready to shout, but paused. Then, surprised, "Wait, you got it?"

Chesnaught gave him a puzzled expression. "Got what?"

"Ah…never…mind," Delphox slowly finished, and his brows lowered over his eyes. Armaldo and Chesnaught exchanged shrugs and resumed their session.

Gardevoir hummed to herself. "Interesting. He's alert enough to know that you're no lady, but too tired to hold that staff properly, and too distracted to have heard me call him last night," she quietly observed.

"Don't remind him, or he'll get it wrong later," murmured Delphox.

General Rhydon noticed the four of us and made his way over. Before he could open his mouth, a heavy crash sounded and it felt as though the earth beneath us shook.

"That would most likely be the Earl defeating Golurk, again," surveyed Rhydon. He gazed out for a moment, and then called out, "Samurott, take a break from Escavalier and head to the back to work with Golurk. Send Earl Gallade up here."

The blue sea lion nodded and bowed to Escavalier. He sheathed his blades and strolled around the courtyard. Samurott took a minute to glance at us and flashed a smile. If I didn't know any better, I'd feel like it was directed at me, but I was pretty sure he meant it for the mages as well. Last night was mostly enjoyable, if not a bit disheartening; it was nice to socialize with my new allies.

"Anyway," came Rhydon's voice again, and we turned back to him. "I'd like to thank you four for coming out for practice. I'm hoping to incorporate you into today's—"

"Can you give us winners from their face-offs?" asked Gardevoir at once. "Last time, Delphox and I…had a little too easy of a workout."

"What happened last time?" inquired Accelgor.

"Ah…I may or may not tormented poor Heracross with a good number of psychic and fairy spells," recalled Gardevoir sheepishly. "And…well, Delphox roasted Escavalier."

"You what?!" screeched Accelgor at the mage.

"Wow, thanks Gardevoir," deadpanned Delphox.

"H-He was fine not long after!" Gardevoir quickly added. "Heracross got the worst of it, honest."

Rhydon cleared his throat. "Well, if you're hoping to face off against stronger opponents, we'll see how the victors of their latest matches fair." He then turned out to the knights and called out again, "Typhlosion, face off against Delphox! Armaldo, you'll be against Gardevoir."

"Wait, I'm going against her?!" cried Armaldo. "My attacks won't do a thing to her!"

"They won't be as effective," corrected Rhydon. "It'll be a challenge for you to overcome." He thought for a moment and added, "You should be thankful that I'm not pitting you against Delphox."

Delphox smirked as Armaldo nervously nodded. He led Gardevoir to an empty corner of the courtyard while Delphox walked around to meet Typhlosion.

"Accelgor, you should go over there as well," Rhydon pointed for her to follow Delphox. "You can face off against Heracross now."

"Yes sir," she nodded and moved around the courtyard.

"And that will leave you with Chesnaught," Rhydon finished and turned to me.

"Understood," I nodded. Of course we would get paired up.

Before I could go over to him, however, Rhydon held up an arm to stop me. "I just need to talk to him about something for a minute or so," he clarified. "Then you two can have your match. Just don't let him mess with your head too much."

"Does he favor mind games?" I inquired, though I was certain that he didn't.

"Not usually, but for you in particular, he might," General Rhydon murmured thoughtfully, and, oddly, winked at me as he walked over to Chesnaught.

General Rhydon stomped over to me, with a bit of a sour look on his face.

"Uh, what can I do for you, General?" I asked, a bit nervously. A yawn tried to rise from me, but I clamped my mouth shut and buried it.

His bright red eyes glared right into mine. "The King tells me that you had spoken to him yesterday," he snapped. Uh-oh. "As it turns out, I was one of the topics of discussion, correct?"

"Ah…y-yes sir," I mumbled. "We had both gone to see you, so…"

"So, naturally, I came up," the General finished for me. I bit my lip as I nodded. "Well then," he started bitterly. Then, his face softened and he smiled. Calmer, quieter, he continued, "Thank you for what you told him. He's always thinking that I don't…well, I can be a little off-putting, too absorbed in work, but I…what you shared with him was perfect."

He patted me a little roughly on the shoulder and I forced a smile. Meanwhile, I was still processing what happened and confirmed that I was alive.

"But enough on me," he chuckled, perhaps at my widened eyes. "You'll be having a special moment with your new…ah, interest." I blinked and looked at him with confusion. He nudged his head a bit and pointed with his eyes. I turned and stared at Greninja, who quickly averted his gaze to anywhere else besides us. Probably snooping on us.

My attention went back to the General. "Sir, I don't follow."

General Rhydon gave me a distasteful face and shook his head. "Right, I'm not as clear about these things," he murmured, somewhat bitterly. Still quietly, he continued, "Let's just say that today's match ups were…carefully planned."

Still lost, I whispered, "Sir, you plan all of our practice sessions."

With a heavy sigh, the General slid a hand over his face. "I made sure you'd have a chance to be with Greninja," he bluntly blurted out.

"You what?" My voice rang out a bit.

"Chesnaught…!" he hissed and quickly glanced around.

Only Greninja had really taken notice and he quickly turned his attention elsewhere once he caught the General's eyes…or mine, maybe?

Either way, General Rhydon let out another deep sigh and looked back to me with a laugh. "Subtly must not be your strong suit either, huh?"

"Not quite, sir, but—"

"Don't worry about it. I'm sure that got you a little excited, I know," he sympathized. Except that's not at all what I— "Hey, go easy on him, but try to get in close. You'll get more chances to…uh, well, I'll leave that to you." He stifled his laughter and shook my shoulder a bit. After that, the General walked back over to the side and chattered a bit to Greninja before he sent him over.

What just happened?

The blue frog stood across from me and waited. "Do you want to use that staff, or would you prefer something else?" he asked.

My eyes glanced down at the long rod, which I scooped up with my foot, kicked away, and returned to Greninja. For once, he actually didn't look away upon making eye contact. "Nope, this is fine."

"This?" He blinked and stared a bit. "You mean your fists?"

I nodded. "That, and whatever else you can work with. Water blades, for instance." A smirk slipped onto my face.

Greninja returned my nod. "Right, if you insist." He readied his stance, and crouched low to the ground. He placed one hand forward and held the other back. I raised my fists and hunched over a bit.

A minute passed, with a gust of wind, as we stared one another down.

"Um," Greninja started again. "Are you, going to come throw a punch, or do you want me to toss one, or…uh, something else?"

Momentarily, my arms dropped. "You know, I'm so used to someone else throwing the first punch or taking the first swipe, that I honestly don't know."

He took a minute to look around the courtyard. Back to me, he shook his head. "You can't be the slowest one here."

"No," I agreed, "but I'm pretty patient comparatively."

A light chuckle sounded from him and I smiled.

"Come on, you two," Rhydon called. "Start a work out or I'll have you two run a longer and more taxing assignment."

Quickly, we shifted ourselves back to our fighting stances.

"Go ahead," I insisted. "Come at me."

"That seems like what you want," Greninja noted. I shrugged, though he was right.

"Then learn how to counter a readied opponent," I advised and he nodded.

Abruptly, Greninja darted across the distance between us. He leapt into the air and sent a fist down on me. I raised an arm to block the blow, which was followed by several more strikes.

"Wow. You're fast!" I complimented him as he struck at me.

A few shots hit me, but nothing was rough enough to bother me. He threw a hard punch, which I blocked and shoved him away.

"And you're tough. Very durable," he returned to me.

Again, I smirked. This was more fun than I had been expecting.

Greninja put his hands together and I watched as water formed a bladed shape. A shuriken. Quickly, he threw it at me, and I managed to tilt away as it glided past me.

He laughed, probably at my flabbergasted face. "Sorry, but you did mention whatever else I could work with." Upon a closer look, I realized that he had two more Water Shuriken readied.

My expression calmed, eyes lowered, and I chuckled, "I did."

Deftly, the next shuriken glided out and spun straight for me. Once more, I stepped from its path as the weapon sailed past me.

I continued and turned my back on the next one that flew out, to have my shell take the blow. A splash sounded as it connected, but I didn't feel a thing.

As I pivoted back around, Greninja jumped up and came down on me with a water blade. My arms shot up and the green rim fanned out.

"What?!" cried Greninja as his blade connected with my Spiky Shield. His arm went too far forward he was impaled on the spiny grass that stood out. "Ack!"

Greninja backpedaled and held his grass-stained arm.

"Sorry," I called as I moved my arms apart and the shield folded away. "There are a few ways to make a Spiky Shield, but I prefer the one I wear."

A swirl of water formed in his good arm and he washed away as much grass as he could. "It's prickly and painful," he studied. "And you used my own attack pattern against me. Well played."

Though I could have attacked him again while he cleared his arm, I decided to wait and see what his next action would be instead.

Slowly, Greninja crept forward toward me. Quickly, I raised my arms in a defensive stance, but he kept a steady, unhurried pace.

All of a sudden, in a blink, he vanished.

I flinched and gazed around. Abruptly, I felt a sharp pain along my side and pivoted that way.

The ninja sliced a layer of water against me and moved to strike again. I swept my arms to grab him, but he slipped away.

Carefully, he went under me, locked his leg against mine. Greninja moved his arm around my shoulder, but paused.

He was trying to make the same attack he had on Typhlosion, but my back was too wide to twist around.


Instead, Greninja made an attempt to distract me with a water pelt on the opposite side of my head. I felt him try to maneuver back to my front and ready a blade.

Before he could, I grabbed his back and tilted him away from me, toward the ground. The frog tried to attack with his free hand, but I clutched it with one of mine.

As I locked him away from me, I saw his face under the tongue glow red and his eyes lowered. Anger?

Hastily, he formed water in his hand and swiped it away from mine. And right after, he threw a splash of water right at my eyes as I barely turned my head away.

Greninja slid away from me and backed up a bit. This time, I went to grapple him again, and tried to put my arms around him.

He ducked under and threw a punch at me, but I grasped his arm into place. It was still soaked and he pulled it free.

Quickly, he straightened up and flipped over me. His leg shot out a kick at my head, but I turned and let my shell take the hit for me.

The ninja landed and held his arms out to balance himself. Again, I threw my arms out and moved to lock them beneath his, but he dodged and slid away again.

Somehow, I just couldn't keep a grip on him. Greninja kept his arms moist and slippery. His movements were so elegant. Yet, because of that, I wouldn't take my eyes off of him. Something about him woke me up.

Then, again, he disappeared in a blink. I shook my head around, to get a view of my surroundings and possibly above me. Coincidentally, my eyes glanced down and I noticed a shadow slide toward me.

"Not this time!" I cried out and faced the shadow. Greninja popped out from above it and sliced down at me, but grabbed at his shoulders and threw him to the ground.

Wasting no time, I kicked up some dust and tossed my body down to pin him. Still, I didn't want to hurt him too badly, and made sure that I didn't press all of my weight against him.

Greninja winced from the crash and opened his eyes to find my face near his own. He pulled to move his arms, but I had my hands on top of them, caked with dust. I watched his eyes widen as he shifted his legs, which I pinned under my knees.

The frog was trapped and he knew it.

"Now, you're mine," I taunted him quietly with a sharp smile.

His face went red once again, but he didn't lower his eyes. If I didn't know any better, I might even think he was scared.

My expression softened and I felt a wave of guilt hit me. "Hey, come on," I soothed. "This is just practice—"

"Get off!" He shouted and I felt a sharp pain connect between my legs.

As I doubled over, he kicked free and rolled away from me.

"Nice…tactic…" I groaned and picked myself up.

From that, I thought he had baited me into a false sense of security and waited for the right moment to strike. But as I glanced back over to him, his face was still red under his tongue and he looked far more nervous than before.

I lifted my arms again and felt grass grow along the needles.

Greninja shuddered and fired out a few more shuriken as I ran forward. They bounced off of me and I wildly swung my Needle Arm at him.

He rolled away and took many steps backward. I spun about and faced him again, but watched as he heavily panted.

And still, his face was a deep red color.

Guilt began to pressure me and I wasn't sure what to do any more.

The ninja whipped his pink tongue around and fired it at me. I could have easily grabbed it, but his more visible face distracted me and I focused on his yellow mouth and chin.

Instead, my arm rose up and knocked the tongue away from me.

It retracted back around Greninja's neck and he raised his arms to channel more water. He slammed them together and a Water Pulse soared out at me.

His attack came quickly, but I dove down and let it splash off of my shell.

Vines were expelled from my quills and I whipped them at Greninja, who was stunned and struck roughly by one.

With a blink, I watched him clutch his head and held it tightly. Greninja sank to his knees and winced from the pain, only able to keep one eye on me.

If I launched another attack, the match would be over for certain. But I gazed into the opened eye and felt a pang hit my stomach.

Hesitation like this would get me killed…

But I looked at him and I felt like I dished out more than physical pain.

"All right, good work so far," called General Rhydon's voice and my head shot up. Everyone turned to look at him along the sidelines. "Take a break or a walk, and rest a bit. Then come back here and let's get back to work!"

Another crash quaked across the ground and I fell over. The General let out a heavy sigh and turned back toward the castle.

"Golurk needs to do better than that," I heard him mutter.

As I picked myself up, I looked around to see the others. Gardevoir glided away from a quivering Armaldo. Accelgor rushed over to a downed Escavalier while Heracross brushed his horn off and beat his wings. Gallade helped her lift her husband back up. Bisharp and Scizor pat one another and walked off together, while Delphox and Typhlosion sneered at each other and stormed away from one another.

I turned back to Greninja and opened my mouth to apologize for the brutal Vine Whip, but he limped away without another word, still very red in the face.

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