[WAR XI] Breakeven [Judged]
Tonight just wasn’t going as Cheren had planned.
He had thought that going to Nimbasa City’s Amusement Park would be fun—a golden opportunity to escape their troubles for a time. Ever since becoming the newest Champion, his best friend Zayna White had been burdened with an incredible amount of responsibilities—keeping her busy twenty-four hours a day. Though she tried to keep contact with her friends, Cheren knew she was getting worn down.
And so, Cheren and Bianca conspired together to “kidnap” her from work and torture her with an evening of lights, cotton candy, and various festivities. To Cheren’s surprise (and delight), their victim had been more than willing to cooperate. Bianca—as usual—was running late to their appointment, but for once, Cheren didn’t mind. After all, it meant he got a little one-on-one time with Zayna.
Yet when they arrived at the park, Zayna began acting a little strange. Cheren soon realized that bringing her here was a mistake, for every corner they took reminded her of… him.
After a few rides, Cheren’s heart just wasn’t in to the festival anymore. He regretted to admit that he actually hoped for the night to end quickly. Finally, Zayna led them for a walk along the river, wanting to get away from the hustle and bustle of the park. Unfortunately, their conversation turned… to him.
Cheren averted his eyes, trying to quell the surge of dark emotions welling up within him. He tried to see things through her perspective, tried to share the same concern for him. But the jealousy and disappointment boiled in heart, threatening to overflow his better judgment.
“You like him, don’t you?” he asked quietly. The inquiry earned him a questioning look, which he ignored.
She shrugged, feigning indifference as she replied, “I just feel sorry for him, that’s all.”
Anger leapt in, its fervor fanning the flames. She didn’t have to lie about it. He could tell that he constantly kept place in her mind. He noticed every little sigh she gave, every time her eyes grew distant. When their conversations staled, she would drift off in a daydream.
Whenever they were together, he was all she ever thought about it.
The black-haired young man continued to reign in the storm welling within him, though somehow his next words were tipped with bitterness: “But there’s more to it than that.”
He kept his head down, though he saw her sharply turn her head from the corner of his eye. Though he couldn’t see her expression, he imagined she heard the sour tone in his voice. Was she confused? Maybe she should be. For once, he could play with her emotions, instead of the other way around.
Zayna sighed in defeat, admitting, “Maybe… there is.”
The boiling was brought to an immediate halt as his heart froze over. Cheren physically winced as her confession stabbed him like a dagger.
Oblivious to his pain, she continued, “This… probably sounds really cheesy,” she laughed. She actually laughed. “But I feel like there’s this connection between us. Maybe it has something to do with the dragons. I mean, we were both chosen as heroes, right?”
Cheren was hurt, and he felt the need to lash back—to inflict pain in return. Standing abruptly, fists clenched, he icily jeered, “So what, you think you’re destined to be together? Just because of some dumb legend?”
She stared at him, taken aback by his harsh retaliation. Walls were going up, Cheren could tell, but he wouldn’t take back his words. The frost inside him pricked at his heart, glazing his reasoning with a rage colder than anger.
“That’s not what I—” she began, posture growing defensive.
“Don’t even pretend that you haven’t fantasized about it, Zayna,” he cut her off, turning sharply to face her full on. “You have feelings for him.”
Her eyes narrowed. Tilting her chin defiantly, she retorted, “Fine! So maybe I do. What’s it to you?”
What’s it to me? What’s it to me? Did she have to ask? “You don’t even know the guy! He was their king, remember? He was your enemy!”
“He was misled!” she shot up to her own feet as her voice rose. “He didn’t know any better! Ghestis—”
“Ghestis screwed him up, I know! I heard him! I was there! But my point is…” Cheren stopped, finally regaining control over his temper. Taking a deep breath, he finished in a softer voice, “My point is, for the better part of your journey you knew him only as an enemy.”
“That’s not—!” she was about to object, but paused as her expression fell. Cheren grunted, knowing he had made a point. Somehow, that didn’t help him feel any better.
“That’s not completely true,” Zayna weakly argued, hand absently rising to her upper-arm. “I didn’t know who he was until…”
Her eyes drifted over to the Ferris wheel.
He considered her a moment before following her gaze. He didn’t know much about what had happened that night, when he practically kidnapped her—only what she had been willing to share. For the first time, he questioned whether or not there had been more to that night than his confession. What was she keeping from him?
Cheren decided that he would rather not know. They could keep their precious little rendezvous to themselves, for all he cared. Now wasn’t the time for interrogation, anyway. Turning his back to the wheel pointedly, he growled, “Invalid point. You knew him as an enemy longer than you knew him as anything else.”
Breaking from her trance, Zayna turned to him with renewed frustration. “He thought he was doing what was right!”
“But the measures he took were extreme,” he crossed his arms, refusing to yield to her argument. “He’s too driven by his passions, and he’s… unpredictable. You’re right—it’s not his fault he turned out the way he did, but he is what he is. He just isn’t… like other people.”
Cheren knew he could have worded that better, but as disgruntled as he was the words surged forward without restraint.
Zayna released a derisive guffaw as she shook her head. “I can’t believe I’m hearing this. Are you calling him a freak?”
He scowled, “No! That’s not what I meant!”
“What did you mean, then, huh? ‘Cuz that’s what it sure sounds like,” she crossed her arms as well, looking unimpressed.
“I meant…” he struggled finding the right words. He knew he was dancing around the real problem at hand, but he couldn’t bring himself to say it yet. “What I’m trying to say is… He might not be who you think he is. What Ghestis did to him was horrible. No human deserved that. But it won’t be easy for him to… He might not ever be…”
She scoffed bitterly, finishing for him, “Normal?”
Cheren flinched, aware of how coarse the word was. However, he didn’t try to correct her. It was the word he had meant to use.
Zayna shook her head stubbornly, glaring knives and daggers at her childhood friend. “I, for one, believe that people can change. You changed, Cheren. Or,” she narrowed her eyes scathingly, “At least, I thought you did.”
Cheren closed his eyes, and pinched the bridge of his nose between his forefinger and thumb. He knew he probably deserved that blow, but it didn’t make it any easier to fight back his temper. It was true that he had changed—twice. After setting foot on his journey, he fell into an obsession with power. He quickly plowed through all his challenges, and strengthened his Pokémon with every victory. And yet, there was always one who was stronger than he was.
Despite his struggles, she had constantly been one step ahead of him. She stomped through all his defenses, trumped every battle strategy… She swept him aside just as easily as he did with all the other trainers. He couldn’t understand how she kept winning, and the frustration embittered him. What was meant to be an adventure slowly turned into torment. Day turned into night as he lost sight of the joys of training. Getting stronger was his obsession, his drive, but it never could give him the satisfaction he thirsted for. Anger and frustration were his constant companions.
However, the combined efforts of Zayna and the ex-Champion Alder pulled him off that dark path. They helped him realize that there was more to life then strength. It hadn’t been easy, but he faced himself. He recognized his mistakes, his flaws—and in the end, came to his senses.
Thanks to her.
Cheren sighed. He had grown tired of being angry all the time. He thought he had overcome his short temperament, but tonight certainly proved him wrong. This was not what he wanted to do with his best friend. Arguing about this wasn’t going to get them everywhere. He turned to her, preparing an apology, but Zayna surprised him by speaking first.
And he was utterly unprepared for what she said.
“Look,” Zayna’s shoulders fell apologetically as she quieted. Her eyes slid to the ground while she uttered, “You may be right about one thing. It won’t be easy for him to come to terms with reality, and that’s one reason why I worry about him so much. His whole life has been a lie, and he’s been estranged from everything he knew. He’s alone, Cheren, but… he needs someone he can turn to. Someone to show him the way. That’s why… I’ve decided I’m going to leave.”
“What?” he blanked, not sure if his ears had been deceived.
“I’m leaving,” she clarified, taking a deep breath as if bracing herself.
He gaped at her as if she were speaking a foreign language. His brain and mouth must have disconnected, for the word “Why?” left his lips before he realized its escape.
“I’m going to go look for him. To make sure he’s doing all right,” she watched him carefully, gauging his reaction.
After he recovered from the initial shock, Cheren had to again quell the rising turmoil of emotions within him. He paced over to the fence, bracing himself against it as he worked his jaw. It had come to this, finally, had it?
“So, that’s it?” he muttered, voice dangerously low. “You’re just going to pack up and leave?”
“Yes,” was the only reply she made—a quiet, cautious little squeak.
“What about your title? Who’s going to be the Champion? No one’s been able to best you in battle.”
“I’ve already made arrangements,” she joined his side, gazing over the fence at the city shimmering before them. “A friend of mine is going to step up and take charge of the League. She’ll be a good replacement.”
Silence settled between them, tense and charged. She shifted uncomfortably, as if wanting him to say something. Cheren kept his cold stare concentrated forward, refusing to meet her inquiring gaze.
She opened her mouth just before he finally asked, “Your mind’s made up, then? When are you leaving?”
That soon. Straightening abruptly, Cheren announced, “Then there’s nothing left to discuss.”
“Cheren, wait,” Zayna reached out to stop him.
“For what?” he harshly quipped, dodging her hand. “You’ve made your choice clear. I hope you find what you’re looking for.”
“How can I make you understand?” she pleaded, discouraged at his response.
“There’s only one thing I don’t understand,” he turned to confront her one last time. “Why? Why would you pick someone you hardly know over someone who’s known you your entire life?”
“What the heck do you mean by that?”
“Are you going to make me spell it out?”
“Yes, if you keep speaking in these ridiculous riddles! Spit it out, already!”
“Fine! I’m in love with you, okay?”
Abrupt silence. She stared in utter shock.
Cheren let his shoulders drop, his expression soften. Well, it was out in the open now. He hadn’t anticipated revealing his feelings like this, on the tip of a sharpened tongue, but it had happened nonetheless. But what else could he say? This was a critical moment; he had exposed a vulnerable side of his being. Zayna could either shelter it… or inflict the deepest wound yet—straight to the heart.
Warily, he studied her expression, trying to get a feel of what she must be thinking right now. A desperate part of him had hoped to see a flicker of kinship, some sign that she might feel the same way. To his dismay, he only saw confusion reflected in her eyes.
“Cheren, I…” she tried to say something, though to no avail. She was still too stunned to form a proper reply.
The urge to explain himself became emboldened. Taking a step closer, he spoke with a softer voice, “I know that I’m not… I was never the best at showing it, but…” Wincing at his stumbling words, he continued, “I owe a lot to you, Zayna. You can’t even imagine how much you mean to me. You pulled me back from the edge, from a dark place that I wouldn’t have been able to escape from myself. For the longest time, I was blind. I couldn’t see the truth, even when it was right in front of me. But now I’m starting to see that there’s more to how I feel. About you.”
Was that too sappy? Too much at one time? Cheren mentally bit his lip as he carefully studied her reaction. Zayna seemed to take it in stride, but the way she stared at her shoes hinted at the storm of conflict that must be brewing within her. The black-haired youth felt disheartened at the lack of response, and he wondered if this battle was already lost.
Color touching her cheeks, she turned away from him. “Have you always had… these feelings?” she sought for clarification.
“Yes,” he submitted, wishing there was more he could say. He wanted to reach out and touch her face, to turn her chin back to face him. But the young man restrained himself, knowing that it would cause more harm than good at this point.
“I’m… I’m so sorry,” she stuttered. “I had no idea…”
No, of course she hadn’t. Her thoughts had been turned to him. But Cheren had to blame himself for being such an idiot. How could she see him as anything other than a childhood friend who had strayed beyond the right? Could she accept him as anything else? He had to wonder if things would have been different, if they had met each other at a different time. Or maybe, if he had said something before he stole her heart…
“I just…” her arms reached up to embrace herself in a vulnerable hug. “I’m… I’m not sure what to say. This is… so much to take in.”
Cheren hesitated, wondering if he should take another risky step forward. He had come this far. Already he had crossed the point of no return. Whatever happened after this moment, things would never be the same between them. Their friendship would either blossom, or wither. Cautiously, he extended his hand and touched hers.
“Say you’ll stay,” he quietly suggested, willing her eyes to look him in the eye. “Here, with me… I know… I’m not perfect. I still have a lot to learn, but… Will you give me a chance?” Gently prying her hand from their folded position, he wrapped his around it. Her eyes followed the motion, then timidly rose to his face. Pouring as much tenderness into one word as he could, he implored, “Please.”
He was entirely at her mercy, now. His soul had been bared, his heart unburdened. The Trainer waited on her reply, bracing himself for the worst.
Those brilliant blue eyes of hers—bright as a summer sapphire—gazed up at him searchingly. Bit by bit, they began to well up with tears.
Zayna sharply recoiled, snatching her hand back. She turned away—glancing at anywhere except at him.
“Cheren,” she sobbed, taking a few steps backward. “I’m so sorry… But I can’t.”
Just like that, his heart was torn from his chest.
“I have to go…” the Champion turned her shoulder.
No! Cheren wrestled against the despair threatening to swallow him whole. Desperation was driving at him hard, prompting him to fight. He couldn’t give up on her yet!
“Wait! Zayna!” he dove forward, attempting to reclaim her hand.
She moved away, whispering another apology under her breath, “I’m sorry…”
Before a tear could fall from her cheek, she started running. She ran, and never looked back.
Cheren was left alone. Empty. Desolate. Heartbroken.
He remained rooted in his place, watching somberly until she slipped from his sight. Pressure was building up behind his eyes, a sensation he had not felt since childhood—when he last had a good cry. He resisted the tears even now, but with the wound inflicted to his heart, it was a losing battle. Frustrated with his own weakness, Cheren spun about-face and jammed his hands into his pockets. What was wrong with him? He gets turned down by one girl, and he falls to pieces?
The pain affecting him felt real, a physical ache within his chest. He had loved her; he wanted to be with her. How could he turn him away like that?
What a fool I’ve been, the young man scolded himself, thinking that we could ever be together. That we could ever be more… Well, she made it clear that she didn’t—couldn’t—feel the same way about him. He was just a friend—if that, any longer.
Cheren wanted to retaliate with violence, vent the boiling emotions rolling within him. He stormed down the lane, heading in the direction opposite of the path she had taken. As he passed an innocent garbage can, he lashed out kicked it to the ground. Only a mild sense of pleasure came to him as the metal unleashed a cacophony of twangs and screeches.
Last edited by Charmander009; 07-29-2012 at 02:34 AM.