Tyson Needs Pointers
Che was certain Reagan and Vista were going to request a rematch once they all made it outside of the observatory, but to his surprise, they didn’t even acknowledge him as they walked away. It was as if he had become invisible to them.
The two quickly slinked off towards Legaros Tower, their shoulders slumped in defeat. Che almost started to feel bad for them. As irritating as they were, they seemed more goofy than threatening most of the time. Maybe they really didn’t know who Yokan was. Maybe he was brainwashing them after all.
“Aw, and I was hoping I’d get to smack Reagan around this time,” Nikki said as she came up beside him. “Looks like we’ll have to wait.”
“You’ll definitely get another chance with those two,” Che said with a smirk. “But for now, it looks like Sparring is next. It’s at the big practice field, right?”
“Yep, that’s the one. We should hurry and get on maglev train,” Nikki said as they began walking in the direction of the practice field. “You don’t want to keep Lorenzo waiting.”
Che rolled his eyes. He could have easily made a remark about how Nikki of all people shouldn’t be joking about Lorenzo, but he decided to spare her. This time. As they approached the maglev train, they noticed three other students waiting for it. It wasn’t hard to make out Bella, who looked like she was shouting orders at someone three times her size.
“Why do I have to be paired up with YOU of all people for the History class project?” she was saying as Che and Nikki approached. “What in the world was Professor Stufford thinking? Even Kim would have been a better option!”
“Sorry to disappoint!” Tyson bellowed back, and Che could see his shirt was coming untucked. “I didn’t ask to be stuck with you either, princess!”
“Princess?” Bella gasped, her face turning red. “How dare you! I’m the future champion of the ToKyotchi World Tournament!”
“Oh yeah?” Tyson challenged. “That’s funny, because I’m going to be the champion way before you!”
“We’ll just see about that!” Bella said, and she stomped off in the direction of the train stop. Kim, never one to succumb to any other emotion than amusement, giggled before following her friend.
“Geez, what’s her deal?” Tyson shook his head as he watched her go.
“Yeah, she’s something else,” Che said, trying to hide his smile.
“You can say that again,” Nikki muttered under her breath.
Tyson startled as he turned to face them, his face turning bright red just as it did in the cafeteria. “O-oh! I-I didn’t see you guys there!”
“Yeah, we kind of noticed,” Nikki said with a smirk.
“S-so, uh, which way are you guys headed?” Tyson straightened up, finally realized his shirt was untucked, and immediately tried to fix himself back up again. Though it was clear this was all to impress Nikki, Che noticed her expression of pure indifference and sighed. Poor Tyson.
“We’re on our way to Sparring,” Che answered out of mercy. “You?”
“Oh, uh, me too!” Tyson said quickly. “I guess we’ll be seeing each other in class then!”
“I mean, we’re all taking the maglev train, right?” Nikki asked, her smirk still firmly in place. “We can all see each other right now.”
“O-of course!” Tyson was about as scarlet as Che thought was humanly possible. “I just meant, uh…see you in Sparring!”
And with that, he scurried onto the train as if his life depended on it. It was now Che’s turn to elbow Nikki for a change.
“What?” she said, her expression now full of innocence. “I didn’t do anything!”
Che just shook his head as he made his way towards the train. There were other students already on board, probably picked up from other parts of campus. Che didn’t see Bella and Kim among the students and pumped his fist as relief washed over him. They must have caught an earlier train.
Sparring was likely most people’s final class of the day, when they put into practice what they learned in Battle Skills. At least, that was the most logical explanation Che could come up with. He and Nikki stepped onto the platform, keeping as much distance from Tyson as they possibly could. Che did so because he wanted to give the poor guy some space after he bombed so badly mere seconds ago, and Nikki because…well Che wasn’t sure she liked anybody except Lorenzo at this point.
The maglev train hummed to life as the metal guard rails closed around them before it took off in the direction of the practice field. Che was certain Nikki had a few more wise cracks in her system, but she seemed to be in a daze as she looked off into the horizon. The sun would be starting to set soon, and surprisingly it wasn’t blazing hot this time of day, at least not to Che. He sighed. He still couldn’t figure this world out, how so many parts of it were familiar and yet so fantastical.
It wasn’t long before they finally arrived at the train stop next to the practice field, and Che was relieved to find he’d grown used to the weird sensation of the train sinking into the ground. It reminded him of how terrified he used to be of escalators as a child.
He and the rest of the students made their way to where a large hulking figure stood waiting for them. Behind him, Che could see several rows of miniature practice rings. They had the same markings as the arena he’d first woken up in, and he winced at the memory of him running away from Nikki after their first encounter. Tyson was ahead of them, standing by himself, and Che decided that he wanted to at least slap him on the back or something to help him cool off.
As he approached, he noticed Nikki was following him and sighed. Maybe he should hang back for a second to avoid yet another awkward exchange between the two. Tyson noticed them and cleared his throat before sauntering over, trying his best to seem cool and aloof.
“Oh, that’s Coach Naul,” he shrugged. “He’s the head of the Sparring program.”
Coach Naul looked to be just over seven-feet-tall and almost as wide as he was long. He sported a lengthy gray mustache coupled with the standard Legaros instructor uniform and a sailor’s cap, giving him the appearance of an old-timey seafarer. A humongous brown pipe dangled from his bottom lip, with circular puffs of smoke slowly drifting up toward the sky. His beady little eyes scanned the three of them as they approached.
“Changing rooms are that way,” he said gruffly, gesturing in the direction of a small building off to the side of the practice field. “Get changed and meet back here in five minutes.”
“Y-yes, sir!” Tyson said quickly before scurrying off in the direction of the changing rooms. Several of the other students began rushing off well, and Che quickly remembered why he hated sports so much as a kid. Still, he knew it was best to play along for now, even if he had no intention of entering this ToKyotchi thing everyone kept going on about.
“Guess we’d better do what the big guy says,” Che muttered with a shrug.
Che and Nikki quickly approached the locker rooms and went their separate ways. As Che entered the boys’ locker room, it occurred to him he hadn’t packed anything to wear for this class. Oh no! Would he have to run back to his dorm? He couldn’t afford to be late to class again, not twice in one day!
“Hey, Rowan, our lockers are right next to each other! They must know about the roommate code!” Tyson was a few feet away from Che, already changing into his athletic gear.
Che let out a nervous chuckle. “Well, that’s convenient, right?”
“Your Sparring uniform should be in your locker too,” Tyson said as he finished putting on his gear. “We all get them when we first arrive at the academy.”
Che let out a sigh of relief. “Thanks for the heads up. I had no idea.”
Che quickly opened his locker and was relieved to find his Sparring uniform hanging inside. “Well, looks like I’d better get changed then.
“Hey, you wanna be partners?” Tyson asked as Che began to change.
“Honestly, I’d prefer that,” Che said, his uniform starting to feel a bit more comfortable now that he was wearing it, “but I promised Lorenzo I’d spar with him today.”
“What?” Tyson’s face fell. “But we’re roommates! We should be partners!”
“I’m sorry, Tyson,” Che said apologetically. “He was very…persistent.”
“That and a few other things,” Tyson murmured under his breath.
“What was that?” Che asked, but Tyson shook his head.
“Nothing, never mind,” he replied as he quickly stretched out his arms and legs. “Let’s just go before we’re late.”
After getting changed, the two stepped out just as Nikki was emerging from the girls’ locker room. Tyson, to his credit, didn’t melt into a puddle of nerves for once. Che supposed it had to do with him feeling at home in his athletic gear. He took a mental note for later when the big lug inevitably asked him for dating advice.
“Ready to get our butts kicked?” Nikki asked with a grin.
“As ready as I’ll ever be,” Che nodded.
They made their way back to where Coach Naul was waiting for them and were soon joined by the rest of the class. He eyed everyone up and down before grunting and gesturing for them to follow him.
“This way,” he said, leading them towards the practice rings. Che noticed several of the other students were already pairing off, though he also noticed Nikki hadn’t left his side.
“I’ll go finish warming up. See you both later!” Tyson said, jogging over to the other side of the field where a group of students were stretching.
“Okay, see you later,” Che watched as Tyson joined the others before turning to Nikki. “Find anyone to partner up with yet?”
“No,” Nikki shrugged. “I know your friend just ran off, but if nothing else he’ll do for the day.”
“Be nice to him,” Che elbowed her again as they began making their way past a few of the practice rings. “He means well. He’s just…overeager at times.”
“Whatever,” Nikki rolled her eyes. “I’ll see you around, and no more fainting today!”
With that, she walked off toward another group of students who were practicing what looked like martial arts forms.
“It’s about time. I’ve been waiting long enough.”
Che turned to see Lorenzo with his arms crossed over his chest. He still wore the same venomous expression from earlier when he threatened Reagan and Vista.
“Sorry about that,” Che said apologetically. “We got held up.”
“Whatever,” Lorenzo said, waving his hand dismissively. “It doesn’t matter. Now we can finally get started. I want to thank you for agreeing to be my partner today.”
“Yeah, about that…” Che began. “Why me?”
Lorenzo’s face seemed to harden as a menacing grin spread across his face. “Because I’m going to help you prepare to sneak into the restricted area.”