Che could feel their eyes on him as he continued walking, but he didn’t care. He hated bullies in real life let alone some video game, and he was done playing this one. He would find his own way out of this world, with or without any help from its inhabitants.
“Hey, wait!” he turned to see Nikki running towards him, with Bella and Kim not far behind her.
“You don’t have to keep following me,” Che droned as he turned away from them and continued down the path. “I’m sure we’re almost to Shrub Town by now, and you’ve made it very clear you want to be rid of me as soon as possible.”
“Wait!” Nikki moved to block his path. “Quit going off on your own like that!”
Che came to a halt and was soon joined by Bella and Kim on either side of him. Kim, as he found himself becoming used to, could barely contain yet another giggle, while Bella kept her eyes forward, as if she could see something they couldn’t.
“Someone’s here,” she whispered.
Nikki clenched her fists, turning from Che to face the path once again. “Oh great! Now someone’s gonna try to ambush us!”
Che shrugged. “So what? There’s four of us, and two of us have made it very clear they can take on a small army. I don’t see the big deal.”
Nikki turned to glare back at him, opening her mouth to offer some sort of rebuttal before being interrupted by strange rustling sounds in the trees.
“Stop right there!” a booming voice seemed to come from every direction at once. Che whipped his head around, trying to pinpoint its location, when two figures seemed to drop down from the sky. A man and a woman, both dressed in what looked like military combat gear blocked their path forward.
The man sported a Caesar-cut hairstyle with an impressive wave pattern. Che sighed. He couldn’t even get his to look that good, no matter how long or often he brushed his hair. His eyes were light brown, almost matching his skin, and Che was certain he was the first person he’d met today who looked like an adult. The woman next to him wasn’t just pale; she was gray with the blackest eyes Che had ever seen. Her hair was powder white, giving her the appearance of a diabolical elf.
“Throw your worries over the deep end!” the man called out.
The woman saluted, a little too stiffly for Che’s taste. “Into new dimensions you can’t comprehend!”
“Let the sheep and followers sleep in!”
“Hustle as if you still have 3 bands!”
Che shook his head, looking over at the others. “What the hell are they saying?”
The three girls didn’t flinch, each of them wearing a focused expression on their face. The two figures blocking their path continued with their coordinated speech.
“We hold it down for Legaros!” the man called. “Reagan!”
“Give up now and leave behind your sorrows!” the woman saluted again. “Vista!”
“Ayo!” Reagan pointed to Che. “Where you get them strange clothes and them ole weak ass shoes from? You’re not native, huh?”
Che blinked. Did this NPC just call out his shoes? He was about to answer when Bella stepped in front of him.
“He’s with us,” she said. “He’s a recruit for the academy.”
Reagan’s eyes narrowed. “The academy? Oh word?” He looked Che up and down before sighing. “Man, I thought old boy was a teach or something. He’s just a weird little kid like y’all? Wack.”
He took on a battle stance, with Vista quickly adopting one of her own.
“I ain’t finna let y’all any farther though,” he flashed a grin, exposing two rows of silver teeth. “We don’t need anymore academy turds. Get ghost!”
“What? Just let us pass!” Nikki called out, gesturing towards the path. “We’re not doing anything wrong!”
“Nikki, you should know by now it’s useless to try to reason with them,” Bella placed an arm in front of Nikki, preventing her from moving any farther. “Legaros soldiers are always looking for a fight.”
She and Kim stepped forward.
“We’ll handle this,” Bella called back. “You’ll both just get in the way.”
Kim giggled. “We’ll be finished soon. Don’t worry.”
Che watched as Nikki gritted her teeth as her eyes fell to the ground. He then looked over towards the others and was shocked by what he saw.
Each one of them now had a status menu in front of them. Che blinked rapidly, trying to figure out if his eyes were playing tricks on them.
“Nikki, can you see that?” he asked nervously.
“See what?” Nikki shot back, clearly annoyed.
“I can see…these windows in front of everyone,” Che studied each display carefully.
“I don’t see anything,” said Nikki. “Maybe I hit you too hard earlier.”
“No, I don’t think it’s that,” Che shook his head. “You told me about types earlier. Well, I know what types those soldiers are.”
Nikki looked stunned. “What do you mean?”
“The one who calls himself Reagan,” Che began. “His type is Brawl, but he’s also got another one. It’s Metal. Vista has two types as well: Venom and Flora.”
“How do you know that?” Nikki narrowed her eyes, nervously switching her focus back and forth between Che and the others.
“I also know,” Che continued, “that Kim’s going to have a difficult time against Vista, and Bella has no advantage over Reagan.”
Nikki huffed, completing turning her attention over to the impending showdown. “They don’t need to have an advantage. They said they could handle it.”
Che sighed. “Let’s hope so.”
Reagan attacked first, charging towards Bella with his fists clenched. She nimbly dodged out of the way, but Reagan was relentless. He charged again, and Bella didn’t move in time. He knocked her back several feet before she fell onto her back.
She sprang back up before he could charge again.
“That almost hurt,” Bella said with a confident smirk. “You’ll have to do better than that, though! Water Shot!“
She flung her hand in front of her, and a stream of water blasted from her hands towards Reagan. The soldier seemed unfazed, grinning at the incoming attack.
“Steel Coat!” he called out, and his skin turned silver and shiny just as the water hit him. The attack seemed to have little effect, and Reagan just laughed.
“Mama, that’s all you about to do?” he taunted.
Bella’s eyes narrowed. “Fine, then. If that’s how you want to play it.”
Reagan charged again, and Bella kept her hand out, blasting another jet of water at him. He simply charged through it, landing a punch directly in her face that sent her flying backwards. She fell on her back once again, this time not getting up. Che looked at her, noticing her eyes were closed.
“Bella?” he whispered before covering his mouth, surprised at how shocked he was.
“S-she’s out!” Nikki clasped her head with her hands, her eyes wide with disbelief. “He beat her with one hit!”
Reagan’s skin returned to normal, and he looked over towards Vista. “Yo turn.”
Vista didn’t have time to react, as Kim sprang forward, planting a small rose into the soldier’s skin.
“You should have been paying closer attention,” Kim giggled as she sprung back before Vista could react. “You left yourself wide open, dear. I was able to use Leech Flower with no issue.”
The rose opened up and glowed, signaling it had been activated. Vista’s expression didn’t change, her menacing black eyes glistening in the sunlight.
“In just a few moments,” Kim’s grin turned into a confident smirk, “you’ll have all the life drained from you. Isn’t that just lovely? You’ll soon lose your ability to move or even think! Isn’t being helpless so much fun? You’re not even –“
She was cut off by a strike from a thorny, purple whip that seemed to appear and disappear in an instant. Che looked over at Vista, who was now clutching the whip, her expression unchanged.
“I don’t find that funny at all, actually,” she said plainly. “Ivy Whip!”
She whipped Kim again, who cried out in pain before stumbling backwards.
“Whatever nutrients you glean from me won’t be sufficient enough to help you,” Vista explained as she slowly walked towards Kim. “You are insufficient.”
“Kim!” Nikki called out, her hands still glued to her head. “She can’t lose too!”
“That technique Kim’s using,” Che started to explain. “It’s useless against Vista’s typing. It’s meant to siphon off large amounts of energy and give it back to the user, but Vista’s a Venom type, which has an advantage over Flora types. It won’t help Kim at all.”
“Then what is she supposed to do?” Nikki snapped. “Just lose? She’ll think of something, won’t she?”
Che looked down, confused. Why did he even care what happened to any of them? He didn’t belong in this world, and none of it was real anyway. Plus, it wasn’t like he could do anything even if he tried. He just wanted to find a way home.
Still, the memory of Nikki’s face when Bella called her useless set off something inside of him. He was familiar with feeling useless, believing that no matter how hard he fought for something he’d always come up short. He didn’t want to feel like that ever again, and he certainly didn’t want that feeling for anyone else. If only he could do something…
A display appeared in front of him, shocking him completely.
“Chetachi Johnson. Level 5. Brawl Type. Effective against Metal and Neutral types. Moves include Ace Punch and Meditate.”
Che gasped. Brawl type? He looked down at his hands just as a scream snapped him from his daze. He watched as Kim took another lick from the whip before collapsing onto the ground, unconscious.
“Incapacitated,” Vista looked over at Reagan, who nodded in approval.
“You can both run on somewhere,” he turned to face Che and Nikki as he gestured towards the path behind him. “You just ain’t finna go to Shrub Town.”
Nikki crouched onto the ground, trembling. “We won’t make it. They both beat Bella and Kim like it was nothing.”
She then jumped at Che’s hand gently resting on her shoulder and looked up at him, eyes wide with terror and confusion. Che gazed down at her, determination etched into his face.
“We’re not going to lose here,” he said. “I have a plan.”