On and off
Chapter 1: SainfoinEdit
"Azalea, do you know what that is?"
I glanced at the tiny yellow medal in my palm, examining the small image of an orange dinosaur plastered on it. "...A cute little dinosaur coin?" I shrugged. I knew it was my birthday and all and it was the thought that counted, but I'm a girl of practicallity. A scarf, some clothes and a stuffed animal to cuddle were sufficient enough. I saw no use for decorative mintage... All it would do is get lost in the ever increasing pile of junk in my room. It'd be a shame for me to have something that someone else would probably appreciate far more than me.
"Close," my dad chimed. "It's a Dino Medal. It houses what is called a Vivosaur."
I blinked in disbelief. Did I hear that correctly? A Vivosaur? "You're trusting me with one of these things?!" My eyes darted back down at the Dino Medal in panic. What I thought was some sort of collector's coin was actually the container of some sort of giant beast! Oh no... I could only imagine what sort of chaos and destruction would ensue with this creature around. I was not ready for this responsibility. I did not want this responsbility.
My father laughed heartily. "Well, yes! Your mother and I think you'll be a fine owner," he patted me on the back in reassurance. "We thought maybe you'd like one as a friend."
"So you thought trusting me with a super powered dinosaur would be a great idea," I said flatly. He knew I meant it for comical effect, letting out another laugh.
"Well, when you put it that way," he trailed off, chuckling, leaving my imagination to finish his thought. "Come on, now. At least give it a chance." He leaned over, motioning to the medal. "This Vivosaur fellow is called Tsintao. It seems to be a docile sort, not ferocious like a T-Rex or anything." He smiled eagerly. "Why don't you go outside and meet it in person? All you have to do is throw the medal and it'll pop out."
"Ehhh... I'll do it later, okay?" I assured him, shoving the medal in my pocket. "Thank you, though!"
After the typical birthday rituals of off key singing and a slice of cake, I hastily made my way back to my room. Sure, it was my sixteenth birthday, but I didn't see much of a reason to go out and make a big deal out of it. If anything, I was going to spend the rest of my day wrapped in a blanket in the comfort of my roller chair. Logging onto my laptop, I was disappointed to see that none of my online buddies were logged on. Darn... I had to tell them about my present. Forget getting a new car, they would never believe that I got a Vivosaur for my birthday.
Seeing that there was no I could share this news with, I sighed, fumbling around my pocket for Tsintao's Medal. I slid it onto my desk with a small clink, dully examining it.
I did not know the first thing about this creature.
I can't say I was too excited to have a Vivosaur, but... I can't say I hated the idea, either. I had heard of these things, but nothing beyond them being powerful clones of the original dinosaurs that walked the earth... So I was curious. If I was going to keep this Vivosaur, the least I could do was learn about it. What was its name again? Tsintao, was it? Hmm... I turned back to my laptop, swiftly gliding my fingers across my keyboard. A quick web search answered my basic questions.
"Five elemental types... Water, Air, Earth, Fire and Neutral." I glanced at the Medal. "This says... that you're an Earth type, eh?" I scrolled about, examining the wall of text. "Powerful against Air, susceptible to Fire... Huh. I wonder how that even works."
I read as much as I could about my new Vivosaur, but as the day passed, my little study session derailed into looking up silly internet memes and pictures of cats. It was late afternoon when I heard my father's voice pop a question.
"Did you meet Tsintao yet?"
"Ah, uhhh... Not yet!" I replied in urgency. "I'll go outside and do that soon!" Curse you, internet! Five more minutes, I kept telling myself, and before I knew it, several hours passed. The gateway to cyberspace was always unforgiving. Sigh.
I actually didn't feel ready to meet my Vivosaur just yet... Not after reading all of that information on it earlier. I decided I would just put it off and let all of that info slowly sink in. But... my father seemed so eager for me to say hello, so I guess I had to do it now. I threw on my magenta vest, hastily walking down the hall to the back door.
I took in a deep breath as I stepped outside. I'm more of an indoors person, but the fresh air was nice. It was cool and crisp. I glanced around the backyard, hoping there was enough space. If it was as big as I had read it to be, then the last thing I needed was for this thing to accidentally step on our porch or something. Uhhh... At least it was an herbivore, right? I could cross being eaten off of my list of worries. I also read that it seemed to generally be a tame creature... Oh, but what if mine was an exception? What if it was loud and rowdy? What if it hated me? Gah. This was nerve wrecking... I adjusted my scarf, anxious as ever. Deciding to get it over with and find out myself, I closed my eyes tight, tossing my medal into the grass.
The medal burst into a flash of light. When it subsided, the large creature now before me shook its head, letting out series of strange guttural cries, like some sort of expression of triumph. When it quieted down, it looked around for a moment before casting its eyes down at me. Huh. ...Awkward. I looked around to make sure the creature's gaze wasn't just the result of some sort of distraction around me. Sure enough, there was nothing else - I was the only thing it was keeping its eyes on. Feeling uncomfortable with the beast towering over me, I tried to pick up what seemed positive about it.
It was a soft shade of orange, which I liked. I had glanced at a few pictures of other Tsintao earlier, but the color was more lovely in person. It didn't look particularly scary, either. It's eyes were large, green and very... twinkly. What really amused me the most was the funny horn on its head. It seemed odd at first, but the more I stared at it, the more I pictured the thing as the unicorn of dinosaurs. How cute.
Tsintao caught me off guard when it suddenly lowered its head to ground level. I flinched a little, terrified at the sudden movement. Only when I heard a quiet munching sound did I realize... it seemed more interested in making a meal out of the backyard than making a meal of me. I sighed with relief. All right, so it was definitely an herbivore. Of course, some stupid little voice in the back of my head just had to add "...either that, or it's secretly an omnivore." Gah.
"Well..." I wondered out loud, "I guess this is it," I sighed, a tone of disappointment lingering in my voice. "Me in my backyard... with a dinosaur eating the lawn."
It's not every day a person could say that. Heck, it's not every day that a girl gets a super powered dinosaur for her birthday. That's not to say having a Vivosaur wasn't cool or anything - on the contrary! Rather, my main problem was this: Just what exactly was I supposed to do with it?!
Chapter 2: FurzeEdit
I stared out the window of the car as my dad drove me to school. He still seemed pretty ecstatic about me meeting my Tsintao yesterday... I couldn't say the same. I didn't want to speak up and disappoint him, though! Not that he'd be disappointed... He's happy with whatever I think. While I'd prefer to tell the truth of how I feel about it and everything, I would feel ungrateful to just throw away as something as valuable as a Vivosaur. I knew I had to give Tsintao a chance. The question was... how?
"All right, here you go, kiddo," He smiled, pulling up near the high school building.. "Have fun at school."
I playfully scoffed. "You can't use those two words in the same sentence!"
My dad laughed. "Sure you can! Just stick with your friends," he said as I got out of the car. "All right then, I'll see you later."
I slung my backpack over my shoulders, watching him drive off. I started walking, thinking about his statement. Friends, he mentioned. Friends... Hnn. I knew a few students who I could call acquaintances, but I don't think there were any close enough for me to consider a friend. Honestly, it's easier to just assume that all people have bad intentions. To be friends with someone means to expose your vulnerabilities to them... And exposing your vulnerabilities gives them ammunition to use against you in the future. I've always kept that in mind - and I've rarely given my complete trust to people because of it. Unless a person can truly prove my assumptions wrong, I prefer to keep my distance.
It is for this reason that I've resigned myself to being an mere observer. I tend to remain silent, quietly watching everyone... Observing them. Analyzing them. Judging them. I won't fall for someone's fake amity and be duped by their underhanded ways. I refuse to make a fool of myself like that. Is it an egotistical thing? Yes. Is that my only reason? No. In fact-
"Hey, little girl!" I heard, screeching my train of thought to a halt. Was that voice addressing me? For a moment, I almost gave the person the benefit of the doubt, thinking that maybe he was calling someone else... but I knew that voice. That wretched, condescending voice. It belonged to non-other than the personification of idiocy himself, Sid Burns.
Or maybe he only acted idiotic towards me.
You see, when we were younger, we rode on the same bus to school. Dreadful days, those school bus rides were. Kids were so obnoxious... Actually, they still are, and Sid was no exception. He was always perpetually in love with his hair, a trait that he's still known for to this day.
In any case, one rainy day bus ride, he asked if he could touch my umbrella - y'know, to wet his hands and slick his hair back. I was apprehensive, but he went ahead and did it anyway before I could answer. It was only when he got his hands wet did he realize that my umbrella happened to be covered in grime and dirt... idiot. I can't help but think he's held a grudge against me since then. If I were him, I know I would.
"Hey, I said, little girl!" He yelled again. A spark of anger prickled at my insides. I was only younger than him by 3 months. I growled rather loudly in response - something both of my parents reprimanded for not being ladylike - or humanlike at all, for that matter, but I didn't have time for this. I hoped for a second that maybe, just maybe, I could scare him off... Then I asked myself, when has growling ever worked? Instead, I pressed onward, quickening my pace in effort to get the hell away from him.
"Little girl!" A third time.
"What." I answered flatly, my one word reply dripping with as much hatred I could possibly infuse into it. I refused to stop walking for him, but there was no answer. Wondering what he was up to, I peered back, just catching a glimpse of him slicking his hands back over his hair. He snapped his fingers out, flicking the grease off his fingers. Yuck.
I groaned, rolling my eyes. Is that all? "Stop wasting my time," I hissed, whirling around and stomping toward the school door. Unfortunately, the front pocket of my backpack was unzipped, and the sudden snap of momentum caused a pen or two to fall out. Ugh. On reflex, I glanced back over my shoulder at the sound, only to see Sid lunging at whatever I had dropped.
"Niiice," he purred, oozing with smugness. He scooped up my items, examining them briefly before tossing them on yonder to spite me. "Eh?" The tone of his voice seemed intrigued. "What kind of coin is this?"
Coin? What the heck was he talking about? I don't carry any change... I figured he must've been trying to fake me out. I glanced to the object in his hand, ready to chew him out. My eyes widened when I realized what it was.
"Don't touch that, you moron!" I barked at him, slamming my backpack down as a means of intimidation. Of course, what with Sid being Sid, he didn't listen.
I winced as the alleged coin - my Dino Medal - shuddered in his hand. Tsintao appeared before both of us in a flash of light, roaring its strange guttural cry. For a moment, Sid looked like he needed a new change of pants. Tsintao, on the other hand, merely looked around, curious with its new surroundings. Its appearance had startled the other few students who were making their way in, causing many to flee inside and others to stand by and observe. Vivosaurs weren't unknown to the people in my town, but they were exotic beings - much like giraffes or zebras or other non-native animals that one could only see at a zoo. It was only natural that the other students would react to my Tsintao in a manner similar to one of those old Japanese monster movies. Intrigued by their behavior, my Vivosaur looked to me, quizzically tilting its head.
"Tsintao!" I scowled in a harsh whisper with a hint of panic. "G-get back in your medal form! ...Please!" The creature looked puzzled, sniffing at the concrete for weeds to nibble at. I could feel a sense of anxiety wash over me, embarrassed at attracting so much attention. It didn't help that Sid soon realized that Tsintao was a docile creature, rather than large murderous beast. He quickly regained his cool, only to suddenly burst out laughing. I could feel my panic slowly burn back into rage.
"What is this thing?" he sneered in between laughs.
I kept my tone low and stern. "It is a Vivosaur," I growled. I grit my teeth, finding it harder to keep my anger tethered down. I may have only had Tsintao for a day, but it was my birthday present. It was a responsibility given to me by my father. It was an extension of me... And I would not allow myself to be laughed at.
"Hah! Looks more like a mutant duck to me!"
"Take that back, cretin."
"Why should I?" He taunted, grade school style.
"Because it's my Vivosaur," I monotoned, my rage slowly bubbling up. "As in, I could command it to step on you." And I wanted it to... so badly.
"Ooh, so scary," Sid mocked, smirking. "Then prove it! If it's yours to command, then it's probably as weak as you-"
I lost control of myself right there. Blinded by rage, I found myself kicking him in the stomach without warning. Forget Tsintao, I'll step on him mysefl! I stomped on his stomach repeatedly in some sick twisted hope of single-handedly trampling him. Surprised by this, Sid had the wind knocked out of him - his gasps were sharp and short. He attempted to get back up, but I immediately pounced on him, wailing on him with frantic closed fists, screaming like a banshee. It was like some sort of trance. I'm quite good at keeping my anger bottled, but to others, it seems to explode without warning...
"Don't you dare call me weak!" I screamed, flailing at him with hammer styled blows. "You stupid sonova...! I'll kill you for that!"
Tsintao reared its head back up, concerned about my sudden show of hostility. It approached the two of us, grunting inquisitively, apparently attempting to figure out if there was any way it could split us up without harming either of us. Before it could take any action, the school's security had apparently gotten wind of the commotion and ran outside, corralling Tsintao away from us. One guard ripped me away from my assault on Sid, hollering at me to calm down. Two others helped Sid to his feet, swinging his arms around their shoulders to support him. As my rage began to subside and my head began to clear, I soon realized the grave mistake I had made as I was lead to the school counselor's office.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
School hadn't even started, and I was sent home early with a suspension for my actions - assaulting a student and bringing an exotic creature to the campus. I threw myself onto my bed, plopping my Dino Medal down on my pillow, right next to my head. I only had Tsintao for a day, and I've already gone and blew it.
I tried to explain to my father what had happened earlier, but... I couldn't. My composure was broken, and there was no way I could rationally explain myself. As I lay on my bed, surrounded by stuffed animals, my eyes began to water out of guilt. Every inch of me was filled with regret. They say nobody's perfect, but damn it, I strive as close as I can to perfection. To think that I, that aloof girl who kept to herself and out of trouble, would be such a numbskull and get herself suspended over a stupid insult... I'm better than that. There's no way this could be me, but it was... I wished I could rewind time. I wished I didn't do that first kick or gave that idiot that beating, even if he did deserve it. But... it's a moment I could never take back. I've blemished the perfection of my image that was the smart quiet girl, and the thought devestated me.
I turned my head slightly, staring at Tsintao's medal. "...I'm sorry you had to see that," I mumbled. "I shouldn't have brought you to school." I wiped my eyes across a teddy bear, feeling myself calming down. "But that guy... ugh, that guy. I just got so angry," I sighed. "I'm not normally like that, I promise. It's just... when he laughed at you, I felt the need to defend you." I tapped the medal thoughtfully, feeling better that I could confide to something other than a stuffed animal for once. "It's just... people don't see Vivosaurs around here. I don't even know much about them myself..." I laughed weakly. "Hah... Actually... I just realized you might get taken away from me because of what I did..." my voice cracked again, crushed by the thought. "I knew I wasn't responsible enough for a Vivosaur..." I closed my eyes wearily in hopes of stopping myself from tearing up again.
"...I'm sorry, Tsintao."
I cracked open my eyes to be greeted by a miniature Tsintao. It was plopped down on my pillow, staring at me with a look of sympathy. Any other time, I would've been startled, but... I felt relieved.
"...You heard all of that, huh...? And you can change size, too..." I gave it a weathered smile as the Vivosaur nodded in comprehension. "I've made a terrible first impression, Tsintao..." I pet the miniature creature with a finger. "If you don't get taken away from me and I get a second chance... I promise I'll take good care of you."
"And in return, I will protect you..." A voice faintly echoed. "Because I will always be by your side."
"Huh?" I blinked. I looked around momentarily before gazing back at Tsintao. "...Was that you?"
Tsintao gave no reply as it nipped at the floral patterns on my pillow case.
Chapter 3: PyxidantheraEdit
I stood at the end of a lone dock with my luggage, taking in my surroundings. Soft waves lapped at the dock's support beams. I could smell a light spray of sea salt. The sky was clear, save for a few distant clouds hanging over the horizon. A cool ocean breeze caressed my face. I adjusted my scarf in annoyance, pulling it up to shield myself, but it rebelled, lazily sinking below my chin once more. I shivered a bit - not from the wind, but fear. This was the first time I was traveling alone... Except for the Dino Medal I had tucked away in my pocket.
See, it's been three years since Tsintao and I first met. And in those three years... I've learned that having him was probably the best thing to happen to me. (School mishap aside, of course.) I finally had a good friend... a best friend! A loyal companion who I could trust my feelings and secrets to... A friend who would do anything for me. A friend who never betray me.
But being friends wasn't a one sided deal, now was it? While Tsintao was perfectly content spending his time with a tiny human girl, it didn't feel right for him to be without any other Vivosaurs for miles... So that's why I've come out to the Caliosteo Islands: to hopefully pay back Tsintao with what he deserves. Unfortunately, I wasn't exactly sure what to expect from the place... I had an idea, sure, but I was still nervous. I could even feel my insides scrunching up in anxiety. But... so long as I had my best friend, everything would be fine. Right? Right.
...Well, until I spotted the giant ocean cliffs towering before me, at least. This meant two things: the dock I was standing on was at sea level, and... the town I was staying in was far above it. The only way up was a set of stairs that were carved into the cliffs by man... And I had to climb all of them. Augh. I rolled my eyes with a heavy sigh of exasperation, gripping the handles of my luggage. I waddled down the long dock, bumping into the suspended bags that hung from my shoulders. Several times I had to sit my stuff down so I could figure out how to counterbalance the darn things without tripping over my own feet, but I quickly gave up. I shoved a free hand in my pocket, yanking out my Dino Medal.
"Tsintao!" I called, and my friend appeared next to me in a flash. The orange dinosaur looked around, and then at me, tilting his head. "We've made it to Ribular Island. The boat just dropped me off here," I explained to him. "So, um..." My eyes shifted to my bags. "Do you think you could help me carry these?" I looked to the stairs at the other end of the dock. "I can barely carry my stuff to the end of the dock, so-"
"Rhh," Tsintao rumbled knowingly, picking up my things before I had the chance to finish explaining myself. What a sweetie. I followed my large friend, sighing with relief that I didn't have to stand here alone. He had only taken a few steps before stopping abruptly.
"Huh?" I blinked, walking up to his side. "...Is something wrong, buddy?" I looked up at him, patting him. He was looking over the dock's side, transfixed on the water. After a moment of what I assumed was contemplation, he gingerly placed my things back down on deck and turned to face the ocean completely.
"Tsintao...? What're you- ahh, wait, no!" I yelped as my large friend suddenly bent over the side, leaning his head over the water. I grabbed at him, tugging at his tail with what little physical strength I was capable of, fearing that he would fall in. Unfazed, he pulled his head back up, looking back at me as he licked the salt water off of his lips. Oh. I guess he was just... thirsty?
"Rhhh," he bellowed. Tsintao motioned to the sea with his head before dipping it back down again. Huh. Okay, maybe he wasn't thirsty. Intrigued by his beckoning, I crept over to the side to get a better look at what exactly he was doing. I peered over just in time to see him gently clamp down on what looked like... a human arm...?! Was there someone in the water?!
"Nhhh," Tsintao grunted, his eye glancing to me expectantly. He was signaling for me to haul up the rest the person. I stood dumbfounded for a second. What the hell? How did he even notice this?! Questions raced through my head, but I brushed them aside. I trusted Tsintao's judgment, darn it. I got on my knees and leaned over and the two of us were just able to haul the body up.
Tsintao sprawled the person out on deck, peering over him. It seemed to be a young man wrapped in a worn cloak. His clothes looked old and tattered, too... especially his top. It resembled an old martial arts gi. Was this dude a ninja or something?
"Wow," I finally muttered, looking up at Tsintao. "Uh... Good catch. I never would have noticed him," I blinked, impressed with how observant my friend was. Tsintao lowered his head, gently prodding at the man's side with concern. "...If he's not breathing, we throw him back," I shrugged. Tsintao's eyes widened as he looked to me in surprise. "I'm kidding, I'm kidding," I assured, holding my hands up in defense. I kneeled down, placing a hand over the young man's chest. I sat there for a moment, concentrating. "...His heart is still beating, and he seems to be breathing, so... that's good," I sighed. I didn't know the first thing about first aid, but I did know he could get seriously ill if he stayed wet.
I stood back up. "Since you found him, I hope you don't mind carrying him," I said, grabbing one of my bags and beckoning Tsintao over. "Hold my bag while I try to find one of my towels for this guy..." The Vivosaur obliged, serving as a luggage stand as I rummaged through my flower print duffle bag.
"Ah, here we go," I said with relief as I managed to pull out a white towel covered in prints of Tsintao. A... Tsintaowel, if you will. My friend snorted. Coming from him, I recognized it as an amused laugh. "...It's a cute towel, okay?" I shook my head and smiled to myself, turning back to the drenched person who was still sprawled out on deck.
I immediately noticed that something was very wrong.
"Where did he go?!"
Tsintao blinked, setting my bag down and sniffing at the spot where the person once lied. There was no way he could've just vanished like that! I spun around, looking in every which way. I ran over to the side, peering over the spot where we had pulled him from. Nothing. I ran to the other side, checking there too. Still nothing. I briskly walked up and down the entire dock, following the ocean's edge the entire time. Nothing at all. What the...
"How... How did that happen...?" I wondered, rubbing my head as I made my way back to Tsintao. "He was just there..." I looked up at my friend. He was just as confused as I was... and he had no answer. But someone else did.
I jumped at the voice that came from my left, turning to face it. Tsintao jerked his head over, too. There stood the missing body of the young man. He was even smiling pleasantly. How did he even...?!
"Mm...?" He cocked his head to the side. "Excuse me, miss, but... Where am I?"
I stared at him, astonished. "I... uh... How did..." I blinked. "That's your biggest concern? You just... you almost drowned!"
"Oh. Did I...?" The young man frowned, scratching his head. His brows raised in surprise as he felt the matted texture of his salty black hair, bringing his hand back down to examine it. "...I see." He nodded. "Then I suppose that explains why I am soaking wet." He he laughed softly to himself, satisfied with the evidence. I couldn't fathom what was up with this guy.
"How did you..." I started weakly, but shook my head, deciding now wasn't the best time to ask how the hell he vanished like that. Instead, I handed my Tsintao towel to him. "Here, uh, just... dry off, or else you'll catch hypothermia or something." I turned back to my Vivosaur friend, patting his back and encouraging to start moving. Tsintao went to grab my bags as I glanced back to the man. "Just come with us, okay? I... don't know your condition, but I'm sure you can get taken care of when we get to the plaza."
He said nothing. Instead, he seemed to be intrigued by my Tsintaowel, examining it with curiosity.
"Hey, did you hear me?" I raised my voice a bit. I wasn't sure if he was even paying attention.
"Mm. Yes," he smiled with acknowledgement. "You are too kind." Whatever it was he was so interested in, he shrugged it off, ruffling the towel in his hair as he followed us.
So we had climbed about halfway up the endless staircase in silence. While Tsintao was weighed down by my bags, he still found greater ease in making the ascension, keeping his pace slow in order to let me keep up with him. He knew I had absolutely no stamina. At all. And he knew I could've just hitched a ride on him, but... There was going to be a lot of walking during my stay here. I knew I had to train myself now to get used to it... Maybe I should've thought about doing that earlier.
I was a little embarrassed about how unfit I was - mostly because of the strange young man tagging along with us on his own two feet. He was completely unfazed by the hike. Any other time, I would've chalked it up to him being more fit than me - a feat that is not incredibly difficult to achieve - but this guy had nearly drowned 10 minutes ago. How he was able to keep such a strong pace astounded me. Ugh... The mere thought of it tired me out.
The young man suddenly spoke up. "You said I almost succumbed to the ocean, yes?" He adjusted the towel draped around his shoulders, wrapping it around his upper body to shield himself from the breeze. It didn't make much sense since he insisted on keeping his cloak on. "Are you..." He began hesitantly. "Are you sure I am not dead?"
I struggled to reply as we ascended. "Uhhh... You seem... alive to me," I managed to answer in between huffs. "...Why would... you ask... that?" I stopped for a moment to catch my breath, leaning against the cliff wall for support.
"I was just wondering if you were an angel," he mused. I leaned over for a moment, panting. It took me a moment to register his words.
"I... wait, what?" It was all I could manage to huff out. I stared at him in wide-eyed disbelief, stunned at his audacity. He chuckled at the face I made. Who the hell even... Who does that?
"Nothing," he smiled to himself, passing me as he ascended the stairs. He waved a hand dismissively. "Please forget that I asked."
What a weirdo.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
We arrived at the town, alive and bustling with activity. Helicopters took turns buzzing in and out, delivering newer folk every minute with astounding coordination. Palm trees gently curled over the brick plaza while a pleasant display of fountains stood in the center. It was a wonderful looking oasis.
I took my luggage from Tsintao, thanking him with face cuddles before he reverted into Medal form. As we entered the Fighter Station, the odd man glanced back outside with childish awe, as if he had never seen such a sight before. I was more focused on trying to figure out what to do from here.
"...Seriously, we should get you to a doctor or something," I frowned, hoping to spot a first aid sign somewhere. "You seem fine, but just to be sure-"
"What is your name?" He turned to me.
"Eh?" I blinked, caught off guard. "...Uh. That's... not important right now? I mean... You need medical treatment!"
"Indeed. But your name is important, as well," He frowned in response. "How am I to thank the young lady who saved me from drowning if I do not know her name?"
"It was Tsintao that saved you, not me," I firmly corrected. He stared, smiling, still waiting for my answer. I heightened the pitch of my voice. "I'm not supposed to talk to strangers," I huffed childishly, turning away from him for a moment. I glanced back, only to see that he he lowered his eyelids, amused by my immaturity. "...Fiiine," I whined, finally giving in. "It's Azalea."
"Now that wasn't so hard," he laughed again. "I thank you, Azalea."
"Yeah, well... I told you, it was Tsintao. You should be thanking him, not me," I crossed my arms with a pout. "Anyway, now it's only fair that you tell me your name."
"Mm? My name...?"
I raised a brow. "Is that a problem...?"
"Nn... To be quite frank, I struggle to remember anything before you plucked me from the sea," He admitted, scratching his head.
"I suppose that wouldn't be too farfetched," he laughed again. "Mm... Name, name, name..." He continued to scratch his head, hoping to grasp at some memory. " Ah. I believe I do recall one..." He frowned again, rubbing his chin. "But..."
"But what? C'mon, gimmie something I can call you."
"Well... The name that comes to mind is Kei," He smiled sheepishly. "But I'm not quite sure if it was my name."
"Better than nothing," I shrugged. "Kei it is. I think that's a nice name."
"Mm," Kei nodded. "I do not mind being referred to as such," he smiled again. "In any case... What are we doing here?"
"We're here to find you a doctor or something," I replied, waddling with my luggage over to the reception desk. Kei followed. "This lady will probably know."
"Hello!" The woman beamed from behind the counter. "Are you here to register?"
"Ah, yeah!" I plopped my bags down. Whew. "But, uh, first, do you know if there's a first aid station around here...?"
"Oh, of course!" The woman nodded. "May I just have your name?"
"Azalea. Azalea Reyes," I sighed. Come on, lady. This Kei guy needed help. Well... Hopefully this wouldn't take long.
"All right, let me... Oh dear, something's not processing." Oh. Of course I jinxed it. The receptionist smiled nervously as she ticked away at her keyboard. "Hmm? It says you didn't clear the preliminaries..."
"I took a written exam," I answered. "Vivosaurs are a rarity where I'm from, so... special circumstances, you know?"
"I see. In that case, let me pull up some other records," The lady squinted, leaning over her computer screen. "I appreciate your patience."
"Yeah... " I propped my elbow onto the counter, lowering my eyelids in mild annoyance. "It's fine."
"Mmm," Kei's eyes twinkled with curiosity. "What exactly are you registering for?"
"Oh, uh... Some tournament," I rubbed the back of my head. "I'm not really here to win - I'm just here to find some more Vivosaurs for my Tsintao."
"What do you mean... "find more?" He raised his eyebrows, intrigued. He hadn't questioned anything else about Vivosaurs up until now, so I figured he must've had some knowledge about them. Pretty interesting that he would remember that over his own name.
"Uhhh... Well, I only have Tsintao with me, so I figured I could find him some friends," I shrugged. "Because, like... See, this place is apparently seated upon a huge deposit of fossil rocks. The man hosting the tournament is allowing competitors to dig them up and revive them into Vivosaurs," I explained, unconsciously handpuppeting for emphasis. "Where I'm from, Vivosaurs aren't exactly... free for anyone to get ahold of, you know? My father got my Tsintao for me, and it wasn't easy..."
"Ahh," Kei nodded in understanding. "I see. I suppose that also means you are not a native to... wherever we are."
"Uh... No... I'm not." I paused. "Oh, but I have a friend here who is."
"Ahh. Hmm..." He ran a hand through his hair in thought. "...I just recalled something," His head tilted again. "You never did tell me where I was."
"Right!" I snapped a finger. "Yeah, that's right. Well, uh-"
"Sorry about that!" The receptionist chimed. "Everything checks out, Azalea! Your qualification for the Caliosteo Cup has been confirmed. Please wait here..."
"Huh?" I looked back to the woman. "Oh! Yeah... Thanks."
"...Caliosteo?" Kei echoed. His perpetual smile faded as he repeated the word slowly, dissecting it syllable by syllable. "...I see." He adjusted his musty cloak, securely tightening it. "So, it is safe for me to assume that... I am on the Caliosteo Islands." His tone seemed grim.
"Uh..." I blinked. "Yeah. So you're at least familiar with that, right?"
Kei nodded, opening his mouth to answer before a nasty, grating cough exploded from his chest. He had cupped his hand over his mouth, giving a little shiver. "Sorry," he apologized, his smile returning.
"Oh, geez!" I spun back around to the receptionist, clutching at the desk's edges. "Hey! That first aid station I asked about? Do you know where it is? My Vivosaur saved him from drowning," I frantically motioned to Kei behind me. "Do you know where they give medical treatment for him?"
"Ahh! I'm sorry, I almost forgot! " The woman looked to Kei before quickly motioning down the lobby, to her right. "Go to the lounge over there - we'll usually have a doctor treat patients in there."
"Thanks," I nodded, turning to Kei. "Okay, now let's just get you to... Kei?" I looked around. He was nowhere in sight. "Kei?! Kei, where are you?!" I raised my voice, calling out to him. "Oh my god, where'd you go?!" He was gone. Flat out gone.
"You... You saw him, right?" I turned back to the lady, needing some sort of reassurance that I wasn't just hallucinating. "He was there, right?"
"Huh...?" She blinked. "He was there a moment ago..." The receptionist admitted. "But I..." She shrugged, just as confounded. "I don't know what to tell you..."
"Argh," I clutched my head. "Me neither..." I muttered.
And he had my favorite towel, too. Damnit.
Chapter 4: PeriwinkleEdit
"This is the room you'll be staying in," the staff member smiled as she slid a card key through an electric lock. With a click, she pushed open the door, holding it open for me as I squeezed by her with my luggage. I looked around briefly, inspecting the dorm. There wasn't a bed in sight.
"Uhh... Where do I sleep?" I asked while putting my things down, looking back to the woman in hesitation.
She motioned to a door on each side of the room. "There are two bedrooms, each with two beds and their own bathrooms," she explained.
"So... Four beds?" I winced. "Like... for other people?"
"Well... There's only so much space available on the island," she continued. “So it's more economic for fighters to share rooms like this." Ah. So… a dorm. I had never lived in one before. I could never trust living with strangers, but I didn't realize that would be the case here...
"On the up side," she brightened her tone, attempting to ease my concern. "You seem to be the first one here, so you get first pick!"
"Ah... I guess so!" I nervously chuckled. "Thanks."
"No problem," the staff member replied. "Just come back downstairs to the main lobby for the stadium tour and a debriefing of the rules, all right? The sooner, the better," She stepped forward, plopping the card key down on the coffee table near the door. "I'm leaving the key to your room right here. Be sure to hold onto this, okay?" I nodded. "All right, I think that's everything for now... Enjoy your stay!" The woman did a quick wave as she stepped out, closing the door behind her.
"Hey, Tsintao! We're inside," I sang, reaching into my pocket and pulling out his medal. "Take a look!" My orange buddy morphed out of his coin shaped form, appearing in a size where he stood up to my shoulder. He tilted his head, sniffing at the clean room smell that wafted in the air. As he familiarized himself with the living space, I dragged my things into the bedroom on the left. The first thing I saw: a desk. Perfect for my laptop! I knew I was here to find Vivosaurs, but damn it, I needed a daily dose of the internet. I made a mental note to set it up later as I placed my things on the adjacent bed.
I flopped onto the comforter myself, kicking my feet up to rest for a bit. Tsintao waddled in, still sniffing at the intriguing new scents. He looked to me and waddled over, resting the crook of his neck on my bed. Initially, it was just a position he was comfortable with, but over time it became his way of asking me to pet him. His green eyes stared expectantly.
"Of course, buddy," I smiled, rubbing his muzzle. Tsintao's eyes closed with contentment. "We've come here for your sake, after all."
"Rhhh," he mumbled in response.
"Heh... Y'know, I've always hated talking to people. But with you by my side, it's a lot easier..." I yawned dreamily.
We sat for a while, relaxing. After that long trip, I would've just spent the rest of the day here. But... That woman said to go back downstairs. If I got too comfortable here, I'd probably never leave... Sigh. With a grunt, I forced myself back to my feet. The sudden creaking of the bed cracked open Tsintao's sleepy eyes. I motioned to him that we were leaving. He frowned - well, as far as I could tell, anyway - and morphed back into his medal. I snatched up both Tsintao and my card key, shoving them into my pocket as I left the room. Before heading back downstairs, I glanced at the number plate plastered out next to the door - Room #4. Hah. One of my favorite numbers. I could practically hear my superstitious uncle panicking over it being the number of death... but come on, really? Superstitions? That's just silly.
I descended the stairs, glancing around the lobby. I knew I had to... uh... do something... but I wasn't specified where to actually go! Gah. I looked over the reception counter with uncertainty, making my way over to the lady behind it. She'd have some answers. A young man stood in front of the counter, briefly adjusting his golden square frames before shoving his hands back into his pockets. He stood at the forefront of the desk, but seemed to have no business with the woman. I glanced at him, unsure if he was at the head of some sort of line. He looked back at me inquisitively before shrugging and stepping back to allow some space between us. I thanked him.
"Can I help you-" the receptionist began as I stepped up, but she cut herself off. "Oh, you! I'm sorry... I still haven't seen that friend of yours since he vanished."
"Huh? ...Oh, yeah. I only just met the guy, actually... Uh, but thanks for keeping a look out." I scratched my head. "Umm... So I was told to come back down here? Something about debriefing and... uh. I don't know where to actually go-"
"Oh, here is fine! We do demonstrations in groups, and the young man here has been waiting for another person." I looked back as she motioned to the guy behind me. The young man nodded, mouthing a silent "hello." He smiled, raising his hand in a greeting gesture before sticking it back in his pocket. The receptionist looked to her right. "Someone should be here to instruct you shortly."
On cue, a woman emerged from a sliding door, approaching us.
"Hello! Right this way, please."
The woman, whose name we learned was Stella, lead us to the room on the opposite side. Appropriately enough, it was the Cleaning Room.
"Interesting..." The young man kept his arms folded behind his back, immediately noticing the large machine placed against the wall as we entered. "I haven't seen a revival machine like that before.”
Stella nodded. "That's no surprise. Technology's always improving, so we try to upgrade when we have a chance."
"I see..." he rubbed his chin thoughtfully.
Stella then began a little lecture, giving us the basic rundown of being a Fossil Fighter. Cleaning, revival... The bare bones stuff. I did my best to listen. I knew the very basics from the exams, but... actually applying them from memory? Eh. I couldn't truly understand it unless I had experienced it myself - which I hadn't. So this was it: my time to test out what I learned myself... and blunder horribly!
As Stella gave her directions to me, offering bits and piece of advice, I eagerly loomed over my fossil rock, twitching with nervousness. I tried being careful at first, but that ticking time limit got me panicking. My hands were unsteady and I nearly broke the whole damn thing! One needed 50 points to pass... and I was surprised that I somehow passed with a score of 63. I guess I was lucky I was out of time - one more second and I would've failed for sure.
My tutorial buddy, on the other hand, scored an insanely high 97. With six seconds to spare, no less!
"Damn," I huffed, impressed at his performance. I folded my arms, clutching them to my chest, envious and embarrassed. "I suck."
"Nah. Everyone's a beginner at some point," he looked to me with a chuckle. "You learn from experience. I've cleaned a lot of fossil rocks before coming here, so I'm used to it."
"That's right! Just keep at it." Stella chimed. "Now, let's go revive your fossils, shall we?"
It was my first time witnessing a fossil revival. I didn't expect it to look so... flashy, but hey, I wasn't complaining. I was still in half awe when Stella handed us the resulting Dino Medals. I looked down at mine - a blue one with a tiny image of a Vivosaur with three horns.
"A Tricera, huh?" My tutorial buddy glanced over at my medal in hand. "That's a good one. Looks like we both got Ceratopsians. I got a Chasmo." He held out his a green Dino Medal to offer me a closer look.
"...A what?" I squinted at the small image in his palm, making out the Vivosaur's odd vents on its head. "...Huh. Neat." I lied. I had no idea what a Chasmo was.
We were then taken to the Fossil Stadium where we received Paleopagers from a staff member, who explained that they used the FMS, or "Fossil Messaging Service" to send out announcements. They also were a way of keeping track of fighters, allowing them to communicate between each other. The man who had given these to us, Devon, then rambled about Vivosaur medal placement and such. My tutorial buddy kept nodding his head in understanding. He looked like some sort of bobble-head. Did he actually understand this? I vaguely remember studying zones and like for a test several months ago, but I'd never actually battled before. Heck if I remembered what any of them did.
"All right, so now that that's done, why don't you experience it for yourself? Here you go," Devon said, handing out three medals to both of us. "You can use these-"
"Huh? We can't use our own Vivosaurs?" I frowned, looking down at my newly acquired Tricera medal.
The instructor rubbed his chin, considering the thought. After a moment, he shook his head. "Sorry. I'm required to give everyone these demo teams," he explained. I sighed to myself. "I just want to use my Tsintao..." I mumbled. "If he doesn't get familiar with Fossil Fighting, I'm afraid of him getting spooked…"
"Is that so?" My partner nearly sang, having picked up what I said. He looked to Devon. "What do you say, sir? Surely you could make an exception for us, right?" He raised a brow, staring down the staff member. Devon tilted his head, apparently considering it once again - even if it was for a brief moment.
"...Ehh. Look," Devon shrugged. "I would if I could, but I'm required to stick by what I was told. So... Sorry. No exceptions."
"Yeah, it's okay," I ducked my head, not wanting to get the man in trouble. "We understand that you have to-"
"I'm glad to hear you say that," my partner spoke up with a smile, approaching the staff member. "You see..." He produced a wallet, snapping it open to reveal his ID and a badge. "I was sent here by RED to ensure that the new rules would be put in place. Granted, I'm not here to evaluate you personally, but it's always nice to see a staff member pass a little test like that."
"That so?" Devon smiled. "Just doing my job, that's all," he beamed, looking over the ID. "Hmm... Seth Galloway. An employee of RED, Huh...? Well, I guarantee you that we're putting the new rules in place."
"I've no doubt about that," Seth nodded approvingly. "Everything else seems to be in tip top shape."
I stood off to the side, awkwardly forgotten. RED... Who was that? Or what was that? Was this Seth guy a cop? Who or whatever he was employed by, he seemed to be higher up on the ladder than the staff members here... Though I couldn't imagine why he'd just blow his cover like that if he's supposed to be inspecting the staff and rules. Doesn't that sort of defeat the purpose?!
"So... Tsintao, is it?" I snapped out of my thoughts. This Seth guy was talking to me. "Along with that Tricera... Is that all you have?"
"Erm... yeah. Why?"
"All right then, here." He held out a small yellow Dino Medal. "You can borrow my Ourano. We'll make this three on three. Here we go!"
"Huh?" I blinked, "Er, for what? You mean-"
"You said you wanted to use your own Vivosaurs, right? Devon here is restricted to using the demo Vivosaurs, but two friends using this area to practice can use their own." He placed his Ourano medal in my hand. "I'll be your teacher for this!" he proudly stated before scurrying to the other side of the field. A loophole, huh...
I watched as Seth tossed out his medals. At the forefront appeared a navy blue Vivosaur with a red skeleton pattern that seemed painted over its body. It looked like it was grinning maniacally. To its left was the funny green Vivosaur that Seth revived earlier - Chasmo, I think? Closest to him was a large, elegant looking creature. It was long from head to tail, pale yellow with a pleasant leafy flower pattern on its back.
Uncertain, I imitated him, chucking out mine. Tsintao appeared, eyes widened with surprise that he was finally in one of those stadiums - just like on TV! He had known that it was coming, but his worrying glances back at me told me he wasn't exactly prepared for now. I called out a few words, assuring him. Behind Tsintao, to my right, my new Tricera pawed at the ground, while Seth's Ourano bounced eagerly on my left.
"See this?" I looked down, hearing Seth's voice despite being so far away. It was muffled - probably coming from my Paleopager. I quickly fumbled about for it, finally picking it up to answer him. "Uh... Sorry. What am I seeing?"
"The formations - where each of our Vivosaurs are standing," he explained, pointing out the importance of each Vivosaur's location. "Vivosaurs attack best at certain ranges. My Camara for example - the pretty long necked girl way across the field - is best suited to attack from where she is. Whereas your Tsintao is best at punching out Vivosaurs up close. You can also rotate the positions and-"
"...Hahaha, right. Sorry. That's probably a lot to take in, isn't it? This isn't a full battle anyway, but it’s the best way to experience it for yourself. So... Go ahead! Choose a Vivosaur to attack - just remember that one can only attack once each turn. Moves are also limited by Fossil Power, or FP..."
Geez. Slow down, would ya? I looked at my screen, temporarily tuning out Seth as I scrolled through Tsintao's attack repertoire. He only had one move: Spinning Punch. I looked up, calling out the attack name with uncertainty to my orange friend. He nodded, but continued to stare at me expectantly. Err... Oh! Right. I was supposed to pick a target... Seth said Tsintao was good for attacking other Vivosaurs up close, so... Chasmo? Chasmo looked close.
With a target selected, Tsintao charged at the green Vivosaur, and... wildly flailed his arms about. To call it a punch would be far too generous - it looked more like he had gotten into a girly slap fight. Regardless, it seemed effective. I could hear Seth laugh over the Paleopager. I... I couldn't blame him. Tsintao looked absolutely silly. Was that normal for all Tsintao, or just mine...?
"All right, good." Seth applauded over the Pager. "Not sure if you knew or not, but Tsintao's an Earth type." I knew that. "That means it has an advantage over Air types, which Chasmo is." I didn't know that. It sounded like a lot to remember, but I'm sure I'd pick it up... eventually.
Seth called out an order and his long necked Vivosaur obliged, attacking my Tricera. The blue Vivosaur let out a what sounded like a cross between a grunt and a roar. It shook its head roughly, trying to recover from the damage. I quickly glanced at its vital signs and- holy crap! That move almost knocked it out!
"Camara's an Air type, too." The Pager perked up. "She's weak against Earth, but strong against Water. So, as one would guess..."
"...Tricera's a water type," I answered. No wonder...
"Bingo. You can usually tell that type a Vivosaur is from their color. ...Usually." He paused. "Anyway, I think that should be good enough?" Seth motioned to his Vivosaurs, calling them off the field. "But if you have any other questions, I'll be happy to answer them." I nodded to myself before imitating his motion, calling back my own pals before following him back to the Stadium entrance.
"Well... Uh... Thank you!" I scratched my head awkwardly as we strolled through the lobby. "That was... fun? And also terrifying? I just... um... yeah." I struggled to word a proper thanks. "I appreciate it!"
"No problem," Seth shrugged. "Starting out is always hard. Seriously." He tilted his head thoughtfully. "I wish I had someone give me some advice when I first got into Fossil Fighting... Though, I suppose it doesn't beat the experience of learning on my own."
"Yeah..." I agreed, stopping in my tracks. He looked to me inquisitively.
"Uh... You wouldn't mind if I stuck by you, would you?" I smiled nervously. "Like, hang out? I mean... I really do appreciate your help and advice! Especially letting Tsintao get a feel of what a real Fossil Battle would be like. So I figured... y'know. Maybe I could learn a bit more from you?"
"Oh. Sure, I wouldn't mind." A lazy shrug. "Though, uh... I'm sorry - I don't think I got your name."
"And you probably heard that my name's Seth." He paused before dropping his voice to a whisper. "You're not just asking to hang with me because of the RED thing, are you?"
"Eh?! No!" I frantically put my hands up. "I mean... you were nice enough to help me! So I thought... Oh. I guess that did use your weird RED privilege to do that... But...! But I didn't know you were-"
"Relax," Seth laughed. "I was kidding. Don't worry about it." He lowered his voice again. "Just as long as you don't mention it to others, okay?"
"Oh. Uh... okay!"
A small tune suddenly rang out from our Pagers, as well as the PA systems. It was followed by a message:
"This is an important public-service announcement from Caliosteo Fossil Park. The Caliosteo Cup opening ceremony will be kicking off shortly. All interested parties should meet in front of the Fighter Station." The tune rang again, ending the announcement.
"Ah, good," Seth looked toward the exit. "I've been looking forward to the opening ceremony. Come on, let's- GYAH!"
Seth screamed. I screamed because he screamed, and it was clear why: The ground – and my heart – rattled as a large freaking boulder barreled through the lobby entrance, crashing straight into the cleaning room.
"What the hell was that?!" I barked. I hadn't realized I was loud enough for the entire lobby to hear, but I'm sure everyone was thinking it.
"I... I don't know," Seth stammered, still trying to assess what had happened. "My... my best guess would be a Vivosaur."
"Vivosaur, sentient boulder or whatever it was, holy hell!" My voice strained. It would grate whenever I got incited or angry. "Is that normal?! Do things like that normally happen?! Do living boulders just roll around trying to run over people?!"
"Only if something went wrong," Seth grunted, straightening out the wrinkles he had created in his peacoat. "That must’ve been a Vivosaur. So unless it’s Fighter was inexperienced or had ill intent, no. It's not normal."
Experienced or not, that sounded like a damn lie.
Nothing could be possibly be normal on an island chain full of dinosaurs.