Author's Notes: It's been a while.
For reference, this fanfic uses Japanese names (there are some puns and playing with the meanings of their names, including in the title itself, but nothing too important) and some Japanese terms.
Sumomo = Maylene
Reiji = Reggie (Paul's older brother)
Shinji = Paul
Tobari City = Veilstone City
Yukata = a Japanese garment, a casual summer kimono usually made of cotton. (Quoted from Wikipedia. ^^; )
Onsen = hot spring
Now, enjoy the fanfic!
A swift strike of a leg, the pink-striped fabric snapping at the speed of the attack, expertly blocked by burnt blue paws, the spike pointed away from its attacker.
Retracting her leg at the same time as she dove into a punch, aimed at the anubis-like Pokemon, it leaped back to land gracefully onto its hind legs, narrowly escaping the hit.
Likewise, its opponent, the pink-haired Gym Leader, leapt back.
They paused for a moment, and then the girl sighed and slid into a sitting position on the tatami mat floor. The dog surrendered its defenses and lowered the four aura sensors that hung behind the base of its ears, but kept a stoic aura about it as it always did (it always seemed so much calmer and more focused than its trainer).
Head hanging low as she sighed, absently tugging on her fingerless blue gloves, the girl then, barely lifting her head so much as turning it, opened her eyes to glance at her partner.
"... Would it help if I said I was sorry?" she asked, smiling sheepishly.
The dog's red eyes narrowed then into slits. Sumomo thought that if it were to glare any harder, its eyes might become invisible.
"Okay, okay," she said, waving her hands amiably. "I know, Lucario, I know. I've been distracted lately..."
Wiping the sweat from her brow, she was thankful she didn't have much in the way of bangs, although the sweat running through her short cropped hair was still uncomfortable.
Speaking of which, "after we get cleaned up, let's go to the hot spring, Lucario!"
The Pokemon blinked, giving up the glare to half-growl, half-sigh, before nodding briskly.
A bright smile lit up Sumomo's face, the sheer girth of which forced her eyes shut. The Lucario shook its head in disapproval at the sore lack of a warrior's pride in its trainer, but stood up and followed on its hind legs as she raced out after tossing a towel into her wooden bucket.
"Wasn't that relaxing, Lucario?"
Lucario didn't respond to the question with anything more than a quiet nod, but Sumomo was not bothered, humming to a happy little tune as she walked, dressed in an airy and sweat-free white yukata simply, but charmingly patterned with pink blossoms, a half-wet towel hanging around her neck, and wooden bucket swinging merrily from one hand.
Her song was cut short when she caught sight of long flowing dark purple hair, swung back over the shoulders as a towel slipped off smoothly, like silk on silk.
Without noticing, she had stopped walking entirely, the rattling of the soap and shampoo in her still-swinging bucket sounded faint and distant as she came into contact with the cause of her recent distraction.
When the towel came off entirely, held delicately in long, almost feminine fingers, a young face gazed back at her with kind dark eyes and a laidback smile, one spike of purple hair cutting down the middle of his forehead, while the rest fanned out, short and sharp at first, then diving into a long, flowing mane.
Along with the yukata, black-dyed cotton and simple as hers, but still worn with a strange, effortless elegance, down to the way he clutched the towel in those delicate-looking hands, the appearance he gave off was that of the most beautiful, heavenly bird she had ever laid eyes on.
As effortlessly as his elegance, he eased away the space between them, and her mind only registered the close proximity at the sound of his voice.
"A-ah, yes!" she blurted out in a half-gasp, chest thrust out, shoulders raised, and face flushed. "Can I help you?"
The bucket dropped from her hand in that moment of tenseness and she quickly bent down to grab it before it hit the ground and risk further embarrassment.
She could feel Lucario's disapproving stare and quickly moved to stand once more, willing herself to relax; this kind of nervousness... was unbefitting of a Gym Leader, of a fighter.
Why was it that she felt more awkward, vulnerable, nervous, and silly standing here before Reiji, just outside of the onsen, both of them armed with nothing but buckets and yukata, than she did in a practise session or in a Gym Battle? Was there something naturally devastating about those two brothers?
He smiled at her response and at seeing that nothing was wrong, and she felt the heat rise in her cheeks again. What was this feeling...?!
"No, thanks, Sumomo. You just looked a bit stunned, so I wanted to make sure everything was alright."
"E-everything is great."
Feeling self-conscious, she raised her hands, trying to hide her pink hair, which was probably spiking up something silly from the quick drying and no brushing, in the folds of her sleeves.
He passed beside her, lightly patting her on the head, and the scent of lilies wafted from his hair.
Dropping her hands, she turned, slowly, to watch him walk off with a somewhat blank, but curious expression.
He took exactly three steps before half-turning to look back at her, and say with another kind smile, "your kimono's very cute, Sumomo."
And then he departed and Sumomo was certain Reiji was named for his beauty.
Lucario admonished her for leaving her senses in such a fashion, but Sumomo was too caught up in making sure she kept the yukata clean and tidily folded as she put it away, before promising to keep her mind clear for the incoming challengers and tomorrow's training.
And her promise, she kept faithfully, for a good long week before one of her routine practise sessions with Lucario went awry.
It began innocently enough, but proceedings took a turn for the worse when, in carelessly deflecting a sphere of concentrated hadou from her Lucario while also raising an arm to block a strong kick, her feet slid, sending her skidding back so she was pressed agains a support beam.
She could have easily moved away from it after overpowering her Lucario under the usual circumstances, but before she could manage to redirect Lucario's momentum, she heard a loud crack from above and dust and wood began spilling down in fine sheets of powder as her Lucario darted away. She leapt to do the same, fast enough to survive, but slow enough to be hit across the back by the lower half of the beam.
It didn't hurt as much as she expected, but after she shoved it off to continue her escape, she could feel a sharp stinging in her back.
Luckily for them, the Tobari City Gym had about a dozen more support beams and as a result of that was fairly sturdy.
With the help of Lucario and her subordinates (at least, after they finished openly weeping at Sumomo-dono's dutiful attitude and moving display of perseverance), replaced the broken beam and cleared the Gym of debris.
After the work was done, she stepped outside and let out a quiet sigh. She was sweaty, dirty, covered in splinters, but wasn't bothered except by the fact that she made such a careless mistake that could have put someone in serious danger.
... And, on a much smaller scale, she was somewhat bothered by her sleeveless black-trimmed shirt clinging to her back with something that was most certainly not sweat.
She turned, rose eyes searching for the source of the shocked cry and found her answer in an older boy rushing over in his usual green apron and coral shirt with just one half of the collar popped. This time, his hair was tied in its usual ponytail, and his eyes were wide and he looked incredibly worried.
"... Reiji-san?" she questioned, blinking in surprise as he caught hold of her shoulders, gently enough not to cause her back to sting, but still firmly.
"Are you alright? Can you walk? What happened? On second thought-- no, don't tell me now, after I get you home, then--"
After that, she couldn't make sense of his rapid-fire questions and probably unintentionally voiced thoughts, and before she could even open her mouth to say that, yes, she was fine, yes, she could walk, and all that happened was a small mishap during training, she was lifted off her feet and carried away.
Of all the awkward moments in her life, this had to be to at the top of the list, somewhere above belching during meditation, but below her defeat before Reiji's own brother, Shinji.
Still, being held so close to him, so protectively... made her feel at ease at the same time in the most paradoxical, but perfectly harmonious way. It was not logical, but of this feeling, she was sure.
As sure as she was that her face, at this point, was as pink as her hair and the blossoms on that kimono Reiji found cute.
"Sumomo?" he glanced down, as he was close to the door of his home and makeshift Pokemon daycare center. "Are you feverish? You're red!"
"N-no, I'm fine, really!"
Was she really? The comment only aggravated the silly blush which worried him even more; she started feeling sorry for making him worry so much!
After he set her down, carefully, onto the couch, he took out a first-aid kit and, after discarding her shirt, began plucking the splinters of wood from her back.
He had calmed down enough by that point, so he wasn't shaky or causing her any unnecessary pain. Still, Sumomo averted her gaze in shyness, as if he were the one unclothed.
"You... how did you get so many splinters?" Reiji asked, incredulously as he cleaned the tweezers before plucking again.
"I got hit by a support beam. I was kind of too slow in getting away," she admitted with a small laugh.
"A support beam?!" he repeated, blinking, and then smiling a bit forcedly. "How can you say that so normally...?"
"Ah, my Gym is prone to this kind of destruction, so it's become a normal, everyday thing to me."
"I see... I hope getting injured this way isn't!"
"No, I don't usually get hurt this badly," she said, smiling. "I was kind of careless today. I'm sorry about that. Especially for being such a burden on you; you didn't have to help me, you know."
"No, that's alright, really," he said, laughing airily, and that calm, laidback smile was back as he prepared the antiseptic. "I couldn't just leave you there. You scared me, you know. It kind of brought me back, to when Shinji was younger. He'd get himself into awful scrapes all of the time!"
She didn't wince when he applied the antiseptic, even though it burned.
"Although, none of them were as bad as getting hit by a snapped support beam," he admitted. "They were definitely colorful, though. Things you wouldn't imagine, like getting thorns caught in his underwear, getting fingers bitten by a Koiking after sticking his hand in the lake, and even stranger things!"
She smiled, though she found it hard to imagine that the stoic loner that was Reiji's younger brother had ever been a child or had ever gotten into such mischief. Still, the mental images of Shinji in those kinds of situations were enough to make her laugh.
"You know," Reiji continued, smiling as he wrapped the bandages over her wound. "I've always seen you as a little sister because of it!"
The pain she felt at his words was stronger than the sting of the antiseptic and any injury anyone could've possibly inflicted on her.
"A... little sister," she repeated quietly, smile wilting and eyes dimming.
"Yeah!" he chirped cheerily, and then blinked. "... Is something wrong, Sumomo?"
As quickly as the old had faded, a new smile took its place, with width to rival his own. "No, nothing at all! I'm fine now, Reiji-san."
She got up and Reiji followed her to the door, watching carefully to make sure everything was, indeed, alright (at least as far as he could tell). Once at the door, she turned to him once more, bowed gratefully and thanked him for his help. He waved as she left.
True to her teachings, she kept a calm and level facade, to the best of her abilities. Her masters would have been proud at her performance.
As soon as she was out of his range of sight, she ran into the forest and clung desperately to a sturdy tree and wept.
Shaking with tears still spilling, she slid quietly into the underbrush, before lifting her gaze. Through her blurred vision, the silhouette of a strong-winged bird soared, cutting into the sun's light, before disappearing behind the leafy canopy of tall trees, hidden from sight; not that it mattered, as it was always far beyond her reach.
Hugging her legs and drawing her knees up to her chin, she blinked, sensing a familiar aura somewhere above her, to the left.
Quickly switching her gaze in the direction of its source, she was met with crimson eyes, not angry or scolding, but instead, something akin to consoling.
She hurriedly wiped the tears away, not wanting to appear weak in front of her partner, but a black-dipped paw rested lightly on her gloved hand, stopping her.
With a look of confusion, Sumomo slowly lowered her hands.
Lucario hopped down from its previous position in the tree and revealed what it had carried in its other paw; a batch of freshly-picked plums from the forest.
A small smile tugging at her lips, she took one of the plums. "Thank you, Lucario."
Lucario made a soft sound like a cross between a purr and a growl, as it settled beside her and ate with its trainer, partner, and friend.
On that day did Sumomo learn why the plum trees blossom in the harshest white winter. Her name was her destiny, so she would have to flourish, even in adversity.
Even if her feelings are never returned, even if he will always be out of reach, she will continue to watch him and grow, and maybe someday, he will be the one watching when she blossoms.
Closing Author's Notes: I hope you enjoyed the story and please leave a review! Tell me what you liked or disliked, your favourite scenes, anything. I love feedback. ^^