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The Day I Became your Shield

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“Yuga, I’m still not sure we should be here at all…”

“Chill out President, we’re finally away from Goha’s evil eye out here. This is our chance to seize the relic once and for all!“ Rook cuts off Gakuto’s concerns.

The older boy fights the urge to roll his eyes, ‘I wasn’t talking to you.’ Really, he was sure if Rook wasn’t here to encourage this adventure, Yuga might have actually listened to Gakuto’s concerns and backed off.

But no, as soon as the archaeology club had informed Yuga of the relic’s next possible appearance, Rook had immediately announced his intentions of going there before the shorter boy could even reply. And since he was already going, there was no way Yuga was going to miss out on it. Especially since he now actually cared about becoming duel king instead of just spreading his ultimate creation around.

And so, with no way to talk the two younger boys out of it, here was Gakuto; completely lost in the middle of the woods surrounding Goha city, tired from hiking for two hours now under the unforgiving summer sun, with a couple of insect bites adorning his body to top it all off.

(Gakuto doesn’t care that Kaizo totally has an accurate map of the entire woods, he hasn’t trusted the drone ever since he sided with Romin, and even less after he got tampered with by Goha.)

Not to mention he had to lie to Rinnosuke and Ranze about his whereabouts this weekend. It hurt to deceive his loyal assistants, but there’s no way he’d allow them to follow him all the way out here. While their sentiment of if ‘we die, we’ll die together’ towards him was sweet, there was no way he’d ever actually want to put them in any sort of danger.

At least he wasn’t alone in his concerns, “Guys, we really shouldn’t wander out too far. If something were to happen to us here, it’d be very hard to find any help.” Romin complains as she tries to catch her breath.

“Ah cool it, Romin. Kaizo has some reception even out here, we’ll be fine.” The idiot waves her off as well.

“If things come to worst, he has signal flares and can fly out of here pretty quickly. But people camp out in these places all the time, we’ll be fine!” Yuga finally chimes in.

“I’m more worried about the cliffs and the wildlife around here…” he rumbles, but this time his worries go completely ignored by everyone else but Romin, who nods at him.

“I think we’ll reach the place in about an hour or so, don’t get disheartened now, guys!”

Instead of being reassuring, Yuga’s words have the opposite effect on Romin, “One more hour? Ugh, my legs are killing me already. That means it will be another three hours to get out of here!”


It had been strange that Kaizo had not hit on Romin at all during the trip. Guess that luck had to run out eventually, “E-eh, no thanks.”


“N-no need. Walking is good. Great even! I have been meaning to lose a couple of pounds lately, so this is wonderful, ahah!” As if to emphasize her point, she begins marching rapidly, even though it’s clear by the way she wobbles that it’s a total lie.

Feeling pity for her, Gakuto catches up to her and wraps an arm around her waist to steady her, “Don’t push yourself Romin-kun, it’d be terrible if you were trip here. I’ll support you, so just go at your own pace.”

She tenses up for a second before looking down and wrapping an arm around him back, “T-thank you.”


Thankfully, this time it’s Kaizo’s turn to be ignored, “Well, if the both of you are done complaining now, I was just about to say that I’ve come prepared! I have this bag right here full of sodas and ready-made snacks, so there’s no risk of us starving!” Rook proudly points the enormous bag he was somehow able to carry.

That wasn’t even on the list of Gakuto’s concerns, but it’s useless to argue, so he bites his tongue and prays this will trip will be uneventfully.

He can’t calm down though, because he had gotten an unfortunate tarot prediction about this when he performed his daily draw. ‘Binding chain’ turned upside down wasn’t the worst card, sure, but it certainly didn’t give him any hope…

“I really think we should turn back.”

“What are you saying, we’re almost there. All we need is to cross this stream!”

“This ‘stream’ is actually a river, and it leads right into that huge waterfall! And you want us to cross it using these slippery rocks? Rook, are you insane?”

“Argh, you’re such a worry-wart. These rocks are so close they’re practically a bridge. We’ve done way more dangerous stuff before!”

Gakuto is just about to yell at the reckless fool when someone grabs his hand, “Gakuto.” Yuga looks up at him with a smile, “I understand your concerns, but please, we’re almost there. I can’t miss this chance to see Otes again.”

Biting his lower lip in frustration ‘why is it that you always make that darn face?’ the older boy throws his arms in the air in defeat, “Fine! But, I am checking the path first, and you two are not going to make a single move until I’m back!”

“What do you mean ‘you two’, what about Romin?” Rook’s protest go unheeded as Gakuto turns around and hypes himself up.

It’s easier said than done; he really doesn’t like the look of this at all. The waters are certainly not calm today. But still, he’s the responsible one of the group, so he has to take the lead here. Swallowing his nerves, he begins to test the slippery road. Thankfully, Rook was right that they were very close together, so he could merely just walk between each of them except in four occasions, and only two of them managed to create any worry within him.

Formulating a plan, he makes his way back and directs his friends, “It seems we can cross safely, but, there are two spots I’m worried about where we have no choice but to jump. So, in order to ensure that nothing happens, I will stand at one of the spots so I can help you guys make the jump, and Kaizo will be at the other one and use his ‘super’ robot arms to do the same.”


“Sounds great, Gakuto. Kaizo, follow him and be sure to follow his instructions. You don’t want to risk Romin-chan actually slipping, do you?” Yuga winks at his creation.

His threat has the intended effect and the drone immediately perks up, “YES. KAIZO WILL PROTECT ROMIN-CHAN AT ALL COSTS!”

He almost flies off before Gakuto can tell him where to even wait at, but eventually everything is set up and Gakuto is confident enough to finally let the others through, “Whenever you guys are ready. Remember, only one at a time!”

“Tch! We could make it all the way through with no trouble, but whatever. Yuga always succumbs to the President’s whims…” Rook whines as he gets ready to be the first one to cross.

Despite all his previous posturing, Rook wobbles when he lands on Gakuto’s rock, probably due to the heavy bag he’s carrying. But Gakuto’s protective nature immediately fires up and he steadies the other boy before he can make any comments about it. The way Rook looks away from him awkwardly as he makes his next jump is all the older boy needs anyway. ‘Hopefully he’ll be quiet on the way back.’

Romin is next, and she’s much slower than Rook was, much to Gakuto’s relief. Her extra care means that she actually has an easy time crossing the stream, though she still stops and buries herself in Gakuto’s arms when she reaches his spot, “I hate this so much!”

Sympathizing with her, the older boy pats her back reassuringly, “Don’t worry Romin-kun. It’s almost over. You’re doing great.” but on the inside, he’s really mad that the other two had not put any consideration into how a girl like Romin would fare out here. She was clearly not the outdoorsy type (and neither was he, but what he thought didn’t matter since it was his job to look after them).

After gathering herself, Romin makes the rest of the way, and unsurprisingly does not stop at Kaizo’s rock, much to the drone’s disappointment. Breathing in relief, he signals Yuga to begin, “All right, the only one left is you, Yuga!”

“Ah- sure…” is his voice muffled by the distance, or does it sound a bit concerned to Gakuto? And it was unusual for Yuga to go last too…

He can’t ponder too much, as Yuga begins making his way carefully. It is then that Gakuto notices that Yuga is jumping in spots where the others had simply walked over, and has to stop from kicking himself as he only now realizes that Yuga is much shorter than the rest of them, so the gaps are much bigger for him.

‘Well, no matter, as soon as he gets here, I’ll link my arm with his and we’ll cross this together.’ he tries to reassure himself, but the bad feeling doesn’t go away.

When Yuga reaches the spot before his, Gakuto holds out his arms and smiles encouragingly, “Don’t worry, I’ll catch you.”

But that is a lie.

Yuga doesn’t quite make the jump, slipping right on the edge instead. “Ahhh!” he screams as he tries in vain to grab onto Gakuto’s arm, only to fall right into the unforgiving river.

By instinct, Gakuto launches himself forward in an attempt to catch the other boy, only to slip in his panic and falling off right after him.

His mind doesn’t catch up to what’s going before his body hits the water, the last thing he hears being Romin’s terrified scream as she watches the water carry them right into the waterfall.

Unflinching cold.

The loud sound of water falling.

The sharp and hard rocks his body bumps into.

The terrible feeling of suddenly having nothing under him as he falls off the waterfall.

The increasing lack of hair.

And the immense relief he feels when he surfaces back up.

“Ah-ahf-ah-ack!” in his haste to breathe again, some water gets into his lungs, which makes it even harder for him to recover his senses.

‘Yuga. Where is Yuga?’ his mind screams as he coughs out water. Even with his brain still dazzled with shock and the lack of air, the first he notices is the fact that Yuga hasn’t resurfaced yet, even though the waters beneath the waterfall are much calmer than the river they tried to cross.

Looking around frantically, Gakuto is left with no choice but to submerge himself back into the water in a desperate effort to search for Yuga. Thankfully, it doesn’t take long for him to spot a familiar tuft of red hair just underneath the surface, ‘Why isn’t he resurfacing?’

Sensing something very wrong, he swims over to him as fast as he can, “Yuga? Yuga!” he calls out, but his friend remains out of sight. The shorter boy has clearly lost consciousness, but when Gakuto reaches him and hooks his arms beneath his shoulders, he finds that he can’t pull him out of the water either.

Ducking underwater once more, he quickly discovers the root of the problem; Yuga’s leg is stuck underneath a rotted log. Gakuto’s first attempts to move it are woefully unsuccessful and only result in him getting more water into his lungs, but his panic combined with a shot of adrenaline gives him enough strength to finally push it away. Before Yuga can float out of his reach, Gakuto grabs him and begins to swim to shore.

Even in these much calmer waters, it isn’t easy to drag both his battered body and Yuga’s entire weight with him. He's becoming increasingly dizzy, but just like he somehow found the strength to free his friend from the rubble, he manages to get to land safely. His worries don’t stop there though; Yuga is still not breathing.

‘Okay, okay, calm down, you just need to perform CPR, that’s all.’ giving himself a whole two seconds to get his bearings, his body shifts into autopilot as he gets into position to resuscitate his friend, just like he learned in his extra-curricular lessons.

But no matter how hard he compresses Yuga’s chest, no matter how much air he gives, his friend doesn’t respond at all. His arms are burning, he’s sure he’s broken one of Yuga’s ribs by this point, he hasn’t even been able to steady his own breathing. But he still keeps going.

He has too.

He completely failed in his task of keeping Yuga safe.

‘Don’t look at him. Don’t think. Don’t cry. Just keep going.’

Just as he feels himself becoming faint, a ray of hope finally hits him; Yuga’s body springs back to life, desperately coughing the water he had swallowed back up,”Ack-ack-ack!”

It’s such a beautiful sight, it makes Gakuto finally let out the tears he had been holding onto.

“Ah, ah…Gakuto…ah…” Yuga’s voice is raspy and weak from the ordeal he just went through, but to Gakuto, it’s the most amazing sound he’s ever heard.

Still crying uncontrollably, he takes Yuga’s hand in his and places on his cheek, “Yes, Yuga, it’s me. You’re alive, thank god, thank god!”

“Ah…where…” blinking his eyes open, his friend slowly turns to look at him, a look of surprise marring his features, “Gakuto…ah…you’re bleeding…”

‘What?’ letting go of Yuga’s hand, he feels his own head, only to find his hand stained with blood right afterwards. Yuga’s right, he’s bleeding, and now that he knows it he can suddenly smell the faint scent of rust and salt blocking his nostrils. “Oh…you’re right.”

Before he can process anything else, his body ultimately gives out and collapses on top of Yuga.

The shorter boy is left terrified, alone with his unconscious friend in the middle of the woods, unable to move or call out to anyone.

‘Bleergh, why is it so bright? My head hurts so much.’ irritated, he turns his head away in a fruitless attempt to escape the light.

“Ga-kun! Oh, my baby, are you awake?” a female voice calls out. Though it’s a soft voice, it sounds extremely shrill to his ears, which only makes him turn away more, “Thank goodness, you’re finally with us again. Kazuo, Kazuo, come here quickly!”

More loud noises and shuffling that he can barely distinguish before a strong hand envelops his own, “Gakuto? Can you hear me, my son?”

All of this only serves to further annoy him, so he uses his arm to cover his eyes and lets out a pained whine in hopes of getting the noise to stop. No such luck, as the hand that was holding him quickly lets to go to move away his arm instead, “Careful son, you can’t move your head too much yet.”

“I can’t believe this. I’m so happy he’s awake.” the soft voice pipes in again, steadily rising in tone, “How are you feeling? Can you open your eyes? What were you even thinking going to a place like that? You almost gave your father and I a heart attack!”

So much noise, why won’t it stop? This time, he pulls a cover over himself, desperate to get away from everything. This only results in the female voice letting out a worried gasp, “Ga-kun?”

Thankfully the male voice is much calmer, “Umeko, I don’t think Gakuto is ready for too much stimulation yet. I’m going to get the nurses, you stay here with him.”

The door closes again, and for a while, everything is quiet, allowing him to fall asleep again.

A couple of days later, after a bunch of examinations and much fussing from his parents, and Gakuto is finally up to par as to what happened to him, and can now finally receive outside visits.

Rook and Romin are the first in line, along with a bouquet or sunflowers and yellow roses. She gives him a tight hug, almost crushing the flowers in the process, while Rook stands to the side, unable to meet his eyes, “I’m really sorry man…”

Honestly, he’s not even sure what to say to him. He’s beyond furious, but he also feels no real anger towards him. It’s a mush of blaming his reckless nature and understanding that it’s just how he is, that he had no malicious intentions behind his actions, “There’s no use dwelling on it. I just hope next time you’ll actually take my warnings seriously. We’re not invincible like you think we are.”

Rook bites his lip with guilt, while Romin finally lets him go, looking up at him with concern in her eyes, “How are you holding up? You won’t have any lasting damages…right?”

“Well, since my concussion was minor, it’s very unlikely. But we never know, sometimes issues can pop decades after the initial hit. I just have to hope for the best.” and really, the best he could do was to just return to his normal life as well as he could. No use worrying over the future, “Speaking of that, how is Yuga? My parents refused to say anything about him.”

“Well, about that-”

“I’m right here.” Rook is cut off mid-sentence by a low voice coming from the hallways.

When the owner of said voice enters the room, Gakuto’s heart stops in his tracks; Yuga, in a wheelchair with his left arm and leg wrapped in casts. His eyes look downtrodden and tired, as if he hasn’t slept for the past few days.

“Yuga, you…” just like Rook previously, he can’t quite look at Yuga in eyes. He has never dealt with failure well, and having it right in front of him like this doesn’t help. No matter how hard he tried, Yuga still ended up in this state, “…I’m so sorry.”

Everything is awkwardly silent for a few moments, “Guys, can you leave us alone for a bit?”

Neither of the other two need to be told twice; after sparing both of their friends a pitying glance, they both leave without a word, Romin dropping the bouquet on his bed on the way out.

They didn’t need to leave in such a hurry though, because minutes go by without either of them looking at each other, much less saying anything. Having this kind of silence with his childhood is suffocating, he has never felt like this before.

“So-” ”Hey-”

Well, that certainly didn’t help.

After a few more uncomfortable minutes go by, Gakuto finally manages to get a word out, “I’m so sorry I couldn’t protect you better…”

“Sorry? You’re sorry? Are you kidding me?” Yuga cries out, Gakuto’s words clearly hitting a very raw nerve, “I’m the one who should be sorry. I didn’t listen to your constant warnings, didn’t trust my own gut when I was scared of crossing that river, and I dragged you with me when I fell. And for what? For the chance to maybe meet a guy who only appears when he wants to be seen and not a moment sooner? A guy who was okay with Roa of all people, taking ownership of the duels I created if I dared to lose a duel that was rigged from the beginning?”

The shorter boy is so overwhelmed that he’s almost crying, a sight that is completely alien to Gakuto, but he doesn’t take a moment’s breath to quell his broken dam of emotions, “You’re sorry you couldn’t ‘protect me better’? You fell down a darn waterfall because you tried to catch me, hitting your head on the way. If you hadn’t moved that log away, if you hadn’t resuscitated me, I would be dead. Dead! Rotting in that river forever if the rescue team was unable to find my corpse!”

Gakuto flinches at the thought, but Yuge keeps going, “Do you know how long I lied there, with you unconscious and me unable to move? I couldn’t do anything to help you! I couldn’t even get your head to stop bleeding. If Kaizo didn’t find us so quickly and didn't have such good reception, who knows what could have happened. And even when rescue arrived, you just wouldn’t.wake.up.” by this point he’s not even trying to hold back his tears, “I don’t even know how to face your parents any more. What can I say? ‘Sorry your son almost died because I’ve been too focused on chasing a masked guy for years now’? They must hate me so much!”

Unable to watch his friend fall apart any longer, Gakuto leans down and envelops him in a hug, “Yuga, calm down. I’m here, you’re here, nobody’s dead.” he pats his hair as Yuga continues to sniffle, “That bleeding was just a scratch. And the concussion was minor, so there’s a chance I won’t suffer any consequences for it. As for my parents, I’m sure they don’t…”

Gakuto can’t continue; he wants to comfort his friend, but he also doesn’t want to give him false hopes. His parents had refused to talk about Yuga when he asked…

His silence is the wrong action though, as it allows Yuga to keep on hating himself, “Maybe you’d be better off if we just stopped hanging out. Just focus on your student council and family traditions and leave me to my stupid crap with Rook. You were against rush duels at the start for a reason.”

Those words make him freeze completely.


No way in hell.

“Enough of that!” he lifts Yuga’s head to force him to look at him, “Like you said, you would have died if I wasn’t there. You think that possibility is worth me not getting a bump on the head instead?” he cries out.

“If anything, this entire thing proves that I have to remain by your side, always. If you’re not going to stop getting into trouble, then I must be there to protect you. That’s what I’ve always done since we met, and you’re not taking it away from me now.” it isn’t like him to get this worked up, but the prospect of not being able to be with Yuga any longer just does things to him.

“...I won’t do it any more.” the shorter boy sniffles, locking Gakuto into a hug and burying his head in the taller boy’s chest, “I will never put you in danger again.”

“Yuga…” Gakuto immediately softens up at the sight on his friend’s emotional state, “While I can believe that you mean those words, the truth is, trouble sometimes just finds you. So don’t make promises you can’t keep. Just let me remain by your side.”

‘Plus, I don’t want you to change. I don’t want you to lose what makes you my most important friend.’ he almost says, but bites his tongue at the last minute. While it’d probably help, his gut instinct tells him that this is not the time to make such confessions when they’re still recovering and Yuga is having an emotional crisis.

“So what? You’ll be some kind of knight in shinning armour for the rest of your life? Can’t let the midget out of your sight lest the wind carry him away?” Yuga grumbles.

This is good; the fact that he can even make a joke means he’s calming down. Patting his friend’s hair fondly, Gakuto shakes his head, “Sadly, no. Being a knight means fighting in your behalf, and every time I’ve attempted that I’ve failed miserably.” he jokes at his own expense, hiding just how much his loss at that tournament still haunts him, “So no, I won’t be your knight. But I will be your shield.”

Getting tired of the patting, Yuga waves his hand away with a scoff, though he does not break their hug, “Well, at least you’re the most traditional and prettiest shield that there ever was. Historical museums would salivate at the prospect of adding you to their shogun expositions.”

“Only the best for a little genius inventor like you.” he quips back, glad the matter is settled for now. ‘One day, I’ll tell you that you’re fine just as you are. One day.’

“In the meantime, how about I sign your cast?”

The next day, his parents come to bring him home, since the doctors are certain that he no longer needs supervision. Only the future will tell if he’s truly fine, but Gakuto wants to believe in his brain’s elasticity and ability to recover. Either way, no matter the result, he will never regret saving Yuga.

Which makes the current car ride extremely awkward; ever since they came into his room to grab his belongings (and the now wilting bouquet), he’s had the question ‘are you mad at Yuga?’ in the tip of his tongue, but so far, he hasn’t been able to get the words out.

“You okay, son? If you’re feeling unwell, we can turn around right now.” his father asks, staring at him through the rear-view mirror.

“Ah…well…” he starts, “Don’t worry, I’m fine…”

“If you’re sure. But don’t worry if you have to miss school some more, what’s important is that you have a smooth recovery.”

“Thanks…” he mumbles, ashamed at how he can be such a coward sometimes. But if they really are mad at Yuga, not only would his friend be heartbroken, since he saw Gakuto’s parents more often than he did his own, but he can’t imagine how it’d complicate their friendship. And just as he thought everything was solved after calming Yuga down and all…

His mother is strangely silent, but she keeps on staring at him with her usual vague look. After a few more minutes, she eventually turns her eyes back to the road, “Ga-kun, you’ve forgotten to make your daily tarot reading didn’t you? I can understand why you didn’t do it for the past few days, but if you truly are feeling better, then you should get back into it. Even the Sogetsu family can lose their connection to the cards if they let themselves fall out of practice.”

She was right; he hadn’t done a reading since the day of the accident, and in hindsight, he should have paid more attention to it. Although, given the fact that the other two boys were not going to give up and the fact that Gakuto wouldn’t let them go by themselves either, perhaps this was just one of those times where fate was unavoidable. It’d be fitting for a card such as 'Binding Chain’.

Thankful that his deck hadn’t gotten lost during the fall, he performs his duty as his mother had requested. Part of him is nervous, so he closes his eyes and takes a moment before finally taking a look at the card.

‘Shield and sword.’

In tarot terms, it means a situation has two sides, or that it can go either way. The picture of an ambivalent and frankly unhelpful reading. But at that moment, he finds that he’s not so much focusing on the meaning of the card, but the name of it itself. ‘Shield…’

Feeling a sudden burst of confidence, he turns to look at his parents through the rear-view mirror, “Mama, father, are you mad at Yuga? You refused to tell me how he was before he visited me. Do you even care if he’s okay? I understand how you can feel angry, but do not blame him…”

“Huh? No, we’re not mad at him, I love that boy! We know unfortunate accidents like this just happen, even if we locked you up in a tower that doesn’t mean you’d be safe. It’s no one’s fault.” his father tone sounds a bit offended, “And we did check on him, but only when he was sleeping. Speaking of that, you should tell to spend some time with us while he recovers, I doubt his parents will take any decent care of him. Only his father bothered to show up, and even then it was only for less than half an hour. I mean, seriously!”

While happy, he can’t help but be confused, “But then, why did you-”

“Ask your mother. She was the one who insisted that we couldn’t interfere until you two had ‘worked things out’ or whatever her cards said, even though she kept constantly bothering the nurses to check on hi-ouch!”

His father is unceremoniously cut-off mid-sentence by his mother whacking him on the head with her fan, “Dear, what did I tell you about running your mouth without thinking?”

“I swear, you’re the most lovely woman in the world, but I can never get used to your sudden tsundere outbursts.” Kazuo complains as he rubs his head.

Ignoring her husband’s complaint, his mama angles her head so she can look at him from over her seat, “Well? Did you two work it out?”

Relief overcoming his entire body, he leans back into his seat and nods, “Yeah, we did. Thanks mama.”

However, she only raises an inquisitive eyebrow at him, “Hmm, from what I can tell, you didn’t fully work things out. But oh well.” she turns back and lets out a breathy laugh, “All in due time I suppose.”

‘There she goes again.’ just like his father couldn’t get used to her sudden outbursts no matter how much he loved her, Gakuto would never get used to the way she could be so cryptic without even trying. But no matter, his parents are not mad at Yuga, and that’s what the only thing he cares about.

“So, can I call Yuga for him to spend the rest of the week with us? He’ll bring his drone along to take care of him, so I’m sure he won’t actually be much trouble.”

His father seems enthused about the idea, as he breaks into a huge smile, “Of course you can, this year marks the twenty anniversary of ‘Super Sentai Robots Ranger Force’, and they’re making a special series to commemorate it! It’ll be so fun to marathon all the episodes we have so far, and then we can also catch up on all thos-ouch!”

“Don’t plan on hogging the boy all to yourself. He’s Ga-kun’s friend first, you know.” Umeko interrupts as she taps him with the fan again.

“No fair, he already gets to see him all the time at school! Whereas we’ve been seeing him less and less as he grows older. Who knows if he’ll even want to watch to anime with an old man in two years, I can’t let this opportunity pass me by!”

“You’ll have plenty of years to enjoy his company to your heart’s content, if you also let the boys enjoy themselves. Trust me.”

Enjoying his parent’s ‘argument’, Gakuto can’t help but ponder on his mother’s words. It’d truly be wonderful if he could remain in Yuga’s life for years to come. Perhaps he couldn’t ever be a sword, but his role as a shield was important nonetheless.

Still back at the hospital, Yuga rubs the little shield Gakuto had drawn on his leg cast, smiling fondly as he waits for his father to check him out.