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Heroes to Helpers

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*ZYUNN-CLANNGG!*

A furious clashing sound echoed throughout the Garden of Hope where Zero and Krystal engaged in the latest of many sparring matches. Z-Saber met Cerinian staff as the two warriors danced in-and-out of each other’s range. Zero boosted through the air and delivered three rapid slashes in succession, forcing Krystal to jump back. She aimed her staff at the robot to unleash a jet of freezing ice magic, but Zero was faster.

"Ryuenjin!"

Zero leapt up with his saber engulfed in flames, melting through the ice with ease and sending Krystal tumbling. Landing on her back with a grunt, she looked up to see the point of the glowing green saber hovering inches from her neck.

A few seconds passed; just as quickly, Zero retracted the beam and offered Krystal his hand. The cobalt vixen grabbed it and let herself be pulled up, brushing smoke from the ornate tribal clothing she wore. “Uuugh! You know I hate that move!”

“Had to do something, you barely gave me an inch there,” Zero replied. “Plus, you asked for this, remember?”

“Yes, and you’re lucky I can’t anticipate machines.” Krystal tapped her temple. “To become over-reliant on telepathy during combat would be foolish, and your lack of organic thoughts makes you the ideal opponent.”

“Glad to be of service,” Zero answered before re-activating his saber. “Let’s go again.”

The latest Smash Bros. tournament had kicked off only a few days prior, and everything was in full swing. Dozens of hopeful contenders from a plethora of different worlds had been invited (and re-invited) to take part, with many others requested to serve as ‘assist fighters.’ While the latter didn’t compete, they could be called upon to aid the fighter who summoned them, as well as perform various duties to help keep the mansion in order.

Krystal and Zero had both accepted offers to become assist fighters and were prepared to bring their A-game. They’d hit it off the first day during the ‘Assistant Meet n’ Greet’ and had quickly grown close as training partners. Fighting inside a simulation meant they couldn’t cause any real harm, but given how fierce their sparring tended to become, one could be forgiven for thinking so.

“I can’t say I’ve ever met such a - hyah! - colourful assortment of people before,” Krystal said as she parried a horizontal slice. “What about you?”

“A couple times. Long story, but you get used to it.” Zero reeled back as a glancing blow struck his shoulder. “How have you - nghh! - been settling in so far? Become acquainted with any of the fighters yet?”

Krystal nimbly sidestepped a Genmu Zero sent her way. “Actually, I know a few of them already. Well, in a sense… you’ve met Fox, yes?”

The Maverick Hunter nodded. “Gray bomber jacket, wears an optic scanner?”

“Mhm.” Krystal’s posture slumped a bit as she backed off, prompting Zero to lower his saber. “I approached him the other day, but he didn’t recognize me. He’s Fox, but not the Fox I know. It was the same thing with Falco and even Wolf. None of them knew who I was.” The vixen shut her eyes and rubbed her forehead. “This place is so strange…”

“Funny you mention that,” Zero said as he watched a pink Pikmin with wings fly overhead. “There’s that other robot kid, Rock - most people here know him as ‘Mega Man’ - who comes from my world but before my time. His future model, ‘X,’ is a close friend of mine. Explaining things to him without revealing how the future plays out was no easy task.”

Crossing his arms, Zero continued, “then there’s the fact that they let Wily join as an assistant.” Noticing Krystal’s puzzled look, he added, “he’s the doctor who created me, along with countless other dangerous robots to further his goal of world domination. In my world he’s deceased, yet he now freely roams the mansion at his leisure. I can barely tolerate standing in the same room as him.”

“He sounds thoroughly detestable,” Krystal replied, her gaze darkening. “Much like that other ‘assistant’… Andross.

“That big floating polygonal face? You know him?”

“…He bears the name of the one who destroyed my planet.”

“Oh.” Zero suddenly felt very awkward. “That’s…sorry.”

Krystal shook her head. “It’s alright, you couldn’t have known. He’s also different from the one I remember. Regardless, I won’t let him detract from my time here.”

“Guess we’re in the same boat then,” said Zero.

Deciding to change the subject, Krystal asked, “so this new assistant position… how are you feeling about it?”

Zero leaned back and rested an elbow on the oversized china pot behind him. “I think it’s a valuable opportunity. I’m not interested in fighting for glory or titles, but I won’t lie and say I’m not eager to test my abilities; some of the humans here seem very powerful. This isn’t the first time this tournament has taken place either, so who knows? Maybe we’ll end up getting invited someday. For now though, I’m fine with playing a supporting role.”

“You make it sound more like a film than a tournament,” said Krystal, her smile slowly returning. “I see what you mean, though; I’ve felt a strong sense of camaraderie between most of the contestants, most of whom have undoubtedly attended this tournament before. Some are even considered legends in their realms. Even if we aren’t at the forefront, being included among them still feels like a great honour.”

As the vixen stared off into space, a new thought occurred to her. “Now that I think of it, how does this tournament work exactly? I have no idea what the parameters are.”

Zero froze, the gears turning in his head. “Er… good question. I thought I overheard it being discussed it earlier. I think everyone’s expected to fight everyone else at some point? And it sounded like team battles might be involved somehow as well, but I don’t know how they keep track of… if there’s a bracket, or… actually, I don’t get it either.”

They stared at each other, unable to help but snicker.

“This is all rather silly, isn’t it?”

“A little, yeah.”

The duo were silent as they listened to the garden’s environmental ambience. After a while, the stage began to glow and morph around them; they’d elected to set the battlefield to transform randomly to familiarize themselves with each one. A moment later the two assistants now stood atop a recreation of the Great Fox as it sailed above Corneria city.

“Now this is more familiar!” Krystal said cheerily, scanning the quad-winged spacecraft with a bewildered expression. “Look how small they’ve made it!”

Zero marvelled at the peninsula where the impressive city lay surrounded by a clear blue ocean. “Home-field advantage I assume? Guess I’ll have to try even harder this time.” He adopted a combat pose, the Z-Saber casting a green glow over his metal body. “First one to land three hits wins. You ready?”

Krystal twirled her staff with one paw and beckoned to the robot with the other. “Try me.”

The pair faced off once again, fully determined to bring out the best in one another.