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Pure Pool Noodle

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I wasn't really sure what to make of Papika inviting me to the pool, but I found myself agreeing to go along. Okay, it might have helped that she said Cocona was going too, but still. It was a fine, sunny day, warm, but not uncomfortably so. There weren't many people there, which was a little surprising, but I won't complain, as it gave us more space to ourselves. After everything at Asclepius and Pure Illusion... It was really nice to have a day to just sit and relax by the side of the pool...

Well, until the pool noodle whapped me on the head.

"Yayaka, play with me!"

I wasn't surprised to find it was Papika who'd spoken up. I turned to face the girl with an annoyed look on my face, and was met with an expression that was full of silly, simple joy. She was sorta bouncing on her feet, shuffling around like an excited puppy.

Okay, it was hard to be mad at her when she looked at me like that. My expression softened. "Why don't you ask Cocona to play?"

"I did, but she said didn't want to. But she said you would!"

I sighed. Cocona wasn't a liar, and I didn't really want to make her look like one.

"Fine," I agreed, a little reluctantly. About a second later, a yellow pool noodle was thrust in front of me.

"This is yours!" Papika proudly proclaimed, holding it out to me. I took it, and looked it over, examining my new weapon. Light, and spongey, with a fair reach to it. Not exactly the wires or rockets I was used to, but I was fairly sure some of my old weapon training at Asclepius could come in-

"Ack!" The noise escaped me before I knew it, as Papika bopped me with her pink pool noodle. It didn't exactly hurt, but it caught me off guard.

"Come on, Yayaka, you said you'd play with me!" Papika complained. She was still wriggling around standing on the spot, full of energy.

I tried jabbing at her with my pool noodle, and she hopped backwards out of the way. "You'll have to do better than that!" she taunted. I know she was just being playful, but it was tough not to get mad at her words. Before I could think any more, she'd lashed out at me with her pool noodle. I pivoted, dodging it by a hair, and used my momentum to launch another attack of my own. Papika didn't have a chance to duck out of the way, and took a blow to the arm. She wobbled a little, her body falling towards the water, before regaining her balance, and standing steadily on the side.

Maybe fighting on the edge of the pool wasn't exactly a smart idea, but I couldn't deny it would be satisfying to knock the pink-haired girl in. And with my Asclepius training, it'll be an easy fight...

Although it wasn't long until I realised that was just an over-confident thought. Having taken combat drills and stuff definitely helped me strike out and dodge incoming attacks, but Papika was a tough opponent to predict. Maybe she'd had training at Flip Flap or something, because unless I tricked her, or pulled off a particularly sneaky feint, she just somehow managed to keep out of the way of every hit I tried to land on her.

This wasn't the first time we'd fought, after all we'd battled in Pure Illusion when Cocona and the twins ended up in an amorphous defense trap in a white, empty world. I would have thought I'd have picked up on some of her moves or her fighting style and be able to adapt to it, but there was no chance. She was just too wild.

Time passed. I don't know how much of it, it could have been five minutes or an hour, all I know is we were both still bashing each other. Pink and yellow noodles clashed. We hopped and jumped and spun around, as if we were a part of a dance. As much as I didn't want to fight at first, I couldn't deny now, I was having a ton of fun playing this game.

But we were both starting to get tired. Papika and myself were both panting heavily. Out attacks became less frequent and didn't have quite as much force behind them. We ended up standing there, staring at each other, trying to catch our breath.

A sudden giggle from the side caught us by surprise, and we both turned to look. Cocona was watching us both with a warm smile on her face and her hands behind her back.

"You look like you're having fun," she said.

"I'm winning!" Papika exclaimed, happy to see the blue-haired girl, returning the blue-haired girl's smile with a big goofy grin of her own. As much as I enjoyed looking at Cocona too, I took the chance while Papika was distracted and prodded her in the side.

Papika squeaked, surprised at the sudden contact.

"Hey! that's cheating!" she said, returning her attention to me and swinging her pink pool noodle at my head.

"No it's not," I said, ducking under it and jabbed my yellow one at her legs. She stepped back, to try and get away, and I stood up. Both of us were ready to launch attacks of our own again, when suddenly something slapped into both mine and Papika's sides. We both lost our balance, and ended up falling into the pool.

I surfaced, Papika doing so as well a second later, and we both glanced up to see Cocona standing over us. Her head framed by sunlight, and her hair dripping from the splash we'd send crashing onto the pool-edge. In her hands, was a light blue pool noodle.

"I'm sorry, I couldn't resist," she said laughing. She dropped her weapon and held her hands out to both of us, to help us back out.

Papika and I shared a look, and we grinned at each other. We accepted Cocona's hands...

"Aaah!" She cried in surprise, the sound getting lost in the splash as we pulled her down to join us.

She came back up to the surface and glared at the both of us. It wasn't long until we burst out laughing.

"Come on, we've been here long enough. We should go home," Cocona said. I hadn't realised until then that the sun was starting to go down. As much as I didn't want to leave, she was right, and it was probably time to head back...

"You really should play with us, next time Cocona! It'll be super fun!" Papika said. We were all out of the pool now, heading back to Flip Flap in the orange light of the sunset.

"I think I will," she said, smiling at the blue eye'd girl. She did something I wasn't expecting then, and kissed Papika on the cheek. I admit I felt a little jealous.

"Will you join us next time, Yayaka?" Cocona asked.

I wasn't sure how to reply. I enjoyed myself, sure, but Papika was so energetic, just being around her could really tire you out sometimes, especially when she wanted to play. I was about to answer when Cocona leaned towards me and pressed her lips lightly to my cheek, too. My heart fluttered.

She kissed me.

Yeah, I'm definitely gonna play at the pool with them next time.