Fireworks lit up the night sky, as the air was filled with upbeat music and joyous laughter. The crowd was obviously having fun and not just because of the strong drinks that were being served for adults at this place. At least that’s not how it works for robots.
Not that this discouraged the Landers from trying to get drunk.
Seiji and both his parents were sitting in a corner of the garden and talking to Da-Garn who had made himself comfortable in the soft grass of the estate that belonged to the Sakurakouji family. Hotaru was kind enough to invite them all over and host a small party to celebrate the victory over Ohboss and his forces.
After that eventful day, the Braves tried to return to their long slumber and await the next time the Earth might need them, but thanks to Yanchar’s consistent pleading, to which he definitely won’t admit that he had nearly started to cry, and Seiji’s stubbornness, they decided to wait until the young prince could mend his guardian’s stone in the magical cave in Tibet and restore his spirit. Fast forward a few weeks, Seven Changer was back in the land of the living and the young prince couldn’t be more happy about that.
Currently, the two of them were sitting right next to Da-Garn and they were having their own conversation. Sometimes, Hikaru would stop by and ask if they needed anything and if they were enjoying themselves, before she would go back to the manor and help her parents and Hotaru’s caretaker with preparing the meals.
The Landers and the Sabers were sitting in a circle and having a small discussion on their own, mainly about how they defeated the enemy and what they would do next, before they resumed their rest in the near future. Turbo and Mach were animatedly retelling entire stories about all the exciting races they had partaken in. They didn’t hold back from making wild gestures, which resulted in Mach Lander getting a friendly smack in the helm from Shuttle Saber, because his over-enthusiastic story-telling technique may have caused a few dents and scratches on the other’s frame.
It was not entirely his fault that the other was within the radius of his arms.
Speaking of arms, the two team leaders were having an arm-wrestling match and Big Lander was using every single dirty trick he had learned throughout his time on Earth, but Jumbo Saber was having none of that and was skillfully avoiding defeat. It didn’t seem that a winner would emerge from this competition in the next few hours, as their strength was nearly matched, so the others paid them no mind.
Drill Lander, as well as Jet, Shuttle and Hawk Saber, and also Hotaru, Officer Nemoto and occasionally Hikaru were listening to the two British Landers, but the former was drifting off in his mind already, even though the night was still young and the Braves didn’t need any sleep. He was tired. Still from the final battle or the fatigue that followed an already weary soul, he didn’t know, but what he was sure of was that in the morning he will feel better. Perhaps it was just the robot equivalent to adrenaline wearing off or something similar.
All in all, the humans were enjoying themselves and the company of their mechanical friends, the Braves were mostly having fun, and everything seemed to be fine.
Except one of them was missing and it seemed that nobody had noticed his absence yet.
Ga-Orn was watching his team from afar, observing them, while they were celebrating with the humans that they have just begun to call their friends. There was a longing in his gaze, one which spoke of millennia of loneliness and isolation, but no one was there beside him to notice.
He didn’t remember much from his past, which could also be translated to he didn’t remember anything at all, which was unfortunate, to say the least. He was aware that he had been active in ancient times, just like everybody in this team, but unlike them, he had a hard time grasping what it meant to work as one.
The only thing that connected him to his teammates was his ability to combine with Da-Garn, and that was it. The rest of them must at least have some sort of remaining memory of what it feels like to work in a group, or maybe they had an instinct rooted deep inside them that allowed them to grow close and form bonds with whatever friendly creature they came across on their missions.
He envied that. He hated to admit it, but he really envied them for that.
While he may seem like an independent loner who doesn’t care much about friendship and the likes, he was just as sociable as the rest of the Braves. His happiness depended on the wellbeing of others, and seeing how they were doing splendid without him calmed his soul, yet it also hurt his heart.
Was he really that unlikeable and unapproachable that nobody cared about him as much as they cared about each other? Had he been rude to them without noticing, because he wasn’t so well versed in conversation as to not know which to say and which is better left unspoken? Did he unknowingly give off any signals that he didn't appreciate company? If not, what was it then? What was so wrong with him that no one truly wanted to be friends with him?
In the beginning, it had been different. At that time, Da-Garn had still been risking his life to keep the rift in the African soil closed and Seiji had still been talking to him regularly. Now he knew the boy had done this simply to keep himself from thinking about Da-Garn too often, which in hindsight hadn’t worked at all.
As soon as the leader of the Braves had returned to the team, Ga-Orn had become irrelevant outside of battle. The Landers and the Sabers were always out on individual missions, scouring the Earth, helping the humans. They had no need for a fifth wheel in their teams, and Ga-Orn never wanted to impose on anyone. So, the only time his presence was truly needed, was during a heated battle.
Needless to say, that was also the reason why he felt so miserable now.
He observed how Da-Garn and Seven Changer were whispering something to each other while the humans and alien prince were openly talking. A harmless joke, judging by the soft laughter that followed afterwards, and an indescribably heavy knot formed inside the lone mech’s proverbial stomach. He came to the conclusion that he had had enough of this, and with a huff, he turned around, changed into his lion mode and left the garden after nearly three hours of just crouching and observing his teammates while they were seemingly having the time of their lives.
They didn’t need him in order to be happy, no. Then why should he waste his time in hoping that one day they would.
He wasn’t really looking where he was going, he just hoped he didn’t uproot any plants or disturb any animals on his trek through the forest. Wherever he may wind up, that place was going to be where he would remain until Seiji called upon them so that they could return to their spirit-like state and leave this world behind.
As soon as he was out of hearing range, he picked up his pace and started to run. A little activity may prove helpful in chasing away negative thoughts, he assumed. He concentrated on the shifting of his internal mechanisms and how each new sensation, each sound of nature, each smell of his surroundings, each color in his visual feed brought with it new data that his sensors collected and sent to his processor for further analysis.
Running was an effective method to get all that troubled him off his mind. Not that he could do this whenever he pleased, for there was still a chance that humans spot him which was not the Brave’s intention at this moment.
A loud crack sounded through the forest and it took Ga-Orn a full second to realize that he had been the cause. He stopped in his tracks and swiveled around to see what had happened. While he had been running blindly, his tail had split a tree in half, and now a fresh wave of guilt overcame him.
He reverted to his robot form and gently fell to his knees right in front of the broken trunk. He reached out to it with hesitation and a pained expression crossed his face as he realized the damage done by him. Tentatively, he gathered the remains of the tree trunk in his arms and held them to his chest in an attempted hug.
“Ga-Orn is so, so sorry. Ga-Orn is stupid, I am stupid. Ngh…”
He couldn’t believe his carelessness had made him harm his surroundings. If his mood had been down before this incident, now it was below the Mariana Trench. He pressed the damaged half of the tree once more against his frame and then he lay it on the ground right next to its remains, in hope that it may provide food or shelter for other plants and animals that roam this forest. As such, the cycle of life shall continue.
When he was done, he continued his aimless journey, but this time at a more considerate pace and with his tactile sensors dialed up almost entirely. He didn’t plan on destroying nature more than he did already.
After half an hour of setting one golden paw in front of the other, he arrived at the seaside. Which was a surprise, because he hadn’t been looking where he was going, but he had still ended up here. His navigational system must have been unconsciously at work here. This was the same place he tended to hide in when he was not needed. The place where he spent most of his time since he awakened.
As usual, he jumped straight into the sea and waded through the salty, shallow water, until he reached a spot where the water level was just right and he lied down so that only the tip of his nose peeked out from the sea. Humans rarely ever came to this place, but in case they did, he could still smell them from afar and hide just in time.
Much to his disappointment, there were no fish in this area to keep him company, so he had to find something different to occupy himself with. Thankfully, television was a thing and all the Braves had access to it, so all he did in his spare time was watch nature documentaries.
But today he didn’t feel like doing anything. Ga-Orn wasn’t sure if he would have done something productive anyway, since learning about the Earth may be his passion, but considered they would return to their meditative state and forget most of their experience very soon, it may also prove futile. He was not one to freely waste time.
Too bad he never realized how much time he had wasted here on his own instead of with the others. That might have changed his mind.
He wasn’t aware of how many minutes or hours had passed, until the familiar smell of steel and gasoline and faint organic byproducts announced the presence of an approaching vehicle. Two, if his sensors were telling the truth, and there were no humans nearby, just the lingering smell on the fabric seats of both vehicles. It must be his teammates, he thought.
The familiar stench that came from their tires, as well as some traces of pollen of the Urtica dioica that grew in Hotaru’s garden confirmed his assumptions. Uncertainty and confusion washed over him. Did he do something wrong?
He changed into his robot mode as soon as the two vehicles came to a halt right next to his resting place and approached them. He didn’t even spare ten seconds to shake the sea water off his plating and rushed to the two mechs that had also taken on their humanoid forms. It was Da-Garn who spoke up first.
“Good evening, Ga-Orn.”
“Good evening, Da-Garn. Seven Changer,” he greeted them back with a curt nod. He was grateful that it was nighttime and dark enough so that the two could not see the puzzlement on his face. His voice, however, was not so adept at hiding emotions, and his teammates must have noticed. Because of course they did. Now of all times.
Da-Garn, the ever-caring team leader he was, immediately caught on his unease. “Are you- Is everything alright?”
Yeah, everything was fine. Just peachy. He felt unwanted and worthless, but as long as the world was not going under because of that, his insecurities were insignificant. He forgot he hadn’t answered the question yet and that was apparently an answer on its own.
“Ga-Orn, is something wrong? We’re worried.”
The tiny, blue mech looked up to his companion with genuine concern written all over his face and that made Ga-Orn crouch down to him so that they were at optic level. He gifted him with a small smile, one of the very rare ones that were usually directed at nature and animals, humans excluded.
“No, it is just...”
He could not find the words. How does one talk to someone they admire with all their heart and tell them what is on their mind? There was no protocol for this and it made him hesitate.
“Whatever is troubling you,” Da-Garn took a small step forward and put one tiny servo on the other mech’s black forearm, “You can tell us and we will do our best to help you. Okay?”
It was partly adorable and very inspiring how the other would always try to make everyone around him happy. This was probably one of the main reasons why they had succeeded in saving the world. Da-Garn was as selfless and caring as every guardian of the Earth should be, a proper role model for all the Braves throughout the Universe, and such a good friend to have.
Ga-Orn would feel bad if he made him worry too much. It was neither his intention nor his wish.
“It is silly. You need not fret about the trivialities that haunt Ga-Orn’s simple mind. They too will pass.”
Knowing their leader well, he would never allow him to get away with such an answer, so the following statement was not much of a surprise.
“Are you really sure about that? No matter what it is, we are always there for you,” Da-Garn said.
For the first time in this conversation, Seven Changer spoke up as well. “Do you trust us?”
“Yes, with my life,” Ga-Orn answered without hesitation. It was the truth, for he could always count on his teammates to do the right thing.
“Then let us help you.”
Even though said right thing seemed almost impossible to accomplish at the moment.
Ga-Orn fell silent and lowered his gaze to the sparse grass beneath them. He couldn’t lie to them, he couldn’t withhold the truth from them either. For a fearsome warrior who knew exactly what to do in a conflict, he was rather clueless when it came to social interaction. Even more so than the two mechs in front of him.
It wasn’t easy for him to talk about emotions, no matter how plain they were. But there was nothing wrong with trying, right? The others wanted to know what was bothering him, so he shall tell them.
“Is Ga-Orn useless? ...Am I useless?”
The heavy silence that followed his question seemed to stretch forever. It might have caught the blue mech in front of him off guard, because he thought he could see and even hear his processor running on its highest setting, until Da-Garn visibly straightened and put his servos on both sides of the troubled mech’s face, forcing him to look at him once again.
With that blunt and to the point exclamation Da-Garn fixed him with an expression that was a mix of incredulous staring and an angry scowl, and that made him flinch back a bit. Out of the corner of his optics, he could see some slight movement. Seven Changer uncrossed his arms and shifted uncomfortably. He looked like he wanted to do something, but he could not bring himself to move.
Then, Da-Garn got his attention again by softly shaking his helm. “I have no clue what gave you this horrible idea, but you should know that we’re a team and we do care about you, and that you’re irreplaceable and as valuable as any member here.”
Suddenly, he felt warm metal wrap around his middle and a comforting, heavy warmth settled on his back. He wasn’t sure what was happening, so he tensed up first, but as the calming sensation didn’t budge, he practically melted into it. His teal teammate had disappeared from Da-Garn’s side and was nowhere to be seen, so it must be him. A hug was not what he had expected to receive from the usually stoic mech, but it was most welcomed.
After a few seconds, even Da-Garn leaned forward and wrapped his arms around Ga-Orn’s frame as good as he could, considering his size. To make it easier for him, the two giants sat down on the soft ground and Da-Garn tackled them, bringing the three of them closer and completing the pile of affection-starved robots.
The emotional turmoil their actions had caused was overwhelming. Now, all his doubts and worries dissipated and a liberating wave of relief washed over Ga-Orn. If they didn’t care about him, they surely wouldn’t have done that.
The three of them remained like this until sunrise, cuddled up together and enjoying each other’s company in silence. When it was time to leave for Hotaru’s residence, they stood up and walked there together. Ga-Orn couldn’t have been happier about that.