Knothole, Nighttime. Antoine hadn’t gone to sleep. He decided to go out for a nightly walk…thoughts on his mind. He went somewhere near the edge of Knothole, up a hilly side. At the hill, lit under the full moon and the starry night sky, he grabbed something from his backpack. It was a mere hilt right now…but as soon as he pushed a button, an energy blade, like the Freedom Fighters used, came from it. This one was green unlike the others and took on the shape of a kitchen knife with holes.
The blade was made for him after all. Each of the energy blades was personalized for its user. Makes the thought of Frances using the cleaver-shaped Dead Meat all the more disturbing, but whatever. This blade was made for him by his friends Rotor and Muttski (or rather made by Rotor and named by Muttski). They called it Perfect Cuisine.
Antoine hadn’t wielded it since he had been a trainee ages ago. He had last wielded when Frances humiliated him during his entrance exam. Antoine couldn’t bare to look at it for a while, but recently, he felt this itch again. Long ago, like many others, he had suffered personal loss, and wanted to make sure no one else had to suffer the same fate. But things hadn’t worked out like they should.
He didn’t even know what he planned to do, he just had the urge to take the blade to the hilltops and mess around. He still remembered all the techniques…heck, he mixed them in with his cooking skills for ultra flashy cooking. But he had to practice them again with a real sword. So he started simple, with a basic stance and jab and slash at the air, before working his way up at more complicated manouvers.
Once he had his muscle memory loosened up again, he kicked the tree next to him hard, several pinecones falling from it. Then with great skill, he sliced each of the pinecones in half with Perfect Cuisine, the cones’ remains falling in a neat pile at his feet. “I still got it, I guess.” He silently muttered.
“It appears you do.” Another voice said. Antoine was startled and dropped Perfect Cuisine.
“Ah told ya not to startle him, ya know what happened last time.” Bunnie groaned against Blaze, who was there with her.
“But…what…” Antoine stammered.
“Sorry Sugah-Twan. Ah saw you walking down the street this late and Ah got curious. Ah don’t wanna come off as creepy but you looked so worried, and Ah thought that maybe you needed some help…Blaze wouldn’t let me go off by myself.” Bunnie said.
“Your sword skills are more impressive then I imagined. Graceful, efficient and precise.” Blaze admitted.
“Yer definately Freedom Fighter material. Ah bet that if ya were to walk in HQ right now and show of dem fancy moves yer in!” Bunnie noted.
“No, eet eez not like zhat…I vas just…venting some steam as zhey call it?” Antoine said nervously.
“No, you are not venting. You take a shine on the arts of swordfighting. I saw what you did, the sword was like an extension of yourself, a part of you…swordsmanship is a part of you…but you suppress it for some reason.” Blaze noted.
“Blaze has a fancier way of saying it, but it seems you take to swords like a fish to water. You clearly know how to work it. But was that loss against Frances so bad last time?” Bunnie asked.
“Do you know where I’m from? My accent is a clue. I am Franco-Eurish…you know what kind of stereotype zhey have?” Antoine asked.
“Ah know they wrongfully call all ze Franco-Eurish folks cowards, but you are far from one. But what does it have to do with this whole thang?” Bunnie asked.
“Frances seems to have stereotypes in mind whenever I was around. Zhat was why she always called me ‘ze weenie’. Ze used every oppertunity to remind me of zhat. I vanted to really wipe that smug grin of her face…but she kept taunting me during ze fight. It was not ze weenie comment that made me slip…”
“Then what horrible things did she say?” Blaze asked.
“Before I came to Knothole, me and mon père lived in Marveseilles, ze city where ze king of the country had his palace. Mon père vas ze captain of ze guard royale…and he was mon hero. However, Marveseilles, like Mobotropolis, fell…” Antoine said.
“Robotnik.” Both Blaze and Bunnie muttered in disgust.
“Yes…Robotnik, by zhen has acquired a vast army and resources, and took Franco-Eurish by surprise. We knew we couldn’t win zis fight…so ze King and zhe royal guards could only buy civilians some time. Zhey surrendered so zhe rest of ze surviving and non-Roboticized civilians could get away. Robotnik took pride into breaking ze royalty and military commanders, so he took the bait. But as long as ze people were safe, zhey were willing to pay ze price…I manage to get to Knothole by stowing away on a ship…” Antoine said. He hadn’t thought of his father in a long time and let out some tears.
“Ze surrender would be seen by some as cowardice, while it was selflessness for zheir people…and I couldn’t control myself vhen ze started to insult my father…und ze Franco-Eurish king, who was easily as noble as ze Acorns…in ze end I could not take it. Ze bad memories, ze insults…I couldn’t keep myself in check. Frances then told me I could not keep my emotions under control, and would never be ze man my father was. I broke down and ran…like a coward. I am a disgrace to my father’s memory…” Antoine said as he poured his heart out and sat down on a rock, crying.
“Sugah-Twan…I’m sorry…” Bunnie muttered. “Ah never knew…”
“I would understand if you were to grief for your lost family, but you didn’t let Frances win by losing to her in a fight, but by being a quitter. We both saw what you did today. With some practice things may turn out differently this time.” Blaze said.
“Easy for you to say, no one will zake me seriously after last time…” Antoine sniffed.
“Did anyone else but Frances make fun of you because of those events in any way or form?” Blaze asked.
“Er…Non. Only Frances did. Ze rest was really supportive.” Antoine said.
“Well then. Frances is no longer around, and the rest of the Freedom Fighters treat you respectfully, so there is no reason they should not take you serious at all. The only thing holding you back at the moment is yourself.” Blaze noted.
“But…will I be able to control myself zis time?” Antoine said.
“Antoine…no one among the Freedom Fighters will taunt you. But honestly, if yer going up against a real bad guy, they probably won’t be as considerate, that’s true. They may as well be calling me or Blaze names…like cyborg freak or hothead…and try to hurt our feelings. But what they say does not matter one thang! Because the only one who decides what ya are and what ya’ll become, is you!” Bunnie said, gently putting an arm over him.
Antoine then remembered something that his father always had told him when he was a little boy, before Robotnik came along. “Mon fils, whatever person you will become when you grow up, it will be the person you want to, not the other person anyone else wants you to be or says you are.”
Antoine stared at his blade embedded in the ground before him, which had landed there after the girls startled him. “What am I really afraid of?” he thought to himself as he got up and pulled it from the ground. “Everyone seems to think I have something more. But all this time I acted like a lost frightened little puppy, not daring to risk making another mistake in judgement.”
“Mistakes happen, it is inevitable. You may be afraid to act…but if you feel like it again, it’s best you’d remember that doing nothing may be worse.” Blaze noted.
“Ya can’t do anythin’ bad by sitting around, but ya can’t do good either.” Bunnie added.
Antoine focused once again on his sword. Thoughts were racing through his head. The itch returned, stronger then ever, and this time the words of his friends kept repeating in his head over and over. “You mademoiselles want…to stay a bit? I still need to get into shape, and I can’t do that by fighting pinecones all night. Zhey do not fight back after all.”
With that, Bunnie got a smile on her face. “All right, Sugah-Twan!” she said as she hugged him (this time careful with her enhanced strength). “Ah knew you’d come through. Now, shall we get you back in fightin’ shape?”
Antoine smiled at the enthusiasm. But he felt odd when Bunnie hugged him…he feels so warm. Wait, that wasn’t right, he thought he liked Sally…he does not know anymore. But for now he does not care.
Because as of tonight, he felt like a new person…