On the docks of the Valor Lakefront, three young women sat and stood impatiently. Each carried mixed emotions and thoughts of the time and settings. They were here for a single mission that required all of them, yet each did it for their own concerns and wants. A fact they all knew would slow their progress.
Shaded moonlight faintly lit the reflecting waters ahead of them, while the lamplights from the resort city exaggerated their shadows from behind. The soft hum of the unchanged bulbs from the nearest lights added a confused fusion of irritation and comfort to the night air. And the smell of wet wood and concrete finished the atmosphere… which punctuated and held the young women’s memories and worries of the future.
Maylene watched as the rock she dropped off the edge sank quickly to the dark depths.
An exhausted sigh escaped her lips. “What are we even supposed to do here? It just looks like an ordinary lake to me.” Her words sounded in disappointment, though it was simply a front she held for the other two. As she considered herself the leader of the team due to her seniority in age and experience, she held herself accountable of her companions’ view and outlook of the situation. In reality, however, she felt relieved.
The fighter didn’t want to be here. She wanted to be by Ash… Though she herself didn’t have as much emotional connection to the young man compared to the other girls, she still held a curious worry for him.
Ash, to her, was right. He wasn’t the best, he wasn’t the strongest, and he wasn’t the most handsome. But he was… right for her. A strange idea to consider as she knows she wouldn’t be as romantically involved as the others – yet perhaps that was the reason why. And it was this distant connection that made her worry for him more. She had nothing to lose if Ash was gone – which frightened her. Like a package she never knew was meant for her, it would be stolen away, and she would never find the true treasures it promised her…
She let out a small laugh, finding it humorous how poetic her last thought was. Poetry wasn’t her thing, yet poetry is exactly how her life felt like when Ash had really come into her life. It felt… right.
And now, at this very moment, the trio that represented the Psychic Quinn was headed the young man’s way. Whether or not their presence and experience would truly make improve his condition – she wanted to know. She didn’t want to be leading a team that would risk her relationship with Ash – she wanted to be by his side and see his changes for herself.
She started this crazy adventure for him… practically jumping off a ledge blind.
She wanted to end this crazy adventure for him… wanting to see where she’ll land.
Right now, she felt blind… blinder than she ever felt.
Maybe it’s just the lake… maybe it’s not just a normal lake, after all.
“You know, even though I’ve lived in Sinnoh all my life… I don’t think I’ve ever been here.”
Angie paced back and forth, watching the clouds slowly drift above her. A cool breeze softly blew against her hair, bringing the scent of water and distant lands. The atmosphere was peaceful and wonderful… hitting her with a tinge of sadness. She wanted to be with Ash. She always preferred Ash’s company. Things never felt the same without him. Things could never be the same without him.
To her, Ash wasn’t just a love interest. He wasn’t just her best friend. Ash was her other half.
He made her feel confident in being herself. Though she was never ashamed of whom she was, she had always felt like an outcast before she met him. In everything she did and everything she was, Angie wasn’t a standard. To the world around her, she was an oddball. A strange tomboy.
Though being a tomboy wasn’t a unique thing in the Sinnoh region, its rough terrain and independent cultures often encouraging a far more masculine behavior in many of its women, she was considered odd due to her non-specialty. Sinnoh’s tomboys weren’t tomboys – they were working girls, strong women, and powerful females. Ones who had titles and promises to hold, goals and destinations to aim for…
Angie was just… a strange girl who didn’t quite fit with the other girls. She wasn’t fully independent, nor did she really want to be. Even when she began her adventure, she doubted her every step – and she never wanted to get used to it.
But with Ash, she wasn’t strange at all. She was just Anj.
Anj was his partner, and she fit that role perfectly. And she wanted to get used to it. She wanted to depend on him, just like how he depended on her. The idea of being married to him didn’t seem so strange. The idea of always being with him only felt natural. And the idea of running her parents’ Day Care Center with him… was one future that she wouldn’t have minded at all.
But Ash wasn’t here. And though she was with young women that supposedly shared a past life with her – she still felt awkward without her partner. Angie couldn’t stay Angie without Ash… because she was simply that strange tomboy that never quite fit, without him.
I’ll be back soon, Ash. I just need to get this done first.
Maylene yawned. “You know what? I don’t think I’ve been here either! These kind of fancy places aren’t really my thing.”
Tilting her head back, the fighter glanced at the female Coordinator that occupied a distant portion of the dock. “Hey May. Wassup? You haven’t talked since we got here.”
“Hm? Oh nothing…” She placed her hands to her cheeks as a blush appeared. “Just reminiscing.”
Of the three girls that held the banner of Team Ramie, May was the one that stood out most.
Unlike the other two, she was the standard feminine. She was emotional and expressed it openly, her habits and interests fit well with the pop culture of young women, and her body was definitely the most obviously female within the group.
Her reasons for joining this mission weren’t hidden like the others – it was crystal clear despite her never uttering a word about it in recent events. Because just like her intentions for the mission, her intentions for gaining a relationship with Ash was crystal clear.
To the other girls, May was one of “The Three”. The three that had spent the most time and had the most experience with Ash. Any girl could argue why they were the best – any girl could argue that they had the most intimate moments with him – any girl could argue that they had the most passion for him… but if you weren’t one of The Three, you had to wait in line.
The Three had special privileges. And if you ignored them, they could easily use their history and their knowledge of Ash to regain the advantage. You never crossed The Three.
But with strength, comes weakness.
The Three were also known to have rejected and avoided romantic relations with Ash. Despite having spent the most time with him and having plenty of moments alone – none of them ever deepened their relationship with him in those events. They had every chance, and they never took it. And that put them on the depressing roster of “just friends”.
Except for May. She may have been like other girls in culture and mannerisms, but she shared one thing that made her belong to Team Ramie: She was the exception.
Ash knew full well of her interest in him. And with every private moment they had together, she only made it more obvious to him. May wanted to be Ash’s. There was no denying that – and no need to explain it. It was the only reason why she was here. It was the only reason why she kept going. And the only reason why she accepted her place in Team Ramie.
Ramie fights for Sato… and I’ll always fight for Ash.
“You saying you’ve been here before, May?” Maylene’s question snapped the Coordinator back to reality.
“Mm-hm!” May happily pointed in one direction. “That’s where the boat I arrived on docked. When Ash and Dawn were competing for the Wallace Cup, I came over to compete as well.”
“So… you wouldn’t happen to know why we’re supposed to be here, would you?”
“Mm…” She tapped at her lip, in thought. “…there is the legend of the Lake Guardians.”
“Yeah. The Lake Guardians.” May tilted her head, giving a confused expression. “…you haven’t heard of the Lake Guardians?”
Maylene turned towards Angie. The tomboy shrugged in response.
“Neither of you have heard it?? Not even from Ash??! Not even from the news??!”
“…er… did something important happen here?” The fighter laughed in embarrassment.
“Team Galactic! When they tried to steal the three Lake Guardians!? Those ring any bells??”
May slapped her palm to her face. “I’m not even from the Sinnoh region… and not only have I been to this resort, not only do I know a Sinnoh-exclusive legend, but I also watched the news that related to this place! What in the world did you two do during that time??”
“Hey, I had a Gym to run.” Maylene folded her arms and shrugged.
“And I had a Day Care to help run.” Angie defended.
“It doesn’t take that long to watch the news, y’know.” The Coordinator sighed. “And you’d think Sinnoh natives would know their own legends!”
“Will you just tell us what the heck a Lake Guardian is?”
May shook her head in surrender and straightened her back. “The Lake Guardians are pokémon that Arceus created. They embody the three things all living things possess: will, emotion, and thought. Each major lake in the Sinnoh region contains one of these Lake Guardians.”
Walking forward and presenting the lake with her hand, May explained, “Lake Valor, for instance, has the pokémon Azelf. The pokémon that represented willpower.”
“Ohhh…” Maylene grinned in understanding. “I didn’t know that was actually a real legend. I just thought that was just a story they told to kids!”
“Yeah, even I was told that story when I was little!” Angie nodded.
“Well it wasn’t just a legend…” May continued. “Azelf called on Ash for protection when Team Galactic threatened to capture it. Uxie called on Brock. And Mesprit called on Dawn. Together, they were able to save them from the clutches of Team Galactic.”
Angie’s eyes were wide with surprise. “Why in the world hasn’t anyone told me about this?!”
“Man!” Maylene punched into the air. “I wish I was there to see that! So why in the world does no one else know about this?? They saved Legendary Pokémon!”
“They do know about it.” May grumbled. “It was ALL OVER THE NEWS!”
“Was it?” The fighter awkwardly scratched her head. “I guess I must’ve missed it…”
“Same here…” Angie laughed quietly.
“So… about this Azelf… what did it look like?”
May raised her brow at Maylene. “I don’t know. I haven’t seen it myself.”
“Well did Ash describe it?”
“Yeah… but I don’t exactly remember…”
“Red gem on its forehead?”
“Yeah! Exactly! But how do you know what…” May sighed. “It’s behind me, isn’t it?”
“Floating above your head, actually.” Maylene laughed.
The Coordinator looked up… the Willpower Pokémon stared down at her in playful curiosity.
May quickly tried to grab it, only to be smacked in the face by one of its two tails. “Ow!” She immediately stumbled over, nearly falling into the water.
Maylene dashed forward and dove towards it. “I gotcha’!”
Azelf spun downwards, avoiding the fighter and whipping her back with its tails.
She fell into a roll and ended in a crouch. “…owww… that stung!” Maylene rubbed her back.
“Quick, Anj! Catch it!” May shouted out.
“What do you mean why??”
“What would catching it do?”
The Lake Guardian hovered towards the tomboy. Their golden eyes locked and gazed deep into one another. Within this moment, they felt an instant connection… as if the two knew each other somehow, but not exactly in the same way.
Angie’s eyes widened. An expression of understanding slowly growing on her face.
“…been a long time, Zelf.” ‘Ramie’ greeted her old friend.
“So you and Azelf were friends in the previous life?” Maylene asked, though her attention was taken by the swirling wall of blue energy that surrounded them. The platform they stood on seemed to have no texture or color, only made of an invisible floor that windowed an empty void of white below. And no matter how much or how fast they walked, they never got any further or any closer from the blue walls.
“That’s right.” ‘Ramie’ smirked. “Zelf really helped me through a tough time in my life. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without him.”
“Azelf’s a boy?”
The Willpower Pokémon and ‘Ramie’ tilted their head at the same time.
“Boy?” The Fighter scratched her chin. “Not really. I just call Azelf a ‘him’. ‘Her’ doesn’t really fit him. Zelf doesn’t have a gender. None of the Lake Guardians do.”
“Wait…” May decided to add her own conversation. “…I thought everyone forgot what happened in the old universe. Even Arceus forgot! So how does Azelf remember??”
“He doesn’t. Even I don’t remember what exactly happened.” ‘Ramie’ shrugged. “But I do know that I’m only aware about any of this because I’m near Zelf here. Same goes for him… If I left, I’d bet we’d forget instantly. Only one I wouldn’t be surprised to keep remembering is Uxie and Quinn.” She gave a slight laugh.
“But… don’t you need to keep remembering who you were, Ramie? I mean, that is why we’re here.”
“Eheh… honestly, I wouldn’t really know how to do that.” The Fighter looked towards the Lake Guardian for guidance. “Zelf? Would you know?”
“Azelf!!” It nodded excitedly.
“Yes!” ‘Ramie’ gave the Lake Guardian a high-five. “You rock, Zelf!”
Maylene flinched, noticing the swirling blue closing in on them. “Um…”
“Everyone get ready!” The Fighter smirked. “This is going to be interesting…”
“Sato!! Sato wait!!”
“Nyeh nyeh! You can’t catch me!!”
“Satooo!! Give it back!!”
“Huh?! Are you okay, Amy?!”
A small boy of raven black hair sprinted quickly to aid the injured girl.
Having tripped on a small rock, the little Ramie curled up tightly on the rugged dirt trail. Knees scraped and red, she blew at them in the hopes to relieve the burning sensation.
“Oh no… I’m sorry, Amy!” Sato pulled her up-right and began blowing as well.
“Ow! Stop it! It hurts with your breath!” She pushed him away clumsily and hid her wounds. “And it’s Ramie! Not Amy!”
He tilted his head in confusion. “I like Amy better… it’s easier to remember.”
“What’s so hard about ‘R’s?? You’re so dumb.”
“I’m not dumb! Ramie. Rrrramie! See?? I can say ‘R’s!”
Ramie gave him an odd look. “…it sounds weird when you say it. Call me Amy.”
“Ugh! Make up your mind! … oh right!” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a marble of red and blue. Holding it towards her, he smiled. “You can have it back.”
She turned away with a pout. “I don’t want it.”
“What?? Why not?? It’s yours!”
“I didn’t catch you, so I can’t have it back. You’re just being nice cuz I fell.”
“Hmph.” Ramie stood, giving a slight wince at the pain in her knees. “So I don’t want it anymore. You can have it.” She turned and began walking away.
“I don’t want your stupid marble!”
Ramie began crying, becoming louder with every passing second.
“H-huh?? Did I say something wrong??”
“IT-IT’S NOT ST-STUPID!!!” she wailed loudly. “Y-Y-YOU’RE STUPID!!!”
“Pl-please don’t cry! You’re going to get me in trouble!”
She howled louder.
“I’m sorry! I’m SORRY!” He shoved the marble into his pocket. “See! I’m keeping it! I’m the one that’s stupid! Not the marble!”
Ramie stared at him angrily, still sobbing, but far quieter. “…you’re mean!”
“I’m very mean! Now please stop crying. Please!”
She rubbed her tears against her sleeves and pouted. “Fine. But you better keep that marble! Or I’m going to cry again!”
“I will! I promise!”
“You swear?” She glanced at him with one eye.
He nodded eagerly. “I cross my heart and hope to die! Stick a weedle in my pie!”
“Ramie, dear! It’s time to go!”
“Sato!! Say bye to your friend now~! It’s time for dinner!”
A frown formed on the young girl’s lips. “I have to go now…”
“Okay. I’ll see you tomorrow, right?”
“…I’ll miss you…”
Ramie leapt forward, wrapping her arms clumsily around Sato.
“Eww, what are you doing, Amy?!”
She pulled away and pouted. “You better keep that marble!”
“Yeah yeah. Just don’t hug me anymore! That’s gross.”
With the quick bow that her mother taught her, Ramie turned and ran towards her parents’ car.
Sato waved. “Bye Amy!!! I’ll see you tomorrow!!!”
“IT’S RAMIE, DUMMY!!!”
“Make up your mind!!!”
Ramie had entered the car and closed the door behind her. She sat obediently with a proper posture as she buckled the seatbelt instinctually.
Her mother looked over the front seat and smiled. “Did you have fun, dear?”
“Yes, mommy.” she answered bashfully, just like how her mother taught her.
“You did remember to tell Sato that this would be your last day together, yes?”
“Because this is your last chance to tell him. We’re heading straight to the airport from here, darling.”
“…yes… I told him, mommy.” Her eyes looked away, afraid to lie to her mother, as she had never lied to her before. But this wasn’t anything against her mother. She had to lie for Sato. She had to lie for herself. Because telling the truth meant she had to face it.
And she didn’t want to face a life without Sato… her best friend… her only real friend.
But her father had a new job, and they had a new home. She didn’t know why – she couldn’t really understand why no matter how many times they explained it to her.
So she just pretended she did. She did it for her mother and father. But she lied for herself and Sato.
She wanted to cry. To cry as loud and as long as she could. Until she couldn’t cry anymore.
She was going to lose her best friend. She was going to lose her only friend.
And though her mother had turned back and no one would see her cry… Ramie wouldn’t let herself.
Sato doesn’t like it when I cry… so I won’t cry…
She covered the pillow tightly around her ears, trying to block out the sounds. The screams, the shouts, the yells, the arguments, the breaking of items, the cries for help and empty threats meant to scare the other. She wanted it all to go away… but the pillows were never enough. Burying her face into another pillow and screaming would always be better – but she was so tired of that.
No matter how many times her parents would fight, Ramie would never get used to it. She thought she could. That if she listened to it enough times, she’d get used to the sound and learn to ignore it. But it wasn’t the shouts and screams that she had to get used to… it was their emotions.
So much hate. So much anger. So much misery. They’d never get anywhere – they never want to get anywhere. They’d fight and fight and fight, only just to fight again. It never solved anything because it was never meant to solve anything. And though they’d fight almost every day, they’d mean it every time. She could never get used to the emotions, because the emotions were meant every time.
Ramie hated her family. She hated everything about it.
Throughout all her life, she did as mother and father told her to. She was perfect, respectful, presentable, and worthy of being called their daughter. And though it was fake – and though it was pretend, she did it because she loved her parents. She didn’t know why she did, she just did – and so she would do as they say.
But it didn’t matter…
Mother and father would always fight. In the end, they would always fight.
She thought if she got better, more perfect, more respectful, more presentable, and more worthy of being called their daughter – they’d stop fighting. But they never did. And they never would.
They’d tell her it wasn’t her fault. They’d tell her she had nothing to do with it. But she knew it was her fault. She knew she had everything to do with it. They stayed together only for her, and they hated that they ‘had’ to. They would put on fake smiles and give false compliments when they were in public… then they’d bribe her to keep quiet with their presents. Their shallow presents that had lost all meaning to her…
A part of her would keep telling herself that they did it because they loved her. That they were doing all this just so they could keep her happy. But that part of herself was a liar. If they really did care for me, then why don’t they ever give me the things I really want? If they really did care for me, then why don’t they even know who I really am? If they really did care for me, then why did they forget today was her birthday…? Why would parents who love me fight on my birthday?
They don’t love me… they love themselves and their image… they love their perfect little daughter with the insincere smiles and the fake stories that made their family seem perfect. Always so perfect. When it was rotten to its core.
The sound had stopped. No more yells, no more screams, no more fighting.
Her parents had left.
Stormed out of the house. One went to drink with friends. The other would disappear to another town for a few days. Just like clockwork, as they would do this after every giant argument.
And it was the few times in Ramie’s life that she could relax and be herself…
No pretty dresses, no proper-proper manners, and especially no more uncomfortable fancy shoes and slippers!
She kicked her footwear across the room and peeled off her socks. Her toes wiggled as they felt the heavenly soft carpet beneath her feet. “Ah~ so much better…”
After rushing out her room and sneaking through each hall and area of her house, she had finally determined that the house was indeed empty.
“Hey Zelf! Coast is clear!!”
In a flash of light, a strange pokémon of blue and light blue colors sparkled into view. “Azelf!”
Ramie hopped up and snatched her best friend and only friend from the air, wrapping her arms tightly around it. “I’ve missed you so much, Zelf!”
“Azelf! Azelf!” it agreed with a smile and slight snuggle.
“Do you know if they locked me in?”
The strange pokémon gave her an obvious look.
Sigh. “I know, I know… but I have to ask!” She walked over and twisted the doorknob, only to find it unresponsive. “Ugh… I know they’ll forget again one day.”
Ramie was locked-in, once again, as always. Her parents, who were either overprotective of her or their own image, had a custom-made security for the house. It not only bragged bullet-proof windows and break-in-proof doors, but all forms of entrance were also secure from all forms of exit. No one could get in – and no one could ever get out as long as the father locked down the home. And after every argument, he would.
And only once did he fail to do so. And on that day, the lonely Ramie met her best and only friend Azelf. Since then, the two were inseparable… except when her parents were home. She knew if they ever found out she had come into contact with one of “those disease-ridden pokémon”, they’d never allow her to see him again… and though the pokémon had the useful ability to shift through walls, she knew her parents would find a way to stop him.
…they always found a way…
She cradled Azelf and petted its gem with curious infatuation.
Azelf was a strange creature. From everything she ever snuck on the information of pokémon, he didn’t seem to fit any category or breed – though she wondered if that was just because she never got that much information in the first place. Even if it wasn’t that, it was the fact that he could shift through walls and even take items from the outside into the inside and vice versa: but he couldn’t do for her.
He’d always tell her that it had something to do with the ‘will of your parents’… he was always blocked by ‘will’, though she had no idea what that meant.
Ramie wasn’t even sure how she understood the pokémon sometimes. On some days she could, on some days she couldn’t – and she wouldn’t really notice when it was one or the other. She just assumed that all pokémon trainers had that kind of connection with their pokémon.
But Azelf wasn’t her pokémon… Azelf was her friend.
And even if she could be a trainer, Azelf wouldn’t be able to be her pokémon. The strange pokémon had a job. Always busy. Always working. He could never travel the world with her even if she could. …yet Azelf always had time for her on the days her parents were gone.
“How is work, by the way, Zelf?”
It tilted its head and sighed.
“Rough, huh?” She tickled its stomach. “…do you work in that lake out there or do you actually travel?”
Azelf shrugged and tilted its mouth.
“Both? …I’m thinking you said both. Or maybe.”
The strange pokémon’s eyes widened. It gave a smile and pointed at one of the walls excitedly.
“Huh? What is it, Zelf?”
Shifting quickly through the wall, Azelf vanished in a swirl of colors.
Before she could worry if he’d ever return, the pokémon reappeared, dragging a large bag. Considering that even he was having a hard time with the bag, it was obviously heavy.
“Whoah! What is that thing?!”
BOMF. The bag crashed to the floor, its zipper breaking open from the impact.
Inside were hundreds of slips of white. Some with strange colors on some corners, and some with poor drawings and writing all over.
“Zelf? What is this thing? Where did you get it??”
‘Hidden. Not meant to find. Today, meant to find.’
“Hm? What’s that mean?” She pulled one of the slips of paper out, realizing what it was. “A letter?”
To Ramie’s surprise, the bag was full of letters…
To Ramie’s shock, they were all addressed to her…
To Ramie’s alarm, they had all come from a single person… Sato.
The name made her heart skip a beat. “Sa…to… … I haven’t heard that name in so long…”
“…Zelf? Where did you find this? Tell me…”
‘Your mother. Always got. Conflicted to give to you. Or. To throw away.’ The pokémon’s eyes were glowing bright, doing its best to convey its message… which it often said was difficult in a house so full of will. ‘To make self feel better… mother hides. Gives her power and knowledge.’
Ramie wanted to yell. Wanted to scream. Wanted to tear the house in response to what she was hearing from her best friend, her only friend. But…
…now I have all these letters… from Sato…
She picked up the newest looking letter and opened it.
‘Hey Amy,’ Her heart skipped another beat. Sato…
‘I know you still don’t want to talk to me. But I just wanted to let you know that today’s my last day of being able to write to you. You know that guy I told you about a few letters back? Well, he says it’s time for me to start my Aura Guardian training… …I’m a little nervous, but I’m definitely excited too. My mom’s worried sick, but she trusts me as always. I won’t be going alone, though! Pikachu’s coming with me! And the guy said that after I earn it, I’ll also get a riolu. I don’t know what that is, but I heard it’s a pokémon that uses Aura. Kinda like me! Isn’t that crazy? And here I thought only me and that guy could use it. Ah, I’m running out of space on this paper! I just wanted to say goodbye. I don’t know where he’ll be taking me or how far away it is. But I just want you to know that you’ll always be my friend, Amy! And who knows, maybe you’ll finally let me visit sometime. I’ll look forward to it. Have an awesome life! Take care of yourself! I’ll miss you.’
Ramie pressed the letter against her chest. Wishing dearly that she could tell him everything that has happened in her life. Begging the letter to let her see him one more time before he disappeared forever. But it was just a fantasy…
The letter, even if new, was already months old. Wherever Sato was, he was long gone…
And though she couldn’t tell him all her stories and disprove all the lies her parents fed him and his mother… Sato gave her all his stories. And though were hundreds of them… they’d never be enough.
I promise I’ll read all of them, Sato…
Ramie grabbed the closest letter and opened it.
The paper inside was a stationary with different Water Pokémon on its borders. Something she considered to be far too childish and cute for a boy, though she wondered if he had chosen it so that she would like it. The thought made her giggle.
His sloppy writing and poor attempt at art was laughable, but she found it endearing.
With a smile, she began reading the letter.
‘You know, I still have that marble of yours…’
The roars of the crowd. The heart-pounding music. The spotlights. And the sparks of excitement in the atmosphere.
She was about ready to break down the doors with all the energy that filled her every muscle and vein.
No, wait for it girl… wait for the intro…
“And now!! The moment you’ve all been waiting for!!!”
Cries and shouts exploded from the audience.
“Our Champion of Champions! The Queen of Kicks! The Persona of Punches! The Gaia of Grapple! The one and only Undefeated of Valor Arena –
With the boom of applause, Ramie tackled through the doors. She greeted the flooding cheers with her signature howl and flex.
She was pumped. Absolutely pumped. Electricity ran through her every fiber as her eyes narrowed and her nostrils flared. It had been a long time since she’s been challenged – and she was going to savor every single second of this event. Like all her other victories, she’d remember it from start to finish.
“Will our challenger be able to face The Champ?! I seriously hope he doesn’t believe so! This crowd hates the ignorant!”
“Now I wouldn’t be so quick to rule him out, Tom! This masked challenger has single-handedly defeated every opponent he’s faced without ever once being knocked out.”
“Are you doubting The Champ, Bob??? You best watch your words or the audience might just boo you out of the booth!”
“There is no way I’m doubting Meteor Ramie, Tom! But I am saying that we might just get the fight of the century here!”
“Well that is what the fans paid for. So let’s hope so!”
Ramie leapt into the ring, showing off her acrobatics and skill by launching several kicks before landing.
The crowd went wild in response.
She smirked and waved to the audience, sending a kiss and wink towards some cameras.
“Quite the entertainer, aren’t you?”
Ramie’s brow twitched. She turned and faced her opponent. “You’re one to talk, ‘masked challenger’. A bit dramatic, don’t you think?”
“I don’t need the popularity. I came here for you.”
She grinned. “Ahh, so a fellow Fighter who just wants to test their skills? Sorry to disappoint you, but you’ll find that I’m more than just a test.”
“Actually, I should be the one apologizing. I’m not a Fighter.”
“Then I must be deaf, because I’m pretty sure I heard your nice little perfect score. And the only ones who can get that are Fighters or cheats…” She cracked her knuckles. “And if you’re a cheat, I’ll make sure every limb of yours would be incapable of cheating by the end of this Round.”
“I am no Fighter and I am no cheat. My name is Rau, I am sure you have gotten my letters?”
Ramie rolled her shoulders and cracked her neck. “Really? You again? You just don’t know when to give up, do you? For the last time, NO. I am not interested in helping you in your little expedition. As you can see, I already have a job.”
“That is why I’m here… care to make a wager?”
“No gambling in my Arena, freak.”
“It’s a simple one that you might enjoy…” He raised one finger into the sky and shouted out to the crowd, “ONE PUNCH! JUST ONE PUNCH IS ALL I NEED TO TAKE HER OUT!!!”
Boos, hisses, and jeers detonated from the furious audience.
“DID YOU HEAR THAT?! THE MASKED CHALLENGER JUST BRAGGED THAT HE COULD TAKE OUT THE CHAMP IN JUST ONE PUNCH!!!”
“I HEARD IT TOM! BUT I STILL CAN’T BELIEVE MY EARS!!”
“THIS MAN IS JUST ASKING FOR A DEATH SENTENCE!!!”
Ramie laughed loudly. “You seriously believe that?!”
“If I am able to do it, you will come with me.” Rau bowed.
“And if you won’t be able to?”
“Then the crowd still gets to see the fight they paid for. And you might just be able to hurt me.”
“Quite arrogant, aren’t you, Mr. Rau?”
“Do you accept?”
A referee climbed into the arena and raised his hands. “Fighters! To the center!”
“THE MATCH IS ABOUT TO BEGIN, FOLKS!!!”
Rau walked towards the center with a calm and cool attitude.
Quite the opposite, Ramie charged to meet her opponent with a fiery temper.
“No blows below the belt! Rounds start and end by the bell! No corner hugging! And a ten mark count for knock outs!” the referee instructed quickly, as he too wanted to see the result of this match. “Fighters, fists!”
The two stage rivals raised their fists and pressed knuckles.
“I accept, Rau.” Ramie hissed. “Get ready to have more than just your pride broken.”
“Distance!” With slight pushes, the two Fighters were separated a safe distance from one another.
The masked fighter nodded. “I apologize for any shame you might gain from this match… but it was the only way to get you to accept my request.”
“Keep yappin’. You won’t have that lip once I rip it off ya’.”
“Round One! Begin!” The referee retreated from the arena.
“YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!” Ramie sprinted forward and launched a heavy kick towards the masked fighter’s head.
He ducked… just as she wanted.
“GOTCHA’!” Using her momentum, she raised her other foot from the ground and shifted her weight, whipping out her next kick while landing on her returning foot.
It didn’t connect.
Shoot, he’s fast. But not fast enough!
Landing facing downwards, she used her vulnerable position to her advantage. Pressing her knuckles into the ground, she tensed her arm muscles to her thigh muscles and swung her next kick. As soon as it would flex out completely, she’d loosen it and whip it back, using the swing-effect to spin and launch her next kick.
One kick after another, striking out at lightning fast speed and retreating far too fast and loose to be grabbed effectively.
“Now here’s a sight for soar eyes!! It’s Meteor Ramie’s infamous Tornado Barrage!! We haven’t seen her use this technique since the fight with Groat!!”
“But are you seeing what I’m seeing, Tom?! The masked challenger is dodging every kick!!!”
“Don’t get too excited, Bob!! The poor man is getting backed into a corner! It won’t be long before he has no room left to dodge!!”
Ramie laughed with excitement. “You may be fast, Rau! But what happens when your legs have nowhere to go?!”
“You should ask yourself that!” The masked fighter charged towards the next kick and took the blow.
“AND ONE OF THE KICKS CONNECTED!!”
“I don’t know about you, Tom, but I think he just ran into that one on purpose!!”
The red-haired fighter smirked. “You really think taking one of my kicks will stop my Tornado?! You’ve just made a rookie mistake!!”
Adjusting her knuckle and hand position, Ramie shifted her weight, reversing the angle and order of the kicks – leaving plenty of room to continue the barrage.
“I don’t think so.” Rau coughed weakly, showing obvious pain from the one blow that connected.
Stepping forward and locking into a wide stance, the masked fighter used his body as a wedge to prevent his opponent’s knees from fully bending. The awkward position caused Ramie to roll backwards to regain any fighting ground.
The back-roll was what Rau was looking for. “Sorry for this!” He struck downwards, his fist connected with her stomach.
Barely enough force was put to make the punch harm the Champion Fighter, and even if it did – her specialized roll was made to alter the momentum of any strike to weaken it drastically.
…but it wasn’t the force or the momentum that the masked fighter needed to harm her…
“HRAAAAAA!!!” A burst of focused Aura ran through his arm and exploded inside the woman’s stomach.
“GGUUH!!!” Ramie’s eyes widened. An impossible amount of pain spiraled inside her body. She hacked out blood as her body convulsed from the attack.
The retreating-roll continued, but without control she tumbled and twisted in an exaggerated manner.
Her head smashed against the one of the arena’s posts, knocking her out immediately.
Ramie opened her eyes, blinded immediately by a bright white.
As her sight adjusted, she noticed a silhouette next to her. …the masked fighter…
Without his mask.
His face seemed familiar, but unfamiliar at the same time. One feature she seemed to especially recognize was the look of concern in his eyes…
“Feelin’ better, Amy?” the man chuckled.
“Looks like I won the deal. I guess you’ll have to go with me then.” He grinned.
Ramie sat up in panic. “S-Sato?! SATO?! S-S-SATO?!!”
She grabbed at her head, pinching her cheeks and making sure she hadn’t gone crazy. “Wh-wh-what’s going on?! Why are you here?! Where’s Rau?!”
Sato stuck his tongue out. “That would be me…” He raised the familiar mask of her opponent.
“Y-You’re Rau?? But… why?! What is… what?!”
His hand softly held her shoulder. She flinched in reaction.
“Calm down, Amy. Don’t have a panic attack.”
“D-Don’t have a panic attack?! H-How do I even know you’re real?! How do I know I’m not dreaming?? How did you find me?! Where were you?! Why were you Rau?! Why were you looking for me?!”
Sato held back a laugh, knowing that it might’ve sent her over the edge. “As far as I know, there’s only one Ramie in Valor City. I was a bit surprised she was a Fighter though. Suits you nice.”
The Fighter pressed her head against the bed post… realizing only now that she was in a hospital.
What happened to her was a blur, but was unimportant. What was important was Sato… the boy that had grown in life through the letters she had read and the pictures he had sent with them… but now he wasn’t a boy anymore… now he was a man. …a… handsome man…
“And I called myself Rau because I knew you wouldn’t want to talk to me…” he said with a sad smile.
Ramie’s attention returned to the conversation. “N-No! I wanted to tell you! I’ve been wanting to tell you! I’ve been wanting to tell you so much that it wasn’t me! I never wrote any of those letters you got from me! I don’t hate you, Sato! I’ve wanted to talk to you for years!!!”
He gave a sigh of relief. “I got the feeling it wasn’t you… that handwriting looked way too good for a little girl. But I never saw your writing before, so… well, you could see why I’d be worried.”
Ramie wrapped her arms around Sato in desperation. “I read all of your letters! I read each and every one of them! Thank you! Thank you so much!! I’ve missed you so much!!” She struggled hard to hold back her tears.
Sato laughed happily and returned the hug. “I missed you too!”
“Why… why were you looking for me, Sato?” She didn’t want to ask, she just wanted to stay in this moment in silence. But she needed to ask. “…what’s this expedition you wanted me for?”
“Honestly, the expedition isn’t that big of a deal… thing is, after I heard what happened between you and your parents… I just wanted to get you out of there. Away from the city for a while. Just get away from it all and… maybe catch up? Hang out? Whatever’s fine.”
“…so you got my letter…?”
“It found its way to me. Yeah.” He smiled gently.
“I didn’t think you’d ever get it…”
“…so do you want to go with me?”
Ramie pulled away and smiled weakly. “Y-Yes. Of course. We need to catch up. And you’re right… I need a break from this city. It’s driving me crazy.”
“I’m glad.” He patted her on the shoulder.
The Fighter tilted her head. “So what’s this expedition about…?”
Sato’s eyes blinked. “O-Oh! Right! The expedition… I’m helping a group of archaeologists explore a temple. They’re trying to find information on a Legendary Pokémon. One that supposedly created this entire universe…”
Music. Screams. Howls. Cheers. Camera flashes. And pure electricity in the air.
Surrounded by an endless sea of roaring crowds and flooded by spotlights, three young women found themselves facing one another within an arena.
“What in the…” The tomboy Angie looked around in confusion.
“Oh no…” The Coordinator May slowly began to realize what was happening.
“About time!” The Gym Leader Maylene cracked her knuckles and began her stretches.
A fourth figure appeared inside their triangle.
Hair of fiery red, eyes of summer gold, muscles of whipped perfection, and a slim figure that complimented her strength and stature… the Champion Fighter Ramie stood within the center of the young women’s views.
“Now now girls… you won’t be fighting each other.” Ramie smirked. “You’ll be fighting me.”
“Wh-what?!” May flinched.
“I guess that’s a bit fairer…” Angie shrugged.
“An honor.” Maylene grinned.
“From what I’ve gathered from each of your memories…” The Fighter acknowledged each of them with a nod. “You’re here to save a boy named Ash. Though in the process, you’ll also be bringing out Sato… and you’ll need to be me in order to do that.”
“Pretty much.” the pink-haired fighter hopped in place, excited for the match.
Ramie shook her head. “Problem with that is… I don’t think any of you are worthy of Sato. Which means none of you are worthy of being me. Being Ramie means to be Sato’s partner. I don’t think any of you could handle that responsibility.”
“When do we fight?!” Maylene yelled in impatience.
The Fighter laughed. She pointed at her cheek. “Go ahead, strike me whenever you want.”
“You asked for it!” Dashing forward, Maylene launched a hard blow against Ramie’s cheek.
She didn’t flinch.
“Wh-what?!” Maylene pulled away and got into a defensive stance.
Ramie shook her head. “You’ll find that things work differently here in Zelf’s world. This world is powered by will. Your physical attacks won’t do much without some willpower.”
“Willpower this!!!” A kick launched towards the Fighter.
And like before, she didn’t flinch.
“What the heck’s heck?!!”
Ramie did a simple punch towards Maylene. On impact, its victim flew across the arena at a surprising speed.
“AAAAAAAAAG-HUH!!!” The fighter bounced off a post and landed horribly onto the arena floor.
“This willpower isn’t from fighting.” Ramie informed coolly, quite pleased with Maylene’s eagerness of being an example for each of her explanations. “This willpower comes from how much Sato means to you. How far would you go for Sato? What would you be willing to sacrifice to protect him and make him happy? That’s where it counts when it comes to being me. Being strong means nothing if there’s no purpose behind your fists.”
“Then try this instead!” Angie leapt forward and tackled the Fighter. She simply crashed against her, as if red-haired woman was made of steel.
“Oh I’m sorry… did I say how much ‘Ash’ means to you? Or ‘Sato’? Because I’m pretty sure I said Sato.”
“Th-that’s not fair!” May protested. “We’re doing this for Ash! Not Sato!”
“And what happens if you save Ash and he’s more Sato than Ash? Would you still find your argument valid?” Ramie yawned. “Look girls – I shared three memories of mine, reasons why I first started fighting for him. It’s your choice if you want to use them to your advantage or not.”
“But that happened to you, not us!”
“Then pretend that was you! If you want to be me, you have to understand how I fee– KAH!!”
Angie’s punch knocked the Fighter off balance. “You mean something like that?”
Ramie grinned. “And that’s exactly why I was inside you and not the other girls.” She cracked her neck. “You know more than anyone else what it means to be a partner.”
“I did it? I DID IT!” May celebrated. “I MADE IT HURT! I – PFUH!!”
The Coordinator was launched into the air with a swift uppercut. “Nice slap, girl. But you forget this punching bag can fight back!”
“HYAAAAAAAAAA!! HAA!! HAH! HRAA!!” Maylene landed a combo of kicks against the veteran Fighter.
And once again, she didn’t flinch.
“You’ve got nice moves, Maylene. But you’re still not getting the point of this.” Ramie caught Angie’s next punch and twisted it against its wrist.
“Ah! AH! OW! OwowowowOW!OW!!” The tomboy fell to her knees, going into submission from the twist of her arm.
“OOF!!! O-how-OW!” May landed from her launch, only to be crushed under the weight of the Fighter’s foot.
“It’s a bit sad that the only one of you that really knows how to fight is too weak to help you.” Ramie sighed. “Well, seeing that I’m going to win – you might as well say goodbye to your precious Ash, because he won’t be returning without my help.”
“WHY YOU!!” A burst of energy filled Angie. She turned her arm and wrapped her fingers around Ramie’s wrist, reversing the twist that had her in submission.
“AAAGH! That’s it! Just like that!” The Fighter found herself forced onto her knees, submitting to Angie’s grip. Her head leaned back as May jerked it back by the hair. “Ow!”
“GIVE UP! WE WON!” the Coordinator barked as she pulled harder.
“You girls are really adorable.” She laughed endearingly. “Let me show you what real fighting looks like.”
The Fighter attempted to twist her wrist to test Angie’s strength – which only encouraged the tomboy to increase the pressure. She eyed the distance between her and her opponents. They’re too far to make an effective sweep… Guess I have no other choice.
The scream hadn’t come from pain… but from a screech of complete disgust. May let go of her grip, nearly fainting. Angie’s face showed obvious shock.
Ramie had forced her elbow to one side, popping out and snapping her bone completely. The arm that Angie had been holding onto no longer had any tension to force or control… her captive was free.
With a quick snap, Ramie whipped out three kicks towards the tomboy and one powerful elbow strike to the Coordinator behind her.
The two victims’ expressions suddenly turned blank… the surprise blows knocking them out immediately. Their bodies fell to the floor, no longer able to battle.
The Fighter’s face winced in pain. Blood poured from an open wound where a fracture of bone ripped through. Her shoulder slunk and tensed, unable to find a comfortable amount of pressure to relieve the affliction. Yet despite all this, a smile formed on her lips.
“You have to be willing to sacrifice yourself and everything you have to protect the one you love.” she breathed out coldly. “…you three are pathetic. Sato doesn’t deserve to wake up in a world with you occupying it.”
Maylene stood silent… her eyes wide and completely enamored by the Fighter’s spirit.
“…is he really worth all this?”
The Fighter smirked. “More than you could imagine.”
“And… you don’t want him to wake up without you?”
“…Sato deserves the best. Even if I’m not, I’m the only one who makes sure he gets the best.” A frown formed as her eyes shifted. “He’ll be happy with Maya, but if I’m not there… she could hurt him. She could change him. And I won’t ever allow that.”
“So you fight for him?”
Maylene straightened her back. With her right arm, she raised her hand to the sky – a single finger pointed upwards.
“ONE PUNCH! JUST ONE PUNCH IS ALL I NEED TO TAKE HER OUT!!!”
The crowd exploded with cheers and screams, flooding the arena with an unimaginable amount of energy and excitement.
Ramie was smiling. “And your bet?”
“If I can knock you out in one punch, then all three of us win.”
“And if you won’t be able to?”
“Then the crowd still gets to see the fight they paid for. And you might just be able to hurt me.” Maylene laughed.
The Fighter laughed with her. “Sounds good to me!” She charged forward at lightning fast speed.
Maylene stood. Not moving an inch.
A kick struck out, aiming straight for her head.
She ducked… just as she wante–…
A fist was planted against her stomach.
The pink-haired fighter had moved in faster than she could anticipate.
Sending a ripple of willpower through her arm, Maylene gave all her desire – duty – love – trust – and honor into a single strike. The energy exploded and swirled inside the Fighter’s stomach, overpowering her infinite will.
“Looks like I won the deal. I guess you’ll have to go with us then.” She grinned.
The world around them shattered… swallowed up by a void of pure white.