TEEN: Champion Game {Chapter 35} - Page 4

Page 4 of 9 FirstFirst ... 23456 ... LastLast
Results 46 to 60 of 127
Like Tree1Likes

Thread: Champion Game {Chapter 35}

  1. #46
    Unova's #1 Yancy fan Seizon Senryaku's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Gender
    Male
    Location
    Summoner's Rift
    Posts
    697
    Blog Entries
    16
    Follow Seizon Senryaku On Twitter

    Default Re: Champion Game {Chapter 12}

    Quote Originally Posted by Johnny Gaddar View Post
    Holy shit, man, this was probably the most surreal (probably misusing that word) chapter thus far.
    Surreal (adj.): 2. having the disorienting, hallucinatory quality of a dream.

    Sounds about right to me. :D

    First thing I want to mention, and it's probably the only thing that concerns me when it comes to your writing thus far:



    Maybe it's just me, but the way you said Manectric twice in that sentence feels...off. If you don't want to change it, you don't have to, but if I may, I'd recommend replacing that second mention of Manectric after that second comma with "the two of them" or something along those lines. Just a suggestion, though.
    Actually, you're right. That's a very poor sentence, and I can't believe it's slipped through my net (and everyone else's) for this long. I'll look to fixing that.

    As for everything else, well, I like it. It is rather odd that Vila got confrontational. Like Ren mentioned, he was the Champ, played by the rules, and won. Then again, I have a feeling Vila's much better than she seems, so she might be indignated because she was using a school Pokemon. Of course, I'm likely to be wrong.
    Hmm . . . brief history/geography lesson, out of character of course. Vila is a member of the Qirfan diplomatic corps. This means she comes from the made-up country of Qirfa, of course. Now, because the regions of the Pokemon world so far have been roughly equal to various areas of Japan, I'm subscribing to that philosophy to a certain extent. As such, Qirfa occupies a large percentage of the space we know as Russia. Because the climate across much of Qirfa is very harsh, there are far fewer Pokemon there. Vila has no prior experience with Pokemon. Her stung pride, however, can be traced back to Qirfa again - because there are few powerful Pokemon lying around - including legendaries and the like - the Qirfans have long been a militaristic people, being one of the few places in the world to have weaponry of any kind. They have a history of conflict and civil war, and have only become stable relatively recently kinda like Russia. They are still, however, a proud people, and Vila sees it as something of a disgrace to lose, especially as she has become accustomed to beating the other students easily in the Sunday school. (She doesn't flip out when she loses to Roxanne in practice because she recognises her as her teacher. While she knows Ren is far better than her, she still saw him as a threat rather than another teacher.)

    Phew.

    Damn, more of this Afro Glameow? Ain't he/she gonna learn yet?

    BTW, did part of the reason for its afro come from its name sounding so nice rolling off the tongue? I keep saying "Afro Glameow", and it sounds so good.
    Well, it came to that part in (I think) Chapter Four where Ren was musing about how dreams made no sense. I needed something that sounded way-out and wacky, and a Glameow with an afro sounded pretty weird. I think I had some Afro Samurai on the brain that day, so something with the same syllable pattern seemed to work just fine. I decided I liked it, bringing it in on a whim when Ren fell asleep, and then figured I'd keep it around for a bit.

    Something is definitely off. Perhaps the Dreamlight is able to instinctively induce sleep in its owner if it feels it needs them in the World of Dreams at that moment? The way Ren got drowsy was definitely unusual, hardly natural.

    Perhaps that's the reason why everything seemed so chaotic when he ended up falling asleep and why no one came to get him this time?
    Well, I won't say anything much about that, but either way, they certainly weren't expecting him to come through at that time.

    And hoo, boy, nice chase scene. Damn creepy, this particular Iehkti'na is. Now I'm certain that the status quo seems to be coming back to normal for the appearances of these beasts. This particular breed seems to be of a lower class. It also reminds me of Arakune from BlazBlue.
    Hmm, haven't played that, so I couldn't say, but they're kind of generally based off the Heartless from Kingdom Hearts, especially that one breed . . . what were they called? They looked like giant bipedal ant-things made of ink. *quick wiki search* Oh. They're called Shadows. How original, and extremely easy to forget to boot. >_> But yeah, they're part of the inspiration. Kingdom Hearts in general was a big influence, as were Bleach and Yumekui Merry. hints hints errywhurr

    And, ah, hehehe, if you have an answer to the question I had last post?
    OH WHOOPS. Somehow I didn't see that ninja-edit there. Umm . . .

    And I do have a question. Not sure if this is the right place, but has there ever been a time in your version of Hoenn where a person with a low yehkti who, through sheer effort, managed to defeat the Champion? If so, what happened? Did they become the new yehktira, or did they just have the title of Champion until the current yehktira won back the title?
    Hmm. You're quite right - each successive yehktira is by no means guaranteed to be stronger or better than their predecessor, but I can kind of wave this off for now - some form of explanation will be unveiled in Chapter, umm . . . Fourteen, I think. (alternatively, you could hop over to the Author's Atlas thread and read it ahead of time >_>) But for now, I'll just say that . . . it didn't matter. Until recently, the strength of the yehktira actually had little to do with anything. I imagine the spirits would have a hard time if they got someone with next to nothing, though. If they did, I guess they'd simply say to them, "Look. Carry on being Champion, but give the Dreamlight back to your predecessor until somebody takes your title from you." That'd be the sensible thing to do, I think.

    Nice work. We rollin' now, and I'm gonna enjoy what comes up next!
    Yes, I . . . I think you will. BD
    The Atlantis Codex / Champion Game

    'A single event can awaken within us a stranger totally unknown to us. To live is to be slowly born.' - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
    'Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more; men were deceivers ever.' - William Shakespeare
    'Beauty is everywhere a welcome guest.' - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
    'When one life meets another life, something will be born.' - Un(k)own

  2. #47
    The small giant Flaze's Avatar Moderator
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Gender
    Male
    Location
    Why do you care
    Posts
    59,600
    Blog Entries
    151
    Add Flaze on Facebook
    Follow Flaze on Tumblr Visit Flaze's Youtube Channel

    Default Re: Champion Game {Chapter 12}

    It was definetily weird for Vila to act that way just cause she lost against the person that's already the best, she also talked as if Ren was supposed to let her win or something that's a little weird so I'm curious about that.

    I wonder why no one went to pick up Ren I thought they knew when he entered or not and now he's stuck with those two nightmares. I for one thing that these ones are stronger than the last ones, the smaller they are the harder they punch.


    I got a little confuse when everything started getting upside down though, mainly cause I didn't know if Ren was upside down as well.

  3. #48
    Unova's #1 Yancy fan Seizon Senryaku's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Gender
    Male
    Location
    Summoner's Rift
    Posts
    697
    Blog Entries
    16
    Follow Seizon Senryaku On Twitter

    Default Re: Champion Game {Chapter 12}

    Quote Originally Posted by Sky Flame Haze View Post
    It was definetily weird for Vila to act that way just cause she lost against the person that's already the best, she also talked as if Ren was supposed to let her win or something that's a little weird so I'm curious about that.
    Well, I kind of answered this in my reply to Johnny Gaddar's review, and I can't really say much more than I did there without giving something away.

    I wonder why no one went to pick up Ren I thought they knew when he entered or not and now he's stuck with those two nightmares. I for one thing that these ones are stronger than the last ones, the smaller they are the harder they punch.
    Maybe they don't necessarily know when he enters? Maybe they just know when he's supposed to enter? BD


    I got a little confuse when everything started getting upside down though, mainly cause I didn't know if Ren was upside down as well.
    Well, he kinda would have to be . . . I mean, if he wasn't upside down, he'd just be able to walk along the floor and climb the stairs like normal. I think I even said . . .
    As it was, he collapsed forward out of his door and fell onto the ceiling
    which I believe clarifies it.
    The Atlantis Codex / Champion Game

    'A single event can awaken within us a stranger totally unknown to us. To live is to be slowly born.' - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
    'Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more; men were deceivers ever.' - William Shakespeare
    'Beauty is everywhere a welcome guest.' - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
    'When one life meets another life, something will be born.' - Un(k)own

  4. #49
    The small giant Flaze's Avatar Moderator
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Gender
    Male
    Location
    Why do you care
    Posts
    59,600
    Blog Entries
    151
    Add Flaze on Facebook
    Follow Flaze on Tumblr Visit Flaze's Youtube Channel

    Default Re: Champion Game {Chapter 12}

    Oh I hadn't read that one, but now I understand better.

    And I must've missed that, sorry.

  5. #50
    Yeezy taught me The Booty Warrior's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Gender
    Male
    Location
    In a land of peace
    Posts
    304
    Blog Entries
    64

    Default Re: Champion Game {Chapter 12}

    Quote Originally Posted by Misheard Whisper View Post
    Surreal (adj.): 2. having the disorienting, hallucinatory quality of a dream.

    Sounds about right to me. :D
    Whew, that's good to know.

    Actually, you're right. That's a very poor sentence, and I can't believe it's slipped through my net (and everyone else's) for this long. I'll look to fixing that.
    Oh, good, it's a win-win situation for both of us. You get to fix a mistake in your writing and I get to see proof that my reviewing skills are improving!

    Hmm . . . brief history/geography lesson, out of character of course. Vila is a member of the Qirfan diplomatic corps. This means she comes from the made-up country of Qirfa, of course. Now, because the regions of the Pokemon world so far have been roughly equal to various areas of Japan, I'm subscribing to that philosophy to a certain extent. As such, Qirfa occupies a large percentage of the space we know as Russia. Because the climate across much of Qirfa is very harsh, there are far fewer Pokemon there. Vila has no prior experience with Pokemon. Her stung pride, however, can be traced back to Qirfa again - because there are few powerful Pokemon lying around - including legendaries and the like - the Qirfans have long been a militaristic people, being one of the few places in the world to have weaponry of any kind. They have a history of conflict and civil war, and have only become stable relatively recently kinda like Russia. They are still, however, a proud people, and Vila sees it as something of a disgrace to lose, especially as she has become accustomed to beating the other students easily in the Sunday school. (She doesn't flip out when she loses to Roxanne in practice because she recognises her as her teacher. While she knows Ren is far better than her, she still saw him as a threat rather than another teacher.)
    Ah, that makes sense, especially considering Ren's kind of a runt for a Champ. It was quite informative. Thanks!

    Well, it came to that part in (I think) Chapter Four where Ren was musing about how dreams made no sense. I needed something that sounded way-out and wacky, and a Glameow with an afro sounded pretty weird. I think I had some Afro Samurai on the brain that day, so something with the same syllable pattern seemed to work just fine. I decided I liked it, bringing it in on a whim when Ren fell asleep, and then figured I'd keep it around for a bit.
    Indeed. I was wondering if there was anyone else around here who'd seen Afro Samurai. Glad I'm not the only one. It defiinitely works.

    Well, I won't say anything much about that, but either way, they certainly weren't expecting him to come through at that time.
    Ho, ho, ho...we'll certainly see...

    Hmm, haven't played that, so I couldn't say, but they're kind of generally based off the Heartless from Kingdom Hearts, especially that one breed . . . what were they called? They looked like giant bipedal ant-things made of ink. *quick wiki search* Oh. They're called Shadows. How original, and extremely easy to forget to boot. >_> But yeah, they're part of the inspiration. Kingdom Hearts in general was a big influence, as were Bleach and Yumekui Merry. hints hints errywhurr
    ‪Blazblue Continuum Shift Arakune and Relius Clover Play Goonies ENGLISH [HD]‬‏ - YouTube

    Hoo, boy, I think it'll be easier to understand after seeing this. And now that you mention those influences...much easier to spot now. Though, personally I'm still not so sure of where the hints of the plot's direction are, so I guess you get to keep your mystery for now.

    Hmm. You're quite right - each successive yehktira is by no means guaranteed to be stronger or better than their predecessor, but I can kind of wave this off for now - some form of explanation will be unveiled in Chapter, umm . . . Fourteen, I think. (alternatively, you could hop over to the Author's Atlas thread and read it ahead of time >_>) But for now, I'll just say that . . . it didn't matter. Until recently, the strength of the yehktira actually had little to do with anything. I imagine the spirits would have a hard time if they got someone with next to nothing, though. If they did, I guess they'd simply say to them, "Look. Carry on being Champion, but give the Dreamlight back to your predecessor until somebody takes your title from you." That'd be the sensible thing to do, I think.
    Good points. Now I'm starting to wonder why high levels of yehkti are suddenly so important. Still, I can wait until Chapter Fourteen. I'll be on the edge of my seat until then.

    Yes, I . . . I think you will. BD
    Butt of course.
    Last edited by The Booty Warrior; 3rd August 2011 at 08:46 PM.
    "I never sleep, 'cause sleep is the cousin of death." - Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones, N.Y. State of Mind

  6. #51
    The small giant Flaze's Avatar Moderator
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Gender
    Male
    Location
    Why do you care
    Posts
    59,600
    Blog Entries
    151
    Add Flaze on Facebook
    Follow Flaze on Tumblr Visit Flaze's Youtube Channel

    Default Re: Champion Game {Chapter 12}

    I've seen both Kingdom Hearts and BlazBlue and I still didn't got the references :( though I haven't played any of them officially.

  7. #52
    Unova's #1 Yancy fan Seizon Senryaku's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Gender
    Male
    Location
    Summoner's Rift
    Posts
    697
    Blog Entries
    16
    Follow Seizon Senryaku On Twitter

    Default Re: Champion Game {Chapter 12}

    Quote Originally Posted by Johnny Gaddar View Post
    Whew, that's good to know.



    Oh, good, it's a win-win situation for both of us. You get to fix a mistake in your writing and I get to see proof that my reviewing skills are improving!
    Indeed! Fixed it now.

    Ah, that makes sense, especially considering Ren's kind of a runt for a Champ. It was quite informative. Thanks!
    If possible, I like to tell these things within the story, but I figured it wouldn't hurt to drop it here. It'll likely be explained in-character later as well, though. Maybe in a bit more depth, even.

    Indeed. I was wondering if there was anyone else around here who'd seen Afro Samurai. Glad I'm not the only one. It defiinitely works.
    Tbh, I haven't actually seen it myself. >_> I know about it, is all.

    Ho, ho, ho...we'll certainly see...



    ‪Blazblue Continuum Shift Arakune and Relius Clover Play Goonies ENGLISH [HD]‬‏ - YouTube

    Hoo, boy, I think it'll be easier to understand after seeing this. And now that you mention those influences...much easier to spot now. Though, personally I'm still not so sure of where the hints of the plot's direction are, so I guess you get to keep your mystery for now.
    Ah, I see, I see. Yes, those kinds of things are very similar to how I imagine some of the Iehkti'na to be. As for the Kingdom Hearts reference, hmm . . . would it help if I said the only one I ever played was 358/2 Days? Even if not, that's all you get out of me.



    Good points. Now I'm starting to wonder why high levels of yehkti are suddenly so important. Still, I can wait until Chapter Fourteen. I'll be on the edge of my seat until then.
    Well, they generally want yehktira with high levels of yehkti, because they're harder to kill. Most people's yehkti is negligible, but anybody over a six on Steven's scale of one to ten would probably be strong enough to recast the Soul Bonds, though they wouldn't last quite so long.



    Butt of course.
    Hehe, 'butt'.
    The Atlantis Codex / Champion Game

    'A single event can awaken within us a stranger totally unknown to us. To live is to be slowly born.' - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
    'Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more; men were deceivers ever.' - William Shakespeare
    'Beauty is everywhere a welcome guest.' - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
    'When one life meets another life, something will be born.' - Un(k)own

  8. #53
    Unova's #1 Yancy fan Seizon Senryaku's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Gender
    Male
    Location
    Summoner's Rift
    Posts
    697
    Blog Entries
    16
    Follow Seizon Senryaku On Twitter

    Default Chapter Thirteen - The Darkest Night

    A/N: Chapter Thirteen . . . not much to say, just more trippiness. Enjoy.

    Chapter Thirteen
    The Darkest Night


    Everything was black. Nothing was solid. Ren wasn't even sure if he was standing on anything, but at the very least, his house had disappeared. Even the handle on the front door had blinked out of existence the instant he touched it, leaving his hand to close, almost interrupted, on empty space.


    Well, calling it 'empty' implied that there might be something there at some point, Ren reasoned. And that seemed unlikely, seeing that he was now floating in a vacuum. Or . . . was he? He was standing upright, that was for sure. That had to count for something, right? Tentatively, he lifted his right foot off the ground that might not have been there after all and put it down in front of him.


    But he couldn't. His foot kept falling, his body following it, yet his left foot did not move. Although there was no sensation of spinning, nothing to measure his progress against, Ren supposed he was now cartwheeling through the void, probably looking very silly to anybody who might be watching him.


    That thought brought him up short. Where were the Iehkti'na now? They could be anywhere in this blank, featureless expanse. How was he supposed to see them if he couldn't even see himself?


    I need light, he thought, and somehow, from somewhere, there was light. There wasn't much; just enough that he could see indistinct shadows wobbling in front of him when he waved his hands before his face. He couldn't even tell where the light was coming from, if it even had a source – if, indeed, it was even a light to begin with. It might be more accurate, he pondered, to call it a darkness that's slightly less dark than the previous darkness. Immediately following this thought, he dismissed it as fanciful nonsense. Dark was dark, and light was light. Idiot.


    Immediately following this thought, Ren chastised himself thoroughly for talking to himself like some kind of madman.


    So, where to go now?” he asked aloud, more to reassure himself through the sound of his own voice than anything else.

    With me,” rasped a deep voice from somewhere above Ren's shoulder.

    Ren jumped – or rather, he would have if he had been sure of where the ground was. “Arceus! Who the hell are you?”


    There was a sound of clicking fingers, and Ren suddenly felt heat and warm orange light erupt inches from his left arm. He squeezed his eyes shut as the sudden brightness overloaded them.


    When he risked cracking his eyes open a few seconds later, Ren was able to see somewhat. He was standing on an empty, dusty plain that stretched beyond the limits of the light emitted by . . . Ren squeezed his eyes shut again and rubbed them to make sure he was seeing properly.


    A man was standing in front of him, cupping a warm orange ball of roiling flames in his left hand. The man was huge, easily two feet taller than Ren, and broad; his trunk was wider than Ren was at the shoulders. It was hard to tell much else, though, because he was wearing a long, brown coat that hung almost to the ground, tightly wrapped around his entire body, obscuring it from view. A pair of worn, cracked black boots poked out from underneath it. His face . . .


    Ren peered under the hood, the brown folds of which fell softly around the man's head. Somehow, though, no face was visible. Darkness, though banished from every other crevice nearby by the incandescent flames in his hand, stayed put under the hood, seeming to shift and weave back and forwards as if it were alive. “It's magic,” the man croaked, as if reading Ren's mind. His voice sounded as if it had been dragged backwards across a particularly shredded piece of sandpaper.


    Who . . . who are you?” Ren asked. Was this the spirit he had been promised would appear? He certainly hoped so, but in this strange realm of upside-down houses and endless shadows, the hooded man could be anybody. He might even be an Iehkti'na in disguise.

    Maho,” the man said, his voice still rasping in a manner that sounded unnatural and somewhat painful. He then turned and started to walk away as if that had been all the explanation that was necessary, taking his circle of flickering light with him.

    Ren hesitated for a moment before following him. Of course, he knew there was no way he could trust this stranger, but it didn't really look like he had a choice. Maho – was that his name? – would certainly have been able to kill him several times already if that had been his intention, although this gave Ren no great comfort as he hurried cautiously after the big man and his ball of fire.


    Ren fell into step beside Maho, noticing that although his companion was striding far faster than Ren, he had a pronounced limp that made his body rock to one side every time he took a step. His arms, too, were oddly stiff, as if he had trouble moving them.


    Will you tell me where we're going, at least?” Ren tried, almost stumbling over his own feet in his effort to keep up.

    Iehkti'na,” Maho grunted from beneath his hood. His head turned sharply one way and the other, and quite suddenly, he changed direction, striding off at almost a right angle.

    There was a sudden loud hissing noise from behind Ren, and he ducked instinctively as something scythed out of the darkness behind him, aimed directly at his neck. It passed over his head narrowly, but before he could straighten up to fight – or run, which was more likely – a great gout of white-hot flame poured through the space where his head had been just a split second ago. Ren felt himself break into a sweat as the immense heat passed within inches of his back and slammed into the beast which had crept up behind him.


    Ren turned to watch in morbid fascination as the Iehkti'na was utterly consumed by the fire. Instantly, it seemed to melt back into a liquid form, a horrible, vinegar-like smell filling the air as its whispered screams penetrated Ren's ears. He shuddered and tried to look away, but there was no way he could. The nightmare screamed and screamed, its voice never rising above a hiss, until its limbs and body had completely melted. The resulting puddle of what looked like black tar, glimmering sickeningly in the firelight, offered no immediate indication of the horror it had been just moments earlier.


    He turned to glance at Maho, who was standing impassively a few metres off. He nodded in satisfaction, causing Ren to again notice the jerky awkwardness of his movements. He then turned and walked off again, clearly expecting Ren to follow. Ren didn't move for a full ten seconds, simply watching the retreating back of the man who had just utterly annihilated a nightmare in less time than it took him to draw breath. He shuddered involuntarily. The man frightened him.


    I guess I have no choice other than to follow him, though, Ren reasoned. He has shown that he's on my side, at least . . .


    He had barely caught up to the magic user, however, when Maho stopped dead. He lifted his right hand – the one not still providing light – high in the air. Ren, suddenly recognising what was about to happen, jumped backwards and – remembering something a science teacher had once told him – unclenched his jaw. He had worked out by now that covering his ears would do nothing, but that didn't mean he wanted any of his teeth to shatter. The shockwave last time had given him a brief, passing toothache – nothing crippling, but unpleasant enough for him to not want to repeat the experience.


    Sure enough, Maho brought his hand slashing down, tearing a hole in the space in which they stood. Beyond was the void. Ren stepped forward, expecting Maho to either push him through or pull him, but instead, the faceless man grasped Ren by the collar and tossed him bodily off to one side.


    Ren hit the ground with an indignant 'ow!', but Maho was swiftly upon him, lifting a finger to where his mouth should be in a gesture of silence. That was the last Ren saw for the moment, for immediately the light in Maho's hand was extinguished.


    Ren waited, holding his breath. The only light in the universe at that moment was the weak white glow that emanated from the portal a metre or two away, barely enough to make out its border. Ren's mind spun. What was Maho doing?


    There was a sense of sudden movement across Ren's vision, followed almost immediately by a crackling blast of blue lightning that lanced out from a point just inches from Ren's cheek. A familiar sizzling feeling raised the hairs on his neck, and he shivered slightly as he saw the immensely powerful bolt of electricity wrap itself around a dark, writhing shape on the ground in front of the portal.


    Once again, Ren found himself watching, enthralled, as the nightmare disintegrated, this time burnt blacker than black with a continuous, thick stream of lightning that cocooned it and consumed it utterly. Maho kept up his attack for a good ten seconds before allowing the last traces of electricity to dissipate, plunging them back into darkness.


    Hmph,” Maho grunted dismissively as he conjured up another ball of fire and strode over to poke the charred carcass of the nightmare with the toe of his boot. At his touch, it crumbled to ash with a horrible creaking sound, filling Ren's nostrils with a pungent, unpleasant odour. “No more.”

    Are you sure?” Ren asked, glancing around nervously. Sure, he had only seen two of the beasts, but there was always the possibility of more lurking, unseen, in the vast shadows.

    Maho gave him what may very well have been a look of scorn before turning and vanishing into the portal he had torn open, taking his light with him.


    Ren blinked. “Guess I'll take that as a 'yes',” he muttered, stepping around the pile of ashes that had not long ago been a Iehkti'na. It seemed that it had been drawn by the faint light of the portal, he guessed as he took a deep breath, preparing to follow the strange magician through.


    It's kind of funny, he thought as he felt himself sucked through into empty space once again. One minute a living creature, the next a pile of ashes or a puddle of oil. Is it really all right to kill them like this?


    He didn't have time to answer his own question, for barely three seconds after he had stepped into the portal, he found himself once again stepping out into a familiar grassy field. About fifty metres away stood the forest, still dark and imposing, but a little less threatening. Maho stood between him and the trees, looking over Ren's head at something in the distance. As Ren felt the portal blink out of existence behind him, Maho jerked his head in the direction of the woods. “Hurry,” he said briefly, before turning and limping towards the trees. “Stay quiet.”


    Before Ren followed him, he turned to glance backwards at what Maho had been looking at. A threatening-looking thundercloud stretched across the horizon, disappearing beyond his vision in both directions. It was huge; at that distance, it must have been miles high. Quickly, Ren turned to run after Maho, heart thumping suddenly. Something was wrong in the third ring, and he didn't want to find out what it was. At least, not alone.


    As Ren passed under the leafy canopies of the first trees, there was a distant rumble of thunder.


    Ren was about to ask Maho what the long black cloud meant when he remembered that he wasn't allowed to speak. He would have to remember to ask about that rule at some point. It seemed that the area between the edge of the forest and the barrier around the spirits' village was an enforced 'silent zone', though for what purpose, he could not tell.


    Ren fared no better in his trek through the inky black woods than he had on his previous trek; in fact, it seemed to him that he tripped over at least twice as often as he had with Elly. He wished Maho would conjure up his little ball of fire again, but then he remembered that Elly had made him walk without a light source as well. Maybe light is in the same category as talking in this forest.


    Eventually, however, light began to filter through the trees again, and the going became easier until eventually they passed through the barrier into the village, where suddenly everything was light and sound.


    The settlement was not so peaceful and relaxed as the last time, though, Ren noticed worriedly. People were hurrying purposefully from place to place; the man in the white toga was no longer giving speeches, but had taken up a post next to a small hut and was handing out weapons of various shapes and sizes to the spirits that dashed past; a couple of children dashed here and there, bumbling along with enormous helmets or shields in their tiny hands.


    What's . . . going on?” Ren asked, bewildered. The air of carefree ease that had pervaded the village was gone, replaced by a thrumming tension that was almost palpable. With a start, he realised that he could actually hear it. Looking up, he saw that the cylinder of magical light that enclosed the area had taken on an angry red tinge and had begun to shift slightly, patterns writhing across its surface like immiscible oil and water.

    What the hell is he doing here?” came a familiar voice from somewhere in the crowd. Ren and Maho turned to face the source of the voice as Elly Darkstorm pushed her way through the milling mass to confront them. Her hair was tied back in a short, practical ponytail, and she was wearing her black leather gear, to the back of which was strapped her lethally sharp sword. She was pulling on a pair of thin leather gloves as she approached. “It's nowhere near time yet!”

    Maho only shrugged, somehow managing to look indifferent despite the fact that Ren couldn't see his face.


    Why is he asleep?” Elly hissed, before just as quickly rounding on Ren. “Why are you asleep?”

    Ren raised his hands in supplication. “I was tired . . . I fell asleep on the train! I didn't realise I'd end up here again!”


    Elly swore loudly and vehemently. “Agh! You should have thought of that, moron! Now you're stuck here! I can't very well send you home at a time like this!”


    Wh-why not?” Ren enquired. “Clearly something's going on, so I'd be best out of your way . . .”

    That's not possible! If I open a portal to send you back to the second ring, the Iehkti'na will stream through and you'll be overrun!”

    How would they do that?” Ren asked incredulously. “I don't see any around here.”

    Are you stupid?” Elly practically screeched. “Didn't you see that big black cloud out there?”

    Yes . . .” Ren said slowly, horror slipping onto his face as he remembered the enormous mass of what he had taken for stormclouds. “Wait, that was . . . they were . . .”

    Yes!” Elly rolled her eyes. “Man, you're slow!”

    But if they're out there, surely you can send me back before they get here?”

    It doesn't work like that! The instant you pass through that portal into the second ring, every Iehkti'na that's awake in this ring will go through into the second ring as well! I can't imagine you, or anybody else, for that matter, taking on so many at once.”

    But you look like you feel pretty confident about beating them here,” Ren reasoned, gesturing around at the buzz of activity. “They don't look like people who think they're going to lose.” It was true. All of the spirits, from the elderly right down to the toddlers, bore the same expression of stolid determination, save for Elly, who was wearing a strange look that seemed to hover somewhere between 'Can you really be this stupid?' and 'I am going to kill you.' – or so it seemed to Ren. He flinched slightly.

    Look,” Elly said, clearly making an effort to keep her temper under control. “There can only be one spirit in the second ring at once. Any more will destroy it – it's too unstable to handle our level of yehkti as it is. So either we all fight those thousands of monsters here, or you and any one spirit of your choice can take your chances with every single one of them in the second ring. And you're not allowed to just jump through into the first ring, either, or they'll ruin your world. Frankly, I couldn't care less, if the best it can produce is the likes of you, but I don't think that's what you want. You follow?”

    Ren nodded, his mouth slightly open. “Looks . . . looks like I'm stuck here,” he said, resigning himself to the fact.


    Yes, you are. Now we have to work out what to do with you. You ought to be safe as long as you don't leave the Glade, but I can't risk leaving you with anyone less than a top-level fighter, just in case. But who can we spare to- ah, of course. Maho, will you be joining us on the battlefield today?”

    Maho, who had remained silent throughout the entire encounter, cocked his head slightly, glancing at Ren for a moment before nodding firmly, albeit clunkily. “I will,” he rasped.


    Elly pouted, dissatisfied. “Well, who the hell . . . I can't spare any of the council members, except Lucius, and he's really not going to be all that much help to you. The other generals are all committed to the battle already . . .” She trailed off and glared frostily into space, chewing her bottom lip.


    Guess who?” trilled another familiar voice from behind Ren, startling him. Before he could turn around, however, a pair of small hands were clamped firmly over his eyes. “Nuh-uh,” said the voice. “I said guess, so you have to guess.”

    Oh, for crying out loud . . .” Ren said, rolling his eyes as best he could.

    I felt that!” sulked the voice, kicking him sharply, but not too painfully, in the back of the knee.

    Cecilia, stop playing around!” Elly snapped.

    Aww, you ruined it!” Cecilia grumbled as she removed her hands from Ren's eyes and skipped around to stand next to Maho. “You knew it was me, though. Right, Ren?”

    Yes, I did,” Ren sighed.

    Well!” Cecilia said abruptly. “It's settled, then!”

    What's settled?” Elly asked, looking a bit nonplussed.

    I'll take care of Ren while the rest of you go off to the battle,” she said, as if it were the simplest thing in the world.

    Cecilia, I really can't spare you today. We need you on the front line.”

    Ohhh?” Cecilia said archly, her voice suddenly taking on an edge that made Ren shiver. She pirouetted around to grab him by the shoulders from behind, peeking past his head at Elly. “Are you sure? Or are you just scared of what we'll get up to when we're . . . alone . . . together?” she said in barely more than a whisper, her breath tickling Ren's ear.

    Maho gave a rattly, grating cough and Elly's eyes widened suddenly. “If you think it matters at all to me what you might get up to, you're mistaken!” she said huffily. “Fine. You take care of Ren, and we'll send him back afterwards. Come on, Maho. If you're going to be on the front line, we need to get you in command of your own troops for a change.” With that, she whirled on the spot and marched away.


    Cecilia giggled. “I think I touched a nerve.”


    Ren glanced across at her and just about bumped his nose into her head, which was still resting on his shoulder. “You can, uh, let me go now if you like,” he said awkwardly.


    Nah,” Cecilia said casually, threading her arm through his and leaning on his shoulder. “Escort me?”

    Ren sighed internally. This could be interesting.
    The Atlantis Codex / Champion Game

    'A single event can awaken within us a stranger totally unknown to us. To live is to be slowly born.' - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
    'Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more; men were deceivers ever.' - William Shakespeare
    'Beauty is everywhere a welcome guest.' - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
    'When one life meets another life, something will be born.' - Un(k)own

  9. #54
    The small giant Flaze's Avatar Moderator
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Gender
    Male
    Location
    Why do you care
    Posts
    59,600
    Blog Entries
    151
    Add Flaze on Facebook
    Follow Flaze on Tumblr Visit Flaze's Youtube Channel

    Default Re: Champion Game {Chapter 13}

    At first the chapter started a little lackluster for me but as it built up it became way more interesting. I'm curious as to what type of magic Maho is able to use and if maybe there's a chance for Ren to learn it.

    One question though, but chances are I missed it while reading or something. Why are there so many Nightmares at that hour? is it because it's still clear outside instead of dark like when Ren is supposed to go?

    Elly showed some more Tsundere sides in this chapter once more xD but I can't wait to see how Ren deals with Cecilia's playful personality; especially in a situation like the one he's stuck in.

  10. #55
    Unova's #1 Yancy fan Seizon Senryaku's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Gender
    Male
    Location
    Summoner's Rift
    Posts
    697
    Blog Entries
    16
    Follow Seizon Senryaku On Twitter

    Default Re: Champion Game {Chapter 13}

    Quote Originally Posted by Sky Flame Haze View Post
    At first the chapter started a little lackluster for me but as it built up it became way more interesting. I'm curious as to what type of magic Maho is able to use and if maybe there's a chance for Ren to learn it.
    Well, with a dose of yehkti like Ren's got, it just might happen. Then again, Maho's yehkti is very different to anything Ren might have, so it might not be compatible at all.

    One question though, but chances are I missed it while reading or something. Why are there so many Nightmares at that hour? is it because it's still clear outside instead of dark like when Ren is supposed to go?
    Umm . . . so many? It's been the same two all the way through - since Ren came into the world of dreams this time, that is. The two in Roxanne's Gym, the two in his house, the two in the blackness . . . all the same pair. Sorry if that wasn't clear.

    EDIT: Months later, I read this again and realise what you mean. Ah, the reason for the great horde of nightmares has nothing to do with the time, no.

    Elly showed some more Tsundere sides in this chapter once more xD but I can't wait to see how Ren deals with Cecilia's playful personality; especially in a situation like the one he's stuck in.
    Maybe she's tsundere, maybe she's just pissed. *shrug*
    Last edited by Seizon Senryaku; 13th November 2011 at 05:59 AM.
    The Atlantis Codex / Champion Game

    'A single event can awaken within us a stranger totally unknown to us. To live is to be slowly born.' - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
    'Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more; men were deceivers ever.' - William Shakespeare
    'Beauty is everywhere a welcome guest.' - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
    'When one life meets another life, something will be born.' - Un(k)own

  11. #56
    The small giant Flaze's Avatar Moderator
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Gender
    Male
    Location
    Why do you care
    Posts
    59,600
    Blog Entries
    151
    Add Flaze on Facebook
    Follow Flaze on Tumblr Visit Flaze's Youtube Channel

    Default Re: Champion Game {Chapter 13}

    Then she's got anger management

  12. #57
    Unova's #1 Yancy fan Seizon Senryaku's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Gender
    Male
    Location
    Summoner's Rift
    Posts
    697
    Blog Entries
    16
    Follow Seizon Senryaku On Twitter

    Default Chapter Fourteen - Blitzkrieg

    A/N: Just realised I haven't posted a chapter for a whole week (less about five hours), so here is Chapter Fourteen! Not much to say here . . . this is where the plot magically starts to twist and slither like a slippery snake that you can't hold onto. Have fun getting your head round it - I have trouble myself. Chapter Eighteen is almost finished, jsyk.

    Chapter Fourteen
    Blitzkrieg


    We should keep out of everybody's way,” said Cecilia, who, despite her request to be escorted, was firmly steering him towards the other side of the village.

    So . . . why are the Iehkti'na here?” Ren asked, suddenly wondering why he hadn't noticed this before. “I didn't know they could get into the third ring.”

    Get in? They don't need to get in, Ren. They live here. In the third ring. Did you not pick that up last night?”

    Uh . . . no. If it was mentioned, I don't recall . . .”

    Well, yes. What did you think we had the Spirit Wall for? Ooh, tell you what, we'll borrow Maho's workshop while he's out. I think he's done a bunch of research on the Iehkti'na.” With that, she abruptly changed direction, navigating them deftly through the crowd of busy spirits who were still rushing around, preparing for battle.

    Um, no offense, Cecilia, but I've just been wondering . . . you don't really seem like the fighting type.”

    Well, I prefer not to be,” she said, dodging a young, bronze-skinned man carrying a large, curved sword, “but if it comes down to it, I'm really quite competent, I promise.”

    Oh . . . really?” Ren said, unable to mask his surprise.

    Yep! Now, wait here while I get changed,” she said, depositing him in the shadow of an elegant marble house and dashing inside, her diaphanous silver robe fluttering behind her.

    Oh, good,” Ren muttered. He had been wondering exactly how Cecilia was planning to do any fighting at all in the flimsy, barely-there outfit.

    Yehktira!

    Ren turned, puzzled. Cecilia's sister, Salinthia, was gliding towards him. After looking twice, Ren realised that she really was gliding, hovering an inch or so above the ground, a pale nimbus of green light emanating from her. She had already gone ahead and changed into battle dress, it seemed – not that it looked very practical, Ren had to admit. She had traded her silver robe for a thick, heavy purple one, tied with silver cord and hanging almost to her ankles.

    Oh, hello,” he said, puzzled. “What can I, uh, do for you?”

    Felicia asked me to give this to you,” she said with the slightest hint of a knowing smile, holding out the short sword he had used to kill the nightmare the previous night.

    Ren took it hesitantly, the blade almost seeming to speak to him as he clasped his hand around its purple-bound grip. I have taken life. You, through me, have taken life too. He shuddered and ignored it. “Thanks,” he said weakly. “Tell Elly I'm glad she's worried about me.”

    I don't really think that's the case,” Salinthia said. “I believe it has more to do with the fact that it would be disastrous if the yehktira was killed. You personally have nothing to do with it.”

    All the more reason to tell her, then,” Ren grinned. Somehow, riling Elly up was fun.

    Salinthia inclined her head gracefully before slipping back into the crowd, and Ren could tell she approved, even if she wouldn't say it.

    Cecilia reappeared at his side a moment later, looking slightly miffed as she noticed the blade he was holding. “Present from your girlfriend?” she enquired coolly.

    Ren had been a little afraid she would show up in an impractical-looking robe like her sister, but it turned out she had opted for a loose-fitting white costume that looked much like one of those worn by karate practitioners. He chose to ignore her comment. It just wasn't worth it. “Come on,” he said. “Weren't we going to Maho's workshop or something?”

    Yeah, I guess you're right,” she said, narrowing her eyes at the blade as he slotted it carefully through his belt. “Let's go.”

    Are you sure it's OK, though?” Ren asked as they set off at a brisk trot. “Maho . . . didn't seem like the kind of guy who'd appreciate it if we went through his stuff.”

    It's fine,” she said airily, waving a hand as they swerved through the rapidly thinning crowd. Ren noticed that most of the spirits had congregated on one side of the village – the side opposite to the one they were headed towards. “As a member of the council, nobody can complain about what I do. Maho might be a General, but it doesn't mean he can tell me what to do outside of a war zone.”

    Wait, he's a General?” Ren asked. “He didn't really strike me as the commanding type.”

    He's not, really, but his level of magic is higher than anybody else's here, so he's General essentially by default, I guess. He hates taking responsibility for men under his command, though, so whenever we go to battle, he usually delegates control to his sub-General, a man called Hermann Faber. In fact, it's strange that he decided to even join the strike force today. Normally he's hiding in his workshop whenever it comes to trouble. It's not that he can't take care of himself in a fight. He just prefers not to have to.”

    Yeah, I suppose so,” Ren said absently, remembering the bolt of crackling blue lightning, the all-consuming inferno of hot orange fire. He shivered slightly, wondering for a brief moment whether Elly or Cecilia could do that too. “So, why do you think he actually chose to go out today, then?”

    My guess . . . he didn't want to babysit you,” Cecilia said thoughtfully. “Remember I said he doesn't like taking responsibility for other people? I think when it comes down to it, he'd rather take care of a group of spellcasters that he knows, rather than a kid he doesn't. No offense, of course, but . . . Maho's a funny guy. A genius, for sure, but awfully strange with it.”

    None taken,” Ren mused. He thought on this for a moment, but then he became aware that they had come to a stop in front of a long, squat building that looked a little more dilapidated than the pristine edifices around it. It sat some way apart from the rest of the village, barely ten metres from the Spirit Wall that still flashed angry red colours.

    Cecilia led him up a short flight of steps to the door, ignoring a sign that said 'Warning! Hazardous materials, dangerous creatures and delicate experiments inside! Do not enter.'

    Uh . . .” Ren said awkwardly, but Cecilia pushed open the door and practically dragged him in.

    The interior of the building was, Ren had to admit, much like he would have expected something called a workshop – especially one owned by Maho – to look. It was spacious inside, with another short flight of steps leading down from the door to the marble floor, which was below ground level. The only light came from a series of small windows set along the tops of the long side walls, giving the space an eerie gloom.

    Tables and piles of books lined each wall, with a single long wooden table stretching down the middle. While the table in the middle was empty save for the odd scrap of paper here and there, the ones set along the sides were groaning with piles of notes, arcane-looking ingredients, and other things Ren hesitated to even try to identify. On one of them, a beaker of red liquid was emitting puffs of pinkish smoke at regular intervals.

    Ooh,” Cecilia breathed.

    You've not been in here before?” Ren asked weakly.

    Are you nuts? Maho's always in here. This has to be the first time in a hundred years he's left the workshop for long enough for me to take a look.”

    So I'm just an excuse?” Ren chuckled.

    Partly,” Cecilia admitted, skipping across to one of the tables on the left-hand wall and flicking through a couple of the books strewn across it. “This could take a while, though . . . here, you go down the right side. I know he's written a big paper on the nature of those Iehkti'na somewhere. No real clue where, unfortunately, so we'll have to look for it.”

    Ren sighed. “You don't . . . think ahead much, do you?” he said. He didn't really want to spend any longer trawling through the endless piles of books than he had to; Maho's workshop was starting to creep him out.

    Never,” she said. “Still, life wouldn't be much fun if I did, would it?”

    Ren shook his head in exasperation and crossed to the right-hand side of the long, narrow room to start flicking through books.

    For a good ten minutes, there was silence as Ren picked up each book – none of them had titles or any other distinguishing marks on the cover – opened it to its first page and pored over the scribbled handwriting. It appeared these books had all been crafted and written by Maho himself; the jerky, irregular handwriting seemed as if it could belong to no other than the awkward giant.

    The subjects of the books varied widely, from thick tomes on botany and chemistry to catalogues of incantations in a language Ren couldn't even recognise, let alone read. Many of them, however, seemed to deal with something called the Soul Bonds. One of them, a small red book which seemed quite new despite its well-thumbed pages, seemed to contain an introduction of sorts. Curious despite his misgivings about rooting through the magician's library, Ren struggled to decipher a couple of pages of the scrawled, messy handwriting.

    The nature of the Soul Bonds is an enigmatic one. While it is certain that they came into being at the same time as we – and our world – did, about seven hundred years past. The Soul Bonds are integral in the stability of both our worlds, for if they are allowed to dissolve, the worlds will drift apart, with disastrous consequences. It is almost certain that the Bonds were crafted by the same person – or persons – who brought our world into existence, for they bear identical magical signatures.

    The first time it became evident that the Soul Bonds were collapsing, we sought a means to prevent our destruction. I had ascertained that a great amount of yehkti was necessary to re-cast the Soul Bonds, yet not of the kind that is found within this world. It is thus that the need for a yehktira came about. Through a concerted and risky effort, eleven of our strongest spellcasters journeyed through the second ring and into the first, using all of their combined power to create the Dreamlight, the artifact that allows a mortal to pass between the rings as we do. They bestowed this powerful item on a man known as Drayden, who then became the first yehktira. They brought him into the third ring, and his yehkti healed the Soul Bonds.

    Drayden was never needed again, for the Soul Bonds remained stable. Before he died, he passed the Dreamlight on to his son, a man with a far greater measure of yehkti than his father. He also was needed only once in his lifetime. This went on for more than five centuries, until Drayden's line died out. His last descendant handed the Dreamlight on to a woman who would go on to found the contest known as the Pokemon League. Her name was Martha Birch. With my aid, Martha discovered some form of link between those who have great amounts of yehkti and those who perform the most admirably in the tests called Pokemon battles. As a result, she agreed to hand the Dreamlight on to whoever could defeat her in battle, and the tradition of the Dreamlight that lives on today began.

    Twice in her lifetime, Martha was required to enter the third ring and stabilise the Soul Bonds. We saw no real need for consternation at this stage, however, for the Soul Bonds remained relatively stable.

    Over the next hundred years, however, as the Dreamlight was passed from hand to hand, the frequency with which the yehktira was forced to enter the third ring increased dramatically. As of the year 685 (which the humans call 1985), it was necessary to renew the Soul Bonds twice annually.

    It was also around this time that the Iehkti'na began to show an interest in the yehktira and their world. Slowly at first, the smallest of the beasts were able to slip through into the second ring and harass the bearer of the Dreamlight. In these early days, a few small Iehkti'na found their way through to the first ring, though they are all believed to have been trapped there, haunting the nightmares of humans and Pokemon, as they are not strong enough to push through into the humans' world. It soon became customary for a powerful spirit to act as the yehktira's escort during these times, and the attacks were dealt with swiftly.

    Now, the Soul Bonds are deteriorating faster than ever. They reach a critical level within a day and a half of being renewed, so the yehktira must navigate the rings nightly to refresh and recover them. The attacks of the Iehkti'na are growing bolder, stronger and more frequent, and it appears it will soon reach the point where the yehktira's escort will not be able to guard against them.

    The current yehktira and Champion of the Pokemon League, Steven Stone, is giving his best effort to work towards a solution in his world, as am I in ours, but I fear our efforts will be in vain. The only one who can truly bring the Soul Bonds back to full strength is the one who cast them in the first place, and the knowledge of who that could be is lost in the sands of time, as is, surely, the man himself.”

    Ren! I found it!”

    Ren blinked a few times, almost dropping the book. Suddenly, it seemed like he had stumbled into something far more serious than he could have imagined. His head was spinning. Soul Bonds? Hadn't Elly said something like that the first time she had met her? Then again, she had also said that the Iehkti'na came from the first ring, which he had recently found to not be the case at all. What did she mean by that?

    Ren!” Cecilia crossed to the middle table and plonked a thick-looking book down on it. “You awake over there?”

    Uh . . . yeah.” Ren slid the book back into the middle of the pile he had found it in. “Just daydreaming.” For some reason, he had the strangest feeling he should keep what he had come across quiet. He moved over to look at what Cecilia had dug out. The royal purple-bound tome's pages were yellowed and crisp with age, though the black ink was still clearly legible.

    You'd do well to read this page,” Cecilia said, indicating a spot in the book. “It deals with the origin of the Iehkti'na. It reads a little bit like a fairy story, but that's Maho for you. He's . . . quirky . . . like that. You read, and I'll be over here, um . . . doing something else.” She slipped away quickly, down towards the far end of the workshop.

    Ren watched her go with a strange feeling in the pit of his stomach. Then, shaking himself out of the strange fugue in which he found himself, he began to read once again.

    Over six hundred years ago, the world of dreams emerged from the void. Brought into existence by a man of whom we know very little, we were not born like humans, hatched like Pokemon or grown like plants. We simply were. And so, as we were, were the Iehkti'na. As we came to be in the third ring, so they came to be in the first.

    In those first years of turmoil, the Iehkti'na preyed upon the dreams of the humans as they slept in the first ring. Many escaped to the human world and caused great chaos. Although we did not wish to endanger ourselves for the sake of the humans, we felt obligated to them, for it was certainly thanks to one of their number that we came to be – though how, we know not. Also, we knew not of the significance of the humans' role in the maintenance of the Soul Bonds at this time. So it was that we, headstrong and drunk on our own power, waged war against the Iehkti'na.

    It was a long and bloody conflict, but in the end, we triumphed. While strong and many, the Iehkti'na were fuelled by anger and hatred of all that was good. While few, we knew we fought to save our creator. We defeated the Iehkti'na, but could not destroy them. So instead, we brought them to the third ring and sealed them away so they could bother the humans – and us – no more.

    We thought that was the end of it. But before long, the Iehkti'na broke their bonds and once again attacked us. We beat them back, but were unable to seal them again. Again and again they came, and they were stronger each time. Eventually, tired from endless war and fatigued from beating them back, we set about creating the Spirit Wall, which we set around the Glade of Shifting Light. This wall not only prevents any of evil intent from entering, but also disguises our presence. We are hidden deep within the forest, and the Iehkti'na know this, but they know not where, for the woods are vast, and we beat them back every time they come near the edge.

    So the cycle goes on. Eventually, Drayden came to us, and then his son, and his son's son, and his son's son's son. Throughout history, nothing significant has changed, and we carry on with the same security as we always have. Now and then, the drums of war are sounded, and we stand forth to fight back the evil. Always, we are triumphant. No men have fallen in battle since the great wars of the early days. While the Iehkti'na, who are soulless bodies, fall like corn before the scythe, our bodiless souls are incredibly resilient. We do not age, we do not grow sick. We do not die, unless we are killed.

    And so the cycle goes on.”

    Ren blinked. “That sounds . . . ominous.” He set the book down and wandered after Cecilia, who, it turned out, was carefully examining a beaker of some viscous green sludge, swirling it around the bowl of the glass vessel with her eye glued to the neck.

    Oh, hello, Ren,” she said absently as he approached, not taking her eyes off the gooey substance. There was a sudden poof as she spoke, sending a cloud of steam squeezing out of the beaker. “Ow!” she squealed, dropping the container.

    Ren stretched out a hand and caught it with a brief sigh of relief, trying not to think about what would have happened if it had shattered. “You all right?” he asked.

    My eye stings like you wouldn't believe,” she grumbled, rubbing it sulkily. “That was mean of him, to leave something like that lying around.”

    Ren cast a glance down at the still-steaming beaker in his hand before settling it carefully back on the table. Somehow, he didn't really think it had been intended as a booby trap. He didn't say anything, though.

    So, are you a little more educated now?” she asked, still squinting slightly.

    A bit . . .” he said slowly, trying to piece together the stories told in the two texts he had been reading. “One little thing struck me as strange, though . . . the book referred to the Iehkti'na as being 'soulless bodies' and you as 'bodiless souls'. I think Elly said something about that as well, but . . . it's strange. You do have bodies, don't you? I mean . . . you're there. I can touch you.”

    Cecilia took a deep breath. “It's funny like that . . . just because we have physical form here doesn't mean we have bodies. What it means is that we can't cross into your world and take a corporeal form there like the Iehkti'na can. If they pass through the first ring and out through somebody's dream, they can actually manifest themselves and cause chaos. If we try it, we end up trapped there, intangible, drained of all our power and sometimes even unable to speak – what you might know as . . . ghosts.”

    You mean . . . Ghost-type Pokemon are-”

    No, not from what Steven and the others have told us. Ghost-type Pokemon have always been around, and they're just that – the corrupted, departed souls of those who were once alive. When you see a ghost that looks human . . . it's one of ours.” She was oddly quiet, and it took Ren a moment to figure out why. She must have personally known every single one of the spirits that tried to cross to his world, and must have watched them all leave over the last seven hundred years, waiting for a homecoming that would never arrive.

    I'm upsetting you,” he said quickly. “I'll, uh, stop now.”

    No, it's fine,” she demurred. “I'm used to it. We get a lot of different yehktira through here now – often a new one every year thanks to the Pokemon League – and we interact with them far more than we used to. The issue usually comes up sooner or later, and I guess we owe you that much . . . to know. It's not like it affects you directly, but you're pretty much a part of our world now. Now more than ever, actually, now that it's necessary to bring you in here every night.”

    That's a funny thought,” Ren murmured, looking around the long, dim room. “I can see what Steven meant when he said it changed him . . .”

    He said that?”

    Yeah. I mean, I've only been here twice now, but it really makes you wonder about a few things. Like . . . I always thought ghosts were just ghosts – if they existed at all – but it turns out they're something very different, and a little sad. I'm a little scared, to be perfectly honest – what else might be completely different to how I had imagined it? Everything I know could be wrong . . .”

    I know it's hard,” Cecilia murmured, resting a hand lightly on his arm. “It does change you, but you can't expect it to happen . . . well, overnight. There's a lot of information that's coming into your brain at once, and you're having trouble coping. It will come, though.”

    Did . . . did the other yehktira ever have this problem?” Ren asked, his voice a little thick with a sudden onset of confused emotions.

    Some,” she said matter-of-factly. “Well, I think they all did, but some showed it more than others. Steven just stood in a corner for an hour or two without saying anything to anyone, and then came out and went 'All right, I've got it now.' On the other hand . . . a couple of decades ago, we had a woman who absolutely freaked. She kept screaming, fainting and hyperventilating in equal measures. It took her weeks to get over the shock properly.”


    Ren grinned wryly. “I guess I'm taking it pretty well, all things considered,” he said, feeling something of a weight lift off his shoulders as he said it.

    You're a smart kid, Ren,” Cecilia told him quietly. “You can look at things and see them as they are, even if you don't realise it yourself.”

    What . . . what do you mean?”

    Well, let's see . . . Elly told me that when she brought you to the Glade for the first time, you actually looked around while you passed through. Most humans we bring here tend to either stare blankly ahead or look at the ground. The ones that do look around, more often than not, tend not to see much. They just gawk. Elly seemed to get the impression that you actually saw, instead of just looking.”

    There's a difference?”

    Between seeing and looking? Of course. A huge difference. It's the difference between you and just about everyone else in the human world, for sure.”

    Ren frowned slightly as a thought that had been niggling at him all day suddenly sprang to the front of his mind. “How do you know so much about the human world, Cecilia?” he asked. “I mean, if everyone who tries to go there . . . you know . . .”

    You must think I'm a fool, Ren Goodwin,” she chided him playfully, rapping him on the head. “I'm seven hundred years old, and I've met dozens of different humans from all over the place. Steven Stone in particular was extremely helpful, actually. Like you, he seemed to take a genuine interest in our world, and because of that, we reciprocated that interest. The council often took to simply sitting and listening to him talk for hours. He was such a good talker, despite how quiet and formal he could be.”

    Oh,” Ren said bashfully. “Of course. That would make sense. Actually, that sounds like . . . a good idea. I'd be happy to do that with you sometime – if you don't mind, that is. You could maybe tell me a little bit more about this world, too.”

    Ren Goodwin,” Cecilia said, a flicker of amusement dancing in her sea-green eyes, “I do believe you're hitting on me.”

    I-I am?” Ren stuttered, confused. “I-I didn't notice-” He stopped when he noticed that Cecilia was laughing, a light, musical laugh that filled the cavernous room like the peals of a bell. He chuckled nervously.

    Oh, Ren,” Cecilia giggled. “You're too easy to tease. Come on, let's get out of here before Maho comes back – or I break something.” She raised her eyebrows guiltily before taking his hand and pulling him back towards the door.

    Ren stumbled along in her wake, pondering just how strange Cecilia could get. At the door, she let go of his hand and almost flew down the stairs to the grass below, suddenly extremely energetic. Ren followed her down, half-smiling despite himself.

    At the bottom of the stairs, he froze. “Cecilia,” he said gravely. “You know what you said just now about how I 'see' things that other people might not?”

    She frowned. “Yes?”

    Well, I was just wondering . . . do you see those Iehkti'na as well, or is it just me?”
    The Atlantis Codex / Champion Game

    'A single event can awaken within us a stranger totally unknown to us. To live is to be slowly born.' - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
    'Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more; men were deceivers ever.' - William Shakespeare
    'Beauty is everywhere a welcome guest.' - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
    'When one life meets another life, something will be born.' - Un(k)own

  13. #58
    Unova's #1 Yancy fan Seizon Senryaku's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Gender
    Male
    Location
    Summoner's Rift
    Posts
    697
    Blog Entries
    16
    Follow Seizon Senryaku On Twitter

    Default Chapter Fifteen - The Warriors of Justice

    A/N: Goodness gracious, it's been over two weeks and I haven't posted any chapters of this anywhere. Sorry about that. In any case, here's Chapter Fifteen - enjoy!

    Chapter Fifteen
    The Warriors of Justice

    The nightmares appeared from everywhere, slipping out from shadowy gaps between buildings and dropping silently from the eaves. Within seconds, Ren and Cecilia found themselves completely surrounded by at least twenty of the dark, foreboding shapes. Their opponents were of varying shapes and sizes; some were barely knee-high on Ren while others were hulking, looming masses of shadow over two metres tall.

    They stood, waiting, their roughly circular formation unmoving as they regarded Ren with various frightening eyes. Some were narrow and red, others huge and blazing blue. One particularly large specimen – standing directly opposite Maho's workshop – had three eyes, wisps of green fire trailing from them as it shifted on the spot, seemingly waiting for them to make the first move. Some – much like the ones he and Elly had encountered in the second ring – had no eyes at all.

    Cecilia swore violently, the curse words sounding strange coming from one so slight and delicate. “How the hell did they get inside the Spirit Wall?”

    Doesn't matter,” said Ren practically, drawing the short sword from his belt. He felt slightly better for having it in his hand, but he knew it wouldn't do him much good. “They're inside, so we're going to have to work out how after we deal with them.”

    Easier said than done,” Cecilia grumbled. “I'm not used to fighting this many at once.”

    You're more used to it than I am, for sure,” Ren said tightly, looking around for a way to escape. There was nothing. Other than back into Maho's workshop – which was probably a dead end – the Iehkti'na had totally blocked off every possible way out of the small courtyard in which they now stood.

    This is uncanny,” Cecilia muttered, taking up an fighting stance. It didn't look like any martial art Ren had ever seen, so he hoped she, at least, knew what she was doing. “Why aren't they attacking?”

    They normally do?”

    They're blind, stupid killers,” she said, frowning as she tried to keep her eyes on all of their opponents at once. “They charge out and all attack at once. No variation, no tactics, no intelligence. Laying an ambush is something completely new . . . not to mention that they got inside the Spirit Wall to begin with, which should be impossible. Something is very, very wrong here. And as long as they don't attack, they've got the advantage over us.”

    What? Why?”

    Think, Ren. It's you they want, although they'll kill me without a second thought. As long as they stay there, I can't get to any of them without leaving you unguarded. While you've got guts, you're not competent enough in a fight to hold them off long, if at all.”

    Ren shivered. The normally relaxed Cecilia was extraordinarily serious, and it unsettled him. Despite her composure, he could feel anxiety pouring off her in waves. That, and something else. Fear. Cecilia was scared, although he knew she would neither exhibit nor admit it. With a deep breath, he tightened his hand around the handle of his sword and held it ready in front of him, sweat already dampening the grip.

    You don't have to fight,” Cecilia said. “I know humans have some compunction about killing living creatures, so I'd understand if you didn't want to. Not that they're exactly living, but I wouldn't expect that to work on your subconscious.”

    For a split second, images flashed through Ren's mind, unbidden. The melting Iehkti'na with its vinegar stench; the crackling, charred Iehkti'na with flashes of blue light dancing across its entire body; worst of all, the Iehkti'na he himself had sliced into with the very blade that he now held in his hand, disappearing in a blast of wind. “They're really . . . not alive?” he asked.

    No, they're not,” Cecilia confirmed. “They're just empty husks. They don't think, they don't feel, they just are.”

    Then I'll fight them,” Ren said.

    Are you sure?”

    Of course.” Suddenly, Ren realised the absurdity of holding this conversation while surrounded by a patiently waiting group of the things. “If they ever get around to it, that is. What do you suppose they're waiting for?”

    If they were intelligent, I'd imagine they were waiting for one of us to make a move so they could cut us off from each other and kill us separately.”

    But they're not?”

    So I thought, and so everybody thought.”

    Don't make me start doubting myself now,” Ren complained. “I just managed to convince myself that it was all right to kill them, but now you're just confusing me.”

    Sorry! I'm nearly as confused as you are,” Cecilia admitted, warily eyeing the nearest of the nightmares, a bulky, four-legged creature with a flat, solid-looking head.

    So, let's just assume for a minute that they actually are intelligent,” Ren said, taking a deep breath to steady his heartbeat. As he calmed down, he felt his brain begin to work. “If they're doing what you say they are, they want to separate us, right?”

    Yes, but I don't see how that helps us too much.”

    It's simple,” Ren said, a slight smile coming to his face despite himself. “We don't split up. We take the fight to them, but we go together. That way, you can focus on doing your thing . . . whatever that 'thing' may be, and I'll just do my best to stay alive. Hopefully I can keep them off your back a little, too, though I really don't know how well that will work.”

    You'd do that?”

    It's . . . it's probably our only chance of getting out of this, isn't it?”

    Well, yes,” Cecilia admitted. “But I don't want you feeling you have to do it. It's not your job to fight Iehkti'na, you know. In fact, I feel kind of bad for letting you get into this situation.”

    Ren shook his head. “Stop that.”

    Stop . . . what?” Cecilia shot him a confused look.

    You're worrying about me too much. Sure, I don't know what I'm doing. Sure, I can't swing a sword properly to save my life. But it doesn't mean you have to keep patronising me! I know you're not doing it on purpose, but it's starting to get on my nerves a little bit.”

    Cecilia fell silent for a moment. Ren wondered if he had offended her, but when he glanced over at her, she was smiling as if she knew something he didn't. “See?” she said.

    See . . . what?”

    You do see things,” she told him. “Not just physical observation – I get the feeling you can look at a situation and read exactly what's happening. Most yehktira would be quite happy to let me worry about them in this situation. And it's not just a matter of pride, either. That's irrelevant at this point. But in any case, I'm sorry, Ren. I couldn't help looking down on you just a little bit. After all, I'm nearly seven hundred years your senior. But from now on, that changes. Better?”

    With a slight thrill of some feeling he couldn't adequately describe, Ren realised that it was. “Much,” he grinned. “Now I think we'd better get on with it before these things get bored of waiting.”

    Good call,” she said. “I say we go straight at the big one in the middle. It looks like some sort of leader, so if we take it out, we'll have a better chance. On three?”

    He swallowed. “Sure.”

    Cecilia exhaled deeply and lowered her stance slightly. “One.”

    Ren took a deep breath, wrapping his hands still more firmly around the hilt of his sword; the thin sliver of metal was the only thing standing between him and a painful, confusing death.

    Two.”

    He cast his eyes around the circle of Iehkti'na. They were all far bigger and stronger than he was. All he could do was hope Cecilia could deal with them – and that he didn't screw up too badly.

    Three!”

    Ren's legs were moving before his mind could even react. Short sword held high, heart rattling in his ribcage, he threw himself towards the three-eyed monstrosity. He was vaguely aware of a blur of movement beside him, but then it was gone and Cecilia was upon their opponent.

    It was as if she had become liquid lightning. From a running start, she threw herself upwards, her movements slick and practised. Landing on the enormous beast's arm, she paused, jumped again and landed a devastating spinning kick straight in the Iehkti'na's torso with a sound like a cannon shot. Visible shockwaves rippled out from the point of impact, distorting the air and the surface of the beast as they did so.

    Refocusing himself, Ren concentrated once more on catching up with Cecilia as she continued to rain blows on the massive nightmare. It was bigger than he had first thought, he realised as he drew nearer; it had to be at least seven metres tall. Regardless, he swung his sword with all the strength he could muster at the beast's knee – the highest point he could comfortably reach. The blade made contact with an unexpected boom sound, as if he had struck an enormous, hollow metal drum rather than a living creature.

    The sword practically bounced off, almost twisting his wrist with the force. Still, the enormous Iehkti'na seemed to notice. It stepped backwards, moving its leg back from the blow. Before its foot even touched the ground, however, Cecilia bounced off its shoulder, delivering a debilitating punch to the face. Caught off balance, the Iehkti'na stumbled backwards and fell to the ground with a crash, crushing half a building as it did so.

    Come on!” Cecilia urged. Suddenly, she was beside him, grabbing his hand and tugging him onwards. He stumbled into a run, glancing back over his shoulder as he did so. The other Iehkti'na had been slow to move, he noted thankfully, but with the fall of their apparent leader, they had been spurred into action. A wave of shadows now washed after them, some more distinct than others, some blending into a gelatinous mass that bubbled and rushed after them. As Ren tore his eyes away to look forward again, he caught a brief glimpse of the nightmare that Cecilia had just decked, once more towering over its compatriots.

    She never meant to fight them at all, he realised, letting his feet move automatically as Cecilia practically dragged him between rows of white marble buildings. But why didn't she tell me that? Despite what she said, she still looks down on me . . . no, that can't be it. He had seen something in her eyes while she was talking about their strategy – a glint of steel that told him she was prepared to fight to the bitter end. Looking back, it seemed obvious, but at the time he had not noticed anything. She must have seen the opening and decided to go for it, he decided, making himself feel a little better.

    Are you even awake?” Cecilia shouted at him as he stumbled for what must have been the tenth time. Still gripping his hand with her surprisingly strong fingers, she slowed her pace a little to run beside him, easily navigating through the maze of buildings as she peered worriedly into his eyes. “You look a little bit out of it,” she said in a falsely casual manner.

    I'm fine,” he said. “Where are we going?” He threw another glance over his shoulder; the Iehkti'na were still there, although a good way behind. He was beginning to run short of breath. While he was hardly unfit, the sustained dash was beginning to take the wind out of him. Cecilia, by contrast, seemed utterly relaxed, as if she were taking a stroll in Slateport Market.

    No idea,” she said frankly. “I was kind of hoping you might.”

    Me?” Ren panted incredulously. “You're the one who damn well lives here!”

    Worth a shot,” she said airily before abruptly changing direction, just about wrenching Ren's arm out of its socket as she did so.

    Can you . . . let go?” he gasped as they squeezed between two buildings leaning towards each other at odd angles.

    Cecilia looked a little miffed, but released his hand. Immediately, Ren found it easier to run, although he was still having trouble keeping up with the light-footed Cecilia. It was a little difficult to get his head around this slender creature being any kind of force to be reckoned with, but she had clearly proven that impression wrong just moments ago.

    Suddenly, they turned a corner and the Spirit Wall towered over them, a massive blue sheet of energy, irradiated and pulsing with tinges of red. Cecilia came to a sudden halt, and Ren tripped and almost fell as he stopped as well.

    Why are we . . . stopping?” he asked as he bent over with his hands on his knees, trying to recover as much of his breath as he could.

    Cecilia ignored him for a moment, looking back over his head with a look of mild consternation on her face. “Still coming,” she murmured absently.

    What, really?” Ren turned to look. He had hoped that they might have lost the slow, lumbering Iehkti'na by now, but he could still see them. They were some distance away, and moving at no great speed, but the cloud of blackness was plowing steadily through the Glade of Shifting Light. He could see it above the roofs of the buildings. “Damn.”

    We can't fight them here,” Cecilia said. “Not with just the two of us. Our only chance is to meet up with the others . . . that'll be dangerous, but at this stage I don't believe we have any choice in the matter.”

    You mean . . . outside the Glade? Where all the rest of the Iehkti'na are?”

    She threw him a grin that made him shiver. “What's this? You're not scared, are you?”

    Ren swallowed, half-wishing he could just wake up. “Never.”

    All thoughts of secrecy and silence apparently discarded, Cecilia practically flew through the forest. Ren could tell she was checking her pace for his benefit, but he still had a difficult time keeping her in sight. In the pitch blackness of the woods, she seemed to glow faintly. Although he could see no actual light emanating from her, he found he was barely able to navigate his way through the trees. It was certainly a puzzling phenomenon; while trees were rushing at him from the blackness at what seemed like a remarkable speed, he somehow managed to jink out of the way at the last moment every time.

    What is this feeling? he wondered. It's like everything's slowing down . . .

    They burst out of the forest and into the middle of a war zone. The eerie absence of noise that had pervaded the woods entirely vanished in an instant, replaced by the sounds of battle.

    Even so, it was quieter than Ren would have expected. There was no gunfire; only the odd magical explosion sending multi-hued clouds smoking into the sky. The massed army of nightmares, stretching impossibly far across the grassy plain, fought silently as always, and there was hardly any noise coming from the spirits either. Occasionally, an indistinct command would be bellowed across the field, and a small group of combatants would advance, retreat or shift their attention to a different quarter.

    Ren found that he and Cecilia had emerged onto the plain at the top of a small hill that afforded a decent view of the battlefield. Beyond a certain point on the ground, everything was a mass of writhing black. Millions of them, Ren thought in disbelief. He hadn't thought it possible that there were that many Iehkti'na in any world. They melded into one enormous, seething blot on the landscape, hundreds of thousands waiting to step in as soon as their comrades fell.

    And fall they did, Ren noticed. A narrow line of spirits – pitifully few in number compared to the legions of nightmares pressing in from all sides – encircled the hill they stood on, slashing, stabbing or shooting the oncoming waves of nightmares, who were collapsing in droves. None of the opponents seemed very big, although it was hard to tell from such a distance. He was sharing the hill, Ren noticed abruptly, with a large white tent. There was no apparent entry on the forest side of the canvas monolith, so he moved around the side of it.

    The front was a hive of activity. Two huge flaps had been drawn back from the tent and fastened to the roof, so almost the whole front of the structure was open to the battlefield. Inside were a large number of spirits. Few of them were dressed in battle gear, but they all appeared very busy, dashing around, waving papers and generally getting in each others' way. Still, Ren noticed after a few seconds, there was order. A chaotic kind of order, to be sure, but order nonetheless. Every few seconds, a runner would either dash off towards the front line or return from it. Amidst it all, standing calmly in the mouth of the tent like a policeman directing traffic, was a single man.

    He drew Ren's attention towards him inexorably, although there was nothing special about him that Ren could identify just from looking. He was of average height, with a slight build and brown hair flecked with grey, pulled back into a tight ponytail. He was wearing a white toga with a purple sash, which – while undoubtedly odd – was no stranger than anybody else's costume. “Who's that?” he asked aloud.

    Ah,” said Cecilia, who had come up behind him unnoticed. “The guy in the stupid bedsheet?”

    Well . . . I guess?” Ren said, slightly uncomfortable with her making fun of somebody who was clearly in a position of authority.

    That's Cicero. Named himself after some guy from your world, I think. He's one of the Four Generals,” she said.

    There are four? Wait, you said Maho was one, right?”

    Yep. The army functions under four units – Tactical, Magical, Armed, and Unarmed, largely ranked in that order. Each unit has a General that supervises all activity in his division. Maho is the Spellcaster General – he'll be the one raising hell over there,” she noted, pointing to a spot on the battle lines where a small stormcloud seemed to be whirling at ground level, spitting bolts of blue lightning into the enemy forces.

    Suddenly worried about their pursuers, Ren glanced back towards the forest. Had the Iehkti'na from the Glade followed them through yet?

    They won't catch us yet,” Cecilia said unconcernedly, as if reading his mind. “Anyway, we need to find-”

    Cecilia! Ren Goodwin! What in the worlds are you doing here?”

    Ren turned to see a small, rotund man hurrying towards them from the base of the hill. After a second, he recognised him as Lucius Balthazar, one of the elders on the council. “Well, it's kind of the safest place to be right now, I guess,” Ren said wryly.

    Lucius' eyes just about bugged out of his head. “Are you mad, boy? Elly will kill you when she finds out! Or she'll kill you, at the very least,” he amended, gesturing helplessly at Cecilia.

    Lucius, listen to me!” she snapped. “We don't have a choice in being here! There are Iehkti'na in the Glade!”

    Ren didn't think it was possible for Lucius Balthazar to look any more confused and shocked than he already did, but the bald man managed it somehow. “Wh-what?” he spluttered. “H-how? Not possible!”

    It is,” Cecilia ground out.

    Uh-oh, that's the serious face,” Lucius said, suddenly regaining his composure and nodding. “Right. Ah . . . come with me, we'll talk to Cicero. Walk and talk, you two,” he urged, chivvying them through the crowd towards the General. “How many were there? No, on second thoughts, don't answer that. You'd just have to repeat it in a minute anyway.”

    Cicero had moved by the time they reached him; he was leaning on a large table upon which was spread an enormous, detailed map of the surrounding area, complete with a semicircle of red, green and yellow pins arrayed around a series of lines Ren recognised as the hill they were standing on. He swallowed uncomfortably as he glanced at the mass of blue pins pressing in from all sides except the forest.

    The Tactical General traced half a dozen lines on the map with his finger, nodding and shaking his head as a handful of officers – or so Ren presumed – clustered around him, listening intently. Ren watched as Cicero handed out hastily scribbled messages on slips of paper to each of them before sending them off with a whirl of his hand. In the same movement, he turned and marched away from the table, only to stop as he came face to face with Ren.

    They were about the same height, Ren noticed, with the spirit being only an inch or two taller. For a moment, Ren stared into the General's sharp hazel eyes, until they blinked and they both stepped back. Unsure whether he should salute, Ren made do with a slight bow, which Cicero returned.

    You must be Ren Goodwin,” he said simply.

    That's me,” Ren said.

    You have good eyes,” Cicero said thoughtfully, tapping his chin with a spindly finger. “The eyes of a tactician. Am I right?”

    Ren thought briefly of his Pokemon battles, back home in his own world, of his extensive plans, strategies and countermeasures. “I guess so,” he shrugged.

    Don't guess!” Cicero snapped, the sudden sharpness in his voice sending an unpleasant tingle down his spine. “Never guess. Always know! If you don't know, make it your business to find out! That is the motto of the Tactical Division's Intelligence Corps. Made that up myself. I think you and I are going to get along splendidly, but not now. I have a battle to oversee.” He turned and started to walk away, but then snapped back towards Ren with a thoughtful look on his face. “Now that I think of it, you were meant to be under the guard of Miss Cecilia here back in the Glade of Shifting Light. You must have some reason to be here rather than there, correct?”

    Well, actually-”

    The Iehkti'na have infiltrated the Glade, and they tried to kill you both. Their numbers were too many, so you fled here to find safety amongst friendly forces. Correct?”

    You knew? So why did you ask?”

    Wrong! I did not know!” Cicero said proudly, raising an admonishing finger.

    So you guessed? But you just said never to-”

    Ah, but what I did was not guesswork. I simply sorted through the possible outcomes and came up with the only plausible one given the circumstances.”

    Really? There were no other possible explanations?”

    The next most likely was that you had developed a romantic fixation on Felicia Darkstorm and persuaded or forced Miss Cecilia to accompany you here so you could be by her side. So no, I think my scenario seems to be quite the most likely.”

    Ren felt his face heating up despite the obvious untruth of the suggestion. “I don't even-”

    Jokes aside, Mr. Goodwin, we must take this seriously,” Cicero said, turning and striding away towards the front of the tent. “Walk with me!” he commanded.

    Ren trotted along beside him, feeling rather overcome by the man's strange personality. While he was probably the most normal of the spirits he had met so far, Cicero was still exceedingly strange. He was joking just now? But he said it with such a straight face.

    Cicero continued to walk through the crowd at a brisk pace, accepting memos, scribbling notes and passing them on as he did so. “We must – ah, thank you, Perkins – determine how the Iehkti'na passed – take this to Shantelle, soldier – the Spirit Wall. We'll need to work with the Spellcaster General and his experts for that, so that must wait until after the battle. No, the left flank is fine, I dispatched some of the Fourth Division there a moment ago. What we need to do now, however, is make sure we are not outflanked, for it is clear the enemy are behind us as well as in front.”

    Do we have enough . . . forces to do that?” Ren asked worriedly. The line at the front looked pretty thin as it was.

    Of course,” Cicero said, beckoning over a young man in a black coat. He bent over and spoke into the man's ear in a low, urgent tone for a few seconds. The man nodded and dashed away. “There will be a rearguard in place within ninety seconds,” Cicero told Ren. “You have done your part for now, though I would talk with you immediately after the battle. I cannot risk sending you into the field, of course, so if you would be so kind as to find a corner and sit down, we can proceed as usual. Miss Cecilia, of course, will be joining the fray, I imagine?”

    Cecilia glanced uncertainly at Ren. “I don't know . . .” she said slowly. “He's my responsibility.”

    I'll be fine.” Ren waved her on. “It's not like anything's going to happen to me here, is it?”

    Of course it's not,” said Cicero tightly. “While the Tactical Division is not, strictly speaking, a combat unit, you can rest assured that our yehktira will be just fine with us.”

    Cecilia's eyes narrowed, but she nodded, threw Ren one last wink, and dashed away, towards the battle.

    What was that? Ren wondered. Had he imagined it, or was there some tension in the air? Deciding to think about it later, he put his head down and, with a final nod to Cicero, dodged his way through the crowd of spirits within the command centre towards a place where it seemed likely he would find some kind of respite from the hubbub.
    The Atlantis Codex / Champion Game

    'A single event can awaken within us a stranger totally unknown to us. To live is to be slowly born.' - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
    'Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more; men were deceivers ever.' - William Shakespeare
    'Beauty is everywhere a welcome guest.' - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
    'When one life meets another life, something will be born.' - Un(k)own

  14. #59
    Unova's #1 Yancy fan Seizon Senryaku's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Gender
    Male
    Location
    Summoner's Rift
    Posts
    697
    Blog Entries
    16
    Follow Seizon Senryaku On Twitter

    Default Chapter Sixteen - Total War

    Chapter Sixteen
    Total War

    Ren stayed in his corner for a good fifteen minutes before boredom overtook him. During that time, however, he did his best to make some sense of the hubbub going on around him. There were fewer spirits in the tent than he had originally thought – perhaps no more than two dozen – but the intensity and speed of their operations made them seem like a much greater host. The apparent chaos was, in fact, not chaos at all, he noticed. There were a lot of people moving around, passing in front of each other and sidling past tables with precariously balanced stacks of notes, but none of them ever collided or had to stop for someone else. Contrary to the apparent disorganisation, the level of coordination was beyond freakish – it was supernatural.

    After learning that he could not make out any of the frantic conversations going on around him, no matter how hard he strained his ears, Ren's thoughts turned to other things – specifically, the battle raging outside. From his nook at ground level between two tables, he did not have a very good view of anything going on outside. If he listened carefully, he could make out vague sounds of warfare over the noise around him, but he could see nothing more than a few floating shadows in the sky. Peering through the legs of half a dozen trestle tables and ten or so spirits, he could just make out the louring mass of nightmares stretching back for what looked to be miles. Every time he stood up to try and get a better look, he was hastily and politely pushed back down again by someone passing by.


    Seems I can't do anything, Ren grumbled to himself. Suddenly, he became aware of a hubbub at the rear of the tent. His head whipped around instinctively to follow the noise, even though all he could see there was a blank canvas wall. From the sounds of it, the Iehkti'na that he had encountered in the village had come crashing out of the forest at last. Biting his lip, Ren continued to stare at the back wall of the tent, listening to the sounds of battle outside. They were much closer and louder than the fighting on the plain; he could hear thuds, clangs and screeches as the spirits' weapons made contact with the nightmares' strange, pseudo-metallic bodies. Every now and again, he even heard a cry of pain.


    Abruptly, there was a great creaking, splintering crash, causing Ren to jump. It sounded like a tree being toppled over. There was a stamping noise, a roar from the rear of the tent that made him flinch again, and then the canvas was torn asunder by hands made of pure darkness.


    Ren got to his feet hastily as the Tactical Division broke and fled, tumbling out of the front of the tent as fast as their legs could carry them. Ren remained frozen to the spot, staring straight at the enormous tear in the canvas. Three glowing green eyes peered through the gap, arranged in a triangular formation atop a large, shapeless head. It was the same Iehkti'na that he and Cecilia had knocked down back in the Glade. In the gap past its smoky, shadowy body, he could see what had until recently been an enormous, proud tree; it was now lying on the ground, apparently having been used as some sort of club, by the sound of things.


    Ren forced himself to move, to back away slowly. As soon as his foot shifted, however, the Iehkti'na roared. Apart from the dying scream of the Iehkti'na that Maho had barbecued in the second ring, he had never heard any of the nightmares making any kind of noise – something which he had thought odd. He probably should have been grateful for it, he realised now, stumbling backwards with his hands over his ears. While the cry of the dying nightmare had been horrific in its own way, this sound was completely different. It was infinitely louder, shaking the entire world with its volume; it was like a ghastly, otherworldly amalgamation of the soundtrack to every bad dream he had ever had.


    The sound spurred him into motion again – or perhaps it was the shockwaves from the sound itself, he thought – and he dashed out of the tent. The huge nightmare followed him, tearing the tent apart, crushing tables under its feet and scattering piles of paperwork like a flock of startled Wingull. Ren ran down the side of the hill, only realising halfway down that he was heading directly for a far larger host of nightmares. He came to a halt at the bottom of the hill amongst the panicked members of the Tactical Division, who were milling around in various states of confusion. Cicero was standing a few metres away from him, trying to restore order, but he was evidently having little success.


    The Iehkti'na juggernaut slowed its pace as it reached the top of the slope, gazing down upon the battle. Behind it, more of its brethren stalked forward, halting at the top of the hill just behind their leader. Ren shivered. What had happened to the fighters that Cicero had supposedly dispatched to cover the rear?


    By this point, those holding back the waves of Iehkti'na coming from the front had realised the situation. They backed up and tightened their ranks, the flanks of the line moving around to close the circle around Ren, Cicero and the rest of those who could not fight for themselves. Ren looked around in horror as the horde of nightmares pressed forward, surrounding them on all sides. They stayed just out of reach of the spirits' weapons, although archers continued to send volleys into their ranks. Ignoring the arrows, the Iehkti'na stood silently, as if waiting for orders.


    Suddenly this doesn't look so good,” Ren muttered. They were completely surrounded. On one side was the shallow incline of the hill, blocked by the crowd of large nightmares that Ren and Cecilia had encountered in the Glade. On every other side was a sea of black, shifting and rippling like grass in the breeze – dark, hideous, polluted grass.

    You'll be fine,” said a curt voice from beside him. Ren jumped.

    Elly!”

    The one and only,” she said. “What's your point?”

    Nothing,” Ren said. “But, well . . . you look like hell. Are you all right?” Her hair had come out of her ponytail, and it was matted with blood – a purplish colour, Ren noticed. Her leather suit was torn and covered in burn marks, and several of the dangling buckles had been sliced off. There was a long cut running down the length of her left arm, leaking violet blood down onto her hand. In her right hand, she held her sword, dull with smoke and dirt.

    Why wouldn't I be all right?” she snapped. “I can look after myself, unlike some people! Why are you here, anyway? Didn't I tell you to stay with Cecilia in the Glade?”

    Ren sighed. “Yes, but . . . oh, just look for yourself. You see those ones up on the hill, right?”


    Of course! I'm not blind! Hang on, do you mean to say . . .” A look of horror crossed her face.

    Ah, there it is,” Ren said wryly.

    That's impossible! They couldn't have come from the Glade! The Spirit Wall keeps out all of the Iehkti'na!”

    Well, it seems those guys didn't get the memo,” Ren said with a shrug. “And besides, when was the last time any of them got to the Spirit Wall to prove it? My impression was that they didn't know where you were.”

    Ellie growled something incomprehensible, sticking her sword in the ground and tying her hair back out of her face again with a piece of string. When she took the blade up again, she spun it around in a wide arc that came dangerously close to Ren's head before resting it casually on her shoulder as if it were a baseball bat.


    He ducked with a surprised yelp. “Hey! Watch where you're spinning that thing!”


    She glanced over at him as if she had entirely forgotten he was there. “Wouldn't have hit you even if you hadn't moved,” she said casually. “Do you take me for a fool?”


    Um-”

    Do you, Ren?” She glared at him.

    No?” he tried.

    Good. Now, I want you to stay here.”

    I'm not going anywhere,” Ren said ruefully, gesturing around at the hordes of nightmares standing impassively on all sides.

    Dumbass. I meant stay right here where none of the bastards can get you. You've killed one, but that doesn't mean you'll be able to kill another one, never mind the dozens you'll find yourself up against if you try and put yourself on the front line. So you will stay here with Cicero and the rest of the First Division, and you will pray to whatever deity you believe in that we get out of this alive.”

    For a moment, Ren considered passing a snide comment on how obviously worried she was, but the look in her eyes told him it would be a very bad idea. Instead, he simply nodded and said, “I will. Good luck.”


    Elly snorted with laughter as she walked off to take her place in the circle. “There's no such thing as luck.”


    Suit yourself,” Ren said quietly before moving closer to the centre of the group.

    Oh, splendid, you're all right,” said Cicero, who had apparently not noticed him. “That's good, I don't know what we'd do without you. Unfortunately, it looks like we've been reduced to unnecessary baggage, you and I.”

    What, really?” Ren said, slipping slightly as he took up a position next to the General. The ground at the base of the hill had been churned into mud by the hundreds of feet battling back and forth across it. “Don't you have, you know, commanding to do?”

    Cicero sighed regretfully, brushing a clod of dirt off his otherwise pristine white toga. “Unfortunately, my boy, we find ourselves in a position where tactics and strategy are all but useless. For one thing, I have no better a view of the battlefield than any other from this vantage point. For another, we are entirely surrounded, and the only thing for it is to fight until the end . . . whatever that end may be. I do not believe we will lose this battle, but I am somewhat unnerved. The Iehkti'na are behaving awfully strangely today. They suddenly ceased their attack, which is unheard of. They are mindless beasts that exist only to kill and cause chaos, and as such they have no form of order or hierarchy that we know of. Until today, we had no evidence of any kind of leadership or organised army, but suddenly . . . if this keeps up, I may have to rethink my entire method of doing battle,” he mused.


    Ren blinked. The man sure could talk.


    There was a stir to Ren's left, and he glanced quickly across to the hill. The enormous, three-eyed nightmare had taken a step down the hill, followed by three of the others that stood with him: one that looked like a giant spider with far too many legs, one quadruped with short, stumpy limbs and a flat head, and a curious, floating clot of blackness that Ren didn't remember seeing at the Glade. All four had the same burning green eyes.


    The ground shook when they walked.


    Weapons at the ready, every warrior in the circle fixed their eyes on these four behemoths. Their progress was slow but steady, their rumbling footsteps the only sound on the enormous, grassy plain. Ren held his breath, feeling sweat trickle down his cheek. The four nightmares exuded an intangible pressure that seemed to crush his will to stand upright. He struggled to retain control of his legs, suddenly more terrified than he had ever been in his life. He knew without being told that he was witnessing a momentous occasion in history, even if he had no idea what was going to happen.


    Near the bottom of the hill, the four nightmares stopped again. They stood, elevated above the spirits, as if to convince them of their superiority. It was unnecessary, Ren thought wryly. Their leader seemed to have grown even further since Ren had encountered it in the Glade. Eight metres? Ten?


    Ren shivered, suddenly aware of how cold he was, despite the sun that shone brightly over the battlefield. He could smell blood tinged with ash.


    The leading nightmare lifted an enormous, shadowy hand and spoke in a deep, rumbling voice that seemed to shake the very air it passed through. Ren heard spirits around him let out gasps of surprise as the creature's words rippled through the air, laden with power.


    Listening intently, Ren realised he couldn't understand a word. The nightmare was speaking the spirits' language, by the sound of it. He supposed it made sense – the Iehkti'na would have had no reason to learn his language.


    What did it say?” Ren hissed to Cicero when the nightmare fell silent after a few seconds.

    Cicero seemed to have been drained of all his energy. He stared at the creature open-mouthed, his hands listless at his sides.


    Ren repeated the question, more insistently this time.


    Cicero jerked as if suddenly woken from a comfortable sleep. “I-it said . . .” He stopped, gulped and started again. “It was speaking a very old form of our language said . . . 'You who oppose all that we are, know this: my name is Nekros, and I am thy end.' I . . . I didn't even think they were capable of speaking.”


    Ren suddenly recalled his experience in the second ring the previous night. Bad dreams?, the nightmare had whispered to him as he had struggled desperately against it. What had that been about? How had it spoken to him?


    A sharp, clear voice rang out from somewhere on the circle. Elly, speaking in the same tongue that Nekros had. She sounded angry, and Ren didn't suppose he could blame her.


    You are not our end,” Cicero translated in a whisper. “You are only another of those who foolishly seek to destroy us. We have never given in to your kind before, and we will not start now.”

    Nekros laughed, a deep, guttural sound that made the cold sweat on Ren's brow break out anew. He then spoke again at some length, to which Elly replied instantly and furiously. This went back and forth for some time, the attention of every being on the plain focused entirely on the two.


    Ah, basically . . . Nekros is demanding that we surrender and allow ourselves to be killed, and Felicia is refusing outright, demanding instead that they leave.” Cicero paused as Nekros spoke again. “He says . . . 'We shall withdraw for today. Take this as a warning for how simply thou art undone. If we were to make ultimate war this day, you would undoubtedly fall, but we wish to lose as few of our brethren as is possible. We shall consolidate our strength, and next time, thou shalt fall to a man.'”

    Ren shuddered. The threat seemed quite valid, considering the vast army of nightmares surrounding the spirits. “Do you think-” he began, but was cut off by Cicero as Nekros spoke again.


    He's talking about you!” the General muttered, pushing Ren behind him with one hand.

    What? What's he saying?”

    He says he knows you are here, and he wishes you to be aware that you would be spared. Because the Soul Bonds are weak, he would allow you to live, entering the world of dreams each night to renew them, then returning home in peace. He . . . urges you to accept, saying that . . . they would meddle less with you than we do.” Cicero's face twisted in disgust. Elly interrupted Nekros at this point, her voice rising almost to a shriek. “And Miss Darkstorm . . .” Cicero said weakly.

    . . . is being Miss Darkstorm,” Ren finished. “Yep. Let me guess – it's something along the lines of 'Go to hell!', right?”

    Pretty much,” Cicero agreed. “A little more polite, but not much.”

    With one final, parting rumble, Nekros stepped off the hill and past the spirits, his far less humanoid cronies trailing behind him. They were followed by the rest of the small force that had been waiting at the top of the hill. The ranks of the smaller Iehkti'na parted for them as they passed, joining back up in their wake and following them away. The spirits watched cautiously as the mass of nightmares receded, drawing back from the circle and moving away in silence. Nobody moved for nearly ten minutes, until the last of the black wave disappeared over a ridge in the distance and fell out of sight.


    As if in response to an invisible, inaudible signal, every warrior in the circle relaxed, weapons dropping to the ground in a chorus of thuds that made Ren flinch. Several of them dropped to the ground; all of them shared the same blank, stunned look that Ren was sure must be evident on his own face. Their expressions, though, were tinged with a stronger kind of disbelief. Looking around, Ren saw a proud, strong people who had just been essentially handed their own heads on a platter.


    There seemed to be an unspoken acknowledgement in the air as everybody silently moved back towards the forest. Not a word was spoken as Ren followed them to the top of the hill; as he put his back in and helped them push the fallen tree off several of their number; as the wounded were picked up and carried back through the forest; as the spirits of the Glade retreated, largely unscathed but undoubtedly beaten. They all stared straight ahead, seeming not to see what was in front of them. There was no hurry, no sense of urgency. They simply walked, a macabre, depressed parade winding through the forest.


    At the edge of the Glade of Shifting Light, just inside the Spirit Wall, he was stopped by a gentle hand on his chest. He paused and glanced at the one who had blocked him. It was Salinthia, her deep purple robe torn and grimy. He opened his mouth to speak, but she just shook her head, a sad look in her eyes. With a flick of her wrist, she opened a portal to the second ring, the now familiar sonic boom rocking him slightly with its force.


    Is it safe? Ren wondered, giving Salinthia a questioning look.


    She simply blinked slowly at him, her hazel eyes abnormally lifeless. Taking that as a yes, he gave her a final nod – how he wished, all of a sudden, to say something to comfort her and all the others – and reached a hand out, allowing himself to be sucked into the portal. The last thing he saw before the rushing darkness overtook his vision was Elly watching him from some distance away, her usually sharp green eyes dull with confusion.


    The second ring wavered as Ren slipped silently into it. He stood on the platform at the Rustboro station, eerily alone. Taking a deep breath, he sat down on the very same bench he had occupied earlier with Natasha.


    That was weird,” he said aloud, his voice echoing around the empty station. “I thought things were weird enough as it was, but this is just going too far.” He had a sinking feeling that he had become involved in something far more serious than he ever could have imagined. Of course, that had been his exact mindset when he had found out about the world of dreams to begin with, but this . . . this was a whole new level.

    The worst part, he reflected, was how the spirits had reacted. His brief experience in the world of dreams had painted them as indomitable, indefatigable beings of power and mystery. They had seemed indestructible, invincible, and so very sure of themselves, and yet . . .


    Yet there they were. He had been there – it had all seemed so surreal, but he had been there nonetheless. He knew he had witnessed history; from the sound of it, it was the first time the spirits had suffered a defeat at the hands of the Iehkti'na.


    It seemed to have been a day of firsts. The first time the spirits had lost, the first time the Iehkti'na had spoken, the first time they had displayed any kind of intelligence, the first time Elly's sparkling green eyes had dulled.


    Ren could barely imagine what Elly must have been feeling. That brief glimpse of her as he slipped through the portal had told him so much, and yet so little. He had seen confusion, stunned disbelief and a kind of blank anger. The worst thing, though, was the emotion that he was not even sure he had seen at all. Had there been fear in her eyes? He hoped that he had been mistaken; if even Elly – wild, fiery, fearless Elly – saw reason to be afraid, then he didn't think he would be able to cope with the coming nights.


    A patch of darkness caught his eye, flat upon one of the pillars supporting the massive vaulted ceiling. Deciding he should wake up sooner rather than later, Ren stood up and walked towards it, watching it grow as he approached. By the time he reached it, it was roughly the size and shape of a door. As soon as his foot brushed it, he found himself on the other side, stepping out of a pillar, once again in the darkened, concrete jungle he had shared with Afro Glameow earlier in that same dream.


    Seems like such a long time ago,” he says, glancing around. Thankfully, Afro Glameow is nowhere to be seen. His leg isn't bleeding either, for which he is extremely grateful.

    Before he can even wonder where he is, though, he feels the world slipping away, going hazy and disappearing rapidly into the distance. “What . . .”


    What?” he groaned. His cheeks were burning, and he automatically lifted his hands to rub at them.

    Wake up, Ren!” Natasha said insistently, pinching his cheeks with finger and thumb.

    Awake, 'm awake,” he grumbled, sitting up with a yawn and just about falling off his seat as the train jerked slightly. “Whoa!”

    Jeez! Finally! You slept for just about the whole way!” Natasha pouted, folding her arms as she sat back down.

    Sorry,” he said weakly, rubbing his left ear, which was numb from being crushed against the back of the seat. “You weren't bored, were you?”

    Of course I was bored, genius! I finished my book and started on yours,” she said, waving both paperbacks under his nose.

    You're a fast reader,” he said admiringly, checking his watch. One twenty-three; they were due to arrive in Slateport in a few minutes.

    Not really,” she said. “They're not very big books, and I had all that time at the station too.”

    Right,” he said distractedly, trying to bring himself back to terms with the real world – no, not the real world, he reminded himself. The world of dreams was just as real – or, at the very least, just as important. And besides, Elly will probably hit me if I say otherwise. If . . . if she . . . It suddenly occurred to Ren that Elly might not even feel up to chewing him out that night. The thought was somehow more shocking than anything else that had crossed his mind since the battle.

    Just a few minutes later, the train pulled smoothly into Slateport Station. Natasha spotted her parents through the window and dashed off ahead of Ren, leaving him to filter out with the crowd like a zombie, head down and arms listlessly clutching his bag. He felt a tiny share of the spirits' pain just then, and for a moment he was back in the forest of the third ring, slowly wending his way through the trees again.


    But then he saw his uncle and aunt on the platform, happily receiving Natasha's enthusiastic hugs, and he forced himself to look up again, taking a deep breath of that peculiar air you could only find in the railway station of a seaside city – brine, metal and oil. He was home. This was where he belonged.


    That knowledge made him feel a little better as he plastered a smile on his face and went to greet Roger and Mary.
    Last edited by Seizon Senryaku; 2nd September 2011 at 10:50 PM.
    The Atlantis Codex / Champion Game

    'A single event can awaken within us a stranger totally unknown to us. To live is to be slowly born.' - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
    'Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more; men were deceivers ever.' - William Shakespeare
    'Beauty is everywhere a welcome guest.' - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
    'When one life meets another life, something will be born.' - Un(k)own

  15. #60
    Unova's #1 Yancy fan Seizon Senryaku's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Gender
    Male
    Location
    Summoner's Rift
    Posts
    697
    Blog Entries
    16
    Follow Seizon Senryaku On Twitter

    Default Chapter Seventeen - As Long As I Live

    A/N: Bump. >_> All but caught up now, folks. I kind of left off posting on this for a while . . . exams and all. Ironically, I'm actually in the middle of my exams right now, but I've found myself unable to study and so I'm writing. That, of course reminded me that I needed to do some posting here, so . . . eh.

    Also, I'm free(ish) from tomorrow, so I can start doing those things and stuff. :)


    Chapter Seventeen
    As Long As I Live


    You sure you don't want to come back to our place for lunch, Ren?” Aunt Mary asked. “It's not like it's any trouble. We love having you.”

    No, thanks,” Ren said. “Maybe some other time, but for now . . . I need to go back and see my mom. I left all of a sudden yesterday morning, and, well . . . you know how she is.”

    I do indeed,” Uncle Roger chuckled. “I grew up with her, after all. Well, if that's the case, I'm afraid it can't be helped. I'm sure she's really looking forward to spending some time with you, Mr. Prodigal Son. We'll have you both round our place some time. I'll see if your aunt Mabel can make it as well. Heaven forbid, we might even get your father in next time he's in town.”

    Ren smiled, although it felt a little forced, even to him. “Sure, that'd be nice. We haven't all gotten together like that since Christmas when I was, what . . . eight?” And I haven't seen Dad for three years, he added silently.


    He took his leave quickly, promising Natasha that yes, she could keep the books. Despite the fact that there was no train to catch at his destination this time, he hurried along the coast road up to his house with all the speed he could muster.

    I'm home!” he called loudly as he pushed the door open.

    Oh? Sweetie, you didn't call ahead!” his mother called out from somewhere within the house.

    Um . . . surprise?” he tried, following the sound of her voice to the study at the back of the house.

    She looked up with a smile when he entered. “It's good to have you back, honey,” she said. “How long do you think you'll be home this time?”

    Ren's own smile faltered slightly. “I have to be at a contest in Mauville on Thursday,” he told her, remembering the fact suddenly. “And Steven said somebody would be in touch with me to talk about other things. But at the moment, I'm free until then.”

    You'd better not have anything happening on your birthday,” she said seriously, shuffling some papers and slotting them into the filing cabinet. “You keep next Sunday clear, okay?”

    I'll do my best, Mom,” he said. “What are you working on at the moment, by the way?” he asked, gesturing to the papers strewn around the computer.

    Just an article for the Mauville Mirror,” she said dismissively, sweeping it all to one side. “Leader Wattson's making moves to have New Mauville open by the end of the year, and he wants some coverage and publicity for that.”

    New Mauville? That's the power plant they're building up on Route 110, isn't it?”

    Yes, but never mind that now,” she said. “Have you had lunch, sweetie? It's nearly two o'clock.”

    Ren's stomach growled a negative. “I . . . don't think I had breakfast, either,” he admitted, suddenly realising his neglect. Katrina had taken Natasha to get something while he and Steven were talking, but for his part, Ren had entirely forgotten to eat.

    That's bad for you, you know,” she scolded. “Come on, I'll fix you something.” She hustled him out of the study and back down the hallway to the kitchen. Ren instinctively looked up at the ceiling, half-expecting to see his own footprints there, but made himself bring his eyes back down to earth straight away. It wasn't the time to be thinking about that.

    He tried to help, but his mother shooed him back to the table, claiming he would just get in her way. Knowing better than to be hurt, he sat himself down and watched as she fried up what looked to be leftover mashed potato from a bowl she had whipped out of the fridge. The generous knob of butter she had dropped into the pan sizzled wildly, sending a simple yet reassuring aroma spiralling through the room.

    You always overestimate how much potato you need, don't you?” he said, slightly amused.

    Always,” she admitted. “There's always at least a full serving left over, no matter how many people I'm cooking for.”

    And you always used to fry it up for me just like this,” Ren said quietly, casting his gaze out the window. “Especially on Sundays. I'd spend all morning out goofing around with Tim, Cole and Natasha . . .”

    But you'd always come home at one o'clock sharp,” she reminisced.

    That's because Saturday always seemed to be sausages and mash night,” Ren chuckled, watching a Pelipper wing its way slowly through the sky, a small flock of Wingull trailing behind it. Right there, in the familiar open-plan kitchen that he had eaten in every day for ten years, he finally felt like he had come home. Very little had changed. The same magnets were still stuck to the fridge, colourful letters and numbers that still spelled out 'Happy 10th Birthday, Ren'. A slight ache pierced his heart to see that.

    It always was,” his mother said with a smile, heaping the crispy mash onto a plate and drizzling it generously with tomato sauce, just as she had always done for him before he had left. “There you go, sport.”

    Ren took the plate gratefully, swearing under his breath as he realised how hot it was. He hurriedly set it down on the table with a clatter and reached for a fork from the drawer behind him, swinging his chair back onto two legs as he did so. His mother scowled but passed no comment.

    Ren fell silent as he ate, realising just how hungry he was. His mother poured them each a glass of orange juice and sat opposite him to drink hers. “You always used to do that, too,” he noted between mouthfuls.

    She shrugged lightly. “Old habits die hard. I sat here with my orange juice every Sunday for the last five years, waiting for you to come home so I could share it with you again.” Her voice was airy and unconcerned, but her eyes betrayed her.

    Ren put his fork down and reached across the table to take her hand. She flinched a little, but quickly wrapped her fingers around his own. They were small, he noticed. Back when he was a kid, his mom's hands had always seemed so big and warm and strong, enveloping his own little hands entirely and making him feel safe. They were still warm, but they were about the same size as his own now. He could only wonder how long it would be before hers were the hands that disappeared under his.

    She glanced up into his eyes. “Ren, you . . .”

    He saw with a shock that there were tears forming in the corners of her eyes. He gave her hand a quick squeeze. “Do you remember what we used to do after lunch on Sundays?” he asked, his voice quiet but forceful.

    She nodded silently, the motion causing the tears to slip out of her eyes and run down her cheeks. Ren stood up and walked around the table, an action complicated by the fact that she refused to release his hand. “We always walked down to the little park on Seaboard Avenue, remember?” he said, pulling up another chair so he could sit next to her. “You'd sit and watch while I played on the swings or the slide.”

    You loved that slide,” she said, her voice wobbling slightly.

    I did,” he said. “It was so big and red. Is that park still there? It didn't get turned into an apartment building or anything, did it?” A shake of the head was his only answer, so he continued, “I think we should go down there, then.”

    Now?”

    Of course. Come on, Mom,” he said with a smile, standing up and gently tugging at her hand. “Let's go to the park.”

    She didn't move for several seconds. When she did, it was to stand up and wrap her arms around Ren. Slightly taken aback, but quietly pleased nonetheless, he returned the embrace, feeling for the first time just how very small and frail she was.

    When she finally let him go, her eyes were clear and she was smiling, although Ren sensed it was more than a little forced. “Right,” she said. “To the park it is.”


    The park was a half-hour's walk away on a good day, but Ren was in no hurry. He walked side by side with his mother, just as had always used to. After a few minutes of silence, she slipped her hand into his again, entwining her fingers with his as if seeking support. He smiled indulgently.

    You don't mind, do you?” she asked. “You're not too old to hold your mom's hand, are you?”

    Of course not,” he said.

    They walked in silence along the coast road for another five minutes, feeling the brisk sea breeze rushing and dancing along the cliff. Bird Pokemon chirped and squawked from hidden nests above and below them, and there were a few dozen boats on the harbour below, specks of white against a shimmering blue curtain.

    Your father called last night.”

    Ren looked at his mother, suddenly a little worried. “What did he want?” he asked, making sure to keep his voice light.

    He told me that he wanted to see us,” she said, so quietly that Ren had to strain to hear her. “Well, mostly you, I suppose.”

    I haven't seen him since my trip to Unova three years ago,” Ren reflected. “Why does he suddenly want to see us now?”

    He . . . got married in spring last year.”

    What? Why didn't you tell me? For that matter, why didn't he?”

    He asked me not to. I've got no idea why, but I guess that's something you can ask him.”

    Is he coming back here?” Ren asked. “He hasn't made a business trip for a while.”

    No, he wants us to go there. To Lacunosa. He has a house out there with his new wife and her daughter.”

    Whoa, whoa, whoa,” Ren said, taken aback. “Her daughter? So does that mean I have a . . . step-sister now? I've had a step-sister and a stepmother for nearly a year and I didn't know about it? For that matter, do they still count as step-whatevers if Dad doesn't have custody of me?”

    I don't know, Ren,” she said. “I'm sorry I didn't tell you, but . . . he made it very clear that it was essential you didn't know. I thought he was planning to surprise you or something, but last night he asked me to tell you, so I . . . I just don't know, Ren. He didn't even tell me about it until a couple of months ago.”

    He likes his secrets, doesn't he?” Ren pondered, shaking his head. “But still, Unova! Are we going to go? I don't really know if I have time for a holiday right now.”

    That's exactly what your father thought,” she said, “so he made a suggestion and asked that you run it by the people at the League. The Unova Conference is happening in a couple of weeks, so he thought you could come out for that. It's being held in Opelucid, which isn't far from Lacunosa, and it's apparently not uncommon for Champions to sit in on the Conferences of other regions.”

    I guess that could work . . .” Ren said slowly.

    Do you want to go, honey?” she asked, turning to look into his eyes. “I mean, it's up to you. If you don't really want to go, I can just call him back and say you're already booked. I won't make you go if you're not comfortable with it.”

    I do want to . . . I mean, I think I do. Can I think about it for a while?”

    Of course you can, sweetie,” she said, squeezing his hand. “Let's just get to that park before sunset, huh?”

    Outwardly, Ren smiled, but on the inside he couldn't help but feel a little upset. Dad never told me he was even thinking about getting married . . . he called twice a month for the last few years, and he didn't mention it once. What kind of crap is that? I don't know if I can deal with all this as well as the yehktira thing. It's all happening at once. Why is it all coming on so suddenly? It was as if he were suddenly drowning in various responsibilities and expectations. Champion, yehktira and now stepson? Step-brother?

    The park was almost exactly the same as he remembered it. The grass was a little longer, the creaky swingset a little rustier, and the bright red paint on the slide a little flakier, but none of it made the slightest difference to Ren. It was as if he was nine years old again. He saw himself scrambling up the ladder and almost tumbling off the slide in his haste to get down it. He saw himself standing up on the swing despite his mother's insistence he sit down, swinging higher and higher until he felt sure he would fall off.

    Been a while, huh?” he said. The park was deserted but for the two of them.

    Five years.”

    Hmm.” Making up his mind, Ren crossed to the slide and pulled himself up the ladder, feeling the rough, rusty texture of the bars under his fingers. At the top, he slotted himself awkardly into the plastic half-tube, his hips almost too wide to fit. He slid down a lot more slowly than he remembered, coming to a stop at the bottom without shooting off the end.

    Bit different now, hmm?” his mother said, sitting down on one of the ancient, creaky swings that sat adjacent to the slide.

    . . . Yeah.”

    Ren's Pokenav blipped loudly from his pocket, causing him to sigh.

    Answer it, sweetie,” his mother said with a little smile.

    But this is-”

    It's probably important. Go on.”

    With an apologetic nod, Ren pulled the little red device out and pressed the answer key, standing up and walking a short distance away to take the call.

    Hello?” he said, hearing the tiredness in his own voice as he spoke.

    Mr. Goodwin?”

    Yes . . .”

    My name is Gerard Etois. I work for the Pokemon League.”

    Oh, are you the one that Steven said would be calling?”

    Yes,” said Gerard. “I'm glad he informed you of that, for it makes my job somewhat easier. As Mr. Stone may have mentioned, I will be in charge of coordinating your schedule for the duration of your tenure as Champion. Do you have time to discuss this now?”

    Um . . .” Ren glanced over at his mother, sitting alone on the swings, her wavy brown hair swaying in the breeze as she watched him talking. “Not really . . . Would it be possible for you to just give me a brief overview of what's going on in the next few weeks?”

    That's wonderful,” Gerard said, although he didn't sound particularly excited. “So . . . Mr. Stone has suggested you attend the Mauville Pokemon Contest on Thursday, correct?”

    Yes, he has.”

    Well, I've just spoken with the organisers, and they'd be delighted to have you as a guest. They've also asked if you'd like to compete. Would you be interested?”

    I've . . . never participated in a Contest before,” Ren said, suddenly very worried. “I wouldn't have any idea how.”

    Still, I think it would be a good idea if you did,” Gerard pressed. “It would emphasise your support of the Contest programme, to be sure.”

    I don't think so,” Ren said firmly, somewhat taken aback by Gerard's insistence. He relented slightly, though. “Well, not this time, at least. I'll watch the contest on Thursday, and that might allow me to learn something to apply in the future. I'd be lying if I said Contests were something I'd ever thought seriously about participating in, but I suppose it could be interesting.”

    That sounds like a splendid compromise,” Gerard said, sounding quite pleased with himself. “We'll try to get you participating in Contests within a couple of months. I'll call the Mauville committee later this afternoon to inform them. But before that . . . there's a festival going on in Fortree City on Tuesday which I think you'd enjoy.”

    A festival? What would that involve?” Ren asked suspiciously.

    Nothing too taxing, I promise,” said Gerard, sounding faintly amused. “You would spend the day participating in the activities, perhaps give a speech or two, and generally be seen to be involved in the culture. The local radio station is interested in interviewing you as well, I hear. But on the whole, it should be fairly relaxing, in fact.”

    Sounds good,” Ren said. It did, actually. He had liked Fortree City a lot when he had passed through about a year and a half earlier, and he had been keen to return for some time. Speeches and radio interviews would have to be dealt with when they came about. “Anything else on?”

    Well, on Thursday you have the Contest – that will just be a day trip, of course – and then on Sunday-”

    Sunday's out,” said Ren abruptly. He shot another quick glance across to the swings and was rewarded with a smile and a thumbs-up. Feeling emboldened, he continued. “It's my fifteenth birthday, and I'm planning on spending it at home. I'd really rather not do anything unless I absolutely have to.”

    Well, ah . . . you see, Richard Andrews has indicated that yesterday's episode of Hoenn Buzz was extremely well received, and he would like to have you back for his Sunday slot next week, where he can talk with you in a lot more depth. He'd really love to do it as a follow-up episode.”

    I . . . I can't. I liked Richard, but I really can't. Would it be possible to do it the week after?”

    Ah. Now, that poses a bit of a problem,” Gerard said slowly. “You see, the following weekend is the Unova League Conference, and we were thinking of sending you as an ambassador for the Hoenn League.”

    Oh.” Ren's stomach dropped about a foot. On the one hand, it fit perfectly with his father's plan to bring him over to Unova – almost too perfectly, he thought briefly. On the other hand, it gave him one less excuse to get out of something which he was growing less and less sure he wanted to do. There was no real reason for his apprehension, he had to admit – it wasn't as if he didn't get along with his father.

    Mr. Goodwin?”

    Ah, right. Um . . .” Sometimes you have to make choices that determine the future at the drop of a hat. It was ironic, Ren thought wryly, that it was his father's words that came back to him at a time like this. It seemed that they were becoming relevant more and more frequently in recent times, though, and he knew he would have to go with it. “I'll . . . I'll do it,” he said.

    You will? Good, good. I was a little worried that you wouldn't be up to it, being as new to this whole business as you are.”

    I've travelled before,” Ren said. “I've been to Unova a few times, too – I was born there, actually, though I don't remember much of that time. Besides, my father lives there at the moment, so I imagine I'll be meeting up with him at some stage. I think I'll be all right.” He really hoped that he would be. It was intimidating enough having to go along to the Unova Conference without even taking his new stepmother and step-sister into consideration.

    I'm glad to hear it,” Gerard said. “Having a Champion familiar with the region as our ambassador will be good. But this still leaves us with the problem of what to do about Hoenn Buzz. Of course, we can do it after you return, but it really would be better to get it done sooner rather than later. I'll speak to Richard Andrews about that and get back to you tomorrow, or later tonight if possible.”

    All right,” said Ren. “Is there anything else on? Before I go to Unova, that is.”

    Well . . . the Tuesday before the Unova League, there is a tag battle tournament going on in your hometown of Slateport. Would you like to take part?”

    Tag battles? That sounds like fun. I haven't had much experience battling with a partner, though.”

    Well, you might learn something, then,” Gerard said genially. “I'll contact the organisers and have them enter you. Well, I think that's all for now – I'll call you back tomorrow afternoon to arrange transport and the like, seeing as you seem to be a little busy right now.”

    All right, then. Thank you, Mr. Etois,” Ren said, stumbling slightly over the pronunciation of the unfamiliar name. “I'll talk to you tomorrow.”

    Goodbye, Mr. Goodwin.” There was a click, and the line fell silent.

    Ren slowly folded up the Pokenav and slotted it back into his pocket, moving back over to sit on the end of the slide again. “It looks like I'm pretty busy over the next couple of weeks,” he said quietly, picking at a loose flake of paint on the edge of the slide.

    There was no answer for several seconds, so he tried again. “It also looks like we're going to Unova to see Dad.”

    I guess we are,” his mother said, her voice equally quiet.

    Are you . . . all right with that?” Ren asked, rising from the slide and crossing to sit beside her on the other swing hanging from the ancient frame. “I mean, I kind of decided that a bit quickly.”

    No, that's fine. I guess I was just . . . surprised.”

    By what?” Ren asked.

    Well . . . by you, I suppose. You've . . . grown up a lot in the last few years. I haven't seen you very much, and every time you come back you seem different somehow. This time, though, it's like . . . like you've reached a certain point. It's almost like you're an adult now. My little boy disappeared when he went off on his tenth birthday, and I've never seen him since.”

    Ren didn't know quite what to say. “I . . . it's still me, you know. I think it's pretty understandable that I'd have changed, though. I mean, I don't see it myself, but I guess in five years you'd change a bit.” The words sounded hollow even as he said them; he wondered exactly who he was supposed to be reassuring.

    Silence fell for almost a minute. Ren let the swing rock back and forth a little, his toes dragging in the bark on the ground beneath. The trees lining the park rustled gently as a salty breeze blew in from the sea. Tucked into a large niche in the cliff – not unlike the one that Ren's house stood in – the park afforded a splendid view of the ocean and the sky above it, but Ren's eyes reached beyond the horizon. In that quiet moment, he looked out and saw the vast expanse of the universe. He didn't know how much of the vision was his imagination and how much he was actually seeing, but the sheer scale of the cosmos took him aback. There were huge, dark things out there, perfect black against imperfect colour, frightening in their size and omnipotence.

    Then he blinked, and he saw only the ocean. He looked back around, at the bark and grass beneath his feet, the trees surrounding him on three sides, and finally back at his mother, sitting on the swing next to him with a strange half-smile on her face.

    You all right, sweetie?” she said. “You look a little pale.”

    No, I'm fine,” he said. “Just a little tired.” He couldn't help but wonder if that was a side-effect of his adventures in the world of dreams. It certainly seemed that he had been exceedingly tired today – but then again, he considered, it might just be the fact that he had finally come to the end of his journey. His life over the last five years had been so unbearably busy that it might well have simply caught up to him.

    Maybe you should have an early night tonight, love. Do you have anything on tomorrow?”

    No,” Ren said, not without relief. “Nothing, actually. Tuesday I'm in Fortree for a festival, Thursday I'm in Mauville for a Contest, and then the next Tuesday is the tag battle tournament in town.”

    Oh, I think I saw that in the paper. I'll come along and watch you. But it seems you have quite a bit of free time before we go to Unova.”

    Yeah, that'll be nice,” Ren said, nodding. “Say, when are we going to leave for Unova? The Conference is on over the weekend, but . . .”

    We should probably try and get there by the Thursday, actually. That'll give us some time to spend in Lacunosa with your father before everything starts.”

    Ren didn't say anything for a few seconds. Somehow, it seemed there was nothing he could say. At length, he stood up and took a few steps away from the swing. “Let's go home,” he said at last. Let's go home and watch TV and have dinner and go to bed and pretend I'm a normal kid, he added silently, but didn't dare say it out loud.
    The Atlantis Codex / Champion Game

    'A single event can awaken within us a stranger totally unknown to us. To live is to be slowly born.' - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
    'Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more; men were deceivers ever.' - William Shakespeare
    'Beauty is everywhere a welcome guest.' - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
    'When one life meets another life, something will be born.' - Un(k)own

Page 4 of 9 FirstFirst ... 23456 ... LastLast

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •