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  1. #61
    The Dimension Wizard Flaze's Avatar Moderator
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    Default Re: Champion Game {Chapter 17}

    Two things happened today. I finally managed to catch up and the second arc came to a close, or at least that's what it looks like.

    For now it seems like the nightmares are packing heat and the spirits don't have a way to beat them. However I do think Ren should get some kind of badass training going if he wants to stop being useless. We've seen a lot of characters in the last few chapters but if Nightmares are able to talk how do we know that there aren't Nightmares that can actually look human...but don't mind that that's just cause the Nightmares remind me of Hallows from Bleach.

    On the other hand I really liked chapter 17 as a break chapter, Ren finally got to be with his mom after so long but now his dad comes into the picture, something that we haven't heard about much. Not just that but now he has a lot of stuff to do.

    So we have the Contest, the Fortree fair, the Tag Team Tournament and the Conference as well as Ren's travels in the Dream Word that goes in between.

    In other words...awesome!

    This review was longer but I pressed the back space key before posting and had to write it again.

    P.S. sorry for taking so long.

  2. #62
    Unova's #1 Yancy fan Seizon Senryaku's Avatar
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    Default Chapter Eighteen - Peace

    A/N: With this, we're just one chapter away from being caught up entirely.

    Chapter Eighteen

    Peace


    As he lay awake in bed that night, it occurred to Ren that the issue of Nekros and the events of his last visit to the world of dreams had barely crossed his mind all afternoon. How is that even possible? he wondered, staring up at the ceiling of his darkened room. Here's me trying to think what might happen when I go in this time, but I've hardly even considered what happened last time.

    It had been dancing at the back of his mind for the last few hours, he knew, but it had been difficult to reach for it and bring it to the fore. It wasn't like he couldn't bring it to the front of his mind; it was more like it preferred to stay in the background. It was only now, as he waited for sleep to claim him, that it leapt forth and demanded his attention.

    Then again, he reasoned, there was nothing he could really do about it. He briefly considered calling Steven and telling him. Would the ex-Champion be able to help him? He doubted it. He had the strangest feeling that Nekros had not shown its face – or what passed for one – before. The spirits had certainly not seemed to recognise it, and he was sure that Steven would not have neglected to mention something so major had he known about it.

    Ren suddenly felt very much alone. He couldn't go to Steven for help. Even if his predecessor had somehow known about Nekros, he doubted there would be anything that Steven could have done to help him. As it was, there would be no help forthcoming. What did he expect Steven to do, really? Somehow charge into the world of dreams and valiantly slay the beast? No, he had to deal with it by himself.

    His fingers brushed the Dreamlight, still lying on his chest, an impossibly delicate silver carving that glinted in the low light. What am I supposed to do? The same question chased itself around his head for a good half an hour before his tiredness finally caught up with him.

    Afro Glameow is nowhere to be seen. That's reassuring. Ren glances around. He's in the jungle of concrete pillars again. Now that he's not running for his life, though, he realises it's an overpass. An overpass of monolithic, impossible size, to be sure, but there's no doubting what it is. The rumbling noise is the sound of hundreds of cars passing over his head, and the light glaring distantly at him from both sides is just sunlight, doing its level best to penetrate the gloom under the road.

    He looks around and promptly spots the portal to the second ring; it has the appearance of a deep square hole set into one of the pillars near him. Looking suspiciously around, Ren wonders if Afro Glameow is lying in wait for him somewhere nearby. When there is still no sign of his feline nemesis, however, he shrugs and reaches for the portal. With a familiar yank, he is sucked into it, his entire body somehow telescoping and packing itself into the small space.

    When he regained his sense of balance, Ren found himself once again in the park, looking out over Slateport Bay. The sky was overcast, however, casting unfortunate shadows on the scene. The sun peeked valiantly out from behind a cloud to the west, though, its height telling him that it was about three in the afternoon. Just as it occurred to him that there seemed to be nobody around, a voice spoke from behind him.

    Yehktira.”

    He turned to see Salinthia, of all people, sitting on one of the swings. She was wearing casual clothes that would not have looked out of place in any city in Hoenn, which Ren found odd. The puffy, sleeveless jacket, faded grey T-shirt and slim black jeans made her look a lot younger – not that appearances made any difference when it came to age, he reminded himself wryly. “Hey, Salinthia,” he said quietly, dropping himself into the other swing, much as he had done that very same afternoon. He was beginning to get used to seeing the day's locations floating around in the second ring, but it was no less unnerving to find himself sitting in exactly the same place as he had been earlier. It was like a weird sense of deja vu. “What's . . . happening in the third ring?”

    She sighed deeply, refusing to meet his curious eyes. “Four of our number fell in the battle yesterday. One of those who were crushed under the tree that Nekros uprooted succumbed to his injuries after being brought back to the Glade. Nekros also killed two more of that rearguard, and they died on the spot. So did the poor girl who was overwhelmed by the Iehkti'na horde in the preceding battle.”

    Oh,” Ren said. He wanted to make some comment, to offer some small measure of comfort, but there were no words. He was so far out of his depth that he could only barely begin to grasp the magnitude of the situation.

    Four might seem like very few, especially considering the number of beasts we slew today, but . . .”

    'No men have fallen in battle since the great wars of the early days',” Ren quoted, remembering something he had read in Maho's workshop.

    I see you've been doing your homework,” Salinthia said, a slight tinge of bitter humour colouring her voice.

    I did a little bit of reading,” Ren admitted. “But, uh . . . what happens now?”

    Nothing,” Salinthia said. “We wait. Maho and the rest of us in the Magical Division are working hard to try and reinforce the Spirit Wall, as well as determining how it failed. The others can only wait. I hope you take no offense, Ren, but we think it would be best if you did not enter the third ring tonight.”

    What? But the Soul Bonds-”

    Are being automatically re-cast as we speak. They only require you to stay here for another few minutes, after which time you may leave the same way you came.”

    So . . . I don't have to be in the third ring for that to work?”

    Not necessarily, no. It just happens that it's usually safer there, especially in the Glade. At the moment, we cannot guarantee your safety. As well as that, we are in mourning for those lost. You would be . . . superfluous.”

    Ren couldn't tell whether her words had been deliberately calculated to sting, but sting they did. Whatever the case, there was no way he could blame her. She probably didn't even want to be babysitting him. “I guess we just sit here until time's up, then? What about the Iehkti'na?”

    She shook her head. “There are none. It seems Nekros is true to his word, and has withdrawn completely for now.”

    You don't sound particularly pleased with that,” Ren noted.

    Well, it is good that he has stepped back and allowed us to operate peacefully, but at the same time, it is frightening. It proves the level of control that Nekros has over the other Iehkti'na, and that is something we don't want to have to contend with. The Iehkti'na, when they all mass together, are a far stronger force than us. The only thing that has allowed us to continually defeat them over the last seven hundred years is their lack of leadership and organisation. Now that they appear to have that, there is little chance of survival,” she said frankly. Although her pale, soft face remained static, Ren could see flickers of uncertainty trembling in her eyes.

    What can we do?”

    Only what we are already doing. You, on the other hand, can do nothing. Simply carry on returning to the world of dreams every night, and we will do the best we can with the rest. When Nekros comes forth again, we shall face him with everything we have. If it turns out that it is not enough, well . . . we shall fall, and you shall have new friends in the world of dreams,” she said with a sad smile. “It should not make much difference to you. They have promised they will leave you unscathed, for they need a yehktira as much as we do.”

    Don't screw with me!” Ren said, standing up suddenly and wheeling to face her. “You think I wouldn't care if I had to deal with those . . . monsters instead of you?”

    In all honesty, Ren, I'm sure they'd treat you much the same.”

    I don't care about that!” Ren said sharply. “Sure, it'd be good to know I have some job security, but I'll take you guys over the Iehkti'na any day! I like you guys! The Iehkti'na are just . . . beasts! How could you even suggest that it wouldn't matter?”

    Salinthia raised her hands in a vaguely placatory gesture, but didn't say anything for a while. She stood and walked around the swing set, trailing her hand along the bars. “You . . . are right,” she said at length. “I apologise. But please, there is no need to be so incensed.”

    . . . Of course,” Ren said, sitting back down and rocking back and forward. “I'm sorry. I was just surprised that you thought I wouldn't care.”

    That was a misjudgement on my part,” Salinthia said smoothly. “I appreciate your vote of confidence, and I am sure the other elders will as well. But now, I think . . . I think we could just about call it a night.”

    That's . . . all it takes?” Ren asked.

    Indeed. Your yehkti is strong, and your mere presence in the second ring is enough to return the Soul Bonds to their full strength. Regrettably, they disintegrate faster each day. Soon they will reach a critical level where we will need you, or whoever the yehktira is at that point, to remain in our world permanently.”

    That . . . how would that happen?”

    We would simply refuse to let you leave. If none of us open a portal for you, you cannot leave the third ring. Your body – in your world – would never wake up. No amount of external stimulus would be able to rouse you. You would seem to be in a coma, and you would probably spend the rest of your life in hospital.” She spoke with a brisk, casual tone that grated on Ren's nerves.

    Are you nuts?” he demanded. “You can't just sit there and talk so calmly about doing something like that! That's awful!”

    Do not make assumptions, yehktira!” Salinthia snapped, a hard edge suddenly entering her voice. “If it comes down to it, we will not hesitate to keep you here!”

    You can't!” he protested. “I mean . . . you wouldn't!”

    We can and will! Unless a way is found to bring the Soul Bonds back to their full capacity, we will have no choice!”

    Salinthia, you just can't do that! Who the hell do you think you are? If you think I'm just going to sit there and let you screw with me like that, you're horribly mistaken! I just can't believe you!”

    Stop it, Ren!” she said, stepping forward so that her face was just inches from his own, her sea-green eyes stormy with anger. Her voice dropped to a loud whisper as the clouds in the sky overwhelmed the sun, darkening and lowering until the atmosphere positively crackled with pressure. “Let me make this very clear, yehktira: you do not tell me what I can and cannot do, and you do not presume for one second that you are more important than the fate of two entire worlds!”

    Ren bit his lip, refusing to be cowed. Salinthia was terrifying in a very different way to Elly; while Elly's fury had been small and sharp like a Beedrill sting, Salinthia's was huge and sweeping. A harsh, heavy wind swept through the park, tossing the branches on the trees and buffetting him where he stood. He braced his feet and forced himself to glare back into her eyes as stinging, lashing rain began to hurl itself from the threatening clouds that continued to gather overhead.

    He knew she was right, but at the same time he was painfully aware that he couldn't back down now. There was nothing he could say, so he simply made a point of standing as still as he could in the heaving rain and wind, feeling the deep, electric pressure of the storm bearing down upon him as he made himself look into her eyes as they darkened rapidly. Within seconds they were a deep slate grey, the same colour as the thunderclouds overhead.

    Abruptly, she narrowed her eyes, a rumble of thunder accompanying the gesture. “Go,” she said. Her voice was quiet, yet he heard her perfectly clearly over the maelstrom of whirling winds that threatened to engulf them. “Your time here is done, yehktira.”

    Fighting to contain his own anger, Ren nodded once, jerkily, and stepped back without breaking eye contact. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw – barely – the small black portal that would lead him back to the first ring. Without taking his eyes off Salinthia's, he reached out for it with his right hand. He felt a slight tug on his arm and he was gone.

    He stands in a field, one not unlike the one in which he is used to materialising in the third ring. It is the same one, he realises with a start. The grass is trampled and spattered with mud, twisting itself into agonised knots on the ground. Deep furrows are carved in the earth, furrows that grow deeper and more frequent as he walks towards the forest. Soon, he finds himself at the base of the hill, which is little more than a ghastly, churned mud bath. The mud is tinged with purple, and all around is the bitter stench of vinegar and burnt grass.

    There is a small jerk somewhere inside Ren's chest, and the scene dissolves as he is pulled upwards and out of reach. He feels hundreds of accusing eyes on him as he ascends, and he can't be sure if they are his imagination or not.

    Ren woke suddenly, feeling unusually grumpy – even for a Monday morning. It took him a few seconds to zero in on the reason, for the events of his dreams sought to elude him even now. Carefully, he sifted through his mind, locking onto the small, elusive memory that sat lodged in the back of his thoughts. He seized upon it gladly, and was rewarded with a sudden flash of bitter realisation.

    He groaned inwardly. Oh, hell . . . what did I say? He knew full well what he had said, of course. The question was entirely rhetorical, but he had thought it might make him feel a little better. It didn't.

    Sitting up and allowing the blankets to fall away from him, he put his head in his hands for a minute. Damn, damn, damn. He had let his temper get the better of him for the first time in . . . how long? Nearly three years. He shuddered to think of the last time he had blown up in someone's face like that.

    Not long before his twelfth birthday, he had challenged Brawly for what must have been the tenth time. Zangoose had been his strongest battler even then, so having him easily knocked flying by Brawly's Fighting-type Pokemon meant that the battle had been far more difficult than any other Gym Leader he had faced until that point. After being handed yet another total defeat by the surfer, Ren had almost reached boiling point. When Brawly had suggested moving on and training elsewhere before returning to challenge him again, Ren had snapped.

    Of course, his outburst at that time had been completely unjustified. Brawly had only been doing his job; besides, Ren knew that most of the anger he had let loose at that point had been directed at himself. He had been ashamed of his weakness, his stubbornness and his perceived ineptitude. His rage should have been directed inwards, but he had let it all go and focused it on the man in front of him.

    Ren had since returned to Dewford and apologised to Brawly, of course. Brawly had understood and given him a rematch for the Knuckle Badge – which Ren had won – but it didn't stop him feeling a little guilty whenever the incident came to mind.

    This time, however . . . this time was a little different. Flopping back onto his bed, Ren rolled over and buried his head in his pillow. Salinthia had taken him by surprise with her cool, detached explanation of what could very likely happen to him. Part of him knew that she was completely right, but he didn't really want to admit it. “How does she get off talking like that?” he grumbled aloud. Somehow the thought that, as yehktira, he might have to make some kind of sacrifice had failed to occur to him.

    I was wrong to get mad like that, he admitted to himself. But still, I can't help but feel it was a little justified. Salinthia had sprung it on him awfully suddenly, for sure.

    Ren!” came his mother's voice, echoing faintly from downstairs. “Are you up yet?”

    With a distracted smile, Ren rolled out of bed, still dwelling on what had transpired that night. He was already regretting his words and his attitude, and had every intention to apologise that evening, but it did not stop the topic from floating in the front of his mind.

    As a result, Ren spent most of the day in a strange sort of fugue, drifting from activity to activity with an uncertain manner that caused his mother to ask several times if he was still tired.

    After breakfast, he spent the morning drifting aimlessly about the house, unsure of what to do. His mother was busy with her article for the Mirror, so he was largely left to his own devices. On a whim, he sat down at the kitchen table and began writing a letter. A forgotten promise had suddenly pushed itself to the forefront of his mind, and he seized upon it gratefully as a means to take his mind off what would surely be an extraordinarily awkward encounter with Salinthia in the world of dreams.

    Dear Falkner,

    I haven't called for a while, but that's not really why I'm writing. I remember you made me swear I'd write to you when I became Champion of the Hoenn League. Well, at the time, I never thought I'd ever find myself writing that letter, but, well . . . here I am.

    You probably saw the news about the League Conference and all that on TV, so I won't go into too much detail about that. Mostly I just wanted to thank you. It's been three years since I trained with you in Violet, but I can't overstate how important that period was for me. I learned so much with you, and it really helped me with getting to where I am now.

    So, thank you for that. When I finally challenged you and won the Zephyr Badge, it was the best battle I'd had up till that point, and still one of the best I've ever had. It helped me carry on through the rest of the League.

    A thought suddenly striking him, he reached into the backpack that still sat in the corner of the kitchen and withdrew one of the three small, flat cases that sat safely in the deepest pocket. Sitting back down at the table, he unlatched the clasp. Two Johto League badges sat in shaped depressions in the velvet lining, glinting slightly in the sunlight. The Zephyr Badge and Mineral Badge looked somewhat lonely in the case, the six empty slots reminding him of the Gym Leaders he hadn't yet battled. Shaking his head, he closed the case with a sigh and went back to writing.

    It feels weird, being the Champion, you know. I mean, it's everything I ever worked towards. I remember telling you all about it so excitedly when I came to the Violet Gym, and you just smiled that funny smile you have. I guess I looked just like every other kid that came through with stars in his eyes, but that's where the weirdest thing is. When I think about it . . . becoming the Champion is a goal that every Trainer sets out with. But I . . . I actually made it, and it's always a little strange, somehow, to think of all the other kids that didn't make it. It makes me wonder why I'm any different, why I succeeded where so many others failed. Why am I so special?

    Briefly, Ren remembered what Steven had said – how the Champion was largely decided by an individual's level of yehkti. After all the strangeness of the last couple of days, he had almost entirely forgotten about that. Remembering it was, honestly, not a very nice feeling, he realised suddenly. Did that mean that all his hard work had been an illusion? If I've been predetermined to be Champion since the day I was born, does anything that I do make a difference? Steven had said that it did, that he wouldn't have become Champion without all the hours of pressing his nose to the grindstone, but all the same . . . it bugged him a little. It was like being handed a merit certificate in school, only to be told that the principal had decided to give it to you years ago, regardless of your actual performance.

    I guess it doesn't matter right now, he wrote, unwilling to scribble out the words already written. It bears thinking about, but I can do that later. I've got so much to do now – I can't believe it! I kind of thought life might slow down a little once I became Champion, but . . . it didn't. If anything, it got more hectic. Sure, I've got more time at home now, but it sure doesn't feel like it. Even though there's technically less I have to do, I have to go all over the place and do all kinds of things. It makes it feel like there's more to do. At any rate, it's sure nice to be back home – well, sort of.

    How's life in Violet? Did that girl come back to challenge you after I left at all? What was her name, again? Laura or something? She had a Bayleef, I think, which probably explained why she was having so much trouble beating you. I haven't heard much news out of Johto at all lately, to be honest. Is everything just being quiet as usual?

    Listen to me, sheesh. I sound like I'm suspecting some kind of conspiracy. But never mind that. It feels good to be able to just sit down and write a letter like this. I never had the time – or, to be entirely straight with you, the inclination – before, but it's something I could get used to. It helps me get my thoughts in order. So thanks for that, I guess. I do feel a bit better now – not so darn philosophical, at any rate. I'm just rambling now, though, so I'll sign off for now.

    He debated for a minute over how to sign the letter, but eventually settled for the slightly formal Your Friend, Ren Goodwin before folding it into an envelope and taking it outside to slot it into the pickup box for the postie to find the following morning.

    As he leaned absently on the gate, Ren's mind – no longer distracted by letter-writing – returned to Salinthia and the world of dreams. While he knew that he should be concerned, he found it difficult somehow. Does that make me a bad person? I almost feel like I don't care what happens. He concluded that it was because there was nothing he could do from his current position. Salinthia had said as much, and he certainly couldn't see any evidence to the contrary.

    He was just a third wheel, he realised. He had deluded himself briefly that he would get along with the spirits and . . . what? Be seen as their equal? He was their yehktira, that was all. He was a necessity. Even in terms of necessities, he was a pretty useless one, he reflected bitterly. Steven, surely, had been of more use. From what he had gleaned from Maho and Cecilia, Steven had been working to solve the mysteries of the world of dreams from the outside. I can't even do that.

    Then again, he realised briefly, watching a Wingull wheeling on an updraft, there was no reason he couldn't. For that matter, there was no reason why Steven would have stopped his research when he stepped down as yehktira – he hadn't struck Ren as the sort of person to give up on something that important just because it wasn't strictly his job any more.

    He would have to talk to Steven again as soon as possible, he decided, the thought making him feel a little better. Arceus . . . I'm just going in circles today, he thought, pinching the bridge of his nose and inhaling deeply.

    There's nothing happening,” he said to the Wingull. “That's the problem. Mum's busy, I've got nothing happening . . . there's nobody to battle, no pressure to get to a rest stop before dark. Nothing's bloody happening!” he grunted, kicking the letterbox stand in a sudden fit of childish petulance.

    He glanced involuntarily down at his belt, where force of habit had compelled him to attach his six Poke Balls that morning. He sighed heavily, all the wind dropping out of his sails as he relented. Fine. Training it is.

    He hadn't brought most of his Pokemon out for a good few days now, and he felt a little guilty when he realised this. While he didn't go for all the new age stuff that was going around like wildfire these days – Trainer and Pokemon are one spirit, one completes the other, you can't win unless you and your team share a bond forged in hellfire – he knew that his Pokemon were still his friends, and he had neglected that lately.

    He dashed back to the still-open front door and hollered down the hallway, “Mom! I'm just going out for a while! Back in a couple of hours!”

    Honey-” his mother began, her voice emanating distantly from the study at the back of the house, but he didn't hear any more, already having dashed away, out the gate and up the road – running in the opposite direction to the city of Slateport proper. He had a place in mind – yet another place he hadn't been for five years.
    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

  3. #63
    Unova's #1 Yancy fan Seizon Senryaku's Avatar
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    Default Chapter Nineteen - Freedom


    Chapter Nineteen
    Freiheit


    Slateport was named so for a reason. The top of the cliff on which Ren's house balanced awkwardly had once been a rich source of a high-quality variety of the hard grey stone, and it was this enormous deposit that had necessitated the building of a port nearby to traffic the material through. That had all been a long time ago, of course. The demand for slate had fallen as metal and glass came into fashion, and while there was still a significant amount quarried in the area, all the work in the vicinity of Ren's house had long since ceased, leaving behind nothing but a number of sizable craters, dotted along the clifftop like the marks of a giant's pogo stick.

    It was to the nearest of these abandoned quarries that Ren now climbed, taking a little-used, steep path that led him off the road and up a narrow crevice in the cliff. It probably wasn't very safe, but that didn't bother him as he scrambled up over the loose shale towards the top. Loose stones skittered away beneath his feet, making the ascent treacherous, but Ren skipped over them with practiced ease, his body remembering the movements that even his memory had let go.

    At the top, he paused to catch his breath, doubling back a little to stand a few metres from the edge of the cliff. He had forgotten quite how long the trail up to Quarry #133 was. Still, he reflected as he turned to look back the way he had come, it was worth it. His view of the ocean, usually spectacular at worst, was beyond awe-inspiring from the top of the cliff. It was barely lunchtime, he supposed; he had forgotten his Pokenav, so he judged by the surprisingly hot sun that hung overhead. Without the sun in his eyes as it so often was, he could see for miles and miles. Slateport was out of sight somewhere to his left, but he could see three or four largish ships slewing their way towards it, accompanied by dozens of smaller ones that left tiny white threads of wake behind them.

    A cold wind blew across the top of the cliff, reminding him how exposed he was. Turning away from the ocean he had seen so many times, yet never grew tired of, he hurried towards the gnarled wire fence that stood – or rather leaned, for it had guarded the quarry for countless years – a hundred or so metres away.

    As he had imagined, nobody had been by to fix the gaping hole in the fence that allowed him access. Ignoring a rusty yellow warning sign that blared 'Danger! Unsafe area – no entry except for council personnel,' he ducked through the gap, immediately finding himself standing on hard, packed earth rather than grass. It was always a little eerie, that – as if he had stepped out of nature and into a construction of man. Which, he supposed, he had. A handful of derelict huts were strewn about the area, clearly much older than the fence surrounding them. The wind was not quite as strong here as it had been at the edge of the cliff, but it still blew sharply, kicking up a cloud of dust here, rattling a dust-ravaged windowpane there.

    Ren shivered a little and pressed on, passing the huts without another thought much like he always had done. Another fence stood in his way, much stronger than the last – even if it was decades older. This one, however, had a wide-open gate. Ren stepped through confidently, suddenly finding himself confronted by the quarry.

    Probably fifty metres across at the bottom, and maybe two hundred at ground level, the quarry was a roughly semicircular depression, hacked out of the slate over a long period of time, gradually widening and deepening. Natural erosion had worn much of it smooth over however many years it had been abandoned, leaving rounded edges and slopes everywhere, while he imagined it had once been all sharp corners and harsh lines. There was still a clear pathway, however, which snaked its way in a spiral pattern around the bowl of the quarry, and it was this which he now followed, tracing the invisible footsteps of his younger self.

    It took him about ten minutes to reach the bottom. Even though the quarry wasn't all that deep, he had been walking at a leisurely pace, taking in every detail of the rock that slowly rose over his head. At the bottom, he walked to the middle of the roughly circular space, stepping over small chunks of discarded rock and around larger ones. In the middle, he stopped and looked up. There were a handful of fluffy white clouds scudding across the azure sky, but the sun beat down on him powerfully, causing him to hiss involuntarily and close his eyes, cursing his foolishness.

    Well done, you,” he grumbled, rubbing his eyes and blinking. Coloured spots danced in the air in front of him wherever he looked. Seeking a distraction, he remembered why he had come in the first place. His hands dropped to his belt, tapping the release switches on all six of his Poke Balls. With a loud series of pops, his Pokemon leapt forth in flashes of red light, all of them clearly enthused to see light of day. “Sorry, guys,” Ren murmured guiltily as he watched them.

    Manectric barked happily and set off at a blinding run around the area, investigating the unfamiliar surroundings and enjoying the rough terrain. Zangoose stood at Ren's side, doing its best to look surly, but the sunlight warming its white fur was clearly having an effect; Ren noticed – with some amusement – the subtle shifting of its feet and flickering of its eyes that betrayed its interest.

    Braviary, his proud plumage perennially glossy, perched atop a large chunk of discarded slate with his beak thrust regally towards the sky. His beady eyes followed Yanmega as it buzzed happily around, zipping backwards and forwards with all the frenetic pent-up energy it could muster – which was a considerable amount, Ren knew, well aware of the Bug-type's enthusiasm for high speeds.

    A rumble sounded through the quarry as Camerupt stomped its enormous, boulderlike front leg in a sign of approval, its thickset head bobbing appreciatively as the sun washed over it. As Ren watched, Braviary flapped down from his perch to take up a position atop one of the two volcanic cones that thrust upwards from the huge Pokemon's back. Camerupt was by far the largest Pokemon Ren had raised – a colossus of stone and flesh – so large, in fact, that it seemed like a real mountain with the impressive Flying-type on top of it.

    A quiet humming filled the air as Ren turned to look at the only one of his Pokemon that had released itself behind him – Solrock. Its rocky golden spines were glowing slightly as it levitated a good couple of metres off the ground. Eyes closed in serene contentment, it seemed to be surrounded by a faint nimbus of golden light. Ren realised that it was also soaking up the sunlight, only a lot more literally than the rest of his team.

    Well, guys,” he said, causing them all to turn and look at him expectantly, “I guess we should get started. Braviary, have you been able to catch Yanmega yet?” While he still refused to blink, Braviary averted his eyes slightly, which gave Ren all the answer he needed. “Right, then,” he said, trying to hold back a smile. “Let me see what you guys can do.”

    Braviary needed no further encouragement. With a loud, keening skrike, he launched himself off Camerupt's back and pelted towards the hovering bug-type, cleaving effortlessly through the air. Ren watched with satisfaction as the two wheeled and spun through the air above him, carefully observing their movements. As ever, Braviary was easily the faster of the two, his enormous, red-and-blue wings more than making up for his bulk. Yanmega's agility, however, was unparalleled, and it easily flew rings around the bigger Pokemon.

    Braviary, slow down a little,” Ren called, struck by a sudden thought. Looking rather taken aback, Braviary braked slightly, allowing Yanmega – who had been flying around Braviary's wings – to shoot ahead of it. Clearly, Braviary understood exactly what Ren had meant, for he took advantage of the separation to immediately speed up and make another pass at Yanmega, who was now a clear few metres ahead of it. His harsh beak snapped eagerly, but Yanmega barely managed to buzz out of the way. A frustrated shriek echoed throughout the quarry as Braviary was denied his prey yet again.

    That's good,” Ren said. “Keep trying that.” The problem, he had noticed, was that Yanmega had been shrewdly using Braviary's own body against it, ducking under and rolling over it to avoid the talons and beak that sought to capture it. The sudden deceleration had momentarily overcome that, allowing Braviary a clear shot. Yanmega had reacted instinctively, but it had been a far nearer miss than usual. The Bug-type would be wise to the trick now, but it would make it only marginally easier to avoid.

    As the two wheeled and dived overhead, Ren turned to his other Pokemon. Solrock seemed quite happy to bask in the sunlight for the moment, so Ren decided to let it be. Camerupt snorted eagerly, but Ren eyed their surroundings warily, well aware of how unsafe the quarry was. He had never dislodged any of the loose rocks around the bowl before, but he was unwilling to risk generating an earthquake. “Sorry, buddy,” he said with a grimace. “You might have to sit this one out for today. Watch Braviary and Yanmega for a while. Make sure they don't eat each other.”

    Rumbling in disappointment, Camerupt nevertheless turned its attention upwards as best it could with its stocky neck, leaving Ren to chew his lip as he stared thoughtfully at Zangoose and Manectric. At length, he clapped his hands once. “Right,” he said. “Speed training all round. Zangoose, let's see if you can catch Manectric.”

    Zangoose shot him a look that quite clearly said, Are you mad? While Ren was well aware that the Normal-type would climb into hell if he asked it, he was aware that it probably thought this an exercise in futility. Fiercely competitive though it was, Zangoose had eventually – and grudgingly – come to accept that speed was Manectric's domain. The blue and yellow Pokemon was the embodiment of a lightning bolt, after all.

    What, don't think you can do it?” Ren taunted good-naturedly. Zangoose's eyes narrowed, but it refused to rise to the bait.

    Ren sighed. “Look, just give it a shot, all right? Manectric, run around in as big of a circle as you can.”

    Manectric barked and was gone in a flash of yellow. Ren lost sight of it for a second, but then his eyes latched onto the blur that dashed around the edge of the flat area at the bottom of Quarry #133. He saw Zangoose's eyes following the blur as well, and smiled. “Listen,” he said. “Manectric is moving in a predictable pattern at a constant speed. It's fast, but you should still be able to intercept it like that with a little practice.”

    Zangoose hissed suspiciously, but crouched lower to the ground, preparing to spring. Red eyes narrowed in concentration, its pupils flicking from left to right and then back again as Manectric blasted across its field of vision again and again. After a few seconds, Ren noticed its body rocking slightly. He was confused for a moment, but then he realised that it was simply adjusting its rhythm to that of Manectric. Good. First step, done – without me having to say anything.


    With a yowl, Zangoose suddenly bounded forward. Manectric, however, was already well past as Zangoose leaped. Ren blinked as Zangoose's jump pushed it higher than he had expected, gaining it several seconds of airtime. As it came back down, Manectric was already rushing back around towards it. The timing was almost perfect.

    Almost. With an almighty crash, Zangoose struck the ground right at the point where the bottom of the quarry met the wall, but Manectric was over two metres away by the time the attack landed, skidding to a halt to stand watching proudly. Zangoose yowled in frustration and struck out at the sloping wall, rubble spraying out from the point of impact.

    Ren grinned nonetheless. “That's it!” he said. Seeing Zangoose's confused glance, he amended, “Well, that's not quite it, but you were far closer than I thought you'd be on the first time. I'm impressed! Do you see how it works, though?”

    Zangoose inclined its head in grudging agreement as it trudged back over to stand by Ren, who scratched it behind the ear. “Try again,” he said. “Make sure you read the rhythm. Manectric, go one more time!” he added, raising his voice slightly. Manectric barked and obediently went tearing off around the edge of the basin again.

    Zangoose settled into the rhythm more quickly this time, wavering back and forward, left and right as it fixed its aim on Manectric. Without warning, it charged again, feet pounding the ground and then lifting it, powerful muscles propelling it upwards in an enormous arc. Ren watched with bated breath as the two Pokemon flew towards what surely had to be a collision point. Zangoose was going to hit its target on just the second try. Manectric raced around its circle, heading straight for the point where Zangoose was going to land. When the two Pokemon were barely a metre apart – just as all doubt disappeared from Ren's mind – Manectric stopped, leaving Zangoose to crash uncontrollably into the wall.

    Ren frowned. “Manectric,” he said sharply. “What was that for? I didn't realise we were playing chicken!” Zangoose also hissed angrily at the Electric-type, clearly incensed at being denied its target.

    Manectric yelped in protest, seeming to strain against an invisible wall. Looking more closely, Ren saw a faint pink glow surrounding its body. He sighed and ran his hand through his hair as he turned to glare at the only unoccupied member of his party. “Solrock,” he growled. “What have I told you about playing jokes like that? Let him go.”

    Solrock bounced gently in midair, its round eyes sparkling with amusement. Sounding a single, musical note that echoed around the area, it released Manectric, who bounded over to bark grumpily at it.

    A loud shriek from just behind Ren caused him to duck sharply – and just in time, too. Braviary swooped through where his head had just been, wickedly sharp claws extended in pursuit of Yanmega. Standing up again, Ren shook his head and smiled as the enormous Flying-type continued to pursue its frustratingly elusive target

    Zangoose, Manectric, you keep that up. I can trust you not to hurt each other, I hope.” Zangoose shot him a sideways look, but nodded. “Good. And you,” he said, glaring at the mischievous Solrock, “can come with me and practice your Fire Spin.”

    Solrock thrummed reluctantly. “Yes, it helped us beat Steven. Yes, it took out his Metagross. But it still lacks a bit of refinement. Don't give me that look, you know it too. Now, I want you to-”

    Ren Goodwin!”

    Ren's eyes snapped upwards. He knew that voice, though he hadn't heard it for years. Could it be? He couldn't be sure. The man standing at the quarry entrance was tall and bulky, dressed all in jeans and a white polo shirt, but that was all he could make out from forty metres below.


    The man started down the path at a run, and Ren simply stood, turning slowly on the spot, and watched him draw closer as his Pokemon stopped what they were doing to stand with him. As the black-haired newcomer came further down the side of the quarry, Ren grew more and more certain of his identity. Hell, he's changed, though, he thought.

    Long time no see, Cole,” Ren said with a smile as he stepped forward to greet his older cousin. “You're . . . really big now.” It was true. Cole was well over six feet tall, and rather broad in the shoulders and torso. He had always been bigger than Ren – he was seven years older, after all – but since Ren had left, he had filled out a great deal.

    Cole laughed good-naturedly, his breathing barely affected by running down the twisting path. “You've got a good bit bigger yourself, but you're still a squirt,” he chuckled. “I wasn't expecting to find you all the way out here, but look at you! I guess you still remember this place, huh?”

    Of course,” Ren said, allowing his cousin to pull him into an affectionate bear hug and ruffle his hair. As always, he felt like a ragdoll in Cole's grip. “I had to come back here.”

    I guess you remembered what you once said about it being the perfect place to train Pokemon. I heard your bird making a racket from some way away and had to check it out,” Cole said, glancing past Ren at the Pokemon that had arrayed themselves behind him.

    You never did bring yours out up here for some reason,” Ren mused, suddenly remembering. “Why was that?”

    Cole's smile flickered momentarily. “Don't you remember? It's because we promised to come here to train and battle together someday. This was going to be our 'super-awesome secret intense training ground'.”

    Oh . . .” Ren said, suddenly feeling more than a little guilty. “I guess I . . . did forget that, huh?” He found himself unable to meet his cousin's eyes.

    Hmm . . .” Cole looked thoughtful for a moment, but then he snapped his fingers. “I've got it!”

    Huh?”

    You can battle me right here and now! If you do that, I'll forgive you.”

    Are you . . . sure?” Ren asked. “I mean, I don't want to sound like an *** or anything, but I am the Champion now.”

    That doesn't matter,” Cole said dismissively, fishing in his pocket for a couple of Poke Balls. “I always knew you were gonna be better than me anyway. The important thing is that we battle, and we do it now. I've only got two Pokemon on me at the moment, though, so it's gonna have to be a quick one. We can catch up and be all nostalgic together later.” He started to release his Pokemon, but caught himself and stopped. “Here, you pick your two before I send 'em out. You don't get any advantages.”

    Ren raised an eyebrow. Cole was just like his sister Natasha in a way, he realised – quite convinced that he could do what he liked, when he liked, and how he liked. “All right,” he said. Braviary looks a bit worn out from chasing Yanmega, and Camerupt will probably bring the whole quarry down on our heads. Zangoose and Manectric have both had an outing lately, so that leaves . . . “Yanmega, Solrock. You guys are up. The rest of you can take a break and watch.”

    Yanmega buzzed eagerly across to hover at Ren's left shoulder, clearly spoiling for a fight after so long cooped up in its Poke Ball. Solrock moved a little more serenely, but Ren could tell that it was just as excited in its own unfathomable way.

    Good?” Ren asked, cocking an eyebrow as he felt the familiar thrill of battle beginning to rise in his heart. This was different to Roxanne and Vila. Vila had been an amateur, no serious challenge at all, and Roxanne had been a familiar face using familiar strategies. He hadn't seen his cousin for five years, and he had never paid any particular attention to people's battling styles in those younger days. He didn't even know which Pokemon Cole had, though he could make an educated guess about one of them.

    Yeah, that'll do fine,” Cole said with a grin that screamed confidence. He had to have a reason for that, Ren deduced. It had to be something to do with the type matchups. “How are we gonna do this?”

    “Yanmega,” Ren said quietly. “You're first.” It was a standard strategy when facing unfamiliar opponents; Yanmega was the most capable of evading attacks, meaning that it was least likely to suffer from a disadvantageous type matchup. Still, if he pulls out a Rock-type . . . “You're the challenger, so you can choose your first Pokemon after you've seen mine,” Ren said. “Both Trainers can switch their Pokemon at will, and the battle ends when both Pokemon on one side are judged unable to battle. Sound all right?”

    That works. Don't we need a referee?”

    It's fine,” Ren said. “We'll both play nice, won't we?”

    Of course. Let's do this thing, then.” Cole turned suddenly and jogged back to the opposite side of the quarry, leaving Ren to do the same as his remaining Pokemon stepped back out of the way. Yanmega shot forwards, taking up an offensive position in the middle of the open space, habitually placing itself near a cluster of half-cut blocks of slate that could provide cover if necessary.

    Ren hastily sized up the battlefield, nodding appreciatively. He would have placed Yanmega exactly where it was, given the choice. It always felt good to see his Pokemon learning and growing, and he felt a sudden flush of pride.

    The few clumps of slate chunks aside, the roughly circular area was largely clear of obstruction – a perfect battlefield.

    By the way, Ren,” Cole called from the other end, “I won't let you hear the end of it if you go easy on me, all right?”

    “Wouldn't dream of it!” Ren shouted back. “Now let's go! You can call the first move as soon as you choose your Pokemon!” He saw Cole look down at the Poke Balls in his hands, his head lowered for several seconds while he weighed them against other. At length, he tossed one straight upwards.

    At the peak of its arc, the ball burst open and a powerful, avian shriek rattled Ren's teeth in his head. An enormous, black and grey Flying-type wheeled overhead, a sharply hooked crest visible on its head. It was bulkier than Braviary, but moved more slowly and ponderously.

    Nice Staraptor,” Ren said, more to himself than his opponent. He saw Cole's hand fly up, and Staraptor dived towards the still-unmoving Yanmega with a speed that belied its rotund form. The battle was on.
    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. #64
    The Dimension Wizard Flaze's Avatar Moderator
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    Default Re: Champion Game {Chapter 19}

    All right well chapter 18 and 19 seem to be break chapters as well though it seems like we're going to be shifting towards Ren's real life for a while now.

    I can't believe that such a quiet person like Selinthia could be so hurtful I mean I know that they pretty much only see Ren as the guy that's supposed to come for a couple of hours and then leave but he is the one that's keeping them alive so they have to at least consider his feelings. Personally I think that while Elly might be violent towards him she might be the one that actually cares more about his opinion.

    Just a quick question though; when did Ren go to Johto, it was probably mentioned before but it still eludes me as to when it could've happened and how and why for that matter.

    I don't have much to say about chapter 19 except that it's nice to finally see Ren's full team once more, aside from that it seems like a training chapter, though I did like your description of the quarry and Slateport.

  5. #65
    Yeezy taught me The Booty Warrior's Avatar
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    Default Re: Champion Game {Chapter 19}

    YEAH BOI, I finally managed to catch up on all this. Sorry for not reviewing for so long. I feel like an asshole + a schlong.

    Since I had so many chapters to catch up on, I'll only be able to give out a shorter, general review. ;_;

    So far, still no sign of spelling or grammar mistakes.

    One thing I like that you touched upon that was sort of gnawing at the back of my head was the nature of Ren's relationship with the spirits. It's true that he's their Yehktira, but they aren't obligated to get along with him, it seems. Plus, regardless of how necessary he is, he's still a kid, so I guess he must really feel useless compared to Steven. It definitely is hard for him or anyone in his situation to realize that he now has an obligation beyond himself, and it's pretty sad to see how cold the reality is when being delivered by Salinthia. When I read that part, I was thinking, "Aww, shit, man!" and I wanted to give poor Ren a squee hug (I'm sure it'd be okay, right? I'm, like, two or three years older than him ;) ).

    That battle in the World of Dreams, holy snap. Now I think I can see what you meant when you said Kingdom Hearts and Bleach were an inspiration for this fic. In this case, I think it'd be more along the lines of Kingdom Hearts, because Nekros, as far as I could tell from the reading, seems to be an Iehkti'na himself and he's in command of them, much like Ansem the Seeker of Darkness was in the first game. It also introduced some more characters. I can't say much about them, but it would appear that a lot of them are still friendly.

    Also, glad to see you weren't lying about getting some information on what's going on with the Yehktira. It sort of answers my question. I assume that high levels of yehkti are required for the degrading Soul Bonds?

    And judging by Cecilia's comments, I guess that Ren's one of those rare breed of Yehktira, and considering he's the protagonist and he has great deduction ability, he's just what they need to solve this conflict.

    It was a nice transition back to reality. I'm curious as to what's up with Ren's dad. If he's right, and the two of them don't have a bad relationship, what's with the hiding of his step-family? Hmm...

    I also enjoyed those comments about Ren as a child and how he is now. It seems almost...traumatic, in a way. He's not even a grown adult and his life is already growing incredibly complex.

    That's all I can remember to talk about. I like how things have developed, and I eagerly await more. Excellent work.

    Well, there is one thing I was dying to say. Watching Elly's behavior, justifiably pissed off as it was, I couldn't help but have one thought running through my head. After all, Ren's still getting adjusted to this, and she's still being angry with him. I mean, I have a personal tendency to take a few characterization points off for Tsunderes who don't have an explanation for their behavior or don't face the consequences of their actions, but since a lot of her anger appears justified in recent chapters, given the stress, I'm willing to wait some more before I dock dem points.

    Anyways, as for that thought before I went off rambling...

    Does Ren need to slap a bitch?
    "I never sleep, 'cause sleep is the cousin of death." - Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones, N.Y. State of Mind

  6. #66
    Unova's #1 Yancy fan Seizon Senryaku's Avatar
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    Default Re: Champion Game {Chapter 19}

    Quote Originally Posted by Sky Flame Haze
    All right well chapter 18 and 19 seem to be break chapters as well though it seems like we're going to be shifting towards Ren's real life for a while now.
    Pretty much, yeah. Though I'd still like it to be a roughly even balance between the two, so I'm keeping an eye on how much time we're spending in each. If it feels too unbalanced, please let me know.

    I can't believe that such a quiet person like Selinthia could be so hurtful I mean I know that they pretty much only see Ren as the guy that's supposed to come for a couple of hours and then leave but he is the one that's keeping them alive so they have to at least consider his feelings. Personally I think that while Elly might be violent towards him she might be the one that actually cares more about his opinion.
    That's a fair enough observation, I guess. At the same time, though . . . they're under no obligation to be nice to him. While it's true that he's doing his thing for their sake, he's also doing it for the sake of his own world, too - that is, he doesn't have a choice if he wants his universe to continue existing. As such, they're well entitled to do whatever they like to ensure that the Soul Bonds remain whole - even if that involves locking Ren up or whatever.

    Just a quick question though; when did Ren go to Johto, it was probably mentioned before but it still eludes me as to when it could've happened and how and why for that matter.
    Actually, no. It hasn't been mentioned yet - to the best of my knowledge, at least. (This fic is as long as Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone already, so I guess I could be forgiven if I lost a word or two.) At any case, you haven't missed it. A trip to Johto wouldn't have taken too long, anyway - especially considering he only earned two badges while he was there. I have the whole timeline of Ren's previous journey plotted out, by the way. So everything has its place.

    I don't have much to say about chapter 19 except that it's nice to finally see Ren's full team once more, aside from that it seems like a training chapter, though I did like your description of the quarry and Slateport.
    Yeah, I figured it was time we had some more actual Pokemon in this Pokemon fanfic. :>

    Quote Originally Posted by Johnny Gaddar
    YEAH BOI, I finally managed to catch up on all this. Sorry for not reviewing for so long. I feel like an asshole + a schlong.
    Aww, you're not. I really appreciate you coming by to give me your opinion.

    Since I had so many chapters to catch up on, I'll only be able to give out a shorter, general review. ;_;

    So far, still no sign of spelling or grammar mistakes.
    Huzzah! I'm eternally terrified of embarrassing typos.

    One thing I like that you touched upon that was sort of gnawing at the back of my head was the nature of Ren's relationship with the spirits. It's true that he's their Yehktira, but they aren't obligated to get along with him, it seems. Plus, regardless of how necessary he is, he's still a kid, so I guess he must really feel useless compared to Steven. It definitely is hard for him or anyone in his situation to realize that he now has an obligation beyond himself, and it's pretty sad to see how cold the reality is when being delivered by Salinthia. When I read that part, I was thinking, "Aww, shit, man!" and I wanted to give poor Ren a squee hug (I'm sure it'd be okay, right? I'm, like, two or three years older than him ;) ).
    I reckon he could probably do with a hug at this point, yeah. And yes, there's something a little scary about a young character suddenly gaining a great responsibility to shoulder, and it's something I made sure to show because I've seen it entirely ignored in too many fanfics - and, indeed, 'proper' books. While Ren is not extraordinarily special - possibly even a bit boring - the one thing I really want to prove is that he's human. I think that's more important in a character than some other things. /rant

    That battle in the World of Dreams, holy snap. Now I think I can see what you meant when you said Kingdom Hearts and Bleach were an inspiration for this fic. In this case, I think it'd be more along the lines of Kingdom Hearts, because Nekros, as far as I could tell from the reading, seems to be an Iehkti'na himself and he's in command of them, much like Ansem the Seeker of Darkness was in the first game. It also introduced some more characters. I can't say much about them, but it would appear that a lot of them are still friendly.
    Yep, I guess so. To be fair, I had only played Days when I started drawing on KH for influence, so it's more stylistic - in terms of the Iehkti'na and so on - than in the actual structure or plot, but having recently had a good go at KH2, I can see a surprising number of parallels floating around that shock even me. And yes, Nekros is one of them. He is the one who rose from the . . . wait, that's a spoiler, isn't it? (Also, this means I can finally possibly take a look at the fic in your signature. n_n)

    Also, glad to see you weren't lying about getting some information on what's going on with the Yehktira. It sort of answers my question. I assume that high levels of yehkti are required for the degrading Soul Bonds?
    It wouldn't hurt, definitely. It doesn't seem that it would go anywhere towards fixing them properly, though . . . unfortunately.

    And judging by Cecilia's comments, I guess that Ren's one of those rare breed of Yehktira, and considering he's the protagonist and he has great deduction ability, he's just what they need to solve this conflict.
    Yeah, it might just be like that. It might be necessary to engage in diplomacy rather than warfare . . . Or then again, maybe there'll just have to be some ass-kicking. Currently working on how I'm going to handle this. I may have bitten off more than I can chew.

    It was a nice transition back to reality. I'm curious as to what's up with Ren's dad. If he's right, and the two of them don't have a bad relationship, what's with the hiding of his step-family? Hmm...
    I guess we'll just have to find out. It's actually not a major deal at all, in a way.

    I also enjoyed those comments about Ren as a child and how he is now. It seems almost...traumatic, in a way. He's not even a grown adult and his life is already growing incredibly complex.
    I swear, I'm not trying to make him a woobie. Well, he does seem to be dealing with it in a relatively sensible manner so far, apart from, y'know . . . blowing up in Salinthia's face about it all. >_>

    That's all I can remember to talk about. I like how things have developed, and I eagerly await more. Excellent work.

    Well, there is one thing I was dying to say. Watching Elly's behavior, justifiably pissed off as it was, I couldn't help but have one thought running through my head. After all, Ren's still getting adjusted to this, and she's still being angry with him. I mean, I have a personal tendency to take a few characterization points off for Tsunderes who don't have an explanation for their behavior or don't face the consequences of their actions, but since a lot of her anger appears justified in recent chapters, given the stress, I'm willing to wait some more before I dock dem points.
    All right, thanks for the warning. Yeah, I'll be keeping a weather eye on her characterisation in future. I haven't written anybody of her character type before (hell, most of my characters in earlier fics may as well have been cardboard cut-outs), so I'm sounding it out as I go along. I'm a big fan of the tsundere archetype in anime and such, but writing one is a different story.

    Anyways, as for that thought before I went off rambling...

    Does Ren need to slap a bitch?
    Maybe . . . just maybe, he does. Thanks for reading and reviewing so extensively! You've given me a lot to think about.

    (I'll throw Chapter 20 out later today, btw. Kind of forgot about it with school and all.)
    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

  7. #67
    Yeezy taught me The Booty Warrior's Avatar
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    Default Re: Champion Game {Chapter 19}

    Quote Originally Posted by Misheard Whisper View Post

    Aww, you're not. I really appreciate you coming by to give me your opinion.
    ;_; *hug* I'm glad to hear that. It's always a good feeling on the part of the reviewer that their comments are helping a brotha/sista out.

    Huzzah! I'm eternally terrified of embarrassing typos.
    That's not too much of a worry in your case. If there's only one or two, and that's an epicly massive "if", then the rest of the story was enough to gloss over it.

    I reckon he could probably do with a hug at this point, yeah. And yes, there's something a little scary about a young character suddenly gaining a great responsibility to shoulder, and it's something I made sure to show because I've seen it entirely ignored in too many fanfics - and, indeed, 'proper' books. While Ren is not extraordinarily special - possibly even a bit boring - the one thing I really want to prove is that he's human. I think that's more important in a character than some other things. /rant
    Ah, I see. I agree, a lot of times the character's thoughts on his or her new responsibility is rarely given attention. On a side note, that also can be considered a Mary Sue trait, so if you were taking massive pains to ensure Ren isn't one, kudos, brah, 'cause dat's one mo' struck down from the list.

    Yep, I guess so. To be fair, I had only played Days when I started drawing on KH for influence, so it's more stylistic - in terms of the Iehkti'na and so on - than in the actual structure or plot, but having recently had a good go at KH2, I can see a surprising number of parallels floating around that shock even me. And yes, Nekros is one of them. He is the one who rose from the . . . wait, that's a spoiler, isn't it? (Also, this means I can finally possibly take a look at the fic in your signature. n_n)
    Ah, so I guess it was a coincidence in this case? So, Nekros really is one of them, the one who...dayumn, now all the fillin' feelin' I got from reading all of this just vanished and now I hunger for more!

    As for that last bit...

    ...

    ;_; *Squee hug* I'm grateful for the offer. I can now tell my moms and my granny that they were right about patience being a virtue.

    It wouldn't hurt, definitely. It doesn't seem that it would go anywhere towards fixing them properly, though . . . unfortunately.
    Hmm...so it would appear that the problem is still beyond the understanding of the good guys?

    Yeah, it might just be like that. It might be necessary to engage in diplomacy rather than warfare . . . Or then again, maybe there'll just have to be some ass-kicking. Currently working on how I'm going to handle this. I may have bitten off more than I can chew.
    Well, even if you did, it certainly isn't too late to catch yourself. If anything, it could probably be more akin to a stumble, rather than a full-on fall, right?

    I guess we'll just have to find out. It's actually not a major deal at all, in a way.
    I see. Well, in that case, I'm still eager to see how things turn out.

    I swear, I'm not trying to make him a woobie. Well, he does seem to be dealing with it in a relatively sensible manner so far, apart from, y'know . . . blowing up in Salinthia's face about it all. >_>
    I thought the definition of a woobie was someone who suffers externally, regardless of how he reacts to the events? Well, maybe it's just that reading about characters and their suffering pulls out my compassion rather easily. I suppose, if he's a woobie at all, he's an Iron Woobie? Or a Stoic Woobie?

    All right, thanks for the warning. Yeah, I'll be keeping a weather eye on her characterisation in future. I haven't written anybody of her character type before (hell, most of my characters in earlier fics may as well have been cardboard cut-outs), so I'm sounding it out as I go along. I'm a big fan of the tsundere archetype in anime and such, but writing one is a different story.
    Well, I'm sure you'll be able to nail it properly. Hell, some might even be interpreting Elly's forceful affirmation of Ren's faith in her as a sort of sign of her deredere side.

    Maybe . . . just maybe, he does. Thanks for reading and reviewing so extensively! You've given me a lot to think about.
    Glad to be of help! ^_^

    (I'll throw Chapter 20 out later today, btw. Kind of forgot about it with school and all.)
    Hoo, boy, this is gonna be good! Can't wait!
    Last edited by The Booty Warrior; 23rd September 2011 at 08:10 PM.
    "I never sleep, 'cause sleep is the cousin of death." - Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones, N.Y. State of Mind

  8. #68
    Unova's #1 Yancy fan Seizon Senryaku's Avatar
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    Default Chapter Twenty - SolarBeam

    Quote Originally Posted by Johnny Gaddar
    Ah, I see. I agree, a lot of times the character's thoughts on his or her new responsibility is rarely given attention. On a side note, that also can be considered a Mary Sue trait, so if you were taking massive pains to ensure Ren isn't one, kudos, brah, 'cause dat's one mo' struck down from the list.
    Well, yes. Tbh, I do that with most all of my protagonists, but it usually has the unfortunate side effect of making them as boring and flat as a side of meat. Trying for more of a balance with Ren, but yes, that was a deliberate effort to prevent Sue-ness.

    (Also, guys, this is a milestone chapter. I'm so happy to have come even this far. My longest fic before this, Shattered, was nine chapters long when I dropped it, and this will hopefully go for much longer. *knock on wood* Thanks for letting me drag you along on this confusing tale, and believe me when I say that I love each and every single person who reads this. More emotional, drunk declarations of love will doubtless follow at Chapter Thirty. :P)

    Chapter Twenty
    SolarBeam


    Go!” The command had barely left Ren's lips when Yanmega sprang into action. The tone of its throaty thrumming changed as it zoomed forward, seeming to head straight towards Staraptor. At the last moment, it spun aside, allowing the wind from its opponent's large wings to push it even further out of the way, throwing it into a controlled spiral that brought it close to a second pile of slate chips that varied in size from mere pebbles to chunks the size of Ren's head.

    Ren saw what Yanmega was after, and was more than happy to go along with it. “Ancientpower! Hit it from behind!”

    Its enormous, multifaceted red eyes seeming to glow, Yanmega's buzzing grew almost unimaginably loud. A slight rattling became audible, but it was not immediately obvious where it came from. It became abundantly clear just a second later, however, when the ground behind Yanmega erupted in a shower of slate. In midair, the jagged chunks of rock – some further broken down and cracked by being lifted – changed trajectory and flew towards Staraptor like huge, sharp bullets.

    Staraptor had been busy trying to compensate for its missed attack when Yanmega launched its counter, and as such it was still facing the opposite direction. As it turned back towards its opponent, it flew straight into a hail of rocks moving at supernatural speeds.

    To its credit – and Cole's – it actually avoided most of the Ancientpower attack, ducking and weaving with surprising agility between the oncoming missiles. Several of them did graze it, however, leaving the Flying-type somewhat battered.

    Ren glanced at the ledge that his non-battling team members had retreated to. Was Braviary watching? Sure enough, his own Flying Pokemon had its eyes riveted to Cole's Staraptor. Ren grinned. Good. Watch and learn. In the meantime . . . He turned his attention back to the battle. He probably wouldn't be lucky enough to get another Ancientpower in like that. The element of surprise, at least, had vanished, and he knew full well that that was half of his advantage.

    He noticed, however, that Staraptor seemed somewhat more affected than he would have thought it would be, given the relatively light attack it had weathered. Why is that? Of course, it's not as well-trained as Yanmega . . . Vila aside, I've battled nothing but high-level Trainers lately.

    We can press that!” he said aloud. He started to direct Yanmega upwards, but the Pokemon had predicted his order, rapidly ascending straight upwards. By placing itself above the shaken Staraptor, it had an immediate advantage in this battle – both physical and mental.

    Aerial Ace!” Cole shouted, and Staraptor responded instantly by barrelling upwards towards Yanmega, beak outstretched. Its speed seemed to defy the laws of physics. Even as Ren opened his mouth to order Yanmega out of the way, it was moving, but he knew it would not be fast enough to dodge Staraptor's blistering speed.

    Sure enough, Yanmega took a glancing blow to one of its wings, sending it tumbling helplessly towards the ground. Less than a foot away from the unforgiving shale floor of the quarry, it righted itself and buzzed out of the way of a potentially lethal follow-up attack that Staraptor had launched, leaving the larger Pokemon to pull up in disappointment.

    Ren thought fast. Cole was doing better than he had predicted, simply through his Pokemon's size and type advantage. It was clearly trained for speed, but its defenses were poor. He would have to finish this quickly if he was to finish it at all. He had lost the height advantage, though, and he was unlikely to regain it. Regardless, a plan formed in his mind, quickly pieced together from past experience.

    Staraptor! Dive!” Cole thundered, sweeping his arm down in a somewhat melodramatic fashion.

    Click. Something in Ren's head fell into place, and he shouted, “Ancientpower, one more time! Ring formation, and hold it!”

    Yanmega buzzed agreement, its eyes glowing with exertion once again as it telekinetically ripped huge chunks of slate from the ground around it. They flew into the air just above Yanmega, forming a rough circle in the air. If anything flew into the circle, it would be crushed – and Staraptor was heading straight for it, seemingly unable to adjust its trajectory.

    Go around that, Staraptor! Get behind it and hit it while it's distracted!” Cole barked.

    Ren swore silently as Staraptor peeled off at the last second. He had sprung the trap too soon, and now he was caught in it as Staraptor swept around behind Yanmega, who was still occupied with holding the rocks in the air. Just as he was about to order a full retreat, Ren was struck by a further idea. “Hold the rocks there!” he cried. “Hit it when there's an opening!”

    Don't give him one, Staraptor!” Cole roared. “Close Combat!” Staraptor shrieked assent and dived at the hovering Yanmega, buffetting it with its powerful wings. Yanmega could not launch its attack without destroying itself as well.

    Ren bit his lip as he watched his Pokemon take a beating, still valiantly struggling to hold the rocks in the air to the exclusion of all else. A few of the shards of slate wobbled and dropped, and Ren knew he had to act fast. Suddenly struck by a further stroke of inspiration, Ren brought his hand up to catch Yanmega's attention before slashing it sharply downwards.

    Yanmega understood. Its wings stopped buzzing, and it dropped like a stone to the ground below, leaving Staraptor alone and momentarily confused. “Now!” Ren said, and Yanmega sent all of the floating rocks whizzing into Staraptor. There were no glancing grazes this time; every one of the chunks of rock hit its target, smashing into the larger Pokemon. With a cry, Staraptor fell to the ground, a bundle of limp feathers.

    Yanmega lifted its head with a touch of exhaustion, and then forced itself up off the ground and into the air once more. Five seconds passed, then ten. Staraptor remained where it had fallen, while Yanmega stayed aloft, hovering proudly at Ren's shoulder.

    Fantastic job,” he murmured at length. “Cole! I think your Staraptor's out for the count!”

    Cole nodded, returning the defeated battler to its Poke Ball in a flash of red light. “Tell me, Ren,” he said as he pocketed it again. “Why didn't you switch Pokemon? I don't doubt that your Solrock could have made short work of Staraptor. You're not going easy, are you? I warned you about that.”

    Of course not,” Ren said. “I wanted Solrock at full strength for whatever comes next. If it's what I think it is, I'm going to need all the help I can get.”

    Cole laughed. “Smart. And if I know you like you know me, I know you know exactly what I'm sending out next.”

    Ren frowned. “Uh . . . what?”

    I know,” Cole said with a grin.

    I'm sorry?”

    Never mind. Anyway, it's time! Floatzel, you're in this to win it!” With that, he hurled his second Poke Ball, revealing his second Pokemon. The big orange Water-type glanced around the makeshift arena curiously, seeming to recognise it.

    Of course he does, Ren berated himself. Buizel was always here with us when I was a kid. “I see you got him to evolve, then?”

    Of course!” Cole said, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. “I once dreamed of taking on the Pokemon League with this guy!”

    Really?” Ren said, interested. “When did that dream stop?”

    Oh, a few days ago. Some cousin of mine beat me to it!” Cole guffawed loudly.

    That's no reason to stop,” Ren protested.

    I'm kidding,” Cole said. “I'm too busy. I'm finishing university this year, and I have to go out and get a job once I'm done. I won't have time to keep up Pokemon training seriously. But hell, I said we'd talk afterwards! You going to bring Solrock out or stay with Yanmega?”

    Take a break, Yanmega,” Ren said quietly, directing Yanmega back towards the rest of his team. Solrock rose, unbidden, from its place and headed towards the centre of the battlefield. Its eyes no longer carried any hint of the mischief that had been evident just minutes before. It was all business now.

    Ren's mind went into overdrive as he tried to work out how to overcome the second massive type disadvantage of the battle. Solrock knew one move that could deal with Water-types like Floatzel, but its opponent's speed would likely prevent it from getting one off.

    Aqua Jet!” Cole said, clearly expecting an easy win. Floatzel drew himself up to his full height and spewed water from his mouth in a spiralling jet that wrapped around his body like a cloth. He charged forwards at a breakneck pace, the water forming a cone at his head that pointed straight at Solrock.

    Use Fire Spin on yourself to block it!” Ren said quickly, hoping it would do the trick. Solrock hummed and spun like a top, gouts of fire issuing from the tips of its spines and forming into a whirling pillar of intense flame that hid the Pokemon from sight. Ren flinched involuntarily at the heat.

    Floatzel was undeterred, however, leaping eagerly forwards, seeming to become one with the water that surrounded him. The combined jet of water and Pokemon scythed through the air and slammed into the fiery maelstrom with an impossibly loud hissing, crackling sound. Ren winced as Floatzel easily punched through the wall of flame.

    Solrock, however, was nowhere to be seen. The attack had missed. When the flames dissipated a moment later, Solrock was revealed, hovering proudly a good ten metres off the ground. Knowing as well as Ren did that its flames would wither before Floatzel's water, it had used the cover of the Fire Spin to move out of range of the attack.

    Let's make it fly!” Ren shouted. “Psychic!” He had to go on the offensive, or he would lose easily. Solrock hummed dangerously, spinning gently in midair as a purple glow – barely visible in the bright sunlight – enveloped both it and Floatzel, lifting the Water-type high off the ground until it was level with Solrock.

    That just makes things easier!” Cole said triumphantly. “Water Gun!” Seeming slightly deterred by the fact that it was far further from the ground than it was accustomed to, Floatzel nevertheless spouted a powerful jet of water from its mouth that gushed towards Solrock at high speed. Solrock spun and barely evaded the attack.

    Keep moving!” Ren yelled. “Don't let it pin you down! And start to charge that up while you're at it!” As Solrock started to move, circling the helpless Floatzel, Ren noticed that his Pokemon had already begun soaking up the sunlight. The bases of the spines that protruded from its round body were glowing a bright golden colour. As he watched, the colour began to slowly bleed along the rocky spines.

    Floatzel kept turning as best it could, firing blasts of pressurised water at his opponent, but the Psychic attack was clearly taking its toll. Its movements – already restricted by Solrock's telekinetic powers – were growing sluggish. All it needed was one lucky shot, though. Solrock's concentration would be broken, and Floatzel would be free to move again. Ren watched with growing anxiety as the bright gold light spread towards the tips of Solrock's spines.

    A jet of water clipped Solrock, sending it spinning. Floatzel fell freely for a second before Solrock regained control, meaning that the bulky Water-type now hovered just a metre or so off the ground. Clearly frustrated, it kept firing water at Solrock.

    Ren realised that he had been holding his breath. Just as he let it out in one huge exhalation, another Water Gun hit Solrock, driving it back a little and loosening its control just enough for Floatzel to hit the ground. “Now!” Ren screamed, not even looking to see whether Solrock was done.

    Thankfully, it seemed that it was. There was a distant rumble that seemed to shake his entire being, and then the entire quarry was painted bright, glaring white as a shaft of pure sunlight blasted out of the sky and smashed into Floatzel. Ren closed his eyes a split second too late and found the afterimage of the burning pillar of light seared into his retinas. A yell from the other end of the battlefield told him that Cole had suffered the same experience.

    A second after the light had shot down from above, it was followed by the arrival of a world-shaking, earth-shattering crash that seemed to rock the entire cliff that the quarry stood on. Ren pressed his hands over his ears, but he was unable to block out the noise.

    After several seconds, the light beating against Ren's eyelids dimmed, and he cracked his eyes open cautiously. It was still difficult to see; his pupils had been hugely confused by the sudden flash of light. As his vision cleared, however, he saw Floatzel lying prone on the ground.

    His breath coming in great gasps, Ren sat down heavily. “That was far closer than it needed to be,” he said to himself.

    It's my loss,” Cole said, striding forward and returning Floatzel to its Poke Ball. He came over to sit down next to Ren. His breathing was also heavier than normal, Ren noticed – even though running four hundred metres down the side of the quarry had barely fazed him. “You all right, cuz? You look a little out of it.”

    I guess I am,” Ren said. “That was the first proper battle I've had since I beat Steven, I guess.”

    What, you out of practice already? Didn't you beat him on, like, Wednesday or something?” Cole asked, arching an eyebrow.

    Yeah, but . . . I don't know. That was a good battle either way, though. I thought you had me with that Close Combat for a minute there.”

    I thought I had you, too,” Cole said with a laugh, “but look where that got me. Two-nil, huh? Jeez, I haven't been whitewashed like that for ages. Then again, I wouldn't expect any less from the Champion! Oh, yeah. I forgot to congratulate you properly for that. Well done, little man. You've done us all proud.”

    Thanks, Cole. I just hope I can keep it up.”

    What's that supposed to mean?” Cole asked, frowning.

    Oh, um . . . nothing,” Ren said. “Just a bit overwhelmed by everything that's going on.” He wished, for a brief, mad moment, that he could tell Cole everything. It seemed that everything would become so much easier if he just told his cousin about the world of dreams and the hefty responsibilities that had become his when he had beaten Steven. He knew he couldn't, though. As much as he trusted Cole – as much as he had never kept anything secret from him before – he knew he had to keep silent. Steven had made that much clear, and Ren had to agree with the logic.

    Well, you'll get used to it,” Cole said, ruffling Ren's hair reassuringly. “Ha, listen to me. I'm talking like I've been through it or something. Anyway, we should get going about now. I was on my way to Aunt Thalia's when I bumped into you.”

    It always sounds weird when you call her that,” Ren grumbled.

    Just because you're used to calling her 'Mom',” Cole said. “So you'll come with me, right? We can talk on the way.”

    Ren stood with a sigh, his eyes fixed on the gate at the top of the quarry. “Guess I can. That battle was training enough for everybody, I think. To tell the truth, I just came out here to take my mind off a few things.”

    After a few seconds, Ren realised that Cole had neither spoken nor moved, which was certainly uncharacteristic. He glanced back down at Cole, who was still sitting on the ground next to him, and was surprised to find his cousin watching him with a thoughtful, distant look in his eyes. Ren shot him a questioning look.

    I was just thinking . . . you've grown up a lot,” Cole said slowly.

    I'm not that tall,” Ren said with a frown, even though he knew that it wasn't what Cole had meant.

    No, not like that. Back then, you were always such a kid, you know? You were the little one that tagged along behind Tim and I all the time, always excited about something. It was like you were the little brother I didn't have. Now, I sit here and talk to you, and it's like I'm talking to someone my age, or even someone older. How did you get so . . .”

    Old?” Ren suggested with a quirk of the lip. “I guess . . . it happens. Some things never change, but some things do. I've been everywhere, Cole. I've seen so many things, and achieved so much. In five years, I've done more living than most people do in their whole lives. Wouldn't that sober anybody up pretty quickly?”

    Yeah,” Cole said quietly, standing up so that he once again towered over Ren, brushing grit off the seat of his pants as he did so. “C'mon, let's go back to your place. We've got some catching up to do.”

    Right,” Ren said, quickly returning his Pokemon to the capsules on his belt as he followed Cole up the path to the top of the quarry. Neither of them said anything until they reached the top, when they turned to look back down at the quarry, a massive bowl scooped out of the earth over decades of labour.

    I remember the first time we came out here together,” Cole said. “You were just six, and I was thirteen. You were so scared then. You thought you'd fall in and die, and it took me half an hour to convince you just to go near it.”

    Hey, Cole,” Ren said, letting his eyes roam freely across the middle distance.

    Mm?”

    Did it ever bother you?”

    Did what bother me?”

    Having me tailing along. I mean, Tim was only a couple of years younger than you, but I was . . . so far away. I must have been such a nuisance.”

    Nah, not at all. You were a cool kid. Bit nuts, but who isn't at that age? Why? Did it bother you? I never saw you with any kids your own age.”

    I was a bit of a loner, yeah,” Ren admitted as they turned and headed back towards the fence that ringed the old quarry. “It was mostly my fault, though. Whenever the other kids tried to get me involved with their hijinks, I always turned them down to hang out with you or stay at home with Mom. I always kind of felt that I'd be betraying you guys if I went to play with them.” He laughed, but it sounded a little hollow even to him. “Mom always told me that family was more important than anything else, and I guess I took that to heart. Kinda funny, considering what happened with Dad, but . . . I guess it makes sense. Not having him around just made me value you guys all the more. At least, that's what I think when I look back on it now.”

    You are old,” Cole said drily as he squeezed through the gap in the fence behind Ren. He made a beeline for the crack that led back down to the road.

    Ren forced a smile. Today was a weird day, he decided. “I think that's me talked out for a little bit,” he said. “Your turn. It's no mystery what I've been up to, but what have you been doing these last few years?”

    Well, ah . . . like I said, I'm finishing university this year – in Lilycove. The first semester finished a week ago, so I took the opportunity to come back home for a little bit before I go back for the last drag.”

    What are you studying, then?” Ren asked, suddenly extraordinarily aware that he knew next to nothing about the person he considered his closest friend.

    Commerce!” Cole said proudly. “International business and management, to be exact. I'm going to get right into it once I'm done with uni, so I've started looking for jobs with some of the big firms in town. Slateport's a huge hub for international trade – you know that, of course – so there's a huge number of possibilities there. I could be really successful without ever having to leave home!”

    That'd be nice,” Ren said, sliding carefully over a section of loose scree that he normally avoided. He was quite pleased to find that he could do it comfortably. “I was just about ready to come back home after I became Champion, but it seems I have to move around just as much as before. At least I get to be back in town some of the time, though.”

    It's good to have you here, Ren,” Cole said, his grin suddenly replaced by an unexpectedly frank expression. “I worry about the family, you know. Without a man around . . . Well, my dad's there, but he's . . . a little ineffectual sometimes. I feel a bit bad saying that, but it's the truth. With your dad in Unova, Uncle Murphy dead, me in Lilycove and Tim at boarding school in Kanto . . .”

    I get it,” Ren said, sparing Cole the trouble of stumbling over his words any further. “I can't be around here all the time, but I will be as much as I can.”

    Just . . . just look after them, okay? All of them. Your mom, my parents, Natasha – and especially Aunt Mabel. I worry about her all alone up there. I dropped by on Friday and she was in a bit of a state. She's not been the same since Uncle Murphy died ten years ago.”

    Ren nodded silently, coming to a brief halt at the bottom of the trail and looking out across the ocean again. It was just as beautiful as ever, but something in its unreadable depths suggested many, many strange things to come.

    I need to stop doing that, he scolded himself. I'm seeing messages that aren't there in perfectly ordinary things. First the park, and now this.

    Ren, you all right?” Cole asked.

    Y-yeah. I'm fine. Look, Cole, I . . . I'll look after them. I don't know how well I can do that, or even what I'll need to do, so I won't make any promises – except one. I'll promise you that I will do everything I can to make sure they're all right. I can't tell how far that promise will go until it's tested, but . . . it's the best I can offer.”

    That's all I wanted to hear, Ren,” Cole said as he started off down the road again. “I'll hold you to that.”

    No need,” Ren said with a slight smile. “I'll hold myself to it. That's not the sort of promise I'm going to break for anything.”

    You really do sound far older than you look,” he said.

    Will you stop saying that?”
    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. #69
    Yeezy taught me The Booty Warrior's Avatar
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    Default Re: Champion Game {Chapter 20}

    Haha, here we go!

    So, this was a battle chapter, eh? Very good.

    The fight scenes flowed on very well. I could easily picture the action, and it was pretty tense. My money was on Ren, what with him being champ and all, but I did get nervous when Cole started putting up a much better fight than anticipated. *Sweatdrop*

    I also enjoyed your clever useage of tactics. It was a nice spin on Ancientpower.

    Just one thing, though. Was Solrock using Psychic and charging Solarbeam at the same time?

    Now, then, as for the conversation them cousins had. Well, it was quite meaningful, and it gives us insight into Ren as a child. I gotta say, the way he says how he really took his mother's statement to heart was quite adorable.

    Cole has a point. Heck, I'd feel the same way if I were talking to that lil' champion. It's amazing how someone can change so easily in the Pokemon world. I think that's something not a lot of writers seem to touch upon. It also does show how plausible it was for Ren to grow into what he is today. After all, I think the general consensus is that you usually act your age more if you hang out with kids your age often. This is from personal experience.

    Well, not much else to say. I enjoyed this chapter, regardless, and I look forward to the next release. Excellent work! ^_^
    "I never sleep, 'cause sleep is the cousin of death." - Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones, N.Y. State of Mind

  10. #70
    Unova's #1 Yancy fan Seizon Senryaku's Avatar
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    Default Re: Champion Game {Chapter 20}

    Quote Originally Posted by Johnny Gaddar View Post
    Haha, here we go!

    So, this was a battle chapter, eh? Very good.

    The fight scenes flowed on very well. I could easily picture the action, and it was pretty tense. My money was on Ren, what with him being champ and all, but I did get nervous when Cole started putting up a much better fight than anticipated. *Sweatdrop*
    Good, I'm glad you felt that way. Soon after starting a fic about a Champion, I realised he'd kinda have to be winning all the time, and I wanted him to seem threatened by his opponents - without it being too formulaic. It didn't seem like 'Oh no, Ren's going to lose! Oh wait, he did something smart and snatched victory from the jaws of defeat!', did it?
    I also enjoyed your clever useage of tactics. It was a nice spin on Ancientpower.
    Thank you. Decided to use it (because Rock > Flying ofc) before I worked out how to write it. The move seems kind of daft, especially when it's a bug we're talking about, so I'm glad it seemed all right.

    Just one thing, though. Was Solrock using Psychic and charging Solarbeam at the same time?
    Yes. Yes, it was. I've seen moves being combined with each other in the anime and so on before (Buizel's Aqua Jet/Ice Beam springs to mind), so it didn't seem too far-fetched that Solrock, as an experienced Psychic battler, would be able to hold a Pokemon in the air while it took in sunlight. That didn't seem too forced, did it? /suddenlyworried

    Now, then, as for the conversation them cousins had. Well, it was quite meaningful, and it gives us insight into Ren as a child. I gotta say, the way he says how he really took his mother's statement to heart was quite adorable.

    Cole has a point. Heck, I'd feel the same way if I were talking to that lil' champion. It's amazing how someone can change so easily in the Pokemon world. I think that's something not a lot of writers seem to touch upon. It also does show how plausible it was for Ren to grow into what he is today. After all, I think the general consensus is that you usually act your age more if you hang out with kids your age often. This is from personal experience.
    Plausible? Huzzah! I've had Ren criticised by readers for acting too mature for his age, so I'm glad that it seems somewhat realistic now that some of his past's come out.

    And yes, kids grow up fast. :\ I can only imagine they would, given the massive responsibilities and freedoms they often have from the tender age of ten. In a way, it might not be a good thing.

    Well, not much else to say. I enjoyed this chapter, regardless, and I look forward to the next release. Excellent work! ^_^
    As always, a thousand thanks for stopping by, good sir.

    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. #71
    Yeezy taught me The Booty Warrior's Avatar
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    Default Re: Champion Game {Chapter 20}

    Quote Originally Posted by Misheard Whisper View Post
    Good, I'm glad you felt that way. Soon after starting a fic about a Champion, I realised he'd kinda have to be winning all the time, and I wanted him to seem threatened by his opponents - without it being too formulaic. It didn't seem like 'Oh no, Ren's going to lose! Oh wait, he did something smart and snatched victory from the jaws of defeat!', did it?
    Well, you certainly did a good job on throwing me off my game. It certainly didn't feel like how you were afraid. It was more like a constant back-and-forth exchange, with each side doing a good job of out-maneuvering the other.

    Thank you. Decided to use it (because Rock > Flying ofc) before I worked out how to write it. The move seems kind of daft, especially when it's a bug we're talking about, so I'm glad it seemed all right.
    Ah, yes, that makes sense. Though, I always figured Ancientpower fit Yanmega because the attack has...ancient in it, referring back to the prehistoric ages and eras, and there were gigantic dragonflies like Yanmega back then. I think the largest dragonfly there was was about two meters. Go figure. O_O

    Yes. Yes, it was. I've seen moves being combined with each other in the anime and so on before (Buizel's Aqua Jet/Ice Beam springs to mind), so it didn't seem too far-fetched that Solrock, as an experienced Psychic battler, would be able to hold a Pokemon in the air while it took in sunlight. That didn't seem too forced, did it? /suddenlyworried
    It definitely didn't seem too forced. Actually, I feel that Psychic types like Solrock or those Pokemon well in tune with nature or something would be best suited to making use of two moves at the same time.

    Plausible? Huzzah! I've had Ren criticised by readers for acting too mature for his age, so I'm glad that it seems somewhat realistic now that some of his past's come out.

    And yes, kids grow up fast. :\ I can only imagine they would, given the massive responsibilities and freedoms they often have from the tender age of ten. In a way, it might not be a good thing.
    So, he was criticized because he seemed to be acting a bit too beyond his years? That's odd, since at most, I could assume he was maybe around my age or two or three years older. Sure, he's intelligent, but from what you say, it seems as though readers were comparing him to a guru or something, and I certainly didn't see much like that.

    I agree. I have a feeling we'll be seeing more of the downsides of growing up fast sooner or later.

    As always, a thousand thanks for stopping by, good sir.

    Normally, I feel like a guru coming down from the mountain, but I had my guru beard taken from me recently, so boy does it feel good to feel like a sir.
    Last edited by The Booty Warrior; 5th February 2014 at 05:12 AM.
    "I never sleep, 'cause sleep is the cousin of death." - Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones, N.Y. State of Mind

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    The Dimension Wizard Flaze's Avatar Moderator
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    Default Re: Champion Game {Chapter 20}

    Am I gonna get an image like the one you gave JG because then I'll feel really bad :(

    Anyway the battle was pretty good I really like Ren's strategies though I think the battle against Floatzel was a little bit simple. Maybe you could've added a little more action to it or something to make it more interesting.

    I guess Ren really has changed if we compare it to what Cole is telling us and I have a feeling that he's going to change a lot more over the next few chapters. I really like Cole so far, mostly because we haven't exactly seen someone that Ren can openly talk to. Oddly enough Ren's and Cole's relationship reminds me of my relationship with my own cousin so you get extra points for that xD

    I guess I really suck at coming up with things to say but that's everything I got in my mind and my heart and sorry if I take too long to read the chapters.

  13. #73
    Unova's #1 Yancy fan Seizon Senryaku's Avatar
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    Default Chapter Twenty-One - More Dreams

    I live, ich lebe, yo vivo. Welcome back to Champion Game, guys. Sorry it's been so long. Exams have been truly harrowing lately, and I've really just not had the time to sit down and write. So I apologise sincerely. I can't promise when the next chapter will be, but regular updates will resume no later than December 1st, probably earlier.

    Chapter Twenty-One
    More Dreams


    Ren left his mother and Cole chatting at the kitchen table, excusing himself to his room. No sooner had he opened the door than his Pokenav – which had been sitting on the floor by the bed – rang insistently. He picked it up guiltily. “Hello?”

    Mr. Goodwin,” said a disapproving voice on the other end of the line.

    Mr. Etois,” said Ren tiredly. “Sorry, I went out and left my Pokenav behind. Have you been calling long?”

    Only about half an hour,” Gerard said drily. “But no matter. I am simply calling to inform you that your transport to Fortree has been arranged for tomorrow.”

    Oh, good,” Ren said. “So, what's happening?”

    Well . . .” Ren heard a note of disapproval in Gerard's voice.

    Is there something wrong?” he asked.

    Not as such, but . . . well, all I can tell you is that transport has been arranged.”

    Wait, seriously? Nothing else?”

    It has been requested that you be waiting outside your house at eight-thirty tomorrow morning.”

    Requested? By whom?” Ren frowned.

    Again, I have been asked not to say.”

    So you spent half an hour calling me just to tell me that you're not actually allowed to tell me anything?”

    Essentially. I feel it is something of an exercise in futility, but you are nevertheless informed now. Oh, and besides . . . I have spoken to the organisers of the Mauville Contest, and they are more than happy for you to come along and simply watch the proceedings on Thursday. They would like you to present the ribbon to the winner as well, but that will hardly be too strenuous, I imagine.”

    Of course. Yeah, I can do that.”

    Very well, then. Now, are you able to find transport to Mauville on Thursday?”

    Mauville? Oh, yeah, that's fine. I'll just take a train, or maybe I'll go by Cycling Road. Either way, I'll get there myself just fine.”

    Excellent. So remember, eight-thirty tomorrow. Have fun.”

    Sure,” Ren said, suddenly not entirely certain that he would. As the line went silent, he let his Pokenav drop to the bed beside him.

    You can't afford to be all uncertain now, he scolded himself. For Arceus' sake, you've been through too much already to let this kind of thing get to you. Nodding firmly, Ren took a deep breath, letting the warm, slightly dusty air fill his lungs. Feeling slightly better, he headed downstairs again.

    Are you all sorted for tomorrow, then?” his mother asked as Ren reentered the kitchen and pulled up a chair.

    Yeah. Well, I think so. He wasn't very clear. It seems somebody wants to surprise me. I'm just meant to be waiting outside at eight-thirty in the morning. Maybe they're sending a car, but I have no idea.”

    How enigmatic,” she mused, an amused twinkle in her eye. “I guess you'll just have to wait.”

    Whoa, hang on!” Cole interjected. “What's going on here?”

    I have to go to Fortree tomorrow,” Ren said. “They're having a festival of some sort . . . come to think of it, I actually don't know what that's going to involve. But I'm turning up as the Champion.”

    Oh. Promotional stuff, huh?”

    Yeah, I guess,” Ren said.

    You all right with that?” Cole asked, peering intently into Ren's eyes.

    Why wouldn't I be all right?” Ren countered, feigning puzzlement.

    Hmm,” Cole said, seeming somewhat unconvinced. “Never mind, then. It was just a thought. Still, that's pretty cool. I guess you have a whole lot of these things going on, huh?”

    I'm . . . busy,” Ren admitted. “This is how life is going to be for a while, it seems. I don't expect it'll get any less hectic anytime soon, but I guess it'll get easier as I get used to it.”

    Cole's eyes narrowed slightly as he observed Ren, but he evidently decided to let whatever had just crossed his mind pass without comment, for he turned to his aunt and engaged her in conversation about Aunt Mabel.

    Ren looked down at the dark, varnished whorls of the table, letting the voices of his mother and cousin fade into background noise. Cole had seen it in his eyes, he realised. While he had made light of his heavy duties as Champion, he should have known that he couldn't lie to his older cousin. Even if his lips spoke falsehoods, his eyes would always betray the truth. He had seen that understanding in Cole's own eyes.

    But what should I do? There was no way he could admit to how difficult it was. It wasn't like the world of dreams, which had to remain secret for an entirely different reason. In fact, there was no logical reason why Ren shouldn't admit to Cole how much trouble he was having, but still something stopped him. He supposed it was pride. He had spent so many years proving trying to prove to Cole – and to himself – that despite his age, he was able to hold his own with the older boys. Admitting how hard he was having it right now would somehow ruin that, he felt. I'm fourteen now, he told himself, clenching a fist under the table where nobody could see it. I've got to stop relying on other people here.

    Then what am I doing in the world of dreams? he wondered suddenly. I'm just leaning on Elly and the others there. I can't even look after myself – they have to do that for me. But what can I do? There's nothing for it – nothing except making up for it by being as independent as I can here.

    Ren?” Cole prompted, leaning across the table to poke him in the forehead. “You awake there, man?”

    What? Oh, yeah. Sorry. Just a bit tired, still. What is it?”

    I know you're busy tomorrow, but do you think you could drop by and see Aunt Mabel on Wednesday? I have to go back to Lilycove tomorrow, so I can't go with you. But I really think she'd appreciate it, you know? She's not herself these days, but she was really happy to hear how well you did at the League. I'd say she'd enjoy it if you went to talk to her.”

    I'll do that,” Ren said. “I think . . . yeah, I think she'd like that.”

    Good,” Cole said, standing up suddenly and heading for the door. “Now, I have to go. Mom made me promise to be home by four. Things to do and all that, you know?”

    I know how that is,” Ren said wryly. “See you . . . next time I see you, then.”

    Yeah, I probably won't see you in the morning before we both leave. Good luck with all the stuff you've got going on, Ren. And bye, Aunt Thalia. I'll stay in touch.”

    Goodbye, dear. Say hello to Roger and Mary for me, would you? Tell them I plan to drop by tomorrow if I can.”

    Sure thing,” Cole said, and with that, he was gone.

    Ren took a deep breath and let it all out at once, standing up from the table. “I'll be in my room,” he said.

    All right, dear. Dinner will be about six, I imagine. What do you plan on getting up to till then?”

    Um . . . I don't really know,” he said. “I'll find something. Read a book, maybe.”

    You could just stay here and talk to me, you know. I get awfully bored with just the radio for company,” she said lightly.

    Halfway to the stairs, Ren paused. He heard the slight challenge in her voice, and he shook his head helplessly as he returned to his seat in the table.

    So,” he said. “What shall we talk about?”

    The best part of four hours later, Ren excused himself to go to bed early. It wasn't exactly as if he was keen to return to the world of dreams, but he felt a certain obligation. He had to apologise to Salinthia, for starters. Uneasily, he wondered if the spirits would ever see him the same way again. He remembered Steven's warning about not getting on their bad side. They are certainly more than capable of making your life hell if you offend them. He shivered as he sat down on his bed, suddenly unwilling to go to sleep.

    On a whim, he reached across to his bedhead and pressed the release switch on Zangoose's Poke Ball. With a pop that seemed louder than usual in the otherwise tranquil evening, his partner Pokemon materialised next to the bed.

    Zangoose leapt to the alert, claws raised defensively, and scanned his surroundings quickly. It took him a couple of seconds to work out where he was, at which point he glanced questioningly at Ren as if to ask, 'Why did you bring me out if I don't get to cut anything?'

    Ren smiled. “Easy, buddy. Just needed a little . . . company.” He slung his legs up on the bed and fell back into the pillow, sighing deeply. After about twenty seconds of silence, he rolled to the side to find Zangoose observing him balefully, red eyes just barely elevated above the level of the bed. “You really don't know what to do, do you?” he mused.

    Zangoose cocked his head slightly to one side. Well, duh, Ren imagined him saying. Zangoose had never been one for conversation, even as far as Pokemon were concerned. The Normal-type was the main fighter on his team, not a healer or a source of emotional support. Nevertheless, he had been with Ren the longest out of any of his team, and Ren felt a certain sense of calm wash over him with him in the room.

    You want to sleep out of the ball tonight?” he asked. Receiving nothing but a wary, slightly confused glare, he clarified: “I'll feel better if you're there. Wake me up if something . . .”

    He stopped and swallowed. What was he worried about? Was Salinthia going to make good on her threat? Would it even be necessary? If what she had said was true, and the Soul Bonds really were deteriorating at a faster rate than before, he would have no choice but to stay in the world of dreams. That prospect didn't endear itself to him.

    Just wake me up if anything goes wrong, okay?” he amended.

    Still looking at him askance, Zangoose moved back from the side of the bed and curled up under the window, bushy tail wrapped defensively around his body. His red eyes remained open, however, fixed unblinkingly on Ren.

    Anybody else would find that really creepy, Ren thought with some amusement. He looked back into Zangoose's eyes as he felt sleep begin to tug on his eyelids, and drew some comfort from the almost tangible connection between them. As he finally closed his eyes, he realised that he had never truly appreciated how lucky he was to have partners like he did.

    What are you, really?” Ren asks Afro Glameow. He is sitting cross-legged on a giant red mushroom flecked with white spots, sipping sweet, steaming tea from a delicate china teacup with coloured flowers on the side. It's surprisingly tasty, though he isn't normally fond of tea. He replaces the cup on its saucer with a delicate clink, noting as he does the thin white gloves that encase his hands.

    Afro Glameow is curled up on a slightly smaller mushroom just a couple of feet for him, but for once it looks anything but threatening. Much like Ren, it is apparently enjoying a hot tea of some kind, lapping it happily out of a saucer. It appears totally at peace with the world.

    Oi!” Ren tries again, snapping his fingers to get the Pokemon's attention – an effort not exactly aided by the gloves on his hands. “Why do you hang out here, anyway? What are you?”

    Afro Glameow stretches luxuriously, taking a final lick from its saucer as it does so. Fixing its eyes on a point somewhere behind Ren, it leaps lithely across onto Ren's mushroom. When Ren doesn't react except to take another sip of his tea, it nudges his elbow insistently with its springy afro, mewling gently.

    Oh, what is it?” Ren snaps, slightly peeved. He turns around, though, and is faced with a familiar-looking black portal. “Oh, right. It seems I have to go now.” On a strange whim, he reaches around the afro and scratches the unusually benign Pokemon behind the ear. It lets out a purr, but nudges him even more insistently toward the portal.

    You really want me to go, don't you?” Ren says thoughtfully. “Why's that?” No answer. He shrugs. “Fine. I'll see you on the way back through, I guess?” Without waiting for a reply, he puts a hand out behind him, allowing the portal to suck him through into the second ring.

    Hello, you,” said a familiar voice. It didn't sound too friendly, but Ren opened his eyes and did his best to smile anyway. He was in Steven's secret conference room in the Slateport Devon Corp. building, sitting in one of the chairs. Staring at him from across the table was Elly, looking to be in remarkably better health than the last time he'd seen her. Her lower left arm bore a long, thin scar from elbow to wrist, but it looked as if it had been there for years, appearing as little more than a slightly discoloured line. He still shuddered to look at it, though, remembering the violet blood that had been running freely from it the last time he saw her.

    Um, hi,” he said. “Are you . . . I mean, is everything . . .”

    Everything's fine,” Elly said. “Well, it's as fine as it's going to get. Now come on, the council wants to talk to you.”

    Wait!” he said as she stood up, kicking her chair backwards.

    What?” she asked icily.

    Ren winced, but carried on. “I just thought of something. About the Iehkti'na . . . if they're that intelligent . . . or rather, if they realise they need me alive in order to survive themselves, why did they try to kill me that first night?”

    I . . . I don't know,” Elly said, looking as though it pained her greatly to admit it. “I can only guess. But you're right – that doesn't really match up with what Nekros was saying.”

    It wouldn't really benefit them if I died, would it?” Ren asked.

    Of course not, moron,” Elly snapped. “You die, the Soul Bonds die with you – and so does everything else. As much as I hate to single you out as special or anything, you're kind of the most important person in the world – in two worlds – right now. But don't you dare let that go to your head, you hear me?”

    All right!” Ren said, raising his hands in defeat. He grinned, despite the seriousness of the conversation. “I'll try not to mention it again. But seriously, why the sudden change with the Iehkti'na? It's going to bother me all night now.”

    My best guess is that in the second ring, they're just as dumb as they normally are. That Nekros seemed to have them under its control somehow, but he – it wasn't in the second ring with us that night. Those smaller Iehkti'na probably couldn't follow as complex an order as 'Don't kill the yehktira' when the big boss wasn't around. But hell, what do I know? They're obviously some kind of intelligent now. Maybe they have a government! Maybe they had an election between then and now, and the old leader thought it would be a good idea to knock you off!” Her voice rose steadily in pitch until she was almost shrieking, and Ren winced.

    You seem kind of on edge,” he commented, hoping it wouldn't start off another tirade. Of course, he realised what was happening. He had seen Elly's eyes after the battle. She had to be feeling completely useless now. She had spent seven hundred years thinking she was invincible, only to have the uncomfortable truth handed to her all at once by her greatest enemies. She would be lost, afraid and likely feeling extraordinarily redundant. He wasn't going to mention any of this, though. Somehow, he got the impression that it would be better to let her think he still only saw the facade she had put up. Rather than hiding her anger, she was using it as a shield to cover up everything else she was feeling.

    On edge? Who, me? Look, are you out for a beating?” she growled. “Look, never mind. Whatever. The council – myself included – wants to talk to you, and you don't keep the council waiting.”

    Not if you have gossip-mill Cecilia around, anyway,” Ren muttered, remembering her snide comments the last time he and Elly had arrived late. With something close to shock, he realised that he was worried about Cecilia. Of course, he was worried about everybody in the world of dreams, but it was different somehow. Cecilia didn't seem as strong as the others. While Elly and Salinthia gave the impression that they were completely able to take care of themselves, thank you very much, Ren couldn't help but worry about the waif-like girl with her green-gold hair.

    Are you coming or not?” Elly demanded.

    With a start, Ren realised that she had somehow opened a portal to the third ring without him noticing, which was surprising given the remarkable amount of noise that usually accompanied the act. He considered passing comment, but thought better of it and stepped through without a further word.

    Come on, mortal,” she said briskly at the other end, practically dragging him away from the portal.

    Mortal?” Ren said quizically. “Since when did you call me that?”

    Since I started being in a bad mood,” she snapped, heading for the council building with Ren at her heels.

    Nope, I'm pretty sure you've been in a bad mood ever since I first met you,” he said, somehow finding it in him to poke fun at her some more.

    Everywhere around him, he saw pain. It lay on the Glade of Shifting Light like a blanket, stifling everything light or colourful. The sky was an uncertain grey, the unlikely marble buildings were dull, and the spirits went about their business with quiet footsteps and downcast eyes. It made him want to bite his tongue and follow Elly silently and reverently; these people were in mourning for the first time in centuries. Even so, he couldn't help but feel that a little levity was necessary.

    Are you ever, you know, happy?” he asked, speeding up a little to walk alongside her.

    It has been known to happen,” she said, eyes remaining fixed straight ahead.

    Really? When? What makes you happy?”

    It usually involves no annoying yehktira asking stupid questions, no dead friends, and no imminent threat of Ragnarok.”

    Ragnarok?” Ren asked, frowning. “Isn't that-”

    Yes. It's a myth belonging to an ancient people in your world. The final battle at the end of time, where the gods and the giants would fight. This giant serpent would kill this god, that other god would kill some particular giant wolf, and another god would turn traitor and slaughter all his brothers before dying himself or something. One of our yehktira several decades back told me about it.”

    So why mention it now?”

    We have a similar belief, actually – that there will be a final battle to end all things. Unlike the legend from your world, though, our prophecy told us nothing specific. We know we will fight, but we don't know who. We don't know when, where or how. We don't even know what will happen afterwards, if there even is an afterwards. It's terribly nonspecific.”

    Something in Elly's voice seemed to change as she spoke. It was almost like she was reciting something she'd said a thousand times before – yet there was no sense of boredom or frustration. Just an inexplicable feeling of . . . awe? “And this . . . you call it Ragnarok too?” he asked, frowning.

    Yes, well. We didn't have a name for it, so we borrowed yours. Why are you so interested, anyway?”

    Oh, well . . . it just seems to me that maybe . . . just maybe, Ragnarok could be coming soon.”

    You think I don't know that?” she hissed, rounding on him suddenly. “You think that every single person you see around you doesn't know that? Why do you think everybody is so quiet, Ren? It's not just because we're in mourning. No, we've lost friends and family before. Not for centuries, sure, but our memories are long. We can all feel it coming, Ren! We know the end is coming! We-”

    Stop,” grated a voice from behind them.

    Ren jumped, turning to see who it was, although he was almost certain that he knew. Sure enough, he saw Maho limping towards them, half-dragging one leg and hunching his shoulder beneath his massive coat.

    Spellcaster General,” Elly said respectfully. “Was there something you wanted?”

    Maho nodded his head awkwardly. He crooked a finger awkwardly at Ren. “Lab,” he croaked.

    Oh, right!” Ren said guiltily. “Sorry about that. Cecilia said-” He cut off when Maho raised a hand sharply.

    Later. Come,” he said with apparent difficulty, before turning and limping off again the way he had come.

    Ren watched him go with a slight sense of apprehension. “You think he's mad?” he asked nervously. The Spellcaster General was a rather menacing figure, and Ren reasoned that Maho would probably have good reason to be upset about Ren's trespass into his laboratory.

    I wouldn't think so,” Elly said. “He probably just wants to talk – or, well, communicate in some way – with you. Maho likes yehktira, mostly because he's our lead researcher. He's likely to grill you a bit with regards to the Soul Bonds.”

    But I don't know anything about them other than what you've told me!” Ren protested.

    You don't think you do,” Elly corrected him, starting off again, leaving Ren to catch up to her. “Anyway, go talk to him after the council is done with you.”

    Ren sensed that the conversation – such as it had been – was over. He hurried after Elly, his mind returning to what she had been saying a couple of minutes ago. Ragnarok . . . Was it actually going to happen? Would he be a part of it?

    And most of all . . . would he survive 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

  14. #74
    Unova's #1 Yancy fan Seizon Senryaku's Avatar
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    Default Re: Chapter Twenty-One - More Dreams

    Waaaaay late reply here, but OH WELL.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sky Flame Haze View Post
    Am I gonna get an image like the one you gave JG because then I'll feel really bad :(
    Well sure. But you can be a boss instead of a sir.


    Anyway the battle was pretty good I really like Ren's strategies though I think the battle against Floatzel was a little bit simple. Maybe you could've added a little more action to it or something to make it more interesting.
    OK, good to hear. You're right, the Floatzel part of the battle was the weaker half. I'll work on that in future.

    I guess Ren really has changed if we compare it to what Cole is telling us and I have a feeling that he's going to change a lot more over the next few chapters. I really like Cole so far, mostly because we haven't exactly seen someone that Ren can openly talk to. Oddly enough Ren's and Cole's relationship reminds me of my relationship with my own cousin so you get extra points for that xD

    I guess I really suck at coming up with things to say but that's everything I got in my mind and my heart and sorry if I take too long to read the chapters.
    No, that's great. It's good to hear what you think, and I'm glad you like Cole. I do like writing him as a character, so he'll be around a bit more, although he does have to go back to Lilycove tomorrow. Maybe we'll see him later. Thanks for reading, as always!
    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. #75
    Unova's #1 Yancy fan Seizon Senryaku's Avatar
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    Default Chapter Twenty-Two - Green and Black

    Okay, guys. This chapter is going up early because I'm going to be out of town for the rest of the week and might not have internet. It's the final chapter of Arc 2 - Episode the First, and as such it's a whopper. It's twice as long as the average chapter from earlier stages, and a clear 2,000 words longer than the longest up till now. It's also a very important point in the World of Dreams storyline, as well as where I try my hand at putting some kind of message into my writing. Have fun!

    Chapter Twenty-Two

    Green And Black


    The elders looked grave. Of course, they had looked grave the last time he'd seen them on their thrones, too, but there was an extra level of tension that lay over the room. Lucius Balthazar, in particular, seemed to be shifting in his seat far more often than was strictly necessary.

    Ren stood at the exact same spot where he had been placed on his first night in the world of dreams, waiting uncomfortably for someone to say something. The elders simply watched him, however.

    At length, Bartholomew Elsin spoke up, his voice deep and rumbling. “The Iehkti'na . . .” he said slowly. “They have contacted us again. The one which appears to be a floating ball of shadow – it appeared in the Glade not two hours past. It did not attack, but it gave us a message.”

    What did it want?” Ren asked, almost scared to find out. The four enormous Iehkti'na that had appeared at the hill had shaken him more than anything else he had seen in the world of dreams, and he wasn't particularly keen to deal with them again.

    You, yehktira,” Lucius put in from the far left.

    Well, it did repeat Nekros' demand for us to surrender first,” Elly added, “but then, yes. It demanded Ren.”

    Wh-what for?” Ren asked, trying – and largely failing – to keep the tremble out of his voice.

    That's just it. We don't know what it wants with you, really. It told us it would return the next time you entered the world of dreams, which means-”

    now

    The voice – if that was indeed what it was – had come from directly behind Ren. He whipped around and cursed as he found himself staring directly into a pair of glowing green eyes.

    Creature!” Elsin thundered, rising in his seat. “You do us a great disrespect by trespassing in this place!”

    Drawing back slightly from Ren, the floating, apparently gaseous Iehkti'na spoke in the language of the spirits. The words were different to what Ren had heard just moments before, though. They seemed to be less inside his head and more outside it. Does that even make sense? he wondered. He couldn't make out what it was saying, but it sounded faintly amused.

    come with show experience new

    Again, that other voice. It penetrated Ren's head, speaking directly into his thoughts even as the nightmare argued with Elsin aloud. What do you want? he asked silently. It was more of a rhetorical question than one he actually expected an answer to, but the voice replied instantly.

    good listen want show world

    Ren,” Elsin said, interrupting his thoughts. “It wants me to translate to you its offer. Will you listen?”

    Will I?” Ren marvelled at the sudden level of apparent power he had been given. He glanced back at the nightmare, which, now he noticed it, was much smaller than it had been the previous day. “Sure, go ahead.”

    Elsin grimaced slightly, but related the message. “It wants to take you with it, just for tonight. It says it has something to show you. It promises you will be returned safely. Ren, I urge you not to listen to it. It can mean you nothing but harm, I am sure.”

    That may be so, Bartholomew,” Salinthia countered smoothly, “but the Iehkti'na have expressed their desire to keep Ren alive. They cannot harm him, for they know as well as we do that the worlds will collapse if they do so.”

    You can't be thinking of letting him go!” Elly burst out. “Are you mad?”

    Letting the elders argue amongst themselves for the time being, Ren turned to the nightmare, which still loomed, vaguely threatening, behind him. He looked into its eyes thoughtfully. He was afraid, he couldn't deny it. The nightmares were frightening creatures at any time, and this particular one had a certain enigmatic pressure about it, possibly aided by the fact that it was three times his size and floating a few feet off the ground. What do you want to show me? he asked, realising that it could read what he was thinking. It wasn't a very comforting thought.

    show world our world different

    Ren!” Elly said sharply, jerking him out of his wonderings. “Are you awake?”

    Ah! Yes!” he said, shivering slightly as he turned back to face the elders. It wasn't cold in the council chamber, but Ren couldn't help but feel like he was encased in ice.

    What do you want to do?” she asked, leaning forward and regarding him coolly with her sharp green eyes.

    Do I want to go with it? Not . . . not really,” he admitted. “But at the same time, I kind of think I should.” Wait, what am I saying? I'd have to be mad to go anywhere with this thing?

    We highly recommend against it, yehktira,” Elsin boomed. “We cannot trust these monsters. Although it has promised you will not be harmed, and they claim to want you alive for their own survival, a promise made by a creature such as this is worth nothing.”

    How do you know that?” Ren asked, once again feeling as if the words weren't quite his own. “Up until just recently, you didn't even know they could talk! Its word could be just as good as yours.”

    A faint vibration of amusement passed through the room – clearly coming from the Iehkti'na which had now moved to float beside Ren – though none of the elders reacted to what surely should have been a most unusual occurrence. Does that mean I'm the only one who can feel it? Ren wondered. It's like this thing has two voices.

    double voice show world yehktira safe

    Elly's mouth twisted in disapproval. “While we do urge you not to accept what this Iehkti'na is saying, it is very specific in that it offers you this deal, not us. It observes all our customs when making an offer, and as such, we cannot interfere or deny it the right to pass on its message. We can only warn you. The ultimate decision lies with you, yehktira.”

    Ren felt his brow crease almost involuntarily as he looked across at the gaseous blur floating beside him. It was formidable, yes, but in a non-threatening way. At least, that was how it seemed now. It had given him the fright of his life just minutes earlier, but now that he actually stopped to look at it, it didn't seem to be malevolent. In fact, it looked sort of like an overgrown Gastly, a Pokemon Ren had always been fond of.

    If I go with you,” he said, speaking aloud for the benefit of the council, “you won't hurt me?”

    safe yehktira safe

    It has already specified that, Ren,” Elly said, but he ignored her. He had wanted to hear it again directly from the Iehkti'na.

    And you'll bring me back here afterwards so that I can return home?”

    safe return yehktira home glade

    Ren took that as a yes. He considered his options as Elsin, clearly unaware of the covert communication taking place in front of him, translated into the spirit language for the Iehkti'na's benefit. Do I trust the Iehkti'na? Probably not, he admitted. He was curious, though, about what the creature wanted to show him. What could it possibly be? And what reasons might be behind it? Did it want him to understand something that the spirits couldn't – or wouldn't – show him?

    He briefly considered the possibility that it was a trap. All things considered, it didn't seem terribly likely. While it would be easy for the Iehkti'na to seize him and hold him in the third ring once he left the Glade – much like Salinthia had threatened to do if the need arose – he didn't think that they would.

    But why wouldn't they?

    safe promise keep always return

    Do I take your word for it? Ren thought, directing the question at the shadowy creature by his side.

    word always safe keep promise

    Ren sighed aloud. “I'm probably going to regret this,” he said decisively, “but I'm going to go.” Ignoring the protests of the council, he bit his lip and turned to the door. He couldn't quite explain what he was doing, but it seemed like the right thing to do.

    You had better be telling the truth, he said bitterly inside his head as the Iehkti'na breezed along beside him. I'm going to feel like the world's biggest idiot if they turn on me here. I can't trust them.

    At the door, he turned and glanced back. The council had descended from their thrones and stood in a huddle in the centre of the room, watching him go with varying degrees of worry and anger evident on their faces. Elsin in particular looked incensed at being ignored. Ren waved back at them, hoping to offer some reassurance. None of them looked particularly mollified, however, especially Elly, who was practically shooting knives at him from her eyes once again.

    Outside the building, the nightmare moved ahead of Ren, leading him away from the centre of the Glade, weaving comfortably through the marble buildings as if it had lived there all its life. Ren noticed the spirits shooting it distrustful, angry looks as it passed. He himself was receiving a number of strange glances as he trotted to keep up with it, but he just nodded awkwardly at the spirits as he passed. It felt exceedingly strange to be walking through the Glade with an Iehkti'na as his guide, of course.

    Once again, he wondered what in the world he was doing.

    At the edge of the Glade, the Iehkti'na paused, seeming to observe the Spirit Wall for a few seconds.

    I thought your kind couldn't pass through here,” Ren said, remembering one of the many things that had been bothering him since the other night's battle.

    wall hide wall let through

    You mean . . . it just hides the Glade, but doesn't stop you from getting in once you find it?” Ren said with a frown, trying to decipher the creature's mysterious syntax.

    yes

    That was obvious enough, at any rate. “Where . . . where are we going?” he asked, taking a deep breath to calm his suddenly jumpy nerves. “You said you wanted to show me something,” he tried again. “What?”

    world home origin centre

    The Iehkti'na, now at least six metres in diameter, passed through the Spirit Wall, causing a flower of red and green light to pulse from the point of contact, spreading out like ripples on water.

    Swallowing heavily, Ren followed it.

    As they passed through the forest, the Iehkti'na spoke.

    ten days

    Ten days? Ren replied silently, wondering if Elly's 'no talking in the forest' rule still applied – or even mattered. What happens in ten days?

    ten days die spirits

    Is that . . . Nekros' ultimatum? Ren asked, tripping over a tree root and suppressing a curse. Ten days for the spirits to surrender, or he kills them all?

    all end finish time

    Ragnarok. The word floated across Ren's mind unbidden, and he shuddered involuntarily. Is that it? Everything's happening so fast. What happens to me, then?

    yehktira safe need world

    Right, Ren said, nodding. That's what I thought. It was a relief to hear it directly from one of the nightmares, too, rather than relying on a translation.

    They walked – or rather, Ren walked, with the Iehkti'na floating, almost unseen, beside him – in silence until they reached the edge of the forest, whereupon Ren found himself standing on the same hill that had housed Cicero's command centre during the battle the other night. The tent was still there, torn and crumpled as it was, with a couple of lonely metal struts reaching forlornly for the sky, shreds of canvas still clinging to them. Upturned or smashed desks were strewn everywhere, and pieces of paper fluttered around in a low breeze. It seemed that the spirits hadn't been back to clean up. Ren could hardly blame them. He had seen the looks on their faces after the battle; tidying up their mess would have been the least of their worries.

    The Iehkti'na, even larger than it had been before, floated down the hill ahead of Ren, pausing at the bottom over the trampled, bloody field that had served as the battleground. Ren followed it awkwardly, stumbling a little on the uneven, torn ground.

    He stopped next to the Iehkti'na, looking out across the gently rolling field that undulated softly away towards the horizon. A familiar light breeze tickled the grass, making it sway slightly. It was as if the entire expanse was shifting, the ground itself sliding back and forwards. Ren felt a little dizzy, so he forced himself to look instead at his enigmatic floating companion. “What's your name?” he asked.

    name speak difficult ancient

    It's hard to pronounce?” Ren guessed. “Then what do I call you?”

    shadecolour close name

    Shadecolour,” Ren repeated. It was an unexpectedly sophisticated name, carrying a sort of melancholic beauty. He hadn't imagined that the Iehkti'na would have been capable of such poetry. “Is everything I know about you wrong?”

    wrong no different yes

    Why do you have to kill the spirits?” Ren asked.

    prevent true home return come ancient chaos dreams

    Ren frowned, trying to make sense of this awkward jumble of words. Clearly Shadecolour didn't speak Ren's language quite as well as it did the spirits'. “They . . . prevent you from going home? Where is that? Oh! Maho's book said . . . you came from the first ring. Is that it? You just want to go back there?”

    home

    But what was that about 'ancient chaos'?” he asked. There was something else happening here, evidently. Something the spirits hadn't told him . . . or something they didn't know themselves.

    come show home new

    Shadecolour moved again, drifting like a great black cloud across the battlefield, leaving Ren to follow it awkwardly across the ground. The going became easier, though, as he passed the area where the battle had taken place; the ground became smoother and emptier of debris and the grass was whole and free of scorch marks.

    How far do we have to go?” Ren asked after about five minutes of silence. “Will it take long to get there?”

    slow yehktira time yes

    Hmm,” Ren said. “I mean, I have all night, but isn't there some way we can get there faster?” He felt a smile tug at the corner of his mouth as he realised the absurdity of his situation. He was chatting almost amicably with the giant black monster, completely irrelevant of the very real danger that he most likely faced. If he was entirely honest with himself, he liked Shadecolour better than some of the spirits he had met – not that the Iehkti'na had exhibited anything resembling a personality yet. That was a disturbing thought.

    faster ride wind

    Shadecolour's indistinct form bent and wavered, flattening and shrinking into a vaguely rectangular shape. It swooped down next to Ren, keeping pace with him as he stared at it in confusion.

    What are you meant to be? A magic carpet?” The black rectangle seemed to wiggle slightly in a gesture that might have been a shrug.

    ride come yehktira show home

    You want me to . . . get on?” Ren asked, looking dubiously at the smoky, insubstantial form of the Iehkti'na hovering next to him. “How am I supposed to do that?”

    ride fly swift

    Ren sighed. If it worked, it was bound to be faster than walking. He climbed awkwardly onto Shadecolour, wobbling slightly at the unfamiliar feeling. The Iehkti'na's body gave slightly beneath him, but it seemed solid enough. He knelt uncomfortably on its back, leaning forward to seek a handhold. There wasn't one, so he just flattened himself against the creature's body as much as was possible, feeling thoroughly ridiculous.

    fly fly fly

    The sudden acceleration almost caused Ren to lose what little grip he had. Shadecolour climbed as it flew, whipping across the sky at a phenomenal speed. Even Braviary would have no chance keeping up with this.

    speed fast fly

    How am I even staying on? Ren wondered, glancing over the side of Shadecolour – who, he was becoming more and more convinced, was secretly a magic carpet in disguise. The expansive grassy fields whizzed by at a great speed, and the wind battered at his exposed face in an attempt to tear him off and send him flying to his death, but he managed to hang on. He wasn't holding onto anything on Shadecolour's back, but still he remained firmly ensconced in his position. He settled down a little more and simply enjoyed the ride – for despite all his compunctions about going along with the Iehkti'na, there was something wildly exhilarating about the feeling of flying.

    Gradually, Ren noticed a slight change in the terrain below him. The lushness of the omnipresent grass faded slightly, and patches of brown appeared. After a couple of minutes of high-speed flying, Shadecolour slowed down a little and descended a few metres, allowing Ren to take in more details from their surroundings.

    dead

    It was true. The grass below them now was yellowed and flaxen, growing in sparse, unhealthy-looking clumps.

    place death bad

    Is this . . . is this where you . . . the Iehkti'na live? Ren asked.

    home dead

    Ren thought he detected a tinge of bitterness in Shadecolour's mental voice. Neither of them said anything more, and they flew in silence for another five minutes, the condition of the earth growing steadily worse. Even the golden sunlight shining from above seemed unable to lend any semblance of cheer to the earth. After a certain point, even that sunlight seemed to be swallowed up when it hit the ground, overcome by a blanket of darkness that seemed almost tangible.

    brothers sleep all thousands

    Ren's eyes widened as he realised what the inky black layer on the ground was: thousands upon thousands of Iehkti'na. The host that had pressed in against the spirits at the battle of the hill was now massed beneath him. They were crammed together so tightly that it was difficult for Ren to tell where one began and another ended. Even after realising what it was, the blanket of shadow seemed to remain just that. It was like a single gelatinous mass, oozing across the ground as if it were some kind of disease. Are they the ones polluting the land like this?

    not brothers land kill spirits kill

    Ren frowned. It was the spirits? But . . . why?

    spirits seal brothers break seal kill land die death

    Blinking, Ren shook his head. Maho's journal had said something about 'sealing' the spirits, albeit unsuccessfully. Was this where it had happened.

    here live nekros

    Ren tore his eyes away from the tide of Iehkti'na on the ground – which seemed to be getting thicker – and looked ahead. A large stand of trees thrust up from the dead ground, gnarled claws that lacked leaves. The trees were clustered tightly together like a giant thorn bush, and Ren saw as they approached it that the swarm of Iehkti'na were giving it a wide berth. Fear? Or respect?

    glade of dying light

    Shadecolour dropped to the ground in front of the trees, rippling in a way that indicated to Ren that he should climb off. The instant he let go, Shadecolour resumed its original form, that of the large, smoky sphere. Its green eyes returned as well; Ren could only presume that they had been on its underside during the flight.

    The Glade of Dying Light?” he said aloud, approaching the withered, blackened trunks with a creeping sense of dread. The whole place smelled of death, he realised instinctively. Every fibre of his being screamed at him to get as far away from that little grove of trees as he could, but he grit his teeth and forced himself to stay calm. There was a gap in the trees directly in front of him, and he willed himself to step towards it. His body didn't want to obey, preferring to stay right where it was, but he made a concerted effort and walked forwards.

    At the treeline, he glanced backwards. Shadecolour was just behind him, and about ten metres further back, the edge of the Iehkti'na army wavered imposingly. Even from this distance, Ren found that they looked more like a wall – easily five metres tall – peppered with glowing eyes than a group of individual creatures. Taking a deep, shaky breath, Ren stepped into the dark clutches of the trees.

    Instantly, it felt as if his entire body had been plunged into an icebath. He gasped involuntarily as the cold hit him like a rime-caked sledgehammer, clutching at his bare arms. The thin blue t-shirt he had thrown on that morning did nothing to protect him from the chill, and he swore under his breath.

    After just a couple of seconds, however, he noticed that there was no ice anywhere. No sign of precipitation of any kind, actually. For a moment, he wondered if it ever rained in the world of dreams, but then it occurred to him that the grass had to grow somehow – unless the rules were different here, of course. He would have thought, though, that there would at least be a little frozen moisture of some kind in such a cold place.

    Wait. It wasn't cold anymore. Ren blinked, feeling rather foolish as he let go of his arms and glanced around. The apparent subzero temperature had receded almost as suddenly as it had come, leaving him baffled. He shivered slightly as he stepped forward again.

    It only took him a few seconds to pass through the low, tangled corridor. At the other end, he stopped, blinking uncomprehendingly. The centre of the glade was cold, although not as freezing as the brief blast of cold air he had experienced on the way. The ground was covered in a layer of snow that refused to melt, even though the sun beat down upon it from almost directly above. In the centre of the glade lay a pool of liquid blackness about five metres across, and on the other side sat Nekros.

    The giant, humanoid Iehkti'na – some twelve metres tall – rested upon a mighty throne of sparkling, glittering ice. The throne was a work of art, carved into twisting, serpentine designs that twisted around each other all across its surface. Every edge and facet sparkled in the harsh sunlight, a deep, vivid blue that made Ren's eyes hurt to look too closely.

    The other two giant Iehkti'na that Ren had seen on the hill two nights ago with Nekros and Shadecolour – the massive spider with too many legs and the flat-headed quadruped – flanked Nekros' throne, watching him with keen eyes. As he observed them, Shadecolour floated down from above the trees to take a place on the other side of the spider-like nightmare.

    Unsure quite what to do, Ren stepped forward towards the pool, his shoes crunching in the snow. He made sure to stay well clear of the edge, though; the liquid looked as though it might be dangerous.

    you are the yehktira welcome to the glade of dying light

    Ren looked up at where Nekros' face should be. Like all the others, it was featureless save for its eyes. It had three, he noticed again. One was set above the other two to form a triangle, and all three were fixed on him. “I-I am the yehktira, yes,” he managed once he found his voice.

    you will forgive me for speaking directly to your mind our tongues are not made for your language

    Of course,” Ren said, at a loss as to what else he should say. Nekros' grasp of the language seemed to be far superior to Shadecolour's, and for that he was grateful. It was still a strange sensation, though. It was rather like the words were being poured into his head in a continuous, liquid stream. “Might I ask . . . why you wanted me to come here?”

    to prove to you that we are not monsters

    Monsters?” Ren said blankly. “To . . . to be honest, I've kind of steadily been losing that impression lately.”

    good but you are not yet convinced for to you we seem barbaric and until recently this was true

    Well,” Ren admitted, “the Iehkti'na that Elly and I killed the first night I came . . . they weren't exactly . . .”

    they were small and weak and that is why they can pass to the second ring our sheer power prevents us

    our sentience is a gift but also a curse for it comes with powerlessness

    when one of us dies their essence returns here to the pool in front of you where a new being is created

    Ren glanced at the pool by his feet. “So the one I killed the other night . . . just came back to life again?” he asked. “That sounds . . . kind of pointless.”

    it is indeed for you but for us it is nothing of the sort for we can absorb their essence at the point of rebirth to make ourselves stronger

    this pool is why the spirits cannot destroy us

    Ren shuddered as he watched the evil-looking black liquid lapping at the ring of stones that formed the pool's border. “Whenever they try, you just . . . respawn,” he said. It sounded like something out of a video game, even to him.

    twenty years ago we tried to crush the spirits again for but they had a massively destructive weapon that killed hundreds of us at once

    they used this weapon four times and each time the victims' essences issued forth from the pool but because they all came forth at once they grouped into new larger stronger more intelligent Iehkti'na

    Ren's eyes widened. “You . . . you and Shadecolour, and the others . . . the spirits created you, then? But . . . so that's why you're smarter than the others? Because you're made from so many Iehkti'na?”

    that is so yehktira we are the sum of hundreds and so we are mighty we have waited twenty years for an opportunity to crush the spirits and now we have our chance

    What I don't understand is why you have to do this!” Ren said, forcing as much strength into his voice as he could. “When you were mindless killers, I can understand. I mean, you hated the spirits for sealing you in the past, and you knew nothing other than killing them. But now that you're smarter than that, surely you realise you don't have to kill them? Revenge isn't the way to fix things!”

    this is no longer about revenge yehktira for we need to return to our homes

    we were displaced by the spirits from our home in what you call the first ring over six hundred years ago and since then we have never been the same

    we must kill all the spirits for they cannot understand we only want to return home and as such they stand in our way

    The finality of the statement made Ren shiver. “But . . . why haven't you tried to negotiate with them before? I mean, surely they could be made to understand.” I seriously doubt it, though, he added silently, remembering the rage he had seen on Elsin's face in the council hall when Shadecolour had appeared.

    until recent we be still weak

    Another voice chipped in, lighter and somehow sharper than Nekros or Shadecolour.

    Nekros spoke again, indicating the spider-like Iehkti'na on Ren's right with a wave of his massive hand.

    this is my second known as frostspinner

    Frostspinner's light voice chimed in over Nekros' heavy one.

    it is good meet yehktira I must tell how

    recent we weak still not absorb enough essence each time brother die absorb essence

    now we strong

    You absorb their essences? The ones who die?” Ren asked, and this time it was Nekros who answered.

    indeed and this is how we grow stronger yet you ask why we do not talk with the spirits

    it was difficult but now at least we have a line of communication that is why we are willing to wait ten days before we move

    in those ten days you must convince your friends to allow us safe passage to the first ring and we will leave them in peace

    it is the best option for all surely as no further must die we know how attached these spirits are to their own kind

    I can understand that,” Ren said, nodding. Somehow, his fear had largely evaporated. He suddenly felt awfully bad simply for being afraid of the Iehkti'na. They weren't evil, he realised. The spirits had simply told him that they were because it suited them – or perhaps because it was what they themselves believed. “I'll talk to them. I'll get them to change their minds before the ten days are up.”

    i like you yehktira you are perceptive you see things clearly where others may see only confusion

    ten nights from now our army will arrive at the glade of shifting light for our answer

    if it is not the one we want the spirits will die to a man and we will make our own way home

    if they will help us we will travel with their portals and none need die remember this yehktira we are no savages

    tell them yehktira tell them what they must do or it will end in a way that none of us want

    Ren swallowed with some difficulty, feeling his throat tighten as he nodded in acquiescence. “I will,” he said, and he meant it. “But that aside . . . I think I owe you an apology. I believed that you were monsters . . . I thought you were mindless beasts like the spirits said. I'm sorry about that.”

    there is no need for apology yehktira most of our number still remain that way and although they listen to us for the most part we sometimes cannot prevent them from running wild a little

    we are indeed monsters in a way but we seek to change that all we want is to return home you will bear our message for they do not like to speak with us

    shadecolour will take you back to the glade of shifting light now

    Ren almost protested. I want to know more, he tried to say. I want to hear your stories! I want to really know where I stand!

    there will be time for this later yehktira but now you must leave for i sense your time in this world is drawing to a close for the moment

    Ren smiled guiltily. He had forgotten that Nekros and the others could read his thoughts.

    come yehktira fly swift

    Shadecolour, seeming enthused, floated upwards again and out over the top of the Glade of Dying Light. Sensing that he was dismissed, Ren backed slowly away from Nekros and the others.

    Nekros remained, unmoving, on his icy throne. When Ren reached the passage that had brought him into the Glade, he finally turned and walked forwards, out towards where he could already see Shadecolour waiting.

    fly quick safe promise return

    Of course,” Ren said, glancing more than a little nervously at the seething wall of Iehkti'na that still surrounded the Glade. They still looked awfully threatening, roiling and writhing as they were. Paradoxically, the indistinct mass of smaller creatures outside the Glade were much more frightening than the giants inside it. “Couldn't you . . . take on a different shape?” he asked Shadecolour, remembering the experience he had had on the initial journey. While he had somehow, inexplicably managed to avoid falling off, it was still an experience he did not particularly want to repeat.

    fly shape bird wings

    That would be better,” Ren said as he watched Shadecolour morph again, its indistinct form splitting and shifting. When it stopped, it had formed itself into a passable likeness of a gigantic bird, perched on the ground next to Ren. It was still taller than he was, and it took him some effort to climb on, but once he was firmly entrenched on its back, he felt much safer than he had before.

    fly fly fly

    With an eerily silent flap of its wings, Shadecolour sliced its way into the sky, climbing more quickly this time so that they were a good way above the Iehkti'na horde.

    As Ren watched the tide of Iehkti'na recede below him, growing thinner and thinner as the two of them passed over it, he marvelled once again at the sheer size of Nekros' army. The spirits would stand no chance whatsoever if the Iehkti'na decided to attack, he realised. While the spirits were clearly better fighters than the average Iehkti'na, they would eventually fall to the force of numbers, especially considering the fact that the Iehkti'na were reborn the instant they were killed. He wondered briefly if the spirits knew about that. There was no reason they would, he supposed. From what he had heard, they had been more than happy to stay in the Glade of Shifting Light.

    What if they did manage to survive, though? With Maho's magic and all the others fighting as well . . . no, it would only be a matter of time. Each death would be one sword they could never get back, whereas the Iehkti'na have their pool. And that's not even considering the four big guys. He had only glimpsed the power of Nekros and the others at the battle of the hill, but he knew that there had to be a huge reserve of untapped power within each of them.

    strong four we

    Clearly, Shadecolour had been listening in on his musings. Ren smiled uncomfortably. Yes, I'm sure you are, he replied. Soaring a clear hundred metres above the grassy plains atop a giant bird made of shadows and magic, he felt a little like some sort of god. The thought chilled him slightly, but it sent a foreign tingle down his spine at the same time.

    It didn't take long to reach the edge of the forest. Ren expected to touch down and walk the rest of the way, but Shadecolour kept flying, slowing down a little and dipping so that it skimmed the treetops.

    glade shifting enter difficult above

    fun fly fast hold yehktira

    Eyes widening, Ren leaned forward against Shadecolour's back, wrapping his arms around the creature's barely-tangible neck just as it banked, climbing slightly and then aiming downwards again at a patch of green foliage that appeared much the same as any other. “What are you-”

    The words were snatched from his mouth as Shadecolour dived. Folding its wings back, it plummeted almost vertically towards the trees. The wind screamed in Ren's ears as he clung on for dear life. Just as they were about to hit the trees below, however, a rainbow-coloured starburst exploded in Ren's vision, making his eyes ache briefly. He caught a brief glimpse of white marble and soft grass before the Iehkti'na rolled in midair, corkscrewing madly through the sky above the Glade of Shifting Light.

    Out of the corner of his eye, Ren could see a trail of glowing, multicoloured threads marking their trajectory like a jet trail. Shadecolour circled three times around the Glade, slowing down slightly with each complete revolution. When they finally came to land, there was a perfect spiral of splintered colour hanging in the air, fading slowly even as Ren watched.

    His legs shaking slightly, Ren slid off Shadecolour's back. He forced himself to stay upright, though his body wasn't too keen on the idea. He staggered, but an arm was quickly thrust under his shoulders, removing the burden of staying upright from his confused limbs. He glanced across to see that it was Elsin's muscular arm that had caught him.

    Did it hurt you, yehktira?” Elsin rumbled, the thunder in his eyes and voice giving Ren the impression that he was longing for an answer in the affirmative just so that he had an excuse to try and kill Shadecolour.

    N-no,” Ren managed to say, finding his feet once again and shrugging Elsin off to prove that he was all right. “I'm fine. It just . . . flew. I'm not great with flying.” He hadn't realised how much hanging on he had been doing with his knees since Shadecolour had assumed its bird form, but the concerned body parts were telling him all about it now.

    Shadecolour had returned to being an indistinct blob, and now it spoke aloud in the spirits' language once again, its voice issuing from somewhere deep within it. Elsin and the rest of the council – who had arrived just moments earlier – listened with tight expressions on their faces. Simultaneously, the Iehkti'na spoke into Ren's mind.

    well meet yehktira ten days remember must

    I know, Ren said silently. I'll talk to them.

    Having said its piece, Shadecolour floated away, disappearing through the Spirit Wall without a further word. Red ripples flowed across the magical wall as it left.

    You're quite sure you're not hurt?” Cecilia said anxiously, hurrying over to grasp him by the shoulders and stare into his eyes.

    No, I'm fine,” Ren said, gently lifting her hands off him as he turned to the rest of the council. “More importantly, I need to talk to you all urgently.”

    Ten days, we know,” Elly said. She looked a little more withdrawn than usual. “You need to go home now, Ren. We will deal with this.”

    No, you don't understand!” He started to protest, but Elly cut him off with a sharp hand gesture.

    Yes, we do. You can't stay in this ring for too much longer, or it will adversely affect you when you leave.”

    But-”

    Anything you have to say can be said tomorrow night, can't it?”

    Well . . .” He bit his lip. “I suppose that's true,” he admitted.

    Then leave,” Elly said, stepping aside to reveal the starry expanse of a portal to the second ring. “Now.”

    He wanted to say something else, to try and convince them. He looked around at all of their faces, hoping they wouldn't do anything rash while he was awake. Elsin was still smouldering angrily to one side; Cecilia was watching him anxiously; Elly and Salinthia both simply looked frigid as they nodded him towards the portal; and Lucius Balthazar was watching him with an oddly detached kind of interest. When he met Ren's eyes, he nodded slowly and turned away, heading towards the place where Shadecolour had passed through the Spirit Wall. Can I trust them?

    Of course not, whispered a treacherous corner of his mind.

    Ren stepped into the portal and let it suck him through to the second ring.

    He was standing in Steven's library this time, although there was no sign of Katrina. Of course. Closing his eyes, he sank to the floor, his fatigue, confusion and newfound mistrust all suddenly piling themselves on his shoulders like a ton of bricks.

    As the scent of the dusty red carpet invaded his nostrils, his outstretched hand found the edge of the portal to the first ring, yanking him through with a peculiar jerk from behind his navel.

    I just don't get them,” Ren grumbles to Afro Glameow. “Do you understand what's meant to be going on?” he asked.

    Afro Glameow yowls noncommittally, taking another lick of the sugar lump sitting in its saucer.

    Ren sighs and leans back on his hands, looking up through the twisting vines at the silvery sky that is just faintly visible through the riot of colour and foliage. “I didn't think so,” he says quietly. “Whose side am I meant to be on now? Are there even any sides any more? Am I meant to be on one at all?”

    As Afro Glameow yowls again, the silver sky begins to grow brighter and brighter, slowly draining the colour from the world around him. His mushroom has faded from vivid crimson to a dull blood-red, he notices as he looks down at it. Glancing back up at the sky almost blinds him.

    His cheek stings inexplicably, and he claps a gloved hand to it with a refined, gentlemanly curse.
    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

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