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    Unova's #1 Yancy fan Seizon Senryaku's Avatar
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    Default Chapter Twenty-Three - Festival of the Sky

    Well, here we go. Time to venture forth into the amusingly distant realm of Arc 3. This will be a short arc, but it will seem far longer due to the fact that I'm going to leave you on that cliffhanger from last chapter until the end of it. Hehe.

    Arc 3 - Parabasis the First

    Chapter Twenty-Three
    Festival of the Sky


    Ren awoke sharply, something hard digging into his cheek. “Yeowch!” he exclaimed, rolling away from it instinctively and cracking the side of his head on the wall. “Ow, dammit,” he muttered as he sat up, searching for the source of the pain.

    It came in the form of Zangoose, who was still perched awkwardly on the edge of Ren's mattress, one claw extended towards where Ren's face had been just moments before. Ren stared at him uncomprehendingly for a moment before he remembered. “Oh! Right, I told you to wake me up if anything went wrong. But what . . . what's wrong?”

    Ren glanced around the room, frowning slightly. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. The usual Slateport morning sun streamed through the window, splashing familiar golden light across the floor.

    Oh. I see,” Ren said at length. “Mom coming in and opening the curtains was enough to constitute an emergency. Well, fair enough,” he sighed. “I should be getting up anyway. We're going to Fortree today.”

    Zangoose hissed in a manner that was almost contented before bounding out of the room and disappearing down the hall. Puzzled, Ren tumbled out of bed and made to follow him before realising he was still in his pajamas.

    It seemed his mother had been shopping sometime in the last few days, because when he opened his wardrobe, expecting only to see his single change of clothes, the rack was full of clothes that most certainly would not have fit him five years ago. Remembering how windy Fortree had been the last time he had visited, he picked a pair of black jeans and a blue t-shirt with long sleeves, throwing a zip-up red hoodie and a short-sleeved tee into his bag as well just in case. They fit him remarkably well; his mother had always been good at guessing sizes, he remembered with a grin.

    The morning sun in Slateport was powerful at this time of year, so he rolled his sleeves up to his elbows as he opened the window, letting the salty breeze counteract the heat somewhat.

    This stuff in the world of dreams . . . everything's happening so quickly, he thought, the memories suddenly surfacing in his mind. That in itself was disturbing. If he couldn't remember what had happened as soon as he woke up, who knew what else he might be missing? Ren didn't remember dreams often, but his experiences in the rings were more than that, he was sure of it. The fact that the memories sought to evade him was worrying.

    I can't do anything now, he told himself firmly. I just have to worry about my life at the moment. He felt kind of bad for ignoring his duties as yehktira, but there was really nothing he could do while awake. He had ten nights to convince the spirits to let the Iehkti'na have their way. Ten nights would be plenty. Won't it?

    He counted off on his fingers. Seven nights would put him at the following Monday, plus another three made Thursday. The first day of the Unova League. Great.

    If the world ends, at least I'll die after my fifteenth birthday. The morbid thought made him chuckle hollowly. Some consolation that is.

    Shaking his head in vague amusement, Ren went downstairs to face the day, doing his best to put all thoughts of Ragnarok and ultimatums from his mind.

    Thanks for the clothes, Mom,” he said as he entered the kitchen.

    Ah, there you are, dear! Let me look at you – do they fit all right?”

    They fit fine, Mom,” he said, lifting his arms and half-turning on the spot. “When did you find the time to go shopping?”

    I went yesterday while you were out training with Cole,” she said. “And dear, while I do think he's adorable, your Pokemon is kind of getting in the way.”

    Ren glanced down to see Zangoose, obstinately seated right in front of the kitchen sink where his mother was trying to wash dishes. “What are you doing, you daft Pokemon?” he asked with a laugh.

    Zangoose yowled hopefully, causing Ren to roll his eyes. “Of course. You're hungry. Now I think about it, everybody else probably is, too,” he added as an afterthought, glancing at the other Poke Balls on his belt.

    Outside, sweetie,” his mother said pointedly, tilting her head at the back door. “I got a big sack of Pokemon food when I was out yesterday. It's by the vegetable garden.”

    Ren shook his head in wonder. “You really do think of everything, don't you?”

    I've been a mother for fifteen years, Ren. It's what I do.”

    Thanks, Mom. All right, you,” he added, nudging Zangoose with his toe. “Outside, and stop bothering people.”

    The back garden had always been one of Ren's favourite places. Little more than a crevice between the side of the house and the sloping cliff face behind it, it was largely overgrown save for a few square metres that had been cleared directly outside the door. Half of that clear area had been dug up and planted with a variety of vegetables that grew well in the limited sun the area received – broccoli, chard, peas and beans, among others.

    It was shady and cool at this time of the morning, offering a welcome change from the warmth of the sun inside. Ren let Camerupt out first, careful to avoid the vegetable patch. The others followed in quick succession, and Ren squeezed past them in the limited space to open the large cloth sack of Pokemon food. Finding a clean scoop nearby, he dumped large numbers of the bulky brown pellets into a stack of bowls of varying sizes that stood next to the food. Absolutely everything, he thought fondly, smiling.

    You guys'll have to eat out here while we're at home,” he told them, putting another scoop in Camerupt's bowl. “There's no room inside. I'll look at clearing some more of this stuff away some time, actually,” he said, kicking at the brambles and weeds that hemmed them in.

    Camerupt snorted uncomfortably, and Ren grinned. “Yes, you can trample on it, but for the love of Arceus, stay off that vegetable patch. I'll be back in a few minutes, okay?”

    After his own breakfast, Ren collected his Pokemon and headed for the front door. It was already eight twenty-five, and his ride was supposed to be arriving in five minutes. Not for the first time, he wondered what sort of ride it would be. Driving to Fortree would take all day, so that was out. Was he supposed to be flying? But then surely Gerard would have simply told him to go to the airport. Besides, there would have been no need for such secrecy.

    See you later, Mom!” he said quickly as he passed her.

    You're going now? When will you be back?”

    I . . . honestly don't know,” Ren said. “It might be tomorrow, considering how long it takes to get to and from Fortree.”

    Hmm. All right, honey. See you when you get back. Have fun, now!”

    I will,” he promised. Opening the door, he stepped outside and almost crashed into something large and metallic standing on the garden path.

    A grating squawk split the air, along with a slightly creaky flapping of enormous wings. Ren stepped back and looked upwards, meeting the sharp yellow eyes of the very large Pokemon blocking his front door.

    Skarmory,” he said. “And one as big as you can only belong to one person . . .” He sidled awkwardly past the giant Flying-type – which stood fully twice as tall as he did – and looked up at its rider.

    Hiya, Ren! It's been a while, hasn't it?”

    Sure has, Winona,” Ren said.

    The Fortree Gym Leader grinned, swinging herself down off Skarmory's back with practiced grace. She still wore her favourite blue flight suit, he noticed, with her unnaturally lavender hair flowing out from under the cap. “It's good to see you, Ren. Congratulations on making Champion.”

    Thanks,” he said awkwardly. “It feels weird hearing you say that, you know . . . especially considering I never properly beat you in the first place.”

    Ah, ah, none of that now,” she said good-naturedly. “I know the official result came out as a draw, but I gave you the Feather Badge because I could tell you deserved it. Okay?”

    All right,” Ren said. “I know, I know. You did tell me at the time, but it doesn't stop it feeling weird.”

    Well, let's have a rematch some time,” Winona suggested. “We can see if you really are better than me then. Oh, hello. You must be Ren's mother.”

    Ren blinked and turned around to see his mother standing in the doorway, obviously having heard Skarmory's screech. “Oh, Mom, this is Winona, the Fortree Gym Leader,” he said.

    It's nice to meet you,” his mother said, eyeing Skarmory nervously. “I'm Thalia Goodwin.”

    Back up a little, Skarmory,” Winona said quietly, tapping on the oversized Pokemon's side. It retreated a way down the garden path, making room in front of the door for all three of them. “I've come to steal Ren off you for a day or two, I'm afraid.”

    Oh, that's all right, so long as you bring him back in one piece. It's remarkably nice of you to come all this way just to pick him up, though.”

    Oh, I was in Dewford on business yesterday anyway,” Winona said airily, “so I asked if I could drop in and bring him along to the Feather Carnival. The timing was perfect. Actually, speaking of timing . . . we really should be on our way now if we want to get there in time for the start of the festival. I'm sorry I couldn't stop for longer.”

    No, no, I understand perfectly. Go on. Have fun!”

    Winona turned to Ren. “Have you flown on a Pokemon before?” she asked. “I don't imagine your Braviary would be quite strong enough to ride on yet.”

    For a brief moment, an image of soaring across the third ring on Shadecolour's back flashed across Ren's mind. “Once or twice,” he said.

    Up you go, then,” said Winona. “I'll sit behind you so you don't fall off.”

    Uh,” Ren said, glancing up at Skarmory's towering steel flank.

    Oh, right,” Winona said, the faintest edge of amusement in her voice. “I'll give you a leg up.” Kneeling on the ground, she laced her fingers into a stirrup and gestured for Ren to step into them. When he did, she boosted him upwards, and he managed to scramble onto Skarmory's back.

    It was certainly a different feeling to riding on Shadecolour, he could tell already. While the Iehkti'na had been almost intangible, seeming to slip and give under his hands, Skarmory was all solid physicality and pointed edges. He felt more secure atop the Steel-type, but he wasn't sure it would be as good of a conversationalist.

    Winona leapt expertly up behind him. “All right up there?” she asked.

    Yeah,” he said, suddenly not entirely sure. If he fell off Skarmory while it was in flight, there would be no question as to the outcome. Somehow, the threat had seemed less potent in the world of dreams, but in the light of day, he was very aware of how dangerous flying was.

    I've been flying on Skarmory for twelve years now, Ren. Nobody's fallen off in all that time,” Winona said from behind him, as if reading his thoughts. “Come on, Skarmory! Hup!”

    With a great screech, Skarmory leapt upwards, its great wings unfolding and beating powerfully. In seconds, Ren's house was as a toy against the cliff as the great Steel-type winged its way upward. Ren craned his neck backwards and waved in the general direction of his house, clinging to one of Skarmory's neck ridges with his other hand. Skarmory wheeled and corkscrewed upwards, soon clearing the cliff and setting its sights on the north.

    It's about an hour and a half from here to Fortree,” Winona said, raising her voice to counter the wind blowing in their ears. “Talking up here's kind of impractical, so it's probably best if you just enjoy the view!”

    Ren nodded to show that he understood; he was already looking down, searching for landmarks he recognised. After a few minutes, he spotted the Cycling Road below them, snaking back and forth over Route 110. He had biked the track a couple of times, but it was hard work, especially going uphill – an almost two-hour slog. Now he soared effortlessly over the twisting road, catching glimpses here or there of tiny cyclists making their way along one way or the other.

    About forty minutes later, they passed Mauville. Skarmory's trajectory took them some way to the east, but Ren spotted the city's buildings glittering in the distance. That's where the Contest is on Thursday. The thought reminded him uncomfortably of Gerard's promise that he would get Ren to compete in a Contest some time. He wasn't too keen on the idea.

    Soon enough, the terrain changed as they crossed a twisting blue river and passed over a heavily overgrown road that Ren remembered vividly from his time journeying around Hoenn on foot. Route 119, where it rained almost constantly. Thankfully, the sky was clear today, but there were some nasty-looking thunderheads hanging around on the horizon, and the wind was picking up. Ren shivered and held onto Skarmory's neck a little tighter. While flying was certainly exciting, it wasn't something he planned on making a habit out of. If he could fly by himself, like Braviary, he might consider it, but trusting his own life to the Pokemon beneath him rubbed him the wrong way a little. It wasn't that he didn't trust Skarmory and Winona, but it just felt awfully uncomfortable.

    As it was, he was quite relieved when, some time later, the tangled, grassy expanse of Route 119 gave way to the treetops that signified the approach to Fortree. Looking down, Ren glimpsed flashes of activity through the trees as they soared overhead – spots of colour, people and Pokemon moving.

    And everywhere there were Flying-type Pokemon. Fortree's natural ecosystem and lack of heavy industry made it a haven for many kinds of Pokemon, but those who took to the sky found a special place among its many levels of forest and brush. Pokemon native to the Hoenn region could be spotted everywhere; Taillow, Swellow, Swablu and Pelipper were among the most common, ducking and diving through the sky in apparent joy at the appearance of Winona and Skarmory. Ren glimpsed an Altaria floating peacefully past, as well as a variety of Pokemon from farther afield. Hoppip and Skiploom from Johto bounced past on a lively breezed, and a flock of Starly – recently introduced from Sinnoh – twittered madly in a particularly tall tree.

    Before long, the leafy canopy split apart, revealing a wide area open to the sky. Ren was forcefully reminded of the Glade of Shifting Light, but Fortree's centre seemed infinitely more alive. Every inch of the large, open space was filled with people bustling around busily, setting up stalls, hanging strings of coloured bunting and – right in the middle – building a large circular stage. When Skarmory threw back its head and shrieked proudly, everybody below craned their necks upwards to see. Some waved as Skarmory circled down to the ground, and Winona waved back, leaving Ren unsure as to whether he should do the same. Suddenly, he was inadvertently the centre of attention again.

    Winona slipped off Skarmory's back as soon as it landed, and Ren followed her awkwardly. They had landed right in the middle of Fortree's square, next to the raised stage that appeared to be in the latter stages of assembly.

    I need to help out with some of the preparations, Ren,” she said quickly, rubbing Skarmory's head affectionately. “I'll be busy till about eleven thirty, when the Feather Carnival officially opens. I hate to drop you like this, but I promise I'll come back and find you later. I'll leave you with someone . . .” She tailed off, glancing around at the crowd of people that milled around them, many giving Ren curious looks.

    It's fine, really,” Ren said. “I'll find something to do for a while.”

    Nonsense,” Winona said. “Ah, perfect. Karl!” she called, raising her voice and beckoning to a boy about Ren's age who was sauntering past with a lollipop stick poking from his mouth. “Karl, come over here for a minute.”

    Looking vaguely interested, the boy wandered over, sizing Ren up casually as he approached. Ren took the opportunity to do the same. Karl was a little taller than he was, with messy black hair that looked like it hadn't been trimmed in years, straggling its way down to his shoulders. His jeans were torn and his brown shirt looked like it had been splashed with yellow paint at some point in the distant past. “You're the new Champion kid,” he said after a few seconds, drawling slightly as he spoke. His face betrayed none of his emotions.

    That's right,” Ren said, deciding to play it safe. “I'm Ren Goodwin.”

    Ren, Karl's a Pokemon Trainer too,” Winona said. “I'll leave you with him for a while. Karl, show Ren around, all right? Try and keep out of trouble until the carnival opens, all right?”

    Whatever,” Karl said, still not taking his eyes off Ren. “Come on, Champ.” He turned and slouched off, not waiting to see if Ren was following.

    Ren glanced doubtfully at Winona, who shrugged. “He's a good kid,” she said. “Just a little grumpy sometimes. You'll get on fine, I'm sure.”

    If you say so,” Ren said, raising his eyebrows as he followed Karl into the crowd. When he caught up to the other boy, he fell into step beside him, unsure whether he should initiate a conversation.

    Karl beat him to it. “I saw your battle on the news the other day,” he said, ducking skilfully under a large beam of wood carried by two muscular Machoke. “Pretty good stuff.”

    Thanks,” Ren said. “So you're a Trainer too? Have you tried for the League?”

    Eh, that's not really my style,” Karl said dismissively. He stopped beside an empty wooden stall and sat down on a bench, spreading his legs out casually in front of him. “Oi, sit down. I know Winona said to show you around, but you're just going to get stood on with people running round like this. There'll be time for that later.”

    Ren took a seat next to Karl on the bench, watching the proceedings going on around him with amazement. The entire square was filled with people, and it was a miracle that nobody was getting trampled on or brained with the large pieces of construction material that were being toted around. “Why is everything happening in such a rush? If you don't mind me asking, that is.”

    Rained like hell yesterday,” Karl said. “All this was meant to be done already, but the rain really made it difficult. We did what we could, but some things are just too dangerous when it's wet.”

    I guess that makes sense,” Ren said with a slight smile, watching a pair of Taillow hanging a string of coloured streamers between two trees nearby. “But you were saying that the League's not really your style . . . what do you mean by that? I thought just about everyone who trained Pokemon seriously was trying for the League.”

    Not all of us, Champ,” Karl said with a grin. “We have our own goals, and some of them aren't quite so lofty. Me, I wanna be a Gym Leader.”

    That's not something you hear every day,” Ren commented.

    You think that's funny?” Karl growled, suddenly belligerent.

    No, not at all,” Ren said quickly. “It's just interesting. I mean . . . all the Trainers I met on my journey talked about going to the Pokemon League and becoming Champion. None of them had anything but that single-minded goal . . . I guess I was no different. But it's cool to meet someone who wants to do something else. Do you specialise in a particular type yet?”

    The Dark type,” Karl said, sounding enthused. “They're just so cool, and they kick so much butt. And would you believe it, there's no Gym for them anywhere? Not here, or in Kanto, Johto or Sinnoh. Not even overseas in Unova!”

    Ren frowned as he racked his memory. “Now you mention it, you're right,” he said with some surprise. “I wonder why that is.”


    I bet there's just nobody who's tank enough to train them properly,” Karl said with a derisive laugh. “If you want to train Dark-types, you have to be a total badass. The only people I've heard of who specialise in them are Sidney from the Elite Four here, Karen from Johto and Grimsley from Unova. They're all Elites, though. They were just too awesome to start a Gym, so they went all the way.”

    You don't want to go all the way?” Ren asked curiously. “Why just settle for being a Gym Leader?”

    It's not about 'settling', really,” Karl said, looking pensive. “I just reckon being a Gym Leader would be so much more fun. Elites don't get to battle as often. They take one challenger a year, mostly, and I guess they battle each other for practice every now and then, but a Gym Leader gets to battle all the time. And there's so much other cool stuff you get to do, as well!”

    I guess you're right,” Ren said. “I'm in the same boat as the Elites, I guess. Not much battling to do. I mean, who's going to battle me? I can't accept official challenges, and I'm kind of . . . at a place where there's nobody else on my level. It makes me sound a bit stuck-up to say it, but . . .”

    Lonely at the top, huh?” Karl said. “See, there's why. That's why I want to be a Gym Leader. You get to be right in the thick of it all the time.”

    Nah, being Champion has its perks,” Ren said. “I get to come and see cool stuff like this, for one.” He waved at the increasingly frantic activity that was still taking place all around them. Things were coming together at a remarkable pace, he noticed. Coloured signs were being stapled to stalls, the last few boards were being hammered into place on the main stage, and the chaotic tangle of streamers and flags overhead had been transformed into an elaborate lattice of colour that left plenty of open space – for flying, Ren presumed. People were standing on stepladders and hanging unlit lanterns on wires and poles, he noticed.

    Yeah, this is pretty neat,” Karl said, his voice softening slightly. “The Feather Carnival is the biggest event on Fortree's calendar, you know. Everybody pitches in to help out, even outsiders like me.”

    You're not from here?” Ren asked.

    Well,” Karl said, “I've lived here for five years, so I'm pretty much part of the family.”

    Ren was about to ask where Karl had originally come from, but something in the other boy's dark blue eyes – which refused to meet Ren's – told him that it would be a bad idea. Instead, he steered the conversation back towards previously established safe ground. “You said you want to specialise in Dark-types, right? How's that going for you? You've been collecting them?”

    I have two,” Karl said. Suddenly his eyes lit up, making him look unexpectedly young. “Want to see them?”

    Of course,” Ren said. “I don't think we'll have time – or room – for a battle right now, but-”

    Oh, hell no,” Karl said with a laugh, standing up. “I'm not even gonna think battling you. Not with the team I have right now.”

    Fine,” Ren said. “Let's just see them, then.”

    Come on, we'll move out of the way first,” Karl said, glancing around. “We're in the way too much as it is, and Pokemon running around will just make us more annoying. Come with me.” He led Ren back past the stall that they had been sitting in front of. He crashed through some undergrowth for a few seconds, Ren following awkwardly, until they came to another road running horizontally in front of them.

    Ren's heart lifted as he saw the treehouses of Fortree for the first time in two years. While a good number of the city's buildings were earthbound, especially the larger ones, there were still many people in Fortree who felt the need to be closer to the sky – and to the trees. Small, lightweight buildings were built on platforms attached firmly to the branches of one or more trees at various heights. Rope ladders and makeshift staircases were the norm, and a vast number of rope bridges criss-crossed through the canopy.

    Karl skidded down an embankment to the road, which was entirely deserted save for a few people hurrying towards the square about fifty metres away. Ren followed, feeling vaguely uneasy. It wasn't often he found himself standing on a road with no traffic or pedestrians in sight. Then again, roads in Fortree hardly felt like roads at all. They were hard-packed earth, not tarmac or gravel; they hardly ever saw vehicles heavier than a bicycle. Hidden beneath the canopy as it was, Fortree existed in a perpetual state of leafy gloom that somehow managed not to seem gloomy at all. The shade from the trees that grew all through the city meant that it was cool at ground level, and the whole city was filled with the scent of life – leaves, earth and bark.

    I love it here, Ren realised suddenly, hearing the sounds of hectic construction and preparation fade away behind him as he moved away from the square. This city is amazing, not least because it's more alive than any town I've ever been in.

    You awake, Champ?” Karl asked.

    What? Oh, right. Sorry. I was just . . . daydreaming,” Ren explained. It was largely true. He had an picture in his mind's eye of moving to Fortree some day, spending the rest of his life among the trees with his Pokemon.

    Never had much patience for dreamers,” Karl said, fiddling with the two Poke Balls at his belt.

    Isn't that what we were just talking about, though?” Ren asked, puzzled. “How your dream was to be a Gym Leader?”

    Well, sorta. But I'm working at it. It's not just a dream – more like an inevitability.”

    That's . . . good,” Ren said, unsure how else to react. There was something admirable about Karl's dedication, even if he covered it up with a rough exterior. He doesn't seem to be trying too hard to hide it, though, he thought silently. But when he was talking to Winona, he was so grouchy. What's with that?

    So,” Karl said after a few seconds of tense silence. “Want to see the team?”

    Yeah!” Ren said. He was interested to see what kind of Pokemon a person like Karl would raise. Dark-types, obviously. But what sort?

    With a loud crack, Karl opened the first Poke Ball. A small purple creature appeared by his feet, vaguely goblin-like in appearance. Its eyes literally appeared to be sparkling blue gems, and it had a mouthful of wicked-looking teeth in its disproportionately large head. “My Sableye,” he said proudly. “Caught him on Dewford Island. He's a real trooper. Half Ghost-type too, so he doesn't take many bad hits – if you can even hit him, that is.” Giggling madly, the Pokemon faded almost completely from view in the dappled sunlight that filtered through the trees.

    Ren knelt down to inspect the Pokemon – what little he could see of it, anyway. “Sableye are quite rare,” he said as it faded back into visibility. “You did well to catch one, and he's a big specimen too. They're usually a little more fragile than this one, I think – he's pretty bulky.”

    Karl seemed pleased with the praise, but Ren could tell he was trying to hide it. Why would he do that? “You want to see my other one?” he asked, clearly making an effort to curb his eagerness.

    Sure,” Ren said.

    Another crack, and a much more familiar Pokemon sat before Ren on the road, cocking its head suspiciously at him as it regarded him with wary red eyes. Its fur was black and grey, shaggy but well-looked after. A long, warped scar ran across its muzzle and right up to its left eye. “This is Scar the Mightyena,” Karl said, an extra note of pride evident in his voice this time.

    Original,” Ren muttered as he reached out to pet the canine Dark-type. Its eyes followed his hand like laser trackers, but it consented to let him scratch it behind the ears, which it seemed to enjoy well enough. “Your first Pokemon?”

    You can tell?” Karl seemed surprised.

    Not hard, really,” Ren said. “There's cues from both you and the Pokemon. Little things like the way Sableye stands facing ever so slightly away from you, like it's not quite comfortable with you yet. It's not as skittish as a recent capture would be, but it certainly speaks of a Pokemon that's used to being a third wheel. That's probably not good, actually. You should probably make sure to look after Sableye a bit more so it doesn't feel left out.”

    Karl was staring at him, his mouth slightly open in disbelief. “You're screwing with me, right? You can tell that after just a few seconds?”

    So it's true?”

    Well, yeah, I guess I do use Mightyena more often than Sableye.”

    It's not so much about how often each Pokemon gets to battle,” Ren said, standing up and looking Karl in the eyes. “Some members of my team get used more than others, and I'm sure any top-tier Trainer would tell you the same. It's okay to play favourites a little bit. Everybody has a Pokemon that's special to them. For me, it's Zangoose. But all you need to do is make sure your others get the attention they need.”

    I-I see,” Karl said quietly. “I'll . . . I'll do that.”

    Good,” Ren said brightly, checking his watch. “Shouldn't we be getting back to the square about now? It's five to eleven.”

    Yeah, let's do that,” Karl said.

    Ren watched the other boy with no small interest as he returned his Pokemon and led the way back towards the square. Karl was hiding something, he was sure of it. He didn't know what – it might not even be anything major – but there was no question that there was something that needed to be brought out into the open if he ever wanted to be a Gym Leader.

    In the square, the majority of the preparations seemed to be complete. Vendors were stacking crates of drinks and making last-minute adjustments to displays, small children dashed about excitedly and Winona was visible on the central stage with Skarmory.

    Karl jerked his head towards the stage questioningly. “You wanna go over there? Looks like they're about ready to get underway.”

    Sure.” Ren nodded, and the two of them began forging their way through the crowd.

    When they reached the stage, Winona noticed them and extended a hand to pull Ren up next to her. “Come on, Champion,” she said with a slightly mischievous smile. “Do you feel up to making a speech?”

    A speech?” Ren shook his head quickly. “I can't do that!”

    Well, I'm afraid you don't have much of a choice,” Winona said. “Steven told me you're to make a speech whether you like it or not.”

    Ren cursed under his breath. “That guy, honestly . . .”

    Come on, it's easy,” she said, her voice taking on a slightly kinder tone as she appeared to notice his distress. “I'll do the buildup and then hand it over to you. You just have to say a few words about how happy you are to be here and then declare the Feather Carnival open. Simple!”

    As Winona turned away briefly to talk to somebody else, Ren felt something hit his lower leg. He looked down in surprise to see Karl glaring up at him.

    You pussy out here, you're worth nothing,” he said, his words audible only to Ren due to the noise of the crowd. “Got it?”

    Ren laughed despite himself. “Got it,” he said. Inexplicably, he did feel better.

    Here we go again, he said silently. This is the time when I stop worrying about stupid things and just do it. He took a deep breath, tilting his head back to look at the sky. As always, several of the ubiquitous Flying-type Pokemon wheeled overhead, relaxed and loose. He could learn a thing or two from them at times like this, he supposed.
    Flaze likes this.
    The Atlantis Codex / Champion Game

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

  2. #77
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    Default Re: Champion Game {Chapter 23}

    All right I'll start with chapter 21. I liked this chapter but what I liked the most about this chapter is the part where Ren is talking to Afro Glameow as if it was a friend he's known for years, it kind of weirds me out that Afro Glameow didn't attack him like it normally did maybe it just got used to Ren. Also I always wondered why he only dreams with that thing I mean why not some other Pokemon or a different kind of dream.

    Anyway things with the spirits and the Nightmares seem to have increased in tension now that the Nightmares have not only proved to be sentient but having more numbers than the spirits will ever have. There's one other thing that I don't get it's basically how the spirits treat Ren for some reason it feels as if the Nightmares treat Ren with a little bit more respect than the spirits ever had I mean I don't know if it's just because Nekros was probably trying to convince Ren but he spoke more freely and openly to Ren compared to the Elders.

    And the newest chapter seems to be another break chapter now that we have to wait for the new arc to be completely set up I'm really curious about Karl and he does have a point there are no gymleaders with Dark types which is really weird in itself.

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    Unova's #1 Yancy fan Seizon Senryaku's Avatar
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    Default Re: Champion Game {Chapter 23}

    Quote Originally Posted by Sky Flame Haze View Post
    All right I'll start with chapter 21. I liked this chapter but what I liked the most about this chapter is the part where Ren is talking to Afro Glameow as if it was a friend he's known for years, it kind of weirds me out that Afro Glameow didn't attack him like it normally did maybe it just got used to Ren. Also I always wondered why he only dreams with that thing I mean why not some other Pokemon or a different kind of dream.
    Afro Glameow started out as an incidental occurrence, but I quite liked the concept, so I kept it around. There is a reason behind it, though. It's not just random. And yes, I thought I'd try a different tactic with it this chapter, for my own reasons.

    Anyway things with the spirits and the Nightmares seem to have increased in tension now that the Nightmares have not only proved to be sentient but having more numbers than the spirits will ever have. There's one other thing that I don't get it's basically how the spirits treat Ren for some reason it feels as if the Nightmares treat Ren with a little bit more respect than the spirits ever had I mean I don't know if it's just because Nekros was probably trying to convince Ren but he spoke more freely and openly to Ren compared to the Elders.
    Well . . . that's pretty much exactly how I intended it. What I must ask, though, is this: Are you quite convinced that Ren fell in with the good guys when he first came to the world of dreams?

    And the newest chapter seems to be another break chapter now that we have to wait for the new arc to be completely set up I'm really curious about Karl and he does have a point there are no gymleaders with Dark types which is really weird in itself.
    Yeah, that's something that always bothered me. I like Karl, so you can expect to see a bit more of him in chapters to come - especially considering that the next four chapters all take place in Fortree. After that, or maybe one more, we'll return to your regularly scheduled programming.
    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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    The Dimension Wizard Flaze's Avatar Moderator
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    Default Re: Champion Game {Chapter 23}

    Well . . . that's pretty much exactly how I intended it. What I must ask, though, is this: Are you quite convinced that Ren fell in with the good guys when he first came to the world of dreams?
    Well...they looked human and didn't try to kill Ren so I just assumed but you have a point.

    Yeah, that's something that always bothered me. I like Karl, so you can expect to see a bit more of him in chapters to come - especially considering that the next four chapters all take place in Fortree. After that, or maybe one more, we'll return to your regularly scheduled programming.
    It actually is really weird since they're always repeating types over and over but we never see someone that specializes in Dark types aside from Elite 4 members not just that but all the ones that specialize in it seem mysterious at firs I thought Karmen's original outfit and appearance looked really crazy and dark and I also thought of Sydney as a sort of gangster or something due to his haircut and grin (I was 8 so sue me) and Grimsley...well let's just say his name, his outfit, his personality and his rape face don't help him xD

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    Unova's #1 Yancy fan Seizon Senryaku's Avatar
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    Default Re: Champion Game {Chapter 23}

    Quote Originally Posted by Sky Flame Haze View Post
    Well...they looked human and didn't try to kill Ren so I just assumed but you have a point.
    Fair enough, I guess. At the early stages of the fic, I really gave you guys no reason to suspect the spirits were anything other than the good guys. They were kind of abrasive in places, but on the whole they seemed better than the faceless alternative.

    For that matter, are the Iehkti'na even the good guys either? Maybe there are no good guys.



    It actually is really weird since they're always repeating types over and over but we never see someone that specializes in Dark types aside from Elite 4 members not just that but all the ones that specialize in it seem mysterious at firs I thought Karmen's original outfit and appearance looked really crazy and dark and I also thought of Sydney as a sort of gangster or something due to his haircut and grin (I was 8 so sue me) and Grimsley...well let's just say his name, his outfit, his personality and his rape face don't help him xD
    Yeah, the Dark-type specialists are all a bit weird in a way. Maybe it takes more of a toll on you mentally than Karl thinks.
    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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    The Dimension Wizard Flaze's Avatar Moderator
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    Default Re: Champion Game {Chapter 23}

    Well Dark types are portrayed as being harder to control than normal though this may have something to do with the whole "darkness is evil" thing though most dark type Pokemon seem to be really friendly aside from the ones that aren't creepy.

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    Unova's #1 Yancy fan Seizon Senryaku's Avatar
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    Default Chapter Twenty-Four - Soar

    So this is my celebratory exams-are-over chapter! It's a bit of a long one, but nothing ridiculous. I've been writing a lot thanks to NaNo this month, so this is the result of my labour. I've got two more chapters lined up after this, so I'll throw the next one out . . . after the weekend. Maybe Tuesday? Thanks to you guys who are still reading - I appreciate that this fic chugs along a bit more slowly than others I've seen, so I'm truly grateful to everyone who slogs it out with me.

    Chapter Twenty-Four
    Soar


    “The Feather Carnival will be underway in just a minute!” Winona said, speaking into a microphone someone had handed her. Her voice boomed out from speakers arrayed strategically around the square. Drawn by her voice, the residents of Fortree and the multitude of tourists that had been milling around aimlessly began to converge in front of the stage.

    Ren could feel their eyes on him. At least half the crowd had recognised him, he was certain of it. While their attention was still largely on Winona, he knew that wouldn't last. Any minute now, he would be the centre of attention. Near the front of the crowd, he caught a glimpse of Karl's scowling face again. Rather than worry him, though, it paradoxically made him feel better. I told myself I was going to get over this, he chastised himself silently.

    “We have a very special guest here at the Feather Carnival with us this year,” Winona was saying. “Folks, I want you to meet Ren Goodwin, the newest Champion of the Hoenn League.”

    Ren smiled and waved. It wasn't so hard. The people of Fortree cheered as he gave them an awkward bow, thinking it the polite thing to do. With a start, he realised that Winona was handing him the microphone.

    “It's easy,” she reminded him in a whisper.

    For the first time, Ren believed her. “Hello, Fortree City!” he said brightly, letting the trees and the atmosphere of the city itself lend him strength. “I've just got to say that it's amazing to be here right now. The last time I came through here was a little over two years ago, when I stopped by to challenge your Gym Leader.” He glanced over at Winona, who winked. “It was about a fortnight out from that year's Feather Carnival, but I had to move on to the next Gym in a bit of a hurry. I really regretted missing that opportunity, so of course I was excited to come along this year. I still have no idea what to expect, though, so I hope you'll help me out.”

    Ren paused for a moment, suddenly aware that his heart was pounding. A crowd of friendly humans in the mood for a party shouldn't have been scarier than a horde of Iehkti'na, but somehow they were. Even so, he was surprised with how well he was doing. He sneaked another look across at Winona, who nodded, seeming pleased. Whenever you're ready, she mouthed.

    “Well, I for one can't wait for this thing to get started, so I suppose we should get underway,” he said, a suggestion which was met with roars of approval from the crowd. “In that case, I, um, declare the Feather Carnival officially open!”

    A blast of loud music from behind him almost caused Ren to lose his balance. Somehow, a large brass band had sneaked up onto the stage without him noticing, and now they started playing all at once, a lively showtune with a hefty beat that could be heard even over the noise that the crowd was making.

    A multitude of screeches, squawks and chirps from overhead alerted him to the sudden presence of hundreds of Pokemon soaring back and forth across the square – startled by the noise or deliberately released at his unknowing cue, he wasn't sure. There were Flying-types of all shapes and sizes, winged Bug-types and even the uncommon sight of a Charizard soaring ponderously overhead. On the spur of the moment, he reached down to his belt and plucked two particular Poke Balls off it. He wasn't normally one for showmanship, but he figured he could make an exception just this once. Tossing the two Poke Balls high in the air, he shouted, “Fly!”

    Yanmega and Braviary appeared in mid-air, leaving the Poke Balls to fall back to the ground, where Ren caught them and reattached them to his belt. The appearance of the Champion's Pokemon elicited a further cheer from the crowd as they spiralled upwards to join the multitude of Flying-types that already wheeled in the sky.

    Leaving them to it as the crowd quickly dispersed to all corners of the square, Ren crossed back to Winona and handed her the microphone. “That was . . . not so bad, actually,” he admitted.

    “Easy?” she queried, raising an eyebrow.

    “Yes, it was,” he said. “You win. It was still hard, though. If that even makes any sense.”

    “Ren, I've been the Gym Leader in this town for seven years now,” Winona said seriously as she led him down off the stage. “When I first took up the position, I was really surprised by how much I had to do stuff like this – public appearances, taking challenges and all that. From what I gather, you're a lot more freaked out by it all than I was – and that's fair enough, because you're four years younger than I was when I became the Gym Leader – but if it makes you feel better, you're doing a far better job of it than I did. I saw you on Hoenn Buzz the other night, and I was just as impressed then as I was now.”

    “You mean that?” Ren asked curiously. “Because you know, ever since I started doing this thing a couple of days ago, it seems that it's just been one massive string of screw-ups. I sort of stumbled through the press conference after the Championship match, mumbled through Hoenn Buzz and fumbled my way through the class at the Academy in Rustboro. I just have no idea what I'm doing.”

    “That sort of thinking really isn't good for you, you know,” Winona said disapprovingly. “I'm relieving you of your Champion duties for the rest of the day. Have fun, all right? I'm sure it's been hard these last few days, so just take today to unwind. Eat some hot dogs, play some games, win a few prizes and make some friends. Be . . . be a normal kid for a while, okay?”

    Ren couldn't say anything for a moment. He didn't really know what to say. “You planned this, didn't you?” he said at length.

    “Of course I did. I remember the day when you came through my Gym like it was yesterday. I wasn't sure then whether you'd make Champion, but I knew that if you did, you'd have a real hard time of it. Was I right?”

    “Yeah. Yeah, you were,” Ren said.

    “Okay, then. I'll hear no more against it. Do what you like for the day. Go along with Karl – he'll show you around the carnival. I'll see you back here just before dusk, but until then, you're free.”

    Karl shoved his way through the crowd to stand next to them, looking sulky once again. Ren frowned slightly, but simply made a note to ask the other boy about it later. “Come on, Champ,” he said, seeming supremely unenthusiastic. “Let's go see the carnival.”

    Ren paused a moment before following Karl through the crowd. “Thanks, Winona,” he said, a confusing mixture of gratitude and irritation bubbling within him. While on the one hand, he was definitely grateful for her understanding, he couldn't help but feel that she was patronising him a little bit. Deciding to take her at face value for the moment, he pushed his way through the crowd in the direction Karl had gone.

    “Don't run off on me like that,” he said when he caught up to the other boy, who was eyeing up a shooting game stall with evident interest.

    “It's your fault for not being quick enough,” Karl grumbled. “Here, let's have a go at this to start with.”

    “I don't think I'd be any good,” Ren said uncertainly, looking worriedly at the toy rifles lined up across the front of the stall.

    “Half a dozen shots on the house for the new Champion,” suggested the jolly-looking fellow manning the stall. “And his friend too, if you like.”

    “Wicked!” Karl said eagerly. “Look at that, hanging out with you has its perks after all!” He stepped forward and picked up one of the toy guns, aiming it at the garishly coloured targets on the back wall of the stall.

    Ren hesitated for a moment, then stepped forward and picked one up himself, weighing it carefully in his hands. It felt strange to be holding a weapon, even one as garish and fake as this. He had only ever seen real guns in books, and he'd never been one for toy guns. Nevertheless, he hefted it gamely, standing behind a line drawn on the ground in front of the stall and sighting down the barrel.

    His first shot flew high, the gun kicking unexpectedly in his hand. Readjusting his grip, he sent his second shot wide. His third went wider still, but his fourth flew relatively straight, cracking against the back wall of the stall between two of the targets.

    “Holy crap, you suck,” Karl laughed. “You plan on hitting something?”

    “I wish,” Ren said, frowning down the barrel. His fifth shot flew wide again, missing the stall entirely. His sixth narrowly missed the largest of the targets. “Oops. Well, thanks,” he said, handing the gun back to the stall's proprietor.

    “All right, move over and let a real man give it a go,” Karl said, shouldering Ren out of the way as he stepped up to the mark.

    Ren almost laughed at the serious look on Karl's face, but he thought better of it and remained silent. For at least ten seconds, nothing moved except the tip of Karl's toy rifle, wavering slightly up and down as he eyed up his target.

    Suddenly, there was a series of sharp cracks as Karl fired all his pellets in quick succession. Five of the paper targets in the stall were knocked off their perch, and the last round narrowly missed a sixth.

    “Good shooting,” Ren said with some surprise.

    Karl frowned. “I missed one. What do I win?”

    The man running the stall blinked in apparent shock. “Five out of six gets you anything off the top shelf . . . except I haven't stacked the shelf yet. They're all still in the boxes round the back. I'll open them up for you.”

    “What sort of prizes do you get at things like these, anyway?” Ren asked Karl as the man bustled around behind the stall and dragged out a sizable crate.

    “Stuffed Pokemon toys, usually,” Karl said, sounding less than enthused.

    “Not your thing?” Ren asked.

    “Hardly.”

    In the end, Karl picked out a large plush Mightyena that, while impressive, looked much less fierce than Scar. Ren had to grin at the sight of the grouchy teenager wandering around the carnival with a three-foot-long stuffed toy under one arm.

    Three hours passed quickly at the Feather Carnival. Many of the stall owners and salesmen recognised Ren and offered him free shots, throws or sweets. Ren soon discovered that he was absolutely terrible at all sorts of carnival games, although he picked up a good number of consolation prizes. By two o'clock, he was wearing a winged hat and a pair of aviator's gloves, his Pokenav had a colourful sleeve printed with Swellow, and his bag had half a dozen helium balloons of various colours and sizes attached to it.

    Karl had refused to take part in most of the games since winning his Mightyena toy, which, Ren noticed, he still carried under one arm. He seemed to be enjoying the benefits of Ren's presence in scoring free food, though.

    Hands full of hot chips, soda and candy floss, Ren nudged Karl with his elbow and indicated that they ought to sit down somewhere. They found their way through the festival-goers until they reached a small open area ringed with benches. In the centre, a tall, thin man was doing juggling tricks with his Scyther. Sitting down, Ren watched with interest as the Scyther batted several brightly coloured rubber balls into the air with the sides of its massive claws, keeping at least ten of them moving at once while its Trainer juggled a further six or so. Even as Ren watched, they began tossing them fluidly back and forward between each other, causing the small crowd sitting on the benches to clap enthusiastically.

    “This is nice,” Ren said. “I can't remember the last time I went to a carnival like this.”

    “They're not as common nowadays as they used to be, I hear,” Karl said. “My mom always talks about the travelling fairs they had when she was a kid, but there just aren't any of them around. The Feather Carnival isn't the only one – there are a couple others – but it's the only one that comes around like clockwork every year. Only here in Fortree, though, of course.”

    “Why is that?” Ren asked. “I mean, I get that it's a special thing for people here, but I never really asked why. Something to do with all the bird Pokemon, I guess.”

    “Yeah, that's about it, actually,” Karl said. “Folks here love Flying-type Pokemon. I mean, come on, they build their houses in trees just so they can live closer to them! Fortree and Flying-types have been real tight for hundreds of years. Every year, they hold this carnival to celebrate that relationship.”

    “You talk about it like an outsider,” Ren said, craftily noting the opportunity to give Karl a gentle push. “You said you'd lived here for five years. How come?”

    “What? A guy can't live where he wants?” Karl said, suddenly on the defensive.

    “That's not what I mean,” Ren said, wondering if he'd been too direct. He changed tack slightly, steering away from Karl's past a little. “If you're training to be a Gym Leader, wouldn't you want to be, you know, travelling around? Catching more Dark-types and battling all different kinds of Trainers?”

    “Well . . . I have been doing both of those, sort of. I get the battling practice I need at Winona's Gym. I battle some of the Trainers who come in to challenge her. Some of them want a warm-up, others want the extra practice themselves. Some just want to show off. But they come from everywhere, and they have all kinds of different Pokemon.”

    “Don't you have to use Flying-types to be an apprentice at the Gym?” Ren asked, frowning.

    “Normally, yeah, but Winona made an exception for me while I'm here. It was great of her to help me out like that, but don't you dare tell her I said that!”

    “Sure, sure,” Ren said, wondering again why Karl was so keen to give Winona the impression that he didn't like her. “But what about catching Pokemon?”

    Karl sighed, leaning back on the bench and staring up at the treetops that surrounded the square. “I came here, to Fortree, when I was eleven,” he said quietly. “I was doing just what you expected – travelling around and battling, training and trying to catch new Pokemon. I came here because I'd heard rumours of a certain rare, powerful Dark-type Pokemon that hung around in the forest around here. You know it?”

    Ren nodded. Suddenly, a number of things began to make sense. “Absol, right?”

    “The Disaster Pokemon,” Karl recited. “Rumoured to sense impending disaster with its horn, it naturally became a target for collectors. The few small populations of Absol across the world withdrew into wild areas like the forests near Route 120, and they only emerge when great danger threatens. I've spent five years of my life trekking through those woods, trying to find one. I swore to myself I wouldn't leave until I caught one.”

    “You want one that badly?” Ren asked.

    “Hell yes, I want one that badly,” Karl said forcefully. “I'd be unstoppable with a Pokemon like that! And imagine the prestige that would come with owning one! They're unbelievably rare!”

    Ren thought about this for a moment. “Are those . . . are those your reasons?” he asked seriously. “Because it doesn't sound like-”

    “Look, spare me the lecture,” Karl said, waving his hand dismissively. “I've heard it all from Winona, not to mention everybody else I told this to. I know what I want, and I know why I want it. That'll have to be good enough for you. Alright?”

    “Fine,” Ren said. “I won't criticise the way you do things. Arceus knows I get mad enough at people who complain about my methods, so it'd be unfair of me to do it to you.”

    “The hell?” Karl said. “Who criticised you? And what for?”

    “Nothing major, really,” Ren said. “That's the worst part, really. A while back, I met some people who really disagreed with how I battled. Not because they thought it was unethical or any of that crap, but . . . well, they were purists. They thought Pokemon battles should be 'instinctual and beautiful in their intransitiveness', I think it was. They didn't like how I took everything to pieces and analysed everything when I battled.”

    Karl gave him a skeptical look. “You're screwing with me, right? Nobody's that anal about battling.”

    “I'm afraid not,” Ren said, his mouth twisting as he remembered. “I got into some trouble with a bunch of them a while back. After my loss at the Ever Grande Conference last year, but before I went back to compete again a month ago. It was . . . messy.”

    “Don't wanna talk about it?” Karl asked.

    “Pretty much.”

    “Fair enough. Everyone's got stuff they don't want to talk about,” Karl said pointedly.

    Ren sighed. “Fine. I won't ask you about where you came from.”

    “Oh, I'm from Fallarbor. It's not where I came from that bothers me. It's why I left.”

    “Then all right,” Ren said. “I won't mention it again. I wouldn't mind knowing why you don't want to talk about it, but finding that out would probably involve, you know . . .”

    “Talking about it,” Karl finished. He looked at Ren for a moment, then burst out laughing.

    Dumbfounded, Ren watched him for a few seconds before joining in. It hadn't even been particularly funny, but in the sunlight and cheer, surrounded by people having fun and talking peacefully with someone who might be considered a friend, everything seemed magnified somehow.

    “Hey,” Karl said when he managed to calm down eventually. “I think they set up a haunted house down the west end of the square. Want to go check it out?”

    “Sure,” Ren said. “I've finished eating, so let's go.” He stood up, applauding one more time for the juggler and his Scyther, who were just finishing up a turn, and stepped over the bench.

    Karl swore, patting his belt as he stood. “What the hell? My Pokemon!”

    “What? You lost them?” Ren said.

    “I didn't lose them!” Karl growled; he scanned the area, one hand shading his eyes from the sun. “I keep them attached with powerful magnets, just like any sensible Trainer. They don't just fall off!”

    “So someone stole them?” Ren said incredulously. “Do you have any idea who? How long have they been gone?”

    “I don't damn well know, do I? I had them when I sat down just now,” Karl said, clenching and unclenching his fists as he paced back and forth, glaring around at passers-by.

    “If someone stole them, they're probably well away by now,” Ren said, checking his own belt just in case. All six Poke Balls were present, though Yanmega and Braviary were still probably flying around somewhere. “We should go and tell Winona, at least.”

    “Winona? What the hell is she going to do?”

    “More than you are right now, at any rate,” Ren said decisively, grabbing the other boy's arm and pulling him towards the centre stage.

    Even as they approached the stage, Ren saw Winona swooping down on her Skarmory with a small girl of about eight seated in front of her. He climbed up onto the stage, practically dragging Karl behind him, as the Gym Leader returned the girl to her parents.

    “Oh, hello, Ren!” she said brightly when she spotted him. “Been having fun?”

    “Well, yes, but not right now,” he said urgently, stepping in close to talk in a low voice. “There's a thief about. Someone stole Karl's Pokemon!”

    “What? Are you sure?” she asked, directing the question at Karl. She looked positively horror-stricken.

    “Positive,” Karl growled. “And when I find the son of a Bidoof that did it, I'm going to punch his face out the back of his skull.”

    “No, you aren't,” Winona said sternly. “We're going to find whoever it is and we're going to hand him over to the police. Now, I might put an announcement over the PA, but that could panic people, which we don't want. For the meantime, I'll just get the apprentices from my Gym on it, as well as the police who are stationed around the carnival. They'll be able to keep an eye out for suspicious characters, though I don't know how obvious our thief will be.”

    “That's all we're going to do?” Karl asked.

    “That's all we can do, Karl,” Winona said firmly. “If we alert everyone here, not only will people panic, but the thief will know we're on to him and probably leave. Then we'll never find him. Is that what you want?”

    “No,” Karl said, rolling his neck restlessly. “But what are we going to do, then?”

    “The thief might strike again today – you might not even have been his first target. The best thing we can do is be on high alert, watching for any suspicious activity.”

    “Couldn't we just go up to everybody and make them bring out all the Pokemon they have on them?” Karl said. “Then we'd be able to find who has my Sableye and Scar!”

    “Remember what I said about not panicking people, Karl?” Winona said mildly. “Besides, do you really think the person who stole your Pokemon would walk around wearing them on his belt?”

    “He might,” Karl said, but Ren could tell he'd been stung. “For Arceus' sake, I just want to hit someone! Preferably the ass who took my Pokemon, but if we don't find him soon it'll have to be you, Champ.”

    “Me?” Ren yelped, stepping hastily away from Karl. “Easy on.”

    “None of that, Karl,” Winona said, a slight edge creeping into her voice for the first time. “You two just keep wandering around the carnival for now. I think I have an idea . . .”

    * * *


    “You seriously think this is a good idea, Ren?” Karl asked anxiously.

    “Using me as bait? Of course it's a good idea,” Ren said with false confidence. “It's no secret that the Champion is here today. To a thief like that, nobody's Pokemon are worth stealing more than mine. Winona's right – they probably just want to sell them, and I have some pretty rare – or powerful – Pokemon on me. If they're looking for a target, I'm pretty much the best one.”

    “But you were with me before when they stole mine,” Karl said. “They'll expect you to be on guard.”

    “They will if I'm with you,” Ren said. “If we went our separate ways before you noticed Sableye and Scar were gone, I still might not know. So tag out. Got somebody else I can wander around with?”

    “Wouldn't you be an easier target on your own?” Karl asked.

    “Hmm, that's true,” Ren said. “You go back with Winona and I'll just wander around by myself, then. I'll call you if anything happens.”

    “I'm not giving you my Pokenav number,” Karl said with a frown.

    “Winona did, because she knew you'd be like that,” Ren said, grinning back. “Now go on back,” he said, talking over the other boy's protests. “I'll get your Pokemon back. I promise.”

    Karl hesitated. “Uh . . . thanks,” he said.

    “Every second you hang around me is a second the thief might see us and realise I know,” Ren said. “Go on, scoot.”

    Karl looked like he was about to say something else, but he evidently thought better of it, turning to head in the opposite direction.

    Ren headed towards the west side of the carnival.

    Half an hour later, Ren still had all six of his Poke Balls. He wondered if he was being too obvious. He had, after all, been doing his level best to look vague and dreamy, wandering slowly through the temporary alleys of the carnival with his eyes on the sky, paying as little attention to people around him as he could. It was a surprisingly difficult act to keep up, for every instinct he had was telling him he was a target. Does that mean it's working?

    Subtly, he glanced down at his belt. Six Poke Balls. He stopped for a moment to chat to a friendly stall owner he'd met earlier, complimenting the man on the Kecleon that he was using as an attraction. The Pokemon changed colour repeatedly as its owner held up different-coloured slides behind it, its skin seeming to fizzle slightly as the pigments morphed. Ren stayed at the stall for a good five minutes, genuinely interested in the unusual Pokemon. More than that, though, he wanted to give any potential thief another opportunity to try and sneak up on him. He had remembered that the thief had taken Karl's Pokemon while the target was sitting down, distracted by something else. He kept one eye on his belt, but all six of his Poke Balls remained where they were.

    Deciding that staying at the stall any longer would be suspicious, Ren turned to leave. Preoccupied with his dilemma, however, he crashed into a blonde girl who had been walking up behind him.

    “Ow! Watch it!” she said sharply.

    “Sorry!” he said hastily, ducking quickly around her and moving on. Well, that was embarrassing. I guess there's a limit on vagueness.

    He sneaked another quick glance at his belt and almost shouted out loud. Four of his Poke Balls were missing, leaving him with just the two that were attached to his right hip. That girl! He cursed his idiocy. She had to have stolen them when he'd bumped into her just seconds ago. He'd fallen for the oldest trick in the pickpocket's book.

    Ren spun around and dashed back towards the stall with the Kecleon, all pretense of ignorance abandoned. The girl was gone. “Did any of you see that girl that was just here?” he asked the people clustered around the colour-shifting Normal-type. “Blonde, quite tall . . .”

    Most of them shook their heads or just looked puzzled, but one man pointed east, back towards the centre of the carnival. Ren thanked him quickly before sprinting back towards the centre stage, scanning the crowd for the girl. The carnival whirled colourfully around him, and he swore silently as he realised that it would be almost impossible to find one person in the chaos. He covered the rest of the distance to the stage quickly.

    Winona spotted him from her position on the stage and she hurried over, looking concerned. When she saw the empty slots on his belt, she paled slightly. “They took the bait?”

    “Yes, but I couldn't catch her. I did see her face, though.”

    “You're sure? You know who it was?”

    “She bumped into me, and a few seconds later I noticed they were gone. A hundred to one it was her who took them.”

    Winona nodded, still looking slightly flustered. “All right. What did she look like?”

    “She was blonde, about this tall,” he said, holding one hand a few inches above his own head. “Maybe eighteen or nineteen. She was wearing a red top and a black skirt, and I think she might have had a backpack.”

    “All right, I'll pass that on to the police. They'll find her. You just wait here with me.”

    “What? I'm not just going to sit here!” Ren protested. “If nothing else, I promised Karl I'd get his Pokemon back!”

    “I understand you want to help, Ren, but the police are professionally equipped and trained to deal with this sort of thing. You'll just-”

    “What? Get in the way? I doubt it. I'm the only one who's seen her face, remember. Even if they have a description, I'm still going to recognise her better than anyone.”

    Winona sighed. “All right, Ren. Do what you like. Just be careful, okay? I'm going to call the police in now. They've got people all around the carnival in case of emergency.”

    “Thanks,” Ren said, dashing off before she could say anything else. He didn't know what he was doing or where he was going, but he wasn't going to sit around while other people chased the person who'd stolen his Poke Balls.

    He looped around the carnival in a wide arc, wondering whether the girl had even stuck around. Two Pokemon of Karl's and four that belonged to the Champion would be a good haul, he suspected – even discounting anything else she might have stolen. If the girl had any sense, she'd leave.

    Then again, the Feather Carnival was a massive event and very few people left before it was over. There was to be a synchronised flying performance and a fireworks display after dusk, he had heard. Hardly anybody would be wandering around the rest of Fortree. Most of the population of the city – remarkably small despite its geographical spread – would be concentrated in the square. He reflected briefly on how ironic the name of the carnival's location was, given that it wasn't even vaguely square-shaped, never mind being the size of half a dozen football pitches.

    No time to get distracted, he told himself as he moved quickly through the south section of the carnival. If I were the thief, what would I do? He would take his chances lying low among the festival-goers, he decided. Leaving the carnival would make him stand out too much, and the police would be watching for people leaving early. No, he would keep his head down among the crowds and slip out when they did, and under cover of darkness no less.

    So the girl was most likely still around, he reasoned. He just had to find her.

    Half an hour later, he was beginning to tire of wandering aimlessly through the crowds in the hope of finding one person. He had made his way over to the west quarter again, but the mysterious thief was still nowhere to be seen.

    Suddenly, he noticed a disturbance nearby. Several people were shouting, and the crowd was milling around in a slightly more confused manner than elsewhere. Ren sprinted towards the source of the the ruckus. He pushed his way through the crowd until he reached a roughly oval-shaped space that had been vacated by the mass of people that otherwise occupied every square inch of the square.

    Three people stood in the open space: two policemen and the girl who had stolen Ren's Poke Balls. The girl stood in the middle, glancing back and forth at the policemen who were advancing slowly on her from either side. The crowd was thick; there would be no escape.

    Ren sighed as the two policemen each sent out a Growlithe. He had kind of wanted to catch the girl himself, but it was good that she had been caught nonetheless. She was wearing a backpack, he noticed, which would be where she was carrying the stolen Pokemon.

    As the two Growlithe prowled towards the girl, however, something inky black flashed across Ren's vision, moving at an incredible speed. The Growlithe nearest to him howled as sharp claws raked across its muzzle, drawing blood which dripped to the ground below it.

    The Pokemon that had made the attack came to a halt and faced off against the other Growlithe. It was a Sneasel, Ren saw – a Pokemon native to the Johto and Sinnoh regions, with a stubby, vaguely humanoid body and large, wicked-looking claws.

    The girl smiled as both policemen backed up a little. It was a cold smile that sent a shiver down Ren's spine. The girl was eerily beautiful, he noticed absently. Her face was narrow and soft-looking, and her blonde hair was straight and long. Her eyes, though, were as hard as steel.

    Sneasel swiped at the nearest members of the crowd, who stumbled backward in their haste to get out of range of the Pokemon's wicked claws. The Dark-type stepped forward and swung again, causing people to move back even further.

    The girl's smile grew even wider as she followed her Pokemon, though Ren noticed she kept a weather eye on the policemen, who were warily moving after her.

    For a brief moment, the crowd shifted even further out of the reach of Sneasel. A gap opened, and the girl and her Pokemon bolted.

    Cursing, Ren tore after her, dashing past the policemen and through the opening that the girl had just used. He could see her some way ahead of him, jinking back and forward as she ran through the crowd. He followed quickly.

    She was making a run for it, he realised as he followed her. Her cover blown, she was heading straight for the edge of the square, where she could disappear between the trees of Fortree City. He was gaining on her slightly, but he didn't think it would be enough to catch her before she left the carnival.

    Sure enough, the girl reached the edge of the square while he was still twenty metres or so behind her. She slipped past a pair of police officers and out along the road that led west. Ren followed hot on her heels, though he wasn't confident he could catch her. Behind him, he dimly registered the police officers starting to follow, but he and the girl were already well past.

    Shortly after leaving the carnival grounds, the girl left the main road, veering off towards the south. She must have recalled Sneasel at some point, he noticed. Ren followed her, realising that he was gaining ground again. He was no athlete, but five years of travelling around the Hoenn region and overseas – largely on foot – had left him more than moderately fit.

    He could hear running water, he realised suddenly. They were approaching the Fortree River, then. What was she planning?

    The river came suddenly into view as he topped a gentle swell in the forest floor, the thief still some metres ahead of him. She headed directly for the sturdily-built log bridge that crossed the river, shrugging her bag off as she ran. Ren followed with growing worry as she rummaged within it. Whatever she was doing in the bag slowed her down, so Ren almost caught up with her. He was within ten metres of her when she hit the bridge.

    The girl swung her arm high as he ran onto the bridge, two Poke Balls flying back at an angle that would send them towards the riverbank – or maybe even into the river. A distraction. Clever. “Braviary!” he shouted, not letting up his pursuit of the girl.

    With a mighty screech, Ren's proud Flying-type burst down through the canopy, where he had been flying silently, waiting to be called upon. He swooped down in a swift arc, snatching the two Poke Balls out of the air and pulling up again to follow Ren and the girl onto the bridge.

    The girl stopped, whirling around to face Ren with an ugly snarl on her pretty face. Before he could get any closer, however, she thrust an arm out over the river, another Poke Ball in her hand. Ren stopped short, eyeing the Poke Ball warily.

    “Braviary,” he said quietly after a few seconds of silence. “The Poke Balls, please.”

    Swooping overhead, Braviary dropped the spheres before perching on the handrail on the other side of the bridge. Ren caught the Poke Balls and pressed the release switches on them. Scar the Mightyena and Sableye appeared before him, looking confused. “Good to know you two are all right,” he said, clipping their Poke Balls to two of the empty slots on his belt.

    “You're going to let me go,” the girl said suddenly. Her voice was quiet, but sharp as a knife. “If you, or any of these Pokemon, move an inch, one of your Pokemon goes over the side. Your Braviary's quick, but not quick enough to catch it this time. The current runs quickly here, and you'll probably never see the Pokemon inside again. They'll get waterlogged and sink somewhere between here and the ocean, but where, I have no idea. I've got the other three right here, and they'll go the way of the first quickly enough.”

    Ren bit his lip thoughtfully. “But if I let you go, I'll probably never see my Pokemon again either,” he said, forcing his voice to remain level.

    “True,” the girl admitted. “But at least you'll know they're alive.”

    Ren glanced over the side of the bridge. The current was swift, the bridge naturally having been built over the narrowest part of the river. There were rapids a way downstream, too; he could hear them, but they were out of sight. She was right, he realised. Something as small as a Poke Ball would be lost forever if it went over the side.

    “What's your answer, Champion?” she asked mockingly, placing a derisive emphasis on the last word. “Will you watch your Pokemon die, or watch them leave you forever?”
    The Atlantis Codex / Champion Game

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

  8. #83
    Unova's #1 Yancy fan Seizon Senryaku's Avatar
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    Default Chapter Twenty-Five - Wings Have We

    A/N: Thanks to Giratina for subconsciously inspiring this chapter title. ^_^;;;

    Chapter Twenty-Five
    Wings Have We


    Ren smiled, spreading his arms generously. “Go ahead,” he said. “Toss them over. See if I care.”

    A flicker of confusion crossed the girl's face. Her eyes were startlingly blue, he noticed. They were quite pretty, really. “Oh, I see. You're calling my bluff. I really will do it!” she said, waving the hand with Ren's Poke Ball in it to emphasise her point.

    “Okay,” Ren said, shrugging his backpack off his shoulders.

    “What are you doing?” she demanded. “I told you I'd drop it if you moved!”

    “Then drop it. Drop them all,” Ren said, fiddling with the zip.

    Frowning, the girl opened her hand, letting the Poke Ball in it drop. It fell towards the river, turning slowly in midair until it hit the water with a splash, disappearing momentarily before it bobbed up again a few feet downstream.

    Ren watched it go idly, then shrugged and went back to digging through his bag.

    “Aren't . . . aren't you bothered?” the girl asked, faltering.

    “Why should I be?” Ren asked, finding what he was looking for. “I mean, that was a perfectly nice Poke Ball. Cost me a couple of bucks. But I wasn't that attached to it.”

    She just glared at him. Her blinking had sped up slightly, he noticed. She was confused. Uncertain.

    “You know,” he said casually, thumbing the release switch on the Poke Ball he had just pulled out of his bag, “you should really check what you have before you try bargaining with it.” Camerupt appeared on the bridge behind the girl, snorting threateningly. Ren pressed three more switches, sending out Zangoose, Solrock and Manectric. Braviary squawked happily as Yanmega buzzed out from behind a tree on the bank and landed on Camerupt's back.

    The girl's face fell as she looked at the Pokemon surrounding her, then at the three Poke Balls in her hands, and then back again. She pressed the release switches with fumbling fingers, but the Poke Balls sprung open to reveal only air. “Wh-when?” she spluttered, dropping them. “H-how did you switch them?”

    “I switched them after Karl and I talked to Winona,” he said, grinning slightly despite the seriousness of the situation. “You never had my Pokemon. You just stole four empty Poke Balls off my belt. Are you proud of yourself?”

    The girl gave him a poisonous glare, but Ren laughed it off. “You could learn a thing or two about dirty looks from a friend of mine,” he said, remembering Elly's cold green eyes with a slight shiver.

    “You . . . you piss me off, Ren Goodwin,” the girl said, shaking her head as she brushed a loose strand of hair out of her perfect face.

    “I seem to be doing that to girls a lot recently,” he reflected bitterly. “And that reminds me. You evidently know who I am, but who are you?”

    The girl laughed. It sounded genuine, although she was still glaring. “Like I'd tell you my name, Champion.”

    “Well, unless you want me to call you Annoying Thief Girl, I'd suggest you tell me.”

    “What does it matter? You're never going to see me again,” she said.

    Ren could hear shouts from the road behind him. “Manectric, go and fetch the police, would you?” Manectric yipped and dashed away. “I imagine they'll want a word with you,” he said.

    “Too bad they're not getting one,” she said.

    “Really?” Ren said, raising an eyebrow. “Not to sound cocky or anything, but we kind of have you surrounded.”

    “You're a funny one, Champion,” she said with a smile. “I'll catch you some other time.” With that, she vaulted over the side of the bridge.

    Ren's eyes widened as he leaned over the edge to see where she'd gone. The swift-flowing river carried her quickly downstream, but she was a strong swimmer and before long she had reached the far bank. She clambered out of the river and climbed, sure-footed, up the bank.

    “Braviary!” Ren said sharply as he set off running. He knew there wasn't much chance of catching up to her, but Braviary might be able to.

    Braviary took off from the railing with a screech, winging his way towards where the girl was fast disappearing into the trees once again.

    Ren reached the end of the bridge and turned left, heading along the road towards the girl, who he could just barely see on the road some way in front of him. He saw Braviary swoop down in front of her, but there was a flash of red light and her Sneasel appeared again, leaping off her shoulder and onto Braviary's back. The Flying-type screeched and tried to throw it off, but it hung on grimly. The girl ran past, and Braviary wheeled off, screeching in pain and frustration as its passenger did its level best to slice at his head while hanging on.

    “Damn it all,” Ren muttered, speeding up a little more. He had all but run out of energy during the first chase, and now he was flagging. He doubted he could catch up to the girl a second time.

    As it turned out, he was to be denied the opportunity. A loud noise behind him made him look back – just in time to throw himself out of the way as a bright red sports car came haring down the road towards him. It blasted by in a cloud of dust, screeching to a halt just ahead of the girl. She dived through a door that popped open in front of her, recalling her Sneasel from Braviary's back as she did so. Tires spinning, the car shot off again, leaving Ren coughing from the dust behind it.

    “Damn, damn, damn,” he said, standing up and walking over to where Braviary had perched on a low tree branch after the Sneasel had been returned to its Poke Ball. He at least seemed unhurt. “Sorry, buddy,” Ren said, stroking Braviary's proud plumage apologetically. “You did well.”

    Braviary chirruped softly, bumping its large, plumed head against Ren's hand as Zangoose and Yanmega caught up to them, Solrock and Camerupt bringing up the rear with Karl's Pokemon. “You all did well,” he said as they gathered around him. “Scar, Sableye. Are you two all right?”

    Karl's Dark-types appeared unhurt, so Ren took the opportunity to return them to their Poke Balls. As he returned his own Pokemon as well, a police car pulled up next to him, lights flashing. The door opened and one of the officers that had cornered the girl at the carnival stepped out.

    “Mr Goodwin,” the policeman said. “I'm glad you're all right. What happened to the thief?”

    “She got away,” Ren said. “I'm sorry. A car came along and picked her up.”

    “What kind of car?” the policeman asked, pulling out a notebook.

    “Bright red,” Ren said. “Some kind of sports car. No spoiler on the back. I couldn't see the logo or license plate, sorry.”

    “Well, there can't be that many bright red sports cars in Fortree,” the policeman said, jotting down a few notes. “We'll keep an eye out, but I imagine they'll be out of town before too long. Could be anywhere from Lilycove to Mauville by tonight. What did she get away with?”

    “Nothing, as far as I know,” Ren said, grinning slightly. “I got back the Pokemon she stole off my friend, so unless she took someone else's too, she got nothing.”

    “We haven't had any other reports of theft,” the policeman told him, flipping over a couple of pages on his notepad. “What about your Pokemon, though?”

    “I had them the whole time,” Ren said, quickly outlining how he'd tricked her into stealing his empty Poke Balls.

    The policeman chuckled. “Good work, kid,” he said. “You'd make a good cop someday. Anyway, we're going to do a quick loop around the city now. See if we can't spot this red sports car of yours. You should go on back to the carnival and give your friend his Pokemon back.”

    “All right, officer,” Ren said with a nod as the policeman got back into the car, which promptly sped off east. He headed back towards the bridge, meeting Manectric and the officers it had fetched on the way. Ren briefly summarised the situation for them as he returned Manectric to its Poke Ball with a slight sigh of relief. Even though he had known where his Pokemon were the whole time, he only really felt safe with all six of them on his belt.

    Returning to the carnival, Ren pulled out his Pokenav and called Karl, who answered immediately.

    “Ren? Is that you?”

    “Yeah, it's me. Listen, I got Scar and Sableye back.”

    Karl's sigh of relief came down the phone as a rush of static. “Thank Arceus,” he said. “Do I get to punch the person who nicked them now?”

    “No, she got away,” Ren said. “Sorry about that. The police are looking for her, though.”

    Karl swore loudly and colourfully. “I'm going to kill that bi- ow! Okay, okay! Sorry! I'm sorry!”

    Ren frowned. “Karl?”

    A different voice answered. “Hi, Ren, this is Winona. Well done on recovering the stolen Pokemon.”

    “Do I want to know what you did to Karl?” Ren asked.

    “That was Skarmory, actually,” she said innocently. “In lieu of washing his mouth out with soap, I've had Skarmory nipping at his ear every time he swears like that. He's not nearly as bad now as he was five years ago. Anyway, come on back to the stage. Karl will want his Pokemon back, and I've got someone here who wants to meet you.”

    “What? Who is it now?” Ren asked, but the line had already gone silent. Sighing, he began the walk back towards the carnival.

    Ren allowed a slight flush of pride to run through him as he passed through the crowd. Although the girl had got away from him, he was quite pleased with how he'd managed to trick her. Of course, he would have had to be entirely foolish to actually let her steal his Pokemon in the first place, but . . . that look on her face was priceless, he reflected. Pity she got away.

    As he approached the stage, Karl came charging out towards him, shouldering people aside in his rush. Chuckling slightly, Ren held out Karl's two Poke Balls.

    The black-haired boy snatched them off him and pressed the release switches. When Scar and Sableye materialised in front of him, he breathed a heavy sigh of relief, sinking down to sit on the ground as if the air rushing out had deflated him. Scar nosed him reassuringly, and Sableye scampered up onto his knee and patted him on the head.

    Ren smiled, only able to guess how Karl had been feeling. He couldn't imagine losing any of his Pokemon for even a minute; even though he'd switched their Poke Balls for empty ones, he had felt his heart drop through his stomach when he'd noticed their absence.

    “Thank you, Ren,” Karl said tightly, standing up again and clasping his hand, all pretenses of standoffishness gone.

    Ren could tell that Karl was trying not to cry, so he simply clapped him on the shoulder and moved on towards the stage, leaving the other boy together with his Pokemon.

    Winona was waiting for him beside the stage with a young, redheaded woman who looked vaguely familiar. “I'm impressed, Ren,” Winona said. “That was well done. Still . . . it's good that you managed to get Karl's Pokemon back, but that could have been dangerous. Be more careful next time, okay?”

    Ren nodded. “All right. Uh . . . is this the person you wanted to meet?”

    “That's me!” said the redhead brightly, stepping forward and putting her face right up next to Ren's, looking him in the eyes. He tried to pull back, but she grabbed him by the shoulders and held him still.

    “Uh . . .” he said awkwardly.

    “Yes!” she said, letting him go and skipping backwards again. “Elesa told me about you. We were watching the Ever Grande Conference on TV last month, and she said 'Hey, I know that kid! He won the Bolt Badge off me a while back!'.”

    “Uh . . .” Ren said again, trying to make sense of the bubbly young woman in front of him. Elesa . . . the Bolt Badge . . . the Feather Carnival. “Skyla?” he said, frowning slightly.

    She grinned widely, throwing him an aviator's salute with two fingers. “That's me! Mistralton City's Gym Leader, at your service! I came for the Feather Carnival, but the weather in Unova was terrible when I left yesterday, so I'm late. I hear you've all been having fun without me!”

    “I wouldn't call it 'fun', Skyla,” Winona said with a note of disapproval in her voice. “One of my apprentices had his Pokemon stolen.”

    “But Ren got them back, didn't he?” Skyla said. “All's well that ends well. Speaking of that, was that your Braviary I saw flying around earlier?”

    “Ah, yes, it would be,” Ren said. “I don't think anybody else here has one.”

    “He's a fine specimen,” Skyla said. “Young, too. He's going to get even bigger. Did you catch him when you were in Unova? About the same time you beat Elesa? Well done on that, by the way. She doesn't go down easy.”

    “Er,” Ren said. “Yes, I caught him as a Rufflet when I was in Unova . . . not quite three years ago. I was twelve.”

    “What possessed you to go running off overseas anyway? Unova Badges wouldn't do you any good for the Hoenn League.”

    “I . . . I hit a snag. With Brawly and the Knuckle Badge. I needed to . . . get away from it all for a while, so I went to Unova, watched the Conference, challenged a few Gyms and then came back here.”

    “How many Unova Badges did you get in the end?” Skyla asked, looking thoughtful.

    “Three: the Basic Badge from Lenora, the Trio Badge from Chili, and the Bolt Badge from Elesa.”

    “How would you like the opportunity to earn another one?” Skyla asked with a glint in her eye.

    “You mean . . .” Ren blinked, not entirely following.

    “The Jet Badge, sport. You want it?”

    “Don't I have to, you know . . . challenge you at the Mistralton Gym?” he asked.

    “Eh, not really. I think you've earned the right to battle me for it. Winona's freed the main stage up for us. You in or not?”

    Ren blinked. Today was certainly shaping up to be an extraordinarily eventful day.

    Fifteen minutes later, he found himself standing at one side of the main stage. Skyla stood at the other end, a lively breeze tugging at her red hair. Winona stood between the two of them, ready to act as adjudicator.

    A sizable crowd had gathered, despite the unscheduled nature of the event. The Hoenn Champion battling a Gym Leader from the distant Unova region was sure to draw attention.

    Ren himself wasn't sure how the battle would turn out. He was expected to win, of course. In a match between a Champion and a Gym Leader, the Champion should come out on top every time. This was different to his battle with Roxanne two days ago, though. There had been nobody watching that one, nobody to bear witness if he lost. Here, there were hundreds of people watching already, with more trickling in every second. If Ren was defeated . . . he shuddered to think of the consequences.

    “This battle will be a three on three,” Winona declared. “The challenger, Ren, will be allowed to switch Pokemon at will, but Skyla must keep each Pokemon in until it is declared unable to battle. The battle is over when all three of one Trainer's Pokemon are judged to be unable to battle. Any questions, Trainers?”

    Ren shook his head, feeling slightly nervous. Skyla evidently had no problems either, for she snatched a Poke Ball from her belt and held it at the ready. She looked to be genuinely enjoying herself.

    Ren glanced down at his belt. Manectric was the obvious choice for this battle, but would it be best to save it for last or to send it out first in hope of a quick win? If I recall rightly, Skyla's strongest Pokemon is Swanna, some kind of Water/Flying type mix. She probably won't send that out first, though, so I might be safe with Camerupt. But the battlefield is wooden, and there are no rocks around to use for a Rock Slide attack, so there goes that option. I'd better play it a little safer. I'll hold Manectric in reserve for now. Taking a deep breath, he plucked Solrock's Poke Ball from his belt and held it out in front of him. “I'm ready,” he said.

    “In that case,” Winona said, “let the battle for the Jet Badge begin!”

    The familiar crack of an opening Poke Ball was almost drowned out by the enthused roar of the crowd. Ren and Solrock found themselves facing off against a Pokemon Ren had never seen in person before. A large blue creature flapped in place in front of Skyla. It had a pink, heart-shaped nose and a white ruff around its neck. Personally, Ren thought it looked like the mutant offspring of an Eevee and a Golbat, but he didn't say anything. He had seen Swoobat in books and magazines before. They were endemic to the Unova region, so he hadn't had any experience battling them before. He did remember that they possessed dangerous Psychic-type abilities.

    “Fire Spin!” he ordered quickly. The emphasis of this battle would be on speed, most likely. Solrock thrummed happily, conjuring a blazing pillar of fire around its opponent. Ren blinked slightly as the heat wave hit him, but forced himself to watch the centre of the blazing maelstrom carefully as the crowd murmured appreciatively. He wasn't here to put on a show, but there was no harm in being a little flashy.

    The pillar of fire bulged in the middle and exploded, tongues of fire vanishing almost instantly as visible waves of psychic energy radiated from Swoobat. Skyla gave an order, pointing directly at Solrock, and Swoobat's pulses of energy became more focused, blasting towards Solrock.

    “Counter it!” Ren said, his voice urgent. Solrock hummed and glowed purple, sending its own waves of power back toward Swoobat. The two forces crashed into each other with a boom that sent ripples of wind across the stage, spawning from the contact point and blasting away at anything nearby. Ren saw the wind snap a string of coloured bunting at the edge of the stage, sending one end flying loosely into the crowd.

    The two Pokemon continued their efforts, rippling waves of mental energy pushing back and forth in the centre of the stage. Neither of them seemed to be able to get any leverage over the other, Solrock's purple energy and Swoobat's pink crashing into each other with the force of a thousand hammer blows.

    “Dammit,” Ren muttered. Getting caught in a deadlock was never good. He had to do something to break it, but what? Solrock's Rock Slide attack was out, thanks to the terrain. Fire Spin would just be destroyed by the Psychic waves, and SolarBeam would take far too long to charge up. But he couldn't switch Solrock out, either; that could cause Swoobat's Psychic attack to hit him instead. The only thing left to try was . . . “Spin! Keep up the Psychic attack for just a little longer!” he ordered. It was risky, especially considering that this was a technique they had only developed recently, but it was the only thing he could do.

    Solrock began to rotate in midair, spinning like a wheel and drawing threads of Psychic power with it. As its speed increased, more and more of its Psychic energy became caught up in its motion, forming a concentrated disc of energy that enveloped it entirely. Swoobat's attacks bounced ineffectually off the wall of purple light, but they were still at a deadlock.

    “Turn and go straight through!” Ren said. Solrock's wheel turned slowly until its edge pointed directly at Swoobat, scything easily through the oncoming attack and sending its remnants flying off to either side. “Go!” Ren shouted, and Solrock rolled forward like a circular saw, cutting through the air towards Swoobat with almost effortless ease.

    Swoobat saw it coming and jinked out of the way, but Solrock's wheel turned far more quickly than Ren would have thought possible, slamming into the Flying-type with enormous force and sending it flying. It had the fortunate side-effect of breaking Swoobat's concentration, which meant that the Psychic waves stopped.

    “Follow it up!” Ren commanded. “Grab it!” Solrock righted itself, causing its Psychic disc to dissipate. It wasted no time, however, in pressing its advantage, seizing the confused Swoobat with its Psychic attack and lifting it high into the air. Seeming to read Ren's mind before he could even speak, Solrock smashed its opponent down against the wooden stage with a sickening thud before lifting it again and bringing it back down a second time, then a third. When the purple nimbus around Swoobat vanished, it was clearly unconscious, lying motionless on the floor.

    Winona rushed over to check Skyla's Pokemon. When she straightened up, she lifted one hand towards Ren's end of the stage. “Swoobat is unable to battle! Ren's Solrock is the winner!”

    After returning Swoobat to its Poke Ball, Skyla paused a moment. “You're better than I thought, Champion,” she called. “Elesa said you were good, but I didn't realise you were this good.”

    Ren wasn't sure quite what he should say to that, so he simply nodded, accepting the compliment. He didn't want to give away how close the previous round had been. Despite how short it had been, the battle had been extraordinarily tight. If Solrock hadn't been able to pull off its spinning manoeuvre correctly, Skyla and Woobat would have seized the opening just as he had.

    The crowd was cheering, he realised dimly. They were floating somewhere on the edge of his consciousness, being largely unimportant to the battle, but he could hear them – as if from the other end of a very long tunnel. He blinked hard, forcing himself back to earth. He looked around, taking in the sight of the hundreds of people clustered around the stage. There was something special about it, he realised. This was all new. Until the Ever Grande Conference, he had become accustomed to battling without an audience.

    “Wake up, Ren!” Skyla called good-naturedly from the other end of the stage.

    Ren blinked. Right. Concentrate. Don't get distracted. “I'm awake!” he replied. “Are you going to choose your second Pokemon.”

    “Of course! It has to be Swanna at a time like this!” she said with a confident grin, sending out her star player.

    Okay, massive type disadvantage there with Water. Do I switch? No, best to see how much damage I can do before Solrock goes down. “Psychic!” he shouted. “And start charging while you're at it.” He was hoping to get at least one SolarBeam off, as Swanna's Water typing would make it at least partially vulnerable.

    “Hydro Pump!” Skyla ordered. Swanna flexed its graceful white neck and opened its beak. Before Solrock could react, a high-pressure jet of water blasted towards it, slamming it backwards in the air several feet.

    “Solrock!” Ren cried. It wasn't as if he hadn't been expecting a powerful Water-type move, but Swanna's speed had taken him aback.

    When the jet of water stopped, Solrock was hovering awkwardly in the air. Even as Ren watched, it sank slowly to the ground, unable to remain airborne. It came to rest on the wooden stage with a clunk before toppling over completely, rolling slightly from side to side on its rounded back.

    A single attack? Ren thought uncomprehendingly as Winona declared Solrock out for the count. Just how monstrously strong is this thing? Even with the type disadvantage, Solrock should have been able to take that hit.

    All right. Skyla's played her trump card; it's time to bring out mine.
    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. #84
    Reader and Writer Legacy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Champion Game {Chapter 25}

    Glad to see you've updated. I have some catching up to do! One thing I'll say though is that I love your dialogue and the "believability" for lack of a better term, that your characters' speech has. Sometimes, in my own fic especially, the dialogue seems a bit forced and when I read back, it doesn't sound natural. But in your case, it's really good in that regard.

    Keep it up!

  10. #85
    Unova's #1 Yancy fan Seizon Senryaku's Avatar
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    Default Re: Champion Game {Chapter 25}

    Quote Originally Posted by Legacy View Post
    Glad to see you've updated. I have some catching up to do! One thing I'll say though is that I love your dialogue and the "believability" for lack of a better term, that your characters' speech has. Sometimes, in my own fic especially, the dialogue seems a bit forced and when I read back, it doesn't sound natural. But in your case, it's really good in that regard.

    Keep it up!
    My dialogue is probably the one thing I feel the least confident with, to be entirely honest. So a comment like that really means a lot to me and makes for a splendid little confidence booster. Thanks so much for 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

  11. #86
    Unova's #1 Yancy fan Seizon Senryaku's Avatar
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    Default Chapter Twenty-Six - Every Clap of Thunder

    Chapter Twenty-Six
    Every Clap of Thunder


    Ren sent Manectric out; it was a bit of a gamble, but it was his best choice for dealing with Swanna. The double type advantage ought to make for a swift battle, though he knew he had to be careful.

    Manectric howled eagerly to the sky, fur bristling with static electricity. The weather would work against them, Ren noted. Manectric was in its element when it was raining, as the charged clouds acted as a secondary source of power to feed its electric attacks. There wasn't a cloud in the sky over Fortree, however, so he would have to make do with what he had.

    “Start off with a Thunderbolt,” Ren said, making himself remain calm. He had the advantage, but losing his cool would nullify that.

    Howling aggressively, Manectric charged up its electricity, a crackling aura of yellow energy building up around its body. With a final growl, it launched a sizzling stream of lightning towards its opponent.

    Swanna took to the sky, leaping out of the way as Manectric's Thunderbolt attack zapped past.

    “Again!” Ren said, causing Manectric to loose another bolt of lightning towards Swanna. Swanna was too fast for it, however, banking out of the way. We're never going to win from this distance, he thought. But Skyla has an advantage with Swanna's mobility. And why isn't she attacking? She must be sounding Manectric out, trying to work out how to deal with it. That means she's worried about it, which means I have a chance if I can figure this out quickly. Now what other moves might Swanna have?

    Swanna dived straight towards Manectric, its graceful neck straight as an arrow. Skyla must have given some signal that he'd missed; he'd have to watch out for that in the future. Is that an Aerial Ace attack?

    “Get out of the way, Manectric!” he ordered. It was too late. Swanna seemed to blur, its outline becoming indistinct, and a split second later, it disappeared from view entirely, crashing into Manectric as if it had been teleported and sending the Electric-type flying. Ren knew, however, that it had simply moved so quickly that it had disappeared from view. He remembered Winona using the same move in his battle against her to devastating effect. How did I beat her then?

    The obvious way. “Manectric,” he said thoughtfully. “Do you remember when you were training with Zangoose in the quarry the other day? I want you to apply that here next time she tries that, okay?” Manectric barked assent, keeping its eyes fixed on Swanna. “Good. For now, let's go with Thunderbolt again. See if you can't get a little closer this time.”

    Crackling with electric power, Manectric bounded forwards, towards where Swanna was holding its position in midair. With a howl, it threw itself upwards, taking the Flying-type by surprise as it launched its attack. Despite its apparent confusion, however, Swanna was still able to avoid Manectric's attack, rolling out of the way in midair and swooping away. “Push that advantage, Manectric!” Draw out that Aerial Ace again!

    Manectric leapt and ran, throwing lightning bolts around the stage with gay abandon. Some came close to hitting Swanna, but Skyla's Pokemon managed to jink out of the way at the last second every time. Soon, that Aerial Ace will come again. Then we should be able to do it.

    Suddenly, Swanna swerved in midair, aiming straight for Manectric. Here it comes! As Swanna dived, Manectric leapt forward, jaws bared and crackling with electricity. Even as Swanna shimmered and disappeared momentarily, Manectric brought its teeth crashing together.

    The timing was perfect. Manectric bit down on Swanna's wing just as its attack made contact, sparks of electric current leaping and flowing all through the bodies of both Pokemon. Swanna cried out in pain as Manectric's teeth let go. “Thunderbolt!” Ren yelled. Manectric obliged happily, sending thousands of volts of energy pouring into Swanna with a victorious howl. Unable to move out of the way quickly enough, Swanna took the full force of the attack.

    When Manectric stopped its assault to recharge, Swanna was weaving awkwardly in the air, seeming rather frazzled. Ren was surprised that it hadn't been entirely taken out by the attack, but he knew that Manectric couldn't lose now. “One more Thunderbolt!” he ordered. Throwing its head back, Manectric howled joyfully and blasted another bolt of lightning at Swanna.

    “Dodge it!” Skyla cried, and to Ren's utter astonishment, Swanna dived out of the way of the lightning bolt, ducking and weaving away from the attacks that Manectric fired in follow-up.

    Ren gritted his teeth in frustration. Somehow, they were back to square one, and he hardly thought Skyla was going to risk using Aerial Ace again now that she knew what Manectric was capable of.

    “Swanna, use Gust! Make it fly!”

    Ren felt the wind whip up around him, growing quickly more powerful until he had to put his arm in front of his eyes to protect them from the dust and splinters being tossed around the stage. He squinted awkwardly over his arm to see Manectric being lifted into the sky amidst a maelstrom of dusty wind. Manectric yelped helplessly as its paws paddled wildly in the air, firing off Thunderbolts that went wild.

    Even as Ren watched, trying to work out what to do, Swanna flapped its wings harder still, increasing the speed and power of the winds that surrounded its opponent. Manectric flew higher and higher, tumbling end over end until Swanna suddenly stopped, folding its wings calmly back. The winds dissipated and Manectric fell like a stone from at least thirty metres up.

    Ren watched with apprehension as Manectric fell towards the stage, breathing a sigh of relief when it landed back on its feet with barely a thump. He had one option left. Skyla wouldn't be foolish enough to try and get in close again, and Gust seemed to have no particular effect apart from temporary incapacitation. That meant that the powerful Hydro Pump was likely her only remaining option. If Swanna knew a move that would do better, surely she would have used it already.

    Sure enough, Skyla – practically bouncing with excitement, Ren noted with some confusion – called, “Swanna! Finish it up with a Hydro Pump!”

    As Swanna lifted its head in preparation to launch its attack, Ren struck. “Manectric, Thunderbolt!” As soon as the jet of high-powered water left Swanna's beak, Manectric loosed a bolt of lightning that struck Swanna's attack head on. Rather than diverting it, however, the electricity raced along the stream of water, heading directly for Swanna. Ren had counted on the conducive properties of water to ensure the attack hit its target, and he had not been wrong. Swanna shrieked as the electricity tore through its body, its Hydro Pump faltering. It kept up the attack, however, blasting Manectric for as long as it remained conscious. Eventually, however, the continuous stream of electricity took its toll, and Swanna crumpled to the ground, a limp, motionless bundle of feathers.

    At the other end of the stage, however, Manectric was stumbling. Swanna's last Hydro Pump had been a direct hit, and combined with the damage it had taken from the two Aerial Ace attacks, it appeared to be having trouble standing. Even as Ren watched, teeth clenched in worry, it fell to the ground, utterly drained.

    “Both Pokemon are unable to battle!” Winona announced after about ten seconds of silence. “The round is a draw. Both Trainers have one Pokemon remaining.”

    Ren stepped over to Manectric and knelt down beside it, stroking its wet fur carefully. “Sorry, buddy,” he whispered. “I should have taken better care of you.” Manectric cracked one eye open and growled gently, one paw twitching slightly. “No, you rest now. You did fantastically.” He plucked Manectric's Poke Ball from his belt and let it suck the Pokemon back inside in a shower of red light.

    He stood, clipping it back to his belt as he looked down the field at Skyla. “That's quite a Swanna you have there,” he said, genuinely impressed. “I haven't come across a Pokemon that strong outside of the Elite Four for a long time. You must have it very well trained.”

    “We've been together a long time,” Skyla said, returning the unconscious Swanna to its Poke Ball. “She's my strongest partner. Still, I wasn't expecting that trick with the Hydro Pump. You do live up to your reputation.”

    Ren shook his head mutely. He didn't feel he deserved that reputation any more, somehow. He had let Manectric down with his oversight, and his Pokemon had paid the price for it. It wasn't a good feeling, especially when he considered how much his Pokemon trusted him. He had made the same mistake with Solrock, too.

    The pop of a Poke Ball being opened drew him from his introspection. He looked up to find a medium-sized black bird Pokemon occupying Skyla's end of the stage. He frowned. “That's . . . Unfezant, isn't it?” It took him a little longer to recognise it due to the lack of the trademark red plumes that he associated with the species. A female?

    “That's right, Ren. Are all these Unova Pokemon bothering you?” Skyla asked teasingly.

    “There might be some truth to that,” Ren said quietly. Most of his experience came from battling Trainers in the Hoenn region, using Pokemon native to the area. Pokemon from as far afield as Unova were rare, and he hadn't had time to battle them all during his short time there. He had certainly never battled a Swoobat or a Swanna before. I did battle against a Trainer with a Tranquill, though. The evolution should just be a slightly more powerful version. This should be manageable. That only left the question of which Pokemon to use. Solrock and Manectric were out for the count. Yanmega would be pulverised, especially without the use of its Ancientpower attack. Camerupt was bulky, but its lack of mobility would leave it wide open for Unfezant to tear it to pieces. Zangoose might work, but it certainly wouldn't be able to fight the Flying-type on an equal footing. No, there was only one Pokemon for that. It was kind of fitting, too.

    “Braviary!” he cried aloud, pulling the Poke Ball off his belt and throwing it upwards in the same movement, tapping the release switch on the way. Braviary appeared with a confident screech that echoed throughout the square. It circled over the battlefield, eyeing its opponent keenly.

    “Ooh, it's wonderful!” Skyla exclaimed, shading her eyes with one hand as she watched Braviary's movements. “I'm so envious, Ren. It makes me happy to see you have such a wonderful Flying-type on your team. I think everyone should have at least one.”

    “They are nice, aren't they?” Ren said thoughtfully. “It must be nice to be able to fly so freely like that. I mean, I'm not a fan of flying myself, but just having that freedom, I think, would be nice . . .”

    “It really is, Ren. But tell me one thing.”

    “Yeah? What is it?”

    “Are you going to try and win this Jet Badge off me or not?”

    Ren grinned. “You bet your ass I am,” he said. “I'm not going to lose here!”

    “Then let's go!” Skyla said, sweeping her arm upwards. “Unfezant! Take to the skies!”

    “I can't help but think this battle would have been better fought at the Gym,” Ren commented to Winona as he craned his neck upwards to watch the two Pokemon circling each other warily.

    “We could move it up there, but the crowd . . .”

    “Yeah, fair enough,” Ren said. He cupped his hands around his mouth and shouted upwards. “Braviary! Get in there!” This battle would be fought with minimal input from the Trainers, he could tell. There wouldn't be much he could do, and the battle would likely move far too fast for him to react properly anyway.

    With a piercing shriek, Braviary dived for Unfezant, powerful claws extended. Unfezant swung out of the way, moving upwards a little. It flapped its wings powerfully, sending sharp gusts of wind scything towards Braviary. Taking the hit directly, Braviary screeched and lost a little altitude before recovering. “The underside!” Ren yelled.

    Braviary soared upwards, slamming its beak into Unfezant's underside. Skyla's Pokemon trilled in alarm and tried to escape, but Braviary drove upwards relentlessly, flapping its wings powerfully. When they reached their apex, Braviary seized Unfezant in its strong claws and swung it downwards, throwing it down towards the ground. With gravity pulling on it as well, it plummeted almost all the way down to the stage before it managed to right itself. By that time, Braviary was on top of it again, pecking at its head and buffeting its body with its wings.

    “Unfezant, Razor Wind!” Skyla said quickly. Unfezant swung out from under Braviary's assault and whipped up a storm with its wings, creating a barely visible miniature tornado that slammed into Braviary, driving it backwards with a screech.

    Ren winced as he saw the blood on Braviary's feathers. It didn't seem to be too seriously injured as it made its way upwards again. “Keep on top of it!” Ren yelled as Braviary jinked back and forth above Unfezant, impeding its progress upwards. “Superpower!”

    Eyes blazing red, Braviary folded its wings back against its body and blasted its way downwards, slamming heavily into Unfezant and driving them both down to the ground. They crashed into the stage with an enormous impact, wood splinters flying everywhere as Braviary's momentum smashed the two Pokemon through the boards to the ground below.

    “Unfezant!” Skyla cried, rushing forward to peer down into the jagged hole they had left.

    Ren moved quickly over as well to look down, but the two Pokemon had gone. He heard them crashing around beneath the stage, thumping around between the struts that held the construction together. He waited with bated breath, hating the feeling of powerlessness, the sensation of not knowing. He was used to being in control, knowing what was going to happen – or at least what should happen. As he listened to Braviary and Unfezant crashing around beneath his feet, he couldn't help but worry. Was this where he finally let his Pokemon down?

    “It's tight,” Skyla said, looking up at him from across the hole. “They're well matched, but I think Braviary's size and strength gives it a bit of an edge.”

    “I don't know,” Ren said, confused by the sudden frank conversation in the heat of battle. “Unfezant has its Razor Wind and its other ranged attacks, so if it can just keep out of the way long enough . . .”

    Braviary shrieked beneath his feet, and Unfezant came spiralling awkwardly out of the hole, blood matting the feathers on its right wing. It fluttered upwards, putting a good distance between itself and the stage. A few seconds later, Braviary shot upwards, seeming largely unharmed, though its wounds from Unfezant's Razor Wind were still visible.

    Above, Unfezant flipped in midair and dived downwards again, wings extended. As it met Braviary, it jinked to one side a little, cracking its wing against Braviary's skull. Ren's Pokemon reeled, losing altitude, but it recovered quickly, spreading its wings wide and swooping upwards.

    Both Pokemon paused in midair, eyeing each other up cautiously as their Trainers watched them from below with tense eyes. Is this battle going to end? Ren wondered. Even though the battle had barely been going on for two minutes, Ren felt like he had been watching Braviary for hours. The two Flying-types dived at each other once again, twisting and grappling in midair. Braviary's powerful claws grasped at Unfezant's neck, but the smaller Pokemon slid swiftly out of the way, battering at Braviary's head with its wings.

    Several times, Unfezant broke away from Braviary and sent razor-sharp winds slicing through the air towards it, inflicting numerous wounds on its bulkier opponent. Braviary kept up its relentless attack, however, getting in close to Unfezant where it could use its lethal beak and claws.

    Suddenly, Braviary managed to get a claw around Unfezant's leg. Ren clenched his fist as he glimpsed victory. Braviary evidently felt the same way, for it let out a triumphant screech that caused several people in the audience to wince and cover their ears. Well used to Braviary's celebrations, Ren just smiled as it swung Unfezant around in the air, clearly in control. It spun several times, building up momentum, before flipping over in midair and throwing the helpless Unfezant down towards the stage.

    Ren's mouth twisted involuntarily as he watched Unfezant slam into the ground for the final time, lying unmoving on the wooden boards. That's got to hurt. Despite the twinge of guilt, however, he felt a surge of pride and relief at the outcome. Looking up to the sky, he beckoned Braviary down towards him, smiling happily as the Flying-type flapped its way tiredly down towards him.

    “Unfezant's out!” Winona announced suddenly. “That means that the winner of the battle is the challenger, Ren!”

    The crowd went wild, which took Ren by surprise. After defeating Steven at the League, the crowd had sat in stunned silence for a full thirty seconds before applause broke out. They had evidently been expecting Steven to destroy him. The crowd at the Feather Carnival, however, held no such compunctions, applauding and shouting enthusiastically.

    Ren smiled and waved at the crowd before catching Braviary's heavy, beaten form in his arms. “Oof,” he grunted. “You're heavy, all right.” Nevertheless, he did his best to lift his victorious battler high, showing him off to the crowd. It was Braviary they applauded for, he realised. Of course they appreciated the show he had put on as their Champion, but the people of Fortree had long held a special affinity for Flying-type Pokemon. Seeing one such as Braviary battling and emerging victorious would have been something very special indeed. Again, Ren felt that flush of pride as he gently stroked Braviary's feathers, still wet with blood. “Come on, you're all beaten up. We need to get you and the others to the Pokemon Centre.”

    “I'll go with you,” Skyla said from behind him, clutching her three Poke Balls. “I've gotta say, I haven't had a battle like that for absolutely ages! That was intense!”

    Ren smiled. “It most definitely was,” he agreed, returning Braviary to its Poke Ball with another sigh of relief. “Too close for comfort.”

    “I'm so impressed by your Braviary, Ren,” Skyla told him as they stepped off the stage. “They're magnificent Flying-types, and yours is a particularly fine specimen. I thought so when I first saw it, but that battle just proved it! You've trained it well. You'll have to tell me your secret some time.”

    “Thanks,” Ren said. “I just . . . did what felt right.” Along with a healthy dose of yehkti, he added silently, feeling slightly sick. He didn't really want another reminder that his success couldn't be put entirely down to his own power. How much of Braviary's strength comes from my training, and how much from my yehkti? I want to believe that I had a hand in it, but I really can't say for sure.

    “Oh!” Skyla exclaimed, coming up short and digging the pocket of her jeans. “Before I forget . . . Ren. You earned this many times over during that battle.” She held something high to the sky where everybody in the area could see it as sunlight glinted off gold and blue. The crowd – which had parted for them to pass through – applauded again as Skyla handed Ren his fourth Unova League Badge.

    Ren looked at it sitting in the palm of his hand, shaped like a graceful wisp of a feather. It was light and joyful, much like Skyla. “I don't usually wear them,” he said, “but I think I can make an exception for today.” He pinned the badge to the front of his shirt, where it glinted proudly in the bright sunlight.

    “It suits you, sport,” Skyla said with a grin, punching him lightly on the shoulder. “You'd make a good Flying-type Trainer, you know. You have the vision for it.”

    Ren's brow creased slightly. “What's that supposed to mean?”

    “If you don't know, I'm not going to tell you. But come on. We need to get to the Pokemon Centre. You gave my poor Pokemon a good beating.”

    “Uh . . . sorry,” Ren said guiltily.

    “Oh, don't apologise. While they don't enjoy losing, they do love battling. Getting beaten up is a natural part of battling – nobody can win all the time. I guess I just proved that. When was the last time you lost a battle, by the way? I'm curious.”

    “Just . . . just before the Conference, actually,” Ren said quietly as they left the crowd around the stage behind. “I ran into a guy I'd always had trouble with. Out of all the Trainers I battled repeatedly, he was the only one who beat me more times than I beat him. So two nights before the Conference was due to start, he turned up at my hotel room and demanded a battle. I didn't want to, but he was . . . insistent. So we battled. It was one of the best battles of my life, in a way, but at the same time . . . the worst. It was a major confidence-killer when he beat me, I tell you. I just about dropped out of the round robin stage of the Conference several times. Got over it soon enough, obviously, but . . . it stung.”

    “Did he enter the Conference?” Skyla asked curiously.

    “Nah, he only had seven badges at that point. There was one he just couldn't get. He might have them all by now, though. I'll have to ask Winona.”

    “The Feather Badge was the one he couldn't get?” Skyla looked interested.

    “Yeah. Funny how these things work, huh? Him and his Sceptile . . . they never had a chance against Winona.”

    “Winona's strong,” Skyla said, glancing back towards the stage, where Winona appeared to be directing repairs on the hole Braviary had punched through the middle of it. “I really look up to her.”

    “She's . . . yeah,” Ren said. “I mean, Brawly was the Gym Leader I had the most trouble with, thanks to Zangoose's type disadvantage, but Winona . . . Winona was probably the strongest of the Gym Leaders I faced here in Hoenn. Our battle ended in a draw, but she still gave me the Feather Badge anyway.”

    “You should put that on, too,” Skyla suggested as the gate came into sight ahead of them. “Just for today, to prove you're a double Flying-type master!”

    “That's . . . a good idea,” Ren said, swinging his bag off his shoulder and rifling through it until he found his badge cases. He located the Feather Badge and pinned it next to the Jet Badge on his shirt.

    “See, they make a nice pair,” Skyla said, tapping them gently with her knuckle.

    “Actually, if I think about it . . .” Ren said slyly, switching cases and pulling out another Badge, which he pinned next to the other two before putting his bag back on. He grinned sideways at Skyla, who looked dumbfounded.

    “No way! You have the Zephyr Badge, too?”

    “I took a trip to Johto a while back,” Ren said. “I trained with Falkner at the Violet Gym for a while, actually. If I think about it, I have quite the history with Flying-type Gyms.”

    “You sure do,” Skyla said wonderingly. “You're even more impressive than I thought, Ren Goodwin.”

    “I hardly think so,” Ren said quietly. Damn all this yehkti business, he thought. I'm just starting to realise how much I hate not knowing how much of my own success I'm responsible for.
    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

  12. #87
    Reader and Writer Legacy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Champion Game {Chapter 26}

    Loved the battle strategy going on in this chapter! Risky move in the beginning, and I just love how you balance the detailed description of each move with the emotions of the players involved. It really makes for an exciting battle to read, which is definitey a struggle I have.

    Anyways, just wanted to stop by and let you know that this is a great and well-written fic! :)

  13. #88
    Unova's #1 Yancy fan Seizon Senryaku's Avatar
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    Default Chapter Twenty-Seven - Catch Your Breath

    This is largely a break chapter, but I won't make any apologies because I feel it's necessary. This is the end of the short Arc 3 - Parabasis the First, which means we go right back into it from the next chapter onwards.

    Chapter Twenty-Seven
    Catch Your Breath


    Ren sat quietly in the waiting bay of the Fortree Pokemon Centre with Skyla. It seemed that none of the six Pokemon that had participated in the battle were seriously hurt: Solrock, steady as ever, was already recovering; Manectric was battered and bruised, but largely all right; and Braviary had multiple shallow lacerations that would heal with minimal time and effort. Skyla's Pokemon were in a similar state, he gathered.

    The Mistralton Gym Leader was sitting opposite him with her legs crossed, fiddling with her dark red hair. She'd taken it out of its ponytail, and it was now hanging loosely around her face, reaching just past her shoulders. She sat casually, seeming somewhat more relaxed now that her Pokemon were in capable hands.

    “So,” she said at length, pulling her hair back again and twisting an elastic tie around it to keep it in place. “You're coming to watch the Unova Conference next week?”

    Ren nodded. “Yeah, I am. It ought to be good . . . and maybe I'll get a bit more insight into how Unova Pokemon work. I saw the Conference three years ago.”

    “Hmm . . . who won that one?” Skyla mused. “I don't seem to remember that year.”

    “A guy called Tyler, I think. He was about eighteen. Had a Samurott and an impressive Hydreigon.”

    “Oh, yeah, that guy. What happened with him in the end? I mean, obviously he didn't become Champion, but . . .”

    “He lost to Grimsley in the end. His Scrafty destroyed Hydreigon, and the rest of Tyler's team just couldn't keep up the same level. I think he did beat Caitlin first, though.”

    “Well, it's not every Trainer who can do that,” Skyla said airily. “Still, the Unova League hasn't had a serious challenge for years. Alder became Champion seven years ago, and he hasn't had to take a challenger since. Poor guy must be getting bored.”

    Ren tried to imagine being Champion for seven years. It wasn't an attractive prospect. As a matter of fact, he didn't even think he could manage it. He'd go mad before he got halfway there, especially if he didn't get any challengers. “He probably is.” Struck by a sudden, frightening thought, he added, “Skyla? Do you know what the precedent is for Champion versus Champion battles?”

    She raised an eyebrow. “It doesn't happen often, but when it does, it's purely an exhibition match. Neither Champion's title is in danger, because it's commonly accepted that they're both still the strongest in their region. Why do you ask? You thinking of going up against Alder?”

    “Uh . . . maybe,” Ren said. “I don't think I'd stand a chance, but at the same time, if he really hasn't had a challenger for seven years . . .”

    “It'd be a good idea, actually,” Skyla said, uncrossing her legs and leaning forward earnestly. “You could give him a good battle, I think.”

    “I'm . . . not sure,” Ren said, glancing away. “I'll think about it.”

    “Fair enough. It's a big decision to make on a moment's notice, so just take it easy. You have until next Thursday at least, I guess. You'll want to hold your battle at the Conference if you do challenge him.”

    Ren nodded silently. Next Thursday . . . damn it, I didn't really want to be reminded of that. Next Thursday night was Nekros' deadline for the spirits. He thought it extremely unlikely that the council of elders would give in to Nekros' demands, which meant that Thursday might very well be Ragnarok. The spirits can't win against Nekros. They're doomed if they don't do what he wants. It was clear to him, then, that he had to convince them to go along peacefully with what Nekros demanded. It was their only chance of survival, and despite how much certain individuals annoyed him at times, he didn't want to see any of them dead.

    “Ren!”

    Ren looked up sharply as Karl burst through the doors of the Pokemon Centre, rushing over towards him and Skyla. “Arceus, Karl, what's the emergency?” Ren asked.

    “Huh? Oh, no, I just . . . your battle was . . . that is to say, I- well, I thought . . .”

    Ren stood up and grasped Karl by the shoulders, shaking him gently. “Chill, Karl. Relax, then start again.”

    “Holy crap, man. You sound just like Winona,” Karl grumbled, shrugging Ren off. “Okay. I was watching your battle, and, well . . . you two were amazing. I've never seen a battle of that level in person before. I mean, Winona battles some high-level Trainers at the Gym, but none of them are . . . well, they're not the Champion. That was one of the best battles I've ever seen!”

    Unsure quite how to respond, Ren changed the topic slightly, seizing on something Karl had said. “Now I think about it, I don't remember seeing you at the Gym when I challenged Winona a couple of years back. You would have been there, wouldn't you?”

    “Me? No, actually. I don't remember seeing you battle Winona, so I must have been off on one of my Absol hunts outside the city.”

    “You're hunting Absol?” Skyla asked with some interest.

    Karl spun as if seeing her for the first time. “Oh, uh . . . Leader Skyla!” he spluttered. “Um, yes, I am.” He seemed slightly defensive, as if he expected to be reprimanded again.

    Skyla only looked thoughtful, however. “Absol are rare and magnificent Pokemon,” she said, “even if they can't fly. I have great admiration for anybody able to catch and tame one. Are they common at all in the Hoenn region?”

    Karl shook his head. “No. There's rumoured to be a colony of them out on Route 120, but I've found nothing after five years of searching.”

    “You should come to Unova,” Skyla said. “There's a small group that live out on Route 13, near Lacunosa. They hang out around Giant Chasm – they have done ever since the meteor crashed there hundreds of years ago, apparently. Something about the massive residual aura of disaster in the area, or something like that.”

    “You think I'd have more chance finding one there?” Karl said eagerly.

    “Of course you would, if you've been looking here for five years and not seen so much as a whisker. The Chasm Absol have confirmed sightings every few months or so. If you were determined enough, you could probably catch one before too long.”

    “That'd be amazing,” Karl said in barely a whisper. “But I can't get to Unova. There's no way I could afford the trip.”

    “If you don't mind flying with the cargo, I'll give you a ride back when I leave tomorrow,” Skyla said. “Free trip for the friend of the guy who just won the Jet Badge off me. And if you come see me at the Mistralton Gym when you're done, I'll fly you back here on my next trip to Hoenn.”

    Karl blinked. He looked as if all his Christmases had come at once, but there was something hesitant in his eyes. “That would be . . . great,” he said slowly, “but I'll have to think about it.”

    “Don't think too long!” Skyla warned him with a laugh. “I leave tomorrow at ten. Hey, Ren, you want a ride too? I gotta stop off in Slateport anyway.”

    “Sure, that sounds good,” Ren said. “Thanks.”

    “Ah! You guys!” Karl exclaimed suddenly. “I almost forgot. Winona sent me to tell you it's gone six o'clock, and the dusk flyover will be starting soon. You should hurry back to the stage,” he said. “I've got to go. I'm supposed to be helping the lantern-lighting squad,” he added with a grimace before dashing out the door again.

    “Well, I sure don't want to miss this,” Skyla said, standing up and stretching. “We'd better pick up our Pokemon.”

    As it turned out, all six Pokemon were largely recovered already. Manectric's movements were still a little stiff, but Braviary's cuts had been treated and were closing already. Solrock was hovering happily in midair between the other two Pokemon's beds when Ren arrived to pick them up.

    “They'll all be fine before long,” the nurse informed him breezily. “Your Pokemon are strong. Braviary should take at least a couple more hours without doing anything too strenuous, or its cuts might reopen, but it's healing fast. Manectric's the same. One Gym battle in a day is probably enough for any Pokemon.”

    “They won't be doing any more battling today,” Ren promised. “Probably not tomorrow either, for that matter. Do you think Braviary will be okay to take part in the dusk flyover?”

    “I wouldn't count on it,” the nurse said, brown curls bouncing as she shook her head. “Flying counts as strenuous, I'm afraid.”

    “Oh, well,” Ren said, scratching Braviary's head. “Sorry, buddy. You'll have to sit this one out, I think.”

    “You good to go, Ren?” Skyla asked, straightening up with her three Poke Balls in her hands. She clipped them back onto her belt even as she headed for the door. “We'd better hurry. The sun sets early at this time of year.”

    “All right,” Ren said, quickly returning Manectric, Solrock and Braviary to their Poke Balls and following her. He nodded politely to the nurse as he backed out the door. “Thank you for taking care of them so well.”

    “Not a problem. It's my job, after all,” she said with a smile.

    Ren paused in the doorway with a frown. “Do I . . . know you?” he asked.

    The nurse shrugged. “I don't think so,” she said. “I don't believe we've met.”

    “Sorry, then,” Ren said quickly, backing out of the door with another nod. “I must have confused you with someone else.” He quickly jogged to catch up with Skyla, who had already left the Pokemon Centre.

    “Chatting up the nurse, Ren?” she teased as he caught up with her. “I think she's a little old for you.”

    “Oh, be quiet,” Ren grumbled. “My cousin already does that. I don't need you starting too.”

    As it turned out, they reached the central stage with time to spare. Winona was standing up on the stage with her Skarmory, directing people and Pokemon this way or that. As Ren and Skyla approached, the crowd parting accommodatingly for them, she waved them up onto the stage. “Can I borrow your Flying-types?” she asked.

    “Braviary's not allowed to fly for a little while,” Ren said regretfully, “but you're more than welcome to take Yanmega with you.” He tapped the release button on Yanmega's Poke Ball, and it buzzed happily over to hover by Winona's shoulder.

    “Is Braviary all right?” she asked anxiously.

    “Yeah, he'll be fine,” Ren said, releasing Braviary from its Poke Ball too. The Flying-type hopped around on the stage, looking vaguely incensed at the fact that it wasn't allowed to take to the sky. “He's just resting for a while.”

    “That's good to hear,” Winona said. “Skyla?”

    The Mistralton Gym Leader grinned. “I wish I could join you, but I don't have a giant Skarmory to fly on. Take my Pokemon, though, by all means.” She ran her hand along her belt, pressing the switch on each of the five Poke Balls held there. Swanna, Unfezant and Swoobat appeared, accompanied by the odd-looking Sigilyph and a Staravia.

    Ren raised an eyebrow. “A Staravia? Aren't those endemic to the Sinnoh region?”

    “Well, I was passing through a while back when I saw a flock of Starly. I just had to catch one, didn't I? She's shaping up to be quite the capable battler, too. But enough about that. Go on, guys!” she said with a laugh, waving her Pokemon up into the sky. They went in a chorus of squawks and chirps, heading off to the west as they joined the last few Flying-types that were withdrawing from the square. Yanmega buzzed off after them.

    Winona vaulted easily up onto Skarmory's back. “It'll be starting in about ten minutes. Find yourselves a spot. It's not like there's anywhere that you can't see from, so anywhere should be fine.” With an enthusiastic caw, Skarmory winged its way skyward, leaving Ren and Skyla alone on the stage.

    “Is the dusk flyover the end of the Feather Carnival?” Ren asked. “I seem to recall that it is.”

    “Yeah, it's the last event before everyone goes home. Flyover and fireworks. While it's not as flashy as some of the things going on during the day, it's certainly special to the people here.”

    “The whole carnival really is, isn't it?” Ren said quietly, looking around at the crowd eagerly milling around the centre of the square. As the light of the sun slipped away behind the treetops, the lanterns that had been hung everywhere were being lit. They were perched on the roofs of stall, tied to posts and hanging from banners and ropes. They provided a good bit of light, but it was nowhere near enough to replace the sunlight that was quickly vanishing. Then again, Ren reasoned, that was likely the point.

    The Fortree square took on a much mellower air as people settled in to wait for the finale. There was less of the hubbub that had characterised the daylight hours, and more of a quiet, yet tense, anticipation that buzzed gently throughout the area. The lanterns seemed to be holding their breath too, flickering gently in their places.

    “It's something special, all right,” Skyla murmured. “Here, we might as well just sit down on the stage to watch. It's not like anyone's gonna tell us off.” She did just that, patting the boards next to her.

    Ren shrugged and sat down, folding his legs and leaning back on his hands. The sky was a cloudless shade of lavender, halfway between dusk and full daylight. A trickle of red bled across the sky from the west, the dying sun making one last effort to be seen. Even as he sat in silence, however, it bled away, the sky turning an even darker purple.

    “You think Karl will take you up on your offer and go back to Unova with you?” he asked at length.

    “I think he will,” Skyla said. “He does seem like a guy who's focused on what he's doing. In a way, though, I guess it does depend on just how determined he is. If he's that set on catching an Absol here in Fortree, then leaving now might seem like a failure to him.”

    “That does kind of sound like how he'd see it,” Ren said worriedly.

    “You think he should come back to Unova?”

    “Yeah,” Ren said. “He told me today about his goal of becoming a Gym Leader. If he stays here in Fortree, he'll never get there. And he's said he'll stay in Fortree until he finds an Absol. If you take him to Unova and he can find what he's looking for there, well . . . he'll be able to move on.”

    “You think he can make Gym Leader?” Skyla asked. “It's not like Pokemon Leagues let just anyone set up an official Gym. It's a really tough thing to do, especially for a kid his age.”

    “So's becoming the League Champion,” Ren noted, “but look at me.”

    Skyla chuckled. “You have a point, but being a Gym Leader takes entirely different qualities than becoming Champion. It's not easier or harder, just . . . different. You have to continually work at it, keeping it up for years or even decades. It's not just that, though. You've got to have something . . . a little bit special about you. It's hard to put it into words, but there's something that every Gym Leader has. A certain brand of pride, I guess you could call it.”

    She seemed troubled, so Ren suggested, “Why not try telling this to Karl? He's the one who needs to hear it, I'd say.”

    “You're right, I guess,” Skyla said. “But I want to ask you, Ren. You know Karl better than I do, so do you think he can make it? I don't want to give him false hope.”

    “I only met him today, you know,” Ren grumbled. “But yes, I definitely think that if anyone can do it, he can. He's an interesting guy, and he knows more than he lets on, I think . . . but I can definitely see him making it someday.”

    “That's all I need,” said Skyla with a grin. “If he wants to go, I'll take him to Unova tomorrow.”

    “Thanks,” Ren said. “I know it'll mean a lot to him – not that he'll admit it, of course.”

    Silence fell once more as Ren returned his attention to the sky in the west. The last traces of sunlight were disappearing behind the thick trees, leaving the multitudinous lanterns as the only sources of light in the square.

    Moments later, a small black shape became barely visible in the sky to the west. It grew larger, followed by several others heading slowly towards the square. Ren noticed the crowd around the stage falling silent and still, all eyes glued to the sky.

    Quickly enough, the lead shape became identifiable as Skarmory, with Winona just visible sitting on its back. Behind it in perfect triangular formation flew well over a hundred Flying-type Pokemon, flying with all the precision of military aircraft. The Pokemon were somewhat indistinct, illuminated only by the myriad of lanterns beneath them, but Ren could see enough. There were Pelipper and Wingull, Hoppip and Skiploom, and Swellow and Taillow. Dozens of different kinds of Pokemon from all over the world were evident, though the largest part of the group was definitely the Hoenn contingent. Ren spotted Yanmega flying directly behind Winona and Skarmory, alongside Skyla's Unfezant.

    Nobody made a sound as the Pokemon flew overhead. As they passed the stage, Ren tipped his head back to watch Skarmory leading them over the square. There were no fancy manoeuvres or clever tricks to see here, unlike some of the flamboyant displays he'd seen throughout the day. There were no caws, screeches or chirps; the Pokemon simply flew quietly across the square, their silent trajectory dead straight.

    Yet even so, Ren could tell that it was the most appreciated display of the day. Every resident of Fortree City was present, and there was a sense of reverence in the crowd that was almost palpable. A rebellious part of his mind wanted to say something to break the silence, but it was quickly stifled. Though nobody had said a word against it, he felt like he would be lynched if he made a noise now. So he held his breath and watched the Pokemon stream by overhead. There were more of them than he had originally thought, the entire fleet taking more than a minute to pass over his head at their sedate, reduced speed.

    As they passed overhead, Ren shifted so that he could see them departing towards the east. He didn't feel the same sense of connection with the Flying-types that was evident on the face of every Fortree resident around him, but he was beginning to understand their attraction. The flyover had demonstrated that for him. Simplicity and grace. No unnecessary movements, no showmanship. That's the Flying type at its purest, he realised.

    He finally dropped his head to see Skyla half-smiling sideways at him. A brief glimmer in her eyes made him wonder whether she was reading his mind.

    Ren jumped as the first of the fireworks went off, his heart suddenly pounding. Within seconds, the sky was filled with multicoloured bursts of light, the explosions generating huge, booming soundwaves that seemed to shake the ground beneath him. He closed his eyes for a moment and forced himself to remain calm. Wasn't expecting that, somehow. Skyla had mentioned the fireworks, but somehow it had gone right out of his mind.

    He took a deep, slightly shaky breath as the pyrotechnics continued to rattle and crack overhead, sending bursts of blue, red and gold light spiralling across the sky.

    After the fireworks display ended, Ren made his way back to the Pokemon Centre as soon as he had recovered Yanmega from Winona. The Bug-type seemed to have enjoyed being part of the finale, and it buzzed happily at his shoulder the whole way through town.

    As he made his way through the crowd that was filtering quickly away from the square, he felt the cool metal of the Dreamlight bumping gently against his chest beneath his shirt.

    I've got a job to do tonight, he said silently to himself. As fun as today was, there are more important things to worry about.

    When he arrived at the Pokemon Centre, the curly-haired young nurse from earlier was still on duty at the counter. “Looking for a room for the night?” she asked with a smile as Ren approached.

    “If you could, yeah,” Ren said gratefully.

    “Sure. Most of the people who attend the Feather Carnival are actually locals, so we're not too heavily booked. I'll put you in number 17, all right?” she suggested, tapping a few buttons and holding out a swipe card. “Down the hallway to your right, fourth door on the left.”

    “Thanks,” he said, taking the card. When the nurse didn't speak, he hovered awkwardly for a moment. “Look, um . . . are you sure we haven't met? I'm sorry, but you just seem really familiar somehow.”

    She frowned, looking thoughtful for a moment. “I don't think so. Then again, you must have come here to Fortree once for the Feather Badge, right? I might have been here then. We get lots of Trainers through here, though, so I can't recall every one.”

    “That must be it,” Ren said, nodding. “Sorry for bothering you. Good night!” He beat a hasty retreat, feeling vaguely embarrassed for reasons he couldn't quite fathom.

    Room 17 was just as he expected: small and sparsely furnished with a single bed and a nightstand. Six small hollows in the top of the nightstand would accommodate his Pokemon team if he wanted, but he left them in his bag by the bed. He set the alarm clock on the nightstand for seven in the morning.

    Here we go, he thought as he lay down, touching the Dreamlight carefully as if to make sure it was still there. He had ten days to convince the spirits to do as Nekros had asked, but he had the feeling he was going to need all the time that was available to him in order to do so. Elly's so contrary she'd probably disagree with me for the sake of it, and Elsin seemed particularly angry with the Iehkti'na. Is there more history there than I thought?

    Only one way to find out.
    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. #89
    Green Skittles ≈ Lysol Aerospacer's Avatar
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    Default Re: Champion Game {Chapter 27}

    Ah, greetings!
    I'd just like to say that your fic is quite simply-absolutely-amazing, and that I've been following it for a few months now, but never got the time to tell you how appreciative I am of it. I'm not a critic by the way, just an average reader who's creepin' on some stories, but I simply love how you've interwoven both Pokémon and dark, cryptic stuff into this story. I always end up checking for updates on this fic along with the others I like reading. Nothing like a good chain of mysterious events to keep you on your toes. ^.^

    By the way... I'd just like to add that this is fic is very intense when you listen to the Inception soundtrack simultaneously. ;)

    Coming someday! Eventually! Seriously!

  15. #90
    Unova's #1 Yancy fan Seizon Senryaku's Avatar
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    Default Re: Champion Game {Chapter 27}

    Quote Originally Posted by Aerospacer View Post
    Ah, greetings!
    I'd just like to say that your fic is quite simply-absolutely-amazing, and that I've been following it for a few months now, but never got the time to tell you how appreciative I am of it. I'm not a critic by the way, just an average reader who's creepin' on some stories, but I simply love how you've interwoven both Pokémon and dark, cryptic stuff into this story. I always end up checking for updates on this fic along with the others I like reading. Nothing like a good chain of mysterious events to keep you on your toes. ^.^
    Hee, thank you! I'm glad that I achieved the desired effect there. And I've had some criticism saying that the two elements don't blend very well, so it's nice to hear from someone who thinks they do.

    By the way... I'd just like to add that this is fic is very intense when you listen to the Inception soundtrack simultaneously. ;)
    Funny thing, that. I actually write most of the sequences in the world of dreams - especially the ones in the second ring - while listening to the Inception soundtrack myself. The movie as a whole was a big inspiration for this fic, though I don't think there'll be quite as much mindscrewery.
    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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