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  1. #106
    Woof Thabet's Avatar
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    Default Re: Champion Game {Chapter 32}

    First off, a huge big mega sorry for taking so long to get these results to you. I was simply too busy to get anything done. This is the first half of the results and the second will be coming soon. If are there any comments or questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

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    Champion Game by Misheard Whisper:

    Plot: 9/10

    Overall, this had the best plot among the nominees. It was intriguing and grabbed your interest. The magnitude of the plot is huge, which contributes to its appeal. Although the plot can sometimes confuse you, having to read some parts a few times to properly digest it, you do a great job at spoon-feeding it on a relaxed basis; otherwise this plot would’ve surely failed. An overall outstanding plot with many twists and turns along the way, yet maintaining the elusive balance between the fast-paced and the slow-paced, with little chapters to buffer you along the way, though these chapter could’ve contributed to the plot more.

    Characterization: 9/10

    Impressive characterization; your characters overall are above average in terms of quality, from the main and supporting characters to the small, none-recurring characters. A lot of these characters have originality and a certain degree of depth that adds to the appeal. These diverse, numerous and interesting characters turn an otherwise uneventful chapter into a fun one.

    Setting: 8/10

    Your setting is also good, but does fail at some points. Since your story is set in the fantasy genre, the setting was graded accordingly. As such, the setting in the fantasy genre relies on two things overall, span and depth.

    In terms of depth, your story excels. You have done a good job adding the lore that adds the depth necessary for the setting. In addition to explaining how this history impacted the people of the Dream
    World (evidenced when they lost the battle).

    However, in terms of span, your story lacks. You don’t feel like this is a completely different world or realm. There are no major locations besides the city and the plot doesn’t make an attempt to venture beyond that. Even when Ren left the city and visited the nightmares, it felt restrained. This makes the Dream World feel like a confined room rather than an entire world.

    Nevertheless, I felt that the story did an overall good enough job to merit the score I gave it.

    Technical: 10/10

    Outstanding technicalities, your writing style is very good and fun yet easy to read. Typos, grammar and spelling mistakes are incredibly rare, (32 chapters and barely any mistakes). Great job.

    Overall: 93/100

    Summary: This story, in my opinion, is the best out of the nominees. The plot is very interesting and strong, the characters are mostly above average in terms of quality and the writer does a superb job of drawing you into the sequence of events, describing the characters emotions and crafting his own personal world. This story really stands out from the others.

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    Ren from Champion Game:

    Depth: 9/10

    At first glance, Ren doesn’t seem that deep, but as you read on more and more, you realize that Ren actually is a deep character. As soon as the story starts off, you find Ren lost and completely in the dark about his role as the champion, then the story portrays his struggles with his responsibilities as the champion and as the Yekhtera. His reaction to these tasks is entertaining to read about.

    Contribution to the plot: 10/10

    Well, to be honest, anything less than this is not enough. Basically, the whole story revolves around keeping Ren alive. Every time he shuts his eyes, he’s teleported to world where he has to fend off monster every night, lest they follow him to his world and destroy it. And at the same time, he needs to stay at the world to refresh the bonds between the two worlds or they’ll both fall apart. Above that all, you have the fact that both sides of the war want to keep Ren alive and make peace between them.

    …Beat that Chosen –One-rehashes…

    Entertainment Value: 8/10

    Ren is mostly entertaining. Being the champion of Hoenn, is nice to see his ability at combat and strategy come into play, and it’s also fun read about his misadventures when doing interviews or other celebrity stuff. Overall, he’s entertaining enough.

    Originality: 7/10

    Although he’s different, he does remain bland sometimes. Were it not that fact that Ren was the main character with all the perks he has, he could easily be lost in the background. He doesn’t have any particular traits that would jump out at you, such as appearance, way of speech or personality.

    Overall: 84/100

    Summary: An intriguing character, to say the least. While he doesn’t display that much of originality among other characteristics, he still manages to stand out. Ren shows a lot of depth as he struggles with his newfound responsibilities as a champion and trying to maintain balance (and stay alive) in the Dream World. He isn’t incredibly original, but still manages to stand out.

  2. #107
    Unova's #1 Yancy fan Seizon Senryaku's Avatar
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    Default Re: Champion Game {Chapter 32}

    Wow, Jinoga. A generous, yet just review - thanks heaps. I must admit I was curious as to how I stacked up, so thanks for taking the time to put this together. I see several things here I can work on - pacing issues, character depth (Ren!) and the like. I'm heading off to work on Chapter 33 now, so I'll bear your thoughts in mind as I carry on towards the climax of the story. Thanks again for judging so comprehensively!
    The Atlantis Codex / Champion Game

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

  3. #108
    Woof Thabet's Avatar
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    Default Re: Champion Game {Chapter 32}

    Finally Part 2! Whew.
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    Elly from Champion Game:


    Depth: 9/10

    She is quite the deep character. A mistake among writers when writing about non-human characters is to humanize them, but this is something you managed to avoid. She acts completely inhuman but yet manages to gain your interest. Furthermore, as the leader of the spirits, watching her struggles with the nightmares and effect of their first ever loss against them was very interesting.

    Contribution to the plot: 9/10

    She does contribute to the plot quite a bit, doesn’t she? After all, she is the leader of the spirits and fought in the front line during the war. Not to mention that she was the one who taught Ren all about the nightmares, introducing him to the fundamentals and guiding him.

    Entertainment Value: 8/10

    Quite entertaining; her no-nonsense and intimidating attitude make it fun to read about as she spends her time threatening Ren, cussing out Nekros or hooking up with Yektira. Unfortunately, she kind of disappears half-through and you don’t hear from her. And unlike Natasha, she doesn’t stick on you quite as much.

    Originality: 8/10

    Originality abound. As a leader character she’s firm and strict but still has the teen-streak of attitude. Leader characters are a little a tricky to do without falling into
    any stereotypes, and you did a good job navigating around them.

    Overall: 88/100

    Summary: Elly is one the better supporting characters I’ve judged along with Natasha. She’s mysterious and really interesting to follow and read about. As a leader of the spirits and essentially not being human at all, the writer does a remarkable job of making her a deep and solid character and depicting her struggle with the ‘nightmares’. Also, her interactions with Ren are some of my favorite parts of the story.

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    Natasha from Champion Game:


    Depth: 8/10

    Surprisingly deep as a character, she alternates from a small ball of fun into something of a quiet character. Odd… oddly intriguing that is.
    Her little remarks about Ren are evidence to a richness of character. I don’t know, It’s hard to explain but I just think that there’s more to her than meets the eye.

    Contribution to the plot: 6/10

    Natasha has next to nothing to do with the plot. She appears in the early chapters to provide comic relief and give Ren a sense of normalcy. It’s been quite a long time since she’s shown up, too.

    Entertainment Value: 9/10

    A very fun character. She is one of the most entertaining characters I’ve read about in a long time. Whether she’s flat out annoying Ren or trying to ship Ren and Roxxane together, she’ll have you smiling for sure and reminds you of that little annoying relative in your life that you can’t get rid of… or shut up.

    Originality: 8/10

    Making a character in this mold isn’t quite that common, but portraying her the way you did is even more uncommon. She’s naïve and mischievous, but still lovable.

    Overall: 89/100

    Summary: Just an odd little character. She acts like a little sister to Ren, and the writer did a great job of portraying her as that little troublemaking relative we all have. Even though she has next to nothing to do with the overall plot, her introduction gave a lot of much-needed comic relief and a sense of normalcy.
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    Nekros from Champion Game:


    Depth: 8/10

    Well, Nekros hasn’t been around long enough for any of us to properly judge depth. But from what I’ve read so far, he does display a certain degree of it. His efforts solely focused on helping his people and his willingness to negotiate with the spirits, are in contrast to the traditional villain mold which makes him quite refreshing.

    Contribution to the plot: 9/10

    Well, like many of the main cast of characters in this story, Nekros has a pivotal role in the story and one which shouldn’t be downplayed. Nekros and his commanders’ very presence is what are setting most of the plot into motion. This is not to mention that he is indirectly affecting Ren and all the other story events, too.

    Entertainment Value: 9/10

    Quite entertaining as a villain; it’s quite nice to see a departure from the beaten path of an evil overlord who wants to rule the world. His personality, interaction with Ren, influence to the story and goals are quite interesting and fun to read.

    Originality: 9/10

    Nekros is relatively original, since he is (as mentioned before) not the typical villain and he is solely motivated by the desire to ensure his peoples’ safety (however monstrous they are). Furthermore, he seems like a leader trying to do what’s best for his people rather than an evil mastermind.

    Overall: 91/100

    Summary: Honestly, I don’t know if Nekros falls under ‘antagonist’; since most antagonists are depicted as evil villains, yet Nekros is more of a leader that’s only doing what’s best for his people. Nekros is a unique antagonist since his very presence is essentially what’s causing most of the events to unfold, and original since he takes a departure from the beaten path of a ‘Villian’ or ‘Evil Mastermind’.

  4. #109
    The Dimension Wizard Flaze's Avatar Moderator
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    Default Re: Champion Game {Chapter 32}

    Well I don't really have much to comment on the recent chapter. Sorry about that man but I do have to say congrats on winning, maybe I can do better against you next time xD. Anyways it seems Ren is expanding his horizons and changing his opinion on contests now that he's seen it first hand. I wonder what he'll do now that he knows Arnold wasn't as much of an average civilian as he thought.

  5. #110
    Unova's #1 Yancy fan Seizon Senryaku's Avatar
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    Default Re: Champion Game {Chapter 32}

    Quote Originally Posted by Jinoga View Post
    Finally Part 2! Whew.
    Thanks heaps, Jinoga. I really appreciate all the effort you put into marking these fics for the awards - it's clear you sank an amazing amount of time on reading and analysing all the fics.

    Quote Originally Posted by Stellar Haze View Post
    Well I don't really have much to comment on the recent chapter. Sorry about that man but I do have to say congrats on winning, maybe I can do better against you next time xD. Anyways it seems Ren is expanding his horizons and changing his opinion on contests now that he's seen it first hand. I wonder what he'll do now that he knows Arnold wasn't as much of an average civilian as he thought.
    There's not much that happened in this chapter, admittedly. I've decided I hate writing Contests, so I'll be motoring through this one as fast as possible and then probably not coming back to another one for quite some time. The battle rounds should be better, though.

    Note: Finally found some time to work on Chapter 33. With any luck, it should be out by the end of the weekend! #touchwood
    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

  6. #111
    Unova's #1 Yancy fan Seizon Senryaku's Avatar
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    Default Chapter Thirty-Three - The Circus of Circumstance

    Wow, guys. I hope you appreciate how hard it was for me to get this chapter done. I realised halfway through writing the Contest scene that I really hate writing Contest scenes. As a result, this thing took me months to write. On the other hand, it covers the entirety of what remains of the Contest and it's nearly six and a half thousand words long - about 150% of my average chapter length so far. So take that as a bit of an apology, I guess? Seriously, I owe you a thousand apologies for being so slow updating lately. Chapter 34 is already finished too, so that'll be coming out some time next week.

    Chapter Thirty-Three
    The Circus of Circumstance


    Arnold took his place in the middle of the ring and sent out his Pokémon without a word.

    The resulting flash of blue light revealed a Pokémon Ren was well familiar with – a Lunatone, a mystical Psychic-type that acted as a counterpart to the rare and mysterious Solrock. Both were originally said to have come from space, landing in one of the many extraterrestrial objects that gave the Meteor Falls their name. As such, Ren had seen several of them floating around when he'd been training north of Rustboro. He had considered catching one at the time, but it seemed too cruel. Lunatone had a notable aversion to sunlight, which could have presented difficulties. Instead, he'd caught one of the diurnal Solrock that lived in the same area.

    Arnold's Lunatone seemed to have no such reservations about the bright sunlight that streamed through the skylights, though. It levitated composedly at its Coordinator's side, a perfectly shaped crescent of light brown stone. The one large, red eye that Ren could see seemed to be watching him with a detached sort of interest.

    “Lunatone,” Arnold said, his voice relaxed and free of stress. “Just like we practiced, all right?”

    Lunatone hummed a single, long note, and Arnold nodded. “Ah, right. Can we have the lights down, please?” he asked the room at large.

    Next to Ren, Contesta nodded and tapped his something on his screen. There was a whirring sound from above, and Ren looked up to see two enormous shutters rolling across the skylight, leeching the light from the room. With a boom, the shutters met in the centre of the ceiling, leaving the arena lit only by the auxiliary spotlights. A moment later, they all shut off as well, plunging the space into darkness.

    For ten seconds, the Contest Hall was deathly silent. Ren couldn't see a thing, but he could tell that every eye in the stands was fixed on where Lunatone ought to be. Abruptly, a pinprick of red light appeared in the centre of the arena. The light was faint at first, emanating from Lunatone's eyes, but after just a few seconds it spread across the entire rocky surface, turning chalky brown into a crimson sheen.

    Ren became dimly aware of a low ringing in his ears. He frowned and shook his head in an effort to dispel it, but the sound only became louder. It soon became apparent that the sound was coming from Lunatone, which was visible only as a bright red crescent in the centre of the darkened room.

    As Lunatone's humming grew louder, the light grew brighter. Before long, Ren could see Arnold quite plainly, his face lit by soft scarlet light. He was smiling in satisfaction, making no move to direct his Pokémon. It was evident to Ren that everything was going according to plan.

    As the unearthly humming reached a crescendo, a flash of white light scythed through the red, followed by another and then a third in quick succession. With each flash of white light, Lunatone hovered a little higher off the ground until it was levitating well above the judges' heads.

    All at once, the humming and the flashing stopped, sending the room back into darkness and silence. Before the spectators could even begin to wonder whether the appeal was over, there was a thunderous crash, accompanied by a meteoric flash of white light that made everybody in the hall blink. Spherical pulses of white light went careening around the darkened room, giving brief flashes of illumination as they passed. Lunatone itself was visible only for split seconds at the nucleus of the light show.

    Suddenly, all of the balls of light came to a halt, arrayed in a wide arc near the ceiling of the hall. There had to be at least a dozen of them. Lunatone let out one final, high-pitched chime and they burst like fireworks, morphing instantly into wide starbursts that stretched and wheeled through the air.

    As the light faded, the crowd burst into applause. Ren joined them after a moment, starbursts still popping in his eyes. With a clunk, the shades covering the skylight began to retract, allowing sunlight to flood back into the arena. The sudden burst of light revealed Arnold standing proudly with his Lunatone in the centre of the hall, soaking up the audience's adulation with a wide smile on his face.

    It took a full twenty seconds for the crowd to quiet down, but once they did, Contesta leaned forward and spoke into his microphone. “Well, that was extraordinarily impressive. It's obvious you put a lot of thought into crafting your appeal today, and the result was spectacular.”

    “Indeed,” agreed Sukizo, “you made remarkable use of Lunatone's origin as a Pokémon of the night. Most impressive!”

    Ren raised an eyebrow at Arnold, but thought better of commenting on the other boy's failure to mention who he was. “That was seriously awesome, Arnold. On top of being visually appealing, I thought it was pretty cool how it was way different from everybody else's.”

    Arnold nodded appreciatively at the comments and withdrew from the stage, Lunatone floating at his side.

    “So Arnold and Caitlin are both top finishers in the last Grand Festival?” Ren murmured to Contesta as Vivian moved on to introduce the next contender. “That's interesting.”

    “It's unusual to see two Coordinators of such calibre in the same Contest, yes. Not unheard of, of course. What is unusual, though, is seeing Miss Evans continuing to compete on the Hoenn circuit.”

    “Of course, she wouldn't need to keep winning, would she? If she's already qualified for the Grand Festival, I mean.”

    Contesta shook his head. “It's not that. The Grand Festival is a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence. Winning it disqualifies you from entering future tournaments, though you are still allowed to take part in normal Contests. Most winners tend to travel to another region and try for the Ribbon Cup there after winning, but Miss Evans has been competing in Contests since her victory.”

    “I guess she just enjoys it, then,” Ren mused, but he quickly shut up when he noticed that the next Coordinator was already heading out onto the stage.

    But really, why does she keep competing? Ren wondered. It's not like I've been going around collecting Gym badges since I won the League.

    Haven't you? whispered a little voice in his head. You did get the Jet Badge off Skyla the other day.

    The rest of the appeals went by in something of a blur for Ren. Just like after Caitlin's performance, those who followed Arnold failed to measure up to his standard.

    “You doing all right, Ren?” Contesta asked as the last contestant bowed his way off the stage, almost tripping over his own feet several times in the process.

    “I'm fine, fine,” Ren said, forcing himself to concentrate. “What happens now?”

    “We take a break to deliberate. While normally each contestant would be marked out of ten after their appeal, we're trialling a new system where the judging takes place behind closed doors, so nobody finds out their score until everyone's had their turn. Here, we'll go back to the anteroom to choose our finalists.” With that, Contesta rose from his chair, indicating that Ren and Sukizo should follow.

    Ren did so curiously. He really hoped that he wouldn't have to give marks out of ten for each performance; he couldn't even remember half of them. He felt increasingly uncomfortable as they left the buzzing arena behind and retreated to the peace and quiet of the room in which Ren had first met the other two judges.

    “Let me ask you first, Ren,” Contesta said once they were all seated on the plush leather couch near the drinks bar. “Were there any contestants that stood out for you? Any performances you particularly liked?”

    Ren nodded. “Arnold and Caitlin,” he said without hesitation. “The kid with the Duskull wasn't bad, but those two were definitely above and beyond the rest.”

    Contesta nodded in agreement, smiling. “Most definitely,” he said. “Now . . . seeing as you're new to this, Ren, would you be at all offended if I asked you to sit out the rest of the judging process? I don't doubt your ability, far from it, but-”

    “It's fine,” Ren said quickly. “Really, I don't mind. I was a bit worried, to be honest, so I'm perfectly happy for you to do the rest of the judging yourselves. I'm not qualified, so I understand completely if you want to go on and do it without me.”

    Ren allowed himself to drift slightly as Sukizo and Contesta discussed numbers and percentages, scores and ratios flying every which way like a swarm of startled Beedrill. He glanced across to the opposite wall, where a muted television set was displaying replays of some of the more interesting performances, interspersed with shots of Vivian Meridian talking to the Coordinators in what appeared to be a dressing room of some kind. Caitlin, the nurse from the Fortree Pokémon Centre, was gesticulating enthusiastically as she explained something to Vivian.

    “Ren, what do you think?” Sukizo said, causing Ren to start as he turned his attention quickly away from the screen.

    “I'm sorry?” Ren said quickly. “What was that?”

    “Which Coordinator do you think should be top seed going into the battle round?” Contesta asked. “It's clear that it should be either Arnold Leonheart or Caitlin Evans, but we're having trouble deciding which. What's your view on the matter?”

    Ren frowned, casting his mind back to both performances. “Well, they were both very flashy in their own way,” he said, “but I think Arnold's showed more technical skill and a more complex arrangement. I'm not really much of a judge, though . . .”

    “Not at all!” Sukizo said, smiling genially. “You make some very good points.”

    “In that case,” Contesta said with a smile, “Mr. Leonheart will go into the first battle round as top seed, followed by Miss Evans. Does that sound fair?”

    Ren nodded mutely, still unsure whether he was even qualified to give his opinion. “But what do you mean by 'battle round'?” he asked as a sudden thought struck him. “I keep hear it being mentioned, but how does that work? I thought the whole point of Contests was to act as an alternative to battling.”

    “That's true in a way,” Contesta said as he rose from the couch, “but having Coordinators participate in a battle round allows for a more decisive outcome not entirely reliant on the opinions of the judges.”

    “Not entirely?” Ren repeated, frowning. “If it's a battle, how do the judges come into it at all?”

    “Come with me and I'll show you,” Contesta said, leading the way back into the arena.

    Ren followed curiously. The crowd was still buzzing eagerly, but a momentary hush fell over them at the reappearance of the judges, only to sweep almost instantly back up into excited chatter.

    As Ren took his seat at the judges' table once more, he noticed that the display on his screen had changed, still mirroring the jumbotron opposite him. It now displayed four unidentifiable silhouettes overlaid with large question marks – representing, he assumed, the four Coordinators who would take part in the battle rounds.

    As he sat down, Contesta tapped his own screen several times, causing each of the four silhouettes to light up gold. Once this was done, he glanced across and nodded once towards the middle of the stage, where Vivian Meridian had reappeared as if by magic.

    “All right!” Vivian said loudly, her voice projected throughout the arena. “It's time to get the next round started!”

    The audience fell completely silent, every eye fixed on the giant screens. Ren shivered involuntarily; the tension was almost palpable.

    “Four Coordinators will take part in the battle rounds in a simple knockout format,” Vivian announced. “The last contestant standing will take home the Mauville ribbon! So, without further ado, ladies and gentlemen . . . your four finalists!”

    With a loud bing, the screens flashed a brilliant white. When the light faded a split second later, the four golden silhouettes had been replaced by headshots of the four top contestants: Arnold, Caitlin, the boy with the Duskull – was it Luke? – and another Coordinator that Ren recognised vaguely.

    “What happens now?” Ren murmured, leaning over towards Contesta as Vivian carried on announcing the finalists.

    “The first and fourth seeds will battle with one Pokémon each, followed by the second and third seeds. You win if you knock out your opponent's Pokémon, of course – but the difference is that if there's still no winner after five minutes, the Coordinator with the most points remaining wins.”

    “Points? How does that work in a situation like this?”

    “You'll see what I mean in a moment, but basically, each contestant starts the battle at 100%. As the head judge, I take points off for various things – whether that be missed attacks, taking damage, loss of control and poise . . .”

    “It sounds complicated,” Ren commented.

    “It is, and it gets worse,” Contesta chuckled. “Coordinators can minimise the points they lose by adhering to certain Contest ideals – finesse, technique and beauty.”

    “I see,” Ren lied. He was starting to feel out of his depth once again – but at least there was going to be battling after a fashion.

    With a loud, blaring tone, the screens changed again, this time displaying the profiles of two Coordinators, each with a bright yellow bar under his photograph. Arnold, it seemed, would be battling first against Luke and his Duskull.

    The two Coordinators appeared to thunderous applause. Arnold waved appreciatively at the crowd as he took his place at one end of the arena, but Luke – a mousy little boy who couldn't have been more than thirteen – seemed a little unsteady on his feet as he made his way to the other end.

    Ren bit his lip in sympathy. He had seen Trainers like Luke before: inexperiecned and clearly out of their depth, but struggling valiantly to hide it. Although Luke's Duskull would have a type advantage over Lunatone – they do have to use the same Pokémon, right? – Ren could already see which way this battle was likely to go.

    “If both contestants are ready,” Vivian was saying, “then let's get the battle round started!”

    Arnold grinned, snatching a Poké Ball from his belt and thumbing the release switch. “Lunatone, let's go!”

    Mouth pressed tightly shut, Luke tossed his own Poké Ball up into the air. At the top of its arc, it burst open in a shower of sparks, leaving duskull floating several metres above the battlefield, staring Lunatone down with the single ghostly eye that floated between its hollow, skeletal eye sockets.

    “Are the judges ready?” Vivian asked, turning to address the panel directly. At Contesta's nod, she whirled back around, throwing her hand in the air. “In that case . . . battle begin!”

    Ren watched curiously as Luke gave his Duskull some inaudible command. The small Ghost-type sped towards its opponent as if shot out of a cannon. What is he doing? You can't fight close-quarters with this sort of matchup!

    Arnold had apparently come to the same conclusion. “Psychic!” he said sharply.

    Lunatone's eyes flashed blue, and Duskull abruptly stopped and flew backwards as if it had collided with a physical obstacle. It tumbled helplessly for a few seconds before righting itself.

    “Ooh, that's going to cost Luke some points,” Vivian winced.

    Sure enough, there was a loud blip-blip-blip as a small portion of Luke's yellow bar drained away, leaving only a black void behind. Contesta appeared to be controlling the points via the screen set into his desk, Ren noticed.

    Luke seemed unwilling to be thwarted so easily, however. “Duskull, use your Will-o-wisp attack. Just like we practiced,” he ordered, his voice wavering ever so slightly.

    Duskull rose into the air, a ghostly sphere of bluish fire coalescing in front of it. With a haunting, moaning trill, it flung the fireball at Lunatone.

    As the attack split into five separate projectiles, Arnold gave a swift command that Ren didn't quite catch. Lunatone surged forwards, a swiftly forming glob of ghostly energy hovering between the two points of its crescent-shaped body.

    Good tactic, Ren congratulated Arnold silently. Cancel out the attack with a similar one. Since this is a Contest battle, it'll make a good show, too. Flashy . . .

    To his surprise, however, Lunatone held its fire, charging directly towards Duskull's attack. Rather than countering, Lunatone took the attack head-on, losing about a sixth of its points in the process.

    To his surprise, however, Lunatone held its fire, charging directly towards Duskull’s attack. Rather than countering, Lunatone took the attack head-on, losing about a sixth of its points in the process.

    What happened next only heightened Ren’s surprise. Apparently unhurt, though slightly blackened, Lunatone burst out of the bluish-purple conflagration and slammed directly into Duskull, its Shadow Ball still roiling fiercely. The impact was solid and carried an unmistakable air of finality. Sure enough, Duskull crashed to the ground with an impact that belied its size.

    It didn’t get up. Indeed, it appeared that the small Ghost-type was unable to move, despite the exhortations of its frightened Coordinator. After a few seconds of agonising stillness, a loud buzzer sounded as Duskull’s nearly-full points bar was replaced with a large red X.

    Ren blinked in surprise as the crowd broke into applause and Vivian started off again. It seemed that Arnold was a more serious battler than he’d imagined. Ren instantly felt bad for having discounted the Coordinator’s skill, even subconsciously. There’s still battling involved, he said silently. It’s not like they don’t have to work as hard as I do, or even harder.

    Even so, he didn’t think he’d be trying Contests any time soon if he could avoid it. The extra frills and complications that came with the format were still somewhat anathema to him, and as much as he considered himself able to sit and enjoy watching a Contest, he couldn’t imagine himself ever competing in one. Trying to picture himself on the stage, posing and directing his Pokemon with one hand high in the air, was incredibly difficult and made him snort with barely disguised laughter. He would have to explain himself to Gerard, though, he realised.

    Caitlin’s semifinal battle went by even more quickly than Arnold’s, if that were possible. No sooner had her opponent, a fierce-looking girl with short black hair and heavily tattooed arms, called her first attack than Magmar unleashed a blistering barrage of fireballs that hammered explosively into the opponent’s Banette, sending it flying backwards to land in a crumpled heap at the base of the restraining wall below the stands.

    Ren thought he saw Contesta roll his eyes ever so slightly as he declared Caitlin the winner. Then again, he might have been imagining things. There was to be another short break before the final match, so Ren took the opportunity to slip away from the judges’ table and make his way backstage.

    The atmosphere in the green room was, to Ren’s surprise, entirely different than the cheerful, amicably competitive mood that had prevailed thus far on the main stage. Arnold and Caitlin were sitting on opposite sides of a small table, each apparently making a concerted effort not to look at the other. Lunatone and Magmar waited behind their respective Coordinators; Lunatone bobbed slightly in place, but otherwise the small room was entirely devoid of movement. The only sound was the distant noise of the babbling crowd.

    “Um . . . hello?” he said uncertainly as he shut the door behind him.

    “Ren!” Arnold said with a grin, getting up and striding towards him as if he were the only person in the room.

    Simultaneously, Caitlin stood to greet him with a smile that faded as soon as she saw Arnold moving. “You know him?” she said, directing her words at Ren.

    “Uh . . . yes,” Ren said, glancing awkwardly between the two of them.

    “You’ve met her before?” Arnold said, a slightly accusatory note in his voice.

    Ren nodded, suddenly very aware of the tension in the room. “Once or twice.”

    “Well, it was nice of you to come and wish me luck for the final,” Arnold said breezily, turning to sit back down in his chair. “Don’t worry, I’ll beat her.”

    “Oh, for goodness’ sake!” Caitlin grumbled. “You came to cheer me on, didn’t you, Ren?”

    “Uh.” Ren was having trouble processing the situation. What the hell is the history between these two?

    “Stupid woman,” Arnold snorted. “Ren and I are practically best mates. You think he’d come here to support you?”

    “I think he would,” Caitlin said, addressing a point a couple of feet above Arnold’s head. “I mean, it’s obvious that I’m going to win anyway, so why would he support anyone else?”

    “That’s rich. I guess you’re planning to win this one like you ‘won’ Lilycove last year?” Arnold challenged her.

    Caitlin flushed pink and turned on her heel, now refusing to meet anybody’s eyes. “That was the only time!” she snapped. “It’s not going to happen again, and you know it!”

    Ren shook his head. “Look,” he said, making a concerted effort to regain control of the situation. “I came to wish you both good luck. I’m a judge - though I haven’t been doing much judging - and I should probably try and be neutral. Even if that wasn’t the case, I want you both to do well. All right?”

    “Right,” Caitlin said, her voice strained.

    “Sure,” Arnold said. “See ya round, Ren.”

    Shaking his head, Ren returned to the judging table just as Vivian was getting into the swing of her commentary again. The screen was showing recaps of the appeal rounds and the semifinals.

    “Let me guess,” Contesta said in a low voice as Ren slipped back into his seat. “No joy backstage?”

    “Not a bit,” Ren sighed. “Are they always like that?”

    “For as long as I’ve know them,” Contesta said. “And before you ask, no, I don’t know the reason for it, but for whatever reason, they’re never on good terms.

    “Hmm,” Ren said, but he didn’t have time to extrapolate any further, as that was the moment when Arnold and Caitlin reappeared on the stage. Both had their game faces on, Ren noticed; they smiled widely at the crowd and shook hands amicably before retreating to opposite ends of the battlefield. Nevertheless, Ren thought he detected an element of stiffness in the pair of them, a difference so slight that under different circumstances, he would have been convinced it was imaginary. As the two Coordinators faced each other down across the battlefield, there was a palpable level of tension above and beyond what he could normally sense at the start of a battle. It reminded him of a battle he’d had mere weeks before.

    No, not a battle; an opponent.

    Damien.


    Before he even realised that he’d let himself get lost in his own memories, the battle was underway.

    Caitlin seized the initiative. “Flamethrower!” she snapped. Magmar sucked in a huge breath before leaning forward and spewing out a roiling blast of red-hot flame that roared towards Lunatone.

    Arnold seemed unworried. “Cover yourself, Lunatone,” he said quietly, his words almost lost under the roaring flame. Lunatone’s eyes flashed a brighter red than normal, and a translucent barrier of white light appeared directly in front of it.

    The Flamethrower attack slammed into Lunatone’s Light Screen with a whoomph that shook the arena. Lunatone’s defense bent and shook, but it diverted the lethal flames off to all sides in a spectacular burning starburst.

    Contesta nodded appreciatively and shaved off about a tenth of Magmar’s points.

    Caitlin wasn’t giving up, however. “Brick Break!” she shouted, and Magmar leapt high into the air before slamming down into Lunatone’s shield with a clenched fist. The Light Screen shattered into a thousand brilliant pieces and Magmar kept going, crashing into Lunatone and sending the pair of them slamming into the ground.

    Before the dust had even cleared, Magmar leapt backwards and landed squarely on its feet, apparently unhurt. Lunatone’s points bar dropped by nearly a quarter, and Ren winced in sympathy.

    Arnold grimaced, but his voice was level. “Lunatone! Rock Polish, and make it quick.” Lunatone shot upwards at a speed Ren would have thought physically impossible for such a Pokemon. It looked slightly worse for wear, but as it rocketed around the arena, slicing through the air like a fighter jet, Magmar was suddenly the one on the back foot. It turned every which way, attempting to follow its opponent’s movements, but apparently to no avail, as Arnold took the opportunity to deal some heavy damage.

    “Bulldoze!” he roared, and Lunatone changed its course to dash straight at Magmar, clubbing it squarely in the face and shooting off again. “Keep it up!” Arnold said excitedly, and Lunatone wheeled around, coming in for another pass from another direction. Magmar was unable to guard against the furious onslaught as Lunatone battered it mercilessly from every direction.

    Ren found himself on the edge of his seat as Magmar’s points dropped steadily. This was something else, he decided. It was a battle, for sure, but even in the heat of the fray, every move was calculated for maximum visual appeal. Lunatone’s skilful use of Light Screen, Magmar’s perfectly timed Brick Break, Arnold’s combination of Rock Polish and Bulldoze . . . each had probably been designed on the spot. The reaction speed necessary to keep up in a battle like this had to be phenomenal. This is on a whole different level to the semifinals.

    Just as Caitlin’s points dropped below the halfway mark, she made her move. “Grab it!” she ordered. As Lunatone swung by for another pass, Magmar ducked, its movements slightly unsteady, and fastened its arms around Lunatone’s lower body as it passed, allowing itself to be dragged along.

    Lunatone lifted up into the air, leaving Magmar with its legs windmilling wildly as it struggled to cling on. “Shake it off!” Arnold shouted. Lunatone jackknifed with incredible mobility, swinging back and forth and zigzagging through the air, but Magmar hung on grimly, even clawing its way a little further up Lunatone’s body.

    “Do it now, Magmar!” Caitlin called. “Lava Plume!”

    Ren saw Arnold’s eyes widen as he started to call an order to Lunatone, but it was too late. In a split second, Magmar seemed to explode in fire, enormous, roaring flames springing up all around the two Pokemon in midair and blasting in all directions with scant regard for safety. At the centre of the maelstrom, Magmar was barely visible as a white-hot point of energy, radiating massive waves of fire more powerful than Ren had ever seen before. He flinched in his seat as the heat washed over him, and he saw people in the front rows of the audience doing the same.

    It took nearly ten seconds for the fire to dissipate. When it did, both Pokemon were back on the ground. Magmar was still standing, flames flickering all over its body. Lunatone, on the other hand, was lying on the charred floor, rocking slightly with the residual force of the impact.

    Magmar crossed slowly to where Lunatone was lying and put one flat foot on top of it, stopping its movement and moving the result of the battle beyond all doubt. As Arnold’s side of the screen lit up with a large red X, the crowd found its voice and roared its approval.

    “And there you have it, ladies and gentlemen!” said Vivian Meridian, striding forward to stand in the middle of the stage and address the crowd. “The battle is over, and we have our winner! Caitlin Evans from Rubello, everybody!”

    The next fifteen minutes went by in something of a whirl for Ren. Still slightly off-kilter thanks to the massive Lava Plume attack, he presented Caitlin with the Mauville Ribbon, shook hands with both finalists, smiled for photos with Arnold, Caitlin, Contesta and Sukizo, and made his way back to the anteroom, where he flopped down on the couch with a sigh.

    “So, Ren,” Sukizo said with a smile as he and Contesta entered the room behind Ren. “Wasn’t that a remarkable spectacle?”

    “It really was,” Ren agreed. “I might have to come and watch some more Contests in the future, but I really don’t know about participating in them.”

    “Well, we wouldn’t expect you to if you didn’t want to,” Contesta said. “Nevertheless, you did a great job of judging today.”

    “It’s not like I did much,” Ren protested. “Still, thanks for letting me do it. It was fun, even though I had absolutely no idea what I was doing.”

    “Sometimes you don’t need to know,” Contesta said. “Sometimes all you need to do is have a little bit of fun. Mr. Sukizo and I have been judging Contests together for more than twenty years now, so we know what we’re about.”

    “Well, I did enjoy myself,” said Ren, “so I guess that’s okay.”

    “Are you meant to be going anywhere after this, Ren? We’d love to have you stay a little longer.”

    “I’m afraid I really should get going,” Ren admitted, standing up and stretching. “I have somewhere . . . important I need to be. Have Arnold and Caitlin already left?”

    “Mr. Leonheart has left already, yes. I believe he said he was going to the Pokemon Centre in town, if you needed to catch up to him. Miss Evans is still on the premises, though. You’ll probably find her in the foyer.”

    “Thanks, Mr. Contesta,” Ren said. “I’ll stop by and say hi before I go. Maybe she’ll be in a better mood now.”

    Contesta chuckled. “All right, Ren. I’ll see you at another Contest in the future, I hope.”

    “Sure thing,” Ren said, nodding as he headed for the door. “Thanks again!”

    True to what Contesta had said, Caitlin was in the foyer, though it took him a few moments to locate her amid the stream of people exiting the building.

    “Oh, Ren!” she said brightly when she saw him. She quickly excused herself from the small crowd of people that had formed around her and breezed across to Ren, drawing him out of the way of the constantly moving throng. “How was your first Contest?”

    “It was great, actually,” Ren said honestly. “You were fantastic, by the way. It was quite a surprise to see you down here in Mauville.”

    “Well, I was only working part-time in the Pokemon Centre while I was up in Fortree for the Contest they had a couple of weeks ago. I’m actually training to become a nurse, but that’s mostly on the backburner while I focus on my Contests.”

    “I suppose stranger things have happened,” Ren said.

    “Guess so,” Caitlin agreed. “Hey, do you mind if we step outside? I could use a little fresh air.” She didn’t wait for a response, leaving him to follow her as she navigated through the crowd toward the doors.

    Ren shrugged and tailed her outside, where he found her already seated on a bench among the flowering trees that decorated the Contest Hall’s exterior. She seemed somehow detached from the scene, however, as if she had been clumsily pasted on top of a photograph. There was something in her manner that Ren hadn’t noticed previously. In the Pokemon Centre in Fortree, she had been all business. In the green room backstage, the only thing he had sensed was the tension that sprung from her unexplained feud with Arnold. Now, though . . .

    Ren sat down on the bench next to her and looked intently at her. “Are you . . . all right, Caitlin?” he asked hesitantly. Her blue eyes were distant, looking somewhere into the distance; her pretty face was drawn.

    She laughed slightly, lips quirking into a smile that failed to reach her eyes. “I’m about as good as I can be, Ren,” she said. “About as good as I can be.”

    “Well, that’s specific,” Ren grumbled. “You don’t look ‘good’. You look like you’re spacing out.”

    “Oh, that? I’m sorry, Ren. I always get like this a little bit after a Contest. It probably doesn’t make much sense, but that’s how it goes.” She blinked a few times, as if realising where she was, and turned to look at Ren.

    Ren looked at her askance.

    “Oh, don’t give me that!” she laughed, shoving him gently. “I’m fine.”

    Ren grinned despite himself. Whatever was bothering her had retreated for now, he could see. He didn’t want to risk bringing it out again right then, but he made a mental note to keep a weather eye on Caitlin in future. Something about the look in her bright blue eyes reminded him of himself at the times when he didn’t know where he was going. Even though she was at least three years his senior, Ren felt very much like the older one at that moment.

    “I . . . should go,” Ren said at length. “It was good to see you - well, to meet you properly - but I have somewhere I need to be.” He shuddered slightly as the bitter memory of his real reason for coming to Mauville surface from beneath the befuddling sea of Contest appeals and battles.

    “Busy guy, huh?” Caitlin said; she sounded almost wistful. “Sure, I understand. I’ll catch you later, Ren.”

    “Alright,” Ren said, standing up and stretching, feeling the joints pop in his back. He had been sitting down an awful lot today. “See you round, Caitlin.”

    “Wait!” she said suddenly as he made to leave, digging in her pocket and handing him a bright pink Pokenav. “Add your number so I actually can catch you later.”

    “I didn’t know they made them in this colour,” Ren commented as he obliged.

    “It’s custom-made,” she said with a hint of pride. “Say, will you be in town long? We could meet up again or something. You know, as one Champion to another, so to speak.”

    “Only till tomorrow morning,” Ren said. “I’m catching the ten o’clock train back to Slateport.”

    “Aw, well. I’ll see you some other time, then.

    Taking his leave of Caitlin, Ren wandered randomly through the streets of Mauville. Although he had told everybody that he had somewhere to be, there was really no hurry whatsoever. He glanced at his watch - it was barely two in the afternoon, nearly five hours till sundown.

    Even so, throughout the afternoon Ren had felt a creeping urge to get away, to escape from the crowded buzz of people and problems. For nearly an hour, he found some measure of solace tracking aimless circles through Mauville’s streets. He didn’t think about the world of dreams, or the MacKenzie farm, or Elly, or the Contest, or Caitlin, or Nekros. He just watched the city go by, observing the businesses turn into red-brick houses and then back again as he circled around into the CBD. Mauville was relatively comparable to Slateport in size, but the atmosphere of the city was noticeably different. While Slateport was possessed of a kind of worn-in grit that came from decades upon decades of being a centre of industry, Mauville felt cleaner and fresher. There were trees lining the streets - though nowhere near as many as in Fortree - and small, sunny parks every few blocks. It was a good city to wander in, he decided, but he wouldn’t want to live there. Somehow, he couldn’t imagine himself settling down anywhere without a view of the sea.

    Sootopolis might be nice, he thought. A city inside a volcano . . . that was a novel idea. Then again, he couldn’t see himself settling down anywhere for several years to come. But who says I have to? Can’t I just keep on roaming? Whenever I’m at home, I can never find anything to do with my time. Why is that? Why can’t I just act like a normal kid sometimes?

    The realisation didn’t hit him all at once, as epiphanies are often wont to do. Rather than leaping out and knocking the breath out of him, it crept slowly up on him, and before he knew it, it had him in its grasp before he even noticed it was there.

    I missed five years of my life. He had never once regretted taking the Pokemon League challenge, not in the slightest. But he hadn’t been to school since before he turned ten - though he had been sure to keep up with his work. He’d skipped the formative years of his life and spent them roaming around Hoenn training Pokemon and collecting Gym badges. He’d met dozens and dozens of people in his travels, but very few of them could be counted as friends. If he had stayed in Slateport and gone on to high school, would he now be living a normal life? Would he be hanging out with friends at the mall, going to the movies and having friendly Pokemon battles in the park?

    Does it even matter? With a sudden shock of clarity, he realised that it didn’t. He had given up the possibility of that normal life in exchange for something much better. In the last five years, he had travelled to so many places, seen so many different Pokemon and achieved more than many of his classmates would in their whole lifetime. At the end of all that, he still had his family around him and he was making new friends left, right and centre.

    Bella Bianchi, Steven’s actress friend, in Rustboro; Karl and Skyla in Fortree; and now, Arnold and Caitlin. He would see them all again, he knew. It was a delicious sense of certainty that he had rarely had cause to feel before, simply because it was truer than anything he had ever felt before. Yet even if he started roving like he had before, now more than ever he felt that it would work.

    With a fresh smile on his face, Ren turned west and headed for the city border and the Mackenzie farm. He had a job to do here, and he was damn well going to do it.
    Last edited by Seizon Senryaku; 11th April 2012 at 10:25 PM.
    The Atlantis Codex / Champion Game

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

  7. #112
    Because I like Tophats Tophat Dragoneye's Avatar
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    Default Re: Champion Game {Chapter 33 - updated at last}

    Phew, finally caught up to the latest chapter! I really enjoyed reading your story, Misheard Whisper. Following Ren, who had recently become Hoenn's newest champion, as he experiences the responsibility, both expected and unexpected, and fame he has gained as a result. I have to admit that I've never thought about how the life of a regional champion could be, but this fic gives me a good impression how it could.
    My personal favourites here is when Ren, in his own world, tries to life a daily life as a champion, despite that every night, he goes to a "dream world" in order to stabilize both his this "dream world" and his own with his very presence. But it is not without trouble, of course, with some of the nightmares (sorry, forgot what they're called) trying to kill him on sight, as well a looming war between them and the spirits.

    By the way, I found an error in your latest chapter:

    To his surprise, however, Lunatone held its fire, charging directly towards Duskull’s attack. Rather than countering, Lunatone took the attack head-on, losing about a sixth of its points in the process.
    You repeated that in your chapter. You might wanna fix that.

    (Am I sounding like a reviewer? Never did a proper one before, only made some small comments here and there )

    It also gave me some inspiration for a future character in my own fic, so thank you for that. Not gonna say who, though.
    Revolutionaryverse


    Many thanks to Blue Dragon for the signature

    ONE-shot: Forced into Retirement

  8. #113
    Unova's #1 Yancy fan Seizon Senryaku's Avatar
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    Default Chapter Thirty-Four - Boo

    Thanks heaps, Dragoneye! I'm glad you're enjoying this little creation of mine. And a big thanks to everyone; you know why? Well...



    That's right! On April 20th, 2011, I posted the first installment of Champion Game to the Pokecommunity forums. Since then, I've written thirty-four and a half chapters, for a total of just over 150,000 words. I'm so happy to have come this far, and I'd like to thank each of you guys who have been reading from the bottom of my heart. I'm trying not to be too emotional here, but I am seriously grateful to the people who read this. Bulbagarden is like my home away from home now; I spend more time here than on any other forum currently, because you guys are just so warm and welcoming. I integrated myself into the community fairly quickly, and it's a joy to have got to know all of you. I've read some of your stories, and I'm always trying to read more. For now, though, let's have Chapter Thirty-Four!

    Chapter Thirty-Four
    Boo

    The weather was fine, but not too hot, so Ren decided to walk the two hours or so to the Mackenzie farm. Additionally, he didn't really want anybody to know where he was that evening. Being spotted could lead to awkward questions, so he kept his head down and stayed well to the side of the road. Mauville slipped away more abruptly than he had imagined, with only a sparse scattering of warehouses to mark the edge of town before a large sign cheerfully bade him 'Goodbye! Come back soon!'.

    The footpath disappeared soon enough, but Ren continued unperturbed along the grassy verge. There was a bit of traffic going both ways, but nothing particularly heavy. He heard Taillow singing in the trees as he began to pass farmland, almost drowned out each time a car passed. The scent of grass mixed with the smell of tarmac.

    Fifteen minutes later, he took a turnoff as dictated by the map he had brought with him, and the traffic volume dropped considerably. This side road, while still wide and neatly tar-sealed, was hilly and convoluted, wending its way through a series of low hills. A mere ten minutes after leaving the main road it was no longer in sight. Patches of dense brush covered the hillier parts between farmsteads now. Once, he passed a hiking trail that quickly disappeared into the bush. The sun, though still high in the sky, was well into its afternoon descent. As he headed north into the hills, the sun was forever on his left side, so he wasn't worried about it setting behind the hills before he reached his destination.

    The hills were quiet, save for the odd car or four-wheel drive that roared past on a mission. One of these, however, did not pass him by. Alerted by the sound of an engine coming from the road behind him, Ren squeezed in to the side of the uneven grass verge to make sure he wasn't in the way. Rather than carrying on past, however, the large, camouflage-green SUV screeched to a halt just ahead of him. The driver's door popped open and a familiar-looking girl jumped out. She was a little shorter than Ren, with black hair cropped boyishly - and clumsily - short. Her bare arms were covered in black and red tattoos almost down to the elbows, and she wore a fitted black singlet as if to show these off, with scruffy khaki pants that looked as if they'd seen better days.

    "Mister Champion, as I live and breathe!" she said delightedly as she practically skipped over to him. "I could have sworn I saw you headed out this way. How's things?"

    "You're, um . . ." Ren said eloquently. "You were in the Contest today, right? In the semifinals."

    "Yup, and I got creamed," she admitted cheerfully, a mischievous grin forming on her face. "I'd like to say 'I almost had her!' or something like that, but that'd be lying through my teeth."

    "It doesn't . . . bother you?" Ren asked. Although he was all for not dwelling on the past, this girl seemed awfully chipper for someone who had been defeated so comprehensively just a few hours earlier.

    "Hell nah," she said, waving a hand dismissively. She almost seemed to find his concern funny. "I only entered that Contest on a dare anyway. Oh, yeah. I'm Trixie. You have this look on your face that says 'I've completely forgotten your name and I can't work out how to ask you what it is without making a fool of myself', so I'll save you the embarrassment."

    "Uh . . . I wasn't exactly-" Ren began, already beginning to feel quite overwhelmed by the sheer force of this girl's personality as she stood and watched him with her head cocked to one side, thumbs thrust casually through her belt loops.

    "Sure you weren't." She didn't sound convinced. "Anyway, it's actually short for Beatrice, but if you call me that I'll slap you. Hard. Clear?"

    "Uh, clear," Ren said hurriedly, noting the dangerous glint in her eye.

    "Good!" Trixie was all smiles again. "So, Champ, you want a ride out to the Mackenzie farm or not?"

    Ren froze. "What do you mean by that?" he asked slowly, looking into Trixie's eyes and trying to fathom what she was thinking. Her gaze showed only innocent curiosity, however.

    "Am I wrong?" she asked, frowning. "That is where you're going, right? You smell like ghosts."

    "That's where I'm going," Ren admitted, forcing himself not to mention her last comment. I smell like ghosts?

    "Sweet as," she said, spinning on her heel and marching back to her vehicle. "Jump in, then. Ghost-hunting's always more fun with two."

    "You do this often?" Ren asked, wondering why in the world he was going along with this strange girl and her whims. He was forcibly reminded of Natasha. "Ghost-hunting, I mean."

    "Yup! It's kind of a hobby of mine," she said brightly as she climbed up into the driver's seat. "Any more than two people is too many. Scares the ghosts away. Two's perfect, though. That way, you'll have someone to cling onto when you scream. Don't you go getting too frisky, though."

    "Ha ha," Ren said uncomfortably, trying not to go red as he hoisted himself into the passenger seat. It was a lot further from the ground than he'd thought. "Are you even allowed to drive this thing?"

    "Probably not, but that doesn't mean I don't know how to," she said, gunning the accelerator.

    Ren hastened to clip in his seatbelt as the SUV shot off up the road. Trixie hadn't been lying, it turned out. She could drive. The only problem was that she insisted on taking every turn and avoiding every obstacle with a reckless abandon that pushed the limits of safety, causing Ren to spend the whole trip clinging worriedly to the dashboard, despite Trixie's repeated insistence that she hadn't had an accident for at least four months (or was it five?). Thankfully, they didn't encounter any other vehicles, so Trixie had the whole road as a margin of error.

    Not quite fifteen minutes later, they came to a halt outside a broken-down farm gate, beyond which lay a worn gravel path that wound up into the hills between rugged, overgrown fields.

    "Daaaamn," Trixie said, drawing the syllable out and shaking her head. "This place looks like a tip already. Come on, let's go."

    "Where?" Ren asked as she slipped out of the door. He hurried to follow her, almost getting caught in his seatbelt in the process. When he managed to extricate himself, he found Trixie standing with her arms folded, examining a dilapidated letterbox with faded characters reading 'RD 09407 MACKENZIE'.

    "Exploring," Trixie answered with an excited grin. "I've heard there's a ghost here - that's why I came to check it out today, of course - but we won't find it if we just go blundering around in the dark. We gotta scope the place out first. C'mon." She stepped over the broken spars of the gate without hesitation.

    Ren followed uncertainly, watching his footing on the uneven gravel surface. The path wound tightly through the hills for nearly five minutes, hemmed in on either side by drooping wire fences. Before long, though, a building came into sight, looking just as old and rickety as the gate.

    "The farmhouse is where we find the ghost, apparently," Trixie said. "Shall we check it out?"

    "Are we even allowed to?" Ren asked. "I feel bad enough about coming this far as it is."

    "No Mackenzie has lived here for thirty years," Trixie said airily, stepping up onto the porch - which creaked under her weight - and pushing cautiously at the door. "Some people say that the ghost is Brynn Mackenzie, the last farmer to run this place. Either way, the place has been abandoned for decades. Even the council wants nothing to do with it for whatever reason. Nobody seems to know who even holds the deed to the place."

    "Great," Ren said, stepping tentatively onto the porch and examining the door. "Is it stuck?"

    "I think so," Trixie grunted, shoving it roughly with one tattooed shoulder. "Here, you help out too, big guy."

    "Seriously?" Ren said. "I'm all of five foot six."

    Trixie shrugged. "Still bigger'n me. Come on, help me get this thing open."

    Ren sighed and placed a shoulder on the door. "Fine. Ready? Three, two, one, push!" They both heaved forwards together. With a horrible crunching, grinding sound, the door gave way and swung reluctantly inwards.

    "Shot," Trixie said, poking her head inside. "Jeez, it's dark in here. You got a light?"

    Ren rummaged in his bag, pulling out the small torch he kept for emergencies. He flicked it on and handed it to Trixie.

    "Good stuff," she said, examining it appreciatively. "I like guys who are prepared for anything."

    "And I like girls who give my stuff back when they're done with it," Ren said pointedly.

    "Yeah, yeah," she said. "You coming in or not?" Torch held in front of her, Trixie forged ahead into the farmhouse.

    Ren rolled his eyes and followed her in. He regretted it almost immediately. The interior of the farmhouse was dusky and full of dust which rose in clouds at the slightest movement, making his eyes water and his throat tickle. The only sources of light were the half-open door and the torch that Trixie was holding; Ren could barely make out a couple of windows that were boarded and taped over.

    "They really cleaned this place out," Trixie noted in a whisper. "There's nothing left but the furniture."

    It was true, Ren saw as she swept the torch beam around the room. They appeared to be in what had once been a kitchen, with an old wood-burning stove built into one wall next to a rickety countertop. Everything was covered in a thick layer of grey dust, from the heavy old table to the sturdy, rustic chairs that were still arrayed around it. Ren felt his footsteps being muffled by the sheer age of the place.

    "This isn't one of the more popular haunted sites in the region," Trixie said, her voice still low and cautious as she tiptoed over to examine the stove more closely. "You'd be better off heading out to Route 122 and checking out the floaters at Mt. Pyre. How come you're interested in this place anyway?"

    "Oh, uh . . . no reason in particular," Ren said evasively. "I saw that it was near Mauville, so I thought I'd check it out while I was up here. I've been curious about ghosts and things for a while."

    "You'd be surprised how many people don't even believe ghosts are real," Trixie said. "If I'd had to guess, I would have pinned you as one of those sensible people who doesn't believe in anything other than what he can see in front of him. No offense, natch."

    "None taken," Ren said. "But I usually am one of those people. I didn't start putting much stock in myths and ghost stories like this until recently. Something that happened to me made me revise my worldview." He shut his mouth quickly. He didn't want to go and accidentally tell Trixie exactly what that something had been.

    "Ooh, I see. So you've seen a ghost before?"

    "Uh . . . something like that," Ren said, casting about for a change of subject. "Say, uh . . . where do you reckon that door goes?"

    "I'd say back to the bedrooms," Trixie said, trotting over and giving the door a push. Unlike the external portal, it swung open easily, kicking up another massive dust cloud. "Son of a-" Trixie wheezed, waving a hand vigorously in front of her face.

    "You okay?" Ren asked.

    "Blech," Trixie said. "The only problem with ghost-hunting is that they love hanging out in places with loads of dust. That's why I like Mt. Pyre so much. Come on, let's check this out." She forged on through the door, leaving Ren to follow her uncertainly.

    If there is a ghost here, Ren thought suddenly, how am I going to talk to it with her around? I can hardly start talking about the world of dreams with Trixie here. Well, I'll cross that bridge when I come to it - if it even exists.

    The door opened onto a short hallway with two doors on each side and another at the far end. The walls were uneven and in poor repair, and the floor was covered with a tattered, threadbare rug that spat out small clouds of dust when stepped on. A light bulb hung from the ceiling by a wire, but Ren didn't fancy the chances of it working.

    The first door on the left led to a bathroom, to which Trixie only lent a cursory glance before closing the door and moving on. Opposite was a bedroom - sans bed, Ren noticed. The windows here hadn't been boarded up, so there was no need for the torch. In the afternoon sunlight, Ren could see two nightstands, a cupboard and some ragged curtains - but no bed. There was even a large, empty space by one wall where a bed would have fit perfectly, and four small dents in the carpet - as if the bed had been removed recently. Ren shuddered as he pointed this out to Trixie.

    "Curious," she said, seeming unruffled by the development. "We might find the ghost in here if we come back later."

    "Fantastic," Ren said bleakly. "Should we check the other rooms anyway?"

    "Natch," Trixie said, backing out of the bedroom and heading down the hall. The other door on the left refused to open, no matter how hard they tried, and the one opposite led to a smaller bedroom - this one actually featuring a bed, though there was no mattress on it.

    The door at the end of the hallway led outside again, they found when they opened it. Ren winced at the sudden influx of sunlight. Squinting under the afternoon sun, he spotted a large shed some distance away, on a small hill that rose above the farmhouse. "Should we have a look in there?" he suggested, pointing.

    "Nah, the ghost is meant to live in the house. We'll check the shed out later if it doesn't show, though."

    "So now what?" Ren asked as Trixie shut the door behind him and handed back his torch, which he stashed safely away in his bag. "It won't be dark for a few hours yet."

    "Dunno," Trixie said as she led the way back around towards the front of the farmhouse. "I brought food. You hungry?"

    "Now you mention it, I kind of forgot to eat lunch," Ren admitted, feeling his stomach gurgle at the mention of food.

    "Then that sounds like a plan!" Trixie said brightly as she headed back down the gravel path. "I brought heaps, so I don't mind sharing. It's all back in the car, of course. Come with."

    Ren followed her down the path, beginning to wonder if he would ever get used to this girl. She seemed more like Natasha with everything she did, but unlike with Natasha, Ren had no choice but to let himself get swept along by her whims.

    When the SUV came into view, Ren froze in his tracks like a Stantler caught in the headlights. All thoughts of food, of ghosts and dreams vanished from his mind in an instant, replaced by a single, pure feeling of utter shock.

    Leaning casually on the car's wing mirror as if he owned it, smirking like the king of the world, was the one person Ren had genuinely hoped to never see again as long as he lived. The interloper was a little older than he was, with a shock of dark red hair and sharp green eyes that bored into Ren's skull. He was dressed comfortably for travelling, in cargo pants and a black hoodie.

    "Boo," he said softly, his malicious grin widening.

    "Damien," Ren said levelly, forcing himself to keep his voice even. "What the hell are you doing here?"

    "Don't be like that, old friend," Damien said, putting a mocking emphasis on the last word. He stepped slowly away from the SUV and wandered towards the gate, never taking his eyes off Ren's. "I haven't seen you since before the League. Congratulations, by the way. You know how I love to see you succeed."

    Ren's hands clenched involuntarily into fists. The words were pleasant and the tone was carefully measured, but he knew that Damien was lying through his teeth. He swallowed hard. "What do you want?"

    Damien spread his hands as if in mild affront. "Do I need an excuse to drop in and see my old friend Ren? I thought I saw you sitting in this car as it roared past me while I was training out here, so I followed along. Sure enough, here you are."

    Ren narrowed his eyes. He didn't buy it, but it was just as unlikely that Damien had followed him out here deliberately. "Yes, here I am," Ren said. "You've seen me now, so you can leave."

    Damien seemed hurt. "Aren't you even going to introduce me to your friend, Ren?" When Ren chose not to answer him, Damien turned to face Trixie and extended a hand. "Seeing as Ren's being so rude, would you be so kind as to tell me your name?"

    Trixie glanced him up and down, but stayed where she was, well out of reach of Damien's faux-friendly gesture. "It's Trixie," she said coldly, evidently reading the mood. "I have no problem with you, but it's obvious that Ren does. Could I ask you to leave, please?"

    "Oh, don't listen to him. We go way back, Ren and I. He's just a little bit sore because I beat him the last time we battled."

    Trixie's eyes widened fractionally. "Is that true, Ren?"

    "Yes and no," Ren admitted. "It's true he beat me, but that's not why I want him out of here."

    "Mind telling me why?"

    "Some other time," Ren said, glaring at Damien. "Right now, I want you to leave."

    "On what grounds?" Damien asked, an innocent look on his face as he climbed over the gate and made his way up the hill towards Ren and Trixie. "We're all trespassing here, and besides, I've been looking forward to catching up with you. It's been what, two months? We have so much to talk about!"

    Ren clenched his teeth and forced his hands to relax. "How many times can I say this, Damien? I don't want to talk to you. I don't want to see you. I don't even want to remember that you exist, but you insist on reminding me."

    "And how many times can I say this, Ren? I don't give a damn what you want," Damien hissed, his amiable veneer slipping momentarily. He seemed to remember himself immediately, though. "That is to say, I'm not going to leave until I get what I came here for."

    "And what did you come here for, Damien?" Ren asked, though he felt he already knew the answer.

    "I want to battle the Champion of the Hoenn League, of course!" Damien said. "Last time we fought, you were just another Trainer that I'd run into a few times. You bothered me because you'd managed to beat me. Not just once, but three times. Three times you handed me humiliating defeats, and man . . . that stung."

    "You've more than had your revenge for those three battles, Damien," Ren ground out as Damien came to a halt barely two feet from him. "And you know it."

    "Aye," Damien said, his vindictive smirk returning as his facade began to slip away entirely. "Why don't you refresh my memory, Ren? I'm sure your girlfriend there would love to hear it too. How many times have I beaten you?"

    Ren closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "Six," he said at length. The single syllable was the hardest thing he'd ever had to say out loud. "You've beaten me six times, Damien. But you know what? It doesn't matter. I don't care! That's life, you know. You win some, you lose some, and you and I both know that."

    "Of course," Damien said. "But if you really don't care, why are you shaking right now?"

    It was true, Ren realised. His hands were shaking visibly. Swearing silently, he crammed the traitorous appendages into his pockets and glared at Damien. "I won't battle you," he said. "I came here today to do something, and I'm not going to let you get in my way.

    "Oh? Then that's perfect!" Damien said, clapping his hands with a smile that reminded Ren of a hungry Sharpedo. "I'll stay and help you out."

    "You will leave," Ren said insistently.

    "I think you'll find I won't," Damien said with false cheerfulness, green eyes sparkling with glee at Ren's discomfort.

    Ren sighed. "This is one of the many reasons you piss me off, Damien. What can I say to make you leave?"

    "Hey, if you want some private time with your girlfriend-"

    "Shut up, Damien!" Ren said sharply. He exhaled deeply, forcing himself to remain in control. When he opened his mouth, he spoke slowly and carefully. "Just tell me what you want so that you'll go the hell away."

    "I already told you, didn't I?" Damien said, leaning in close to look Ren in the eyes. "Battle me, and I'll leave."

    Ren didn't answer. He really didn't want to get involved in a battle with Damien again. While it was true what he had said - his 3-6 record against the redhead didn't bother him at all - he hated battling him. After the second time they had clashed, Ren had gone to all lengths possible to avoid there being a third time. Unfortunately, Damien's single-minded persistence and refusal to take no for an answer had forced Ren into battling him a further seven times, most of which had ended badly. He didn't fear losing to Damien. He feared battling him.

    "Are you worried about your reputation, Champ?" Damien taunted him, circling slowly around behind Ren and whispering directly into his ear. "Don't worry. I won't tell a soul when you lose," he breathed.

    "I-if it helps," Trixie said hesitantly, "I'll promise not to tell anyone about this either."

    "Thanks, Trixie," Ren said dryly. There goes my excuse.

    "See?" Damien said, moving around to stand in front of Ren again. "She won't tell anybody that the Champion lost to some upstart kid. Your reputation will be safe. I'll knock you off your perch eventually, Champ, but it won't be tonight. I'll go about it properly. I'll win the League, destroy the Elite Four, and then end you right where everybody can see you: on national television, in front of a live audience of thousands, with millions more watching at home. You'll be broken and humiliated, and I'll stand where I've always intended to. At the top!"

    Ren grinned. "You'll have to beat Winona first," he said. "Have you got that Feather Badge yet?"

    Damien's face twisted into a snarl of rage. "You little punk!" he spat.

    "I'll take that as a no, then?" Ren said. "You can hardly get all high and mighty about being Champion one day if you can't even beat a Gym Leader."

    "Screw you and her both!" Damien growled, drawing back his fist and punching Ren hard in the face.

    Ren reeled backwards, his cheek a starburst of pain. He saw silver stars dancing across his vision, and before he knew it, he was lying flat on his back in the gravel. "Ow," he said dumbly.

    "Hey!" Trixie said, stepping between Ren and Damien. "Where do you get off doing that?"

    "It's nothing to do with you, girl," Damien grunted. "Step out of the way."

    "I'm not going to-" Trixie began, but Ren cut her off.

    "It's fine," he said groggily, sitting up and rubbing his stinging cheek. "Don't get involved. I'll handle this myself." Reasons to hate Damien, number two: random violence.

    Trixie narrowed her eyes, but stepped back and let Damien pass. The redhead stepped forward and, seizing Ren by the collar, dragged him to his feet. "You're going to battle me now," he snarled, "and you are going to lose."

    Ren forced Damien's hands off him and stumbled backwards. Straightening out his rumpled T-shirt, he sighed in resignation. "Fine, I'll battle you. But there's no way in hell I'm going to lose to someone like you."

    "Talk all you want," Damien said, turning to climb over the wire fence into the relatively flat field beyond. "You're going down in the exact same way you went down the last three times - fast and hard."

    Ren didn't reply, but he followed Damien over the fence and into the scratchy, knee-high grass. The weight of the six Poké Balls at his belt was comforting, but at the same time Ren felt a very real fear. He could see no possible alternative to battling at this stage; as always, Damien had backed him into a corner simply through the force of his will. Ren needed to finish this quickly and get Damien out of there before sunset. Here was the last person on the planet that Ren wanted catching wind of what he was up to.

    "No substitutions!" Damien shouted, the wind catching his messy hair and throwing it around his face as Trixie took up a guarded stance at Ren's side. "You send each Pokemon out and fight it until it can't fight any more. If you return it to its Poké Ball, it counts as a loss and you can't use it again. Any problems with that?"

    Ren frowned. It was an uncommon ruleset, but perfectly valid in competition. "No, that'll work."

    "He's obviously up to something," Trixie murmured urgently. "Don't be stupid!"

    "It's fine," Ren said. "I've played his stupid games before." It doesn't mean I want to play them again, though, he added silently.

    "This will be my first Pokemon!" Damien proclaimed, snatching a ball from his belt and thrusting it in Ren's direction. He made no move to release it, however, simply making sure to keep it where Ren could see it. No advantages, huh?

    Ren tried to work out which of Damien's inventively-named Pokemon he would have to battle first, but Damien's eyes betrayed nothing. Scowling, Ren snatched Zangoose's ball from his belt. Unless Damien had changed his team since their last battle, there were no Fighting-types for Ren to worry about. "I'm ready to go," he declared, biting his lip as he fought the urge to break and run. The look in Damien's eyes was that of a lethal predator - one that had just cornered its prey.

    "Then come get some, punk."
    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. #114
    The Dimension Wizard Flaze's Avatar Moderator
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    Default Re: Champion Game {Chapter 34}

    Well I finally caught up. In your defense, the battles in chapter 33 were pretty good, they were short and filled with good action plus the chapter in general moved pretty quickly even though it was kind of long at first.

    Now with Trixie into this...are you sure you're not trying to give Ren a harem? xD cause that's six or so girls each with a different personality xD in fact Ren seems to know more women than he does men.

    Anyways Damian...well it's good to see that we finally have someone to match Ren with, though I didn't expect for him to be such a violent asshole, I would've said that his attitude was cliche for a rival if it wasn't for the fact that he actually punched Ren for not wanting to battle, no rival has taken it that far before. That being said I wonder why he's so obsessed with it to begin with.

  10. #115
    Unova's #1 Yancy fan Seizon Senryaku's Avatar
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    Default Chapter Thirty-Five - Invidia et Ira

    Because lololol, that's why. ~(*x*)~

    Chapter Thirty-Five
    Invidia et Ira


    Ren released Zangoose first. The Normal-type hissed wrathfully at the sight of Damien. “I know, buddy,” Ren murmured, placing a cautioning hand on its head. “I know. Sometimes I’d like to rip his face off, too, but we can’t do that.”

    “Just like I thought,” Damien said with a superior grin. “You really are predictable, Champ.”

    “Stop talking and battle,” Ren growled. “You forced me into this, so hurry up and get it over with.”

    Damien shrugged nonchalantly. “Fine, fine. If that’s how you’re gonna be. But I warn you, the battle begins as soon as the Poké Ball opens. Get ready for this, because it ain’t gonna be pretty.”

    “Just do it,” Ren ground out.

    “Hmph,” Damien said. “Fine. Let’s go, Invidia!” He hurled his Poké Ball with slightly more force and drama than was necessary, sending a flash of red light across the field.

    Ren swore loudly and moved to hold Zangoose back, but it was too late. With a sickening yowl, it shot forward like a bolt of lightning, slamming into its most hated foe and pinning it to the ground. Invidia, Damien’s oversized Seviper, recovered quickly, slamming its tail into the side of Zangoose’s head and sending it rolling through the grass.

    “Zangoose, stay back!” Ren cried, but he knew there was no point. Zangoose, with its violent temperament that Ren had been able to do little about in five years, was extraordinarily vulnerable to the whims of its genetic programming. Most of the time it only caused minor problems, like being distracted by a stray Skitty during training. Whenever a Seviper was involved, however, it was a different story.

    Zangoose straightened up instantly, blood matting the fur on its head, and launched itself at Invidia again. Invidia slithered swiftly out of the way and Zangoose crashed to the ground, its reckless charge causing damage to itself instead of its opponent. It was quick to recover, though, leaping onto Invidia’s back and fastening its bulky arms around its neck. Pinning the oversized serpent to the ground with its weight, Zangoose squeezed brutally.

    “Zangoose, stop!” Ren said sharply. Though he disliked the serpentine Pokemon almost as much as he did its Trainer, he didn’t want Zangoose to kill it. His plea fell on deaf ears, however, as Zangoose could see only its opponent. It was Invidia that saved itself in the end, however, managing to bring its lethally bladed tail down on Zangoose’s head a second time. The shock caused by the impact caused Zangoose to loosen its grip just enough for Invidia to slither out.

    This time, Zangoose hung back a little, the pain evidently awakening it to the need for caution. It continued to hiss madly at Invidia as it paced back and forward, eyeing its foe with blood-red eyes as the enormous serpent swayed its head from side to side, following Zangoose’s movements carefully.

    “You need to train your beast better,” Damien said loudly. Unlike Ren, he was apparently more than happy for the battle to proceed without his input. “I would have thought a Champion like you would have more control over his Pokemon.”

    “Shut up, Damien,” Ren ground out. “Zangoose, just relax, okay? I know you hate Seviper, but we need to be extra careful with this one. I promise you can beat it up as much as you like, but you need to listen to me. All right?” Zangoose didn’t respond, but Ren sensed that it was struggling to hold itself back, waiting for orders. He quickly sized up the situation. It didn’t look good. Seviper, as a general rule, were twice Zangoose’s size or thereabouts. Damien’s Invidia was at least half that again, towering over Zangoose and Ren both.

    “Don’t waste time, Invidia,” Damien snapped irritably. “Kill it.” Invidia lunged forward, mouth gaping wide to reveal lethal-looking fangs tinged a venomous purple.

    “Zangoose, evade!” Ren said, but his Pokemon stood its ground as Invidia rushed towards it. Rather than moving out of the way, Zangoose reached out and seized both of Invidia’s fangs, using them as a handle to swing the oversized serpent right over its head. Invidia left the ground entirely, thrashing madly until Zangoose brought it slamming down on its back with a thud that made Ren wince. Zangoose pressed its advantage, hammering its downed opponent with frenzied blows to the head and body and causing it to writhe and contort in pain.

    “Invidia, Haze!” Damien barked. He looked livid. Struggling to lift its head, Invidia spewed forth a cloud of thick black fog, causing Zangoose to stumble backwards with an irritated yowl. The thick, smoky substance spread quickly, obscuring Ren’s view of the battlefield. When it faded enough to allow visibility once more, Invidia was nowhere to be seen.

    “Dammit,” Ren muttered, scanning the field. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Zangoose doing the same. The only good news was that wherever Invidia was, it would be unable to move terribly fast without him noticing it. The grass was a couple of feet high, but it wasn’t nearly high enough for a Pokemon as large as a Seviper - let alone one Invidia’s size - to manoeuvre successfully. “Be careful, Zangoose,” he warned.

    Before Ren could entirely realise how redundant his warning had been, Damien struck. “Now, Invidia!” he roared, and his giant Seviper surged forward from its hiding place, just feet behind Zangoose. It seemed to stretch forward with its massive fangs, glistening with drops of venom that promised certain doom.

    Reacting barely in time, Zangoose managed to slip away to one side. Even as it did so, however, Invidia changed its course mid-lunge, hitting the ground in what was now Zangoose's blind spot and swinging its bladed tail around with blinding speed to strike Zangoose squarely in the belly. Zangoose screeched in outrage and grasped the offending appendage, sinking its claws in gamely as Invidia tried to thrash it off.

    “You've got it now, Invidia!” Damien said with a feral grin that took Ren by surprise. “Wrap!” Before either Ren or Zangoose could react, Invidia coiled its way tightly around Zangoose's body, using the full length of its own body to restrict its movements.

    Zangoose hissed and thrashed like a mad thing, but its arms and legs were pinned securely. It tried to bite Invidia's scaly hide, but due to the angle of its head, its fangs could barely scratch at it. Zangoose hissed in rage and frustration as it continued to writhe, but to no avail. Ren could no longer see any more of Zangoose than its head.

    “Now what, Champ?” Damien taunted, striding forward and putting a hand on Invidia's head as he glared triumphantly at Ren. “What are you going to do now your Pokemon can't move?”

    “Zangoose!” Ren shouted, but his Pokemon was too busy wriggling madly to listen to him. “Zangoose, you can break out of there. Just stop and think about where you are, and apply your strength to Invidia's weak points!”

    Zangoose hissed uncertainly, but it stopped trying to worm its way out of Invidia's clutches. Jaw set firmly, the muscles in its neck strained visibly as it struggled to push outwards rather than slip out. Invidia's forked tongue flickered in and out in alarm as its hold started to give. A flash of white fur was visible between two coils as Zangoose brought to bear all the force it could muster.

    Damien, however, seemed unflustered. “Heh. Sorry, Champ, but it's just too bad. Invidia was just holding Zangoose – I didn't even give the order to crush it yet. But now . . . I think it's time. Go on, Invidia. Kill the little bastard. I know it's been pissing you off too.” Instantly, Zangoose's resistance was extinguished as Invidia tightened its grip with a vindictive joy that was readily apparent in the gleeful gape of its mouth.

    Zangoose yowled, this time in real pain, as Invidia squeezed ever tighter. It renewed its writhing with abandon, desperately trying to shed the massive beast that held it in a death grip. And that was what it was, Ren realised with a cold shudder. Damien was trying to kill Zangoose, and he would succeed if he didn't do something about it. “Damien, stop!” he tried. “You've made your point!”

    “I won't!” Damien grinned, a fire burning in his eyes that could only be described as joyful, if that was an adjective that it was ever appropriate to apply to Damien. “You've been too smug for too long, Ren Goodwin! I want you to watch your partner die.”

    A second cold shock rippled its way down Ren's spine at Damien's words. This was far more serious than he had ever imagined, even for Damien. “You've gone too far this time, Damien,” he growled as he snatched Zangoose's Poké Ball from his belt.

    “Uh-uh!” Damien warned him, wagging a finger as one might at a naughty child. “You recall it, the round's over, remember? You can't use it again.”

    Ren's hand froze, the Poké Ball gripped tightly in his fingers. The round's over . . . He saw Zangoose struggling for breath as Seviper slowly but surely crushed the air out of its lungs. Surely . . . surely there's some way I can do this without surrendering here. If I give up to Damien, won't that make him right?

    “Ren!” Trixie hissed from next to him, causing Ren to start. He had almost forgotten about her. “You have to call Zangoose back! It's not worth it!”

    Ren gritted his teeth, feeling his hands shake. Stop. Examine the whole situation. Find a solution! Isn't that what you do best? No matter how many times he looked at it, though, the battle looked hopeless. No, there's always a way! “Always,” he ground out aloud. There had to be some way to get Zangoose out of there, didn't there?

    Zangoose had fallen silent, Ren noticed with a horrible start. It had run out of spare breath to cry out with, and he could tell that now it was just desperately trying to stay conscious, sucking in what breath it could as Ren tried to find a way out. No matter how hard he looked, though, he could only see the solid brick wall that Damien had pushed him against. “Zangoose, return,” he said hollowly, holding out the Poké Ball. Zangoose dematerialised instantly, a beam of red light sucking it back into the Poké Ball and leaving Invidia to hiss in anger as it overbalanced, its prey having escaped.

    Nobody spoke for at least twenty seconds. Ren breathed heavily, clutching Zangoose's Poké Ball tightly in both hands. I failed, he thought, cursing himself. It wasn't Zangoose's fault. It was all me.

    And him. Ren glared at Damien, who was waiting patiently several metres away. He tried to speak, to challenge the redhead who watched him with such condescension, but his voice didn't want to work.

    “I knew it,” Damien said eventually, and there was disgust written all through his voice, mixed with something that almost could have been disappointment. “I knew you'd break first. You're so weak.”

    “What's wrong with not wanting your Pokémon to die?” Ren challenged him. “What would it have achieved if I'd left Zangoose in? It would have died, and I wouldn't be any closer to winning the battle. You know as well as I do that there was no way out of that.”

    “It's not about what you would have achieved, Ren! It's about how far you're willing to go for what you want! That's why I beat you. That's why I'm beating you, why I've always beaten you – because I'm willing to go that little bit further to win. Don't you understand that?”

    “No,” Ren said frankly. “No, Damien, I don't. And I'm not going to battle you again. Ever. This battle is over, too.” He clipped Zangoose's Poké Ball back to his belt and turned to climb back over the fence.

    He heard Damien snap his fingers, and suddenly Invidia was in front of him, rearing up to its full height. It opened its mouth to expose its fangs, which were still secreting sickeningly purple liquid. Ren turned his head back to look at Damien. “And what is this?”

    “It's not over, Ren,” Damien said. “If you walk away now, it won't be Zangoose that gets the life squeezed out of it. And you don't have a Poké Ball to retreat to, remember. Don't think I won't do it.”

    The terrifying thing was that Ren knew he would. “I don't want to continue this, Damien,” he said. “It's over, you beat me, I lost. I've even accepted that you're the better Trainer, so just let me leave already. I'm over it.”

    “No,” Damien said flatly. “You don't leave here until this battle is over.”

    Ren turned around properly and strode over to where Damien was standing, looking him right in the eye. “You let me leave right now, Damien, or I swear, I'm going to get angry.”

    Damien laughed in Ren's face. “Let me guess, I won't like you when you're angry?”

    “No,” Ren growled. “I guarantee that you won't.”

    “Fine by me,” Damien shrugged. “If you try to climb that fence or leave by any other means without battling me, Invidia will bite you. Knowing that, do what you like. Seviper poison is lethal to humans 99.9% of the time, by the way. Your immune system isn't as strong as Zangoose's. So, what'll it be?”

    Ren turned on his heel again and marched back over to where Invidia was still waiting by the fence. He looked it in the eye and pointed back towards Damien. “Get back on the battlefield, you,” he ordered it. “Now I'm mad.”

    Damien laughed. “Do as he says, Invidia. I have a feeling this is going to get interesting.”

    As Invidia returned to take up its position in front of Damien once again, Ren snatched a second Poké Ball from his belt and cracked it open, releasing the largest of his six Pokémon. “Camerupt,” he said, his voice level and barely controlled, “I need your help.”

    Camerupt snorted and pawed the ground. “Yes, of course,” Ren said, “but it's a little different today. This time, I don't want you to hold back. Give it everything you've got, all right?”

    “My, my,” Damien mused. “I seem to have roused the sleeping dragon. This is more like it, Ren. Maybe I was wrong – you might not be completely worthless after all.”

    Ren closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Yes, I'm angry, but losing my cool could ruin everything. Just focus. Focus, and destroy him. “Camerupt,” he said tightly, “this Pokémon and its Trainer just tried to kill Zangoose. You don't want to let them get away with that, do you?” Camerupt snorted darkly, rocking from side to side as it shifted its weight in preparation.

    “Then shut up and let's end this!” Damien said. “Invidia, Poison Tail!”

    “Camerupt, Earth Power! Go all-out!” Camerupt rumbled dangerously as Invidia charged. It lifted up one massive, hairy front foot and brought it crashing back down to earth with a disproportionately loud sound. It repeated the motion with its other front foot, sending vibrations rippling through the earth. The tips of every blade of grass in the vicinity trembled as if in fear, the shaking growing more and more powerful until Ren had to step back and clutch the fence to stay upright. Invidia had stopped moving in confusion. With a final roar, Camerupt reared back on its hind legs.

    Invidia panicked visibly, trying to slither backwards, but the shaking of the earth was far too powerful for it to move properly. It could only watch as Camerupt slammed back into the ground, sending a shockwave through the earth that tore it to shreds. At the moment of impact, the field crumbled like a child's jigsaw puzzle. The earth's crust itself gave way, split into a multitude of heaving, bucking chunks of dirt by a spiderweb of deep cracks that glowed a hellish orange. Invidia was left helplessly writhing on one of them, unable to grip onto anything well enough to save itself.

    Camerupt glanced back at its Trainer and snorted inquiringly, a measure of the anger that Ren himself felt mirrored in its eyes. Ren nodded. “Blow it.”

    Camerupt shifted its footing, lowering its centre of gravity and focusing entirely on the earth below it. Ren watched with a certain vindictive satisfaction as the orange light issuing from the multiple cracks in the earth grew brighter and the shifting grew more and more violent. Even Damien was worriedly backing away from the battlefield, he noticed. Any second now . . .

    A split second of silence cut through the air far more brutally than any explosion would have; it rang in Ren's ears as if for an eternity. But nothing lasts forever. The earth erupted upwards, a massive, melting conglomeration of earth and lava that blasted over thirty metres into the air. It was a harrowingly magnificent spectacle, a force of nature harnessed in its rawest and most brutal form. The earth roared and groaned as the sun hid its face behind a cloud, and for a brief moment, the mortals that beheld the event were as tiny and insignificant as insects before the indomitable power of the earth itself.

    “Get back!” Ren shouted urgently, eyes widening as he realised how sorely he had misjudged the distances. He grabbed Trixie's arm and raced along the fence, away from the explosion that still forged its way upwards; out of the corner of his eye, he saw Damien doing the same, headed in the opposite direction. Then the rain began. Globs of rapidly cooling lava and clods of dirt landed all over, spread a huge distance by the localised eruption. Ren managed to evade the blast radius, but there was no way of telling whether Damien had done the same.

    At length, the rain of deadly projectiles stopped. The field was a mess of burnt or burning grass; chunks of rock and massive sods of earth lay at odd angles. Small fires flickered all around, giving off a sickening haze of smoke and heat. Right in the middle of it all, Camerupt stood proudly, unfazed by the destruction it had wrought. A few metres before it lay Invidia, its serpentine body blackened and razed by fire and earth.

    Ren exchanged a worried glance with Trixie. Had he overdone it? Even as he picked his way back towards the two Pokemon, however, he saw a twitch of feeble movement in Invidia's spiked tail. Good. Ren didn't want to be responsible for the death of one of Damien's Pokemon any more than one of his own.

    “Well done, Ren!” Damien said almost genially, emerging from behind a low rise where he appeared to have taken shelter from the eruption. “You really surprised me there, going all-out right from the start. Perhaps you might be worth it after all.”

    Ren frowned, but let the unusual comment pass. “Your Pokemon needs medical treatment,” he said, indicating the injured Invidia that lay between them. “You should take it to a Pokémon Centre now. The battle's over.” Ren turned to leave.

    “No!” Damien spat.

    Ren turned back to glance at him. “What did you say?”

    “I said no! The battle's not over. I told you I'd kill your Pokémon, didn't I? Well, you beat Invidia. Finish what you started.”

    Ren blinked uncomprehendingly. “You want me to kill it?”

    Damien's eyes narrowed, as if he was quietly judging him. “The round doesn't end until one Trainer gives in and returns their Pokémon. I have no intention of doing so.”

    “You're beaten, Damien!” Ren growled. “Invidia can't even move. There's no doubt about who won this battle.”

    “You agreed to my rules, Ren!” Damien reminded him sharply. “Are you telling me you can't even hold up your end?”

    “Why, Damien?” Ren said quietly. “What could you possibly gain from this? I'm not going to kill Invidia. That's not what this is about, and I pity you if you ever thought it was.”

    “Oh, but it is, Ren. It's always what it's been about. I've always believed that a Pokémon battle means nothing if the stakes aren't high enough, and for a battle like this . . . the price for losing should be the ultimate one.”

    Ren felt his hands clench into fists as Damien spoke. “You're sick, Damien,” he said. “You're a twisted, horrible person.”

    “Your words don't mean anything, Ren. Why don't you let your actions speak for you instead? Do it. Finish Invidia off. It's useless to me now anyway.”

    “Damien . . .” Ren felt his fingernails cutting into his palms as he fought to keep his fists from shaking.

    “Come on, then. You're angry at me, aren't you? All you have to do is prove it. Punish me. Take Invidia out, and then we can finish this battle.”

    Ren turned and glared up at the sky, fighting the surprisingly powerful urge to do exactly as Damien said. It would be wonderful, a small part of him said, to stick it to Damien like that. No matter how much the redhead pretended not to care, there had to be some part of him that would suffer if Invidia died. For a brief, agonising moment, Ren imagined how it would feel to see that. It was an exquisite temptation, the like of which he had never quite felt before, and it was an entirely attractive prospect. Damien had tried to kill Zangoose, so why shouldn't he repay him in kind?

    Taking a deep breath, Ren reached down to his belt and plucked Camerupt's Poké Ball from his belt. “Return,” he said heavily, watching Damien's scowl deepen as Camerupt huffed quietly, allowing itself to be sucked back into the confines of its capsule. “The battle's over when I return my Pokémon, right?” he said.

    Damien nodded frostily. With a sigh, he returned Invidia to its own Poké Ball. “You done?” he asked.

    Ren nodded, knowing exactly what he meant. “I forfeit. You'll let me do that now?”

    Damien shrugged almost indifferently. “Yeah, there's no real point carrying on now.”

    “Why all of a sudden?” Ren asked, frowning.

    “I didn't come here today to see if I could beat you, Ren Goodwin,” Damien said frankly. “I already knew I could do that. I've proven – to myself, and to you – enough times by now that I think even you have no choice but to accept that I'm better than you. No, that's not why I came here. I came here to see if you were worthy, Champion. I came to see if you were salvageable. I wanted to find out if, beneath the weakness and the bluster, there was any grit, any hope that you might one day actually be a threat to me!”

    Ren blinked. “Damien-”

    “No!” Damien spat, cutting Ren off with a sharp hand gesture. “Don't give me that. It only proves further that I was wrong to think you might be worth it. I watched you win that match against Steven, Ren. I was there, in the crowd. I loathed you for where you stood, but at the same time . . . I almost admired you.” He sounded disgusted with himself.

    Ren tried again. “Look, Damien. You don't have to-”

    “No,” Damien repeated, more softly this time. “I watched you win, Ren. I saw the fire in your eyes then, a fire that I've never seen before or since. Where did that go, Ren? That right there, in that single moment, made me doubt my convictions. I'd made up my mind when I beat you before the League: you were a weakling, below me in every way. You weren't worth my time. I went to the final battle to watch you suffer, but instead . . .”

    “I won,” Ren finished, struggling to make his voice work. “I won, and suddenly you weren't so sure any more. Right?”

    “Don't talk like you know what goes on in my head, Ren Goodwin!” Damien roared. “You have no idea. You have no idea how much that haunted me, that one moment. Since then, I've been looking for you. I went back to Slateport, where you came from, but I couldn't find you. I followed you to Rustboro when I saw you on Hoenn Buzz, but you'd left before I got there. The last week has been the stupidest, hardest week of my life, and all because you couldn't leave well enough alone and stay where you belonged!”

    Ren swallowed heavily. “I . . . I had no idea you were that bothered by it,” he said with some difficulty. “Look, if it makes it any better, I'll . . . I'll admit that you're better than me. You've beaten me so many times now, I can't help but accept that. It doesn't mean I'll give up on beating you, but there you have it. Right now, at this moment in time, you are the better Trainer. Does that help?”

    Damien's face twisted unthinkably, his features contorting almost to the point of unrecognisability. “Help? How would that help, you condescending little twerp!?” He lunged forwards, and Ren, expecting to be punched in the face again, flinched and closed his eyes involuntarily.

    He heard an impact, but he felt nothing. Confused, he opened his eyes to see Damien stumbling backwards, shock written all over his face. Did I hit him without realising it? Ren wondered. No.

    “Now look here,” Trixie said, coolly rubbing her knuckles as she stood over Damien. “I really wasn't planning to get involved in this little spat, but you're really starting to hack me off, Damien. So at the end of the day, if you want to screw with Ren, you'll have to screw with me first.”

    “Trixie,” Ren said, putting a hand on her shoulder. “You don't have to do this. You hardly even know me, so don't feel like you have to step in. I don't mean to be rude, but this is between the two of us.”

    “Well, sure, but I'm not going to just stand here and let you two idiots slug it out, am I?” Trixie shrugged Ren's hand off before turning to glare at Damien. “Now look. There's obviously a whole lot of history that I'm missing here, but at the end of the day, you're the one being an ass to my friend. I want you out of here before I call the police, because I'll be damned if I let you cause any more damage.”

    Damien was breathing heavily, his left cheek reddened from Trixie's blow. His eyes were filled with an almost murderous rage that made Ren more than a little worried, but at length, he spat into the grass between them before stalking off towards the road without another word.

    Ren watched him go with a bitter taste in his mouth.
    Last edited by Seizon Senryaku; 28th May 2012 at 09:00 PM.
    The Atlantis Codex / Champion Game

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

  11. #116
    Because I like Tophats Tophat Dragoneye's Avatar
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    Default Re: Champion Game {Chapter 35}

    Seems like Damien got both superiority and inferiority complex when it comes to Ren. To Damien, he's better than Ren in every aspect, but it's Ren who has achieved the title of champion, not him. And he doesn't like that, so he challenge him to prove he's the best, even willing to kill Ren's Pokémon to prove his point, or potentially kill Ren himself. He is obviously a dangerous person when it comes to that. I'm actually worried for Ren how far he will go in future encounters.

    Anyway, a good chapter to read, I actually held my breath when Zangoose was being crushed by the Seviper.
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    ONE-shot: Forced into Retirement

  12. #117
    Registered User Shock3600's Avatar
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    Default Re: Champion Game {Chapter 35}

    OmaGOD found this forum yesterday and saw this one I stayed up till 3 in the morning reading your story when is the latest chapter my 3ds internet browser stopped working and I raged so much at 3 in the morning then when I woke up It worked and ifinished the latest chapter ITS AMAZING AWESOME COPLOW HOLY CRAPPINGTON PERFECT I posed on the garden grotto since im new and wrote a poem thing something like

    A mind full of Ideas,
    Flowing like ocean currents,
    Through the head

    I think im actually a poet or something cus that sounded awesome if you ask me

  13. #118
    Registered User Shock3600's Avatar
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    Default Re: Champion Game {Chapter 35}

    WHAT where did my comment go!

  14. #119
    Registered User Shock3600's Avatar
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    Default Re: Champion Game {Chapter 35}

    Okay since my comment disapeared ill tell u what it said it said that thursdsy night I found this forum snd stayed up till 3 in the to read ur story on my 3ds then while reading ur latedt chapter my 3ds internet browser csusing me too rage then on to say how smszingly awedome this story BBC is snd how muchbi love it

  15. #120
    Popping Corn Teapot Salty's Avatar
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    Default Re: Prologue - Sleep Comes Slowly

    I love your storytelling, I just started reading it and i can tell im going to read the whole thing, my only beef with this is a small one. You used the word toy about ten times in one paragraph, it's a hard word to find substitutes for but it makes the story more interesting if you change up the language to acomadate one thing, if that makes sense.

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