How did we get here?
Samia's pokémon leapt gracefully through the air, claws and scythe crackling with dark purple energy. It landed silently onto the sandy training arena floor, padded feet cushioning its weight. With a flick of its head, dark energy shot off, smashing into the rapidly moving targets which buzzed around the arena. Again and again, Samia had Absol run through the training regime, as he had with the rest of his pokémon. Whilst they didn't necessarily need more training, after nearly a year of only basic activities, they certainly needed warming up.
Samia leaned back, his legs crossed underneath him as he sat on the floor observing his pokémon. Behind him, Flygon lay curled up, its wing a soft rest for its trainer's back. The midday sun blazed ahead, coating the outdoor training arena in a warm light, comfortable enough for the desert pokémon to snooze in. Around the arena, hills rose which gave way to mountains. This was Samia's only sanctuary, unseen from the outside world, a place for him and his pokémon.
Over the last few weeks Samia had gotten back into training, and the Committee had seemingly given up on convincing him to leave, and wisely did not bring the topic up with him again. If they wanted him gone, they would have to lay their hopes with whoever the challenger was, which, judging from the pokémon's performance in front of him, was not a very safe bet.
Absol's speed was still as dazzling as ever, its legs almost a blur as it darted around the arena, hitting down the targets that were being shot out of retro-fitted clay pidgey shooters. Each dark-type attack was deadly accurate, swatting down the discs with frightening accuracy. The power behind the blows was devastating, the discs simply disintegrating upon being hit.
“Absol, enough.” Samia called out, raising his hand, signalling his pokémon to cease the activity. Absol stood proudly, its snow white fur smooth and unruffled despite the physical exercise it had just gone through. Samia smiled. Still as strong as ever, just like the rest of his team. Reaching over to his discarded belt, Samia prised off one of the other pokéballs and opened it with a light click of the central button.
With a flash of light, the small, diminutive Sandslash appeared, claws gleaming in the sunlight. Shaking itself, spikes popped up from its back from their locked position, signalling that the pokémon was ready. Samia nodded to the pokémon, and it plodded over onto the arena, its clawed toes clacking on the surface before reaching the soft sand.
“Sandslash, you're on defence” Samia informed his pokémon, “Absol, you're on attack.”
The two pokémon gave affirmative noises before facing each other over the training ground. Samia would give very little orders in these kind of situations as he liked his pokémon to take the initiative. In battle, it could mean the difference between victory and defeat. Absol stood perfectly still and deathly silent, whilst Sandslash gave a mouse-like chittering noise, its claws pointed towards Absol, back plates twitching in anticipation.
With barely a whisper, Absol darted off to its left, leaving Sandslash to track its movements, rotating slowly on the spot. On the defence was where Sandslash held its advantage, waiting to out-endure its opponents. Absol moved quickly, red eyes surveying its target, probing for a weakness. Darting in, Absol laid in a few quick Slash attacks, which Sandslash moved quickly to counter with its thick rear hide, blocking the impacts with an impervious barrier of plates.
The two pokémon continued the dance for several minutes, Absol darting around Sandslash, landing glancing attacks, searching for a weakness in the ground-types seemingly impenetrable defence. Finally, Absol had seen its chance. Keeping up its run to maintain the momentum for its attack, Absol bounded towards the stationary Sandslash who had now fully curled up into a ball, protecting its softer underside. Upon reaching the defending pokémon, Absol hooked its blade like tail underneath it and with a vertical push with the power of its back legs, launched the ground-type skywards.
Sandslash's defence curl was broken as it left the comfort of the ground. The mousey pokémon began flailing as it hurtled through the air. On the ground, Sandslash held the advantage. In the air, it lost its discipline as instinct turned into panic. Absol ran once more around the arena quickly, building up speed, then leapt upwards after its target. Absol's speed allowed it to quickly gain the height above Sandslash, then with a powerful fore claw, spiked Sandslash back to the ground like a stray volleyball.
Sandslash impacted back into the earth with a crash, raising a plume of dust as it around the inevitable crater it had left in the soft sand. Opposite it, Absol landed gracefully, body tensed, ready to continue. The dust cleared slowly, and through the cloud the silhouette of Sandslash could be seen sluggishly pulling itself to its feet. Finally clearing, Sandslash could be seen to be standing again, though a bit unsteadily. Nodding to Absol to show its readiness, the two pokémon continued the training exercise, Samia watching over their every move carefully, looking for where to improve or modify.
“The famous Absol at work.” Came a feminine voice from behind Samia.
Looking behind him, Samia saw Natasha stood there. She appeared to have let her hair down, her red locks flowing freely down the back of her white blouse. Her eyes were fixed on the two pokémon training in front of her, tracking their movements as best as she could, which with Absol was no easy task.
Walking forward she sat herself down next to Samia, folding her skirt underneath her. Behind them, Flygon opened a goggled eye, but seeing no threat to its trainer or its nap, went back to dozing. Samia could see the look of awe on Natasha's face as she watched his pokémon, which filled him with a sense of satisfaction. After all these years, he still had it. Or more correctly, his pokémon still had it.
“Even after all this time” Natasha said, leaning back onto Flygon as Samia was, “I still get a little bit excited when I see Absol in action. Makes me feel like a young trainer again, despite the fact I see him nearly everyday.”
“He does that.” Samia replied, smiling.
Natasha looked over to him, surveying him. “I remember seeing you for the first time, around seven, maybe eight years ago. Your battle against Lance was... amazing to say the least. I still recall your final play, Absol versus Lance's Dragonite at the Indigo Plateau.”
“It was one hell of a battle.” Samia agreed. Lance had been a tougher challenge than he had had expected, as after already defeating Cynthia and Steven, he expected an easy victory. What he ended up with was a Dragonite that refused to go down, even with Absol laying in some of his most powerful attacks. “Probably the closest battle I ever fought.”
“Even against the Grand Champion?”
Samia frowned. He rarely thought of the Champion that preceded him. A quiet man, noone really knew much about him, even the regional champions. It was only upon Samia's claiming of the role that it became much more corporate and popular. Before it had seemed insurmountable to most of the competitive community.
“After Lance.” Samia stated slowly, “I realised I would need a lot more training than I currently had to take on the Grand Champion.” Looking back, those were some intense years. He had travelled into the unknown regions for almost a year, perfecting his gift, bringing all of his pokémon up to a level believed unreachable by many and achieved by very few.
“I heard about that.” answered Natasha. “After Lance, no one knows where you went. It was quite the talk in the international media if I remember right.”
“I imagine it was. The first real potential challenger to the Grand Champion in twenty years disappearing? Must have been shocking...”
Natasha punched him in the arm. “No need to be so sure of yourself. Trainers did have other things to deal with in that time you know.”
“Oh of course.” He answered, rubbing his arm where the punch had landed. “I heard all about it when I got back, the whole “Team Magma did this” and “Team Galactic did that”. Quite frankly, they got what they deserved. You don't mess with a legendary pokémon. They are called that for a reason.”
Natasha nodded. “I know. I was in Hoenn during the whole Team Magma/Aqua incident. Why they thought they could control those pokémon...” She drifted off. “Did you ever run into any legendary pokémon Samia?”
Samia looked over to her, his blue eyes meeting her green. They held such conversations often, and over the years that Samia had been Grand Champion, they had learnt a lot about each other.
“A few times.” He conceded. “Though I tend not to interfere with them. Legends look after themselves. When humans interfere, that's when it tends to hits the fan.”
“I suppose you're right.” Natasha replied.
The conversation died, and the two of them sat there in silence, only broken by the occasional clash between Absol and Sandslash on the arena floor in front of them, Samia's eye tracked the two pokémon, each impact jarring into his mental sense slightly, his gift allowing him to keep track of them, even without paying vast attention to their individual moves.
“You've been together a long time, haven't you?” Natasha asked.
Samia looked away from his battling pokémon, the memories of what they had been through coming back, bidden by Natasha's question. The battles, the adventures, the struggles. It had been a long time since Samia had travelled, but in his mind it was like yesterday, each battle vivid in his mind, each move, each blow replayed and analysed in his head over and over.
“Yes Natasha”. Samia replied, “a very long time.”
Samia place his arm on Flygon's neck, the smooth, sun-warmed skin comforting to him. Thinking back, he had been through a lot. He and his pokémon had grown greatly since he had left his home near Hoenn nearly eleven years ago.
“I don't think I ever asked,” enquired Natasha. “Was Absol your first pokémon?”
Samia came out of his thoughts. “What? Oh no, Flygon here,” Samia gave his pokémon a pat on the neck, “was my first pokémon. Got her as a young Trapinch when I was around ten years old.” Thinking back to that day, Samia could remember it perfectly, the vividness of his first pokémon, his excitement to be leaving the one pokémon town from where he came from and see the big wide world. Just him and his pokémon.
“Really?” Natasha asked, sounding confused. “But I don't think I’ve ever seen you use Flygon for anything than transport. Absol and the others have always been your primary battlers, have they not?”
“Not always.” Samia answered sadly. The thought of what had happened to his first companion was always an uneasy thought, even after many years had passed since the incident.
Natasha looked over, her eyes tracing on the white scar that traced along Flygon's flank, understanding filling her expression. A wound like that was not something a pokémon could recover from. “What happened?” she whispered.
Samia looked at his sleeping pokémon. Thinking of what had happened. The storm, the lightning, the screams. The guttural shouts of pokémon flooding around a mountain top basin. Blood-stained dirt and weeping trainers. It came flooding back to him in a whirlwind of memories laced with dark emotions. It was not a day he liked thinking about, not something he liked re-living. Wiping his eyes with the back of his sleeve, he turned to Natasha.
“One day, I may tell you. But not today.”
Natasha bowed her head, muttering an apology. She stood up, preparing to leave Samia to his training.
“Two weeks Samia.” She informed him. “Two weeks until your challenger reaches here. Be ready.”
Samia still had his eyes on the ground as Natasha left, deep in his thoughts. He heard the door to the building open and then slam shut in the breeze, though he paid little heed to it. The conversation that had been started was not something he enjoyed thinking about, as his miscalculation had nearly cost him and Flygon dearly. It had nearly...
His thoughts were interrupted by a nudge to his shoulder. Flygon had awoke, and its deep eyes gazed into his own. Samia knew that look, as it had been one his pokémon had given him many times.
“I know, I know.” He told his pokémon, pressing his face close to Flygon. Wallowing in the past got him nowhere. He had to concentrate on the present, on what was coming up. Looking up, he saw Sandslash and Absol had also ceased their activity, looking concerned at their trainer.
“Don't worry guys.” he called out to them. Pushing himself up on his feet, he walked over to the edge of the training arena. Looking around, the mountain tops enclosed around him, hiding the training valley from the outside world, his own private realm. Around him, the three pokémon gathered. Closing his eyes, Samia felt their auras pulsating, each unique to its owner, from the deep gold of Flygon, the light tan of Sandslash and crackling purple of Absol. Each was like the eye of a storm, calm, yet at a moments notice ready to bring out unfathomable power.
Opening his eyes, he surveyed his deployed pokémon whilst his hand ran over his now re-attached belt, the three remaining pokémon's power felt even through the metallic surface of the pokéballs. With his companions at his side, he could achieve anything, no one, not even this new challenger, was going to stop him.
“We can do this guys.” He stated matter of factly. “Now Absol, Sandslash, back to it!”