Arriving Home - (J.E.4)
Target Pokemon: Magikarp, Gligar, Rhyhorn, Gallade
Difficulty: Easiest, Medium, Hard, Demanding
Target Length: 73k - 110k
Final Length: Approx 98k
Author Notes: This is the fourth story I've written about Jathan and his world, so you should probably read the first three (link through my stats) before you read this one. I'm getting sick of detailing Jathan's clothes, looks, and past deeds at the start of every new story. I'll give nods as I pass, but unless specifically stated, he's exactly the same as he was in the last chapter. There is also a fair bit of violence and occasional swearing, so readers be warned.
NEW NOTE: There's a recurring misunderstanding with my writing style. It's almost all from Jathan's point of view, but occasionally you will read about something that Jathan doesn't see or know about at that time. This is because Jathan is reciting his story. Technically, all this has already happened - he's telling someone about it or writing it down or something.
The hoverboats followed the fleeing freighter from high in the sky, dodging and weaving around the bullets and energy projectiles fired at them. The pilots listened intently to their radios, which were continually feeding them intel and orders. As they closed the gap, the Police Commander gave them the order they were waiting on.
"Chase contingent, you are free to engage, repeat, free to engage," the radio crackled.
All the pilots flicked a switch, and the sirens in the passenger sections started wailing. The troops in these sections loaded their rifles and chambered the rounds. As they did so, the sides of the hoverboats folded down, allowing a few of the troops to shoot from relative safety.
One of the troops in Boat Four called out a warning: "Tango on bus rear, threat negligible."
"Copy that," the mission officer replied through his headset. He marked the renegade with a virtual hotspot. Now all the troops and pilots had a small orange target on their visors over the renegade. As he did so, the fire from the freighter increased in quantity.
"Boat Two, pulling low and attempting rear boarding," Two's pilot announced.
The troops in Boat Two all sniggered as the hoverboat flew below the incoming fire, towards the back of the freighter.
"Prepare for boarding, and mind the neg Tango," Two's pilot called back.
"Affirmative," Two Leader called before ordering: "Soldiers, check comms."
"Two One here."
"Two Two here."
"Two Three here."
"Two Four here."
"Comm check complete, awaiting green light," Two Leader spoke into his radio.
"Affirmative, beginning boarding sequence," Two Pilot replied.
The troops inside Two felt the boat dip as it lowered in altitude. They gripped their guns in anticipation.
They never got a chance to use them.
A jet of tracer fire lanced up from the rear of the freighter, smashing into Two, sending it spiraling to the ground. Three Leader looked on in shock.
"All units, neg Tango is active, repeat neg Tango is active," Three Leader broadcast.
"Affirmative, repainting," the mission officer replied. He changed the renegade's target so that it was now red and pulsing instead of orange.
"Three, pull low and attempt rear boarding. Four, provide cover fire," the Police Commander ordered. No one laughed this time.
I crouched low, staring at the patch of grass my Great Ball had fallen into. Flicking my eyes upwards, I saw that two of the pursuing hoverboats had dipped low and were approaching me. I gritted my teeth. If I stayed I would die, and yet I couldn't forsake the Sneasel.
I felt like I didn't deserve this. In the last week, I had met a supernatural creature, saved it from destruction, escaped a government institution, travelled far through the radioactive Razerlands, dived into a river from a moving train, survived a robbery, and successfully hijacked a massive hover-freighter. I used to be an ordinary student, but I was fast becoming something else.
To my eternal shame, I tried to retreat into the freighter, but I could not move my legs. I looked up again at the hoverboats and saw one of them aim an underslung cannon at me. My heart dropped into my shoes. There was nothing I could do now. I closed my eyes and kept my hand outstretched, waiting for the end. I heard an impossibly loud boom, and then I felt something smash into my hand, hard.
For an instant I thought that whatever the cannon fired had taken my hand off, but the pain had already subsided into a dull throbbing. I opened my eyes and looked at my hand. In it sat a hand-sized red and blue sphere. The Great Ball.
I was elated, but the feeling soon disappeared as I realised I should be dead. I looked up, towards the hoverboats, and I saw that a glistening blue plane of energy had placed itself in the way of the cannon shot.
"Hey there," I heard a voice call.
I turned around to look, and I saw a man lithely jump down from the roof of the freighter. He was tall and good looking, with brown hair and green eyes. He wore a long black trenchcoat which looked absolutely bitching flapping around in the wind. I mentally sighed. He looked like the stereotypical badass every chick wants to date.
"You alright?" he asked, offering me a hand.
"Yeah," I replied, using his help to stand up, pocketing the Great Ball as I did so. I felt as though little lightning bolts were striking my hand.
He looked up at the hoverboats, shading his eyes from the glare of the sunset.
"Stay down," he told me.
I crouched low, and pulled out my pistol, in case it was needed. It wasn't.
Badass jumped. Really high. He smashed through the shield, splintering into tiny little pieces just as if he jumped through a window. The splinters glittered and faded away into nothingness as they fell. As he approached the first hoverboat, he threw his hand forward, just like how I used to high-five Pete. A beam of blue energy shot out from the palm of his hand, neatly slicing the nearest hoverboat in two. The two separate halves began falling away each other and towards the ground at the same time. A violent explosion issued from the hovercraft at the same time - Badass must have hit the fuel tank or a warhead or something. Skilfully avoiding the explosion, he jumped off one half of the hoverboat towards another, as-yet undamaged craft,
As he flew through the air, he created what appeared to be a sword made of the blue energy by making a fist with his right hand and sweeping his left hand upwards. He deflected bullets with the sword, which my old Teachers had sworn was impossible. He landed lightly on top of the boat, and stabbed the pilot through the bulletproof glass. He then turned and threw the sword at the last hoverboat.
The sword cartwheeled in the air as it flew. The hilt smashed through the boat, near the troop section. I was expecting an explosion, but nothing of the sort happened. Badass jumped off the boat he was standing on just as it began losing altitude. I watched in amazement as he fsomersaulted twice and then landed on the roof of the freighter. A truly superhuman feat.
A shot from the last hoverboat hit the freighter right next to Badass. He looked up at the boat frowning. He snapped his fingers, and the hoverboat was engulfed in a MASSIVE blue fireball, which dropped the ground with a crash. My jaw dropped. What was this guy?
He looked down at me.
"Get into the freighter, we can't leave the Zone until you do so," he called out. He then sprinted off towards the front of the freighter. I watched him go, and then I entered the freighter, closing the door behind me as I did so. A crowd immediately surrounded me.
"What happened?" one man asked.
"Are you okay?" a little boy squealed.
"Did you fight them off?" a pretty girl my age asked as she continued the barrage of questions. I considered the idea of claiming credit, but quickly decided not to.
"Some dude in a trenchcoat came and nuked them," I replied, shaking my head.
"What Pokemon did he use?" the man asked.
"He didn't," I replied. "He did something with some kind of blue energy."
Most of the crowd looked puzzled, but I did hear a couple of gasps. Apparently a few of them knew something that they weren't telling, but I couldn't see anyone that I could pester with questions. I made a path through the crowd by splitting it with my hand. The pretty girl winked at me on my past her, which set my imagination afire, but I decided to pursue those thoughts later.
I turned around a stack of crates and sat next to the wall. I pulled out the Great Ball and opened it. The sphere opened into two hollow curves, and the Sneasel I rescued appeared in a flash of red light. It looked like a weasel with dark fur and sharp white claws. It also had a single red feather protruding from its forehead. It looked at me and chattered.
"Yes, I'm doing it," I said, assuming the Sneasel said what I thought it said.
I took the Great Ball in both hands. I twisted both hands in opposite directions, destroying the relatively weak hinges and completely separating the two half-spheres.
The Sneasel chattered at me again.
Again assuming, I smiled and patted it on the head, saying "My pleasure" as I did so. The Sneasel gripped my wrist firmly and used one of its claws to lightly cut me on the back of my hand. It then ran away laughing. I grumbled, but no real harm was done. I took out a bandage and wrapped the cut. Just as I finished, I heard George speak over a loudspeaker.
"Everyone, we are about to commence high-speed Razer travel," he said. "All windows will close automatically and the freighter will move quite fast. Please do not panic: we expect to be traveling for close to nine hours."
I rolled my eyes, and and made myself more comfortable. As I did so, Smash released himself from his PokeBall. Smash was my Mudkip, my first Pokemon. He was a blue quadrupedal Pokemon the size of a small dog. He had fins for a tail and and a crest, and adorable spiky orange cheeks. He had the ability to shoot water from his mouth, among other amazing talents. I rescued him from the school I had grown up in when he stumbled onto the school grounds.
"Hey mate," I said, "stay nearby, okay?"
Smash gurgled, and rubbed his head-fin against my leg before scampering off. I sighed, and nestled against my comfortable blazercoat. Sleep followed shortly after.
As my eyes gradually opened, I noticed someone crouched over me. I sat up quickly, moving my right hand to the pistol holster hidden over my left shoulder as I did so. I stopped as I saw the person was the pretty girl from before. She was petting Smash as he slept next to my leg.
"Uhhh, hi," I said.
She looked at me by tilting her head. She smiled and continued to rub Smash. He rolled onto his back, clearly asking for his belly to be rubbed.
"Cheeky blighter," I muttered. I pulled my leg away and stood up. Smash looked at me with one eye, but soon closed it again.
"This is an adorable Pokemon you have," the girl said.
"His name is Smash," I said. "I rescued him from a Giravian facility."
It technically wasn't a lie. The girl patted Smash one last time, then stood up to look at me.
"Oh really?" she asked, cocking an eyebrow.
She was very attractive. She was just slightly shorter than me, and had shoulder-length auburn hair. She had stunning green eyes and had simple silver earbobs. She was wearing a pink one-piece dress that was modest and yet enhanced her body in an innocent way.
I grinned at her. "I promise," I said, drawing a cross over my heart with a forefinger.
"My name is Jathan," I said, offering my hand.
"Himoka," she said, placing her hand in mine. Her hand was soft, and she wore a simple silver bangle on her wrist.
Just like I had been taught in Polite Society back in Military School, I sank to one knee and bowed low over her hand.
"It is a pleasure to meet you, Himoka," I said.
My opening move was ever so slightly ruined by George calling my name, causing me to fall over. I grumbled curses and pushed myself off the floor as Himoka giggled again. Strange how I used to fear that sound, but it sounded delightful right now. I turned to see George standing at the front of the carriage, beckoning me over.
"Look, I gotta go, I'll catch you later, okay?" I asked.
"Sure," Himoka said. She smiled and turned around, heading towards a small group of girls who looked like they had been watching us closely. Just as I feared, not three seconds later the giggling began. I felt a blush rise, but refused to look back. I marched up to George.
"Smooth," he grinned.
I ignored him.
"What the hell do you want?" I asked.
George looked like he had something more to say, but he swallowed it.
"I just wanted to congratulate you on a job well done," he said, still smiling. "I've arranged for you to have a house to yourself at our new camp."
"And where is that?" I asked.
"You'll see, I wouldn't want to ruin the surprise," George replied.
I rolled my eyes, but he smiled.
"We'll be there soon anyway," he said as he turned around to leave.
I turned around and looked for a place to sit away from the large group of giggling girls.
About fifteen minutes later the freighter noticeably slowed down. A couple more of the group of girls had introduced themselves to me, but while I was polite, I used the manners we had been taught to use with lower classes - the major difference being the avoidance of contact. I smiled inside as the girls giggled less after these two encounters. I did note out of the corner of my eye that Himoka threw frequent glances at me.
"Hey there," someone said.
I looked to my right, and saw a guy a little older than me. He was maybe eighteen years old. He was sporting a full beard and long hair. He was quite tall, and wore black clothes studded with pieces of silver metal. He looked like one of the pump music stars. Pump music was loud and adrenaline-envoking, and because of this it was banned at the Military School. Most of the guys I knew still listened to it, though.
"Hi," I said, shaking his hand. He sat down next to me.
"Name's Alex," he said.
"So you're a Trainer then?" he asked.
"Technically," I replied. "Just got a Mudkip."
"That's cool, we all gotta start somewhere," he said. He pulled three PokeBalls out of a vest pocket and started swirling them around in one hand in the same way that street jugglers did.
"I'm running with a Kadabra, Tyrogue, and Beldum," he said.
I didn't know what the first two were, but I recognized the last.
"A Beldum? Like the thing that evolves into Metagross?" I asked in awe.
"That's the one," Alex laughed.
I whistled. I hadn't forgotten how impressive George's Meta was. Alex began cleaning the PokeBalls, rubbing them with his sleeve. Watching him, I realised that I liked him. He seemed like a pretty cool guy, and more importantly the first nice person who is roughly my equal. He reminded me of Pete, or at least a Pete on accelerants that tapped a different ass every Friday. As if picking up on my gutter thoughts, the group of girls giggled loudly again. I sighed and put my head in my hands.
"They don't know what to make of you, you know," Alex told me as he leaned towards me.
"What do you mean?" I asked him.
"Well, most of us have known each other for ages - ever since Zone 29 opened peaceful contacts with Giravia about thirteen years ago almost all of the Pokemon Trainers and their families moved to the camp you saw," Alex extrapolated. "We all know each other - there are very few boyfriend/girlfriend couples because there's no mystery, no fun. No point, really."
"Makes sense," I said slowly.
"Then you come along, someone our age, and you greet Himoka like that," Alex continued.
"Like what?" I interrupted. "That's how we greet women of the same rank in Giravia!"
"Yeah, but here we just shake hands," Alex explained. "What you did was very close to a marriage proposal."
My eyebrows shot up and my jaws dropped.
"You're kidding," I said weakly.
Alex laughed again. "Nope," he replied.
I put my head between my legs.
Alex laughed and continued; "Your real mistake was not greeting the others in the same way. If you had, they would probably have taken it as the way you greet normally-"
"-Which it is," I interrupted again.
"Even so, because they think you treated Himoka special, which you technically did, you feel something special towards her. They're getting ideas of a mysterious hero sweeping her off her feet while battling off Giravian forces."
"I'm guessing you don't feel that way?" Alex asked, smirking.
"Well, she seems nice, and she's pretty, but I don't want to get married or anything!" I explained.
"I wouldn't worry about it," Alex advised. "Himoka has a cool head, she probably knows it wasn't a serious proposal. It's just all the other girls who are spinning the romantic dreams."
I breathed a sigh of relief.
"Besides, now you'll have something to work off of," Alex sneered, nudging me good-naturally as he did so.
"Shut up," I replied, nudging him back.
However, maybe getting to know Himoka a little better might not be so bad...
Alex and I continued to chat for a while. He met Smash, and I was introduced to his Beldum, Crusher. Crusher looked like an amputated Metagross leg: he was long and somewhat cylindrical. He was mostly blue with silver claws and a single red eye where the knee-joint would be on a Metagross leg. Unfortunately, he didn't seem to have any supernatural abilities aside from the power to floating in midair. Just as I was starting to get bored, the loudspeaker started up.
"We will be arriving shortly. Please leave all items on the freighter: you will be able to return for them later," someone I didn't know announced.
I snorted mentally. Like I was leaving my stuff behind. A quick look at the people around me told me a lot of people were thinking the same thing.
"Please disembark in an orderly fashion," the voice continued. "Once you have passed through the Arrivals terminal, someone with a red vest will give you instructions on how to proceed. Thank you all."
"Well, I'll see you later," Alex said. He got up and walked past the group of girls, smacking one gently on the butt on the way. To my astonishment, the girls giggled. I sighed. Life made no sense outside the Military School.
The freighter slowed down, and I looked out the window. We were flying down a steep canyon. Except this canyon was filled with trees.
Birds were circling the canyon, high in the sky. The canyon was massive, stretching as far as I could see.
I immediately understood why this canyon was teeming with life. Obviously it was far enough from whatever caused the irradiation, and second hand rads would have mostly passed over the canyon. Furthermore, no condition generator was required, which means this wasn't an official Zone. Giravia didn't know it existed. It was the perfect hiding place.
We continued down a winding trail to the bottom of the canyon. The freighter slowed, and then eventually stopped. The sides of the carriages slammed down into the dirt, and everyone piled off. I queued up and waited. When I got to the front of the line, someone saw the Giravia logo on my blazercoat and I was pulled aside. I was escorted to a very small room that had nothing in it except a table and two chairs. One wall had a large mirror in it, which I assumed was one-way. There were probably being in there watching me. The security guard shoved me roughly into one of the chairs, then left the room. I didn't hear a lock click, but it still wouldn't be a good move to try breaking out. Not yet, anyway.
Ten minutes later a large man wearing a suit minus the jacket walked in. He didn't look happy.
"What the hell are you doing, wearing that?" he asked me angrily.
"My name's Jathan, I'm an escaped Giravian student," I replied.
The big man scratched his short beard, making an irritating sound. It wasn't much of a beard, really, more of an extended five o'clock shadow.
"It's just as likely that you're a spy," he retorted.
"Do you really think a spy would be stupid enough to wear his country's emblem?" I shot back.
"I would if they expected me to think that," he replied angrily.
I facepalmed. I had to avert this line of thinking quickly or else it would into a game of I know that you know that I know that you'd think that. I was a master of tricky thinking, but it probably wouldn't help me in this particular case.
"Look, I was on the crew that stole the freighter," I said. "Ask George: he'll back me up."
The man looked at me strangely, then left the room. Ten minutes later, he came back and told me I was free to go. I shouldered past him, and left the Arrivals department.
Outside was amazing. There was a whole city here: most buildings were made of wood or stone, giving it a quaint feel, but I could also see power lines and network cords spanning the rooftops. Pokemon and animals flew and ran around the buildings, playing with any humans who weren't busy. Over the city, there were no clouds of smoke, unlike back in Zone 19. It was perfect.
Pulling myself back to reality, I located a rather large person wearing a red vest and carrying a large vidscreen.
"Name?" he said as I approached him.
"Uhh, Jathan Einherjar," I replied.
He touched and flicked the vidscreen a few times.
"Ahh yes," he said. "You've been given a house in the military bachelors district. Number 18. Just use the palm lock to get in."
"Thanks," I said.
The man grunted before running off towards another person leaving Arrivals. I pulled out my PDA and hooked into the wireless network. I soon pulled up a holographic map. My position was marked by a glowing yellow dot.
The military bachelors district was a ten minute walk from Arrivals. Everyone I saw was friendly. It was almost like being back at the Military School. In other ways, it was violently different. Pokemon were also common. Flocks of Pidgey and Starly fought mock battles in the sky. Two big black dog-like Pokemon were eating out of a garbage bin. I saw a green and white humanoid repeatedly punching a stout tree, obviously doing some kind of muscle training. I even saw a monkey Pokemon swinging on the power lines, much to the annoyance of a passing maintenance man.
I followed the very practical layout to my new home, House 18. On the doorframe was a flat silver panel that I recognized as a palm-lock. I pressed my palm firmly against the panel. The machine whirred quietly, and then flashed green. The quaint wooden door slid into the frame like a modern sliding door.
Stepping into the house, I was impressed even more. The outside of the house looked like an old-style wooden shack, but the inside looked much more modern. There was a large open room with a fair-sized television in one corner and a kitchen in another. A door to my left led to a fair-sized bathroom with a large spa-style bathtub. The other door contained the stairway, which led up to a bedroom which took up the whole upper floor. The stairway also led down to a large underground section that was mostly bare except for the duct heater. The whole house had gorgeous redwood frames, and the walls and ceilings were painted in a cream colour. There were no paintings on the walls, but there were several windows.
It felt like home. I released Smash from his PokeBall.
"Hey, mate, this is where we'll be staying for a while," I told him as I scratched him under the chin.
He gurgled in delight and ran off to explore. I went over to the kitchen to get a closer look at some of the appliances when my PDA buzzed. George had sent me a message. He told me to read up on the basic rules, and to stay put until he came to talk to me.
I sighed. There'd be no exploring today. I went to the bathroom to take a bath. As I entered the room, I saw Smash playing in and around the toilet.
I sighed again. Time to explain some basic etiquette to a small blue pain-in-the-butt.
About two hours later I was sitting on the couch, semi-watching the television. I'd read all the rules, which were mostly generic safety and privacy laws. I was watching some live-action television show about a Trainer named Soot, who I was quickly growing to hate. Smash was having a lovely time splashing around in my bathtub, probably making a huge mess.
As Soot's Pikachu yet again launched some adult humans into the air using nothing but electricity, I looked out a window in boredom. The show was mostly one little Pikachu fighting off hordes of rivals. I hadn't met a Pikachu, but I'd read their profile statistics. I had a hard time believing one could see off Metang, Charizard, and other high-level Pokemon. Sensationalist crud.
As I gazed mindlessly out the window, I suddenly saw the Badass walking down the street. I ran over to the window and watched him walk on the footpath in the direction of the Arrivals terminal. I bit my fingernails. I had been told to wait here. But I wanted to talk to that guy. I bit with greater force as my mind worked. Finally, I made my decision.
"Smash, I'm going out! Stay here!" I called to him.
Smash gurgled loudly, and then began splashing around again. I slipped outside, slightly crouching to reduce my height. I also zipped up my blazercoat higher than I usually did, hiding the lower part of my face. Like so I stalked Badass, following him from what I thought to be a safe distance. He was polite and yet distant to everyone who greeted him, which struck me as only natural, for some reason. He walked briskly along the footpath into the part of the city where the buildings were all quite tall, maybe ten stories high. He eventually turned down an alley, looking around before he did so. Luckily, I was pretending to do something important on my PDA, so he continued on his way. I slinked around the corner, just in time to see his trenchcoat disappear through a closing door.
I walked briskly over to the door, and placed my ear against it. I could hear low murmurs from inside, but I couldn't make out the words.
"Now or never," I muttered to myself under my breath.
I turned the doorknob and stepped smartly into the room. The room was bare, containing only a small table and four chairs. Seated at two of the chairs were Badass and George. George was talking to Badass, but when he saw me over Badass' shoulder he rolled his eyes.
"Didn't they teach you better manners in school?" he asked lightly, waving me over to a chair. I walked over, head down, mumbling an apology as I did so.
"Actually, this works out well," George admitted. "I was going to come and see you once I was done here."
"It works well for me too," said Badass in his slightly gravelly voice. "I meant to talk to you about him."
"Oh really?" George asked, looking me over.
I shrunk a little lower in my seat. Badass meant back in his chair, folding his legs on top of the table.
"We crossed paths back on the freighter," Badass explained. "He was trying to fight off the hoverboats with a pistol while rescuing a Sneasel."
George raised an eyebrow.
"I helped him up afterwards," Badass continued, "and there were sparks."
George sat straighter and looked Badass full in the eyes.
"Handshake sparks?" George asked.
Badass nodded. George ran his hands through his hair then let out a little futile laugh.
"You're an interesting guy, Jathan," he said, shaking his head. "I'll leave you in Bradley's hands."
I looked up at Bradley. He winked at me, then swept up out of the chair.
"I'll drop you a line later," George called out as I followed Bradley out of the room.
Thirty minutes later, I found myself in a large temple-like structure, kneeling on a cushion opposite Bradley. He hadn't said a word on the way, and I hadn't tried to make him.
"So, where are you from?" Bradley asked.
I almost jumped into the air from the sudden noise.
"Zone 19 Military School," I replied.
Amazingly, Bradley started laughing. He laughed and laughed for a good two minutes.
"I am too," he chuckled, wiping the tears from his eyes.
My eyes were as round as golf balls. "No way," I said unbelievingly.
"Surely you heard about the small group of kids who tried to break out then got sent to look for other continents?" Bradley asked.
I nodded. It was one of the few stories the Administration didn't try to suppress. He jabbed one of his thumbs at himself.
"The three of us overpowered the rest of the crew and stole a lifeboat," he said, looking away and smiling gently.
I sat quietly while he reminisced.
After a couple of minutes he shook his head and returned to the topic at hand.
"Well, I assume you know the Pokemon basics and how the Giravian government are all fags."
"Well, there's something important you need to know. You were taught that humans are primarily carbon beings, and that Pokemon are mostly Aura."
"Yes," I replied.
"This is a lie," Bradley said simply.
I nodded slowly.
"Fact is, we're both made of both," Bradley continued. "That's why Pokemon bleed. And why some humans can do this."
On the word "this", he snapped his fingers and a little blue flame on energy floated over his palm.
"Whoa," I admired the flame.
Bradley closed his hand, extinguishing it.
"Some few humans can access the Aura inside them," Bradley explained. "You can do lots of things by physically manifesting your Aura. You can fire energy blasts, create shields, heal minor damage and augment your current physical abilities, to name such a few."
"But be warned, your Aura Reserves aren't infinite. You restore them by eating and resting. But if you use them all up and continue to push your limits, you can pass out. If you're lucky. It's not uncommon for a person to over-tax their Aura and die because of it. In some ways, you can view it as your life-force, but that's a bit of an over-simplification."
"Trying to accomplish something with Aura can often be done in many different ways. For example, if I wanted to lift a rock without touching it, I could use an Aura Shield and levitate it. I could create a moving air current. I could even create a gravitational field. Because there are so many different ways to do things, instead of experimenting and simply commanding your Aura, you should try and stick to certain practises that have been devised and you know will work."
Bradley stood up.
"Very well, to see if you truly have this capacity, I shall show you the most basic of Aura moves," he said.
He turned to a wooden dummy, and without any delay, he punched clean through it.
"That is the Aura Punch," Bradley said, rubbing his knuckles. "This is one of the physical augmentation abilities I mentioned. Simply put, you create a thin layer of Aura around your fist, increasing power and decreasing damage to your fist."
"I think I get it," I said slowly.
"Simply imagine what you want to happen, then will it to be. If you can learn to access your Aura it will happen," Bradley explained. "Come here and find me again if you can manage to punch wood for fifteen consecutive minutes without drawing blood."
"I will," I promised, bowing low over my knees. Bradley nodded, and left the room without a word.
On the way back to my house, I came across an open field. It had stumps, swing, and targets set up. I walked through the field, until I saw someone training.
Well, technically someone.
The green and white humanoid I had seen before was launching blue discs of energy at a bullseye target. The Pokemon had a light blue crest that reminded me of Smash's, and a red breastplate-like protusion on its chest and back.
"Lade!" the Pokemon yelled in frustration as the latest energy disc hit half a metre below the centre of the target. The Pokemon's cry reminded me of its species: Gallade. Renowned for being powerful and honourable duelists, they were pretty much my opposite: they excelled at close combat where I was most comfortable shooting from more than twenty metres away from my target. The Gallade continued to shoot rings at the target by swinging its arms and firing them from its elbows. None of the discs hit the bullseye.
I walked a little bit past it, to where a dummy was set up. Just like Bradley had told me to, I imagined my fist being coated in Aura. I struck the dummy.
Immediately swear words filled the air.
As I hopped around, I saw that the Gallade was ignoring me. As if to show it I was worthy of attention, I punched the dummy again. This brought tears to my eyes.
I calmed myself down, and tried hitting it a little gentler. My fist didn't hurt as bad, but it just looked like a normal punch. I sighed, and continued to punch the dummy, wincing each time.
An hour later, I had made no appreciable progress, apart from bloodying my fists, which were painful and throbbing. I left the field, careful not to let my hands bump into anything. I didn't see the Gallade watch me leave. I also didn't see it fold its hands into fists and place them against each other. I especially didn't see the white shaft of light shoot from the Gallade's crest high into the sky.
I arrived home just as the sun started to set. My hands had started to bleed profusely. I managed to use the palm lock without getting too much blood on the sensor, and I stumbled inside, heading for the bathroom.
Smash was floating on the top of the bath water, dozing. I moved over to the cupboard, and I rummaged around looking for bandages. I found them in a drawer and carefully wrapped them around my hands. I found a painkiller needle too, but I refused to use it because I had a needle-phobia. I decided to skip dinner and go straight to bed because I doubted my utensil manipulating abilities. The bed itself was large and soft, easily a queen size. I soon fell asleep under the moonlight shining in through the window.
Smash came in about half an hour after I fell asleep. He watched in amazement as a soft white light ghosted in through the window and flew over to me, phasing into my bloodied hands. Shaking his head, he climbed up onto the bed and fell asleep.
The first thing that I noticed upon waking up was that my hands weren't caning. I peeled off the bandages, which were almost glued to my hands by the dried blood. When I had finally discarded them all into the bin underneath my bedside table, I inspected my hands. They looked fine. There was no indication that I had recently spent upwards of an hour bloodying my hands on a wooden training post.
Smash gurgled sleepily from the foot of the bed.
"I'm going out again," I told him.
He gurgled again and climbed under the sheets, quite clearly hiding from the sun. I grabbed an apple from the fruit bowl on the way out and walked to the training ground. The Gallade was there again, this time repeatedly punching a large stone with fists wreathed in fire. I inclined my head as I passed. The Gallade looked at me for a moment, then resumed the punching.
I walked over the dummy I had used yesterday. I could see the blood I had spilt still on the bark. I flexed my hands again, and punched the dummy. It hurt. I got angry. I continued punching it, but the pain got progressively worse.
"Damn it!" I yelled. "Why can't I do it?"
I punched the stump, emphasizing each strike with a word: "Why - can't - I - do - the - God - damn - Aura - Punch?"
Smack. Smack. Smack. Smack. Smack. Smack. Smack. Smack. Thunk.
I stopped. Close inspection of the trunk revealed a slight dent. This sparked neurons in my brain as I theorized something. Perhaps vocalizing the move I was attempting to perform assisted in concentration.
"Aura Punch!" I yelled, throwing a punch at the dummy.
Thunk. The punch had left another clear dent. Enthralled with my success, I began repeatedly striking the dummy, emphasizing each strike with a yell.
The Gallade smiled.
Half an hour later the dummy snapped in half. I was panting heavily and my hands hurt, but they weren't bleeding too profusely. I decided to go home and meet up with Smash, and maybe go exploring. As I left, I bowed to the Gallade again, who was still punching the stone with fire. I turned to leave, but the Gallade grabbed my hand, sending a bolt of pain shooting up my arm.
"Ouch!" I yelped.
The Gallade took my other hand too, and pressed them together between its. My hands started glowing white, and when the Gallade released them they were no longer hurting. I stared at them in shock.
"Was that you who healed them yesterday?" I demanded.
The Gallade ignored me, and began punching the stone again, but this time its fists were enveloped in darts of electricity.
"Well, thanks anyway," I said, and I left.
I arrived back at the house after about half an hour, and Smash was waiting at the door.
"Shall we go for a walk in the forest?" I asked him.
He yapped playfully. We walked through town, smiling at everyone we passed. Soon we found ourselves at the entrance to the forest. I took note of a sign that read:
Beware of aggressive Pokemon.
Stay close to town.
Only attempt to battle and/or catch Pokemon that agree to it.
I smiled in anticipation. I might have the chance to add another Pokemon to my team. Smash and I wandered through the forest for a good two hours. We met many Pokemon inhabitants, mostly Bug and Grass types, although I saw some orange fish Pokemon -Goldeen- in a stream. We found ourselves in an open field that was sprinkled with flowers of all colours.
Smash squealed in delight and began running through them. I laughed as he did so - they were face-high on him, so he could crouch and hide inside. He snuck up behind me and jumped on my back, sending me flying to the ground. We both laughed long and loud.
I stopped as something moved on the edge of my field of vision.
It was a Pokemon, emerging from the trees. It was grey and built like a rhinoceros, with a large horn and what looked like thick grey plates of battle armor all over it. I also noticed that it had a large scar over its left eye. To my surprise, I recognized it as a Rhyhorn.
I carefully and slowly stood up and extended my palms, showing it I meant it no harm. It charged anyway, kicking up plumes of dirt as it did so.
I rolled to the side as it charged past me. Smash jumped in front of me and assumed a fighting stance while squealing defiance.
"Are you sure?" I asked him.
Smash gurgled stubbornly.
"All right then, open with Water Gun!" I ordered.
Smash opened his mouth and shot a stream of water at the Rhyhorn. The water hit it on the side, pushing it over. It the ground with a large thud, destroying a small patch of flowers.
"Great job!" I exclaimed.
Smash gurgled a victory shout.
Then the Rhyhorn got up. It exhaled air like a bull, and charged.
"Hydro Pump!" I called.
The stream of water was much larger this time, and it was frothing. Unfortunately the Rhyhorn saw this coming, and it ducked low while strafing to the right. The sizzling stream of water passed over its right shoulder.
"Quick, Water Gun!" I yelled.
Smash shot another smaller stream, which again pushed the Rhyhorn over. Instead of getting up and charging again, however, the Rhyhorn stood up and a rock levitated with it.
"Oh snap," I cursed.
The rock shot towards Smash.
"Shoot it down!" I called.
Displaying amazing accuracy, Smash burst it into rubble using a thin jet of water.
"Great job!" I called.
Smash looked back at me and gurgled proudly. As he did this, he was smashed into the ground by a second flying rock.
"Smash!" I yelled. "Are you okay?"
He got up so he was no longer being hidden by all the flowers.
"Hydro Pump again!" I ordered.
The Rhyhorn seemed to be waiting for this, though. It began running in a wide arc, which caused Smash's attack to miss again.
"Okay Smash, just stick to small attacks and try to hit it. When it gets close dodge out the way," I called.
Smash gurgled and began firing thin jets of water at the Rhyhorn as it tangentially approached him. Most of the shots missed, and those that hit glanced off its armour. The Rhyhorn kept getting closer, and when it was within striking distance Smash rolled to the side. The Rhyhorn was expecting this, so it stopped charging and crushed Smash with its horn. I couldn't help but think that that was preferable to being impaled on it.
"Now it is close, use Hydro Pump!" I yelled.
I couldn't see Smash through the flowers, but I did see the Rhyhorn get lifted into the air by the massive torrent of water. It hit the ground with a large thud. I ran around the large grey beast, looking for Smash.
"Smash! Are you okay?" I called.
I heard a gurgle, and I saw Smash struggling to his feet. Then I heard a crackling. Lots of little blue darts were surrounding the Rhyhorn, crawling around on its armour. I watched in disbelief as the Rhyhorn slowly got to its feet as well, but now with the tiny blue electrical sparks climbing around its body.
"Smash, run for it!" I screamed.
Smash started stumbling away, eventually breaking into a run. But he was nowhere near as fast as the Rhyhorn.
Even as I realised Smash had no chance and broke into a run to save him, the Rhyhorn charged. As he did so, the tiny electric sparks all gathered around his head, turning into a pair of massive, floating, spiky teeth.
I sprinted towards Smash, but I was too late. The Rhyhorn closed the gap between them, and used the faux teeth to bite Smash across the midsection. Smash screamed in pain, and then collapsed.
I ran towards him, yelling and screaming at the Rhyhorn, trying to draw him away from Smash before he could do further damage. Fortunately, the Rhyhorn took the bait. It turned and charged at me. Like before, I waited until it couldn't change direction, and then I rolled to the side. I could feel the air pocket behind the Rhyhorn as it charged past.
I ran over to Smash. He was unconscious and bleeding from his mouth, but there were no serious wounds that I could see.
"I'm sorry," I said, returning him to his PokeBall.
I then turned around to face my more immediate problem. The Rhyhorn had already turned and started charging. I tensed, preparing to roll to the side again and then run for it.
As the Rhyhorn moved towards me, a blue flare erupted in front of me. As the flare dimmed, I saw a shape step back and grab my hand.
I barely recognized it - it was the Gallade from before.
As it grabbed my hand, the whole world turned blue. I felt like I was tied to the back of a really fast bus. The strangely blue world moved past me. I didn't recognize any of the places we passed through - a dark forest, a desolate road and a crumbling tower. In what I knew to be an instant later, the blue over-colour disappeared, and I found myself standing in the middle of a road back at camp. I looked around and recognized the district - it wasn't far from home.
The Gallade nudged me with its elbow and pointed at a large building. The building had a red roof and a stylized white Poke Ball painted on the front.
"Lade," the Gallade said insistently.
"Thank you," I said, dipping my head.
The Gallade nodded back, and disappeared in another flash of blue light. I ran into the building. It looked like a strange cross between a hospital and a backpacker's hostel. I walked past some people talking on some cushioned seats and up to a lady at the front desk. She was wearing a nurse's outfit and had a long mane of pink hair.
"Hello, what can I do for you today?" she asked.
"Uhh, my Mudkip got hurt fighting a Rhyhorn. Is this some kind of Pokemon hospital?" I asked nervously.
The lady laughed.
"Yes, it is," she said kindly. "May I see your Mudkip?"
I pulled out Smash's Pokeball and handed it to her.
"Good thinking, returning it to its ball," the nurse said. "All Poke Balls have temporary injury relief systems that delay complications caused by injuries."
"You must be new around here," the nurse said as she turned around and placed Smash's PokeBall on a tray. "My name is Nurse Joy."
"Jathan," I replied, watching her as she put the tray onto a machine behind her.
She pulled a lever and white lights began flashing up Smash's PokeBall. The lights flashed for ten seconds, then stopped. Nurse Joy passed me the tray.
"Good as new," she said, smiling.
I took the ball and frowned.
"Really? That's it?" I asked skeptically.
"That's it," Nurse Joy laughed.
I raised my eyebrows, but I stored the ball in my sleeve and left the hospital.
I was walking back home, where I planned to run a hot bath, when I saw someone leaving a shop, struggling with a huge tower of bags.
"Here, let me help," I offered as I took six of the nine bags and looped them around my arms.
"I was wondering when I'd bump into you again," the person said dryly.
I looked at the person, and was surprised to see Himoka raising an eyebrow at me.
"Huh, what a coincidence," I laughed weakly.
"Surely you don't expect me to believe you were just about to help a random stranger out with their shopping," she asked tartly.
"I was!" I protested.
"I believe you," she said, laying a hand on my arm.
A purple and blue bat-like Pokemon floated out of the shop, carrying yet another bag.
"Here, I'll take that," Himoka said to it. She took the bag, and the now unburdened Pokemon glided over to me and started smelling me.
"This is Kym, my Gligar," Himoka said. "Just ignore him, he's a little bit over-protective of me."
"That's fair enough," I said.
Kym sniffed me all over, and then eventually settled down on my head, causing Himoka to giggle.
"So, where do you live, anyway?" I asked her.
"With my also over-protective brother, in the Military Bachelors district," she replied, leading the way. "Technically, I should have been moved out into civilian quarters, but my brother is a bit of a higher-up and he fought for me to stay with him."
"Who's your brother?" I asked.
"Liam, the Zone 29 Armoury Master," she replied.
I gulped. That might make things a bit harder.
"Do you know him?" Himoka enquired, tilting her head.
"Not well," I said weakly.
Himoka laughed. As she did so, Kym got up and soared off my head, gliding lazily around us in circles.
"What's his story?" I asked, indicating Kym with a jerk of my head.
"Well, my brother caught him about ten years ago, when I was really young," she replied. "He didn't like battling, so Liam gave him to me. He likes to think of himself as my protector, even though he's a bit of a chicken."
Kym squealed in protest. There was a popping sound as Smash released himself from his PokeBall.
"Himoka, you remember Smash," I said.
"I sure do. Hey, cutie," she greeted him.
Smash yapped a response.
"So are you alright, buddy?" I asked him.
He gurgled happily and began running around in circles. Kym swooped down to investigate.
"What happened?" Himoka asked.
"Oh, we went walking in the woods today, and we got attacked by a Rhyhorn," I replied. "But it's cool, he didn't touch me and I already took Smash to the Pokemon hospital."
"You mean the Pokemon Center?"
"Whatever," I replied, waving away the technicalities. Himoka frowned.
"I heard that there actually has been a Rhyhorn scaring a lot of people out of the forest," she mused.
We were distracted by a squeal from Kym, who was now riding on Smash's back, who was bucking playfully like a horse in a rodeo. Himoka and I both laughed. Suddenly, her phone buzzed. She pulled it out of her pocket and looked at the screen before returning it to her pocket. I could have been wrong, but I thought I had saw her face fall for a moment.
"Something wrong?" I asked.
"No, not really," she said. "My ex-boyfriend has moved back here recently and he won't leave me alone. But it's alright, really."
I said nothing, and we walked on. Smash chased after Kym, who glided just out of his reach.
"Well, here we are, number three," Himoka said. She led me through the gate and up to the porch.
"Where do you want me to put these?" I asked, lifting the bags I was carrying.
"Oh, just drop them there, I've got to start dinner," she said, "and I've still got to go out to another shop yet."
"Do you want me to go?" I asked.
"Oh, I couldn't ask you to do that, it's not important," she demurred.
"Rubbish, I haven't got anything else to do," I said.
"Well, okay then," she said. "I'll get Kym to lead you there. I've already paid for it and everything."
"Not a prob," I replied. "See you in a bit."
"Mmm hmm," she smiled. She then turned to Kym and told him to take me to the last shop. Kym squeaked, and swooped out of the yard. As he did so, Smash yawned.
"Can I leave him here?" I asked Himoka.
"Sure," she replied, opening the door.
I crouched down next to Smash.
"Be good," I told him, rubbing his head fin.
He yapped and yawned again. Waving goodbye, I walked out of the small yard, to where Kym was perched on a lightpost.
"Let's go," I told him.
He squeaked and took flight again. Kym led me down streets and back alleys for more than fifteen minutes. The sun fell lower and lower, until it was just barely visible over the rooftops. Finally, we reached a little electronics store. Kym perched upside down on the doorframe and squeaked. I nodded and stepped in. The shop had cameras, vidscreens, and game consoles sitting on shelves and in cupboards. A little old man smiled at me from behind the counter.
"Can I help you with anything?" he asked.
"I'm here to pick up Himoka's order," I said, looking at some memory chips on the counter.
"Aaah yes," the old man wheezed. "Took me a while to track this one down."
I grunted. He went into the back room, and I had a closer look at the memory chips. They all looked a bit shoddy, but I didn't see anything inherently worrying. The old man walked back into the room, carrying a brown paper bag.
"Here it is," he said. "Is there anything else?"
"Nah, cheers," I replied as I left the shop.
Kym was still perched upside-down on the doorframe, licking his white claws.
"All right," I said to him, "let's go back to Himoka."
Kym squealed in delight. He led me down the street and into a back alley. I should have remembered that bad things tend to happen in alleys at night. Last time I was in one, I had been ambushed. I was about to be again.
As Kym glided along the alley, a large man stepped out of the shadows and attempted to grab him. Kym hissed and circled higher in the air.
"Hey, what are you doing?" I asked the man.
He looked at me with a surprised expression. He had blond hair and deep-sunk eyes, so deep I couldn't see the colour of his eyes. He wore jeans and a leather vest, but no shirt.
"Get out of here, shrimp," he rumbled. He picked up a stone and threw it at Kym, who easily cartwheeled out of the projectile's path.
"Stop it," I called out, walking closer to him.
The man firmly presented to me his middle finger, and he threw another rock at Kym, who dodged it again.
"I said stop it!" I yelled.
He turned on me.
"Make me," he hissed.
I ran towards him and threw a punch. As he grabbed my fist and swung me into a wall, I cursed my unconscious decision to leave my pistol behind. My back crashed into the stone wall, and I cried out in pain. He turned around to throw another stone at Kym, and so I kicked him on the inside of his knee.
I got up and grabbed his head, attempting to pull him to the ground, but he smashed me into the wall again, crushing me with his back. I let go of his head, and I slid down the wall, onto the ground. The man grabbed me by the neck and pushed me into the wall yet again.
Kym screeched and launched an x-shaped blast of pale green energy at the man. It struck his back, but he seemed not to notice it.
"Listen, shrimp," the man hissed, right in my face. "I've got plans for this Gligar, and you'd do good to not interfere."
I spat in his face.
Surprisingly, he chuckled. Unsurprisingly, he punched me viciously in the gut.
I dropped to all fours and coughed up some blood. The man stomped on my back, smashing me into the ground. I heard and felt one of my ribs crack. I howled in pain and my vision began to blur.
Kym launched another energy blast. This one hit the man on the back of his head. He grunted, and stumbled to the ground. Or so I thought.
In actuality, he had stooped to the ground to pick up a garbage bin lid. He then turned and launched it discus-style at Kym. The lid clipped Kym on one of his wings, and he fluttered to the ground.
The man chuckled.
Even as I tried to get up, my vision blurred more. I fell out of a state of consciousness.
And into a state of Flow.
Damage assessment: ribs cracked, stomach and neck bruising, unknown spinal damage.
Objective: Rescue Gligar - Kym.
Sub-objective: Defeat unknown adversary.
Now determining appropriate courses of action.
Executing best course of action.
I blinked away the stupor. Despite the recent fight, I felt calm. I felt surprised to find myself on my feet, staggering towards my attacker. I was also surprised to find a plan of action in my mind. The surprise was immediately washed away by the Flow.
The man was crouched over Kym, who was out cold on the ground. I continued to stagger closer. My mind focused, and the state of Flow faded. I wasn't worried though: I had seen the probabilities calculated, and I was confident in myself. I took one last step and swung a punch at at him.
"Aura Punch!" I yelled.
A shaft of blue light erupted from my shoulder and traveled down my arm, coating it in thrumming blue energy. The very second the blue light touched the tip of my knuckles, my knuckles made contact with the back of the guy's vest.
A blue explosion issued from my fist, causing my clothes to flap and my blazercoat to fan outwards. It did more to the man. He was propelled backwards into the wall behind him.
But the surprises didn't end there.
Instead of the man breaking, the wall did. The bricks directly behind him shattered, and those nearby were sent flying. The man groaned, and started to get up. He grabbed a part of the hole to steady himself.
A brick fell on his head, knocking him out.
I fell to my hand and knees, coughing up blood. I barely noticed the flash of blue light behind me. Gallade ran over to me as the blue light faded. He turned me onto my back and I coughed a little bit more.
I grinned up at Gallade.
"You're a freaking life saver," I said weakly, "twice in one day."
Gallade smiled back at me and held his hands over me, which were now glowing white. I felt the burning slash of pain that was my broken rib lessening. I heard a high-squeak, and I saw Kym glide over my head and land next to me.
"Are you okay?" I asked him.
He squeaked and began licking my cheek. I laughed and sat up.
Gallade frowned, but moved his glowing hands to my back. I coughed up a little more blood, and then tried to stand up.
"Allay," Gallade said disapprovingly.
"I'm fine," I waved him off. "I've gotta get Kym back to Himoka."
I stood up and wavered, but managed to stay up. Gallade sighed, but he stood up and put his head under my shoulder, supporting me. He motioned to Kym, who landed on my shoulder.
The blue flash surrounded me again, and I again passed through places I had never seen before at breakneck speed. A mountain temple, a desert, and a laboratory filled with bubbling tubes. The blue faded, and I found myself at Himoka's door.
I knocked, and Himoka opened the door almost immediately. She gasped.
"Look, it's not as bad as it looks," I cut her off.
"Oh my God oh my God oh my God," Himoka hyperventilated. "What happened?"
"Some dude tried running off with Kym," I replied. "I ran him off."
"God, it looks like he beat the crap out of you," Himoka said quietly through her hands.
I snorted. "You should see the other guy."
Himoka laughed, then reverted to her worrying face.
"Is there anything I can do for you?" she asked.
"Nah, I'm fine, I've got this legend keeping an eye on me," I said, indicating Gallade.
"Well, if you're sure," she said uncertainly.
We were interrupted by Smash, who jumped up at me.
"Hey there big man," I said, catching him under my arm.
He yapped at me, and voluntarily returned himself to his PokeBall.
"Oh yeah, here's your package," I said as I reached into my coat and handed it over.
"Oh, thanks so much," she said quietly.
"What's in there anyway?" I asked.
Himoka winked at me.
"Maybe I'll show you someday," she said playfully.
She then bobbed a little curtesy and closed the door. I immediately sunk into a world of sinful pleasures, imagining all the depraved things that could be in that brown bag.
"Lade?" Gallade asked me.
Hopefully, I thought.
"Number Eighteen," I replied.
Gallade helped me to my house, and even took me up the stairs.
"Cheers," I thanked him.
Gallade shook his head, as if to say No problem.
"I'll be at the training ground tomorrow morning," I said sleepily by way of farewell as I climbed into my bed.
Gallade nodded, and teleported out my room using that blue flash. I fell asleep almost instantly.
I was woken up by the morning sun as it streamed through my window. Besides feeling a little stiff, I felt fine. I changed clothes, grabbed a banana, and jogged to the training ground. Gallade was already there, repeatedly punching a dummy. He did it precisely, and each punch was the same.
"Hi," I greeted him.
Gallade nodded, and then returned to his workout.
"Aura Punch!" I called out loudly, striking the wood.
There was a thump, and I didn't feel any pain. I went to do so again, but Gallade stopped me. He showed me how he was doing it, rotating his fists slightly as he punched. this way it was easy to throw repeated punches, and a minimum of energy was wasted. I tried punching his way, and it certainly was less intensive than randomly flailing at the dummy. I punched at the dummy for close to an hour. Besides being tired and my knuckles being red, I didn't feel any different.
"I can totally do this," I chuckled to myself.
"Gallade," Gallade said, nodding emphatically.
"Hey, thanks for all your help," I said to him, looking at my shoes.
Gallade waved me off and returned to his punching. I grinned, and walked to the temple where I had last seen Bradley. Within three seconds of entering the temple, I was ushered into a courtyard where Bradley was waiting for me.
"Show me what you can do," he said simply, indicating a large tree stump with his head.
I walked over and laid into it, coating my fists with Aura so my fists didn't bleed. After fifteen minutes, one particularly solid punch smashed it into pieces.
"You have passed the first test," Bradley intoned. "You are welcomed as an Apprentice. You are now to call me Master."
I knelt in front of him. "I am honoured, Master," I said.
He pulled me up and shook my hand.
"Training doesn't stop here," Bradley told me. "Here are the next two techniques I wish you to practise: Aura Blade and Aura Wave."
He turned to another stump.
"For the Aura Blade, you simply use Aura to manifest a physical object in the shape of a sword," Bradley explained. He gripped an imaginary sword hilt in his right hand and moved his left hand upwards, as if polishing a blade. As his hand moved higher, blue sparks danced around and a blue shape roughly the shape of a sword phased into existence. Bradley finished the tip with a flourish, and cut the stump with a single slash. I raised my eyebrows, impressed. I recognised it as the move he had used back on the freighter. I wondered how he made the sword explode, but he didn't explain it to me. Apparently I wasn't ready to learn that yet.
"The Aura Wave is a bit more complicated," Bradley continued. "You create miniscule physical Aura particles and cause them to move quickly towards the target. If you do it right, the particle movement will cause a huge gust of wind."
He pushed his open palm at the bottom half of the stump. It immediately flew off its pedestal and through the air.
"I understand," I said.
"I hope you do," Bradley commented. "In sixteen days you must report back here for the Aura Guardian test."
"I'll be here, Master," I assured him.
He nodded, and waved me out. After I left, Bradley retreated into his private study. As was his tradition, it was darkened except for a single lamp over his desk. One of his Pokemon was waiting for him, standing in the shadows.
"Is he the one?" Bradley asked.
The Pokemon nodded.
"And you're sure you want to do this?"
The Pokemon nodded again.
Bradley did so as well.
"It's been an honour," he said heartfeltedly.
The Pokemon placed its fists together and bowed over them.
Bradley took a PokeBall out of his trenchcoat. He looked at it, turning it over and inspecting it. As he did so, blue energy gathered around it, humming and pulsating. When the ball was completely covered, Bradley closed his fist, compacting the ball into a tiny sphere of metal the size of a marble, destroying the PokeBall in the most efficient way imaginable.
Two Weeks Later
I woke up at the crack of dawn, like usual. I hated waking up this early but the test was tomorrow. I got dressed quietly and tiptoed past Smash, who was sleeping soundly on a beanbag I had procured. I made a couple pieces of toast and ate them while jogging to the training ground. I was not surprised to see Gallade: I wasn't sure he didn't train in his sleep.
I walked over to him and jerked my chin up by way of greeting. He did the same, and we walked over to the punching dummies together. We both punched at the dummies for a good half-hour, perfectly in sync. I only needed to use a thin layer of Aura now - I had built up a fair bit of protective callus around my knuckles. As we punched at our dummies, I flashed back over the previous fortnight. I had spent every morning training with Gallade, beginning with punching training like this morning. I had also been practicing the Aura Blade and the Aura Wave. I was much more proficient with the latter - most of the blades I created were more similar to clubs than sword.
On a different note, I had spent a bit more time with Himoka. She was a truly lovely girl, with an epic sense of humour and insane videogame skills. We had only hung out as friends, but I was hopeful.
I had also stumbled across Alex one night, and he'd dragged me to what he called a 'pub' to drink something called 'beer'. I didn't like the first one, but the subsequent ones hadn't tasted bad at all. Strangely, I couldn't remember much of that night - the only thing I could remember with any clarity past my third drink was Gallade dumping me in my bed and then locking the bedroom door from the outside as he left. I returned to the present just as Gallade and I shattered our dummies at the exact same time. We grinned at each other.
Then Gallade assumed his fighting stance and I sighed. Time for the painful part of this morning. Gallade ejected the blades from his elbows similar to the way cats unsheathe their claws.
I stilled my mind, and assumed the blade creation stance.
"Aura Blade!" I yelled as I moved my left hand upwards from my clenched fist. The blade phased into existence. It was by no means perfect, but the edges looked sharp.
And so Gallade and I sparred. He used an interesting, fluid style that didn't have much in the way of range, but it excelled when combined with his speed and the ability to retreat and extend his blades. He had tried to show me how to do so myself, but as I hadn't yet mastered the Aura Blade I couldn't use the forms that required the movement of the blades themselves.
I blocked, weaved around, and deflected Gallade's ever-present blades. He usually managed to get past my guard inside of ten or so strikes, but he never actually touched me with his blades. Once I had tried to go on the offense, but he dumped me on my behind and explained to me through pantomime that until I could defend, I wasn't to attack. I took the rebuke with grace.
Gallade threw a punch high and I slid low. The blade on his other arm slid low, and I parried it aside. I lifted my right foot and placed a solid kick on Gallade's stomach. The kick launched him backwards, but he remained on his feet. He grinned at me and nodded, and then launched a blue energy disc at me from his left blade.
Now I grinned. I wasn't the only one who had succeeded in his training. Gallade had gotten much more proficient at using the energy discs. But at long-range combat, I was his equal.
Even when I started practising the Aura Wave, I found that I was very proficient with it. I didn't need two arms, and most notably I didn't need to vocalize to concentrate.
The blue disc spun towards me, and I raised my arms. Just before it hit me I thrust my right arm downwards, sending the disc crashing into the ground. I then pushed my left arm towards Gallade, sending an invisible wave of force hurtling towards him.
He rolled to the left and launched three more discs, all of which I scattered into the air by picking them off before they got too close.
Gallade shot a beam of energy at me from both his hands. I spun my body, gathering potential energy, and then I shoved my arms towards Gallade. The wave shredded his beam attack and sent him flying.
He got up and we both bowed to each other from opposite sides of the training field.
"Hey, Smash, let's go for a swim!" I called two hours later.
Smash stumbled down the staircase and started yapping excitedly. I laughed and told him to calm down.
We jogged to the river, which was kept pure by the filters up in the canyons where it originated. Once we got there, Smash ran in and started splashing around, scaring off all the fish. I stripped down to my underwear and floundered in, trying to catch Smash. The sneaky little blighter was too fast and maneuverable for me to catch him, so I just spent the time floating on the water, listening to Smash terrorize the stream's inhabitants. I was enjoying simply floating in the slow-moving stream until Smash started gurgling threateningly.
I opened my eyes and I saw a large red fish Pokemon wearing an absurd yellow crown on its head circling me.
"Hi there," I greeted it.
It stared at me for a while, and then it headbutted me.
"What's up? You wanna battle?" I asked it.
It bobbed up and down in the water, emulating a nod.
"All right then, Smash, use Take Down!" I yelled as I swam away. As I swam away, I remembered that the Pokemon was of a species called Magikarp. Smash crash-tackled the Magikarp, who recoiled and then quickly swam away.
"It's fast!" I said in astonishment.
The Magikarp swam in a circle and returned Smash tackle, knocking him back.
"Another Take Down!" I called.
Smash drifted down to the bottom of the stream and kicked off it to increase his speed. He struck the Magikarp squarely, pushing it away. Instead of returning the blow, the Magikarp jumped out of the water and high into the air.
"Don't lose sight of it," I called to Smash as I pulled myself out of the stream.
Smash swam to the top of the water and watched the Magikarp carefully as it flew straight up in the air. The Magikarp reached the zenith of its jump, and it began plummeting towards Smash.
"Now it can't dodge, so use Hydro Pump to slow it down!" I ordered.
A huge jet of water erupted from Smash's mouth, striking the Magikarp and lowering its speed as it fell closer to him.
"Now, finish it with a Tail Whip!" I called.
Smash stopped shooting the jet and launched himself in the air. He started doing a somersault, and just as he passed the Magikarp he used the somersault to smash the Magikarp into the stream using his tail.
The Magikarp, falling with speed of its own incredible jump in addition to Smash's attack, crashed into the stream. After a moment, it bobbed to the surface, struggling weakly.
I pulled an empty Poke Ball out of my coat pocket and threw it at the Magikarp. It hit the weakly struggling fish, and as it did so it converted the Magikarp into a cloud of red light. The PokeBall absorbed the light and began shaking on the water's surface as the Magikarp fought the capture mechanism. I was only slightly surprised to find out that Pokeballs could float. After a couple moments, the ball stopped shaking and returned to my hand.
I grinned in delight.
"Great job Smash, our first capture!" I called out.
He climbed out of the river and started panting heavily.
"Oh, you must be tired after all that, have a rest," I exclaimed. I pulled Smash's PokeBall out of my coat and returned him before storing both balls in the special elbow pocket. Then it started to rain, and so I grabbed my clothes and ran for the cover of the trees.
Five hours later I was reclining in my armchair, listening to the pitter-patter of the rain outside while watching an old episode of Preen on the television. After I had put my clothes on and ran back to town, I had healed both of my Pokemon in the Pokemon Centre. Nurse Joy had informed me that my Magikarp was female, and so I christened her Slip, no adequate reason. It just felt right.
The rain continued pouring, no doubt creating massive puddles in the street. I sighed happily. Puddles weren't my problem - I planned to stay warm and dry in my house for the rest of the night. After all, tomorrow was my Aura-exam-thing, and I wanted to be well-rested and healthy for it.
My PDA buzzed unexpectedly on the low table in front of me. I picked it up and opened the new message. I immediately catapulted out of my chair, dropping my PDA on my bookcase and grabbing my pistol before running out the door. My PDA just sat there, flashing the message on its screen.
I ran down the street, ignoring the rain and puddles as they soaked me through. Thoughts raced through my head. What kind of trouble could Himoka possibly has gotten into?
I turned the corner and heard a scream. I doubled my running speed and I soon arrived in front of Himoka's house. She screamed again and I ran around the back, to the large rear garden. I was shocked to see a large man in a black raincoat attempting to drag her away while covering her mouth.
"Hey, asshole!" I yelled, drawing my gun and pointing it squarely at him. "Let go of her!"
The man looked up at me. My eyes widened in surprise. It was the man who had tried to abduct Kym. Even as I thought this, I saw Kym flying around the man, screeching and trying to bite him through his thick raincoat.
"Well well," he chuckled. "If it ain't the shrimp."
"Let go," I said, turning my gun's safety off with an ominous click.
The man laughed.
"Please," he sneered, "you're not gunna shoot me while I'm holding her."
I froze. The bastard was right. He then pulled a knife out of his pocket and held it to Himoka's throat. My heart dropped into my shoes.
"Drop the gun," he ordered.
I let it fall into the dirt with a splat. I winced inside as I realised I would need to clean it later.
"Right, we'll be leaving now," the man sneered. He started backing away, covering Himoka's mouth and brandishing that knife.
As he moved, I saw that there were some PokeBalls clipped to his jeans.
"You chickenshit!" I screamed in a masterful imitation of rage. "I beat the crap out of you last time, and my Pokemon could DESTROY yours!"
The man chuckled.
"Do you think so?" he asked.
"I do," I replied.
"A wager, then," he sneered. "If you win I'll let this sweet piece of ass go. If I win you turn your little shrimp ass around and piss off."
I looked straight at Himoka. She looked at me, and gave a little nod.
"I accept," I said.
"Three on three," the man declared.
He let go of Himoka.
"Stay there, girl," he growled at her.
She didn't move.
"I don't have three Pokemon!" I called.
The man grinned.
"I guess you're at a disadvantage then, aren't you?" he sneered.
Kym circled down and sat on my shoulder, screeching.
"You want to help?" I asked.
Kym nodded furiously.
"I am grateful," I told him softly.
The man pulled out a PokeBall and released a Geodude. The squat little Pokemon looked like a rock with two arms. I realized with a shock that the Pokemon I had seen dissected in the Zone 19 Military School had been a Geodude. I pulled out Smash's PokeBall and released him in a flash of red light.
"We've got to knock out this tool and rescue Himoka," I told him.
Smash yapped and then started gurgling ferociously.
"Geodude, Rock Throw," the man called.
"Water Gun," I said.
The Geodude picked up a clump of wet dirt and threw it at Smash. He shot it out of the air with a small blast of air. He then shot another at the Geodude, who was sent flying backwards.
"Get up and use Magnitude!" the man yelled.
"Water Gun again!" I ordered.
The Geodude rose into the air, using some kind of levitation. It then crashed down into the earth, sending a rolling wave of mud at Smash. Smash fired another blast of water at the incoming wall of mud. The water gouged out a hole in the incoming wave, and it clipped the Geodude, sending it spinning. Smash was hit by the wave, but he got up and shook most of it off.
"Rock Blast!" the man called.
"Finish this," I said coldly. "Hydro Pump."
The Geodude put his hands together, and a white light formed in-between them. Once it was rock-shaped, he launched it at Smash. It hit Smash in the side. He was thrown gasping into the mud. I looked over to the Geodude. He was already forming another rock.
"Get up!" I screamed.
Before Smash could move, a second glowing rock smacked into him, causing him to yelp in pain. The man chuckled, and the Geodude began forming another rock. Smash staggered to his feet and took aim at the Geodude.
He unleashed an epic torrent of water from his mouth.
It looked like a horizontal waterfall.
The fired the glowing rock, but it was too late. The glowing rock was pulverized by the water. The water then crashed into the Geodude, smashing him into the garden's stone fence.
"Your weak Pokemon can't beat us!" I taunted the man, who scowled as he returned the Geodude to its ball. "Smash fights best in the rain!"
Smash gurgled threateningly.
"It does give you an advantage," the man admitted, "but can your little water-beast beat a straight type advantage?"
He threw a PokeBall into the mud, which cracked open to reveal a green flower-like Pokemon called Roselia. It moved its hands gracefully - one was a blue flower, and one was a red one. I swore mentally. Smash was at a serious disadvantage against the Grass-typed Roselia.
"Trust in your power! Use Hydro Pump!" I ordered.
"Ingrain!" the man called.
Smash shot another waterfall at the Roselia, but it stuck its root-feet into the ground and it was not sent flying. I cursed mentally. It was like the battle back at Zone 29 was haunting me. Back then the Tangela Smash had battled used the same tactic - it had Ingrained itself into the ground to avoid being knocked over by Smash's water attacks. Well, if the battles were to be equated, I knew how to win.
"Smash! Get close and use Endeavour!" I called.
"Energy Ball," the man commanded.
Smash started running towards the Roselia. He floundered through the mud even as the Roselia created a glowing green ball between its flowers. When Smash was barely a metre from the Roselia, it fired the green ball at him. The ball smashed into his head and burst, making a goopy splatting sound. Smash was sent flying backwards by the force of the bubble. He landed in the mud and slid for a good four metres before coming to a stop.
"Smash! Get up!" I yelled.
He didn't move, and the man started chuckling. I remembered what Nurse Joy had said about PokeBalls: they delayed any injuries from causing major problems, rather like being placed in cryostasis.
Growling under my breath, I pulled out Smash's PokeBall and he returned in that red flash of light. I turned my head to look at Kym, who was still perched on my shoulder.
"You still up for this?" I asked him.
He squeaked confidently and launched himself from my shoulder. I grinned as I realised I had a huge advantage. Since the Roselia had stuck itself to one place, it couldn't dodge any attacks. And Kym would be able to dole them out freely without having to avoid the mud.
"Open with X-Scissor!" I called.
"Energy Ball," the man ordered.
Kym fired the pale green x-shaped blast I had seen him use in our last encounter with this man. The blast hit the Roselia, rocking it backwards. The Roselia responded with another green energy ball, but Kym easily dodged it.
"Keep firing!" I commanded. "As long as you stay long range and mobile, you can't lose!"
And so Kym kept firing X-Scissor attacks at the Roselia, and the Roselia's attacks all missed. However, Kym soon became tired and fatigued, and the Roselia didn't seem hurt at all.
"What gives?" I demanded of my opponent. "Your Roselia should be out by now!"
The man chuckled.
"Your lack of experience undermines you," he jeered. "Ingrain also allows Roselia to extract healing nutrients from the ground."
I swore out loud this time.
"Kym, we're gunna have to go in close! Dodge for as long as you can, then use U-Turn to retreat to safety!" I ordered.
Kym started swooping towards the Roselia, dodging the green Energy Balls. It swooped straight over the Roselia's head, slashing it with its tail-stinger as it did so. Roselia tried to fire an attack at Kym, but he quickly swooped back before the attack could be launched with any degree of accuracy.
"He knows Wing Attack!" Himoka yelled. The man turned and glared at her, but did nothing else.
My mind started whirring. Gligar normally didn't learn Wing Attack, but if Kym could utilize it the move could be a huge advantage.
"Another U-Turn!" I called, and Kym swooped towards Roselia.
"Magical Leaf!" the man responded.
The Roselia launched a flurry of glowing leaves at Kym. He easily jinked to left to avoid them, but after he did so the leaves turned in a wide arc and began following Kym.
"Hit it with Wing Attack on the way back!" I yelled, trying to maximize Kym's damage done before he got hurt by the leaves.
Kym struck the Roselia with his tail-stinger again, but instead of quickly swooping away he turned and smashed into Roselia with his right wing. The Roselia made a high-pitched keening sound and fell face-down into the mud. As it did so, however, the cloud of glowing leaves caught up with Kym, cutting him all over. Tiny scratches all over his body and wings were slowly oozing blood.
"Are you alright?" I asked him.
He nodded his head.
The man returned Roselia to its PokeBall and began laughing.
"I've saved my best for last!" he shouted, and he threw a Great Ball into the mud.
It cracked open, revealing a small, squat, black and red insect with green claws. It scuttled through the mud on its many legs. I recognised it as an Anorith, and I wasn't happy about it. It was a Rock/Bug type, so it resisted both of Kym's most powerful attacks.
"My Annzor is the strongest member of my team!" the man bragged. "Show them your strength with Rock Blast!"
"Stay long-range and use X-Scissor!" I called.
The Anorith fired small glowing rocks at the approximate rate of a bolt-action rifle. Kym was able to dodge them easily and still launch the pale green blasts, most of which hit Anorith.
"Now, stay careful and use U-Turn!" I ordered.
"Rock Slide!" the man shouted.
As Kym glided towards the Anorith, a wave of rocks emerged from the mud and swooped towards Kym. He jinked underneath it and hit the Anorith firmly on its head.
"Now, Poison Sting!" I yelled.
"Continue the Rock Slide," the man also yelled, looking a bit agitated.
Kym started circling around the Anorith, strafing it with little white needles that he launched from his stinger. The Anorith continued swinging the floating rocks around, but he couldn't hit Kym.
"Your Pokemon may be strong, but it sure can't hit anything!" I taunted the man.
"Show this fool your power!" the man yelled. "Use Water Gun!"
"What?!" I exclaimed.
The heavy rocks thudded into the ground, and the Anorith started emitting a large fountain of water from its tiny mouth. The fountain crashed in Kym, sending him spinning into the ground.
"Kym, you're weak to that!" I yelled. "Get up!"
But the fountain of water kept him pinned down. He floundered in the mud, trying to crawl away, but the water was too strong.
"I'm switching him out!" I screamed desperately.
The fountain of water stopped. The man looked at Himoka and jerked his chin at the barely-concious Kym.
"Pick that up," he growled.
Himoka darted out and picked Kym up before retreating back to the man's side, cradling Kym in her arms.
"Is he okay?" I yelled over.
Himoka looked at me and nodded.
"Hurry up and send your last failure," the man sneered.
I pulled out Slip's PokeBall. I had hoped I wouldn't need her.
"What are you waiting for?" the man shouted.
I threw the PokeBall into the mud, and with a burst of red light, Slip was summoned. She flopped around in the mud, looking like an idiot. The man laughed uproariously.
"This is what you field against me?" he asked incredulously. "A freaking Magikarp?"
I said nothing. I tried to think of a backup plan, but I had none.
"Use Splash!" I called.
"Use Crush Claw," the man smirked.
The Anorith crawled through the mud on it's many legs. When it got close, Slip started thrashing violently, sending mud flying everywhere. Some of it hit the Anorith, but it charged forward anyway and it punched Slip. With its claw.
"Slip, you need to get away! Use Bounce!" I called desperately.
"Use Swords Dance," the man said while smiling evilly.
Slip smashed her tail into the ground, flipping high into the air. While Slip was performing her aerial acrobatics, the Anorith was waving its claws and legs around in an extremely provocative dance.
"When it comes down, hit it with a Metal Claw!" the man boomed.
Slip continued to flip, and as she came down she stopped spinning so that all the potential energy was gathered into her tail. She pounded the Anorith right in the middle of its body, sending it through the mud. The Anorith was ready for this, however, and so it used its glowing claws as a baseball bat, hitting Slip even as it was forced downwards. Slip went flying and landed in the mud. After a brief, heart-pounding second, she started flopping around again.
"Finish it with another Crush Claw," the man commanded.
I waited as the Anorith crawled closer. It scuttled through the mud as well as any amphibious creature. When it was but a few metres from Slip, I gave my order.
"Flail!" I yelled.
Just as the Anorith crawled within striking distance, Slip spun to the right, smashing the Anorith with her tail. The Anorith was sent flying into the wall of Himoka's house. It left a small dent as it fell into the mud with a plop.
It did not move.
"Ha!" I yelled. "I won! Now you have to let her go!"
"I do," the man agreed.
Himoka ran across to me, gingerly carrying Kym.
"There was no rule saying I couldn't take her straight back, though," the man sneered returning his Anorith to its Great Ball.
"How are you going to do that?" I sneered right back, grabbing Himoka and pulling her behind me.
"Well," the man smiled, "your gun is covered with mud. I'd easily be able to run across and stab you before you can find it and aim it at me. I won't fall prey to whatever trick you used last time we met. And the only Pokemon you have left is that pathetic Magikarp."
And that was when the pathetic Magikarp started to glow.
Slip glowed pure white, the light cutting through the rain. The light moved, changing from a fish shape to a huge serpent shape, the tail curling around Himoka's house. When the light dimmed, it revealed Slip's new form. She was now a huge sea blue sea serpent, with a three-pronged crown and a yellow underbelly. She also had white fins along her body and her open mouth was the size of a hovertruck. She roared at the man. Astonishingly, considering Slip was a water creature, I saw blue flames flickering in the back of her throat.
"I just thought of how I can get rid of you," I said thoughtfully.
The man's knife slipped from his hand, and he ran. He cleared the rear garden fence in a single jump and kept running, gibbering in fear as he did so. I looked down at Himoka.
"Are you okay?" I asked.
She cried a little, but she nodded too.
"What was with that guy?" I asked.
Himoka stopped crying and wiped her eyes.
"He's my ex-boyfriend," she replied.
I chose to say nothing. Himoka pulled a PokeBall out of her pocket and returned Kym.
"Will he be alright?" I asked, genuinely concerned.
"Yeah," Himoka smiled. "My brother has a whole stash of healing potions."
"Oh, okay," I replied. I reached down into the mud and scrabbled around in it a bit before finding my pistol. Wincing a little bit, I rammed it into its holster. Slip roared again, clearly very happy with her evolved form.
"Show off," I grumbled, returning her.
Himoka laughed, then smiled up at me.
"Would you like to come in for a bit?" she offered.
"Thanks, but I gotta get Smash to the Centre, and I got something important to do tomorrow morning," I declined. "Some other time."
"Oh," Himoka replied dejectedly. "Well, see you some other time."
"Sure," I said, turning to leave.
But Himoka caught my arm.
"Thank you," she whispered in my ear.
She then kissed my cheek and ran inside.
I grinned the whole way to the Pokemon Centre.
I woke the next morning feeling refreshed.
Smash and Slip had both been healed at the Pokemon Centre, and I'd come straight home after that. I cleaned my pistol while watching an episode of Preen, and then I went to bed. Smash had chosen to sleep in his PokeBall, which was becoming a more common occurrence. I chose to believe that the Pokemon was in some kind of interdimensional hotel when it was stored in its ball.
I had a shower and a large breakfast consisting of toast, yoghurt and potatoes. I decided to leave my gun behind - I had a strange feeling that most of the people I would be tested by had aversions to firearms. I dressed in my usual trousers, shirt and blazercoat, and I grabbed my PDA and PokeBalls on the way out.
I passed the training ground on the way to the temple, but Gallade wasn't there, which surprised me immensely. I didn't have time to dwell on this, as I didn't know what time I was supposed to present myself and so I had resolved to simply wait there until I was summoned.
I arrived at the temple, and sat cross-legged on a pallet in the waiting room. This room was decorated in the same way as the rest of the temple - the walls were made up of decorated wall panels, depicting anything and everything. The ones near me showed a Magikarp avoiding a net, a flower uncurling, and a ruined tower sticking up in the middle of a barren desert. The roof was decorated in the same way, and plain wooden beams were used to keep the roof up in lieu of a ceiling. The floor was also simple wood, with cushioned pallets laid around the edges of the room. I sat patiently on my pallet, reviewing my mental states and how I felt when performing the three Aura forms I knew. I realised that I didn't even know what the test entailed. I could be performing the moves. I could be dueling with an actual Aura Guardian.
As I started imagining more and more impossible feats, the door to the back swung open. Bradley was standing in it. I bowed while sitting down, which was harder than it sounds.
"We are ready for your test," he told me.
I stood and followed him through the door. He led me through the temple and out a back door where a large hovercraft was waiting. It looked like it was powerful enough to break the flight taboo. The flight taboo was an unofficial law in all zones that state the creation of vehicles that fly high above the ground is illegal. There is no reason given, and the rule isn't enforced, but no one would build a high-flying vehicle anyway - everyone knew instinctively that the sky was a place to stay away from.
Bradley climbed into the pilot seat and I got into the back. There were three other Aura Guardians in the back already, wearing long black robes with the hoods up. I inclined my head respectfully, but they didn't move at all.
The engine of the hovercraft whined and the whole thing shuddered a little as it took off into the air. I looked out a slit-shaped window, watching as the temple, and the whole Camp, shrunk. To my relief, we didn't fly too high. We simply skimmed over the top of the trees. I watched as we passed lakes and rivers and even occasional buildings on our journey. Soon, the hovercraft started decreasing in altitude. Because of the thinness of the window, I couldn't see where we were.
The hovercraft shuddered as it made contact with the ground. The door opened, and I stepped out, shielding my eyes from the sun. We were up against the edge of the canyon. The hovercraft had been parked on a ledge that was above the forest, and yet below the dangerous radioactive skies above. Bradley stood in front of me, and the three robed men formed a semi-circle behind me.
"And thus, a potential stands before the Test," Bradley intoned.
"Let us witness," the robed men replied.
"For one to be a protector, he must be stronger than those he protects," Bradley continued.
"This we know," the men replied.
"If you have any minions, let them watch your trial and derive their loyalty from the results," Bradley moved his hand to indicate an empty part of the plateau.
Correctly understanding, I pulled out Smash's and Slip's PokeBalls, and released them in the area Bradley had indicated. Smash looked like he wanted to run over and greet me, but I shook my head slightly, mentally telling him to stay where he was. He sat down on his haunches and yapped questioningly. Slip, however, curled up and made a contented gurgling sound, obviously enjoying the sun.
Just as I turned back to look at Bradley, there was a bright blue flash. I was astonished to see Gallade appear next to Smash. He looked at me, jerked his chin up in the way we greeted each other, and sat down cross-legged. I couldn't suppress a small smile. Apparently my impact on Gallade was greater than I thought.
"They have gathered," the robed men intoned.
"And so the trial commences," Bradley announced.
He led me to the edge of the cliff.
"The trial is quite simple," he explained to me as we walked. "We're actually standing on top of an elaborate cave system. All you have to do is climb down to the opening and defeat whatever comes out to challenge you."
My jaw dropped. Bradley saw this and smiled.
"Don't worry," he placated me. "It's usually just a Geodude or a Machop."
I gulped, feeling no better. We reached the edge of the plateau. The forest floor was maybe twenty metres down.
"So how do I get down there?" I asked Bradley.
"This is part of the test, so I can't tell you," Bradley replied.
I turned around to look at everyone else, who had moved closer to watch. Gallade made a little pushing motion with both of his hands.
I thought about it. It wasn't the safest plan, but it relied on my greatest strength. I jumped off the edge of the cliff, falling towards the forest floor.
I rotated my body so that I was falling parallel to the ground. When I was about five metres from the ground, I thrust my hands downward and yelled "Aura Wave!"
The blast of wind hit the ground, and finding nowhere else to go, began rising back up. It acted as a cushion, slowing my fall. Not enough though.
I hit the ground hard. And it hurt.
I made the mistake of swearing very loudly. The swear echoed throughout the canyon, bouncing off walls and no doubt reaching the observers higher above. I wasn't sure, but I thought I heard a chuckle.
I got up and dusted myself off. I was pleased to find that nothing was broken. After that was done, I walked over and stood in front of the cave opening. It was huge, large enough for three of the hovercraft to fly through at once.
I soon heard thudding sounds. Strangely deep thudding sounds. I realised with a start that they were footsteps. As the creature moved forwards, I was just able to make out a large shape moving in the cave. It was WAY bigger than a Geodude. It moved into the sunshine, and I almost swore again. It was the Rhyhorn from before.
It looked at me and snorted, as if amused.
I bent my knees slightly, getting ready for what was to come. And then I firmly gave the Rhyhorn the finger. Instinctively it realised it was being insulted, and so it roared and charged. It whipped its head around, waving that deadly horn. I was ready, however, and when it reached charging speed I rolled to the side. Just like last time, I could feel the air move as it sped past me.
I took the sword creation stance.
"Aura Blade!" I said loudly, moving my left hand upwards.
My Aura sparked and flashed as it took on a sword form. The sword was a little too thick, and there was a bulge in the middle of the blade, but it would have to do. The Rhyhorn charged again, but this time I stood my ground.
Just when the horn was about to pierce me, I whipped my sword to the left, deflecting it and sending the Rhyhorn charging straight past me. As it did so, I quickly stabbed the Rhyhorn in its side. The Rhyhorn roared as the momentum of its charge made the sword dig deeper into it's armour. It jerked itself to the left, pulling the sword out. My glowing blue sword dripped blood onto the ground, but surprisingly little. The armour was even thicker than I thought.
The Rhyhorn bellowed at me, and charged yet again. I waited for it to lock its direction and increase its speed.
But it didn't.
I realised my mistake. This Rhyhorn wasn't a dumb animal: like me, it had a battle plan which it could change and adapt, and since charging meant getting stabbed in the side, charging was no longer an option. In addition to this revelation, I realised I couldn't run, either. If I turned, it would start charging and I might not be able to deflect its horn in time.
And so I stood there, holding my blade in both hands, pointing the flat at the approaching Rhyhorn. It tried to stab me with its horn, but I blocked it with the flat of my blade. Which promptly shattered.
This caused a small explosion of force, sending me flying backwards towards the cave. The Rhyhorn was pushed back a little too, but it remained on his feet, and now that my sword was destroyed, it could charge again.
I got to my feet as it started charging. I couldn't use the Aura Blade again - there was too little time, and even if there was sufficient time I'd be under so much pressure I probably wouldn't turn out a useable sword. As it approached, I rolled to the side and hit it with an Aura Punch. It did no noticeable damage.
It skidded to a stop, then charged again. Obviously it felt that there was no need to resort to any other moves. I placed my feet firmly in the ground, and placed my hands near my chest. I reached for my Aura, getting ready to push out an Aura Wave. My hands twitched, and I knew I was ready.
"Aura Wave!" I yelled, shoving my hands at the Rhyhorn.
It was picked up off its feet and smashed into the side of the cliff, twenty metres away. It fell to the ground, and landed on its knees. It started coughing up blood. Like usual, my Aura Wave was excellent, but the damage was done by cliff wall, not by the Wave itself. I needed to find a way to smash it against the wall again.
But again, the Rhyhorn showed remarkable intelligence. Instead of charging at me, it slowly plodded around me, putting me in-between the wall and itself. While it was doing so, rocks emerged from the ground and flew at me. I smashed them into pieces using Aura Punches.
I cursed mentally. Aura Waves on it from here would do little damage, and they'd tire me out. I needed another way to launch it at the wall. The Rhyhorn coughed up one last batch of blood, and then charged at me. I ran towards the cave, trying to buy time. I looked through my repertoire.
Aura Punch - useless. Does no damage to the Rhyhorn and trying to collapse the cave could kill me.
Aura Blade - takes too long to create, and is risky anyway.
Aura Wave - tiring, and I'm not placed well to use it.
The last part sparked an idea in my brain. I stopped running ten metres from the cliff wall. I took my Aura Wave stance, and stared at the Rhyhorn as it approached rapidly. When it was close enough, I pushed the Aura out and yelled "Aura Wave!"
But I didn't aim the current at the Rhyhorn. I pulled the current out of my chest, like usual, but instead of sending it straight out I bent it up and over me. It was the hardest thing I'd ever done. It was like lifting a mountain. My back and legs both screamed out in pain, and my mind kept reminding me that I could easily be gored by the Rhyhorn. But I did it. I fell to my knees, panting heavily, facing the same way as the Rhyhorn. I could do nothing but stare into the Rhyhorn's eyes as it approached me.The Rhyhorn became even more enraged by this, and sensing that I couldn't move it increased its speed to its limit. Which was a mistake.
It hit my still-moving Aura Wave, and it was like the Rhyhorn ran up a ramp. It flew straight over me, one of its feet tapping my shoulder. The Aura Wave carried it over and up, still at its charging speed. It smashed into the cliff wall, leaving a massive vertical crater twenty metres above the ground. It then fell, and left a similar crater in the earth.
It did not move.
I stayed where I was, panting heavily. Suddenly, Bradley was beside me.
"Your test is not yet over," he informed me.
"What?!" I exploded. Then I started coughing heavily.
"In order to be a true Aura Guardian, you must now catch the Rhyhorn," Bradley explained. "If it accepts you as its master, it will not resist the capture mechanism of a PokeBall."
Weakly, I approached the Rhyhorn. Its sides heaved, and it looked at me through its scarred eye. Blood was pooling underneath it, probably from the cut I made. Without saying a word, I pressed an empty PokeBall against its armor plating. It was converted into red light, and sucked inside.