Champion Game [M]
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May 6th, 2011 (8:18 PM). Edited May 13th, 2011 by Misheard Whisper.
Waiting for the rain
Doctor Drakken's lair
Glad you liked the dream sequence, Bay. I'm sure you didn't think it was just a throwaway statement, though. XP
and yes d'aww Bella and Ren
Y Ahora, Algo un Poco Mágico
“Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Steven Stone and Ren Goodwin!” Richard exclaimed, flinging his arm out dramatically towards where Ren and Steven were standing. Ren froze for a moment, until Steven elbowed him and the pair made their way onto the stage. The noise of the crowd somehow overwhelmingly loud despite its relatively small size, Ren stumbled and almost fell on the hastily cobbled-together steps up to the temporary stage. Richard welcomed them with a smile as they sat down in the enormous red chairs; Steven subtly pushed Ren towards the one closest to Richard.
“Well, this doesn't happen often!” Richard said, laughing. “Two Champions at the same time! On
show? Wahoo! Two for the price of one!”
Ren smiled despite himself. Maybe . . . just maybe, this wouldn't be so hard after all.
“Alright, alright,” Richard said, quieting the crowd with a wave. “Can't hear myself think! Now, Steven Stone is the man everyone knows, so you get away with just a brief introduction. Until recently, Champion of the Hoenn League. Twenty-six years old, born and raised here in Rustboro. Likes Steel-type Pokemon, chocolate brownies, precious stones and taking long walks on the beach near Petalburg. Sound about right?”
“I don't know where you get the part about the beach from, Richard, but the rest is right enough.”
“Eh, I just made it up. But we'll get back to you in a minute, Stevie boy. Right now, Hoenn is buzzing about this young man right here! Ren Goodwin, everybody!” The audience applauded again, and Ren resisted the urge to fiddle with the microphone on his collar. He had had his hair dealt with before the show, but he was still dressed in the same jeans and T-shirt.
Game face on
, he told himself.
“So, an easy one to start with. How old are you, Ren?”
“I'm . . . fourteen.”
“Fourteen! That's seriously impressive, my man. That's almost record-breaking stuff, right there. The youngest Hoenn League Champion ever was thirteen, if I recall rightly, but that was decades ago! You're the man of the moment right now, Ren. So tell me . . . how does it feel? Has it sunk in yet?”
Ren winced inwardly. So much for starting it out easy – Richard had thrown him a curveball right off the bat. “I think . . . it's sunk in as much as it's going to, Richard,” he said. “I've had a few days to settle into it, and . . . although I'm still not quite sure whether it's a dream or not, I feel pretty good right about now.” He was answering on autopilot, he realised as the audience laughed. He was saying what they wanted to hear, even if it was more or less true.
“Well, that's fantastic! I'd be pretty stoked myself if I beat the Champion, so I'd be surprised if you weren't. Good to see it's not gone to your head, though. Folks, I've had the opportunity to chat with Ren for a few minutes before the show, and I can tell ya, he's a real genuine kid. Awesome guy. Where ya from, Ren?”
“I grew up in Slateport, but I was born in Unova,” Ren said. “We moved when I was just a few months old.”
“Any particular reason?” Richard asked.
“Ah . . . for Dad's work. He's a lawyer, so he could have made it anywhere, but he decided we should move to Hoenn. I don't know too much about it, to be honest. It doesn't really come up in conversation.” The discussion was straying into dangerous territory, and Ren made an effort to steer it back on course. “Slateport is all I've ever known, so I consider it home.”
“Good to hear, kid! We love a Champion with some regional loyalty, don't we, folks? In any case . . . Steven! Your turn!” He made a gun with his fingers and fired at Steven dramatically. Playing it up, Steven clutched his chest and fell back in his chair with a groan. Ren tried not to laugh at the normally stoic Steven as Richard faked panic and concern. “Oh, damn it, I've gone and killed our ex-Champion! Don't arrest me, don't arrest me!” The audience loved it, although for Ren, the humour was starting to wear off already.
“I'm fine, Richard,” Steven said, sitting back up and adjusting his collar. “What was your question? I'd say 'fire away', but at the risk of incurring more projectiles . . .”
“What everybody wants to know, Steven Stone. The battle! How did it feel to lose the title you've held for six whole years? We all watched it on TV, but we want to know what was going on inside your head.”
“To tell the truth, Richard . . . I don't mind so much. In all my time as Champion, my greatest fear – probably my only fear – was that I would lose to a challenger who was unworthy of the title of Champion, but that's a non-issue with Ren. I feel comfortable handing my title over to him.”
“Uh-huh. But tell me, Steven – what now? What do you think you'll be doing with yourself now that you're no longer the Champion?” Ren thought he saw Steven's jaw tighten, but it was no more than a momentary impression.
“I'm . . . not so sure, actually,” Steven said quietly. “Now I'll have some free time to work on my research into Hoenn's geology. But in terms of long-term plans . . . nothing, really.”
“Ooh, do I detect a hint of uncertainty in the man of steel?” Richard teased. “Ladies and gentlemen, Steven Stone!” The audience applauded again, just as Ren felt himself beginning to numb to the constant noise.
“Before we finish up, though, I want to ask a couple more questions. Firstly, one for Ren – what lies ahead for you? Steven's taking a break to work on his rock collection, but what do you think you'll be doing?”
“I . . . don't know either,” Ren said. “I'm still not entirely sure what a Champion has to do, so I'll be looking to Steven for help on that one.”
“Well, our previous Champion has plenty of experience, so I'm sure you'll be fine. You know, it's uncommon for a Champion to last more than a couple of years, especially one who specialises in a single type. The longest-serving Champion currently active is the Sinnoh region's Cynthia, who has held the title for eight years. And that brings me to my next question. Back to Steven for a moment – it's not unheard of for toppled Champions to seek a new title in other regions. Do you think that's something you could do?”
“It certainly sounds plausible,” Steven admitted. “I'd have to collect a whole new set of Gym badges, though.”
“Oh, come on, it couldn't be that hard! You made it all the way through the Hoenn League, and I don't imagine you were just chilling out all that time you were Champion. You're still one of the toughest trainers in the Hoenn region!”
“That may be so, Richard, but I feel my competitive days are behind me. I'll make sure to keep battling, though. That's one thing I'm sure of. I don't think I'll be retiring any time soon.”
Richard laughed along with the audience. “Well, that's good to hear, Steven, my man. Now, we're almost out of time, but before we go – Ren! Tell me . . . do you have some sort of secret to your victory? A motto or some advice you can share with us? Hoenn's buzzin'!”
Ren thought about it for a moment. He almost considered using Steven's plant metaphor, but realised it would be too risky. Also, he didn't quite remember all of it, so he'd be likely to make a fool of himself if he tried to recite it. “Not as such. Just . . . I know it's been said a thousand times, but that's probably because it's true: if you keep trying and refuse to back down, you'll get where you're going in the end.”
“All right! There you have it, ladies and gentlemen! Steven Stone and Ren Goodwin, our Champions old and new. I can hear Hoenn buzzin'! Till next time, folks!”
The audience rose to its feet in applause one last time, and Ren waited until the producer gave the all-clear signal before he collapsed back into the voluminous depths of his squashy red chair, his heart racing. Somehow, it seemed, he had managed to hold off the panic throughout the show. It had been over faster than he expected, but nonetheless, he was exhausted.
“Good stuff, kid!” Richard crowed as he practically leapt out from behind his desk to shake Ren by the hand. “Nice job for a first time on the show! Ever been on TV before?”
Ren shook his head blankly, suddenly incapable of speech. The audience was beginning to filter off in different directions, leaving behind only a block of white plastic chairs that some of the stage hands were already stacking up and loading into a truck that Ren hadn't seen before. The cameras were being folded up and packed into the van that was parked next to Steven's limousine.
“Well, you did fine, Ren,” Steven said. “Good job.”
“Thanks. Just don't spring something like that on me again.”
“Oh, it'll happen,” Steven said wryly. “You're a popular young man, now. Richard,” he said, turning to address the big man. “A pleasure being on the show as always.”
“Ah, we'll get you back sometime soon, Stevie boy. Milk it for all it's worth. Sorry it was such a short segment tonight. We already had Bella booked in, and we weren't able to reschedule at such short notice. She graciously agreed to take a fifteen-minute slot instead of the full half-hour, and it was too good of an opportunity to miss. Oh, damn it,” he muttered suddenly, looking at his watch. “I have to run. Sorry, guys! Nice to have you on the show!” He dashed off without waiting for a reply.
“Well, that's that, then,” Steven said. Ren noticed that he seemed to have returned to his quiet, serious demeanour of earlier. “Shall we go?”
“I suppose so,” Ren said. “Hey, where's Bella?”
“I'm pretty sure she had to leave early, too,” Steven said. “Celebrities are busy people, aren't they?”
“Yeah,” Ren agreed. “Tonight was . . . pretty hectic.”
“You did do well, Ren,” Steven said suddenly as they started off toward the car. “I wasn't just saying that for Richard's benefit. I was a little afraid at one point that you were going to freak out on me, but you handled it well for your first time. And in fact, it was probably good that we got a short slot. Warm you up to it a bit at a time, and so on.”
“I'm . . . going to have to get used to this after all, aren't I?” Ren said.
Steven nodded regretfully. “I'm sorry, but you are. But the sooner you accept that, the sooner you're going to grow accustomed to it.”
“Oh, I've accepted it,” Ren said unenthusiastically as he climbed into Steven's limousine. “I just don't like it.”
“That's the spirit.”
After they drove back to Devon Corp and picked up Natasha, Steven made arrangements for the two of them to be accommodated at a hotel owned by the corporation. He wanted to put them in the fanciest five-star establishment in town, but Ren declined politely, preferring slightly less ostentatious accommodation. He had, after all, spent the last five years sleeping under the stars and in Pokemon Centers.
So as a result, he found himself tucking Natasha into a single bed at the Sundown Hotel before dropping into his own, fully clothed. His cousin had retained her unusual quietness from earlier, dropping off to sleep with barely a word after a quick dinner at the hotel's café bar. It was slightly unnerving, to say the least, but, he reasoned, he should deal with it in the morning. Right at that moment, he was too tired to even see what his hotel room looked like. As he felt sleep begin to claim him, he remembered what Steven had been telling him about earlier. He hadn't exactly forgotten, but it had certainly taken a back seat to the pressure of the evening. Sighing deeply, Ren closed his eyes, slightly apprehensive, but at the same time extremely curious.
The Glameow is back. That horrid creature, with its bushy black head of hair, struts along in front of him with a swing in its step, its tail flicking from side to side. Ren doesn't know why, but he follows it again, through the maze of oversized confectionery.
Through the gaps in the walls of candy, he thinks he glimpses a familiar face, but he blinks and it is gone. All that remains is the little blue Pokemon and its curly tail, mewing innocently as it looks back to check he is following. Ren continues pursuing it, even though he knows it will only turn on him before they reach the exit of the maze.
Abruptly, the Glameow makes a sharp left turn, its afro bobbing. The passages are narrower now, and Ren struggles to keep up with the Pokemon. He turns sideways and shuffles through a gap, only to find that the Glameow has disappeared.
Suddenly alert, he glances all around him, searching for the foul creature, but it is nowhere to be seen. He backs up against a lollipop for support, but his hair sticks to the gooey, sugary confection and he finds himself unable to move.
A yowl and a hiss above him. Ren wrenches his head upwards as far as possible and sees Afro Glameow leaping towards him, little fangs bared and claws out. Time slows down as the world goes dark. The giant sweets disappear, leaving only the sticky feeling on the back of Ren's head. Everything is black. There is no floor, no walls, no sky. Only Ren, and Afro Glameow.
Struggling against the sticky substance holding him in place, Ren feels it give slightly. Gritting his teeth and bracing himself, he yanks his head forward, collapsing to the ground and hissing in pain as some of his hair is yanked out. There is no time to spare though, as he rolls and stands up again, watching Afro Glameow miss its target and land comfortably on all four paws.
Afro Glameow stretches luxuriously, as if it has all the time in the world. It turns to Ren slowly, seeming to grin as it shows its tiny, razor-sharp fangs again. Ren reflexively lifts his hands in front of his face to protect himself as it lunges towards him.
A flash of light, and Afro Glameow screeches and disappears. Wincing, Ren looks around for the source of the light, and finds it shining from a square opening above him. A hand reaches out from the opening. Awed, Ren reaches out and takes the hand. He feels himself being pulled . . .
“Whoa.” Ren found himself in another dark place. Unlike the candy maze, however, there was some faint light seeping in under the curtains.
Wait . . . curtains?
Ren sat up and glanced around. From what he could see, he was back in his hotel room. “Did I . . . wake up?” he whispered.
“Nope,” said a cheerful voice from the end of his bed. “You're still dreaming.”
Ren jumped, his heart hammering. “Who the hell-” Fumbling around in the dark, he found the light switch next to his bed and turned it on. There was a girl sitting casually on his bed. She was dressed in black leather that looked extremely tight, adorned with silver buckles and clips at seemingly random intervals. Her hair was black and straight, cut neatly a little shorter than shoulder-length. She seemed to be about his age, with slim, elfin features and an amused grin. “What are you doing in my hotel room?” he asked.
“This isn't your hotel room, Ren,” the girl said. “You're still asleep.”
“It sure looks like my hotel room,” he said, taking another look around. There was the TV, the kitchen, the ensuite bathroom, the other bed, neatly made and clearly not slept in.
“Where's Natasha?” he demanded. His cousin was nowhere to be seen.
“Who?” The girl's smile slipped slightly.
“My cousin! She was in the other bed. What have you done with her? And damn it, what are you doing in my room?”
The girl frowned, and Ren thought he felt a shadow fall over the room. “I thought Steven was going to tell you about this so you didn't freak out on me. Don't tell me he just gave you the Dreamlight without explaining anything.”
Suddenly, Ren remembered what he had been expecting when he fell asleep. “So . . . I am dreaming, after all?”
“It feels . . . awfully real. I don't
The girl rolled her eyes. “You want proof? Fine. Here.” She snapped her fingers, and Ren's hotel room melted away into a milieu of liquid colour. When the scene resolved itself once more, she was sitting behind Richard Andrews' desk on the temporary stage that had been set up in the park. Ren found himself back in the same red chair he had been in before, but there was no Steven Stone next to him, no audience in front of him. Just him, and the girl.
Another snap, and suddenly Ren was back in his room at home, sitting on his bed while the girl peered out the window curiously. “Hmm. Nice view, here. This your house?”
Ren nodded speechlessly. The girl gave an appreciative murmur and snapped her fingers again. He was standing in the arena at Ever Grande City, in the same place he had stood when he challenged Steven to become League Champion. A heavy wind blew through the stadium, kicking up a dust cloud, just as it had three days ago during the battle. The girl was standing in Steven's box at the other end of the field. When she spoke, though, he could hear her voice as clearly as if she were right in front of him. “I see your memories, Ren. I can pass through your mind at will and see what you have seen, recreating it effortlessly.”
“That's . . . kind of weird,” he said.
“Weird? No.” Suddenly, the girl was standing next to him again. “This is the power of dreams.”
“I don't understand.” He didn't. He didn't understand anything. What Steven had said was making less sense now, not more. “Who are you? Where is this, really?”
“It's as you see it,” the girl said, the barest hint of a laugh in her voice. “We're in Ever Grande City, at the Pokemon League. It's just as you remember it, isn't it?”
“Not exactly. I remember there being a lot more people,” Ren said.
“They're not here because we're not in their dream. We're in yours, and so you are the only person allowed in here.”
“If that's the case, how did you get in here? Which brings me back to my other question – who are you?”
“I said you were the only
allowed in here. I'm not a person, so I'm exempt from that.”
“Then what are you?”
“I'm a spirit,” the girl said, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.
“What, like a ghost?” Ren asked blankly. “Did you die?”
“Not as such. More to the point, I never existed in the first place. Not in your world, at least. I came into existence here, in the world of dreams. My purpose is . . . to protect this world, and yours. And now, that's your purpose, too.”
“I . . . don't understand.”
The girl sighed. “I had a feeling you'd say that.”
And this, folks, is where stuff starts to get real. This is starting to become what I envisioned when I first dreamt this fic up.
is what Champion Game is all about. Also, next chapter it starts to earn its M-rating.
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