Champion Game [M]
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May 13th, 2011 (5:29 PM). Edited December 5th, 2011 by Misheard Whisper.
Waiting for the rain
Doctor Drakken's lair
Thanks, Markus! I'm glad you're enjoying reading this as much as I am writing it. In any case, this is the next chapter for you guys. The title means 'Great Power of a Certain Kind', and it's where it starts to get a little heavier. Of course, it's still nothing really serious, but it's heading that way. Have fun!
Gran Poder de Cierto Tipo
“This had better be quick,” the girl said. “We don't have much time. What do you want to know?”
“To start with – what's your name?”
“Darkstorm. Elly Darkstorm. But never mind that. What do you need to know about what's happening right now?”
“Uh . . . everything?” Ren said. “I'm afraid I'm completely clueless as to what's going on.”
“I see. What did Steven tell you?”
“Only that becoming the Champion has something to do with having a large amount of spiritual power or something.”
“Ha! Spiritual power? It sounds so awkward when you say it like that, but it's essentially correct. In my native language, we call it
. It might sound strange to you, but it's a far more accurate term. It translates to . . . well, it doesn't exactly have a direct translation, as your language doesn't have a word for it, as such. It's something like 'the fortitude of the soul', I think. But Steven had a good grasp of the concept. He even came up with a scale for it, though of course that's rubbish.”
isn't something you can attach a number to like that. It's a part of your very being. But there are other people who will tell you more about that. My job right now is to make sure you don't get killed or-” Abruptly, she broke off, her head snapping around to look at something in the distance that Ren couldn't see. “We're not alone,” she said tersely.
“What? Who else is here?”
“Well, nobody yet, but we're about to have company, and not the pleasant kind. Can you fight?”
“Fight?” Ren exclaimed. “I don't have my Pokemon with me! Unless you can do something about that?”
Elly shook her head. “No. Pokemon are living beings, so I can't recreate them in this world. Pokemon are useless here. What I mean is, can
“Are you kidding? I've never even had to punch anybody. Why do I need to fight?”
“Because I'm going to,” she said coldly, still glaring towards the other end of the stadium. The wind had died down, leaving the arena cold and still. “And if you can't, we might not survive the next five minutes.”
“Can't you . . . do the teleporting thing again?” Ren asked hopefully.
“There's no point. All I'm doing is changing the appearance of this world – we don't actually move. We're trapped in a fixed space until you wake up.”
“So, what . . . if I wake up, we get out of here?”
“Yes, but don't count on it. You're in a very deep sleep right now – almost unnaturally so. It's almost impossible to wake up from this, even with external stimuli. You'll wake up in the morning like normal, but until then you're stuck.”
“But . . . it's just a dream, right? It's not like I can die or anything.”
“I wouldn't make that assumption if I were you. This is no normal dream – you're on a different plane altogether, and the body and soul work much differently here. I don't know what would happen if you were killed here, but if I were you I wouldn't want to find out.”
“Good point,” said Ren. “So . . . who exactly are we talking about when you say 'company'?”
“Well . . . it's not so much 'who' as it is 'what'. They're malevolent beings of darkness, the flipside of your dreams. As every force has its opposite, so your dreams have these . . . creatures.”
“So . . . like nightmares?”
“You could call them that, I suppose, although nightmares are technically dreams too. These are the things that go bump in the night, the ones that hide on the other side of the veil and try to claw their way into your dreams, and then out into your world.”
“Into . . . my world?”
“Yes. That's the other reason we have to stop them. It's not just our own necks I'm worried about; it's everyone else's as well. The entirety of your world is at risk every time you go to sleep. Frankly, I didn't think they'd find you so quickly.”
Ren tried to speak, but Elly hissed and cut him off with a sharp hand gesture.
“They're here,” she said tersely. The next moment, Ren felt pain lance through his head as the very air tore itself apart. A great rip appeared in the far wall of the stadium, showing only whirling blackness behind it. Three man-shaped figures stepped out, silhouettes fabricated of pure darkness. It was difficult to see the shadowy, indistinct beings in front of the void, but as they moved forwards, the tear diminished and shrank, disappearing as quickly as it had come, taking with it the raging pain in Ren's head. All that remained was a quiet yet insistent throbbing.
“Those are . . . nightmares?” Ren said, squinting to get a good look at the newcomers. It was difficult to get a good look at them, like shadows on water.
Elly nodded, tight-lipped. “Pretty strong ones, too. One I could handle easily, and two would be a stretch, but probably doable. Three? Forget about it. I can't fight these on my own.”
“Well, unless you've got some friends on call, we're going to have to,” Ren said wryly.
She shot him a strange look. “We?” she queried.
“Yeah, 'we'. You and me. Both of us.”
“But . . . you said you couldn't fight.”
“And I was right. But I'd feel pretty bad about sitting back and letting you take those things on by yourself,” said Ren, trying to disguise the fact that his heart was hammering with fear. The shadowy creatures were drawing closer, advancing slowly, cautiously.
Elly smiled slightly, and for the first time, Ren thought he saw a touch of vulnerability in her eyes. But then she blinked, and it was gone. “Thanks,” she said. “I'm not sure how much good you'll be, but it's nice to know you care, at least. Here, take this.” She snapped her fingers again and a short, slim sword appeared, the hilt bound tightly in some kind of purple fabric. She tossed it to Ren, who somehow managed to catch it without losing a finger.
He looked at it in awe and shock. “Where did this come from? I don't remember anything like this!”
“That's not one of your memories,” the girl said. “It's my spare.” Another click, and a much longer version of the sword appeared in her hands, over a metre and a half long, slim and slightly curved. It glistened harshly in the weak sunlight, and Ren shuddered. The shadows were evidently worried too, because they paused and recoiled slightly before regrouping and advancing again. They were just ten metres away as Ren gave the short blade an experimental swing.
How do you even hold this thing?
he wondered frantically as he weighed it in his hand. He had never swung a sword in his life, or even a tennis racquet, and he had no idea what he was doing.
“I'll show you how to use it properly later,” she said. “That should be some incentive for you to survive, no?”
“Hooray,” said Ren bleakly.
“I appreciate that you want to help,” she told him, “but stay back here and let me deal with this. You'll just slow me down. Only use that if they come after you.” With that, she launched herself towards the group of shadowy figures before Ren could say anything else.
Gripping his blade so tightly that his hands began to ache, Ren watched in amazement as Elly dived fearlessly at her opponents, sword flashing. It was something beyond his comprehension, he realised. He had suddenly stepped into a world he knew nothing about, a world that did not make the slightest amount of sense.
The nightmares had no visible weapons of their own, but they were fast. As soon as the girl moved, they darted apart, making themselves more difficult targets. Two of them circled around Elly warily, while the third continued its advance towards Ren.
They moved in a strange way, he noticed as he held the sword out in front of him and tried to steady his breathing. Their walk was jerky and sporadic, like puppets on strings, but they were still fast, he saw as the other two lunged at Elly. He wanted to cry out, but before he could open his mouth, the other was on him, slashing out at his head with one of its limbs. He ducked clumsily, just about losing his balance, and slashed awkwardly with the sword. The nightmare danced out of the way as if pulled by a string attached to its midriff.
“Bad dreams?” it whispered in a voice that seemed to be inside his head rather than outside it, then catapulted itself at him again. Ren threw himself out of the way, landing painfully on his left shoulder. Unfazed, the nightmare turned and advanced on him as he struggled to his feet.
, Ren thought.
Can these things even be killed?
There was only one thing for it. Taking the initiative, he stepped forward as quickly as he was able, thrusting the sword towards where he approximated the nightmare's heart to be. As if it had seen the blade coming, his opponent's arm whipped up and parried the blade with a great clashing noise, as of steel on steel. Ren overbalanced and fell at the nightmare's feet. Before he could get up again, it reached down with a ghostly hand and grasped him by the collar, lifting him bodily off the ground and bringing his face up to where its own should be. No eyes looked back at him from the black expanse.
Frantic, Ren tried to swing the sword, but the nightmare caught it with its free hand and tore it from his grasp, dropping it on the ground. Ren tried to prise the thing's fingers from his collar, but its grip was like a vice.
Where the hell is Elly?
Out of the corner of his eye, he caught a glimpse of her, but she was still locked in combat with the other two nightmares. The sound of her slashes and thrusts being parried at every turn filtered through into his ears, which were rapidly growing numb. He found his vision going too as the nightmare brought its sightless face closer to his own; even thinking was a struggle.
The only thought in his mind was Elly's assertation that she could probably deal with two of the nightmares on her own. All he could do was hope to keep this one distracted until she finished with the other two and came to help him.
Summoning the last of his remaining strength, Ren brought his knee up vigorously into the nightmare's stomach – or rather, where its stomach would have been if it was a real person. It didn't have the effect he had been hoping for. Rather than dropping him, it tossed him bodily through the air. Ren had a split second to enjoy his returning vision before he crashed into the ground again.
He swore loudly as he landed on his already-sore left shoulder, and with it, the rest of the left side of his body. His head swam; although he had managed to avoid landing on it, it had still been given a serious rattle. As he pulled himself unsteadily to his knees, he saw the nightmare stalking towards him, the sword – his only weapon – lying in the dust behind it.
Oh, how the hell did this happen?
He almost would have preferred to be back in the maze with Afro Glameow. At least that dream he knew he was going to wake up from.
I don't want to die
, he realised as he dragged himself to his feet, swaying slightly.
I have a life back in the real world. A good one! I can't just go and die in some weird dream
. For a moment, he wondered what would actually happen if he died in this dream. Surely, it wouldn't affect his physical body? But then he remembered Elly's words.
This is no normal dream – you're on a different plane altogether, and the body and soul work much differently here. I don't know what would happen if you were killed here, but if I were you I wouldn't want to find out
. Ren swallowed heavily. Fantastic.
Steeling himself, he dashed towards the nightmare. For a moment, the monster seemed confused, but it soon settled into a ready stance, arms outstretched hungrily towards him. Ren ran straight towards it and then dived past. The nightmare made a lightning grab for him as he passed, but Ren was rolling and then up again, scrabbling towards the sword lying on the ground.
He reached it and took it up again, holding it in front of him defensively. Better than nothing, even if he didn't know how to use it. Breathing deeply, he watched as the nightmare turned towards him slowly. If it had had a face, he thought it might have been amused. Once again it leapt towards him, but this time he was ready, bringing the sword up to interrupt it mid-bound, slashing vertically upwards and praying he would connect.
Contemptuously, the nightmare put its arm up to block his strike, but the sword wasn't there. Ren stepped aside as the dark being landed exactly where he had been standing. In the same movement, he swung the sword around to strike the nightmare in the back, biting into the unsuspecting thing's spine. At the touch of the blade, the nightmare exploded silently, a whirling gust of wind emanating from where it stood, carrying fragments of shadow with it.
As it departed, Ren felt a weight lift from his shoulders. He was able to breathe a little more easily, making up for a deficit he hadn't even noticed in the heat of the battle. He was just about ready to drop when he heard Elly cry out.
Ren swung his head round towards the source of the sound, and saw Elly flat on her back on the ground ten metres away as a nightmare towered over her, arm drawn back to deliver what would most likely be a killing blow. The other was nowhere to be seen. Elly's sword was some metres away on the other side. Ren knew he would never make it in time. Desperate, he did something very foolish and probably extremely stupid; he threw his sword at the nightmare as hard as he could.
Having no idea how to throw a sword properly – indeed, if there even was an acceptable way to do so – he simply threw it overarm with all his remaining strength. It flew through the air clumsily, turning end over end. Barely after it had left his hand, Ren knew that his aim had been off. The nightmare lifted its head unconcernedly to watch the blade pass more than a metre in front of it before turnin back to strike downwards at the unarmed Elly-
-who was nowhere to be seen. Taking advantage of the nightmare's distraction, she had slipped out from beneath it, diving for her own sword. She picked it up and held it ready, leaping back towards the nightmare even as it cast around for her. The lethal blade slid through the centre of the mass of shadow, causing it, too, to vanish in the midst of a miniature tornado.
Ren collapsed into a sitting position, burying his head in his hands and sucking in huge lungfuls of the dust-ridden air. After a moment, Elly came over and joined him on the ground, her hair tangled and messy, beads of sweat visible on her face. Neither of them spoke for a minute, Ren merely enjoying being able to relax for the first time in a while. Although the fight had only lasted a couple of minutes, it felt like forever to Ren.
“You handled that sword like it was a baseball bat,” Elly said eventually.
“Don't flatter me. I've seen some serious damage done with a baseball bat.”
“Exactly. I didn't expect you to be able to survive a nightmare attack, let alone kill one.”
“Thanks for the vote of confidence,” Ren snorted.
“It's not my job to stroke your ego,
,” Elly said, slightly disdainfully.
“What . . . did you just call me?”
. It means 'carrier of the fortitude of the soul'.”
“Uh-huh. You make it sound like it's real important,” Ren said wryly.
“What, you think it's not? You think I'd be risking my neck for you otherwise?”
“You . . . have a point,” Ren said. “But you said it wasn't just for our own sake that we had to kill the nightmares. Was that a lie, all that about how they would try and get through into my world?”
“No, of course not. But they came her tonight because they felt your
. Nightmares need someone with a strong source of
to get through into your world. That's why the
is always in danger.”
“Why have a
at all, then?” Ren asked, stumbling over the unfamiliar phonemes. “And if my
is this strong, how come none of this has happened to me before?”
Elly sighed and held up two fingers. “One, we must have a
. If we don't, the fabric of the two worlds will fall apart. You're the only thing holding this world together at the moment. Whoever holds the Dreamlight must take on this role – the stronger the bearer, the stronger the bonds holding the worlds together.”
“That sounds . . . pretty heavy,” said Ren. “What's number two?”
“Number two is that before, you haven't had the Dreamlight in your possession. The nightmares can only enter your world through the dreams of someone who enters the second ring.”
Ren stared at her blankly. “Meaning . . . ?”
Elly rolled her eyes. “You really are an idiot, aren't you?”
“Um . . . I honestly don't know,” Ren admitted. He was beginning to think it was possible. It seemed that lately, people were doing nothing but explaining things to him. “I might be.”
“Hmph. Anyway, this is how it works. Listen carefully, because I'm only going to say it once. The world of dreams exists parallel to your own. You had figured that out already, I imagine.” With her finger, she drew three concentric circles in the dust. “This world is made up of three rings, or sub-worlds. The first ring, on the outside, is the largest. This is where normal people go when they dream, regardless of the strength of their
. The dreams here are insubstantial, weak and mean next to nothing. Sometimes people gain premonitions and so on, and they are hailed as psychics in your world.” She was failing to hide the disgust in her voice.
“Something against psychics?” Ren asked.
“Not in particular,” she said brusquely. “In any case, that's what the first ring is. That is where I pulled you from when you were being attacked by that . . . thing.
“Afro Glameow, you mean?”
“You're . . . familiar with it?” Elly asked, her piercing green eyes narrowing.
“Well, I've had the same dream a couple of times. That's all, though.”
“Is there something wrong?”
“No. So, the first ring is where you were before. Where we are now . . . is the second ring.” She indicated the next circle – the second largest one. “This is the inbetween. It takes many forms, and it is sustained solely by the will of the
. It is built from his memories, and its size and stability depends on his strength. This ring is only accessible when the
is asleep, and it is through here which the nightmares must pass.”
“So then . . . the nightmares come from . . . the first ring?” Ren guessed.
“Yes, and . . . oh, look, can we stop calling them 'nightmares'? It's confusing.”
“But I thought you said that was what they were?”
“Not exactly. However bad they may be, nightmares are still only first-ring dreams. These things . . . they have a name in my language, but you probably wouldn't be able to pronounce it. You have enough trouble with little words like
“Well, I have to call them
,” Ren grumbled. “What are they? Demons? Ghosts?”
“Well . . . the direct translation of their name would be something like 'the empty ones without
that travel between worlds', I suppose.”
“Did Steven seriously never worry about this?” Ren asked. It was just occurring to him how significant Elly's words were. Steven had been Champion for six years . . .
“He called them nightmares too. He got all sulky whenever I tried to correct him, though.”
“Hmm . . . what does it mean when you say they're 'empty ones'?” Ren asked. “Empty of what?”
“Everything, really. But specifically . . . they don't have souls.”
“Do you?” Ren asked. “I mean . . . what exactly are you? Some kind of spirit, I follow, but . . . eh.” He waved his hands randomly.
a soul. Just as they are bodies without souls, my kind are souls without bodies.”
you call them?” Ren asked in frustration. “At least let me try to say it.”
“You sure?” Elly said, raising her eyebrows. “Wouldn't want you to hurt yourself. Ah, whatever.
Iehkti'na urum'na dar'sni-laku
Ren stared blankly. “That is the weirdest-sounding name I have ever heard,” he said honestly.
Elly frowned. “I knew you'd never manage it. But look. We can argue over what to call them later. For now, I need to get you out of here and into the third ring. More of them could turn up, though it's unlikely.”
“Why are we going to the third ring?” Ren asked as Elly pulled him, none too gently, to his feet.
“Because I'm sick of explaining stuff to you. It's not my job to babysit some kid.”
“Oh, come on-”
“What? You think I'm the same age you are? Don't make me laugh. I've been here in this world for centuries. Now shut up and come with me.” With a single slim finger, she drew a long vertical line in the air. For a moment, nothing happened. All of a sudden, there was a massive
, as if of compressed air, and a gaping slit appeared along the line she had drawn.
Ren winced and pressed his hands to his ears. “Warn me next time you're going to do something like that!” he exclaimed.
“Eh. More fun this way,” Elly shrugged as she watched Ren tentatively tap his ringing ears. She didn't seem to have been affected by the sonic blast. “You coming?” Without another word, she turned and stepped into the gap, disappearing from sight in a heartbeat.
Ren blinked. Taking a deep breath and hoping he wouldn't regret it, he stepped into the portal.
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