Champion Game [M]
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May 19th, 2011 (8:18 PM). Edited July 23rd, 2011 by Misheard Whisper.
Waiting for the rain
Doctor Drakken's lair
OK, folks, I'm posting the chapter a little earlier this week as an experiment. Replies to reviews will be at the bottom of the post from now on, I think (that is, when I post replies at the same time as a chapter). Wait, was I doing that already? Maybe. idek. In any case, here's your chapter. I'm also planning to drop a chapter something-point-five in the middle of the week for a bit of background, so keep an eye out for that. Should be the week coming, but it might be the one after.
Sueño de Oro
Ren went tumbling headlong into nothingness. It was the strangest feeling – somehow it seemed as if he had left his body behind. No, he decided, it was more like he had been physically ripped from his body and dragged into . . . wherever he was now.
His surroundings were pitch-black save for a handful of stars scattered randomly around on all sides. He didn't seem to be moving very fast, but then again, he could hardly tell, because there were no points of reference from which to gauge his speed.
Abruptly, a light appeared ahead of him, and this was moving very fast indeed, hurtling towards him at great speed. He barely had time to register a square hole like the one Elly had pulled him through earlier before he was sucked through it and catapulted onto a patch of soft grass.
Sitting up and rubbing his head, Ren examined his surroundings. He was sitting in a field of soft, lush green grass that was nearly a foot tall. Next to him stood Elly, looking bored and unruffled, and about fifty metres away was the edge of a verdant forest. The sky was a sharp, cool azure, and there was not a cloud to be seen. A soft zephyr blew through, alleviating what gentle heat the sun put out. The world was silent but for distant birdsong.
Puzzled, Ren stood and looked behind him. Grass, plain, unbroken grass, stretched as far as the eye could see in all directions, interrupted only by the forest that fell away on either side of a point almost directly in front of Ren.
You decided to come along after all, then,” Elly said, sounding as if she wouldn't have been particularly bothered if he hadn't.
Course I did,” Ren said, brushing grass off the seat of his jeans. “I was hardly going to stay back there, was I?”
You could have just left, you know,” Elly said.
You told me I couldn't leave!”
I said no such thing. You could have simply returned to the first ring the way you came.”
What . . . the little square hole? But that wasn't there . . . was it?”
Of course it was,” Elly said contemptuously. “You really are slow, aren't you? You didn't even think to look behind you that whole time?”
I was . . . kind of busy with the nightmares and the fighting and the running and the jumping and the
,” Ren grumbled.
A real warrior is always aware of his surroundings,” said Elly, looking absently up at the sky.
You sound like a fortune cookie,” Ren told her. “So . . . I could have just jumped back through that hole at any time?”
Not at any time. If you do that while the
Iehkti'na urum'na dar'sni-laku
are around, they'll follow you through, and we're all doomed if that happens.”
Ren snorted. “I'm sorry, but it still sounds really weird when you say that.”
Well, unless you have a better name for them, I'm going to keep calling them what they're actually called!” Elly snapped. “Honestly, how immature are you? Steven was weird, but at least he acted his age.”
Well, maybe Steven had some damn idea what was going on!”
Maybe you would too, if you'd listen to anything I said! I must have explained everything to you already. You just don't pay attention! You're useless!” Elly hissed vehemently.
Taken aback, Ren sat back down with a
. “Told me everything already, you say,” he mused, trying to ignore the rise in his strange companion's temper.
Well, pretty much. Anyone with half a brain could work out what's going on from what's happened so far, combined with all I've said since I picked you up. So you tell me. What's the significance of that pendant you wear around your neck? What's your job in this world? Tell me that, and
we can go see the elders.”
Yes, the elders. They will formally recognise you as the new
, but I'm not taking you anywhere until you prove to me you have half a brain by piecing together what you already know.”
Ren nodded. The opportunity to think was a welcome one, and he did his best to ignore Elly's piercing glares as he tried to get his head around what had happened to him so far. If he was still asleep, it was the weirdest dream he had ever had, not to mention the most realistic. Of course, if it was all just a dream, it was possible that none of it was actually happening and it had no significance whatsoever.
No, he decided. That was just his fancy. There was little doubt that this was deadly serious. Steven had given him the Dreamlight, and then he had instructed him to expect someone who would explain further. Although she was somewhat lacking in the explanations department, Elly had essentially done just that. And why had Steven handed over the Dreamlight?
It means that you are currently the person in the Hoenn region with the highest spiritual power.
You want me to be the
. . . because I have the strongest
in the region,” he said slowly.
Elly nodded as if she had been expecting as much. “Go on,” she said.
's role . . . is to hold the two worlds together, and to protect the real world-”
Don't say that!” Elly snapped.
I'm . . . sorry?”
The 'real world'? Do you have any idea how naïve that sounds? Your world is no more real than mine!”
Well, then . . . to protect the
world from the . . .
Iehkti'na urum'na dar'sni-laku
,” he said, making a real effort to pronounce the name. It felt horrid and alien on his tongue, making him want to somehow spit it out.
The corner of Elly's mouth curled slightly. “You're getting there. Now add the two together and tell me what you get.”
Ren's eyes widened. “D-don't tell me . . .”
Ah, he gets it!” crowed Elly with a grin. “Oh, the look on your face!”
You want me to come here every night and fight those . . . things!” he exclaimed, getting to his feet and glaring back at her.
That's it,” Elly said, shrugging. “Got a problem with that?”
Hell yes, I have a problem with that!”
Oh? Go on..” Elly's smile dropped, and her eyes became as hard as chips of emerald once more.
I don't want to risk my life fighting ghost-things in my dreams all the time! That's not what I signed up for when I became Champion!”
It's unfortunate,” sighed Elly, “because I don't much like working with brats from the physical world either. The trouble is, we need a
here to hold both worlds together. But whenever the
is here, the
come too. So either they never reach your world, but we let both worlds collapse on themselves-”
-Doesn't sound too promising-”
we bring the
here, hold the worlds together and fight the
as we go.”
I see,” Ren said. “No, I actually get that. It's infinitely preferable to having both worlds destroyed, but . . . why does it have to be me? Get Steven to do it! He managed for six years, didn't he? Why not just have him carry on?”
That won't fly,” Elly said, shaking her head. “Regardless of physical strength or mental capability, it is always the one with the strongest
that we want as our
The stronger the
the stronger the bonds holding the worlds together and the harder they are to break, so we must have no less than the best. Unfortunately for all involved, 'the best' this time around happens to be a brat with an attitude problem.”
Well, what if I don't want to be the
Then every night, I slip into your dreams and drag you, kicking and screaming, into the second ring. I tie you up and sling you in a corner, then I beat the crap out of the
myself and put you back when I'm done!” she growled, putting her face right up next to Ren's and looking directly into his eyes with an intensity that made him shiver. “Does that sound good to you?”
I don't dream every night, though,” Ren countered.
Oh, you do. People with strong
like yourself have dreams every single night, even if you don't remember them. I'll have access to your mind every time you close your eyes to go to sleep, and as soon as you enter REM, you're mine.” She grinned predatorily, and Ren flinched.
You're . . . just going to threaten me into it, then?” Ren asked, trying his level best to look her back in the eyes. It wasn't easy; they were extremely pretty eyes, the kind that made you want to lower your gaze in deference. Combined with the fact that she was glaring at him like a hungry Mightyena, he thought he was doing pretty well just to stay upright.
If that's what it takes,” she whispered, and an unpleasant shudder ran down the length of Ren's spine.
Reluctantly, he broke eye contact. “Fine,” he said. “If that's how it's going to be, then there's no helping it.” He was backed up against a wall, and he knew it.
So we're agreed, then?” Elly said, stepping back smugly. “You be our
, and in return, we don't let the
tear you apart?”
Sounds about fair,” said Ren, who was, if he was quite honest with himself, on the brink of panic.
Hold it together a bit longer,
he urged himself.
You can flip out later, when you're awake and safe
Good. Looks like you might have a bit of common sense after all. Now, you can come with me.” She turned and marched off towards the forest, swishing through the grass and looking oddly cheerful. Bemused, Ren jogged to catch up to her.
When they reached the edge of the woods, the shadow of the first trees looming over them, Elly turned and put a finger on his lips. “From now on, you do not speak until I tell you that you can.
What's that for?
he wondered, but decided asking would break the 'no talking' rule.”
Excellent. Come with me, then.” Elly led him off down a path that had been worn between the trees. The enormous trunks soared into the sky on either side of him, but there was still light filtering through from behind him. As they moved ever deeper into the forest, though, the canopy grew thicker, and it got darker and darker, until he was having trouble seeing where he was going. Stumbling over tree roots in the blackness, he longed to ask Elly if she had a light.
Oh, right, the 'no talking' thing
, he thought wryly.
Ren swore inwardly as he stumbled forward again. His eyes were just beginning to adjust to the blackness when he noticed that it was starting to get lighter. Gradually, he realised that he was able to see the path in front of him again.
Well, at least I won't trip again
. The light filtering through the trees ahead was a pale shade of blue – almost white, but still tinged with enough colour to be slightly painful to the eyes.
They passed a tall, gleaming marble column, and Ren felt his ears pop as if he had just taken off in an aircraft. Suddenly, the forest was full of noise, and there were people everywhere. Ren blinked and stopped walking. He wasn't in a forest any more – he was in a city.
A city made of light. The clear sky from outside the forest had returned, and the sun shone directly onto one of the strangest settlements Ren had ever seen. All of the buildings were made of white marble, but the ground between them was carpeted in rich, verdant green grass. Motes of light seemed to float around in the air like dandelions on the breeze, but whenever Ren tried to focus on one, it eluded his eyes.
The buildings were all small and elegant, none more than one story tall. As they passed, curious residents stopped to look. Ren sighed. He thought he might at least have gotten away from being the centre of attention in his own dreams. The people he saw were a motley arrangement. There were old people, children, men and women in a fairly natural ratio, but the manners of dress varied as widely as did the faces of the people.
They must be spirits too
, Ren realised. There was a man in a suit of medieval armour, his plumed helmet tucked under his arm, calmly discussing something with a shaven-headed man who wouldn't have looked out of place in a biker gang. A man wearing a white toga was standing on a raised platform and declaiming loudly in a language Ren couldn't understand. Among his audience were a toddler holding a doll, a wrinkled old man and a young woman in a silver jumpsuit.
Everywhere they went, the sunlight caught and reflected off the corners and faces of buildings, sending rays of light dancing everywhere. The grass was soft under his feet, and despite evidently being well-trod, displayed no signs of decay. Flowerbeds of pink and blue were snugly tucked away between buildings and on the sides of the 'roads', as far as they could be called such. There were no cars, no buses, no traffic lights.
Looking behind him, Ren expected to see a forest. Instead, he saw the inside of a massive, shimmering blue cylinder that rose all the way to the sky. With a start, he realised that he could see it in front of him, too; the entire settlement was encapsulated by this unreal creation, shifting and flowing like water, held in place by some unseen force. At its highest, it melded seamlessly into the cyan sky, leaving only a haze behind it. And it, like everything else, seemed to exude light – pure, shining light that was just soft enough to look at directly without being blinded.
Ren shook his head silently, unsure if he was still forbidden to speak. He had never in his life been so sure that he was dreaming. He noticed that Elly was watching him with a half-smile on her face, a hint of smug pride in her expression. He smiled back tentatively and was rewarded with a sharp frown. Rolling his eyes, he looked back to his surroundings.
There was certainly no shortage of places for the eye to rest. Not only were the people the most varied group he had ever seen in one place, but the edifices between which they strolled were almost as diverse. While they were all single-storey buildings fashioned from gleaming marble, that was all they had in common. Some were squat and blocky, others rounded like domes, and still others were elegant cottages. Ren would have thought the material quite restrictive in terms of construction, but evidently there was some other force at work here, for the denizens of this mysterious wonderland had managed to fashion walls, roofs, and doors all from the same stone.
The engineering must have been a logistical nightmare
, he thought as they passed, of all things, a log cabin made of rolls of white stone.
Most of this shouldn't be physically possible
, he decided, shaking his head at an A-frame house made of the same.
His head was whirling. This was certainly the strangest dream he had ever had, Afro Glameow included.
Here we are,” Elly said brightly. Her mood, which had been steadily souring since he met her, had lifted considerably since they had arrived in the third ring. It was especially noticeable here, surrounded by her own kind.
They had stopped in front of one of the taller structures in the town – a classically-sculpted temple, with elegantly fluted columns supporting a low peaked roof. Friezes decorated the rim of the building, Ren noticed as he carefully stepped between the flowerbeds in front of the steps that led up into the temple proper. The friezes depicted scenes of battle – warriors in armour slaying indistinct figures that he identified as
dominated the decorations, though there were others he didn't recognise.
Elly led him up the steps and between the columns into the temple proper. The interior was cool and dim, in complete contrast to what Ren had just seen. Light filtered through apertures in the ceiling, casting dregs of light onto the floor like pools of white gold. At the far end of the temple was a raised dais,upon which stood five marble thrones in a row. The one in the middle was the only one that remained unoccupied – the others were already filled. Two men sat on the right, two women on the left. Were these the 'elders' Elly had spoken of? They didn't look that old to Ren. None of them could have been older than forty – one of the women was barely older than he was.
Oh, good, everyone's here!” Elly said, smiling.
There's still an empty chair . . .
Wait here,” Elly said, directing Ren to a spot on the floor that looked no different from any other. When she was satisfied with his position, she darted off behind a column and disappeared.
Nobody moved or spoke. Ren took the opportunity to examine the four people – were they actually people? What was he supposed to call them? – sitting on the massive thrones in front of him.
On the left were two men. The one furthest from the centre was short, pudgy and bald, smiling serenely as he watched Ren. The other was taller and extremely broad in the shoulder, with a sharply trimmed black beard wrapping around his face from one hairline to the other. His features were square and stern, but there was a regality in the set of his eyes that could not be ignored. Both men were wearing gold robes with intricate silver trim.
To Ren's right, on the other side of the unoccupied throne, sat two women. Next to the empty throne was a tall, stately woman with her blonde hair pulled tightly back, accentuating her high cheekbones and slim face. It was hard to judge her age from her features, but she didn't appear to be older than thirty. She watched Ren with a sort of amused interest, as if he were something vaguely entertaining that had mistakenly wandered into her field of vision.
Further to the right sat another woman, who looked to be barely older than Ren. The first thing Ren noticed was her hair. It was a strange colour, somewhere between gold and green, and it cascaded freely down her back as she sat on the edge of her throne. What Ren could see of it shimmered almost imperceptibly, confusing his eyes. Other than her hair, it almost looked as if she was related to the woman sitting beside her; she had the same slender face and figure, and she was watching Ren in a similar curious fashion. When she saw him looking, though, she winked at him cheekily. Ren looked away reflexively, suddenly remembering Elly's words.
You think I'm the same age you are? Don't make me laugh. I've been here in this world for centuries.
It was probably true of the others – even more so these 'elders'.
Both of the women were wearing delicate robes of diaphanous silver weave, inlaid with golden patterns of flowers and vines, as if in complete opposition to the costumes of the men. The fabric shifted and glittered whenever they moved even slightly, confounding Ren's eyes even further. He felt that if he had to see one more thing shimmering like that, he would pass out – if that was even possible within a dream.
I apologise for the delay,” said Elly's voice from his right. Ren glanced around and his eyes widened. Elly had reappeared from wherever she had vanished to, wearing the delicate silver of the elders, although her robe seemed to have far more gold woven into it than the others'. She noticed his shocked stare and demanded, “What are you looking at?”
Ren shook his head and looked down at the floor, hearing a quiet giggle erupt from the throne to the far right.
Elly harrumphed and swished across to the dais, seating herself easily in the largest of the five thrones. “Now that we are all present,” she said, “why don't we begin?”
Originally Posted by
Hi! Been reading steadily since earlier this week, and I am in love with this story. I love the characters (Natasha the most =D), the plot- even the writing style is amazing.
Forgive the short little review. :p Bit busy. But, keep up the good work! Hurry up and release the next chapter! Or I keel you. I keel you
Oh, thanks! I'm glad you're enjoying it. Ren is certainly a fun character to write, though I don't want him to be too snarky - that's Elly's job. He's actually a little devoid of personality in my eyes, at this stage at least, so I'm working to make him a bit more . . . real.
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