Thread: [Pokémon] Champion Game [M]
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Old June 11th, 2011 (06:44 PM).
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Misheard Whisper
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Creo que el Gato Tiene una Problema

Advancing on him slowly, Afro Glameow yowls indignantly, seemingly furious at having its prey snatched away earlier.

All right,” Ren sighs. “What's your problem? You want to eat me again? Come and try it.” He suddenly feels a lot braver than he did before.

Afro Glameow hisses uncertainly, slowing its advance and eyeing Ren warily.

Yeah, that's right. Sod off. I haven't got time to deal with you,” Ren tells it, stepping forward threateningly. His furry nemesis skitters backwards, but then rallies, slinking back and forth in front of him as it tries to judge whether or not he was a threat . . .

Ah!” Ren sat up with a start. He was back in the hotel room, he realised momentarily. Struck by a sudden thought, he glanced over to the other bed, where Natasha's sleeping form was clearly visible. He breathed a sigh of relief and lay back down.

The room was suffused with early-morning light that was doing its level best to fight its way past the heavy curtains. Ren allowed his head to sink back into the luxuriously puffy pillow with a sort of relief. It was nice to be back. He took a deep breath and let it out all at once, allowing his heart rate to return to normal.

That was officially the strangest, most screwed up dream I have ever had, he decided. For a brief moment, he toyed with the notion that it had been just that – a dream. But it had been too real, too vivid to deny. He had to accept that it had actually happened, and as a result he had to accept the legacy that Steven had handed to him.

It won't stop me from giving Steven an earful when I see him next, Ren thought wryly. He felt a little cheated that he had had such a responsibility thrust upon him without being told about it. While he understood that Steven could hardly have announced the existence of the world of dreams to every Trainer who challenged him, he couldn't help but feel a little resentful at not having been given any choice in the matter.

As if reacting to his very thoughts, his Pokenav buzzed on the bedside table. Ren snatched it up and pressed the talk button. “Hello?” he said quietly, glancing across at his still-sleeping cousin.

Good morning, Ren.”

Arceus, Steven! Are you watching me?”

No.” Steven sounded puzzled. “What are you talking about?”

I literally woke up thirty seconds ago!” Ren hissed. “In any case, you still have a lot of explaining to do.”

I see,” Steven said. “You had better come over here right away. Talk to the concierge, and he'll have a car brought round.”

Fine,” Ren said, rolling his eyes. “See you when I ge-” The line went dead. Ren stared at it for a minute, but then simply shook his head in disgust and rolled out of bed to wake Natasha.

Half an hour later, Ren found himself in Steven's 'conference room' again, Natasha once more left in the care of Katrina Stone. Ren yawned and looked at his watch again – still only quarter to seven in the morning. It was ridiculously early, and even though Ren had fallen asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow the previous evening, he was still somewhat tired. One part of his mind wondered if it was a side effect of the strenuous activity within the dream, but that shouldn't have had any bearing on his life in this world . . .

Ren snorted as he listened to his subconscious ramble on. Here he was, less than eighteen hours after Steven had first hinted at the existence of the other world, and already he was taking it for granted, factoring it into his musings as if it was some kind of constant.

Cecilia says hi,” he said at length, once he had realised that Steven was unwilling to break the silence between them.

You didn't have any problems with her, did you?” Steven asked.

Not particularly,” Ren said. “Why?”

Oh, nothing really. She's a wise elder, and I've never seen anyone treat a wound like she can, but she's a terrible flirt.”

Oh, that,” said Ren, waving it off uncomfortably. “I noticed.”

Not bothering you, then?”

Nope.”

Good.”

The two of them lapsed back into silence for a minute. Ren chewed his lip and stared absently at the ceiling as Steven fiddled with his cufflinks. He had lined up so many things he wanted to say to Steven before coming, but now, none of them seemed worth saying. Most of them appeared childish, even to the mind that had spawned them. Why didn't you tell me? It's not fair! I don't want to do this! You can't make me do it! In the privacy of his own head, he raged against Steven and everything he stood for, but he couldn't bring himself to say them. Most of them, he realised with a shock, were exactly the same as his protests against appearing on Hoenn Buzz the previous evening.

Ugh, how could I have been so immature? he chastised himself. I must have sounded like a little kid!

About the television appearance last night-” Steven said suddenly, but Ren cut him off.

No. Don't even – no. I'm sorry about that fuss I raised. In hindsight, it was probably the worst way I could have reacted. I was immature and stupid, and I apologise. I wasn't thinking properly.”

Steven smiled knowingly. “Funny how a night travelling between worlds affects one's world view, isn't it?”

Huh? What do you mean?”

Steven didn't reply immediately. Instead, he leaned back in his chair and focused on a spot on the wall. Ren followed his gaze, but there was nothing there except a stretch of plaster, much the same as the rest of the room. “Do you know why people like me, Ren?” he said at length.

What?”

I don't mean to be egotistical, but I've noticed it. So have you, I'm sure. I seem to get along with people a lot more easily than others.”

I . . . guess you could say that,” Ren said. While Steven Stone was hardly a poster boy for friendliness and sociability, he had noticed a certain magnetism about the former Champion that was difficult to explain.

I wasn't always that way,” Steven admitted. “Six years ago, before I became Champion, I was quite the opposite. It's not like I was a horrible person, but . . . I shut people out. I was polite where I needed to be, but I saw no reason to actively engage with other people. That changed the first time I put on the Dreamlight.” He fell silent once more, staring off into the middle distance with a look on his face that Ren would have called wistful if he didn't know better.

It changed? How did it change?”

It made me think,” Steven said simply, returning his attention to Ren. “I realised that there was something bigger than me, and that in turn brought me to the realisation that I was being petty. I said to myself: Steven, there's another world out there, full of people who would dearly love to have the freedom you do-”

Cecilia gave you that speech too, huh?” Ren said. Somehow he was unsurprised. “But yeah, I follow you. She's right.”

That was when I decided I was going to make the most of my life,” Steven says. “Call it corny, or cheesy, or whatever food-related idiom you desire, but I figured I was going to live every day to the fullest. That, Ren, is what I was talking about when I said the Champion had to be accessible. It's a bit of a jump, but it's essentially the same thing. The way I see it, there's no reason for you not to go along with the whole publicity deal.”

Ren frowned. “You don't need to convince me. I've resigned myself to that. Hell, I've resigned myself to everything. At first, I was a bit put out, understandably, but . . . after thinking it all over for a while . . . I haven't got a choice. But anyway, I'm pretty content to go with the flow for a while.” Being back in the real world was refreshing, Ren realised, and Salinthia had probably been right to suggest he return to think about it. His mind worked more clearly, and it wasn't such a terrifying prospect any more.

Are you sure?” Steven said worriedly. “It's a dangerous job, being the yehktira. Every night you get pulled into the second ring, and you can't leave until all of the nightmares have been destroyed. If you leave just one alive, it'll follow you back to the first ring and out into our world, so you can't take the chance. It's not like you can just put in an appearance and then leave. You know that, right?”

Well, I'd kind of figured as much,” Ren said, shrugging. “But that's fine. The spirits will protect me, after all. And I certainly handled that one last night pretty well, if I do say so myse-”

What? The nightmares came last night?” Steven said sharply. “They shouldn't have been-”

-able to sense my yehkti, I know. I heard,” Ren finished. “Whatever the case, they were there and they were nasty. Elly and I dealt with them, though.”

Elly?” Steven said, apparently not recognising the name.

Um . . . Elly? Felicia 'Elly' Darkstorm, head of the council of elders?”

Felicia . . . I never heard her refer to herself as Elly. Nor did anyone else, for that matter. How strange.”

Perhaps it's just a phase,” Ren suggested. “For all we know, she changes it every time there's a new yehktira.”

They're . . . strange beings,” Steven said. “I want you to be careful, Ren. They're very old, and very wise, but living for so long has driven them slightly mad, I fear. They will not harm you – of course, you are the only thing holding their world together, as well as our own – but you cannot rely on them. They will protect you with their lives, of course, but . . . they work in strange ways. They are fickle, and while their dedication to keeping you alive may never waver, they are certainly more than capable of making your life hell if you offend them.”

Speaking from experience, are you?” Ren asked, smiling amusedly as Steven averted his eyes.

Yes, I am,” he admitted quietly. “To this day, I don't know what I did, but there was a period of a month or two where they were as cold as ice with me. It didn't make for pleasant dreams.”

Do you know what happens if the yehktira does die?” Ren asked suddenly, voicing something that had been on his mind ever since he woke up. “Surely it's happened at least once.”

Steven shook his head. “No. In fact, until relatively recently, being the yehktira was not much of a risk at all. About twenty years ago, I hear, the nightmares were little more than an annoyance. The purpose of the yehktira was only to step into the second ring every night and refresh the bonds holding the world together. The nightmares, when they did appear, were easily dealt with; they were small, weak creatures.”

So why the change?”

I don't know. I don't even know if the elders know, but if they do, they never told me. From what I heard, there are massively powerful nightmares in the third ring, but they can't get through into the second ring for some reason. It's these things which the spirits are hiding from in their little forest glade, by the way. But only the little ones, apparently, could get through and plague the second ring. Even in the six years that I've been yehktira, I've seen the average size of the nightmares grow and grow. If it keeps up, they're going to be impossible to deal with.”

Ren sat and absorbed this information for a minute. It certainly didn't bode well for his future as yehktira, that was for sure. He was just starting to reconsider his acceptance of the role when his Pokenav chimed loudly from his pocket. “Ah – is it alright if I answer this?” he asked guiltily.

Steven nodded. “Go ahead. It's probably important.”

Ren couldn't tell if he was being sarcastic or not, but answered the call anyway. “Hello?”

Good morning, Ren.”

Ah, Uncle Roger. How are you? How's the holiday going? You can't be done already.”

Well, actually . . . about that, ah, I kind of made a mistake with the bookings,” Roger admitted bashfully.

I see,” Ren said, rolling his eyes.

So, um, we had to check into a motel with a very early check-out time. We're about to get on a train back to Slateport. Where are you at?”

I'm still in Rustboro,” Ren said. “Natasha's doing fine, by the way. She's a little quieter than usual, but she seems to be having fun. But never mind that – what sort of motel makes you check out at-” - he glanced at his watch - “seven o'clock in the morning?”

A very, very cheap one,” Roger said. “Listen, what are your plans for the rest of the day? Are you able to meet us back in Slateport, or will we have to come and pick Natasha up from there?”

I'm not sure,” Ren said. “Let me check.” He covered the mouthpiece and addressed Steven. “Can I go home after this?”

I don't see why not,” Steven shrugged. “I don't have much more to tell you that you can't hear from Felicia or the others.”

Yeah, I can be there,” Ren said. “Natasha and I'll catch the midday express, so we should be in at about one thirty, I think.”

All right, Ren. Thank you again for taking care of our little girl.”

It's not a problem, Uncle Roger,” Ren said. “She's been good. All right, I'll see you this afternoon.”

Tally ho!” his uncle chuckled with slightly more enthusiasm than was strictly necessary before hanging up.

What sort of secret conference room gets Pokenav reception?” Ren asked directly, raising an eyebrow at Steven. “I could have set this thing to record and broadcast our conversation live to anyone I wanted to.”

Good point,” said Steven, frowning worriedly. “I really don't know what my father was thinking . . . but considering his company invented the things, I imagine he'd have some sort of coverage against them. Still, that doesn't matter. Do you have anything else you wanted to ask? I imagine you do.”

Actually . . . no,” Ren decided. “I think the best thing to do would be to let the rest of it come as it comes. Besides, I don't have anything to ask you that I couldn't just bug Elly with later.”

You almost make it sound like you enjoy annoying her.”

I could get used to it,” Ren said. “She reacts interestingly when you piss her off – which is remarkably easy to do.”

A slight smirk twitched at the corner of Steven's mouth. “You're a canny one, Ren.”

I do my best. But I really should be going – I want to go and visit Roxanne at the Gym before we catch the train. Maybe we'll even have time for a battle.”

I suppose that's fair enough. Are you feeling restless from the lack of battling? It's only been three days.”

Yeah, but I've spent the last five years of my life battling several times a day. It feels weird to go for even a day or two without a good battle. I've hardly even let my Pokemon out, let alone used them.”

All right,” Steven nodded. “Here's what we'll do. Go over to the Gym now – you might be able to catch Roxanne before the first challenger of the day appears. Then catch that express back to Slateport, and do whatever you like for a few days. You'll be going to the world of dreams every night, of course, so take it easy. On Thursday, there's a Pokemon Contest on in Mauville City that I think you might be interested in.”

A Contest?” Ren asked, frowning dismissively. “I don't really like Contests, so I'd rather not go. Unless . . .” he said slowly, catching the look in Steven's eye, “this is one of those publicity things you were talking about?”

You're learning,” Steven said, nodding. “The Champion is not just a representative of Pokemon battling – he needs to be an ambassador for all those who work with Pokemon. Showing up at a Contest or two will aid that image. And besides, it won't be all bad. Bella's going to be there, if I remember rightly.”

What, competing? I didn't know she was a Coordinator.”

No, she's not. She'll just be watching. I was going to go along with her, but I've got business to take care of. Think you can stand in for me?”

Sure, I guess. So, Thursday in Mauville, huh? I can be there.” Inwardly, Ren sighed. It didn't look like he was going to be able to spend that month at home with his mother after all. He'd just have to settle for being there as much as he could. He was determined to at least spend his birthday at home the following week.

Thanks. I think Bella's quite fond of you, Ren.”

Wh-what?”

Oh, don't look so frazzled,” Steven chuckled. “You know what I mean. In any case, this works just fine. I suddenly have somewhere I need to be.”

Ren hadn't even noticed that the ex-Champion had been checking his phone under the table. “What, at seven in the morning?”

Yes,” Steven said somewhat ruefully. “It seems that since I stepped down, I've suddenly become the most popular man alive. Strange how that works. Yet still, I must leave. Apparently, it's urgent.” He stood and pushed his chair back, reaching out to shake Ren's hand.

Ren took it, slightly confused. “Um . . .”

Best of luck, Champion,” Steven said sombrely. “I know you have inherited a heavy burden, but I think you can handle it. We may not have the opportunity to meet like this for a while – I get the feeling both of us are about to be even busier than we ever thought was possible. I'll put my old PR team at the League in touch with you, and they'll help you organise the Champion side of things. But of course, the yehktira side . . . must be revealed to nobody, regardless of how much you trust them. All right?”

I got it,” Ren said. He did, strangely. He knew he should, by all rights, still be freaking out. It was entirely possible that he was just in shock, but he didn't think so. He saw things with a strange clarity that he had not experienced before. “I got it,” he repeated, almost as much for his own benefit as it was for Steven's.

It had been true what he said, Ren reflected as he retrieved Natasha from Katrina Stone again. He did want to go and battle someone all of a sudden. The main reason, though, was that he wanted something else to take his mind off what had happened over just the last twenty-four hours.

Are we going home now, Ren?” Natasha asked as they stepped out of the Devon Corporation building.

Ren shook his head. “Not yet, 'Tash. We're going to see Roxanne first.”

You mean your girlfriend?”

Ren sighed. There was no real point in arguing – he knew Natasha wouldn't listen – but at the same time he didn't really want to leave it open. “No, she's not my girlfriend,” he said, hoping he could leave it at that. “Now, Steven said he'd call a car around . . . oh.”

A large, now-familiar black car was parked right in front of them, the driver standing to attention beside the open door. “To the Rustboro Gym, Master Ren?” he asked with an indulgent smile.

Ah . . . yes,” Ren said, ushering Natasha into the car and putting one leg in after her. “Thank you.”

Of course, sir,” the driver said, closing the door behind Ren. A few moments later, the engine purred into life and they pulled out into traffic.

So, how did you get a Gym Leader to be your girlfriend?” Natasha asked. Ren sighed. This was going to be a long trip.
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