Champion Game [M]
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September 6th, 2011 (10:57 PM).
Waiting for the rain
Doctor Drakken's lair
Mid-week chapter because I've been on a writing binge and I kinda hate being ahead and I love you all.
Slateport was named so for a reason. The top of the cliff on which Ren's house balanced awkwardly had once been a rich source of a high-quality variety of the hard grey stone, and it was this enormous deposit that had necessitated the building of a port nearby to traffic the material through. That had all been a long time ago, of course. The demand for slate had fallen as metal and glass came into fashion, and while there was still a significant amount quarried in the area, all the work in the vicinity of Ren's house had long since ceased, leaving behind nothing but a number of sizable craters, dotted along the clifftop like the marks of a giant's pogo stick.
It was to the nearest of these abandoned quarries that Ren now climbed, taking a little-used, steep path that led him off the road and up a narrow crevice in the cliff. It probably wasn't very safe, but that didn't bother him as he scrambled up over the loose shale towards the top. Loose stones skittered away beneath his feet, making the ascent treacherous, but Ren skipped over them with practiced ease, his body remembering the movements that even his memory had let go.
At the top, he paused to catch his breath, doubling back a little to stand a few metres from the edge of the cliff. He had forgotten quite how long the trail up to Quarry #133 was.
he reflected as he turned to look back the way he had come,
it was worth it
. His view of the ocean, usually spectacular at worst, was beyond awe-inspiring from the top of the cliff. It was barely lunchtime, he supposed; he had forgotten his Pokenav, so he judged by the surprisingly hot sun that hung overhead. Without the sun in his eyes as it so often was, he could see for miles and miles. Slateport was out of sight somewhere to his left, but he could see three or four largish ships slewing their way towards it, accompanied by dozens of smaller ones that left tiny white threads of wake behind them.
A cold wind blew across the top of the cliff, reminding him how exposed he was. Turning away from the ocean he had seen so many times, yet never grew tired of, he hurried towards the gnarled wire fence that stood – or rather leaned, for it had guarded the quarry for countless years – a hundred or so metres away.
As he had imagined, nobody had been by to fix the gaping hole in the fence that allowed him access. Ignoring a rusty yellow warning sign that blared 'Danger! Unsafe area – no entry except for council personnel,' he ducked through the gap, immediately finding himself standing on hard, packed earth rather than grass. It was always a little eerie, that – as if he had stepped out of nature and into a construction of man. Which, he supposed, he had. A handful of derelict huts were strewn about the area, clearly much older than the fence surrounding them. The wind was not quite as strong here as it had been at the edge of the cliff, but it still blew sharply, kicking up a cloud of dust here, rattling a dust-ravaged windowpane there.
Ren shivered a little and pressed on, passing the huts without another thought much like he always had done. Another fence stood in his way, much stronger than the last – even if it
decades older. This one, however, had a wide-open gate. Ren stepped through confidently, suddenly finding himself confronted by the quarry.
Probably fifty metres across at the bottom, and maybe two hundred at ground level, the quarry was a roughly semicircular depression, hacked out of the slate over a long period of time, gradually widening and deepening. Natural erosion had worn much of it smooth over however many years it had been abandoned, leaving rounded edges and slopes everywhere, while he imagined it had once been all sharp corners and harsh lines. There was still a clear pathway, however, which snaked its way in a spiral pattern around the bowl of the quarry, and it was this which he now followed, tracing the invisible footsteps of his younger self.
It took him about ten minutes to reach the bottom. Even though the quarry wasn't all that deep, he had been walking at a leisurely pace, taking in every detail of the rock that slowly rose over his head. At the bottom, he walked to the middle of the roughly circular space, stepping over small chunks of discarded rock and around larger ones. In the middle, he stopped and looked up. There were a handful of fluffy white clouds scudding across the azure sky, but the sun beat down on him powerfully, causing him to hiss involuntarily and close his eyes, cursing his foolishness.
Well done, you,” he grumbled, rubbing his eyes and blinking. Coloured spots danced in the air in front of him wherever he looked. Seeking a distraction, he remembered why he had come in the first place. His hands dropped to his belt, tapping the release switches on all six of his Poke Balls. With a loud series of pops, his Pokemon leapt forth in flashes of red light, all of them clearly enthused to see light of day. “Sorry, guys,” Ren murmured guiltily as he watched them.
Manectric barked happily and set off at a blinding run around the area, investigating the unfamiliar surroundings and enjoying the rough terrain. Zangoose stood at Ren's side, doing its best to look surly, but the sunlight warming its white fur was clearly having an effect; Ren noticed – with some amusement – the subtle shifting of its feet and flickering of its eyes that betrayed its interest.
Braviary, his proud plumage perennially glossy, perched atop a large chunk of discarded slate with his beak thrust regally towards the sky. His beady eyes followed Yanmega as it buzzed happily around, zipping backwards and forwards with all the frenetic pent-up energy it could muster – which was a considerable amount, Ren knew, well aware of the Bug-type's enthusiasm for high speeds.
A rumble sounded through the quarry as Camerupt stomped its enormous, boulderlike front leg in a sign of approval, its thickset head bobbing appreciatively as the sun washed over it. As Ren watched, Braviary flapped down from his perch to take up a position atop one of the two volcanic cones that thrust upwards from the huge Pokemon's back. Camerupt was by far the largest Pokemon Ren had raised – a colossus of stone and flesh – so large, in fact, that it seemed like a real mountain with the impressive Flying-type on top of it.
A quiet humming filled the air as Ren turned to look at the only one of his Pokemon that had released itself behind him – Solrock. Its rocky golden spines were glowing slightly as it levitated a good couple of metres off the ground. Eyes closed in serene contentment, it seemed to be surrounded by a faint nimbus of golden light. Ren realised that it was also soaking up the sunlight, only a lot more literally than the rest of his team.
Well, guys,” he said, causing them all to turn and look at him expectantly, “I guess we should get started. Braviary, have you been able to catch Yanmega yet?” While he still refused to blink, Braviary averted his eyes slightly, which gave Ren all the answer he needed. “Right, then,” he said, trying to hold back a smile. “Let me see what you guys can do.”
Braviary needed no further encouragement. With a loud, keening skrike, he launched himself off Camerupt's back and pelted towards the hovering bug-type, cleaving effortlessly through the air. Ren watched with satisfaction as the two wheeled and spun through the air above him, carefully observing their movements. As ever, Braviary was easily the faster of the two, his enormous, red-and-blue wings more than making up for his bulk. Yanmega's agility, however, was unparalleled, and it easily flew rings around the bigger Pokemon.
Braviary, slow down a little,” Ren called, struck by a sudden thought. Looking rather taken aback, Braviary braked slightly, allowing Yanmega – who had been flying around Braviary's wings – to shoot ahead of it. Clearly, Braviary understood exactly what Ren had meant, for he took advantage of the separation to immediately speed up and make another pass at Yanmega, who was now a clear few metres ahead of it. His harsh beak snapped eagerly, but Yanmega barely managed to buzz out of the way. A frustrated shriek echoed throughout the quarry as Braviary was denied his prey yet again.
That's good,” Ren said. “Keep trying that.” The problem, he had noticed, was that Yanmega had been shrewdly using Braviary's own body against it, ducking under and rolling over it to avoid the talons and beak that sought to capture it. The sudden deceleration had momentarily overcome that, allowing Braviary a clear shot. Yanmega had reacted instinctively, but it had been a far nearer miss than usual. The Bug-type would be wise to the trick now, but it would make it only marginally easier to avoid.
As the two wheeled and dived overhead, Ren turned to his other Pokemon. Solrock seemed quite happy to bask in the sunlight for the moment, so Ren decided to let it be. Camerupt snorted eagerly, but Ren eyed their surroundings warily, well aware of how unsafe the quarry was. He had never dislodged any of the loose rocks around the bowl before, but he was unwilling to risk generating an earthquake. “Sorry, buddy,” he said with a grimace. “You might have to sit this one out for today. Watch Braviary and Yanmega for a while. Make sure they don't eat each other.”
Rumbling in disappointment, Camerupt nevertheless turned its attention upwards as best it could with its stocky neck, leaving Ren to chew his lip as he stared thoughtfully at Zangoose and Manectric. At length, he clapped his hands once. “Right,” he said. “Speed training all round. Zangoose, let's see if you can catch Manectric.”
Zangoose shot him a look that quite clearly said,
Are you mad?
While Ren was well aware that the Normal-type would climb into hell if he asked it, he was aware that it probably thought this an exercise in futility. Fiercely competitive though it was, Zangoose had eventually – and grudgingly – come to accept that speed was Manectric's domain. The blue and yellow Pokemon was the embodiment of a lightning bolt, after all.
What, don't think you can do it?” Ren taunted good-naturedly. Zangoose's eyes narrowed, but it refused to rise to the bait.
Ren sighed. “Look, just give it a shot, all right? Manectric, run around in as big of a circle as you can.”
Manectric barked and was gone in a flash of yellow. Ren lost sight of it for a second, but then his eyes latched onto the blur that dashed around the edge of the flat area at the bottom of Quarry #133. He saw Zangoose's eyes following the blur as well, and smiled. “Listen,” he said. “Manectric is moving in a predictable pattern at a constant speed. It's fast, but you should still be able to intercept it like that with a little practice.”
Zangoose hissed suspiciously, but crouched lower to the ground, preparing to spring. Red eyes narrowed in concentration, its pupils flicking from left to right and then back again as Manectric blasted across its field of vision again and again. After a few seconds, Ren noticed its body rocking slightly. He was confused for a moment, but then he realised that it was simply adjusting its rhythm to that of Manectric.
Good. First step, done – without me having to say anything.
With a yowl, Zangoose suddenly bounded forward. Manectric, however, was already well past as Zangoose leaped. Ren blinked as Zangoose's jump pushed it higher than he had expected, gaining it several seconds of airtime. As it came back down, Manectric was already rushing back around towards it. The timing was almost perfect.
Almost. With an almighty crash, Zangoose struck the ground right at the point where the bottom of the quarry met the wall, but Manectric was over two metres away by the time the attack landed, skidding to a halt to stand watching proudly. Zangoose yowled in frustration and struck out at the sloping wall, rubble spraying out from the point of impact.
Ren grinned nonetheless. “That's it!” he said. Seeing Zangoose's confused glance, he amended, “Well, that's not
it, but you were far closer than I thought you'd be on the first time. I'm impressed! Do you see how it works, though?”
Zangoose inclined its head in grudging agreement as it trudged back over to stand by Ren, who scratched it behind the ear. “Try again,” he said. “Make sure you read the rhythm. Manectric, go one more time!” he added, raising his voice slightly. Manectric barked and obediently went tearing off around the edge of the basin again.
Zangoose settled into the rhythm more quickly this time, wavering back and forward, left and right as it fixed its aim on Manectric. Without warning, it charged again, feet pounding the ground and then lifting it, powerful muscles propelling it upwards in an enormous arc. Ren watched with bated breath as the two Pokemon flew towards what surely had to be a collision point. Zangoose was going to hit its target on just the second try. Manectric raced around its circle, heading straight for the point where Zangoose was going to land. When the two Pokemon were barely a metre apart – just as all doubt disappeared from Ren's mind – Manectric stopped, leaving Zangoose to crash uncontrollably into the wall.
Ren frowned. “Manectric,” he said sharply. “What was that for? I didn't realise we were playing chicken!” Zangoose also hissed angrily at the Electric-type, clearly incensed at being denied its target.
Manectric yelped in protest, seeming to strain against an invisible wall. Looking more closely, Ren saw a faint pink glow surrounding its body. He sighed and ran his hand through his hair as he turned to glare at the only unoccupied member of his party. “Solrock,” he growled. “What have I told you about playing jokes like that? Let him go.”
Solrock bounced gently in midair, its round eyes sparkling with amusement. Sounding a single, musical note that echoed around the area, it released Manectric, who bounded over to bark grumpily at it.
A loud shriek from just behind Ren caused him to duck sharply – and just in time, too. Braviary swooped through where his head had just been, wickedly sharp claws extended in pursuit of Yanmega. Standing up again, Ren shook his head and smiled as the enormous Flying-type continued to pursue its frustratingly elusive target
Zangoose, Manectric, you keep that up. I can trust you not to hurt each other, I hope.” Zangoose shot him a sideways look, but nodded. “Good. And you,” he said, glaring at the mischievous Solrock, “can come with me and practice your Fire Spin.”
Solrock thrummed reluctantly. “Yes, it helped us beat Steven. Yes, it took out his Metagross. But it still lacks a bit of refinement. Don't give me that look, you know it too. Now, I want you to-”
Ren's eyes snapped upwards. He knew that voice, though he hadn't heard it for years.
Could it be?
He couldn't be sure. The man standing at the quarry entrance was tall and bulky, dressed all in jeans and a white polo shirt, but that was all he could make out from forty metres below.
The man started down the path at a run, and Ren simply stood, turning slowly on the spot, and watched him draw closer as his Pokemon stopped what they were doing to stand with him. As the black-haired newcomer came further down the side of the quarry, Ren grew more and more certain of his identity.
Hell, he's changed, though
, he thought.
Long time no see, Cole,” Ren said with a smile as he stepped forward to greet his older cousin. “You're . . . really big now.” It was true. Cole was well over six feet tall, and rather broad in the shoulders and torso. He had always been bigger than Ren – he was seven years older, after all – but since Ren had left, he had filled out a great deal.
Cole laughed good-naturedly, his breathing barely affected by running down the twisting path. “You've got a good bit bigger yourself, but you're still a squirt,” he chuckled. “I wasn't expecting to find you all the way out here, but look at you! I guess you still remember this place, huh?”
Of course,” Ren said, allowing his cousin to pull him into an affectionate bear hug and ruffle his hair. As always, he felt like a ragdoll in Cole's grip. “I had to come back here.”
I guess you remembered what you once said about it being the perfect place to train Pokemon. I heard your bird making a racket from some way away and had to check it out,” Cole said, glancing past Ren at the Pokemon that had arrayed themselves behind him.
You never did bring yours out up here for some reason,” Ren mused, suddenly remembering. “Why was that?”
Cole's smile flickered momentarily. “Don't you remember? It's because we promised to come here to train and battle together someday. This was going to be our 'super-awesome secret intense training ground'.”
Oh . . .” Ren said, suddenly feeling more than a little guilty. “I guess I . . . did forget that, huh?” He found himself unable to meet his cousin's eyes.
Hmm . . .” Cole looked thoughtful for a moment, but then he snapped his fingers. “I've got it!”
You can battle me right here and now! If you do that, I'll forgive you.”
Are you . . . sure?” Ren asked. “I mean, I don't want to sound like an *** or anything, but I
the Champion now.”
That doesn't matter,” Cole said dismissively, fishing in his pocket for a couple of Poke Balls. “I always knew you were gonna be better than me anyway. The important thing is that we battle, and we do it now. I've only got two Pokemon on me at the moment, though, so it's gonna have to be a quick one. We can catch up and be all nostalgic together later.” He started to release his Pokemon, but caught himself and stopped. “Here, you pick your two before I send 'em out. You don't get any advantages.”
Ren raised an eyebrow. Cole was just like his sister Natasha in a way, he realised – quite convinced that he could do what he liked, when he liked, and how he liked. “All right,” he said.
Braviary looks a bit worn out from chasing Yanmega, and Camerupt will probably bring the whole quarry down on our heads. Zangoose and Manectric have both had an outing lately, so that leaves . . .
“Yanmega, Solrock. You guys are up. The rest of you can take a break and watch.”
Yanmega buzzed eagerly across to hover at Ren's left shoulder, clearly spoiling for a fight after so long cooped up in its Poke Ball. Solrock moved a little more serenely, but Ren could tell that it was just as excited in its own unfathomable way.
Good?” Ren asked, cocking an eyebrow as he felt the familiar thrill of battle beginning to rise in his heart. This was different to Roxanne and Vila. Vila had been an amateur, no serious challenge at all, and Roxanne had been a familiar face using familiar strategies. He hadn't seen his cousin for five years, and he had never paid any particular attention to people's battling styles in those younger days. He didn't even know which Pokemon Cole had, though he could make an educated guess about one of them.
Yeah, that'll do fine,” Cole said with a grin that screamed confidence. He had to have a reason for that, Ren deduced. It had to be something to do with the type matchups. “How are we gonna do this?”
“Yanmega,” Ren said quietly. “You're first.” It was a standard strategy when facing unfamiliar opponents; Yanmega was the most capable of evading attacks, meaning that it was least likely to suffer from a disadvantageous type matchup.
Still, if he pulls out a Rock-type . . .
“You're the challenger, so you can choose your first Pokemon after you've seen mine,” Ren said. “Both Trainers can switch their Pokemon at will, and the battle ends when both Pokemon on one side are judged unable to battle. Sound all right?”
That works. Don't we need a referee?”
It's fine,” Ren said. “We'll both play nice, won't we?”
Of course. Let's do this thing, then.” Cole turned suddenly and jogged back to the opposite side of the quarry, leaving Ren to do the same as his remaining Pokemon stepped back out of the way. Yanmega shot forwards, taking up an offensive position in the middle of the open space, habitually placing itself near a cluster of half-cut blocks of slate that could provide cover if necessary.
Ren hastily sized up the battlefield, nodding appreciatively. He would have placed Yanmega exactly where it was, given the choice. It always felt good to see his Pokemon learning and growing, and he felt a sudden flush of pride.
The few clumps of slate chunks aside, the roughly circular area was largely clear of obstruction – a perfect battlefield.
By the way, Ren,” Cole called from the other end, “I won't let you hear the end of it if you go easy on me, all right?”
“Wouldn't dream of it!” Ren shouted back. “Now let's go! You can call the first move as soon as you choose your Pokemon!” He saw Cole look down at the Poke Balls in his hands, his head lowered for several seconds while he weighed them against other. At length, he tossed one straight upwards.
At the peak of its arc, the ball burst open and a powerful, avian shriek rattled Ren's teeth in his head. An enormous, black and grey Flying-type wheeled overhead, a sharply hooked crest visible on its head. It was bulkier than Braviary, but moved more slowly and ponderously.
Nice Staraptor,” Ren said, more to himself than his opponent. He saw Cole's hand fly up, and Staraptor dived towards the still-unmoving Yanmega with a speed that belied its rotund form. The battle was on.
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