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. . .
l e f t o v e r s
. . .
At first glance, the boy admittedly appeared rather harmless. Slouched in a chair in front of a wooden desk, the folds of his baggy grey sweatshirt draped over the seat’s arms, he alternated listlessly between picking at a stain in his jeans and fiddling with the round-framed glasses that kept sliding down his nose. Every few seconds, the erratically blinking light bulb overhead illuminated his mop of curly red hair and babyishly round face.
He didn’t even look up as the click of a lock sounded at the top of the stairs. Swiftly pocketing the key to the door, a dark-haired, wild-eyed man at least a decade older stormed back down into the basement.
From the boy’s side, a Vulpix pup followed the man’s brusque movements with gleaming hazel eyes. Glaring distrustfully at the scrawny Fire Pokémon, the man reached under his tattered jacket for a PokéBall.
The boy looked up at last, auburn strands of hair sliding across his forehead as he did. “Don’t worry, sir,” he said in a calm, pleasant voice. “My Vulpix won’t do anything.” His eyes narrowed to mere slits as his lips curled into a smile. “Not unless I tell him to, of course.”
The Vulpix rose slightly off his haunches, stubby tails twitching in the air.
Warily keeping one hand over his PokéBall, the man turned irritably towards the child. “Don’t try anything funny, kid,” he growled, dark eyes flashing. “You have a Snover’s chance in hell of worming out of this again.” Pausing, he searched for a flinch, a twitch, a crack…anything at all…in the boy’s cherubic face, but was met only with unperturbed placidity.
“Where are the Pokémon you stole?” the man demanded at last, his own expression hardening.
The boy’s innocent smile didn’t waver. “No one can prove I have any stolen Pokémon, sir. You know the police said so. They dropped those charges ages ago.”
A crash resounded through the room as the man slammed his palms against the desk. Fingers tensing into white-knuckled fists, he leaned forward until he and the boy were eye to eye. The boy, for his part, only blinked owlishly behind his overly-large glasses.
Forcing himself to take a steadying breath, the man pulled out a slender manila folder. The folder’s contents splayed across the desk as he slapped it down, revealing an eclectic assortment of photocopies, handwritten notes, and photographs. Snatching a sheet out of the mess, one stapled to a grainy photograph of a Houndour with scars crisscrossing its body, the man began to read.
“Case #1. Houndour, female, multiple scars over right eye and back. Battle Park ID Number 18666. Stolen April 30 from the park rental shop. Suspect is a twelve to fifteen years old male last seen wearing glasses, a grey sweatshirt, and jeans. Suspect is believed to own a Vulpix and/or Ninetales and may be working with one or more accomplices. Return of the Houndour to Johto Battle Park, or equivalent compensation, is requested immediately…”
. . .
Half-hidden in the wings of Indigo Stadium, the Houndour from the photograph sneezed. Small jets of flame shot out of her nostrils, singeing the young Bayleef in front of her. Yelping and swerving about, the Bayleef glared at the sheepish Houndour, then smacked the other Pokémon with the leaf on her head.
A warning grunt came from the wiry Pikachu behind them. Tail tapping against the cement in a tense, twitchy rhythm, the small rodent Pokémon stared impatiently into the distance, out to where a flurry of shadows flickered across the stadium arena. As a muffled cacophony of roars and thuds sounded outside, the trainer at the Pikachu’s side, a tall girl with her long pale hair in a ponytail, gave a nervous shudder.
A shrill whistle pierced the air, followed by a deafening storm of applause. “And Taylor’s Salamence destroys Lillis’s Golem with an out-of-this-world Draco Meteor!” the voice of an announcer boomed, amplified tenfold over the PA system. “Ronnie Taylor will be advancing into the semifinals!”
The beating of the Pikachu’s tail grew increasingly edgy. The Ninetales standing on his other side gently tried to place a paw on said tail, only to be forced away with an irritable shake.
“Hang on to your hats, folks, because Kanto’s 11th Annual Public Tournament is really heating up!” the announcer continued excitedly. “Last call for signups at the front desk! There’s no need for badges or fancy certifications, because here at the Public Tournament, we have only one rule. May the best of the best prevail!”
There was a melodic ding as the enormous TV screen at the front of the arena lit up with a fresh display board. “Our next match is between Ryan Long from Ever Grande and Kin Makoto from Huin City! Long and Makoto, please enter the arena!”
Head leaf whirling about, the Bayleef bounded out of the stadium wings with an excited cry. The Pikachu dropped onto all fours and padded after the other Pokémon, eyes never leaving the impending battlefield. He was followed closely by the Ninetales and trainer. The Houndour, on the other hand, hung back, eyes darting towards the sunlit arena in the distance, then back to the dimly-lit waiting area from which they had come. She whimpered softly, involuntarily shrinking into the shadows.
“Chu!” came a brusque cry. The Houndour’s stubby black tail twitched at the sound. Glancing up, she saw that the Pikachu had paused upon the threshold of the waiting wings, his small form framed against the light. With a jerk of his head, he indicated the battleground that awaited them.
Body tensing, the Houndour bit back a second whimper and trotted towards the light.
. . .
“Sammy,” the boy said, voice echoing through the dimly-lit room.
The man, who had just been about to reach for a second case report, paused. “What?”
“That’s what we ended up calling her.” The boy indicated the photograph of the Houndour with a jab of his index finger. “Battle Park ID Number 18666 is a bit of a mouthful, you know,” he said with a wry grin. “So we call her Sammy.”
“Then you admit you stole this Pokémon.”
“Of course not.” As the light bulb blinked on for another several seconds, however, the man thought he glimpsed a paper-thin crack in the child’s formerly spotless poise.
“Though Sammy was the first one,” the boy said at last, straightening in his seat and wrapping his oversized sweatshirt more snuggly around his body. “Sometimes I worry that we made a mistake with her…”
. . .
Stepping tentatively out of the shadows, Sammy was instantly assaulted by a wave of heat. The midday sun glared relentlessly down on her scar-riddled back, giving rise to a sticky coat of sweat beneath her fur. Blinking her one good eye (the other had long been covered by scar tissue), the Houndour momentarily froze. As her sight eventually grew accustomed to the light, she could just make out the thousands of bleachers towering over all sides of the stadium arena. Each of the gleaming white stands overflowed with rambunctious spectators that, from afar, appeared no more than ant-like pinpricks of noise and motion.
Trembling a bit, Sammy turned away. Tail tucked between her hind legs, she jerkily made her way to the sidelines, where her teammates were waiting.
“Our first contender, Ryan Long, is an up-and-coming superstar who took third in the Hoenn League last year,” the announcer was blaring. “Let’s have everyone give him a warm welcome!”
Sammy winced as the crowd cheered, filling her sensitive ears with raucous sound. On the other side of the arena, she glimpsed a tanned trainer with scruffy brown hair strolling into sight, waving and grinning at the vast audience.
“Our next challenger is newcomer Kin Makoto! This is Kin’s first tournament in Kanto, folks, and I’m sure she’ll make it a good one!”
From where she stood by the Pikachu and her other Pokémon, the female trainer grinned and pumped her hand into the air, her long blonde ponytail swishing as she did.
“Each trainer is allowed only three Pokémon for this match,” the commentator continued over the shouts of the spectators. “Will each trainer please send out their first Pokémon?”
A crimson burst shot through the air at the opposite end of the arena. As the light faded, a rumbling roar resounded throughout the stadium. Raising his massive tusks and bellowing again, a bulky beast covered in shaggy brown fur lumbered forward. Sammy’s eyes widened as the enormous Pokémon approached, the ground shaking beneath his considerable weight. Trembling, the Houndour ducked timidly behind Makoto’s legs and closed her eyes.
“And Long starts off with a Mamoswine!” the announcer shouted. “How will Makoto handle this hefty hog?”
“Baaaay!” the Bayleef standing next to Makoto growled, pawing restlessly at the ground as she eyed the opposing Pokémon.
On the trainer’s opposite side, however, the Pikachu shook his small head. Though the Bayleef protested with a strident cry, the Pikachu turned instead to the Houndour. With a jab of his lightning-bolt shaped tail, he pointed towards the cowering dog Pokémon, then out towards the arena. “Chuu,” the Pikachu said tersely.
“Sammy?” Makoto asked hesitantly.
Body shaking, Sammy shook her head.
“Chu,” the Pikachu said in a low voice. “Pikapi pii. Chu.”
This time, Sammy looked into the Pikachu’s beady black eyes. The latter nodded slowly, not breaking eye contact. Taking a deep breath, the Houndour finally nodded back. Forcing her body to straighten and her tail to hang erect, she walked onto the field.
“And so Makoto sends out her Houndour!” the announcer proclaimed as Sammy entered the arena. “Let the battle begin!”
“Earthquake, Mamoswine!” Long, the opposing trainer, commanded in a ringing voice. His gargantuan Pokémon obliged by rearing onto his hind feet with a mighty snarl, then smashing his muscular forelegs into the ground. The surface of the pavement ripped asunder upon impact, sending powerful shockwaves racing across the arena. Sammy was thrown onto her side before she could even react, skull colliding against the now-cracked cement.
“Now use Ice Shard!” Long yelled. The Houndour barely had enough time to scramble away before a blazing blue ball slammed into the ground beside her. She fell back, crying out fearfully, as splinters of ice flew in all directions.
“Sammy!” Makoto began yelling, but Sammy’s head was swimming too much for her to make out the rest of the trainer’s words. As she stumbled away from the mess of ice and broken cement, her breath came out in ragged gasps of escalating panic. The ground still felt like it was rolling sickeningly beneath her…no matter where she tried to plant her paws, they still threatened to collapse under her badly shaking body…
She only noticed the second blast of ice after it was already upon her. It struck her directly in the ribs, sending her flying across the battlefield in a rain of razor-sharp crystals. The Houndour hit the earth with a strangled scream, chips of ice stabbing into her back and tearing open her old scars.
“Sammy!” someone was calling from far, far away.
With a shudder, Sammy closed her eyes.
. . .
“Sammy’s never been a fighter, you see,” the boy said matter-of-factly, still gazing at the photograph of the Houndour. “She avoids confrontation, quits too easily, and is scared of everything – failure most of all. You might say a Pokémon like her was never meant to battle.”
His round face stretched into a smile yet again, though this time the expression seemed almost sardonic. “Her old trainer didn’t like that. To him, she was weak and spineless, and he always let her know it. He’s the reason Sammy has all those scars, you know. The only useful thing he ever got out of her was the fifty dollars he made when he sold her to the Battle Park.” A soft, mirthless chuckle issued up from his throat.
“Sammy didn’t do well as a rental Pokémon, of course,” the boy went on. “The people who used her always complained that she was too weak, that she didn’t have any guts.”
Folding back the photograph, he held up the memo underneath and indicated the first paragraph. “Return of the Houndour to Johto Battle Park, or equivalent compensation, is requested immediately?” he read, echoing what the man had recited before. “Ha, I bet Sammy isn’t worth more than a couple bucks to them. They probably forgot about this case a long time ago.”
The man’s eyes flashed angrily. Snatching the paper out of the boy’s grasp, he glared at the youth’s now smirking face. “So is that where you come in, Mr. Hero?” the man demanded in a mocking voice, hand curling into a fist around the thin sheet. “You stole her to save her, is that right?”
The boy watched silently as the man tossed the now crumpled paper into the shadows. “You’re wrong, sir,” he said at last. “I can’t save Sammy. The only one who can do that is Sammy herself.”
. . .
Slowly opening her one good eye, Sammy gazed blearily into the distance. Shapes and lights danced dizzyingly in and out of focus, taunting her with their elusive forms. Sounds joined them shortly afterwards, circling in and out of the recesses of her mind in a sickening parade. As she lay there, they grew louder and louder, gradually morphing into whole words.
Useless. Hopeless. Failure.
That mutt will never evolve. It’s just too weak.
Feeling very, very tired, the Houndour almost closed her eyes again. Another burst of noise, however, abruptly pierced her fading consciousness. “Makoto’s Houndour is unable to battle. Victory goes to…”
I can change. Even it’s only a little at a time, even if it’s hard…
I can change myself.
A murmur from the audience interrupted the announcer in mid-shout. Long, who’d been whooping with delight only moments before, swerved hurriedly about.
The Houndour had struggled onto her feet, panting heavily all the while. Gritting her teeth, then lowering her head, she hurtled bravely towards her opponent.
Not budging from his position, the Mamoswine knocked the Houndour aside with his gleaming tusks. The smaller Pokémon crashed into the arena floor but staggered determinedly back onto all fours. Teeth bared, she launched herself into the air. The Mamoswine grunted as Sammy collided into his shaggy back and sunk her teeth into his hide. With a vehement shake, the Houndour went flying, a large mass of brown hair still clenched between her jaws.
Slamming into the pavement yet again, Sammy’s body gave a small shudder. Trying her best to ignore the wave of nausea wrapping itself around her head, as well as the pain stabbing into her ribs, the Houndour lurched back onto a standing position. One of her back paws gave way as she did, sending her sprawling against the ground.
There were more shouts and yells overhead, but all Sammy could hear was the sudden rush of blood in her ears. A growl forming in the back of her throat, she surged onto her feet for a second time and, after a few tense seconds, remained standing. Spitting out the fur in her mouth, the Houndour turned to her opponent with heightened resolve. The growl ripped its way out from between her jaws as she charged forward.
The Mamoswine brandished his tusks in the Houndour’s direction. To his surprise, a jet black fog erupted in front of him, stinging his eyes and obscuring his field of view. Twisting his head through the noxious vapor, the enormous Pokémon snorted in confusion.
Only the voice of the commentator penetrated the strange dark cloud. “And Makoto’s Houndour counters with a Smog attack!” the announcer cried in surprise. “Looks like the little guy may have more fight left than I expected!”
The Houndour materialized from within the thick black haze, red-hot embers glowing between her jaws. The Mamoswine swung about just in time, smacking the other Pokémon squarely in the side. Sammy plummeted to the ground, but rose hastily. Again, she launched a Smog attack and leapt at her massive adversary, spurting flames from her mouth. Again, the Mamoswine clouted her to the side with his tusks.
As Sammy got to her feet for the umpteenth time, her eyes were blazing. Doggedly locking her gaze onto her opponent, she reared back and shot a stream of flame directly at the Mamoswine.
Roaring, the enormous boar Pokémon stampeded towards the Houndour. The flames only singed his outer coat as he surged forward and knocked her into the dust.
“Why on earth…” Long uttered incredulously as the battered Houndour struggled to rise. The small Pokémon’s legs gave way beneath her almost immediately, but she gritted her teeth and fought to stand again…and again…and again. Rivulets of blood rolled down her back and dribbled from her open mouth. More red drops splattered onto the pavement each time she collapsed, forming a sticky pool beneath her body.
“What are you doing?” Long yelled frantically at his opponent. “Your Pokémon’s getting killed out there! Why aren’t you recalling it?!”
With an earsplitting howl, Sammy summoned her final reserves of strength and ran recklessly at her opponent. As she opened her jaws, a wall of flame filled the stadium in blazing light and scorching heat.
When the smoke had finally faded, a murmur rippled through the audience. The Mamoswine’s thick fur had been badly burnt, and the sound of his wheezing coughs echoed throughout the arena. The Houndour still stood before her opponent, body heaving with each painful breath.
As she took a step towards the other Pokémon, however, her body crumpled onto the ground. This time, she did not get up.
The ding of a bell sounded in the distance. “Makoto’s Houndour is unable to battle! Ryan Long wins the first round!”
Though cheers and applause resounded from the surrounding bleachers, the victorious trainer was not smiling. As he watched a team of Chansey medics cart the Houndour back to the sidelines, he started yelling at his opponent. “What kind of trainer are you, Makoto?” he demanded from across the battlefield. “Your Pokémon could’ve died out there!”
Makoto stiffened at these words, biting anxiously at her lip.
From Makoto’s side, the Pikachu slowly lifted his head. “Chu. Pika pika. Chuuu,” he murmured in a low, solemn voice.
The female trainer didn’t say anything at first. Slowly, however, the corners of her lips twitched into a small smile of wonderment. “No,” the girl said at last. “It was her choice. She needed to prove it to herself.”
Long could only blink confusedly. “Huh?”
Any further protests on his part, however, were interrupted by a shrill screech of static over the PA system. “Will Kin Makoto please send out her second Pokémon?” rang the voice of the announcer.
The Bayleef standing beside the female trainer shot the Pikachu a meaningful look. With a curt nod, the small rodent Pokémon gestured towards the arena. With a squeal of glee, the Bayleef took off as if she’d been launched from a rocket.
. . .
“Now, this one,” the boy went on before the man could interrupt, “is a completely different story.” Deftly picking out another sheet, a photocopy of a newspaper clipping, he held it underneath the blinking light bulb and began to read.
“May 5. A break-in was reported at the New Bark Nursery facility last night at approximately 11 PM. Investigators believe that the perpetrators may have stolen one or more of the starter Pokémon bred specifically for the Johto New Trainers’ program.” Pausing, he flipped through the stapled pages, then shifted perfunctorily through the photographs on the desk. “Oh,” he said at last, looking up at the man. “It seems you don’t have a picture of Bruiser.”
“What are you talking about?” the man snapped, patience wearing increasingly thin.
The boy indicated the news clipping with an index finger. “Only one starter Pokémon left the breeding center that night,” he said. “A Chikorita. Now she’s a Bayleef and goes by the name Bruiser.”
Placing the paper back on the desk, he leaned backwards in his seat. “In all honestly, I suppose I can’t blame you for not having her picture. Most people find Bruiser…well…” He coughed delicately and scratched the back of his head. “Well, one might say she’s a bit hard to look at. I doubt the New Bark breeding center particularly wants her back.”
“That’s not your call to make, kid,” the man countered tetchily. “I don’t care whatever excuses you’ve come up with to weasel your way out of this! Stealing is stealing, plain and simple!”
“Stealing?” the boy echoed with a dry laugh. “I didn’t steal any more from Bruiser than what had already been taken from her by birth. Bruiser never got very many chances, you see, so she had to make her own through sheer determination. She fought tooth and nail to get where she is now…”
. . .
As soon as Bruiser entered the arena, a hush fell over the previously lively spectators. Magnified a hundred times over on the live TV screen at the head of the stadium, the Pokémon’s misshapen face was clear for all to see. The Bayleef’s skull slanted down at an abnormal angle, causing one eye to remain permanently drooped, while the other bulged out of a grotesquely oversized socket. The odd curvature of her spine had left her neck bent and her center of gravity shifted too far forward, and as she bounded across the pavement, the other reason for her oddly rocking gait became readily apparent. Her left hind leg was too twisted and shriveled to be of any use, giving her only three good feet to stand on.
“What the…” Long whispered, blanching a little at the sight.
From the other end of the field, Bruiser held her head leaf high and eyed the Mamoswine opponent imperiously. “Bay bay!” she declared, stamping her front legs against the ground. The Mamoswine, for his part, looked just as surprised as his trainer.
“What are you doing?!” Long shouted at Makoto. “That Pokémon…it’s…it’s…” He floundered for a moment, not knowing how to finish.
The young Bayleef’s bright red eyes flashed in annoyance. Without waiting for a command, she opened her mouth and sent a torrent of large white seeds hurtling towards the Mamoswine. The seeds exploded against the mammoth Pokémon’s massive side, causing him to roar in surprise.
“Baaaay!” Bruiser yelled, aiming another Seed Bomb in her opponent’s direction. The Mamoswine attempted to dodge the attack, but stumbled. The glowing seeds smashed into his throat and sent him staggering back.
Growling angrily, the Mamoswine started towards the Bayleef. Before he could get very far, however, he wobbled unexpectedly, then toppled onto the ground with a crash. The pavement shook with the immensity of the impact, and the Bayleef struggled not to lose her footing.
“And it’s an unexpected turnaround for Makoto!” the commentator cried disbelievingly. “Could it be? Yes, indeed! It looks like Long’s Mamoswine was Poisoned by Houndour’s Smog attack from before, weakening it enough to go down in only two more hits! Long and Makoto are now tied one for one!”
Recalling the Mamoswine, Long lobbed a second PokéBall into the arena. This time, a willowy golden form emerged from the flare of crimson light. Static crackling along the length of her body, the Pokémon released a braying cry that echoed throughout the stadium, then slapped her black and yellow striped tail threateningly against the ground.
“Ampharos!” the Pokémon’s trainer shouted. “Use…” He hesitated as he glanced over at the Bayleef. “Uh, use…”
“Baaay!” Bruiser yelped, impulsively leaping forward. She landed squarely on her three good legs in front of the Ampharos. “Baaaay!” she yelled again, brandishing her head leaf menacingly towards the Electric Pokémon. With another cry, she sent a flurry of razor-sharp leaves zooming in her opponent’s direction.
A crackle of static fizzled up around the Ampharos’s body, knocking the leaves aside. Growling, Bruiser launched herself into the air and, head leaf whirling wildly, shot another Razor Leaf at the Ampharos from above. The Electric Pokémon deflected the attack in the same manner as before, but made no move to retaliate.
The Bayleef fell back to the ground, panting slightly. Eyes narrowing, she began to circle the Ampharos’s inexplicably motionless form. Her one good leg hopped across the ground as she ran, pumping back and forth beside the shrunken stump of its useless counterpart. Her cries of frustration echoed throughout the stadium, which had otherwise become deathly quiet.
. . .
“Bruiser came out of her egg with several birth deformities,” the boy said, idly picking at his sweatshirt sleeve. “It happens from time to time, even in the best breeding facilities. Usually the baby dies from complications shortly afterwards. Not Bruiser, though. She’s far too bullheaded to let anything get the best of her without a fight.”
He signed and looked aimlessly at the ceiling, where the lone light was still flickering on and off. “We both know that New Bark never had any intention of sending her out as a starter Pokémon,” he told the man as he tucked his arms behind his head. “In fact, I don’t think they knew what do with her at all. You can’t get many people to adopt a Pokémon like Bruiser. No one wanted to use her in tournaments or Contests. She wouldn’t have even made an appealing house pet.”
His lip curled into a smirk as he continued, still staring at the ceiling. “Bruiser, though, knew what she wanted to do from the start,” he said with a chuckle. “She wanted to battle. That’s why she found us.”
“Found you?” the man echoed, brow wrinkling. “You mean the break-in…”
“That’s right.” The boy grinned. “It was a break-out. Bruiser can go to extraordinary lengths to get what she wants.” Pulling himself back into a sitting position, he placed his elbows on the desk and leaned forward. “And what Bruiser wants more than anything else,” he said, resting his chin over his entwined hands, “is a fair fight.”
. . .
With a grunt, Bruiser fell back from her opponent. The Ampharos, for her part, continued eying the other Pokémon, but still did not move a muscle.
As the Bayleef’s repeated attacks continued to draw no reaction from her opponent, Bruiser’s fierce expression began to fade, leaving only bitter disappointment in its place. For one fleeting moment, the two Pokémon stared at each other, the Bayleef’s pleading gaze desperately searching for something in the Ampharos’s gleaming black eyes.
Then something in Bruiser snapped. Fury surged onto her face as she barreled forward, slamming headfirst into the Ampharos’s belly. The tall Electric Pokémon crashed into the pavement with a gasp of surprise. The Bayleef lumbered up and stood over her opponent’s prone body, still seething with rage. “Bay bay!” she snapped, slamming a foot angrily into the ground next to the Ampharos’s head. “Baaaay!”
The Ampharos made a buzzing bleat of protest, only to be smacked indignantly in the chest by one of the Bayleef’s leaves. A growl rumbling in the back of her throat, Bruiser narrowed her eyes and gave another shriek of frustration.
Slowly, the Ampharos rose onto her hind feet. Then, nodding at last, she jumped into the air above the Bayleef.
“Ampharos!” the Pokémon’s trainer cried. “What are you doing? I didn’t say to…”
A crackling bolt of electricity hurtled down. Bruiser dodged adroitly. As the shimmering bolt raced across the pavement, the Bayleef leapt into the air and sent a barrage of explosive seeds hurtling towards her opponent. The seeds collided with a sparking shield of static, sizzling into blackened crisps.
Matching each other move for move, the two Pokémon danced around the arena, filling the air with blinding bursts of electricity, intermingled with whirlwinds of seed shrapnel. The audience, as well as the trainers, could only watch speechlessly as the heated battle unfolded before them.
Though the Bayleef’s hops may have seemed awkward at first, especially in comparison to the Ampharos’s fluid movements, they were surprisingly fast. Muscles straining and pumping at a dazzling speed, the Grass Pokémon’s remaining three legs were no more than a blur. While the Bayleef’s permanently droopy eye remained unseeing, its twin blazed with an excited fervor, narrowing in intense concentration each time Bruiser readied herself for another attack.
Crouching down, Bruiser sent blasts of seeds careening in all directions. The Ampharos launched herself into the air, narrowly avoiding the small chain of explosions that followed. Twisting about, twin crackles of static forming above her striped ears, the airborne Electric Pokémon took aim at the Bayleef below.
Bruiser was faster. A second bout of seeds nicked the Ampharos’s side and threw her off balance. She crashed into the pavement with a pained bleat. Bruiser watched intently as her opponent struggled into a half-stand, half-crouch, body heaving with the effort.
A shrill yelp shattered the air as an unexpected Thunderbolt slammed into Bruiser’s back. The Bayleef collapsed onto the ground herself, traces of static racing across her prone body. Groaning, the Grass Pokémon lay there for a moment, dazed. She tried to rise but only fell back into an ungainly heap.
“Baaaay…” Bruiser grunted. The arena cameramen zoomed in on the Bayleef’s scrunched up face, projecting it again to the live TV screen. As the Grass Pokémon struggled once more to lift herself off the ground, the previous silence of the stands was broken by a scattering of applause. Gradually, the applause grew until a good portion of the spectators had risen to their feet and started clapping.
“Baaay!” With a rush of renewed strength, Bruiser surged onto her feet. Her harsh scream echoed throughout the stadium, silencing the crowds. Head jerking accusingly about, the Bayleef glared at the bewildered spectators and stomped her forelegs against the pavement. “Baay bay! Baaay bay baaay!” she stormed, her enraged cries piercing the air over and over again.
Save that for when I win the match, you idiots!
Turning back to the Ampharos, Bruiser glared at her opponent, as if daring her to say anything in response. As the Ampharos shook her head and started forward with a plaintive bleat, Bruiser acted. She shot towards the other Pokémon like a bullet, screaming an earsplitting battlecry.
Tell me! What do I have to do…
Streaking lightning met a storm of exploding seeds, twisting into a blinding tornado.
…for you to treat me like everybody else?
. . .
A slam resounded through the room as the man pounded a fist against the desk, nearly overturning it. Papers went flying in all directions, fluttering like pale butterflies into the darkness. Overhead, the bare lightbulb shook and fizzled, spraying sparks against the ceiling.
“I don’t have time for this, kid!” the man snarled, the last of his pitifully small reserves of patience finally running dry. His voice fell to a deathly quiet whisper as he leaned forward. “I am going to ask you one more time,” he informed the boy, lips forming a snarl as he spat out each word. “And this time, I don’t want another sob story. I want an answer. Where are the Pokémon you took, you little brat?”
“No more sob stories, sir?” the boy echoed, that increasingly eerie smile still stretching the contours of his face. “But I’ve saved the very best for last.”
Crouching down, he swept a glossy color photograph off the ground. Two smiling faces shone out of the picture, one belonging to a bright-eyed trainer flashing an exuberant victory sign at the camera, the other to the laughing young Pikachu perched atop his head.
“The Pikachu here’s a special case,” the boy said, holding the photo towards the man. “He doesn’t have a name. Not one that he would tell us, at any rate.”
“I warned you…” the man started in a low growl, but the boy cut him off in mid-sentence.
“He doesn’t look like this anymore, though,” the boy said, indicating Pikachu’s unguardedly high-spirited expression. “I’ve never even seen him crack a smile, come to think of it. He used to be a real champ, you know. Him and his trainer took the Pokémon League by storm way back when.”
The boy’s ever-present grin twisted a bit at this. “Then there was a nasty battling accident. That Pikachu ended up having to get both of the electric sacs in his cheeks removed. And that was it. Poof! His world-renowned battling career, gone just like that.” The boy gave an expansive shrug at this. “But I guess he wasn’t willing to let it end there…”
. . .
When the dust had finally cleared from the stadium arena, a surprised murmur issued up from the stands. Covered in debris and charred leaves, the unconscious bodies of both the Ampharos and Bayleef lay in a limp heap on the battlefield.
“I don’t believe it!” the announcer cried as the scene of the two fallen Pokémon played on the TV screen. “But it looks like a double knockout, folks! Both Ampharos and Bayleef are down for the count, leaving the scored tied 2-2! Both challengers must now send out their final Pokémon!”
Turning to the Pikachu, who had been tapping his tail edgily during the entire duration of the previous battles, Makoto nodded. “It’s up to you,” she said softly.
Jagged tail snapping out like a battle flag, the Pikachu trotted into the arena. The scars over his hollow, dully-colored cheeks drew taut as he set his jaw and braced himself for the impending fight.
A Pokémon with gleaming white fur and an ebony-hued face materialized above the other end of the field. She fell gracefully onto all fours, soundlessly scanning her surroundings with intelligent crimson eyes. “Makoto chooses Pikachu, while Long has sent out Absol!” the announcer’s voice sounded overhead. “The battle between these two Pokémon will decide the winner of this match!”
At last, the Absol’s gaze fell upon her diminutive opponent. Her eyes drifted first to the Pikachu’s scarred, sunken cheek pouches, then to his tensed body and steady, self-possessed countenance. Slowly, the Pikachu gave the Absol a nod of acknowledgement. The Absol, in turn, inclined her head towards him, returning the somber gesture as one seasoned veteran to another.
Without another moment’s delay, the two Pokémon charged headlong towards one another.
. . .
“That Pikachu didn’t have a name, but he gave us ours, you know,” the boy said, hazel brown eyes glittering in the dim light. By this point, his tone had turned unguardedly bitter. “You know what he called us?”
“I don’t…” the man started to interject.
To his surprise, the boy’s voice rose into a sudden shout. “He called us leftovers!” Breath hitching in his throat, the child quickly caught himself. Taking a deep breath, he closed his eyes, then carefully ironed out all traces of anger from his face. “It was originally that Pikachu’s idea, you know,” he said more calmly. “He said it wasn’t stealing.”
Taking the photograph, he placed one hand over each of the top corners. “It wasn’t stealing,” the boy said matter-of-factly, “because we were only taking the ones that nobody wanted anymore.”
A rip sounded as he tore the photo in two, separating the image of the trainer from that of the Pikachu.
Looking up as a sudden shadow fell across his chair, the boy blinked in surprise. The man was towering over him, expression contorted in shock and rage. Snatching the torn photograph from the boy’s grasp, he hurriedly tried to piece it back together. His fingers fumbled across the image’s glossy surface, leaving behind a mess of smudges.
“You’re wrong!” the man snarled. Abandoning the ruined photo, his hands shot out to yank the boy off his seat. The child hurriedly bolted up, kicking over his chair with a metal clang. As the man moved forward, the boy stumbled back, tripping and falling knees-first onto the cement floor.
“You’re wrong!” the man screamed again, his face a fearsome mask of hatred. “Why would he think that?! Why would he ever think that he wasn’t wanted anymore?!”
Growling, the Vulpix leapt onto all fours with his teeth bared. The boy put a hasty arm in front of his Pokémon.
“The accident was my fault!” the man cried. “I’m the reason he can’t battle anymore!” His voice cracked. “We were best friends,” the man said softly, almost to himself. “He would’ve known that I would never, ever consider him weak or useless!” Regaining their former strength, his words escalated into a hysterical shout. “So why did you take him away, you self-righteous brat?!”
“None of us are useless!” the boy yelled back. He blanched as the man advanced, black eyes blazing in undiluted fury, hands clenching into bloodless fists. “We all have our own challenges to overcome!” the boy kept going, despite the fear filling the eyes behind his round glasses. “Sometimes the world may say we’re only ‘leftovers’! Sometimes we might believe that ourselves! Sometimes it seems like that won’t ever change!”
Gasping as the man lunged forward, he squeezed his eyes shut. “If we never challenge it,” the boy shouted, “it never will!”
The man was mere inches from grabbing the boy when a blinding burst of light illuminated the room.
“Mr. Red, we’ve been looking all over for you!” came a voice from the top of the stairs leading into the basement. The figure standing there, a nervous-looking man in League attire, could only blink at the strange sight: a grown man on the verge of throttling a cringing child against the wall. Hastily regaining his composure, the League official cleared his throat. “We’ve found your missing Pikachu, Mr. Red!” he informed the black-haired man hurriedly. “It’s fighting in the public tournament at the stadium as we speak!”
“What?!” Red yelled, momentarily forgetting about the boy as he stormed towards the stairs. “Stop the tournament at once!”
“I-I’m sorry, sir,” the other man spluttered, cowering under Red’s glare. “But you should really come see this.”
. . .
The beginnings of a black eye darkening the left side of his face, the Pikachu fixed his gaze once more upon his opponent’s panting form. Fighting for each ragged breath, the Absol sprang swiftly into the air. Faster than the eye could follow, the Pikachu launched himself after her.
A quick succession of thuds sounded as the two Pokémon met each other in the air, exchanged glancing blows, and fell back to earth. The Pikachu skid back several yards upon impact, raising a fine cloud of debris. The Absol staggered precariously as she hit the field, but also managed to remain upright.
Without a moment’s delay, the two fighters leapt at each other in a dizzying blur. Twisting about in midair, the Absol raked her claws against the Pikachu’s scarred cheek, drawing out small beads of blood. The Pikachu retaliated by smashing his tail into the Absol’s side, knocking the wind out of her body. Gasping, the Absol crashed onto the ground below, while Pikachu deftly landed on all fours. Wiping streams of blood from his face with a front paw, he eyed the other Pokémon intently.
“Pikachu!” a male voice shouted from the stands.
One of the Pikachu’s black tipped ears twitched. As he involuntarily began to turn, a translucent purple aura flickered up around the Absol’s claws. Snarling, the Dark Pokémon charged forward and caught the Pikachu across the side with a powerful Night Slash. The smaller Pokémon went flying through the air. He collided head-first into the side of the arena, skull smacking loudly against the wall.
Body heaving, the Absol swayed on her feet, but managed to remain standing.
“Pikachu is unable to battle!” the announcer proclaimed after a tense minute had passed. “Victory goes to Ryan Long!”
Shoving his way through the packed crowd of spectators, Red finally reached the bottom of stands. Without any hesitation, he vaulted into the arena, his open jacket flapping out behind him. He reached his fallen Pokémon just as the Pikachu was beginning to sit up, rubbing groggily at the back of his injured head.
“Chuu…” the rodent Pokémon groaned, wincing at the bump forming behind his ears. He stiffened, however, as he saw the black-haired man standing over him. Ignoring his former trainer, the Pikachu fell onto all fours and began trotting towards where Makoto was standing on the sidelines.
“Wait!” Red called desperately. “Please! Pikachu, I...I’m sorry.”
Ear twitching again, ever so slightly, the Pikachu waited.
“I was just trying to protect you,” Red whispered, bowing his head. “That’s why I didn’t let you battle after the accident, okay? I was so worried you’d get hurt again. But that didn’t mean I thought you were…useless.”
With a dismissive grunt, the Pikachu kept on walking.
“But just now…” Red paused, mentally groping about for the right words. “You…well, you were pretty cool out there, you know? If I hadn’t distracted you, I bet you would’ve won.” The man’s weathered face broke into an almost childlike grin. “But man, your footwork is just as sloppy as ever! We’re going to have to work on that. Your tail techniques could use a little more practice as well.”
Slowly, the Pikachu turned towards the man, beady black eyes widening in surprise. Then, turning just the slightest bit wet, they crinkled into a smile.
. . .
As dusk fell upon the stadium, competitors and spectators alike filed out in massive droves, talking animatedly about all the matches they’d seen that day. Long after the other people had left, however, two lone figures still remained in the stands. The first, the female trainer with the long blond ponytail, sat silently next to her stately Ninetales. A sprightly evening breeze fluttered past, nudging playfully against the dark clouds above.
A soft set of footfalls sounded over the whistle of the wind. Two more figures stepped onto the top of the bleachers, their forms draped in shadow. The redheaded boy with the round glasses jumped down to sit by the girl, followed closely by the young Vulpix.
“Kin,” the boy said softly. “It’s me, Gin. Where are the others?”
“Red took them with him. Pikachu wouldn’t leave without them,” the girl replied, not turning around. Through the clouds, the night’s first stars were just beginning to twinkle into sight. “Though I think a certain someone might have helped in convincing him.”
The boy, Gin, shrugged modestly. “You didn’t go with them?”
The girl shook her head. “You and me still have a lot of work to do,” she answered. “I hear there’s a Slowpoke in Azalea Town who’s been asking about us.”
“Alright.” Getting to his feet, the boy stretched his arms over his head and yawned. “It’s pretty late now,” he said, staring out into the shadows. “There aren’t going to be very many humans out, are there?”
“I don’t think so. We should be safe.”
The boy’s body disappeared in a wisp of silvery smoke. Similarly, the girl’s form faded into a golden fog that was promptly whisked apart in a rush of wind. Bones creaking slightly with the effort, the Ninetales rose to her feet, followed shortly by the Vulpix.
Mouth opening in an even wider yawn, the smaller fox Pokémon began bounding up the steps leading out of the stadium. Feeling about for the vibrations left in his wake, the Ninetales leapt after him, her milky white eyes, long rendered blind by illness, staring unseeingly into the night.
. . .
Notes: I'm not sure how many people have seen the Pokémon episode "Just Waiting on a Friend," but it might be important for understanding the ending. Or you can read this.
Hey! Decided to try to review all of the SWC stories posted here. Sorry for the lateness. Been quite busy the last couple weeks. >.> For my SWC reviews I decided to divide it into three sections, the same ones from the contest. Already showed you the individual scores for the three sections, so yeah.
As far as I can tell, no problems with grammar and spelling. However, there’s one part where you’re supposed to put launch instead of “launch” despite the story mostly in past tense.
The writing style is quite good. You did the emotional description of the Pokemon very well. The battles are fast paced but still descriptive enough for me to know what is going on, although Bayleef’s battle dragged on a bit.
Oh man, all the three Pokemon…;_; I admit, I feel uneasy seeing those three in battle, thinking they’re going to get themselves killed and such. However, at the same time I understand they want to prove themselves and you did well with the Pokemon’s personalities. It’s quite a heartbreaker at the end when it’s revealed that Pikachu is Red. Glad the two are together, though. As for the ending, I admit I haven’t watched that episode and thus was slightly confused, but I know what happened in it and I would like to watch it one day. ;
Overall, you did well with the Pokemon and the human characters are good too. Bayleef's battle could have gone slightly faster and the ending was confusing (though I need to watch that episode, haha). Great work!
It's a good thing Bay posted her review, or otherwise I never would have read this.
Because this was good. It was well-written, especially in the way that you told the story. The outer frame story with Gin and Red didn't take away from the battles, but added to them by giving more of an idea as to what was at stake in the battles. Bruiser was particularly my favorite of the three Pokemon.
I enjoyed this story a lot (it even pulled me out of my fanfiction reading/reviewing funk), so I'm definitely hoping that you'll continue posting more one-shots. (I might even have to look at 7Feathers now!)
Sorry for the late reply! (I thought I already responded, but obviously not, haha)
Reviewing all the SWC stories must've been a lot of work. I def appreciate it. Not sure where the grammar error you pointed out is, actually...is it from the older version I sent you? (I know that had some embarrassing mistakes, haha).
Yeah, I was afraid the battles might've dragged on a bit (though I was actually most worried about Sammy's battle in that regard - any thoughts on that?). I can see how Bruiser's battle would've been gotten rather monotonous since she tends to use the same attacks over and over (guess who forgot Bayleef had vine whips ). Do you think it would help to mix up the attacks a bit more?
As to the ending, here is an explanation:
I'm super happy you gave this a look, especially if you don't tend to read/review often! (hugs) I'm glad that the overarching part with Gin and Red works alright; I was worried at first that jumping back and forth between that and the battles might be distracting, so it's good to hear that it helps rather than hurts.
I like Bruiser as well, though my personal favorite is probably Sammy (I have a soft spot for the sweet and shy characters, haha).
I hope to write more oneshots in the future, even though I'm woefully lazy/uninspired (good thing the contest gave a hard deadline, else I probably wouldn't have ever gone through with it, haha). Anyway, thanks for reading, and I would be psyched if you ever checked out 7fEATHERS! (Btw, I must say that your avatar is adorable)
And okay, I get the ending better now. I do know what happened at at episode, but a bit confused how what happen in that episode relates to this story. ;