Thread: [Pokémon] Champion Game [M]
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Old July 16th, 2011 (2:55 PM). Edited July 23rd, 2011 by Misheard Whisper.
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Misheard Whisper Misheard Whisper is offline
Waiting for the rain
  • Gold Tier
Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: Doctor Drakken's lair
Age: 22
Gender: Male
Nature: Relaxed
Posts: 3,389
This chapter's about a thousand words longer than most of the others, so enjoy the extra weight and some (shock!) exposition. Also, this chapter is notable for being the first not posted from the Misheard Fortress.

Chapter Fourteen

We should keep out of everybody's way,” said Cecilia, who, despite her request to be escorted, was firmly steering him towards the other side of the village.

So . . . why are the Iehkti'na here?” Ren asked, suddenly wondering why he hadn't noticed this before. “I didn't know they could get into the third ring.”

Get in? They don't need to get in, Ren. They live here. In the third ring. Did you not pick that up last night?”

Uh . . . no. If it was mentioned, I don't recall . . .”

Well, yes. What did you think we had the Spirit Wall for? Ooh, tell you what, we'll borrow Maho's workshop while he's out. I think he's done a bunch of research on the Iehkti'na.” With that, she abruptly changed direction, navigating them deftly through the crowd of busy spirits who were still rushing around, preparing for battle.

Um, no offense, Cecilia, but I've just been wondering . . . you don't really seem like the fighting type.”

Well, I prefer not to be,” she said, dodging a young, bronze-skinned man carrying a large, curved sword, “but if it comes down to it, I'm really quite competent, I promise.”

Oh . . . really?” Ren said, unable to mask his surprise.

Yep! Now, wait here while I get changed,” she said, depositing him in the shadow of an elegant marble house and dashing inside, her diaphanous silver robe fluttering behind her.

Oh, good,” Ren muttered. He had been wondering exactly how Cecilia was planning to do any fighting at all in the flimsy, barely-there outfit.


Ren turned, puzzled. Cecilia's sister, Salinthia, was gliding towards him. After looking twice, Ren realised that she really was gliding, hovering an inch or so above the ground, a pale nimbus of green light emanating from her. She had already gone ahead and changed into battle dress, it seemed – not that it looked very practical, Ren had to admit. She had traded her silver robe for a thick, heavy purple one, tied with silver cord and hanging almost to her ankles.

Oh, hello,” he said, puzzled. “What can I, uh, do for you?”

Felicia asked me to give this to you,” she said with the slightest hint of a knowing smile, holding out the short sword he had used to kill the nightmare the previous night.

Ren took it hesitantly, the blade almost seeming to speak to him as he clasped his hand around its purple-bound grip. I have taken life. You, through me, have taken life too. He shuddered and ignored it. “Thanks,” he said weakly. “Tell Elly I'm glad she's worried about me.”

I don't really think that's the case,” Salinthia said. “I believe it has more to do with the fact that it would be disastrous if the yehktira was killed. You personally have nothing to do with it.”

All the more reason to tell her, then,” Ren grinned. Somehow, riling Elly up was fun.

Salinthia inclined her head gracefully before slipping back into the crowd, and Ren could tell she approved, even if she wouldn't say it.

Cecilia reappeared at his side a moment later, looking slightly miffed as she noticed the blade he was holding. “Present from your girlfriend?” she enquired coolly.

Ren had been a little afraid she would show up in an impractical-looking robe like her sister, but it turned out she had opted for a loose-fitting white costume that looked much like one of those worn by karate practitioners. He chose to ignore her comment. It just wasn't worth it. “Come on,” he said. “Weren't we going to Maho's workshop or something?”

Yeah, I guess you're right,” she said, narrowing her eyes at the blade as he slotted it carefully through his belt. “Let's go.”

Are you sure it's OK, though?” Ren asked as they set off at a brisk trot. “Maho . . . didn't seem like the kind of guy who'd appreciate it if we went through his stuff.”

It's fine,” she said airily, waving a hand as they swerved through the rapidly thinning crowd. Ren noticed that most of the spirits had congregated on one side of the village – the side opposite to the one they were headed towards. “As a member of the council, nobody can complain about what I do. Maho might be a General, but it doesn't mean he can tell me what to do outside of a war zone.”

Wait, he's a General?” Ren asked. “He didn't really strike me as the commanding type.”

He's not, really, but his level of magic is higher than anybody else's here, so he's General essentially by default, I guess. He hates taking responsibility for men under his command, though, so whenever we go to battle, he usually delegates control to his sub-General, a man called Hermann Faber. In fact, it's strange that he decided to even join the strike force today. Normally he's hiding in his workshop whenever it comes to trouble. It's not that he can't take care of himself in a fight. He just prefers not to have to.”

Yeah, I suppose so,” Ren said absently, remembering the bolt of crackling blue lightning, the all-consuming inferno of hot orange fire. He shivered slightly, wondering for a brief moment whether Elly or Cecilia could do that too. “So, why do you think he actually chose to go out today, then?”

My guess . . . he didn't want to babysit you,” Cecilia said thoughtfully. “Remember I said he doesn't like taking responsibility for other people? I think when it comes down to it, he'd rather take care of a group of spellcasters that he knows, rather than a kid he doesn't. No offense, of course, but . . . Maho's a funny guy. A genius, for sure, but awfully strange with it.”

None taken,” Ren mused. He thought on this for a moment, but then he became aware that they had come to a stop in front of a long, squat building that looked a little more dilapidated than the pristine edifices around it. It sat some way apart from the rest of the village, barely ten metres from the Spirit Wall that still flashed angry red colours.

Cecilia led him up a short flight of steps to the door, ignoring a sign that said 'Warning! Hazardous materials, dangerous creatures and delicate experiments inside! Do not enter.'

Uh . . .” Ren said awkwardly, but Cecilia pushed open the door and practically dragged him in.

The interior of the building was, Ren had to admit, much like he would have expected something called a workshop – especially one owned by Maho – to look. It was spacious inside, with another short flight of steps leading down from the door to the marble floor, which was below ground level. The only light came from a series of small windows set along the tops of the long side walls, giving the space an eerie gloom.

Tables and piles of books lined each wall, with a single long wooden table stretching down the middle. While the table in the middle was empty save for the odd scrap of paper here and there, the ones set along the sides were groaning with piles of notes, arcane-looking ingredients, and other things Ren hesitated to even try to identify. On one of them, a beaker of red liquid was emitting puffs of pinkish smoke at regular intervals.

Ooh,” Cecilia breathed.

You've not been in here before?” Ren asked weakly.

Are you nuts? Maho's always in here. This has to be the first time in a hundred years he's left the workshop for long enough for me to take a look.”

So I'm just an excuse?” Ren chuckled.

Partly,” Cecilia admitted, skipping across to one of the tables on the left-hand wall and flicking through a couple of the books strewn across it. “This could take a while, though . . . here, you go down the right side. I know he's written a big paper on the nature of those Iehkti'na somewhere. No real clue where, unfortunately, so we'll have to look for it.”

Ren sighed. “You don't . . . think ahead much, do you?” he said. He didn't really want to spend any longer trawling through the endless piles of books than he had to; Maho's workshop was starting to creep him out.

Never,” she said. “Still, life wouldn't be much fun if I did, would it?”

Ren shook his head in exasperation and crossed to the right-hand side of the long, narrow room to start flicking through books.

For a good ten minutes, there was silence as Ren picked up each book – none of them had titles or any other distinguishing marks on the cover – opened it to its first page and pored over the scribbled handwriting. It appeared these books had all been crafted and written by Maho himself; the jerky, irregular handwriting seemed as if it could belong to no other than the awkward giant.

The subjects of the books varied widely, from thick tomes on botany and chemistry to catalogues of incantations in a language Ren couldn't even recognise, let alone read. Many of them, however, seemed to deal with something called the Soul Bonds. One of them, a small red book which seemed quite new despite its well-thumbed pages, seemed to contain an introduction of sorts. Curious despite his misgivings about rooting through the magician's library, Ren struggled to decipher a couple of pages of the scrawled, messy handwriting.

The nature of the Soul Bonds is an enigmatic one. While it is certain that they came into being at the same time as we – and our world – did, about seven hundred years past. The Soul Bonds are integral in the stability of both our worlds, for if they are allowed to dissolve, the worlds will drift apart, with disastrous consequences. It is almost certain that the Bonds were crafted by the same person – or persons – who brought our world into existence, for they bear identical magical signatures.

The first time it became evident that the Soul Bonds were collapsing, we sought a means to prevent our destruction. I had ascertained that a great amount of yehkti was necessary to re-cast the Soul Bonds, yet not of the kind that is found within this world. It is thus that the need for a yehktira came about. Through a concerted and risky effort, eleven of our strongest spellcasters journeyed through the second ring and into the first, using all of their combined power to create the Dreamlight, the artifact that allows a mortal to pass between the rings as we do. They bestowed this powerful item on a man known as Drayden, who then became the first yehktira. They brought him into the third ring, and his yehkti healed the Soul Bonds.

Drayden was never needed again, for the Soul Bonds remained stable. Before he died, he passed the Dreamlight on to his son, a man with a far greater measure of yehkti than his father. He also was needed only once in his lifetime. This went on for more than five centuries, until Drayden's line died out. His last descendant handed the Dreamlight on to a woman who would go on to found the contest known as the Pokemon League. Her name was Martha Birch. With my aid, Martha discovered some form of link between those who have great amounts of yehkti and those who perform the most admirably in the tests called Pokemon battles. As a result, she agreed to hand the Dreamlight on to whoever could defeat her in battle, and the tradition of the Dreamlight that lives on today began.

Twice in her lifetime, Martha was required to enter the third ring and stabilise the Soul Bonds. We saw no real need for consternation at this stage, however, for the Soul Bonds remained relatively stable.

Over the next hundred years, however, as the Dreamlight was passed from hand to hand, the frequency with which the yehktira was forced to enter the third ring increased dramatically. As of the year 685 (which the humans call 1985), it was necessary to renew the Soul Bonds twice annually.

It was also around this time that the Iehkti'na began to show an interest in the yehktira and their world. Slowly at first, the smallest of the beasts were able to slip through into the second ring and harass the bearer of the Dreamlight. In these early days, a few small Iehkti'na found their way through to the first ring, though they are all believed to have been trapped there, haunting the nightmares of humans and Pokemon, as they are not strong enough to push through into the humans' world. It soon became customary for a powerful spirit to act as the yehktira's escort during these times, and the attacks were dealt with swiftly.

Now, the Soul Bonds are deteriorating faster than ever. They reach a critical level within a day and a half of being renewed, so the yehktira must navigate the rings nightly to refresh and recover them. The attacks of the Iehkti'na are growing bolder, stronger and more frequent, and it appears it will soon reach the point where the yehktira's escort will not be able to guard against them.

The current yehktira and Champion of the Pokemon League, Steven Stone, is giving his best effort to work towards a solution in his world, as am I in ours, but I fear our efforts will be in vain. The only one who can truly bring the Soul Bonds back to full strength is the one who cast them in the first place, and the knowledge of who that could be is lost in the sands of time, as is, surely, the man himself.”

Ren! I found it!”

Ren blinked a few times, almost dropping the book. Suddenly, it seemed like he had stumbled into something far more serious than he could have imagined. His head was spinning. Soul Bonds? Hadn't Elly said something like that the first time she had met her? Then again, she had also said that the Iehkti'na came from the first ring, which he had recently found to not be the case at all. What did she mean by that?

Ren!” Cecilia crossed to the middle table and plonked a thick-looking book down on it. “You awake over there?”

Uh . . . yeah.” Ren slid the book back into the middle of the pile he had found it in. “Just daydreaming.” For some reason, he had the strangest feeling he should keep what he had come across quiet. He moved over to look at what Cecilia had dug out. The royal purple-bound tome's pages were yellowed and crisp with age, though the black ink was still clearly legible.

You'd do well to read this page,” Cecilia said, indicating a spot in the book. “It deals with the origin of the Iehkti'na. It reads a little bit like a fairy story, but that's Maho for you. He's . . . quirky . . . like that. You read, and I'll be over here, um . . . doing something else.” She slipped away quickly, down towards the far end of the workshop.

Ren watched her go with a strange feeling in the pit of his stomach. Then, shaking himself out of the strange fugue in which he found himself, he began to read once again.

Over six hundred years ago, the world of dreams emerged from the void. Brought into existence by a man of whom we know very little, we were not born like humans, hatched like Pokemon or grown like plants. We simply were. And so, as we were, were the Iehkti'na. As we came to be in the third ring, so they came to be in the first.

In those first years of turmoil, the Iehkti'na preyed upon the dreams of the humans as they slept in the first ring. Many escaped to the human world and caused great chaos. Although we did not wish to endanger ourselves for the sake of the humans, we felt obligated to them, for it was certainly thanks to one of their number that we came to be – though how, we know not. Also, we knew not of the significance of the humans' role in the maintenance of the Soul Bonds at this time. So it was that we, headstrong and drunk on our own power, waged war against the Iehkti'na.

It was a long and bloody conflict, but in the end, we triumphed. While strong and many, the Iehkti'na were fuelled by anger and hatred of all that was good. While few, we knew we fought to save our creator. We defeated the Iehkti'na, but could not destroy them. So instead, we brought them to the third ring and sealed them away so they could bother the humans – and us – no more.

We thought that was the end of it. But before long, the Iehkti'na broke their bonds and once again attacked us. We beat them back, but were unable to seal them again. Again and again they came, and they were stronger each time. Eventually, tired from endless war and fatigued from beating them back, we set about creating the Spirit Wall, which we set around the Glade of Shifting Light. This wall not only prevents any of evil intent from entering, but also disguises our presence. We are hidden deep within the forest, and the Iehkti'na know this, but they know not where, for the woods are vast, and we beat them back every time they come near the edge.

So the cycle goes on. Eventually, Drayden came to us, and then his son, and his son's son, and his son's son's son. Throughout history, nothing significant has changed, and we carry on with the same security as we always have. Now and then, the drums of war are sounded, and we stand forth to fight back the evil. Always, we are triumphant. No men have fallen in battle since the great wars of the early days. While the Iehkti'na, who are soulless bodies, fall like corn before the scythe, our bodiless souls are incredibly resilient. We do not age, we do not grow sick. We do not die, unless we are killed.

And so the cycle goes on.”

Ren blinked. “That sounds . . . ominous.” He set the book down and wandered after Cecilia, who, it turned out, was carefully examining a beaker of some viscous green sludge, swirling it around the bowl of the glass vessel with her eye glued to the neck.

Oh, hello, Ren,” she said absently as he approached, not taking her eyes off the gooey substance. There was a sudden poof as she spoke, sending a cloud of steam squeezing out of the beaker. “Ow!” she squealed, dropping the container.

Ren stretched out a hand and caught it with a brief sigh of relief, trying not to think about what would have happened if it had shattered. “You all right?” he asked.

My eye stings like you wouldn't believe,” she grumbled, rubbing it sulkily. “That was mean of him, to leave something like that lying around.”

Ren cast a glance down at the still-steaming beaker in his hand before settling it carefully back on the table. Somehow, he didn't really think it had been intended as a booby trap. He didn't say anything, though.

So, are you a little more educated now?” she asked, still squinting slightly.

A bit . . .” he said slowly, trying to piece together the stories told in the two texts he had been reading. “One little thing struck me as strange, though . . . the book referred to the Iehkti'na as being 'soulless bodies' and you as 'bodiless souls'. I think Elly said something about that as well, but . . . it's strange. You do have bodies, don't you? I mean . . . you're there. I can touch you.”

Cecilia took a deep breath. “It's funny like that . . . just because we have physical form here doesn't mean we have bodies. What it means is that we can't cross into your world and take a corporeal form there like the Iehkti'na can. If they pass through the first ring and out through somebody's dream, they can actually manifest themselves and cause chaos. If we try it, we end up trapped there, intangible, drained of all our power and sometimes even unable to speak – what you might know as . . . ghosts.”

You mean . . . Ghost-type Pokemon are-”

No, not from what Steven and the others have told us. Ghost-type Pokemon have always been around, and they're just that – the corrupted, departed souls of those who were once alive. When you see a ghost that looks human . . . it's one of ours.” She was oddly quiet, and it took Ren a moment to figure out why. She must have personally known every single one of the spirits that tried to cross to his world, and must have watched them all leave over the last seven hundred years, waiting for a homecoming that would never arrive.

I'm upsetting you,” he said quickly. “I'll, uh, stop now.”

No, it's fine,” she demurred. “I'm used to it. We get a lot of different yehktira through here now – often a new one every year thanks to the Pokemon League – and we interact with them far more than we used to. The issue usually comes up sooner or later, and I guess we owe you that much . . . to know. It's not like it affects you directly, but you're pretty much a part of our world now. Now more than ever, actually, now that it's necessary to bring you in here every night.”

That's a funny thought,” Ren murmured, looking around the long, dim room. “I can see what Steven meant when he said it changed him . . .”

He said that?”

Yeah. I mean, I've only been here twice now, but it really makes you wonder about a few things. Like . . . I always thought ghosts were just ghosts – if they existed at all – but it turns out they're something very different, and a little sad. I'm a little scared, to be perfectly honest – what else might be completely different to how I had imagined it? Everything I know could be wrong . . .”

I know it's hard,” Cecilia murmured, resting a hand lightly on his arm. “It does change you, but you can't expect it to happen . . . well, overnight. There's a lot of information that's coming into your brain at once, and you're having trouble coping. It will come, though.”

Did . . . did the other yehktira ever have this problem?” Ren asked, his voice a little thick with a sudden onset of confused emotions.

Some,” she said matter-of-factly. “Well, I think they all did, but some showed it more than others. Steven just stood in a corner for an hour or two without saying anything to anyone, and then came out and went 'All right, I've got it now.' On the other hand . . . a couple of decades ago, we had a woman who absolutely freaked. She kept screaming, fainting and hyperventilating in equal measures. It took her weeks to get over the shock properly.”

Ren grinned wryly. “I guess I'm taking it pretty well, all things considered,” he said, feeling something of a weight lift off his shoulders as he said it.

You're a smart kid, Ren,” Cecilia told him quietly. “You can look at things and see them as they are, even if you don't realise it yourself.”

What . . . what do you mean?”

Well, let's see . . . Elly told me that when she brought you to the Glade for the first time, you actually looked around while you passed through. Most humans we bring here tend to either stare blankly ahead or look at the ground. The ones that do look around, more often than not, tend not to see much. They just gawk. Elly seemed to get the impression that you actually saw, instead of just looking.”

There's a difference?”

Between seeing and looking? Of course. A huge difference. It's the difference between you and just about everyone else in the human world, for sure.”

Ren frowned slightly as a thought that had been niggling at him all day suddenly sprang to the front of his mind. “How do you know so much about the human world, Cecilia?” he asked. “I mean, if everyone who tries to go there . . . you know . . .”

You must think I'm a fool, Ren Goodwin,” she chided him playfully, rapping him on the head. “I'm seven hundred years old, and I've met dozens of different humans from all over the place. Steven Stone in particular was extremely helpful, actually. Like you, he seemed to take a genuine interest in our world, and because of that, we reciprocated that interest. The council often took to simply sitting and listening to him talk for hours. He was such a good talker, despite how quiet and formal he could be.”

Oh,” Ren said bashfully. “Of course. That would make sense. Actually, that sounds like . . . a good idea. I'd be happy to do that with you sometime – if you don't mind, that is. You could maybe tell me a little bit more about this world, too.”

Ren Goodwin,” Cecilia said, a flicker of amusement dancing in her sea-green eyes, “I do believe you're hitting on me.”

I-I am?” Ren stuttered, confused. “I-I didn't notice-” He stopped when he noticed that Cecilia was laughing, a light, musical laugh that filled the cavernous room like the peals of a bell. He chuckled nervously.

Oh, Ren,” Cecilia giggled. “You're too easy to tease. Come on, let's get out of here before Maho comes back – or I break something.” She raised her eyebrows guiltily before taking his hand and pulling him back towards the door.

Ren stumbled along in her wake, pondering just how strange Cecilia could get. At the door, she let go of his hand and almost flew down the stairs to the grass below, suddenly extremely energetic. Ren followed her down, half-smiling despite himself.

At the bottom of the stairs, he froze. “Cecilia,” he said gravely. “You know what you said just now about how I 'see' things that other people might not?”

She frowned. “Yes?”

Well, I was just wondering . . . do you see those Iehkti'na as well, or is it just me?”
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