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Old November 1st, 2016 (2:07 PM). Edited November 20th, 2016 by Bardothren.
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Dusk Brawler


Part One of the Sinex Redemption Saga

By Bardothren

Spoiler: Message from the Author
Here we are once again. I've started this fic before, but I have since decided that the way I started it was completely terrible, that it should be thrown into the paper shredder almost wholesale, with the worst pieces of it pulled out to remind myself how not to create good characters and realistic plot and the best hesitantly set aside for possible inclusion in the revision. While the bare-bones plot will be familiar to any of you that read the original, I'm going to remove or drastically change many of the original scenes. I'm usually lazy when it comes to character design, but no more - I have resolved to make a solid character or drive myself insane trying.

...wait, I'm already insane.

So, without further ado, I hope you all enjoy this new beginning to a work I've been meaning to revisit for some time.

Oh, and I should mention that this takes place after the events of Through the Darkness and does contain plot points highly relevant to events within that story. Reading that text first is highly recommended before you proceed too far into this one.


Chapter One: Too Swift

Bass chords bounced off the padded walls of an enormous basement. The floor had a circular arena of bare concrete in the center, rimmed with cheap, dirty carpet. Long tables heaped with snack food and bottles of soda flanked the arena, and man-high speakers hung in the corners. The basement had no windows, and the only way out was through a heavy padded door with a thick bolt lock that could be moved from either side of the door.

The basement was crammed with rowdy teenagers, wearing torn clothes, open shirts, and bearing red cups filled with soda as they wrapped arms over shoulders and watched the pokemon brawl. The two trainers stood at opposite ends of the circle, shouting orders at their rattata and zubat as the pokemon scratched and bit one another.

The music throbbing from the speakers shook Samuel Milone’s bones, but it couldn’t shake his concentration as he watched the clash between a zubat and a rattata. The zubat had an aerial advantage and used its supersonic frequencies to irritate its opponent, but Sam could tell it was tiring rapidly. Its wings trembled, its ears drooped, and its attacks grew sluggish. The rattata, on the other hand, became numbed to the supersonic and held its ground, waiting for the zubat to drop within its grasp. And once it did, the rattata’s trainer ordered it to pounce, and the rattata clamped the zubat between its jaws. With one swift bite, the zubat fell limp.

The announcer threw a dirty white towel into the ring, and the two trainers withdrew their pokemon. “Charlie’s zubat is unable to battle. Tyler wins the match!”

Through all of it, Samuel Milone had a journal out, and he scribbled notes and diagrams into it. From the zubat’s upward momentum to the rattata’s preference for its right front leg, Sam noted every quirk of the two pokemon and strategies to exploit them, scribbling sentences into his journal.

His eevee also watched the match. Sam smiled and stroked the fur atop her head after he finished writing. Her tail twitched, and she clawed at the floor.

“Not yet, Luna,” Sam told his eevee. “We haven’t gotten our matchup yet.”

When two more trainers stepped into the ring, Jaunty Joe offered Sam a plate and sat down next to him. He wore a gaudy gold jacket and a thick set of knuckledusters. His dirty-blonde hair was slicked back with enough gel to make it glitter, and he wore a thick set of Oakleys. His jeans were sanded down at the knees so his pale kneecaps poked through, and his thick, rubbery shoes squeaked with each step. His belt had a thick strap of pokeballs, each one with names painted on in gold print.

Sam looked at the plate, piled high with cheese, crackers, and sausage, and turned it down. Joe shrugged and picked out the sausage, mashing four thick slices between his yellowed teeth. “You’re up next, Sam,” he said. “Tyler’s using three pokemon. A few people bet on him, but nothing much is on the line. You’ll get the usual commission.”

The next battle went very quickly – the poochyena stumbled, and the nincada finished it with an x-scissor to the neck. Samuel noted the speed of the insect’s lunge before standing up, stretching his arms over his head and smoothing out his plain black t-shirt.

“Right. Let’s get started.” Sam walked towards the ring, and Luna followed behind him. Luna sprinted into the center of the ring and crouched, ready to pounce.

Jaunty Joe walked up to the ring and shouted over the music, “Last chance to place your bets! Payout’s ten percent for Sam, eighty for Tyler! Anyone feeling lucky tonight?”

No one came forward. Joe glanced around the room before raising a fist in the air and shouting, “Alright! Let’s get the main event started!”

Tyler, a kid with crew-cut hair and ragged jeans, sauntered to the other side of the ring. He tossed a pokeball into the ring, calling out a ratatta of his own.

“Alright ratatta, speed up!”

The ratatta ran circles around Luna, moving faster and faster until it became a blurry purple circle. Luna stood still, staring forward and waiting for orders. Sam waited for the ratatta to reach its maximum velocity before giving a command.

“Use swift!”

Luna flung a torrent of stars forward, and they flew into the circle, slamming into the ratatta with its own momentum. A star made the ratatta tumble forward, and Sam ordered Luna to lunge at the opening. With a mighty smack, Luna sent the ratatta flying across the ring, knocking it unconscious.

The announcer made the call and asked Tyler to send his next pokemon. Out came a spinarak, scrunching its abdomen into a baleful scowl.

“String shot!”

Sam called for a swift, and Luna’s stars hissed and sparked as they burnt up the string. The spinarak answered with a poison sting that Luna leapt over. While she was in the air, Tyler ordered his spinarak to lay webbing on the floor. The spinarak spat out a thick, gooey coating, and Luna landed right in the middle of it.

“Alright, now tackle!” Tyler shouted.

“Sand attack!”

Luna kicked up webbing from the floor, spattering it across the spinarak’s eyes. It reared up and wriggled its legs in vain attempt to clear its vision.

“Pull yourself free with quick attack!”

Luna moved far slower with her feet sticking to the floor, but with a gooey twang, it snapped free of the web and slammed into the spinarak. It rolled halfway across the ring and landed on its back. It scrunched and wiggled, but it couldn’t roll back over. With another quick attack, the spinarak fell still. Luna ran in a circle and pushed her hind legs up, moving into a short handstand before rolling forward.

“Come on Tyler, this is too easy,” Sam called. “Luna needs more of a challenge than that.”

Tyler called out his final pokemon, a machop. It emerged from the pokeball with a somersault, coming up with its hands poised to strike. The crowd clapped, but no one cheered.

“Machop, karate chop!”

“Dodge left!” Sam shouted. Luna moved, but her feet stuck to the floor a second too long, and the machop’s strike slammed into her front leg. She hobbled back, her paw raised into the air. The crowd leaned in closer, and a few people started cheering Tyler on.

“Do it again machop!”

Sam surveyed the field and saw a path through the webbing, leading to a dead end. “Three steps back, then jump right!”

Luna danced back, and the machop’s attack swiped her ears to the side. Then she sprung right, wincing when she landed on her paw. Tyler grinned when he saw Luna trapped by the webs.

“Okay machop, finish it with low kick!”

Sam waited for the machop to shift all its weight to its left leg. Then he shouted, “Roll forward and right!”

Luna tucked in her head and barreled into the machop’s load-bearing leg. The machop, off balance from starting the kick, teetered forward and fell face-first into the sticky floor. It tried pulling itself up, but the more it struggled, the more ensnared it became. Luna gave the machop a wide smile and crouched low to pounce.

Sam turned to Jaunty Joe and said, “Shouldn’t we call the match? That machop’s never getting out.” Luna looked up at him, and she sat down, turning her head away in a mild tantrum.

“Don’t you dare call it!” Tyler shouted. “I can still win! Machop, get up now!”

“Well, the machop’s still moving,” Joe said, “so it can still fight. You might as well finish it.”

Sam clenched his hands. “Fine. Luna, swift.”

Luna yelped and flung a barrage of stars into the machop’s back. With Sam’s hand signal, she stopped. The machop gritted its teeth and tried to rise.

“Are you sure you want to keep fighting?” Sam asked.

“My machop’s tough!” Tyler said. “It’ll get up, just watch!”

“Fine. Keep going Luna.”

Another volley of stars pounded the machop. This time, when the barrage ended, the machop didn’t try to stand. It reached towards the edge of the ring and tried to crawl through the sticky web.

“Your machop doesn’t want to fight anymore. Just give it up.”

“No! It’s not over until it’s over! I’m not giving up no matter what!”

Sam lowered his head. Then he ordered another swift attack. This time, the volley continued for a whole minute. The crowd watched, open mouthed, at the fireworks display in front of them, and when it ended, they cheered. Luna strutted around the ring and purred under the attention

The machop didn’t move. Bruises mottled its backside, and blood gushed out of its nose. Tyler swore at it as he called it back. The crowd moved towards Sam, clapping him on the back, offering him sodas, saying they always thought he’d win. Sam took a can of root beer and chugged it down, wiping away the sweet, brown trickle that dripped down his chin. Then Jaunty Joe pushed his way through, flanked by two beefy thugs from the football team.

“Nice one,” Joe said. He held out an envelope, and Sam took it. “Haven’t seen you on the ropes like that for a while. How about bumping it up to four next time?”

“Four?” Sam asked, loud enough for the crowd to hear. He held out his arms and spun around, glancing at every member of the crowd. “Just four? Let’s make it five.”

After all the winnings were collected, Jaunty Joe scheduled the next fight. He tried to get Sam in two weeks later, but Sam’s exam made him bump it back to three. Sam walked towards home, striding beneath the harsh glow of the street lamps with large, even steps. He stopped at a pharmacy he hadn’t been to before and paid for a potion with the cleanest bills he had won that night. Then he snuck into an alley, leaned up against a building, and sprayed the potion on Luna’s leg.

“That was fun, right?” he asked. Luna gave him a nod and flexed her healed leg.

“Good. Hopefully the next fight will be more of a challenge.” Then he looked at his watch and said, “Oh crap! I gotta get home!”

He called back Luna, tucked his envelope into his shirt, and sprinted down the streets. The city gradually transformed from old, grimy shops to a cleaner, more cultivated neighborhood of houses pressed together, separated by a tasteful ring of manicured lawn. Sam hopped over the gold, wooden gate in front of his house and dashed through the door.

“Oh, you’re back late!” his mother said. She was putting dishes drenched in curry sauce into the dishwasher. “How was the party?”

“Great! There’ll be another one in three weeks. It’ll be a nice way to celebrate finishing the exam.”

“Wow, they sure like to party, don’t they?” Sam’s mother gave him a kiss on the forehead and said, “be sure to wash up before bed, and don’t stay up too late studying!”

“Okay mom!” Sam bound up the staircase, three stairs at a time, and swung his bedroom door open. Two windows split the room in two – on the left, curtains shut out the light outside, covering his bed with shadows. On the right, his desk had research papers and pokemon texts piled halfway to the ceiling, a cracked coffee mug crammed with pencils, a ream of blank notebook paper jutting from a desk drawer, and a sculpted clay mask, just large enough to reach past Sam’s nose, painted with striking black and green lines. The window above his desk had the curtains thrown open, and the light from outside poured in. Two potted plants flanked his doorway, filling the room with the scent of moist earth.

Sam sat down, cracked open a text, and didn’t stop reading until his eyes started to droop. Then he took out a penlight from his desk drawer, closed up the curtains, and slid under the bed. Beneath a loose floorboard, he had an old shoebox. The surface only held a few nostalgic childhood artifacts, but beneath a false cardboard bottom sat thousands of dollars, crammed together tight enough to concentrate their faint monetary odor. Sam crammed in his recent earnings, carefully slid the false bottom back into place, and crawled into bed. He called out Luna, cradled her in his arms, and drifted off to sleep.
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Old November 2nd, 2016 (4:17 PM).
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Bay Alexison Bay Alexison is online now
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Oh hey, this story's back! I remember the first time it's posted the beginning was more kind slice of life where everything was peaceful and the brawl didn't happen until later. While I was okay with that, this new beginning does a much better job of setting up what kind of story this will be about. I do like Sam hesitate to continue battling near the end, though I would like more of Luna's reactions during the fight with Machop too. Maybe Luna held back from fighting for a second and could tell her trainer didn't want to do it too.

I'm pretty excited the new changes you'll have with this story!
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Old November 3rd, 2016 (5:02 PM). Edited December 10th, 2016 by Bardothren.
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There are but four certainties in life: death, taxes, uncertainty, and Bay posting wonderful comments. Thanks again Bay!

And thanks to you, I realized I was about to stumble into the same pitfall I always seem to stumble into: neglecting characterization. So, I threw a few scenes in there. I don't think it'll be quite what you're expecting, since I've decided to take a different tack on Luna's personality than you first envisioned. I also realized I wasted a perfectly good opportunity to have a character guzzle some root beer. I mean, let's be real, can it be called a Bard fanfic if there isn't at least one character drinking the dark, sweet elixir of the gods? Furthermore, I tied it to this chapter so the course of events makes sense.

I've been thinking of doing a blog entry on the before and after editing work, since I think there's a lot to learn from the mistakes I made. Heck, I'm sure this fic will have mistakes as well (case in point, Bay's comments) but at least it's a step forward for me. Maybe I'll get around to that blog. In the meantime, have fun with this chapter!



Chapter Two: Setting the Stage
Inside Room 305, a third-story classroom of Palsitore High School overlooking the basketball court, nine masked students sat on one end of a long wooden table. Six other students, sans masks, sat on the other side of the table and watched with interest as the masked students spoke. A teacher, who wore a blank white mask and a pale robe, leaned against the wall next to the chalkboard.

A girl wearing a dazzling gold mask and a foppish Victorian hat spoke first, with a lilting British accent that evoked images of decadent balls and charming courtiers

“Madams, gentlemen, it seems we have a most dire problem facing us all.” She slapped the chalkboard, which said ‘Summer Play’, with a handled chalkboard eraser. “The end of our juvenile acting careers is upon many of us, and we are in great need of a production that shall, er-hem, knock the socks off of everyone in attendance. It would be most gratifying to hear any suggestions from such gifted, talented professionals gathered here.”

Her words earned her a moderate applause from the unmasked audience, but not quite enough to drown out the sound of dribbling basketballs.

A boy on her left, wearing a silver mask, a cowboy hat, and a sheriff’s pin, stood up and said, “I reckon’ we could use sumtin’ fun! It ain’t e’ryday us youngun’s get to say goodbye to gals as purty and easy on the eyes as yourself, so we might as well make it a fun mem’ry. Whadd’yall say?”

His thick accent earned him some applause, but a sudden barrage of basketballs pounding backboards drowned it out.

Another student, this one wearing a ludicrously tall top hat that bumped the ceiling, a monocle, and a petticoat stuffed with monopoly money, remained seated as he hit the table and said, “You imbecile! It doesn’t matter how much fun we have, what matters is how much money we make! And nothing draws a crowd to our venues more than slapping Sam on every production poster and promising the greatest spectacle of villainy and wrong-doing the world has ever seen!”

The student’s mercantilistic antics earned him enough applause to compete with the dribbling drills below. Sam cleared his throat, stood up, and pressed his gloved hand against the striking, angular black mask he wore.

“I cannot. How could I commit such a travesty against those I hold as dear friends? No, I cannot permit myself to take center stage, to steal the light of glory and leave you all shrouded in darkness, for what kind of friend would I be if I took the credit for all of your hard work?”

The crowd jeered at him, shouting “Boo!” and “Get off the stage!” Then they chanted “Bring out the villain!”, louder and louder until Sam sighed, made a sweeping bow, and leapt onto the table.

“But what kind of actor would I be if I didn’t take all the spotlight for myself!” he shouted, filling his voice with manic, prideful villainy. “The stage exists solely to extol my virtues and should remain unsullied by shoddy, half-baked acting. The crowd demands my name, their very hearts beat in unison to the sound of my footsteps behind the curtain, and it shall be I, Samuel Milone, the greatest actor the world has ever seen, that shall so thoroughly enthrall them with talent that they shall roam listless for all their lives, never again to enjoy the wonders of this world, for what natural beauty could compare to my divine image? And should anyone try to take that from me,” Sam said, placing his black-robed arm over his face and scowling from behind his mask, “shall plead for death after I am through with them.”

The miniature audience and the other actors gave him a quick standing ovation. Then the club president pulled up her mask and wiped sweat off her brow.

“Okay, I’ve had enough of the masks. Let’s take them off.”

“Thank god,” the petticoat-wearing student said. “I don’t think I can hold this monocle in any longer. It definitely won’t work for a performance. I do like the coat though.”

The club president, Emily Rosario, pulled a clipboard out from under the table and wrote on it. “Alright, any other comments?”

“This mask’s a little too tight,” the cowboy student said. “It’s scrunching up the bridge of my nose.”

“Think you can fix that?” Emily asked the propmaster. The short, bald student nodded, and Emily wrote another note. “Alright, what about you Ben? How’s that blaziken costume?”

Ben slipped off the mask and three feet of spiky blonde wig. Sweat matted his hair down and dripped from his nose.

“Way too psyducking hot.”

“Watch your language,” the teacher said.

“Could we put some holes in this thing?” Ben asked.

“It’s a rental, so no.” Emily answered. “What about you Sam? Flashy enough for you?”

Sam took off his mask and gloves. “Fine. I gotta go.”

“Already?” Emily asked. “We just started the meeting.”

The propmaster said, “Cut him some slack. He’s got that exam in two days, remember?”

“Of course I remember! I’m just giving him a hard time.” Emily smiled at Sam and said, “Don’t study too hard, okay? I wouldn’t want to find you buried under a pile of books again.”

Sam chuckled and said, “You won’t ever find me under the pile I’ll have to study. See ya guys.”

Sam frowned as he walked away. He took his backpack, went down the stairs to the library, and sat down in front of a messy-haired, glasses-wearing guy. Only those two features were visible behind the wall of textbooks stacked onto the table, everything from treatises on durant colony architecture to records of staravia migration patterns, the genetic theory of butterfree wing patterns, cranial case studies delving into pokemon physiology, sunflora growth charts, and other titles printed in too small a font for Sam to read.

“Hey Brandon,” Sam said as he sat down, “Could you pass me some?”

Brandon Oak looked up from his book and straightened his glasses. “Isn’t the drama club meeting today?”

“I left early.”

Brandon pushed a pile towards him. On the hand atop the pile of books, on his left ring finger, glittered a slim gold band with a spherical blue gem embedded in the gleaming metal. The gem glowed softly in the library's fluorescent light. “You should stay. Once we graduate, odds are we won’t see them again.”

Sam shuffled through the pile until he found a text he didn’t recognize. Then he opened it and glanced through the abstract outlining the metal composition of a metagross’ claws. “We only get one shot at this exam. I’m not wasting it.”

“Fair enough.”

Twenty minutes of silence passed, broken only by the sound of pencils scratching against paper and the rustling of pages. Then Brandon passed a book forward.

“Here’s something on sylveon ribbon composition and tensile strength. Interested?”

“No thanks. It’s not that good of a read. Professor Ruskin wrote a more comprehensive treatise on sylveon that gets those points across better.”

“But wasn’t Ruskin wrong about the requirements for sylveon’s evolution?”

“Not quite. He theorized the existence of a stone that housed the proper radiation, but he could never prove it. He also provided the correct evolution process.”

“Huh. I should re-read it then.” Brandon went digging through the pile of books, and then he pulled out a very thin, plastic-bound report. “Hey, have you read this one yet?”

Sam took the report and glanced on the cover. It read, in small, neat font, ‘An Overview on the Projected Experimentation with Aura Infusion’.

“I haven’t bothered. There’s not enough data out there yet to make an exam topic.”

“I’m not so sure about that,” Brandon said. “My dad got a huge grant from Sinex to start working on it. They also gave him some DNA samples to work with. If there’s going to be a breakthrough anywhere in a few years, it’ll be here.”

Sam flipped through the report and read its abstract. Then he handed it back to Brandon. “Maybe later. We better focus on more well-established areas of research. Speaking of which, where did you put that croagunk toxicology study? The medical research there’s bound to come up in the exam.”

“Oh, over here. It’s a really good read.”

Sam took the book and flipped through it. After reading the abstract, he skipped the research procedure and tore through the results, absorbing every scrap of data the researchers acquired. He took meticulous notes, writing down all the discernible trends, molecular structures of the most promising compounds, and potential sources of bias within the research. Once he was done, he set the book aside and hunted for another title, and he didn’t stop reading until the sun had nearly set, turning the library a gorgeous vermillion mottled with all the various red-tinted shades of its covers.

Brandon took stacks of books that teetered over his head and set them in front of the librarian, offering an apology with each stack. Sam read for a while longer, until the last of the sunlight shrank away from his reading spot, and then he put his book back on the shelf.

Brandon was waiting for him outside the doors, leaning against a wall and typing on his tablet. When he saw Sam, he put the tablet away and walked up to him.

“Two days. Hard to believe, isn’t it?”

“I guess so.”

A minute of silence passed between them. Sam looked away, observing a slow, gentle drip from the tip of a water fountain. Then Brandon cleared his throat.

“I don’t know if this is a good idea,” he said.

“We’ve been over this. No one will take me seriously if you don’t take the exam too.”

“But that’s just stupid! What’ll you do if you don’t get that money?”

Sam shifted his gaze lower, to a small puddle that had settled beneath the fountain. Every so often, its surface would ripple with a falling drop.

“Just take the stupid exam. And don’t go easy on it either, you’ve got your own reputation to think about.”

“What reputation? I haven’t done anything, it’s just my dad.” Brandon ran a hand through his hair and said, “Look, they’ll probably take both of us. If you don’t get the scholarship from then… then how about a scholarship from me? I already asked dad, and he said he’d be more than happy to help you out in exchange for taking an intern position with him for a few years.”

Sam gritted his teeth and said, “I have to go.” He stormed down the hall, ignoring Brandon’s shouts.

That night, Sam studied until dawn, muttering to himself as he read, repeating the same phrase over and over: “I won’t lose to him.”
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Old November 5th, 2016 (4:07 PM).
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Hello again everyone, and it feels great to have some consistent writing happening! Feels like this momentum will keep up for a while longer... so I better get all the writing done that I can.

I'm almost certain this particular scene was in the last rendition of this story, but I haven't even looked at it when I wrote this - don't want to trap my mind in the same thought process I had then. Here's to hoping this time around, I did it better.


Chapter Three: Too Small

Like three weeks ago, the Rizoni’s basement throbbed with heavy metal guitar shredding. Like three weeks ago, students packed themselves around the food tables, slurping down soda, grinding chips into powder between their teeth, kissing, copping feels, whispering in each others’ ears in a way that made them sound louder than the music. And like three weeks ago, two pokemon stared each other down in the bare concrete ring, scratching and biting at each other until one fell.

But unlike three weeks ago, Sam paid no attention to it. He neither heard the sound of claws tearing through skin and the yelps of a poochyena, nor did he see a sandshrew bristle its spines the moment before it unfurled a barrage of poison needles.

Within the mind of Samuel Milone, the world around him ceased to exist. Though his journal was closed, all he saw were an endless sea of specific, complex and nuanced questions, and his faltering, chaotic, rushed responses. Though he did not write, all he heard was the sound of pencil scratching on paper, echoing through his skull and shaking his brain. And though the exam had ended yesterday, all he felt was the beating of his own heart, the sensation of a pencil between his fingers, and beads of sweat rolling down his furrowed brow.

A hand shook his shoulder. He looked up at Jaunty Joe and returned to reality. “Is something happening?”

“You’re up next. But before that, I need to talk to you. In private.”

Sam followed him out of the basement, up the stairs, and into a bathroom. Joe turned on the faucet and slathered soap all over his hands.

“Matt’s got a lot of people betting on him,” he said as he scrubbed. “There’s over two grand on him, and odds are two to one in your favor. I can’t afford a four-grand hit, Sam.”

Joe held the bottle of soap towards him. Sam held out his hands, and Joe squirted a dollop of lemon-scented soap onto his hands. The soap formed pale yellow bubbles as Sam rinsed it off.

“You won’t have to. I’m not losing to Matt anytime soon.”

“I don’t know… he’s got something planned to have this many people backing him. Just in case, I want you to take this.”

Joe set a pokeball on the sink. “That spearow isn’t much, but it’ll give you fighting coverage, and it’s one tough son of a rattata. Dad gave it to me, in case I ever needed to tip a match.”

“I won’t need it. Thanks though.”

Joe turned up the water and rinsed his face under the faucet. Then he rubbed his face dry with a hand towel. “You do remember what happened last time, right? That match could’ve ended differently if you weren’t so lucky.”

“That was no luck,” Sam said. “He didn’t stand a chance, and neither does Matt.”

“There is four-psyducking-thousand dollars on the line here Sam! Take the goddamn spearow and win!”

“I won’t. I will only use Luna, and I won’t lose. If you’re so worried, then cancel the match. One spearow isn’t going to change anything.”

Joe strangled the hand towel, and then he hung it up and turned off the water. “It’s your ass if you lose,” he said. “Remember that.”

Joe walked out of the bathroom, leaving Sam alone. He turned the faucet back on and stared into the mirror. The angle of the lights made a shadow fall over the mirror’s surface, casting his face in a dark mask.

“I won’t lose,” he told himself, “and to prove it, I’ll show them all exactly what I’m capable of.”

Sam knocked four times on the basement door, and a football player let him in. He grabbed a root beer, swallowed it all in one chug, crunched it up, and tossed it onto the floor. Then he sauntered into the ring and called out Luna.”

“Right, let’s do this. No holding back today Luna. Let’s show them what we can do.”

Luna glanced back, at first shocked, but then a huge grin lit up her face. She crouched and kicked up concrete dust with her paws.

“I hear you’re talking a big game, Matt,” Sam said. “I’m going to make you eat those words.”

“That’s what you think!” Matt called back. “Let’s go zigzagoon!”

The announcer stood at the center of the ring and spoke through a megaphone. “This will be a four-on-one battle between Matt and Sam, with two-to-one odds. If you’d like to wager, now’s your last chance.

After a moment, the announcer started the match. Sam snapped his fingers, and Luna raced forward, knocking the zigzagoon into the crowd.

“That’s a knockout!” the referee called. “Zigzagoon is now unable to battle.”

Half the crowd cheered at the lightning-fast victory. The other half watched in silence. A few looked worried, but most had smiles on their faces.

“Let’s see you knock my geodude out of the ring!”

Matt called out his craggy pokemon, and it hunkered down on the concrete. Once the announcer signaled the start of the next round, Sam snapped his fingers again. This time, Luna’s quick attack glanced off of the geodude’s rocky outside.

“Ha!” Matt scoffed. “This one won’t be so easy. Now use rock throw!”

The geodude tore a chunk off its own body and hurled it towards Luna. She leapt over it and flung a barrage of stars. They hissed and sparked against the geodude without leaving a scratch.

“We can do this all day. Rock throw!”

“Now Luna, spin it with double kick!”

Luna sidestepped the rock and dashed up to the geodude. Its arms still outstretched, it couldn’t defend itself against Luna’s paws. A well-placed kick made it spin topwise, and the geodude got more and more disoriented each time Luna spun it in a new direction. Brown flakes chipped off of the geodude’s skin with each kick.

“Use harden!” Geodude tucked in its arms and tightened its muscles. The chips stopped falling, but the geodude still spun fast enough for its craggy body to turn into a smooth brown blur.

“Now jump into the air and kick it into the ground!” Luna leapt up and double-kicked it. The geodude’s spinning lurched to a stop as Luna pressed its face against the ground. It flailed its arms and tried to push up, but Luna had it pinned.

“Don’t let up! Double kick!”

Matt shouted command after command at the geodude, but nothing stopped Luna from gouging chip after chip out of the geodude’s back. Sam smiled until the geodude managed to shift its face out from under the concrete. Blood was smeared across its stony surface.

“Stop!” Sam shouted. “Get off!” Luna leapt off and walked back towards him. The geodude pushed itself off the ground and glared at Luna.

“Sweet, we’re still in this! Alright geodude, rock polish and then mega punch!”

The geodude, already worn smooth by all the spinning, honed itself into a sleek punching machine. It raced forward, and Luna took a grazing hit as she leapt aside.

“That’s it,” Sam muttered. “No more mercy.” Then he shouted, “Iron tail!”

Luna bunched up her tail in a gleaming, solid mass and swung it up under the geodude. Her tail connected with a solid chunk, and the geodude touched the ceiling before it hit the ground. It groaned as Matt called it back. The crowd roared with cheering, and Matt’s crowd lost the smiles on their faces until Matt gave them a thumbs up. Matt called out his next pokemon, an aron.

“Luna, iron tail combo!” Sam shouted as the third round started. Luna dashed forward and jumped, spun in the air, and slammed her tail into the aron’s head with a metallic clang. Then she sprung up, landed on the ceiling, and jumped at the aron. Each time she hit the aron, leaving dents and scratches all along its body, she sprang back to the ceiling for the next attack. Luna made ten solid hits before Sam saw an opening. The aron bent its head forward to hide its eyes, exposing a thin, fragile, rocky plating behind its head.

“Now Luna, back of the neck!”

Luna sprang off the ceiling and landed a solid hit at the aron’s exposed nape. The aron’s head lurched forward, and it collapsed. The referee ran into the ring, examined the aron’s neck, and sprayed super potion.

“Alright,” the announcer said, “Now we’re on to the final round! Let’s see how Matt’s torchic fares against Luna the lightning eevee!”

Another cheer roared out from both sides of the crowd. Matt gave Sam a cocky grin and threw his last pokeball forward.

“Come on out Blaze!”

Half the crowd fell silent when they saw Blaze. The other half kept cheering. Blaze the combusken stretched its legs and spat embers from its mouth. The referee ran over to Jaunty Joe, and they spoke for a moment before Joe called Sam over.

“I can’t believe Matt’s such an idiot,” Joe said. “I can cancel the match because he didn’t report the evolution. However, his crowd won’t be happy.”

“Well, what do you want to do?”

“If you won, they wouldn’t be mad about the match being cancelled. But looking at Luna… I don’t think she has it in her.”

Luna crouched and glared at her opponent, but her legs shook and her chest heaved with fast, heavy breaths.

Sam looked at his eevee, then at the combusken. “If he thinks that a freshly evolved combusken has any chance,” Sam said, “Then he’s in for a surprise.”

Joe stared at the ring and ran a hand through his sticky, goopy hair. Then he sighed and said, “Well, normally I’d stop you, but after seeing that iron tail, well, I want to see what other tricks you’ve got. Kick his ass, Sam.”

Joe held out a fist, and Sam bumped it. Bits of hair gel stuck to Sam’s fingers.

“Consider it kicked, Jaunty Joe. The decibel meter has a better chance of beating me than he does.”

Sam walked back to the ring, and Joe had his two football players set up fiberglass screens around the ring’s perimeter. The crowd pressed themselves against the walls as the referee started the match.

“Luna, use swift!” A volley of stars sailed towards Blaze, but embers burned them to nothing.

“Blaze, double kick!” The combusken raced forward and lashed out with its legs. Luna ran underneath the attack and moved to the other side of the ring.

“Keep your distance, and don’t let up with swift,” Sam called. Luna sent out a more widely spread barrage of stars, and a few made it through Blaze’s screen of embers. The stars slammed into the combusken’s legs, making it wobble.

“Alright, quick attack!” Luna raced forward and slammed into the combusken’s chest, knocking it back into the screens.

“Double kick, now!” Matt ordered. The combusken pushed itself off the fiberglass and ran for Luna, but she leapt around the attack.

“Again, swift!” Luna flung another volley of stars, and this time, each one connected with the Blaze’s backside. It knelt on the ground and pushed itself back up.

“Drive it to the glass with ember!”

Luna sprinted to the side, but Blaze cut off her escape with a flurry of fire. The combusken strode closer and closer as it boxed Luna in.

“Now, double kick!”

As the combusken shifted its weight, Sam saw where its strike would fall. “Dodge right, and sweep its left leg with iron tail!”

Luna took a grazing hit as she leapt aside, and then she bunched up her tail and slammed it into Blaze’s shin. The combusken hopped up and down, massaging its bruised leg, and Luna struck at its other leg. However, Blaze jumped at the last moment and landed on both legs.

“Rush in and scratch it,” Matt ordered.

“Block with a double kick!”

Luna knocked back the combusken’s arm and followed up with a close-range swift barrage. Blaze teetered back, breathing heavily. Sam saw flickers of fire in its beak and ordered Luna to back away.

“Alright Blaze, light ‘em up!”

This time, the combusken’s ember packed far more heat, and it consumed Luna’s swift attack. Luna dodged by leaping high over the flames, but it left her in the air for Blaze’s second ember.

Sam smiled as he saw the combusken prepare the decisive blow. He grimaced when he thought of the decibel meter, but then he gave the order.

“Luna, use shadow ball!”

As she fell, Luna gathered a sphere of nebulous dark energy, drawing power from all the shadows in the room. Then she flung it forward, and it smashed through Blaze’s flames before careening into its chest. Blaze flew into the fiberglass and tipped it back, shot up the slick panel, hit the ceiling, and fell into the crowd. It tried to stand, but its legs wouldn’t stop shaking.

“That’s a–” the referee started to call, but Matt’s crowd called for a sound check. Joe and the referee played back the decibel meter, Joe hit a few buttons on the device, and then the referee said, “After further review, Sam’s last attack did not exceed ninety decibels. Therefore, the victory goes to Sam!”

Matt’s crowd groaned and booed, but Jaunty Joe blasted an airhorn.

“However, Matt also didn’t tell us his torchic evolved. Since his team was bad to begin with, the match is cancelled. Everyone gets back their bets on this match.”

That announcement pacified the crowd, and after they collected their wagers and polished off the food on the tables, they drifted out of the basement, until only Sam and Jaunty Joe’s crew remained behind. Joe walked up to him and clapped him on the back.

“Holy muk man, that was amazing! When the hell did you teach Luna shadow ball?”

“It took a while, and a lot of research,” Sam answered. “I can’t believe we stayed under the noise limit.”

Joe smiled and rubbed the back of his neck. “Well, about that, you actually did go over. Ninety-two decibels, to be exact. I fudged the numbers a bit so no one’s gonna notice.”

“Well, like I said, if anything was gonna beat me, it’d be the decibel meter. Too bad I won’t be able to use shadow ball anymore.”

“Don’t be so sure about that.” Jaunty Joe handed Sam an envelope full of cash, with a street name and a time written on it. “You’re too good for the kiddy ring. Why don’t you try my dad’s ring instead? You’d make a lot more than fifty bucks a match.”

Sam took the money and counted it. Then he said, “Thanks, but I don’t want any real trouble. I’ll stay here for now.”

Jaunty Joe frowned. “Alright, but so you know, I won’t be able to get anyone to bet on your matches after this. Nobody here can top what you did tonight.”

“That’s fine. I won’t be here much longer anyways. See ya in a few weeks.”

Sam counted his earnings as he walked home. Once he was in his bedroom, Sam almost threw away the envelope, but the thought of his mother finding it made him keep it with his money. He tried to sleep, but even after the night’s excitement, all he could think about was that exam.
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Old November 6th, 2016 (12:14 PM).
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Bay Alexison Bay Alexison is online now
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Chapter 2, oh hey I vaguely remember Sam having a villian like persona midway through the original version, so looks like he's probably going back to that. Phantom of the Opera in the making, folks. I also remember Brendon and seems you're bringing back their rivalry there. Sam seems pretty stubborn there not willing to at least accpet the internship. Also, spot the Sinex reference there.

Chapter 3, that Luna sure is a firecracker as I remembered, heh. I think this is the first time you have decibel mentioned and how that could be a deciding factor in matches sometimes. I'm not too worried over how Luna got Shadow Ball, though for the context of the story the people that have seen Sam fought before would be baffled. Also yup, that sly trick with Combusken would be known sooner or later. Fun battle overall, though.
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Old November 6th, 2016 (5:47 PM).
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Spoiler: Message from the Author
Thanks again for the review Bay! The shadow ball explanation was more for the benefit of the characters than the audience. Expect more similarities as well - I haven't thrown everything out, just most of it.

Speaking of which, this part makes me die inside a little every time I think about how I first wrote it. Ugh. I think the changes are much for the better, both plot-wise and character wise.

It's nice I managed to get this done today... got ahead on my NaNoWriMo goal :D Alright, enjoy!



Chapter Four: Bittersweet

In classroom 305, to the sound of tennis balls twanging off of nylon and acrylic, the drama club brainstormed ideas for the summer play. Character sketches and plot themes cluttered the chalkboard, but whenever the writing club came up with an idea, the art club would point out the cost of hand-making fifty costumes, and anytime the art club brought up a set of props they had in storage, the actors would insist it had to be fresh and new.

As the debate raged back and forth, Sam stared at a wall. To his eyes, the wall was covered with questions and answers and echoed with the scratching of pencil on paper.

Someone shook his shoulder, snapping him out of his daydream. “Sam!” Emily shouted in his ear. “Snap out of it! Jesus Christ, I thought you were dead!”

“What is it?” Sam asked.

“What is it? I was calling your name for a whole minute!”

“Oh. Sorry.”

Emily sighed and said, “You should go home and rest. You haven’t been yourself lately.”

“Can’t. The meeting’s at four.”

“What meeti– oh. Oh. Uh, maybe you should get some water. You look pale as a sheet.”

“No thanks,” Sam answered blankly. “I’m fine.”

“Uh, okay then. Do you, do you have any thoughts on what we should do?”

“Anything’s fine.”

“Oh really?” one of the students asked. “Then how about you play a damsel in distress, with the pretty pink princess outfit from last year’s winter production?”

Sam turned back towards the wall and said, “Works for me.”

The student frowned and said, “Oh wow, something really is wrong with him.”

“Guys, give him some space,” Emily said. Then she placed a hand on his shoulder and said, “It’s not the end of the world, Sam. Even if you don’t get in at Yvenna, there’ll be plenty of other schools that’ll take you in. So, just hang in there, okay?”

Sam looked up at the clock. The time was five to four. He stood up and left without a word, leaving his backpack behind. By the time Emily noticed and ran after him, he had already turned down the hall and vanished from sight.

Sam arrived at the principal’s office at four o clock exact. The room was sparsely furnished, with a plain, clean desk, four chairs, and two potted ferns. Brandon was already waiting in the farthest chair, staring down at his hands, and the principal, a stern old man with a neatly trimmed gray mustache, piercing brown eyes, and an angular chin, smiled and gestured towards the empty chairs. Sam took the one farthest from Brandon.

“Well boys, here are your exams,” he said, handing each of them a thick, heavy booklet. Sam swallowed, rubbed sweat out of his eyes, and opened his booklet with a trembling, sticky hand. His heart sank when he saw a neat, small, black fifty-one percent written in the final score box. He glanced over at Brandon, and Sam reluctantly held up his score. Brandon revealed his forty-nine, and Sam felt a wave of relief wash over him.

“I must say, boys, the professors were impressed,” the principal said. “That’s the entry exam for graduate students, and they averaged a thirty-seven. Overall, you’d rank fifth and sixth, respectively, out of everyone who took the exam. You should be proud of the results.”

“So,” Sam said, “Does that mean?”

The principal smiled even wider and said, “Yes, Sam, you won the scholarship. Congratulations!”

The principal held out his hand, and Sam nervously took it. The man’s wedding ring felt icy against his skin, and his hand felt like the vapor from a refrigerator.

Then the principal turned towards Brandon and said, “While you haven’t won the scholarship, you were accepted into Yvenna as well. As I understand it, you shouldn’t have any financial problems, which is quite fortunate. Money has been dreadfully tight this year, with Sinex pulling funding from the education board.”

“Wait, they’re pulling funds from education?” Brandon asked. “Why?”

“It’s not just education. Many government programs are going through major budget slashes.” Then the principal frowned and said, “Oh, that reminds me. I have some bad news for you Sam.”

Sam felt a shiver run through his gut. “What is it?”

“Because of all the budget cuts, the school board was forced to reduce the size of the scholarship, to fifty-thousand dollars. There are student loan options available, but even with those, you’ll only have half of what you need. I’m sorry, and if there was anything I could do to help, I would. I hope that either your parents or other scholarship options will be able to get you the finances you need.”

Sam didn’t answer. Instead, he looked through his exam booklet. Most of his answers got partial credit, with added details and deletions marked in red ink. For the one answer he had gotten completely right, about the effects of wind farms on bird migrations, the words “well done” were written next to his answer.

“Thank you,” Sam said. “I have to go now.”

“Oh, alright. Information about the scholarship was emailed to you, don’t forget to read it.”

Sam left the school, but he didn’t return home. Instead, he went to the Checkered Café, nestled in the corner of two shopping center streets. Every surface, from its walls to its floors and tables and chairs, had a black and white checker pattern. However, all the surfaces were done in different shades, sizes, and textures that made the café appear to have a wider variety of colors, including rustic wooden brown in the walls, faded forest green on the ceiling, and a vibrant tile floor that intensified all the other subtler hues.

Sam took an empty booth and glanced across the restaurant. A young couple shared cups of tea, and an older, grizzled gentleman sipped black coffee as he read a newspaper. A flash of gold made Sam stare at the old man longer, and after a minute, he glimpsed the man’s police badge, tucked underneath his coat.

A checker-clad waitress holding a pot of tea walked up to his table and said, “Welcome back Sam! Great to see you again! How’ve you been?”

“Better. The usual please.”

The waitress’ smile vanished, and she poured him a mug of green tea, then she took a sugar packet out of her pocket and poured it in. Sam took a spoon from her and stirred it.

“So, what happened? I haven’t seen you around lately.”

“Had a big exam,” he said. “Didn’t go well.”

“Oh, you failed? Wow, I don’t know what to say. You studied so hard for it.”

Sam didn’t correct her. He drained all the tea in his mug and held it out for a refill. The waitress poured him another cup, and Sam took it without the sugar. The waitress opened her mouth, but then she shook her head and turned around.

“Well, I better check on the others,” Sam muttered to himself as he opened his tablet. He searched through his list of scholarship entries and clicked the links. Scholarship after scholarship had funding pulled, and with their apologies, were cancelled. Even the smaller options, financed by wealthy patrons, apologized for being unable to support all the applicants they received. Every single one of Sam’s scholarships sent him an email telling him there would be no money for his dream.

Sam slumped back in his chair and brought the mug up to his lips, but only air poured into his mouth. He looked into the mug before setting it down. A moment later, the waitress took the mug, refilled it, added two helpings of sugar, and set a slice of chocolate cake in front of him.

“On the house,” she told him with a smile. “I figured our favorite customer could use a pick-me-up.”

“Oh. Thanks.”

Sam took a bite of the cake without tasting it. “Delicious,” he said.

The waitress gave him a smile and walked away. Sam scarfed down the rest of the cake, drained the tea, and put twenty dollars on the table. After a pause, Sam dug five more dollars out of his pocket and added them to the pile.

He walked home, clutching the exam booklet in his hands. He opened the door and ran upstairs, but his mother called him back down.

“Sam, honey, you have a guest. Come downstairs!”

Sam paused in front of his door. Then he went to the stairs and peeked down. Emily waved from the kitchen table, holding his backpack in front of her.

“Hey Sam! You didn’t come back for this, so I thought I’d bring it over to your place, and you weren’t home yet, so I thought I’d wait for you. So, how’d it go?”

Sam stepped downstairs and bitterly said, “I won.”

“Oh, that’s wonderful sweetie!” his mother said, squeezing him in a hug. Sam squirmed out and said, “I won, but it doesn’t mean a thing. They pulled the funding for it.”

Mrs. Milone’s face froze. “Wait, what? What do you mean?”

“There’s no money. They’re only giving me fifty grand.”

Sam’s mother softly smiled and said, “Well, that’s something, right? I’m sure you’ll get the rest from other scholarships.”

Sam threw his exam onto the table and shouted, “No I won’t! There isn’t a single god damn scholarship left! None! They all have funding pulled mom!”

“Sam! Watch your language!”

“What are you talking about?” Emily asked.

“Check yours,” Sam said. “You’ll see.”

Emily took out her tablet and checked her email. After a minute, she set it down and said, “That can’t be right. I just checked them all two days ago. There’s – there’s no way. Even the thespian’s scholarship… how?”

“It’s all gone. It’s all gone and there’s nothing I can do about it.”

His mother placed a hand on his shoulder and said, “We can always take out a loan. We’ll make it happen, somehow.”

Sam brushed the hand away. “It’s a hundred grand, and that doesn’t even include textbooks, the apartment, and food, those’ll be another sixty. It’s not possible.”

Except for the gentle hum of the dishwasher, the kitchen fell silent. Emily glanced back and forth between Sam and his mother and said, “I, uh, I should go.”

“Oh, yes, here, let me show you the door,” Mrs. Milone said. “Stay safe on your way back, okay?”

“Thanks for my backpack,” Sam called as the door closed. Before his mother could say anything, Sam ran upstairs and locked his door. He sat down at his desk and rummaged through all his papers and books, flipping through them and rubbing the pages between his fingers. He thought about going out for another cup of tea and checked his wallet. It was empty. Sam closed the curtains and crawled under the bed, digging up the shoebox and prying open the false bottom.

The envelope popped out. Sam read the address and looked it up on his tablet – it led to some alleyway in the outskirts of the city towards the Westside. He took out his tablet and opened up his contacts, but then he put it out away and called out Luna.

“Listen, Luna,” Sam told his eevee. “The only way to get into Yvenna is to get serious, but I won’t do it if you don’t want to. So, Luna, should we do it?”

Luna jumped onto his lap and purred, stroking his arm with her tail. Sam chuckled and said, “Alright, I’ll make the call.” He pressed the contact button and held up the tablet to his ear.

“Hey Joe, it’s Sam,” he said. “I changed my mind. Let your dad know I want in.”

He could imagine Jaunty Joe grinning and running his fingers through his gel-slicked hair as he said, “Sweet man, pops is gonna be happy.”

Sam put away the envelope and sat on the bed with Luna, stroking her fur and staring up into darkness until he fell asleep.
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Old November 7th, 2016 (5:22 PM).
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Bay Alexison Bay Alexison is online now
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Can see you still keep the basic of Sam's motivation for brawling (money for his education), but the events surrounding it going differently. This time it's Sinex pulling out the funds, which makes me curious what role they have for this story. I think the plot's going a bit faster now since last time you have Sam getting used to Pokemon brawls while this one Sam's already experienced in that field. One other thing I spot is the short description of an officer...

Quote:
Sam took an empty booth and glanced across the restaurant. A young couple shared cups of tea, and an older, grizzled gentleman sipped black coffee as he read newspaper. A flash of gold made Sam stare at the old man longer, and after a minute, he glimpsed the man’s police badge, tucked underneath his coat.
Will he make a comeback soon too, then? =P
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Old November 8th, 2016 (6:43 PM).
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Caution: The following chapter contains strong sexual imagery. And blood. You've been warned.

Spoiler: Message from the Author
Wow Bay, you're as sharp as ever. That answer to your imagination for the time being.

Also, in case you didn't read the bold disclaimer at the top, yes, there is material here that some readers may find inappropriate - nothing too tasteless or graphic, and no nudity, but I still feel it merits the warning. I've been writing to a mature audience from the start, and I won't be holding back now. Sam's going to an illegal underground fighting ring where all sorts of things happen. Use your imagination.

And with that out of the way, enjoy!


Chapter Five: Getting Serious

On the day listed on the envelope, four days after receiving his exam, Samuel Milone put on the mask sitting on his desk, wore a dark, baggy hooded sweatshirt, stuffed his left shoe with five hundred dollars, bought himself a few potions, and snuck out while his mother was working at her pottery shop. He followed the directions to the deserted alleyway, just far enough out of the main residential areas to avoid having anyone overhear a brawl. Though the streets were deserted, Sam felt eyes staring at him from the shadowy recesses of dark alleyways and building corners.

Sam heard the brawling ring before he saw it. Roars of laughter clashed with snarling pokemon, beers clicked as pokeballs hissed open and shut, and shouts of wagers drowned out the cries of pain as each pokemon suffered blow after blow. Sam took a deep breath, shifted his mask, and walked up to the brawl. Three dozen hoodlums, all sporting flashy masks, baggy jeans, and sweatshirts with a motley display of stains and spray-painted symbols, crowded the chalk circle in the pavement, cheering and hissing at every swipe of claws and clamping of teeth. A handful of women lounged around, some surrounded by large groups of ogling, fondling men, others mingling in their own groups.

Four muscular women flanked the ringmaster’s chair, offering him beer and chips every time he held out a hand. Those four were clad in skintight black suits that left only the lower half of their breasts and a slim portion of their hips to the imagination, and sometimes, when they moved, their clothes would shift just enough to catch a glimpse of what lay beneath. When one turned to throw away a beer bottle, Sam saw that she had a .44 Magnum holstered in the crack of her ass.

The ringmaster, Mr. Rizoli, was an enormous, beefy man with a wild mop of greasy blonde hair, a huge pair of glittering Oakleys, a thick gold jacket that was just tight enough to curve around the man’s enormous biceps and pecs, faded dress pants that hung loose around his waist, and a set of cracked, rusty knuckledusters, carefully polished around his fingers, clasped onto his hands.

One of the girls nudged the ringmaster, and he looked over at Sam. He stood and roared into the crowd, “Ladies and gents, here’s the guest of honor! Let’s give a round of applause to our newest, youngest brawler here!”

Sam received a mocking applause full of jeers and shouts of “Get back to kindergarten!”

Sam gritted his teeth and scanned the eyes of the crowd. Each man there looked like an older version of all the students in the juvie brawl rings. He considered what retort would best win them over and then shouted back, “At least I graduated from kindergarten!”

The crowd laughed, and shouts of “Damn, that kid’s got guts!” and “Gimme dat burn heal!” rippled through the ring. Mr. Rizoli clapped, his hands making a metallic chinking sound each time his knuckledusters rapped against each other, and he waved Sam over.

“Not bad, kid,” he said, holding out his hand. Sam shook it, and despite the man’s formidable, muscular hands, his handshake barely grazed his skin. “You can call me Smiles. So, what should I call you?”

Sam almost said his own name, and then he fumbled around for the first word he could think of.

“Feathers? Good to meet you, Feathers. Ready to bet?” Sam nodded. Smiles stood up and shouted, “Now, Feathers, here thinks that none of you pussies can last a round against him. Who wants to prove him wrong?”

Several hoodlums moved forward, but the first to reach Smiles was a lanky, tall, pimple-faced man with a skull mask.

“Let me at the kid,” he said. “I promise to be gentle and not make the pipsqueak cry.”

“Sure Bones,” Mr. Rizoli said, “Sounds like a good match. Your terms?”

“Two on two, and nine hundred to his three.”

“Let’s make it two on one,” Sam said.

Bones thought it over and said, “Well, you caught me on a good day, so why not? I’ll go easy on you.”

Sam grinned. “Who said you were the one?”

Bones slapped his hands together and laughed. “Wow, you crazy kid! Tell you what? I’ll put down my nine-hundred to your fifty dollars. Gotta make sure you have enough of your allowance left to buy yourself a sucker.”

“Easiest nine-hundred bucks I ever made,” Sam retorted. He held out his hand, and Bones shook it. Then they handed Smiles their wagers and told him their pokemon.

“Alright everyone, you heard the bet. Eighteen to one, Bones’ favor, for a one-on-two fight, with Feathers’ eevee against Bones nuzleaf and machoke. Who wants to bet on that?”

Sam heard whispers in the crowd. “Ooh, the machoke, he’s getting serious.” Almost everyone bet on bones, but a few staked a handful of dollars on him, including a rabbit-masked woman in a slim brown leotard.

“Everyone ready?” Smiles asked. “Sweet. Let’s get started!”

The crowd cleared out of the chalk circle. Sam and Bones stood on opposite ends and called out their pokemon. Bones’ nuzleaf stretched its arms and flipped its leaf back, while Luna crouched and kicked at the dusty, gritty pavement.

“Alright, stay sharp Lu–” Sam stopped himself from saying her name. “Lucky. Stay sharp. We’re fighting blind here, alright?”

Luna looked back at him and growled.

“Ready? Begin!” Smiles shouted.

“Fake out!” Bones ordered. His nuzleaf raced forward, arms outstretched.

“Sand attack!” Luna flung pawfuls of dust forward, and the nuzleaf raced into it. It covered its eyes tried to stop, but its momentum carried it up to Luna.

“Now, sweep with iron tail!” Luna bunched up her tail and slammed it into the nuzleaf’s legs. It tumbled forward and landed on its back, rubbing its bruised shins.

“Follow through with double kick!” Luna jabbed both hind paws back and sent the nuzleaf hurtling through the air. It rolled to a stop inches from the edge of the ring and propped itself up on its knees.

“B-bullet seed!” Bones shouted.

“Swift!”

The nuzleaf spat out a few seeds, but they were swallowed up by a torrent of stars. With a blinding flash, the nuzleaf was thrown into the crowd.

“And the first knockout goes to Lucky the eevee!”

The crowd roared with cheers and taunts. Sam heard a mixture of “Hot damn, that kid’s got some moves!” and “C’mon Bones, I got money on you man! Don’t let me down!”

Bones called back his pokemon and shook his head. “Wow, kid. I almost went easy on you. But, too bad for you, I’m not a nice guy. Go, machoke!”

He threw out his final pokemon, a burly machoke wearing a skull mask. The machoke slid it off and threw it towards Bones, who caught it with one hand.

“Right, machoke, don’t let that eevee fool you. It took out nuzleaf like he was nothing. Keep on that eevee, you hear?”

The machoke grunted and lowered its stance. When Smiles started the match, it rushed forward, with its right arm poised back for a chop.

“Keep your distance and harry it with swift,” Sam called. Luna ducked back and fired stars at the machoke. It didn’t stop running, but all the flashes made it squint its eyes. It flung its arm forward, just a hair to the left.

“Deflect left with iron tail, and follow through.”

Luna swept the arm aside, turning the machoke and leaving its right side exposed. Luna turned, and slammed her tail beneath the machoke’s ribcage, making it gasp for breath.

“Grab it!” Bones shouted.

“Get out of there!”

The machoke scrambled towards Luna, but she hopped in between its arms and came out behind it.

“Now, shadow ball!”

Luna collected shadows from across the alleyway. Bones stared in shock at the growing sphere and shouted, “Oh psyduck, get down!”

The crowd parted, leaving the alleyway empty behind the machoke. As Luna fired, the machoke flattened itself against the ground, and the shadow ball glanced off its back, leaving black scorch marks across its skin. The shadow ball then skipped against the ground, chipping fragments out of the pavement before slamming into the building behind it, sending cracks through the mortar.

The machoke stood up, and its muscles rippled, bulging outward and stiffening. It wiped the blood from its lips and smiled at Luna. “Alright,” Bones said, “We’re still in this. Now, finish it in one blow! Revenge!”

The machoke sprang forward, unnaturally fast. Luna barely had time to block with her iron tail before the machoke sent it flying with one massive undercut. Blood welled up from Luna’s face, but she twirled her body to face the ground. Sam paused for a moment, imagining how much the next move would hurt, but he shoved the feeling aside and flung out his arm.

“Now, shadow ball, and give it some backspin!”

As she fell, Luna gathered the energy, spun it towards her, and fired it at the machoke. It leapt back, but the spin of the shadow ball kicked up a barrage of concrete chunks, lacerating its face and chest.

“Now, shadow ball with forward spin!”

Using residual energy from the last attack, Luna charged the second shot even faster and sent it hurtling towards the first ball. When the two balls touched, they both spun each other, flinging even more gravel at the machoke’s face before the oncoming shadow ball slammed into its legs. Its momentum and spin made it travel up the machoke’s body while shoving it into the ground, clawing at the machoke’s chest and spraying a fountain of blood into the air. This time, when the shadow ball slammed into a wall, the machoke stayed still. Blood gushed out of its chest, pooling into the ground around it, and half the belt around its waist was torn away.

The crowd broke out in a mix of loud applause, a lot of heckling at Bones, and a few wild, joyous shouts. Sam picked up Luna, wiped the blood out of her eyes, and carried her over to Smiles. As Sam collected his winnings, a thick handful of bills bound with a frazzled rubber, Bones walked up to him and held out his hand. Sam hid a grimace as he took his grimy, sweaty hand.

“Damn, I don’t know what’s worse, losing all that money or losing to a kid like you. But damn, that was some fine brawling! What the hell do they teach kids these days?”

“If I actually listened to what they told me, then I wouldn’t be here, now would I?”

“Hah! Wow, I’m betting on you from now on. Win me back all that money and we’ll call it even, alright?”

“Uh, sure. I need to take care of L – Lucky.”

Sam turned away from the crowd and sat over in a corner. He sprayed a potion onto Luna’s gashes, angling the sprayer so it wouldn’t burn her eyes, and he worked it into her skin with a cotton swab. Once he was done, the woman in the rabbit mask sat next to him, facing away from him. She lounged back, laying on the ground and baring a generous slice of cleavage. Sam looked up at the buildings.

“Thanks kid. You won me a lot of money tonight.”

“Uh, sure.”

“So, what’s a kid like you doing here? Wait, let me guess – you need money for college.”

She chuckled when Sam turned away from her. “Oh, don’t worry sweetie, I’m not gonna arrest you.”

Sam turned back around. “Wait, arrest me?”

“Oh, so you don’t know?” She giggled and said, “I’ll let Smiles handle it. Just don’t let me catch you with a gun or drugs, and we’re cool, alright?”

Before Sam could say anything else, she sprung up and disappeared into the crowd. Sam looked around and saw Smiles, handing out generous sums of money to the few adventurous betters that won on Sam’s match. He waited until Smiles was done before walking up to him.

“Hey, mind if I ask you something?”

“Yeah, go ahead.”

“Who’s that woman in the rabbit mask?”

Smiles slapped his forehead, leaving lines from his knuckledusters, and said, “Oh muk, I forgot to tell you. That’s our bunny.”

“What?”

“Bunny – cop. She’s the reason we can run this joint without getting busted. Mr. Deltoro – the guy who owns all the rings – he’s got a deal with the cops. He lets them watch and make sure nothing serious happens here, and in return, we don’t get busted. So, if you see a bunny mask, keep your distance, okay? They’re not out to get you, but you shouldn’t go grabbing a cop’s boobs either.”

Sam felt himself burning underneath the mask. He stayed for a few more matches, placing token bets each time. He tried to pay attention to the pokemon, but without his notebook, his eyes kept straying into the crowd, hunting for a pair of lily-white ears, and each time he’d find them, a shiver ran down his spine.
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Old November 10th, 2016 (6:09 PM).
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Bay Alexison Bay Alexison is online now
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Of course there will be a 'burn heal' reference in a Pokemon story. =P

I would have thought Luna's at a big disadvantage due to Machoke being a fighting type, but can tell Sam loves a challenge. I take it this brawl place doesn't take into decibel like the one Sam used to be in? at this rate, Shadow Ball will be Luna's signature move, lol. Also looks like the police's role here is a bit different. Bunny there seems pretty chill.
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Old November 13th, 2016 (6:18 PM).
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Thanks again Bay. I suppose I should go back and explain that sound one a bit better - it's because kids in their parent's basement can't afford to make too much noise or they'll attract cops. And I was on the fence about putting in such a cheesy meme, but I thought why the heck not. I wanted the light, fun atmosphere of those moments to clash with darker parts of that chapter, and for now I'm content with how it turned out.

This chapter was extremely hard for me to write. I'm treading all new ground here, at least for now, and I had to think about what direction I wanted to go with Sam's personal life without tipping my hand too much. A few good ideas and a few slow days of trying to get myself motivated to write later, here it is. I played around quite a bit with the chapter structure and content, and multiple times, I reworked the characters I threw in here. So, enjoy.


Chapter Six: Loss of Senses

Sam tried to concentrate in class, but a buzz echoed in his head all morning. No matter how hard he shook his head or whacked his ears, the buzz wouldn’t stop. His vision also felt blurry – he could tell that his math teacher was writing an integral on the smartboard, but all the numbers faded into blobs of green and red, melting into the white smear of screen on the wall.

His teacher said something. Sam saw her lips move, but he couldn’t make out any of her words. His mind wandered away from the classroom, and he saw, in vivid clarity, a pair of ears poking out from a sea of heads. The ears dipped and bobbed through the crowd, winding ever closer to him. He tried to stand up and run, but his body wouldn’t move from his desk. The ears reached the edge of the crowd, and a woman’s body emerged from the writhing mass of faceless hoodlums, wearing a brown bikini tight and flexible enough to show every curve beneath them. Around her ring finger twirled a pair of glittering golden handcuffs. Sam strained, tugged against the invisible strings that pinned him to the desk, but he could only watch as the woman’s hand snaked forward and clamped the handcuffs around his left wrist.

“Sam!”

The teacher’s shout snapped him back to reality. Though his vision remained fuzzy, he could see the wrinkled teacher’s hand shaking his wrist.

“Sam, snap out of it! Are you feeling alright?”

“Oh, sorry. Didn’t sleep well last night.”

“You’re pale as a sheet!” She pressed a hand against his head and said, “You’re awfully cold too. Maybe you should go to the nurse’s office.”

“I’ll be fine. Thanks though.”

The teacher frowned, and Sam could only tell because her forehead bunched up into rows of wrinkles. “Well, don’t be shy. If you have to go, then go. Don’t ask.”

For a split second, Sam saw a pair of rabbit ears above the teacher’s head, unnaturally clear and bright against the blurred mess of reality. He blinked, and the image vanished, and yet he couldn’t shake the feeling that they were still there.

“I – okay.”

As the teacher walked away from him, he heard another set of footsteps, muffled scrapes of soft pads against a rough stone floor. Sam tried to turn, and though his body stayed still, his vision whipped around the room. For a split moment, he saw burning buildings, and then pain raced through his left eye. It felt as though his eye had turned into molten lava and seeped into his veins, scorching further into his head with each heartbeat. Sam tried to scream, but the shock from the pain kept his throat too tight to let any air out, or in. He choked on his own neck muscles as he tipped out of his chair, and he blacked out well before his head hit the floor.

When Sam woke up, he lay in a bed he didn’t know, staring up at a ceiling he didn’t recognize. His head throbbed on the left side. He tried to lift his head, but he couldn’t move. A shadow loomed over him, and Sam peered out of his peripheral vision. The figure seemed blurry, but he could make out the large red cross on Nurse Delita’s uniform. A light shined in his eyes, and he blinked at the sudden brightness.

Her words seemed as though they swam through molasses to reach him. Each time her lips moved, it took a few seconds for her words to reach his brain, and the desynchonization of lips and sound made Sam’s head spin. “Don’t try to move,” she told him. “We called for a Doctor to take a look at you, but it’s probably just stress. Some kids get it worse than others, especially when they’re about to finish high school. You also bumped your head, but your pupils are normal, so it’s nothing too serious.”

Sam tried to tell her he was paralyzed, but his tongue wouldn’t move either. Every inch of his body, from his eyelids to his toes, wouldn’t answer his brain’s frantic attempts to get them moving. Sam struggled against the heavy, invisible blanket holding him down, but he felt smothered by his own body. His breathing, spurred on only by his body’s instinct for survival, supplied him with a thin, steady dose of oxygen, leaving his brain in a suffocating state that sent tingles of pain through his chest. His mouth felt as though it were stuffed with salt, so dry that his tongue clung to the roof of his mouth, and his nose had an intense, burning itch.

He heard a knock, and his eyes flicked up towards the door. Brandon was standing outside, bending the corner of an envelope in his hands.

“I hope you don’t mind a visitor,” Nurse Delita said. “I normally wouldn’t allow it, but I think he’ll do you some good. Just shake your head if you don’t want to see him.”

Sam tried to move, but he couldn’t even make his neck muscles twitch.

“Alright, I’ll let him in. I won’t let him stay too long – you need your rest.”

Brandon pulled up a chair, sat next to the bed, and pulled a thin slip of paper out the envelope. The sound of paper rasping against paper felt like sand rubbing at Sam’s eardrums.

“Sam, I, uh, well, everyone at the drama club’s worried about you. They tried to see you, but the nurse wouldn’t let them in. But, well, she let me in after I asked her. I, uh, want to give you something. I talked it over with my dad, and he took a look at your exam, and he decided to help you out, in exchange for being his intern. So… here you go.”

Brandon took his hand, pried it open, pressed the paper inside, and pushed the fingers closed. “There. That’s two-hundred thousand, everything you need to get to grad school. My dad will talk to you himself to go over being his intern, and all that.” Brandon scratched the back of his neck and said, “I hope that makes you feel better.” He looked up at the clock and stood. “Well, I should be going. Get some rest, and get, uh, get better soon, okay?”

Sam stared at the paper in his hands. It felt heavy, as though it were going to crush his arm under its weight. He could just barely make out the neat, six-digit figure written in vibrant black ink, along with an eloquent and flamboyant signature at the bottom. There it was, everything he needed to go to college, leave with a successful career, and have an easy life, and all he could think about was how badly he wanted to drop it. Sam willed his fingers to move, staring at them until the fingertips started to shake. Millimeter by millimeter, his hands parted and his wrist twisted until the check slid out of his hand, floated through the air, and landed gently on the floor.

Brandon turned just before he left the room and saw the check on the floor. He walked over, picked it up, and placed it on the table next to Sam’s bed.

“I got that for you. It’ll be right here when you wake up.”

Brandon turned towards the door. Sam pried his mouth open and forced himself to whisper, “Wait.”

Brandon stopped. “What is it?”

Sam reached towards the table. Inch by inch, his trembling hand crept forward until it fell on top of the check. His fingers twitched closed, and he shuffled his fingers so they wouldn’t crumple the check. Then he forced himself to stand, first by dragging his left arm back and pushing up, then reaching out with his right and propping himself up on a bedpost. His legs shook as they struggled to bear his weight, and his back hunched over. Sam eased his hand off the bedpost and held the check towards Brandon.

“Thanks,” he said hoarsely, “But I can’t take it.”

“You don’t have to worry!” Brandon said. “My dad’s doing really well, Sinex just – uh, well he’s doing fine. So don’t worry and take it.”

“That’s not it.” Sam took a few deep breaths. He could feel warmth seeping into his muscles. His back straightened, his hands stopped shaking, and his tongue felt limber. “I want to be a pokemon professor, but I want to get there on my own. I could take the money and have all my problems solved, but I’ll spend the rest of my life thinking it was too easy. I’d rather earn it.”

“But you did earn it!” Brandon shouted. “I mean, yeah, I asked my dad to look into you, but he would’ve given you that internship regardless. You’re just as good – no, better than I am, and nobody deserves this money more than you. So please, just take it.”

“I don’t want it.”

“Then how? How the hell are you going to come up with this kind of money by yourself, huh? I – look, I understand. I feel that way all the time. I feel like I’m just handed everything. I don’t have to worry about finances, and I have my dad to teach me everything I need to know. But it would be stupid not to take it. So please, take the god damn money.”

Sam pushed the check into Brandon’s arms. “I’ll find my own way.”

Brandon clenched a fist as he took the check. “Fine. Go ahead and try. I – the offer still stands, Sam, so when - if you give up, let me know.” He turned away, said, “Get some rest,” and ran out.

Sam walked towards the door, but Nurse Delita stopped him.

“And where do you think you’re going?”

“I’ve got two-hundred thousand dollars to make.”

“Not right now, you don’t. The doctor will be here in ten minutes. He’ll take a look at you, and then we’ll see if you get to go or not.” She pointed at the bed and said, “Lay down. At least sit. I don’t want you hitting your head again if you pass out. Good lord, I should’ve known letting a visitor in was a bad idea.”

The nurse mumbled to herself as she ran a towel under the faucet. She guided Sam onto the bed and placed the towel against the bruise on Sam’s head. He winced as she applied pressure, but the cool, wet towel eased the throbbing pain.

Sam itched to get out of bed, but under the stern gaze of the nurse, he resigned himself to lying in bed. Each minute dragged on, and the clock announced each momentous second with a thunderous tock. He tapped his fingers against the sheets, willing the clock to go faster, and he sighed in relief when the doctor arrived five minutes early.

“Hello there!” he called, entering the room with a flamboyant stride. His black hair stuck up in a weird, bobbing point, with streaks of gray adding subtle shades to his groomed sideburns. He had astonishingly thick corrective lenses held in place with dull bronze frames heavy enough to press down the man’s ears, a gleaming white lab-coat with five bulging pockets, and instead of a stethoscope, the doctor wore a lead pocket watch around his neck on an iron chain. He held a large black toolkit that clanged and rustled each time he swung his arms. “I hope you don’t mind I’m five minutes early.”

“Oh, not at all, Doctor Drake! He’s already awake, and he was standing on his own and talking just a bit ago.”

“Good! Probably not a concussion then, but I’ll still have to do some extensive testing. Cases like these are pretty rare, so we better make sure nothing else is going on.” He clapped his hands and said, “Right! Let’s get started!” He strode over to Sam’s bed and loomed over him. Then he looked back at the nurse and said, “Could you leave us alone for a moment?”

“Oh, sure,” she said.

“And be sure to lock the door behind you, okay? I don’t want anyone walking in on this.”

The door clicked shut, and a bolt slid in place. Once they were alone, the doctor smiled down at him.

“Can you do me a favor, young man?”

“Uh, what is it?” Sam asked.

The doctor took the pocket watch off of his neck. “When I open this watch, whatever you do, don’t look at it.”

“Got it,” Sam mumbled.

“Let me repeat that,” Doctor Drake said as he put on gloves from his pocket. “No looking into the watch. Understand?”

“I said I got it.”

“No no, say ‘I won’t look into the pocket watch’, okay?”

“Okay. I won’t look into the pocket watch.”

“Good! Instead, I want you to look into my eyes. Just look at me, alright?”

“Okay.” Sam shifted his gaze up to the man’s eyes. Behind the man’s lenses, his eyes were two giant blue spheres with a tiny black speck in the center.

“Good! Here we go.”

The watch clicked open. Sam felt nothing at first, but then the drowsy, heavy sensation he felt when he woke up returned. It felt as though the watch were putting out heat like a lamp, and the longer it stayed open, the greater the urge he felt to look at it. Bit by bit, Sam lowered his gaze down the doctor’s face until he could see the watch in his peripheral vision. His eyes were blurring up, but he could tell there wasn’t a clock in there, but a purple glowing something. He lowered his gaze even further, but the watch snapped shut before his vision could clear. Immediately, Sam felt the oppressing, stifling sensation lift from his body.

“Alright!” Doctor Drake shouted. “Very good!” He peeled off his gloves and stuck them back into his pocket. “Now for the next part. Could you do me another favor?”

“What is it?”

“Sleep tight.”

The doctor pressed a rag against his face. Sam struggled against it, but within a second, his mind went blank, and he passed out as the doctor took a syringe out of his toolbox.
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Old November 15th, 2016 (6:19 PM).
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Good evening (or morning, or whatever time is appropriate for your time zone). I just finished the latest chapter. I'm trying to think of something to say here, but I got nothin'. I don't want to spoil the chapter, and I don't have any feedback to respond to, so I'm kind of stuck. So instead, I think I'll say thanks for reading. It's the fact that anyone at all pays attention to my work that keeps me writing. Otherwise, I'd probably stall out and spend my days playing Final Fantasy Tactics or other games, and watching RWBY / whatever anime is airing.

With that sentimentality out of the way, enjoy the chapter!


Chapter Seven: Walls

During the last few weeks of school, Sam stopped studying textbooks. Instead, he snuck out every night he could, watching pokemon battles in Smiles’ ring. His notes became even more detailed than ever before, noting everything from approximate temperature ranges of a houndour’s ember attack to the pressure applied by a totodile’s fangs. He studied the wing motions of birds and the strides of mammals, internalized the motion of eyes and reaction times, and his documentation of pokemon battle behaviors grew so violent he’d snap whole cases of pencils each night.

In the first week, his fervent observation earned him four thousand dollars. The hoodlums, so dismissive of a lone eevee, lost again and again to Luna’s swift, brutal barrage of iron tail and shadow ball. But after that first week, the winnings tapered off. Fewer and fewer brawlers were willing to wager against him, and the few that were willing demanded thousands of dollars against their hundred. The fights grew more intense, first facing off against four pokemon in a row, then getting pitted against two at a time, but Luna’s resolve never wavered, and she proved skilled in causing chaos within teams, darting behind pokemon and using them as shields, deflecting their blows into each other, and making them stumble into each other for a final, concrete-crushing shadow ball.

One night, after no one asked to challenge Sam, Smiles walked over to his lonely, dark corner and held out a pokeball.

“Nobody’s gonna battle you if you don’t expand your roster,” Smiles said. “Why don’t you try this guy out for size? It’s a spunky little scraggy, and I think it’d be perfect for your fighting style.”

“No thanks,” Sam said as he scribbled into his notebook. “I appreciate the offer, but I’m only going to use Luna.”

Smiles frowned and took back the pokeball. “Okay then, but let me know if you change your mind. The offer still stands.”

Sam clenched his fist and mumbled, “I won’t change my mind.”

“What was that?”

“I said I’ll think about it.”

Sam watched him walk off. Just before he returned to his chair, Smiles spoke with the cop and handed her a beer. Sam returned to his attention to the fight, calculating the force a sentret could deliver with its tail, but moments later, a tap on his shoulder startled him. The cop, wearing her bunny mask with a short, airy yellow skirt that flashed her rear every time she walked, sat down next to him. Sam tried prying his eyes away from her, but he couldn’t keep himself from eyeing her through his peripheral vision.

“C’mon kid, make me some more money,” she said, raising a beer bottle to her lips. “When are you gonna get back in there?”

“When someone challenges me,” Sam said.

The cop laughed, spitting a spray of beer in front of her. “Oh please, nobody likes losing money Sam, and you’re the worst person here to bet against. Man, did I make a killing off of you, but at this rate, the money’s gonna dry up. You should get some more pokemon, spice things up. Everything’s more fun when you lose once in a while.”

“I lost, once,” Sam said. “It was on a school exam. I got a ninety-eight. He got a hundred. Ever since then, I studied harder than ever. I wanted to beat him so badly I could taste it. Test after test, I fell short of his perfect scores, until one day, I did beat him. And I still lost.” Sam leaned back and said, “I’m sick of losing to him.”

“So, is that why you don’t want to use any other pokemon?” the cop asked. She took a swig and adjusted her mask. “You think there aren’t any pokemon out there that couldn’t beat your eevee into a bloody pulp in three seconds flat? Because I got news for you kid – this is still a kiddies’ ring compared to Mr. Deltoro’s. He’s got pokemon in there that could flatten this city in a day, and if you ever want in, you’ll need better pokemon.”

“I don’t want better pokemon,” Sam said.

“Why not?”

Sam turned away and said, “I have my reasons.”

The cop shrugged. “Well, you don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to.”

Sam paused for a moment, and then he said, “I don’t like hurting pokemon.”

The cop howled with laughter. “You – you don’t like hurting pokemon! Ha! That’s a riot.”

“What’s so funny?”

“You say that after you pummeled a mightyena into hamburger with that iron tail of Luna’s. That pokemon’s probably dead by now because of you.”

“I battle with Luna because she wants to. I won’t force other pokemon to fight for me.”

The cop stood up and stretched her arms. Sam glanced up her skirt and reddened. “Well, suit yourself kid. Oh, and who do you think I should bet on next round?”

“Hazard. His pawniard’s too fast for that makuhita to get any hits in.”

“Thanks! I’ll give you a little info in exchange for that tip.” She took a knee and leaned into his ear, caressing it with her lips. “Word is, Deltoro’s sending in a scouter soon. Impress him, and you could get into Deltoro’s ring and make serious cash.”

“How serious?”

“Five times as much, easy. Maybe even ten.” She raised the beer bottle to her lips, gave the empty, dry bottom a disdainful look, and tossed it aside. “But you’ll need serious pokemon to get in there.”

“Lucky won’t take that long to evolve. Imagine how much stronger she’ll be when she does.”

“You could just use a fire stone.”

“It’d be a waste. Espeon’s so much stronger.”

The cop tsked and asked, “Are you a masochist or something? You sure enjoy making everything harder for yourself.”

“It’s no fun when it’s too easy.”

“And yet you hate losing.” She looked across the ring and said, “Well, the bets are about to close. Have fun staying in your little corner.”

As Sam predicted, the cop won a few hundred dollars on her bet, and as she predicted, the next day, a gold-masked, muscular, dark-skinned man in a tight-fitting white t-shirt and black pants arrived at the ring. The crowd left a ten-foot ring around him. The only person to breach his personal space was one of Smiles’ guards, who offered him a cooler of Don Julio and a shot glass rimmed with salt.

The scouter watched a string of matches without a word. All the brawlers threw out their best pokemon, pushing them to the edge of exhaustion for his attention, but he gave them and their pokemon a cursory glance before returning to his drink.

As the night came to a close, the scouter stood up. The crowd parted as he walked towards Smiles. Whispered in the ringmaster’s ear and returned to his seat.

Smiles stood up and said, “Mr. Gold wishes to see a match between Axle and Feathers, one on one. The winner gets five thousand dollars and a fight against him.”

Axle gritted his teeth as he called out his scyther. He told it to stay wary as Sam called out Luna.

“Agility!” Axle called. The scyther sprinted across the ring, becoming a green blur as it kicked up dust and papers with the wind its wings kicked up.

“Now cut!”

“Cross counter with iron tail,” Sam called in response. Luna hardened her tail as the scyther’s blade slashed her hind leg, and as the scythe passed her, Luna slammed her tail into its midsection. It doubled over, hacking and coughing as blood trickled out of its cracked exoskeleton.

“Again!” Sam ordered. Luna flung her tail at the scyther’s head. It backed away and took a glancing blow on its chin.

“X-scissor!”

“Sand attack!”

The scyther dashed forward into a faceful of sand. It threw its scythes up, and Luna ducked underneath the attack.

“Now, shadow ball.”

Luna had already prepared the shadows, and just as the scyther’s bleeding torso passed overhead, she loosed her attack directly into its thorax. With a blinding flash, both Luna and the scyther flew back, but while Luna landed on her feet, the scyther landed on its back and didn’t move.

Mr. Gold walked up to Sam, holding a thick stack of hundred dollar bills in his hand. “I’m a man of my word,” he said, his voice muffled by his mask. “This is just a small taste of the kind of money you’ll get if you work for Mr. Deltoro. But first, you have to beat me. One on one. Here, use this first.”

Mr. Gold tossed Sam a super potion. Sam sprayed it onto Luna’s cut leg, rubbing the liquid into the wound until it closed up.

“Ready when you are,” Sam said. “Don’t expect me to lose.”

“I wouldn’t be so cocky if I were you,” Mr. Gold answered. “I came here with every intention of crushing you.”

Mr. Gold threw his pokeball forward and called out his poliwrath. The amphibious pokemon’s muscles bulged as it stared down Luna.

“Belly drum!” Mr. Gold shouted. The poliwrath pounded its gut, working itself into a frenzy with each slap. Its muscles twitched and flexed, hinting at earth-shattering power.

“Don’t let it go on the offensive,” Sam ordered. “Use swift, and follow up with a quick attack!”

Luna flung a volley of stars and raced into them, striking the poliwrath in the gut with both its stars and its own body. The poliwrath, however, took the impact and grabbed Luna by her legs.

“Vital throw!” The poliwrath flexed its arm back and hurled Luna towards the edge of the ring. As she skidded against the ground, Sam told her to use iron tail to stop herself. She made a long, deep furrow in the cement, kicking up gravel as she ground to a stop three inches from the line. Nicks and bruises covered Luna’s body, and she had a deep purple ring around her left eye, stretching from the tip of her muzzle down to her neck.

“Now, shadow ball!”

“Hydro pump!”

The rush of water knocked Luna’s attack aside and barreled towards her. Luna got her leg soaked by the torrent as she dodged to the side.

“Hydro pump, again!”

“Shadow ball, and this time spin it up in front of you!”

Another deluge of water hurtled towards Luna, but this time the shadow ball’s spin deflected the water, soaking Sam and everyone standing behind him. Sam held up a hand and strained to see through the flood of water splashing in his eyes. The moment he sensed the water letting up, he shouted, “Let it rip!”

The shadow ball hurtled forward with the sound of a cannon, making it rain with all the water it kicked up. The shadow ball carved its way through the hydro pump and slammed into the poliwrath’s belly. It gripped the shadow ball, but the sphere’s spin forced the poliwrath’s feet off the ground and flung it into the air. As the poliwrath tumbled above the buildings, Sam said, “Finish it off with another shadow ball!”

Luna trembled as she gathered shadows into a sphere. Though it wobbled and shook, the shadow ball stayed together as it slammed into the poliwrath’s side. It tumbled down and hit the ground with a thunderous plop.

The crowd roared with cheering, and Sam felt his own heart lift. But Mr. Gold thrust his arm forward and said, “Get your revenge.”

Within the space of an eyeblink, the poliwrath kicked off of the ground, hurtled towards Luna, and punched her chest hard enough to crack her ribs. She flew deep into the crowd and tumbled on top of an overflowing garbage can. The crowd fell silent as Sam pushed and shoved past them, sprinting towards Luna and spraying a potion on her chest. The potion knitted up the surface wounds, but it did nothing for the broken bones underneath.

Mr. Gold tapped him on the shoulder and held out a hyper potion. “Use this, kid. She took quite a beating, but I have to say, you did better than I thought. She’d be fantastic if you evolved her.”

Sam sprayed Mr. Gold’s potion onto Luna’s chest and worked the liquid deep into her skin. He could feel the bones knitting themselves back together underneath his fingertips. “What does it matter? I lost.”

Mr. Gold placed a hand on Sam’s shoulder and leaned towards him. “Let me tell you something, Sam. Mr. Deltoro is very interested in getting fresh blood into his ring, especially one with such a gripping back story. A high schooler brawling against the best of the best for college money – that grabs the attention of people with very deep pockets. But there is no one more boring than someone who never loses and only uses one pokemon, and no one with any money’s going to pay to see it. So, Sam, take this card.”

Mr. Gold passed him a business card over his shoulder. In neat, elegant font, it gave the name, phone number, and address of a personal attorney closer to the west side of the city.

“Our rematch is in a week,” Mr. Gold said. “He’ll have you ready for it, if you’re still interested.”

Mr. Gold walked away and vanished into the nearest alley. After checking his pockets for the money he had earned, Sam walked in the opposite direction, holding the business card with one hand and cradling Luna with the other, staring into her calm, sleeping face. He grimaced at the faint trace of bruise left around her eye and rubbed more potion into the bruised skin. Her eyes drooped open, and she licked his hands.

“I’m sorry. You don’t have to fight if you don’t want to. I’ll find some other way.”

But as he walked down that alley, flipping through cancelled scholarship after cancelled scholarship, his grip tightened around the business card.
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Old November 15th, 2016 (11:20 PM).
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Somehow I missed it when you posted Chapter 6, oops. But hey, double review today.

Chapter 6
Well, that's some daydream Sam had with that bunny police huh? LOL. Onto something more serious, the part with Brendon and Sam, that's a tense moment between them. And I'm keeping an eye on Doctor Drake there.

Chapter 7
One minor thing I want to point out. After the battle with Axel and before Mr. Gold's battle, I think you missed a description of Axel getting out of the ring.

I think one other difference from this version and the original version is you're having Sam more hesitant towards Luna and other Pokemon fighting. I think last time you would have him do anything to get what he wanted, but in this chapter his feelings are different. I'm liking the character development in this version better. Looks like that attorney from the last version makes a return though, so it should be interesting if things will play out differently.
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Old November 19th, 2016 (5:12 PM).
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Hello there! If you're wondering why this chapter took a bit longer than usual, it hasn't been because I haven't been writing, but because this chapter's so freaking big. Heck, it's twice the size of a normal chapter... so I just decided to split it into two chapters. I'll post the first half today and wait til tomorrow for the second half. Enjoy!



Chapter Eight: Business Meeting

Sam slipped out of his house the next day and followed the address on the business card to a neat, decorous slice of cityscape nestled within pothole-ridden streets and rundown buildings. Men in suits strode down the sidewalks, checking stock market values and managing their businesses during their commute. Sam kept close to the buildings, trying to hide in the canopy-made shade of business-front windows, until he reached his destination.

The lawyer’s office was a small, quaint brick building, with a design that blended in with the taller buildings on its flanks. Sam walked up to the gleaming wooden door and rang the bell.

“Come in, it’s open” a grainy voice said through the speaker.

Sam opened the door and walked inside. He took a seat in the waiting room’s only chair and stared into the receptionist’s room, a small cubicle walled off with glass panels. The receptionist, a tiny, bird-like woman with a petite set of glasses and long, bony fingers, clabbered and clanked her fingernails on her keyboard, furiously typing memos as she sipped coffee through a straw.

“He’s ready to see you,” she said. “Go on through the door.”

Sam grasped the shining bronze door knob and gently opened the door. The lawyer’s office dwarfed the reception area, lavishly furnished with a vibrant red Persian rug, matching curtains with gold tassels, a crystal chandelier with a gleaming iron chain, a deep, dark red wooden desk larger than most beds, wooden chairs with fluffy red satin cushions, a bookcase bulging with countless legal texts, and two paintings of old, somber men. The cherry-colored desk held two teetering towers of manila folders, a pidgeot feather quill pen with an inkwell made of tauros ivory, and a Yvenna law school diploma in a gold-plated picture frame. In the corner, half-covered by a loose curtain, was a door.

Behind the stacks sat a short, smiling man in a luxurious black suit. His blonde hair was trimmed short, with just enough length in the front to make his hairstyle appear higher. The lawyer’s warm, brown eyes glowed at Sam from behind a pair of tinted glasses with shiny aluminum frames, and the man’s nose, so crooked and misshapen that his glasses kept sliding from its perch, had a scar near the middle of the broken bridge in the shape of a nearly perfect pink square.

The lawyer got up from his chair and leaned over his desk, holding out his hand. Sam leaned in and shook his hand.

“Congratulations, you’ve got the job!”

Sam glanced around the room and looked at the business card again.

“Uh, thank you Mr. Ducall. This is quite a surprise for me, considering I’m not going into law.”

“Yes, I know you don’t have any law experience, but that’s not important. What matters more to me is your experience with research. You know your way around stacks of documents, and that’s exactly what I need. But first, could you review the job application you gave me and make sure everything is in order?”

Mr. Ducall handed him a sheet of paper. Filling every blank, from his name to his school transcript and club activities, were all of his personal information, written in penmanship so similar to his own that he wondered if he actually wrote it.

“Yep, looks good,” Sam said blankly.

The lawyer took the transcript back and shoved it into a desk drawer. “So, starting today, you’ll be organizing all of my past legal files. Sort them based on successful and failed defenses, types of cases, in chronological order, oh, and make sure to pull out anything older than ten years. Closet space ain’t cheap. Speaking of closet space, let me show you where you’ll be working.”

Mr. Ducall led him to the door in the corner, brushed the curtain aside, and slid a key into the knob’s lock. With a metallic cling, the door swung open, revealing a dark, cramped closet. Filing cabinets crowded every wall, some of them bursting with manila folders, and others so caked with cobwebs and dust that the coating could be rolled into little grey snowmen.

“Could you close the door please? I don’t want any outside air to get in. The humidity’s very bad for the documents.”

Once Sam closed the door, Mr. Ducall pushed one of the filing cabinets aside, revealing a blank section of wall. He slid a panel aside, exposing a keyhole, and pressed a gleaming silver key inside. He twisted hard, and with a pop, the wall swung inward, exposing a wooden staircase that led downward. A faint scent of ammonia wafted up the stairs and into Sam’s nose, making him sneeze.

“Come on, follow me,” Mr. Ducall whispered. Sam expected the stairs to creak, but not a single one made even the slightest noise as they descended into the office’s basement. At the bottom, lit by a chandelier that dwarfed the one upstairs, was a gleaming obsidian table, complemented by two jet-black chairs with self-adjusting gel cushions. The concrete walls had sound-dampening panels at even intervals, each one adorned with a different pokemon mosaic, and the floor had layer after layer of lavish Persian rug, each competing for space and yet complementing each other in color and texture to form an entrancing, colorful patchwork.

Sam took a seat on one side and felt the gel shift itself to his weight and posture. After a few seconds, he felt as though he were sinking into a cloud.

The lawyer sat at the opposite side of the table and slid a stack of documents towards him. “Sorry for putting you on the spot like that, Sam, my business card doesn’t exactly have room for ‘oh, by the way, pretend you’re getting a job here and just follow my lead’.” He brushed a speck of dust off his suit and said, “I’d normally just meet you down here, but for business’ sake, we had to put on that charade. Nice acting, by the way, but considering your hobbies, I had a feeling you’d do fine.”

Sam looked at the stack of papers the lawyer gave him. Most of them were bills, ranging from thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars. There was a receipt from an outfit store, rental contracts for pokemon, receipts for Persian rugs, and five contract agreements for Mr. Ducall’s legal services, along with a ticket into the Deltoro Casino Club, a platinum VIP pass for the same location, a map with a building circled in black ink, a photograph of a smiling, white-haired man with a long, jagged scar across both of his eyes, and a letter of acceptance for the position of administrative assistant.

“So, what’s the deal?”

Mr. Ducall smiled. “Before I tell you that, let me ask you a question. Let’s suppose you’re an IRS agent, looking over the finances of a student that just paid his way through college with, legally speaking, appeared out of thin air. The student has one parent, whose job at a pottery shop couldn’t front that money in fifty years, no wealthy relatives, no job, and minimal financial aid. Now, what would you do?”

Sam stared at the walls before saying, “I’d arrest him.”

“You skipped a few steps, but that’d be the end result. A few bucks here and there won’t go noticed, especially if it’s cash, but hundreds of thousands doesn’t just appear overnight. Anyone flashing that kind of cash without paying the government draws a lot of attention.”

“So I need you to make it look like I got my money legally.”

The lawyer nodded and said, “That’s one of many services I’ll be providing you. The ‘job’ you have with me will supply twenty grand over the summer. The rest, well, let’s just say that Mr. Deltoro is making a massive donation to a pokemon research institute, in exchange for a few presents. Mr. Deltoro could slide a few hundred grand extra into that donation, and in return, said institute funds your education and hires you on.”

“It’s not the Oak Institute, is it?” Sam asked.

“The Oaks? I can’t say names, but the Oaks are too squeaky clean for that business. Let’s just leave it at that. But we’re getting away from the point. Point is, you supply the money and I’ll worry about the legal stuff.”

Sam shuffled through the papers again. “And this is going to cost me… six hundred grand?”

“Nine hundred, actually. The three-hundred grand’s for the research institute I mentioned. You’ll see most of that money back. The rest is to cover my legal expenses, the VIP Pass for the Deltoro Casino, contracting pokemon for your next fight, and other miscellaneous purchases you’ll need.”

Sam stood up and said, “But–”

“Cool your jets, kid,” Mr. Ducall interrupted, “Follow my instructions and you’ll make that money and then some well before school starts. You’d get ten grand for entering a match, and thirty more for winning. Win half of fifty matches, and you’re set.”

“Alright. What are your instructions?”

“First, pick up your outfit from the store I circled on the map. Tell him you’re Feathers, and he’ll take care of you. Second, come here right after school every day. You’ll need all the training you can get before you fight Gold again. And third, this is really important Sam, you have to expand your roster.”

“I don’t want to.”

“I heard. But you have to.”

“I already put Lu – Lucky through too much.”

“Luna won’t be enough, Sam. You need better pokemon. At least hear me out before you walk away. I couldn’t get anything that good for a nobody like you, but I was able to get my hands on a high-quality item I think you’ll like. Come and see.”

Mr. Ducall helped Sam out of the chair and escorted him to a cracked wooden door at the end of a long hallway. Mr. Ducall opened the door, flicked the light on, and said “Ta-Da!”
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Old November 20th, 2016 (4:38 PM).
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As promised, here's Chapter Nine. It also looks like I should have Chapter Ten out on Monday night. I'm also getting pretty close to where I had stopped last time I was writing this piece of fiction... and once I do, I'll probably blog about what changes I made and why if anyone's interested. I think I have a few good lessons to share.



Chapter Nine: Contract
As the single lightbulb buzzed on, filling the bare concrete room with erratic, flickering light, Sam lowered his eyes away from the harsh light. He saw the floor, strewn with damp newspapers, and a bowl of walnuts in the back corner. Then his eyes adjusted, and he raised them to the pidgeot standing on a short, squat wooden perch.

The pidgeot’s feathers were light gray from all the dust caked into them, and they stuck out at odd angles. Its crest feathers bent at odd angles, and its eyes dully glared at them both as they entered the room. Once the door closed, the pidgeot hissed like a cracked boiler.

“Isn’t it beautiful?” Mr. Ducall asked. “Its name’s Cloud.”

“He’s underfed and really needs grooming,” Sam remarked.

“I’ve been trying to feed it, but it won’t touch anything I give it.”

Sam picked up the bowl of walnuts, examined one in his fingers, and nibbled at it. He spat the stale nut pieces back in the bowl. “Have you tried feeding it anything other than nuts?”

“Yeah, I tried fruits, berries, caterpie, things birds would eat.”

“Call up Rick’s and have them deliver a meatball special with no sauce,” Sam told the lawyer. “Pidgeot are carnivores. They want meat, not bugs and berries.”

“And what, you’ll think it’ll eat a meatball sub?”

“Yes.”

The lawyer took out his cellphone, muttered about bad reception, and walked upstairs, leaving Sam alone with Cloud. He took a step towards the pidgeot, but he stopped when Cloud hissed at him. Sam took out his tablet, opened up a file labeled “Pidgeot”, and glossed through his notes. Then he turned around, sat down, and tilted his head back. Flicking his tongue on the roof of his mouth, he made a sharp clicking noise. The pidgeot clicked its own beak in response, hopped off the perch, and cautiously stepped towards Sam. Cloud buried his beak in Sam’s hair, pinched a few strands, and gently pulled them, tossing any pulled hairs to the side.

After ten minutes of preening, Cloud turned around and clicked his beak at Sam.

“I won’t be able to do you with your feathers that dusty,” Sam said. “Let’s see if there’s a bath down here.”

Sam wandered around the lawyer’s basement, leaning against each door and listening for voices before opening them. He found a billiard room, a poker table, and a gym area with a treadmill before finding a bathroom. Along with a granite sink and a polished porcelain toilet, the bathroom also had a spacious shower and a Jacuzzi tub large enough for six people.

“Here we are. Hop in the shower and I’ll get you rinsed off.”

Sam slid the glass door aside for the pidgeot and checked the shower head. It came detached from the wall, with a smooth, flexible, shiny hose trailing behind it. Sam turned on the water, waited for it to warm up, and sprayed it into Cloud’s feathers. The water turned murky gray as it trickled out of the pidgeot’s feathers, leaving behind a dusty residue on the shower floor. After five minutes, the water turned a lighter, clearer shade and carried most of the grime down the drain.

Sam guided Cloud to the Jacuzzi, perched him on the rim, and turned the water on. Cloud waited for the water to surge halfway to the top before hopping in, slapping his wings into the water and rustling his whole body in the currents. Water splashed up into the ceiling as Cloud thoroughly soaked every feather on his body. The tail feathers regained their vivid red hue, and its body feathers turned a pale creamed coffee color. Its eyes, though they still lacked luster, regarded Sam with curiosity.

Sam drained the tub, and Cloud shook himself dry, soaking Sam and the whole bathroom. Sam looked around at the gray-spattered tiles and said, “Let’s use a towel next time, alright Cloud?”

Cloud chirped and clicked his beak. Then he turned around and titled his head back. Sam buried his fingers into the pidgeot’s light, fluffy neck feathers and tugged gently, pulling out fingerfuls of loose, molted feathers. By the time he had finished with Cloud’s back, he had a pile of feathers large enough to fill a coffee mug.

“It’s been a while since you’ve been properly cleaned, hasn’t it?” Sam looked at the time on his tablet. “Alright, food should be here in a minute. But before that, I want to ask you something.”

The pidgeot craned his head towards Sam.

“Do you want to fight? I don’t want to use any pokemon that don’t want it.”

Cloud stepped back and looked away from him.

“I get it. I’ll tell Mr. Ducall that I won’t use you. I’ll find another way. I – I will. Now, let’s see if your dinner’s here.”

Sam walked back into the basement. Mr. Ducall was looking around for him, holding a greasy paper bag that bulged outward, with tiny rips forming along the folds.

“Good, there you are, and what the heck were you doing in the bathroom – oh no, you didn’t. You didn’t take it in there, did you?”

Cloud nudged the door open and walked out, shoving his head under Sam’s hand. Mr. Ducall set the bag down and held his hand against his head.

“Muk, I needed that tonight. You’re paying for the cleaning bill.”

“Cloud needed cleaning, so I cleaned him. You should’ve had grooming supplies on hand.”

“Kid, I’m a lawyer, not a pokemon professor. Now, feed it while I call the cleaners. And watch your fingers, that thing has a habit of snapping at them.”

Sam reached into the bag, nudged aside the greasy wrappings, and pulled out a handful of plump, juicy, steaming meatballs. He picked out bits of onion from its surface and held them towards Cloud.

“Hungry?”

Cloud waddled over to him, slowly craned his neck forward, and gently plucked the meatball with the tip of his beak. Then he tipped his head back and let the meat slide down his throat. Sam took another meatball out, and another, until the bag was empty. Cloud gave a satisfied chortle as it ruffled its feathers and stretched its wings.

“Damn kid, you’re good. I haven’t even been able to get within arm’s length of that monster without it trying to peck my eyes out.”

“I’m not going to use Cloud.”

“Wait, what? Well, I know Cloud’s in rough shape and has the temper of the two women I cheated on, but this is the best you’re going to get, which means this is the only chance you’ll have against Gold.”

“No, that’s not it.” Sam stroked Cloud’s crest feathers and said, “I’m not going to make a pokemon fight if it doesn’t want to.”

Mr. Ducall sighed and looked up at the ceiling. He muttered to himself, shaking his head after a string of points, and after finding one he liked, he looked at Sam and said, “Let’s put it this way. You don’t want Cloud to suffer, right?”

“Right.”

“So, what do you think will happen to Cloud once it returns to its owner? Do you think some millionaire’s going to care about what, to him, is a defective piece of merchandaise?”

Sam looked down and said, “No.”

“What do you think such a person would do with a useless pokemon? Lock it away, throw it out, or maybe even kill it – that’s what’ll happen.”

“You’re saying I should take Cloud so that doesn’t happen.”

“Exactly. You spent half an hour with Cloud, and it already likes you. Don’t you think it’d be happier with you, even if it meant fighting?”

Sam looked at Cloud, peering into his dim, yellow eyes. Cracks and chips marred Cloud’s beak, and his nostrils were clogged with mucus.

“Give me a moment,” Sam said. He nudged Cloud into his closet, turned on the light, and closed the door. Cloud hopped onto his perch, and Sam walked up to him.

“Listen, Cloud. I know you don’t want to fight. But if you don’t fight for me, I can’t keep you. You’ll go back to whoever had you last, to being kept in stuffy closets and fed stale walnuts. I – I can’t go any farther with just Luna. I can’t be a pokemon professor with just Luna. I can’t win with just Luna.” Sam placed his hand against the pidgeot’s beak. He leaned away from the touch, but he didn’t move from his perch. “That’s why I need you. So, you help me out, and I’ll take good care of you. I’ll clean your feathers and feed you real meat, not just the processed crap from Rick’s. Do we have a deal?”

Cloud stared at the outstretched hand hovering inches away from his face. He softly clicked his beak and licked at the meat juices on it. Then he closed his eyes and leaned into Sam’s hand.

“Thanks Cloud.” Sam walked out the door and sat at the table. Mr. Ducall flipped through a stack of papers and said, “Well?”

“I’ll do it.”

“Just what I wanted to hear. Now, in the closet behind you, I have your new costume. Try it on, see how it fits.”

Sam opened the door next to the staircase. On the left hung four suits, each identical in cut but with a different color: charcoal gray, black, blue and white. On the right hung a bulky package of crumpled black plastic. Sam peeled off the plastic and revealed a sleek, pitch black, feathered jacket and a matching set of jeans. Sam ran his hands over the jacket, and to his surprise, the feathers felt springy and alive, as though he were petting a honchkrow. He tried it on, expecting the jacket to cling and catch with each movement, but the feathers bent with his jacket, and despite the generous coating of plumage, the jacket felt as light as a t-shirt. He pulled on the pants, gloves and boots, marveling at how the fabric fit like a second skin.

On top of the hangar rested a mask, meticulously sculpted and covered with tiny facial feathers. A thin, smooth beak protruded from the mask, and the eyes were jet-black, covered with cloth.

“So,” Mr. Ducall said, “Once you’re ready, sign the contract on top of your pile, and I’ll show you to your training room. We do have a deal, right?”

Sam put on the mask. Each curve inside it fit to his own face, staying steady as he changed his facial expressions without getting hot and stuffy with each breath. The beak channeled each breath out the nostrils in the mask and replenished his air with a cool, dry stream from below. He could also see perfectly through the cloth; even his peripheral vision worked within the mask thanks to the form-fitting design.

“Yes. We have a deal.” Sam’s voice was distorted by the mask, made dark and ragged by the intricate tunnels carved into the beak.

Sam walked up to the table, took the red fountain pen, and signed the contract. He couldn’t help but think that the ink looked like blood, but all the same, he took the papers and followed Mr. Ducall to his new training site.
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Old November 20th, 2016 (9:14 PM).
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Commenting before I get seriously behind lol.

Yup I remember that Pidgeot there. The events are mostly the same but Sam's reactions and actions there are different. Before he was willing to get another Pokemon because he wouldn't get through just Luna, but here you have him more concern for Cloud. I do like you showcased him taking care of Cloud to relate to his interest as a Pokemon professor. Would be interesting if Cloud and Luna get to interact. Looking forward to how Cloud fares in battle.
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Old November 21st, 2016 (4:08 PM).
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Another day, another chapter to post! With some luck, Chapter 11 will be out tomorrow night :D

And yes, Bay, the pidgeot is back, and you're quite right to point out the change in character. That's one thing I really wanted to fix this time around, and it seems like it's working. Hooray!

Oh, and speaking of character, here's even more character development. But Chapter 11 will be a bit more exciting


Chapter Ten: Tasteless

When Sam told his mother that he got a job, he thought his spine was going to snap from the hug she gave him.

“Oh, that’s wonderful! And you say this might open up scholarship opportunities?” she asked.

“Yeah, Mr. Ducall’s well connected and he wants to help.”

“Oh my gosh! Oh, I’m so proud of you! I know! We should make curry at the end of the school year, to celebrate your new job and your graduation! How’s that sound?”

Sam’s mouth watered at the thought of curry. “That’d be awesome!”

During the final week of school, Sam beamed at the thought of having curry, but each time he saw Brandon, a knot formed in his gut. He slunk through hallways and ate at the far corner of the cafeteria, avoiding Brandon’s presence. He kept quiet during classes, and through the final drama meeting before the summer, he kept his mask on and avoided everyone’s eyes. After the rest of the drama club cleared out, Emily stopped him before the classroom’s doorway.

“I – I heard about what happened,” Emily said. Sam flinched and tried to speak, but his tongue wouldn’t move.

“I’m sorry you had such a bad fight with Brandon, but could you, maybe, try to act like everything’s alright? You really have everyone else worried.”

Sam’s shoulders relaxed, and his heart slowed. “Oh, that. Uh, sorry, I guess I’ve been distracted lately. I’ll try my best.” He gave her a huge smile, and she laughed.

“That’s the Sam I know! Now, let’s see if you can put that acting talent to use in our summer play!”

“If we ever get around to having one,” Sam said with a chuckle. “I swear, we’ve never had so many problems with production.”

“Well, there’s a lot of seniors this time, and we want it done right. Of course we have wildly unrealistic expectations. We’ll have to wait until the last minute, when we have to rush everything and it’ll turn out like crap, before we can get everyone to agree on anything.”

“At least the budget’s bigger this year.”

“Yeah, true. And uh, I hope whatever’s going on… goes alright. Just, just stay positive.”

Sam looked down at his tablet. “I should go.”

“Oh, right. Take care Sam, and if you think of any good ideas, call me.”

Sam sprinted home after the drama meeting, and by the time he made it home, he was out of breath and his legs were shaking.

His mother laughed as Sam collapsed onto a chair. “Ready to go?” she asked.

“I, yeah, just let me get to the car.”

After Sam limped into the passenger seat, they drove to the store and strolled into the vegetable aisle. Bright, juicy red tomatoes and sleek green peppers sat in wooden crates next to tamato and oran berries. Sam picked out handfuls of tamato berries, tomatoes, potatoes, onions, and cheri berries while his mother bought the chicken and flatbread. He checked each berry and vegetable for blemishes, squeezed them to check their freshness, and carefully sniffed each one before placing them in the cart.

Then he ran into the pokemon aisle and picked out a new chew toy for Luna. He also found a cuttlebone for Cloud, but he stopped halfway down the aisle when he thought of trying to explain it to his mother. He thought about taking it anyways and sneaking it out of the store, but the thought of getting caught with it made him put the cuttlebone back with a shudder.

“You got everything you want, Sam?”

“Yeah mom. What about the olive oil?”

“I have it at home.”

“The rice?”

“That too. Ready to get cooking?”

Through the afternoon, the aroma of chicken cooking in a simmering concoction of oils and spices tickled Sam’s nose. He spent the long wait grooming Luna’s fur while she gnawed on her new chew toy. Once in a while, he saw sparks coursing through her hair.

“Looks like you’ll evolve soon, maybe in time for the match.”

With that thought, his appetite left him. He buried his face into Luna’s fur and held back tears.

“God damn it, what the hell am I doing?” Sam murmured. “If I was smart, I’d call this whole thing off and take the money. All I’d have to do is ask.”

Sam imagined himself going over to Brandon’s house, passing through the large wrought-iron gate, knocking on the thick oaken doors, watching them slowly creak open and reveal Brandon’s face, cast in shadows by an enormous crystal chandelier in the parlor. The very thought of taking the money from his hands made Sam’s hands shake, yanking out a few of Luna’s hairs. She yelped and bit down hard enough on her toy to split it in two.

“Oops, sorry Luna. My hand slipped.”

Luna flicked her tail in his face and leapt off his lap. His cheek stung where her hairs whipped him.

“Hey, I said I was sorry! I’ll get you some curry to make up for it, sound good?”

Luna leapt up and down, yelping at the ceiling. Sam wrapped his arms around her and pressed her against his cheek.

“I’m really sorry Luna, about everything. It isn’t fair.”

Sam took a deep breath, breathing in the faint cinnamon scent of Luna’s fur. Then he said, “None of it’s fair, but I still won’t lose. Not to him, not to anyone, not again.”

“Sam, sweetheart,” his mother’s voice called from downstairs. It seemed so faint and distant through his door. “Curry’s ready!”

“Coming mom!” he shouted back. Sam flung the door open, tipping a plant in the process. Luna rushed over to hold it while Sam dashed down the stairs. He sprinted to the table and whipped around into his chair. A huge, steaming plate of chicken curry, poured over a bed of white rice steamed with jasmine oil and cilantro, rested on the table in front of him, pouring out spicy, succulent steam like a culinary geyser. His appetite returned in a flash, and without waiting for it to cool, he spooned up a huge, dripping mouthful of sauce, rice, and chicken, and crammed it into his mouth.

The moment he started chewing, he knew his sense of taste was off. Even with all the spice and all the savory oil, he could barely taste any of it, and the wonderful aromas of the food were replaced with a faint scent of ashes.

“Is something wrong Sam?” His mother asked.

Sam looked at her, then at the plate, then back at her. Half of her curry was already gone, along with her share of the flatbread. He licked some sauce off of his tongue and forced a smile onto his face.

“No mom, everything’s great!”

He took an even larger scoop of curry and mashed it between his teeth before shoving it down his throat. Each bite he took was larger than the last, and yet, no matter how much sauce he drizzled over everything he ate, he still couldn’t taste it.

When his mother wasn’t looking, Sam scooped the rest of his curry onto a bunch of napkins, wrapped it up, and stuffed it in his pocket. Then he took his bowl over to the sink, washed it, and stuck it back in the drawer.

“It was awesome, thanks mom!”

“Oh, you’re welcome!” His mother rose and hugged him. Sam shifted his stance slightly so she wouldn’t crush the curry. “I’m so proud of you Sam, never giving up no matter how hard things get. Way to go!”

A cold draft blew across Sam’s neck, but when he looked behind himself, all the doors and windows were closed His stomach felt bloated and heavy, and he suddenly felt exhausted.

“Thanks mom. I think I’ll just… go to bed now.”

“Oh, tired?” Mrs. Milone glanced outside at the setting sun. “Get some rest so you’ll be ready for your new job. I can’t believe you’re all grown up now! Oh, I’m so proud of you.”

Sam thanked her and walked upstairs. He closed the door and pulled all the curtains shut before he collapsed onto the bed. Luna leapt next to him and pressed her muzzle into her pocket.

“Oh right, the curry. Sorry, almost forgot about it.” He unwrapped the napkins and placed the curry in her bowl. She scarfed it all down in seconds and plopped down into her bed.

“God damn, I am so stupid,” Sam said. “I have to stop, now, before I get any more in debt than I already am. I should call Brandon in the morning and forget all about this.”

Sam stared up at the ceiling, and his heart sank as he remembered all the fees, and the signature he himself wrote.

“It’s too late.” He tried to cry, but the tears wouldn’t come. “There’s no hope now. I’m going to be a hundred grand in debt to a crime lord, and then what?”

Luna’s ears perked up, and she looked at him. Then she hopped onto the bed and licked his face.

Sam ruffled her hair and said, “Thanks, Luna, but there’s nothing we can do, not against that poliwrath. Even Cloud won’t be enough.”

Luna’s fur glowed, lighting up the room with brilliant white light. Sam turned his head and covered his eyes from the stinging light, watching from tiny cracks between his fingers as Luna’s body lengthened, her ears grew pointy and narrow, and amber rings formed in her fur.

Sam wiped tears from his eyes and hugged his new umbreon.

“Thanks Luna. I’m sorry I gave up on you.”

Luna gave a low, long growl in response. Sam smiled and imagined all the new tactics he could try, but then he remembered poliwrath’s strengths, and his smile vanished.

“God damn it, Luna, you just had to evolve at night, didn’t you?” But then he smiled and said, “Psyduck it. You’re not giving up, so I won’t either. We’ll win no matter what.”

Sam thought about showing his mother, but the blankets felt too heavy, and before he realized it, his eyes closed and he fell fast asleep with Luna in his arms.
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Old November 22nd, 2016 (5:46 PM).
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I've posted chapters four days in a row. Hell hath indeed frozen over. Well, don't count on a chapter tomorrow - I've finally caught up to all the extra progress I had made over the weekend.

Oh, and if you're bored with all the character development and want to see some more pokemon beating the crap out of each other, I've got wonderful news for you. :D


Chapter Eleven: Pressure

Sam put on his nicest clothes and walked to Mr. Ducall’s building. He gave a quick wave to the receptionist, walked into the lawyer’s office, and took the hidden staircase down to the basement. Mr. Ducall was waiting for him, sipping a glass of wine and eating a platter of sushi.

“You’re late,” Mr. Ducall said after he drained his wine in one swallow. Sam threw off his dress shirt and sat down at the table. Then Mr. Ducall slid the sushi across the table and said, “Want some? I’m not that hungry.”

Sam plucked the fish off of the plate and ate the mounds of rice. Then he took the handful of raw fish over to Cloud’s room. The pidgeot’s crown feathers had healed, reaching towards the ceiling in brilliant shades of red and white. His beak had been polished smooth, and his talons were keenly honed.

Sam held out the fish. Cloud hopped off his perch and flapped over to Sam, then he slid his beak into Sam’s hand, scooped up the fish, and swallowed the mound whole.

“Way to ruin such perfect sushi,” Mr. Ducall said from the other room. “That stuff cost a lot of money.”

“Add it to my tab.” Sam wiped bits of fish off of Cloud’s beak and asked, “The battle’s at seven, right?”

“Yep. Make sure you’re ready for it; you only have one chance at this, and if you lose, well, you’ll be a hundred grand in the hole.”

A cold shiver ran down Sam’s spine, and he felt sweat trickle down his back, but he kept his voice even. “I won’t lose.”

“That’s the spirit kid. So, you good with rice, or do you want something more filling? It’s on me today.”

“Nah, I shouldn’t eat much.”

“Why, too nervous? You should be kid – that eevee’s not going to get you anywhere. Here, take one of these.” Mr. Ducall pulled three stones out of his pocket – one softly glowing blue, one flickering red, and one that gleamed yellow. He set them down on a napkin and slid them towards Sam.

“Take your pick,” Mr. Ducall said, “but if I were you, I’d take the thunderstone. It’d give you an edge over that poliwrath.”

“I don’t need it anymore.” Sam called Luna onto the table, and she brushed aside the stones with a swipe of her black paw.

“Oho! Hot damn! Kid, I take it all back, you’re a genius! So, what moves does she know? Dark pulse? Pyschic?”

“Uh… I don’t know. She just evolved last night.”

“What? And you expect to go up against a poliwrath today?”

“Moves take weeks to practice. Heck, it took Luna a year to learn shadow ball. We’ll just have to wing it and see what works.”

The lawyer hung his head and wiped some soy sauce off his cheek. “I suppose we’d be in the same boat with an evolution stone, huh? Oh well, Cloud should still do the trick. Here, take this.”

The lawyer slid Cloud’s pokeball across the table. “Make sure to give that back to me once the battle’s over.”

“You’re not going to watch?”

“I’ve got business meetings, kid. Believe it or not, I actually run a legitimate business upstairs.” Mr. Ducall glanced at his watch and said, “Speaking of which, I’ve got the meeting right now. Good luck!”

Mr. Ducall sprinted up the stairs. Sam took out his tablet and read through his files on umbreon, focusing on combat behavior. He glossed over spectroscopic measurements of dark pulse and instead focused on the flash patterns of umbreon’s rings – which frequencies induced sleep, or confusion, or caused eye irritation.

“Well, you won’t be able to do anything fancy, but could you try flash? Just make your rings shine as brightly as you can.”

Luna closed her eyes and spread out her legs. The rings on her fur flickered, but their light was drowned out by the chandelier.

“It’s a start,” Sam said flatly. He looked around the room and tapped his foot. He rolled Cloud’s pokeball from one hand to another before he stood up.

“I don’t feel like waiting here, do you?”

Luna shook her head. Sam called her back into her pokeball, then he walked over to Cloud’s room and returned him. Then he put on his costume, admiring each intricately, crafted piece before he put it on. He walked down a set of underground hallways, twisted open a steel door leading into a network of maintenance tunnels, and trekked through the city’s underbelly until he came upon another door. This one creaked and groaned as its rusty hinges twisted, and a blast of fresh air blew back the feathers on his mask as he opened the door.

A short stone staircase, cracked and slick with moisture, led to the interior of an old warehouse. The whole building was cleared out, exposing chipped concrete, rusted steel beams, and dented corrugated steel walls. A neat, bright white circle was painted on the floor, along with a trainer box at two ends.

Mr. Gold was already there, crouching in front of his poliwrath. He had a glittering object suspended from a chain in his hand, but Sam couldn’t see it clearly.

“Hello there,” Sam called. “I didn’t expect to see you here so early.”

Mr. Gold quickly shoved the object into a pocket and turned around. “Feathers! I didn’t think you’d be here so early either. Nervous?”

“Are you ready now, or should we wait? I don’t feel like waiting anymore.”

Mr. Gold returned his poliwrath to its pokeball. “The referee isn’t here, but there’s security cameras all over the building. Wouldn’t hurt to start now.”

“So, will you send out the first or will I?”

Mr. Gold answered by throwing out a pokeball. It cracked open, and a magneton emerged from the blast of red light.

“Don’t think you can win this with just your pidgeot, Feathers.”

“I wasn’t planning to.” Sam threw his own pokeball and called out Luna. Mr. Gold whistled as Luna growled at her opponent.

“Wow, didn’t expect to see an umbreon. This’ll be fun! Magneton, use electric terrain!”

“Feet together Luna!”

Luna scrunched up her legs as electricity crackled through the floors and walls. She flinched when the charge reached her feet, but the electricity gently charged her along with the surroundings.

“Don’t give them time, use shadow ball!”

Luna’s shadow ball shot through the air, sending back a gust of wind that made Sam lean back. The magneton darted aside, but the shadow ball clipped one of its magnets, making it spin into a girder.

“Now, double kick!” Luna raced forward and slammed her paws into the magneton’s back, bending the girder as she shoved the magneton into it. She backed away, and the magneton pulled itself out of the metal.

“Thunderbolt!”

“Block with sand attack!”

Luna kicked up tiny chips of concrete. As the surge of lightning crackled through them, the charge within the sand attack made the electricity veer off course and surge into the concrete, gouging out a long hollow in the floor.

“Now, use swift up top!” A wave of stars slammed into the magneton from above, slamming it into the ground. Sam had Luna follow it up with a double kick, driving the magneton deeper and deeper into the concrete with each blow. When she was done, the magneton’s eyes turned dull gray, and it didn’t move from the magneton-shaped hole.

“Not bad,” Mr. Gold said as he called back his magneton, “But the hard part’s just started. Would you like to switch out your umbreon?”

Sam nodded and held out Luna’s pokeball. After she vanished into it, he summoned Cloud. He was about to land when Sam remembered the charged floor.

“Stay in the air,” Sam told his pidgeot. “The floor will shock you if you touch it.” Cloud chirped at him and flapped his wings harder, straining to stay aloft.

Mr. Gold held out his pokeball and pointed it towards the ceiling, calling out his poliwrath in midair. “Rain dance, go!”

As the poliwrath fell, it twirled, forming clouds in its fingertips. By the time it hit the ground, the ground was thoroughly soaked, leaching all the charge out of it. Sam had Cloud land and back away from the poliwrath.

“Air slash, and don’t let up!” Cloud flapped his wings, using the pinions at his wingtips to slice through the air. The jagged wind currents slashed at the poliwrath’s skin as it held its arms forward, protecting its eyes and taking the brunt of the attack.

“Watch for the counter!” Sam warned Cloud. A few slashes later, Mr. Gold shouted “Revenge!” and the poliwrath dashed forward. Cloud leapt up, splashing water into the poliwrath’s eyes as it took off, but the poliwrath still landed a solid blow at Cloud’s right foot. It drooped at an odd angle as Cloud flew up into the rafters.

“Hey Cloud, do you still want to fight?” Sam called up. The pidgeot screeched and faced the poliwrath.

“Alright then. Air slash!”

“Hydro pump!”

The air parted some of the deluge, but the air current was overwhelmed by water, and Cloud narrowly avoided the water gushing at him. Another blast followed his path through the air, denting the sheet metal on the roof. Cloud doubled back to throw off the attack, but he got a wingtip caught in the flood, and his wing was knocked off course. As he tumbled through the air, the poliwrath leapt, forming ice crystals around its hands.

“Quick, feather dance!” With a solid punch, the poliwrath slammed Cloud into a rafter, but Cloud flung feathers at the poliwrath, coating its hands and belly in a soft down coating. Cloud landed with a muffled thump, and Sam called it back while the poliwrath struggled to clean its hands.

“Not bad,” Mr. Gold said, “But not good enough. This match is nearly over.”

“I’m not going to lose, not again! Luna, hit it hard and fast with a tackle!”

Sam threw his pokeball forward, and Luna sprinted out of her pokeball, slamming into the poliwrath’s left leg. Then she bit into the back of the poliwrath’s leg, drawing blood from its calf muscles. It swatted at her, but its down-covered arms couldn’t shake her off.

“Now, back off with a swift attack! Then build up speed, and hit it with everything you’ve got!”

Luna backpedaled and fired off star after star at the poliwrath’s back. Then as it turned, firing off a deluge, Luna ran around the room, at first barely staying ahead of the water but then taking off, becoming a black blur as she barreled towards the poliwrath. She tackled the left leg, splashing blood across the floor, over and over, forcing the poliwrath down onto a knee.

“Now, double kick to the head!”

“Vital throw!”

Luna landed in a solid hit between the eyes, but the poliwrath grabbed her hind leg. As it stood, Sam blurted out the first order he could think of.

“Flash!”

Luna closed her eyes, and the rings in her fur sparked to life, slowly at first, but then unleashing a blinding burst of light as the poliwrath raised its arm. A ring flashed right in its eyes, making the poliwrath let go and cover its face.

“Now, shadow ball!”

Luna’s rings, still shining brightly, made the shadows behind the poliwrath even darker. They rushed towards Luna, forming a sphere larger than herself and dark enough to swallow up the light around it, surrounding itself in a flickering dark nimbus. The poliwrath regained its sight and raised its arms to block, but the shadow ball knocked its arms back, slamming into its chest and flinging it into a steel girder. The roof groaned and shuddered as the girder buckled, and a metal plate tumbled from the ceiling onto the ground.

Sam waited a moment for the poliwrath to rise, but it lay still. After a few seconds, Sam pumped his fist and shouted “Yatta! We did it!”

“Congrats,” Mr. Gold said. “You made it to the big leagues kid. Here, catch.”

Mr. Gold flicked a card across the room. It smacked Sam in the mask, and he reflexively caught it. He held the card up to the eye holes and saw a picture of his costume printed on the card, along with his name and a chip at the end.

“That’s everything you need to brawl in Deltoro’s Dungeon. Your first match is next Monday. But before that, we have to finish our match.”

Mr. Gold snapped his fingers, and the poliwrath’s eyes snapped open.

“Get up,” he ordered. The poliwrath bent the girder as it pulled itself up. Its muscles bulged, and veins popped out of its arms.

“Get back and use swift!” Sam shouted.

Star after star slammed into the poliwrath’s chest, but it kept running at Luna, throwing massive punches each time it got close. Each punch chipped concrete and bent steel, making the warehouse creak and groan. Three tiles tumbled from the ceiling, casting tumbling shadows all over the warehouse, Sam had an idea.

“Flash!” Sam ordered.

The poliwrath covered its eyes as the warehouse filled with a burst of light cut by long, dark shadows formed by the fallen ceiling tiles.

“Now, shadow ball!”

The poliwrath ran towards her, arm held back, as Luna charged an enormous shadow ball. As the poliwrath threw a punch, Luna fired the shadow ball. The dark, intense energy surged up the poliwrath’s arm, searing its skin and grinding its bones to dust, before it halted at the shoulder. The poliwrath backed away, its arm a tangled mess of burned sinew and bone shards.

“Rain dance,” Mr. Gold said. The poliwrath waved one hand, and a typhoon raged in the rafters, drenching the battlefield. As rain soaked the poliwrath’s charred arm, it started to heal, fusing bone and knitting muscle before Sam’s eyes. Within seconds, no trace of Luna’s attacks remained.

“Now, revenge.”

Before Sam could react, Luna was flung across the concrete floor, skipping off of its slick surface, before slamming against the metal walls in the back. Blood stained the water red where she landed and pooled at Luna’s chest. Three of her legs were crumpled into themselves, and one eye burst open, gushing blood across her face.

Mr. Gold ran across the arena, holding out a boxy green potion Sam didn’t recognize. “You better use this,” he said, “Hurry!”

Sam ran over to Luna’s side and sprayed the potion all over her. Within seconds, every trace of her wounds was gone, and even the liquefied eye reformed itself. Luna stood up on shaky legs and leaned against Sam. He could feel her shaking.

Mr. Gold placed a hand on Sam’s shoulder and said, “Take this too, for Cloud.” He dropped a hyper potion at Sam’s side, and then he called back his poliwrath and walked away. “See you Monday,” he called as he left the warehouse.

Sam picked up Luna and walked over to the door. He stroked the short, stringy fur on Luna’s face, and then he looked at the damp, crumbling, dented warehouse, and at all the blood that coated the floor.

“Yeah, see you Monday,” Sam said.
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  #18    
Old November 22nd, 2016 (6:39 PM).
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Bay Alexison Bay Alexison is online now
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Chapter Ten
Can see this is more of a calm before the storm chapter and good oppurtunity for Sam to feel unease with his upcoming fight. This version you also took more time until for Luna to evolve, but I think this works since you've been slowing the action down a bit compared to the original story (not a bad thing!). I do remember when Luna evolved as Umbreon she was in a similar type disadvantage, this does make me wonder if you'll go with that plot twist you had last time or not.

Chapter Eleven
Gah, I got the comments for Ch. Ten written but haven't gotten the chance to post it yet. Thank goodness you won't update tomorrow as I need time to read the other fics and play more Moon. =P

Anyways, seems my assumption is wrong and you'll have Luna as Umbreon throughout this story. This could be a better tradeoff as seems Sam will be conflicted whether to continue brawling or not instead of Luna's dilemma from the last version. I did thought for a moment she won and I was gonna be like, "Nice," but that wasn't the case. Poor her, aw. At least Gold is nice enough to give Sam the potions.
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Old November 27th, 2016 (5:15 PM). Edited November 28th, 2016 by Bardothren.
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Hi there, got some more writing stocked up over Thanksgiving weekend, and now that I'm back in civilization, I get to post it every night :D It's a bit disorganized right now, and I'll have to think about how I want to divvy it up, but for now, I've got a solid chapter to post. Hooray!


Chapter 12: Sharing Advice


Sam sat on his bed and examined Luna’s left eye. No matter how closely he looked, he couldn’t find any scars.

Sam stroked her ears and asked, “Are you really sure you want to keep going?”

Luna blinked at him and nodded. Then she yawned, stretched out her whole body, and settled her head into his lap.

Sam looked at his clock, and then he sighed and fell back on his bed. “Screw it, wanna get some tea?”

Sam took a handful of dollars out of the shoebox and walked downtown to the Checkered Café. He took his usual spot, and Luna hopped up on the seat across from him.

The waitress walked over and patted Luna’s head. “Oh wow, you finally got her to evolve!”

“Yeah,” Sam said, “Just happened a few days ago.”

“How wonderful! I’ll go get you some tea.”

Sam put a few dollars on the table when he got his piping hot mug, and a few more when the waitress set a berry cake in front of Luna.

While they were eating, Luna caught the attention of a trench coat-wearing man at the other end of the café. He walked over, coffee mug in one hand and newspaper in the other, and set his mug on Sam’s table.

“I hope you don’t mind, I have a friend that really loves Umbreon and I would like to get a picture.”

“Oh, of course!” Luna leapt across the table to Sam’s side, and the man pulled out a cell phone. After he snapped a few pictures, he sat down in Luna’s spot and unfurled his newspaper.

“Thanks a ton. I just sent it over to him. So, which breeder did you get her from?”

“Lasley’s. Got her when she was a pup.”

“So you got her to evolve yourself? Impressive. Are you thinking of becoming a breeder?”

“No, a pokemon researcher. I got accepted into Yvenna.”

“Congrats. How about a coffee on me then?”

“No thanks, I don’t do coffee.”

“Then I’ll get you a refill.” He raised his head and shouted, “Miss, I’ll get this young man a refill – put it on my tab. Oh, and another coffee please.”

“Right away Officer!” the waitress shouted back.

Sam flinched when he heard the word officer. His neck grew clammy, and he had to tell himself not to rub it. “So, you’re a police officer?”

“Yeah.” The officer raised his mug to his lips and drank all the coffee. “In all honesty, it’s a hard job and doesn’t pay well, but it’s what I do best.”

“What exactly do you do?”

“I catch criminals – mostly drug runners, thieves, and brawlers. I haven’t had much work lately, though, so I’m stuck on patrols.”

The waitress returned, pouring the officer another cup of coffee. He didn’t take cream or sugar, nor did the waitress ask if he wanted any. Then she poured Sam a cup of tea and handed him a honey stick. Sam cracked the stick open and passed it to Luna, who purred and rubbed her back on the chair as she lapped up the honey.

“I didn’t introduce myself, did I?” the officer asked. “Bad habit of mine.” He held out his hand and said, “I’m Officer Baylor, but you can call me Alex.”

Sam hesitantly took his hand and shook it. “Sam Milone,” he said.

“Sam? Good to meet you. You don’t mind me sitting here, do you?”

“Oh, uh, no, not at all.”

“Good, because I was hoping you could help me with something.”

Sam’s stomach churned. “What is it?” His eyes darted across the room as he thought of all the ominous things the officer could possibly say and every response he could come up with for those scenarios.

“I’ve got an arcanine. I just evolved him recently, and since then, he’s been nothing but trouble. He ripped up my couch, sets my newspapers on fire, and chased away my mailman. Do you have any tips?”

Sam relaxed into his chair and smiled. “Oh, give me a second.” He took out his tablet and opened up the files he had on arcanine. He glossed through the behavior section before asking, “Do you take him out for walks often?”

“I tried taking him on patrols, but he gets too wild on a leash.”

“He needs somewhere to run around. Why don’t you enroll him in a day care during the day? I’d use PawPads if I were you – that’s where I leave Luna once in a while. That way, your arcanine will get the excitement and exercise he needs.”

Alex took out his tablet and typed the name down. “PawPads, was it? Looks expensive.”

“Yeah, but they’ll treat your arcanine right – grooming, good food, lots of open space. Twice a week should be good enough. They’ll train him too if you need it.”

“Well, I guess you’re the expert. Thanks kid. I’ll give it a try.”

The officer’s tablet beeped, and he read the message that popped up. “My friend got back to me. He’s really excited.”

The tablet beeped again, and Alex chuckled when he read it. “He’s on his way right now. If I were you, I’d leave before he shows up. He can be a bit… unusual when he gets excited.”

“Is he an officer too?”

“Nah, he’s a programmer for the force, does all the cyber security and computer investigation stuff.”

Alex’s tablet beeped again, and he glanced at it. “You lucked out. The commissioner dragged him back to his desk. Looks like Johnny’ll have to be happy with the photo.”

Sam caught a glance of the officer’s badge underneath Alex’s trenchcoat. He swallowed and asked, “Is there any particular reason you’re talking to me?”

“Any reason?” Alex cocked his head and said, “I suppose not. Why, am I making you feel uncomfortable?”

Sam panicked and said, “Oh, uh, no, I just thought it was weird and all, and–”

Alex laughed and waved the waitress over. After she poured them another round, the officer slapped a twenty on the table and gathered up his newspaper.

“Don’t worry, I understand. I’d be feeling weird if a random stranger walked up to my table and started talking to me. I just thought you’d be able to help me with my problem, seeing how you managed to raise an umbreon. Thanks for hearing me out.”

Alex turned towards the door, and then he fished a business card out of his pocket. He slapped it on the table in front of Sam and said, “I owe ya one, kid. No really, I was at my wit’s end trying everything from squirt bottles to shock collars to get my arcanine to settle down. If you have a problem, I’ll see if I can take care of it.”

Sam took the card and put it in his pocket. “Uh, thanks.”

“Anytime ki – Sam.”

Alex handed his empty mug to the waitress, buttoned up his trench coat, and strode out the door. Once he was gone, Sam asked the waitress, “Does he do that often?”

“Once in a while,” she said. “He’s been coming here… oh, for the last eight years or so. Always gets his coffee black and reads the paper. Sometimes people meet him here, and other times, he joins someone else’s table.” The waitress glanced towards the door and said, “He doesn’t tip very well, but he doesn’t ask much either.”

“Eight years? Guess I never noticed him.” Sam finished his tea and took the wet, sticky plastic shell from Luna. She shook herself and bounced onto the floor as Sam left a five on the table.

“Have a good one!” Sam shouted from the doorway.

Sam looked towards his home, but then he turned around and walked further north, into the shopping district of Palsitore. Quaint shops and small restaurants lined the narrow streets, cars honked and inched forward through bumper to bumper traffic, and throngs of people jostled each other in the sidewalks. Sam slid in between the crowds, weaving his way to his mother’s pottery shop.

First he peeked in through the front window. Two people were spinning a lumpy clay pot at a wheel right next to the window, but the rest of the shop was empty. Two tables had lumps of clay waiting for customers, and four more were left unplugged and fastidiously clean. Wooden shelves lined the walls, crammed with paints, enamels, brushes, pencils, scissors, scraping tools, gloves, and other arts-and-crafts items. He saw his mother at a table in the back, making a vase taller than himself and working blue dye into the clay. The vase seemed to climb up her hands, taking form without effort, and as the vase stopped spinning, his mother nimbly attached two clay handles on the sides and smoothed them in place.

A bell jingled as Sam walked through the door. Mrs. Milone stopped the wheel and looked up.

“Sam! Were you bored?”

“Yeah. Another slow day, huh?”

“Actually, I sold four vases earlier! Just little ones, though.”

Mrs. Milone glanced around the shop and asked, “You wanna spin a wheel?”

“Eh, sure.”

Sam took a seat at the table farthest from the door and placed his feet on the pedal. He pressed his hands against the clay and spun it into a column, but when he tried to hollow it out, the sides wobbled out, and cracks formed in the clay. After it split in two, Sam mashed it back together and tried again. Time after time, the clay fell apart in his hands, and after a while, he started sculpting the clay as high as it would go, making skinny teetering towers out of the clay before it stiffened up on the wheel.

His mother scooped up the clay and placed it in a bin behind the counter. “You’ll get it one day,” she said as she rinsed her hands off.

“Hey mom, why did you start a pottery shop?”

“It’s what I always wanted to do, you know that.”

“But I mean – there’s plenty of easier jobs out there. Why this one?”

“Same reason you want to be a pokemon professor, sweetie.” Mrs. Milone smiled and placed her hands on Sam’s shoulders. Bits of clay stuck onto his shirt. “It doesn’t matter how hard the path ahead of you becomes, just try your hardest to get the life you want, and everything will work out.” She straightened her hair and asked, “So, what do you want for lunch?”

Sam glanced towards the door. “I’m not that hungry right now. I think I’ll just go home.”

“Well, alright.” Mrs. Milone took a ten out of the register and gave it to Sam. “Just in case you get hungry on the way back.”

“Thanks mom.” Once Sam got out of the shopping district and into quieter streets, he called out Luna and walked home with her.

“It’ll all work out in the end, won’t it?” he asked Luna. Then he stooped to a knee and patted her head. “We’ll make it work, somehow.”

He forced a smile onto his face as he walked home, but the business card in his front pocket kept poking him as he walked.
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Old November 28th, 2016 (5:54 PM).
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Quote:
“I didn’t introduce myself, did I?” the officer asked. “Bad habit of mine.” He held out his hand and said, “I’m Officer Baylor, but you can call me Alex.”
I see what you did there. =P

Quote:
“Any reason?” Alex cocked his head and said, “I suppose not. Why, and I making you feel uncomfortable?”
"Am", I assume?

Interesting interaction between Sam and Alex there. Can't remember how it went in the original version, but looks like Alex isn't aware of Sam's brawling yet. I also like the short part with Sam and his mom there. That reminds me, have he shown her Luna's new form yet, haha.
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Old November 28th, 2016 (6:37 PM).
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I really hate my wifi right now - I had all this written out, only for the internet to cut out as I was about to make an edit. It was all lost.

Me naming a character after someone is my brain hitting the panic button after five minutes of staring at the screen, coming up blank on good names for a character. I'm glad you approve. Also, thanks for catching the typo - frickin' Microsoft missed it.

There was more, but I'm too lazy to type it now. Maybe next time.

EDIT: it happened again, but this time I was smart enough to copy my work before hitting enter :D



Chapter 13: Mr. Deltoro

Mr. Ducall straightened Sam’s costume and shoved the mask onto his face. Then he handed him the VIP ticket from Sam’s folder.

“This’ll get you through the doors. You’ll need your brawler ID to sign up for fights and manage your pokemon.”

“Doesn’t this seem… bureaucratic for a crime syndicate?” Sam asked.

“Mr. Deltoro takes business very seriously, kid.” The lawyer brushed off a speck of dust and said, “Now, this first fight will be the most important match you’ll have, hands down. Win this, and the whole casino will line up to offer you pokemon – heck, they might even give you money, so don’t blow it.”

“Are you going with me?”

“Sorry kid, I have grown-up business to take care of. You’ll be fine, just go through the tunnels to the warehouse, then go straight to the casino.”

“What if I get mugged?”

“You won’t. Nobody’s stupid enough to go after a brawler in Deltoro’s neighborhood. He’s got cameras everywhere and a watchman on every block. Now get going, Mr. Deltoro doesn’t like it when people are late to his brawls.”

Sam checked his pockets and touched each pokeball on his belt before he walked through the iron door into the tunnels. When he came out at the warehouse, he saw that every trace of damage had vanished, and instead, the warehouse was crammed full of bookshelves and cabinet drawers. Piles upon piles of legal documents collected dust on the shelves, filling the room with a musty, mildew-tinted odor that made Sam’s nose wrinkle. He walked over to the beam that Luna had slammed the poliwrath into and saw a very faint welding seam where the beam had been cut out and replaced, but otherwise, the replaced section had a pattern of rust indistinguishable from the rest of the column.

“The other brawlers shouldn’t be stronger than Mr. Gold, right?” Sam asked himself. “Otherwise they wouldn’t let me in after losing to him.”

Sam shook his head. “I’m worrying too much. I should just go.” As he walked towards the door, he stopped and turned around. He placed his hand against the replaced beam and said, “That should’ve been enough to knock out that poliwrath. How the hell did it get up again?”

He tapped the steel beam, and then he gave it a solid kick. A dull, solid clang echoed up the beam, but the metal didn’t even budge. Sam sat and rubbed his foot for a few seconds before standing up again, checking the beam. A bit of rust had rubbed off, exposing the gleam of metal underneath, but otherwise, he couldn’t find a dent in it.

Sam shrugged his shoulders and said, “Maybe the old beam was weaker.”

He thought about giving another beam a kick, but his throbbing toes made him decide against it. Instead, he walked out of the warehouse and into the dark alleyways criss-crossing the west side of the city. Once in a while, he saw figures in the shadows, but they vanished from sight when he walked near them.

Sam followed the map a few blocks north before the city underwent a sudden transformation before his eyes. The unlit, pot-hole ridden alleyways gave way to brightly lit streets lined with specialty shops and fine restaurants. Gentleman dressed in suits and wearing brightly colored masks roamed the streets, trailed by grubby-looking servants carrying their bags and street thugs brandishing clubs at anyone that stepped near their employer.

As Sam walked down the street, he expected stares from the people passing him, but no one gave him the slightest glance. Sam even saw a few costumes more eye-catching than his own, from a whirring mechanical suit that stomped through the street to a scandalous woman’s dress that left nothing to the imagination. Sam kept his eyes on the ground in front of him as he walked past her.

Three blocks down the street, he saw the heart of this vibrant, seedy district. A tower loomed over the surrounding cityscape, and hundreds of people crowded its entrance. He glanced through its doors and saw row after row of slot machines. Further to the left, he could see the edge of a blackjack table, and on the far right, he saw roulette and craps tables.

He looked around the entrance and saw a single metal door on the far right of the building, with a VIP sign painted over the entrance. Two burly men dressed in white suits stood guard at the door. Sam walked up to them and handed them his ticket. One took out a scanner and read the barcode at the end of the ticket before handing it back to him.

“Floor B5,” the guard said to him. “Mr. Deltoro would like to speak with you.”

The door opened with a soft ding, revealing a small room with gold walls and carpeting, and an elevator in the far wall. Sam pressed B5, and the doors opened instantly. Faint cello music played as the elevator raced down to his destination, and it gently slid to a stop before opening the doors.

The brawling ring sat at the bottom of a huge pit, with walls that gently sloped outward. Stairs ran all the way up the cardinal directions, and flat rings held tables and bars at even heights above the brawling ring. Every seat had a view of the ring, and most tables had elevated chairs and shifted table height to accommodate the view. Even from the entrance, he could see dozens of wealthy elite smiling at the battle below, applauding and toasting every solid blow one pokemon landed on another. Sam couldn’t see the battle itself very clearly, but he could tell that a dark-colored blur was pressing an attack while a lighter-color smear struggled to dodge the onslaught. After a few minutes, the light-colored pokemon fell and was swapped out for one with a red hue.

A woman in a maid’s uniform walked up to him and held out her hand. “Feathers, correct?” She asked blankly. “Mr. Deltoro is waiting.”

Sam reached for the hand, but the woman turned around and walked away. Sam followed after her, skirting around a bar and three well-dressed women before they reached a sliding doorway guarded by two men that dwarfed the guards outside. Each of them had stun batons at their waists and thick knuckledusters at their fingertips. The woman waved them aside, opened the door, and pulled Sam into the room.

Every object in Mr. Deltoro’s room had a thin line of red paint around the bottom, everything from the table legs to the chairs were carefully marked in the concrete floor. Wine glasses had circular areas with their names written both in paint and in Braille right below them, and every object on Mr. Deltoro’s desk had its own spot, from a circle for a wine glass to an empty square about the right size for pieces of paper.

Mr. Deltoro sat in a small, smooth wooden chair behind his desk. His eyes were firmly shut, and the skin around them was lacerated with thin white scars. Half of his left ear was gone, along with most of his lips, and beneath the man’s sleek black hat, Sam could see thin white hairs poking out the sides. Mr. Deltoro wore a thin silver jacket, with the outline of a bulletproof vest jutting out near the shoulders.

“Have a seat, Mr. Milone,” he said, gesturing to the matching chair on the other side of the desk. The woman pulled out the seat and gestured for him to sit. When Sam sat down, the waitress shoved his chair back into the markings on the concrete floor.

“Would you care for root beer, or green tea?” he asked. “I’ve heard you’re partial to both.”

Sam debated his response and said, “I’ll take the tea.”

Mr. Deltoro clapped, and the woman brought out a delicate china pot and a matching tea cup. She poured out a steaming cup, and Sam carefully brought it to his nose. With one sniff, he could tell that the tea was of a far better quality than he had ever tasted before, rich vanilla aromas intertwined with the soft, leafy smell of green tea, along with faint notes of cinnamon and ginger. Sam took a quick sip, closed his eyes, and let the flavor wash over his tongue.

“Honey?” Mr. Deltoro reached into a cabinet and pulled out a glass jar. Thick amber honey with bits of honeycomb floating in it sat at the bottom, with a spoon jutting out from the middle. Sam took a spoonful and swirled it around in his tea before taking another delicious sip.

“You seem to be enjoying it,” Mr. Deltoro said.

“It’s incredible,” Sam answered. “I’ve never tasted anything like it. Thank you.”

Mr. Deltoro took the jar of honey and placed it perfectly back in its painted spot. “Shall we get to business, then?”

Sam felt the tea churn in his stomach. “Is something wrong?”

“No, nothing at all. I just wanted to make sure you are fully aware of the arrangement between us. You read through Mr. Ducall’s liability agreements, correct?”

“I did,” Sam said. “I don’t tell anyone about your business and you keep mine a secret, right?”

“That’s one way to put it. I suppose you’re familiar with the house rules?”

Sam swallowed the rest of his tea and handed the cup back to the woman. “All pokemon must be registered to fight within your computer system, and I must give twenty-four hour notice for all pokemon I use. Killing pokemon is prohibited and punished with fines, all other brawl rules must be upheld, etc.”

“Good. Normally, I wouldn’t allow someone as young as you in here, but I can’t ignore a good business opportunity like you. So, do you understand what that means?”

Sam thought through his words and said, “I make you money, and we don’t have any problems.”

“Exactly. And that doesn’t just mean winning battles, Sam. You have to make everyone in the audience want to bet on your matches.”

“So I should give them a show.”

Mr. Deltoro smiled. “That’s what they’re here to see.”
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Old November 29th, 2016 (6:08 PM).
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Work was hectic today, and I found out today the rest of my week will be even worse, so I'm not feeling up to saying much. I'm not wild about the pacing of the past three chapters (counting this one) but hopefully the exposition will lighten up in future chapters. For now, enjoy!


Chapter Fourteen: Business-like Negotiations

Mr. Deltoro clapped his hands, and the maid stood next to him, in a painted section just large enough for her feet. “Now, Miss Tate, show him to his locker room, and then get him a table on the second ring.”

Miss Tate bowed and stood behind Sam. When he stood up, she pushed his chair back in place and walked out of the room. Sam followed her around the upper ring and through another door. This time, he had to open it by swiping his card on a reader next to the door. The door clicked open, and Miss Tate pushed it back for him. Down a concrete staircase, Sam came into a long hallway with thick metal doors at even intervals along both sides. Miss Tate walked four doors down and stopped at the one on the left.

“Here you are,” she said. “Your card will only open this door.”

Sam swiped his card and walked inside. The room was a bare patch of concrete with benches along the walls, a computer terminal tucked behind a fiberglass screen in a corner, and racks of grooming equipment hanging from the walls.

“You can register for matches and groom your pokemon here,” she said. “You have a roulette match set for eight. Until then, take a table.”

Miss Tate led him back into the main area and down the stairs until they reached the second ring from the bottom. An empty table, closed off with a reserved sign and thick velvet rope, waited for him. Miss Tate shoved the rope aside and tucked the sign under her arm.

“Your table, Feathers. You may order refreshments from your waiter. Mr. Deltoro also suggests that you speak with anyone that approaches your table. They may offer you contract pokemon if they like you.”

Miss Tate’s skirt fanned out as she turned and left. Moments later, a sharply dressed waiter with slicked-back hair walked over with a notepad in hand. Sam asked for a meat-lover’s pizza and root beer – moments later, the waiter returned with an enormous deep-dish pizza loaded with pepperoni slices larger than his hand, tender strips of bacon, tender chicken pieces straight from the bone and sausages big enough to serve as meatballs. Sam carved out a slice and slapped it on his plate. Cheese and tomato sauce oozed off of the slice, covering his plate in a greasy, steaming puddle. Sam scooped up a bite with a fork, clicked a button to make the beak collapse up into itself, and placed the pizza in his mouth, savoring the grease and oregano sliding down his throat. He poured himself a glass of root beer – brought over in an intricately cast glass bottle – took a sip, and marveled at the rich, powerful vanilla and honey flavors within the beverage.

After Sam finished his first slice, a bunny-masked woman wearing a loose, silky dress sat next to him and helped herself to a slice. The mask left her mouth exposed, and her piercing green eyes gazed at him from behind the mask.

“Care to pour me a glass?” she asked.

Sam tipped his bottle over the glass she held out. The woman looked at the bubbling brown beverage with a frown.

“C’mon kid, root beer? You should live a little more.” She threw back the glass and drank it all. “Why do they even call it beer if it doesn’t have any alcohol in it?”

“So, you’re a cop?” Sam asked.

The woman chuckled. “How blunt. Yes, I am an officer of the law. Just thought I’d check out the fresh meat. Marcie told me about you.”

“Marcie?”

The officer picked up her slice of pizza and dangled a long, drooping string of cheese across her face before chomping at it. “Mm-hmm, the bunny for Smiles’ ring.” She glanced away and said, “Oh, you’ve got more company.”

A corpulent gentleman wearing a walrein mask sat down at the table and passed a manila folder towards Sam. He opened it up and saw a photo of a weavile, along with a dossier about its height, weight, claw length, age, and other information.

“That’s what I put into the roulette,” the man said, “And there’s ten million riding on the pot. Win with my Jaeger, and you can have him.”

“Uh, I…”

Another man, this one wearing a blaziken mask paired with a crimson tuxedo, helped himself to a slice as he gave Sam his folder.

“Mine’s beffer,” he mumbled through his food. Then he swallowed and said, “I’ll let you keep Reinhardt if you use him” before cramming the rest of his slice into his mouth.

Sam opened that folder and examined the photo of a lairon. Its armor gleamed and looked smooth enough to skip across a pond, but Sam could tell its armor had stress fractures along its ribs.

“Bah, take that, and you’d be in trouble if someone put in a machoke,” walrein-mask countered.

“And yours wouldn’t be?” blaziken mask retorted. “At least mine can take a few punches.”

“At least mine knows how to dodge.”

Sam glanced back and forth between the two gentleman and said, “I can’t make any promises right now, but I’ll consider your offers.”

Sam inched away from his guests as they settled themselves down into their seats and helped themselves to a slice of his pizza. When they held out their glasses, Sam offered them root beer, but they waved it away.

“I’ll take a Cabernet,” blaziken-mask told the waiter. In a flash, he returned with a thick green bottle and poured them both a cup. The cop held hers out as well, and with a nod from blaziken-mask, her cup was filled. The waiter also offered the bottle to Sam, but he waved it away.

The walrein-masked man held out a gloved hand. “Pleasure to meet you Feathers. I’m Kurt Koborn, CEO of PNC. Here’s to hoping you don’t become a major news headline for my network.”

“Luke Blair,” blaziken-mask said, holding out his hand. “Major shareholder in Blair Engineering and KernTech. So, which do you prefer, speed, or defense?”

Sam mulled over the question and said, “Speed, usually, but defense has its benefits.”

Mr. Blair frowned. “I see. Well, what do you think of Reinhardt?”

Sam poured himself a glass of root beer while he thought over what he should say. He took a long swallow, then he carefully asked, “Did that lairon have a side injury recently?”

Mr. Blair flinched and glanced around the table, before leaning in and asking, “How can you tell?”

“The fractures on the side haven’t healed up yet,” Sam said, pointing to the picture. “You can see cracks running down the side. That would open up again if it got hit hard enough.”

Luke drained his wine glass and slammed it on the table. “Damn it! The vet told me he’d be fine. How much longer do you think it’d need?”

Sam took out his tablet and looked through his notes on lairon. “How long ago was the injury?”

“Two months.”

“Another month should do it,” Sam said. “Six weeks to be sure.”

“Ah hell.” He glared at Mr. Koborn and said, “Not a word of this leaves this table.”

Mr. Koborn raised one hand and placed another on his chest. “On my life. Besides, if it helps my Jaeger win, I’ll let you trick the opponent into a raw deal.”

“My Reinhardt lose to that? You must be joking.”

“That sluggish brute wouldn’t even see my Jaeger coming,” Mr. Koborn said, swiping away a string of cheese swinging from his lip. “You might as well talk to Kaiser, you’re not going to change this young man’s mind, not after he saw your damaged goods.”

Mr. Blair shrugged and adjusted his mask. “Sure, it’s injured, but at least it can evolve again. Wouldn’t you say it makes a better long-term investment?”

“Too much risk up-front. Jaeger’s ready to fight, yours is not.”

“Bah!” Luke Blair scooped up another slice onto a place and stood up. “Thank you for the meal, Feathers, and I hope you will consider my business proposal further.”

Once he left, Mr. Koborn also left, scooting his large belly around the table before standing up and shaking Sam’s hand.

“Likewise, I have to return to my table. I look forward to seeing your first match, and if you pick Jaeger, I’ll be betting on you.” He laughed and said, “Best of luck to you, whatever you pick!”

Sam shook his hand and gave the man an uneasy smile. “Thank you. I’ll think about your offer.”

Once the two businessmen left, the officer leaned in closer to Sam and said, “Damn kid, you scored on your first night.”

“Yeah, getting some more contracts will be nice. I’ll need a stronger roster.”

The cop laughed and said, “Those weren’t contracts silly! They’re going to give you those pokemon, for keeps.”

“Wait, what?”

“Don’t expect it for all the pokemon you’ll see – betters like to entice brawlers with free pokemon in exchange for being chosen in the roulette. Makes it more likely you’ll be picked, but you can’t give up a prize fighter either.”

“They’re giving me their pokemon?”

The woman cut another dainty piece of pizza and licked it off her fork. “Geez kid, I thought you were smart. Yes, if you meet their terms.”

“But I can’t just take a pokemon! What am I supposed to do with it?”

“Keep it, sell it, give it away, whatever kid. You don’t have to take it home. Come to think of it, wasn’t Cloud signed over to you too?”

“What?”

“Wow kid, you’re really out of the loop. Cloud’s been passed around, nobody wants that grouchy bird. You’re stuck with him now.” She chuckled and took the wine bottle from the center of the table, taking a long swallow before setting it down. “Well, I think I’ve had enough fun with you. Don’t blow it kid.”

She stood up, brushing her skirt against Sam’s chin as she walked away. Sam rubbed the spot where her skirt touched as he stared into the crowd.

As he finished off the last, lukewarm slice of pizza, Mr. Deltoro’s voice echoed across the room from a string of loudspeakers overhead.

“Ladies and gentlemen, the main event is about to begin! Kaiser and Feathers, come on down!”

Sam’s stomach knotted up as he heard the announcement, and the taste of pepperoni mixed with bile crept into the back of his mouth. With shaking hands, Sam pushed himself off the table and strode towards the pit.
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Old November 29th, 2016 (7:30 PM).
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I admit I don't have much to say on twelve as you mentioned it's a bit more of a set up. I think the rules are more or less similar from last version, though. I can say also the addition of the bunny cops makes things more interesting, lol. Sam got to show off more of his expertise there, though makes me wonder if he'll reconsider or do something if he keeps finding out the conditions of the brawling Pokemon.
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Old November 30th, 2016 (6:38 PM).
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30k words, WOOHOO! Take that NaNoWriMo!

I am so god damn tired right now. Enjoy.

Also, if you're wondering what the last pun was, it's "I hope there's not any beef between us." It'll make sense later, I promise.


Chapter 15: Risk and Reward

As Sam walked down the stairs to the arena, he spotted a man on the opposite side heading into the pit. He had a black mask with a brilliant white cross in the center, slashing up his nose and across his eyes. He wore a tight-fitting black jacket and sturdy black leather jeans, along with knee-high cavalry boots and thick gloves in matching colors. White springy strands jutted from the top of his mask and along the sides of his arms, and a thin white belt gripped his waist.

When he walked into the ring, Sam heard a thin kinetic barrier rise up around him, sealing him inside the arena. The black-clad man waited in the center of the arena. Taking a deep breath, Sam walked forward and looked up at Kaiser. He could see the man’s cold blue eyes behind the mask.

“You’re the fresh meat, eh? Ready to become hamburger, little kid?”

In a panic, Sam said the first words that came to mind. “Only if you can mustard the skill to ketchup to me.”

Sam cringed at the pun, but the crowd above applauded his words. Kaiser chuckled and said, “I’ll make you eat those words.”

Sam forced a grin onto his face and said, “I’ll relish the taste.” He started to sweat when Kaiser’s smile hardened into a stony frown. He opened his mouth, but he was interrupted by the arrival of Mr. Deltoro. The old man counted to himself as he walked down the steps, checking with his feet when he reached the pit before stepping forward. The ringmaster raised a microphone to his lips and said, “I have the ten participants’ pokemon right here,” he said, holding up a string of pokeballs.” He announced ten names and the pokemon they submitted as he called out each one. Jaeger came out third, Reinhardt fifth, and a tall, lean, stringy blaziken from an energy tycoon finished the roster. The room fell dead silent as Mr. Deltoro turned towards Sam and Kaiser.

“Sam, since you are the rookie here, you may choose to pick first or last.”

Sam glanced over the roster, and while each pokemon outclassed anything he had faced in Smiles’ ring, the blaziken held a clear advantage over a roster filled with dark, rock, and steel types, and it loomed over the mienshao and quagsire. Yet, as he debated taking the blaziken, he couldn’t shake from his mind Mr. Koborn’s offer.

Sam walked up to the blaziken, approaching it slowly until he saw the pokemon’s leg muscles relax. He examined the blaziken’s legs and held his hand a few inches away from them, feeling the intense heat that radiated from them.

Then he walked over to Jaeger and held out his hand. The weavile glanced at his hand and his face before slowly reaching out and gently placing his claws in Sam’s gloved hand. Sam caressed the tips of the claws, feeling the claws sink into the fabric of his gloves and poke against his fingers.

Sam leaned in closer and whispered to Jaeger. “I’d like to fight with you, but you’d be going up against that blaziken. Think you can handle it?”

The weavile glanced down the roster. It paused and looked away from him before meeting his gaze and nodding.

“Alright. Win, and I’ll be your new trainer. I’ll do my best to care for you in return.”

Sam stood up and turned towards Mr. Deltoro. “I’ll take Jaeger,” he said. The crowd buzzed with whispers, and Kaiser laughed at him.

“Then I’ll take Blitz. Easiest fifty grand I ever made!” As Kaiser walked away with the blaziken, he walked back to Sam and whispered to him, “I would’ve probably taken Reinhardt if you hadn’t been such a cheeky bastard.”

Sam looked up at the crowd and spoke loudly, “I guess I’m in quite the pickle now!”

Kaiser gritted his teeth and said, “Okay, psyduck you and psyduck your puns! I’m going to crush you so hard they won’t be able to tell what’s human and what’s weavile when they’re scraping the two of you off the floor!”

The crowd roared after Kaiser’s shout, and one man was whooping and hollering in his seat, ordering expensive vintages loud enough for half the room to hear. Kaiser smiled at the crowd before sauntering over to his side of the ring, a referee called back the eight leftover pokemon, and Mr. Deltoro walked up the stairs to a reserved table on the first ring.

Once Sam entered his protected area, a circle in the far end of the arena cordoned off by a faintly translucent kinetic barrier, a large monitor descended from the ceiling, displaying the arena on four huge screens. A series of colored lights, going from red to green, hung from the bottom of the monitor. The countdown began with the glow of a red light, followed by two more, then a yellow, and finally, all the other lights darkened when the green one lit.

“Fire blast!” Kaiser roared. Blitz reared its head back, sticking out its chest as it took a deep breath. Sam watched its feet shift and said, “Run left and jump!”

In a black blur, Jaeger raced to the left half of the arena and leapt as a fiery star rushed through the arena, slamming into the arena with a thunderous crackle. Flames raced across the floor, but Jaeger leapt over the flames, sliding to a stop right in front of the blaziken.

“Avoid the legs and aerial ace!” Jaeger slashed at Blitz’s chest, but it blocked with its tough, scaly arms. Blitz flung a fiery fist at Jaeger, and he barely parried the blow, burning his left arm.

“Double kick!”

Sam thought through the weavile’s dossier and shouted, “Substitute!”

Jaeger vanished, leaving behind an icy replica that the blaziken kicked to pieces, then Jaeger reappeared behind Blitz.

“Aerial ace, again!”

Jaeger slashed at the blaziken with dazzling speed, but again, the blaziken’s scaly arms thwarted the attack. Time after time, Jaeger leapt at the blaziken, and each time, Jaeger’s claws met nothing but tough scales.

“Slow it down with icy wind, then try again!”

“Blaze kick!”

Blitz swept its right leg across. Jaeger ducked under the blow, but its icy attack melted around the blaziken. As Blitz regained its footing, Jaeger slashed again, this time catching Blitz across the shoulder. Blood welled up from the gash and dripped onto the floor, but Blitz steadied itself and burned the wound shut.

Sam thought through move and countermove, but Blitz’s quick defense stumped him. Then he looked at Kaiser. His eyes looked like sunken glaciers, and his fists clenched tight enough to warp the leather of his gloves.

“Hey Kaiser,” Sam shouted across the arena. Sam brought his hand halfway to his face to wipe the sweat out of his eyes, but he changed the gesture into a yawn. “This is getting boring. Lettuce get this battle over with, alright?”

The drawn-out “lettuce” made Kaiser’s face redder than Blitz. He gave Sam two gyrating middle fingers and shouted, “Overheat that motherpsyducking weavile!”

Sam smiled and shouted “Dig!”

As Blitz’s flames surged through the whole arena, making the barrier spark and crackle like a bug lamp, Jaeger tunneled deep into the concrete floor, making twists and turns to shunt away the heat from above. Once the flames cleared, the blaziken fell to a knee, panting and shaking. Before it could recover, Jaeger rushed out of the ground, clobbering Blitz in the beak and sending him flying into the air. When Blitz landed on his back, Jaeger rushed in, tearing and slashing at the blaziken’s chest and face until the referee threw the flag.

One shout of dismay came from the table with a sparkling collection of valuable vintages before it was drowned out by thunderous applause. Mr. Koborn knocked his table aside, tipping a few wine glasses and knocking a plate onto the carpet as he jumped into the air and whistled.

Mr. Deltoro walked down into the arena and announced Sam as the winner. He waved Sam and Kaiser to the center of the arena and had them shake hands. Sam could feel the concrete’s heat through his boots as Kaiser firmly grasped his hand.
“Well played, kid,” he said. “I’ll get you for that next time.”

Another hamburger pun leapt to Sam’s mind, but he held it back and instead said, “Good match.”

Mr. Deltoro handed each of them an envelope, Sam’s noticeably bulkier than Kaiser’s, before walking all the way up to his room. Kaiser walked off, leaving Sam glancing around the arena and trying to figure out where he should go. His eyes fell on Jaeger, nursing his burned arm while a medic rubbed hyper potion into Blitz’s chest. Sam took a potion from his pocket and walked towards him.

“Here,” Sam said, spraying the potion. “That better?”

The weavile nodded as the burns faded, leaving a thin blotchy pink scar across its cold black skin. Before Sam could say anything else, a referee called Jaeger back into his pokeball and took him away. Sam followed the referee as she returned the pokeballs to their owners and stopped at Mr. Koborn’s table when he received Jaeger. The news station CEO was plowing through a plate of broiled lobster and passed Sam a bowl of lobster bisque when he sat down.

“Amazing!” he said after swallowing a lobster claw. “Absolutely genius, goading him into using overheat like that.” He slapped a piece of paper and a pen onto the table. “You made me twelve million richer tonight, between winning the pot and the bet on your match. As promised, Jaeger’s yours. All you have to do is sign.”

Sam examined the pen. The fountain pen, inlaid with a delicate swirl of gold leaf, felt heavy in his hand. He read through the document’s tiny, neat font, taking in every weighty word as he debated making yet another life-changing signature. Then, with a flourish of his hand, Sam signed. Mr. Koborn wiped butter off of his chin as he passed Jaeger’s ball over.

“I’ll be rooting for you, Feathers. If you ever need a favor, let me know.”

Sam thanked him and left, leaving behind a cooling, succulent bowl of lobster bisque and taking with him his prize.
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Old November 30th, 2016 (10:03 PM).
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Bay Alexison Bay Alexison is online now
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Sam's food puns, wow haha. Good think he didn't say the beef one.

Woo, some action there. Sam got creative with Weavile there, especially with Blaziken pretty much an advantage in both typings. Looking forward to see how he'll handle another Pokemon now.
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