Chapter 1: Boulder
- Feb 17, 2022
- Reaction score
The hallway was dank and dark. It smelled like sweat and blood, crude reminders of what it would take to actually accomplish my goal. There was no noise of the crowd, no searing lights for the cameras, just an old loudspeaker that crackled and fizzed as it spat out its call.
"Challenger to the field!"
I stepped forward, my hand dropping to the belt on my side. I only had two balls there, only two pokemon for this battle, but I hoped to all hell that they'd be enough.
I didn't have the luxury of time. There would be no second challenge if I failed here. I'd blown through every scrap of my savings and then half a starter training loan in pursuit of this dream. Failure meant crawling back to the smallest speck on the map and staying there for the rest of my life. I'd marry a suitable girl, probably Sarah Walker or Jenny Mathers if my Pa had his way, and take over the farm once he got too old to do so.
I hardened my expression. Like hell I was going back there as anything other than champion. Yucca village was a small farming community, not even on most maps unless you bought a local regional map from the northern gate of Saffron City and managed to find the smallest dot on it. Our proudest moment was when the hamlet of a half dozen families got mentioned on the evening news one time nearly twelve years back for naming our village after the cash crop we were most known for.
I stepped onto my platform, heart pounding in my chest. I knew that nobody would be watching this match live. I was a nobody, a bumpkin from a tiny stinking backwater that didn't even rate a mention on any local travel guides. I'd be lucky if I even rated a slot in the evening league recaps for my first attempt at a gym challenge.
I hoped that it was recorded. I wanted at least some record of this, for my own sense of selfish pride. I wanted some record of the validation that I was looking for. Maybe I could even pay Brock for a copy of the tape, to send back to my Pa so he could see I wasn't completely full of shit.
The platform jolted and rose towards the hole in the ceiling. I blocked out the stadium lights as my eyes adjusted to the sudden light. I nervously tapped my fingers against the pair of balls on my belt. The battlefield was a mess of rocks and sandy dunes, with a single massive rock that had been hollowed out serving as the arena's centrepiece. Many a challenger had attempted to use the hollow network of tunnels and chambers to their advantage and found themselves outclassed by an enemy that knew every corner of the arena as if it were their homes.
Brock was already waiting, standing implacably atop his command platform. He had forgone a shirt, his arms crossed over his chest and clearly flexing to show off his impressive muscles. I wasn't afraid, I knew it was for show. He wanted me off balance, fretting over appearances while he picked away at at my team. I was a novice, but that didn't mean I was an idiot.
Brock was an elite-level trainer, one of Kanto's Gym Leaders. He'd been Pewter's Leader for almost fifteen years, after his father before him. He was a powerful trainer, placing in the top ten in last year's Pokemon World Tournament. He was also the traditional first gym of the circuit, a bar that every serious trainer had to clear.
The referee's voice boomed out through the loudspeakers and I flinched visibly. It was louder than I'd expected. "This will be a novice challenge to the Pewter City Gym leader. Leader Brock will use two novice-ranked pokemon, with no substitutions. The challenger may use as many pokemon as he is able to, with two substitutions."
I nodded, remaining silent. I wasn't giving Brock a damn thing, not false confidence, no boasting bravado. I was a novice, a beginner who hadn't even gained a single badge let alone challenged a gym yet. I hadn't earned any confidence yet.
Brock smirked and raised his first ball. I knew it was a geodude before he even reached for the ball. His novice teams were pretty consistent, usually just a geodude and an onix. Sometimes he replaced the geodude with a graveller, but that was usually reserved for higher level novices. Beginners like me weren't worth that kind of effort, something that I was counting on. He tossed the ball into the air. Sure enough, the little floating rock appeared from the flash of red light.
I smirked, lifting my first ball. I would start strong, and give Brock a taste of what I was made of. I may have been a novice, but I was absolutely not a pushover. It was important to show that, something Pa taught me on the farm. You couldn't let people push you around. I may not have agreed with my Pa about many things, but he had a point.
I tossed my first ball into the sky with a firm expression. My starter appeared in a flash of red light. A little vulpine pokemon growled menacingly at the rock opposite it, flaring her tails aggressively. Her opponent had the type advantage, but I had learned the hard way never to count Luna out of the fight. My vulpix was a tenacious little monster, well used to fighting unorthodox battles in environments that favoured our opponent. Our month spent making agonizingly slow progress westward over Mount Moon had paid impressive dividends.
"Your move!" Brock shouted. "Challengers first!"
I nodded. I knew that, of course. I'd been studying training almost my whole life. No need for Brock to know how capable I really was. Not yet at least. "Alright Luna, lets get started. Confuse-wisp!"
I saw Brock's eyebrow raise from across the field. He hadn't expected a combo move, not from a novice like me. "Don't let it set up!"
Luna hacked and coughed, a burning ball of eerie blue flame dripping out of her mouth. With a flash of her eyes, the flame soared into the air. Wisps of supernatural light followed the flame, dancing across the battlefield towards our opponent.
The geodude wasn't idle, for its part. But there wasn't much it could do. Luna was quick. It was very definitely the exact opposite of quick. It tucked its arms into its body and threw itself into a rollout, a vain attempt to dodge the attack.
The wispy flame slammed into the geodude mid-roll, doing nothing to affect its momentum. That hadn't been the intent though. Luna would never be able to outright stop a geodude mid-roll, not even once she evolved into a ninetales. Creative evasion and distruption were our only real hopes at breaking through its defence. "Now, quick attack!"
Luna shot off like a rocket, darting out of the geodude's path with practiced ease. The rock type attempted to compensate and follow, but careened off course. It plowed into one of the hundred boulders dotting the arena and cracked the gigantic stone in half as easily as I could crack an egg. I grimaced internally. That would hurt if it landed. Luna needed to be perfect, and the geodude only had to land one solid blow. It was a recipe for disaster.
However, reality proved far less pessimistic than I was. Luna kept up the assault, barraging the geodude with eerie wisps of flame and forcing it to fight an uneven battle. It wasn't the boldest strategy, or the flashiest. Hell, it wasn't even a particularly brave tactic. That didn't matter to me. It limited how much damage Luna would take. My entire gym challenge hinged on her doing the heavy lifting in this battle, at least until I could train up my other team member to a respectable degree. I needed to take the geodude down with minimal damage in return.
The geodude changed tactics, slamming into another boulder and smashing it into pebbles. It didn't look like it had taken much damage at all, but rocks were like that sometimes. Something to do with their heavy outer carapace or something makes them more resistant to physical damage. Resistant however, did not mean immune. It had plowed through at least half a dozen of those boulders chasing after Luna, and it had to at least be feeling it at this point.
I spotted the opening I had been hoping for. The geodude wobbled slightly and shook the confusion from its eyes. It dug both hands into the ground, tearing loose a slab of rock that had been hidden under the sand. "Another confuse ray!"
Another spinning helix of eerie lights erupted from my vulpix. They sank into the geodude's eyes and I smirked knowingly as a simple expression crossed the rock type's face. It's arms wavered and bent as the slab of rock dipped dangerously back towards it.
"Toss it away! Now!" Brock was shouting, realizing the threat. It was too late though.
His geodude pitched the slab as hard as it could. But it's dizzied confusion had already taken a toll. The stone slab slipped free of the geodude's hands as it fumbled the throw. It crashed down on top of the little rock, utterly crushing it beneath.
My shit-eating grin probably burned into Brock's mind permanently. I smirked and pointed forward with a simple, decisive order. "Incinerate!"
Luna leapt atop the cracked stone slab, hunting for a suitable crack. She found one within seconds, all while we could hear the geodude angrily struggling to break free. She puffed her chest out and inhaled deeply. A torrent of flame poured from my little vulpix, superheating the slab of rock and melting the sand beneath.
Now, I knew that the fire itself wouldn't do much to the geodude. But that wasn't the point of the attack. I didn't have anything that could hit them effectively. My only choice was to trap it, so that Brock would be forced to concede his geodude.
As the sand beneath the slab melted further, I looked over at Brock. His arms were held calmly at his side. His hands were clenched into tight fists, betraying his outwardly calm expression. He had seconds before the molten sand hardened into a tomb of glass, seconds before his geodude was trapped and I won this round. "Rollout!"
I grimaced. It could work. "Get clear of it!" I shouted, too late to make a difference.
The geodude rocketed through the molten sand, emerging from the ground several meters away. It was bright red, dripping with molten sand and glowing with heat. We had it on the ropes, but now the little ball of rock was gonna try to turn the tables on us.
Luna leapt away from the geodude's attack, barely rolling out of the way as the glowing rock barrelled past. It crashed through another boulder and barely slowed down as pebbles showered down on the battlefield.
"Get inside the big rock!" I ordered, hoping that Luna had enough left to keep the speed up until the geodude ran out of steam.
She turned on her tail and bolted, sand kicking up in her wake. The geodude was coming around, still gaining speed as it looked around the arena.
I saw it coming. Luna wouldn't be quick enough to avoid the geodude. It would smash into her side and the battle would be over.
"Incinerate!" I shouted again. "Melt the sand in its path!"
Luna, bless her little soul, knew exactly what to do. She planted her feet as the geodude rounded the arena and bore down on her. She puffed her chest out and sucked in a quick breath. It wasn't as powerful as the last one, but the jet of flame that she spat was still enough to melt a patch of sand several feet wide into a pool of liquid glass.
The geodude plowed into the puddle, spewing molten glass in its wake. Luna dove for the side, too slowly to avoid the geodude. They collided and Luna yelped something fierce as the scorching hot ball of rock tossed her like a flailing rag doll and crashed face-first into the central boulder.
I raised her ball and returned her immediately. She'd done enough, and I needed her for Brock's second pokemon. The geodude had to be-.
"Leader Brock's first pokemon has been defeated. The challenger has taken the first round and used one of his substitutes."
I leapt nearly a foot in the air, not expecting the referee's voice to come so soon. I forced down the feeling of elation, knowing that the easy part of the battle was done. What came next would be immeasurably harder.
Brock smirked and nodded to himself. "You're good, better than I expected for a novice." Now it was Brock's turn to wear the shit-eating grin and he knew it. "Still, this isn't over and we both know that." He lifted another ball off the pedestal on his platform and tossed it into the air. "Let's see how you handle Shale!"
Brock's prized onix appeared with and earthshaking roar. She tossed back her pale green tinted head and screeched a defiant challenge. I knew what to expect. Shale was Brock's pride and joy, bred from the titanic onix that fought on Brock's championship team. She was a pale green, flecks of silver metal running through the boulders that made up her serpentine body. It was a side effect of her parentage, something to do with being the offspring of Brock's first onix and Galar's Raihan's prized duraludon. He would be a monster in a few years, but right now he was just a baby.
It made for a damn impressive showing. I knew my second pokemon would look downright feeble compared to it, but that's what I expected at this point. It was common practice for Gym Leaders to use at least one pokemon that outclassed anything you could throw at it. Helped you think on your feet and formulate strategies that played to the strengths of your pokemon.
Unfortunately, my second pokemon didn't have many strengths for me to play to. She was nearly useless in battle, even when she did decide to listen to me. It was absolutely hopeless. She just didn't have a violent bone in her body. Even if she could have lifted things fifty times her size, she would never use that strength in a violent way.
I raised my second pokeball and grinned in a way that betrayed the lack of confidence I had.
"Play time, Curie!"
My two-foot tall, ball of pink joy materialized on the field and I felt our momentum come to a crashing halt as my precious happiny goo-gooed adorably at the terrifying onix.
Brock couldn't help the burst of laughter that came forth. His rock snake mirrored him, shaking the entire arena with deep rumbling laughter.
Now, Curie might not be a violent soul but she can stall a battle somewhat effectively if she's coaxed into it the right way. She was a baby. All she really wanted to do was play, and if I could present the battle as a game then she'd cooperate for the most part. At least as long as her attention span held out.
So I did the only thing I could. I blatantly lied to my little baby. I got down on one knee, looking down at Curie with a happy smile on my face. "Hey, Curie!" I shouted.
She looked up at the sound of my voice and started hopping happily at the sight of me. It melted my damn heart.
I pointed over at Shale, putting on my playful voice. "See that big mean onix?" I asked. "She wants to play!"
Curie hopped up and down on the spot, looking back and forth between Shale and I. She squealed happily and bounded towards the onix without waiting for my command.
Brock stopped his laughing and raised an eyebrow. "Defence curl!" He ordered. Shale rumbled a response and coiled herself around a boulder. My little happiny wouldn't be able to do a single thing to hurt the onix, which was fine by me. That wasn't the plan anyways.
Curie bounded over to the coiled onix, giggling madly. She bounded up Shale's coils and made her way towards the massive serpent's head. She puckered her lips and planted a sopping wet kiss on Shale's nose.
Now it was time for Brock to learn the hard way why I still had confidence that I could pull off a win. Curie might not have had a hope in hell at actually beating Shale, but she was a charming little shit. Once she sunk her adorable little claws into you, you were completely at her mercy.
Shale raised her head, studying the little ball of joy on her coils. Curie cooed at the terrifying rock monster, melting that stone heart as easily as she did mine. Shale rumbled softly and nudged her opponent with her nose.
"Shale! Crush that weakling!"
The onix looked back at her trainer and whined, something I had never heard from an onix before or since. She shook her head and looked back down at my gibbering happiny with a fond rumble.
Curie pulled the small, smooth stone from her pouch and held it up towards Shale. The onix rumbled again, low and slow. Shale lowered her head and nuzzled my Curie affectionately.
Brock was absolutely livid. He was practically hopping in place, his face bright red. Shale was completely ignoring his frantic commands, enamoured with Curie's adorable antics. She was nuzzling Curie with her nose and laughing deeply when the little happiny planted another kiss on her nose.
I didn't have to do anything. Curie could entertain that onix for the rest of the round, keeping her attention off the fact that this was a gym battle. Nothing and nobody could resist Curie's adorable attitude if she wanted your attention.
Then, disaster struck. Shale must have shifted as she laughed, because Curie stumbled and flopped onto her back. Hard. I winced, knowing that we were all in very deep shit.
Curie's little rock, the one she had offered to Shale, bounced off the onix's coils and rolled into the sand as Curie watched on in abject horror. I plugged my ears with two fingers, waiting for the inevitable.
Curie absolutely exploded with sound, wailing at the top of her infantile lungs. Shale recoiled from the noise, wincing and shutting her eyes. They were across the arena from me, still at Shale's starting position. Curie's agonized wail was still ear-piercing at this distance. I could scarcely imagine the discomfort that Brock was feeling, let alone the punishment Shale's eardrums were enduring.
Shale lashed out, flinging Curie across the arena with a flick of her tail. Curie bounced twice and came to a crashing halt against the hollow boulder in the centre of the arena.
"Curie! Hide and seek!" I shouted, hoping desperately that she would forget the little round stone she had dropped and stop wailing long enough to hear me.
I had no such luck. She just wailed harder, mourning her lost rock with all the fury of a confused infant. With a satisfied grin, I lifted her ball off my belt and returned my happiny to her ball. I couldn't be more proud of my baby girl. She had done her job and eaten up all but two minutes of the round just by being an adorable baby. She'd get her chance to shine in battle eventually, but for now she could be the best damn stalling tactic a guy could ask for.
That had been the crux of my whole strategy. Neither Curie nor Luna had anywhere near the strength to bring down Shale. Our only hope at victory was a wing and a prayer, stuffed with one hell of a bullshit technicality. If I could outlast Brock, run the clock out without Luna going down, then I would win the match. I still had two conscious pokemon to Brock's one. I would win by virtue of outlasting a titanic onix that I couldn't even scratch.
I lifted Luna's ball and mouthed a silent prayer. There were no more substitutions. It was just me against Brock, Luna against Shale, raging fire against stoic stone. I tossed Luna's ball and smirked as my confidence came flooding back. We could do this.
"Alright Luna, remember the plan. Be fast, be smart, be strong."
My vulpix looked up at me, eerie light already flickering behind her eyes. She knew exactly what she had to do, what I expected of her. She snorted a puff of smoke at me, as if outrunning a 400 pound rock serpent was beneath her.
Brock took the first move, ordering Shale into pursuit of Luna. His onix didn't even wait for him to finish, lunging forward in an attempt to end the battle quickly.
Luna was gone in a flash, bounding out of Shale's path faster than the onix could turn. A barrage of levitating blue flames slammed into Shale's side, superheating the stones and drawing a rumble of annoyance from the onix. It wouldn't do much, but there was a chance it would show Shale down.
"Quick attack!" I shouted as Shale pivoted on the centre of her body. She swung a bladed tail through the sand, wiping away a pair of small boulders that had the misfortune of standing in the wrong spot. Luna was a rust-coloured blur, dashing out of the way of Shale's tail in a spray of sand.
She was quick, but Shale was faster than I had anticipated. Fortunately, we had a way to slow the massive onix down. We just had to land it.
"Confuse ray!" I shouted.
Luna skidded to a halt, eerie wisps of ghostly light conjuring from nothingness. They spun off towards Shale as Luna dashed away from the Onix's descending tail. It slammed into the ground, throwing sand into the air with the impact.
I swore under my breath. Shale was fast. Faster than a gigantic rock monster had any right to be. Brock had covered his ass well. Luna was faster, but not by enough for me to get comfortable. The battle was going to come right down to the wire.
"Get clear!" I shouted. "Long range barrage now, confuse wisp!"
Luna scrambled away from the thrashing serpent, kicking up a spray of sand behind her as she went. She skidded to a halt halfway across the arena and spun.
Before she could cough out a single wisp a boulder slammed into the ground not three feet away from her. Luna yelped in surprise and dashed away, barely avoiding the second boulder that crashed down where she had been standing mere moments before.
"Top speed!" I shouted, knowing that Shale held damn near every advantage without confusion muddying her mind. "Find cover!"
Luna turned in a blur, weaving through the barrage of rocks that Shale was pitching at her with ease. She ducked and weaved, cutting and turning just in time to avoid each incoming rock. I felt my pride swell in my chest as my precious little vulpix motored at speeds that would have even impressed a pikachu.
Shale roared in frustration as her last boulder sailed just wide and crashed harmlessly into the sand. She surged forwards as the clock ticked down to the last twenty seconds.
Luna turned as the onix gave chase, cutting close to the massive hollow structure in the centre of the arena. It was a gambit, banking on Shale moving to quickly to turn easily. Luna led the massive rock serpent on a desperate chase, dashing into the hollow rock as Shale slammed into the base of the rock when she cut too closely.
Luna was gone, disappeared into the rock. Less than fifteen seconds was left on the clock, but our greatest advantage was nullified in close quarters. All Shale had to do was twitch the wrong way and Luna would be nothing more than a smear on the wall.
Ten seconds left as Shale disappeared into the rock.
Seven seconds left and the arena shook as Shale found her prey inside the rock.
Five seconds left and the rock shook violently with a titanic impact.
Three seconds left and Luna peeked out of the top of the rock.
Two seconds and Shale was following her onto the top of the rock.
One second left and Luna was out of space. There was nowhere to go. Shale was raising herself to her full height. My precious starter would be nothing more than a smear of blood and hair.
The horn blared and I exhaled the breath that I hadn't realized I was holding. I unclenched my fists, realizing that my nails had been digging into my palms so tightly that they drew blood.
The referee's voice crackled over the loudspeakers, sounding sweeter than I had ever imagined a bored teen sounding. "After expiry of the final round, the challenger has two pokemon left to Leader Brock's one. The challenger has been declared the winner!"
I didn't hear the small smattering of cheers from the stands. I didn't hear the referee continue to drone on about my victory. I had won, I had beaten Brock. My eyes found Luna and I didn't care to hide the tears that fell freely. I was a trainer now. For real. And there wasn't a damn thing anybody could do to change that.
Pokédex Entry #95: Onix
Onix are large, serpentine pokemon that are native to nearly all mountain ranges in the Kan-Jo supercontinent. They serve as the region's supreme apex predator, capable of going toe to toe against any landlocked opponent.
Nearly fifty feet long when fully grown, most onix resemble titanic serpents made from a series of connecting boulders. A few specimens have been comprised of darker, harder boulders. This is possibly a result of the aging process.
Unfortunately, study opportunities are exceedingly limited due to the species' aggressive nature. Most specimens succumb to battle wounds long before they age to maturity, and even fewer survive to old age. Legends persist of an ancient onix comprised of solid diamond, but few credible sources can confirm this with any reliability.
Novice Trainer, KT#07966101