• Bubapedia Error 503 Backend fetch failed

    Our technical staff are continuing to monitor the wiki to try and resolve these ongoing issues that are impacting page and image loading. We apologize for the inconvenience. We'll update as soon as we've got more information on this for you.

  • Check out our new Mysterious Garden forum style if you haven't already - we're sure you'll love it!
  • If you are finding yourself unable to log in, you should be able to fix the issue by following the following process.
    1. Close all browser tabs with any part of Bulbagarden open.
    2. Delete all Bulbagarden.net cookies (and if possible, any cached site data for Bulbagarden) from your browser.
    3. Close and reopen your browser, open a new tab, and log into the forums on the new tab.
    If you've followed this process and are still having issues, please contact us via the "Contact us" link at the bottom of the forum.

TEEN: Unpredictable

Chapter 55 - Champion

AetherX

make plove not warble
Joined
Jun 10, 2010
Messages
2,102
Reaction score
546
Chapter 55

David yawned and leaned over the railing of my balcony, looking down at the beach far below. “During my challenge I spent every day after each battle out here, looking at the lake and the mountains.”

“It’s a hell of a view,” I agreed, watching the field maintenance work boat trundle its way back from the island. They didn’t have too much cleanup to do today. I let out a contented sight and scanned the far ridgeline. David had said you could sometimes pick out Tyranitar puttering around there if you watched closely, but I hadn’t seen one yet.

I was still riding the high off of beating Lance. I hadn’t realized how worried I’d been about facing him in particular, but now on the far side of it I wasn’t just relieved, but proud of myself and my Pokémon. I’d somehow come through it without losing any of my remaining three Pokémon to him. Tomorrow I would face David for the championship. For now, we were just friends being friends. Talking, relaxing, reflecting.

After a moment, David looked at me. “Do you remember that summer a few years ago, when your dad took you and me and Tim out camping a few times. Mt. Moon, Viridian Forest–”

“Tohjo Falls. Yeah, I remember that.” It wasn’t long before my dad had died. After hearing us talk about going on journeys, he wanted to give us some experience in the woods.

“I don’t think I ever told you how much I appreciated that,” David said. “I don’t think I ever would have learned any of that stuff without him. I certainly wasn’t going to learn it from my mom and dad.”

I laughed. It was hard to imagine David’s parents out in the wilderness. They were… homebodies, to put it nicely. “You took it so seriously too, I remember,” I said. “Tim and I would run off to try to find Diglett burrows and you’d be back at camp hanging on to my dad’s every word about how to start a fire or whatever.”

“Yeah!” David said with a laugh. “I needed that information! I never would have survived without it. I always knew I would be mostly on my own since I’d be leaving so much earlier than the two of you. He helped me a lot.”

“Me too.”

“He was a good dad,” David said.

“He was.”

We stood in silence for a bit. “Did you ever get lonely?” I asked David. “Traveling by yourself? I still kind of wish the three of us had been able to meet up.” It was something I’d been wondering for a while.

“Nah…” he said, staring back down at the lake. “Well… a little, I guess. I mean, you know how I am. I like being by myself. Traveling with you and Tim would have been great I’m sure, but it wasn’t really my thing. I liked the independence.”

“Makes sense.”

“Besides, I wasn’t really alone. I had my Pokémon. They’re not exactly great conversationalists, but they’re company. Good company. There’s a lot of things they helped me with, and a lot I learned from them.”

“Yeah, me too. I…” A thought occurred to me. “I think that’s why I want to win so much.” David looked at me questioningly. I looked out towards where the sun was beginning to dip behind some big fluffy clouds out over Johto. “My Pokémon gave me so much. Taught me so much. Carried me so far. I need to make it all worth it. For them and for me. It’s more than a dream, it’s like… the ultimate test of everything I’ve learned on all of our adventures.” I looked back at David.

He nodded solemnly. “Well… if it’s a test you want, then it’s a test I’ll give you. I’ll be honest, part of me is rooting for you, but I fought for this position too. I won’t give it up easily.”

“I don’t expect you to.”

“You know you’re my first challenger?”

“Really?”

“Well, first one I’ve faced at least. No else one has gotten this far.”

I looked at him, nodding slowly. “Huh.”

David smiled at me, then straightened up. “I have some champion business to attend to before it gets too late, but I’ll see you bright and early tomorrow morning.”

“I’ll be there.”

“I want you at your best,” David said as he opened the door to head back through the gym. “The best, bravest, strongest you can be.”

I stood up straight and nodded. “I will be.”

*****

The next morning was sunny, with only a few spotty clouds. I felt fresh, ready, invigorated. Perhaps more than I had a right to be given how much my team had been through so far. But there was nothing I could do about that now. The real challenge was ahead of us, not behind us. We had to push through. We could do it. More than ever before I was sure of it. We could win. We could be champions.

I was impatiently standing in the kitchen when Andrew finally knocked on the door. I opened it immediately.

“Let’s go,” I said without waiting for him to speak.

He smiled. “Let’s go.”

Andrew didn’t say anything to me on the way down to the beach. I had a feeling he was instructed not to talk too much to challengers. But he was watching me with a barely disguised smile. He used to be a journeying trainer too, I recalled. He understood this energy, the pre-battle adrenaline, the way the world drew slowly close around you until it was just you, the field, your Pokémon, and your opponent.

Lance and Lorelei were having a spirited discussion on the dock when we approached, quieting slightly as we got closer. I didn’t catch exactly what they were saying, but I knew they were talking about the upcoming battle.

Lorelei looked at me over her glasses. “We await eagerly. This… will be something else, I think.”

Lance smiled, pushing his cape back and putting his hands on his hips. “Good luck, my friend.”

They headed up onto the ship. The ten-year-old in me swooned. I kept my mouth shut to keep from embarrassing myself. I needed to focus.

A tapping on the dock came from behind me. I stepped aside to let Agatha pass. When she was about halfway up the gangway, she turned to me. She looked like she was about to say something, but decided against it and boarded the ship.

Something slammed into my shoulder, nearly pushing me into the water. Bruno had patted me on the shoulder as he passed. “Fight hard, kid.”

David was right behind him. We nodded to each other and I followed him up the ramp. To my surprise there were three more people I didn’t recognize on board. They looked up at me, but didn’t say anything. One woman began to scribble on a notepad.

“Reporters,” Lorelei whispered from a nearby seat. “In case you do anything worth reporting.”

I nodded and took a deep breath. No pressure. I headed up to the top deck, both out of habit and to avoid their gaze. The boat ride was quiet and uneventful. The excitement was starting to get to me, I think. I paced back and forth the entire time, not even staring at the mountains or water like I had the previous days. Somehow in my impatience I almost didn’t notice when we docked at the island.

Olivia, who had been standing on the upper deck with me and silently watching me pace, called to me. “Alright, we’re here. Let’s go, champ-in-making.”

I smiled at her and pointed accusingly. “Sounds like you have a favorite.”

She blushed and waved me downstairs. “Shut up and take the field.”

The battlefield was dry, flat, and clean. Just like always. Hobbs led us to the center. He looked calm and professional, but I could tell that he was also a little excited that it was coming to this. He recited his usual spiel about the rules, then looked at David. “The Champion, David Rose.” He looked at me. “The Challenger, Keith Anders.” He held his hands wide. “Whoever wins this battle will have the title of Champion of the Indigo League.” His words hung in the cool mountain air for a long moment. “Shake hands and go stand in your boxes.”

David’s handshake was firm, stronger than I was expecting. His gaze was steady and serious. He was my friend, but he wouldn’t be a pushover. He was Champion already. I was the one here with something to prove.

I took a deep breath to steady my nerves as I took my position and faced the field. The soft roar of the wind and the gentle lapping of water at the island’s shore transformed into the thunderous cheering of the crowd in the stadium in Viridian. Only a select few would be able to watch our battle, but it still felt like all eyes were on us. Everything that I had done for the past year came down to this. I ran my fingers along my Poké Balls as David pulled his first ball from his belt. Something felt so… right. Everything about this moment. This was where I was meant to be. My whole life had led the this.

David wasn’t flashy. He was calm, practical, thoughtful. I noticed that all three balls on his belt were plain red and white Poké Balls. I couldn’t catch the glint of emerald that would indicate that one of them held his starter, but that was a likely bet. Regardless, standard Poké Balls indicated he’d had these Pokémon for a long time. No fancy tech to catch a powerful or rare Pokémon. Just time and effort and experience with Pokémon he’d likely had since the beginning of his journey. I could respect that. He pulled off one of the balls and looked at it.

“Septaria,” he said, his voice clear and fervent. “Take this battle.” He threw the ball forward. The familiar red light coalesced into the shape of a round Pokémon. Bipedal, with a rocky spherical shell, David’s Golem growled loudly and stomped its feet.

I paused. It seemed almost too easy. This was a Pokémon that I had two clear counters to. He had his pick of his entire team of six, and this was one of the three he chose? Knowing what I was coming in with? It was too simple. An answer to Zyanya’s fire and electricity perhaps, but this thing would be incredibly susceptible to both Gideon and Rainer. Yet I couldn’t underestimate David. Part of me wanted to put Zyanya in just to see what would happen. No… despite the fact that it felt like a trap, I had to spring it and hope for the best. If he did something really unexpected, I could at least minimize the damage. I threw Gideon’s ball out onto the field.

I heard David say a single word before I could even connect with Gideon. “Go.”

The Golem, Septaria, tucked its arms and legs inside its body and began to spin, spraying dust and pebbles across the field. I struggled to connect to Gideon. He’d need my advice for how to counter this before-

Septaria sped across the field like a pinball. I felt the link of consciousness with Gideon right as he decided to counter with a head-on Aqua Jet. Not surprising, but likely the wrong call. Gideon blasted forward to meet Septaria’s Rollout. They collided in a spray of water and dirt. I knew the outcome through my connection before I could really see what had happened. Powerlessness and frustration. The Golem rolled right on through Gideon and skidded to a stop in front of me, uncurling and jumping to its feet. I could swear its lizard-like face smirked at me for the briefest moment before it tucked back in again and started to roll back the way it came. Gideon was scrambling to his feet where he had been crushed into the ground.

Telling Gideon to dodge and wait for his chance wouldn’t work. It never did. But just letting him be aggressive wouldn’t cut it either. This Golem was a defensive tank, yet Rollout forced engagement on its own terms. A powerful combo, if not exactly unexpected for a Golem. The real strength of it was that it was exactly the kind of thing Gideon couldn’t deal with easily. He lacked the brute force to stop Septaria, and was too stubborn to use his speed to dodge it. But these hits were taking their toll. Gideon was already not in perfect condition after the last few days of fighting, and being smashed multiple times by a giant rolling rock was not doing him any favors. He was hurt and tired, and he likely couldn’t take much more. I had to try.

Do that again, but dodge before impact.

Gideon summoned another Aqua Jet. He seemed hesitant. It’s either listen to me or get crushed again. I sensed his grudging acceptance. There was a layer of trust there now that I hadn’t felt before yesterday. We were finally getting somewhere.

Gideon and Septaria played their high-speed game of chicken once more, but this time Gideon cut to the side. He slid to a stop and flung a passing Mud Shot at the Golem that splattered harmlessly on its shell.

Ice Beam. Try to freeze it in place.

Septaria’s next Rollout may have been slowed by the thin blue-white beam. Maybe. A tiny bit. But it bowled right through Gideon once more. I could feel his frustration begin to blossom into rage as he pushed himself upright again. I was losing control of this fight. Of my Pokémon. In fairness, Septaria did have some ice crystals on it that seemed to slightly hinder its movement as it reoriented itself in front of me for another pass. But with a growl and a flex, the crystals shattered.

I collected myself and tried to force my commands through the fog of Gideon’s growing anger. The ground this time. If you can make it slippery it will be easy to dodge. They’ll make a mistake at some point and you can pounce.

To my surprise, Gideon acquiesced. It seems we had made some progress after all. Ice Beam wasn’t great at freezing large swaths of ground—Gideon was no ice-type—but by the time Septaria came rolling back, Gideon had frozen a sizable patch of the battlefield like a gleaming iced over pond. Gideon dashed forward onto the ice to meet his foe, his claws digging in to keep from slipping. Like a bullfighter, he dodged to the side at the last second and slashed a blade into the Golem as it sped by. The effect was immediate. Septaria spun across the ice, completely off target. Its limbs remerged and it tried to steady itself as it skidded off the patch of ice and onto regular dirt, where it awkwardly somersaulted and tried to stand up again.

I didn’t even have to give Gideon the order to attack. As soon as Septaria began to wipe out, Gideon took off after it with an Aqua Jet. The attack splashed into the Golem, but Gideon did not rebound. He dug his rear claws into Septaria’s back and began slashing away. Septaria roared as Gideon chipped off bits of its shell with his scythes. It rolled back to its feet and grabbed ahold of Gideon, pulling him off with ease. Gideon tried to slash at Septaria’s face, but he didn’t have much of an opportunity before he was thrown a good twenty feet across the battlefield.

“Earthquake, Septaria.” It was the first proper command that I had heard David give. That was good, it meant we were getting in the way of whatever plan he had prepared beforehand. Earthquake, however, was not good.

The Golem jumped up and slammed its fists into the ground. The entire island shook. Remembering Bruno’s Steelix, I widened my stance in order to maintain my footing. Gideon was not so lucky. He stumbled as the battlefield waved and cracked underneath him. Our carefully placed puddle of ice shattered into useless shards, already melting in the sun. Septaria’s hands remained firmly on the ground, but it was glaring across the field at Gideon.

“Continue,” David said calmly.

The Earthquake ceased immediately as Septaria tucked all of its limbs back into its shell and began to spin, kicking up dirt and now tiny shards of ice. The thumping and crunching sounded like a small avalanche.

Careful! My warning wasn’t much help. Gideon was shaken and having trouble getting his feet under himself. He had barely staggered into a fighting stance when he was once again flattened by a Rollout. He desperately tried to push himself back upright as Septaria circled around for another pass. I was flustered, desperately trying to think of a counter. Desperately trying to tell Gideon something, anything. It didn’t matter. Septaria rolled over Gideon once more. This time he didn’t get up.

Olivia blew her whistle. “The challenger’s Kabutops is unable to battle!”

I breathed deeply, trying to let the panic pass. It didn’t matter anymore. He was done. I recalled Gideon to his ball. It was going to happen eventually. I was surprised it hadn’t happened against Lance, but instead he had managed to pull out a victory there. It was never going to last. He was tired. All my Pokémon were tired. I was tired. But I wasn’t finished.

Septaria’s combination of relentlessness and powerful defenses had been the perfect counter to Gideon. It was about more than type matchups; it was about pure effectiveness. It was about clashing strategies. David had known exactly who I was bringing in and how I would use them. With that information, he could clearly formulate a plan to finish off each of my Pokémon. There was no other way to explain how few commands he gave. Did this mean that he also had a plan ready for Rainer? Or was that what his inevitable Venusaur was for? And what about Zyanya? That didn’t matter now. Right now, I had to beat what was in front of me. I threw Rainer’s ball forward.

I knew Rainer had injuries. I had seen him receive plenty over the past two days. I knew he was tired. I knew he had been through a lot. But he didn’t show it. Not even in the slightest. The Blastoise in front of me squared up to fight just as readily as he had at the beginning of this challenge. Just as readily as he had at the beginning of this journey. This was fitting, now that I thought of it. Rainer had taken down Brock’s Geodude. I had been tired from spending all night getting out of Viridian Forest, but Rainer had pulled through for me. My first victory. Our first. We’d done it many times since. We’d do it again.

Septaria dug its feet into the earth, likely preparing for another Rollout. Let them come. Rainer would not be bowled over as easily as Gideon had.

I slipped easily into connection with Rainer. I focused on images of what Gideon had just gone through to give Rainer an idea of what we were up against. I felt only confidence and determination in return. Hydro Pump will slow it. You will stop it. Rainer understood. That was his plan too.

David gave no command. Whatever plan he had made was holding. I wasn’t too bothered. He was always going to expect Rainer versus a Golem, that didn’t mean he had a proper answer for it.

Once again, Septaria tucked and spun. Rainer lowered his cannons and fired away right as Septaria began to roll. Water blasted the Golem backwards before it could even start to get any momentum. The Hydro Pump’s ricochet sprayed into the air and across the field like a massive fountain, raining droplets of water as far out as my trainer’s box. Septaria roared in displeasure and unfurled, striking the ground for another Earthquake.

Rainer cut short his Hyrdo Pump and got down on all fours for stability as the island began to rumble and shudder once again. He would not be affected that badly by the attack, but he wouldn’t be able to fire as accurately with the ground trembling under him like this. But it didn’t last long. Septaria curled up again and spun off towards Rainer before the field had even stopped shaking.

I didn’t understand why they were so eager to hit with Rollout. It wouldn’t last long. They had to know that Rainer was sturdy enough to stop it in its tracks. And once that happened, a close-range Hydro Pump would spell the end for them. So what was the goal? Damage at any cost? Then why not stick with Earthquake?

By the time Rainer had recovered from the Earthquake and readied his cannons again, Septaria already had too much speed to stop with a Hydro Pump. I racked my brain for what kinds of things a Golem would be able to do… then I realized.

Blast it! Don’t let it get close!

Orange light glowed in the cracks of the Golem’s spinning form as it sped across the field. Rainer carefully leveled his cannons and let loose another Hydro Pump. This time I had to shield my eyes from the spray as the jet of water howled against the oncoming Golem. The blast didn’t seem to fully stop it. Septaria was still spinning away and making progress towards Rainer, now glowing brighter.

And then the Golem exploded.

The shockwave knocked me on my ass and a massive CRACK resounded off the mountains, echoing for longer than it took the dust to clear. I stood back up, brushing myself off. Septaria lay face down in the middle of the field, unmoving. Between it and me was Rainer’s huge shell, where he hid fully withdrawn. He tentatively stuck his head out and looked around. A whistle sounded, barely audible over the ringing in my ears.

“The Champion’s Golem is unable to battle.”

Rainer creakily pushed himself back to his feet. A little battered, but still upright. That was too close. David had very nearly taken down two of my Pokémon with only one of his own.

David looked thoughtful as he recalled his Golem and stowed its ball. I wondered if that was part of his plan too. Septaria would beat Gideon then explode to try to take out another. A sort of pre-calculated desperation.

I watched Rainer shake himself off. You okay? Certainty and drive radiated back across our connection, but they felt like a front. He was exhausted. Beat-up. I only had him and Zyanya at this point. I needed to be careful. Technically we were now tied, but my two remaining Pokémon had just slogged through this entire challenge alongside me, while whatever David had in store was completely fresh. I had no idea what that might be. If a Golem had been the answer to Gideon, with the Explosion as a backup to try to take down Rainer, then what else could he have up his sleeve? Venusaur seemed the obvious direct answer to Rainer, but what would he do about Zyanya?

David took his next ball from his belt, tossed it gently in his hand, then threw it onto the field. Red light became a massive pair of feathered wings and a long, crooked neck. My heart dropped. The Fearow’s terrible screeching call echoed off the mountains just like it had echoed through the trees before those Skyguard had killed Baron. Just like it had echoed through the streets of Saffron during our desperate nighttime entrance. The scars on my face twinged. I froze, trying to collect myself, but also a slave to the torrent of emotions pouring through me.

“Ardea, from the sky,” David said simply. The Fearow took off, flapping her huge wings to slowly gain altitude. Rainer didn’t wait for me. He bellowed a challenge and aimed his cannons, shooting multiple times, but he was unable to track her ascent. Plumes of water from his Hydro Pumps hung awkwardly in the air for brief moments before gravity pulled them down to slap loudly on the ground past David, likely raining down on him significantly as well.

“Watch those,” Olivia said. “It’s not dangerous, but I called a foul on Lorelei for something similar in your match with her.”

Still somewhat overwhelmed, I just nodded in response and forced myself to focus on the silhouette of the Fearow in the sky, despite the memories that it brought. This was now. Not then. A white light shined from Ardea’s beak.

Hyper Beam! Rainer was already withdrawing into his shell. The pearlescent laser cut through the sky and hit Rainer square on with as loud WUMPH that kicked dust into the air. I could feel the heat of the attack on my skin. Despite all that, Rainer seemed okay. He’d blocked the attack, and Ardea wasn’t great with moves like that anyway. It was their only real ranged option.

Rainer popped back out of his shell. Hydro Pump. He blasted water into the air, nearly straight up. It slowed to a stop far short of Ardea and rained back down, pattering innocuously across the whole field. I racked my brain, trying to think if Rainer had any options that would be able to reach that far, but there was nothing.

Several seconds passed. Ardea circled. Rainer growled in frustration. Then another flash of white light shone from above. Rainer managed to roll out of the way of this one. The beam slammed harmlessly into the earth a few feet shy of Rainer, leaving a smoking mark in the dirt.

Hyper Beams were exhausting, which normally resulted in a moment of weakness after using one. But Ardea was high up in the sky, gliding comfortably on massive wings while she caught her breath. And that whole time she was well out of range of Rainer’s cannons. Rainer could take a number of beams, and just as many would likely miss, but if the point of this battle of attrition was to wait until Ardea got tired and landed we would almost certainly lose. They’d chip away at Rainer bit by bit, and lose nothing in return.

I growled alongside Rainer. This was infuriating, but we had no choice. I raised Rainer’s ball and recalled him.

Ardea shrieked at the loss of her prey. The sound chilled me to my bones, making my stomach swoop as I fell through the sky. I knew where I was, but my body was reacting like I was plummeting downwards above the forest west of Saffron. I clenched my fists, digging my nails into the palms of my hands. The sting of pain helped center me in the moment.

A few seconds later I heard Olivia. “Hey, Keith. You okay? Swap timer’s on.”

My fingers tightened around Zyanya’s Safari Ball. She had dealt with the last Fearow I had faced; she could deal with this one. It was what she evolved for. I threw the ball forward.

When Zyanya appeared, she countered the Fearow’s screech with a songlike roar of her own. I closed my eyes and calmed my mind, leaning into our connection. To my surprise, there was not the initial shock of feeling something else’s emotions. Zyanya felt the same way as me. Fear, apprehension, hurt…

This isn’t then. I told myself as much as her. Be brave. Be strong. You beat them then, and this is nothing compared to that.

Ardea had been circling lower while I swapped Pokémon, but now she beat her wings and climbed. Zyanya took off in pursuit.

Electric attacks. This shouldn’t be too hard. A Fearow couldn’t have been Rainer’s counter. It was too easy to swap out of, since I had no apparent chance. Did that mean this was supposed to be David’s answer to Zyanya? It seemed unlikely. Fearow were generally pretty inflexible. But that didn’t mean they couldn’t be dangerous.

Zyanya was still approaching, but she didn’t need to get close. Lightning crackled between her antennae and lanced up through the air at Ardea. David’s Fearow deftly tucked her wings and rolled out of the way, transitioning smoothly into a dive that caught Zyanya off guard. She didn’t use her beak or talons, instead opting to slap Zyanya across the face with her wing and swept past, never spending too much time within range of Zyanya’s claws. If Zyanya could just catch her, this would be over quickly.

Zyanya spun around with the blow, flaring her wings to avoid losing too much altitude. I had to remind myself she wasn’t Baron. She’d only had her wings for a few days. Flight came naturally to her, but she hadn’t mastered it quite yet. She was powerful, fast and strong, but so was David’s Fearow. David was the champion, and this was a champion’s Pokémon. Not some standard issue Team Rocket tool. She far exceeded the strength and ability of any Fearow I had seen before.

David himself appeared calm. His arms were crossed as he watched the aerial battle with an unreadable expression. They were out of range of verbal commands, short of shouting as loud as he could. That didn’t seem to bother him. They still had a plan then. Or perhaps some other form of communication… I decided to keep an eye on him.

Ardea did her dive bomb Wing Attack again. Zyanya fell a bit lower this time. She was tired and hurt, I could feel it through our connection. Her muscles ached, her wings strained, she could feel soreness in her claws every time her heart beat. Yesterday had been tough, and we hadn’t fully been able to recover from it. She caught on to my pity and drove all thoughts of tiredness from her mind. She didn’t want me to see her weakness, but it was apparent nonetheless.

Just hold on. I believe in you. Try to slow it down with a Thunderwave next time it gets close.

Zyanya took off after Ardea, who had begun to climb again. She spat out a Flamethrower that looked like it was just about to singe the Fearow’s tail feathers when Ardea tucked into a somersault. The flames billowed and scattered, never quite touching her. She beat her wings once, dissipating the remaining fire, and dove back down at Zyanya.

I could feel Zyanya’s determination. Her grit. I could feel the energy coursing through her as blue light arced between her antennae. Ardea didn’t seem to notice, diving in for another Wing Attack. Zyanya tried to dodge, but Ardea was too fast, and her wings too big. But this time when Zyanya was sent spinning away, a web of blue electricity scattered through the sky. Ardea twitched and screeched as the lightning pulsed over her. She couldn’t climb back up, not before Zyanya had recovered. This time, we had the height advantage.

Perfect. Now pounce. Zyanya descended on the paralyzed Fearow.

For some reason David seemed entirely unperturbed. He uncrossed his arms, but then just put his hands in his pockets. We were about to tear his Pokémon to shreds and he wasn’t remotely bothered. I knew him well enough to be able to tell that something was up. Whatever plan he had, we hadn’t shaken it yet. We may even be playing into it.

Careful. It was perhaps my most common command this whole challenge. And never terribly useful.

Ardea was falling quickly. She appeared to be purposefully diving now. She reached the ground well before Zyanya caught up to her, flaring her wings and stretching out her talons to land neatly. But she didn’t stop, instead leaping back upwards to meet Zyanya head on. Zyanya didn’t have time to slow down, and wasn’t expecting the sudden reversal. This time Ardea struck not with her wings, but drove her beak directly towards Zyanya’s chest. It gashed across her body, sending a few scales flying free. I felt Zyanya’s shock through our connection.

Façade. Damn. She’s still slow though. Stay close to the ground.

Throughout all of this, David still hadn’t said anything. No verbal commands, no hand signals. He wasn’t psychic. That’s not the kind of thing he would have kept to himself. I was still worried. A Fearow was such a strange choice. Nevertheless, it seemed to be working. They must have known we’d open with Thunderwave to slow them down, giving them an opportunity to catch us by surprise with Façade. But that couldn’t be as far as it went…

Zyanya dropped to the ground feet first, landing heavily. She was trying to catch her breath, but Ardea was relentless. Her huge wings made for relaxed gliding and soaring long distances now beat furiously for rapid acceleration. She came in beak first once more, but this time Zyanya was ready. She caught the beak with her claws, grabbing hold and taking flight. Talons and wings whaled away at her, but to no avail. I tried not to think about the last time I had seen those talons up close and personal. Sharp. Deadly.

Zyanya spun the Fearow around once and then hurled it down into the ground. She had beaten those Fearow too. She could beat this one, no matter how strong it was. No matter how well prepared they were for us. We weren’t going to lose here.

Shock it and pin it.

I could feel Zyanya’s exhaustion, the weight of her own body dragging her downward, the raggedness of her breathing. But her resolve did not waiver. Mustering the last of her strength, Zyanya roared and sent a bolt of lightning crashing down, blasting Ardea before she had a chance to recover. She followed it with her own body, slamming into Ardea and pinning the Fearow’s wings with her claws.

Suddenly electricity flashed between them again, but it was not from Zyanya. It shot out of Ardea’s mouth, coursing through Zyanya and making her jump back in shock and confusion.

I stammered for a brief moment before realizing what had happened. Mirror Move. It was such a simple, unexpected thing. In this case it wouldn’t do much to Zyanya, but once again it was guaranteed damage that was certain to catch us off guard. Zyanya roared through her pain and weariness, leaping back on top of Ardea before she could get her feet under her. Zyanya was relentless, reminding me more of Gideon than herself. She refused to quit. Refused to lose.

She pinned Ardea’s wings again and sent another Thunderbolt through her. She maintained the electricity for as long as she could, growling and straining to keep the Fearow in place. Another Mirror Move flashed, adding to the chaos of lightning crackling between the two of them. Zyanya roared again. We had them down, we would not let them up until the fight was over. The electricity finally faded several seconds later. Ardea was not struggling as aggressively, but Zyanya was weak too. Electricity began to dance between her antennae again, but she was interrupted when Fearow’s body dissolved into red lights. They’d given up.

David’s line referee blew his whistle. “Withdraw from grapple. The Pokémon is forfeit.”

I breathed deeply in relief, but my heartrate still shot up. Two down. One to go. Only one Pokémon stood between me and the championship. David looked thoughtful as he carefully stowed his Fearow’s Poké Ball. He clearly had a plan. I didn’t think it involved Zyanya actually winning that fight, but he had a plan. Recalling David’s team, he didn’t have an obvious answer to Zyanya. He was probably afraid we’d be able to rain fire from above on any of his grounded Pokémon. So, he’d opted for his flyer, who was at least fast enough to do some damage. He probably assumed he had enough tricks up his sleeve to get the KO against an already beat up Zyanya, even if it wasn’t the best matchup on paper.

Zyanya hadn’t moved since Ardea was recalled. She was down on all fours, breathing heavily. Her wings and limbs shook with exhaustion. That had been close. Perhaps closer than I was giving David credit for. You’ve done amazing. She shakily stood up and looked at me, her eyes and mind filled with a confidence that belied her physical state. My heart swelled. To think that I had entered this challenge thinking she was one of my weaker Pokémon. But there was no hint of her relative inexperience anywhere to be found. I’m so proud of you. Joy and love shone through our connection.

I can take you out if you want. You’ve done so much more than I ever could have expected. No sooner had the thought crossed my mind than denial and determination from her burned it away. She wanted to finish this. All the way to the end. Fight until she couldn’t anymore. I couldn’t take that away from her.

I was practically vibrating, but David appeared calm, even though he was down to his last Pokémon. His eyes were closed and he was turning his last Poké Ball over in his hands, running his thumb over the surface. Hobbs pointed at him, indicating he only had a few seconds left to send out his final Pokémon. David threw the ball forward with more strength than the previous two. Perhaps he was getting excited.

The scent of flowers both sweet and bitter, both fresh and rotting, caught on the breeze as David’s starter materialized on the field. The Venusaur shook himself off, sending a plume of pollen falling gently to the ground. He was bigger than any Venusaur I’d seen before. Squat and strong, with lush fronds and a healthy pink flower growing proudly on his back.

“Alright Raff, this is it,” David said. “You’re the one who got me here. The title of Champion is as much yours as it is mine. Let’s defend it.”

Raff roared in response. It was a low, guttural sound that rumbled in my chest, but was not loud enough to echo like so many battle cries had over the last few days. It was not a roar of dominance or bravado, but simple confidence. They had won dozens of battles together. They could win this one too.

Zyanya shifted. She didn’t have much left in the tank, but she was ready nonetheless. We had won plenty of battles ourselves. We would win this one.

Alright. You were always going to be our best bet against this thing. Keep your distance and use fire.

Zyanya spread her wings and took to the sky. Raff watched her carefully and spread his fronds. The flower on his back flexed forward slightly.

That’s Solar Beam. Keep your distance.

Scattered lights danced across Raff’s flower, mingling together in the center to form a bright ball. The beam itself was nearly silent, only audible as a subtle hiss in the air, but it seared a line into my retinas as it lasered into the sky at Zyanya. Fortunately, she saw the attack coming and managed to roll out of the way. Getting in close might have given us an opportunity to disrupt the beam, but it would also make hitting Zyanya a lot easier. We had to avoid taking damage at all costs. Zyanya was too hurt already.

Now. Dive and Flamethrower.

Zyanya tucked her wings and plunged downwards, belching flames as soon as she was close enough to do some real damage, about ten meters up. The fire washed over Raff, completely obscuring him from view. Almost immediately a pair of vines thrust out of the flames and grabbed at Zyanya, winding themselves around Zyanya’s legs. Her own flames had prevented her from being able to see them coming.

The fire faded as Zyanya shifted her attention to trying to escape her bonds. Raff appeared in the midst of the dissolving flames, a little charred but still more than fighting fit. Zyanya slashed at the vine wrapped around her left leg, slicing it clean off with only two swipes of her claws. But she was already being pulled downward. Raff groaned and retracted the severed vine back into his flower so quickly that it audibly whipped in the air. No sooner had the injured vine disappeared than a fresh one shot forth from between his fronds. Zyanya tried to slap it away with her tail, but it managed to grab right back on to her leg. Her wings beat furiously, but she was being dragged lower and lower. I could tell she was struggling.

Zyanya inhaled for another flamethrower, but even that slight shift in focus was enough for Raff to pluck her from the sky like an apple and slam her into the ground. She hit the dirt hard, blasting up a cloud of dust. Wings and tail flailing, Zyanya spun and scrambled to face her opponent, but the vines began to creep further, pulling and twisting, forcing her off balance. Meanwhile, Raff’s flower tilted slightly to catch the sun and tendrils of energy began flowing along its fronds. Solar Beam again. Zyanya couldn’t escape. This would be their finisher.

Fire. All you can manage.

I could feel Zyanya’s frustration with herself. With her sluggishness and exhaustion.

I know. I’m proud of you. Everything you’ve done. We can bring it home.

Zyanya roared her songlike cry one last time and spewed a Flamethrower at Raff. Fire met raw solar energy. The searing light and heat forced me to turn my eyes away, but I stayed connected with Zyanya. The Solar Beam caught her in the chest and knocked her over backward, blasting her scales with concentrated sunlight. She fell, and she did not get back up.

Olivia blew her whistle.

“The Challenger’s Dragonite is unable to battle!” I was already recalling her. Nerves had me reacting like every second mattered, even though I had plenty of time to send out my next Pokémon. Not like I had to think about which one that would be…

I tried to stop myself from shaking. We were so close to victory, and so close to defeat. I had only one Pokémon left. One of six, compared to the fourteen we had beaten. We’d come so far. We’d fought so hard to get here. I placed my hand on my final Poké Ball and pulled in slow motion, feeling the magnetic clasp strain and then snap open as it disengaged. For the final time in by entire journey, I threw the ball onto the field, reveling in every instant as the smooth metal slipped from my fingers. A pop, a hiss, the familiar flash of red light. Rainer stood before me, facing down his final opponent. I slipped easily into our connection, every memory of traveling and battling alongside Rainer washing over me, over us. Brock, Misty, Silph Tower. His evolutions, my evolutions. We had spent so long apart, but it wasn’t enough to break our bond. We’d set out on this journey together and we would finish it together, win or lose.

This is it. Common sense says it’s not gonna happen. We lose the type matchup. We lose on energy. We probably even lose on experience. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. If I had a choice of any other Pokémon on the team, even Flareth or Psyke, I’d still choose you. If I could go back now and pick a Charmander, I wouldn’t. I’d still choose you. If I could have Criss’s Flareon, Lance’s Dragonite, even Project Titan itself, I wouldn’t.

I choose you. And I always will.


Rainer bellowed, calling out his strength of spirit for all to hear. Raff responded in kind. Rainer’s cannons flashed in the morning sun as he lowered them and blasted off a Hydro Pump that caught Raff’s Solar Beam halfway across the field. The two attacks collided, scattering in heat and steam and dust with a terrific explosion.

I stood strong and blinked through the cloud of dust, wind whipping at my jacket. The air smelled musty. Sweat, ozone, dirt, water, and through it all: flowers. I smiled. Smelled like a Pokémon battle.

When the smoke cleared, neither one of our Pokémon looked like they had even been touched. Rainer growled and lowered his cannons again. Another Hydro Pump would beat out another Solar Beam, even if it wasn’t going to do as much damage. It’d keep them distracted. But Raff didn’t tilt his flower to catch the sun again. Instead, he plunged his vines into the earth and growled a response to Rainer.

“All out, Raff. Nothing more to hold back,” David said calmly. Then, voice shaking slightly, more urgently, more excitedly than any of his previous commands, he continued. “Give ‘em everything we have.”

Raff roared and two more vines unfurled from the plant on his back. I flinched. I’d always thought they only really had the two at a time. The mighty Venusaur shook his flower, scattering seeds and pollen and whatever else. The two new vines lashed out at Rainer. He managed to barely get a quick shot out of his cannons that caught Raff in the shoulder before the vines caught him. One slapped him across the face while the other wrapped around his right shoulder cannon and pushed it upward.

Rainer groaned. Direct pressure on one of his cannons like that did not feel pleasant. I could sense it through our connection. Like my arm was being pushed out of its socket from the inside. He tried to claw at the vine, but the second vine grabbed his wrist and pulled it away. He angrily bit down on it, severing the vine but chomping on his own arm more than anything.

He can’t push effectively with appendages like that, just whip and pull. Get this fight close and your cannons will have to cause some damage.

Rainer lurched forward, but didn’t get far before Raff’s first two vines burst from the ground and wrapped themselves around his ankles, pulling him down into the dirt and making it impossible to do more than slide his feet forward along the ground.

Rainer roared and shifted his attentions back to the vine around his cannon. This time he managed to pull it down within range of his mouth to chomp it clean off. But where Raff had previously pulled wounded vines back to recover, this time he instead pressed on. Both vines wrapped themselves around Rainer’s midsection and yanked him straight down to the ground with a dull womp. Despite being belly in the dirt, Rainer’s cannons were now aligned with their target, and he wasted no time in firing them.

The water caught Raff in the face, making him splutter and shake his head. As Raff blindly tried to push Rainer such that the terrific jet of water wouldn’t hit him anymore, I watched as tiny tendrils crept out from the buds on the ends of the vines holding Rainer’s feet. They snaked around the vines themselves, then Rainer’s legs, slipping between his scales. It was like watching a timelapse of kudzu claiming an untended porch. I felt tingling around my own ankles, although whether that was from our connection or simple empathy I couldn’t tell.

Then I felt Rainer groan. A dull green glow pulsed along the tendrils and the vines reaching out of the ground. His energy.

Mega Drain. Giga Drain. I don’t know. I named the technique because I could. Because it made me feel like I was contributing something. Rainer was struggling. In pain. And I couldn’t think of a way out.

Break free. You have to.

He was trying. Trying so hard.

“Now!” David shouted.

The vines’ grip slackened and they began to retreat. Rainer managed to push himself up a little bit, but Raff had begun galloping across the field towards him. Rainer didn’t have time to brace, and took the tackle directly in the chest. It hurt, but not badly enough. They had made a mistake. We could capitalize.

You can win the close quarters. Just don’t let him get away.

Rainer went in head first. His forehead smacked Raff between the eyes, disorienting the Venusaur enough for Rainer to get his stubby arms wrapped around Raff’s neck from above. He leaned over, pressing all of his weight on his opponent, and began to tear into the fronds on Raff’s back with his mouth. Raff let out a loud croak of surprise and pain as leaves and foliage scattered through the air. No special powers needed. Rainer was strong enough to take this thing down.

Then David spoke up. “Like we practiced, buddy. You have ‘em where you want ‘em. Distract and disengage!”

There was a soft popping sound and suddenly the air around Raff’s flower—and Rainer’s head—was full of a smoke of purple spores.

No!

Rainer inhaled them before either of us even realized what was happening. The spores caught in his lungs and made him cough and weaken his grip. The vines reawakened, shooting out from the crumpled mess of Raff’s fronds and grasping at Rainer once more. Raff easily slipped away and began to scuttle backwards, scuffing the dirt. He was pushing himself away with his vines as much as he was actually walking.

I tried to check in on Rainer, pushing myself deeper into our connection. His breathing was choked. The spores clogged his throat and pulsed through his veins. Every heartbeat throbbed throughout his body. He was tired. Hurt. He had been before this fight even started.

“Finish it!” David cried, punching the air.

All four of Raff’s vines disengaged, pulling back and rearing up like a snake ready to strike its prey. They spun and wound around each other, coiling into one single limb the size of a small tree trunk. Raff roared and the giant vine pulsed green, energy coursing along it and molding it to grow thorns the size of my fist. I’d never seen Frenzy Plant pulled off in person, but it was clear why this was their finisher. Rainer staggered forward, trying to lower his cannons, but I could sense his vision was blurring. His reflexes were slowing. Even if I could think of a way to counter or block this, he likely wouldn’t be able to execute. Not anymore.

Frenzy Plant wasn’t a smooth, elegant motion like Vine Whip. It was sheer brute force. The vine slammed into Rainer from the side with the force of a tree falling on him, which was roughly what it sounded like. He wasn’t even able to brace himself. The impact of the attack echoed through our connection, making me wince. Rainer was sent tumbling diagonally backwards head over heels, ending up splaying awkwardly on his back. His weight pressed his shell slightly into the dirt. His limbs hung uselessly. I feared the worst.

But before Olivia could make the call, Rainer groaned and curled his head upwards like he was doing a sit-up. He swung his arms and tipped over, landing on his stomach. He was still conscious, still moving, despite it all. Somehow. Fighting fit? Not exactly. But he wasn’t going down. I choked up a little bit. He never went down.

The Frenzy Plant limb unfurled into its requisite vines, which retreated to their panting owner. Raff looked worn down, shaky. That attack had taken a lot out of him. Judging by the look on David’s face, he hadn’t expected Rainer to survive it. It would take them a moment to recover, but Rainer would need that moment for recovery too.

Rainer, I…

He glared at me as he shakily pushed himself to his feet. He staggered slightly and turned back to face our opponent. He crouched and lowered his cannons.

But Raff had recovered first. Two vines lashed out, wrapping themselves around Rainer’s arms. Two more plunged into the ground and came up under Rainer’s feet, tying him to the earth. The tiny Mega Drain tendrils began to creep out once again, worming their way between his scales. Rainer fell to his knees, his breathing haggard through the poison. I hadn’t given him a command in a while. I had no idea what to do. But he refused to give up.

My heart broke watching him.

It was over. Even if he wouldn’t admit it. He wanted it so bad. Maybe more than me. And I’d failed him. I was struggling to breathe.

I’m sorry, buddy. I couldn’t do it.

Rainer groaned and pushed himself up so he was only on one knee.

I should have had a plan for this. But I didn’t. It’s not your fault. You shouldn’t have to keep pushing through this.

He shakily dragged his other foot back under him.

I tried to disguise a dry sob as a cough. I think I’m going to… I couldn’t find it in me to even think the words. I raised my left hand. “Olivia, I…”

Rainer didn’t even turn his head to look at me. Just cocked it sideways.

And I knew the look on his face.

I’d seen it before. So many times before. Not just on him.

In my mind I saw him again back at that courtyard at the Indigo Plateau, just a few short days ago when I wasn’t sure about signing up for this challenge. I saw Baron, just a Pidgeotto then, glaring at me on that hilltop north of Celadon as we looked down on the Rockets attacking the police Growlithe trainer. Baron had given me the same look before he’d cut me loose and let me drop into that pond, saving my life. Giving up his own. If I wouldn’t do it, he would.

My Pokémon had never given up on me. Who was I to give up on them?

I clenched my fists and fought back tears. I could do it. I would do it. I wasn’t going to force my Pokémon make that decision for me.

If Rainer refused to lose, then so did I.

Olivia had her whistle at the ready. “What’s up, Keith? You calling it?”

I shook my head. “No. Nevermind.”

We can do this. A pang of respect, of love, of mutual understanding reflected between me and Rainer. Warmth. Hold on.

David had his arms crossed. He was thoughtful. I knew he’d expected to win by now. Maybe win at any moment as Raff drained Rainer’s life force away. He didn’t understand why we hadn’t given in yet. I wouldn’t expect him to.

Raff looked exhausted. This whole battle had been taxing, and he’d taken more than a few hits. In fact, he still looked a little disoriented. He kept blinking and squinting, like his eyes wouldn’t focus right. Maybe that headbutt had caused more damage than expected. In fact, close range combat had been pretty devastating. That Poison Powder hurt, but it’s not like he could do it again. I scanned along the vines holding Rainer in place. Tying him to his opponent.

Rainer?

My starter huffed.

Pull him into range. Then finish this in melee.

Our emotional connection flared. I poured everything I had into it. I focused on my determination. My passion. Rainer roared. He didn’t slash at the vines with his claws. Instead, he wrapped them even further, furling the vines around his wrists and pulling. What little slack was in the vines was soon taken out. Raff’s eyes widened. So did David’s.

Pull.

Rainer yanked his right arm hard. Raff slid forward a foot. His feet scrambled, kicking up dust. Rainer coiled up the slack and yanked his left arm. Raff slid forward another foot. Rainer pulled again and again, like one of the fisherman I’d often seen in Pallet Town hauling in a net full of fish. The tendrils around Rainer’s feet unwound and retreated back into the earth, and eventually back into Raff’s fronds. Rainer kept pulling.

“Dig in!” David cried. Desperation was apparent in his voice.

Raff tried to do as commanded, forcing his feet into the packed soil. It was to little avail. Rainer kept pulling him closer and closer. The two vines that had just retreated dug into the ground behind Raff, but they didn’t have much to hold on to. The Venusaur kept sliding closer.

Eventually, Raff was only a few feet away.

“Solar Beam!” David said. “Point blank!”

They didn’t have time. With a mighty jerk of both arms, Rainer pulled Raff into headbutt range and let him have it. Two loud smacks resounded across the field as Rainer headbutted him twice. Raff, barely conscious, tried to focus a solar beam. Beads of energy began forming on his flower.

Rainer got down on all fours and leveled his cannons.

Grass resists water. Ideally. I’d heard it said that some Blastoise were capable of punching holes in steel with their cannons. I don’t think Rainer was going for quite that, but nevertheless. A firehose directly to the forehead would be devastating for anyone.

The water cracked when it hit Raff in the face. Rainer only held him there for a second before letting the vines go. Raff was sent tumbling back across the field, past his starting position, past David, out of bounds.

David’s line referee raised his hand as Rainer eased off his water cannons, starting the out of bonds timer. Raff had only a few seconds to rejoin the fight.

Raff staggered to his feet. I heard David muttering encouragement, but it sounded empty. The Venusaur took a slow, shaky step forward. Then another. Then he collapsed.

David’s line referee blew his whistle.

Chief Referee Hobbs blew his whistle three times.

Part of me wishes I’d paid more attention in those few seconds to hear an official League referee naming me the victor and new champion of the Indigo League. But in the moment, I didn’t care. I was sprinting onto the field and tackling Rainer from behind with a hug that was probably more aggressive than it should have been.

Rainer turned and awkwardly rested his wide head on my shoulder. My tears flowed freely.

We did it.

Over Rainer’s shoulder I watched David slowly walk up to Raff and crouch down. He stroked his Venusaur’s head a couple times, then recalled him to his Poké Ball. He stayed crouched for a few seconds after, staring at the ground where his starter had fallen, then slowly stood up. I watched him roll his shoulders, then he turned to approach. I pulled away from Rainer. I was vaguely aware of the reporters and the rest of the Elite Four striding towards us from the dock, but I didn’t pay any attention to them.

“That… was the best battle I’ve ever had.” David’s voice cracked slightly.

I wasn’t sure what to say. My heart was soaring, but I felt a nagging shame at taking something like this away from one of my best friends.

He swallowed and blinked at me, clearly also at a loss for words. Then, suddenly, he pulled me into a hug.

“I’m glad it was you,” I heard him whisper, barely audible.

That was the photograph that was used to announce my championship to the world. A battle hardened Blastoise standing on a field of victory, watching two friends from Pallet Town embrace in shared joy and sorrow.

*****

Thanks for reading
 
Chapter 56 - Finale

AetherX

make plove not warble
Joined
Jun 10, 2010
Messages
2,102
Reaction score
546
Chapter 56

I awkwardly adjusted my tie as I listened to Lance’s muffled voice and waited for my cue. I was backstage at the elaborate setup they had built for the ceremony in the courtyard in front of the League building at Indigo Plateau. Most of the workers milling about ignored me, but Andrew stood by my side. My assistant. I had an assistant now.

“You okay?” Andrew asked, looking up from one of those leather folder things important people carry documents around in.

“Just not used to dressing up,” I responded, looking down at my fresh new tailored suit. I’d never even had a tailored suit before. It looked good I suppose, but it just felt… wrong.

“There aren’t a lot of these formal events fortunately, but you gotta meet the dress code. Look the part, you know?”

“Dress code?” I said incredulously. “Lance is wearing a cape.”

Andrew smirked. “Do you want to wear a cape?”

“Not really.”

Andrew laughed, shrugged, and went back to his papers. I wasn’t even sure what he was doing. Scheduling stuff for me, maybe?

“It feels weird being celebrated like this without any of my Pokémon,” I said. “They deserve the honor more than I do.”

“Hard to get them to follow the dress code too,” he said dryly without even looking up.

I laughed. “I dunno, Rainer would look cute in a t-shirt I think, don’t you?”

“He’d still need pants.”

“Yeah, I’m not gonna be the enforcer on that one.”

Before he could respond, I heard Lance’s voice rise from the stage.

“…your new Champion of the Indigo League, Keith Anders!

I adjusted my tie one last time and practically jumped up the steps onto the platform.

We’d thoroughly rehearsed that morning, so despite my nerves I walked confidently up to the podium Lance beckoned me to, and blinked in the bright afternoon sun as I proceeded to stumble through the brief speech Andrew had helped me prepare. It was a pretty cut and dry speech, and I’d memorized it thoroughly, so I barely even noticed I had started saying it. Some stuff about how proud I was to be Champion. Lots of thanking the League and my family and my Pokémon. Writing it had felt weird. Speaking it felt weird. I hadn’t become Champion for anyone but myself. It was what I had always wanted. To share that childish joy that still leaped in my heart every time I realized that I was the Champion felt like I was bragging.

I looked out at the crowd. At the outskirts of the courtyard were various reporters, trainers, citizens of the Plateau. My only request for this ceremony had been to have it at least somewhat open to the public. David had shied away from publicity and opted for a private ceremony. That sounded enticing, but I figured after Saffron… people could use an excuse to celebrate. Even if it was just for some dumb kid from Pallet Town. I’d eaten plenty of crappy Pokémon Center meals on the League’s dime over the past year, why not have them pay for everyone’s lunch this time?

In a cordoned off area in front of the stage the VIPs sat at a cluster of tables. Many were Gym Leaders from Kanto, Johto, and elsewhere. Misty winked when we made eye contact, making me stutter in the middle of a sentence. Surge was nowhere to be found. There were yet more people I didn’t recognize. And right at the front was my mother. She was wearing the nicest dress she owned, but still looked underdressed next to the champion of Sinnoh in her immaculate black gown, and Sabrina in a somewhat uncharacteristic yet striking scarlet dress, both of whom sat at her table.

Mom beamed up at me. Her smile was tight lipped and her eyes watery. I could tell she was desperately trying to keep from crying. I held her gaze for a moment too long. Here sat the woman who had continued to raise my brother and I after my dad died, uncomplaining, stepping up into every role that he had previously taken. Despite my manic ramblings as a six-year-old, she had never really understood my fascination with Pokémon battling, but she had always supported it. Always listened. Eagerly even. And a year after Dad had died, when I had resigned myself to the fact that it would probably be best to stay in Pallet and find a job, she had been the one to remind me that the deadline to apply for League sponsorship was coming up. It had never been optional to her. I was always going to set out on this journey and she was always going to be behind me, cheering me on.

I choked, unable to say the final line of my speech. It was a last banal thank you to everyone and no one.

I coughed and looked down. There were no notes on the podium. I improvised. “I’ve… Ever since my dad died… I’ve had doubts. About if I really wanted this anymore. If I really wanted to be here. It’s hard… holding on to a dream like this when you’re carrying a burden.” I looked up and scanned the crowd again. Their faces were quiet. Pensive. My scars twinged. “I know we’ve all had a rough couple weeks. I’m sure some of you carry these kinds of burdens too… I’ve learned something on my journey here. Going through something like we have makes every day hard, even the good ones. But I’ve also learned we need to appreciate what we have while we still have it. We should find reasons to celebrate. Seek out joy… even if it won’t come to us naturally.”

I met eyes with my mother. “Maybe the struggles don’t end here. But I am glad I made it. I’m glad I never gave up.” I looked back down, trying to hold in my tears. “Thank you.”

The crowd erupted into applause. I forced a smile and waved at no one in particular for a moment before the character I was pretending to be finally broke. I stole off the to the side of the stage, jumped off, and headed for my mom. We embraced, holding each other for far too long. She cried into my chest. I held her close, not letting anyone see. She tried to say something a few times but never quite got a word out before breaking into sobs. I just replied with. “I know… I know…”

By the time we had pulled apart, most of the rest of the party had turned to food and libations, but a short line had formed in front of me. At the head of it was Sabrina. Mom stroked my arm and squeezed my hand.

“I suppose I should let you get go,” she said, returning to the table. I couldn’t choke out a response.

Sabrina strode up to me and extended a hand. “None of my students have ascended to as high of a position. I admit I had my doubts when you first approached me, but ever since the Rockets were turned from Saffron—”

I couldn’t help myself. I hugged her. Maybe it was out of thankfulness for the things she had taught me, without which I would never be here. Maybe it was just to hide my own tears of joy. She didn’t seem to know how to respond. Eventually she just patted me on the back.

“Thank you,” I whispered to her as I pulled away.

Her face was unflinching, unresponsive. “It was my pleasure.” She bowed, then turned to speak to my Mom, who she approached with a reverence I had never seen her give to anyone else.

Cynthia, the aging Champion of Sinnoh was next. Then Brock, the first gym leader I had ever beaten. Then dozens of other people.

A live jazz band played a variety of songs in the background. Some covers of pieces I recognized, and one particular folk tune I had specifically requested since the lyrics mentioned Pallet Town in particular. I shook hands. I hugged. I laughed. I tried not to cry. I was the Champion.

*****

The last few hundred yards of the mountain trail were nothing but stone and gravel, well above the tree line, but I stubbornly kept my eyes on the ground to avoid spoiling the view for myself until I was at the very top. Flareth and Tesla traipsed along behind me, glad to get out. I had passed Psyke ten to twenty minutes prior, meditating along the side of the trail when we were still in the trees. He had likely teleported to the summit by now. Zyanya was flying above, while both Rainer and Gideon were still resting in their Poké Balls. It was three days since our last battle, and the first chance for me to have any time to myself. The two of them were still tired. I was surprised Zyanya was so ready to go, but I guess she was just glad to fly.

David had mentioned this trail to me. Said it took you from the shores of the lake all the way to the peak of one of the highest mountains in the area. It had not been an easy hike. Lots of elevation in a relatively short distance, but…

I staggered the last few gravelly steps to the summit and moved to sit on a nearby boulder, finally turning to admire the view. It was worth it. Far below the late afternoon sun blazed a yellow-white line across the lake, digging into my retinas. I raised a hand to block it and looked at the Champion’s Complex, a glittering crystal set against the rocky mountainside of the valley. My new home. This whole place was supposed to be my new home.

Psyke was sitting on another boulder nearby, eyes closed. Flareth curled up in front of me, opting for a view of me rather than the valley. Tesla bobbed nearby. I plucked Gideon and Rainer’s Poké Balls from my belt and dropped them in front of me. Gideon looked at me, then out at the valley below us, and crouched, tracing lines in the gravel with his blades. Rainer sidled up close to the rock where I sat and curled into a ball, laying down for a nap. He’d fought hard. I didn’t mind him taking a rest. He deserved it. Hell, if they hadn’t made me go to that ceremony, I probably would have slept for the past three days as well. Tesla continued to float around the summit, occasionally inspecting random rocks with an eye that could probably see things I could never imagine.

We sat like that for hours. The boulder was surprisingly comfortable. I watched the reflection of the sun stretch across the lake as it fell lower in the sky. I watched the clouds slowly coast by, silently envying the unhurried deliberateness with which they moved. I watched the pale green trees that speckled the opposite mountainside tremble in the breeze. Larix lyallii David had called them. I couldn’t remember the common name. Apparently they were a pine tree that turned yellow and lost their needles in the autumn. I watched Zyanya circle again and again until she finally decided to join us upon the summit. Just me and my Pokémon. Having walked all day. Just like we had almost every day this past year. I missed Tim and Criss, but my Pokémon made up for it in quiet companionship.

Eventually the sun set to a point where I decided it was time to go.

“Come on guys,” I said to my Pokémon, all now lazing around the mountaintop, “time to head back.”

They all groaned and rolled over. “Alright, alright.” I creakily stood up and began to return them to their Poké Balls. Rainer, my starter, my finisher. Tesla, my stoic protector. Psyke, insight personified. Flareth, ever present and ever loyal. Gideon, a fish out of water only recently learning to swim. And finally…

Zyanya perked up when I picked her Safari Ball from my belt.

“What’s up?” I asked. “Not ready to head back yet? The sun’s gonna set by the time I get to the lake. You can fly if you want, I guess.”

Zyanya looked at me and let out a low, steady hum. She bowed over low, presenting her back to me. My heart stopped.

“You want me to…?”

She looked at me, her big brown eyes full of emotion.

“I…” Not counting the Charizard that had carried me from the Plateau to Lake S’uylu, I hadn’t ridden a Pokémon since…

Zyanya hummed louder, her voice striking a chord both literally and figuratively.

I approached her and laid a hand on her neck. Her scales felt cold from the cool mountain wind, but I could also feel the warmth of her body beneath them. She pulled her legs underneath her and stretched her wings, ready to fly.

I hesitated for a second. “I…” I stuttered again. Zyanya just spread her wings wider in response. I could see them catching the wind on the mountain top, but refusing to let it carry her off the ground.

“Ok.” I said it to myself as much as her. Slowly and carefully, I straddled her and settled down, embracing her long neck.

Immediately, the wind caught her wings and carried her upward. She slowly lifted off the mountaintop. My stomach swooped and I gripped her neck tighter. It felt odd. It wasn’t quite like the comfortable seating in a saddle like the Charizard, nor was it the soft cushion of Baron’s feathers. I had to grip Zyanya with my arms and my knees in order to feel solid, but it was still surprisingly stable. Zyanya lifted off and dived downward, completely ignoring the trail I had used to climb to the summit, instead swinging straight down across the jagged granite of the mountainside. A brief second later she pulled sharply upwards, her wings catching the wind and inflating like a balloon. My stomach swooped again. A brilliant, wonderful feeling that I hadn’t realized how much I had missed.

There was an updraft off the lake. Or the mountain. I couldn’t tell, but Zyanya could. It carried us higher and higher. Eventually we were gliding just below the clouds. I craned my neck to look upwards and saw fluffy white cotton interspersed with clear blue. We were well above the other mountains.

All sorts of emotions swelled within me. “I’d like… to see the ocean again. Home.”

Zyanya hummed and swerved left, carrying us towards the Indigo Plateau. Maybe towards Pallet. We soared, Zyanya’s wings barely flapping, across the Alizarin Mountains. I briefly saw the Indigo Plateau pass by to my right, but I wasn’t looking at it.

As soon as it was visible over the mountains, I stared out across the ocean, my head resting somewhat uncomfortably on the scales of Zyanya’s neck. The deep blue and gray, with a sky of lighter blue and white and swelling orange. It was exactly what I remembered from when I was a kid watching the sunset while walking on the beach with my Dad. I’d always thought the sky was the color of a Dragonite’s scales. But I could see now it wasn’t. My Dragonite was just a little more yellow.

My Dragonite. I tried to hold in the tears as I clutched Zyanya.

Here I was, barely holding on to a dragon hundreds of feet above the ground. I was the Champion. I was the Champion. It didn’t feel real. I was excited, but this was something I had dreamed of for so long that it felt like it could only possibly exist in dreams. It was surreal.

Zyanya stretched her wings and coasted on the wind. Viridian Forest flew by rapidly below us. The beginning of my journey. And it hadn’t been a pleasant one. We dipped lower, tracing Route 1 along the various streams leading from the forest to the ocean. Far, far below I could see the muddy road that I had trudged along when I’d left my home a year ago, followed by Baron in the sky and Rainer in the water next to me. Faintly, I could see a dot of color on the path. Without even trying, Zyanya and I slipped into a psychic connection. My head throbbed ever so slightly, a reminder of my bout against Agatha. We dipped lower, Zyanya catching on to my curiosity.

Eventually I could make it out. Someone was riding their bike along Route 1. Fast. Probably trying to get to Viridian City before the sun dipped below the horizon. Another dot zipped along behind them. A Pidgey, or Pidgeotto maybe, followed the bike rider. I took one last erstwhile glance at the ocean and we looped around to follow the rider so far below us. I watched the two of them slice across the countryside, human and Pokémon together. Zyanya was fast though, and we had the advantage of altitude. We quickly outpaced them and looped around for another look. We were even lower now and I could see the glint off their bike helmet.

The bicyclist suddenly slowed to a stop, and the blurry dot of a bird behind them caught up. We dipped a bit lower. They were pointing up at us.

I imagined for a moment that I was that trainer far below. Recently set out on my journey and recently accompanied by my new avian friend. The two of us would fight many battles together, overcome many obstacles, and grow to be so much more than we had ever imagined. But we didn’t know it yet. For now we were just looking in wonder at the sight far above us. A Dragonite. A rare sight drifting this far from the mountains. Its yellow scales glinting bright gold in the setting sun. An omen of hope, blessing the travels of a trainer that was as of yet unremarkable. Inspiring courage, ambition, passion, teamwork, a spirit of adventure.

Zyanya caught an updraft that carried us upwards into the uncomfortable moisture of the clouds where the air was thinner, but the sky was clear, purple and blue. We were headed back to the lake. Back to the place, the position that I had earned. Despite how surreal it felt, it was like it couldn’t be any other way. There was no other future that I could see myself in besides this, here, now. Flying high above Kanto. The Champion of the Indigo League. I could feel Zyanya’s agreement. Where else could we have ever been? I leaned low over her neck and closed my eyes, suddenly closer to her than ever before. I couldn’t forget that trainer below us, looking up in wonder. Maybe they had always wanted a Dragonite too. Maybe they wanted to be the best, to be the champion.

I whispered into the wind. “It’s always been our dream.”

~fin
 

AetherX

make plove not warble
Joined
Jun 10, 2010
Messages
2,102
Reaction score
546
And that’s a wrap.

I put a lot of effort into trying to recapture here a bit of the joy and wonder that attracted me to Pokémon fanfiction in the first place, so hopefully that came through. A little bit nostalgic, a little bit campy. It was never really a question for me as to whether or not I was going to actually finish this, but I won’t say that I didn’t struggle to find the motivation. The story was never terribly popular, nor was it particularly good. But I was writing for me. Because I had a story I wanted to tell and was enjoying telling it. I wanted to create something like the things that had inspired me so much. That and simple pigheaded determination (and a few bottles of whiskey) got me to finish writing it. But if I was just writing for myself, then why bother posting?

There are a lot of people who have read this story in pieces or in whole over the last ten years, which is pretty cool to think about. I got a lot of feedback, some positive and some very deservedly critical. To think that there are people across the world who have read this and gotten literally any amount of joy out of it is a really special feeling. That’s why I came back. To paraphrase my favorite music artist: maybe someone, somewhere finds the warmth of summer in the stories I write. That was a gift that I couldn’t recognize. The work that stirred your soul, you can make for someone else.

There are a lot of people that deserve thanks for helping me write this story from start to finish. Too many to list, and I’m afraid that if I do I’ll miss someone. If you think that I might be talking about you, then I absolutely am. Every single person who has ever written or read or reviewed in the Writer’s Workshop, even if it wasn’t my stories, has helped me immensely. You guys are why I spent so much time here over the years through all the ups and downs, and I am blessed to call you my friends. There are two people I want to specify though…

@Beth Pavell my long-suffering beta reader, and currently our fearless leader of the Workshop. Without your input this story would be far lesser. (He’s a very talented writer in his own right, definitely check out his work)

And this might come out of the blue, but @Life I don’t know if you have any interest at all in finishing reading this story (or if you’re even active on this forum anymore). You mentioned a couple times that for some inexplicable reason this story is one of your favorites. I want you to know that comment alone provided me with so much energy and motivation over the years. That someone out there is or was genuinely invested in something I made really helped me out of some low points.

I hope that all of you that have read this story at any point in the last ten years have grown and flourished as much as Keith and I have. You deserve the best.

As always, thank you so, so much for reading!
 

System Error

Given power
Joined
Aug 20, 2007
Messages
2,054
Reaction score
1,557
This was a surprise to be seen continued. And okay after getting demotivated when I first sat down because FUCK XENOFORO I DIDN'T CLICK ANYTHING, let's pick up where I think I left off and see how much I can remember. Particularly since you mentioned that a part of your inspiration was how Fritz Westmyn never gave verbal signals to be secretive in commands; which I ironically defied and did something the opposite of in my new metaseries. And hey seem to have decided to get remotivated just in time for the ending, so let's push all the way there.

- And in the end after an epic aerial fight Nolan accomplishes fucking nothing.
- Forgot how bloody this fic was...also shoutouts to God and not Arceus
- Also forgot psychic powers were a thing here. Evidently it's been forever and all I had to go on was some really old profile comments :p
- No Pokemon allowed unless asked.
- Man someone give her the memo that Psychic isn't all that anymore. Then again she is biased
- Shoutouts to free badges for good reasons
- They're all Sky Trainers now, and I think before Sky Trainers were a thing.
- TEAR OFF THAT MASK AND REVEAL YOUR TRUE FORM. I AM THOU. THOU ART I. Well, I guess P5 wasn't out before this fic existed.
- Like interpretation that makes Pokemon closer to animals that can become more.
- Well one thing I remember is Criss was a typical sardonic and sarcastic action girl. I guess almost dying makes one loosen up and enjoy life more.
- That's one way to break the language barrier
- Aesops intensify.
- Your mind makes it real, meet your saying it makes it real.
- Hm, mentioning a sequel in the comments...although, that was in 2015, and here we are now just finishing
- Man imagine giving your kid a damn knife when setting out as a trainer
- Backstory time, and man if she wasn't killing people with the knife, I shudder to think how she did it.
- The ship tease with the hug! And just the tease...
- And this chapter immediately turns fucked at the end, because it is the nature of darkfics. I have to say, this was forced and out of nowhere and in the grand scheme only gave some last minute angst
- Well as much of a diabolus ex machina as this was, I can say that the description of loss never really going away is accurate for the most part, my father in particular still feels losing my mother to this day
- How much space does this Zam have to write because he is writing a lot
- No wonder popularity in the league is declining, if I recall some things correctly. The NDAs stop them from getting much publicity. Also what is this Ironmon shit?
- Ahh the advantage of taking years to finish the fic up, new Pokemon to use
- Rules in the League are serious business
- Wow, Freeze is KO? That's pretty fucked, but not as bad as sleep being KO.
- Gotta be...unpredictable
- Bruno going unga
- Obviously Keith has never heard of a Light Ball
- It's almost like the League wants very specific qualities
- Agatha is kind of a you- know- what. No wonder the League isn't publicized, she can keep getting away with that.
- Rare, but I like the idea of someone else giving the nickname
- Lol the multiple Dragonite. I mean it is canon.
- I mean with how bureaucratic this shit is and how impossible things are no wonder Keith is his first
- A last minute competitor to shipping over Criss? Although Olivia doesn't even show up later so
- PTSD intensifies. I wonder if David chose it on purpose because of it, but doesn't seem to be that way
- The amount of determination in this fight is frankly absurd
- I CHOOSE YOU
- Doesn't even need all his friends cheering him on here
- Like before, it seems Keith's Pokes drag him along, interesting theme
- Wow not just winning by ring- out, but outright. Don't fuck with John Keitha
- And Keith immediately feels the effects of champion life and all the obligations
- Huh, Cynthia is aging? Wonder how old Agatha is, then
- That is a question, odd writing wise that Tim and Criss aren't there for the ending
Interesting ending sequence

You have come far to finish this at last in one short burst after so long. NIce to see a longfic from back in the day get knocked out. I can't say much in summary since it's been equally as long since I've read it, but one thing I did motice of this last push was kind of how empty it felt at the end. Two of the main protagonists don't even get so much as a reaction in the end. Some of this seems to be playing conservative for potential sequels...but we'll see if those take shape, always the problem with big series.

I do think this fic is better than you think, given all the awards and stuff it won back when those were still a thing. It's not perfect by any means, as I just mentioned a notable flaw, but nothing is and it's definitely something I felt was worth blitzing through the rest of today. Don't have much else to say in conclusion, at least not anything that would take me an easy enough time to think up. Big detailed reviews are hopefully for the people who will show up to do them, this place is kinda inactive lately. Except, welcome back and thanks for writing this fic. Come a long way i your writing, and if you do more of it...well, I'll probably hopefully be there.
 

AetherX

make plove not warble
Joined
Jun 10, 2010
Messages
2,102
Reaction score
546
@System Error Hey man, thanks for the review. Appreciate your feedback. When I was writing most of this fic I had grand plans for a couple sequels, but I think that was majorly to the detriment of the story. I think before I ever get around to writing the sequel (singular) I'll first rewrite this story to be a little more self contained. Part of what I tried to do with the interlude was provide a little bit of closure for some of the mysteries and supporting characters in the story. Originally a lot of that stuff wasn't meant to be revealed for a long time, but I decided it wasn't worth making people read another 500k words (inevitably over the next twenty years). It's definitely not perfect. I much rather would have built up to and revealed these things over the course of the normal story, but here I am. This whole arc was kinda written as an almost stand-alone thing. To get an idea of my mindset approaching it, imagine if everything up through Chapter 49 was the whole of the story, and everything after that was a hasty sequel meant to tie the whole thing together. Sort of a Firefly to Serenity sort of situation (kinda). You definitely picked up on that particular weakness by starting reading again before Chapter 49. Hopefully that's something I'll do better with on a rewrite. But as is I really wanted to focus in on Keith and his Pokemon. The other characters, Criss in particular, had kind of stolen the show from him throughout the story and I really wanted to zoom in on Keith as the primary protagonist. This last arc was less about tying the whole story together and more just about a trainer and his pokemon. I can understand that not coming across, though.

Anyway, I'm glad you too are still around after all this time. Thanks again.
 

kintsugi

the warmth of summer in the songs you write
Joined
May 9, 2013
Messages
1,941
Reaction score
992
congrats on finishing! it's been a lovely ride.

summerr.png

in lieu of a big detailed review, the honor of which i leave to someone else or to edit into this post later, here's kanto if it were the drunkenly drawn pacific crest trail

“Hard to get them to follow the dress code too,” he said dryly without even looking up.

I laughed. “I dunno, Rainer would look cute in a t-shirt I think, don’t you?”
bonus content: the gang gets t-shirts
unknown.png
 
Top