CHEATER: A ONE-SHOT
The door slides open with a hair-raising screech, revealing the final room; the room that few have ever seen with their own eyes. It is the room where his skills and fears will be put to the test, the room he has endured many long months of rigorous training to get to. And now he's finally here, at the turning point in his life. From here, fate could take him either to his glory, or to his demise. The outcome will decide whether his efforts had been worth it. Will he prevail? Or will he be ruthlessly tossed aside like many others who have gone through the exact same door, thinking the exact same thoughts?
The boy hesitates at first, then enters. He surveys his surroundings with wide blue eyes as he carefully makes his way across a narrow bridge, each step sending tremors through the thin material of his determination. He soon approaches a slab of rock cut into a perfect octagon. Its edges are spaced just a few feet away from smooth tiled walls. Up above light filters through a large glass dome, illuminating the battlefield. The faint sound of churning water can be heard some hundred feet below.
The door closes behind him with a bang, leaving no means of escape except for a door on the other side of the room. It is blocked by a tall smiling man. A wiry strand of blue hair sticks out from under his hat. His frame is hidden by a white cape that brushes the tips of his pointed shoes. It billows around him as he slowly descends down the stairs.
“Welcome challenger,” Wallace says, his calm voice producing a massive echo within the walls. The boy shudders, then clenches his fist as Wallace continues. “You have gone through four trainers, each very unique and very powerful. It has not been easy to get to where you are now. And I'm afraid it won't be as easy to get through the door behind me as it will to beat me... wait- ” he pauses for a few moments, then slams his palm into his face. “Aww, crap! I can never get this thing right!” The boy looks down to hide his smirk. An involuntary 'Ha!' escapes from his pursed lips, echoing throughout the empty arena.
At this, Wallace's face reddens. “Stop laughing! I don't think you would find it so funny if you were in my situation. I'm stuck in this stupid room for nine hours each day! I get no breaks. I have to repeat the same blasted phrase to every last soul who walks in here! It does things to your memory, you know, so it's perfectly normal to make a mistake.” He grimaces and crosses his arms. “You're my second challenger today. The first one was a girl, about your age. She just wouldn't shut up about becoming the Pokémon League Champion! 'Oh, I'm gonna be the best trainer in the world! Every trainer will know my name!' She talks about it as if it's the best thing in the world!”
The boy takes a step back from Wallace, who seems to be lost in his rant. “Hmph!” he snorts. “The only thing that keeps me from quitting this accursed job is the salary. But being paid to stand in a room all day... the least they could do is give me a chair...” Wallace tilts his head to the side, his gaze flickering to the boy. “Oh, sorry. I almost forgot you were there. Sorry you had to hear all that. We'll battle now. But I'll warn you beforehand - I'm paid to win, so you'll be getting no mercy from me!”
The boy draws himself up to his full height, his face heavy with concentration. “I'll battle you no matter what the stakes may be!” he shouts.
Wallace gives a stiff nod. “Everybody says that. All right, let's just get this over with. The match between Champion Wallace and whatever your face is shall now begin, yadda yadda yadda. These formal phrases just drain my energy... Send out your first pokémon.”
Upon his command, the boy reaches into his backpack and pulls out a shiny pokéball, grateful for its cool touch against his sweaty palm.
“Go, Manectric!” he yells as the pokéball is tossed up. At its peak in the air, a jet of red light is released from its center. It travels down to the chipped surface of the battlefield, where a rough outline of a pokémon forms. Half a second later a Manectric stands at the boy's side. The pokémon's thin blue legs tremble under his weight as he lowers into a crouch. He eyes Wallace hungrily, ferocious growls lost in the sound of crackling electricity.
“Great. Another electric type. Aspiring trainers are so unoriginal. Whatever happened to grass?” Wallace sighs, and withdraws a pokéball from a pocket in his cape. “Go, Wailord.” After the same flash of ruby red, a whale the size of a ship materializes before Manectric. He utters a low, rippling cry that shakes the walls of the arena.
“I'm guessing that's why they made the ceiling so high?” the boy says aloud, looking up at the enormous Pokémon.
From somewhere behind the Wailord, Wallace's muffled voice is heard. “No, it's to make my voice seem deeper and louder! Gosh, does no one read Pokémon League Weekly anymore? Wailord, use Water Spout!”
Frequent giggles still rack his body as he thinks: Pokémon League Weekly? Aw man, this guy is gonna be so easy!
The Wailord's back arches, nearly touching the tip of the dome. It exposes a large blowhole, out of which a jet of clear water shoots out. The water rains down on the battlefield, but does no visible damage to Manectric, whose gaze still doesn't waver from its opponent.
“Uh... okay. Manectric, use Thunderbolt!” the boy commands, watching with pleasure as white sparks gather around its slender body. From the ceiling, a dark cloud begins to form, from which a thick bolt of lightning flashes.
Wailord lets out a terrible cry as the thunderbolt strikes him. He topples to the side in a fit of high-pitched squeals. Now he lies on the ground, twitching from the electricity that still sears through his body. Manectric snorts, and the cloud disappears instantly. A wave of glee washes over the boy as he watches.
“Ha! I paralyzed your Wailord!” the boy shouts over the pokémon's deafening cries. “Now he can't attack!”
Wallace sighs, his words barely audible. “Why do people underestimate me so? Do you not think that I have come prepared?” Once again he reaches into his cape, this time pulling out a small bottle. A mysterious green liquid sloshes around in a glass case labeled 'Full Restore'. Wallace strides over to the squealing Wailord, aims the tip of the bottle at his body, and sprays the liquid. The boy watches as the pokémon slowly relaxes. The screams stop. With a final grunt Wailord rolls over onto his belly, perfectly balanced, anger swelling in his beady black eyes.
The boy recoils from shock. “What?! You cheater!”
Wallace shrugs nonchalantly. “It doesn't say in the rules that you can't use items to help your pokémon.”
“Still, it's not fair! You're supposed to be the strongest trainer in Hoenn! Don't you think it's a little low for you to be using healing items? Or are you just too soft to take a hit?” the boy taunts.
Wallace gives a wry smile, but does not reply to the boy's accusation. Instead, he turns to Wailord. “Wailord, use Surf!”
The ground begins to shake so violently, that the boy finds himself wondering how the octagon doesn't collapse from the tremors. All around him, water begins to rise in mighty torrents. It groups into a giant column directly behind Wailord, which then sweeps the entire area of the battlefield. The boy watches in horror as Manectric is swallowed by the waves.
From beneath the waves, a gurgling sound is heard as the frantic pokémon tries to resurface. Twice the boy is forced into a false grin as he catches a glimpse of a triangular yellow head poking out of the water, but Manectric is soon overwhelmed by the sheer force of the current. His bruised body washed up at the boy's feet.
“Manectric is unable to battle. Send out your next pokémon,” Wallace says as the boy leans over to return Manectric.
“Cheater!” the boy hisses, and Manectric vanishes into the pokéball with a flash of red.
He turns to his backpack and is about to pick it up, only to find that the fabric is darkened with the weight of water. Frantically the boy digs through its many pockets, groaning as he finds each of them to be filled with water. Many of his items are ruined, and his berries are crushed in their pouch. The boy jumps to his feet and faces Wallace.
“Look what you did to my backpack! My mother gave me this, and she told me not to get it messed up!”
“Gotta read the disclaimers,” Wallace steps to the side, and a small sign tacked to the back door comes into view. Bold red letters spell out the words 'THE HOENN POKÉMON LEAGUE AND ITS RESPECTIVE TRAINERS ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR THE LOSS OR DAMAGE TO YOUR PROPERTY DURING BATTLE.'
“Aargh!” the boy groans, almost screaming. “You'll pay for that one! Go, Flygon!”
The boy's next pokémon leaps out of its Pokéball with swift grace, and hovers a few feet into the air. Her wings seem too small for her plump green body at first, but carry it well. Flygon's eyes gleam with joy behind red protectors.
“Fuh-fuh!” Flygon scпreeches as she struggles to gain its balance, hovering at irregular heights.
“Flygon - ”
“Wailord, use Ice Beam!”
“- Crap! Dodge it, Flygon!”
A beam of blue energy forms in Wailord's open mouth and shoots towards an unaware Flygon, striking one of her wings. With a piercing screech Flygon spirals to the ground, the injured wing folded against her body. On the ground she lies helplessly, shivering as a block of ice molds around her.
A smile tugs at Wallace's lips. “I told you not to get cocky,” he says.
“Not so fast!” the boy cries, and shoves both hands into his wet backpack. He returns with two small bottles clutched in his fists, dripping with excess water. He aims them towards the frozen pokémon.
“Full Heal and Hyper Potion!”
Yellow and pink liquids mix, slowly dissolving the ice as they are sprayed from their bottles. Flygon's scars fade, and the pokémon rises slowly into the air, unsure what has happened. Wallace seems surprised.
“Why don't you just use a Full Restore? It saves time.”
The boy rolls his eyes and tosses the bottles aside. “Because! That Sidney dude took all my money when I lost to him! I couldn't buy anything else. I wasted my last Full Restore on Elite Four Drake, that cheater! These were some of my last healing items, so you better not -”
“Wailord, use Ice Beam again.”
“CRAP! I TOLD YOU NOT TO!”
“I'm being paid to win! Remember?”
Another beam of blue energy shoots out of Wailord's mouth, speeding towards Flygon.
“Flygon, dodge!” the boy cries. From behind their red domes, Flygon's eyes narrows. She evades the oncoming beam with a rough backflip, and the Ice Beam hits a wall. The peal of breaking glass rings through the arena as the tiles fall, exposing bare rock.
“Ouch... the managers won't be too happy about that...” Wallace mutters under his breath.
“All right, Flygon!” the boy reaches up into the air, almost as if to high-five his pokémon. "Now use Earthquake!"
“Wailord, use Ice Beam again.”
Flygon is too distracted by her trainer's praise to notice Wailord preparing for his next attack. When the boy looks up, he is too late.
“Flygon, move!” he shouts. Flygon's head jerks backwards just as the Ice Beam hits.
“Flygon!” the boy yells as he watches the beam of energy throw her down. Flygon's round belly gives a bounce to her fall, then she lies still.
“WHAT?!” the boy roars as he returns Flygon, never taking his eyes off of Wallace. “That's two of my pokémon! Cheater!”
“Flygon is unable to battle. Send out your next pokémon, unless you'd rather give up,” Wallace winks.
“Never! Go, Ninetales!” The boy looks down with anger upon the pale, fox-like pokémon that has just appeared before him, her nine silky tails fanning around it. “And THIS time, I'm using an X-Attack!” The boy reaches into his backpack again and withdraws a single pill. He holds it out to Ninetales who sniffs it twice, then turns away with a snort.
“Nuh-nine!” she sings. The boy's groan turns into an inhuman growl as Ninetales slinks to the side.
“Get over here, you little demon!” the boy snarls. The pokémon pauses as her head innocently turns.
“Eat the pill. Now!” the boy demands.
Ninetales blinks, but remains still. She gazes knowingly out to her trainer, as if trying to communicate something telepathically to him. After a few moments she walks off again, her tails whipping the boy's arm.
“Ninetales, you worthless HOUND! Get! Over! Here!” he screams, vocal cords searing with pain. A triangular ear flicks, but Ninetales does not heed his words.
“Smooth,” Wallace chuckles.
“She's a new pokémon, okay?” the boy looks up. “She won't freaking listen!”
“I wonder why. Wailord, let's put her our of her misery. Use Surf again.”
The boy could not finish, for the mighty current of water had already swept Ninetales aside like a piece of paper caught in the wind. Unlike Manectric, Ninetales lets the current take her without a fight. Her body washes up at the boy's feet moments later. Wallace shakes his head with dismay as he looks at the fainted pokémon.
“Ninetales is unable to battle. Send out your next pokémon. And be quick about it too. I don't think I can stand such epic failure any longer.”
“Epic failure?” the boy repeats, his voice rising.
“Yes, I said epic failure. Now hurry up!”
“Wailord, Ice Beam.”
Gardevoir, a lean Pokémon of tall stature, emerges from the pokéball apprehensively, his two green arms behind his back. The last of the red light is still fading from his body as the Ice Beam hits, which sends his skidding backwards. The boy lets out an “Oomph!” as Gardevoir collides with him, and the two fall back.
“Ow! Watch it, Wallace!” the boy grunts, dusting off his jeans.
“Gardevoir bumped into you, not me!”
“Well your Wailord forced it to! All right, Gardevoir, show 'em what you're made of! Use Confuse Ray!”
Gardevoir pauses for a moment to watch Wailord, fear trapped behind ruby eyes.
“G-g-g...” he stammers, and backs away.
“Ice Beam again,” Wallace says. “I have to say, this battle is very enjoyable.”
Once again, the energy for Ice Beam grows inside of Wailord, preparing to fire off at any moment. Gardevoir's raised arms do little to shield him however, and his ghostly dress ripples as he falls onto unforgiving rock.
“No no NO!” The boy seems to be on the verge of mental breakdown. “I DID NOT COME ALL THE WAY OVER HERE SO I CAN LOSE TO A SMIRKING TALL WEIRDO WITH FREAKING BLUE HAIR! BLUE!”
Wallace is taken aback. “Now! There's no need to get personal. My managers thought it would be best for my image if I dyed my hair a crazy color. Is that so wrong?”
“THAT'S IT! I CAN'T TAKE THIS ANYMORE! YOU ARE GOING DOWN! GO, SWAMPERT!”
Swampert, a large blue pokémon with a series of fins protruding from his body, lands upon the floor with a thud, the last of the red giving way to his murky coloring. His large mouth curls downward into a grimace of intense concentration, letting his opponent know that he will not be beat. Wallace raises an eyebrow.
“Hmm. That was your smartest move today. I'm afraid I'll have to switch pokémon as well. Wailord, you are returned.”
With a flash of red, Wailord melts into the pokéball. The boy swallows the bile that rises up in his throat, upset at himself for not being the one to force it there.
“Go, Milotic.” Out of the pokéball comes a long serpentine pokémon. Her peach-colored body glistens under the sunlight as she slithers away from Wallace, each movement graceful and precise. She halts a good few feet away from her trainer, showing off the colorful scales on her tailfin. Two pink antennae curl upward from where the eyebrows should have been, their soft hue matching that of the silky tresses of hair that tumbled down her body.
The boy's jaw drops as he watches the slender pokémon. “I can't believe it!” he declares. “I've been trying to get one of those since January! January! And all I keep reeling in are stupid Magikarp! Where are the Feebas? Why do other people get them and not me? Why? Why?”
“I'll tell you if you win,” Wallace smiles, rows of perfect teeth flashing in the sunlight. “Which you won't.” His smile grows bigger as he watches the boy's cheeks flush a tomato red.
“All right! Swampert, kill that thing! Use Mud Shot!”
Wallace remains silent, his lips forming inaudible words. Milotic's head jerks backward, and she nods. The boy wets his lips and his gaze falls upon Swampert again who, without the slightest pause, begins raising mud from the loose gravel and water that has collected within large cracks in the rock. Opening his arms wide, he shoots the particles at the opponent, nearly creating a wall between the two sides. The boy clenches his fists as he listens for Milotic's squeal of surrender... but none comes. Upon opening his eyes the boy catches a glimpse of Swampert, once a proud warrior, soaring through the air and finally meeting the ground. The collision raises loose dirt and rocks, and strips the surface completely of paint. Speechless, the boy turns to Milotic. Her angular face is hidden by her tail, which is bent as if to swing something. The boy's shoulders sag.
“Mirror Coat is useful in cases like these,” Wallace chuckles. The boy's eyebrows meet in a frown as he watches Swampert struggle to get up.
"Hang in there, Swampert!" he bends over to his backpack once more, and withdraws a bottle of Hyper Potion. He runs over to his pokémon and aims the bottle.
"Eat this, Wallace!" he yells as the pink liquid is absorbed into Swampert's body.
"S-s-Swampert!" the pokémon growls as he rises to full height, towering a few feet above its trainer.
"How could I possibly have eaten that?" Wallace folds his arms from underneath his cape.
"Oh now you're just being annoying. Swampert, use Earthquake!"
Immediately the ground begins to tremble. It starts out small, but then grows stronger and stronger until even Swampert stumbles. The boy is forced to hang on to his pokémon for balance as the rock wobbles and shifts. Through his partially closed lids the boy sees Milotic trying to slither to safety, bruises and cuts lining her body from the loose rocks. The boy looks over to Wallace, only to be angered by his impassive expression. Wallace holds on to the railing behind him with both hands as he watches his struggling pokémon. A few more tiles break off the walls and shatter on the surface of the octagon, and Milotic struggles to evade them on the shifting floor. The quaking subsides suddenly, and Milotic’s head droops with relief. Her body is limp on the rock, and is lined with cuts of various lengths and sizes. The boy allows himself a smile.
Wallace frowns. “What? No comments? No snide remarks? All right then.” He reaches into his cape and pulls out a Full Restore. The boy’s smile vanishes.
“How many of those things do you have? And how does your cape hold them all?” the boy groans as Milotic’s cuts heal under the mist of the medicine.
Wallace chuckles. “My cape is specially designed with state-of-the-art inner pockets. It’s heavier than it looks, actually. Makes me wish I had a backpack like yours. Well… a dry one at least.” Wallace smirks at the wet lump by the boy’s feet.
Milotic, now fully healed, rises up once more. The boy meets her intelligent stare with a scowl.
“Why can’t you be like the Gym Leaders? Seriously! They use, like, one healing item then fend for themselves!”
Wallace simply shrugs. “Well, for one thing, they don’t have as much money as I do. They can’t afford to pay for the Gym, the wages for the trainers that they hire, and a year’s worth of medicine at the same time. The Elite Four can. Milotic use, Toxic.”
The last command catches the boy off guard, for Wallace utters it in nearly the same breath as the rest of the sentence. A mist of purple surrounds Swampert, and the pokémon emerges coughing and sputtering. Groaning, the boy reaches into his backpack and pulls out a wet Full Heal. He aims the nozzle at the gasping Swampert, who is doubled over and facing the edge of the arena. His coughing subsides as the boy pours the neon yellow liquid into the pokémon’s open mouth. Swampert rises to his feet, ready to battle once more.
“How’s that, Wallace? Swampert and I are gonna own! Swampert, use - ”
“NO! I didn’t get to finish my command! Jerk! Swampert, dodge it!”
But the foaming waves had already swept Swampert aside. They carried the struggling pokémon nearly over the edge of the arena, leaving him hanging on for dear life. Milotic appears satisfied. With a grim expression, the boy takes out a pokéball. Just as Swampert is about to fall over the edge, the light of the pokéball freezes his form and rushes it inside.
“Swampert is unable to battle. This concludes your Elite Four challenge. Better luck next time! Have a nice day.”
The boy stands there for a few moments, his face utterly expressionless. Twice, he seems as if he is about to say something, but his lips form no words. Finally, and with much kicking of his backpack, he turns and leaves.
“Oh, wait!” Wallace calls after him, and the boy stops. “You forgot to pay.” With the authority of a king, Wallace extends a thin arm to the boy, who looks down upon it as if it is an unsightly bug.
“My mistake,” the boy says through gritted teeth, withdrawing a thick stack of bills from his pocket. He sneezes onto it, wipes his nose, then slaps it into Wallace's palm. Wallace calmly pockets the money, and the boy leaves without another word.
The door closes with a hair-raising screech, hiding the long hallway ahead. Wallace now stands alone, amid all the rubble and destruction he and his opponent have wreaked upon the arena. He turns away for a moment and begins to walk to the back door. He hesitates midway and smiles, flipping a Full Restore in his hands.
“Loser!” he whispers, and disappears behind the door.