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Thread: Under the Same Sky- PG-15||A Chaptered Story

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    Default Under the Same Sky- PG-15||A Chaptered Story

    EDITED on 07/07/11

    A/N: This fic was inspired by Lull, so Breezy, thank you. However, it is a different breed from Lull, as it will probably notice. The Pokemon Battles (the Cynthia vs "the boy"; partial "the boy" vs Susan Riche) draw stylistic influences from Lamora's Game of Champions and the Sun Soul. Check those two Pokemon fics out when you get the chance; they're wonderfully written.

    Dedicated to tonnes of people, but mainly: Sike Saner, Diddy (thanks for the convos), and Psychic. Believe it or not, Psychic was the one helped start this story for me. Years and years ago, she made a small remark that Champion Lance notably helped the protagonist of G/S/C. In comparison to that, Cynthia and Alder pale a little. And a story idea was germinated.

    Also dedicated to a guy called MattSilver (the beta) and another guy called enembee (a mentor-of-sorts from an awesome but scary forum called DLP)

    One more thing: Before you ask, yes, it is the B/W protagonist. I rendered him nameless for thematic/stylistic reasons. It gives him an interesting "every-man" quality and ties in with the identity theme. I also didn't like the name "Hilbert".

    Enjoy.



    --------------------------------------------------




    ================================================== ======
    Under the Same Sky
    ================================================== =======

    /+/CHAPTER INDEX\+\

    Overture
    ---
    Chapter One
    Chapter Two
    Chapter Three
    Chapter Four
    Chapter Five
    Chapter Six
    ---
    Chapter Seven - The Finale Sonata

    Memorandum: "A Deathless Prelude"



    Summary: A nameless teenager is heralded as the Champion of the Unova League. However, he's not ready to bear that cross. In order to deal with his inner demons, he absconds to Undella Town - and meets a certain blonde Sinnoh Champion.

    Warning(s): Swearing and violent scenarios.
    Rating: PG-15
    Verse: B/W Games (Gen. V)
    Genre: Friendship/Drama.


    ================================================== =======

    "Overture"

    ================================================== =======
    “You cannot live under the same sky as your father’s murderer.”
    -Proverb from the philosopher Confucius-

    ================================================== =======

    Water. Everywhere.

    I try to open my mouth. Air bubbles escape before my own eyes, like little translucent marshmallows. The taste of sea salt blisters my tongue, while the din of turbulent waves rolls over me. Vicious tentacles start to wrap around my neck and throttle. My own grip loosens, and a few flashes of pink are swept away. As I struggle, I can see only the black expanse of the sea. It’s like ink.

    I think I’m drowning.



    /+/+/+/+/ /+/



    NOIR. Cheren gives me an intense glare.

    “Champion of the Unova Pokémon League,” he repeats.

    I confirm it.

    He’s incredulous. “It’s a little sudden, don’t you think?”

    I open and close an empty Pokéball. Fuck, for once, I agreed with Cheren.

    Shit.




    /+/+/+/+/ /+/



    BLANCHE. Bianca collapses against a wall.

    “Why?” she asks. “Why does it have to be like this?”

    Her voice is thick with phlegm and pity.

    “Champion? But what about Alder?”

    I don’t know what to tell her. Is there anything I can say?

    I don a smile; I don’t think it reaches the eyes.



    /+/+/+/+/ /+/



    NOIR. Professor Juniper has her back against me.

    “The Elite Four?” She sighs. “My, my, have you grown.”

    I wonder what she’s doing with the computer.

    “I’m making modifications to the latest Pokedex – Prototype #B06.”

    She swivels around in her chair. “Do you want to volunteer for the beta model?”

    I decline.




    /+/+/+/+/ /+/



    BLANCHE. My mother is silent.

    Her voice sounds from the Xtransceiver. “You’re too skinny.”

    I ignore her comment.

    “Are you eating well?” Another question.

    She wrings her hands. “I can’t stand seeing you… like this.”

    I switch off the video-call.




    /+/+/+/+/ /+/



    I still dream about it, sometimes. About that day.

    A flash of green hair shimmers before me, like a mirage. He holds onto his next Pokémon, as I do to mine. The rubble of the Pokémon League surrounds us, while fire and lightning shatter the black sky. The Menger sponge was already on the floor. The cuts through my shirt are starting to sting, while small spots appear in front of my eyes. We’re both exhausted and about to faint, maybe. I never wanted to do this, fight him. And I think N is crying.

    For who?

    The white dragon then aims downwards. A pillar of red.

    I’m sprinting, but it’s too late. Of course.

    That day has changed things.

    And people ask me why Zekrom isn’t with me anymore?.





    /+/+/+/+/ /+/



    The first time somebody calls me “Black”, I'm seven. My baby teeth haven't popped out yet, and ironically, Bianca is the tallest kid in class. I'm the shortest, but that doesn't faze me. At least to the best of my recollection. When you're a preschooler, there are only so many times that matter to you.

    One of them is your choice of friends.

    I’m on the seesaw, pushing myself on and off the ground. The seat opposite mine is vacant. Because my family had only recently moved into town, none of the other children seem to want to talk to me. The perks of being “the new kid”.

    It surprises me when somebody approaches me. A bespectacled boy, with straight-laced hair and an even more straight-laced expression.

    “I’m Cheren,” the boy declares. “What’s your name?”

    I tell him.

    Cheren wrinkles his nose. “That’s your name? It sounds stupid.”

    I tell him that his face is stupid.

    “Your name is stupider,” replies Cheren, in a breezy way that only a seven year-old can muster. “I’m gonna call you something else.”

    Curious, I ask him what.

    “I dunno. What’s your favourite colour?”

    Black.

    “Really?” Cheren sits on the seesaw. “Isn’t it too gloomy? Dad says you only wear black when somebody dies.”

    Black is cool. Black is my favourite sweet: shaved liquorice. Black is the colour of my sneaky shadow, which follows me everywhere.

    “Weirdo. You probably only like black ‘cause you’re not ordinary or normal.” Cheren rolls his eyes. “How did Dad say it? ‘The black Mareep in the flock’.”

    I tell him that I’m not a weirdo.

    “Whatever. If you like Black so much, that’s what I’ll call you.”

    Although I want to insist that my name isn’t “Black”, I’m too eager for Cheren’s approval to disagree. I meet Bianca soon after, and Cheren introduces me as “Black” to her. She giggles and likes Cheren’s reasoning. The name catches on.

    Years after, people grow up, and the playground nickname fades out of use. Cheren graduates from juvenile insults like “weirdo”. Bianca prefers to mispronounce and butcher my real name. “Black” is a leftover of my childhood.

    But now? Do most people even call me by my real name? I’m not an ordinary boy to them. I’m always something else.

    Maybe that’s why I like to refer to myself as “Black” in my head. Nobody else calls me that name, but that’s part of the appeal. I haven’t been “ordinary” in a long time, anyway.

    How “weird”.





    /+/+/+/+/ /+/




    Fuck, I’m going crazy. Caitlin is right. I do need a break.

    I check the map she gave me. Her cursive writing spills out.

    “‘Undella Town – A Town of Rippling Waves’,” I read aloud.

    East of Unova, huh?

    I fold the map with my definite destination in mind.


    /fin of Overture/

    ================================================== =======

    Chapter One

    ================================================== =======

    -Undella Town-
    Friday


    The storm beat down. The sky was cluttered with murky clouds, while gales of wind streaked like arrows from a bow, angling the raindrops against the wet pavement. Snarling, the ocean itself gnawed at the coastline. Undella Town’s famous beaches – the soaring plains of white – had temporarily become nothing more than mere soggy sand dunes. Indeed, Undella had transformed herself into a desolate wetland, as the residents and tourists alike scurried to the warmth of shelter. The main road, normally packed with weekend stalls selling trinkets and 50-Cent Snow Cones, was empty.

    A hurricane in a hamlet.

    Through this baleful weather, a lone figure walked down the road. A boy, aged fifteen. He wasn’t a particularly inspiring fellow. He was neither short nor tall, and his messy, brown hair was insipid, plastered with water against the slender nape of his neck. An official Pokémon League hat was squashed down on his head, hiding the face.

    In his mind, the boy liked to call himself “Black”. It was nothing like his real name, or what others called him, but it worked for him.

    Black wasn’t too fussed about the storm. He actually enjoyed the cool feel of the rain, as Arctic fingers trailed over his spine. It could have been worse. The cold was preferable to the hot, anyway. He still remembered the burning scorch of the Resort Desert. Wouldn’t you rather die by ice than die by fire? Freezing numbed the senses, ensuring that the victim could no longer feel. No more pain – just a blanket of sleep.

    The C-Gear on his wrist beeped, signalling a video call. Black checked the screen. The caller ID: Bianca. Hastily, he turned off the C-Gear. This was the third time in two days that Bianca had attempted to contact him, even though he had made it abundantly clear that he wished to be left alone. Yes, he was avoiding her, but could one blame him? He wasn’t ready to talk about what had happened. No meant no. A concept which Bianca didn’t comprehend.

    Eventually, Black reached the end of the road. A series of buildings were clustered by a picket fence. He walked into the largest one.

    As he trudged through the lobby, Black heard the whispers and gasps of the people around him. A young waiter nearly knocked over the wine cooler. A mother of three tried to quieten her suddenly agitated children. Ignoring the pointed stares, Black stepped in front of the concierge’s desk.

    “Welcome to Undella Town,” recited the concierge in a dull tone. “How may I help you?”

    “I would like to rent a villa,” said Black.

    “There are no villas available today. You will have to find alternative accommodation.”

    “I don’t think that’s an option,” said Black brightly.

    Bored, the concierge typed into her computer. “I’m sorry, sir, but we have no more rooms. You’ll have to wait like everyone else. No exceptions.”

    “I think you can make an exception with me.”

    The concierge flicked her eyes towards Black, who took off his hat. A young tanned face emerged in the light. A face that had been sandblasted across billboards and television screens. The concierge dropped her jaw.

    “Why don’t you check the computer again,” said Black. His amber eyes glimmered. “There might be a vacancy.”

    “O-Of course, let me check.”

    Black flattened the hat over his hair again, as the flustered concierge scrutinised the database.

    “There is one villa available, but you will have to share with another person,” said the woman.

    Nervously, she returned her gaze to Black. The copious cakes of makeup could not hide the deep, red flush in her starstruck face. Immediately, Black was reminded of that beret-wearing girl from Altomare City.

    “Is this arrangement to your liking?” asked the woman, her upper lip trembling.

    A little exasperated, Black nodded.

    “O-Okay. Firstly, I need to call the other party to confirm that she’s also fine with sharing a villa.”

    Picking up a fancy receiver, the concierge dialled the phone. She waited for the tone, before speaking.

    “Hello, Ma’am? I’m sorry for intruding upon your evening, but we have another client who wishes to share your villa. I understand that Lady Caitlin herself had rented you the villa, but Undella’s policy states that – ”

    The concierge paused. Black wondered what the other person was saying. Was the person upset with the concierge? Not everybody could have been happy sharing what was once a peaceful, empty villa. People tended to dislike change. Black had seen how possessive people could become. Then, why could he hear laughter from the phone?

    “Yes, Ma’am. It’s the Unova League Champion,” the concierge said.

    Surprised, the woman buckled forward. “‘Send him up?’ Now? Y-Yes, Ma’am. Thank you for your time.”

    The concierge set down the phone. Nervous, she turned her head towards Black, chewing her lip. She straightened the hem of her pencil skirt. Black rolled his eyes, but did not falter his smile.

    “The villa is available, sir. I’ll arrange for bellhop to take your luggage,” said the woman.

    Black forced a placid smile. “No need. I can take my satchel myself.”

    The concierge fumbled with a knot of keys. She detached one from the bunch and called out to him.

    “Here’s your key,” she said, passing the lacy metal to Black. “Your villa is the second one from the right. It has two blue shutters; you cannot miss it.”

    Black nodded, pocketing the key. When he began to step away from the desk, the concierge called out:

    “Sir! My son is a huge fan; he wants to be just like you.”

    “Really?” Black replied, trying to keep his tone cheery and detached.

    “Yes. If I could get him your autograph, he’d be over the moon. You’re the greatest hero and Champion to him.”

    Chuckling, Black pressed his lips into a thin, bitter line. “I’ve done nothing worth noting.”

    “But – ”

    “Tell your son to find a better role model.”

    Without another word to the concierge, Black wheeled around and walked out of the lobby. People scuttled away from him, trying to avoid looking him in the eye. A fat tourist dropped his grease-stained camera; deliberately, the businessman with the tame Liepard headed in a different direction to him. Even the Plusle and Minun, playing by the granite fountain, squeaked upon seeing Black. Swiftly, they scurried behind their Trainers’ pants.

    The Minun’s Trainer, a mousy haired girl with baby-fat cheeks and a ridiculous ‘Hello Skitty’ sweater, pointed at Black.

    “Papa, it’s the boy from television! The one who fought the scary man!”

    As Black lowered his hat, he overheard the girl’s father whispering to the girl, telling her that it was rude to point. Black didn’t miss the franticness in the man’s voice. It was dark and glossy, like a prowling Luxray. Black was familiar with it; he had witnessed it glisten in the eyes of far lesser men.

    Fear.

    After exiting the lobby and enduring a few minutes of rain, Black arrived at his chosen villa. It was as the concierge had described: adorned with blue shutters, and impossible to miss. Large and ostentatious, sun-bleached walls stretched outwards. Like a fisher’s trawl, lush ivy dragged across the Grecian colonnade. A matching set of polished, mahogany doors completed the image of luxury and affluence.

    Typical. Caitlin was spoilt sweet, preferring her cucumber sandwiches to have their crusts off. Everything had to be perfect with her, from her Pokémon battles to her laundered Lilycove skirts. Her vacation villas couldn’t be an exception.

    Fitting the key into the door, Black entered the villa. A spiralling, burnished staircase and a darkened marble floor greeted him, like a groomed butler. Black threw his bag on a coffee table. He chuckled when mud and rainwater seeped across the clean glass, dripping down the table-legs. That should give Caitlin a nasty shock; the girl cared far too much about cleanliness than was considered healthy.

    Black remembered the first time he met Caitlin. Dressed in a white sundress, she was the epitome of grace and chastity. He didn’t like her from the start. She claimed that he had no place challenging the Unova Elite Four. What was the phrase she used again? “dim-witted little boy”.

    The moniker wasn’t entirely false, though. Once upon a time, he was a small boy from the smallest town in Unova. However, he had high hopes: he wanted to be the greatest Trainer of them all. The only thing bigger than his dreams was his toothy smile. His first Pokémon, a pig with orange fur brighter than the sun, liked his smile the most. Not even the tastiest Poffin could elicit from Tepig a squeal of delight more than his toothy grin. However, that was back in the old days, when Black’s grin was genuine. Sure, the motions were the same: the dimples still curled at the edges, and his teeth still shone through.

    But the joy wasn’t there.

    Abruptly, the clicking of heels brought Black out of his thoughts. Instantly, his hand snapped to his Pokébelt. He skimmed across each of the five capsules. Unfezant would provide the quickest attack, flying like a bullet to rip out a throat. Scrafty and Simisage could break the assailant’s bones, while Carracosta would create enough Rock Slides to disinter the villa’s underbelly. Even Beheeyem would be more than surfeit: two silent Psybeams would neutralise any threat. Avoiding the empty sixth slot, Black tried to make his final decision. He had two seconds to pick, before the other person would utilise her chance to attack him first –

    “Isn’t it a little late for a Pokémon Battle?” a female voice remarked from the stairwell. “I am more than ready for a good match, but I would much rather do this when I’m not so tired.”

    A tall figure stepped forward, allowing the moonlight to illuminate her body. She was a statuesque woman, with willowy legs and a generous bust. A black nightgown, verging on indecent and see-through, hugged her hips. Her long, blond hair cascaded downwards in rivulets, while grey eyes glinted with amusement. Pointed cheekbones, angled upwards. A silver ring, inset with an odd brown stone, twinkled from her middle finger. She stood akimbo, smiling slightly.

    The woman was a household name. A breakfast cereal in Jubilife was designed in her honour. Black spoke without thinking: “Cynthia.”

    Cynthia tilted her head. “That would be my name.”

    “What are doing here? Aren’t you meant to be in Sinnoh?”

    “I decided to travel around the world, so Caitlin rented me a few overseas villas as a favour,” said Cynthia.

    She yawned and stretched her arms, causing the robe to open slightly at the chest. Black reddened at the glimpse of soft, pink skin.

    “And I am not needed in Sinnoh anymore. My duties as a former Champion have been delegated,” she explained gently.

    Smoothly, Cynthia gestured at him. “I have some coffee in the kitchen. You’re more than welcome to join me.”

    Black shot a doubtful look at Cynthia, who was starting to swan towards the hall. After a moment of contemplation, he followed her. So, this was the person with whom he was sharing a villa? In all honesty, Black was apprehensive. Champion Cynthia was many things, but predictable wasn’t one of them. Indeed, Cynthia had frustrated the Sinnoh officials with her sporadic and random stopovers at interesting historical sites, throwing her schedule into disarray. Once, she had disappeared for four days, forcing Lucian to substitute for her as Champion. The press was in an uproar. Where was she for half a week? Visiting the Solaceon Ruins, because the “glyphs intrigued her”. Living with her was bound to be a challenge.

    As expected of Caitlin, the kitchen was well furbished. The marble benchtops had in-built ovens, courtesy of Devon Corp. An assortment of blenders, mixers and food processers clung to the walls, aligned in sleek, polished rows. Next to one of these blenders were some of Cynthia’s belongings: an Everstone, a sketch of an Unown, and her notebook, which was open. Black barely caught the words “Chi-Ro: King?”, before Cynthia had closed it. Accompanying Cynthia’s curios was also a pasta machine and a series of non-essential, luxury trinkets.

    One of these trinkets was a Silph espresso machine, which Cynthia approached and adjusted. Within minutes, the blond woman produced two cups of steaming coffee. She handed one to Black, who carefully took it with two hands.

    He sipped it in silence.

    “We should get you out of those wet clothes. Otherwise, you might get hypothermia,” said Cynthia, glancing at Black’s soaked jacket and cargo pants. “Allow me – ”

    “No, I’ll deal with it,” Black replied.

    Taking out a Pokéball, he released the Scrafty inside it. The hoodlum-like biped materialised with a flash of white light. The Pokémon’s face, ordinarily besmirched with mischief and malicious glee, was scrunched in mild concern. Scrafty stared questioningly at Black.

    Donning a warm facade, Black tried to focus on the task at hand.

    “Scrafty, I’m a little wet from the rain,” he said.

    He leaned towards the Pokémon, giving a small smile. “Could you help me?”

    Scrafty growled affirmatively. Cynthia raised an eyebrow when the Pokémon belched a shroud of soft flames around Black. The fire was rather weak in intensity, carefully controlled not to burn the boy. After another minute, Scrafty closed his mouth, and the flames self-extinguished.

    Black was dry and unburned.

    “Thanks, mate,” was Black’s muttered reply as he returned the scowling Pokémon back to his capsule.

    “That was impressive, using Incinerate to dry your clothes,” Cynthia said kindly.

    Black shrugged. “It was nothing.”

    “You’re too modest. We both know a Scrafty cannot naturally control fire like that, at least without being trained specifically. You taught him well.”

    Cynthia finished her coffee and set down the mug in the sink. “You must be a talented and powerful Trainer. As expected from the Hero of Unova.”

    Black nearly dropped his cup. Cynthia sauntered past him and patted him on the shoulder.

    “The guest’s bedroom on the second floor is yours,” she said, as she left the kitchen. “Please turn off the espresso machine when you’re finished.”

    Black didn’t respond. His grip around the coffee mug tightened.



    /+/+/+/+/ /+/



    Somehow, the press finds out what happened. I guess it’s inevitable, since nobody could have missed the sight of a fucking castle suddenly encircling the Pokémon League. Websites and newspapers discuss the events of that day. Witnesses say that they remember two gods – one white and the other black. They remember that a teenager controlled the white dragon. They remember that I controlled the black one.

    The Nimbasa Daily has the bright idea of calling me the “Hero of Unova”. The name catches on.

    Then, the blog of some fatass sources photos of me and Reshiram; Reshiram is clearly in pain. Using this evidence, the bitter jackass lambasts me as a “god-killer” and “danger”. The name catches on.

    Even though Zekrom isn’t with me anymore, people still ask how I subdued and captured the god. How I chose to become a Hero.

    I didn’t. Zekrom had dictated my destiny. Fuck, all this attention. It’s everywhere.

    Only my mother seemed to remember my real name.






    /+/+/+/ /+/+/



    -Undella Town-
    Saturday


    The next day began as usual for Black. He woke up at daybreak and, after yawning loudly, stretched his limbs to maintain his flexibility. He brushed his teeth using a cheap brand of toothpaste (‘Morning Budew with Extra Fresh™’), following with a wash in the nearest water source. In this case, that was the en-suite shower. The clothes for the day were the typical: fresh underwear, as his mother had always insisted, and the standard tee-shirt and cargo pants.

    He fitted on his League cap. Nothing had changed, at least on the surface.

    Grabbing his jacket off a chair, Black walked out of the guest’s bedroom and headed towards the kitchen. Cynthia was probably there already. The woman looked like an early-starter.

    As he strolled down the stairs, he heard a soft knocking at the villa’s entrance. Within seconds, Cynthia appeared. With a smile, she opened the front door.

    “Yes?”

    A weedy teenager, older than Black, stood on the other side. He was gawky and gangly, as though he had grown too quickly in too short a period of time. A few pimples dashed across his nose. Braces complemented a narrow face, which showed a wispy attempt at a five o’clock shadow. The feather-shaped logo on the teenager’s shirt was telling: ‘RUFFLET PIZZA: 24/7 Service. Wherever, Whenever.’

    “One medium pizza for a Miss Chard?” said the scraggy teenager. He read off a piece of paper. “Vegan special, but with anchovies, kidney beans, and extra feta. No shallots and no beetroot.”

    Serenely, Cynthia nodded. “That’s my order.”

    “That will be $19.55.”

    As Cynthia opened her purse, the pizza deliverer finally caught a good look of the woman in front of him. His eyes widened when he realised that this wasn’t any blonde, it was Cynthia. The former Sinnoh Champion, biannual winner of the Lily Valley Conference for 2000, 2002, 2004, and 2006. She was one of the League’s living legends, not to mention a cultural icon. Even those who didn’t follow the Pokémon Battle circuit would recognise her from the ‘Hoenn Disaster Appeal’ commercials, back when the region was experiencing freakish flooding and droughts.

    Black rolled his eyes when the geeky teenager started sputtering.

    “Here’s twenty dollars,” Cynthia said, pulling out a green banknote. Black twitched when he saw Alder’s familiar face stamped across the watermarked side. It brought back his memories of the League, of meeting the Elite Four. Of meeting him.

    Cynthia pressed the note into the spluttering deliverer’s hands. “Why don’t you keep the change?”

    As she snagged the pizza from his hands, the weedy teenager squeaked, as though he was bursting at the seams. His ears became pink.

    MayIhafyourautographplez!

    She blinked. “Pardon?”

    “May I have your autograph please?” The teenager took a deep breath, slowing down.

    “Oh! You want my autograph?” said Cynthia slowly.

    From his semi-hidden spot on the stairwell, Black wondered how Cynthia would react. Would she indulge this recurrent request? She must have been exhausted from more than a decade of signing autographs. Wasn’t she now free of such obligations? She was no longer Champion – it was not her duty or her concern.

    To Black’s surprise, she took out a pen. “Sure, why not. What’s your name?”

    “Matt Johansson. It’s spelt with two ‘s’s.”

    Cynthia picked up a napkin and scribbled something on it, flourishing the pen in wide strokes. Black thought that she was making a small spectacle out of it, as though she was conducting a ceremony of sorts. Matt Johansson, however, was spellbound. His face became as red as the tomato paste which had been slathered over Cynthia’s pizza.

    Cynthia returned the napkin, now adorned with some sort of trite platitude and her signature, to Johansson.

    “Here you go,” she said warmly.

    Taking the napkin, the delivery boy read its message out loud: “‘To Matt Johansson. Never give up on your Pokémon dreams. They’ll come true someday. Yours, Cynthia.’”

    Johansson cradled the napkin, as though it would disintegrate at the slightest touch. Reverently, he gawked at Cynthia.

    Shit, thank you! Thank you so much!”

    “You’re welcome,” was Cynthia’s response as she shut the door with a low thud.

    Black watched Cynthia grab the pizza, humming a strange tune to herself. Opening the box, the former Champion chose a slice and bit into it. A pleasant aroma of melted cheese and roast vegetables wafted upwards. Black felt his mouth water a little. Abruptly, he was reminded that he hadn’t eaten a decent meal in days. Yes, there were the water crackers and freeze-dried fruits which had proven to be staples of his diet while travelling the wildness, but those were ration-issue foods. They would provide sustenance but not satisfaction.

    Lowering his League hat, he climbed down the stairs. Cynthia had already finished her first slice. She was halfway through the kitchen when she spotted him.

    “Good morning, did you sleep well?” she asked.

    “Better than usual.”

    Black tore off a piece of the peculiar pizza. Up close he could perceive the toppings, and he realised that while the pizza smelled palatable, it wouldn’t necessarily have a good taste. He spotted shavings of anchovy, kidney beans, and oven-roasted broccoli, all held together by hot nets of feta cheese. What a bizarre combination. Did Cynthia always have such… specific tastes? It reminded Black of Bianca, who was encouraging him to try new foods whenever they reached their next Gym. “Try the Casteliacone, it’s a local specialty!”, “Rabuta Berries aren’t just for Pokémon!”, or “Moomoo Milk is a great aphrodisiac!” More often than not, Black regretted listening to Bianca; her peculiar taste in food didn’t quite match with his. She was annoying that way.

    Glancing back at the pizza slice, Black felt his empty stomach grumble. No matter. At this point, he was hungry enough to eat raw Krokoodile. Losers couldn’t be choosers.

    He chewed. Immediately, there were sharp bursts of saltiness, outset by the sweetness of pumpkin and the mild taste of broccoli. All in all, it was surprisingly pleasant. Swallowing, Black wolfed down the pizza, as the hot cheese burnt the inside of his mouth.

    Cynthia leaned against the kitchen counter. “It must have been difficult travelling so much. The bad food, the constant camping. Didn’t you ever get homesick?”

    “I managed,” Black stated.

    “When I was starting out as a Trainer, I missed my grandmother terribly,” said Cynthia, sprinkling a few more olives on her pizza.

    She gave a low, throaty laugh. “I couldn’t wait to arrive at the next PokéCenter so that I could use the video-phone to call her. If the booth was already occupied, sometimes I would cry until the person let me go ahead of him.”

    “That sounds a little – ” Black tried to sound polite. “needy.”

    “I was young and inexperienced,” she said, smiling. “People mature over time.”

    Black glanced at the blond former Champion, who was humming to herself again. A shred of curiosity pricked him, like a metal needle. The small detail about Cynthia’s life had piqued his interest; what was a younger Cynthia like? How different was she to this statuesque woman?

    “Did you travel alone?” he asked, unable to resist.

    “Initially, but not for long. When I was visiting Canalave City, a boy stole my bike. I was visiting the famous library to research Gible’s evolutionary cycle. I come out with my books, and my bicycle was gone.” Absently, Cynthia pushed a stray blond strand out of her eyes. “Moreover, when I finally found it behind a dumpster, someone had broken the chains and the spokes. In his haste, the thief had accidentally destroyed my bike.”

    Black gaped, while she languidly toyed with silver ring on her hand. The inset brown shard shimmered at certain angles of light.

    Unaffected, Cynthia continued: “I was understandably upset at the time. Eventually, I found the thief and confronted him.”

    “You challenged him to a Pokémon Battle,” Black speculated.

    “Not everything in life involves fighting,” said Cynthia carefully. She nibbled on the end of her pizza. “No, it turned out that the boy’s Bronzor was very ill and needed urgent medical attention. The boy had to get to Canalave PokéCenter quickly. My bike just happened to be nearby.”

    “What happened to the Bronzor? Was it okay?”

    Cynthia gave Black an approving look. “Your concern for Pokémon, even those who aren’t yours, is admirable.”

    Reflexively, Black’s hand darted to his belt. His fingertips ghosted over each of the five Pokéballs, protective and defensive. Suddenly, a strong emotion seared through him, like a comet, parching his throat; he found it a little hard to breathe.

    “And the Bronzor was fine. But as a result of this ordeal, the Bronzor’s Trainer and I became close,” Cynthia elaborated. “We decided to travel together, at least until he could recompense me for my bicycle.”

    Black picked at the pizza box. “Did he?”

    “Eventually, yes. However, by then we were already good enough friends that I decided to stay with him anyway. His presence made the wilderness much easier to tackle. It was nice not to be alone.”

    Reaching for her purse, Cynthia pulled something out and showed it to Black. It was a faded photograph, blotched with coffee spills and crinkles from excess handling. A younger Cynthia was leaning over a leering Gabite and an unidentifiable, pink-skinned slug, whose visage on the photo was smudged out. If Black didn’t know any better, he would say that the latter Pokémon had been crossed out with a permanent marker – and then scrubbed at a much later date, in an unsuccessful attempt to remove the obscuring ink. Strange.

    Black drifted his gaze up the photograph. The younger Cynthia looked different: her signature blond hair was cropped short, while her smile showed baby teeth. Instead of those signature Umbreon hairclips, a vibrant pastel flower balanced behind her ear. Black ironically noted that even the younger Cynthia had a disproportionate bust, though. Next to the Gabite and the pink slug was a dark-haired figure. The face was motion-blurred, but one could make out what appeared to be tinted, silver-framed glasses. The younger Cynthia held a victory V-sign over her human companion, who was clutching some sort of thick book.

    Black was guessing that this photo was a picture of Cynthia and her bike-stealing friend.

    “We’re still friends, even today,” said Cynthia.

    She pocketed the photograph. Black threw the last pizza slice back into the box. A shiver of sadness tinged his mind; Cynthia’s picture was reminiscent of that summer day in Nacrene City. Cheren had made everyone sandwiches, while Bianca lay back on the grass. She said that the clouds reminded her of cargo ships, with great, white sails which billowed in the wind.

    “What about your own friends?” Cynthia asked, breaking him out of his stupor. “I heard from the Professor that you had journeyed through Unova with a few companions. Aren’t you still in contact with them?”

    Black froze. Inscrutably, he spun around and faced Cynthia.

    “It’s better if I stay alone.”


    /+/+/+/ /+/+/



    When Caitlin and Grimsley approach me, I’m sitting in the top most tower of the Pokémon League. From my vantage point, I could see the bulldozers and construction cranes rumbling around the wreckage. The builders aren’t alone. Trained Gurdurr cringe at some of their orders, but obey nonetheless. Would the builders understand what their Pokémon feel? Judging from their confused chain of command, the construction crews probably barely understood each other.

    Grimsley is smoking. Fuck. That’s not a good sign – he only does that when he’s stressed.

    “We need to talk,” said Caitlin.

    I try to be a smart alec. “You know I don’t feel that way about you, but if you insist.”

    “Please stop blathering,” she replied, in a sleek but waspish voice. “This is rather important.”

    Caitlin and Grimsley sit down next to me. When they finish talking, I’m on my feet. I give a small laugh and I ask if she’s kidding.

    “Unfortunately, no.”

    Caitlin leans closer.

    “I think you need to take a vacation.”


    /fin of Chapter One/
    Last edited by Draco Malfoy; 15th September 2011 at 6:16 PM.

    Under the Same Sky - PG-15||Completed

    Memorandum to UtSS: "A Deathless Prelude".
    FF.net Profile//Quote-of-the-month: “History is much like an endless waltz. The three beats of war, peace and revolution continue on forever.”

  2. #2
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    Don't have much time at the mo.

    First off, =D

    Secondly,
    Vicious tentacles start to wrap around my neck and throttle. My own grip loosens, and a few flashes of pink are swept away.
    Throttle... me?

    Also, you don't need the comma.

    I also find the random bolding in the middle of swear words, but stars are more annoying, so I'll just say, highlight the middle of the word and format it to change the font size to the same size as the rest of the text, 2 I think it default. Perfect, unchanged swears.

    I wonder she’s doing with the computer.
    I wonder what she's doing?

    [quote/]Immediately, the boy was reminded of that beret-wearing girl from Altomare City.[/quote]

    Those are two completely different Bianca's

    In short (may expand upon later or in subsequent chapter reviews)

    Very awesome,
    written well,
    characterisation great,
    Cynthia win,
    mystery and hints to later events and past events done very enigmatically.

    Well worth the wait.
    Skogsrĺ

    Gardenia never liked the Old Chateau, but what if the Old Chateau liked her?

    Author's Profile

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Diddy View Post
    Don't have much time at the mo.

    First off, =D
    I can certainly understand that sentiment.

    And, Thank you.

    Quote Originally Posted by Diddy
    Secondly,


    Throttle... me?
    Fix'd

    Quote Originally Posted by Diddy
    Also, you don't need the comma.
    I thought it was a complex sentence, so it was grammatically correct this way... But hey, I wasn't the best at grammar, so I may be wrong.

    Quote Originally Posted by Diddy
    I also find the random bolding in the middle of swear words, but stars are more annoying, so I'll just say, highlight the middle of the word and format it to change the font size to the same size as the rest of the text, 2 I think it default. Perfect, unchanged swears.

    =D Thanks for that tip. Fixing the swear words. Honestly, the stars are so fucking annoying.

    xD


    Quote Originally Posted by Diddy
    I wonder what she's doing?

    [quote/]Immediately, the boy was reminded of that beret-wearing girl from Altomare City.
    Those are two completely different Bianca's[/QUOTE]

    Fixed the first mistake and for the second, I thought at the time that mentioning the two Biancas would be a funny reference. But now I realise that it's just confusing.

    Will fix.

    Quote Originally Posted by Diddy
    In short (may expand upon later or in subsequent chapter reviews)

    Very awesome,
    written well,
    characterisation great,
    Cynthia win,
    mystery and hints to later events and past events done very enigmatically.
    Thanks. It was really hard to balance the dual, unfolding mysteries of past and present events; I wanted some sort of symmetry between what was happening to "the boy" and what had happened to him before. More words than I had for a one-shot were required to do justice to the storyline (and to Cynthia's own backstory; Shirona wouldn't spill the beans within 20,000 words, and I had to make this a Chaptered fic. xD).

    The final story is now approximately 40,000 words, but I think it's better for it. =D

    And about "the boy", Hilbert, Black, Touya, Lucy - call him whatever you want. I thought it'd be interesting to render him nameless, since in B/W they didn't offer you any default names when choosing your player character. Calling him "the boy" gives a nice "everyman" quality, and reminds people of whomever they called the Player, don't you think? xD


    Quote Originally Posted by Diddy
    Well worth the wait.
    Wait another week, and I'll give you the second Chapter. xD

    I'm so mean in holding my chips close to my hand. But hey, this way I leave you guys wanting more. Which means you'll come back again. xD xD

    Under the Same Sky - PG-15||Completed

    Memorandum to UtSS: "A Deathless Prelude".
    FF.net Profile//Quote-of-the-month: “History is much like an endless waltz. The three beats of war, peace and revolution continue on forever.”

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    Chapter One has been edited accordingly, so that the protagonist now has a "name". My beta told me that it reads better this way.

    And here's Chapter Two.


    ================================================== =======

    Chapter Two

    ================================================== =======
    “Expectation is the root of all heartache.”
    -William Shakespeare-

    ================================================== =======

    The man opposite me is ugly. While his bulging forehead reminds me of a Crustle under its grimy shell, the extravagant jewels on his rings make those fat fingers look like sausages. The expensive business suit struggles to contain that enormous stomach. The nameplate pinned to his Lilycove blazer identifies him as a Director, one of the highest ranked officials in the League. When I glance at his chubby legs, I have to wonder how much funding he had diverted to pay for those expensive dress-pants. In short, the man looks like a pig in fancy clothing. Very fancy clothing.

    The fatass passes me a vanilla folder. Inside are a number of forms. Each paper bears the picture of a black and white Pokéball, the official logo of the Unova Pokémon League.

    “The Board of Directors has discussed the situation,” says the man. “In light of recent events, we have decided to supersede Subsections 1B and 1E.”

    “What the hell is this?”

    “Champion Alder has already completed his paperwork.” The man smiles. “All you need to do is sign.”




    /+/+/ /+/+/+/



    -Undella Town-
    Sunday


    Feathers flurried. Sunlight gleamed off the jagged beak, as a great, grey bird soared upwards into the sky. The Unfezant’s yellow eyes narrowed, locking onto her prey. She started flapping her wings. All around the arena, sharp coils of wind blustered outwards and gorged the earth, like a ravenous beast. Rocks flew everywhere, buoyed by the gales. One particular rock, shaped like an overgrown snail with a face that was both viscous and aflame, shrieked. Terrified, the rock-snail belched a plume of scarlet fire at Unfezant.

    The sweltering blast spurted towards the bird, singeing the heat-retardant tail-feathers. However, Unfezant remained unharmed. Imperturbable, she released a curiously echoing cry.

    Giga Impact,” Black ordered.

    Unfezant spread her wings, which began to shine with brilliant, purple iridescence. Orange flecks of light overlay the violet glow, like the afterimage from a camera flash. A second later, the bird was entirely encased in a seethed cocoon of energy. The rock-snail tried to crawl away from Unfezant. As characteristic of its species, acrid smoke gushed from the Pokémon’s pyroclastic shell, signalling its distress.

    “Maggy! Magcargo!” cried the girl in the petticoat. “Stone Edge!

    Listening to its Trainer, the rock-snail struck the ground. A chasm opened underneath Unfezant, and sharpened stones shot upwards, like recalcitrant bullets. However, to no avail. The rocks disintegrated upon the Giga Impact’s energy cloak, crumpling into harmless shards. Magcargo floundered, its panic becoming palpable. As Unfezant plunged at the rock-snail, Black crossed his arms. Ordinarily, Normal-type attacks such as Giga Impact would not be effective against Rock-types, like Magcargo. It was, along with the rest of the Type chart, one of the first lessons from the Trainers Academy. A typical Trainer would have opted instead for a Fighting-type attack, such as Focus Blast, or a powerhouse deluge, like Hydro Pump.

    However, Black wasn’t a typical Trainer. Far from it.

    What many people didn’t know was that Magcargo’s lithic shell was brittle. Made of the same pebble-like residue from volcanic discharges, it did not rank high on the Mohs scale of mineral strength. Furthermore, the shell was circular. With a clear centripetal centre – and a weak point.

    With the force of a freight train, Unfezant spiralled into the side of Magcargo’s craggy shell. The keen beak pierced the bull’s eye. An explosion ballooned outwards, as smoke and bits of dirt went flying. As the aftershock released a clamouring blast, the girl in the petticoat yelped and blocked her ears from the splintering noise. Black merely blinked.

    The dust finally settled. Unfezant materialised; her plumage was a little charred, but she was still intact. The same could not be said of Magcargo, who was eerily motionless. Shattered shards of magmatic rock strewed the ground.

    “M-Maggy!” the girl whimpered, running to her fallen Pokémon.

    Black nodded at Unfezant, before returning her to the Pokéball. Weary, he frowned. It was his second day in Undella, and this was already his second Pokémon battle. Since he had arrived in Undella for intimate, personal reasons, Black had sworn off matches in the meantime.

    However, the challengers were persistent; once they discerned his identity as Unova Champion, the ones who weren’t deterred by his past pursued him. Hour after hour, like a predatory Warrgle and its Wurmple prey.

    The girl in front of him was the leader of the more relentless ones; she had managed to force his hand. In fact, the only one more aggravating than her was the small kid whom he had battled yesterday. That youngster, pinch-faced and needle-chinned, used his immense wealth as a cudgel. Brat.

    “Life goes on,” Black muttered, pocketing Unfezant’s Pokéball.

    “M-Maggy! Magcargo!”

    The girl in the petticoat called out again. Her voice corded with horror, drawing her opponent’s attention.

    Carefully, Black looked at the girl and sighed. Huge tears were welling up in her eyes, when he walked up to her. Quietly, he handed her a handkerchief.

    “There are two subdermal cuts, and a severe open fracture,” said Black.

    “W-What?”

    “Magcargo can regenerate new shells, though. They simply need to cool down a little,” he continued, as though the girl hadn’t spoken. “Just get him to a PokéCenter, and he’ll be fine.”

    The girl’s face brightened. “R-Really? Maggy will be alright? How do you know?”

    “What’s your name?”

    “Susan,” replied the girl.

    “Well, Sue, I know because of this.”

    Black fished out a peculiar, chess-black machine that was around the size of his right palm. The familiar Pokéball logo gleamed on the metallic cover. When he pressed a button, a 3-D image of Susan’s Magcargo flickered onto the bottom screen. A number of statistics accompanied the image.

    Susan gawped. “What is that?”

    “It’s called a Pokedex – Pokémon Encyclopaedic Index,” said Black, as he scrolled up the machine’s screen. “Using the latest Poké-technology, it scans information specific to each Pokémon and analyses the data.”

    Impassively, he showed the device to the fascinated girl. “Take a better look, if you want.”

    Her eyes widened upon inspection:

    --

    Pokémon Encyclopaedic Index (POKEDEX) – Prototype #A05
    //://NATIONAL Mode

    Species #219: Magcargo

    -Weight: 121.7lbs
    -Height: 2'08"
    -FIRE/ROCK

    -MALE
    -Strength Lv.: INTERMEDIATE
    -Gentle Nature
    -ABILITY: Flame Body

    Description: Magcargo, the LAVA Pokémon. Lives primarily in volcanic regions and occasionally emits the lava from its back that circles its body. Its inner body temperature is roughly 18,000 degrees F. Its shell, which is actually skin that has been hardened as a result of cooling, is very brittle and fragile - just touching it causes it to crumble apart. Rejuvenates its shell upon respite, followed by gradual cooling.

    H. Status: FAINTED; subdermal cuts and shattered pyro-armor.

    --


    “So you don’t need to worry.” Black calmly told the girl, who blew her nose on the handkerchief. “Magcargo isn’t in particular danger. Holding him in Pokéball stasis will stabilise his condition.”

    Snivelling slightly, Susan aimed her Luxury Ball at the fallen Magcargo. The lava Pokémon disappeared in a shimmer of red light.

    “Thank you,” she mumbled.

    Black forced a smile.

    “Y-Your Pokémon are amazing. Unfezant had a Type disadvantage, yet it trounced Maggy completely,” Susan said in wonder.

    She looked down, blushing. “I-I shouldn’t have pressured you so much into battling me. Magcargo had reached a winning streak, and I got arrogant.”

    “You got impulsive, not arrogant,” said Black coolly.

    “I wanted to fight you when I heard you defeated my brother,” Susan said, brushing dust off her expensive, Celadon blouse.

    “Brother? You mean the blond kid in the sweater-vest and bowtie?”

    Susan giggled. “That sounds like Draco, definitely. He’s a good battler, but he hasn’t yet outgrown the snotty phase.”

    The girl straightened her lilac sundress for creases. Her crimped, auburn hair emanated the scent of fresh strawberries, probably from an organic shampoo. It reminded Black of an elegant but disdainful Trainer from the Elite Four, another native to Undella – Caitlin. Indeed, Susan’s handbag contained certain, tell-tale items: Luxury balls, Full Restores, Balm Mushrooms. Like her brother, Susan also held an inexpressible air of affluence and having been well cared for. Someone who had coasted through life without any hitch, who hadn’t spat into the maw. Content, but oblivious.

    Undella Town – the Retreat of Rippling Waves – must have been Susan’s birthplace and home.

    “Thank you for finding the time to battle me,” Susan piped in. “You must be very busy as Champion, saving Unova and jetting around the world. And it’s only your second day in Undella, and already you’ve had to deal with my brother and me…”

    “It’s nothing,” said Black. “You asked me for a match, I gave you one.”

    As per standard Unova League rules, Susan handed Black a wad of cash. However, he refused with a straining smile, citing that he had enough winnings to live two times over. The Riches family could keep their money, he assured. There was another reason for refusing the reward, though. While he talked to Susan, a sinking feeling of anger, discomfort, and something indefinable was pooling in his stomach.

    In reality, Black simply wished to get away from the sheltered socialite as swiftly as possible.

    “What you did was very brave, by the way,” murmured Susan, as she pocketed her rejected cash.

    Vacantly, Black stared at the auburn-haired girl.

    “We saw what you did to that white-tinted Pokémon in the giant Castle. Nobody else could have committed to the sacrifice you chose to make. If it weren’t for you, I-I would no longer have Maggy – or my Teddiursa. Humans wouldn’t be able to befriend Pokémon anymore.”

    Susan surveyed him; her blue irises glistered with innocent gratitude. “S-Some people might be frightened of you, but I’m not scared. You did a noble thing. You’re the Hero of Unova.”

    Black clenched his fists. A savage feeling spiked his chest, like a spear. Susan actually staggered backwards when she caught the dim glint in Black’s eyes. He took a step forward.

    “You don’t –”

    A loud crash interrupted him. The two Trainers wheeled around. Removing his gaze from Susan, Black discerned a hazy shape in the distance. It was approaching from the plateau above. A raucous buzzing, not dissimilar to the sound made by the blades of a lawnmower, boomed from the cliff’s edge. Bits of turf were flung outwards, as the blurry form rocketed down the slope at an absurd velocity. The creature came to a skittering halt in front of Susan. Alarmed, the girl stumbled.

    Black tilted up his League cap; his eyes studied the beast before him.

    The monster was lithe and streamlined, in an optimal aerodynamic design. A jagged fin, medalled with crisscrossing scars from overlapping battles, sprouted from the back. It was this, alongside the wide wingspan, which granted the Pokémon its infamous agility and manoeuvrability. Curved claws jutted out; a thin layer of dirt coated the tips, signalling that the creature had used them as grappling hooks. Its tail swayed back and forth, like a foul pendulum. The face was next. Serrated fangs furnished a hammer-shaped head, from which glowered a pair of beady eyes.

    Predator. Garchomp.

    “Hm.” Bemused, Black said, “I didn’t know Garchomp could use Rock Climb.”

    There was a shuffling behind Garchomp. To Black’s correct prediction, a mane of silky, blond hair emerged. Cynthia hopped off her Pokémon in one, fluid motion.

    “It was an HM for a while, before the Silph Co. phased it out of the market,” Cynthia replied.

    Laggardly, Susan recovered from the shock of meeting Garchomp. When she looked at Cynthia, her jaw unhinged comically.

    “You! You’re the Champion of the Sinnoh League!”

    Former Champion,” Cynthia corrected.

    “My mother and I were there in Sunyshore when Volkner challenged you,” said Susan breathlessly. “You’re a role model to female Trainers all around the world. The Sunyshore Exhibition Match of ’06! The way you finished that Raichu was ingenious.”

    Susan clapped her hands; the Silcoon-silk gloves rustled together. “You’re an incredible Champion. My favourite, actually. ”

    What was he? Chopped liver? Sardonically, Black wondered what Susan thought of him. Probably not this much. She wasn’t nearly as dewy-eyed when he first met her. Instead of gushing about his achievements, the girl announced that she was challenging him to a Pokémon match. Impertinent and haughty.

    Black didn’t mind, though. At least she didn’t ask for his autograph – or shudder and whisper behind his back.

    “That’s very flattering, Susan,” said Cynthia softly. “I’m honoured that you think so highly of me.”

    “You know my name?!” Black winced at the high-pitched squeal.

    “Yes, your mother and I have become acquainted over the past few days. She often speaks of you.”

    Garchomp growled something incomprehensible in its Trainer’s ear. Cynthia listened and nodded, as though she understood.

    “And that reminds me, your mother sent me over, Susan. Apparently you have a rehearsal dinner with Grandmother Clairdonna in one hour. Your mother wants you to come home immediately in order to prepare.”

    Susan actually squeaked. Panicking, she packed her belongings and arranged her hair, presumably into an acceptable manner.

    Shit, I totally forgot about that! Mum’s going to murder me,” Susan said to herself.

    A Pokéball soared into the air. In a flare of white, a tall hare with strong hindlegs and floppy ears manifested. Black’s Pokedex identified it as a Lopunny.

    “Thank you for the heads up,” Susan told Cynthia, as she climbed onto her Lopunny.

    The girl gave Black a furtive look, which he disregarded.

    “Loppy, try your best, okay?” Susan tightly gripped the brown fur. “Loppy, Bounce.”

    Cynthia and Black watched as the Lopunny launched itself upwards with one, powerful kick. Within seconds, Susan and her Pokémon passed halfway up the cliff. Another jump, and the pair vanished over the edge.

    Black tried to muster a polite smile, but failed.



    /+/+/ /+/+/+/



    “ – And you are going through with this? Isn’t there a rule designed to prevent to this sort of thing?”

    Shauntal is protesting, although I doubt that it is solely for my benefit. For somebody who often chooses to take a backseat and write instead of speak, Shauntal is surprisingly vociferous in her argument. Perhaps the news is jarring, even to her. She and the other Elite Four members do seem shocked at what the Board of Directors is proposing. I don’t even need to look at Marshal to know that he is, at that moment, only two sandwiches away from a picnic. Caitlin isn’t any better. She has set her face in default setting #10: haughty disdain.

    The pig in the expensive clothes gives a simpering smile.

    “Miss DuNoir,” he says to Shauntal, “the Board has the authority to supersede provisions in Sections 1 and 3, granted that the League has been put under a State of Emergency. If I am to understand, Champion Alder is yet to reverse that status?”

    “That was so the repair work wasn’t impeded by bundles of red tape,” rebuts Shauntal.

    “Nevertheless, our decision is quite legal. We have deemed that Champion Alder is unfit for duty. The fact that Team Plasma was able to build their headquarters here, undetected, is surfeit. Indeed, you are all lucky that you even retained your positions as the Elite Four. If the Gym Leaders hadn’t rejected our offers, they would have replaced you.”

    When Shauntal reels back, the official in the laundered clothes glanced at me. The look in his eye is predatory.

    “Besides, our new Champion is a prodigy, like the Champion of Sinnoh,” says the man. “He shall meet our expectations most wonderfully.”

    Everybody in that room turns to stare at me. The indignity on Marshal’s face, the shock on the others… The conceited, knowing look on the wealthy official. I hate that self-satisfied gleam. What would he know about survival? About Pokémon?

    Fuck you.

    At that moment, I decide that I hate rich people.






    /+/+/ /+/+/+/




    On the outskirts of Undella Town, there was a splendid mansion of crystalline windows and marble walls. At over 8,500 square feet, the mansion was the largest of Undella’s residences. Indeed, it even surpassed the villa of Lady Caitlin, Former Frontier Brain and Psychic mistress of the Unova Elite Four. Such opulence was matched by the identities of the mansion’s owners: the Riches Family. Led by the patriarch Albus Riche, the family had become a staple of Undella Town. The women of Undella attempted to emulate Trish Riche’s fashion, while sycophants offered rare artefacts to the item-maniac Albus, in hope of impressing him.

    Even the three Riches children – Miles, Susan, and Draco – were treated with such respect by the townsfolk that they had become anchored on their own egos. Not even the sight of the Unova League Champion daunted them. They even had the conceited gall to challenge the Champion to a Pokémon Battle. While Susan and Draco had endeavoured and lost, Miles was already planning his move.

    Such was the wealth of the Riches Family. Therefore, it was no surprise that the family possessed their own, private arena, designed for Pokémon Battles. The arena – located behind the colossal Riches Mansion – was an empty plateau that lay sandwiched between a high-rising cliff and the ocean itself. Devoid of wildlife, barring the tall evergreens and occasional flowers, the plateau was isolated and hard to reach.

    The perfect place for an undisturbed Pokémon match.

    It was on this plateau that Susan Riche had engaged in a battle with the reigning Unova League Champion. Of course, she had lost, leaving behind rubble and her pride. Susan was content, though, for she had gotten to meet Cynthia Chard, Former Champion of the Sinnoh League and the first female winner of a Grand Pokémon Tournament. Susan’s idol.

    Currently, that idolised woman and the Unova Champion were standing on the Riches’ plateau. The Unova Champion, “Black”, had just concluded his victory against Susan, who was climbing up the cliff with her Lopunny. He and Cynthia examined the girl, as her figure became more and more distant in the horizon.

    Black spoke as soon as Susan had completely vanished over the cliff: “How long were you watching?”

    “What do you mean?” Cynthia’s tone was evasive.

    He gave her a gimlet look.

    “I’m not stupid,” said Black, scrutinising Cynthia as she touched the silver ring on her left hand. “I sensed your Garchomp ten minutes ago.”

    “Really?”

    “Yes, really,” he replied. “So answer the question. How long?”

    Cynthia raised her eyebrows at him; Black did not waver.

    “Long enough,” she admitted, finally.

    Placidly, she brushed back her blond bangs. “I liked your use of Lucky Chant. It was very inspired.”

    “You noticed that?” He was surprised. “But it was a non-verbal command; only Unfezant should have known.”

    Stone Edge has a high critical-hit ratio,” she said plainly.

    Black peered at Cynthia; her acuity impressed him. By all reasons, Magcargo’s Stone Edge should have demolished Unfezant, even after factoring in Unfezant’s superior level and experience. A critical hit, which would have surpassed Giga Impact’s protective energy sheath, should have landed. Magcargo’s Type advantage should have triumphed. Why didn’t Unfezant lose?

    Simple. Unfezant was also known as the Super Luck Pokémon. Near the end of her Razor Wind attack, she slipped in a surreptitious Lucky Chant. Lady Fortune had weakened the Stone Edge, diverting the worst of the barrage.

    That Cynthia noticed all of this was remarkable. In fact, the last person to have perceived his strategies was –

    A memory of those piercing green eyes resurfaced:

    “Do you believe that Pokémon battles help us understand one another?”

    No. He wasn’t going to remember, not now. Tautening, Black banished the thought.

    Cynthia glanced at him.

    “You look a little pale. How are you feeling?” she asked.

    Brusquely, Black batted away Cynthia’s hand. “I’m fine.”

    Concern laced her voice. “Are you sure?”

    Black glared at her, as though she had slapped him. There was something galling about Cynthia’s demeanour. Although it seemed amiable and tranquil, her expression was knowing. Age and experience echoed in her eyes, dredging up memories of Professor Juniper and her apposite advice. However, there was more: optimism, cold logic, and… Was that a twinge of… empathy?

    “Why are you so nice?” he demanded.

    “Pardon?”

    “Why are you so nice to me?” Black repeated, warily. “Not just me, but to other people as well.”

    “You’ll have to be more specific,” said Cynthia.

    “You know!” Black gestured, frustrated. Cynthia’s Garchomp snarled protectively when he drew closer to the inexpressive blond woman. “Like that girl and the deliveryman from yesterday.

    “Why? You’ve never met them before, you’ve never met me before. Yet you sign autographs and talk as though you’ve known us for years. We’re total strangers. The truth is that we have different ideas and incompatible beliefs. We don’t share yours.”

    Cynthia cocked an eyebrow at Black’s darkening voice.

    “Those other people and I, we can never understand you,” he retorted. “We don’t really want to either. Why do you bother, then?”

    “Because I can,” she said.

    Black bolted up. His heart hammered against his ribcage like a drum.

    “True, in an ideal world we would all understand each other. Yet reality dictates a different existence,” said Cynthia in a firm tone. “People have different dreams and different priorities. Thus, we come into conflict and competition.”

    “You told the delivery boy that all his Pokémon dreams would come true,” said Black heatedly.

    “Yes, I did.”

    “Why?” Black’s voice became clinical. “Johansson’s life is shitty predictable: his father owns the local, Undella pizza shop, ‘Rufflet Pizza’. Two older sisters, both married. His mother died when he was ten. Aged nineteen, he wishes to become a Pokémon Trainer, specifically a Water-type Master.”

    Cynthia said nothing. Her serene smile waned imperceptibly, like Darkrai’s moon.

    “Johansson’s favourite region is Johto, because of the famous Whirl Cup and the Tour de Alto Mare. He doesn’t own any Pokémon, but he once befriended a wild Wailmer. When the seasons changed, though, the Wailmer herd had to migrate to the warmer oceans in Hoenn. Johansson never saw his friend again.”

    “You’ve done your research,” said Cynthia.

    “Undella’s a small resort town. When it rains, the locals gossip,” Black replied. “The information wasn’t hard to find.”

    Cynthia sighed. “Of course not.”

    “Standard age for the Trainer Qualifying Exam is eleven; Johansson is eight years too late,” said Black coldly. “You knew this. To expect otherwise is stupid. Why did you lie and give him false hope?”

    “It’s not false hope.”

    “You’re setting him up for massive disappointment,” he growled.

    Poised, Cynthia petted her Garchomp, who cooed in appreciation. “This isn’t just about the advice I gave Matt Johansson, is it? This is about you as well. About your own conflicts, perhaps over recent events? About Alder, or maybe someone else?”

    Words choked in Black’s throat, incoherent.

    “Caitlin told me how you feel about your new fame,” said Cynthia, stroking Garchomp’s tough skin. “She thinks you’re not handling it well.”

    Caitlin should mind her fucking business,” Black snapped.

    Cynthia didn’t reply. Instead, she gazed into the environment around her.

    A summer breeze drifted through the evergreen ferns which arrayed in the vicinity. Luxuriant, the leaves rustled, as Dwebble and Crustle scurried into the loamy sand. A Wingull glided through the sky’s crisp canvas, like a white paintbrush. Nestled under the exuberant sun, a row of cerise flowers swayed, secreting a faint aroma of honeyed freesias. Despite his situation, Black had to acknowledge the natural serenity of Undella Town. Cynthia appeared to be breathing in these beautiful surroundings, instead of responding to his anger.

    The breeze whistled again, fanning out Cynthia’s long hair. Troubled with a strong emotion, Cynthia touched her silver ring and stroked the strange brown stone.

    “Caitlin is not the only one,” she said at last. “Your friend Cheren had expressed similar concerns, as did your girlfriend, Bianca.”

    Black tensed. “Bianca isn’t my girlfriend.”

    “That does not diminish the sentiment any less.” Cynthia’s grey eyes gleamed, like the ash at a fire’s end. “Many people are worried about you, and they wish that you’d return home presently, whether that is Nuvema Town or the Unova Pokémon League.”

    Trembling, Black asked almost inaudibly. “When did you talk to my friends?”

    “I didn’t,” she said. “When I mentioned to Professor Juniper that you were cohabiting Caitlin’s villa, she forwarded their messages. They miss you, it seems.”

    Cynthia wandered to the murmuring ferns behind her Garchomp. Bending over, she scooped the flowers from underneath the foliage. Blushed petals floated in sea-bound zephyrs, wafting past Black’s shoulders, like a mother’s hands. A cherry aroma lingered.

    “These flowers remind me of a spring blossom from Sinnoh,” said Cynthia offhandedly.

    She lifted the bouquet to her nose. “They’re called ‘Gratia’ or ‘Kansha no Hana’ in a few of the Ancient Languages. Nowadays we call them Glacideas.”

    “Your point?” Black was brusque.

    “Legend says that Glacideas are a symbol of celebration and gratitude,” she said smoothly. “They bloom only every few years, and only under a certain angle of moonlight. The circumstances have to be right, or else the petals won’t open at all.”

    Black knew how finicky it was to grow Glacideas. His own mother had tried to cultivate the flowers when he was younger. She had purchased heirloom seeds, yet the saplings stubbornly refused to bloom. Extra water, Charizard manure, Growth Mulch imported from Goldenrod. Nothing could persuade the Glacideas.

    A hollow pain panged when Black remembered his mother. At this time of year, Nuvema Town would have decked itself with migrating Tranquill and kids in sweaty singlets, trying to catch the stray Sewaddle. His mother would probably be in a flour-dusted apron, watching some rerun of a ‘80s Lifetime Original. Would she be worried? Was she thinking about him? Outside their house, in the paddocks, Professor Juniper would tend to her Pokémon – Snivy and Oshawott, among others – for the next generation of Trainers.

    Nuvema Town… It had been so long.

    Too much had changed.

    Cynthia loosened her hand; the flowers hung between the fingers, like lonely teardrops.

    “In the west of Sinnoh, there is a town gilded with Glacideas,” she said quietly. “It’s called Floaroma. Its prime export is the famous Sonoo Honey, which had been produced by Combees, using the nectar of vivid, regional flowers.”

    “Sonoo Honey?”

    “Yes, Sonoo Honey. However, that’s not why I’m interested in Floaroma,” Cynthia explained. “You see, the elders of Floaroma have a myth about Glacideas. They claim that under the shadow of a dark moon, a legendary Pokémon would leave the Paradise of the North and visit the Glacidea fields. In the presence of the untainted Glacideas, the Pokémon would shift forms and take flight.”

    Against the ocean wind, Cynthia’s flowers emitted another coil of sweet perfume. It was subtle fragrance, this time of raspberries and blackcurrants.

    “In this new winged guise,” Cynthia resumed, “the Pokémon would confer its gifts of thanks to the townspeople, even though they never asked for anything. The Pokémon was simply glad that the Glacideas of Floaroma were untarnished. Mythology actually states that it’s because of this Pokémon’s mystical gifts that the Combee of Floaroma work so effectively, producing the town’s almost preternatural Sonoo honey.”

    “What are you saying?” asked Black.

    Cynthia fixed him with a stare. Grey orbs met amber. “Do you wonder why the Floaroma Pokémon is called the Spirit of Gratitude?”

    Her eyes flashed. “It is because the Pokémon’s gift was not requested, yet freely given. Because that gift to humanity was the Pokémon’s only way of expressing the joy it felt upon seeing those blossomed Glacideas.”

    Black’s pulse quickened.

    “Gratitude is like the Glacidea flower: it’s something so delicate and ephemeral, blossoming under exceptional circumstances, only to fade too quickly,” Cynthia ruminated.

    Radiantly, she smiled. “But however rare, it is breathtaking… Can you truly hate something that is this beautiful?”

    Black fell silent. The inside of his mouth was dry.

    Cynthia called out his name, causing him to look up. She approached from her Garchomp.

    “You’re not a bad person,” she told him. “I saw the way you interacted with Susan Riche. Even though she was rude and far from understanding, you chose to comfort her.”

    “What, no…” Black mumbled.

    “You showed her your Pokedex, although you had no need,” continued Cynthia. “You chose to use your Unfezant instead of your Carracosta, who would have completely annihilated her Magcargo. Despite everything, you didn’t want to hurt her feelings.”

    Black fingered his collar, which felt oddly tight around his neck.

    “I don’t like her – and the rest of them,” he said darkly. “They act like I’m their idol or something, as if they understand me. ‘The Hero of Unova’. Either that, or they treat me like a walking time-bomb. I’m dangerous.”

    “You’re not dangerous.”

    He laughed. “Who are you trying to kid? I brought down a fucking god.”

    “I know a Sinnoh girl who did worse in the Distortion World, and she was twelve,” said Cynthia.

    Garchomp roared at that moment. Cynthia dropped the fragrant bouquet, which slid towards Black’s feet. He picked up the flowers and scrutinised them. They were undeniably beautiful: the petals were splayed out in a hexagon pattern, extending in rose-coloured tips. A long stigma stretched daintily from the centre, like the leg of a prima ballerina. It was familiar…

    Then, Black remembered. This pink flower, it was in Cynthia’s photograph. The younger Cynthia had worn it in her cropped hair.

    More questions…

    Cynthia spoke again: “You shouldn’t be too hard on yourself.”

    Black’s hand flitted to the Pokébelt, feebly.

    “You insist on the truth, and reality can be harsh,” she said gently. “But ideals can still exist. Yes, some people will never understand, and conflicts will continue to arise. However, others can change. Their gratitude can be sincere; you have no reason to fear it. Don’t reject it.”

    Cynthia moseyed to her Garchomp and climbed onto its scaly, blue back. As she secured her footing on the hammer-head Pokémon, Black crouched down. Tired, he hugged his arms.

    “I need to leave now; I have to arrive at Undella Bay in thirty minutes,” she said. “A few people are coming from Sinnoh to discuss… business. Leave when you want.”

    Black remained silent.

    Sighing, she turned away. She whispered a command in Garchomp’s ear and wrapped her arms around its neck.

    “And the answer to your question,” called out Cynthia, as the Mach Dragon prepared to take off. “I was nice to Johansson because somebody had to. Although his dreams are unlikely, possibilities still remain. If you don’t dare to wish, nothing will change.”

    Black glanced up.

    “Even the harshest truths need the lens of idealism to mellow it,” she said earnestly. “Just as ideals have to tempered with a rational view of reality. Yin and Yang. Balance for balance.”

    “You spout neo-philosophical shit,” retorted Black.

    Cynthia was impervious to the insult. “I have the age and experience to back it up.”

    “I don’t buy it.”

    Cynthia chuckled knowingly. She said only one more thing before Garchomp vanished in a Dragon Rush.

    “I never said you have to.”



    /+/+/ /+/+/+/



    Alder doesn’t seem as bothered as I would’ve expected. He is folding a map to the Celestial Tower when I walk towards him. I work hard to keep my composure.

    “Why did you do it?” I ask him. “They said that you conceded… willingly, when they told you their plan.”

    Alder wears a weary expression. “You mean resign as Champion?”

    I don’t respond.

    “I choose to leave my position when the Board approached me,” says Alder, solemnly, “Because I realised that I needed to undo my mistakes.”

    “Mistakes?”

    “I saw what Reshiram’s boy did to you in that castle,” he says.

    His black eyes flash. “I promise you, I will catch him.”




    /+/ /+/+/+/+/



    -Undella Town-
    Monday

    “ – I’m not putting them on. You can’t make me.”

    “They’re swimming trunks, and you’re putting them on,” said Cynthia, reclining in the armchair. “It won’t kill you. I am not asking you to jump in toxic waste.”

    A deadpan response: “I’d take the toxic waste.”

    Amused, Cynthia raised an eyebrow. “How are you supposed to go swimming without swimming trunks? Are you expecting me to lend you a bikini?”

    “Keep your two-piece,” said Black, “because I’m not going swimming. Period.”

    “I’ll be wearing my black swimsuit.”

    Black glanced up. “What the hell is that supposed to mean?”

    “Nothing,” was the noncommittal reply. “I thought boys your age always want to know what women are wearing.”

    It was a sprightly Monday morning, and the two Champions were talking in Caitlin’s villa. The banter was friendly… it felt nice. Surprising, in fact. After their little ‘chat’ on Sunday, Black had expected things to become awkward between him and Cynthia. He had lost his composure and lashed out. It wasn’t something he was especially proud of.

    Half of him had anticipated that Cynthia would shun him, perhaps lodging a complaint to Caitlin. The Unova Elite Four were already on a knife’s edge, after his sudden “vacation”. Indeed, Marshal would have wet himself with glee at the chance to beat the living shit of him. Caitlin would have found another reason to whinge, while Grimsley had to play peacekeeper.

    Shauntal would have just stood back and added extra notes to her (unauthorised) biography on him. What a “unique” personality.

    However, Cynthia’s complaint never came. When the blonde former Champion returned to the villa from her rendezvous, she sashayed to the kitchen cupboard. She opened a tub of mixed nuts, added a scoop of vanilla ice-cream, and topped off the infernal mixture with extra-salty Slateport fish sauce. Black waited for the cold shoulder.

    Instead, the woman had offered him a spoon. “If you wait around for too long, the ice-cream will melt. That would ruin the dish.”

    Black made a sarcastic comment.

    “It’s nothing like that,” she said, giving some of the mixture to her Garchomp. Enthusiastic, the Pokémon scoffed down the gelatinous mess. “Garchomp thinks it’s palatable.”

    Hesitant, Black took the spoon. He licked the smallest tip of the discombobulated blend. Instantly the mixture stuck to the underside of his tongue, like unprocessed glue. Granules of bitterness coated his throat as he swallowed. Afternotes of sweet-and-sour followed.

    It tasted nice. He took another bite.

    Cynthia chuckled, before returning to her own dish. The two Trainers ate in comfortable silence. Any awkwardness had already evaporated, like the morning mist. And so, the heated conversation went unmentioned, leaving Black back where he started.

    Blithely, Cynthia had reverted to peppering him with coy and cryptic remarks. Currently, she had decided that the weather was apt for swimming at Undella Beach; the last vestiges of storm clouds had finally parted. She was trying to wheedle him into joining her in a swimsuit.

    “I am sure that you’ll enjoy yourself,” argued Cynthia. “You won’t be bored with me.”

    “You’re nearly twice my age,” Black said flatly.

    “And?”

    “You wouldn’t know what my generation does for fun,” he explained, without looking up from his book: Old as Dirt – the autobiography of Bertha Brunt, Elite Four. “For all you know, you’d think that a game of Beach Connect-Four is the ultimate pastime.”

    Cynthia gave an analytical look, while Black closed his tome and set it back in the bookcase, next to the Collected Historic Anthology of Sinnoh Gym Leaders: From Byron to Volkner.

    “What an uncanny resemblance,” she murmured.

    Cynthia shook her head. “It’s surprising to meet another Trainer who has the same clipped tone as that girl…”

    “Oh, the horror,” Black deadpanned.

    As the two Trainers stood at an impasse, outside the villa, a flock of Wingull squawked and bickered over the leftovers of greasy Fish-and-Chips. There was a faint screech of a car steering on the dirt road.

    Then, an unusual gleam manifested in Cynthia’s eyes. Apprehensive, Black retreated slightly when the woman opened her mouth:

    “Why come to a beach town if you don’t plan to visit the beach?”

    “Lots of other reasons.” Black felt mischievous. “I have an unhealthy appetite for blistering sea-salt and skin disease.”

    Cynthia carried on: “Nevertheless, the expectation is that when you abscond to a beach resort, you use the beach. That fact remains.”

    “The Unova Elite Four are toiling through a string of matches,” she said vaguely. “Specifically, Grimsley and Caitlin are pulling double-duty, in the absence of their eminent Champion.”

    Black buckled forward.

    “I wonder how they would react if they hear you refuse to leave the villa and enjoy yourself. Marshal Kunz had not vacationed in four years – ”

    Black raised his hand, interrupting Cynthia. Shuddering, he dismissed the mental image of an outraged Conkeldurr and a further outraged Trainer. The dark-skinned man had flexed his arms, announcing to “prevail the strength of conviction” – with his fist.

    “You win,” Black said, sighing. “I’ll get changed now. Give me the swimsuit.”

    Widening her smile, Cynthia reached into her duffel bag and pulled out a black material. She tossed it to him.

    With an ease honed from years of handling Pokéballs, he effortlessly caught the material. However, his eyes popped out when he examined the costume. It wasn’t a pair of swimming trunks; it was a speedo. Complete with little Sharpedos on the rear area.

    “This is a speedo,” Black retorted.

    Cynthia shrugged. “You were so against the swimming trunks that I had to choose something else.”

    “It’s a speedo.”

    “Yes, it is.” Cynthia sounded distinctly amused.

    It’s a speedo.

    The former Champion lounged in her armchair, like a smug Glameow.

    “Did you bring your own swimsuit?” she asked. “I am not referring to the torn pants you’ve used when Surfing, the ones I’ve unfortunately had to throw away.”

    At the mention of his ruined shorts, Black scowled. Cynthia’s Garchomp thought it would be hilarious to practice Fire Fang on some of his belongings. The damn sand-shark had barked with laughter when Black gawked at the sight of his charred possessions. Needless to say, the shorts were burnt, along with some assorted curios: a Cleanse Tag, two Miracle Seeds, a Lava Cookie from Cheren, and a half-eaten Rage Candybar. Black was incensed. Not even Cynthia’s sincere apology could help.

    Cynthia had insisted that it was all a grave misunderstanding; Black had muttered that Cynthia’s Garchomp was the groin-spawn of some flea-ridden incubus. The stupid Dragon hated him.

    Trilling, Cynthia’s voice pulled Black’s attention from his thoughts:

    “Judging from your expression,” she said in a light tone, “you don’t have your own swimsuit. Therefore, you will have to rely on what I have to offer.”

    Black glared.

    “Would you like me to continue?” she said, pleasantly.

    Defeated, Black sighed again. “I’ll go get changed.”

    “Excellent.”

    He rolled his eyes at the disquieting delight in Cynthia’s velvety voice. The woman had a surprising capacity for mischief. Wasn’t she meant to be renowned for her unflappable poise and rational, mature style? How unbecoming.

    Black had outwardly declared that he was protesting these new arrangements. However, under that blank demeanour and messy fringe of brown hair, there was a different story. The corners of lips, curled upwards ever-so-slightly.

    For the first time in weeks, he was actually smiling.



    /+/ /+/+/+/+/



    The first time I buy a Casteliacone, it isn’t particularly good. The sweltering, summer sun has melted the ice-cream, creating dribbles of vanilla down my wrist. I swear colourfully.

    I walk to a garbage can to bin the soft serve. However, Tepig nuzzles my leg. He is looking pointedly at the ice-cream.

    Mischievous, I lower the soft-serve and poke it gently into his nose. Tepig squeaks and then licks the Casteliacone off his face. The sprinkles catch on his tongue.

    I actually smile.



    /fin of Chapter Two/
    Last edited by Draco Malfoy; 8th July 2011 at 1:03 PM.

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    I really like the story and I'll keep track of it. It's not really like the ordinary storyline-story (which just includes getting all the badges and becoming Champion). The only thing I noticed is the following (which does not mean that there might not be others (and that's not ment in a rude way), as I'm not a native English speaker)

    Quote Originally Posted by Draco Malfoy View Post
    “That’s very flattering, Susan,” said Cynthia softly. “I’m honoured that you think so highly of me.”

    “You know my name?!” Black winced at the high-pitched squeal.
    I believe Black should be changed into Susan, otherwise this doesn't make any sense to me.

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    I believe Black should be changed into Susan, otherwise this doesn't make any sense to me.
    Susan is the one squealing "You know my name!" and Black is reacting to her squealing, by wincing.

    Sense made :P


    I saw that had posted something when you did but I started doing something else and completely forgot... whoops xD

    I really enjoyed this chapter, especially the constant geological, sciency descriptions of the magcargo :P

    And now we get to see the scene that the trailer referenced. I like the character development that came out of that scene, Black and Cynthia just added a new arrow to their quiver of characterisation.

    I wonder how Black's swim went xD
    Skogsrĺ

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    After I read this I had to go and do something else for a while or the review wouldn't just been a big fangasm rant that would have just been lashings of blind praise all over the place.

    Firstly, the things that gripped me from the beginning and kept me reading was your description. You found an interesting and unique way to describe pretty much everything. Here is one of my favorite examples of this:

    Unfezant spread her wings, which began to shine with brilliant, purple iridescence. Orange flecks of light overlay the violet glow, like the afterimage from a camera flash. A second later, the bird was entirely encased in a seethed cocoon of energy. The rock-snail tried to crawl away from Unfezant. As characteristic of its species, acrid smoke gushed from the Pokémon’s pyroclastic shell, signalling its distress.
    Bolded parts are the highlights. As soon as I got any of this kind of stuff I was in awe.

    Also the characters you are portraying in Black and Cynthia are superb. I found Black's view on the world intriguing and Cynthia was just how I imagined her. I approved of her actions and all of her dialog suited her perfectly. Her expression in even her sugimori art gives a lot away. She's one of my favorite characters (could you guess?)

    Also, you've described the Unova region in a way that makes me not hate it which isn't an easy feat considering I considered it a well advertised fakemon region for a while.

    The stuff with the battling and lucky chant got the inner battle mechanic nerd inside of me excited. I liked this little touch:

    -Strength Lv.: INTERMEDIATE
    Good on you for making the in-game system make more sense! The Pokedex actually seemed helpful which was nice instead of it spouting trivia about the Pokemon you are facing.

    All of the references to Sinnoh and the amazing way you described gratitude really picks this story up for me. I get one of those "I get that reference" moments and lots of endorphins float around my brain whenever that happens.

    I'm excited the read the rest and well done! (Notice how I said I was going to review, and then did! Aren't I a good boy?)

    But your description! I am sooo envious.
    Lol.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Diddy View Post
    Susan is the one squealing "You know my name!" and Black is reacting to her squealing, by wincing.

    Sense made :P
    Indeed, thanks. I probably should read more careful next time, but I think this happened because I'm kinda used to the names of people being placed right behind what was said...

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    @Emeraldfan: Well, I'm trying to go against the trend a little. There aren't many 5th gen fics which deal with topics other than collecting badges or Shipping. On the latter note, you'd think that B/W was only about N boning either Touya or Touko on a Ferris wheel, if the Shipping fics were true. =P

    Besides, there are tonnes of OC fics and pre-Gen V fics. The character of B/W need love too.

    @Diddy: "Quiver of characterisation". Haha, that reminds me of a quote from the Big Bang Theory. Amy said "well, that was the last arrow in my quiver of whimsy and characterisation". xD

    And you knew that Cynthia wanted to chuck Black in a speedo. She's not stupid; she probably likes a little mischief. I know that to you, she has a lesbian-ish vibe, but to me, I can totally imagine her as saying something like "sexuality is a spectrum". Without dropping her calm aura of wisdom. Oh my. O.o;;;

    @moonlightning: Really? You didn't like Unova? I didn't find it a terrible region. The B/W games definitely had one of the best plots, and the region itself was fun to navigate. At least there weren't a deluge of waterways which made me shout "holy crap, not another Tentacool". Although I shouldn't bash Hoenn; R/S/E did introduce Pokemon Contests, which were a nice distraction.

    I'm glad that you've enjoyed the descriptions and my take on Black & Cynthia. I think those two have a very interesting relationship. As the genre tag suggests, it's a friendship, but it's not a "I'm your drinking buddy" or a childhood mates sort of thing. It has a mentoring/maternal edge to it, because Cynthia is older than Black and therefore has had greater life experiences. I don't know how it happened, but Black and Cynthia also have a slight chemistry between them. I didn't mean for it happen, but Black certainly has checked out Cynthia (at least inadvertently) and Cynthia... somehow I know that her intentions towards Black are 95% pure.

    I can't say that for the remaining 5%. =D

    Oh, well. Cynthia isn't stupid to do anything about it, and Black has too many mental issues to even seriously contemplate that. Hence, they'd mainly have an almost cross-generational friendship.


    Keep the feedback coming. The more I get, the more material I can use to improve the prose.
    Last edited by Draco Malfoy; 8th July 2011 at 11:03 PM.

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    Double-posting, but I'm posting the next chapter. Read and enjoy. Also, don't forget to leave comments and reviews. Constructive feedback is appreciated.


    ================================================== =======

    Chapter Three

    ================================================== =======
    “We’re never so vulnerable than when we trust someone - but paradoxically, if we cannot trust, neither can we find love or joy.”
    -Walter Anderson-
    ================================================== =======

    It’s in Accumula Town where I meet N for the first time.

    He’s unimposing in appearance: a rounded face, soft nose, and softer eyes. In fact, his lengthy, green hair is the only thing that stands out about him. That gentleness about him is belying. Curious, I follow his gaze to a platform. He and the rest of the crowd are staring at the stage. Somebody is giving a speech at the podium. I resist the urge to snort, because most of the material is utter crap. Pokémon liberation, really?

    The one-eyed man in the florid cloak, the person giving the speech, compares Pokémon Trainers to slave auctioneers.

    “Bullshit,” I mutter.

    N notices me. His green irises flick to my left ankle, where Tepig is sitting. Cheren, who’s standing next to me, scowls.

    “Your Pokémon,” N said. “Just now, it was saying...”

    I’m excited. Fuck it, I am.

    “You can hear Tepig?!” I exclaim, as I nearly jump on N. “What is he saying? Do Pokémon actually talk?!”

    N blinks.

    “Yes, they can talk,” he says, slowly.

    Cheren doesn’t look impressed.

    “Oh.” N realised something. “Then, you two can’t hear it, either... How sad.”

    He seems disappointed, almost. It’s as if he had expected another response.

    “What’s your name?” I ask, cheerfully.

    “My name is N.”



    / /+/+/+/+/+/


    -Undella Town-
    Tuesday


    This was Black’s second day at the beach. The first day was as just bad as he had imagined: hot and sticky, with an extra dosage of Cynthia. Cynthia herself wasn’t a problem. In fact, the woman was quite astute and peaceful to be around. No, the problem was her primary associate – Garchomp. The foul creature found an excuse to head-butt him, whenever was possible. It wasn’t a full-on Pokémon attack, more like a “gentle” shove. “Gentle”, but beyond maddening. Buy a Snow Cone without offering Cynthia one, head-butt. Forget to open the parasol for Cynthia, head-butt. Fucking look at Cynthia wrong, head-butt.

    It hurt. A lot.

    Black knew under no uncertain terms, that Garchomp hated him. He was fine with that; he didn’t like the rabid shark either. The only problem was convincing Cynthia that Garchomp hated him. Either the former Champion was stupid enough to believe that Garchomp’s head-butts were coincidental, or she noticed but was choosing not to do anything about it.

    Black was hoping that it was the former.

    Cynthia called out his name, grabbing his attention.

    “How are you feeling? You look rather peckish,” she said gently.

    “I’m a little hungry,” he admitted.

    Black set down the (thick) book he was reading. Like many other tomes that he had been selecting lately, it was a history volume. The Annotated History of the Valor Lakefront: Precincts of Arrowroot and Snowpoint (4th Edition). The chapters devoted to the Gym Leader Camellia and her exploits were intriguing, to say the least.

    Indeed, the woman had tackled a range of opponents, from cannibalistic Froslass within the Snowpoint Temple to Gym challengers, whom she had named anonymous whilst describing in some detail. Out of the Trainers who battled and defeated Camellia, the shy boy with the shyer Abra and the vivacious girl with the slow-footed Gastrodon were most impressive. All in all, the book possessed interesting material, most definitely. Enthralling content.

    However, for some reason Black was far more interested in what Cynthia had to say. Weird.

    Shaking his head, he returned his attention to the conversation.

    “Do you have any snacks?” he asked Cynthia.

    “Apples or muesli bars?”

    “Muesli bars.”

    “Front flap of the duffel bag. Try the second compartment.”

    As Black reached over to the bag, Garchomp, who was sitting beside it, bared his wide, yellowed teeth. Draconian nostrils flared, like a spinning fire. Black grabbed the muesli bars as swiftly as he could. Contrary to what Cheren had always claimed, he didn’t want to lose an arm.

    “Why don’t you keep Garchomp in his Pokéball?” Black asked Cynthia.

    “He likes the fresh air,” she replied. “He has always been a bit more squeamish than my other Pokémon.”

    Cynthia lifted her sunglasses. “Why? Do you not like Garchomp. He definitely likes you.”

    The corners of Cynthia’s lips curled upwards. A faint but irrefutable hint of amusement lingered, as though the former Champion had witnessed a particularly talented pantomime.

    Black twitched.

    That settled it. It was the latter. Definitely the latter.

    Exasperated, Black sighed and looked away from Cynthia. Instead, he tried to adjust his uncomfortable speedo. The damn thing kept on riding up his – well, that wasn’t important. What was important, important and telling, were his surroundings.

    The beach which Cynthia had selected was strange. On the first glance, it appeared the same as the rest of the Undella coastline: crisp waters, gentle waves, and white sands. However, Black discovered that the similarities had ended there. Unlike the other beaches, Cynthia’s beach was empty. Although it was two in the afternoon, Black knew that he and Cynthia were the only ones present. Not a single tourist or swimmer in sight. Even the lifeguard's high chair was abandoned, signalling that this was an unmanned beach. The strange arrangement of stones next to that chair's skeleton only compounded the mystery.

    Moreover, the reactions of the locals were confusing. Earlier in the day, Cynthia had asked him to head to the beach, while she went to buy some snacks at the convenience store. However, the former Champion had forgotten to give Black the directions to her beach, forcing him to ask the locals. When he did so at the PokéCenter, the effect was electric. The surfer in flip-flops nearly dropped his injured Squirtle, while the Nurse gasped. A schoolgirl standing next to them – a blithe blonde, dressed in a yellow swimsuit – stammered. The grandmother with the Chimecho told Black to “stay away from the Cove.”

    There was something... off about the beach. Black knew that the beach, “the Cove”, was probably important to Undella Town. But how? He mentally made a note to research into it later.

    A shuffling from beside him brought Black out of his ponderings. Despite himself, Black felt his eyes drift over the source of the sound: the woman next to him.

    Languidly, Cynthia had spread herself on the Bronzor-themed towel. She had delivered on her word: she was wearing a black swimsuit. The bikini verged on the obscene, though. Indeed, the bottom consisted of a lacy thong which revealed Cynthia’s long, lissom legs. The top wrapped around her chest, pressing up the breasts in a classy bandeau. When Cynthia stretched her feet around the concentric, Bronzor patterns, the bra shifted. Supple white skin greeted the summer sun, as Black’s eyes met that significant cleavage.

    Black felt his cheeks redden. Detecting Black’s stunned gaze, Garchomp snarled. The creature gnashed his teeth, protective.

    “You really are a young boy, aren’t you?” said Cynthia, noticing Black’s blush.

    Embarrassed, Black turned away.

    “Shut up,” he muttered.

    She raised her eyebrows. “You’ve never seen in a woman’s body before? It is nothing to be scared of.”

    “I’m not scared,” he said in a controlled voice. “Why did you have to wear that today, though? Couldn’t you have worn the white one-piece?”

    “The white one is too constricting around my chest,” she said serenely. “I can barely breathe in it. Besides, I thought you would like this one.”

    Black tore into a muesli bar, frustrated.

    Cynthia clicked her tongue against her teeth. “Shame. You’d think that a boy as well-travelled as yourself would have seen a bikini before.” She wiggled her toes in the sand. “Perhaps your friend Bianca was too self-conscious to wear a swimsuit around you.”

    “Bianca wears an orange maillot with cerulean trimmings,” said Black brusquely. “Not a black, near transparent two-piece. That shouldn’t be legal.”

    “You know the cut and fashion designer’s name of your friend’s swimwear?” Cynthia absently secured her sunglasses. “Impressive… you must have a very specific eye for detail. A voyeur, perhaps?”

    Black slammed his head into the sand.

    Softening her gaze, Cynthia uncurled herself and smiled at Black. Mischief slipped from her face, making room for genuine contentment. She twisted the silver ring on her hand; the anomalous brown stone glistered, like a polished cowrie.

    “It makes me happy to see you like this,” she said softly. “Hormonal, carefree… you look like a, a – ”

    “A loon?” Black snarked.

    Cynthia shook her head. “A teenager.”

    A strange feeling rose in Black, something different to the familiar burdens of rage and sorrow. It spread across his stomach, like hot chocolate in a winter’s night. Is that how Cynthia saw him? Not as a Champion, or some fictional Hero, but as a boy? The warmth reached his chest. After another moment, Black realised that what he was feeling was hope.

    “You’re delusional,” he said, half-heartedly.

    Garchomp snorted, while Cynthia took off her glasses.

    “I don’t think I am,” she said meekly.

    She scratched her Garchomp under the chin. “When I first met you, you had a certain look. Dark circles, chapped lips, and – those eyes. Your eyes were clouded, intense like that girl’s…”

    “You’re not making sense.”

    “How lonely were you?” Cynthia sounded sad, without pity. “When was the last time you saw your boyhood friends?”

    Black was prepared to launch a sardonic remark, but at the last moment, he chose to rein it in. For some reason, he wanted to talk to somebody about that last month, even Cynthia. No, especially Cynthia. The woman had shared her own childhood story; it was only fair that he reciprocated.

    “I last met Cheren in Nuvema, after Professor Juniper had upgraded my Pokédex.” He traced the stitched rim of his League cap. “The guy was helping a lab assistant to modify one of those Hoenn PokeNav, apparently for use in Unova. Cheren was always good with electronics, much better than me. When we were younger, I used to call him Gear Head. It pissed the crap out of him.”

    “He was helping one of Aurea Juniper’s assistants?”

    “It’s Cheren’s thing. He’s a Fix-it guy.” Impassively, Black pulled in his knees. “The stoic, reliable one who knows a solution from this book or that manual. The serious kid you’d sit next to, just so you could lift his test answers. That was Cheren.”

    “Did you talk to him?” asked Cynthia.

    “I wanted to. I tried, I really did,” said Black. His voice cooled, like an Arctic snap. “But when I approached him, I saw his Samurott standing next to him, like some bodyguard. My body froze up… I choked up, and words wouldn’t come out.”

    As Black said those words, a memory of Cheren materialised. The Pidove were chirping in a nearby oak tree, and his shirt was pasted to his back with sweat. There was the peal of laughter, like a chime; a raven-haired boy was kneeling beside a horned sea-lion. That bespectacled boy, normally stoic and apathetic, laughed and bathed in a dusky moment of camaraderie with his Pokémon. His first partner.

    “It got worse when Cheren actually spotted me,” Black continued. “He called out my name, and I ran like a fucking pansy. I ran until Cheren was gone, and my lungs were screaming at the seams. I felt sick and nearly threw up yesterday’s Kung Pao Chicken. Probably from over-exhaustion, right?”

    Cynthia folded her hands, but didn’t say anything.

    “Bianca wasn’t any better,” said Black. “Unlike Cheren, she actually had the balls – or stupidity – to follow me to Castelia City. She wanted to talk to me, so we visited that famous café.”

    “Sally’s Corner.”

    “Yeah, that one. The café was actually closed when we got there.” Black chewed on his second muesli bar. “Apparently the owner closed shop every Tuesday. That didn’t deter Bianca, though. When she actually set her scatterbrained mind on something, she would try her best to see it through. It was her way of doing things, I guess.”

    “What did she do?” Cynthia asked considerately.

    Black snorted. “She knocked on the café door continuously, until the owner, who lived in the upstairs annexe, got bothered to tell us off. Bianca then brought out the waterworks. Five minutes later, we were sharing a Casteliacone with hot Chocolate Fudge.”

    “That must have been delicious,” said Cynthia, with a smile. “A classic combination of vanilla and chocolate.”

    “Maybe,” was Black’s evasive reply. “I wouldn’t know. Bianca ate the entire thing before I could really try. Her appetite was huge for a girl’s. Cheren used to say that she stored an alternate dimension in her stomach.”

    It was true. Bianca had demolished the sundae, wielding her spoon like a crusader's sword. Aghast, the owner gaped at her, while Black didn’t even blink. Melted chocolate pooled in the bottom of the empty, glass bowl, as Bianca leaned towards him. Her green eyes were oddly protuberant and glassy. She wetted her pink lips –

    Shaking his head, Black returned to the story: “We talked for a while. Nothing happened.”

    “Did she ask?” Cynthia was patient.

    “About it?” said Black, tearing open another muesli bar. “Yeah.”

    “That must have upset you.”

    “I’m not a fucking kid. I can handle myself,” Black said keenly. “I didn’t cry or anything, if that’s what you’re thinking.”

    “It did make you angry, though.”

    “No, it didn’t. By that point, I had gone beyond caring,” he murmured. That horrible weight pulled on his chest again, like a puppeteer with his strings. “The words didn’t really register.”

    Dispassionate, Black hugged his knees. “But then she took out her Serperior, I don’t know why, maybe to feed him. Instantly, she realised her mistake. She returned her Pokémon to the ball and apologised over and over again.”

    Cynthia twisted the silver ring on her finger.

    “I couldn’t stand the pity in her eyes,” said Black, directing his voice into that familiar placid and detached tone. “Bianca used to respect me. I wasn’t so much her rival as her admiration. But now… I was something to feel sorry for?”

    Bianca’s green eyes were glazed with sympathy and commiseration. The long lashes were tipped with tears, giving the impression of cut blades of grass after the morning’s dew. Why did she feel sorry for him? Why? He was the Unova Champion, as he had always dreamt in his childhood of race-car beds and sticky-taped posters. The Elite Four respected him, and the media called him “the latest in the dynasty of prodigy Champions”. But those green eyes. Piercing green eyes…

    The Ferris wheel turned, and that murmured apology –

    Instinctively, Black reached for his Pokébelt. The Garchomp growled.

    “What did you do?” asked Cynthia quietly.

    “Nothing,” Black intoned. “I paid the shopkeeper. Bianca and I then shook hands and parted ways. Life goes on.”



    / /+/+/+/+/+/



    “Where did you first meet your Pokémon?”

    N is gazing at me, inquisitively. Wiping my mouth, I set down the Rage Candybar and look back at him. His face is blank and enigmatic. I suspect that he already knows the answer to his own question, but I decide to indulge him.

    “I met Elgyem last.” I start in a careful voice. “He was a shy little thing from the Celestial Tower; he still cries at the sight of his own shadow.”

    I pocket the half-eaten Rage Candybar.

    “Pansage is from the Dreamyard, and Lenora revived Carracosta from a fossil. And I met Scraggy in Route 4.”

    “Tranquill and Pignite?” asks N.

    “They’re my best friends, I’ve known them the longest,” I reply. “Tranquill is my first capture, actually. From Route 3.”

    N seems sad. “And your Pignite was your Starter?”

    “Yeah, Pignite was Tepig, my first Pokémon. Why ask?”

    The morning sunlight breaks upon N’s face; his green eyes are inscrutable, as they reflect the pale glow. He brushes away some dust from my face. I frown when N sighs.

    “Nothing.”

    He leans towards me. “Do you think that if we were two ordinary Trainers, if we weren’t heroes, we could have been friends?”




    /+/+/+/+/+/ /



    -Undella Town-
    Wednesday


    Black sat on the balcony of the villa, watching the sun rise in the eastern horizon. Golden fingers of light seeped through the darkened sky. The underside of cumulus clouds were tinged with splashes of pink and orange, like acrylic paint on a well-worn easel. The smallest of sunbeams flecked the surface of Undella Bay’s stirring waters, which broke upon the white beach in imperceptible waves. Black wondered if daybreak had a bell, and what that would sound like. A soft peal? A trumpeting cry? An indefinite echo, Black decided.

    Dawn was always his favourite part of the day. There was something hushed and gorgeous about that early, basking glow. It was soothing, balmy. The best part, though, were the first five seconds before the sun actually broke through. In those seconds, you were unsure of whether the world would continue turning in darkness or awaken for one more day. At that moment, the world’s fate rested on a butterfly’s wing.

    Then, time marched again, and sunlight streamed through the clouds. As the sky ignited with brightness, the world went on as usual.

    Black liked those first few seconds of dawn because the moment was crystallised in uncertainty. At that moment, it felt as though anything could happen. Anything.

    Leaning forward, he smiled and petted his Unfezant, whom he had early released from her Pokéball. Unfezant enjoyed sunrises as much as he did, and Black didn’t want to deprive her. He tickled the Pokémon under her chin. The bird squawked happily.

    “Remember when I first met you?” Black said to Unfezant. “It was right before dawn, wasn’t it?”

    Unfezant cawed in affirmation. She was the first Pokémon he had ever caught. It was early spring, and a brisk chill had permeated Route 3. Buoyed with the excitement of his first Pokémon journey, Black was racing down the road; he wanted to beat the Striaton Gym before Cheren did. Daybreak had opened, illuminating the pine trees which skirted the route. Spindly branches had started to cast defined shadows on the earth. Curious, a lone Pidove was perched on one of these branches. She angled her head, viewing Black as an intellectual oddity. Black grinned.

    A Pokémon battle followed. Ember wisps whirled. After another Tackle, Black threw a red Pokéball, and what followed was the start of a great Pokémon career.

    Unlike the rest of Black’s Pokémon, Unfezant never went through a rebellious phase. She didn’t complain when Black, in a foolish beginner’s mistake, deployed her against a wild Roggenrola in the Wellspring Cave. She didn’t whine when he asked her to learn the HM move, Fly, even though it would subject her to perilous loads. She didn’t say “fuck it” and disobey him in the midst of a battle, like Scrafty (who, even as a young Scraggy, was a malicious fucker). All in all, Unfezant was a rational Pokémon who enjoyed simple pleasures.

    She was the most diligent and second-most faithful Pokémon that Black had ever owned.

    “What do you think of Cynthia?” Black asked Unfezant. “Do you think she’s trustworthy?”

    The bird ruffled her tail feathers.

    “Really? That much?” Black was surprised.

    Unfezant answered by pecking the wooden guardrail. She struck the dove-tail joint, four times.

    Black rolled his eyes. “I do not have avoidance issues. And Cynthia isn’t that pretty.”

    Squawking, Unfezant gave him a disapproving nip on the finger. A numb pain hummed, as Black winced and squeezed the wounded forefinger. A tiny droplet of blood began to form.

    “You didn’t have to do it,” said Black, glaring at the bird. “I get it. I shouldn’t be so cynical. You didn’t have to engrave my hand to make your point.”

    Unfezant slanted her head to the left, and then to the left. As the morning sun rose higher in the sky, the bird gave her Trainer a gimlet look. She looked serene and unflustered. Black wondered if Unfezant’s calm demeanour was a vestige from her Tranquil days.

    “I know I owe Caitlin. Both her and Grimsley,” Black responded. He stared vacantly at the horizon, which was wrapping the ocean in a golden embrace. “Tonnes of people are helping me, for some reason.”

    He sighed. “I don’t deserve their attention. I don’t want their attention, either.”

    Extending her talons, Unfezant scratched the guardrail, twice.

    “Don’t say that,” said Black, biting his lip. “The reality is that I’m not like that anymore. I've grown up, I’m their stupid Hero now. I can’t afford to be idealistic.”

    Unfezant squawked irritably.

    “It’s the cold truth.”

    Unfezant adjusted her mottled plumage.

    “I wish I could,” he replied quietly. “Cynthia’s helped a lot, and the nightmares are lessening. But… I only tolerate her because she doesn’t pity me or try to treat me any differently.”

    Unfezant quavered.

    Sombre, Black lowered his League hat. “She doesn’t bring up what happened, like everyone else. I don’t know how I’d react if she did, though.”

    Unfezant lifted her right wing and waved it.

    “Thanks,” he murmured, stroking Unfezant’s tail feathers. “That’s what you think, huh? You were always the unlikely optimist.”

    Unfezant nuzzled her head against Black. She cooed, three times in succession. When Black felt his chest tighten uncomfortably, the bird cawed.

    “Of course I miss Cheren and Bianca,” he said hastily. “Mum, Professor Juniper – even the Elite Four. I want to see them, but… they wouldn’t understand. Maybe Alder, but his situation was different. Nobody is fucking congratulating him for it.”

    Unfezant whistled, in a low, melancholic dirge.

    Black trembled. “I miss him too.”

    Making a split-second decision, Unfezant hopped off the guardrail and flew behind Black. She tried to fold her wings around her Trainer’s head, in an avian simulacrum of a hug. Long, grey feathers brushed against Black’s cheeks, comfortingly.

    Black felt a rush of affection towards Unfezant.

    “One of these days,” he said brightly, “I’ll need to buy you a nice, tasty sack of Poffin Pellets. You silly bag of feathers.”

    Unfezant trilled elatedly.

    After returning Unfezant to her Pokéball, Black glanced at his Mudkipz wris****ch. It was already six thirty. Shit. He had been talking to Unfezant for nearly an hour? He had to get ready.

    He walked back into his bedroom and headed into the en-suite bathroom. After grabbing his toothbrush from the Sesmitoad-shaped holder, he reached for his ‘Morning Budew™’ toothpaste. However, when he squeezed the tube, nothing would come out. Not even the smallest smidgeon of paste.

    “Great,” Black muttered, as he binned the empty tube.

    Right. New toothpaste. Surely, Grimsley – or whoever had last stayed in this guestroom – must have stored some extra tubes? Maybe the hulking man with the flyaway, blond hair – Parnell? Pelmer? – had stashed his toiletries in the bathroom cabinet. He did visit the villa during the winter, whenever Caitlin had allowed it.

    Black opened the wooden cabinet, which was installed under the sink.

    “Toothpaste, toothpaste,” he said to himself.

    He rummaged the drawers, wading through Grimsley’s Solitaire-brand aftershave and bottles of foul cologne. Disgusting. The astringent stench from the perfume bottles reminded Black of Rapidash piss. Did people actually use that stuff? That was surprising.

    Reaching further into the cabinet, Black took out a double-step. The footstool, marketed to children, wasn’t even tall enough to reach the bathroom mirror. Black turned it over. On the side, was engraved “Property of Thorton”.

    When Black reached into the cabinet once more, he finally found the toothpaste. It was a fancy brand, the kind with “organic” ingredients sourced from this rainforest or that oceanic trench. The tube itself was embellished with pictures of Delcatty and Liepard designed to entice the wealthy clientele, who wished to bolster their own sense of wealth and superiority.

    However, the most noticeable feature about the toothpaste was the note taped on the tube. Black ripped it off.

    His eyes narrowed when he read its contents:


    TO: You know who you are.

    Like everything else in this bathroom, this toothpaste is a premium brand. It slides through pearly teeth with the gentlest ease, cleansing the gums and the tongue’s pink underside. The beautiful bubbles from the emulsion will be soothing to the mouth, like warm bowl of silky Minestrone.

    Come home soon, fucker. I miss your pathetic whining.

    ~Caitlin.



    “So I’ve evolved from ‘little boy’ to ‘fucker’?” said Black, folding the note.

    He uncapped the expensive tube and squeezed the paste onto his toothbrush. “For a supposedly well-bred lady, Caitlin isn’t stingy with her swearing.”

    After brushing his teeth, Black took a cold shower and slipped on a fresh set of clothes. He was grabbing his League cap, when he saw Caitlin’s folded note, still lying on the sink. A compulsion pricked Black. Suppressing a tingle of emotion towards Caitlin, he picked up the note.

    “She misses my whining, huh?” Black flicked the note between his fingers.

    Pocketing the paper, he left the room and headed down the stairs. To Black’s surprise, Cynthia was waiting at the bottom. She was wearing her standard outfit: slick, black pants and a long, elegant coat. The one-size too-small blouse supported her ample bust, while revealing certain glimpses of pale skin.

    “What are doing up so early?” asked Black, dismissing a few lurid thoughts. “Were you waiting for me?”

    “Good morning to you, too,” said Cynthia, unperturbed. “And yes. As a matter of fact, I was hoping you’d come down a bit earlier.”

    She tilted her head, knowingly. “Busy watching the beautiful sunrise?”

    Black nodded.

    “Walk with me,” she said, gesturing at him.

    When Cynthia strolled down the hall, Black followed. The two Champions walked in silence, only the sound of their shoes echoing against the polished patio.

    “How did you sleep?” asked Cynthia.

    “Fine,” said Black, as he scrutinised her through careful eyes. “Whose stuff is that? Those orange bottles of cologne in the guest’s bathroom.”

    “Orange bottles?” Cynthia chuckled, after a pause. “Let me guess: viscous, yellow liquid which smells like urine.”

    Black stopped. “Yeah… How did you know?”

    “That’s not cologne,” said Cynthia in a rather entertained tone. “That’s double-processed Regal Jelly, mixed with brine as a pickling agent.”

    “Regal Jelly?”

    “Vespiquen excrement,” summarised Cynthia.

    Black dug his heels into the wooden floor, hearing the panels creak under his sneakers. Shocked, he spun around to Cynthia.

    “Who the hell stores Vespiquen shit?!” Black shuddered, remembering that he handled those bottles. “Why would you?”

    “Alder does. He orders it from Aaron Greengrass in Sinnoh,” said Cynthia. “Those would have been his bottles in the bathroom. He uses it to slick his hair.”

    Gently, she smiled. “The substance is non-toxic, water-soluble after a certain time period, and has great adhesive properties.”

    Black opened his mouth to question the sanity of using Regal Jelly for hair care, when he realised that he was talking about Alder. The man who had left him to– No. Raw anger scorched through him, fresh and seething like magma. He tried to take some deep, calming breaths. Slowly, he relaxed. This was not the time to think about that. The topic was too sensitive, too recent.

    Cynthia seemed to notice the change in Black’s demeanour. Crossing her arms, she studied him, as though he were an intriguing myth to uncover. The brown stone in her silver ring gleamed.

    “What are you looking at?” said Black.

    “Something interesting,” was her cryptic reply.

    Black frowned; the two Champions continued to stride down the hall, without sharing a word.

    When Cynthia and Black entered the lounge, somebody else was already inside. It was a tall, blond woman. She was sitting on the green futon, her back as rigid as a wooden board and a stiff posture that would give Cheren a run for his money. Long legs were crossed under the coffee table, next to her shabby briefcase. In her hands were a series of manila folders. If Black didn’t know any better, he would say that this woman was a police officer or a Private eye.

    However, the woman wore a much too familiar face. Ash-grey eyes that were framed with long lashes; tapered cheeks; a delicate nose.

    Cynthia.

    How was that even possible? What the fuck?

    “You are the one who met the white dragon, yes?” asked the Cynthia on the couch, setting down the folders. “I see that you are a powerful Trainer already. This is why I have arrived here!”

    The other Cynthia said Black’s name, snagging his attention.

    “This is Looker,” she said, motioning at the other Cynthia. “Looker, this is the region’s current Champion.”

    Black stammered. “‘Looker’? But she’s you. Or you’re her? What the hell…”

    Couch-Cynthia blinked, as though she were confused by Black’s words. She scratched her blond head and contemplated what the Unova Champion was saying. After a moment of thought, however, Couch-Cynthia clicked her fingers.

    “Oh! I still wear my disguise,” she exclaimed. “Pardon! I shall remove, and change into a more suitable appearance. Please wait.”

    Couch-Cynthia began to change. Her face bubbled, as invisible insects scampered under her skin. Blond hair swooped back into the skull, while the jaw became more defined. A tan crawled up her arms and legs, tinting and drying that creamy, moist skin. Even the clothes transformed: Couch-Cynthia’s cloak lengthened into a brown trench coat, while her blouse blossomed, combining with the pants to become a crisp business suit. A five o’clock shadow dashed across the cheeks.

    A second later, and the Couch-Cynthia had disappeared, leaving behind a scruffy man in her place. Black stared dumbly.

    There was an odd pop, as though a plug had been pulled from the drain. Gradually, a pink, disembodied blob oozed down the man’s arms and fell onto the floor. When Black snapped out his Pokédex and aimed it at the pink splodge, the machine beeped the word ‘DITTO’.

    “My code name, it is Looker,” said the man, holding the Ditto in his hand. “I am a globe-trotting elite of the International Police.”

    Cynthia chimed in: “The two of you have already met before.”

    “We have?” Black was a little dazed.

    “In the Town of Nuvema, yes,” said Looker. “I had tea with your mother, but you were busy with the act of – how do you say it in this language? – running away.”

    Black flushed. He remembered now: his mother was sharing a home-made teacake with a person who was essentially her duplicate, in appearance. When she saw him walking down the stairs, the copy-mother transformed into a brown-haired man. The man had then tried to talk to him, but Black spotted Cheren outside and sprinted after him.

    It was the day that he had seen Cheren laughing with his Samurott. The day that he threw up.

    “You were busy that day, but I hope that you are busy not now,” said Looker sternly, interrupting Black’s train of thought.

    Black sighed. “No, I’m free.”

    “Ah, that is excellent news! I have had some fright, to be honest, that you would not be able to oblige.” Looker set down the Ditto. “May I ask you a series of questions?”

    “Shoot.”

    “What do you know about Team Plasma and the Seven Sages?”

    “They tried to separate people from Pokémon,” said Black, modulating his tone. “I’ve met them a few times. Why?”

    Looker fanned out his folders on the table. There were seven of them, each one bearing the official stamp of the International Police – the Interpol. Black leaned closer; his heart dropped. Familiar names and photographs were stapled to the folders: Zinzolin, Ryoku, Giallo, Bronius…

    Ghetsis.

    “Even beyond Unova, the riotous activities of Team Plasma have created upset,” said Looker, as Black picked up the photographs. “This I have heard, and therefore the Interpol has tasked me with apprehending the criminals.

    “Thanks to the Gym Leaders and to you, yes, the castle of Team Plasma had fallen. The Interpol have already arrested several Grunts of Plasma.” Looker explained briskly. “But, however! However, but… The leaders known as the Seven Sages have eluded us.”

    “They still hide themselves in Unova,” added Cynthia.

    Black was still clutched Ghetsis’s photograph; the sage’s one eye glinted in the morning light.

    “And so, Champion, I come to the request which I attempted to ask you in the Town of Nuvema,” said Looker, with conviction. “Travel the Unova region. Search it up and search it down for the Seven Sages. The International Police need your assistance, more so than any other’s.”

    Black slid Ghetsis’s photograph back into the folder.

    “Why me?” he said tersely. “Why not Cheren? Or the Unova Gym Leaders? They’ve all had dealt with Team Plasma. And they don’t have my other responsibilities.” He grimaced. “As the Unova League Champion.”

    “Ah, but only you have met the true leader, yes?” said Looker firmly. “Out of Unova’s Trainers, you have had the greatest experience and exposure, when one comes to the dealings of the Seven Sages.”

    “That’s not true. I’ve only dealt with Ghetsis and –” Black took another breath. “Alder probably had more encounters with the other Sages. I’m sure he’d be happy to help you, now that he has plenty of free time.”

    At the mention of Alder’s name, everyone froze. Silence descended, like rain. Cynthia became preoccupied with the patterns on the futon, while Looker had the decency to look sheepish. Black gave a bitter smirk, as though he had willingly swallowed a gallon of herbal medicine.

    “Former Champion Alder is engaged in personally important pursuits,” said Looker, finally. “I cannot divulge the details, but I do respect that his quest cannot be postponed.”

    The Ditto squeaked, attracting its Trainer’s attention. Looker fished out a Sitrus Berry and tossed it to the Pokémon. Eager, the pink blob swallowed the fruit in one gulp, dissolving the rind into smaller, soluble pieces. The creature made small, giggling noises. Black glanced between Looker and the slurping Ditto; he tried not to be disgusted.

    “To your interest, the renowned Former Champion was the one who recommended you to my notice,” said Looker solemnly. “He claimed that you are a Trainer of amazing skill, and that your powers as the Hero of Unova would accelerate this search like no other.”

    “Really now, he said that?” Black was sarcastic. “Did he also pet you on the head and give you a dogtreat?”

    Cynthia cut in, smoothly. “Helping Looker would be in the best interests of Unova.”

    Black snapped around so quickly that Cynthia almost flinched. Almost.

    “Butt out, Cynthia. This is none of your business.”

    “Please think this through,” said Cynthia calmly. “The remaining Sages could easily reform Team Plasma. Don’t you remember what happened at the Goldenrod Radio Tower, a few years years ago?”

    Looker agreed: “The esteemed Cynthia raises a valid point. The Interpol seeks your assistance, Champion, in order to avoid a fiasco like the Team Rocket Revival of ’08.”

    “If the Interpol were even halfway competent,” said Black, “Team Rocket would have been completely dissolved in ’05, when Champion Red destroyed their Sevii outpost.”

    Cynthia said Black’s name; he looked at her.

    “Think about all the troubles you can prevent,” she said to him. “All the potential lives you could save. You’re their hero. You owe it to Unova. If you don’t do this, then – ”

    Black slammed his fist against a wall. A tumult of emotions seethed in his stomach, like an Antarctic hailstorm. He couldn’t believe Cynthia. Shock merged with betrayal. How could she? He was beginning to trust her, share his inner thoughts. Out of all the people he knew, she was one of the last people whom he had expected to – No. He had opened up to her, and what did she do? Throw those words in his face. ‘Hero’? He didn’t want to be anyone’s fucking hero. All he wanted was some peace. To be left alone.

    “What’s next, Cynthia?” said Black in a deceptively sweet voice. “Pull out the ‘Unova Champion’ card? Say that I should be grateful I even got the opportunity to meet, not to mention fight, the great Elite Four? That I’m living a kid’s dream?”

    Cynthia touched her silver ring, ignoring Black’s acrimony. The brown stone glistened.

    “I think you should go, Looker. This isn’t a particularly good time,” she said tranquilly.

    The man nodded. “I shall come back at a more opportune moment, yes? I will not waste your time any longer.”

    Looker picked up his Ditto and placed it inside his coat. As he collected his folders and papers, Cynthia arranged her face into a pensive expression. Black clenched his fists, tightly. The skin around the knuckles pulled white.

    “Ah, that’s the rest of the folders. I shall be leaving now,” declared Looker, as he closed his briefcase.

    “I’ll show you out,” said Cynthia.

    Without looking at Black, the two adults strolled out of the lounge. The clicks of Cynthia’s high heels and Looker’s heavy footsteps clacked in tandem. Sunlight streaked through the windows, splashing at Black’s feet, as he gritted his teeth. How could she, why did she –

    Jumping to his feet, Black made a speedy decision and sprinted out of the room. He tore down the hall. As he approached the open front door, he saw that Looker and Cynthia were standing on the porch. They were deep in conversation. An argument, almost.

    “ – I do not have time to decide using likelihoods! Guarantees are what I need,” Looker was saying. He appeared somewhat agitated.

    “It doesn’t work like that,” asserted Cynthia. “Give him some space. He’s still a child.”

    “Miss Chard, I appreciate your concern,” said Looker urgently. “But you did not show the same attitude with Champion Dawn during the Coronet Crisis, yes? Surely, there are parallels between these two stories!”

    “What happened to Dawn is my responsibility.” Cynthia seemed regretful. “However, I promise you. He’ll become what Alder saw in him. But first, he needs to learn to breathe.”

    “Can you guarantee that?”

    Cynthia became resolute. “Yes, I can.”

    “If you say so, I must urge that we – ” Looker closed his mouth when he noticed Black, who was watching from the door.

    Looker stroked his chin; he appeared to be mulling something over. A mental lightbulb switched on, as the detective strode up to Black. He pulled out a business card and shoved it between Black’s fingers. The Unova Champion forced his lips into a thin line.

    “That is my phone number and office address,” said Looker.

    He bumped Black’s fist with his own. “Contact me when you are ready.”

    Black didn’t respond.

    Uneasy, Looker massaged his temples. After throwing Black another imploring look, the man reached out his arm. The pink Ditto lolled out of the sleeve, like a Herdier’s tongue. The blob squealed.

    “Friend Ditto,” greeted Looker. “Transform for Transport.”

    Ditto squeaked, reminding Black of cling-film and bubble-wrap. Its entire body morphed and churned, perniciously. Appendages grew out of nothingness, and contours formed from gelatinous plains. A drill-like beak emerged. Next was the flexible neck. Two enormous wings followed, accompanied by coarse tail feathers.

    The traditionalists called it ‘Onidrill’. Black called it ‘Fearow’.

    “Good day to you,” said Looker, as he mounted the Transformed Fearow, “Esteemed Cynthia Chard.”

    After tipping an imaginary hat at Cynthia, Looker focused on Black. “I hope to meet you again.” He grinned. “Hero of Unova.”

    Black scrunched the business card in his hands, as Looker flew away on his Ditto. The man eventually disappeared over a few pine trees, leaving behind nothing but a trace of residual restlessness. Cynthia gazed into the cloudless sky, as though she sensed no tension from Black. A flock of Pidove glided on the upward draft, bolstering the façade of peace. There was the rhythmic sound of waves breaking against the shore, a few fathoms away from Caitlin’s villa. Black closed his eyes, trying to control the rage fuming in his chest.

    “When will you learn to let go of your anger?”

    Black spun around.

    Cynthia was straightening her cloak. Her grey eyes had darkened from their normal colour of ash, swimming in near coal-black. They gleamed not in enmity, but in disappointment.

    “My anger?” repeated Black, incredulous.

    “That bitterness is crippling your potential,” said Cynthia staunchly. “You need to start recognising that nobody will be able to help you if you can’t even help yourself.”

    “Is that so?” Black heard his voice rise in volume. “You know what, Cynthia? I’ve had it with your bullshit.”

    To her credit, Cynthia remained graceful and composed.

    “You dole out these maudlin platitudes, like they’re Pez candies,” said Black, furiously. “What am I, your latest pity project? You try to meddle with my life and patronise me – all with a big, pretty smile.”

    “Patronise you? What?” Cynthia was bewildered. “That was never my intention. I would never.”

    Derisive, Black snorted.

    “Please stop this,” said Cynthia, as her face became irritated ever-so slightly. “You’re behaving like a preschooler.”

    “And the patronising starts early today,” Black announced, in a falsely cheery voice.

    Cynthia brushed back her blond bangs; her shattering gaze never left Black’s face.

    “If you take Agent Looker’s offer, you will help many people’s lives,” she said unfalteringly. “Please reconsider. With your strength and experience with Team Plasma, you could –”

    Black growled, interrupting her. “Why is everybody so interested in what I can do? What am I to the world? Just stats and numbers?”

    “Your cynicism blinds you,” Cynthia told him. “Why can’t you accept that the world is more than black and white? There are things and powers that are and always will be out of your control.”

    She said, almost inaudibly: “What happened in the Plasma Castle is not your fault.”

    Black froze.

    He slowly turned around. Cynthia had to restrain herself from flinching when she saw the pure fury burning in Black’s amber eyes. His Unova League cap had fallen to the ground; the wind rolled through his uncombed, brown hair, splaying it out like a fan.

    Black grabbed a Pokéball from his belt.

    “That’s it,” he said, giving a cold smile. “I think it’s about time I showed you, Champion Cynthia, what exactly I can do.”



    /+/+/+/+/+/ /



    I smile at N.

    “Yeah, I think we could have been friends.”



    /fin of Chapter Three/

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    Ooooh...... Black gon' kill Cynthia!

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    Draco, you meanie! I was finishing up reading and reviewing the first two chapters, only for you to post the third chapter. D: For now I'll post my thoughts on Chapters One and Two and will edit this post/do a new post of my review of Chapter 3 when I get around to it later tonight/tomorrow.

    Chapter One
    The flashback with Black’s first meeting with Cheren and Bianca is nice and interesting Black likes all things, well, black. XD

    Haha, Black’s reaction to seeing Cynthia for the first time is priceless. She probably should have worn a more conservative nightgown, LOL. The part where Black mentions about the press calling him the Hero of Unova and a blogger saying he’s a god-killer are quite intense. Indeed, people tend to catch the news on like wildfire, oi.

    As Cynthia opened her purse, the pizza deliverer finally caught a good look of the woman in front of him. His eyes widened when he realised that this wasn’t any blonde, it was Cynthia. The former Sinnoh Champion, biannual winner of the Lily Valley Conference for 2000, 2002, 2004, and 2006. She was one of the League’s living legends, not to mention a cultural icon. Even those who didn’t follow the Pokémon Battle circuit would recognise her from the ‘Hoenn Disaster Appeal’ commercials, back when the region was experiencing freakish flooding and droughts.
    This part I feel is a bit off because here this is in the pizzaman’s POV when most of the chapter so far is in Black’s. Either that part should be out or maybe somehow have Black think about Cynthia’s success. The pizzaman’s reaction to the autograph right after is very funny though, haha.

    I actually thought Cynthia’s little backstory of her missing her grandmother was cute. I can imagine her like that when young, her being very close to her grandmother and all.

    Chapter Two
    The first battle was quick but nicely written. Yep, Black is not your typical trainer, there. I was scratching my head though when Susan doesn’t know what a Pokedex is. Shouldn’t all trainers know what it is? Then again, I guess the professors are the only ones that have those. Very nice of Black to let her know her Pokemon is all right and very sweet of her to give her thanks to him for saving everyone, though.

    I like the meeting flashback there. Nice job having the Elite 4 and Alder being held responsible for not preventing the Team Plasma incident.

    Cynthia fixed him with a stare. Grey orbs met amber.
    Real quick, one of my pet peeves is when eyes are described as orbs. Eyes are not objects! D< LOL

    Anyways, loving the interaction between Cynthia and Black here. The part of them talking about the Glacidia flowers is nice and haha gotta love Cynthia making Black wear a speedo. XD But yeah, you make their interactions natural and not forced. Great work on that!


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    Just one question. What exactly do you mean by a Speedo? I do competitive swimming myself, and to me it's a swimware producer, but I don't think you mean that Black's swimming trunks are made by Speedo..

    EDIT: Well written chapter and I really want to read the next. Stupid cliffhanger, I wish it would stop hanging :P
    Last edited by Emeraldfan; 9th July 2011 at 10:06 PM.

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    Emeraldfan: Firstly, my referral to this article.

    And hohoho, I was evil with that cliff-hanger, wasn't I? And thanks for the compliment.

    Bay: Thanks for the review of Chapters one and two. I wasn't too mean, was I? =D

    The flashback with Black’s first meeting with Cheren and Bianca is nice and interesting Black likes all things, well, black. XD
    Cheren and Bianca are really fascinating characters, in my opinion. You could tell what sort of friendship they share. The Special Manga makes it rather cute, actually. And the Black thing was fun, since I kill two birds with one stone. I add characterisation and avoid the name "Hilbert", without contradicting canon! Remember, "Black" makes it clear that his real name is something else. And that Cheren thought it sounded stupid. xD

    The part where Black mentions about the press calling him the Hero of Unova and a blogger saying he’s a god-killer are quite intense. Indeed, people tend to catch the news on like wildfire, oi.
    Yes, the section in which Black details how the newspaper and blogger effectively put two different labels on him was meant to be intense. Like you said, fame can be very intense. It's why Black was, er, avoidance issues. =)

    This part I feel is a bit off because here this is in the pizzaman’s POV when most of the chapter so far is in Black’s. Either that part should be out or maybe somehow have Black think about Cynthia’s success. The pizzaman’s reaction to the autograph right after is very funny though, haha.
    Really? That excerpt was in Matt's POV? I didn't know. Perhaps it is; I do think that Black would have thought all those things about Cynthia. If you're trying to be rational about a person, the first thing you'd list is their achievements.

    I actually thought Cynthia’s little backstory of her missing her grandmother was cute. I can imagine her like that when young, her being very close to her grandmother and all.
    It was fun writing Cynthia and her younger backstory. I always thought that she would have been far less serene as a kid. Plus it was fun to give her a childhood connection to Lucian. When I saw Lucian at the Canalave Library, that was the first thing I thought of. Plus an allusion to the bikes from the anime is always fun to write.

    The first battle was quick but nicely written. Yep, Black is not your typical trainer, there. I was scratching my head though when Susan doesn’t know what a Pokedex is. Shouldn’t all trainers know what it is? Then again, I guess the professors are the only ones that have those.
    Nah, not all Trainers would know about Pokedexs. Like you've said, the Professors have them, and it seems that they give beta models to certain Trainers in order to gain field data and modify them. After enough data was gained, they'd probably make a final version. Hence, there perhaps is a Pokedex that the public knows about and/or uses, but that would be one of the earlier models. Black/Cheren/Bianca's Pokedex is probably the latest beta, and therefore, Susan might not have recognised the outside cover of the new machine.

    And even rich people don't know everything. =D

    Very nice of Black to let her know her Pokemon is all right and very sweet of her to give her thanks to him for saving everyone, though.
    Yeah, Black is a softie at heart. It's one of my favourite reasons for writing him. Through the flashbacks, you could tell that he was once a really cheerful kid who tried to do "good" a lot. He did change after the N-plot, but he still retains his old self under all that anger. I think it's why Cynthia is fascinated by him. Susan is interesting. I'm glad you've liked her...

    I like the meeting flashback there. Nice job having the Elite 4 and Alder being held responsible for not preventing the Team Plasma incident.
    You could perhaps excuse the behaviour of the E4/Champion in other regions, but the Unova E4 really screwed up. They didn't notice a bloody castle that Plasma was building around them, and none of them, except Alder, even tried to stop the Sages. At least to our player protagonist's recollection. The GLs had to pick up the slack.

    Real quick, one of my pet peeves is when eyes are described as orbs. Eyes are not objects! D< LOL
    It's a metaphor? XD

    If you don't like it that much, I can change it. Say the word, Bay.

    Anyways, loving the interaction between Cynthia and Black here. The part of them talking about the Glacidia flowers is nice and haha gotta love Cynthia making Black wear a speedo. XD But yeah, you make their interactions natural and not forced. Great work on that!
    Writing the dialogue between Black and Cynthia was one of the great things about this fic. Even in the games, Black is reeling from the Plasma incident, while Cynthia had already dealt with a child prodigy taking on a villainous team. They would have interesting conversations. An added dimension is the fact that the two are opposite genders, adding interesting angles of maternal comfort and chemistry... It's a weird friendship; let's not put a label on it. =D

    And I thought it'd be IC of Cynthia to explain emotions or concepts using myths and legends. The Floaroma Pokemon is called the Gratitude Pokemon, which made me go "hm".

    And I'm glad that you thought the interaction wasn't forced. The interplay between those two is the bread-and-butter of the fic, so I'm relieved that it didn't fall flat on its face. xP

    Now post a review and tell me what you think about Chapter Three. XD XD

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    Quote Originally Posted by Draco Malfoy View Post
    Emeraldfan: Firstly, my referral to this article.

    And hohoho, I was evil with that cliff-hanger, wasn't I? And thanks for the compliment.
    And thank you for writing the story and explaining what exactly you mean with a Speedo :P (But I still can't wait for the next chapter

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    Okay, here's my (overdue) review of Chapter Three! Real quick, over the orbs things, yeah I would recommend changing it to eyes. XD

    Nice flashback scene with N and Black. I don’t know why, but I chuckled over N’s reaction when he realized Cheren and Black can’t hear what Tepig had said.

    LOL over the mention of Garchomp headbutting Black. And of course, Cynthia would say Garchomp definitely likes him. :P
    Poor Black blushing over Cynthia in a bikini. Yep, he’s a teenager all right. XD; Speaking of which, I love that Cynthia thought Black that too and him talking about how he wasn’t able to talk to Cheren and Bianca anymore.

    Aw, Black’s interaction with Unfezant was sweet, there. Loved how he was able to understand his Pokemon just by her reactions (although it’s a given in the games the protagonist understands their Pokemon well, haha).

    The last part with Cynthia, Looker, and Black is quite intense. Well, at first I laughed outloud over how Looker had disguised himself as Cynthia. XD Later on though when Looker mentions how he wants Black to help the Global Police with finding the Seven Sages, I was like “oh dear D:” when Black was against it.

    Well, so far this shaped up into a very enjoyable story. Great work, there! Looking forward to the battle between Cynthia and Black. This shall be good, haha.


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    You gotta make Looker's grammar worse, should he pop up again.

    Also, I love how Black (Hilbert sounds more human, btw, I don't know why people don't call him that, but I do respect someone wanting to make an everyman) is starting to become more like N. Except more douchebaggy and full of teenage angst. I guess that's what happens when you give power to the young.

    And, finally, I want to see his Scrafty. Make it pimp-slap Cynthia, pl0x.
    Last edited by Sgeckledorf Spoongeblorb; 12th July 2011 at 2:05 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bay View Post
    Okay, here's my (overdue) review of Chapter Three! Real quick, over the orbs things, yeah I would recommend changing it to eyes. XD
    Hm, since it bothers you so much, I'll change it. Tell me what you what you think of the change when you come back to review Chapter Four, okay?

    Nice flashback scene with N and Black. I don’t know why, but I chuckled over N’s reaction when he realized Cheren and Black can’t hear what Tepig had said.
    That flashback was fun to write. Hell, all the flashbacks were fun to write, but the first meeting between "Black" and N was one of my favourites. The contrast between the younger, more excitable "Black" and the calmer, older but somehow more doe-eyed N highlighted the dynamic between the young but sullen Black and the older and serene Cynthia. It made it easier to show how much "Black" had changed.

    Besides, it was fun to depict him when he was more hot-heated, excitable and naive. And his relationship with N allowed him to do that. =D

    LOL over the mention of Garchomp headbutting Black. And of course, Cynthia would say Garchomp definitely likes him. :P
    Garchomp is probably insanely protective of Cynthia, I reckon. Wouldn't you be, if you were a 209 pound dragon-shark whose Trainer is someone like Cynthia?

    Poor Black blushing over Cynthia in a bikini. Yep, he’s a teenager all right. XD; Speaking of which, I love that Cynthia thought Black that too and him talking about how he wasn’t able to talk to Cheren and Bianca anymore.
    Yeah, one thing I really liked about Cynthia's character in this story is how she brought out Black's younger personality traits. He is a teenager, and Cynthia knows it. Exploit those hormones without being forward or creepy - that's Cynthia.

    And Cynthia would be the one to break down Black's barricade. Her mixture of steel (a quality necessitated by Championship, in my opinion) and gentleness is surprisingly potent. The key is her age; because of she's nearly twice Black's age, she bypasses all of the awkwardness and confusion inherent in teenage interactions, which is something Cheren and Bianca couldn't do.

    Cheren and Bianca also couldn't really talk to Black, because of the more obvious reason which I alluded to. =P

    Aw, Black’s interaction with Unfezant was sweet, there. Loved how he was able to understand his Pokemon just by her reactions (although it’s a given in the games the protagonist understands their Pokemon well, haha).
    I drew (heavy) inspiration from Lull to write that scene. Granted, the dynamic and conversation is quite different here. Black is more gentle with Unfezant, and Unfezant has a much stronger maternal vibe than Honchkrow. Whereas, Lull involved a more masculine and combative relationship, which was nonetheless affectionate. Black and Unfezant's conversation drew interesting parallels to how he reacted around other people, anyway, perhaps hinting that he's not such a grumpy-boots underneath. =D


    The last part with Cynthia, Looker, and Black is quite intense. Well, at first I laughed outloud over how Looker had disguised himself as Cynthia. XD Later on though when Looker mentions how he wants Black to help the Global Police with finding the Seven Sages, I was like “oh dear D:” when Black was against it.
    Yes, "oh dear" would be apt. =D

    Looker was hilarious to write. At first, it was a struggle, because I couldn't get his weird way of speaking. I had to ask my beta for help and advice. Eventually, I think I got the knack of it, and I really started to like the character.

    Look, the guy isn't the most competent detective in the world, but he's interesting because of the linkages which he provides between Generations and Regions. Plus his personality is a hoot.

    Well, so far this shaped up into a very enjoyable story. Great work, there! Looking forward to the battle between Cynthia and Black. This shall be good, haha.

    And thank you for reading. Chapter Four involves a long Pokemon battle, so I hope you like it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sgeckledorf Spoongeblorb View Post
    You gotta make Looker's grammar worse, should he pop up again.
    I thought I got Looker's dialogue right. I utilised the quotes on bulbepdia to craft his weird syntax. My beta didn't say a problem with it...

    Could you give me some more specific criticism on Looker's grammar? I could re-examine it, if that's what you prefer.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sgeckledorf Spoongeblorb View Post
    Also, I love how Black (Hilbert sounds more human, btw, I don't know why people don't call him that, but I do respect someone wanting to make an everyman) is starting to become more like N. Except more douchebaggy and full of teenage angst. I guess that's what happens when you give power to the young.
    Black is becoming a little like N, isn't it? A similar distrust for other people, anchored by a belief in "truths/cold reality" over naive "ideals". I'm using Pokemon White as my base, so Reshiram sides with N and Black sides with Zekrom. I find it wonderfully ironic: because of his hard ordeals and his relationship with N, Black becomes less like his old self, whose ideals were the reason why Zekrom selected him as a Hero, and more like N. With added "attitude", as I like to put it. =)

    Symbolically, "Black" doesn't even use his old name; he wants to go back to how things used to be, but everything has changed for him, and the poor guy is too angry to act excitably again. Of course, Cynthia noticed.

    Like B/W, I wanted to make it clear that neither truth nor ideals should supersede the other. The two both hold equal importance, Yin-Yang. Pokemon Grey would probably reiterate that.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sgeckledorf Spoongeblorb View Post
    And, finally, I want to see his Scrafty. Make it pimp-slap Cynthia, pl0x.
    I'm sorry about Scrafty, but he doesn't feature that heavily in this story. He'll still get mentions, but he won't get to "pimp-slap Cynthia". Although, why would you want to do that to Cynthia? And I don't mean for irrational reasons.

    Cheers and thanks for the reasons. Chapter Four is come out after my exams, so wait at least a week. This will also give time for the slower, closet reviewers to catch-up and review!

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    Alright, compromise. I'll do a three-part, three review response wheneve possible as I can't do it at one time, and can't save what I write:
    Prelude:
    Ocean: I'm curious as to the nightmare. Why water? Is it something specific e symbolic? I'm curious to see if drowning has any other significance.

    Cheren: I haven't played B/W, so I hav no idea if it was in character. It did justify how Black can't even defend his path.

    Bianca: Captures her reaction well enough, and more despair. I think it was the least powerful part of the Overture, but that could just be me.

    Professor Juniper: For some reason, I found declining the Dex the most powerful part of the overture. It really shows how things have definitely change away from a carefree journey.

    N battle: I felt the emotion here, but didn't really understand the fire part. It almost implied that N won. It could just be me, but I had to stop and think about that for a moment.

    Blackstory: Well, that was interesting. It was certainly in character for preschoolers, and made some sense. The whole self-identity behind the name was powerful in it's own way, and conveyed the character quite well.

    Chapter One: The initial description was kind of boring/overly long, but I managed to get through with the momentum from the Overture.

    Bianca call: For some reason, this also symbolized a break from the course of the games (as far as I understand it) and was quite powerful in it's own way.

    Rental sequence: I felt Black's might have been overly intimidating. I mean, while the reaction of the concierge and man would have been different, she wouldn't have had a mini panic attack. Also, Black's commentary on himself was really depressing, but the "find a better role model" line said a lot about his current attitudes.

    Catalin description: I felt as if that was a very nice job of describing Catalin, while still showing how and why Black hated her -or more of what she stood for. It was an interesting segment, but fading back into a depressive rant on smiling of all things really depressed me for the fifth time this far. I realize it's not a happy story, but this is quite depressive to the point of almost being overkill.

    Cynthia: I'll talk more in part one part two tomorrow during the characterization segment. However, if she was supposed to be portrayed as really mischievous and manipulating with a very clear and focused mind hidden under the guise of appearing mildly off her rocker and subtle control of the situation, you did a very good job as that's exactly what the entire description and dialogue told me in all of three paragraphs.


    Scrafty: That's a very clever use of a move. Props on coming up with it. Also, Black's reactions to the "Hero of Unova" and "Let me help you with that," comments really express a lot in a short span of time. It's interesting to observe his interactions with Cynthia and how many times he can become irritated in a short period of time without snapping.

    Hero of Unova: It's certainly an interesting -and fairly realistic- explanation of how things would probably go in those events. After all, a castle appearing and a fight between two gods is slightly noticable. In fact, I'm wondering now why no one seemed to notice/care/remember when the same thing happened in Sinnoh... nice plot hole to attack.

    Trademark: Nice detail. Seriously, nice detail.

    Pizza delivery: Wow, Cynthia is a bit more willing to spend her time talking than one might expect. I know you explain it well later, but how did she get through her time as Champion if she stopped and talked with and signed autographs for anyone who wanted one? And really good choice for a really strange pizza. Also, the memories of Bianca didn't spark some sort of a depressive incident for the first time in the entire fic as far as I can remember. Is that intentionally symbolic of Black coming to terms with the past or is that a "I really don't want to write another flashback that would break up the flow?"


    Cynthia's backstory: A few very interesting details here. I have no idea how important it is to the plot, but it wa rather interesting to read and it was a very good and realistic way of breaking down the barriers between Cynthia and Black, so it served a purpose. The sequence was well done, but I'm questioning how much it will actually come up later.


    Cynthia's Backstory Pt Two: And this guy refuses to stop being depressive and reminiscing. My question now: can this guy do anything but that. I'm not sure where the line is drawn, but Black may be crossing the line between realistic and way too depressive and tragic.


    Ending: That made close to no sense. On my third read, I still can't get an entirely solid idea of what the scene was, and if my assumption is right I can't see why you chose to throw it in there. That's the only thing that seemed ill placed.

    Chapter Two:

    Opening: I viewed it as possible to follow, but I didn't see a point of the passage. It was generally less interesting than every other part, and didn't really have that much significance to the plot. While it wasn't a bad sequence, I didn't like think it was necessary or as good as the rest of the story.

    Battle(Pt 1): The description here was very good, even if it started to border on too much at times. The finishing move and the (later-revealed) Stealth Chant tactic were pretty creative, and made the battle more interesting. I did find the "normal trainer would do X, Black isn't a normal trainer" sequence a bit annoying. Most people would know that the obvious move would be to spam a super effective attack, and the build-up to "Black wasn't a normal trainer" seemed a bit overdone consequentially. Also, can Unpheazant even learn Hydro Pump?

    Battle(Pt 2): First off, how did Black know exactly what Macargo's injuries were before he checked -or even took out- his Pokedex? I know he probably could have guessed, but to get it in that much detail with almost certain confidence is questionable. His sudden show of sympathy to his opponent after the "life goes on" remark, even with Cynthia's explanation, still seems like it was too much of a change to occur that quickly. His sudden show of rage was also remarkably in character.

    Garchomp description: It was a very good sequence that contrasted very nicely with the following exchange of dialogue. Overall, a very well done sequence.

    Susan and Cynthia's conversation. I found this quite in-character for both. Also, Black's mild jealousy mixed with relief was an interesting response. Apparently he doesn't hate attention completely. Once again, I'm sorry that I can't say much, but it's nearly impossible to give a good review for a writer better than me.

    E4: I loved this sequence. While it could have realistically been left out, I felt it actually added and explained something. Namely: why Black hates rich people and why the E4 dislikes him. Seeing how all of that came about in a few well-written paragraphs, it was quite productive.

    Re-introduction back into the storyline: I have mixed feelings on this. First off, it's really annoying to go from a rather attatched style to an almost entirely detached one giving a recap of events I just read a minute ago. If it was at the start of a chapter it would be OK, in that location it was just kind of annoying. The part about Miles "planning his move" and some of the Riches family description was interesting, but the narration style change and poor location really killed the sequence.

    Black and Cynthia: The insight of both trainers is really quite intriguing. From this sequence alone it's possible to see what qualities make them a better trainer than most. The N/Bianca/Cheren flashbacks frequency is mildly annoying, but the quote about battles helping people understand each other is intriguing when placed into a dialogue about battling that helps a reader understand more about both characters. It was a very nice effect, but it tends to be overused and just make the test/main character even more depressing than it already is. As for the "Why are you so nice?" remark, I think it sparked one of the most thought-provoking sequences I've read in a fan fic in quite some time. Cynthia remaining calm through the entire thing while Black finally explodes also shows more about their characters. The references as to Black's companions also reinforces that only Black appears to be having problems, and any issues he is having are almost entirely self-inflicted.

    Flowers: Interesting story that reinforced Cynthia's points to say the least. I thought it might have been a bit long for the middle of a conflict, but it worked and wasn't excessive. But I may have missed the point. What does gratitude have to do with kindness in this case? Wouldn't kindness have been a better thing to explore?

    Post-parable dialogue: The brought down a god line, and the distortion world response were also rather thought-provoking insights into the game. I'd never thought before about people fearing the champions, but it definitely makes sense. You're quite good at exploring the way the game universe would actually work in a real world. Also, the closing exchange concludes the entire sequence rather well, and I don't think you could have picked a better way to end it.

    Alder, and random thought: First off, Alder's personal buisiness remark from later in the story makes a lot more sense after rereading that portion. For once, I actually feel as if an excerpt was almost entirely necessary. Alder resigning on a personal quest to take N down... that adds some complication to the story. I think a major portion of the coming chapters will be Black deciding if he even wants to take down N. Also, if Black is assumed to be the protagonist of Pokemon Black, why did he get Zekrom and N get Reshiram? Just a thought.

    Conversation in Catalin's villa: Wow... I'm not even sure what to think of Cynthia anymore. She's starting to come off as a little creepy. And Black going from depressive and angry to sarcastic is a rather interesting shift. And then at the end, Black starts to scare me too. If you're taking this fic in any direction that resembles shipping, this would be the point it would start. Just... I really hope you aren't.

    Ending: Most useless one yet. The only reason to even include it would be the smile, and I still think it would've been better to just end it with Black's half-smile.

    Chapter Three:

    Pressed for time, and already reviewed quite a bit, so I'll just summarize.

    The beach sequence was mildly off-putting for most of the same reasons listed above. Just... I didn't really like it. N's exchanges with Black were actually intriguing and interesting enough that they deserved to be in there. Most of the italics I wouldn't say the same of, but those were interesting and a nice ending to it. I was ecspecially interested by the opening, and how N (and I when I was reading it) briefly thought Black could understand Pokemon. All of this and Alder's "Personal Buisiness" are setting up a very nice path for the plotline to follow. Looker's Ditto was mildly creepy, and once again a good use for a Pokemon to match Inferno, Unpheazant's battling style, and other creative uses of moves throughout the fic. Overall, I can't tell if I think Black is being immature, or if everyone else is just expecting him to automatically want to do something. For once, I can't really tell what side of an argument is in the right, and that takes quite a few skills to pull off correctly. Also, the Unpheazant interaction did show that Black's hugely depressive mindset does have another side.

    Details you wanted:

    Characterization: Overall, I'm impressed by how much you can convey about a character in a short amount of time. While some shifts in mood and action seemed a bit too fast, I think that overall you're doing an amazing job here.

    Description: It was very good, but just know when to stop. In certain areas, it felt like it was too verbose when I read through it again.

    Dialogue: I think this was the third one. It all matched characterization perfectly, and is better than anything I can pick apart.

    Once again, I'm hindered by being of a lower skill level, and thus less prone to catching flaws. I will just say to watch for if a sequence is really needed, if it can be followed easily, and if it actually means something. With that, review complete. Sorry I couldn't do better.
    Last edited by Rediamond; 24th July 2011 at 7:32 PM.
    The Flash Drive of Champions: Backgrounds

    There are many reasons to journey in the Pokemon World. It turns out that banishment, Bond Villains, unbeatable rivals and being forced to attend one dance too many are among them.

    File 2.5 is up. Gela literally puts on a show for the world to see while elsewhen her world is shattered beyond repair.

  20. #20
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    Rediamond: Firstly, thank you for the review via the Review Exchange. I can appreciate the effort you've put into your response, even if I don't agree with everything you've said. It was a long review, which wouldn't have been easy. So, thank you.

    I'll respond to the review in a separate, longer post when somebody else posts. I don't want to make this post any longer and detract from the chapter itself. I don't agree with everything you've said, but everyone is entitled to their own opinion. You can't please everyone, right? However, I'll deal with that review at a later date. For now, please enjoy this chapter.

    This chapter is full of, ahem, drama and angst. You get to see the depth of Black's backstory and get more details about his conflicted psyche. However, I'm a true proponent of you've got to hit rock-bottom before you can go up; this chapter is a necessary step in Black's journey and provides catharsis. Chapter Five will be less dramatic, so no worries.

    Have fun. Diddy and Breezy, please tell me what you think. Cheers.

    I also threw in a reference to Roots, so tell me if you think you've spotted it. =D

    I'll deliberately keep Chapter Five, Six and the Epilogue until I feel that the time is right. lol at the teasing. xD


    ================================================== =======

    Chapter Four

    ================================================== =======
    “Suppressed grief suffocates, it rages within the breast, and is forced to multiply its strength.”
    -Ovid-

    ================================================== =======

    Alder is pacing in front of me. He stares at the stairway which leads away from the Pokémon League and into the heart of N’s Castle. To my right, Cheren crosses his arms and tries to maintain a façade of calm. It doesn’t work.

    When I start to climb up the stairs, Alder grabs my wrist. His stubbly face, smeared with sweat from his battle with N, seems troubled.

    “Wait,” he says. “If you go in there, you will have to face Reshiram, the Yang Dragon. A god.”

    I tell them that I understand that.

    Alder shakes his head. “No, not completely. Reshiram’s power is like nothing you could imagine. The Dark Stone has not even responded yet. Only danger waits inside there.”

    “I don’t have any other choice,” I say.

    Alder clenches his fists. For a moment, I think he’s going to stop me. He gives me a regretful expression, as though he wants to do more to help me.

    He relaxes his hands.

    “Face your destiny, then.” His tone becomes firm. “I might regret this, but go forward and battle N. Prove that humans and Pokémon have an unbreakable bond.”





    / /+/+/+/+/+/




    Black didn’t give Cynthia much time to react; he threw the Pokéball in his hand into the air.

    Beheeyem, I choose you!” said Black.

    A brown, bejewelled biped manifested with a flash of white light. The creature had a bulbous, oblong head, from which gleamed a pair of green gemstones. A series of other jewels, ranging from white agates to paired rubies and tourmalines, embossed its small, levitating body. Mystical markings etched into the skull, like the mysterious Stone-Circles of the Far West.

    There was little wonder why people called Beheeyem the ‘Alien Pokémon’.

    Cynthia’s hand jumped to her Pokéballs when Black suddenly pointed at her.

    Charge Beam,” he ordered.

    An arc of blinding electricity hustled, like a cracking whip. Black pursed his lips when the Charge Beam appeared to strike bullseye on Cynthia, who buckled with a choke. Was the great former Champion defeated from one blow?

    Of course not.

    To Black’s correct predictions, Cynthia pulled herself off the ground. Her entire body was wrapped in a foul, sizzling energy, which emanated the putrid stench of decay. It was a funerary smell, one you’d associate with open caskets and dilapidated graveyards. Black shivered; his skin was beginning to break out in goosebumps, as though his pores were anticipating a tainted presence.

    The dark energy converged, forming a malevolent creature.

    An odd keystone hovered in front of Cynthia.

    Shit, a Dark-type. Immediately, Black knew what to do: “Beheeyem, Light Screen.”

    Humming a tuneless song, the extraterrestrial released a squall of raw, psionic power. Mesmeric light burst outwards, like a distant nova. Wisps of rainbow colours danced through the nearby trees. A translucent shield began to form. However, the telepathic energies had barely congealed, when a shadowy figure rushed forward.

    The Light Screen cracked upon impact. Beheeyem cried, and bits of numinous glass were sent flying. The shadow-beast cackled, sending its ethereal tendrils towards the Psychic. Beheeyem was forced to telekinetically fling a folding-chair in front of himself to block the ghostly assault.

    Shadow Sneak is usually considered a dick-move, Cynthia,” said Black coldly. “I never expected that from you.”

    “Choosing to attack a Trainer directly isn’t in good taste, either.”

    Black snorted. “Like you don’t always carry Spiritomb around your pocket.”

    Beheeyem panicked when the folding-chair started to collapse under pressure. Invisible arms crumpled the iron-joints, like a child’s Play-Dough. The Keystone drew closer.

    “I’m quick with my hands,” said Cynthia. Her voice gained an oddly sad tint. “Why can’t you accept that some people actually care about you?”

    Thunderbolt!

    Squeaking, Beheeyem fired a streak of hot lightning, through the gap in the folding chair and at the Keystone. The air actually rippled from the heat, as the Thunderbolt skimmed the surface of the Keystone, before spiralling into one of Caitlin’s fountains. The marble boy, innocent-eyed and clutching a carved pail, exploded.

    “You’re full of shit,” Black told Cynthia. “I can’t believe how self-righteous your crap can get.”

    Beheevem garnered another cluster of electricity.

    Black gave a loathing smile. “Most people don’t know exactly what I’ve done. If they did, they’d all stay away from me. All of them. That includes you.”

    When his Trainer nodded, the Beheeyem discharged the second Thunderbolt. This time, the attack honed closer to its target. Electricity crackled, singeing the meticulously mowed lawns. Hot wind lashed, as Cynthia shielded her face from the scorching heat. Black didn’t even turn away.

    “The truth is that even you don’t really give a damn about me,” said Black, harshly. “Not for the right reasons.”

    Suddenly, the hot air that was billowing outwards vanished. Black gripped his fists, as Beheeyem cried in surprise. What could this be? What was happening? The temperature dropped, and an eerie whistle coiled through the trees. The air in front of Black became a cloud of vapour. A repulsive stench swelled. It was at this moment that Black noticed that the Thunderbolt, the coil of electricity, was still churning. The lightning was also immobile, as though it was being held down on the spot.

    “That’s a lie,” said Cynthia quietly. “Believe it or not, I do harbour some affection for you. And you know it.”

    A hiss and a bang. The Ominous Wind blasted through the Thunderbolt, which it had been keeping at bay. Beheeyem was flung across the garden. He was screaming as he went crashing into an aged, flaking birch. Gales of swivelling purple slithered around the tree, while the brimmed leaves started to decay. Black watched the vile keystone, floating above the rot and mould. A wraithlike laugh reverberated.

    “Ghost attacks…” muttered Black. “It’s a violation against the world’s natural forces. Nothing should be allowed to linger between life and death. The tether is an affront to the cycles of birth.”

    “Our existences aren’t mounted in black and white,” was Cynthia’s gentle reply.

    Withered leaves bristled, as broken branches were telekinetically hurled from the ground. Beheeyem drifted up from the disarray. His face was riddled with scours, and the right emerald was cracked. Black knew that although the Psychic-type was still able to battle, Beheeyem would need medical attention. His Pokémon… Injured, because of his own inadequacies as a Trainer. Black’s blaze of fury bolstered.

    “The press always wondered how the great Cynthia – ” Black emphasised her name. “ – obtained something as disgusting as Spiritomb.”

    Cynthia didn’t reply; she twisted her ring again, as that curious, brown stone glistered.

    Picking up his fallen League hat, Black spoke: “I think it’s rather apt. A Pokémon who matches its Trainer.”

    Cynthia looked at him; her face exuded sympathy.

    “Spiritomb, I want you to summon a full-charge Shadow Ball,” she commanded calmly.

    Delighted, the Keystone shrieked in affirmation. The dark shadows whipped inwards, rallying into a rotating sphere. The black ball began to burgeon, like a macabre balloon.

    “Beheeyem,” said Black, “disrupt it with rapid Psybeam.”

    As Cynthia gave a look of surprise, Beheeyem deployed an iridescent beam. The shimmering ray rushed towards the Spiritomb, who was still charging the Shadow Ball. Psychic energies met Ghost. A high-pitched wail rattled the sky, as bits of turf and fertiliser were sent flying. After a moment of hesitation, Beheeyem squealed and barrelled into the fray surrounding the Keystone. A wreath of mystical flames enthroned the Psychic-type’s head. Screeching, Spiritomb tried to defend its flank with a dark tendril of splintering energy.

    Black jumped out of the way, when the resultant blast heaved a sharpened bough towards him. However, the projectile cut his ankle as it whizzed past, slashing through his Flaafy-wool socks. He felt his sneakers begin to fill his blood.

    Cynthia squinted, trying to see her Pokémon through the dust surrounding it and Beheeyem.

    “How is this possible? A Psychic attack working on Spiritomb,” she said to herself. “That mesmeric, rainbow light from earlier… Could it be?”

    Black ripped off a section of his shirt. When he took off the sneaker, the red parts of his shoe seemed darker in colour. Carefully, he tied the cloth around the injured ankle. As he put on the sneaker again, the smoke which encircled Beheeyem and Spiritomb began to fade. Already Black could perceive the floating, bipedal figure – and a motionless Keystone.

    “Yeah, Miracle Eye.” Black confirmed for Cynthia. “It allows the user to deprive Darks of their immunities.”

    The haze cleared, and a victor was apparent. Beheeyem, though gasping for breath, was hovering over the battered Keystone. The trailing shadows, and that accompanying presence of malice, had vanished. A noticeable chunk of stone was missing.

    Miracle Eye also enabled Beheeyem to discern through illusions,” Black said.

    Coloured with acrimony, he gripped his League cap. “I didn’t have time for your bullshit.”

    Psybeam and Zen Headbutt. Power moves…” Cynthia sounded forlorn. “You have such potential for battling. Why are you so reluctant to admit that fact?”

    “You never know when to give up,” said Black, brusquely.

    Cynthia said nothing. Instead, she strode to her Spiritomb and examined the indentations in the Keystone. Her face lightened subtly with relief. Presumably, the Ghost-type was still “alive”, if that was even possible.

    Meanwhile, Black scrutinised Beheeyem. The rubies in the Pokémon’s hands had lost much of their vibrant sheen, as though something vital had been siphoned from them. He snapped out of the Pokédex: low health, low energy; an unknown status affliction.

    ‘Unknown status affliction’… Black wondered if Spiritomb had played that one, final card, before fading. If it did, Black wouldn’t be surprised. Cynthia had already once surprised him with her bullcrap – and history tended to repeat itself.

    “It must have been terrible, having to do what you did,” said Cynthia sombrely, as she aimed her Pokéball at Spiritomb. “The pain must have been impossible to describe.”

    When the tattering Keystone dissolved into a stream of red light, returning to the Pokéball, Beheeyem squealed. The Alien Pokémon writhed in pain, as Black felt his heart plummet. Beheeyem’s limbs splayed out, as though invisible forks were skewering them. A soundless scream tore the Psychic-type’s throat, while a tell-tale fetid smell of infected meat blossomed towards the rest of the garden. Black lowered his League cap.

    Pursing his lips, Black returned the thrashing Beheeyem to his Pokéball.

    He glared at Cynthia, whose demeanour was still unflappable and irrefutably enigmatic.

    “Has Destiny Bond always been your Spiritomb’s finishing move?” asked Black, icily. “Or is it just something you whipped up now to screw with my head?”

    “I don’t want to hurt you,” she said, in a regretful tone.

    “Too late for that.” Black chose his next Pokéball. “Unfezant! Take to the sky!”

    The great, grey bird emerged in a flash of white radiance. Unruffled, Unfezant greeted her Trainer with a soothing trill. Black stroked the Pokémon’s back feathers.

    “Hey, girl,” he said, “d’you think you’re ready for one more battle?”

    Unfezant glanced at Cynthia. Whipping her head back, the Pokémon cawed sharply.

    Black clenched his fists. “It was the last straw.”

    Another caw.

    “I promise you won’t have to do much,” said Black, brusquely. “Three minutes, tops.”

    When Unfezant gave a slow, reluctant whistle, Cynthia felt her gaze soften.

    “The way you care for your Pokémon; it reflects your true character,” murmured the blonde woman. “Many people treat Pokémon as tools for battling, but you understand that Pokémon are not your pets, but your friends.”

    Cynthia followed the rim of her ring’s brown stone.

    “Why can’t you trust people like you trust your Pokémon?” she asked, pressing her hands against one of the shattered, garden statues.

    Her hand traced outlines over the marble girl, moving over the statue’s laughing cheeks.

    She repeated: “Why?”

    “Because I can understand my Pokémon!” shouted Black. “They don’t expect anything from me, they treat me the same as before. When I’m with them, nothing has changed.

    Cynthia called out Black’s name.

    “The truth hurts, but you have accept,” she asserted, steadfastly. “Learn to forgive and believe that a world of ideals can coexist.”

    When Black tautened, Cynthia sighed and chose her next Pokémon. It was no use…

    Garchomp, let’s go,” said Cynthia.

    A Pokéball twirled upwards, as the familiar, fearsome visage of the land-shark materialised. Garchomp stomped and let out a keen battle-cry. Noticing Black, the Dragon-type snarled; the Mach Pokémon still despised him, it seemed.

    Garchomp reared his head back, as though he were preparing to ram Black into a wall. Perhaps using Headbutt? The creature was certainly no stranger to the move, as the events on Tuesday had proven. That sunny day at Undella Beach, where Cynthia was wearing an indecent bikini and Black himself was forced into an obscene Sharpedo speedo… A memory of sympathetic, ash-grey eyes resurfaced, like a buoy. Cynthia had made him laugh, made him feel like he could hope again–

    Why couldn’t he feel like that now?

    Dismissing those mutinous thoughts, Black addressed his Pokémon:

    “Unfezant. Aerial Ace.”

    “Counter with Crunch,” directed Cynthia.

    With a resounding roar, the two Pokémon catapulted towards each other. Unfezant glided through the sky and encircled Garchomp, giving the impression of a hunter and its prey. Her talons were extended, glinting like whetted knives. Then, she lunged. Swinging his powerful tail, Garchomp defended and tensed, as the bird swooped under the dragon’s hooked arms. The Dragon-type missed. Unfezant gracefully continued her attack; she feinted with a laggard swipe on the left, before swiftly veering to the Garchomp’s exposed, right flank.

    True to its word, Aerial Ace did not miss; Unfezant clawed the Garchomp’s scaly skin, tearing through flesh to draw blood. However, Garchomp was far from finished. The land-shark slammed his right leg into Unfezant’s hovering form, catching a strangled cry from the bird. As Unfezant tried to open her wings to fly away, Garchomp curled his tail around the bird’s midsection.

    The Dragon-type gave an ominously toothy grin.

    FeatherDance into a Tailwind!” shouted Black, as Garchomp brought his fangs towards the struggling Unfezant.

    Unfezant flapped her wings, releasing a smothering deluge of grey feathers into Garchomp’s open mouth. Choking, the land-shark writhed and loosened his grasp on Unfezant, the Crunch attack completely forgotten. The bird seized this window of opportunity and tore free. Immediately, Unfezant soared into the sky, with the verve of a kestrel. A light breeze began to pick up, rustling through the swing-set near the porch. The Dodrio weathervane turned against the advent winds.

    Garchomp spat out the last of the feathers. Infuriated, he roared and, when Cynthia nodded, heaved a gust of fuschia flames at Unfezant. The nearby gardenia shrubs ignited, as its flowers hissed with smoke. Unfezant dove under Garchom’s otherworldly fire, only to meet a second Dragonbreath. The blaze licked the bird’s sensitive chest. Screaming, Unfezant plummeted into the fountain below. Collected rainwater drenched the antiquated plinth, as the Dragonbreath on the bird’s plumage became extinguished.

    Meanwhile, the ambient breeze evolved into a moderate zephyr.

    Black felt something catch in his throat. A horrible feeling sank in stomach, like an anvil.

    “Why do you fight?” asked Cynthia, as Garchomp approached the fountain. “Why do you refuse to open your heart?”

    Unfezant’s form floated in the middle of the fountain. Her tail feathers, normally stiff and proud, were charred, their ends wilted like a limp vegetable. Garchomp’s shadow loomed over the bird.

    “Unfezant!” shouted Black. “U-Turn!

    Abruptly, Unfezant leapt from the fountain, soaring over the surprised Garchomp’s head. She plunged at the land-shark before the Dragon-type could react. Her claws raked the top of her opponent’s head and cleaved off some scales, as though one would peel a tangerine. Howling in fury rather than in pain, Garchomp tried to swipe Unfezant, but the bird had already swerved around and away.

    Black’s Pokéball opened, as Unfezant transformed into a stream of red light. Once the bird had safely returned, the ball clicked close.

    When the zephyr intensified into a mild gale, Black shouted at Cynthia.

    “Stop pretending like you want to relate to me!” he yelled, clutching Unfezant’s ball. “Like you understand me!”

    “But I do – ”

    Black laughed cynically. “You’re a real piece of work, aren’t you? Giving it your best shot.”

    Garchomp snarled and hurdled to his Trainer, protectively. Cynthia placed her hands over her heart.

    “You think I don’t know, Cynthia?” he said, steadily. “I know what you did. What kind of a person you are.”

    When Cynthia didn’t say anything, Black glanced at his remaining Pokéballs. One down, another weakened. Three, untouched choices. Who would be able to parry with the woman’s famed Garchomp? A Dragon/Ground dual-type. Strengths: Electric, Fire, Poison, Rock, Steel, Dragon. Weaknesses: Dragon and Ice. Perhaps the Fossil would be the best choice. Yes, he would do.

    Black grabbed his third Pokéball.

    Carracosta, I choose you!”



    / /+/+/+/+/+/



    “Do you think Pokémon and humans understand each other?”

    N and I stand at opposite sides of the floor, as the darkened wind screams at us. N looks exactly the same: familiar tea-green hair and perpetually glum eyes. He even has that signature Menger’s sponge on his belt. Above him is Reshiram, the white god and the embodiment of truths. The behemoth releases another torrent of flames, knocking down a sandstone pillar. While Reshiram howled, I try to reach N.

    “Trainers have a bond with their Pokémon, a bond that’s special,” I explain firmly. “Battling together is a way of expressing our implicit understanding for each other. It’s how we coordinate moves and strategies.”

    Affirming my words, Emboar nods by my side.

    N seems sadder than usual.

    “If humans can’t even understand other humans,” he insists, “how can they understand the complexity that is Pokémon? The truth is that everyone is different from each other. From that, conflict and ignorance arises.”

    N turns the Menger sponge in his hands. “And the cycle of abuse continues.”

    “That’s fucking bullshit,” I snap.

    “And you have a different answer?”

    “Hell yeah. People aren’t different, because everyone shares a common core.” I stand my ground. “Everybody has some once of decency and compassion in them. That once is how humans understand each other and Pokémon. Through common empathy and sympathy.”

    I lower my voice. “It’s how I understand you. How I’ve grown not to hate you.”

    “You truly are idealistic,” replies N, with a tinge of pity.

    I share a conspiratorial look with Emboar, who growls in support of my words.

    “You know what?” I respond. “Call me what you want, but I believe in those crapshot ideals. I’ll stand by them, even if it means I have to throw everything away and fight you.”

    And at that moment, the Dark Stone in my pocket starts to glow.





    / /+/+/+/+/+/



    Carracosta, I choose you!”

    There was a flare of brilliant white. A giant, blue sea-turtle appeared, extending his heavy flippers. Bored yellow eyes glimmered under a sturdy, lithic mask, while a rugged shell encased the Pokémon’s round body. Lazily, the Carracosta surveyed his surroundings. He took a look at prowling Garchomp and the burnt garden; the turtle yawned, as though he were bored.

    Once again, Cynthia grasped her silver ring on her hand, as though it were a lifeline.

    “Please, just let it all go,” she said softly. “Your thoughts are poisoning you.”

    “Carracosta, Aqua Tail!

    With astounding speed, the sea-turtle coated his tail with swirling water and struck Garchomp in the face. The impact of the attack sent the Dragon-type into a glass window. As Garchomp roared and thrust back towards Carracosta, the enduring zephyr which had helped propel the turtle to greater speed strengthened. The Tailwind had escalated into a seething gale, along with Black’s emotions.

    “You’re a hypocrite!” Black said to Cynthia. “You preach acceptance, expecting me to buy your philosophising shit.”

    Carracosta thrust a punch towards Garchomp, who ducked and parried.

    “But how could I listen to you?” Black’s voice wavered. “You wouldn’t know about loss, considering what you chose to do.”

    “My life is my life,” said Cynthia gently, “Just like your life is your own. Please, listen to me – ”

    Garchomp and Carracosta countered blow with blow. An unexpected chill settled over the garden, smothering the burning begonias and singed gardenias in a blanket of frost. The water in the fountain started to crystallise.

    Black felt the pressure mounting. The Tailwind’s windstorm bellowed, knocking down tiles off the villa’s roof. His eyes burned, as he shouted:

    “You abandoned your own Pokémon!”

    A vicious pleasure pooled in Black’s stomach when he watched Cynthia’s face fall. Her signature serenity melted away, like a Surskit’s dewdrop in the scorch of the Resort Desert. Shivering, she had to steady herself. She was rendered speechless.

    “Cynthia Chard, born in Celestic Town, 30 July of 1981,” stated Black. “First female winner of a Grand Pokémon Tournament. The Seventh Champion of the Sinnoh League.”

    In the background, the statues of the rejoicing milkmaids exploded in the fountain. Shards of ice and frozen marble ricocheted, as Carracosta fired an opalescent beam of energy at Garchomp. The land-shark barely dodged the Ice Beam, which spiralled into a birdhouse. Instantly, the Pidoves inside turned into ice.

    “Born to a single mother, you’ve always had superiority complex. A drive to prove yourself,” said Black, frigidly. “To the world – and to your family. It drove you nuts, didn’t it? When you watched the other kids leave with their parents at the end of a school day, while you waited for your grandmother to pick you up.”

    Garchomp stomped the ground, causing the garden to shudder and groan, as though it were sentient and in pain. A minor Earthquake. Turfs of manicured grass gave away to rocks and stones, as the earth under Carracosta started to fissure. Both Black and Cynthia stumbled on the unstable ground. Quick on his feet, Carracosta aimed an Ice Beam downwards, before flicking it up at Garchomp. Hoarfrost spread across the ravine, streaking like cold lightning. While a pseudo-glacier filled and stabilised the top of the chasm, ice crystals froze around the water residue on Garchomp’s skin. The land-shark snarled. The chill deepened.

    “Your mother was ill, wasn’t she?” continued Black, coldly. “Your biographies talk about your grandparents, who were both elders of Celestic Town, but never about your mother. All she gets is a little footnote mentioning her date of death, when you were ten.”

    Cynthia tightened her clasp around the silver ring. The brown gem glistened, as Garchomp threw another punch at Carracosta. Brick Break. Spurting a Hydro Pump, the sea-turtle fended off the land-shark’s vicious assault. Water was spouted everywhere, drenching both Trainers’ clothes.

    Black intensified his piercing gaze.

    “Stifled by the dreariness of Celestic Town, you decided to become a Pokémon Trainer, to explore the outside world,” he said flatly, after ordering Carracosta to parry Garchomp’s Dragon Claw with Aqua Tail.

    “You wanted to become a Master, so you could avoid your grandparents’ destinies of shrine-keeping and tradition-preservation. And your own mother’s absence. You wanted to prove more.”

    Carracosta dodged Garchomp’s tail, and discharged another Ice Beam.

    “That desire to prove something… It’s why you travel so much, even now.” Black was brutal, methodical. “The Sinjoh Ruins, Faraway Island, the former Tin Tower – even Undella Town. You’re definitely seeking something, but what? Power? The ability to transcend as a Trainer?”

    As Garchomp smashed Carracosta’s head through a birch tree, Cynthia bit her lip. Her ash-grey eyes were inscrutable, but her breath hitched and betrayed her inner feelings.

    “Your Starter was a Gible, a gift from a man called Michael Rowan,” recited Black. “You were excited, because Gible heralded from a strong evolutionary line. What could beat a fucking Dragon? You were hoping that the rest of your team would be the same.”

    While Carracosta doused Garchomp in a torrent of pressurised seawater, Black gripped his Pokébelt. Fingers brushed over each of the five Pokéballs. He felt suffocated, as though iron bands had tightened around his chest.

    “Official sources claim that you caught your first Pokémon in the Eterna Forest,” said Black frostily. “A Budew, which later became your famous Roserade.”

    Garchomp, responding to Cynthia’s wayward glance, charged at Carracosta. Powering his claws with draconian energy, the land-shark gave the sea-turtle a ferocious uppercut. Twice, in a Dual Chop. The brittle shell began to crumble, like a stale biscuit.

    “That’s not true, though,” Black resumed. “I think – no, I know – that the first Pokémon you’ve ever caught was a Shellos, on Route 205.”

    Cynthia twisted her ring; she finally spoke. “…How did you know?”

    “Bertha Brunt, the then-Gym Leader of Eterna City, mentioned in her autobiography of battling a blond girl with a Gible and a Shellos,” said Black in a hard tone. “In the Anthology, Byron Argente of Oreburgh also noted that when he first fought you, you used a Gastrodon, a Gabite, and a Roselia.”

    A stray Dragon Pulse blew the Dodrio weathervane off its hinges.

    “Assuming that Eterna was your first Gym, you must have caught Shellos before Budew,” finished Black, cynically. “Or else why wouldn’t you use the Grass-type against a Ground-type specialist, especially one who deployed Quagsire and Whiscash?”

    Garchomp struck Carracosta again. The sea-turtle winced when his shell began to rent, exposing small islands of dry, sensitive skin. Garchomp noticed. With the force of a freight train, the land-shark tackled the sea-turtle under the right flipper, where the protective casing was splintering. Dragon Rush released a tremendous aftershock which levelled the plinths of the rejoicing milkmaids. Although the stone shell remained unbroken, sharpened fragments of lithic rock dug into Carracosta’s back.

    The sea-turtle moaned. Bits of his flesh littered the Garchomp’s hammer-head, lolling over the snout like pink tongues.

    “It makes you wonder… where is Gastrodon now? Why lie?” Black faced his struggling Pokémon. “And Carracosta, hang in there. Water Pulse. Follow it with Ice Beam.”

    In one sluggish but measured movement, Carracosta hurled a deluge of pulsing water at Garchomp. The land-shark growled. Thrusting out his left arm, Garchomp diverted the surge with a Slash. However, the Water Pulse had left a parting gift: droplets of water clung to the Dragon-type’s skin, pooling at the feet and forming rough puddles over the patches of disinterred earth and hoarfrost. A pursuing Ice Beam froze these puddles of water, pinning Garchomp to the ground. There was a bellowing roar; the land-shark’s scales became brittle against the cold.

    Beside the villa’s porch, Cynthia slumped against a Grecian pillar. She seemed tired, immensely weary.

    “Shellos must have annoyed you,” said Black, icily, “when he lost the Gym Battle against Bertha. He had the type advantage, yet couldn’t handle even the first Nosepass.”

    His voice became clipped and more jaded. “Shellos’s subpar speed and commonplace abilities couldn’t keep up with your other Pokémon. You wondered if Shellos was holding you back from reaching your potential. And you did want to prove your strength, so badly.”

    Cynthia wrung her hands, almost imperceptibly.

    “After you met Lucian White, you travelled to Arrowroot Town in the North of Sinnoh,” deduced Black. “You were on your way to visit Lake Valor and the myth of Azelf, your favourite of the Lake Trio; the embodiment of Willpower had always interested you.”

    The Tailwind reached a fever-pitch, flinging a swing-set towards the west – Garchomp’s direction. Black felt the bitter anger boil his blood.

    “Your official history says that there, at Arrowroot Town, you battled the Gym Leader Camellia,” he said. “Although your Shellos – now probably a Gastrodon – lost against Camellia’s Clefable, you eventually managed to obtain the town’s Clearsong Badge. But we both know fighting Camellia wasn’t the only thing you did in Arrowroot.”

    Garchomp, after catching a fly-by look from Cynthia, started to thaw the ice around his feet with Incinerate. Carracosta did not want to miss an opportunity, however. When Black shouted the order, the sea-turtle tucked in his legs, rolled into a ball, and, at the speed of a turret-missile, smashed into the still immobile Garchomp. The Roll Out landed a critical hit. As the adjacent statue of the innocent boy juddered and disintegrated from the shock, the land-shark howled and cradled his wounded stomach. The blue skin was beginning to mottle with bruises.

    “No, something else happened after the Gym Battle. A Trainer approached you afterwards, right? Maybe one of Camellia’s apprentices,” intoned Black, as Cynthia gripped her arms. “That Trainer had watched your match, and, for reasons which were unfathomable to you then, had become fascinated with Gastrodon. The Trainer – I’m assuming a girl – found your Gastrodon captivating. She offered a trade for him.”

    Cynthia stared blankly at the grass. Repressing a pang of guilt, Black soldiered on:

    “A Togekiss for your Gastrodon, the Trainer had suggested. It seemed like a good offer: you’ve probably always wanted a Normal/Flying dual, and the difficult battle with Camellia must have proven how powerful Normal-types could become.”

    He darkened his expression. “Unlike your Gastrodon, Normals boasted impressive movepools. Togekiss also had kick-ass abilities, bearing the semi-mystical honours of Serene Grace and Super Luck. Togekiss was even a fucking rarity in Sinnoh, compared to relatively common Gastrodon. Togekiss could have helped you fulfil your goals.”

    Garchomp brought his leg up, still coated with ice-crystals, and deflected Carracosta’s Hidden Power. Another garden sculpture exploded.

    “But Gastrodon was your first capture, the oldest member of your team after only Gabite,” muttered Black. “It would’ve been obvious that Gastrodon had grown close to you; to willingly separate him from you would have been like abandonment. Because of the trauma to the Pokémon, most Trainers didn’t trade away their Starters and first captures.”

    Reaching for the brown shard on her ring, Cynthia gazed at her fingers. She curled and uncurled them, almost mechanically.

    “Cynthia, the Great Champion Cynthia, knew better, though,” said Black frostily. “Shaking the Trainer’s hand, you traded your Gastrodon for the Togekiss. Because power is more important, right? More than your Gastrodon’s inevitable distress at leaving you. More than how the friendships between Gastrodon and the other members of your Pokémon team.”

    After Carracosta blasted him with Brine, the land-shark lunged towards the garden’s granite sundial. Picking up it up with Strength, Garchomp slung the slab of carved rock, like an Olympian with a discus. Carracosta sidestepped, although barely.

    “That’s not true,” was Cynthia’s fraught reply.“I did think about Sheldon’s well-being, even though – ”

    “Bullshit,” snapped Black. “If you did, why did you continue using Togekiss? Nobody ever saw you using a Shellos or a Gastrodon afterwards, it was always Togekiss in your League teams. Even in the Distortion World, when you had to use all of your Pokémon against the god Giratina. No Gastrodon. You never tried to renegotiate the trade.”

    “That’s not true.”

    “Sure, you became more mellow and peaceable after the trade. Perhaps you realised it was stupid to seek adventure all the time, settled down a little.”

    Drained, Cynthia shook a little.

    “You probably read a few history books and toned down your insecurities.” Black seized his Pokébelt, feeling hollow. “Stop trying to overcompensate. Settled down a little, started to reconcile your historic roots in Celestic with your ambitions for the Pokémon League.”

    “I don’t – ”

    Carracosta drove his foot into Garchomp’s arm, creating an ominous cracking sound.

    “You definitely changed, Cynthia,” said Black. “After that trade, you became less of a fickle girl and more of a serene Champion, the first female winner of a Grand Pokémon Tournament. It’s transformed you.”

    He pointed at Cynthia’s hands. “You even kept a small brown shard, a shed flaking from Gastrodon’s shell. You probably wear it, because you sometimes remember and wonder about the past, right?”

    Hastily, Cynthia hid the silver ring under her cloak.

    “You remember the trade, that’s for certain.” Black dropped his voice down into a threatening whisper. “But don’t you fucking dare to pretend that you regret it.”

    Garchomp flailed under Carracosta’s immense weight, swiping blindly at the sea-turtle. However, Carracosta did not falter. More pressure was piled on, as the Dragon-type’s arm started to snap into an awkward position.

    “You don’t understand what real loss feels like,” said Black; his heart was heavy. “Real loss is when something precious is forcibly wrenched out of your life. Something so precious that you’d trade away the air you breathe for just one more minute with it.”

    Cynthia’s reply was muted: “I do understand. With Sheldon, I couldn’t…”

    “Shut. Up.” Black growled. “Real loss is when you couldn’t protect that something because you were too fucking weak, too deficient. You couldn’t stop it.”

    As the Tailwind reached its concluding crescendo, Black whispered against the storm:

    “Real loss isn’t something you choose.”

    At last, the bellowing winds began to wane and fade from Caitlin’s garden. The begonia bushes ceased to thrash as though they were against an invisible hand; the frosted waters of the marble fountains stilled. Flying debris started to drift towards the ground, like sleeted snowflakes, as the Tailwind evanesced.

    Black focussed on the anger in his chest, suppressing the other emotions which rustled at the edges. Cynthia was crouched on the floor, putting her head in her arms.

    “You’re not even talking to me because you actually want to,” he said, almost inaudibly.

    Cynthia didn’t look up.

    “The current Sinnoh Champion… Dawn.” His words were unsteady, as though he was reluctant to roll them off his tongue. “Team Galactic had a stranglehold of the Spear Pillar, attempting to bring destruction to Sinnoh, yet she had to tackle the mountain. Alone.”

    Twisting under Carracosta’s weight, Garchomp opened his mouth and spewed a flaring pillar of yellow flames. Slips of empyreal blue laced the blaze. While the sea-turtle squirmed to douse the draconian fire, Garchomp exploited the distraction caused by his Dragon Rage. The land-shark kicked Carracosta, sending the preoccupied Water-type off him in one, fluid motion.

    “Storming the Galactic Veilstone Headquarters, stopping the Galactic Commanders at the Lakes – they were your responsibilities,” said Black, in a hushed tone. “Other Champions had intervened directly: the Mossdeep Space Center in ’05, Mahogany Town in ’08. But in Sinnoh, a twelve year-old girl had no help.”

    “What happened to Dawn has no bearing here,” replied Cynthia. Black noted that the woman’s voice was husky.

    “Yes, it does,” he said. “You couldn’t help Dawn, who probably resents you for abandoning her. You feel guilty; you failed her. But look, there’s another young Champion, whose circumstances are similar to Dawn’s. You have a second chance to makes things right.”

    Wincing at his broken arm and bruised stomach, Garchomp lobbed a gunk of hardened mud at Carracosta. (Mud Shot). The sea-turtle, wheezing under his own injuries, parried weakly. The Pokémon were nearly at their fight’s end. Another moment would cause their unconsciousness.

    “To you, I’m just a pity case,” murmured Black. “A blank slate upon which you can doll up your guilt. How fucking meaningless.”

    Finally, Cynthia looked up. Her grey eyes were rawly-red rimmed.

    “It’s not meaningless,” she said, slowly. “When I look at you, I don’t see a pity case or a blank slate.”

    “A hero, then. Give me the word, and I’ll capture a monster or a god for you,” he retorted, bitter. “Because that’s what I’m good at, apparently.”

    “Not that either,” was the quiet reply.

    Black laughed. “Something to be frightened of, then. Something to point at. An exhibit for show.”

    Cynthia’s eyes were resolute. “Why are you so scared of opening up to me? Why?

    “Go screw yourself, Cynthia. You wouldn’t understand me – you abandoned your Pokémon, just as you abandoned the current Sinnoh Champion.”

    Standing up, Cynthia brought herself to her full height. It was impressive, topping Black’s own height by a few centimetres. Statuesque, like one of those Argos sculptures from Alto Mare. With a start, Black realised that Cynthia really was an adult, a woman. Somebody who had years of experience and wisdom over him.

    Cynthia approached him. When she tried to touch his arm, he pulled away. Her face, normally calm and inscrutable, was tightened with concern and weariness. She looked much older than her twenty-nine years.

    “I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life, a lot of things I wish I could do again,” she said, after returning Garchomp to her ball.

    Black pointed his own Pokéball at Carracosta. The sea-turtle, exhausted and battered, lazily glanced at Cynthia and stared at Black. Carracosta flicked his head towards the blonde woman, as though he were asking Black to listen to her. There was a flash of red, and Carracosta dissolved back into the Dive Ball.

    “I regret leaving Dawn alone. Yes, I should have stayed with her,” said Cynthia, as Black pocketed Carracosta’s ball. “She was too young to deal with the Galactic Admins, not to mention Cyrus. I bear that responsibility and, as a price, endure Dawn’s resentment even today.”

    She sighed, before resuming.

    “And trading away Sheldon was one of worst things I’ve ever done.” She withdrew her hand from her cloak, allowing sunlight to glint off the brown shard. “You think I don’t know this? Believe what you want, but not a single day has gone by where I haven’t thought of my Gastrodon. I love Togekiss, but it’s not the same.”

    “You willingly abandoned your Pokémon.”

    “I was a silly little girl who thought she could do no wrong,” replied Cynthia, tiredly.

    She raised her ring. “I wear this ring as a reminder of what I’ve failed to do, to remind myself that arrogance can be my downfall.”

    Black scowled, as a vindictive streak surged through him. It fuelled his anger, as one would feed meat to a caged predator.

    “Really? A ring?” repeated Black. “Did you even bother searching for Togekiss’s original Trainer to reverse the trade? Maybe your Gastrodon was too pathetic for anyone to want him back.”

    Cynthia moved so swiftly that Black scarcely caught more than her shadow and a whip of long blond hair. She held him by the collar, grey eyes darkened to furious black. Black fought back an expression of surprise; this was the first time he had seen Cynthia angry.

    “You can call me names and accuse me of whatever crimes you want,” said Cynthia in a low, dangerous voice. “But disrespect my Pokémon again, especially Gastrodon, and I’ll fucking finish you.”

    She said it so matter-of-factly that Black was a little dazed. The fact that Cynthia, the pleasant but aloof Cynthia, had sworn compounded the absurdity of the situation.

    “Finish me, then,” said Black. “Give it your best shot.”

    Softening her expression, Cynthia released Black from her hands. She tentatively tried to touch his shoulder again, but he pushed her away once more.

    She said Black’s name.

    “I want you to know something,” said Cynthia, steadily. “Dawn, Gastrodon, Cyrus – I regret a lot of things in my life. But no matter what you say – ”

    She raised her gaze; Black recoiled at the genuine resolve burnishing her face.

    “ – I don’t regret meeting you.”

    Black felt something surge through his body, searing through the tips of his limbs. As memories rattled and re-emerged, his throat parched and words stuck to the roof of his mouth. He backed away from Cynthia.

    “It’s true: I have never experienced a loss like you have,” admitted Cynthia. “I could never understand completely, and neither can anyone else. Tension and ignorance will always be there, callously.”

    Black swallowed uneasily; he tried to muster a glare, but he was failing.

    “The painful memories will never truly leave you, and a part of you will never heal,” Cynthia said softly. “Some truths will be difficult to reconcile with ideals; optimism will seem asinine.”

    “Don’t fuck with me, Cynthia.”

    “But I want you to know,” she said, “you’re not alone.”

    Black trembled. “Fuck you, Cynthia.”

    Cynthia drew closer. “You’re not alone.”

    Fuck you.

    With his good hand, Black pushed the woman away. But his arms felt limp, as though all the blood and energy had been sucked out of them. A terrible weight pressed down on his eyes, prompting him to rub them. Why were they… wet?

    “Since there is sadness, we can feel joy,” said Cynthia. “With anger, there’s compassion.”

    Black backed against a frozen birch; his breathing was shallow. He promised himself he wouldn’t, he promised himself he wouldn’t –

    “You don’t need to bottle your emotions,” she said.

    When Cynthia placed two fingers under her chin, Black couldn’t find the strength to push her away. What was happening? His heart was pounding at hundred miles per hour, and every pore was numb. Black dimly registered that his legs were beginning to fail him. With a small thud, the knees buckled and Black found himself on the ground. Everything around him was frozen, from the grass to the fragmented garden gnomes. His breath formed a chilled vapour.

    Cynthia crouched next to him. Gently, she placed her hand over his.

    “It’s okay to feel,” she whispered, directing her gaze into his. “It’s how we know that we’re human.”

    Black didn’t respond.

    Cynthia caressed his icy palms.

    “You’re not alone.”

    Black’s reply was feeble. “Stop fucking around.”

    Carefully, Cynthia brought her arms around the shaking boy. As her body pressed against his, Black became aware of the tickle of her blond hair against his cheek, the lilac scent of Glacideas from her perfume, the warmth of her breath on his cold face.

    “You’re not alone,” she repeated, softly.

    The guarded dam broke. Shuddering, Black collapsed in Cynthia’s arms. He clutched her arms, as the former Champion stroked his head.

    “Fuck you, Cynthia,” he sobbed. “Fuck you.

    At last, Black began to cry.



    /+/+/+/+/+/ /



    It takes only one stray shot. One stray shot from Reshiram for the deed to be done.

    I start running. Dust clings to the air, obscuring my sight, and the horrible stench of burning fur permeates. I nearly throw up when I realise that the dust is probably the remnants of charred flesh.

    When I reach him, my hands are shaking too much to even hold his head. The damage is terrible: his left tusk had been ripped out completely, and a gash in the flank leaks rivulets of blood. Those red eyes are hooded with pain. It takes only another minute for those eyes to close.

    I stagger backwards, tripping over a stump that was a few feet away from the body. When I look down, I fall to my knees. My sight blurs with vertigo, as I reach out and clasp that severed arm. The black fur is still smouldering slightly, and my hand burns a little. I only let go when N dashes towards me and tries to pull me off the burning arm. Screaming, I push him away. I want to punch him, kill him.

    But my body won’t listen. Sobs racket me in little, choked gasps. The world spins around.

    “I – I am sorry,” says N.

    He tries to approach me again, but this time I managed to punch him. N lets the blow connect; there is a cracking noise when his head hits the wall.

    “Stay away, get the fuck away from me– ” My words are grabbled and rushed, as I start wheezing.

    N seems frightened. Fumbling, he picks up the Menger’s sponge. The green tiles are marred with a thick, brown liquid. N trembles and lowers his head, avoiding my eyes.

    My own weakness, because I couldn’t protect. My own stupidity for not listening, for trusting N. For thinking that he is my friend and I could understand him–

    This had to end, and end now. I glare at Reshiram and Zekrom. As hatred burns my eyes, I grip my Pokéballs.

    At last, I start to cry.




    /fin of Chapter Four/
    Last edited by Draco Malfoy; 29th July 2011 at 4:10 PM.

    Under the Same Sky - PG-15||Completed

    Memorandum to UtSS: "A Deathless Prelude".
    FF.net Profile//Quote-of-the-month: “History is much like an endless waltz. The three beats of war, peace and revolution continue on forever.”

  21. #21
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    I forget just how critical I was in the last review. However, I'll say this: however much I may have ranted (a lot), I really did enjoy reading it a lot. And this chapter only amplified it. The battle was amazing, and I could hear both the validity and insanity in Black's rant during the battle. Overall, it was a very hood chapter. And after seeing a little bit more on Emboar (?) I think I can understand a lot of Black's really deep depression. I can't believe I forgot about the Bird (can't spell it's name) scene from the last chapter, as it also caused a reversal in perspective.

    Overall, I loved the battle and N flashbacks. Together the chapter was epic.

    EDIT: Why do they both seem to enjoy wrecking the place?
    Last edited by Rediamond; 29th July 2011 at 6:25 PM.
    The Flash Drive of Champions: Backgrounds

    There are many reasons to journey in the Pokemon World. It turns out that banishment, Bond Villains, unbeatable rivals and being forced to attend one dance too many are among them.

    File 2.5 is up. Gela literally puts on a show for the world to see while elsewhen her world is shattered beyond repair.

  22. #22
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    Amazing.

    But, one question: how do you say something with a 'cynical' tone? I thought cynicism was a state of mind, not a tone of voice.

    Also, I liked how Black nearly made Cynthia kill him by dissing Gastrodon.

    I think he's a douche because he knows all of his Pokemon suck. Unfezant, Carracosta, Beeheyem, and the like are the lamest Pokemon in Unova. If he did'nt have a Scrafty, I'd beat him up.

    And please, have Scrafty slap someone.
    Last edited by Sgeckledorf Spoongeblorb; 30th July 2011 at 3:24 AM.

  23. #23
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    I found two spelling/grammar errors when I was reading, but I forgot to note them, so I can't find them again xD

    They're there though.

    I assume this is the battle you were writing when you posted that battle thread in the Author's Café? If so, then I can definitely see that you took the advice to heart and really made the battle into a lot more than it usually is, in the part with Garchomp and Carracosta (and with the added effect of Unfezant's Tailwind) you could really see how their state in the battle reflected the emotional state of the mental battle Black and Cynthia were fighting, Garchomp was getting punished as Black laid into her with his accusations, Carracosta took a beating as Cynthia came back and explained herself.

    Overall, it was an incredibly effective (and enjoyable) battle. You pulled it off really well.
    Skogsrĺ

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  24. #24
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    Damn, I really could have used at least one more update after being gone for 2 weeks...
    Sorry, just had to say that. Keep the updates coming at the pace you like, so that this story will be better with every chapter.

    I really liked the last chapter, though there was a lot of swearing on Black's part, but I guess that it's his personality. I think Cynthia handeled the situation well and I think Black did his homework well. I'd love to read what happens next.
    Keep it coming.
    Last edited by Emeraldfan; 29th July 2011 at 10:24 PM.

  25. #25
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    Rediamond: You weren't too critical; I don't believe in "too critical", usually. Don't be afraid to go for the pressure points. What I meant was that I didn't agree with some of the points you've raised, such as Black coming off initially as too depressive. The angst doesn't really kick in until chapter Four, and he's meant to be more weary than ANGSTANGST.

    However, I still appreciated your review since it offered another perspective to my story, something that I actually needed. And your questions, such as "why water in the opening sequence?", will be answered in good time.

    And the Champions didn't enjoy trashing Caitlin's place (well, perhaps not too much); it's simply the way things turned out, because of the high octane nature of Pokemon Battles and the tension between Black and Cynthia.

    Yes, it was Emboar, to clarify. I suppose it's not a spoiler to say now that Emboar died during the N-battle, and that's where this story diverges from the game canon. I always thought that in a battle involving two gods, danger is everywhere. Something like that could have definitely happened.

    Sgeckledorf Spoongeblorb: I'm sure you can have a cynical tone, like how you could have a mischievous tone or miserable tone. Voices can convey bitterness and jaded attitudes in their inflections.

    I wanted to show that Cynthia herself wasn't some Madonna or perfect, serene woman. She's human too, with definite emotions; she just controls herself better due to experience. I thought it might be fun to see her lose her cool, even if it's only momentarily. =)

    Scrafty is cool, but I'm sorry; you get to see much of him. I simply didn't have room or time to fit him into the story, like I could with Unfezant. Black's Pokemon team was created, simply because I had certain restraints I wanted to work within. For example, Black had to get an elemental monkey, since Cheren and Bianca both have one, and I wanted an Unova Water-type who could use Ice Beam, etc.

    Black's not a douche, although he comes off that way sometimes. I wanted to show that he's still the kind guy that he used to be, underneath that prickly demeanour. The interactions with Susan and Unfezant should have hinted at that, along with the flashbacks which show a more innocent and idealistic Black, pre-N.

    Diddy: I corrected the "once/ounce" thing, if that's the mistake you're referring to. Tell me if you see more mistakes. =)

    It was this battle that prompted the Battle Thread, yeah. I was struggling a little with the Black v Cynthia battle, but you guys helped me out there with your advice. I'm glad that you liked the battle; it thought that the use of Ice Beam added a nice symbolic edge, to be honest. =)

    Cynthia has some kickass Pokemon, that's for sure.

    Emeraldfan: Well, if you want another update, you better keep an eye of this thread. You never know when I might post Chapter Five. xD Black does swear a lot, but even in his pre-N state he did have a coarser mouth than some. I think it suits his personality, and he only really swore a lot in this chapter because of the emotional stress. Before that, I think that he did keep a tighter hold on his tongue.

    And Black's homework did pay off. I operate my stories with the Law of Conservation of Detail; every reference has to play some sort of role, whether it is mere comic relief or has future significance. Chekhov's Guns. =)

    That's why I'd advise you to keep a closer eye on the Undella Beach and even little things, like Susan and Matt.

    Cheers, and thanks for the reviews.

    Under the Same Sky - PG-15||Completed

    Memorandum to UtSS: "A Deathless Prelude".
    FF.net Profile//Quote-of-the-month: “History is much like an endless waltz. The three beats of war, peace and revolution continue on forever.”

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