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Thread: Something's Got To Give

  1. #1
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    Default Something's Got To Give

    A/N: This fic is rated PG-15 for some explicit language (mostly in the first chapter. I've chosen to leave it censored for now, as it's not as common later.) and violence.

    I ought to say something about this fic, really. A bit late, but here goes. This is basically written for fun. Champion Game is what I write for a more serious kind of enjoyment, and this is a distraction from that. As well as that, I got way ahead on CG during NaNoWriMo. I had a seven-chapter buffer or something, which disappeared with alarming rapidity (It's down to two now). I know people don't like being flooded with chapters, so I started this as a side project to slow down my production of Champion Game. I'm terrible with keeping deadlines, so I post things when they're done. If I have a chapter buffer, I'll post them as soon as I can, which often means two or three days after the last one. That doesn't give people time to read and review. So what I'm doing is putting this out as a less serious, more whimsical alternative. Chapters will come out pretty quickly for this, I imagine. I'll publish them as soon as I finish writing them, but Champion Game will slow down as a result, which is exactly what I want. I'll stop talking now. I can always blab in later chapters.

    That aside, let me know if you like this. This fic isn't nearly as serious as Champion Game, so feel free to holler out plot holes in the games that you want me to fill. That's basically the intention of this fic. Most importantly, have fun! You want drama? Go read Champion Game. This is the land of whimsy, parody and lampshade-hanging!



    Chapter List:
    1 - In Which Alvaro Gets Wet (this post)
    2 - In Which Kathy Gets Mad
    3 - In Which Alvaro Screws With the Game Canon
    4 - In Which Alvaro Learns Something
    5 - In Which Kathy Meets a Friend


    Chapter One
    In Which Alvaro Gets Wet

    “I've had it with this!” Hilda Wayland spat, pulling the heavy black duvet off her apparently unconscious son and tipping a glass of water over his head.

    Alvaro spluttered and swore loudly, swiping his hand through the air and almost knocking the glass out of his mother's hand. So much for pretending to be asleep. He sat up and glared at her, pushing his now sopping wet hair out of his eyes. “What the actual ****, Mom? Are you drunk or something?”

    “Don't talk to me like that, young man!” she said sharply, standing back with her arms crossed. She was a tall woman, and although she wasn't in any way bulky, she still managed to pull off intimidating.

    “No, I'm serious,” Alvaro said with a grimace. “Are you, like, high on something? What's up in your grill this morning?”

    “You, Alvaro Wayland, are 'up in my grill',” she growled. “Look, if you're not going to go to school, you can get the hell out of my house. It's one o'clock in the afternoon!”

    “Fine, fine,” he groaned. “I'll leave you alone for the day. Whatever! You didn't have to try and bloody drown me!”

    “I'm not talking about just today,” she said with a slight sigh, sitting down on his desk chair and looking at him with careful eyes. She still looked mad, he noted apprehensively, but there was a tinge of worry in her gaze as well. “I am absolutely sick of you acting like there is nothing to do in your life.”

    “But there really is nothing,” he grumbled.

    “We've had this discussion, Al!” she said. “I'm not having you lazing around my house every day! You either go to school, or you make something useful of your life!”

    “Seriously, Mom? I thought we got over this.” Realising how ridiculous he must look, Alvaro pulled his legs out of bed and sat cross-legged on top of the damp sheets, scowling. “I'm not going back to that ****ing school, and nothing you can do or say is gonna make me!”

    “I'll call the truant officer again if you really insist,” she said, narrowing her bright green eyes dangerously.

    “And what? I'll go back to school for another couple of weeks until they lose interest, and then I'll stop going again. Look, you need to get it through your damn head! I hate that damn school and I'm not setting foot inside its gates again if I can help it! It's boring and dull and generally full of ****. I already know the crap they teach in class. Remember one weekend when I was twelve, I got bored and read all those maths textbooks? Yeah, poof. There goes precalc. It's old as **** and I'm not sitting through another day there.”

    “You're really serious about this, aren't you?” Most of the wrath had bled away from his mother's face, though he noticed a slight flash of indignation every time he cursed. She was looking at him now with an almost pitying expression.

    “Of course I'm damn well serious!” he grunted, pushing his still-damp black hair off his face again.

    “Look, honey . . . I'm not happy about you not going to school. You know that. But at the same time, I haven't really tried as hard to stop you as I should have. That's my fault. But I only did that because I know, in a way, that you're telling the truth. You know the whole curriculum. And that leaves me with a massive problem, because I don't know what to do with you.”

    “Who says you have to do anything with me?” Alvaro asked, hopeful she would take the hint and leave him in peace.

    “I do, you ungrateful little rat,” she said, but her tone was mild. She sighed again, heavily this time. “I can't help but feel I've failed as a mother.”

    “If anything, I'd say it's the opposite. You did too well, and I learned all the **** too early.” While mollifying his mother was low on his list of priorities, well below 'go back to sleep', he still felt a need to correct her.

    She took a deep breath in, and Alvaro winced. He knew that little idiosyncrasy. Big words were coming.

    “That's why I'm giving you a choice, Al,” she said, looking him steadily in the eyes. “An ultimatum, if you like.”

    He narrowed his eyes – the same acid green as his mother's. “Go on,” he said simply. While he put as much contempt into the words as he could, his mind was racing in horrible directions. What was she going to suggest? Boarding school? Boot camp?

    “You have two options.”

    “That's one more than you usually give me.”

    “Shut up,” she said, an abnormal brusqueness audible in her voice. “This isn't easy for me either. One, you go back to school and you damn well stay there. You only have one year left, after all. You go back to school, you take your classes, sit the exams and graduate. Then you get a job, or go to college if you want.”

    “Not much of a choice,” he said, leaning back against the wall above his bed. “What's the other option? Not like I really want to know, but . . .”

    In answer, she simply reached into her pocket and pulled out a small sphere. It was red and white, with a black band running starkly around the middle that encompassed a small white button.

    Alvaro's jaw dropped. “Oh, no. Oh, **** no.”

    She raised an eyebrow and pressed the button, causing it to grow from the size of a ping-pong ball to that of a baseball with a metallic clink.

    “You have got to be ****ing kidding me!” he exclaimed. “You can not be ****ing serious!”

    “I'm dead serious, Alvaro,” she said levelly, causing him to wince as he noticed the renewed use of his whole name. “This is your choice. You go back to school or you go and take the Gym challenge.”

    “That is absolute ********,” he said, shaking his head in disbelief. “I didn't want to do it six years ago, so why the **** would I want to do it now?”

    “Gee, I don't know,” she said innocently, tossing the ball from hand to hand. “Maybe because the alternative is spending another year in school?”

    “I have to ask again, Mom . . . are you stoned off your head? What makes you think I'd do something crazy like that?”

    Her voice took on a serious edge. “Think about it, Al. Getting a Pokémon Trainer's License means you're taken off the student register. You don't have to go to school. No more truant officers, no more detentions stacking up on your record. No legal consequences if you keep skipping. Who knows, you might even have fun while you're at it.”

    Alvaro snorted. “Doubt it.”

    “Look, Al. Why do you think there are only six kids left in your class? Because all the rest of them drifted off to become Pokémon Trainers! The only kids who are still seriously studying are the ones who want to enter really highly qualified jobs. The wannabe doctors and lawyers. You, on the other hand, seem to have no particular aim or goal in life. Unless you're going to contradict me?”

    “I . . .” Much to his disgust, Alvaro was speechless.

    “Let me put it this way. I think staying at school would be the best thing for your future. There's no denying that. But I know that it would kill you to do it, and I don't want that. Sure, I'll wake you up by pouring cold water over you from time to time, but I actually want to see you happy. I think taking the Gym challenge is the only thing that's left that has the slightest chance of doing that. And it's not the end of your studies, either. You can go back and pick them up afterwards, you know. Most kids do, once the journey wears them out. Only a few stay on to be full-time Pokémon Trainers.”

    “I still don't get why you think I'd want to do this,” he said, although he had to admit there was a modicum of truth in her words.

    “Because that's your only other option, you lazy bum,” she said, her eyes hard as flint. “You go back to school, or you get a license and go Pokémon Training. I'm giving you a choice here, Al, which is probably more than I should do. Tomorrow's Wednesday. Whatever you say, you're getting up at seven tomorrow, and you're going to one of two places: school, there to stay until you graduate; or the Pokémon Centre, to register as a Trainer. I will hear no argument on this. You can make your decision and inform me of it any time between now and tomorrow morning, but come seven o'clock, you're going. Are we clear?”

    Alvaro looked down at his knees, trying not to make eye contact.

    “I'll take that as a yes, then. I'll expect your decision by tonight, hopefully.” With that, she stood and strode from the room, taking the empty glass with her.

    “Son of a *****,” Alvaro muttered, thumping his fist on the damp mattress.

    Ten minutes later, he left the house, fully dressed. He needed time to figure a way out of this. Wandering through the slightly hilly streets of Accumula Town, he swore loudly and colourfully to the winds.

    Accumula was as dozy and quiet as ever, he reflected bitterly as he made his way to the main street in hopes of finding something – anything – to distract himself from the uncomfortable position in which he found himself. People were working in the handful of low-rise office buildings that clumped in the middle of town, but there was hardly any traffic. School wouldn't be out for another two hours, but that was no big loss. He didn't really like any of his few remaining schoolmates. That was just another reason not to go to school, incidentally.

    “Son of a *****,” he said for about the twentieth time in as many minutes as he wandered into the local park. It wasn't anything much, really: just a small, grassed area with a couple of trees, sandwiched between two properties that walled themselves off with six-foot fences. Nobody in Accumula really saw much need for a park, with the countryside so close.

    “You lookin' for something, punk?” a voice growled.

    Alvaro looked up, a little incensed at his mental ramblings being interrupted. A young man, not much older than himself, was sprawled on the ancient swingset, leering at him threateningly. He seemed to be quite tall and relatively beefy, and he sported a large metal ring in one ear. Alvaro rolled his eyes.

    “Yeah, I was looking for someone with a brain to talk to," he said. "Pity there's none here.” The inflammatory comment probably wasn't necessary, he reflected as the stranger lurched to his feet and strutted towards him, but it had been worth it.

    “You wanna ****in' say that again, jerkass?”

    “I'd rather not,” Alvaro said. “Unless you're deaf as well as stupid, you heard me the first time.” Noticing the other's hands balling into fists, he shifted his centre of balance slightly.

    “You lookin' for a fight, prick? Nobody picks a fight with Carlo and gets away with it. Prick,” he added, apparently as an afterthought.

    “Carlo, is it?” Alvaro said, trying to breathe through his mouth. Carlo stank of cigarettes and garbage. “Frankly, yes. If you keep trying to talk to me, I will quite gladly kick the **** out of you. If you leave, you can keep your nose in one piece. Not that that's anything to be proud of.”

    Carlo roared and swung his fist, but Alvaro had been expecting the clumsy hook, and he ducked swiftly under the blow. When he straightened up again, Carlo wore an entirely dumbfounded expression on his face. “Wha . . .”

    “Let me guess,” Alvaro said cynically. “You're used to fighting dumb ****s too stupid to dodge that first swing, and now that someone's appeared who you can't hit with it, you haven't got a clue what to do. Right?”

    “Uh . . .” Carlo grunted.

    Alvaro nodded sympathetically. “Yep, I know that feeling. I pity you, honestly I do. It's just that it's been about fifteen years since I was as dumb as you. It's hard to summon up any empathy.” With that, he drew back his fist and punched the befuddled Carlo in the face with a satisfying crack.

    The bigger man roared in pain and staggered slightly, but swung another heavy hook in response.

    Carlo stepped calmly backwards out of range. “I did warn you about the nose,” Alvaro said mildly, appraising the blood leaking from his opponent's face with a sort of detached interest. “Want to try again, or are you going to leave now?”

    “**** you!” Carlo spat, blood bubbling from his dented nose. He charged straight at Alvaro, fists flailing wildly. Alvaro neatly sidestepped him and swept his left leg around in a devastating arc, sending Carlo flying off his feet to land face-down on the concrete footpath that bordered the park.

    “Don't make me hurt you any more than I have already!” Alvaro said with a grin. “Frankly, I don't give a damn if you want to come back for some more, but save yourself the embarrassment.”

    Growling animalistically, Carlo stood up awkwardly, sending a glance of pure loathing back at Alvaro before limping off. “I won't forget this, prick!” he growled over his shoulder as he left.

    “That was fun,” Alvaro reflected, sitting on the recently vacated swing.

    “It wasn't very nice, though,” said another voice from the direction in which Carlo had just dragged his pathetic self.

    Alvaro looked up to see a girl standing on the pavement, arms folded disapprovingly. She looked to be about his age, with a heart-shaped face and a mass of curly blonde hair that fell past her shoulders. “I wasn't trying to be nice to him,” he told her. “In fact, if I was, I must admit I failed dismally.”

    The girl frowned and approached him slowly. “You don't sound like a delinquent,” she said.

    “And what makes you think I might be?” he asked innocently.

    “Well, I just saw you beat the crap out of some guy for no apparent reason,” she said. “On top of that, you're out here during school time, which means you're probably skipping as you don't look old enough to have graduated. Oh, and you have this general air of 'pissed-off' about you. So on balance, I'd say that makes you one. But like I say, you talk like a smart kid. So I have no idea. What are you, a nerdy delinquent?”

    “You talk a lot,” Alvaro grunted. “Yeah, I guess I'm a delinquent. I haven't gone to school in three weeks, and I start fights with punks in public parks for fun. What do you want, chick?”

    “I want to figure you out,” she said, doing a little twirl and sitting down on the swing next to his.

    He looked at her flatly. “Why the hell do you care?”

    “Also, you said you were looking for 'someone with a brain to talk to',” she reminded him, ignoring his question. “I think I qualify.”

    “Well, you're a step above that piece of trash just now,” he admitted. “I still don't want to talk to you, though.”

    “Oh, come on,” she wheedled. “You've got me all curious now! I want to find out what your problem is, and I'm not going to leave you alone until you tell me.”

    Alvaro sighed in exasperation. “Fine. What-the-****-ever. My mom's sick of me sitting around at home, so she gave me a choice. Go back to school for good or get a Trainer's license and take the Gym challenge. Frankly, I couldn't care less for either option, but she's given me till tomorrow morning to make up my mind. Now you see why I'm pissed off?”

    “Well, not really,” she said, tapping her chin thoughtfully. “I mean, yes, it explains a lot, but that doesn't sound like much of a choice to me.”

    “Oh, really.” Alvaro rolled his eyes. “Tell me, blondie. What would you do, then?”

    “I'd do what I've been doing for the last five years,” she said instantly. “Pokémon training.”

    Frowning, he looked at her with fresh interest. “You're a Trainer?”

    “What did you think these were?” she asked with a small laugh, gesturing to her waist. Her heavy-looking metal belt was studded with six small Poké Balls, just like the one his mother had shown him earlier. They seemed to be held on magnetically – or at least, he couldn't see any other means of attachment. Now that he looked at her, actually, it was obvious. She was dressed practically for travelling: black cargo pants and a green t-shirt in the warm weather, with a white headband keeping her blonde ringlets out of her face.

    “You have a point,” he said. “So go on. Sell Pokémon training to me. Mom already tried, but she wasn't very convincing. I honestly have no ****ing clue what I'm going to do, so I'd appreciate it if you could try and sway me one way or the other.” Why was he being so frank with this perfect stranger? Even so, something about her open, smiling face made him instinctively want to talk to her.

    “Well,” she said, and Alvaro was struck by a sudden, dreadful feeling that she was enjoying this. “Pokémon training is one of the best experiences you can have, and that's why it's so popular. Something like eighty-seven per cent of kids register before the age of twelve to take the Gym challenge of whatever region they come from.”

    “I know all that bull,” Alvaro said, waving a hand dismissively. “Tell me why I should go along with this.”

    “Well, for the most part . . . because it's fun. I've been journeying around Unova since I was eleven years old, and it's been amazing! It's not easy, that's for sure, but it's all totally worth it. My Pokémon are my partners and my best friends in the world. I know lots of Trainers say that, to the point where it's kinda cliché, but it's totally true. You form a real bond with your Pokémon when you travel around with them for a few years.”

    “Okay, stop, stop,” Alvaro said. “That's disgusting. I don't need friends. I need something that won't bore me out of my mind while I avoid going to school. Is it really that interesting?”

    “Absolutely. You'd love it, I think. You seem to like fighting well enough, anyway.”

    “I guess that's true,” he admitted.

    “How did you get so good at it, anyway? Do you do karate or something? You looked like you knew what you were doing.”

    “That's none of your business,” Alvaro grumbled. “Don't you have somewhere to be?”

    “As a matter of fact, I do,” the girl said, standing up and stretching. “I've got some shopping to do this afternoon before I get into the Pokémon Centre for a proper rest, ugh. I've been kipping in a sleeping bag every night for a week, so I'm looking forward to a real bed.”

    “Then go,” Alvaro said. “Have fun.”

    “I will, then. Hey, what's your name, grumpy?”

    He was briefly tempted to lie, but there didn't seem to be any point. “It's . . . Alvaro,” he said reluctantly.

    “All right. I'll be leaving the Pokémon Centre at eight tomorrow morning. If you do make the right choice, I'll see you before I go. Right, Al?” she said with a wink.

    “Sod off,” he said ungraciously. “And don't call me that!”

    “You're so grouchy,” she giggled. “All right, bye now!” With that, she practically skipped out of the park, disappearing around the corner before Alvaro could say another word.

    Alvaro watched her go with slack-jawed disbelief. Were there really people like her in the world? “What an absolute freak,” he grumbled as he stood up and cricked his neck, feeling the pops as his vertebrae settled. “She was kinda hot, though.”

    Still little closer to a solution to his problem, Alvaro left the park and made his way back towards home. He didn't want to be hanging around if Carlo came back with a bunch of friends, which seemed likely. Hitting the big lug had allowed him to blow off some steam, though, for which he was grateful.

    “So what do I do?” he asked aloud, though there was – thankfully – nobody around to hear him. “Do I go back to boring-ass school, or do I try something new that could turn out to be really, really terrible?”
    Last edited by M-Dub; 28th December 2011 at 12:34 AM.

    Champion Game
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  2. #2

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    This is not too bad. Alvaro seems like a really violent guy though. A bit too fond of cussing.

    Would like to see where this goes though

  3. #3
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    So as promised, less cussing in this chapter. Only occurs twice. I went a bit overboard in Chapter One, but Alvaro was really quite pissed at that stage. He's calmed down a bit now, but let's see where that leads him.

    Chapter Two
    In Which Kathy Gets Mad

    As soon as she was a block clear of the park, Kathy stopped and let out a sigh of relief. She glanced back over her shoulder, and dimly made out the boy leaving in the opposite direction. He was a funny sort, that one.

    She had been passing by as Al had entered the park. She hadn't been intending to stop, but her curiosity had been piqued when she heard the altercation. She'd considered stepping in to break them up – after all, her Pokémon could easily have knocked both young men flat – but something had held her back. She didn't know what it was, but she had a sneaking suspicion that it was the same something which had compelled her to then approach and talk to the grumpy-looking Alvaro.

    Although he had turned out to be not quite as frightening as she had thought at first, she was still relieved to get away from him. There was something unsettling about the boy, but at the same time he was mysterious. He'd have to be, what, sixteen? How many kids started a Gym challenge at sixteen?

    Of course, that was assuming that he actually took the Gym challenge. He certainly seemed vehemently opposed to going back to school for whatever reason, but he hadn't sounded particularly keen to start training Pokémon, either.

    Well, she would have to find out in the morning. She'd lie in wait for him at the Pokémon Centre and see if he turned up. While he probably wasn't the best person to take by surprise, given his apparently violent temperament, she was forced to admit that she was intensely curious about what he would do.

    That decided, Kathy brushed a curl of blonde hair out of her face and went to seek out the Poké Mart.

    Accumula was a small township compared to some others she had seen on her travels, but the constant ups and downs of the hilly streets made it a little difficult to find her way around. As she crested one gentle incline, though, she spotted the trademark blue roof she was looking for and made a beeline for it.

    As she approached the sliding glass door, however, she checked her pace slightly, peering through the tinted surface into the shop beyond. It opened before she reached it, however, revealing a smirking boy about her age, standing in the doorway with his arms folded. He had bleached blond hair with a crimson streak in it, which made him look utterly ridiculous. This impression was only aided by his outfit, which consisted of a sleeveless denim jacket that flapped open over a green t-shirt with some inane slogan on it, as well as a pair of flared jeans. On the whole, he looked like he would be more at home in some kind of stupid cartoon than the real world.

    Kathy exhaled slightly in frustration. “Oh, hell. Not you again.”

    He winked conspiratorially. “That's right. You know me, you love me. You know you love me!”

    “I don't. Frankly, Chaz, I think you're a bit of an ass. Now, if you'll let me-”

    “Don't be like that, Kathy!” he pleaded, spreading his hands wide. “You're my rival, after all. You're meant to be more, I don't know . . . supportive?”

    “I don't know where you got this stupid idea, Chaz. I'm not your 'rival' or anything like that. You just keep trying to battle me, and I destroy you every time. I even go easy on you, and you still lose. If you want to be competitive, that's fine. Every Trainer needs someone to compete with, after all. But just try and get a little better first, would you?”

    “Kathy, I'm going to challenge you to a Pokémon battle one more time,” he said, apparently ignoring her complaints entirely. He flicked his head slightly as he spoke, causing his hair to flop from one side to the other. It looked entirely daft, she thought. Clearly, he still had as high an opinion of his own appearance as usual. “And this time, I'm going to win. I'll prove to you that I'm a worthy opponent, and we can resume our relationship as per normal. It's almost like you've been avoiding me lately.”

    “I have been avoiding you,” she growled, shoving past him into the Poké Mart. “And it was glorious, blissful freedom. But now you've returned to get on my nerves again, and I am sick to death of it. You've got what you came here for? Then leave.”

    “Oh, I did my shopping,” he said, following her as she stomped into the nearest aisle, doing her best to ignore him. “I didn't get what I came here for, though.”

    Kathy didn't say anything. Maybe he would go away if she pretended he wasn't there.

    Fat chance. “So . . . how about that battle?” he tried again, peering over Kathy's shoulder as she studiously examined a rack of potions and other healing products.

    “How about you go jump in a lake?” she suggested, whirling on him and looking directly into his eyes as she spoke. “Look, what part of 'get lost' do you not understand? I don't think I can be any clearer than this: I do not want to battle you, nor do I want anything to do with you whatsoever!”

    He recoiled slightly, a flash of uncertainty visible in his face for a split second. He soon regained his composure, however, drawing himself up to his full – albeit less than impressive – height. “So that's how it's going to be, is it?”

    “That's how it's going to be,” she confirmed. “Now leave, if you get it.”

    “I won't,” he said, sticking his nose in the air like a petulant child. Which was all he really was, she reflected. “You can't deny my challenge!”

    Kathy ran her hands through her hair in an attempt to calm down, but all that succeeded in doing was reminding her that she hadn't showered properly in days. She was beginning to wonder if her mother had been right to suggest she cut it short for travelling. “I can, and I just did,” she said at length.

    “But the Pokémon League rules-”

    “-say nothing of the sort,” she finished, turning to check the label on a box of Pokémon food. “It's bad etiquette to turn down a challenge, sure, but I don't think anybody would blame me in this case. So leave before I-”

    “Before you what?” he grinned, clearly noticing her uncertainty. “You gonna hit me, Kathy?”

    At her sides, Kathy's hands clenched into fists. For a brief, wild moment, she imagined herself breaking Chaz's nose just like Alvaro had done to the guy in the park. It was a strange, alien thought that simultaneously shocked and attracted her. While she had been participating in Pokémon battles for years, she had never been one for actually getting her hands dirty. Chaz's smug grin, however, was fast eroding her convictions.

    With a concentrated effort, Kathy breathed deeply and relaxed her hands. No. She wasn't like Alvaro. “I'm not going to hit you, Chaz,” she said sweetly, “but if you keep bugging me, I'll call the police. You don't want to get arrested, do you?”

    Chaz ground his teeth in annoyance, his grin slipping. “Fine,” he spat at last, throwing the word accusingly in her face with sudden venom. “I'll leave for now. But you haven't heard the last of me!”

    “Sheesh,” she muttered as she watched him storm out of the Poké Mart. “Maybe I should just call the police anyway?”

    “Not worth it, missy,” cackled the old man behind the counter.

    Kathy blinked. She hadn't realised that she'd come full circle through the store while arguing with Chaz. “Oh, I'm sorry, sir. I didn't mean to disturb you. Chaz is just-”

    “I know, lass,” the cashier said, chuckling as he cut her off with a lazy wave of his hand. “I see kids like him all the time. Never up to any good, but no real danger to anybody either. So, what can I do you for?”

    “I'm just restocking a few things,” Kathy said. “I don't need anything too specialised today. I'll just grab what I need.”

    “A'ight, then. I'm not going anywhere.” He wheezed slightly as he sat back in his chair behind the counter.

    Kathy grabbed a basket and made a quick trip round the aisles, picking up a couple of potions here, an antidote there. She knew full well the importance of travelling light.

    After she had paid for her purchases and packed them in her bag, she left the Poké Mart. Despite having told Alvaro that she had things to do, she was done at barely two o'clock in the afternoon. She supposed she could go into the Pokémon Centre and check in, but that still left her with several hours before nightfall. What was she supposed to do?

    ***

    “So.”

    “So,” Alvaro repeated grimly.

    “Have you made a decision yet, dear?” his mother asked.

    “It's only been an hour, Mom. I'm still thinking about it,” he said, trying to edge past her in the hallway to get to his room.

    “All right. Just don't think for too long, or I'll make the decision for you,” she warned, stepping aside at last to let him through.

    As he opened his bedroom door, though, a thought struck him. He turned back towards his mother, who was still watching him curiously. “Say, Mom . . . what's in the Poké Ball you showed me earlier? Just out of, you know. Curiosity and stuff.”

    She winked at him. “You only get to find out if you choose to become a Pokémon Trainer,” she said. “I don't want the contents of a little ball influencing your choice, dear. You need to pick what you think will be better for you.”

    Alvaro snorted and shut himself in his room. “What's better for me? How the **** am I supposed to know that?”

    So what do I do? Going back to school sounds like a drag, but so does taking the Gym challenge. I mean, come on. Do I really want to get stuck wandering around Unova for a few years? He'd forgotten to ask Kathy how many badges she'd got in her five years as a Trainer. Surely she'd have almost all of them by now, right?

    He could hardly imagine being a Pokémon Trainer for five years. Maybe he could do it for a year – until he was too old to go back to school – and then ditch? But then where would that leave him? As much as he hated to admit it, he knew he would have to do something with his life at some point. If that was the case, he might as well go back to school and graduate in time to go straight on to college. But . . .

    “I'm not spending another year in that damn school,” he ground out, hating the words even as he said them. While accepting it was tough, he had to reluctantly concede that becoming a Pokémon Trainer was the lesser of two evils. While it sounded like an awful lot of work, it would almost certainly be far less boring. The only question left was whether that was a trade-off he was willing to make.

    Seems I might have to. He knew he had to grow up and shoulder some responsibility as an adult eventually. If the price for alleviating his utter boredom was making that point in time come a year earlier, so be it.

    The more he thought about it, the more reasonable it seemed. It wasn't like there was anyone he would miss particularly much in town, other than his parents. Everyone he had ever considered a friend had left years ago to take their own Gym challenges. Some had come back and then resumed study elsewhere, but others were probably still going. Either way, he couldn't care less about the other people who were in his class at school. He'd be quite happy to leave them without saying goodbye.

    Although he was still far from enthusiastic about the idea, he was beginning to warm to it slightly. It was definitely better than going back to school and sitting through another year and a bit of work that he already knew.

    Having convinced himself thus, he flopped down on his bed and went back to sleep. He had a feeling that he wasn't going to be getting much rest in future.

    ***

    Seven o'clock the next morning came quickly. After allowing himself to be dragged out of bed, Alvaro had sat quietly through dinner before returning to bed. Even though he'd already made up his mind, he wasn't going to give his parents the satisfaction of knowing he'd been won over so quickly.

    So when he awoke at seven on Wednesday morning – on his own initiative, no less – he found his parents waiting expectantly in the dining room. He did his best to pretend nothing was out of the ordinary. It was only as he considered how to go about telling them what he'd decided that he realised it was probably going to be more difficult than the actual journey, in its own way.

    “Don't laugh,” he grumbled as he slouched across to the fridge in search of the milk. “I dare you to damn well laugh at me.”

    “I wasn't, dear.” His mother seemed to be suppressing a grin regardless. “So. Going to school this morning?”

    He gave her a deadpan glare. “Does this look like my school uniform?”

    “Hmm, jeans and a t-shirt. Not really. What do you think, dear?” she asked, turning to her husband.

    Leon Wayland looked up from his morning paper, his mustache wiggling as he spoke. “Not at all. I'd hardly say it looks like anything much, though.”

    Alvaro didn't reply, opting instead to sit down opposite them at the table with his bowl of cereal and eat silently. He wasn't in any particular hurry, even if his mother was.

    At length, she tried again, more directly this time. “So, does this mean you've decided to get your Trainer's license today?”

    Alvaro kept his eyes fixed stubbornly on his cornflakes, unable to meet the expectant gaze of either of his parents. “Yes,” he mumbled.

    “What's that?” she prompted.

    “Yes!” he repeated, louder this time, still not looking her in the eyes. “Yes, I'll get my goddamn Trainer's license and I'll leave to take the Gym challenge! Happy?”

    There was silence around the table for another twenty seconds, during which Alvaro kept chewing his cornflakes sullenly. When he finally glanced up again, his parents were both beaming at him. He scowled. “You knew I was going to say yes, didn't you?”

    “Well, I'd be lying if I said I had no idea,” his father chuckled. “Your mother and I have been worried about you lately, and we thought this might be a good change of pace for you.”

    “So you tricked me into it?” Alvaro challenged them. “You gave me the alternative of going back to school so that I'd do this? You guys are ****ing unbelievable.”

    “Enough of that language, young man,” his father said, suddenly stern. But then he sighed and put down his newspaper, leaning forward to look directly into Alvaro's eyes. “You know, this is something quite special, the opportunity to become a Trainer. It's an opportunity I wasn't given as a kid, and your mother's in the same boat. Times were different. We missed out. But it's your turn now, and ever since it became common practice for kids to go out training Pokémon for a couple of years, we've been hoping you would. We don't want to force you, but we always thought it would be good for you to go.”

    “So you tricked me into it,” Alvaro repeated flatly.

    “I wouldn't call it that,” his mother said. “But the point is, honey, we're happy you made the right choice.”

    “Hooray,” Alvaro said. “So, when do I leave?”

    “You're that eager to get started?” his mother teased.

    “Not exactly. But if I'm going to do it, I might as well do it without screwing around.” Finishing his cornflakes, he stood up and stretched, looking expectantly at his parents.

    Leon stood up and crossed to stand in front of Alvaro. He was a little shorter than his son, but he had the same black hair. He looked into Alvaro's eyes with an evident mixture of pride and melancholy. “I'm afraid I can't come and see you off, son. I have an important meeting to get to this morning which I absolutely can't miss. So I'll say goodbye now.”

    “Yeah,” Alvaro said. “Goodbye, Dad.” He let his father pull him into an awkward hug, which he returned without too much enthusiasm.

    “Al, you've . . . grown so much. You're a man now. You can make your own decisions in life. Sometimes you have to make decisions you don't want to make, but what's important is that you make the right choice. I think you have this time, Al. I'm proud of you.”

    “Thanks . . . Dad. I'll . . . I'll remember that. Promise.”

    “Good man,” Leon said, stepping back and patting Alvaro firmly on the shoulder. “I'd remind you to call, but I'm sure your mother will do all that and more. You don't need to hear it from me. There's not much more to say here, so . . . I suppose I'll be going now.”

    “Yeah,” Alvaro said, his voice low. “Yeah, see you around, Dad.” He stood awkwardly in the middle of the kitchen as his father packed up his briefcase and made his way to the front door.

    “Don't forget, Alvaro,” Leon said as he opened the door. “We're proud of you, whatever you do.” With that, he was gone.

    It was a brief goodbye, but Alvaro was glad of that. He had never really been one for long, drawn-out farewells where everybody cried and made lengthy speeches about how much they were going to miss each other. It was better this way. Less boring, too.

    “Right. Go and pack what you need, honey,” Hilda said, suddenly businesslike. “We're going down to the Pokémon Centre to start you off right now.”

    “Right now?” Alvaro repeated, slightly taken aback.

    “I told you, didn't I? That whatever you chose, you'd leave first thing in the morning. You don't get to laze around any longer just because you decided not to go to school.”

    Alvaro sighed. “If you say so.”

    ***

    By seven forty-five, Kathy was starting to wonder whether Al would actually show. He had seemed pretty keen on avoiding school for whatever reason. She hoped he'd turn up sooner or later, though. He was interesting. Despite his apparently violent personality, he was infinitely preferable to an annoying jerk like Chaz. Of course, Al could prove to be just as annoying as Chaz in time, but she didn't think so.

    For better or worse, she hoped he'd make the right choice. She'd been in need of someone else to travel with for a couple of months now. Janice, the friend she'd been hiking around Unova with for over three years, had recently given up on the Gym challenge and gone home to finish her education, leaving Kathy alone. Of course, she was perfectly capable of looking after herself. She had a full team of fairly strong Pokémon with her, after all. It wasn't security she was looking for, though the more the better in that regard.

    No, it was something else. Only since Janice had returned home had Kathy realised how much she enjoyed having someone to talk to on the road. She could talk to her Pokémon, of course, but it wasn't the same.

    She'd never travelled with a boy before, though. She knew her father would never approve, but she'd cross that bridge if she came to it. No, something about Al was immensely interesting. While his demeanour was rough, she could tell he had hidden depths that just begged to be explored. If she was entirely frank, that very roughness might be what endeared him to her. He was honest, which was an uncommon and refreshing trait among guys his age.

    As her C-Gear ticked over to 7:47, the glass doors of the Pokémon Centre opened with a fwish, and Al entered, accompanied by a tall, slim woman who had the same piercing green eyes as he did.

    Smiling broadly, Kathy stood up and strode across the foyer to meet him. This was going to be fun.

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  4. #4

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    Much better xD now this is getting interesting. So Chaz is Kathy's annoying admirer? I can sense a love triangle somewhere here :3 keep the chapters comin'!

  5. #5
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    Default Chapter Three - In Which Alvaro Screws With the Game Canon

    Chapter Three
    In Which Alvaro Screws With the Game Canon

    “Hiya, Al!”

    Alvaro suppressed a groan. He had entirely forgotten about Kathy's promise to be waiting for him at the Pokémon Centre, and now he was wishing that she had forgotten too. Evidently, there was to be no such luck, for before he could say a word, she was greeting his own mother with great enthusiasm.

    “You must be Al's mom! Hi there, I'm Kathy!”

    Hilda blinked, but to her credit remained composed. “Oh, hello. Are you a . . . friend of Alvaro's?”

    “You make it sound like the idea is so out there,” Alvaro grumbled.

    “Well, it's a natural assumption, isn't it? For one thing, I've never known you to let anybody else call you 'Al' like that. Oh, I'm sorry, dear. I don't mean to ignore you,” Hilda said suddenly, returning her attention to Kathy.

    “Let me just point out right now that she's going to call me that no matter what I say about it,” Alvaro muttered, but the other two were already deep in discussion. Rolling his eyes, he stepped around them and made his way over to the reception desk by himself.

    The nurse stationed at the front desk was a man only a little older than Alvaro himself, with floppy brown hair and blue eyes. “Hey there, kid,” he said as Alvaro approached. “What can we do for you today? You a Trainer?”

    “Not as such,” Alvaro said, glancing over his shoulder to see whether Kathy and his mother were still chattering on. They were. “I'm actually here to get my Trainer's license today. Can you do that?”

    The nurse's eyebrows rose slightly. “Sure I can, mate. But aren't you a little old to be starting out?”

    Alvaro sighed. “Trust me, it's a long story. But anyway, what do I have to do to get the license? Sign some papers? Prove my competency?” The notion that he might have to supply some kind of proof of his suitability hadn't occurred to him until that moment, and he wasn't sure how he would do so if it was called for.

    “Just some paperwork, mostly. I'll just get you to fill out your details here . . .” the nurse said, sliding a form across the desk towards him and handing him a pen.

    Alvaro glanced down at the sheet of paper. It was all fairly straightforward: name, age, hometown, closest family members, contact numbers, Xtransceiver frequency and so on. At the bottom was a dotted line for his signature, which he provided with only a little hesitation, and one for parental permission. He glanced back at the other two again; they were still going on about something. He didn't know what they were talking about, but they certainly seemed to be enjoying themselves.

    “Mom'll sign in a minute,” he said with a grimace as he handed the paper back to the nurse. “Anything else?”

    “Just a couple of simple questions,” the nurse said absently, tapping his chin with the pen as he scanned Alvaro's form. “First of all: do you have a starter Pokémon arranged?”

    “Oh, yeah,” Alvaro said, waving a hand. “Mom has something set up, but she won't tell me what it is yet.” To his own surprise, Alvaro realised that a part of him was eager to find out. He wasn't meant to be getting excited about this.

    “And secondly: what is your goal? That is to say, what do you plan to do with your Trainer's license?”

    “What? What sort of question is that?” Alvaro frowned. “Why do you even need to know?”

    “Standard practice,” the nurse said with a smile. “Are you going to be doing Gym battles? Contests? Working with Pokémon in some other field, like breeding?”

    “Gym battles, I guess,” Alvaro said. “I think the general idea is to go around Unova and battle people, isn't it?”

    “I see. One of the usual, then,” the nurse said, making a note. “Now, as soon as we can get a parental signature, I can put this through the machine and get you your license.”

    Tired of waiting, Alvaro turned and marched over to where Kathy and Hilda were still talking animatedly. “Will you hurry up and get over here?” he said sharply. “You have to sign something too, you know!”

    “Oh, I'm sorry, dear!” Hilda said with an innocent smile. “I was just talking to your friend here. She says she's been a Trainer for five whole years. Can you believe that?”

    “Yes, I can. Now come on!” Alvaro said, rolling his eyes as he lead her towards the desk, Kathy following with a slightly amused look on her face.

    Once the nurse had all the signatures he wanted, he fed the form into a machine under the desk and tapped several keys on his computer. A few seconds later, a small slot on the desk itself spat out a piece of plastic about the size of a credit card. The nurse handed it to Alvaro with a grin. “There we are! You're all good to go!”

    Alvaro inspected the card. It was red and white, with a black strip down the middle. His name was printed in white letters across the red part, while a bunch of seemingly random numbers were spread across the rest of its face. On the flipside was a large amount of very small text. Deciding he'd read it later, Alvaro pocketed the card and looked up expectantly. “Anything else?”

    “That's just about it, actually,” the nurse said, appearing slightly taken aback by Alvaro's abruptness. “You're qualified to train Pokémon now.”

    “Huh,” Alvaro said with a frown. “I was expecting something a little more . . . I don't know, rigorous. Anybody could come along and get a license, and not necessarily the sort of person you'd want to be training Pokémon . . .”

    “Well, that judgement is left up to the official overseeing the licensing – in this case, me. You don't seem to be the sort to do anything untoward with your Pokémon, so I have no problem approving you for a license.”

    Alvaro raised an eyebrow, but decided not to push the point any further.

    “All right, Al!” Hilda said brightly, clapping her hands together. “Are you all set to go?”

    “Uh, I guess . . .” Alvaro said, still slightly unable to believe what he was doing. “Do I just . . . head out any which way?”

    “Well, the closest Gym's in Striaton City out west,” Kathy said. “That's where I was last. We should go that way if you want to start collecting Badges right away,” she suggested as she led them out of the Pokémon Centre.

    “Whoa, whoa, whoa!” Alvaro said. “Where the **** did this 'we' come from? I'm not going anywhere with you.”

    “Al, honey,” his mother said warningly, putting a hand on his shoulder. “I was talking with Kathy here, and she seems like a lovely, responsible girl. She's agreed to travel with you for a while and act as a kind of mentor. She's an experienced Pokémon Trainer, so she knows her stuff.”

    “I don't want her tagging along with me!” Alvaro growled, glaring at the pair of them. “I can handle things by myself just fine!”

    “I don't think so,” his mother said, raising an eyebrow. “I know you're sixteen, but you've hardly left Accumula before. You need someone level-headed and experienced along with you, and Kathy has kindly said that she'll help you out. I will not have you embarrassing me by kicking up a fuss like some four-year-old!”

    Alvaro glowered at her. “Isn't it bad enough that you made me do this **** in the first place? I'm not having her along for the ride. If you really must be so anal about travelling with someone, then I'll call up one of the local guys who already left. Chuck, maybe, or Faro. Those guys have been training for years. I'll meet up with them and I can travel with somebody I actually like.”

    “Alvaro Wayland, you will do as I say. If you meet up with one of your friends while you're travelling, fine. Go along with them. But until that day comes, you will travel with Kathy.”

    Alvaro clenched his fists, taking a deep breath. “Fine,” he said at length, shuddering slightly as he tried to resist the urge to hit the nearest inanimate object. He could always ditch Kathy as soon as he left town, he reasoned.

    “Glad to see you've come around,” she said. “Now, I should give you your Pokémon, shouldn't I?”

    “It might help,” Alvaro said, rolling his eyes. Despite his dismissiveness, however, he was more than a little curious to find out what was in the Poké Ball. When had either of his parents ever owned a Pokémon? He'd heard that there was a researcher down in Nuvema that sometimes sponsored new Trainers and gave them Pokémon, but he doubted that she'd been involved. He tried to picture his mother wandering around Route 2, looking for wild Pokémon to throw Poké Balls at. He shook his head. The image seemed wrong somehow.

    “Well, then,” she said, reaching into her purse and pulling out the Poké Ball she'd shown him the previous morning. “I suppose this is where you really start your journey, isn't it?”

    Alvaro raised an eyebrow. She was trying to get him to be all emotional, he could tell. It wasn't happening. “Yeah, sure. Whatever. Now can I have the Pokémon and leave before I change my mind?”

    “All right, dear,” Hilda said, handing him the sphere. “It's all yours. But don't let it out of the Poké Ball until you're out of town, okay? Young, inexperienced Pokémon are easily scared, and you don't want it to freak out and run, do you?”

    “Fair enough,” Alvaro said, pocketing the Poké Ball. “Is that it, then?”

    Hilda sighed and pulled him into a hug. Alvaro tried to wriggle out, but her grip was firm and he had no choice but to submit. She didn't say anything for several seconds, but rubbed his back in what he could only suppose was meant to be a comforting manner.

    When she finally let him go and held him at arm's length, there were tears in her eyes. “I'm proud of you, Al,” she said. “And I will miss you. You are allowed to show a little emotion, you know.”

    “Whatever,” he snorted, but then he relented. “Yeah, all right. I'll miss you too, Mom. And Dad. But that's it. Truth be told, I'm actually kind of glad to be getting out of this town.”

    “I know, sweetie,” she said. “Now, I do have to go to work as well. Don't forget to call in whenever you can and tell us how you're going. Be safe, stick with Kathy. She's responsible.”

    “I love how you're so willing to entrust your only son to a complete stranger,” he grumbled.

    “Don't give me that. You'll be fine with her. Now, is there anything else?” she asked. Apparently the question was rhetorical, for she carried on anyway. “You'll need to stop into the Poké Mart in town for some basic supplies before you go. You've got a sleeping bag and some food packed already, right? All you'll need is a couple of potions and so on for your Pokémon, then. I've put some money into your account, and you can access that with your Trainer's license-”

    “Mom!” Alvaro said sharply.

    “The next Pokémon Centre is in Striaton, all right? You'll probably have to sleep outside for a couple of nights, but the weather's supposed to be fine for the next week or so. It's really quite nice this time of year, anyway, and we're so lucky to live somewhere with such a mild climate. If you look at Sinnoh, it snows half of the year and hails for the other half, and in Hoenn they have those horrible rainstorms-”

    “Mom!” Alvaro repeated.

    “If it does rain, try and find somewhere dry to sleep, would you? I don't want you catching anything horrible from the cold. I think the Pokémon Centres have facilities if you do, but it's best to prevent these things before you have to worry about curing them. Speaking of sleeping, try and get at least nine hours a night, okay? Any less, and your metabolism will suffer. Always eat a good breakfast, if possible. You've got some non-perishable food on you, and you can stock up in each town-”

    “Mooooom,” he groaned, but he could tell his entreaties were falling on deaf ears.

    “There are plenty of edible fruits and berries growing wild as well, and I'm sure Kathy knows which ones they are. Don't eat anything you don't recognise – that's how you get sick-”

    “Mrs Wayland!” Kathy said, stepping in suddenly. She had been watching the entire exchange with a mixed expression of amusement and sympathy on her face.

    To Alvaro's immense surprise, his mother fell silent. “Yes, dear?”

    “I think Al's got it,” she said confidentially. “And even if he didn't, I've got it. I'll take care of him, I promise.”

    Alvaro sighed and rubbed his temples. This was shaping up to be an extraordinarily frustrating day, and it was barely eight o'clock.

    “Yes,” he agreed. “I've got it. Are you going to tell me something I don't know, or should I just leave now?”

    “There's no call for that kind of stroppiness, young man,” Kathy said in an uncanny imitation of Hilda.

    “Don't you start!” he groaned.

    Kathy giggled innocently. “Sorry! You just looked so grumpy!”

    Alvaro shook his head in disgust as his mother joined in the giggling. He had been starting to think that Kathy wasn't just another airheaded bimbo, but maybe he'd been wrong. Either way, I'll be rid of her as soon as I can, he resolved.

    “So!” he said sharply, cutting the other two off. “Unless there is anything else to be said, I am going to leave right now.” He glanced from one to the other. “Anything?”

    “Good luck,” his mother said, kissing him on the cheek. “I guess that's all that's left to say. I'll call you on the Xtransceiver tonight when I get home from work, okay? Just to see how you're going.”

    “If you insist,” Alvaro said. He stepped back and gave a theatrical bow. “If that really is it this time, I will be on my way. We. We will be on our way,” he amended swiftly, glancing at Kathy.

    “All right, dear. Goodbye, and take care.”

    “Right,” Alvaro said. He then turned on his heel without another word and marched west, towards the Poké Mart and Route 2.

    ***

    Kathy paused briefly to reassure Mrs Wayland – once again – that her son was in good hands before racing to catch up with Al. He didn't even look back or acknowledge her presence until she was right next to him, when he glanced down the bridge of his nose at her – damn, he was tall – as if only just realising she was there.

    “Where are you going in such a hurry?” she demanded.

    “Poké Mart,” he said. “Didn't you hear what Mom said?”

    She looked at him in wonder. For someone who was leaving his home, his family and everything he had ever known, he didn't seem particularly fazed by any of it. He didn't even look back, though she could see his mother still standing outside the Pokémon Centre, waving.

    “The Poké Mart? Oh, uh . . . you don't need to do that!” she said, swinging her bag off her back and digging through it.

    Al didn't check his pace, which meant she had to jog to catch up to him again once she found what she was after. She thrust a small package, wrapped tightly in brown paper, into his hands.

    “What's this?” he asked suspiciously.

    “Uh . . . a few bits and pieces. A Trainer's starter kit, if you like. There's some potions, a few cans of repel, a couple of general status healing solutions and some Poké Balls. I even put a revive in there, but it's for emergencies only.”

    Al gave her a strange look, but stopped and packed the supplies into his own bag. “Thanks,” he said. “No Poké Mart, then.” With that, he resumed walking, making a beeline for Route 2.

    He seems awfully keen to get underway all of a sudden, she thought with a frown. Was he up to something?

    “Hey, listen,” she said, speeding up slightly to keep up with his long-legged stride. “I know you don't want to travel with me, but I happen to want to travel with you. So-”

    “So what?” Al snarled, his sudden vindictiveness startling her. “I'm already being forced to go on this stupid Gym challenge, and I don't know if I can take something else shoved onto me like this. Look, Kathy. I owe you one for the stuff you bought me, so I'm not going to ditch you. I'm not that much of an *******. So I'll go along with this for now, but it doesn't mean I have to like it. We clear?”

    Kathy raised an eyebrow. He was certainly going to some length to retain his bad-boy persona. “Sure thing.”

    They both fell silent for a while. Kathy observed him with interest. He was an even stranger specimen than she'd originally thought, this one. He seemed to want to remain standoffish, even when there was no apparent need for it. Was it possible he genuinely disliked her for some reason? That shouldn't be the case. While she had kind of bullied her way into travelling with him, she could sense that most of his frustration was directed towards his mother.

    So why was he still ignoring her?

    In an attempt to defuse the tense silence, Kathy cast around for something in the area to comment on. Accumula was fairly quiet at this time of the morning, as most of its occupants were already where they planned to be for the day. There were a handful of other teenagers walking to school, but not many. A few cars rumbled by, but the small town was generally quiet.

    As a result, Kathy was quite surprised to notice some kind of disturbance going on at a park on the side of the road. A number of people had gathered around a small fountain, including several who were dressed in odd, pale blue hooded suits with white apron-like extensions.

    “What do you suppose they're up to?” she asked, nudging Al and pointing to the small crowd.

    He stopped to peer across at the group. “Eh, some bunch of environmental activist losers,” he said dismissively. “I've seen them around a bit lately. Probably giving speeches on how it's unethical to eat broccoli or something.”

    “Why would it be unethical to eat broccoli?” Kathy asked, frowning.

    “It was a joke, damn it!” Alvaro said.

    “I know, I know,” Kathy said hastily. “I was just wondering, though.”

    “Maybe it hurts the broccoli's feelings. How the **** should I know? They're kooks. Come on.” He started walking again, and Kathy hurried to keep up.

    Just a few minutes later, they reached the edge of town. Alvaro didn't blink, however, walking straight past the sign proclaiming 'Farewell from Accumula!' and out onto Route 2.

    “Are you, like . . . ready to go?” she asked uncertainly. “Just like that?”

    He looked at her as if she'd asked him why his hair had spontaneously turned green. “Of course,” he said. “Why shouldn't I be?”

    “Well, I always just thought that the beginning of your journey was meant to be a little more, you know . . . special.”

    “Perhaps it would be, if I was doing this because I wanted to. Come on, let's find somewhere to let this Pokémon out,” he suggested, digging the Poké Ball out of his pocket.

    The sun was shining brightly, and the dew on the grass was drying off already. Kathy followed Alvaro a short way from the road as he made his way across to the pedestrian trail that wound alongside the tarmac. He kept going, though, stepping under the cover of a stand of trees that sat by a bend in the path.

    She stepped up beside him, looking at the Poké Ball in his hand. It was a standard model, nothing special. She could tell that despite his grumpy demeanour, he was just as curious as she was to find out what it was – if not more so.

    She watched his face closely as he made to press the release switch. It was a powerful moment, meeting your first Pokémon. She remembered her own only too well. Alvaro's face betrayed few of the usual emotions associated with such a momentous occasion. Sure, he was curious, but that appeared to be it. He didn't seem particularly proud, or even a little excited.

    “Do you have any idea what it could be?” she asked, in the hope of eliciting some kind of response.

    “Not a clue,” he said, and pressed the button.

    Champion Game
    Latest: Chapter Thirty-Five - Invidia et Ira
    Next: Chapter Thirty-Six: Can We Please Focus?
    Something's Got To Give (4)
    When the Sleeper Stirs (1) [FFTA2]

  6. #6

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    Ooh, what's that Pokemon? It'd be hilarious if Hilda gave her son a Jigglypuff or something xD

  7. #7
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    Default Chapter Four - In Which Alvaro Learns Something

    Chapter Four
    In Which Alvaro Learns Something

    The Poké Ball split open along the black seam with a slight cracking noise.

    Alvaro blinked. He looked down at the ground, and blinked again. He tried the trees. Nothing. He even glanced up into the air, but all he could see was a distant flock of wild Pidove. “Uh . . .”


    “It's empty,” Kathy said in a hushed voice.


    Alvaro looked at her blankly. “. . . What?”


    “It's an unoccupied Poké Ball,” she clarified. “It's never been used to capture anything. There was no flash of blue light when you pressed the switch.”


    “That's bull,” Alvaro grumbled. “She must have given me the wrong one. Right, back to town!” Mumbling curses under his breath, he turned and headed back towards the road.
    Stupid woman. How did she even get them confused anyway?

    “Hey, Al!” Kathy called from behind him. “Look at this!”


    He stopped reluctantly, but didn't turn around. “What is it?”


    “Something . . . something did come out of the Poké Ball,” she said.


    Alvaro frowned. There was an edge of amusement to her voice that he didn't like. It was almost as if she was mocking him. Nevertheless, he turned around and stomped back down to where she was still standing, holding something out towards him.


    “It fell out when you started walking,” she said.


    As he approached, she tossed it to him. He caught it awkwardly and examined it. It was a tightly folded piece of paper, easily small enough to fit inside the Poké Ball. “She did
    not,” he whispered as he struggled to unfold it.

    It was a yellow Post-It note with two short sentences scrawled on it in his mother's handwriting.
    Have fun catching your first Pokémon! I'm sure you'll do splendidly!

    “That bi
    tch,” he said flatly, crushing the piece of paper in his shaking fist and dropping it to the ground. “That absolute bitch.”

    “Uh . . . Al?” Kathy said hesitantly. “Are you . . . okay?”


    “Me?” he spat, rounding on her. “Am I okay? My own mother just pulled a fast one on me for the
    third fucking time in two days, and you wonder if I'm okay? Blondie, you are really starting to piss me off!”

    She raised her left hand sharply, jabbing him in the chest with her index finger. “You listen here!” she said, and there was a fire in her voice that took him by surprise. “You're behaving like a spoiled child over something really inconsequential! Maybe I'd understand your frustration if I actually believed for a moment that you gave a damn. But I'm not buying it, Al! You're just flipping out for the sake of it, and I am not having it!” Stopping, she stepped quickly backwards, her chest rising and falling sharply.


    Alvaro blinked. He felt a snarl tug at the corners of his mouth, but he fought to keep it under control. She was right about that, at least. He was too ready to let himself explode. It didn't stop him being pissed off, though.


    “You want to think that?” he asked. “Fine. Think what you like. Frankly, I couldn't care less what you think of me. But I've had it with this bullsh
    it.”

    “What's got you so riled up?” she demanded. “For the love of Arceus, Al, I hardly think your mother did it to spite you. Hell, she probably thought it was
    funny.”

    “That's why!” he spat. “Yesterday was an absolute shitstorm of a day, and today isn't shaping up to be much better. Not even twenty-four hours ago, I was living a completely normal life. Then suddenly, Mom just throws one curveball at me after another! I thought I was managing this morning. I thought I could deal with it, because I didn't have to put up with her crap any more. But no, she's still going out of her way to piss me off! How is that funny? How the hell is any of that funny?” Even as he ranted, though, he could feel his anger beginning to evaporate. She was right; it wasn't a huge deal. He'd be damned if he was going to tell her that, though.


    “You're right, Al,” she said, and her tone was noticeably softer. “It wasn't funny. But please, just go with it, will you?”


    Alvaro sighed heavily and sat down on the grass, tossing the empty Poké Ball from one hand to the other. “Go with it,” he repeated softly. “That's all I've been expected to do recently. Let other people tell you what to do, and just go with it.”


    Kathy sat down next to him. She lifted a hand slightly as if to reach out and touch him, but retracted it before speaking. “Sometimes, that's what you have to do, Al. Look, I don't expect you to like this right away. But please, would you just stop overreacting to things?”


    He shot her a sideways glare. “Why should you care, anyway? Why do you care about me at all? I haven't made any secret of the fact that I don't want you around. What made you do what you're doing?”


    “I was bored,” she said, leaning back and resting her weight on her hands. “You seemed interesting – you still do – so I thought I'd come along for the ride.”


    Alvaro swore under his breath, but the faintest trace of a grin was doing its best to yank his mouth out of line. “It seems I'm stuck with a weird one, aren't I?”


    “Oh, sure. Like I'm the weird one here,” Kathy said, standing up and dusting off the seat of her pants. She put her hand out to help him up. “Come on, grumpy-trousers.”


    He eyed her suspiciously. “Where?”


    “We're going to catch you a Pokémon,” she said.


    There was a spark in her eyes that Alvaro hadn't seen before, and it made him shiver. He ignored the offered hand, pushing himself to his feet instead. “Fine,” he grunted. “But I still don't like it.”


    ***

    As she led Al further from the road, Kathy mentally breathed a huge sigh of relief. He's even scarier today than he was yesterday. Standing up to him like that had taken all her courage, and she had the sinking feeling even now that if she stopped walking, her knees would give out.

    There was something unsettling about Al's sudden mood swings, and there was a certain part of her mind that was all too ready to categorise him as a potential psychopath. Even so, staying with him was sure to be far more interesting than continuing to travel alone. He was a unique individual; she could tell as much already. Whether his outward demeanour was to be taken at face value, she wasn't sure, but in either case he was sure to attract all sorts of curious adventures.


    If she was entirely honest with herself, that wasn't all there was to it. There was something intensely attractive about teaching an inexperienced Trainer the ropes, especially one as self-assured and stubborn as this one. She had always wanted to be a teacher, and although Al wasn't really what she'd had in mind, he was sure to be good practice.


    “So,” Kathy said at length, trying to inject as much enthusiasm into her voice as she could. “You've got a Poké Ball there, and I think you should use it to catch your first Pokémon.”


    “Fine,” he said curtly.


    “Well, we're likely to find a good number of wild Pokémon around here,” she said, coming to a stop and surveying the area critically. She had led him still further away from the road, deeper into the stand of trees. They were in a small clearing surrounded by low, loosely spaced-out trees.


    “I don't see any,” Al said, tapping the button on his Poké Ball to expand it to full size and glaring sullenly around at the surrounding foliage.


    “You, uh. You have to actually look for them, you know,” Kathy said gently. “Of course, they'll be wary of people, so it could be tricky. On the other hand, though, we're quite close to the town and the road, so they might be more used to people than elsewhere. That should work in our favour.”


    “Quite the expert, aren't we?” Al said, raising an eyebrow.


    “Compared to you? Yes. I've been doing this for five years,” she reminded him.


    “Whatever,” Al said. “Hey, I think I saw one!” Without another word, he slipped into the trees.


    Kathy rolled her eyes and followed him.


    He was good at moving quietly, she noticed. He passed between the trees with a natural grace, his stance balanced and sharp. Kathy was willing to bet that it had something to do with his apparent skill in the martial arts.


    Rather than getting in his way, she opted to fall back a little and watch him. He was stalking something out of her sight, and while she was curious to find out what it was, she didn't want to ruin his game.


    Suddenly, Al leapt forward, tackling something in the underbrush. He scuffled with it for a few seconds before getting a solid grip and standing up again, holding his prize at arms' length. It was a small brown Pokémon with large red eyes and a rigid tail, and it was chittering madly at him.


    Al took the Pokémon by the scruff of its neck and thrust it in her direction. “Want it?” he asked.


    “Me?” Kathy blinked. “Not . . . particularly.”


    “Right,” Al said, dropping the Pokémon back to the ground, where it immediately skittered away between the trees. “Let's try that again.”


    “Are you okay with letting it go?” Kathy asked, puzzled. “Why didn't you try and catch it?”


    “I fu
    cking hate Patrat,” Al grumbled. “Creepy little buggers. If I really have to do the Pokémon thing, I want to at least start with one that's a little bit cool. Not that bug-eyed little fuck.”

    “Er . . . right. But that aside, you know that's not how you're meant to catch Pokémon, right?” she pressed gently.


    “Seriously?” he asked, looking genuinely puzzled for a moment before snapping back to his usual suspicious glower. “That's how I usually do it.”


    “You've caught Pokémon before? But-”


    “I've caught
    people before. It usually involves sneaking around until you're close enough, then jumping the guy and hitting him until he gives up. I figured it was kind of the same deal with Pokémon. Am I wrong?”

    “Um . . . yes,” she said, unable to meet his eyes.


    “Right, then,” he said, dusting off his hands before crossing his arms across his chest. “If you're so smart, you show me how to do it.”


    “All right, then. I will,” she said. She snatched a Poké Ball from her belt and double-tapped the release switch to enlarge and open it. A familiar crack and flash of blue light heralded the appearance of her Pokémon, a grey-and-black Flying-type with red markings over its eyes.


    “A Tranquill,” Al said. “Hardly awe-inspiring.”


    “Hey! I'm trying to help you out here. The least you could do is be a little grateful, or at least cooperative.” He'd recognised the Pokémon straight away, she noted quietly. While Tranquill weren't exactly rare, they were hardly a dime a dozen in the Accumula area, unlike the weaker, smaller Pidove.


    “I don't
    have to cooperate with you!” he snapped. “I managed to catch a Pokémon just fine by myself, you know. If I'd wanted to keep it, I could have.”

    “You really don't know a thing, do you?” Kathy said, shaking her head in disbelief. “Even if you'd tried to capture that Patrat, it would have broken free of the Poké Ball.”


    “Uh . . . they can do that?” Al was looking more and more uncertain. It was as if he had forgotten to glower.


    “Yes, they can. Now, listen. Are you going to let me help you without getting snarky at everything I say?”


    “No guarantees, but I'll do what I can.”


    I guess that's the best I'm going to get
    , she thought wryly. “All right, Tranquill,” she said. “See if you can find any other Pokémon around here that we haven't scared off already.”

    “And no Patrat!” Al added quickly. Tranquill cocked its head questioningly at Kathy.


    “Yes, what he said,” she confirmed. With a coo and a flutter of wings, Tranquill was gone, streaking through the trees like a grey bullet.


    “So . . . now we wait?” Al asked.


    “Yes, we do,” she said. “Tranquill's very useful for hunting out wild Pokémon, but it's been a while since I've had the need to.”


    “Whatever,” Al grunted, dropping his bag on the ground and sprawling next to it. “Let me know when something happens.”


    “You know, if you think you owe me for the stuff I bought you, you're going to owe me double for this,” she said.


    “I know, I know,” he said, closing his eyes as he lay back in the grass.


    Kathy smiled. He seemed to have calmed down a little, even if he was still doing his best to be stubborn. Suddenly, she noticed a flash of purple passing behind Al's head. “Hey!” she exclaimed.


    Al cracked one eye open. “What?” He sounded vaguely annoyed at being disturbed.


    “I . . . I thought I saw a Pokémon behind you.” Kathy squinted into the underbrush where she'd spotted the movement, but it appeared undisturbed.


    “I don't see anything,” Al groaned, rolling over onto his stomach and scanning the area. “Stop making things up.”


    “Hey, is your bag moving?” Kathy asked with a frown.


    “The fu
    ck are you on about now?” he grumbled. “Bags don't move.”

    “Yours is,” Kathy pointed out, indicating the bulky backpack on the ground next to Al, which was indeed wiggling.


    “The hell?” he growled, sitting up and snatching it up off the ground. Items flew everywhere from the unsecured top of the bag, and a small Pokémon was visible, frozen in place on the ground with something in its front paws.


    It was a small, purple feline with cream-coloured patches on its body and large green eyes with pink markings that stretched up towards its ears.
    A Purrloin? It was holding a grain bar that it had evidently pilfered from Al's backpack, and it seemed to be in the process of trying to get it out of its wrapper.

    “You cheeky little sh
    it!” Al roared, diving for it. The Purrloin swiftly leapt out of the way, dropping the grain bar in its haste to escape.

    Kathy stepped in front of it, hands dropping automatically to her belt. With a trill, her Tranquill swooped out of the trees and blocked the Purrloin off as it changed its tack. The wild Pokémon stopped in its tracks, casting around for a way to escape, but between Al, Kathy and Tranquill, it was all but cornered.


    “Right, you little bastard,” Al said, cracking his knuckles and glaring at the feline. “Nobody tries to steal my stuff and gets away with it.”


    The Purrloin mewed pitiably as it backed away from him, tail waving cautiously.


    “Oh, leave it alone, Al,” Kathy said. “It was probably just hungry.”


    Purring appreciatively, the Pokémon padded over to Kathy and bumped its head against her leg.


    “Hungry, sure. Doesn't mean it gets to steal my food, though,” Al said, dropping to his hands and knees to make eye contact with the Purrloin.


    It stared back at him innocently, and Kathy barely suppressed a smile.


    “All right!” Al declared suddenly, sitting back. “I like your guts. Get in the Poké Ball.” He pressed the button on the ball and tossed it at the Pokémon. The sphere split open in midair, and a beam of red light shot out, striking the Purrloin head-on. The Pokemon's body was enveloped in the light, which was quickly sucked inside the Poké Ball.


    The ball fell to the ground, wobbling and shaking madly as the indicator light flashed warningly. A couple of seconds later, there was a
    crack as the two halves split apart, spitting Purrloin back out in a flash of blue light as the Poké Ball flew back to Al's hand.

    “Uh . . . huh?” Al said, frowning.


    “I thought you were supposed to be smart,” Kathy said, shaking her head. “I told you that you can't just do that.”


    “All right, then. Stop being so stuck-up and tell me what I'm supposed to do to make this work!”


    ***

    “You really want this Pokémon?” Kathy asked.

    “Of course I do,” Alvaro said, glaring at the Purrloin, which was still coiling itself around Kathy's legs. “It tried to nick my stuff, so in exchange, I have to catch it. And it's got some serious balls to try and steal from me.”


    “It's a girl, you know,” Kathy told him, a disapproving frown on her face.


    “Like I care,” Alvaro said. “If you're so smart, then, tell me what I have to do.”


    “You seriously don't know how to catch a Pokémon?” she asked, seeming genuinely confused.


    “Of course not!” he said. “I never thought I'd ever have to. I never wanted to do this, remember? I actively avoided pretty much anything to do with Pokémon training my whole life.”


    “Fine, then,” Kathy said, taking a deep breath. Her voice took on a learned-by-heart tone as she proceeded to explain. “You have to tire your target out by battling it with your other Pokémon. It makes it harder for the Pokémon to break out of the Poké Ball, and it shows it how serious you are as a battler. Pokémon aren't going to go along with just anybody, you know. Some of them might not want to be captured at all, and those you just can't do anything about. Purrloin seems curious at least, though. Otherwise she'd probably have bolted as soon as she realised you were trying to capture her.”


    “Thanks for the lecture,” Alvaro said, “but in case you hadn't noticed, uh . . . no Pokémon over here. Unless you want me to punch it myself – which I kinda get the feeling you
    don't – you're gonna have to think of something else.”

    “I'll battle it for you, just this once,” Kathy said with a smile. “Seeing as you haven't got one yourself, that is. But in future, you have to do everything yourself. All right?”


    Alvaro sighed. “I'm going to owe you for this as well, aren't I?”


    Kathy's grin didn't waver. “Yep.”


    “Ugh, fine. But – hey! Put that down, you little creep!” he snapped, noticing that the Purrloin had crept back over to the dropped grain bar and started nibbling at it.


    “She's cheeky,” Kathy chuckled. “You sure you want a little kleptomaniac on the team?”


    “Damn right I'm sure,” Alvaro said. “Now if you're going to do it, then damn well do it. Tell me when to throw the Poké Ball.”


    “Fine then, bossy,” she grumbled, but she made a small gesture with one hand and Tranquill swooped in to land a couple of feet from Purrloin. The wild Pokémon dropped the grain bar instantly, leaping backwards with its hackles raised. It hissed warily as the Flying-type hopped closer to it, head tilted expectantly.


    With a yowl, the Purrloin sprang forward, sharp claws springing from its front paws. With blinding speed, it pounced on Tranquill, claws swiping at its opponent's face.


    Alvaro winced, glancing at Kathy. She didn't appear concerned at all, however.


    “Tranquill, get up in the air.” With a hooting trill, Tranquill hopped backwards and flapped its wings powerfully, taking to the sky and leaving Purrloin to yowl in frustration on the ground. “Razor Wind! Just, uh . . . go easy, all right?”


    Trilling happily, Tranquill flapped its wings faster still, hovering on the spot as it sent gusts of air slicing down towards the Purrloin. The feline Pokémon yowled as the force of the wind sent it flying backwards, crashing into a tree.


    Alvaro winced. “That looked like it hurt.”


    “That should just about do it, actually,” Kathy said. “It's only young, so it's not very strong. You can throw that Poké Ball now.”


    Shrugging, Alvaro obeyed, lobbing the sphere in the Purrloin's direction. It sucked the Pokémon inside again and fell to the ground, hidden from view in a tuft of grass. Alvaro hurried over and snatched it up; it was still wobbling in his hand. He stared intently at the flashing sensor on the button, willing it to stay closed.


    It did.


    With a soft, cheery
    ding, both the shaking and the flashing stopped. He stared at the Poké Ball with mixed emotions. My first Pokémon . . . A part of him was quietly pleased with himself, even though he knew Kathy had done the actual work. Mostly, however, he felt a burning sense of irritation. He'd gone and blown it now. It seemed that he was a Pokémon Trainer, for better or worse – most likely worse.

    “This cannot end well,” he said drily, turning to Kathy. He stopped, though, when he saw the self-satisfied look on her face. “What are you grinning at?”


    “You owe me big time now,” she said.


    Alvaro squeezed his eyes shut and exhaled through his nose. “I know,” he said reluctantly.


    “So . . . no more thinking about ditching me now, right?”


    He tossed the Poké Ball from hand to hand, thinking. She had him there, unfortunately. No matter how much he wanted to get away from Kathy, he couldn't bring himself to ignore the fact that he did, in fact, owe her 'big time'. “I'll stick with you till Nacrene,” he said at length.


    Kathy raised an eyebrow. “I don't think so. Nimbasa.”


    “Huh?”


    “You stay with me till Nimbasa, then you can go your own way if you like. It's a crossroads, so you can go whichever way you want. We'll be going the same way until then anyway, so it makes sense to stick together.”


    Alvaro shook his head. “Castelia. I'll go with you until Castelia, and that's where I draw the line. I don't care if we happen to go the same way after that, but I'm not going with you any further.”


    “And if you change your mind between here and Castelia, you'll carry on with me?” she asked, a teasing grin slipping onto her face.


    Alvaro threw his hands up in exasperation. “Whatever. If I take leave of my senses and decide you're not likely to annoy the fu
    ck out of me, I'll keep travelling with you. Not that I'm likely to change my opinion.”

    “Stranger things have happened,” she said. “So, Al.”


    “Stop calling me that.”


    “You just caught your first Pokémon,” she continued, ignoring his protest – as he'd known she would. “How do you feel?”


    Alvaro raised his eyebrows, but quickly carried out a mental inventory anyway. “Um . . . slightly tired, because normally I sleep for another four hours. Kinda pissed at the world in general, specifically you and Mom – mostly Mom, but you're up there. A little bit hungry, seeing as I only had cornflakes for breakfast. That can wait, though.”


    “Are you feeling anything more . . . specific? Something a bit more
    immediate?” she asked, trying a different tack.

    “Yeah,” he admitted. “Yeah, I am.”


    “And what might that be?” she asked, a knowing smile on her face.


    “My leg itches,” he said, reaching down to scratch it.


    “You're unbelievable!” she exclaimed, shaking her head.


    “I get that a lot,” he said. “Mostly from Mom, though. You done psychoanalysing me?” The whole amateur psychologist act was getting old already.


    “Yeah, I'm done. But seriously, Al! You just caught your first Pokémon ever. That's a big step in the life of a Trainer. Heck, not many people catch their starter Pokémon – they're usually gifts. Don't you feel at least a
    little proud of yourself?”

    “No,” he lied.
    Last edited by M-Dub; 5th January 2012 at 1:46 PM.

    Champion Game
    Latest: Chapter Thirty-Five - Invidia et Ira
    Next: Chapter Thirty-Six: Can We Please Focus?
    Something's Got To Give (4)
    When the Sleeper Stirs (1) [FFTA2]

  8. #8
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    First of all, I'd like to say that you seem like a good writer. Your style is mesmerizing and has a lot of evident technical skill. However I'm sorry to say that so far the story is disappointing. There is not much in the way of captivating plot and setting- its a coming of age trainer fic with little description set in a canon region- so the characters have to carry the weight. The problem with that is the main protagonist, Al, is not particuarly likeable or interesting. He's a rude, smug man that has achieved nothing and who's only positive character trait is his intelligence, only told to us and not really demonstrated meaningfully to the reader enough to make his assumption of superiority sympathetic. He has yet to face consequences for his flaws either. I honestly hope he would've lost the fight he started just to offset the impression that the story is there just to show how cool or badass Al is. But he's just a generic antihero. So I would reccomend changing how the world treats Al. Get him into trouble, give him an interesting quirk, anything. What you could also do is make the plot more interesting (mysterious murders, conspiring higher powers) or adding more to the setting. But as it stands there's no incentive to read the story other than the potential for it to get better, assumed possible due to the evident technical skill of the author.
    Fan of Pokemon Special's Yellow.


  9. #9
    Join Date
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    I guess that's a fair enough comment . . . I try to refrain from making promises like 'it gets better later!' or 'just wait a few more chapters and you'll see' because those are the sorts of statements that get me in trouble more often than I'd like to admit. However, I will make something of an exception to say that yes, things are going to happen. Things beyond 'let's go fight a Gym leader, hurr hurr'. However, you're just gonna have to take my word for that at the moment, and if you don't want to, I won't blame you.

    Yeah, there's not much plot here. It's a parody fic, spoofing the games. There's not really too much I can do at this stage, but once we get to Striaton City there'll be some more action. Again, I feel kinda bad for having to resort to making promises out-of-story, but there it is.

    I have lofty things planned for this story, for sure. It's just really hard to work in hints at this early stage. I considered skipping the whole journey-starting thing, but I really wanted to take the mickey out of the canon process.

    So I apologise if you feel like there's nothing here to interest you, especially considering that there probably isn't. ^_^;;; That's all I can do for now, though.

    Champion Game
    Latest: Chapter Thirty-Five - Invidia et Ira
    Next: Chapter Thirty-Six: Can We Please Focus?
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    When the Sleeper Stirs (1) [FFTA2]

  10. #10
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    Well, I'll admit it. I always assumed you were a good writer from the posts you've left around the site, but this was absolutely fantastic. Way better than I expected. I've only had the chance to read Chapter One but, quite frankly, I'm hooked. Just to make this post seem somewhat worthy of posting, I'll add this list of minor nitpicking critiques, but that's it. xD

        Spoiler:- The minor nitpicks that obviously don't matter:


    Like I said, they obviously don't matter. You did well - I look forward to reading the next few chapters in the coming days. Kudos.
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