Warning: This fic has not been beta read
Between him and her
"You'd better watch it, Korrina. I take racing seriously."
She scoffed. "'Watch it'…" Korrina repeated her memories out aloud, earning a questioning glance from Lucario. Korrina ignored it and simply kicked some more speed, gliding down the road towards the first checkpoint with her roller-skates. Lucario sped up to keep up with her.
She smiled. "I'm always serious about racing too, you know. Just watch…." she muttered to herself, determination in her eyes and, circling around a passerby, entered the gateway to Route 5. "You just wait, Grant. This time I'll be the one waiting by the finish line."
.*** *** ***
–'I'll be the one waiting by the finish line' is probably what she's thinking right now, Grant thought, biking over the badlands. A sandstorm had hit again, but lucky to him most of his way went tailwind, so he was more like flying over the rocky terrain. That competitiveness of hers is thrilling… I don't feel like losing at all. It'll be a good fight but I'm sorry Korrina: I'll be the one crossing the finish line first.
Grant glanced to Aerodactyl that was flying slightly above him and keeping watch for wild pokémon for him. "Do you feel like winning, buddy?" He smiled at the loud shriek and a strong flap of winged he earned as a reply. "Yeah. Me too."
"It is on, Grant! This time the course will be longer, more challenging and–"
"–and way more thrilling. I know, Korrina. I'll look forward to it."
.*** *** ***
Korrina pushed herself uphill with her roller-skates with such enthusiasm that an ace trainer she passed by flinched out of the way in surprise. There was no really any danger of colliding, Korrina was better than that. Her first stop would be at the Camphrier Town fountain and until then she was going to give her all to make an unbeatable checkpoint record. A record Grant couldn't even dream of beating, Korrina was determined to make sure of that.
"Well then…" Clemont said and coughed, not sure how to begin.
"Just get on with it, Clemont," Grant encouraged and smiled. "Formalities we can skip, right?"
"Can you just enlighten me why am I your judge?"
Korrina laughed. "You're perfect. And an obvious choice considering the course. We'll treat you something afterwards. Or Grant will. After he loses."
"My, Korrina, you sound so sure of yourself," Grant said with a enthusiastic gleam in his eyes.
Clemont sighed shortly before straightening. "Okay then, Grant, Korrina. The two of you will race against each other on a course this time designed by Korrina. The course will start and end in front of my gym, here at Prism Tower. There will be five checkpoints."
.*** *** ***
"Ther ye are, young sapplin'," Ramos said and tapped his big gardening scissors to the road and watched as Grant halted into a stop before him with his bike. "Ye youngsters sur have energy for this sorta stuff."
"Thanks, old man," Grant just said, hopping down from his bike and retrieved Aerodactyl to its pokeball. "You know what to do with this?"
"Yeah yeah, now go on, grasshopper," elder gym leader said and tapped the younger to buttocks with his scissors, urging him forward. "I'll give the bike to young lady when she comes by."
Grant raised his hand as thanks and sprinted towards the monorail station, leaving the bike to Ramos' care.
"Don' let her beat ye, young man!" Ramos shouted after him and waved the scissors as a goodbye. "Ye can't show yer weak side to roses ye like or ye'll have thorns in yer fingers!"
Grant almost stumbled on his feet and then, not even trying to hold back a sigh, whirled around, slowing down. "How many times we have to tell you it is not about that?"
"Yeah yeah, sur sapplin', keep tellin' yerself that. Get goin' before the ride leaves without ye!"
"There will be five checkpoints," Clemont went through the rules as both competitors listened. "Different portions of the racing course shall be crossed in various ways including running, biking, roller-skating and swimming."
"Swimming?" Grant repeated and looked at Korrina somewhat amused.
"You just wait," Korrina grinned back.
Clement coughed to gain the pair's attention and continued. "You'll race the course to opposite directions."
Korrina enjoyed the surprised look at Grant's face. "See, I told you," she said mischievously.
.*** *** ***
Korrina arrived by the big fountain and reached for her neck to take of the pendant around it and pass the checkpoint without stopping. However the jewellery wouldn't come off and she had to halt beside the fountain to fight it off.
"Oh will you just…" she muttered, irritated and tried to fight the checkpoint mark off her neck.
Lucario waited beside her obediently. The few pokémon they had encountered it had easily taken out causing as little delay as possible. Now it was trying not to look amused.
"I saw that smile, Lucario!"
Finally getting the pendant off, Korrina held it over the fountain and dropped it to the water, where it sank to the bottom, glittering in sunlight that peaked down between white clouds. The weather was perfect for the race.
Determined to make up for the lost time, Korrina kicked up speed again. "Can you still go on, Lucario?"
Lucario gave a disapproving grunt for such a stupid question and started to run again without even waiting for its trainer.
Korrina laughed and kicked up speed to catch up with it. "You're right, we need to make up for the time we lost!"
"Korrina's first checkpoint and Grant, your last, is by the Camphrier Town central fountain. This portion between my gym and the fountain will be crossed with rollerblades. Korrina, who will reach it first, will leave an evidence behind that she has passed the checkpoint and, Grant, your job is to take that again with you when you pass the fountain and bring it back here."
"What evidence exactly?"
"This," Korrina said and held up a violet, teardrop shaped pendant that was hanging around her neck. "I'll leave it to the fountain so be sure to pick it up again, okay?"
"Wait, isn't that…" Grant started and inspected the jewellery closer. "Did you get Olympia's permission for this?"
"She insisted," Korrina replied and smiled widely.
"Grant, your first checkpoint is in Coumarine City. You'll go there by bike. You'll leave the bike to Ramos who promised to watch it for you two while you'll take the monorail to the harbour. When Korrina at the end of her course reaches this checkpoint she'll get the bike from Ramos and ride it back here."
"Oh I see what you have been thinking here, Korrina," Grant said. "I think I sort of figured what this race is like. Just how many hours you think this'll take?"
"Oh?" Korrina chuckled again with the mischievous grin. "I told you to take the whole day off. Or are you worried about your health?"
.*** ** ***
Grant fidgeted, waiting for the monorail to stop. This little part of the race was unfortunately necessary, but luckily it wasn't long. They had made a promise not to sit in the rail, so that at least balancing oneself in the moving train would provide some exercise, albeit very little.
When the monorail finally halted into a stop, Grant darted out and started the official leg for the second of his checkpoints. This portion of the course had been marked as a running leg, so he let the rollerblade attachments for his shoes hang on his belt bag on his hip and dashed through the city. He would call Tyrantrum to guard him from wild pokémon as soon as he'd be out of the city. But right now it was just him versus Korrina who he thought would be around the aquarium by now.
"The second checkpoint for Korrina and fourth for Grant is the Ambrette Town aquarium. Korrina will have to reach the checkpoint with rollerblades."
"The first two legs roller-skating, Korrina?" Grant raised and eyebrow at her. "Are you trying to gain a lead? No confidence without your rollerblades?"
"There is as much roller-skating as there is biking, Grant," Korrina assured and looked at him. "I had to set the rules in a way it was possible to arrange. So the biking portions are in two pieces while I'll start and you'll end the course with skating."
"Once in Ambrette Town," Clemont continued explaining. "Korrina will continue on foot through the aquarium until the shore, where the longer swimming leg of the race will await. Your common third checkpoint will be at your gym, Grant."
.*** *** ***
Korrina was indeed currently closing in the Ambrette Town aquarium, but first:
"Lucario, force palm," she ordered confidence in her voice as an Absol she had startled gave her a disapproving glare and made a move to jump at her.
Lucario grunted and jumped worth to obey the order. Korrina didn't stop, but skated past the surprised and staggering Absol when she had the chance and let it be. Lucario followed immediately behind.
Soon she'd have to take off her rollerblades and continue on without her favourite way of transport. Not that she disliked running or biking either. Ambrette Town was just up ahead: a turn right and down the stairs. She hoped that the next person she had asked for help was keeping his promise. She didn't really doubt him, but there was always a chance something would go wrong.
She reached the stairs and jumped on the flat, thin stone ledge edging the actual stairs, grinding down with great speed. Lucario jumped after her to the stairs and skipped most of the steps with huge jumps to keep up. Once down, Korrina hit the brakes and retrieved her pokémon. It had served it's leg and deserved a rest.
"Thank you, Lucario," she said, receiving a nod from the disciplined pokémon as it flashed inside its pokeball.
Korrina kicked the last few bursts of sped with her rollerblades for good measure before coming into a halt to take them off. The aquarium would only be a little ahead now and so her rollerblading portions of the race were now behind.
"As you both know, when you pass by the harbour area of Coumarine Town, there is a river between the Shalour City and the Baa de Mer ranch. You will swim over it. That is the shorter swimming leg of the race."
"Let me take a guess," Grant interrupted again, but luckily Clemont had given up explaining things in one go by now. "My second and your fourth checkpoint is at your gym? Or the Tower of Mastery?"
"I was going to make it my gym," Korrina admitted. "But we won't have to take a tour there. Just go straight to the caves. The checkpoint is by the entrance."
"There's a person there who'll make sure we both pass the checkpoint safely."
"Who?" Grant asked first out of pure curiosity, but then frowned and added. "Or rather, who did you get to stay there for whole day for this? Your gym manager?"
Korrina laughed. "That's something I'll leave for you to guess."
Grant pulled off his shirt and stuffed it into his waist bag before pulling the waterproof cover around it. The canal wasn't wide: the swimming distance was only about a hundred meters. The longer swimming leg that was waiting ahead was his concern. Not that he was bad at swimming, he would do that as much and as well as any other sport he was asked to perform. No, the problem was his pokémon, since none of them was overly fond of water.
Like to prove this concern, his huge carnivarous dinosaur was right now carefully poking the water washing the shore with its toes, looking disdainful.
Grant glanced at it while stretching shortly before leaving. "You don't have to. I'll use Aerodactyl again so come back."
When the switch of pokémon had been once again performed, Grant continued his way towards the next city. For this short distance, using Aerodactyl would be fine, but for a longer swimming portion of the race he'd have to have a pokémon that would swim with him. Not only because of wild pokémon, but also because of sea currents and sudden changes of weather that could prove dangerous if he was swimming alone. The sea was unpredictable.
Grant had confronted Korrina about this matter, since he had not known beforehand about swimming being such a big part of the race and he's pokémon, while they could swim, were not too adapted to water life to say the least. Her answer, however, had once again only proven her mischievous side, to his headache.
"I've got it covered."
"Really? What are you planning?"
Korrina grinned widely and Grant simply sighed in defeat.
"Don't worry about it. Just go to the shore and you'll find out."
"You two," Clemont whined and massaged his forehead. "If you ask me to do this, can I at least finish one sentence without you two interrupting?"
.*** *** ***
After leaving her piece of evidence, this time a ticket to the aquarium, to the info counter and cautiously jogging through the building, Korrina had now arrived to the sea shore. It was well into the afternoon now and the day was hot, so she was eagerly waiting for a dip to the water. Inside the aquarium, she had briefly stopped to catch her breath, take a longer sip of water and eat one of the sandwiches she had prepared as a meal. She had made some for Grant as well, who – as she had guessed – hadn't prepared anything much for lunch. Since she was somewhat responsible for keeping things a secret as long as possible, she had taken it to herself that she wouldn't have any that sort of advantages.
Now fully refuelled and ready for next leg, she stood still, staring at the empty shore.
"Uh oh…" she mumbled and ran closer.
This leg of the race was the most risky one. Neither of them could predict how the sea or the weather could change. That's why having a water pokémon with you for a long swimming course was an absolute rule. Not only was it safer that way since water pokémon could to some extent predict and sense the changes in water, it was also more fair. Considering this was supposed to be an even match, if the other was swept somewhere because of a current and lost time because of it, the setting could no longer be considered fair.
Luckily, right now the sea was calm and the weather looked perfect for swimming. Except that the crucial water pokémon she had arranged was nowhere to be seen. Korrina stood by the shore, searching.
"Hello!" she shouted towards the blue sea. "It's Korrina! Are you here!"
Immediately the surface of water broke and their guard and life line for this leg rose up from the water before her.
Korrina smiled in relief. "What, so you were here? Don't hide like that, please."
"You're keeping many secrets from me this time around, Korrina," Grant pointed out and smiled at the other. "Is there a particular reason?"
"Other than I just want to surprise you and make it into a more interesting race?" she laughed. "Not really."
"Just remember that I'm getting you back for this when I plan the next race."
.*** *** ***
Grant hopped up the last few steps to the entrance area of Reflection Cave. This is where he'd have to find the checkpoint guard whose identity his rival had so eagerly kept a secret. He was mentally prepared to ask around and search, but as soon as he reached the top of the stairs, he froze.
"That's Korrina for you…" he sighed deeply and shook his head in disbelief, leaning down to his knees to catch his breath. There was no need to look for that person, since she had apparently noticed him herself immediately.
"My my, there you are," the woman said and skipped happily to him, crouching down to look him. "Are you alright? Well with a course this long, you're allowed to be tired," she admitted and laughed. "Do you want some water?"
"Miss Drasna," Grant said, still slightly our of breath, and stood up again. "I appreciate this so excuse me but, don't you have anything better to do?"
The dragon master laughed cheerfully again and put a bottle of fresh water into his hands. "Don't worry, don't worry. I overheard Korrina while she was discussing her plans with Valerie and volunteered. I had no schedule for today and what's a better way to enjoy a day off than a little leisure training outside in a fine weather in such a beautiful city? Now would you like to eat something before you go on? It's important to refresh yourself. I have some–"
"Korrina prepared some sandwiches for me," Grant replied quickly. "But thank you. I can't stay for long if I want to win."
"And you do, I presume," Drasna said and smiled. "But be sure to eat properly. That's important to keep doing your best in the race."
"I will," Grant promised, nodding, and after searching his bag for a second, he pulled out one of the sandwiches. "Will you accompany me to the cave entrance, miss Drasna? I'll walk while eating."
"My, of course."
"From Reflection Cave entrance to Grant's gym – and the other way around for Korrina – is the another biking leg of the race. There is a bike waiting at each end so the fact that the bikes have switched places by the end of the race, will serve as the evidence for this checkpoint."
"Here," Korrina said and handed Grant a key. "It's to the bike that I left by the Cave for you. Don't loose it."
"Of course not," Grant said and smiled, taking the key. "So once we pass this third checkpoint, the course is the same that the other took to get there? Are you sure this is entirely fair? Considering all the up and downhill, winds, terrains and torrents, nature can set up major hindrances according to which way you go."
"Well," Korrina said cheerfully and turned to look at him, challenge gleaming in her eyes. "We'll just have to race this to the other directions at some point then."
Grant hummed, amused and looked into her eyes, answering to the challenge. "Of course. What an obvious solution."
"Does this mean we don't need to go through the latter half of the race for either of you?" Clemont asked.
"Yes," Grant confirmed, now nodding to their judge. "I've understood how it works. Korrina's way of thinking is fairly smooth in that sense."
"Well then, as I make sure you both remember at what part you're supposed to do what again, shall we make our way to the start line?" Clemont suggested and smiled at the two. "You two go and have fun with this now. Lot's of people are helping to make this race possible for you two."
"I know," Korrina said and smiled widely with excitement. "That's what makes this the best of our races ever."
Grant smiled as well. "Just as you promised."
.*** *** ***
The sea was calm, but it was still a sea. In the end, Korrina was a lot more tired than she had expected, when the city finally showed up.
Gyarados roared slightly and nudged Korrina to her side, pushing her closer to the shore line, away from an underwater current that ran close by, moving the surface like small whirlpools. Not big enough that you couldn't escape them on your own and get to the shore, but Korrina wasn't trying to get to the shore.
"It was a right call to get a water pokémon to help us with this," Korrina huffed and clung into the big pokémon's neck until it deemed it safe to continue on her own. "Thank you. We're there soon."
Gyarados roared as an answer and swam around in circles for a couple of times, waiting for the slower human swimmer.
Finally Korrina's feet hit the bottom and she stood up, walking the rest of her way to the shore. Gyarados half swam half crawled after her until close to the dry sand and stayed in water as Korrina sat down to sand for a little break. She didn't sit there for long before she heard footsteps and saw someone coming from the edge of her eyesight. She looked up, but even if she hadn't, Gyarados' roar would have been enough to tell her who was coming.
"Welcome," Siebold greeted her, coming into a halt beside her and handed her a towel. "I hope my partner was useful."
"Yes!" Korrina replied sincerely and sprang up to bow at him. "Thank you so much! This helped more than I thought."
"I warned you the sea could prove a bigger challenge than you expected," the water master reminded with a little smile, walking to his pokémon that was asking for some attention, while Korrina dried her face and hair with the towel. "I'm glad everything went alright. Are you leaving immediately?" Siebold asked, nudging Gyarados' jaw tenderly as it leant down to greet him.
"I have to," Korrina answered and clenched her fists in an enthusiastic burn of rivalry inside her. "Grant is not here yet, is he? That swimming took more time than I had thought, but I can't let that set me back. I'll catch up with the biking leg. Aaaaaah! I don't feel like losing at all! You just wait, Grant! I'm so winning this one!"
Siebold hummed amused at Korrina's excitement while feeding his pokémon some puffs as a thanks for its good work. "Don't overdo it. Swimming is treacherous in a way that you won't even notice how much energy it takes but until afterwards."
"I know," Korrina assured and turned to look at the man, hanging the towel to her shoulders. "Thank you one more time for doing this. We'll repay this somehow someday. Well I'll be going! I'll take the towel if that's alright!" she waved a goodbye and run off towards Grant's gym.
Standing on the start line with his bike, Grant closed his eyes for a second. Then opening them, he turned to look at his opponent. "Best of luck, Korrina."
She grinned back at him. "You too."
.*** *** ***
Grant couldn't help but laugh a bit at the sign that was hanging from the bike he was supposed to unlock. It clearly stated who this bike belonged to and just what would happen to someone who'd touch it.
I should have expected this from her, he thought while unlocking the bike and quickly exiting the cave. Calling his Tyrunt to run beside him, he glided down the road. The next stop was his gym. I'm not losing, Korrina.
"May the best gym leader win," Grant said and answered to Korrina's gesture for a handshake.
Korrina nodded. For a second their handshake was formal, then they turned their hands to make into a little less uptight version, which looked more like arm wrestling. Both grinning widely with excitement to compete, their foreheads clashed together above their joint hands.
"I'm not going to lose," they both said to each other.
.*** *** ***
I'm halfway through, Korrina thought to herself, hopping on the bike outside the gym. Now with a bike to the Reflection Cave. Hiking through it on foot. Relieving Drasna from checkpoint duty. Running. Another short swimming leg. She biked down the steep hill. More running. The monorail. And the another biking trip. It'll take me until the evening but wait for me by the finish line, Clemont. Can't have the judge missing the winner!
.*** *** ***
"More," Grant huffed between his teeth and took a steep turn around one of the stones. "Faster."
The turn almost collided him with a Sigilyph that had been hovering just around the stone monument. The wild pokémon shrieked in surprised and turned to him to defend itself against the possible attacker.
"Tyrunt! Bite!" Grant commanded immediately before the pokémon could load a psybeam at him.
As soon as the attack had contacted, he called his Tyrant to follow him as they continued on their way. He didn't look back to see had they really defeated the pokémon or not. It didn't matter.
I'm sorry, Korrina. he thought, making yet another turn around the monuments and smiled. "I will win!"
"I will win!" Korrina smiled.
"You do know that only one can win right?" Clemont noted to the pair as he watched the contestants put their helmets on, ready to start.
Korrina turned the corner right to the bridge to Route 9 as her Havlucha followed after her, mixing jumping, running and gliding to keep up. There her eyes turned wide for a second.
"Both contestants ready? Right? Get on your mark."
Grant steered his bike left around the corner, Tyrant following a step behind. This was Cyllage City. Just over this bridge and the checkpoint would be just up the mountain side. Then he saw her.
Here on this bridge, was now the only moment of the race they met each other.
Instinctively they both raised their hands up as they closed in on each other. Their heads never turning, but from the corners of their eyes their gazes met. That was enough. All that was needed to deliver a message to other.
I am not going to lose.
And with a clap of their hands together as they passed by each other, another message was delivered.
Do your best.
I wrote this story ages ago to a friend who likes these two. It was long lost in my folders, but I have now decided to dig it up again and give publishing fanfics another go. I hope you enjoyed it and if you made it this far, thank you for reading.