The man stood in the crowd, a cloak around his shoulders and a hat low on his head, covering his face. The crowd was queueing to get into a stadium, the stadium for the final of the World League. A battle between the Pokémon Master, Cynthia Shirona and a battling prodigy. It had been a long time since the Pokémon Master was not the clear favourite in a fight, but this one was too close to call. Cynthia's opponent was still young, a nineteen-year-old girl who had swept all before her in the tournament. Opponents had fallen by the wayside to her as she savaged them, fighting with a ferocity that few had associated with her before the tournament. Her original countering style was still evident but she had stepped it up a level. Opponents would only be countered if they could gain any kind of measure of control over the battle. Few could.
"It is just under an hour before the start of the battle." The announcer's voice rang out over the crowd, causing excitement to ripple through it. The queue was moving at a reasonable rate and the man stepped forwards with those around him, moving ever closer to the front. "The Pokémon Master, Cynthia Shirona looks to retain her title against the challenger, Mellanie Rigger!"
As the challengers name rang out, the man stiffened ever so slightly. It would be very difficult for anybody who didn't know him to spot. Nobody around him noticed, but nobody was looking for it. Soon he was at the front of the queue and wordlessly showed his ticket to the machine. It beeped and the gate opened for him. The man stepped through and looked around before heading for the steps towards his seat, high up in the stands.
As he reached the seat he took his cloak off, folding it neatly in his lap. He was wearing a black jacket with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows. A fitted black shirt was underneath with six Pokéballs evident at his waist. Black trousers and boots completed the image. Those around him took their seats nervously, power seemed to emanate from the man. His hat remained firmly planted on his head, the shadow never leaving his face.
As the time passed, the man never moved. His breathing slowed till it almost appeared he was asleep. Nobody seemed to want to talk to him as they took their seats, taking paths that meant they didn't have to come too close to him. Even those who had the seats next to him waited until as late as possible before taking their places. However as the announcer gave a five-minute warning they sat down, their desire to watch the final greater than their natural desire to keep their distance from this dark figure.
"Ladies and Gentleman, it is time!" The announcer said. "Firstly, please welcome your reigning Pokémon Master. She is fearsome, she is powerful and she wants to defend her crown. Put your hands together for Cynthia Shirona!"
Thunderous applause echoed around the stadium as Cynthia stepped out. The years had been kind to the Pokémon Master, she was still beautiful. Yet it wasn't her beauty that was impressed on anybody that met her, it was her power. Just talking to her would be enough to convince most people that she was a fearsome opponent. Not somebody to be trifled with. She waved to the crowd as she reached the middle of the stadium and waited.
"If anybody can beat Cynthia, it is this challenger." The announcer roared into the cheering of the crowd. "She has had a stunning battle career, going from strength to strength. The Johto League became her personal trophy for five straight years before she decided to focus on this challenge. Ladies and Gentleman, her title is well earned. She is young, she is absolutely fearless and she wants to win. For years now, there has been a very public dislike between today's opponents but they have never faced each other across a battlefield. Put your hands together for Mellanie Rigger, the Battling Queen of Johto!"
"Mellanie…" The man muttered, drawing a couple of glances from those around him. They had almost forgotten he was there in the excitement of the moment and several had assumed he was asleep given how still he was. Down on the field, Mellanie walked out, hesitantly. Despite being nineteen, Mellanie had still not grown much, standing at a short five feet 4 inches. She looked around, appearing intimidated by the surroundings and the thunderous noise that had greeted her appearance. As she reached the middle of the field, Cynthia towered over her. At a look, it was not hard to see who logic would make the winner. Cynthia stood tall and proud, dominating the middle of the field and exuding confidence. Mellanie, on the other hand, looked nervous, hesitant and withdrawn. She did not look like she wanted to be there.
The two trainers shook hands wordlessly and headed to their own ends of the field. A huge scoreboard showed both of their faces and six spots underneath them for the Pokémon that they would use. Mellanie's side of the scoreboard was green while Cynthia's was red. A referee stepped forwards, his voice picked up by the microphone he was wearing and broadcast all around the stadium.
"This is a six on six battle between Cynthia Shirona and Mellanie Rigger, for the final of the World League and the title of Pokémon Master. Are the trainers both ready?" The referee glanced at Cynthia then Mellanie, receiving a nod from each. "Then we shall see who is to choose the first Pokémon."
All eyes swung to the scoreboard where the two trainer's faces lit up. A wheel appeared, with red and green segments. One segment lit up. The lit area started to move around the wheel, illuminating each segment in turn. As the stadium watched the wheel slowed down, before settling on a red segment.
"The Red Trainer, Cynthia Shirona will choose her Pokémon first." The referee announced.
"Very well," Cynthia said, selecting a Pokéball. "I will start things off with Spiritomb."
A small rock appeared on the ground of the stadium before lifting into the air. A grinning face appeared in front of it as Spiritomb looked around at the stadium. Across the field Mellanie seemed unsure as to which Pokémon to choose, selecting one Pokéball before replacing it on her belt. Eventually, she lifted her selected ball and silently released her selection.
"It is a ghostly battle to start things off folks!" the announcer called. "Cynthia's Spiritomb will face off against Mellanie's Misdreavus!"
"Interesting." The man said quietly.
His neighbours looked around again before somebody in the row in front turned around.
"Did you say something bud?" he asked.
The man's head turned towards him, his face still hidden by the hat.
"I just said it is interesting to see who Mellanie is using." the shadowed man said. "Particularly to counter Spiritomb's versatility as a battler. Misdreavus is just as versatile, if not more so."
"That's..." the man from the row in front started, before stopping to think. "Actually... not a bad point." He held out a hand. "I'm Jim. Who are you?"
This seemed to amuse the shadowed man. "I'm just a battle enthusiast." He said as he politely shook the hand. "Nobody you'd know. Or want to know."
"Round one, Spiritomb vs Misdreavus." The referee announced as he raised his flags. "Begin!"
"Spiritomb, use Dark Pulse."
A ball of crackling black energy shot away from Spiritomb but Misdreavus just drifted upwards, allowing it to pass underneath her. Spiritomb growled in anger and fired another attack, but this one missed as well.
"Spiritomb, use Ominous Wind." Cynthia barked.
A wind started to blow through the stadium and the arena floor started to be cover by a dark mist. As the attack built-in power, Mellanie gave her first order.
Misdreavus faded out of sight before appearing in front of Spiritomb. There was contact between the Pokémon and Spiritomb squealed in pain before losing focus. Misdreavus faded away again, reappearing in front of Mellanie as Spiritomb fought to remain in control of his attack. The mists started to swirl before closing in on Spiritomb. The last thing that could be seen was Spiritomb looking around fearfully as his own attack exploded around him.
Cynthia gritted her teeth as the field cleared. Spiritomb was clearly injured by his own attack, but able to continue.
"Spiritomb, use Hypnosis," Cynthia ordered. Spiritomb shut his eyes as waves of energy moved away from him, homing in on Misdreavus. Mellanie seemed to consider it before countering.
"Thunder." As the waves hit, Misdreavus unleashed a huge torrent of electricity that smashed into Spiritomb. Misdreavus continued floating in mid-air with her eyes shut as a very battered Spiritomb lifted back into the air. Cynthia looked at her Pokémon in concern. Spiritomb was not her strongest in terms of endurance but Mellanie's Pokémon was hitting harder than she had bargained for.
"Dream Eater," Cynthia called.
"Sleep talk." Mellanie countered.
As another image of Spiritomb appeared and shot forwards towards Misdreavus, the Screech Pokémon lived up to its name letting out a horrific sounding noise that caused many in the crowd to jam their hands over their ears. Misdreavus tossed and turned from Spiritombs attack before letting out another screech and opening her eyes. Cynthia gritted her teeth. Misdreavus had woken up far faster than she had hoped.
"Misdreavus, use Double Team."
Multiple copies of Misdreavus started to appear around the stadium, leaving Spiritomb completely surrounded. Cynthia looked around nervously, unsure about what Mellanie's plan was. Mellanie was already causing Cynthia a lot of problems, making her realise how Mellanie had reached the World League final. Trying to get any kind of control over the battle was virtually impossible, Mellanie always seemed to be slightly ahead.
"Spiritomb, use Ominous Wind again," Cynthia called.
On her command, the wind picked up once more, but Misdreavus struck as well. Every single copy of Misdreavus started to charge an electrical attack. They all raced in towards the middle of the battlefield, combining into a ferocious strike that surged down and lit the entire stadium up as it crashed into Spiritomb. The Forbidden Pokémon screamed out in pain as the attacks connected, but there was another noise. Misdreavus was evidently close to the impact zone as well as her shriek could be heard from around the incredible lightning strike. As it faded Cynthia looked out to see Spiritomb knocked out but Misdreavus looking battered, floating in the air above her defeated Pokémon.
Back up in the stands, the man leaned forwards thoughtfully. "That's new."
"Maybe she's been saving that attack." Somebody else offered, but the man shook his head.
"That's not what I meant. It isn't new as an attack, I've seen attacks utilising Double Team before. But to use her own Pokémon as a target didn't use to be Mellanie's style. I wonder what happened."
"What happened?" Jim asked, twisting around once more.
The man seemed to consider before answering. "I remember watching Mellanie in some battles in the first few years of her career. Her Pokémon were extremely difficult to knock out simply because she protected them so much. This hints to a more ruthless, less caring trainer behind them. Very few trainers ever utilise such a style of battling, especially with Pokémon as vulnerable to attacks as Ghost-types. I'm not sure Cynthia is ready for this."
The man's words left those around him silent as they contemplated it. Throughout the first round, he had been making quiet comments that they had first started to ignore before they realised what they were. Not a commentary on the battle, but an extremely detailed blow by blow analysis of the battle, enough to make them all want to listen in. By now the two rows above and below him were straining to hear his every word.
"Spiritomb, return," Cynthia said quietly as she held out a Pokéball. Given that the first round had gone to Mellanie she needed to knock Misdreavus out fast. Although clearly not that strong on taking hits, Misdreavus was proving difficult to hit and returning strikes with significant power. Only one Pokémon would suit to end this fight fast.
Mellanie watched with a satisfied expression on her face. Misdreavus had spent a long time working on the combined Thunder attack, but accuracy had still been a problem. It was one that they had gotten around by using Misdreavus herself as a target. All of the images could easily hit a target they were linked to, but it meant that Misdreavus' own Thunder attack had to be used to protect herself from the worst of it. The attack had worked better than Mellanie had anticipated, but judging from Cynthia's expression, Mellanie knew what Pokémon was coming next.
"Garchomp, come on out," Cynthia said calmly. Her star Pokémon would be able to wrap this fight up, allowing her to switch to a different Pokémon for the next round. Judging from Misdreavus it would only take one or two good hits.
"Garchomp, use Dragon Rush."
Garchomp shot forwards, the wind from the wings slicing through the stadium and pressing spectators into their seats. Misdreavus slipped to the side as Garchomp approached, but Cynthia's Pokémon adjusted quickly to give himself a free shot.
"Flamethrower," Cynthia ordered. Garchomp opened his mouth and unleashed flames that Misdreavus was never going to be able to dodge and should be enough to knock her out.
"Destiny Bond," Mellanie said quietly.
"Garchomp, stop!" Cynthia shouted but it was too late.
As the flames smashed into Misdreavus, the last visible sight of the Pokémon was her eyes glowing an eerie purple. A moment later Garchomps eyes glowed as well. Cynthia watched on in fury as Garchomps attack finished. There was a thud as Misdreavus fell to the floor, knocked out. The stadium started cheering but a purple light engulfed Garchomp. Garchomp slumped to the ground, knocked out as well.
Mellanie withdrew her Misdreavus without saying a word. Cynthia growled in fury as she held out her own Pokéball, recalling Garchomp. The battle just got far harder, as her star Pokémon had gone down with barely an impact on Mellanie. Cynthia looked across the field with a new, albeit grudging respect for her opponent. She knew that Mellanie was good, but not this good.
"As I suspected." the man said before looking around at the eager expressions of the entire block of seats that were now hanging on his every utterance. "Mellanie has changed drastically. I wonder why..." His voice trailed off.
"I might know."
The man turned to see a young girl, no more than nine years old. She looked very nervous and her parents looked horrified at her speaking to a mysterious stranger.
"Oh?" the man asked.
"She used to be my favourite." the girl said. "I wanted to be like her, but she changed a few years ago."
"You can remember that far back?" the man asked, his voice with a softer, kinder element to it.
"Yeah," the girl said, gaining in confidence. "It was when the old Pokémon Master left. Since then she's been different."
The man nodded slowly. "You might be right."
He glanced up at the girls parents. "You have a smart daughter. I'm sure you're proud of her."
Before either of them could answer his attention was back on the battlefield.
"If Cynthia wants a chance here she needs to be able to match fire with fire. Which means we should see her other powerhouse."
"Lucario, battle time." Cynthia barked. As the Aura Pokémon appeared, facing Mellanie's Scizor which she had just released, he flexed his muscles. Ever since he had known that Cynthia would be facing Mellanie he had hoped for a chance to test himself against Scizor. The two Pokémon had very similar styles.
"If Cynthia doesn't get an early advantage in this round she'll have to change." The man murmured. By now almost the entire block of seats was listening to him as he talked, those nearer him passing on what he said to those at the back. The man hadn't seemed to notice the attention his comments were drawing.
"Scizor, Bullet Punch." Mellanie ordered.
"Lucario, Extreme Speed." Cynthia countered.
As Scizor shot forwards, a claw extended Lucario vanished, appearing behind Mellanie's Pokémon and dealing a blow to Scizor's back. Scizor spun and swung a claw but Lucario was able to parry and return a kick towards Scizor's legs. Scizor leapt lightly over Lucario's strike and smashed a Metal Claw down onto Lucario's head. Cynthia's Pokémon staggered back, dazed but still sufficiently aware to get his arms up to parry the next strike. Scizor followed it up with a series of sharp jabs that had Lucario backing away before the Aura Pokémon thrust out a palm. A blast of aura sent Scizor staggering backwards. Lucario advanced, the claws on the end of his paws glowing as he struck with a series of Metal Claw attacks. Now it was Scizor retreating, parrying attacks.
"Iron Defence," Mellanie called.
Scizor let the next attack through, but it crashed off his armour that suddenly shone brighter. Lucario growled and struck again but Mellanie spoke again.
Scizor slipped underneath the strike, and rolled, coming up a few metres away from Lucario who had spun maintaining his balance perfectly.
"Aura Sphere," Cynthia called.
Lucario thrust his palm forwards once again and this time the sphere of aura was visible as it flashed across the distance between the two Pokémon. Scizor was just quick enough to brace himself, his armour glistening once again before the attack connected sending him skidding backwards but staying on his feet.
"Swords Dance," Mellanie said quietly as Lucario leapt forwards once again, claws glowing. As Lucario attacked Scizor went into a complicated dance that caused him to dodge attack after attack. He seemed to finish his dance to see another claw swinging at him and immediately launched into another one.
"Close Combat." Cynthia barked as Scizor came to the end of another dance.
Lucario surged forwards, paws flashing out in a ferocious series of strikes. Scizor was caught be several of them, getting hit before being thrown up into the air and slammed into the ground. He rolled away quickly before returning to the space in front of his trainer.
"Cynthia needs to change Pokémon now," the man said. "Gastrodon or Roserade are her best chance."
There was some murmuring around him before one of the parents of the girl from earlier spoke.
"Why?" he asked.
The man gestured down at Scizor who rolled away from another attack from Lucario. "Scizor has used Sword Dance twice, Agility and Iron Defence three times. His stats are so high a Pokémon who uses close-range attacks will be lucky to hit him, let alone hurt him."
The man paused before glancing at the young girl who had spoken earlier. "You watch Mellanie right?"
The girl nodded nervously. "I try to watch all of her battles."
The man nodded. "How often does she use her Scizor?"
"I don't know…" the girl said.
"Why are you asking?" the girl's mother asked.
"Because she is gambling here." The man said. "Mellanie is hoping that Scizor can survive long enough to use the stat boosts. I want to know if she has used it before."
"You mean you don't watch her often?" Jim asked.
"This is the first time in four years." The man answered.
Jim shook his head in disbelief. "And yet you know her style so well… who are you?"
The man chuckled lightly, the sound only reaching the few spectators around him.
"As I said, I'm a battle enthusiast. Now, I'd advise watching the battle. Lucario is nearly beaten unless he is withdrawn."
"Scizor, Agility into Swords Dance," Mellanie called.
"Lucario, Close Combat." Cynthia barked in frustration.
Lucario leapt forwards but each attack was skilfully dodged by Scizor who was moving smoothly and far faster than Lucario now. As he came out of his dance he stepped to one side to easily evade Lucario's final attack before glancing back at his trainer. Mellanie nodded.
"Scizor, Fury Cutter into Metal Claw."
Scizor shot forwards with incredible speed, far too fast for Lucario to dodge. A series of sharp cuts from his claws had Lucario staggering backwards growling in pain before Scizor's Metal Claw sent Lucario flying backwards. He fell to the ground, groaning but slowly climbed back to his feet. Lucario was clearly on his last legs but unwilling to give up the fight until he had no choice.
"Enough Lucario," Cynthia said, holding out her hand. "Return."
As Lucario vanished into his Pokéball the man glanced around.
"Cynthia has thrown this away. Her loss of Garchomp knocked her off her stride and she's gotten it back too late." He rose from his seat. "Excuse me."
"Wait, where are you going?" somebody asked.
"I know who's going to win." The man said as he made his way down the line of seats. "And I've learned everything I came here to learn."
"But…" somebody else said but the man had reached the end of the row.
"Enjoy the rest of the fight." He said to the block of seats at large with a slight bow. "It has been a pleasure."
And with that he vanished down the stairs, disappearing from view.
The man strode out the stadium exit, drawing a surprised glance from the security guard on duty. The man nodded politely as he exited, before moving away. He walked towards the main administration building at Indigo Plateau, before ducking around a corner, out of sight of the curious guard. A Pokéball appeared in his hand, seemingly from nowhere. A moment later a Pokémon materialized in front of him. The man knelt down in front of the Espeon that had appeared.
"Mellanie is going to win." He said quietly.
"Interesting," Espeon said, speaking into his mind. "She has improved."
The man nodded. "She has. But she has also changed."
"Her Misdreavus took out Garchomp using Destiny Bond. She also used Misdreavus as a target to focus a Double Team powered Thunder."
Espeon seemed to consider it for a moment. "Both good strategies."
"But callous ways to use a Pokémon."
"Indeed. Maybe she has forgotten what you taught her."
The man nodded again. "I know. I wish we could challenge her post-victory but we can't."
"Because you are still a wanted man?" Espeon's tone was light but her eyes narrowed slightly.
"Yes. I want to know what Mellanie is like though, so towards the end of the month we might have to challenge her anyway."
"A false identity?"
"Probably. But it won't last long when we start beating her easily."
"You think we will?"
The man chuckled. "Nine years ago we obliterated Cynthia. Mellanie will beat her, but it won't be a straightforward fight. And we've spent the last three years getting stronger." He sighed. "We've had nothing to do but train to get stronger."
"Well, that and find the answers we went for," Espeon said, causing her trainer to laugh again. "Will you take your place back as Pokémon Master?"
"I am unsure. I need to get a better read on Mellanie first."
The man rose, the Pokéball reappearing inside his hand. Espeon vanished inside before he rose, turning away from the building they had been behind. As he strode away, the man glanced back at the stadium to the giant screen affixed to the outside. Mellanie's Totodile, her final Pokémon was standing tall over Cynthia's defeated Milotic. She had won.
Ash Ketchum studied the screen for a moment before turning away. A few moments later he was gone, vanishing in a tiny flash of light.
Aaaand we're back. Welcome to Redemption, the final instalment of the main storyline of the Lost Master trilogy. A little later than originally intended, but I think I'm refreshed and ready to go! Chapters should be coming out on Friday's, weekly, assuming I can stay on top of it. So all that remains for you is to sit back, relax, enjoy the read (hopefully!) and if the fancy takes you, leave me some feedback. Unless of course, you've just picked this up, in which case I would recommend you try reading The Lost Master and A World Divided before launching into Redemption. Together they are some 450,000 words so something might have happened in there worth catching up on.
Since we are at the start, I'll try and get an extra chapter out in the next few days. Probably aim for Monday or Tuesday for chapter 2.