Chapter 15: Of Rivalry
Mauville City was known as the "crossroads town". At the geographic center of Hoenn—not including the outlying islands—four major routes led away from it. The city saw the most trainer traffic of any settlement in Hoenn, and had two pokémon centers in order to deal with the huge influx of sick or injured pokémon. The south 'center was just inside the city limits, so trainers could heal their weary pokémon almost immediately after emerging from the swamp or bike path routes. The 'center further to the north was slightly 'high-brow', with more expensive food and squishier chairs.
Nori, being extremely money-conscious—forking over half your cash after losing a battle hurt—had opted for the cheaper center, but at the sight of the enormous line and extremely harried-looking nurses, had been forced to try the other.
The centre du pokémon, as she labeled it scornfully, was a bit more than just a little highbrow. It was extremely posh, from the plush carpets and polished wood in the foyer to the aquariums, leather armchairs and marble-topped tables in the lounge. Nori smirked at what a sight the six of them were making: booted, carrying worn bags and splattered with mud even after their short trek through the remainder of the swamp. Her spiked bracelets probably didn't improve the appearance.
She stepped up to the concierge's desk, the other five clustered around her. The thin, balding man glanced at her once before looking back down at some nondescript papers.
"Excuse me," Nori said, vaguely annoyed. "We would like to have our pokémon healed."
The concierge gave no response.
"Sir? We would like—"
"We are completely booked up," he snapped.
Nori glanced at the nearly full key racks. "Really," she said, dangerously.
"Hold on, Nori, let me try…" Kale pushed up to the front, extracting a card from a pocket. It was stained and creased, but its gold filigree was still much in evidence.
"Pardon me, good sir…" Kale held up the card. "My friends and I are in need of lodgings and medical attention for our pokémon."
The concierge took the card and read it, holding it as if it was some sort of poisonous insect. His expression changed almost immediately.
"Of course, Mister Kerrigan! How many rooms will you require?"
"Six, I think."
"There is of course a thousand-yen charge per person…"
"That's fine. Bill it to my account."
"As you wish, sir. The clinic and dining areas are to your right. Your rooms are on the second floor," he said, selecting six key cards and placing them in front of the trainers.
As soon as they were out of earshot of the snooty concierge, Nori spoke up.
"Um, Kale?…The hell?"
Kale blushed slightly. "What? I can afford it. Rich parents, okay?"
"Look, you guys aren't in my debt if that's what you're thinking. It was the only way we could get some decent rooms and our pokémon healed."
Nori shrugged. Whatever Kale said, she didn't like to feel like she owed someone something.
The rooms were very much worth their thousand-yen price tag; the complementary suites at regular pokécenters just couldn't compare. Nori's room had a dark-type theme; everything in the room was black. Paintings of nightscapes or dark pokémon adorned the walls, and a vase of black tulips stood on one table. She felt bad for tracking mud into the room, and decided to take her pokémon down to be healed and fed. She glanced into a couple of the guys' rooms as well—they had left their doors open slightly, for some reason. The other rooms had similar pokémon type themes; Dom's was electric and Kale's fire-type.
She continued on down to the main level, casting scornful glances at the trainers in the lounge, daintily sipping green tea and reading magazines.
The nurses almost refused to heal her pokémon, but relented in the end, gingerly taking the tray of pokéballs as if they carried an infectious disease.
Even the showers were somehow more refreshing, or perhaps it was merely the long haul through the marshes. Either way, she thought, I feel much better now. She dried her thick hair quickly, watching as it went from stringy dark brown to thick chestnut as she blow-dried and brushed it at intervals. Her natural coppery highlights gleamed when she finished.
Nori sat in one of the chairs, flipping through a pokémon equipment magazine, a thick, black towel wrapped around her, as her clothes—both sets of which had become filthy in the marshes—were washed and then dried in the room's respective appliances. There was definitely something to be said for the rich life…
She dressed after her black tank top, khaki shorts and miscellaneous other garments came clean, soft and smelling faintly of lavender.
Nori sighed, catching the delicate scent. There were some things you weren't allowed to forget, she imagined.
It felt wrong to accept Kale's offer to buy them and the pokémon dinner—Nori was poor, but she still had her pride. Regardless, the prices for food were astronomical, and it was a relief not to have to part with any of her hard-earned cash.
She was enjoying a juicy, well-cooked steak—possibly tauros, as it was so lean—when the silken tones of her second least favorite person in the world reached her ears.
"Miss Hunter? Surely it is not," said Hans.
"Mister Mueller…why have you taken it upon yourself to irritate me so?" Nori rose from her seat, the five watching her in bewilderment as she turned to face the blond trainer.
"My, my…surely you cannot be so talented a trainer as to be in the recommended…price range, for this particular establishment? Or did you sell off your prize from the Trick House?" asked Hans, looking slightly amused.
"I will ask you not to inquire into my financial status," said Nori icily.
"As you like, but perhaps you would rather…make me?" Hans drew a crystalline-looking pokéball. "Not too good for a little one-on-one, are we?"
"Never," snapped Nori. "I'll see you outside in"—she glanced at the ornate grandfather clock—"ten minutes."
"Of course…" Hans bowed mockingly.
"Bugger off. You've disturbed my meal," Nori snarled.
When her rival had left the room, Nori sat back down in her polished, leather-cushioned chair.
"Pompous loser…I'm not like that, am I?" said Kale, with mock concern.
"No, you're just naïve," said Fernando, delicately sipping his soup from a spoon.
"Ar—and he scares away all the girls," remarked Rhinestone, Kale's arcanine, as she looked up from a plate of raw meat. Nori and the others with translators smirked or chuckled, while Kale merely looked confused.
"What? What'd she say?"
"She said you don't have any luck with the ladies," explained Dom, trying not too laugh too hard.
"Aww, c'mon now—" said Kale, indignantly.
"That's okay, though. I like him all to myself. Nine." Rhinestone treated Kale to as wet a lick as she could manage.
"Hey! Jeez, I'm just the whipping boy of the group, aren't I?" moaned Kale, trying to smooth down the massive cowlick that resulted, causing the others further merriment. More cultured diners seemed to be looking at them with annoyance, Nori noticed.
"You? Of course not. You'd've gone on a rampage by now if that were the case," said Nori sweetly.
A gap of about fifteen feet separated them. It was difficult to discern whose eyes held more barely-concealed loathing. Sparks of flame should have danced in midair where their stares met, vivid green against ice blue. Nori's loose assemblage of traveling buddies stood near her, watching with mild interest. Hans' female entourage seemed to have grown since the last time she'd seen him: the two original members flanked him now, like a pair of strippers around a particularly wealthy patron. There was a crowd assembling around them already—battles were invariably a popular spectacle.
Hans held up the crystalline pokéball from before. "Ready to lose, Miss Hunter?"
She grasped Agni's pokéball tightly. "We'll see, Mueller…" she announced, coldly.
Hans smirked. "Go, Feuerhund!"
Nori's combusken appeared in a flash of red light, screeching a war cry. Facing her was an orange dog-like pokémon with odd-looking tiger stripes. His head and chest sported the beginnings of a cream-colored mane, and his tail was a similar shade, but more puffy. The growlithe snarled at Agni, baring his small fangs.
Nori glanced at her pokédex as quickly as she could, not wanting to miss any detail of the battle. Hans' growlithe was level twenty-five, while Agni's level was approximated at level twenty-three. She bit her lip, slightly nervous. Hans had a level advantage…
"Feuerhund, tackle it!" said Hans, his own pokédex held loosely in one hand, as if barely worth consideration. He wouldn't need it much, of course…he had gone to PTI for seven or eight years so he could gauge a pokémon's strength simply by looking at it.
"Agni, double kick!"
Feuerhund rammed into Agni, but was knocked back by the sudden barrage of kicks and scratches from the combusken. The firedog snapped at her, growling, to which she replied with a shot of fire.
With a surprising burst of agility, the growlithe leapt and bit the fire chicken savagely. Agni squawked in surprise and pain before slashing at the fire hound's face with her claws and beak. Feuerhund hastily dropped her.
"Sand attack, Agni!"
The combusken did not seem to react…until a clump of sand and dirt landed squarely in Feuerhund's face. He whined, pawing at the grit. Agni took the opportunity to attack again; she landed a few kicks before he rebuffed her with a shot of embers.
"You have been an excellent opponent," said Hans suddenly, smiling. "But I believe it is time to finish this. Feuerhund! Dig!"
"Oh sh—" breathed Nori. Growlithes had good physical attack, if not that much else, and Agni was weak to ground-type attacks.
Already, Feuerhund was disappearing underground in a shower of earth. Agni watched helplessly, unsure if it was wise to run to the hole and offer a few parting fireballs.
"Agni…um, focus your energy…"
" Ken! I'm about to get knocked out here! What is that going to do?" screeched Agni, her flame-red eyes angry.
"Just do it! You can't hit him right now, anyway!"
Agni muttered irritably but closed her eyes, standing still as she glowed red and dust swirled around her briefly.
"Just wait, Agni…wait and listen…"
Everything was silent, even the spectators who had been cheering or catcalling noisily up until this point.
And then…was that a low rumble?
Feuerhund slammed up into Agni, bursting from the ground, but she was not caught entirely off guard. With another battle cry, she righted herself and scratched, kicked, pecked and flamed the growlithe with all her remaining strength. Feuerhund staggered backward a pace or two under the onslaught before cuffing the combusken away.
Nori stole another, final glance at her pokédex. Both pokémon were at critical health, but while Hans' growlithe had still a sizable chunk left, Agni had barely a sliver. The fire chicken was down on one knee, panting heavily.
Hans smirked. "Finish it," he said quietly, turning his back on the battle.
Feuerhund tensed, preparing to spring—
"Hmm?" Hans turned, saw Nori standing in between Agni and his growlithe.
"I…surrender. You win. I…don't want to see my combusken knocked out." She stared at the ground, fumbling through her pockets before pulling out a number of bills.
"That won't be necessary," said Hans. It was the same pompous voice, same arrogant smirk as always. But in the eyes…was there a measure of pity?
Nori looked up. "…What?"
"I said, that won't be necessary. I neither want nor need your forfeiture. You're welcome to lose again later, however." He laughed, almost instantly joined by his sycophantic entourage. Definitely devoid of pity, there…
She recalled Agni and withdrew back to the 'center.
Nori stared at the sunset's orange fires, seemingly drawing all the light out of the world as it sunk beneath the earth. Pools of liquid gold settled on the gently rippling lake, the dark waters lapping idly at the pebbly shore. Her legs dangled over the edge of the wooden dock, her feet in the water. Below her, the gift feebas swam idly, not much prettier than the rocks that bottomed the lake. A flock of wingull passed by overhead, the thin, white and blue-striped pokémon squawking raucously, briefly worrying her. Would the gulls go after her feebas? No, not likely. She was incredibly hard to see, in this light.
It was not until she had begun to walk back toward Mauville that she remembered the electrike. She felt irresponsible and stupid now, in addition to her previous feelings of ineptitude and sulkiness.
"What a wonderful time to meet one's new trainer," she muttered, tossing the pokéball to the ground. There was a flash of red light as the green, dog-like pokémon materialized. He looked around, confused, before sitting and yawning tiredly. He scratched at his short, spiky fur before looking up and noticing her.
"El—oh! You're…that human! Hi!" He wagged his pointed stub of a tail, then blinked in confusion. "…Why can't I see right?"
Nori sat down in front of him, smiling sadly. "There were some mightyenas chasing us. Do you remember?"
"Ummm…yeah. They were going to eat me, weren't they? But you saved me!" More excited tail-wagging.
"Er…kind of. Sure. But one of them…scratched your eye."
"Oh. It'll get better, though, right?"
"Well…probably not. I'm sorry."
"Oh." The electrike looked at her sadly, one eye red and the other sightless white, surrounded by scars.
Nori sighed, picking up the little dog and holding him under one arm, stroking his short fur. She started walking.
"Can you train me?"
Nori blinked. "What?"
"You're a human. Humans make pokémon fight each other," explained the dog pokémon patiently. "Can you make me strong?"
"I…don't know. I lost to my…my biggest rival today. I don't think I'm…good enough."
"That's because you didn't have me." Nori glanced at the electrike. He sounded completely serious. "Come on, I can help you!" He wiggled about, anxious to prove himself.
"Okay, okay…I'll…give it a try, I guess…What's your name? Mine's Nori."
"Name…? Oh…um, I don't think I have one. My mum always called us in the order we were born."
"What happened to your mother?"
"Dunno. I can't remember things too well…up until those mightyenas were chasing me. There's just…colors. And sounds. You know?"
"I guess. Umm…let's see…how about Indra? That's the name of an old thunder god."
"Indra, Indra…I like it. Fits, somehow."
Indra wagged his tail happily as she walked back to Mauville.
The sun rose in a symphony of color and the sound of pokémon greeting the new day. The city was already awake was early bird trainers wandered the streets, waiting for various stores to open. The occasional anti-grav hummed down the narrow street, often gaining curious stares from people on the wide sidewalks. Nori was one of them, meandering down the walkway with Indra in tow. The roar of the vehicles' massive engines never failed to startle her. The electric pokémon trotted erratically, running ahead of Nori, then falling behind as he stopped to investigate something, before running up ahead again. She found it was best to just keep walking and let him catch up.
The stores around her were opening slowly. Here, a clothing store, there, a little convenience shop—other stores advertised more exotic wares, such as expensive technical machines from Kanto and Johto, or evolution stones. She knew what she wanted, however; her money supply had been spared a major blow by Hans' refusal—the thought made her hands clench involuntarily—but it was still rather low, and she knew it would be crucial to economize. She had one major thing currently in mind—a pokéblock case. She wanted to assess the quality of her pokéblocks, as pokémon tended to become tired of one flavor quite easily, and better-quality pokéblocks would raise their characteristic rating more quickly.
She also had another item in mind…being among so many trainers had made her realize how easy it would be to lose one's pokéballs, or have them stolen en masse, and not be able to distinguish between one trainer's pokémon and her own. She had decided to search for some stickers or acrylic paint to make her own capture devices more distinctive…
She noticed a pokémon contest supply store opening a short distance ahead of her and quickly made her way over to it. The shop was untidy and cluttered, its rows of narrow metal shelves packed with slightly dusty merchandise and its walls covered in layers of faded posters. A portly, balding man with muscular limbs suggesting a fighting-type trainer gone slightly to seed was arranging brightly-colored scarves on a turning, circular rack. Indra sniffed at the musty boxes but trotted back to Nori, finding the scents uninteresting. An elderly-looking machoke wearing brightly-patterned boxer shorts waddled out from somewhere in the back and set a cardboard box on the counter. Glancing at Nori, he barked "customer, Koji!" before disappearing into the maze of shelves.
"Eh? Oh, didn't see you there. What can I get you?" said Koji, looking both annoyed and embarrassed.
"Uh, what do you sell here exactly?" said Nori.
"Stuff for pokémon contests, mainly…scarves, TMs, pokéblocks, berry seeds…we've got things for regular trainers, too, though."
"Do you sell pokéblock cases?" said Nori, coughing slightly from the mixed odor of cardboard and cigarettes that was wafting off the storekeeper.
"Yeah, we do…over here." He stalked off at the surprising pace of annoyed salespeople everywhere, with Nori almost running in his wake. He stopped at a set of locked cabinets, where an number of the different-colored cases stood propped up on stands, in between pokédex and pokégear upgrade cards, casino coin cases and devon scopes, among other things.
"They're all the same, the color doesn't mean anything," Koji grunted. "You came at a good time though, they're on special; buy one and get a free set of contest scarves."
"Cool," said Nori, absently, as she studied the holding devices. "How much?"
"Seven thousand. Comes with a lifetime warranty," he added hurriedly, probably hearing her choked squeak.
She mentally assessed her current funds. "Ack…I don't think I can afford it. That's a lot more than I thought they were."
The storekeeper shrugged. "Too bad. Come back later, I guess."
While her pokéblock case venture failed, Nori found a multilingual printing shop run by a slightly desperate woman from Kanto and was able to have two sheets of fifty stickers printed. They were about an inch in diameter with a black ring around the edge, in the middle was the kanji for 'crow', also in black ink. They were printed on clear, rather heavy-duty plastic.
After getting back to the centre du pokémon, she allowed her pokémon to play in the spacious courtyard as she affixed the stickers to their pokéballs. It was in the back of the high-class 'center, with tables and lawn chairs around a freshwater pool and expertly manicured lawns and trees besides. The feebas swam idly while Bitey and Indra tussled playfully; Neko dozed in the sun as Behemoth appeared to meditate. Agni was attempting to wade in the pool; her fire-type instincts were obviously rebelling was she would take a few steps in, then run back out, shaking the water off her feet. Then she would repeat the attempt, each time staying in the water a tiny bit longer. Nori watched her, puzzled, for almost a minute before deciding the combusken was trying to increase her resistance to water attacks, and wondered to herself how effective the exercise would actually be.
She applied the stickers to the common white underside of the pokéballs, where they were quite noticeable. Satisfied, she was smoothing the creases on the last one—Indra's pokéball—when Dom appeared and sat down at the table, across from her.
"Hey Nori…what'cha doing?"
"Putting stickers on my pokéballs," she said, holding one up as evidence. "Makes 'em more distinctive."
"Hey, good idea…I should probably do that…"
"Yeah," agreed Nori.
"Um…listen," said Dom after a pause. "Me, Fer and that tall guy, Bull, um, we went over to the gym and we all won."
"Did you? That's excellent."
"Yeah…so, well, we're leaving town. Going on to Lavaridge."
"Yeah…Ace and Kale are going to head over to the gym whenever you are. It's nothing personal," Dom said hurriedly, "I just want to get going, you know?"
"Oh, oh yeah, that's fine," said Nori, shrugging. She smiled, kindly…she hoped. "Good luck. I'll see you at the League tourney, alright?"
Dom grinned. "You can count on it."
The remaining three trainers walked to the Mauville gym, cutting through the groups of trainers who thickly wandered the sidewalks, out for a lunch-time stroll. The smells drifting out of open-air restaurants made her stomach growl, but she was determined that she would only settle for a victory lunch.
The gym was a large, power plant-like building with a transformer apparatus and numerous cables leading away from it, constructed from yellow-beige stone. The front of the building had two large windows on either side of the sliding glass doors.
The waiting area on the interior had been decorated in lurid shades of orange and yellow that were extremely offensive to Nori's, however limited, artistic sensibilities. Oddly, however, there was no one there; no desk, no chairs and no receptionist. There was merely a security camera in one corner of the room and a set of double doors at the end opposite them.
"Uh…weird," said Kale, looking around.
"They couldn't've moved out, could they?" wondered Nori aloud.
"Let's try the doors," said Ace, moving forward, purposefully.
The yellow doors opened into a pitch-black room. They felt around, eventually all stepping onto a slightly raised platform. Nori felt around, her hand coming in contact with something metal.
"There's some sort of bar here," she said, as the lights suddenly switched on. The three had time only to register that they were in a tunnel, painted yellow (surprise, surprise), and standing on a flat, yellow platform with a metal railing on three edges before it jerked forward. They grabbed the railing, holding the metal tightly as they began to accelerate.
"Dude…what the hell?" asked Kale.
"No ideaaaaaadammit!" said Nori as they began rocketing downhill. They were violently jerked forward as the platform hit a large pool of water, splashing all three of them.
As quickly as it happened, they were going uphill, painfully slowly.
"I want off this ride, right now," said Kale weakly.
"Just wait," said Ace disgustedly. "The big hill is right up hereohsh—"
They teetered a moment on the crest of the enclosed hill, long enough that they could see exactly how far they were about to fall…and then they did.
Nori felt as though she had left her voice and her stomach at the top of that hill. The platform careened down, swirling through a winding spiral segment like an out-of-control shopping cart in a parking structure, punctuated by short screams from the trainers. After what felt like an eternity, the platform somehow spun one hundred eighty degrees and stopped abruptly, sending the three of them flying to land in a heap. Nori stood up, watching the hated thing withdraw back up the tunnel. She was positive that in some strange way, it was laughing at them.
As the guys rose, groaning, Nori studied the surroundings. They were in a battle arena—orange, for something different. Advancing on them, laughing, was a short, balding old man with extremely spiky white hair. He had on a sweater of an extremely familiar shade and dark khaki pants.
"That was lovely! You should've seen your fa-ha-ha-aces," he said, his deep belly laugh almost uncontrollable. "Call me Wattson! What can I do for you kids?" he asked, vigorously shaking the hands of each of them.
"I'm here to battle," Ace announced.
"Same here," said Nori.
"Just here to watch," said Kale, rubbing his hand.
"Great! Ladies first," said Wattson. "Two-versus-two, last one standing suit you?"
"Works for me," said Nori, shrugging. She selected a pokéball and a great ball from her belt.
"All right!" Wattson called. "You ready?"
"As I'll ever be," replied Nori. "Go Agni and Indra!"
"Go Magneton and Magnemite!"
Nori smiled to herself. Agni had an advantage against both of them, the electric-types also being part steel, and Indra, while a tad inexperienced, had a defensive advantage against electric attacks.
"Oh! I almost forgot…" said Wattson, reaching up and grabbing a gray, narrow box hanging on a cord from the ceiling. He pressed a button, initiating some sort of mechanical sequence. Small squares of the arena, one at each corner and a couple in the middle, slid down and out of view. What was raised were a number of towering electrical apparatuses—a number of metal circles around a central pole, all crackling with electricity. The four at the corners of the arena hummed angrily before being joined together by glowing arcs of tamed lightning.
"This is a caged match." Wattson grinned.
Woo! Cliffhanger, bahaha! Fun, eh? Hopefully this'll spur me into getting the next chapter out faster. Anyway, please please please please review!! The only thing that keeps me writing when I really should be doing a physics lab is the thought of my wonderful fans. *sniffle* GROUP HUG EVERYBODY!! T.T
ROFL. Anyway, Q&A time!
Mal:Aww, you should be nicer to your muses…mine get mad and start biting really easily. :( LOL j/k
Lady Silver D:*giggles* Hehe, we'll see, we'll see. ^_~
Koriku:Pronunciation guide? Sure! It's at the bottom. ^_^
Julie:Hehe, well, I didn't intend for the furniture being covered to mean anything, but you're right about the portraits…I imagine I'll explain that one later. ^_~
Ack! I didn't notice that about the dialogue…I'll change that if I haven't already. ^_^;;
Hehe, I admit it, I make too many references to Tolkien. ^_~ But anyway…the Old Tongue, let's see…well, I can't give away too much (you guys know me), but let's just say that words have power… Oh, and the Ookami no Fuyu is just plain ol' Japanese. I'm pretty sure it means something like Wolf of Winter or Wolf's Winter, but I really can't be sure, as I don't speak it—I'm just handy with a dictionary and I used to watch too many fansubs. ^_~
Obsidian Blade:Heh, thanks for reading! Your ficcy is great too. And keep reading, I wrote the first chapter on the spur of the moment. ^_~
Noirsha – NWAR-sha: Two syllables, "noir" like the french "noir", rather like "nwar" with an a like "father" and the stress on the n. "Sha", where sh is like the word "ship" and with an a like "father" as well.
Ilthuriel – Ill-THOO-ree-ell: Four syllables, "Il" like the word "ill", "thu" like the beginning of the word "thursday". "Ri" like the word "reed", "el" like the word "else".
Lotharquiel – Lo-THAR-ki-ell: Four syllables, "Lo" like the word "low", "th" like the word "thursday", "ar" like the word "are", "ki" like the word "cookie", "el" like the word "else".
E'riisim – EH-REE-sim: Three syllables, "E" like the "é" in pokémon, "rii" like the word "real", "sim" like the word "simulate".
Kuroi – KOO-roy: Two syllables, "Ku" like the c in "cook" and the oo in "boot", "roi" like the name "Roy".
Malaclypse – MAHL-a-klipss: Three syllables, "Mal" like the word "malcontent", "a" like the word "father" and "clypse" like word "clips".
Feuerhund - (German) FIRE-hoond: "Feuer", pronounced "fire", "hund", pronounced "hoond", like "hound" but with an "oo" sound rather than an "ow".
Whew! That was kind of tiring. Anyway, if anyone wants the pronunciation of a word, just request it in your review and I'll post it with the next chapter. ^_^
See the review button? CLICK IT!! Cheers.