Jiraiya vs. Vitali and Red

The foliage surrounding the tree-fort rustled loudly as a sweeping western wind cut across the island. When it settled a much deeper sound rose from within the fort. Inside, the fort was cluttered by scattered surveillance equipment, charts and notes, and in the midst of it all was the enforcer Jiraiya—snoring loudly with a notebook over his eyes to block out the sun that slid through the small, slatted windows. His next gravelly snore was punctuated by a sharp beep. This was followed shortly by several more in equal intervals, then in increasingly more frequent bursts until finally it turned into one long, shrill shriek. Jiraiya moaned, briefly tried to stuff notebook paper into his ears to see if he could block the sound enough to continue sleeping, and then got up with ever more grumbling and groaning. Once he broke into consciousness he realized what the sound was and stiffly, but with the attempted haste of a man just realizing he was running late, he pulled himself to the back corner of the room.

In this corner was what looked vaguely like a computer designed by Fischer price. It was made of bulky yellow plastic and had only a few buttons, but it was apparently the simplest and most secure form of communication for the island. Jiraiya chewed his lip and considered the buttons for a moment, trying to remember what he had figured out of it, and then hesitantly pushed the far left one. He managed to pull up what was marked as the first of two messages. It was a brief communiqué from Tsunade expressing her distaste with his lack of reports over the past few weeks and the suggestion that perhaps if he wasn't finding anything of interest he should stop searching up his own ass. Jiraiya scowled at the screen, but couldn't deny that staying posted and focusing on surveillance hadn't revealed much about BORED. He'd have to apply new tactics soon.

With a grumble he moved on to the next message, which was a mass notice to the enforcers from BORED. Jiraiya was astounded at how the sliminess of the association was as clear in text as it was in person. The memo was to inform the enforcers that things in the tournament were going far slower than anticipated, and that contestants needed to be reminded that they were in a tournament the winner of which would be the last man standing—not the one with the most pals. It was important to BORED that things pick up soon, and it was up to the enforcers to make it happen.

Jiraiya paced back over to his equipment while running his knuckles over his bristly chin (he hadn't shaved in several days out of sheer laziness, and was starting to think the rugged look might suit him in this climate). The two problems complimented each other at least; if he advanced BORED's plan, then he was far more likely to get an idea of what it actually was. Although his surveillance had told him little about the corporation, it had taught him extensive amounts about the warriors on the field. He had solid information on every contestant that had passed through the forest; it was just a matter of figuring out who and where his target was.

- - -

Jiraiya was not the only one who had been making observations. Vitali knelt next to Red in the underbrush, scanning the tree line with squinted eyes, trying to see clearly in the haze of the late afternoon.

"There." He said finally, pointing sharply at large tree some ten meters to the southeast of them.

Red nodded, and then looked down at the patiently waiting Pikachu by his side. "You know what to do buddy, Thunderbolt!"

Pikachu nodded in nearly an exact imitation of Red and then bolted from their hiding place, lunged into the air and with an ear-shattering "PIIIKAAACHUUU!" he unleashed a fearsome barrage of electricity directly onto the old tree. The attack stuttered to an end and Pikachu landed heavily on the forest floor, barely staying on his feet due to how dizzy the intense display had made him. The tree was left blackened and crumbling, and sure enough, after a moment or two the remains of a small building of some sort tumbled out of its branches.

"WOOHOO! Atta boy Pikachu!" Red called as he jumped to his feet. "No way whoever was hiding out in there is still in fighting form, now we'll just dig out the key-card and be on our way!"

He sprinted towards the remains, the feelings of easy victory feeling good in his stomach. Vitali was not so easily pleased.

"Red, that's not a good—"

But before Vitali could finish his warning Red felt his foot drop. He looked down just in time to see the rest of the ground crumble away, and suddenly the floating excitement from his brief victory reversed and fell heavily into his stomach, jerking him downwards. As he plummeted down there was a violent tug on his shoulders, briefly jerking sideways, before his backpack ripped off his back and he finished his crash downwards. He hit the ground hard but the pit was not exceptionally deep, so he survived the fall. Stars swirled in front of his eyes, and his shoulder, which had took the brunt of the fall, was searing in pain. He only vaguely processed the sound of Pikachu calling down to him from the lip of the pit. Slowly he grabbed onto the sound and used it to re-focus his aching brain. As he managed to get to his knees and look up at the opening of the hole Vitali appeared as well and held out his hand to help Red up. Red automatically went to lift his right arm, but his shoulder would not allow him to lift it further than an inch or so without a fresh wave of blinding pain hitting him.

"Stay still!" Vitali called, seeing his agony, and began to cast a healing spell over him.

In the middle of his casting however, he had to break focus in order to dodge the kunai that suddenly shot at him. It whizzed through the air where his neck had been moments before and he spun around to find the source. He glanced at the place where Red's backpack had landed after being ripped off its owner by a similar kunai, and started to slowly move towards it. His opponent noticed, for just then another kunai burst out of the tree, impaling the backpack further. Just as Vitali was trying to decipher the writing on the tag attached to the knife, it exploded, blowing the backpack to smithereens.

Vitali jumped back, shielding his eyes from the smoke with his sleeve. As it started to clear her furrowed his brow and pulled out the pokeball Red had handed to him.

"Come on out, Espeon." He said, and in a flash of red light the graceful purple cat was at his side. It looked up at him quizzically, the lashing of its forked tail as the only signal of its excitement for battle.

"Find our opponent in the shadows, Espeon, lets see how he works in the light."

- - -

Jiraiya flattened himself against the limb of the tree, peering down through the clearing smoke. The boy in the pit was still try to gather himself, and he was the one Jiraiya had pegged as a summoner, so then how did the healer now have this cat with him? The old man scowled, and began to recalculate the situation. He wished he had had time to put spikes in the pit, then he could have taken care of red that much quicker. No time to regret fore-thought now, he supposed, but looking at his rather skimpy arsenal of kunai, tags and wire, he knew he wouldn't be able to stay off the battlefield long.

As he was considering his next move there was a flash of red light from the pit, and with a deep, strangely echoing roar, a large yellow dragon rocketed out of the pit. It landed beside Vitali, and laid Red tenderly on the ground. Jiraiya didn't have time to stay and watch the healer do his work; he had to move fast before they got back on their feet.

- - -

Espeon prowled the forest, searching for the man that had hurt its master. Red's pokemon were some of the most loved and kindly treated in the world, and they repaid him for this with fierce and undying loyalty. Giving him so much as a scratch was unforgivable in the eyes of Red's pokemon. It caught a strange scent and followed it down to a pond. The water was dark and murky, and the heavy scents of fish and algae made it hard to follow where the trail had gone. Espeon wrinkled its nose and hesitantly stalked down to the water's edge. It peered out at the water and prowled the shoreline, carefully placing each paw away from any stray puddle. There was a ripple in the surface, and the purple cat went dead still. It turned to face the pond again, rolling its shoulders in preparation.

Two pairs of frog eyes rose to the surface, one with a yellow face, and one red. Espeon hesitated, not sure what to do. It could tell they were not normal frogs, but it also knew they were not pokemon.

"Oi. Kitty-cat, what are you staring at?" The red one snapped.

Espeon ducked lower to the ground, eyes widening. They spoke like humans, were they the opponent? There was a few seconds of hesitation, as Espeon looked from the water to the frogs, weighing the options. It had spent a long time moving exactly as Red commanded; it wasn't sure what to do on its own. It knew it needed to find the opponent and drag him out, but how to treat these strange frogs was an uncertain matter. Finally, it settled it mind, and lunged.

"ESPEON!" it howled as it cut a sleek arc in the air.

The red frog cackled and the yellow one made an expression between constipation and excitement, as they braced for Espeon's landing. When Espeon hit the water, it did not expect the strength with which the two frogs latched on and dragged it towards the bottom of the pond. A few psychic waves broke through the churning surface of the water as they struggled, until finally the water fell still again.

- - -

The thunderwave turned trees into splinters, hitting in pulses as Dragonite threw out one wave after another. Red was sick of waiting, after Vitali had healed his shoulder a cold, sickening feeling had settled over him. He could not stop worrying about Espeon, and usually he had the utmost faith in his pokemon. Something was very wrong about this situation. It didn't help that with his backpack destroyed he no longer had any potions or revives for his pokemon, he had to get them all through this on what energy they had on their own. He couldn't rely on Vitali sticking around. He had returned Pikachu for this reason, even though the electric mouse had seemed eager to stay and help.

Vitali raised his hand abruptly and Red called for Dragonite to stop. Out of the settling rubble, a figure appeared.

"All right kid, don't take it out on the foliage." Jiraiya said.

Red raised his eyebrows. "You're just an old man!"

Jiraiya scowled. "I think I look good for my age."

Vitali glanced sideways at Red. "I think there must be more to this man than meets the eye."

"Gee, y'think?" Red snapped back. "Nothing has been as it seems in this place. I just…didn't expect it."

Vitali nodded, he could tell there was something else under Red's skin, but the didn't have time or the attachment to look into it. Jiraiya stood across from them calmly, each of them finally having a chance to stare their opponent down directly. Red clenched his fist, flexed it a few times, and then before Vitali could warn against rash action cried;

"Get him Dragonite! Hidden power!"

With that eerie howl Dragonite released a ring of roaring energy, which Jiraiya had to fall flat to avoid. In one smooth movement after that he bit open his thumb and twisted his fingers into the familiar symbols. Then, an explosion of smoke, and Vitali and Red were thrown backwards by the massive displacement of space as there was suddenly a frog the size of packing garage standing in front of them.

"Better have a good reason for this Jiraiya." Gamabunta grumbled to Jiraiya, who now stood proudly atop his head.

"Let's end this quickly, old pal." Jiraiya replied, patting him on the head.

"My favorite way of doing it…"

Vitali turned to Red. "We may need some more assistance here."

Red chewed his lip. "No, Dragonite is tough, let's get a better feel for this guy, I can't wear them all out at once."

Vitali pursed his lips. "I'll back you up as much as I can."

"Goo-WHOA!"

The two of them split in a rush, rolling out of the way of the giant, wart-covered tongue that slammed down on the ground.

Red spent the next few minutes frantically dodging the tongue as whipped wildly, recoiled and snapped out to strike again. If he had had a moment to catch his breath he wound have had a few disgusted comments to make at the absurdity of running away from a giant's frog's tongue, but his sense of disgust and wonder was fading fast in this tournament.

Then Dragonite swooped down, grabbed Gamabunta's tongue firmly in his claws and flew as fast and hard as he could, looking to pull the thing clear out of his mouth. He body-slammed it against the ground a few times to keep Gamabunta stunned. Vitali quickly took in the girth and strength of the tongue in comparison to Dragonite, saw that the pokemon's plan would never work, and took his own advantage of the situation. He leapt onto the tongue, and using the warts as braces to keep from slipping on the viscous saliva, he shot up towards Gamabunta's face. Jiraiya saw him coming, and slipped down Gamabunta's face to intercept him. Vitali smiled.

"You're who I wanted anyway." He murmured, and then tackled Jiraiya full on.

The directness of the attack from such a slight man had startled Jiraiya, as had Vitali's unexpected dexterity. He pinned Jiraiya's arms, and sent them both hurtling of the side of Gamabunta's head, calling out for Dragonite as they went tumbling down. They crashed into Gamabunta's pipe, knocking it from his mouth, gaining an outraged shout from the Frog King. The cry was broken by the sudden returned of his tongue, which snapped back like elastic when Dragonite released it in order to catch Vitali and Jiraiya just before they smashed into the ground. Vitali loosened his grip, and Dragonite took over, letting Vitali slip to the ground before rocketing upwards again, Jiraiya clutched firmly to his chest.

Vitali got up and smiled at Red, who had already caught on and was shouting instructions to Dragonite. They yellow best flew as high as he could, flipped over backwards, and then began plummeting downwards at blackout speeds. At the last second he released Jiraiya, and pulled up on his own, crowing in victory as he heard the massive thud of Jiraiya's landing. Red hooted happily and slapped Vitali's shoulder in excitement. Vitali nodded politely and then turned towards Gamabunta.

"Jiraiya was our opponent, not you." Vitali said. "In his destruction our battle is ended. Please go on your own way, we will not harm you."

Gamabunta slowly picked up his pipe, inspected it for damage, and replaced it in his mouth. He chewed on it thoughtfully for a moment, then took a long, deep drag.

"If that little move could kill Jiraiya," he said as he exhaled a plume of curling smoke, "He would never be allowed to summon me."

Vitali furrowed his brow, but before he could vocalize his confusion, Dragonite let out a fresh howl. Vitali and Red spun around just in time to see Jiraiya spring off of Dragonite's back, a trail of blood and other pieces of Dragonite's throat following the point of his Kunai as he pulled it away. Red screamed and reached for his pokeball, hoping to return Dragonite in time to do…something…anything…but his hand was smacked away by some slimy appendage. He looked down just in time to see Gamakichi and Gamatatsu run off with the rest of his pokeballs. But they, at least, were safe inside. He turned back slowly, praying to see anything but the dreadful truth. But Dragonite still fell, surreal amounts of blood gushing from his open neck and a confused expression on his face.

"How could you survive?" Vitali gasped at Jiraiya, meaning to shout but having to breath for it.

Jiraiya smirked. "It's the way of the ninja. Logs are your best friends."

Vitali had no time to contemplate this cryptic response, for then Red howled, a more animalistic, wild cry than any of his companions had ever issued and sprinted at Jiraiya.

"I'LL KILL YOU!"

"Red! No!" Vitali shouted, going to run after him. He was jerked backwards, as Gamakichi suddenly jumped up and grabbed his hair roughly. He shook the frog off and the kicked both he and his brother hard enough to make them un-summon, but by then when he turned back it was much too late.

Jiraiya watched Red approach solemnly, the kunai held firmly in his hand. He had expected Dragonite to un-summon in the way any of his creatures would. He had never intended to make Red witness such a terrible thing, never meant to make such a young man suffer such shattering loss before losing his own life. His death was a necessary part of this, and he had entered as a warrior accepting of these terms, but Jiraiya to no joy from torture. He should have made time for the spiked pit.

"I'm so sorry." He murmured, as he raised the kunai and drove it into Red's belly as the boy blindly ran in.

Red paused, looked down at the kunai, and then up at Jiraiya. His eyes grew large and as they began to brim with tears Jiraiya set his jaw and pushed the blade up more securely between Red's ribs, extinguishing him.

Vitali sighed, sorry to see his companion go so soon. He could afford no greater grievance, however, for another pain was deeper in his heart, and Gamabunta was eyeing him. He dashed for the pokeballs, but Gamabunta's great tongue got there first and he swept them and tossed them into the pit. Vitali clenched his teeth, and though he hated himself for it, made the only decision he had left, and ran.

He had to make them think he was retreating, and turn back and use the old man's original tactics against him. He was resourceful, he'd find something in the forest, take Jiraiya out as quick and hard as he could, and then present his offer to the frog again. He didn't seem like a beast who enjoyed useless violence, he shou—

He felt the wire snap around his ankle and everything screeched to a halt. A dozen more wires sprang up from the trees trapping him in a sharp web. He tried to move his hands and cast a spell, but the wires bit into his flesh and caused him to spasm and lose control of the spell.

He heard the soft thud of a body landing in front of him, and he looked up at Jiraiya solemnly.

"You fought well, and I can tell you are a good man." Jiraiya said. "Is there any message I can deliver to someone for you?"

Vitali gave a small smile. "I thank you, but no. I'll be able to do that for myself."

Jiraiya nodded, and tugged a final wire. A long thread of paper tags fell onto Vitali's shoulders. He closed his eyes, briefly thought of what he might tell Gig, and then the tags detonated.

Jiraiya walked back to Gamabunta, running a hand through his hair with a gravelly sigh.

"I've killed a lot of good men, Gamabunta." Jiraiya said, leaning against Gamabunta's leg.

"That's how you know what a damn good ninja you are."

Gamabunta took another drag on the pipe, and when the last wisp of smoke passed his lips, he melted into it and was gone.

Hello all. I was challenged by the Red/Vitali alliance, so I whipped this puppy up for your reading pleasure. Here's hoping I've done my job as an enforcer and eliminated a couple contestants. Good luck to my opponents and good cheer to all the rest of you.

much love

AL