I apologize for the jump in length from chapter 2 to 3. I had to put a lot into this one for it to make sense, and I explained a LOT in this chapter.
Chapter Three – Inferno
Kanta awoke after a night's rest. Though his worries and the rocks had made his rest a bit less than satisfactory, he had at least gotten enough sleep to walk again. He stood, testing his legs by hopping a few times. They stung from his overexertion of them the previous night, but he would be fine to climb back up to the main part of the island.
A curious Smeargle inched closer to he and Anabel, sniffing around and keeping it's paintbrush tail at the ready. He smiled and crouched down, his movement making the small Pokémon jump back with a slight yelp. Kanta stood completely still with his hand outstretched and waited.
After a few minutes the Smeargle had inched close enough to sniff at his hand, and after identifying his scent, it decided that he was trustworthy. It saw fit to lick Kanta's fingertips as a sign of obvious approval. He patted the Painter Pokémon's head absentmindedly while he looked over Anabel's sleeping form. The headache that she had succumbed to the previous night seemed to have subsided, and she now slept peacefully.
"Can you and your friends keep watch over her for a while little guy?" He asked of the diminutive Pokémon jokingly, but when it stood straight and used it's paintbrush tail to salute him, it was clear that this Smeargle had at least been around humans before. It had understood his request somehow, and it began marching in a circle around the sleeping frontier brain.
Kanta smiled, and walked out of the cave. Anabel would have been safe even if the Smeargle had simply walked off after Kanta began to speak. Smeargle were kind and docile Pokémon, and the most that they would do was paint her portrait on the walls of the Artisan Cave.
The newly awakened trainer squinted in the light of the new day, his eyes straining to adjust to the glare of the sun off of the water. "Heh. Pretty serene considering what happened last night." He said with a remorseful and slightly amused tone in his voice. To him, the rising sun was just that, a beginning, proof that life would keep going. It was proof that Arceus, was kind, and that he was blessed.
Kanta smiled again and looked up at the cliff face, his smile quickly receding as he took note of how long it would take him to get back up to the town above. This is going to be a long day... He shook his head and walked toward the side of the cliff, taking a better look at the path that he would have to take. Hm. It looks to be pretty clear cut. I can climb it. He declared inwardly. The boy reached up and grabbed the first rock and began to climb. But it will take a while.
One hour later...
Kanta grabbed the top of the cliff, and thanked Arceus that he had actually made it. The climb hadn't been incredibly tough due to how much it sloped, but it had just taken so long. He pulled himself up and collapsed on the ground, looking up at the sky again.
He breathed heavily for a few moments, taking in the view of the clouds, and standing as soon as he had caught his breath. He looked around at the surrounding wasteland, desolated by a night of incredible power unleashed upon the island. The land had been Terra-formed, most of the buildings leveled, and the others, though left standing, it was only just barely. His entire world had been changed in a matter of hours, and if he wanted any sense of normalcy, he needed to find his Pokémon.
He took another deep breath and thought, with Zahrah's imagined responses flowing into his mind. Where would you be?
Where I'm safe of course. The response came from within his own mind. It had obviously been created by his own mind, but as close as he was to his Gardevoir, she may as well have been right next to him.
Yeah, big help. Where would you be safe?
Well, I was in the hotel when it burnt down, but you know I can't die that easily.
Yeah, so you're not there any more.
Okay, fine, so you could be anywhere.
Yes. Kanta sighed. Even in his own imagination, Zahrah was an exceedingly difficult girl to deal with. He composed himself, and once he had collected his thoughts, began again.
Fine, I won't look for you first. How about Fiera?
She's somewhere that she would feel at home, they all are.
Why didn't I think of that? He was only glad that he hadn't spoken any of this aloud as he realized that he had, and that it wasn't actually Zahrah giving her input. The trainer feared for a moment that he may have become a bit unhinged, but shrugged it off when he realized that he had always done things like this.
"Feel at home... Alright. Fiera and Claire are field dwelling Pokémon... So they could be anywhere... Not helpful. Sakhr is a water dwelling Pokémon, so he could be swimming around, but with Zahrah not having located me before I could do anything, they're likely incapacitated somehow... So he's not swimming... Cadfael... He lived in a volcano, so... Hm. No mountains... The Pyramid! But it's gates are locked until I can present all of the other symbols... So I'm kinda screwed there... Tia likes high places, so the Battle Tower is the obvious choice, and if she isn't there, I can at least spot Cadfael..."
Kanta turned toward the goal that he had set for himself and marched. He was going to have to go all the way to the top, and chances were the elevators had been damaged, so the emergency stairwell would be his only choice.
"Shit!" Kanta exclaimed as he forced the door open. He had to cover his nose as his senses were bombarded with the stench of hundreds more putrid bodies littering the ground. As they had been in the hotel, some were charred, some cut to ribbons, but most had been partially melted, leaving behind grotesque images of skeletal hands with bits of flesh falling away reaching for the help that had not come for them. To many trainers used the acidic beasts Nidoking and Nidoqueen.
Carefully, with his shirt puled over his nose, Kanta inched toward the stairs, taking care to step over the bodies of humans and Pokémon alike. The stench, the stagnate air, the overall atmosphere, it all accumulated to make it very apparent that Kanta's nightmare had just begun. The world had been changed forever, and he thought then: I guess that I'll have to change with the times. I'll have to work even harder to keep my friends safe.
The door to the stairwell hung halfway off of it's hinges, and had been violently bent, he could only guess that it had been done by the body of the five year old girl that lay only a few inches before it. Upon closer inspection, Kanta deduced that her bones had been shattered upon impact with the door. It stood to reason that a Fighting type was most likely the culprit.
Her body had been mangled, contorted, and bashed. He found it sadly ironic that her parents had chosen to dress her as a Sneasel for their challenges, a Pokémon that took four times the normal damage from any Fighting type attacks.
Children don't belong in the arena. He thought as he bent down to scoop up the child. Her parents are the only ones to blame for her death... Her body sagged dramatically, showing that her bones had indeed been crushed to meal from the impact. She slumped in his arms and felt roughly like a sandbag that had gotten wet. He turned around and went outside into the light, which he came to regret within seconds.
Her blank eyes looked as though they focused on him for a moment. He saw blood pour from her mouth where her teeth had been shattered, and her cheeks cut on her new and perfectly sharpened molars. Tears welled up in his eyes and his legs felt as weak as the young girl's entire body felt to him. He collapsed, hugging the body of the disfigured girl. Blood flowed from her mouth like a slow waterfall due to the increase in pressure, covering his chest in the sticky red liquid.
This had made everything more real. He wept, cradling the corpse of the small one that he had never had the pleasure of meeting. The pressure of his arms around her mangled chest caused more of her blood to pour from her mouth, her organs having been crushed, her bones stabbing through her heart, veins, and arteries. Her blood spewed from her mouth and covered his white shirt in a crimson dampness that would haunt him only as long as he wore the shirt. Her face however, would haunt him until the day that he died.
Kanta laid the young girl's body on the ground and started clawing at the earth. He had to bury at least one person on this island, and that girl deserved something close to proper. She would have no coffin, but at least she would be laid to rest. She had died far too soon, with fear in her eyes and in her heart.
He dug for thirty minutes before he was satisfied. His hands were stained with dirt, but he had managed to dig a few feet down. He stepped out of the small hole, and picked up the girl. He gently placed her in the ground, and closed her eyelids with a brush of his hand. She was small enough that his shirt covered her like a blanket. The hole was big enough, and she wouldn't be unearthed naturally.
"I'm sorry little Sneasel... Had I known you, I'm sure that you would have been kind. I'm sure that someone loved you dearly, and... I'm sure that you didn't deserve this." He said as tears flooded his eyes again. Tears hit the dirt as he pushed it over her mangled form. As her body was taken in by the cold embrace of the earth, Kanta stood once more.
He said a prayer that he had been taught as a child. He had previously discarded it, but, there was no time more fitting than now to beg for help from the heavenly resident of Ecruteak. "Oh Ho-Oh, great Pokémon who can resurrect all things with the power of your sacred ash, may you one day see fit to do so for this sweet child, taken before her time."
He broke off from this prayer to go into one of his own then, "Lord Ho-oh, I know that humans caused harm to your home before my time, but please... Take pity on her... Bring her back safely... Some day... After this world is cleansed... After... After this hell has become a far off memory of nightmares..." As he finished his solemn prayer, he clapped twice, as he had been taught as a child in Ecruteak.
Before more tears could even threaten to well up, he turned to the battle tower and hardened his gaze. A death like that would not befall him. He would not allow himself to fall to anything, not until he saw to it that his Pokémon were safe. As always, they were his friends, his first priority.
He ran back into the tower and up the stairs as fast as he could, hoping against hope that he could at least find Tia at the top of this tower. After he had climbed at least ten floors he stopped and realized something. The stairwell had remained mostly untouched. A few holes in the walls here and there, but nothing to the stairs themselves, he was only capable of punching the wall when he realized why.
Most people died before they had time to reach the damned stairs. They were all battling when this all happened. He thought as he shook the pain out of his knuckles, and this realization was followed only by an increasingly grim one. There were probably very few survivors from last night, and most of them did not make it out of here.
Kanta continued to climb, enjoying the peace at first, but with each step he also became increasingly uneasy of the deathly silence. Each step he took upon the tempered steel of the stairs was met with a dull ring that echoed throughout the stairwell, and as he reached the 45th floor he had already become tired of the only sound other than his own breathing. He felt the grip that death himself seemed to hold over the building, and it was eerie that every few doors had a crimson pool flowing from it's clearance.
The rest of the climb was like torture, a hundred levels, millions of stairs, and the ever present feeling that he was in what would be a tomb for centuries. He began to think on the subject of death. Was it a terrible end, or a sweet release? Would the world return to normalcy now, or would Pokémon always be able to cause this kind of wanton destruction?
Shaking those thoughts from his mind when he reached the top floor, he grabbed the doorknob, and threw himself out of that ghastly, cavernous stairwell, and into the afternoon sun. He looked around, scanning the roof of the battle tower, and saw just what he had came there looking for, his favorite dragon-type, his Tiamat, resting peacefully on top of the tower. As he drew closer, she raised her head groggily. It looked as though he had just awoken from a long slumber. She nuzzled his outstretched hand, and as usual, she pushed him over gently. The Dragon licked his face, happy to see him. Then she simply laid her head on him to use him as a pillow.
"Hey Tia, It's time to get up, we need to get moving." He said plainly and kindly as he tried to gently wriggle out from under her head. With a truly annoyed look on her face, Tia raised her head and looked at the sky, her gaze softening as she saw the clouds. She had always found comfort in her dreams of flight. Even now that she could take to the skies, it still calmed her to she the clouds drifting peacefully across the sky.
Kanta stood and looked around as Tiamat rubbed sleep from her eyes, taking her usual care with her claws around her tear ducts. "At least I know that you're still you Tia." He said with a chuckle as he scanned the island for any signs of his other Pokémon, and saw for the first time, just how terrible this had been all over the island. Trees had been leveled by attacks like Silver Wind, and the earth scorched by Fire-type, or perhaps Electric-type attacks, and judging by the fact that the Battle Dome's cliff face had been decimated by what he could only assume was Earthquake unleashed at full power by the Dome Superstar's Swampert, the effects of last night had been much more destructive than simply a few buildings.
He turned away from the site of such destruction and continued to search for his Pokémon. Tucker's demise was unfortunate, but no more so than the deaths of the other people of this island. He had other matters to attend to.
With most of his Pokémon, he knew that they would be nearly undetectable from this height, but there was one that would have left an unmissable mark where he had settled, and with any luck, he would still be fine. Sure enough, Cadfael was plainly visible from where he was, and was resting calmly in the scorched earth before the Battle Pyramid's gates.
Those accursed gates had kept Kanta's strongest Pokémon away from the strongest of the Frontier Brains, Pyramid King Brandon, but there was a simple and easily recognizable reason for them if one knew the history of the Battle Frontier. The Battle Frontier had once been spread out over much of the Kanto region, with the location of each being kept hidden from all but those few challengers deemed worthy to face them by one of their traveling scouts, but as challengers became increasingly rare, the Frontier Brain's boredom had brought them to make the decision that they would move to an uninhabited island just off the coast of the Hoenn Region, with their challengers consisting of anyone who had claimed all eight Hoenn gym badges, and had challenged the Hoenn Elite Four at least once.
However, certain changes had had to be made to the basic structure of the challenge itself, namely, a way to ensure that the order of each challenge remained at least somewhat similar. Finding this mostly impossible, the Frontier brains had made concessions. They decided that the order of Brains challenged didn't matter as much as the difficulty of reaching them. If their fortresses were now accessible by a much greater number of people, then those people would need to fight their way to the Brains at the top of the ladder.
First, there was the Battle Factory, the place that had undergone some of the more eratic changes. Noland had decided that patience for fools was a waste, and refused to adhere to any increase in difficulty that did not weed out those that were not knowledgeable, and ready for anything that came their way, including not being allowed access to their own Pokémon.
In the Battle Factory, Trainers could simply walk in and take a simple test of their Pokémon knowledge, with questions from "What type is super effective against a Steel-type?" to questions like "What was the first man-made Pokémon?", Trainers had to get 90% or more correct to then be allowed to face the Factory Head. They would be given a choice of three, random Pokéballs, and use the Pokémon within to battle Noland's three Pokémon. He gave the trainer two choices then, to have him pick Pokémon in the same way that they had, or let them pick three from his menagerie of Pokémon.
When Kanta had challenged the Factory Head, he passed the test with flying colors, and was given a Pelliper, a Typhlosion, and a Feraligatr, and when given his choice, he asked to be allowed to choose from Noland's menagerie. He chose to battle against Noland's Machamp, Venusaur, and his Camerupt. He was able to make quick work of the Camerupt with his borrowed Feraligatr, the Machamp with Pelliper, and his Venusaur fell to the borrowed Typhlosion. He had claimed the Knowledge Symbol with the most ease.
Secondly, there was the Battle Arena. All that a trainer had to do was compete in a daily tournament that was held on every day save for Saturday, and reach Greta when you became the champion. In addition to normal battle rules though, due in part to Greta's seemingly miniscule patience, battles were judged, and were up to judge decisions weighing the Pokémon's mind, body, and overall skill, after a time limit of just three minutes.
This meant quite a bit of work, but Kanta had been up to the task, and had reached the top five his first day, and the number one slot on his second go around, and with Greta's all fighting team, Zarah's Psychic waves and were a brutal force against which they couldn't stand. The Guts Symbol was his, as was the friendship of the easily excitable martial artist. She had a tendency to Show up at his hotel room on Saturdays asking for matches between the two of them rather than their Pokémon, and had started training him in martial arts.
Third, there was Tucker in the Battle Dome, which he had also modeled after a tournament, but with the focus on style, theatrics, and tactics. Winning in this sixteen seeded tournament, that was held only on Wednesday nights and used only double battles, was based upon a trainer's skill, their focus on their Pokémon's individual statistics, and their Pokémon's flare. With only the winner being allowed to challenge Tucker for the Tactics symbol in a final battle on center stage, it was obvious that things could only get harder from there.
Kanta's challenge at the battle dome had went well, thanks to his practice in both the Hoenn and Sinnoh contests, and his completely focused training. With Sakhr, Fiera, Zahrah, and Claire at his side, he put on a performance that had the crowd cheering. But just as he had been warned by so many, it just got harder from then on.
With Pike Queen Lucy's focus on luck, her Battle Pike had been based on a thirteen victory, room choice challenge. A trainer had to go in with three set Pokémon, and choose one of three doors, each containing a trainer of a different type specialty. It was up to the trainer's luck to not run into any of her subordinates with specialties in a super effective type.
This was where Kanta's luck ironically changed. It had taken him three weeks to get it right, always choosing a door to a trainer with truly frightening Pokémon. Then, after so long, trying over and over, he finally faced with Lucy, the meanest girl that he had ever met. She was as vicious as her snakelike Pokémon, but her battle style was based around luck almost exclusively, using attacks like Swagger to confuse the opponent, and moves that Pokémon were lucky to withstand. The battle was hard, but Kanta came out on top with Zahrah's psychic abilities, Tiamat's speed, and Cadfael's power.
His latest win had been the toughest to get to, and it was against Palace Maven Spenser. The Pokémon sage who's wisdom was what made him a competent Frontier Brain. In this challenge, Pokémon were not allowed to be influenced by trainers. They chose their own attacks based on they felt they should act.
He was forced by this then, to enter Tiamat, Fiera, and Cadfael, as the three of them most enjoyed battling and with their personalities best suited to the battlefield, . It had taken them numerous tries, and with the Maven's health beginning to fail with age, he was only able to hold his challenges one day of the week at the most. He had chosen Saturday afternoons so as not to compete with Greta, so every Saturday for a month, Kanta had continued to go until he finally defeated the Maven.
Then there was Anabel in the Battle Tower. Her challenge was only the second hardest, but it was easily the one that made most trainers give in. A trainer had to use three of their Pokémon to defeat seven consecutive opponents, over and over until they had defeated 69 opponents, and then Anabel would serve as the 70th trainer in the ultimate test of a team's abilities. Even Kanta, who could now, after all these years, defeat the members of the Hoenn and Sinnoh Elite Four, was finding it difficult to get to the top of the tower.
Finally, there remained only the Battle Pyramid, and at it's top the Pyramid King, Brandon. His Pyramid was off limits to anyone who had not previously claimed every other Frontier Symbol, and the Pyramid itself was the most difficult challenge of the entire Frontier. The inside of it was kept completely dark, it was built like a maze, and wild Pokémon ran amok. One had to navigate the entire maze, make it through the seven layer pyramid, and face Brandon on the roof. Brandon himself, was rumored to be an even more difficult opponent than the Pokémon kept within the pyramid.
With five Frontier Brains beaten, and Anabel in his sights, his Pokémon were all anxious to face the ultimate challenge of the battle pyramid, but none so much as Cadfael. Cadfael, a name that means lord of battle had seemed fitting of the legendary Pokémon that he had battled for three full hours to capture, but only after having gotten to know him, seen how brightly he glowed only during a truly heated battle, did he understand just how much he was THE lord of battle. Seeing him outside of where he would face his ultimate challenge was only natural. But something about the air around him seemed somehow off.
"Tia, let's go, it's time to fly!" He called as he turned to face her, a grin hiding the anxious expression that had covered his face a moment before. Tia lifted her head, returned his grin, and with one large blast of air from her wings, she took to the skies, circling just above the tower.
Kanta watched as her blood red wings carried his dragon gracefully, and when the time was right, he ran off of the tower, jumping in a sky diving pose and giving a whistle to his winged friend. Sure enough, she dive bombed to reach his exact speed. When her descent and his were synchronized, he reached out and straddled her, holding onto her neck gently as she quickly flipped to change her direction from straight down, to level gliding. This routine had been practiced by the two of them, made to impress the judges at Pokémon contests. Draco Meteor was usually involved, but for this, there was no need for extra showboating.
"We've gotta get to the Battle Pyramid Tia, Cadfael is there." He said over the rushing winds. She nodded her agreement, and flew with only a small fraction of the speed that he had trained her with. It was not enough to knock him off, but it was enough to try. They reached the pyramid within minutes.
The heat was nearly unbearable and the ground had dried by an unnatural rise in temperature. Cadfael body had always been a much lower temperature, hot enough that his mouth was a furnace, but never had it been this intense. Now he stood feet away and Kanta could still feel the heat of his volcanic Pokémon, and he could see the look on Cadfael's face as he saw the distance that his trainer now had to keep. There was terror in his eyes where a calm determination had been just the day before.
Kanta felt heat blow off of his Heatran's body, flowing and bashing against him in waves. The air shimmered around him as his Pokémon's distress began to rise, taking his power higher. Kanta heard the stone wall next to Cadfael begin to crack from the heat, the wind picking up as the heat created an updraft, and the air that rushed in to replace it creating small whirlwinds as the cold and hot air made contact.
Is this fate then? Cadfael thought with a roar. Is this my punishment for being created from the most destructive force on Earth? Is this what you chose for me Father? He continued as his roars and cries were heard by all on the island. Cadfael looked to his trainer, to his friend, and to the person he could no longer be close to, and had his body been cooler, tears would have flown from his eyes as new thoughts filled his mind.. I am not only barred from being near my human friend... I can never sleep next to his other Pokémon, my best friends, either. I shouldn't stay...
"Cadfael, Return!" Kanta suddenly called out as the molten behemoth turned to walk away. He held out the only Ultra Ball on his belt, and activated it's return feature in a gamble. Before last night, Pokéballs were known to negate the abilities of the Pokémon inside, and luckily they still did. The air grew cooler almost instantly, and Kanta's mind was racing just as fast to try and figure out what the hell was going on.
What happened last night? Cadfael could ALWAYS contain his heat, even when I first caught him... But that... That was like an inferno.