Chapter 11 – The Vault
Karo returned just a short while after he’d left. He was accompanied by Breanna, a granbull from across the street, who fetched the dried cheri berries from Karo’s kitchen and administered them to Syr. She also provided a couple of sitrus berries from her own cupboard for the nosepass’s injury.
Syr had never watched Karo eat before. After finally doing so, the arbok decided that he would never watch it happen again if he could help it.
The granbull even helped to rid Karo of the graffiti that had been inflicted upon him. Unfortunately, though, not all of it came off.
After the granbull left, Syr explained to Karo what had happened to Esaax at the Haven. He then asked the nosepass if he possessed any information about the evolved form of wobbuffet.
Karo gave Syr an odd, sly look. He beckoned the arbok to a closet that, when opened, appeared to contain nothing other than an obscene message scrawled in yellow smeargle ink. Then Karo uttered a harsh, trilling sound, and the closet’s back wall split open to reveal another, larger room.
“After you,” Karo said curtly, ushering Syr into the hidden room before entering it himself.
Syr wasn’t surprised by the secret room; this wasn’t the first time that Karo had shown it to him. He also wasn’t surprised when he felt the room begin to make a descent. He knew that it was actually an elevator, having ridden it several times.
He was, however, a bit surprised to be riding it on this particular occasion. He had hoped that Karo would be able to provide some information about what Esaax had become but had not really expected him to be able to do so. “I take it this means you do
know something about what wobbuffet evolve into?” he asked.
“You could say that.” The elevator came to a stop. “Now, you’re not gonna find one hair
of smeargle in here,” Karo said, snorting grumpily. “Stupid furballs, scribbling their filth—I’d like to show them
who likes to eat their own…”
Syr and Karo exited the elevator and entered what Ren had dubbed the Vault. It was a large room that had been the home of all of Ren’s most valued possessions. Just as Karo had predicted, it was completely free of any signs of intrusion by smeargle.
The Vault contained more books than anything else, which were arranged on towering bookcases that lined the wall directly in front of Syr as well as those off to either side. Syr’s gaze swept over the vast book collection. “Which of these has the information we want?” he asked.
“Never mind them,” Karo said, making his way further into the room. “I kinda got the impression that you’re in a hurry—” Syr made an exasperated noise at this, with the face to match. “—so, for the sake of time, just watch the screen.”
The screen to which Karo was referring was mounted next to the elevator doors and covered a sizable portion of the wall. Syr slithered over to Karo, who then produced a deep and very resonant sound. The overhead lights turned off, and the screen before Syr and Karo came awake with light.
“Number thirty-nine,” Karo said. Words and symbols flashed briefly on the screen, and then a film began to play…
A pokémon battle was about to commence in a gym that was lit by glowing, pale green crystals—the Exo Gym. The walls were decorated with carved figures of pokémon over a softly glowing background of shifting colors. The floor was covered by an equally colorful mosaic depicting planets, comets, and stars.
Ren sat on one side of the arena in a dark-colored, metal chair. The strange lighting and the camera angle didn’t allow for a very detailed examination of his appearance, revealing only that he was slight of build, completely bald, and dressed in simple, entirely black attire.
Opposite him, his challenger was seated in a chair like his own. The camera revealed somewhat more of the challenger’s appearance than Ren’s. Like him, she wore dark clothing, deep blue denim for her jacket and pants and black for the rest of her outfit. Unlike him, she had hair: dark, unkempt, and reaching down past her shoulders.
“You’re sure you want to do this the straightforward way?” the gym leader said in his sly-sounding, slightly lilting voice. “The special features of my gym do exist solely out of consideration for the challenger.”
“Thanks, but I came here to battle a gym leader, not a gentleman,” responded the challenger in a low, cackling voice.
Ren gave a short laugh. “Out with it, then!”
The challenger produced a nest ball. “Go, Alain!”
With a burst of light, an alakazam appeared. Alain gazed intensely at the gym leader, holding both of his spoons in one hand while thoughtfully stroking his long whiskers with the other.
nice…” Ren remarked. “Very nice. A shame, really, considering… oh well. Acheron? Could you step forward, please?”
There was no pokéball of any kind thrown, no flash or sparkle of light to herald the entrance of Ren’s pokémon. Instead, the summoned creature emerged from the shadows at Ren’s side. Rays of pale green light fell upon Acheron, revealing the form of…
“Okay, Syr, is that
what you saw?” Karo asked.
“Yes. Yes, it is,” Syr answered almost breathlessly. The arbok could barely believe his eyes, but the sight they presented told the truth: whatever Esaax now was, Acheron was the exact same thing.
Syr returned his attention to the footage, watching the commencement of the battle between Alain and Acheron.
In the Exo Gym, as well as every other gym in the Apex League, the trainers were not allowed to issue commands to their pokémon. Ren and his challenger had to merely sit back and watch their pokémon carry out the battle on their own terms.
Sensing the presence of the dark element within his opponent, Alain knew that his psychic attacks were of no use in this match. He furthermore identified Acheron by sight as having once been a wobbuffet; as such, Alain knew that he risked doing more harm to himself than to Acheron in attacking him.
Alain quickly formulated a plan to get around that risk, however. He transferred one of his spoons to the other hand, then summoned one of the techniques that he had inherited from his medicham father. The air around the alakazam crackled with electricity, and miniature bolts of lightning began a frenzied dance around one of his hands.
Acheron, meanwhile, stood calmly on the other side of the arena, his long tail waving as he looked upon his opponent with a faint smirk. Alain surged forward and leapt high into the air, his psychic power allowing him to hover momentarily over the head of his eight-foot-tall opponent before slamming his thunderpunch into the back of Acheron’s neck.
Small tremors rippled through Acheron’s body as electricity briefly coursed through him, but he kept silent and showed no visible signs that the thunderpunch had caused him any actual pain—that is, until he caused an orange aura to blaze into being around himself, sending the alakazam flying with the force of his counter attack.
Grunting at the pain of the retaliatory strike, Alain telekinetically righted himself in midair and looked intently at Acheron, hoping to see evidence that he’d successfully paralyzed him—the less pain Acheron could feel, the less he could inflict, Alain reckoned. Acheron’s tail was waving back and forth just as fluidly as it had been before he’d taken the thunderpunch, however, and his legs were steady beneath him.
Accepting this, Alain lowered himself back down to the ground and implemented the other aspect of his plan, hoping that it, at least,
would work on the first try. He transferred his other spoon back into his empty hand, and then a dull red glow filled his eyes. A ball of energy in the same color gathered between his spoons and then fired forth at Acheron, bursting into jagged red streaks that snaked over his entire body on impact. The streaks gave a single red flash, then turned black and vanished into Acheron’s skin. Alain smiled at this—Acheron’s counter technique had been successfully disabled.
Acheron regarded this new development without any concern—he hadn’t been planning on relying solely on that technique and knew that he could do just fine without it. He shut his eyes, allowing his mind to sink into a deep meditation.
Alain wasted no time in launching more attempts to paralyze his opponent, hoping to succeed in that endeavor before the effects of his disable technique wore off. The Exo Gym was filled with the crackling sounds of electric power as he delivered three more thunderpunches in quick succession, to all of which Acheron gave no more reaction than he had to the first.
Alain then moved back from him, once again checking to see if Acheron was showing any signs of paralysis. Acheron’s skin was blistered and raw at the site of each thunderpunch’s impact, and he reeked of charred flesh and trembled on the spot.
Those tremors subsided very quickly, however, and the moment they did, Acheron’s body suddenly took on a bright red glow. The light expanded outward in a bide attack, forming a shockwave that knocked Alain off his feet and blasted him clear across the arena—he was almost sent flying right into his trainer’s face.
Acheron grinned as he watched the alakazam on the other side of the arena struggle to catch his breath and get back onto his feet, greatly weakened now. This, Acheron decided, was a good time to bring out the big guns—as weak as his opponent now was, he might only have to do it once. Besides which, he figured he’d played around with him long enough.
He allowed a dark-type charge to build around one hand, seeing a faint, off-white glow surround Alain as he did so. The alakazam was trying to heal himself via the recover technique—but too late. No sooner had his injuries begun to repair themselves than a black beam came roaring forth from Acheron’s hand and struck him. Alain screamed in agony—and curiously, so did Acheron.
The attack ceased. Alain, covered from head to toe in black scorch marks, twitched briefly before falling unconscious and still. Acheron fell to his knees, still voicing his pain in the wake of the last attack that he’d launched, but he remained conscious. The match was over. The challenger had lost.
“So that’s it, then,” Syr stated, knowing that the Exo Gym allowed only one pokémon to each competitor.
“Yeah, that’s it. But don’t feel too bad for her. She may have lost the match, but,” Karo said with a chuckle, “she won him
Syr watched as Alain’s trainer first recalled her pokémon into the nest ball and then rushed into the arena to the aid of the moaning blue pokémon there—the very same pokémon who had just denied her a victory in this gym. Syr could just make out the expression of wonder that was forming on Ren’s face, and a realization hit him. “You mean, that’s her
“You guessed it,” Karo confirmed. “She made an enormous impression on Ren there in that gym on that day. And the rest is history.” He smirked insofar as he could with a face that was comprised of a nose and not much else. “Let’s give them some privacy,” he then said. He produced the same, low sound that he had used to activate the video screen, and the screen was returned to blankness.
“So… that creature… what was
that?” Syr asked.
“That,” Karo said, “was a kwazai.”
“Kwazai…” Syr echoed. “And that last attack he used…” Syr had never seen anything like it before, especially not from any creature bearing any relation to a wobbuffet. This was no retaliatory technique—Acheron had attacked proactively, something that wobbuffet were unable to do. Apparently evolution freed the species from that restriction. “What in the world was that
“That would be reflux,” Karo answered. “It’s a dark-type attack, and it’s one of the nastiest ones there is, too.”
“Does this mean that kwazai are dark-types?” Syr asked.
“Only half that. Psychic/dark-type, to be specific. But that’s only the males. The females, now, they’re another thing altogether…”
“Yeah. Males evolve one way, and females evolve another,” Karo explained.
“Just how much do
you know about kwazai?” Syr asked, astounded.
“Meh… pretty good amount, I guess…” Karo replied nonchalantly.
“That does it. You’re coming with me!”
* * *