Chapter One - To Triumph Over Someone (continued)
Chapter One (continued)
Ren's house stood atop a hill overlooking the sea, and the winding, jackknifing road that passed in front of it offered a spectacular view of the sea to the south-east. The sun bore down strongly despite the early hour, and even the cutting breeze that sliced across the cliff-face did little to alleviate the warmth. Ren could only imagine what the heat would be like later in the day.
As Ren made his way along the road, he marvelled, as always, at the ingenuity of whoever had built the road in the first place. On one side, the cliff rose up, almost vertically, just inches from where he walked. Covered in tough grass and hardy flowers, the cliff was one of the most steadfast constants in Ren's world. On the other side of the narrow road, the cliff suddenly dropped away again. Even though he had seen it a thousand times before, Ren took a peek over the rickety barrier that separated the road from the open air. Like every other time, it took his breath away. The land dropped away at a ridiculous angle; he fancied that if he fell off, he might bounce once before he hit the water at the bottom – twice if he was lucky.
With a grin, Ren set his eyes straight ahead again and set off with renewed vigour, the comforting smell of brine in his nostrils.
The walk was mostly downhill, which made the going easy, although there were lots of switchbacks to traverse. Ren made it into Slateport City proper with twenty minutes to spare, and quickly headed for the train station. He kept his head down and his eyes averted from everyone he passed. It wasn't that he didn't want to be recognised, but at this stage, it could possibly delay him and make him miss his train. He wasn't willing to risk Steven's ire simply because he couldn't deal with a couple of fans.
A couple of times, he thought he saw people pointing at him and whispering to each other, and in each case, he quickly crossed the street or took a different turn. The central train station was near the city outskirts, so he didn't have far to go. He purchased a ticket to Rustboro from a bored-looking attendant, and was just about to climb onto the train when he heard an excited shriek from behind him.
“Ren!” With a wince, he glanced around just in time to get tackled head-on by a small, pink blur.
“Oof!” he exclaimed, stumbling backwards and just about falling into the train. “Who- what the-?!”
“Long time no see, Ren!” said the pink blur excitedly, detaching itself from his midriff and beaming up at him.
“Natasha?” Ren queried. “Is that you?”
“Of course it's me, idiot!” his twelve-year-old cousin squeaked, bouncing up and down madly. “Don't tell me you forgot about me after just five years!”
“No, 'Tash, I didn't,” Ren said hurriedly, glancing at his watch. The train was about to leave. “But look, I've gotta go. I'll come visit when I get back, I promise.”
“No! I want to come with you! Where are you going?” she demanded, stamping her foot. Ren started to answer, but he was drowned out by a piercing shriek from the loudspeaker.
“Nine-thirty to Rustboro is now departing. All passengers, please board the train immediately. Nine-thirty to Rustboro.”
“Rustboro City,” he tried again. “It's a long way away, but I promise I'll see you when I get back. It's too far for you to come,” he said, climbing onto the train.
“No!” Natasha protested, leaping nimbly past him onto the train. “I'm coming and that's that.”
“'Tash!” Ren hissed, making a grab for her, but it was too late. The door shut with a clang, and the train began to move. “Oh, damn it!” he sighed, slumping down onto the nearest seat. The carriage was empty but for the two of them.
Natasha giggled happily. “This'll be fun!” she said happily, jumping onto the seat beside Ren and snuggling into his side.
“Not really,” Ren said, taking a deep breath. “You're not supposed to be on this train, are you?”
“Nope! Daddy wanted to take us on holiday to Lilycove, but Rustboro's gonna be much more fun!”
Ren ran his fingers through his hair in exasperation. “So . . . you were going on holiday, but you just decided to jump on my train? Oh, what am I gonna do with you . . .” Shaking his head, he took out his PokeNav and dialled a number. It picked up on the third ring.
“Yeah, hi there. Uncle Roger, it's me, Ren.”
“Oh, hello, Ren! What are you calling for? Congratulations on becoming the Champion, by the way. Mary and I were going to drop by and congratulate you in person, because I heard you were in town, but we were too busy packing for our holiday!”
“Thanks, Uncle Roger,” Ren said uncomfortably. “But, uh . . . about that holiday. I imagine you're looking for Natasha about now, right?”
“Well, yes, actually, we are,” Roger said, sounding puzzled. “How the blazes did you work that out? We're at the train station, but she's run off somewhere, the little tyke.”
“Yeah, well, um . . . I've got her,” Ren said.
“Oh, splendid!” Roger said cheerfully. “Could you bring her back to platform twelve? The train leaves in ten minutes.”
“Actually, that's why I'm calling,” Ren said, scratching his head and glaring at his cousin, who raised her eyebrows innocently. “Your little bundle of fun just jumped on my train, and now there's nothing I can do about it. It's the express, so it doesn't stop until Rustboro.”
“Rustb- oh, for the love of-” Roger stuttered. “Well, um, I, uh. Huh, what's that? No, Mary, she's fine. It's Ren . . . Yes, I did congratulate him . . . No, she's on the train to Rustboro . . . How should I know? Well, uh . . .” There was a crackle at the other end of the line, and Ren frowned.
“Hello, Ren,” said a different voice.
“Aunt Mary!” Ren said, surprised. “Hello.”
“Natasha's with you, is she?”
“Yeah,” Ren said, shooting another glare at his cousin, who was now rolling on the seat in paroxysms of silent laughter. “I'm sorry, Aunt Mary, but she jumped on board before I could stop her.” A crackle of feedback that may have been a sigh filtered down the line.
“Well, there's nothing to be done about that, is there? Roger and I will catch the next train to Rustboro and take her off your hands at the station.”
“Well . . .” Ren said. “I kind of have to be in Rustboro on business, you see. I don't know if that's practical. But I can't just leave her at the station, and I wouldn't dare put her on a train by herself . . .”
“That is a problem, then,” Mary said.
“Uncle Roger said you were going to Lilycove for a holiday,” Ren said thoughtfully. “How long was that going to be?”
“Just for the night. Why?” Mary asked worriedly.
“How about this?” Ren said, biting his lip. “I'll take Natasha with me, and you and Uncle Roger go to Lilycove. She'll be fine with me, I promise.”
“Well . . .” Mary said, sounding unconvinced.
“I can't imagine you've had much peace for the last twelve years with this mad creature around,” Ren said frankly. “You could use a break.”
“I guess . . . that does sound nice,” his aunt said. “All right, Ren. You're our favourite nephew, and we trust you, so we'll leave our little girl to you. I know you're grown-up enough to handle it.”
“OK, Aunt Mary,” Ren said. “Catch you later. Enjoy your holiday.” With that, he hung up and leant back in the seat.
“So?” Natasha asked.
“Against my better judgement, it's you and me on holiday in Rustboro,” Ren said.
“Yay!” Natasha squealed, jumping up and racing up and down the carriage. “I'm going on holiday with cousin Ren!”
Ren exhaled heavily, smiling. His cousin was the only relative he knew that was even close to him in age, and they had grown up quite close. She was hyperactive and wore too much pink, but she was still special to him.
“Sit down, you,” he said. “I'm going to go and see about getting you a ticket.” Obediently, Natasha flumped herself down onto a seat and sat as still as a statue, arms crossed. Shaking his head, Ren headed for the door to the next carriage.
It didn't take him long to find a guard. Apologetically, he started to explain his situation, but before he had even mentioned how Natasha had leapt onto the train, the guard leant down and tipped his chin up, examining Ren closely. A grin had spread across the big man's face as he recognised him, and he had continued – much to Ren's chagrin – to announce to the whole carriage, which was much more densely populated than the one Ren had boarded, that it was 'that new Champion kid everyone's been talking about'. When the guard had asked if anybody had a problem with the Champion and his cousin moving up to first class, the other passengers had responded enthusiastically, although one or two had 'demanded' an autograph as 'payment' for class-skipping. Chuckling, Ren had obliged before going back to fetch Natasha. The guard showed them to the carriage at the front of the train and sat them down in much more comfortable seats.
“That was nice of him,” Natasha commented as she excitedly pressed her nose to the juddering window. “Are you really that famous now, cousin Ren?”
“I guess I am,” Ren said bashfully, looking out the window too as Hoenn flashed past. Far to the north, he could see the spire of Mount Chimney thrusting up above the rest of the countryside.
I am, he thought. Life's gonna be a lot different now that I'm the Champion, but I expected that. The question now, though, is . . . where do I go from here? Is there someone else I can beat? Can I get stronger? Or is there no point now?
Last edited by Misheard Whisper; 11-20-2011 at 10:21 PM.