From: "Fenix" <fenixreader@yahoo.com> Subject: [PW!] Ardeshir: A Test of Wills Date: Thursday, April 08, 2004 6:47 PM [PW!] A Test of Wills Previously: Not much. -- His last opponent wasn't so impressive. Granted, he was under the tutelage of a human, but that was no excuse for failure. _One must seek greatness amid adversity,_ thought Ardeshir, _no matter how hard the wind blows_. That Alakazam, purported to be at least second best among the competitors in the Qualifier, had crumpled almost without incident. Almost. Even now, as Ardeshir smoothed down his cloak, the screaming of the fallen opponent's trainer rung loud in his fox-like ears. Monsters like Ardeshir shouldn't be allowed in the Saffron Gym's Qualifier, she insisted. Whatever happened to honor or sportsmanship, she wanted to know. Ardeshir felt like asking her what honor lay in enslavement, but spoke no words. The silent, broken foe at his feet declaimed the superiority of both free Alakazam as well as the fallibility inherent in all humanity. Ardeshir, hearing the announcer tapping his microphone for attention, rose to his feet and waited for his next opponent. "...and there goes Molly, and her Alakazam who fought so well." Ardeshir became irked at the senseless anonynimity that humans pressed upon his folk -- surely, the Alakazam had a name and would want it spoken? But again, he said nothing. His actions would forever speak louder than words. "....Ar....Aardvark the Alakazam advances to the final round. And now, his opponent, Matt, and his Alakazam, Belisarius!" The arena boomed with the trumpets of "Gonna Fly Now" from the Rocky soundtrack, and a strutting trainer dressed all in white sauntered onto the field, his Alakazam in tow. In Ardeshir's opinion, Belisarius looked fairly miserable -- togged out in clothes almost exactly like his trainer's It appeared as if the Alakazam desired to ape the human's putrid style like a willing conspirant in his trainer's plot against taste. Matt seemed to have precognitave abilities, shaking his fists as if the match had already been won. Ardeshir decided that while all humans are truly a cursed race, whatever god that formed them had set its mind to lumping all their bravado onto this one. After waving to the crowd, the human looked more than a little perplexed. "Where's his trainer?" An intense desire to tear Matt's stomach open and consume his frothing innards struck Ardeshir, but then he remembered his self-imposed prohibition against consuming human flesh. "I train myself," replied Ardeshir. A shit-eating grin grew slowly on Matt's face. "How cute." "I concur," said Ardeshir. "I don't need any poorly-dressed simian to teach me what all Alakazam should rightly have -- the drive to win." Matt's amusement left as quickly as it came. "Belisarius, Psychic!" Awakening from his fashion-brought stupor, the Alakazam hopped into attention, and straightened into a ready stance. Belisarius placed two fingers to his forehead, and began to shake from concentration. A visible distortion in the air formed about his body, as he amassed psionic energy. Belisarius the Alakazam furrowed his eyebrows, his fists glowing with purple. Ardeshir watched with some amusement as he felt the middling buildup within his own body. But the color drained out of his face as the levels grew higher and higher, beyond all that he had expected. Belisarius thrust out both fists, and a massive wave of psionic energy rushed out of his fingertips towards the standing Ardeshir. He raised both fists in an attempt to soften the blow, to try and throw up some defense, but it was all for naught. The wave caught Ardeshir in the chest, sending him reeling. The explosion rung in his ears, the force throwing his body roughly across the grass field. _So, this is what eating someone's dust is like_, he thought. Despite the dizzying pain, Ardeshir managed to stand up. He was roughly fifteen feet away from his starting position, and only a blind man could miss his transit. In a rough circle, all grass and rocks had been blown away within the attack's radius, leaving only dirt. Ardeshir considered his surroundings, the dirt between his talons. He closed his eyes and remembered. Urdash. The training. The glory. No matter how much they called him 'Ardeshir Stormpiss,' or 'worthless orphan,' he would keep on getting up. And keep on beating them. He rose up to meet the gaze of the advancing Belisarius, approaching to finish him off. There was only one hope to beating his foe, no matter how loath Ardeshir felt to admit it -- it was only by merit of his psychic defenses that he was able to survive the strike. To merely stand in the face of another one was to poke fate in the eye with a stick. Without warning, Ardeshir gave power to his legs and leapt into the air, psionically aiding his flight. In his rising view the crowd, crammed with both Pokémon and human alike, rapidly shrunk to a more preferable size. _How easy would it be,_ thought Ardeshir, _to crush them like so much chaff beneath my step._ Rapidly gathering energy into his hands, the floating Alakazam flung twin Psybeams at his sedentary opponent. The solid beams, with a blazing corona at their cores, flew steadily towards their intended target. Belisarius, redolent in his white but laconic as always, barely reacted. He lifted both his hands and began to concentrate, murmuring beneath his breath. Suddenly, the twin psybeams whipped away from him, to ricochet off some invsible barrier and detonate harmlessly into the field. The only thing harmed was the earth, which kicked up in two enveloping clouds. Belisarius looked up at his floating opponent, his face as emotionless as ever. But then, he began to laugh, harder and harder. His mustache flapped in the air, his eyes closed shut to keep out the tears. This was truly hilarious, this mountain hermit come down to beat the most premier psychic Pokemon outside of the gym! And once he DID win (and he would), Belisarius would be in line for training granted only at the Saffron gym, to recieve the tutelage of legends. How great it would be. How grea- Crack. Belisarius' head whipped back, and the Alakazam felt the bones in his neck creak from the strain. For a few moments, all he could see was the endless blue sky, unmarred by clouds. Had his head not been forced into a ninety-degree angle by a crippling strike, he might have enjoyed the view. After regaining his balance, Belisarius looked to his pristine, unflawed clothes and found it stained with blood. The Alakazam reached up to his long muzzle, and noted that too blood flowed freely. "Hunh," said Ardeshir, more than a little disappointed. He was standing in front of his opponent -- he had used a good reserve of his psionic energy in Teleporting to so close a range, but he wasn't going to let Belisarius know that. His face appeared deep in thought, as if contemplating a great issue. "I expected that blow to snap your slave head in two. But apparently, being the dog of humanity has many boons." Steam shot out of Belisarius' nose, and he gritted his teeth. Without waiting for orders from his trainer, he began to feed his psionic reserves -- all of them -- into this next attack, and melt this impudent provinical into so much slop before he knew what hit him. "What," goaded Ardeshir, "are you too afraid to fight me Alakazam-to-Alakazam? Do you also await on your master to breathe and think for you, as well? Fight me!" Matt cried out in alarm, the satisfaction of watching his Pokémon prepare to utterly annihilate yet another opponent lost. The petulance in his voice was gone, replaced by pure concern. "No, Belisarius! Use your strengths against him, not your weaknesses!" But his Pokémon did not even turn around to face his trainer. Belisarius the Alakazam clumsily raised his fists in front of him, wordlessly accepting Ardeshir's challenge. Surely, he would attain victory even without his lauded psychic abilties. "Fool," whispered Ardeshir, a subtle, knowing grin on his face. The exile monk quickly fell into his own fighting stance, his right hand slightly leading his left. Then, with the precision of a track runner he dug his talons into the earth and dashed. The gap closed between them quickly, and Belisarius locked his arms together in defense against the attack that was sure to come. Ardeshir hooked his first punch, letting it curve around Belisarius' attempted defense. He felt his fist push hard into the meat and bone, the heat of his opponent's body trickling up through his knuckles. Truly, he felt whole again. For a moment, it was that first day on the Urdash field, where Ardeshir had taken a fourth year monk right in the neck. For the Alakazam, re-living that memory was like opening a vintage arbor, a sweet taste in his mouth that got better with age. As Belisarius reeled from the strike, Ardeshir brought both hands together and landed a hammer blow on his opponent's head for the second time that day. Belisarius the Alakazam tottered, his body heaving. The Alakazam could only see the dirt and Ardeshir's running feet as the monk buried both elbows into the small of his back; Belisarius could audibly detect his own bones breaking as he collapsed facefirst into the ground, blinded by earth and pain. The Alakazam planted a foot on the prone Belisarius' back, and ground it in deep. For certain, he had won. Ardeshir looked up to the crowd, now disgusted and ashamed by his conduct; with every act he brought every human discomfort, every enslaved Pokémon hope in him -- a free Pokémon could indeed vanquish those in humanity's thrall, as he just proved. He allowed himself a moment of exultation. "Yes," Ardeshir cried. "Look upon me! Know my skill! Know my-" Suddenly, he was thrown off balance. Ardeshir's footing, his opponent's body -- had vanished. He looked about in confusion. Where had Belisarius gone? He heard Matt cry out. "Ha! You can't hit what you can't see!" He attempted to understand the human's comment, but the answer came to him fast enough. Crack. The Belisarius' fist connected hard with his muzzle, and Ardeshir staggered. When his vision cleared, his opponent was nowhere to be found. Where was he? _That's for my face,_ said a voice in his head. And then the exile monk felt the tell-tale pain that was a roundhouse kick to the spine, a sensation similar to driving a cement block between his vertebrae. He was sent flying, and found himself with a mouthful of dirt and grass. Spitting it out, he straightened into a standing position, but saw nothing but empty field. _What's wrong, Aardvark,_ taunted the voice in his head. _Where's your pride? Your vanted skill? Your glory? Allow me to make clear your fate._ In front of Ardeshir, an Alakazam shimmmered into existence, the air bending around him. It was Belisarius, admittedly beaten up and clutching his ribs -- but with a similar shit-eating grin his trainer had previously borne. Ardeshir roared and lobbed a quick Psybeam in his direction, but his opponent's form seemingly melted into nothingness and out of harm's way. The psychic attack once again detonated to no effect. He whipped his head around, seeking his opponent but again saw nothing. _Behind you,_ called Belisarius, and the exile monk spun. He shifted into a high block in an attempt to predict the coming attack. The taloned foot of Belisarius drove hard in his side, sending the Alakazam flying. He crashed into the dirt, feeling his body acquaint itself once more with rocks and the bent stems of grass. _This....is getting tiresome,_ decided Ardeshir, his mouth half-full of debris. _Teleport, you deluded fool! With it, you cannot hope to touch me!_ Belisarius' bravado showed through even mentally, echoing hard in Ardeshir's psyche. The Alakazam quickly faded in and out of existence before him, as if a divine being had given his corporeal form an easy-access light switch. _Who says I want to touch you, you blathering retardate?_ With that, Ardeshir sat upon the field and crossed his legs. He lifted his hands in deference to his ancestors, and then crossed his arms across his chest. His eyes closed, and his breathing slowed. Seemingly resigned to his fate Ardeshir sat still upon the earth, awaiting the inevitable. "Alaaaa!" His first words the whole day. The hurtling form of Belisarius materialized in mid air, blinking in and out of existence as the distance between them shortened. He commited himself to that one devastating attack, a flying jump kick. Belisarius' eyes were narrowed, focused in those few instants on the devastating pain that Ardeshir would feel. _The fool! He does not even see me!_ It was so -- seemingly ignorant of his battle cry, Ardeshir remained sitting on the earth in his heavy cowl, moitionless. _Give my regards to your ancestors, Aardvark!_ cried Belisarius. A growing sense of victory blossomed in his chest, as the distance from his foot to Ardeshir's face shrank from yards to inches. But in the nanoseconds it would have taken for the foot to connect, something very peculiar happened. Ardeshir had gotten up. And in the scant moments that still remained, he imperceptibly edged inches away from Belisarius' flying kick. As the shocked Alakazam rocketed past him, still committed to his attack, he laid a heavy taloned hand on Belisarius' foot. _My name is Ardeshir,_ he intoned. _Remember it -- you will be barking it in hell._ With that, Ardeshir gripped the place in Belisarius' flesh where the leg ended and foot began. There, with both hands, he quite literally threw Belisarius for a loop, using his accumulated momentum against him. Like a modern-day, wingless Icarus Belisarius' flight was cut short, and he tumbled bonelessly onto the hard earth. It had been the final straw -- even then, the Alakazam struggled to breathe. Exuding self-confidence, Ardeshir strode over to the prone, face-down Alakazam and once more placed a taloned foot on his back. With grim satisfaction, he brought both hands within inches of his skull. Then, Ardeshir began to fill his hands with psionic energy, channeling all remaining reserves into a massive Psychic -- enough, he surmised, to take his head off. Wordlessly, he looked to the announcer. "Aar.....Ardeshir wins....the Saffron Gym Local Qualifier. For winning, he recieves his bid to enroll into the Saffron Gym and recieve the tutelage of the masters in residence. ...Congratulations." After the despondent crowd filed out and Matt tearfully collected his wounded Alakazam, Ardeshir approached the waiting Gym attache at the edge of the field. He hobbled, more like, hardly unscathed from his battle. "Wherefore is my prize?" The Gym attache looked sternly down at the Alakazam (which was not particularly difficult, as he was seven feet tall and dressed all in official-looking clothing) and merely scowled at him. "As representative of the Saffron gym, I must decline your 'prize'. Your conduct today has been far from admirable or even admissible under normal circumstances. Besides, only your trainer can enter you into the Gym." Ardeshir weighed the meaning of the man's words. He had fought so hard and so long merely to come to nothing. He looked down at his hands, and found them reasonably battle-weary. Without pretense, he spat upon the Gym attache's expensive-looking shoes. "I spit on your 'prize.' And never will I allow myself to be taken into the custody of humans. I will die first." Before the towering human could react, Ardeshir summoned the very last reserve of energy he possessed, and Teleported away. TBC.