“I heard that the others will arrive soon. That true?”
Darius inclined his head. “In about four to five days, if they have a smooth journey,” he mused. “They didn’t take the same route as we did.” The Shiny Blaziken adjusted the dark grey cloak that was fastened on his shoulder. “They will also bring three Novices with them.”
“I see.” Ardor nodded. His brow creased slightly as he bit his lower lip. He couldn’t help but worry over that piece of information
A small chuckle rumbled through Darius’ throat. “Have more faith, Ardor. Odius and Nikandros will guide our Brothers trough the Pass safely.” He took a gulp from his tankard. “You of all Pokémon shouldn’t feel so worried.”
Ardor exhaled, a rather embarrassed smile plastered on his face. “I know, it’s just... Eight of our Brothers coming here from Fȳren, three of them Novices... Wouldn’t it attract their attention?”
Darius knew very well whom Ardor was referring to, but he only smiled. “As a Master, you should trust your Mercenaries’ skills and capabilities more. They’ll make it through. I’m sure.”
“Alright then,” the Quilava replied with a drawn out sigh. The two Mercenaries leading the journey were his best friends, of course he would worry. Shaking his head, he ran his paws through his hair and stood up. “I’m going out for some fresh air. Be back later.”
“Don’t stay out too long then.”
“Yeah, I won’t.” Ardor exited the small pub and into the streets. “As if I would stay out for hours on end.”
The early afternoon air that greeted him was cooler than the air this morning, a great relief for most of the Pokémon that lived in Andalusst. Summer had officially started, and the temperature had risen drastically over the last few days. Being a ‘mon who was born and raised in the dry hot valleys and plateaus of Fȳren, the current temperature didn’t affect him much. In fact, the dry, summer winds would be considered moderately cool and refreshing in Fȳrenian standards; nonetheless, it was still warm. That was why Ardor had opted to wear a simple sleeveless tunic. His regular cloak would heat up to uncomfortable levels under the sun and he would get weird looks from the locals.
Sighing, Ardor went into a slow, but leisure stroll around the general area around the pub, passing several Pokémon as he did so, while simultaneously picking up the conversations that had caught his ears, a skill that had turned into a habit after several years apprenticing in the Brotherhood. From what he had gathered, there had been talks of an upcoming party hosted by the Iaponese Ambassador as thanks for ensuring her safety in Andalusst.
Well, that should be interesting. Ardor was now wondering what the Froslass had in store for them. She might throw a Iaponese summer festival if his knowledge on the eastern country was right. They loved to have huge parties to celebrate nature and seasons and so on from what he had read.
He was brought out from his musings as he passed by a rather inconspicuous looking building to his left. It didn’t look like much but the distinct, rowdy roar of an excited crowd definitely caught his attention. Casting a long, dubious look at the two-storey wood-and-brick building, Ardor shrugged and stepped inside.
The room beyond the door was poorly lit: a few dusty Chargestone lamps hung along the walls and on the ceiling; the windows on either side of the door were covered with a thin, canvas covering which bathed the whole room in a pale yellow light; the walls were bare, covered with white paint, which was chipping around the edges, and the floorboards creaked when Ardor moved across it. The dull roar of the crowd sounded much louder now.
“You here to fight or watch?”
“Hmm?” Ardor turned to look at the Medicham at the counter.
“You want to fight or to watch?” the dual-type repeated, eyeing the Quilava as he approached the counter. “You seemed to be the fighting type.” She nodded approvingly at Ardor’s prominent muscles.
The Quilava blinked and shifted under the Meditate Pokémon’s rather critical gaze. “A fight?”
The Medicham raised an eyebrow. “Yes. This is a fighting club, didn’t the sign tell you?”
“...There are no signs outside.”
There was an audible curse from the Medicham as her face twisted in annoyance. “Must’ve been ripped off again, damn those kids... Ah, well. Welcome to the Zänker Haus. You can participate in our daily spars and fights or just watch the ones that are on-going.” She paused to catch her breath. “Entry fees will be three Stars for fighters and one Star for spectators. You still can participate in the fight if you want, so it’s fine either way,” she concluded with a shrug.
Ardor hummed thoughtfully, weighing his options. He could participate, and perhaps have a good workout, but that would take hours, which in turn would induce Darius’ annoyance. He doesn’t approve being late. If could also opted to watch the fight, and leave whenever he liked. Well, he supposed that a little viewing wouldn’t hurt.
Nodding to himself, the Quilava dug into his money pouch and handed the Medicham one Star. She took it with a nod and handed Ardor a small card of sorts.
“Fill that and give it to Warden if you want to work that body of yours,” she said with a small smirk.
“Yes,” the Medicham huffed, gesturing to the swinging door to the side of the counter.
“The Granbull. His name is Warden. Just go through there.”
“Ah, okay then. Thanks.” Ardor nodded and pushed the doors open. He found himself passing through a short dark hallway and was soon inside a large hall filled with cheering and shouting ‘mons. The hall was a simple square opening, stretching two floors above with a balcony surrounding the whole area. A set of stairs were built right beside the corridor for easy access to the balcony on the second level. The ones who couldn’t get a good view on the ground level had gone up to view the on-going fight from the top.
The fighting ring was the strangest thing Ardor had ever seen. It wasn’t in the default circular or rectangular shape, but was a large octagon instead. The floor of the ring was padded with soft clay, firm enough to stand and move around in but soft enough not to cause any bruises if one fall, and it was bordered by sturdy canvas walls hoisted by strong wooden poles. Ardor supposed that the owner of the club had given some thought on the wellbeing of the fighters.
There was an audible pitying “Oooh!” from the crowd as the Quilava walked up the stairs to the balcony. He made his way to look over the railing just in time to see a rather scruffy and tough-looking Machoke delivering a powerful punch right into the cheek of a Zigzagoon half its size. Ardor was surprised that the Normal-type merely stumbled back, looking disoriented but definitely still able to fight. The Zigzagoon was thin, but not overly so, with a rather thick tail and messy fur. He had the lithe, speedy built of a fighter, definitely not the power type, and those calculating blue eyes... well, this had to be an interesting fight.
The Zigzagoon in question was spitting out red from his mouth and regarding his opponent with a slight cock of his head. The hulk of a Machoke grinned challengingly and banged his bandaged fists together.
The raccoon rolled over as the Machoke charged in. But he had misjudged the Fighting-type’s strategy and didn’t see the Machoke’s foot coming. Ardor could hear the air rush out of the Zigzagoon’s lungs as the foot collided with his stomach. He staggered backward, almost tripping in the process. Shaking the dizziness out of his head, the Zigzagoon blinked at the crowd before he focused himself back to the fight. The Machoke lunged again, and to his dismay, the smaller Pokémon sidestepped it with ease and countered with a solid uppercut to his jaw.
There was a thunderous roar and applause from his supporters and betters.
To everyone’s surprise, however, the Tiny Raccoon Pokémon gave a curt nod to the Machoke. A smile was sketched on his face. “Well done. Thank you for the fight.” And he began to walk away.
The Machoke wasn’t pleased with the Zigzagoon’s actions, however, as he snarled. His voice thundered above the roar from the crowd. “Hey! We ain’t done yet!”
“Not done. Finished,” came the Zigzagoon’s reply. He heaved a sigh and exited the ring.
“And, as I said, thank you.”
The Machoke’s face twisted in disgust. He strode a couple steps forward and spat contemptuously at the Zigzagoon, catching him on the back of his head. The raccoon-like Pokémon stopped as the crowd suddenly fell silent. He felt the back of his head and sniffed it.
“Hmm... Westron Gin,” he pronounced, loud enough to be heard by the entire hall. He turned around and walked back into the ring with the approving roar and applause from the crowd. The Zigzagoon was now eyeing the Machoke with a new calculating look. Ardor could almost see the gears turning in the Zigzagoon’s head.
The Machoke banged his fists again and fell into his combat stance. What he and the onlookers weren’t expecting however, was the Zigzagoon’s sudden movement and speed, hitting the Machoke with a series of superfast jabs and hooks, incorporating a foreign style of martial arts Ardor had not seen before. The fight ended when the Normal-type delivered a swift kick to the Machoke’s knee, who buckled down and fell over, knocked out. The Zigzagoon had turned away just as the giant of a Fighting-type fell over the ring barriers.
The crowd had fallen silent, unsure if they liked what they saw, but Ardor was impressed.
To take out an opponent less than a minute, and with a type disadvantage at that, was something worth admiring.
“Well then,” someone coughed from within the crowd below. A Granbull in a simple black shirt and white vest waded his way through the mass of ‘mons and stood in the middle of the ring as the Machoke was dragged out into the infirmary. “The fight goes to James Holford by knockout. Congratulations. Next, we have Fennec Sharpe and Cormac Mc–oh?” He stopped as one of the fight house’s attendants came up to him and whispered something intangible. The Granbull blinked.
“Ah. It seems that Mr. McDowell wouldn’t be able to fight today,” Warden informed the crowd.
There were collective groans and boos from the audience.
“But Mr. Sharpe has agreed to select an opponent from the crowd,” he added, much to their surprise. Excited whispers began to spread around the hall.
Ardor leaned on the balcony, looking down to the Dewott that was leisurely sauntering into the ring.
“This match will be utilizing melee weapons. Anyone who wishes to participate—please move forward to the edge of the balcony or in front of the ring.”
Fennec watched with a small smile as the majority of the crowd moved backwards to the walls. Only a handful of the audience strode forward. He counted an eager looking Mawile, a Simisage with a smug grin, a brute of a Feraligatr, a pensive Golem, and a jittery Wartortle. And he hasn’t counted the ones on the balcony yet. But one particular ‘mon caught his attention. It was a male Quilava, and he stood out from the rest of the volunteers on the balcony. Well, primarily because of his exotic dark olive green and tan fur, and that firm, muscled stature of his...and partly because the Quilava looked to be the most likely candidate able to withstand his attacks.
This will be interesting indeed.
“Mr. Sharpe, if you will,” Warden prompted.
The Dewott grinned in reply and pointed right at the Quilava on the balcony. “Him.”
Ardor stared and blinked. “Me?”
“Yes, the exotic Quilava on the balcony.” The Dewott grinned cheekily. “You seem to be quite the fan~”
Ardor frowned slightly.
“Right,” Warden coughed, interrupting the Dewott before he could make his new opponent aggravated. “Mister Quilava. If you would proceed to the changing room to prepare. The match will continue in five minutes. In the meanwhile, you both can prepare yourself.
The rest of the volunteers grumbled and went back to the slowly applauding crowd. Ardor caught the evil stares given by the Feraligatr and Simisage from down below as he made his way towards the stairs. Warden was waiting for him on the bottom of the steps, nodding before he led the Quilava towards the changing room to the side of the hall.
“Would you require any arm warps, Mr. Quilava?” the Granbull asked, motioning for the number of bandages, gloves, and many other things that were displayed on the cabinet mounted to the side.
“It’s Ardor, and no, I don’t think I will need any,” the Fire-type replied as he untied the strings of his tunic and pulled it over his head. “And...um, the receptionist said I should give this to you if I wanted to fight?” He handed the small slip of paper to the Granbull as he stored his clothes on the locker shelves.
Warden nodded. “Ah, yes. Thank you. Just remember to pay two extra Stars to Irma on the front desk since you decided to participate.”
“Even if I win?”
“Yes.” The Granbull nodded. “Fight is in three minutes. Best prepare yourself.” With that, he left Ardor to his own devices. The Quilava exhaled softly as the burly Pokémon left. Somehow, he had a sinking feeling that the day’s surprises weren’t over yet.
Fennec was leaning on one of the poles as Ardor entered the fighting ring. The clay ground felt like hardened earth beneath his feet. He glanced around, seeing the looks from the expectant audience around him. Some were sending sneers and shouting encouragement to Fennec instead. The Fire-type rolled his eyes.
Warden came with a large weapon rack wheeled by two Pokémon behind him. He strode toward the centre of the ring and addressed the crowd. “This will be a match between Ardor and Fennec Sharpe. The winner will be determined by hit points. The fighter who scores two hits or K.O.s their opponent will be declared the winner.”
Ardor took a deep breath and exhaled, flexing his shoulders and arms as Warden rambled on the rules. Fennec was doing the exact same thing from his side of the ring.
“And, without further ado...” The Granbull turned to the two ‘mons. “Fighters, choose your weapons!”
Glancing at his opponent, Ardor went to the weapons rack and browsed through the assortment of swords, daggers, and spears. It didn’t take him long to choose a sabre from the selection of swords. It was quite heavy but well-balanced. Ardor frowned when he felt the blunt edges on the blade. It would seem that they weren’t meant to cut their opponents open. Oh well.
Fennec, on the other hand, simply held both of his hands out, forming a condensed ball of bluish energy between his palms; it grew larger and larger until it was a sizeable orb of snow and ice. Then, it exploded into a myriad of snowflakes.
Ardor fought to keep his jaws closed. The collective gasps from the crowd told him that they were just as impressed and surprised as he was.
Gripped between Fennec’s paws was a large double-bladed glaive made entirely of pure, crystal-like ice. The shaft was a long smooth frosted ice, widening slightly as they melded into the blades, with tendrils of ice warping around the central blue gem which seemed to pulse with energy. The blades were pure white, almost silvery in texture, and shaped like a leaf, tapering into a sharp point on the end.
“Do you like it?” The Dewott grinned, stroking the flat edge of the blades. “It took me a couple of weeks to perfect the shape and size of this.”
Warden could be heard choking slightly from the sidelines. “W-well... that is a really fine weapon, Mr. Sharpe.” He cleared his throat and stood up straighter. “Right. Fighters! To your positions!”
Ardor snapped out of his stupor and briskly paced to his end of the ring and fell into stance. Fennec had crouched low with his glaive held behind him, while his other arm stretched forward, smirking at the Fire-type. From the corner of his eye, Ardor could see several Psychic-types erecting barriers around the perimeter of the ring. Perhaps they realized how dangerous this fight will go, especially with the crowd gathering around them. Ardor’s grip on his sword tightened slightly.
Meanwhile, Warden had taken his position on the small podium to the right of the ring, where he quickly addressed the crowd and the fighters. “Fighters at the ready... in three! Two! One! Fight!”
Fennec moved right when the Granbull struck the bell. He hefted the glaive over his shoulder and flung it at Ardor, who sidestepped it quite easily and charged. The Quilava swung his sabre in a wide arc, which was dodged by the Water-type who lashed his feet against Ardor’s, causing the Quilava to trip. The Dewott quickly somersaulted and snatched the glaive from the ground before throwing it towards his opponent. Ardor ducked the spinning bladed spear and closed the distance between him and the Dewott. Blocking the incoming punch, the Quilava swiftly slammed the flat side of his blade against Fennec’s chest.
“Impressive,” he remarked, swerving out of the way as the glaive come spinning in. The Dewott caught the weapon expertly. To Ardor’s surprise, the weapon split into two short swords with a simple twist on the shaft. Smirking slightly, Fennec brought both of the blades up and slammed both of the flat surfaces together, creating a high-pitched sound wave which disoriented Ardor who hissed and clamped both of his paws on his throbbing ears. The psychic barriers rippled from the noise itself, thankfully muting the ear splitting noise to a bearable level outside the ring.
Taking advantage of the momentary lull in concentration, Fennec lunged and swung his swords downwards, only to meet Ardor’s sabre. The icy surface of the glaive cracked beneath the force as both Ardor and Fennec pushed both of their blades together. “You look cute when you’re in pain,” the Dewott snickered. He rolled his wrist around, using the momentum to push Ardor’s smaller weapon down before he swung his other sword in a sideways arc. Ardor didn’t have time to react before the blade smashed against his cheek, sending a jolt of coldness running down his body.
Shaking off the cold, Ardor glared at the Dewott and swung his sword to the side, releasing the hold on his blade before hitting the back of the hilt to Fennec’s stomach. The Water-type staggered as the air rushed out of his lungs. The Quilava quickly twisted his body around his opponent, gripping and twisting Fennec’s arm, putting enough pressure to force the otter to release one of his swords. It fell with a loud clatter to the ground.
Thinking quickly, Fennec tipped himself a bit before he jumped, hitting Ardor’s jaw and releasing himself from the Quilava’s strong grip at the same time. He then proceeded to flip the Fire-type and slam him on his back, effectively knocking the breath out of him. The Dewott quickly twisted his body around and straddled Ardor’s chest, eliciting a wheeze from his downed opponent. He leaned his face close to the stoat and chuckled. Before Ardor knew what happened, Fennec planted a lingering kiss on his lips while pinning his paws down.
The roaring crowd fell silent.
Ardor’s eyes flew open as he felt the other male’s lips on his. Reacting on instinct, he quickly bit, hard, on the Discipline Pokémon, who immediately recoiled out of pain. He was about to knock the Water-type off him, but Fennec held his paws firm to the ground.
“What the hell you think you’re doing?!” Ardor all but snarled.
Fennec wiped his bloody mouth, looking at the amount of blood that managed to smear his fur. He chuckled. “Feisty. I like you,” he answered with a wink. “I was scoring a hit. What did you think? That counts, right?” He turned to look at Warden, who blinked at the rather unorthodox display of crippling an opponent.
“Ah, oh.” The Granbull cleared his throat and nodded. In a louder voice, he said, “Fight goes to Fennec Sharpe in the two-out-of-three-hits bout!”
There was a slow, but steady applause from the crowd as the psychic barriers dissipated and a roar as Fennec bowed to the audience. He turned and helped Ardor up on his feet with that annoying grin plastered on his face. Swiping his silvery white bangs out of his eyes, he gave a once over to Ardor and nodded to himself. “Dinner. 9 o’clock. Ramzi’s Tavern and Grill. Don’t be late.” He winked and turned his body towards the exit, leaving a stunned and flabbergasted Ardor.
“H-hey! What the in oblivion—OY!” Ardor growled and took after the Dewott. But the otter had disappeared within the cheering and cat-calling crowd.