Re: Communication (PG-13)
In what felt to Solonn like no time at all, the twenty-fifth had arrived. All at once, the task at hand was upon him, and he was swept up by it into a situation that, as it came to be, made him realize that nothing could have truly, completely prepared him for it.
Next thing he knew, he found himself riding for the very first time in an automobile. As he gazed out through the window, the view before him of the scenery rushing by mirrored his perceptions of this experience. Hurtling irresistibly forward through these moments, he scarcely had a chance to take it all in.
The vehicle came to a halt, and as he was unbuckled from his seat and brought out into the parking lot, Lilycove’s contest hall seemed to blossom into being before him right out of thin air. It was huge, and it loomed larger still with each step that brought him closer to its entrance.
Ushered gently through the front doors by his coordinator, Solonn immediately found himself almost intoxicated by the sheer level of activity within the contest hall’s lobby. All around him, humans of wildly varying appearance stood, accompanied by pokémon partners the likes of which Solonn could have never conceived.
Morgan led him into a queue, and there they waited for their turn at the desk that sat at the front of the line. After a fairly short wait, they made it to the desk, where the receptionist asked Morgan to present her contest pass. Complying at once, Morgan produced a card and handed it to the human behind the desk. The receptionist held on to the pass for a few seconds; Solonn couldn’t see what she was doing with it, for the desk exceeded his height.
When the receptionist gave the pass back to Morgan, she took a moment to peer over the edge of the desk at the pokémon who accompanied Morgan. “Oh, now isn’t that a cutie,” she remarked airily, flashing a very bright smile.
Solonn returned her gaze with a slightly disgusted look. Cute? I’m not cute…
“You may now proceed,” the receptionist then said. Morgan smiled at her, then led Solonn out of the lobby and toward the backstage area.
Several minutes of doing nothing but waiting followed. The other contestants were gathered along with Solonn and his coordinator, anticipating the impending events with varying degrees of patience. A television mounted in the corner showed the scene that awaited the contestants. With an incredible amount of noise and a level of enthusiasm that was almost tangible, even transmitted through that television screen, an audience was filing into the seemingly endless rows of seats and declaring their eagerness for the show to begin.
The spectators’ wait was not prolonged much further. The voice of the announcer came blaring forth, the audience quieting somewhat while he spoke.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” boomed his greatly magnified voice, “get ready to witness the hottest up-and-coming faces in the Hoenn contest circuit! The normal rank beauty contest shall now begin!”
“It’s time,” Morgan informed Solonn in an excited whisper, then began guiding him before her as they made their way to the stage in an orderly procession along with all the other contestants.
As Solonn emerged onto the stage, he was greeted by an unbelievable level of light and noise. The number of humans gathered just to look upon him and the other contestants was staggering—Solonn had never seen so many people in any one place before.
He had not expected that the spectators would be quite that many in number…
The coordinators and their pokémon partners formed an orderly line across the stage, facing the audience. One by one, the announcer stopped before each team and introduced them, then moved on down the line to the next team. Before long, he arrived at Solonn and Morgan.
“Next up, hailing from right here in Lilycove, it’s Morgan Yorke and her snorunt, Solonn!” the announcer said. Just as had greeted the introduction of each team before, a peal of applause rose up for Solonn and Morgan. Part of Solonn wondered what they were applauding, exactly; neither he nor any of the other contestants had actually done anything yet, after all.
“Now it’s time for you to cast your votes,” the announcer told the audience after introducing the last few contestants. “Who will make it to the next round? You decide!”
Solonn found himself unable to count the moments that passed as the audience cast their votes. His awareness of being scrutinized by innumerable eyes only intensified now that that was quite literally what they were doing. He did not see that on a colossal screen behind him, a close-up view of each of the pokémon in turn was presented to the audience—he might have been surprised, to say the least, to see a gigantic image of his own face staring back at him.
Finally, the votes were all tallied, and the results appeared on the screen behind the contestants, who all turned to see who among them would proceed to the next round.
“Look!” Morgan exclaimed. “There we are!” She pointed to the upper right corner of the screen; Solonn saw that he and Morgan were indeed pictured there. They had made it through the first round. With that obstacle out of the way, Solonn followed Morgan with a funny little detached sort of thrill as they and the other contestants returned backstage to get ready for the second round.
The small television backstage presented Solonn with a view of the performances of the contestants who had been slated to go on before him. For a crop of newcomers, their performances were generally quite competent; none of them thus far had made any mistakes in their routines, at least not as far as Solonn could tell. He found a few of the performances to be not very exciting despite their technical integrity and correctness of form, but there were a couple of the others that really stood out.
Those performances easily held Solonn’s rapt attention—and also managed to stoke the doubt within him further. As the last of the performances preceding his own turn on stage came to a close, he found himself attended by an unbidden question of whether or not he had truly, sufficiently prepared himself for this.
That question followed Solonn out onto the stage as he was called forth. It was much darker as he emerged this time than it had been during the first round, but he could still see the crowd, could still make out all those faces. Solonn had been told what to expect since his training had begun, yet Morgan’s descriptions of what this experience would be like seemed awfully weak and ill-fitting when held against this moment, these surroundings, the expectations held by all these people for whom he now had to perform…
He came to stand in the center of the stage, and a single, bright spotlight fell upon him as the music that Morgan had chosen to accompany his routine rose up, seeming to emanate from the very walls of the contest hall itself. Under the ray of white light bearing down upon him, he felt overemphasized to dimensions far greater than his own, yet at the same time also all too aware of just how small an entity he was compared to the vast, scrutinizing crowd.
A moment later, the spell of the spotlight abated enough to allow Solonn to realize that he had missed his cue. With a jolt, he hurriedly cast the hail technique up into the air above him. The summoned hailstones began falling at once, but at twice the normal intensity and not at all in the pattern he had rehearsed—it was fortunate that this was a solo performance, for had Morgan accompanied Solonn on stage for this round, she would have had to take cover from his bungled first move.
Solonn winced inwardly at the mistake and tried desperately to make some sort of recovery with his next move. He called upon powder snow and felt the most infinitesimal relief as it bowed to his will according to plan, its winds sweeping up the falling hail in a gently turning, tamed cyclone. Solonn’s creation partly obscured his view of the audience, for which he felt a wave of gratitude spread throughout his nerves. However, he knew that with his next maneuver, he would have no choice but to forfeit that comforting veil of ice and snow.
Sighing softly, Solonn kept the powder snow blowing as he slowly expanded the vortex of snowflakes and hailstones around himself while the music began to swell in a slow crescendo. The winds swept around him in a growing spiral, and as the cyclone widened and thinned out, the multitude of humans before him filled his sights once more.
Don’t pay attention to them, Solonn urged himself silently, just pretend they’re not there… He fought against an urge to close his eyes as tightly as he could and shut out the sight of the audience, for he knew that showing signs of his anxiety could count against him in the judges’ eyes. He was also finding himself dealing with a burgeoning desire to simply cut his performance short and run.
Trying with a growing desperation to keep a hold of the fraying ends of his nerves lest they unravel completely, he called upon the next element of his routine—the one which had given him cause for doubt at several points during the course of his training. He still couldn’t believe that he had gained one of the highest powers of his element in a single moment’s rush that one afternoon, disbelief that had caused him to struggle all the more in his efforts to master the technique.
Incredible though it still seemed to Solonn that he even possessed that ability, the fact remained that he did indeed possess it and was required by his routine to execute it adroitly. Don’t think about what you’re doing, he tried to remind himself, just do it… At the music’s cue, Solonn executed his strongest technique, unleashing a blizzard to join his dancing cyclone.
The blizzard howled forth, stirring the spiraling snowstorm into a frenzy as it was meant to do… but then, most disobligingly, its winds began to falter. Solonn swore that he could feel his heart fall utterly still as the blizzard, along with the other elements of the cyclone that had woven themselves into its winds, petered out right before his eyes. As if in slow motion, snowflakes, sleet, and hailstones alike all fell to the stage.
No… Solonn lamented silently. He was all too certain that his chance to obtain the ribbon and thereby surmount the first step toward his return to Virc-Dho had died along with his enchanted snowstorm. The elements of his musical accompaniment suddenly bled and merged into a formless din in his ears, while the spotlight seemed to swell to an abnormal brightness for a moment before being swallowed up in a sudden, all-consuming darkness, taking the stage, the audience, the surrounding noise, and Solonn’s consciousness along with it.
Next time: Solonn faces a decision that stands to change his life forever… See you then!
- Sike Saner
Last edited by Sike Saner; 04-11-2011 at 03:37 AM.