Naval Junkyard - Slateport City
Every alarm still functioning in Rai’s head was going off at once. “No” was not a good thing to hear. It meant: in a large underground facility where trained, brutal fighters (that anyone looking for extra muscle would jump at the chance to hire) were all at Dicky’s beck and call, while it was only he and Kye in a room with only one way out. It meant that Rai held far fewer cards than he’d been hoping for. And it made his options dwindle sharply. He was treading in dangerous waters, and neither he nor Kye were in any real shape to be fighting their way out and back to the surface.
If Dicky hadn’t believed his story about his identity -- if he’d somehow lost money betting the wrong way on his fight with Karen -- if he felt that the decommissioning of one of his fighters was unacceptable -- hell, if Dicky just didn’t like the fact he’d walked in and managed to win a fight against one of his proven people...
There were a lot of “ifs”, and Rai had seen people end up with a few extra holes in them before they found their way into a shallow hole in the ground for a whole lot less.
Rai shifted a little straighter in his seat as Dicky flicked his hand toward his female companion. His eyes tried to follow their every move. Kye shifted some under his seat, turning a little (under the guise of getting comfortable) to face the door behind them. It was comforting to know there was a set of eyes at his back, but not enough to help him relax to any degree. Especially when he felt the rumbling growl from Kye under him, as Dicky pointed over his shoulder.
Rai turned with a bit of shock to see a flutter of movement out of the corner of his eye and was on his feet in a heartbeat, whirling around to face whatever it was head-on.
But it wasn’t some muscle-headed brawler with orders to haul him out to the harbor. Rather, a tiny Chingling hovering silently in the air in front of him with a pleasant smile on its face.
He only had time to flinch as the air rippled slightly around them, and the incessant throbbing in his head started to ease away. The tight, sharp pinch in his side every time he took a breath was gone in a matter of moments. The adrenaline that had kept him functioning until that point seemed to abandon him altogether. This made him sway in place as he tried to puzzle out what was going on.
Rai turned back to Dicky as he produced a small scrap of paper and held out a hand for a pen from the woman in the room. He scribbled something down before leaning across the desk to push it toward Rai. He stared at it with a mix of confusion and suspicion as Dicky instructed him to burn it before he left the Pits. That look turned on Dicky as the Pit Boss instructed him to get some rest.
He needed it. His entire body was comfortably warm all of a sudden, and with only a bit of stiffness rather than outright pain. There was nothing to help Rai shake the sudden drowsiness away. Hell, even the metallic taste of blood had vanished from his mouth. “What’s your angle?”
Rai growled, dropping all pretense of polite conversation. He wished he sounded more menacing than the pathetic hoarse whisper he’d been able to manage.
The Pit Boss simply leaned back in his luxurious leather chair and shrugged his shoulders with his hands raised to either side of him. “You don’t want me as a part of your Pit, but you’re going to patch me up and let me rest up after I beat the ever loving hell out of one of your people? You already went through my shit. You know I don’t have a damn thing worth anything in there, and I’ve got enough money on me to maybe buy a moldy berry.”
"You believe your only worth to me is being a Pit Fighter?" Rhetorical. There was a dreadful sense of seriousness in his voice, now. Dicky wasn't playing around, and the suspicious act coming from Rai wasn't helping his case. Trying too hard often put him in a bad mood.
The room swayed again, and Rai had to lean forward to put both hands on Dicky’s desk to brace himself. Arceus, he was tired…
He shook his head to try and clear the pull fatigue had on him. “What is it you’re getting out of this? Wasting time and resources on someone who’s not going to make you a single pokeyen in the end?”
"Money isn't an issue," Dicky said simply, still serious. His eyes cut into the fading eyes of Rai as he spoke. "And as you can see, there are fighters to spare. And Karen wasn't all-that, anyway."
There it was; the callousness Rai had come to expect from the Pits. Fighters were only as good as their winning streaks, and Rai had just broken hers.
Silence allowed that statement to sink in. His voice echoed in the hollow of the chamber of stone and iron. "You're going to do something much more important for me. Do you understand?"
He spoke more slowly. The command to the foreign brawler sounded like a threat -- like a proposition in which the receiving side had no say. This wasn't a game, a lifestyle of the reckless and poor, the weak-minded and the unskilled. This was going to be a burden -- possibly a curse. Probably get him killed.
"Now, get out of here," he said, waving his hand which ushered in the goons who carried Rai into the "office" from before.
While Kye had tolerated the Chingling, the sudden appearance of Dicky’s thugs brought a full fledged snarl from Rai's pokemon, as the fire-type planted itself between them and his trainer. Rai knew he was on thin ice as it was, but he wasn't about to leave empty handed either.
He collected his bag while Kye kept the goons at bay, before reaching into his jacket and pulled an old, rumpled photograph out of a pocket. Or what was left of one anyway. It had been part of a larger picture at one point, beffore it had been torn out and had been handled so much that there were a good number of fine, spidery lines criss crossing the image of three young people all decked out in identical gear of their gang. Only one face had been marked out with particular savagery, leaving the other two intact. Rai pitched the photo back onto Dicky’s desk as he took the slip of paper meant for him. "Keep in mind,"
Rai met his glare, before walking into the waiting custody of Dicky’s brute squad, "I don't work for free. Those two took something that belongs to me, and I will get it back."
"Keep in mind," Dicky echoed back in a clear threat, patience lost by the sense of pomposity not-yet deserved. "I'll have your tiny dick and shrivled nuts on my desk at the snap of my fingers."
They didn't call him "Dicky" for nothing.
They weren't gentle, and Rai hadn't expected them to be, as they ushered him into some kind of bunk room where other fighters seemed to sleep -- their only home the Pits -- their only family other Brawlers. There were a few bunks taken, with thin blankets barely covering their slumbering forms. Rai stumbled forward into the room as his escorts gave him a firm shove forward. He caught himself on one of the bunks in time to shoot a hateful look over his shoulder. They didn't seem to care, as they left him to his own devices.
He briefly considered following after them, but instead sank onto one of the flimsy mattresses. It felt like he'd been pumped full of lead, and Dicky’s advice to get some rest suddenly sounded like an excellent idea.
Rai didn’t bother with ceremony as he flopped back onto the bed. The heavy scent of untold numbers of bodies who’d laid there before him wafted up around him, as he did his best to find a spot where the springs weren’t digging into his back. Kye nudged his leg once, before clamoring up onto the bed and nestling into a spot against Rai’s side, wriggling around until they both managed to find some comfort in the bare conditions. Still, Rai decided as his eyes started to slip closed, Dicky’s hospitality of the threadbare mattress and snoring bunkmates aside, it sure as hell beat sleeping out in the dirt again.
A smile curled across his face as Dicky crossed his mind again. There was a small part of him that would pay every cent he had for the chance to see Dicky meet his old boss. Dicky was certainly a hardass if he commanded the respect of the musclebound thugs that seemed to keep springing out of the walls every time the man snapped his fingers. The office, that little display with his personal “companions”, even his threat to hack off Rai’s wedding tackle? It was hard for Rai not to outright laugh at. Dicky was a mean sonufabitch for damned sure. He just wasn’t crazy.“He really isn’t. Is he, Kurin?”
Rai tried to launch himself out of bed at the sound of that smooth and drippingly saccharine voice, only to realize he’d been pinned to the bed. A sudden weight on his chest knocked the breath out of his lungs, and he looked up to see a gleaming white smile only inches from his face. The darkness did nothing to hide the utter delight that glimmered in his venom green eyes, or the twisted pleasure that was in every line on his gaunt face. Rai sucked in a sharp, shallow breath as he saw a red hot iron rod materialize in his hand and hover just above the nape of his neck. One ice cold hand clamped itself across Rai’s mouth, pressing him further back until it felt like the mattress was going to swallow him, as he leaned in close to Rai’s ear.“But we know what crazy really is, don’t we?”
Rai shot up ramrod straight in bed, as someone smacked the metal frame hard enough to nearly pitch it over. He was soaked through in a cold sweat and sucking down air like a dying man, trying to steady his heart trying to bash its way out of his chest. The world had narrowed down to a pinpoint around him as he tried to gather himself again, when a heavy hand dropped onto his shoulder. Rai turned and connected with an adrenaline fueled slug to whoever had a hold of him. He heard the sound of air evacuating someone’s lungs and hitting the ground, but it was another few seconds before he recognized the poor bastard as one of Dicky’s. Kye was at the end of the bed, half pawing at him, looking at him with concerned eyes, as Rai pieced it together that he’d only fallen asleep. He brushed a hand over Kye’s head, before swinging both legs off the bed to offer a hand up to the goon still trying to catch his breath. “Sorry. Caught me at a bad time.”
Rai mumbled the apology, only to have his hand slapped away.
“Just get the fuck out. Dicky wants you on your way.” He wheezed through clenched teeth.
Rai didn’t argue. He did his best to hide the fact he was shaking all over still and grabbed his bag, before nearly running out of the bunk room with no extra prodding. ”It was just a damn dream. Just breathe and calm the fuck down.”
Rai scolded himself mentally, trying to find his way back out of the maze of rooms and tunnels of the complex. Once he could see the sky again, once he had somewhere to run again, it would be fine.
“You look more like a pile of Tauros shit than I do, limp dick.”
Now that voice, Rai did recognize. Through one of the doorways, he could see the partially assembled hospital the Pit had managed to put together to take care of their fighters without explaining to doctors, and eventually the Rangers, why they looked like they’d been a Sharpedo’s chew toy. Laying out on one of the stretchers, Rai could see Karen’s glaring face looking back at him. “Why is everyone concerned with my damn dick around here?”
Rai huffed in annoyance, oddly relieved to see his former opponent, “Is it because I’m the only one around here packing one, or what?”
“You ain’t ever seen Dicky in the showers.” “And don’t want to.”
Rai said with a sour expression, “I’m surprised you’re still in here. Figured you would have been out and about pretty quick.”
“Concussion.” Karen snapped trying to roll back over, “I’ll be out for a few weeks. Hitmonlee needs time to heal up anyway.”
Rai could hear the bitterness in her voice and the unspoken accusation. He’d been the one to lay her and her pokemon up. It would take weeks for them to heal, and even longer for them to earn back their reputation. He hadn’t asked to fight her exactly, but he’d been the one to do the damage all the same, and it didn’t look like Dicky would be as generous with fixing her up as he had been to Rai. He could apologize, but in the end, he’d done what he had to do to come out on top. She would have done the same. It was the silent understanding anyone who set foot in the Pits understood. “Why are you in the Pits anyway?”
Rai finally asked.
“The fuck do you care?” she spat back at him. “No one is down here because they want to be.”
Rai shrugged, “You’ve obviously been down here long enough to not be some nutjob looking for the thrill of beating the hell out of someone.”
“You gonna give me some friendship speech? Come closer so I can puke on your shoes, I’m already woozy as it is,” Karen replied in a barking laugh. “I’ll just dump it back on your head.”
Rai said with a smirk, “Bet it’ll be fun to change those bandages again.”
“You would know, eh?” She eyed him carefully, “You aren’t some wet nosed kid yourself. You’ve kept your face pretty, but I got a peak at what’s hiding under that shirt of yours. You look worse than I do.” “Second time you’ve told me. One more and I might think you actually mean it.”
That finally earned him a laugh. It was hoarse and gruff, but it was genuine. Infectious too. Rai actually found himself chuckling along with Karen as she got in a good laugh at his expense. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed Kye creep up and over to the bed enough to rest his head just next to Karen’s hand. He watched her expectantly for a moment, before giving her fingers the barest of nuzzles with his snout.
“You’re part of the reason I’m stuck in this bed.” She accused Kye directly, though there was no heat in her voice now. She begrudgingly picked up her hand and started to scratch at the top of Kye’s head until he started to grumble and purr contentedly. “You really are pathetic. The both of you put me in here and are the only ones who’ve given me the time of day since. Not that I expected any visitors, but…”
Karen didn’t have to finish her sentence. She was singing to the proverbial choir and knew it. “You’ve got your reasons for being down here.” Rai said to break the silence between them, “So do I. There’s times that makes us opponents, but it doesn’t have to make us enemies.”
The look that passed across Karen’s face was one Rai couldn’t quite decipher before she quickly schooled it away into a far harder mask. She gave Kye one final pat on the head, before resettling herself in bed, but not before the fire-type managed to lick the tips of her retreating fingers.
“Go on and get outta here, Johto.” Karen waved him off, landing a firm slap to his chest, “I warned you I was already nauseous. Besides, s’no secret around here Dicky’s got some errand for you to run.” “Worry about your own sorry ass.”
Rai threw a hand up, rolling his eyes to hide a grin, “Or else I’m liable to kick it again when I get back.”
“Fucking foriegners…” Rai heard Karen grumble purposefully loud enough for him to hear even as he started to leave the infirmary, and his previous unease, behind him. He fished Dicky’s note back out of his pocket and frowned at the hurried handwriting that spelled out three solitary words: Chase Mauville Island.
Rai crumpled the scrap of paper in his hands, rolling it between his palms as he walked. He had next to no idea what it meant, and he only knew of Mauville thanks to one of the tourism brochures he’d read on the boat ride here. “Good a place as any to start.”
Rai resigned himself to the trip as he finally found the exit back into the city. He flicked the wadded up ball at Kye, who promptly spat a flash of flame at it, and watched as it turned to fine flecks of black ash at their feet. “Mauville City it is.”