Diamond 43: Give me Priorities
Diamond 43: Give me Priorities
Ash couldn't see Misty in the wild crowd of fleeing people, but surely she would be upset. He looked towards the balcony to find his mother glaring with disapproval. Ash also saw that the gym leader was smirking, as if he was amused by the chaos. Well, at least someone was happily enjoying the show.
The sprinklers did their job and finally put out the flames. After the threat had passed, people began to settle back into their seats, many sporting new bruises. A considerable number of people had left, so at least the audience wasn't suffocating any more. Ash finally spotted Misty, she was scowling.
Taking a deep breath, Ash decided to try to be optimistic, "maybe if we put on a good show they'll forgive us. At least the gym leader looks happy; he understands what battling is like." Ash smiled up at Giovanni and gave a thumbs up. The gym leader seemed to be the only one who wasn't upset by the destruction.
Giovanni found the gesture to be puzzling. Yet he knew that the possible destruction of the stadium was not what Delia came to tell him about Ash.
"Do you really think they'll let us continue?" Ritchie's question took Ash's attention from Giovanni back to the battle field.
For a split second, Ash had been close to recognizing Giovanni when his expression had changed. He was certain he had seen that confident smirk somewhere before and he had seen it recently. Ash once again let it go for the time being. He examined the damage around them, trying to come up with some kind of justification for it, "it is a battle so-"
"I'm disqualifying him," Jango trembled as he pointed at Ash's Charizard, interrupting the trainer's excuse.
"Why?" Ash argued, refusing to accept the referee's choice.
"Too destructive!" Jango flailed his arms around as he backed away. The day had been too much for him and he was losing his head.
"No one got hurt... seriously." Ash tried to make the situation sound as positive as possible, though it was difficult. Charizard nodded his head eagerly at Ash's argument; he didn't want to be disqualified.
"Too dangerous!" Jango pointed at Charizard, still shaking in fear.
Comet stepped out to the arena, "you may leave," he told Jango, who wasted no time in dashing away. "I will referee the final battle of this match, but I'm afraid Charizard will still be disqualified." Comet calmly pointed towards where Charizard stood, specifically at his tail.
Charizard looked at his own tail, Ash and Ritchie examined its position as well. "Oh, your tail is outside the lines," Ash admitted, "well, I guess those are the rules, you can't step out of the battling area." Charizard's jaw dropped as he pointed an accusing clawed finger at Ash. He growled and roared as if blaming his trainer for not properly warning him about that. "I'm sorry!" Ash hastily apologized to Charizard, "it's okay, you were a great help! Let Pikachu do the rest, alright?" After exchanging a few words in their own language, Charizard returned to his pokeball and Pikachu went out to the battle field.
"The battle of Ash versus Ritchie will continue," Comet announced, "for his final pokemon, Ash has chosen Pikachu, who will battle against," he paused dramatically, allowing Ritchie to finish.
"Sparky!" Ritchie's own Pikachu was sent to the battle field. It was the battle that would decide the tournament.
Giovanni continued observing everything; he thought it was odd that Ash apologized to his pokemon. He couldn't picture anyone doing so, except maybe Delia, but she was a special case. She cared about pokemon very much, that was how they met, that was how many things happened.
The two Pikachu stared at each other from across the arena, with sparks already flying from their hot red cheeks. Soon the stadium was filled with electricity and the fact that the sprinklers had only recently been turned off didn't make it any safer. The many fissures, indentations and holes in the stadium were filled with water and puddles were scattered all around. The members of the audience who were brave enough to stay and watch the battle to the end were soaked.
The Indigo Plateau was extremely big, allowing for plenty of empty space between the audience and the battle field. Not stepping out of the battle field was a standard rule. The Viridian Stadium was much smaller. The structure was not safe for true pokemon battles. It lacked the enforced architecture, seismic proof strength and high tech energy absorption machinery that the Viridian Gym possessed.
The Viridian Gym would have proven to be a much safer place to have an all out pokemon battle, but it was not a place where a large crowd could witness it. It only made matters worse that the stadium's structure was indeed poorly built with cheap low quality materials. The foundations of the building were fragile and if there was another earthquake, it might cause the building to crumble.
The two electric pokemon continued their battle. Their electric attacks sometimes reached the audience, despite it having become small enough to be able to back away to the final rows. "Thunder!" "Thunderbolt!" "Thundershock!" The attack names were called out constantly, and there wasn't a single moment in which the stadium wasn't lit up by the abundant electricity.
Mayor Antilles watched the match in a trance, "I just got an idea," he muttered, short of breath, "a grand idea!" He pushed himself to raise the volume of his voice enough to be heard. "We could use pokemon to provide the city with electrical power, it would be much cheaper!"
"We're already doing that," Giovanni reminded, without looking away from the fight. He didn't even blink at the bright lights.
"Really?" Rune gasped, "but then, why is it that we need to buy so much fuel and supplies. What about the workers of the power plant?" Mayor Antilles insisted in confusion.
"Rune," Giovanni once again scolded him sternly, "shut up."
"Yes, sir," the mayor realized he was treading into a topic he shouldn't be talking about. Maybe Giovanni had his own uses for the power plant. If that was the case, Rune thought it was in his best interest to remain as ignorant as possible about it.
"I hope those pokemon are being treated well," Delia intervened with a serious expression.
"They're fine," Giovanni assured with indifference, "you can see them if you want. The real facilities that supply power to the whole city are open to public tours. None of the pokemon used there are hidden. People think that the pokemon power plant only produces enough electricity for part of the city. They think it wouldn't be cost effective to try to get enough pokemon, food and health care for them, to power the entire city."
"I see, so that's why they think the conventional power plant is still needed. It would look suspicious if the truth got out." Delia remembered Ash telling her a story about the Pikachu powered electric generator that they used in the Viridian City Pokemon Center if the main power supply failed. "It sounds like your organization has come across quite a few technological advancements. But you're only sharing them when and as much as it is convenient."
"It wouldn't be the first time," Giovanni looked away from the battle field. He finally felt the need to rest his eyes after staring at the bright electric attacks for too long.
"I know," Delia sounded displeased. Team Rocket's way to deliver the antidote for the pokemon epidemic many years ago was more effective than waiting for it to be officially approved and mass produced. Nevertheless, Giovanni still used it to his convenience and could have done a lot more good if he tried. Regardless, Team Rocket's influence had been highly beneficial to the population of pokemon so what happened wasn't all bad. It brought the end of the epidemic after all.
With those internal arguments and memories, Delia found herself realizing the cause for all the circles she had gone in for such a long time in the past. The world was not black and white and sometimes from a certain perspective, the shades of gray were light enough to be worth the trouble. When it came to Giovanni, she always tried to look on the bright side. She realized that the gray was closer to black than to white when the situation became really dark.
"Excuse me," Mayor Antilles shyly voiced, "should you really be, I mean, not to meddle," he mumbled unsure, "is she, are you?" He couldn't find a way to construct a coherent sentence.
"She won't tell anyone, and you better keep quiet as well," Giovanni warned. A spark of lightning collided with the edge of the balcony, breaking off a small piece. They were high enough not to be heard in their little royal tower, but they were not completely out of range from the attacks.
Delia sighed hopelessly, "maybe that's my biggest flaw, I could never say anything against you," she admitted bitterly. "Regardless of what you do, my first instinct is to justify you and I could never stay mad at you for long."
"You seemed perfectly capable of that before," Giovanni accused, ignoring the fact that mayor Antilles was listening, he didn't matter anyway.
"If I ever stayed angry at you for more than a few hours, it was because you kept giving me a new reason to be angry," Delia retorted. She realized that her argument fell short if she considered the fact that she had been away for many years. "Just so you know," she confessed sadly, "I would have come back if you asked me. It's not like you didn't know where to find me." It was something that filled her with both hopes and worries for years when Ash was little. "I just couldn't come back, because, because of a good reason."
Delia wanted to raise Ash peacefully, yet she knew her resolve would crumble if Giovanni had ever showed up at her door. Then she would have told herself that the situation wasn't so bad. She would think that regardless of what Team Rocket did, by some miracle Ash would turn out alright. During those first few years in Pallet Town, Delia both hoped that Giovanni would come and feared that seeing him would throw her into that kind of reasoning. It would ruin the chance of the peaceful childhood she wanted for Ash.
Tired of the guessing games of the past, Giovanni kept a neutral face and spoke with complete indifference. He knew it would bother Delia much more than any angry remark could. "It doesn't matter, it happened many years ago. I knew where you went and I didn't go find you. I had more important things to do and you were holding me back. Besides, if you had bothered to come back, I would have sent you away."
Delia didn't breathe a word; instead she got up and left. She guessed that whatever amount of surprise, puzzlement and curiosity that kept Giovanni from sending her away sooner, had worn off. He didn't want her there anymore. She had promised Ash some answers, she had promised to reveal the identity of his father and she knew Ash could handle the truth. There was no reason for Giovanni to know.
Mayor Antilles watched as Delia went away and looked at Giovanni in shock. The mayor's mouth was slightly opening and closing like a Magikarp. "You, she..." he tried to voice something but realized he had temporarily forgotten the majority of his vocabulary.
"Rune," Giovanni warned menacingly, he was indeed surprised by Delia's visit and tried to be patient with her. In the end, his patience could only stretch so far. "Shut up," he ordered, not in the mood to deal with idiots.
"No, sir," Rune surprisingly refused, "I can't help it but to feel that I've been caught in the middle of some kind of lover's spat. It's like the soap opera dramas on TV and it is my duty to tell you to go after her." The mayor paused, taking a deep breath, then dramatically insisted, "go after her!"
"Is that all you wanted to say?" Giovanni inquired, with an intimidating expression. Rune to paled and nod hurriedly. "Then shut up."
"Yes, sir," the mayor sighed in both sadness for what he had witnessed and relief that he didn't have any broken bones as a result of his reaction. It was a pity that Giovanni had refused to dramatically run after his lady. Mayor Antilles would need something to occupy the headlines and take attention away from the broken state in which the Viridian Stadium was left in. What could be better than a touching reunion with a lost love?
Rune knew Giovanni had more fame than him. People would rather read about the gym leader's secretive personal life, than fuss about the poorly built stadium. Besides, if Giovanni came out looking all nice and romantic, he would be even better received by the city. His support for mayor Antilles' political campaign would be that much more valuable.
xoxox xox xoxox
The Viridian Stadium shook with the force of the two colliding electric pokemon. It was already weak to begin with and terribly damaged. The electricity crashed into one of the balcony's columns causing it to shake unsteadily and begin to fall apart.
The balcony tilted when the column fell, but it didn't crumble. It was barely supported by the column on the opposite side. It looked artistic to have two columns diagonally opposite to each other in the propounding structure of the balcony. The stadium was undoubtedly built more for show than anything else. It was not safe to stay in the weakened balcony. Giovanni and Persian quickly left, "are you coming?" Giovanni looked back at the mayor who sat nervously.
Mayor Antilles was breathing heavily; he had gone from ghostly pale to bright red, as if all his blood suddenly accumulated in his head. He got up from his chair, stumbled and fell flat on his face, than pushed himself up and rubbed his nose. "Ow," the blood that had accumulated in his head began to be drained again until he was once more ghostly pale. Seeing as Giovanni had no intentions of giving him a hand or waiting for him, the mayor struggled to his feet by himself and followed the gym leader to safety.
xoxox xox xoxox
"Boss!" Wendy called in alarm as she spotted Giovanni in the waiting room with Persian and the mayor. They were watching the battle from there, since the balcony was no longer safe. "All this electricity and commotion has the police's attention. Sio and the others are holding them off, making up excuses to reassure the officers that everything is okay. The police was saying the tournament should be suspended immediately before the stadium collapses."
"Preposterous!" Mayor Antilles exclaimed, "imagine the headlines when it becomes known that the tournament had to be canceled because my stadium didn't hold up. We must let the tournament conclude! I just wish they were gentler; it's also going to be bad if this place does come down. In that case it might really be best to call it off," the mayor thought about it. "How about we make them forfeit, or maybe..." he couldn't think of any good plans, it felt like he was trapped in a lose-lose situation.
"Shut up, Rune," Giovanni reprimanded the worrying mayor for what felt like the millionth time that day. "This is the last tournament battle. After they finish, I can battle the winner at the gym. Wendy, keep the police out until this battle is over, I don't want any interruptions."
"Yes sir!" Wendy ran back outside to join the other undercover Rockets protecting the stadium from the police's interference.
In the battle field, Pikachu and Sparky had discharged a massive amount of electricity. Even if Ash and Ritchie were once again in their battle trance, when one of the columns of the balcony tower fell, the noise was loud enough to make them look. Ash didn't see his mother, but he saw the gym leader leaving. He didn't see the mayor on the floor from his angle. Assuming that his mother left along with the others, Ash was relieved and focused on the battle once more. Thus when the balcony finally crumbled, Ash and Ritchie knew it was empty.
The collapse of the balcony tower caused rubble to rain upon the battle area and part of the audience area. People scrambled not to be hit by the rocks. Some were reached by the debris, but those were only small pieces that didn't cause any serious injuries. Those in the battle arena were in the most danger: Ash, Ritchie and Comet, who remained watching from the sidelines. Fortunately, they managed to dodge the falling stones only being scratched by a few small ones. The two Pikachu also avoided damage and were quick to be ready to continue the encounter.
When the dust finally settled down, both Ash and Ritchie called out in unison, "volt tackle!" The two Pikachu dashed towards each other and collided in the center of the battle arena in a huge explosion of electricity. The force made the weak structure of the stadium give in further and begin to collapse in several areas. When the light faded away and the new cloud of dust settled, it was revealed that Sparky had fainted. Ash's Pikachu still stood.
"Sparky is unable to battle!" Comet announced, shouting over the panicked screams of the alarmed spectators. "Ash's Pikachu is the winner. The tournament has ended, Ash is the ultimate champion!"
Ash jumped with joy and ran to the battle field to hug Pikachu and congratulate him. Ritchie approached and shook hands with Ash. The two young trainers once again got lost in their own little world, complimenting each other and their pokemon. This went on until mayor Antilles approached Ash with a trophy. "This is for you. However, given the damage caused to the stadium, I won't be able to pay you the price money." Besides, Ash wasn't from Viridian City; there was no vote to buy. Now it was up to Giovanni to defeat him and avenge the city's honor at the Viridian Gym. Then hopefully the ruined stadium wouldn't be reduced to a pile of dust.
"That's not fair!" Ash pouted, he wanted to buy Misty a nice ring and he wouldn't be able to afford it without the price money.
"We did make a mess," Ritchie pointed out, though in his frustration, Ash didn't hear him. Ritchie continued, placing his hand on Ash's shoulder to get the other young man's attention, "at least we had a fun battle, isn't that worth more?"
"Of course!" Ash assured, "I had a lot of fun. I'm really glad we got to battle, it was a true challenge. It's just that I was planning to..." he trailed off into silence, then scanned the surrounding area hoping to see Misty and his mother.
Delia had not left the stadium facilities after she stormed away from Giovanni, angry and hurt. There was quite the commotion going on outside with the police surrounding the stadium, claiming that it wasn't safe for anyone to remain inside. An array of people in matching green suits were trying to talk Jenny and the other officers into believing that everything was fine. Knowing of the danger of the stadium collapsing, instead of leaving, Delia felt the need to stay and wait for Ash and Misty. She rushed to the arena when she heard the balcony tower fall apart and got lost in the group of panicked people in the audience. After a lot of pushing and shoving, she was finally able to make her way towards Misty. The redhead was determined to stay and watch Ash's battle to the end.
Delia stayed with Misty until the battle ended and watched as mayor Antilles and Giovanni emerged from the waiting room lobby. The two women made their way out of the audience area and into the arena, lost among the people who rushed to congratulate the winner. Ash spotted them in the crowd and was relieved. His frustration with not receiving his due price still remained and both Misty and his mother had heard his complaints.
Misty frowned in disapproval, making sure that Ash saw her displeased expression before she turned away to leave. Delia looked right at Ash among the crowd, she was still unseen by Giovanni. She gave him a look of urgency and disappeared among the other people in the same way Misty had. She was encouraging him to go after her. Ritchie witnessed this as well and whispered, "go."
Ash nodded, which mayor Antilles interpreted as an acceptance of his excuses as to why he couldn't be given the price money. The truth was that Ash had not heard a single word the mayor spoke. He did hear the gym leader giving him a formal congratulation and inviting him to the gym for the promised bonus battle. Giovanni even offered to give Ash double the price money if he won.
Ash got a closer look at Giovanni and was more certain than ever that he had seen him before. Nonetheless, there was a more urgent matter to tend to at the time. With so much in his mind, Ash couldn't think of anything other than going after Misty. As tempting as it was to accept the gym leader's offer of a double price, what good would a diamond ring do if Misty was too upset to say I do? "Sorry, but I have to go."
"What about the battle?" Giovanni insisted, "you can switch pokemon if you want," he was feeling impatient and in a bad mood, despite hiding it well. He needed to let out his troubles in a true challenge. He pressured Ash, while still keeping a nice tone, "if you leave, you would be forfeiting." Giovanni was sure that would convince Ash to agree.
Ash took a deep breath and realized he needed to get his priorities straight. There would be other tournaments and other prices, but Misty was clearly upset and needed him right away. "I forfeit," Ash's voice was hardly above a whisper. He never would have thought he would give up in a pokemon battle without even trying. "I'm sorry; I really want to battle you. I was looking forward to it when I heard you would battle the winner of the tournament, but I can't. There's something more important I need to do, maybe we can battle some other time." Ash disappeared among the crowd, leaving a stunned Giovanni behind.
"Hmm..." Mayor Antilles mused, "this could work," with the tournament winner forfeiting the match against the gym leader it would be easy to say that the young man from Pallet Town knew there was no way he could win. The gym leader would then be considered to have been recognized as better than the champion, by the champion himself, and thus he would become the hero that avenged Viridian City's honor.
The mayor nodded to himself, if the press painted the picture correctly, and they knew better than to mess up, everything would work out. Giovanni's unconditional support in the mayor's campaign would still be enough to make him win the elections. If he ever lost, he was sure Giovanni could arrange that to change. However, Rune still had a little bit of pride left and wanted to win with real votes.
The publicity tournament wouldn't be a total loss after all, though the damage to the stadium was still a catastrophe. Rune would think of a way to cover that up. Maybe he could say that the stadium was built so that certain parts would collapse on purpose. He would claim it was part of the show and that the real goal was to model the place as closely as possible to an ancient roman stadium. It did have a special likeliness to real ruins being collapsed on one side and damaged all over.
To be Continued
Disclaimer, I don't own Pokemon. The next chapter will have a lot of surprises! The tournament is finally over and the real essence of this saga's plot is on its way.