1. We have moved to a new forum system. All your posts and data should have transferred over. Welcome, to the new Serebii Forums. Details here
    Dismiss Notice
  2. Be sure to join the discussion on our discord at: Discord.gg/serebii
    Dismiss Notice
  3. If you're still waiting for the e-mail, be sure to check your junk/spam e-mail folders
    Dismiss Notice

The Master's Trick

Discussion in 'Completed Fics' started by Mrs. Lovett, Mar 5, 2015.

  1. Mrs. Lovett

    Mrs. Lovett Rolling writer

    It feels good to have something to post again. xP

    This is the story I submitted for the Alpha and Omega one-shot contest. I incorporated the judges' advice, made some tweaks, and finally ended up with a version I consider ready for posting. The rating is PG, and the revised text still amounts to less then 10,000 words. I like how the story turned out, and I hope you will too!



    The Master’s Trick

    To whom it may concern,

    My name is Eddie. If you're reading this, you're probably an average person in the city, maybe even a pokémon trainer like me. I don't know if you've seen anything on the news yet, but if not, then you must be wondering what this letter is doing here and how it got to be wherever you found it. All of the following information has been passed on to the Slateport police, but before I leave the city I want to leave behind a more detailed account of what happened. My hope is that, despite what the authorities will announce, and despite the panic that will probably stir up over the next few weeks, there will be people who understand how all of this began and maybe figure out the purpose behind the things that are about to happen to us. Perhaps that person will be you. You might think this is crazy, and I wouldn't blame you if you do, but that's only because you haven't been a witness to what I'm about to tell you. And by the time that you are, with all due respect, it will probably be too late.
    In any case, this is what you should know.

    …​

    Seven years ago, a girl named May moved in to Littleroot Town. She was the daughter of Norman, leader of the Petalburg City Gym, and left her old home with her mother to be closer to him. May was eleven, but as far as I know, she had no pokémon or prior experience with training them. I don't think she ever intended to challenge the League in the first place, but I guess when you move into a town where a famous pokémon professor lives and gives out starters, it starts to sway your judgment. Less than a week later, she left on a journey to start collecting badges.

    At the time, I was eight. That's not an uncommon age to start the League (heck, there are tag-team toddlers out there who can kick butt), but it's still young enough to have to make weekly calls home to my parents and to want to jump at any opportunity for adventure. I already knew that Hoenn had a lot of legends: there were Groudon and Kyogre, the puzzle of the Regis, and the ghosts of Mt. Pyre, to name a few. But on my journey, I ended up finding one that in my opinion trumps them all. It's in a house on Route 110.

    Every beginning trainer knows what it's like to see Slateport for the first time. Its streets are enormous and crowded and it has eye-appealing stores on every block, which can keep anyone wandering for hours. Then you reach the northern exit, and see that fabled fork in the road where the dirt path branches off to the left and the gleaming bike trail called Cycling Road slopes up to right. Some trainers rent bikes to make the journey faster, but in my case, I thought I would get a more fulfilling experience by walking. I also heard that some people who lived in the routes often opened their doors for traveling trainers. So if I ever got tired, I could take a rest!

    But the walk turned out to be really long, and after the first half hour trudging through humid, sun-soaked nature, my backpack was starting to bog me down. I began to think of turning back, but then, out of the blue, I saw it. The house was standing at the junction of Route 110 and 103, right by the road where everyone could see it. I hurried over for a closer look, as if something about its appearance could tell me if the people inside would let me in. The house was tidy but small, and looked like it could have had two rooms, at most. I started to round the corner to glimpse its entire depth, and as I passed the door, my eyes landed on a sign beneath the window. It read: "Three steps → and two steps ↑ to reach the amazing Trick House."

    I think I spent a good minute staring at that sign, trying to make sense of it. Obviously, people's step sizes vary, and they don't have identically good vision. What if I read the sign when I was standing five steps away? Or what if I had approached it from the side instead of the front? Then the entire protocol would be shattered.

    Out of a sheer sense of certainty and a desire to prove myself right (though to whom, I didn't know), I took a step back and started to walk towards the door. But right as I did, the text vanished and the sign turned into a plain slab of wood. When I stepped back to my former spot, the words reappeared. It was like one of those cards whose picture changes when you tilt them. I thought that was pretty cool, and definitely too good to be an empty decoration, so I was more than intrigued enough to walk in.

    Inside, I found a spacious front room with wooden walls and a bamboo floor. There were a few bookshelves, some potted plants, and a big tea table in the center. But apart from that, it was empty.

    I wavered for a moment, then let the door close behind me, hoping that someone would hear the sound and come out. But nobody did.

    In fact, the only other doorway, which stood on the opposite wall, was blocked off by a blank scroll. I approached to give it a tentative poke and felt the paper sink through empty space. Taking a final look around me, I pushed the scroll aside, revealing a short, dark hallway. Beyond it, though I couldn't be sure, I thought I could see water gleaming on the floor.

    I began to walk towards it, waiting for some logical image to replace the illusion, but when I reached the end of the hallway, what I saw instead made me gasp.

    I was looking out at a vast tropical ocean, dotted with islands of yellow sand and slender green grass that grew out from the water. The floor beneath me kept going for a few feet, then sloped down into the water and disappeared. In its place, trails of small, flat rocks poked out from the water to provide a path between the islands. The only thing that gave away the fact that this was a room was a low wall that broke it off a few yards in front of me, leaving a narrow gap that led farther in. But even this was blended into the scenery, painted to look like the horizon. Above the wall, the blue ceiling was painted with billowing clouds and a large lamp in the center represented the sun. The entire setup was fake, but it was fake in a charming way, like an exquisitely-decorated theater stage. And it was all the more astonishing when I considered how small the house had looked from outside. Judging by the ceiling, the room I stood in right now was as big as an ice rink.

    I stepped to the edge of the water and put my foot on one of the rocks. Right then, I heard a heavy metal slam from behind and turned to see that an iron door had slid over the entrance. My heart jumped up to my throat and I began pressing the stone frantically with my foot, trying to make the door retract. But it didn't budge.

    In the end, I did the only thing left to do. I hopped onto the rock and moved forward. Soon, I was a good ways into the sea-maze, only by then I knew it wasn't a maze at all — it was just a series of rooms with one entrance and one exit. The scenery varied as I kept going and the subsections grew steadily wider and larger. Pretty soon, I could turn around in place and see nothing but water, sand, and walls.

    Reason told me it was just a house, that it was physically impossible to fit more than a couple rooms inside the tiny shack I originally saw by the road. But the farther I went, the more that reasoning crumbled. I realized that I was lost — and lost in the most bizarre, silly of places. I could almost see the headlines: "STARVED TRAINER FOUND IN MYSTERIOUS FUNHOUSE." "ROUTE 110 CLOSED AS INVESTIGATION CONTINUES."

    I began to think of every possible reason why someone would do this. Practical joke? Attention? Setup for a film? All the while, I kept walking along the path of stones, jumping onto the little sand islands whose warmth I felt even through my shoes. The only upside to the situation was that the room was reasonably cool, since whoever installed the sun-lamp had enough sense not to make it give off heat. But no matter how hard I looked, I couldn't find an exit.

    Eventually, I reached a large island with a palm tree rooted into the sand. As I stepped onto it, I noticed a glass bottle buried in the mounds. There was a rolled-up paper inside, so I popped the cork and took it out. It read: Trick Master is cool.

    I started at the words for a few moments, but no amount of tilting or rubbing got the message to change. With a sigh, I stuffed the paper into my pocket and kept going.

    The other islands were similarly stocked. Some of them had tiny wooden chests peeking out from the sand, which contained money and decorative envelopes. Others had items for battling and training, even the notoriously expensive ones, like Rare Candies. I scooped a few things into my bag and moved on, no longer caring if I was in some sort of fourth dimension, only wanting to find a door. Any door.

    At last, I saw something promising — a doorway covered by the same white scroll I had seen in the front room. I crossed the final stretch of rocks and sand, and hopped onto the slice of land that stood before it. I swept my palm across the paper's surface, but found that it was backed by a smooth, sturdy wall.

    Still unfazed, I continued to test it in every way I could. I knocked, I rubbed, and I spoke. I tried repeating the words I had found on the scroll, then midway, an idea flashed in my mind. I leaned to the side to glimpse the edge of the doorframe, and sure enough, I spotted a thin silver chain hanging from the top. A pen dangled from the end.

    I grabbed the pen and scrawled the phrase onto the paper. Trick Master is cool.

    Moments later, I heard a bang, and the scroll fanned inwards as the wall behind it fell away. I stepped into a long hallway with the same floor and walls as the front room and followed it to a single door at the end. I pushed through it, and was ready to smile when I recognized the front room, but then I saw that there was no front door. Only walls.

    I grabbed the sides of my head and let out a groan. I stepped forward, and as I did, a voice boomed out from the ceiling, as loud and clear as if it had come from my conscience.

    "You are being watched."

    I gave a jump, hands flying down to my sides. "What? Who are you? Hello?"

    Right then, I saw something gleam from one of the cabinets. It was like sunlight reflecting off of a mirrored surface, and it had appeared on the lower doors. I crept over to the spot and started to pull the handles, when suddenly, I felt another force push them out from the inside.

    I jumped back, just in time as the doors burst open and a man came tumbling out. He rolled forward like a ball and sprang to his feet, spinning around to face me with his arms outstretched. He looked to be in his mid-thirties, with average clothes, average hair, and an average face. I had never seen a stranger sight.

    "Behold, young trainer! I am the greatest living mystery of a man in all of Hoenn! I am... the Trick Master! Glad to meet you!"

    He waltzed forward, extending a hand. I was too dumbstruck to refuse. Moments later, one of the potted plants behind him rustled and a Zigzagoon emerged from the leaves.

    "That's Ziggy," said the man. "He's my trusted companion. He's got a secret power, just like me!"

    The pokémon walked up to us and sat back on its haunches, fixing its big black eyes on me.

    I must have still looked dazed, for a moment later, the man smiled. "Didn't scare you too bad, did I? Sorry, kid! It's only a part of my act. I gotta make it interesting, otherwise people either leave or take too long to go looking for me. That's what you're supposed to do, by the way, go looking for me, and the idea is that when you find my hiding spot, I jump out and reward you for completing my challenge!"

    I blinked. "Wait… you built that maze by yourself?"

    "Yes lad, every bit of it!" the man said. "I hauled in sand from the Slateport shore and grass from the Dewford coastline. The water I got from a little reservoir up north from here. I had to spend some time painting the wall murals and making sure the visual effects were right, but in the end I got it. I always do!"

    I stared at him in amazement. "But how?"

    "The Trick Master never reveals his secrets!" he said. "My ways are as mysterious as the night, as stealthy as a Sandslash hiding in the desert! No one who challenges my Trick House leaves without being baffled! Surely you'd know!"

    "Know what?"

    The man frowned. "The Trick House Challenge! Haven't you heard?"

    I shook my head. The man rubbed his chin. "Hmm! That's strange. I thought that all of Slateport and Mauville would be talking about me by now. Are you sure you didn't hear anything on your way over here?"

    I nodded, and the man's face adopted a look of genuine puzzlement. "Well! That's certainly peculiar… I guess word of mouth takes a while to spread." He turned aside and began to look over the room in thought.

    "Well… why don't you try advertising?" I offered.

    The man looked at me with a humored frown. "Advertising is for businesses, lad, not legends! Do you think the Elite Four Champion has to tell people to come to his island and battle him? No! The people are lured in by the mystery, the spectacle! Take yourself for example — you walked in, didn't you? By accident, perhaps, but you were obviously interested enough in the maze to finish it!"

    "I didn't have a choice," I said flatly. "The door slammed behind me and the only way out was on the other side of the room."

    The Trick Master grumbled. "You're a tough one. Fine, I'll admit, perhaps my introduction can be a little bit off-putting. But what else can I do? I get at most ten visitors in a month, and nearly half of them leave when they see the front room is empty!"

    "Then maybe you should change your layout a little," I said. "Like, hide in the front room instead of the back so you can tell people who you are."

    The man considered this for a moment, then nodded. "Yes… that's good, lad, that's good! I sense a schemer slumbering within you. Perhaps I'm rubbing off on you already!" His smile rekindled and he scampered over to the bookshelves, where he began to rummage around the items on display. "Anyways, your challenge took thirty-three minutes, twenty seconds. Not the fastest I've had, but since you're the first to complete it today, I'll give you something special. For your help, too!" The man came back and placed a large, heavy pearl into my hands.

    My eyes bulged. "Where did you get this?"

    "At the bottom of the sea on Route 127! They're made by wild Clamperl, and I tell you, they don't give them up easy. It makes a nice decoration for your shelf, but if you're more of a pragmatist, you can always take it to a PokéMart and they'll give you money in exchange for it. I hear they're valuable for making trainer gear."

    I looked at him in astonishment.

    When I got to the Slateport PokéMart, the salesman nearly keeled over the counter.

    "I haven't seen pearls that big in a museum, kid!" The man blinked his eyes, which were as wide as saucers, and lifted the orb to examine it.

    I began to fiddle with one of the straps on my backpack. "How much, do you think?"

    "I'd say ten thousand P, if I even got that much." He opened the cash register and started leafing through the bills. My heart began to pound. Ten thousand P. That would buy me enough healing items to beat the Mauville Gym two times over.

    Nearby, some other trainers had paused in their shopping and begun to stare. I tried to keep my back straight and my gaze forward, like just another kid with a pearl the size of a pokéball. Finally, the salesman finished counting the money and placed three stacks of bills onto the counter.

    "There you go, kid. That's almost the whole register, right there." He wiped his brow. "Uh, d'you want to buy anything?"

    I looked askance, saw at least five other pairs of eyes on me, and turned back. "No, I think I'll come back later, sir. Thanks." I shoved the money into my backpack and took off.

    I asked other trainers on my way to Mauville what they knew about the Trick House, but none of them had any idea what I was talking about. I didn't find the Trick Master in any local directories, or in the listings of League-related businesses. A few people remembered seeing the house on Route 110, but none of them had gone inside. Fazed by the lack of success, I finally decided to drop the matter and move on. I went back to training, and four days later, I bought as many healing items as my new surplus would allow: ten Potions, four Revives, and five Parlyz Heals. I challenged the Gym and won, partially through my pokémon's skills, but mostly due to the bottles and sprays that I kept pulling out of my pockets, much to the other trainers', and even Wattson's, surprise. Gym leaders and their volunteers were known for using the occasional Potion in dire situations, but that day I outdid them all. As I was putting on my backpack on my way out, I heard a pair of kids whisper:

    "Wonder what else he's got in there. A hold item that earns you more money?"

    I left the Gym red in the face. Completely forgetting Lavaridge, I let my swirling anger power me straight back to Route 110. Part of me expected the Trick House to be gone, like a novice trainer's mirage, but as I neared the Slateport exit, my eyes locked on the building. I barged through the door.

    "Trick Master!"

    The door swung closed behind me. As soon as I took my first step in, a voice boomed from the ceiling: "You are being watched."

    I clenched my fist. "Yeah, well good! I need to talk to you!" I walked around the room, pushing aside plants and looking behind bookshelves. Right then, I caught sight of the same glassy gleam from beneath the tea table and lifted the tablecloth to find the Trick Master curled up inside.

    "Hey! You found me!"

    I stepped back to let him tumble out. When the man stood in full height before me, I took out my badge case and flashed my new Dynamo Badge. "Look what I just got!"

    The Master beamed. "That's great, lad!"

    "Yeah, only it doesn't feel so great!" I said. "Thanks to that stupid pearl you gave me, everyone in the Gym stared at me! Do you know how fast word spreads about people in the League? What if those kids start telling rumors to their friends? Do you think it would be good for me to walk into my next Gym and have half the people there think I'm an item hog? Do you just give trainers random expensive things so they'll be tricked into taking shortcuts? Is that why they call you the Trick Master?"

    The Trick Master clutched his belly and laughed. "Not at all, boy, not at all!"

    I slumped down into one of the chairs and put the badge case in front of me. "I'm just a cheat," I mumbled. "What's the point of calling yourself a trainer if you always use Potions and Revives to keep your pokemon on their feet? It's like it's not even us battling. It's just me spending money to get a badge."

    The Trick Master sat down across from me. “Don’t be so hard on yourself. You young trainers just need some time to grow into your running shoes. Each time your pokémon defeats an opponent, it’ll get stronger, and over time you’ll reach for your backpack less and less.” He leaned forward and dropped his voice. “In fact, I’ll give you a trickster’s advice. You can never beat a challenge with power alone. No matter how strong your team gets, their strength will never be a substitute for strategy. And all of those little items and objects scattered around you are just your resources to success! Imagine you were trying to find your way out of my Deception Labyrinth, where each time you step through a doorway the room changes to something different. And imagine you had to do that while fending off attacks from my volunteer trainers! No matter how tough your team is, they’ll get tired of walking around eventually. That’s why you have to keep the right things about you, perhaps the move Flash if it gets too dark, or Antidotes in case your pokémon get poisoned. It's all about choosing the right objects for the right situations. And that’s the whole fun of the game!”

    The man clapped his hands, and a cabinet behind him flew open. A teapot came dancing out, drifting through the air and landing at the center of the table. Some plates and teacups followed suit, then an assortment of spoons, forks, and napkins.

    I watched it all, narrowing my eyes. “How are you doing that?”

    “That’s the one thing I can’t tell you!” He snapped his fingers, and a few bowls of chocolates and fruits emerged to take their places in the arrangement.

    “I don’t need tea, mister.”

    “Master.”

    I sighed. “Master.”

    “It’s okay, take it as a little pick-me-up,” he said. “Of course, I’d gladly challenge you to a maze puzzle instead, but I’m still working on my next room.”

    I blinked. “Wait.. you’re getting rid of the beach?”

    “You bet! That puzzle’s all gone and cleaned up. I keep all my courses open for two weeks and no more. Yesterday was its last day.”

    I stared at him, mouth agape. “But… but there could be people passing through here right now and they’ll never get to see it!”

    “And good for them! They’ll see something new and better!”

    “But you can’t keep coming up with new things forever,” I said. “Technically, someday you’re going to run out of ideas. Then you’ll have to start recycling them.”

    The Trick Master lifted a finger. “The Trick Master never runs out of tricks. And neither should you!" He slapped the table. "That's why you shouldn't have spent all that money on healing items!"

    "Then what should I have spent it on?"

    "A way to make more!"

    At this, something in my anger wavered, and a smile spread across my face. "That makes sense, I guess."

    We settled back, and after a few minutes sipping tea, I looked over to the scroll. "So when's the next puzzle gonna be up?"

    "Two days from today."

    I lifted my eyebrows, smiling as a curiosity grew within me. “What will it be?”

    The Master winked again. “That you’ll have to see for yourself.”

    My face fell. “I can’t. I have to get to Lavaridge. My parents want me home by August, so I have to get as many Gyms done as I can.”

    “Then come back in your free time.”

    "Yeah, but by then you'll probably have gone through ten courses, and I'll miss all of them." I look at him for a moment, then shook my head. "You know what, it's okay. I'll figure something out." I rose and pocketed my badge case.

    But before I could turn for the door, the Trick Master held up a hand. "Wait! I've just been visited by the most fantastic idea!" He rose from his chair. "Something tells me that you have a PokéNav! Vital to every trainer to keeps up with the times!"

    I nodded. “Yeah, of course I do.”

    “Does it have Match Call?”

    “Yeah.”

    “Add my number, then! I’ll call you whenever I put up something new, and you just come by when you can!”

    I smiled. “That’s a great idea!”

    The Trick Master took a tan, egg-shaped device from one of his shelves, and I brought out the same model from my backpack. We exchanged numbers, then he saw me off with a cheery wave.

    …​

    After that, the Trick Master and I became friends. He was the first person on my journey who really, genuinely astounded me. He could turn a forest into an ice rink with his bare hands and build structures that rivaled professional League architecture. A trainer in Mauville once told me how it had taken a whole month with the best installation teams for Wattson to get his electric switch puzzle set up. The Trick Master had built an electric room in two days. Later, I heard how Pike Queen Lucy had conferred with her assistants for weeks to build a battle challenge of twenty-one rooms and fit it into a building shaped like a Seviper. The Trick Master could fit it all in a tiny square house.

    Sure, he was a little full of himself, and the answers to his riddles often had to do with his ultimate greatness, but behind all that, he was really a generous guy. He never forgot about me, and in the weeks after I left, I could tell by his enthusiasm that the Trick House was catching on. Every time we talked, he’d always be in the middle of something new.

    “Eddie!” he’d say, “I need some help for the furnace challenge! Bring a Fire type!” The line would then be filled by the sound of a blasting blowtorch.

    Or, “Eddie, next week is the Braille Cave! Free mystery dessert sampling!” Metallic drilling and the sound of tumbling boulders.

    Or, “Lad, you won’t believe how stubborn these live Sharpedos are. Back. Back, I say!”

    Or, “Ssh, I’m hiding under the floorboards! I’ll call later!”

    Granted, I had no idea who he was. Or what he was. If the stories were true, he had gone to a nonexistent island to pick Liechi Berries and had survived a thirty-thousand meter plunge into the South Mossdeep Ocean to bring back Heart Scales. I spent hours running calculations and thinking of every possible way he could have the time and resources to put up fully-functional trick rooms and take them down in two weeks’ time. And how he managed to do everything without the people outside hearing a thing.

    Naturally, I wasn't the only one who wondered. The next time I visited the Trick House was after I had beaten Flannery, taking Route 110 on my way to the Petalburg Gym. That was the first time I saw the girl named May. She was in the front room when I came in, her hair wrapped in a green bandanna, with two big tresses sticking out at the sides. She wore a red shirt and white gloves. I thought the outfit looked pretty wacky, but I didn't know her, so I didn't comment.

    Aside from her, there were a bunch of other kids gathered in the room, waiting for the door behind the scroll to open. Due to the influx of challengers, the Master had reverted to his old arrangement and would be hiding in the back room at the end. While he prepared, the kids were lounging around the tea table and talking.

    May seemed to be the star of the show. She was commanding everyone’s attention with a strange red gizmo, which she said Professor Birch had given her to log data on every pokémon in Hoenn. Apart from that, she was also helping the Devon Corporation in Rustboro, challenging the Battle Tents, and had her eye on two thug groups who were after legendary pokémon. My first thought was that either she was way in over her head or was some sort of prodigy. But as time passed, I became sure it was the latter.

    “I actually passed by this place a while ago,” she was saying. “I was on my way to Mauville just like you guys, but I wanted to battle the Gym as soon as I could, so I didn’t make any stops. Then after I beat it, I went back to Slateport to get some stuff from the market, and I remembered about this place. I thought it was really cool how the Trick Master was hiding behind that plant and I didn’t even see.”

    “He jumped out from under the table for me,” said another kid.

    “He was hiding under the floorboards when I came in!”

    I joined in with my own story about the sea-maze, and we kept the conversation going for a while before the topics ran out. May leaned back in her chair, and after a moment of silence, she spoke up. “So who is this Trick Master guy, anyway? Does he work for a circus?”

    “He’s the greatest mystery man in all of Hoenn!” said a boy. “He challenges trainers and gives them prizes for solving his riddles.”

    “What kinds of prizes?”

    “He’s got super-rare items that help make your pokémon stronger, stuff that you can’t even buy in stores. I beat a challenge he put up last month and got this weird-looking pokéball that I never saw before. I went out catching with it, and it started ticking like a clock when it turned on. I’m a slow catcher, ‘cause I always try to weaken the pokémon first, and it takes me a while to take my aim. But the more time I took, the louder it kept ticking, and when I threw it at the pokémon, it just snapped shut like an iron lock.” The boy clenched his fist in the air for demonstration. “It didn’t even roll. It was the quickest catch I ever made.”

    May lifted her eyebrows. “That’s really interesting…”

    “It’s like he’s got superpowers or something,” another girl said. “I was there for his Braille Cave, and he had the whole floor made of dirt, with boulders standing right in the middle of the room. My Machop teamed up with another kid’s and we couldn’t even move them.”

    “Then how did he get them in?” asked May.

    The girl shrugged. “Like I know. And after I finished, I got this weird-looking fossil thing. I took it to a specialist in Rustboro, and he resurrected it into a pokémon I never even heard of.”

    May settled back in her chair, gaze falling to her lap. “I gotta try this Trick House thing…” She looked up. “So, all you have to do is beat the challenge he sets up?”

    The girl nodded. “Yep. Pretty much.”

    “And there’s no catch?”

    “Nope.”

    “Nothing happens if you lose?”

    “Nope!”

    May twirled a strand of her hair. “Huh. That’s really cool… This Master guy must either be rich, or one hell of an explorer to do all that for free. But how does he build all those courses?”

    I smiled. “No one knows. That’s why he’s a mystery man. No one knows what goes on behind that door except him.”

    May lifted her eyebrows at me. Then, her gaze drifted over to the scroll and her mouth spread into a smile. “Well, Trick Master,” she muttered, “you’re about to meet your greatest challenger.”

    We waited a few more minutes, then heard a loud bang as a metal door slid down from behind the scroll. I sprang from my seat and lifted the paper, revealing the hallway.

    “It’s open!” I said. “We can go in!”

    The kids started getting up and pulling out pokéballs. May rose and smoothed her shirt, then led the way through the tunnel. When we emerged into the challenge room, our entire group gasped.

    We were standing at the foot of a vast forest, with green grass and tall trees that reached up to sky level. The ceiling was probably lower than it looked, but right then, I couldn’t tell the difference.

    We ran off in different directions, filling the forest with the light and sound of activating pokéballs. The grass was rampant with wild Bug pokémon, as well as trainers who jumped out from behind trees and challenged us. I battled my way through the maze, and a few minutes later, my eyes locked on the white exit scroll positioned on a painted wall. May was running towards it, waving a piece of paper in the air.

    “I’ve got the code! Come on!”

    I rushed over with a few other kids as she wrote the secret code on the scroll: Trick Master is my life.

    The ink absorbed into the paper and vanished. Moments later, the wall behind the scroll fell away to reveal the hallway. We made our way to the exit door and found the Trick Master in the back room, seated at his table. When he saw us, he jumped.

    “Aak! You’ve made it to me already?” He lowered the teacup and approached us. “Who got the code?”

    May waved the paper in her hand. “I did.”

    The Trick Master rubbed his chin. “Hm! I’ve never had anyone finish a challenge that fast before. You’re sharp!” He went to the bookshelves and grabbed a short red scarf. “All right then. Here’s your reward.”

    He handed May the scarf, and we all came around to see it. I realized what it was in a heartbeat — it was a Focus Band. In battle, it prevented the holder from succumbing to one-hit-KO moves, no matter how powerful the opponent.

    May’s eyes widened. “Whoa… thank you!” She put the scarf into her messenger bag and looked up at the Master. “So, how often do you put up new challenges?”

    “Every two weeks.”

    “Has anyone ever beat them all?”

    The Trick Master smiled. “Nope! No one’s that good. No one knows all my tricks — not even Eddie, and he’s been here a hundred times!”

    May was silent for a moment. “Well, I’m gonna keep coming back, too. I’ll beat any challenge you set up!”

    The Trick Master’s eyes twinkled. “Really, now?”

    “Really.”

    “Well, then. Consider your challenge accepted! But I warn you, there’s not a single soul in Hoenn that’s my equal in greatness!”

    May knit her brows. “We’ll see about that, Trick Master!”

    She went to the bookshelf on the left wall and pushed it aside, revealing the doorway to the twin front room. She left with a brisk walk, and when she got outside, it became a run.

    …​

    May wasn’t the first person to set herself on beating the Trick Master. Dozens of people had sworn to do battle with him in the past, and the Master always took them on with eagerness and good humor, as ever-recurring testimonies of his charm and popularity. I’d see the same trainers come in time and again, powered by frustration, to the point where they stood out from the other challengers with their poker faces and fluid, practiced motions. They progressed through the courses with an almost mechanical coldness, raising the Master’s rating of them with every win, waiting for the day when he’d declare them his superior. He never did. He’d always get them somehow — with an extra spinning door or a fake side path — that would hold their attention just long enough for someone else to get the code. And their winning streak would break. No one had even gotten so far as for the Master to declare them his equal, though as I later found out, May came very, very close.

    I returned at the end of that summer to find that the Master had cycled through five puzzles, and was working on his last for the year. The front room was devoid of challengers, but it was cluttered like the backstage of a theater with boxes, tools, and decorations. The Master was standing on a ladder against the wall. He had removed one of the ceiling tiles, and was fiddling with a mess of wires that stuck out from the darkness like vines.

    When he heard me approach, he looked down. “Ah, Eddie! You’ve come just in time to see the unveiling of my latest challenge. I’ve got one last thing to fix up here, then it’ll be ready!”

    “That’s great, Trick Master!” I said. “My pokémon are good to go. They’ve really toughened up this season. I don’t think I would have been half as good if I hadn’t spent so much time here.”

    “That’s good, lad, that’s excellent!” he replied. “Make sure you’re on your toes today, because this one’s special! We’ll give May a test she won’t forget!”

    I paused. “May, the Gym leader’s daughter? She still visits here?”

    The Trick Master nodded. “She certainly does! She’s beaten all five courses I put up since you left. The river-rapids, the berry-picking, the slides… I thought I had it when I made the cave of pitch darkness, but then that didn’t work, so I tried extreme brightness… It took me all afternoon getting the mirrors angled right. And she swept through it! Swept right through them all!”

    I offered a smile. “It’s okay, Trick Master. You’ll stump her someday.”

    The Master pushed the wires back into place and fixed the tile into the ceiling. “And that someday is going to be today. I can feel it!” He stepped down from the ladder and leaned over to me. “I’ll give you a hint… direction arrows!”

    I signed on as a volunteer and came back the next day for the puzzle’s grand opening. The Master had lined the floor with arrow tiles that moved you in the indicated direction when you stepped on them. The idea was the inevitability — once you stepped on a tile, you had no choice but to go along wherever it took you, even if it meant coming face-to-face with a trainer.

    May was the first challenger of the day. Moments after she arrived, she slid over to me in my place between two large crates, in same outfit as before. Recognizing me, she smiled. “Hey, it’s you! Eddie, right?”

    “That’s me,” I said. “How’ve you been? Are you still challenging the Gyms?”

    “Yeah. I’ve beaten five already.” May flipped one of her hair-weaves. “My dad wants me to save him for last, because he says I’m not ready for him yet, but I think it’s because he wants to prepare for me! He can’t lose embarrassingly to his own daughter, after all.” She laughed. “Anyways, I love this place. It’s like a self-renewing Gym. I don’t even have to wait for anyone to tell me they’re ready for a rematch. I can just keep beating it over and over, however many times I want. It’s one of my favorite training spots.”

    I smiled. “Well, you never know when you might face something you can’t solve.” I took out my first pokéball. “Sorry, May, but I can’t let you pass without a battle. Go, Linoone!”

    May shrugged. “Suit yourself. Go, Blaziken!”

    I paled. No wonder she had beaten so many Gyms. Her pokémon were on a level of power I had never seen before. The Blaziken towered a full meter above my head and knocked out my pokémon like they were cardboard cutouts on stilts. When I was left empty-handed, May gave an apologetic wave, stepped on another tile, and zoomed off.

    I watched her pass through the rest of the room, taking care of the other volunteers in a similar fashion. After a few Flamethrowers or Double Kicks, the battle would end and she’d move on. At one point, her Blaziken fainted and she replaced it with an equally-sturdy-looking Shelgon. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Wasn’t that the pre-evolution form of Salamence? Where on Earth had she gotten it?

    Half a minute later, I heard a loud boom as the exit door fell away. At once, the moving floors stopped working and the other challengers that had entered after May froze in surprise.

    “Someone got through! I don’t believe it!”

    Some trainers left through the entrance in dismay, while others followed me and the rest of the volunteers through the hallway. I reached the back room just as May was pocketing her prize from the Master.

    “So that was six courses I beat,” she was saying. “You said I was fifteen steps away from you in greatness. That means I’m only nine away now. You said no one’s ever gotten that far, right?”

    The Master was looking dejectedly at the wall behind her. “I see. Very well, then, nine places it is… We’ll see how you fare next time!”

    He turned to the shelves and grabbed an armful of prizes for the other challengers. May pushed aside the bookcase to reveal the front room and let the other kids leave once they got their items. She was about to turn to follow them, but then she stopped and looked back. "Oh, before I forget! I'll be away for a while because I'll be busy with the last three Gyms. Then I'm going to take a shot at the Elite Four. But I'll be back by next March! You can count on that!"

    She ran out of the room, and when she was gone, the Master turned back to us. “Hmm. March. All right, I’ll have to think of something extraordinary for March.” He grabbed a clipboard and pencil from the shelf. “Kids, bear witness! I am now battling not only for my wits, but for my reputation! And I shall meet the challenge!” He walked off, mulling over the blank page.
     
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2016
  2. Mrs. Lovett

    Mrs. Lovett Rolling writer

    …​

    As the months went by, the tension mounted. I never saw May and the Trick Master at the same time again, but even when I spoke to them separately, I could feel their powers straining — one mysterious and magical, and the other resilient and calculating.

    “You know, this is starting to distract me from my Gyms a little,” May said to me one day over Match Call. “I stopped training for Sootopolis last week just to make it to his next course.”

    I didn’t comment that I hadn’t battled a Gym in months, because I was too preoccupied with following what I was certain was the greatest battle in history. From conversations with trainers, I compiled a list of all the Trick Master’s puzzles to date, and saw how each one got more elaborate and complicated than the last. One boy came back from a room he swore was the size of a palace. A while later, I was heading out of Lilycove City and bumped into a frazzled-looking girl who had trudged through a rainstorm on Route 121. I asked her how she was, but she brushed aside my concern.

    “It’s fine, I’m going home anyway.” She wrung the water from her hair. “My parents gave me three months to challenge Gyms and I ended up wasting all of them on a stupid trick house on Route 110. Whoever runs that place should either tone it down or move it somewhere else, because it is a scam.” She fixed her gaze on me. “That place is unbeatable. And when you’re a trainer, you should be focusing on Gyms, not getting caught up in side stops, don’t you think? I guess I won’t be making that mistake again when I come back to the Gyms next year.” She stepped past me, dripping and fuming.

    I have to say that this worried me. I called May immediately, but her answer was lost in a roar of voices and passing cars. “Eddie, you’ll never believe this!” she shouted. “The Trick Master’s got an entire city in here! He’s got buildings and trees and… the roadways… people seem so real, but I have no idea how he recruited that many… It’s like a whole different… Slateport… Listen, I can’t talk, I have to go… call you later!” Click.

    I didn’t waste a second in leaving. That same day I took a ferry to Slateport and went to see the Master.

    When I arrived at the house, I found the front room in greater disarray than I had ever seen before. Cabinets stood open to reveal books and folders stuffed with papers, and the floor was littered with random objects — flowerpots, furniture, bricks, and power tools. It looked like the Secret Base of an item hoarder. The Trick Master had broken a hole through the side wall to reveal a continuation of the mess in the back room. I peeked in, and saw him bent over the tea table where a large sheet of paper that was laid out. He had a pencil tucked behind his ear and a compass in his hand.

    “Master!” I said. “You won’t believe it, they’re talking about you as far as Lilycove!” I walked in and stopped before the table. The diagram he was looking at was a blueprint, detailing a complex network of pipes. Nearby, Ziggy was dozing on a plush doll of Rayquaza. The Master himself looked like he hadn’t slept in days, but his eyes were gleaming, as if some restless engine was churning inside of him.

    I smiled, trying to keep my voice conversational. “So, how did the city puzzle go?”

    The Trick Master sighed. “Swept through it like a summer wind! It took me all night paving roads… I walked through the entire downtown maze and I was sure it was foolproof!”

    I looked at him earnestly now. “It’s okay, Trick Master. There are trainers from all over Hoenn coming to see your puzzles. Even if May thinks they’re a walk in the park, you can’t just keep tailoring them to her. Because that’s not the fun of the game, right? You have to give all the other kids something they’ll enjoy.”

    The Master gave a somber smile. “That’s the thing, lad… the kids don’t come as often as they used to. They say it’s gotten too hard. But what am I supposed to do, when there’s one person who keeps saying it’s too easy…?” He bent back over the paper and ran his fingers through his hair. He made a few markings on the blueprint with his pencil, then erased them.

    After a minute of silence, I spoke up. “So, um... do you have any volunteer spaces open for next time?”

    To my surprise, the Trick Master shook his head. “I haven’t decided how many I’ll need yet. I’m trying to think of something new, but it seems like all my tricks have run dry… but no, no, that can’t be! I’m the Trick Master! I’ll think of something!” He gave an affirmative nod, and when he looked at me again, the gleam flared up even brighter in his eyes. “And when I do, I’ll give you a call. Deal?”

    My smile faltered, but I nodded. “Deal.”

    …​

    I spent over a year away, switching from school to training. I got the rest of my Gym badges and called the Trick Master throughout to see how his best-ever course was going. But each time he answered, he seemed to say the same thing: “Almost done, Eddie, almost done!” But two summers passed, and the Trick House hadn’t opened.

    The Master’s responses grew shorter and more aggravated over time, and soon he stopped answering his phone altogether.

    Finally, my concern reached its breaking point and I returned to the Trick House on my own.

    Upon going in, I couldn’t believe my eyes. The front room was a scorched ruin, its walls blackened and peeling, its furniture lying in splinters on the floor. The scroll that covered the hallway had been torn away to expose the tunnel, but instead of leading to a room, the tunnel ate its way into the concrete for a few yards, then stopped. The doorway was crooked and beat-up, as if a Slaking had tried to force itself through.

    I shouted the Master’s name, but no one answered. I called the PokéNav, heard a muffled ring from the back room, but no one picked it up.

    I asked some stand-arounds outside what had happened, but they said that the only witness had been the Master’s Zigzagoon, who had been taken to a shelter in Slateport. Unfazed, I got the shelter’s address and convinced them to let me keep him. I knew a lady at the Pokémon Fan Club who could understand pokémon speech, so I took Ziggy to see her. Together from his snuffles and growls we determined what had happened.

    …​

    About a week ago, the Master had finished the fifty-sixth operation of Zone Ten in his new grid field. All existent objects had adopted their necessary attributes, so the Master had moved on to Zone Eleven, for which he was now testing colors on the surface of the entrance scroll. His back was to the front door. The day had been passing quietly, when sometime in the afternoon, the door burst open to reveal the Trick Master’s top challenger. She came in with a spring in her step, her item bag bouncing against her side.

    “Hey, Trick Master! My gosh, I can’t believe I haven’t checked in on you for all this time! I’ve just been so busy with everything that I guess your puzzles just fell out of my mind. I’m really sorry! But there’s always an upside to everything, right? At the rate you’ve been going, you’ve probably got trainers coming in droves. And me, I got the Championship! So you better start calling me Champion May. Heh!” She flashed her trainer card, which had been stamped with a gold star. “I also met a guy called Scott who’s the director of the Battle Frontier, so I’ve been going around the facilities and challenging the Brains. He says I’m a real prodigy. Now I’m working on doing the Contests. I’ve already beaten Master Rank in Cool, Beauty, and Smart, but I’m having some trouble with Tough. I really want my pokémon’s pictures up in the Lilycove Museum, one for each team member, you know, so it would be awful if my Salamence couldn’t pull through. And there’s no reason for her not to, either — if she can sweep through the Battle Palace and beat the Maven, shouldn’t she deserve more than a few heart points from the audience?”

    Through it all, my poor friend stood facing his door, painting lines on the scroll. He didn’t respond.

    Champion May sat down at his table and cast a thoughtful glance to the wall. “To tell you the truth, I’m starting to get bored with this whole training thing. The League was so much fun when I was a kid, but now I’m eighteen, and Hoenn just seems like a really small place. I’ve been to every city and every route. I’ve achieved almost everything a trainer could dream of. Now, there’s just nothing to do anymore.” She shrugged. “I’ve talked to my mom and she says it’s time to move on. I gotta focus on my education and think about what I’ll be doing for the rest of my life, because honestly, I don’t want to grow old and still be living in the same house, doing the exact same thing. I mean, when you get down to it, what is pokémon training? It’s just me repeating the same challenge over and over again, and no matter how hard people will try to outsmart me, I know I’ll win. Know what I mean?”

    The Master didn’t respond. Champion May turned to him now, playfully draping her hands over the back of the chair. “So, how many challenges here do I have left? How many till I’m your equal in greatness?”

    Unfortunately, at that point, my witness lost interest in the conversation and focused his attention on an insect that had crawled out of a corner. I have no way of knowing how my friend replied, or if he replied at all. I imagine that he just stood there in the same position as before, silent to the person who had just shoved their life’s successes in his face.

    All I know is that a few moments later, there was a huge explosion that could be heard from miles away. Ziggy’s vision was blocked by a cloud of smoke, but he managed to find the exit, and bolted out of the door, barking.

    Fire trucks came, people crowded about. A kind lady lifted him into her arms and held him as rescuers arrived, searching for victims. But both May and the Trick Master were gone.

    …​

    That was the extent of Ziggy’s knowledge. My parents called me home shortly after that, telling me it would be safer if I skipped the rest of that season. But I didn’t want to believe that the story ended there. The next summer, I went back out on my own and headed for Route 110.

    When I arrived, I noticed that many people who had been standing around the grass trail were gone. The only one left was a crazy-eyed collector, who said that people had been mysteriously disappearing around the Trick House ruins and that I was advised not to go there. Still, out of concern for my old friend, I went.

    On the outside, the house was starting to show signs of decay. There were holes in the roof and walls, and the garden was withering. But inside, the damage was even worse than before. Something had started to eat away at the wood, exposing plaster behind the wallpaper and turning bookshelves into sagging, melted mounds. I saw to my sickening shock that the doorway had swollen to twice its former size, revealing a dark, hazy void beyond it. The rubble on the floor lay in streaks that radiated away from the blast point.

    I steeled myself and crossed over to the doorway.

    “Hello? Is anybody there?”

    My voice sailed off into silence.

    “Trick Master?”

    Nothing.

    I kept going, hearing the floorboards creak beneath my feet. The farther I went, the more they sagged under my weight, like a rubber diving board. I reach the point where the hallway should have ended, but instead of a room, what I saw was empty space. The Trick House simply ceased, and beyond it was a dark, boundless void, which was shrouded in purple clouds that swirled in slow loops.

    I covered my face and pressed on, till the edge of my foot dipped into empty air. I realized I had reached the end.

    I stood there for a moment, peering into the haze, not knowing what to do. Then, by some vague, final intuition, I gave a cry: “Trick Master is my life!”

    Suddenly, the clouds pulsed with lightning. Mist drifted from the nimbuses and coalesced into a large shape in front of me, which materialized moments later into an image of my friend. His colors had faded to gray and his eyes were glowing white.

    “YOU HAVE SURVIVED COUNTLESS TESTS AND TRIALS!” he boomed. “YOU HAVE SURPASSED THE GREATS AND CONQUERED THE LEGENDS! BUT I SEE YOUR MIND, CHALLENGER, AND THE TRUTH BEHIND THE FACE THAT CONCEALS IT.”

    Images flashed before my eyes, like the changing channels of a television. Small brown houses. The lab of a Pokémon Professor.

    “ALL THAT YOU HAVE DONE WAS BUT A GAME YOU PLAYED WHILE YOU SOUGHT YOUR DESTINY.”

    My gaze skimmed over a large city, where people and pokémon stood frozen on the streets.

    “EVERYWHERE YOU WENT YOU MADE BUT THE MARK OF A VISITOR. AS SUCH, YOUR VICTORIES WERE SHALLOW AND TEMPORARY.”

    I saw a collection of islands in the middle of a stormy sea. The sky was churning with clouds, and flashes of lightning illuminated the water. Rain began to fall.

    “NOW THE ENEMIES YOU BURIED BENEATH YOU ARE STIRRING FROM THEIR SLUMBER. THEY ARE MOVING THE EARTH ABOVE THEM. THEY ARE CRYING OUT FROM THE REALM OF THEIR IMPRISONMENT AND THEIR VOICES ARE CALLING YOUR NAME—”

    I saw the inside of a cave, with a tall domed ceiling and dozens of tiny rocks scattered about the floor. There was a lake of pure blue water up ahead. Light was shining from a skylight above it, illuminating an empty spot in front of the bank.

    “YOUR TASK IS TO REPEAT THE CHALLENGE YOU CONCLUDED. YOUR FACE WILL BE ONE AMONG THE MILLIONS YOU’VE FORGOTTEN. AND IN EVERY QUEST YOU ENCOUNTER, EVERY BATTLE THAT CONFRONTS YOU, THERE WILL BE ONE HAND THAT PULLS THE STRINGS — FOR I AM OMNIPRESENT. I AM THE MIND OF THIS REALM THAT DRIVES THE WORKINGS OF ITS SUBSTANCE. I AM THE ALPHA AND THE OMEGA, THE GUIDE AND THE FOE, THE BEGINNING AND END — I AM THE MASTER!”

    The scene ended, and the Trick Master’s apparition vanished as the snout of a huge green dragon broke through the smoke. Rayquaza opened its jaws and lunged forward to swallow me whole.

    I screamed and ran away as fast as I could, hearing the huge serpentine dragon thrash and rage as it chased me down. My hands fumbled in my backpack and locked on the ear of a PokéDoll, and when I reached the door, I turned and flung it as far as I could. The stuffed Clefairy sailed through the air and landed in the dragon’s gaping red throat. A second later, a cage of glittering teeth slammed over it, and Rayquaza pulled back into the darkness.

    As for me, I ran for my life.

    …​

    True to his word, my friend hadn’t given up when he was faced with a challenger he couldn’t beat. He gave her something she hadn’t been ready for, but he didn’t stop there — he did something that will soon affect us all. So if you don't take anything else away from this, then please take my warning and run. Buy yourself time. Get as far away from Route 110 as possible, preferably in the vicinity of Mossdeep or Ever Grande. You won’t be able to escape the portal forever, but at least you’ll be able to prepare. Your new life might be exactly the same as your old one, or it could be completely different. People you know might be wiped from existence, or given new names, and made completely unrecognizable to you. You might choose not to believe me, and keep on living as you were before, which is completely up to you. All I can say is that I warned you. Because what I saw with my own eyes was enough to convince me of the truth.

    The Trick Master has created a new world.
     
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2016
  3. [Imaginative]:[Clockwork]

    [Imaginative]:[Clockwork] X-treme trainer

    I paused 30 Rock to read this, but I have to say it was totally worth it. The plot was a blast, the characters were interesting, and the twist at the end was definitely shocking (and from what I can tell, it gave the story an extra connection to the prompt).

    To start off, I liked the idea of this being a letter, as if it's the last trace of the main character, who has presumably skipped town (or even the country) weeks before this is ever found. I think it adds just a little sense of ominousness to an otherwise pretty lighthearted story. It certainly kept me on my toes for some kind of dark twist when I was reading. I am curious about where you would even leave such a letter, but that's not really a concern so much as a curiosity.

    I think the beginning sequence (Eddie's first time going through the maze) was written really well, since I felt like I was discovering things at the same time with the narrator. I also thought it was a good touch that even as the puzzles got more complicated, the actual structure of them progressively got less focus as interest shifted toward the rivalry. In general, I think the rivalry dynamic was the strongest thing here. The Trick Master's growing frustration, May's oblivious cockiness, and Eddie's interest throughout the entire thing were all really fun to read, and I especially liked the way you incorporated the general public's response to the fluctuations in May and the Trick Master's competition. Your prose throughout was really great, slipping in little moments of humor while still getting the idea cross (I especially liked the narrator's shift from fear to frustrated acceptance as he made his way though the ocean puzzle). I think that, understandably, some of the more complex maze ideas were harder to picture for me, but I'm not sure if that's an issue on your end or mine. I did find one instance that I thought could use a little cleaning up:

    I'm pretty sure I get what you're going for here visually, but in print it seems a little abrupt, and not in the way I think you intended. It took me a second to understand that we had just changed scenes. However, this was really the only time I felt lost, so don't worry about it too much. The whole thing was really great overall, even if I was kind of sad to see the friendly Trick Master go off the deep end.

    (As a side note, is the ending supposed to be the Trick Master setting the events of the Delta Episode into motion? I thought that was very creative.)
     
  4. Mrs. Lovett

    Mrs. Lovett Rolling writer

    I went through a few versions of the frame letter, but this one was my favorite. :) I imagined Eddie would make a bunch of copies and leave them in various places in Slateport, in the hopes that when he's gone, other people will spread the message for him. Which, as more people and pokemon start disappearing, and the damage starts becoming visible, will probably happen.

    I decided not to describe the later puzzles in much detail because I didn't want to trail off from the main narrative. I supposed that the reader's knowledge of various locations in the games would serve as a sufficient source of imagery to provide a backdrop for the scenes as they read along. I might go back and add some description to guide the reader's visualization some more, but on the whole, I wanted to leave the complicated puzzles up to the reader to envision.

    Skimming over it right now, I think I can see where you're coming from, so I'll think about it some more and see if I can make it better. Maybe I can solve the problem with an extra "..." scene break, or some spacing.

    The ending was supposed to be a reel of memorable scenes from the player character's adventure -- starting in Littleroot Town, experiencing the weather crisis, and releasing Rayquaza. It's similar in principle to the title sequence of a game, only the Master's version represents a world that will soon vanish and is expecting to be transformed into something new. I didn't want to draw too much from OR/AS because I wanted the emphasis to be on the adventure that has already been completed.

    This one-shot was very fun to write, so it's great to hear that you had fun reading it. It's definitely a combination of horror and lightheartedness, which for some reason mix well in my mind. Thanks for the review!
     
  5. Bay

    Bay YEAHHHHHHH

    I particular like your characterization of the Trick Master, making him overconfident but still very friendly (I think you did the friendly side of him slightly better than the games, lol). The interactions between him and Eddie are fun to read. You did May nicely too, and their personalities in this story compliment the rivalry between them well.

    The shift in tone with the first half seem lighthearted to then more seriousness is unexpected. I was like, "wait, what?" at the mention of the Trick Master blowing the place and then the "appearance" of Rayquaza. Usually the changes in tone like that throws me off, but with the way this story focused on the various changes the Trick Master did with his puzzles it kinda makes sense. My mind is still not over the twist there, haha.

    I too thought the transition in this part is a bit abrupt. I think having Eddie mentioned he went to the Slateport PokeMart to sell his prize before describing the salesman's astonishment should suffice.

    Overall I really enjoyed this a lot and your take on the Trick Master!
     
  6. Mrs. Lovett

    Mrs. Lovett Rolling writer

    Yeah, the Trick Master was a bit cockier in the games. He always said "Scrub that smug smirk off your face!" which after getting used to a less-abrasive version of him seems almost jarring. But even from the limited dialogue he had, I got the vibe that he was a nice, enthusiastic person, which ended up being the qualities that took center stage when I was writing.

    As for the twist, I meant for it to be more of a slow descent into darker events, but I can see how it can seem sudden, especially since I was trying to make the story reasonably fast-paced. But if you enjoyed it and it didn't confuse you, then I guess I still succeeded in my goal. xP

    I like your suggestion for what to do with that scene break. I think I have a good idea for what to do with it now, so I'll make the change soon.

    Thanks for your review, and I'm glad you enjoyed the story!
     
  7. Hey there. When I saw this in the ORAS writing contest and read that it was about the Trick Master, I got really excited since he's one of the most interesting characters in the entire game. He's really enigmatic, and it seems like there's more to him than what the games present us. It's a shame that he doesn't get the same expansion as Wally or Steven in the remakes, but this fic looks like it can make up for that.

    I agree with Bay that your characterization of the Trick Master is really good. I like how his qualities contrast with each other, in that his niceness and generosity takes a backseat to his ego, which is exemplified when a prodigy like May comes along. How you depict his progression in balancing between pride and sanity (for the lack of a better term) is really well-done, and it made the progression of the story easier to follow.

    [As a side-note, I was amused at how you sort-of play around with how player character-centric the games are, what with the Trick Master suddenly devoting all of his tricks into beating May and how the focus of Eddie's story shifts from the Trick Master to May a lot.]

    That being said, like what Bay said, I was also taken aback by the sudden change of tone in the latter part of the story. While I sort-of understand why this happened (in that I feel it's a reflection of the Trick Master's character at this point), I think the lead-up to it could have been improved. The description of Ziggy's recounting of the events was good, but the short scene before it, which sort-of only acted as a transition between Eddie's final encounter with the Trick Master and Ziggy's recounting, could be expanded on. There's a line here about the Trick Master's responses becoming shorter to the point that he stopped answering calls, and while that speaks volumes, I felt like that part of his "descent" to lunacy could have been explored even more. That way, when the reader reaches the end-point of his "descent" - or even just the part of the explosion - there's a clearer path that the reader took to get to that point.

    One other thing I wanted to bring up, and this might be nitpicky in my part, is the form you chose to present the story. [Imaginative]:[Clockwork] brought up how it made the situation more ominous, and I agree that it makes the frame story much more interesting and it adds a lot more weight to the ending of the story, even if it's just two short paragraphs. But I'm not so sure about how this form relates to some part of the story it tells. The whole thing is structured as a public letter or warning, but there are some times within the story where the urgency of the situation was lost. The most glaring part was the whole aside with the Mauville Gym, and while I understand its importance in the narrative, I'm not sure about its importance in the form that your narrative presents itself in. You do try to address this by saying that Eddie "moved on" after asking around and eventually coming back to the Trick Master after the gym battle, but imagining myself as someone within Hoenn who reads this warning, I would feel a bit odd that at one moment I'm reading about someone's trials in a Gym then the next I'm told to prepare for what sounds like the apocalypse.

    Both Bay and [Imaginative]:[Clockwork] also brought up the odd transition between Eddie's first meeting with the Trick Master and Eddie going to Slateport to sell the prize. I see you've edited it, and while it has become a bit smoother, I think that a section break would make the transition more seamless. It could mark a point that separates both of Eddie's encounters of the Trick Master, and the separated section does highlight the point where a friendship forms between the two characters.

    All that said, I do think that this is a great story. The plot is very engaging, and it's easy to empathize with the characters. One of my favorite parts was all the cool tricks of the Trick Master that you mentioned, especially the ones here:

    Now I really want to go through a cave of extreme brightness. Haha. Great job with the story! :)
     
  8. Mrs. Lovett

    Mrs. Lovett Rolling writer

    Hey there! I read your review a while ago and I've been piecing together my reply. So without further ado...

    It's interesting that you point that out. I meant for the shift in tone to occur before the point where the Trick Master stops answering calls. The first hint that things were taking a turn for the worse should have been the scene when Eddie talks to the Trick Master for the last time. The Trick House is a mess, the Master's eyes are gleaming restlessly, and his former easygoing nature is replaced by a dark, frantic desperation. A bit of shock is inevitable -- and indeed, it's what Eddie feels too -- but it shouldn't have been so shocking as to detract from the story.

    I guess I can see how Eddie discovering the explosion was sudden, and maybe that was the reason why the overall shift in tone seemed sudden. I'll see if I can add some things to the previous scenes to slow the pace down a bit. I want the tone-shift to stay where it is, but maybe it won't be as jarring if I eased the reader into it a bit more.

    The important thing here is that Eddie's letter isn't just a warning -- he also wrote it to record his story in its entirety, so that whoever read it might be able to glean more meaning out of what happened to him than Eddie did himself. In particular, he wanted people to solve the mystery of why the Trick House had been built and how exactly it worked. I tried to hint at that in the opening paragraph: "My hope is that... there will be people who understand how all of this began and maybe figure out the purpose behind the things that are about to happen to us." The last phrase is especially important, because Eddie believes that the Trick Master's final trick was more than just an attempt to stump May for good -- it was also meant to teach the people of Hoenn something.

    So, this one-shot was meant to be a balance of foreboding, and the main character's detached speculation about the events. That's why the tone shifted from urgent to calm. The part about the Mauville Gym was there to slow the pace a little, since I wanted to flesh out Eddie's character more and give a glimpse of how the Pokemon League works in this world. It should have showed the average trainer's reaction to a person with a big material advantage, and hint at the absurd benefits of the Trick Master's prizes. I can see your point that Eddie's going into such detail might seem like a digression, but so far this is the best way I've seen to get all that across.

    Right now, I think I'll most likely leave the transition as it is. I wanted the first break to come right before "After that, the Trick Master and I became friends" part, because even though Eddie has two encounters with the Trick Master here, they're still meant to be a part of a single exposition. Maybe I can find a way to make the two encounters flow more seamlessly, so it will be clearer that they belong together.

    Yeah, forget about pitch-dark caves where you need Flash -- Game Freak should totally switch it up one day and make a cave where you need Super Sunglasses. :p

    I'll think some more about everything you mentioned, but for now I want to let the story sit as it is. Then when I go back to it, I'll look at it with fresh eyes.

    Thanks for the review!
     

Share This Page