Part 57: To Hartville! Again!
Well, he did say I could do a mini-update, so I guess I'll fill in while he fixes his screenshots. And thanks a TON to Chuuurls for all the art used in this.
I'd never really wanted to leave the FIMBA region, and I guess it's because of the rumors. You couldn't drop by a shrine or lab without hearing about IMA breeders and their barbaric training practices. They'd work their monsters to the bone, then send them into battles to the death for sport...or so they said.
So when I was invited to the IMA/FIMBA International Meet, I wasn't thrilled. Quite the opposite, actually; my reaction was somewhere between shock and digust, with a little bit of revulsion mixed in to taste.
Not to mention the monster I had wasn't exactly bred for combat. Clot was...well, I guess you could call him a mistake. A big mistake. I used a scratched disc stone at the Shrine, and ended up with what appeared to be a gigantic, seeping, reeking scab. The stench alone got me banned from the shrine for the next five years. We gave him the most obvious name and did our best to train him into something worthwhile, but that went about as well as expected, especially since nobody on the ranch could bear to get near the damn thing.
I couldn't blame the shrine staff, I couldn't train more than one monster at a time due to FIMBA regulations, and I couldn't just get rid of the smelly hunk of shit because nobody would pay for it. It was around then that my assitant, Coltia, decided that I was going to go ahead and enter the meet with Clot. She'd got the idea in her head that if I won, they'd let me back in the shrine, where maybe I could get a real monster and finally win a match or two, which might reclaim a little bit of our dignity as a ranch. Thus, with a heavy heart and a clothespin fimly over my nose, I had Coltia prepare Clot and we headed to the IMA region for the meet.
Honestly, the place didn't seem so bad. We got put up at a four-star hotel and Clot was housed at a kennel far from anyone's virgin nostrils. The best part, though? Colt enjoyed the local taffy so much that her mouth was too full to nag me. Thank the ancients for small favors.
I decided that since I'd probably be facing one of the IMA's top breeders, it might be a good idea to scrounge up a little dirt so I'd be prepared. I'd found out when I had arrived that I'd be facing one of the more prominent locals, a man who went by the name of Norman Swoon. People didn't seem too eager to volunteer information about the guy, typically muttering something about a mask before suddenly remembering something they forgot to do and rushing off. I tried asking Colt what that shit was about, but she was passed out from taffy overdose.
I lazed, Colt ate, and Clot stank until the day of the match finally rolled around. I expected to be amazed by my opponent, and I was...for all the wrong reasons. Swoon wasn't the huge, intimidating man I'd expected...he appeared to be a drunken maniac. "Getsh your shmelly-ash dog out of here, you cockshucker!" he screamed as Colt and I entered the ring. Swoon teetered about, a 40-oz bottle of moonshine clutched in his hand; he barely avoided clocking his assistant, a young woman with glassy eyes who looked as if she'd been drugged.
Frankly, their monster, a cape and mask floating ominously in midair that they had named Phanto, was several thousand times more intimidating than its trainers. Gali were uncommon in the FIMBA region, and this one gave me the creeps. I was getting some seriously bad vibes from it, and I thought Clot might have been too, though that could've just been the smell getting to me again. I couldn't determine any obvious weaknesses - how the hell do you fight a damn cape, anyway?
Meanwhile, Swoon continued his drunken rambling. "Y...y'know, I had a dog onesh...he wash a BAD DOG. BAD, BAD DOG." he said, cackling and swinging his bottle to and fro. Between Swoon and Clot, I was nearly retching, so it was fortunate that Colt and I were ushered out of the arena, along with Swoon and his assistant, in preparation for the match.
My monster and ranch were announced and met with a resounding chorus of boos.
Swoon's monster and ranch were announced and met with complete silence.
As the battle began, Clot and Phanto squared off, presumably staring each other down...though Phanto was a mask and Clot didn't really have eyes so much as blobs of pus.
Clot charged in with the first attack, taking a mouthful out of Phanto's cape...
...while Phanto responded by doing...something. Seemed as if the cape just billowed, but Clot acted as if he'd gotten a pretty good whallop in the face. Didn't seem to bother him all that much, presumably because he was in a constant state of agony due to being a huge seeping wound.
The monsters went back and forth for a few minutes, landing glancing blows, until Clot, out of nowhere, leapt into a choreographed martial arts attack and sliced the cape to ribbons. The arena was silent once more.
After a perfect landing, Clot tottered over to the remains of the cape and lifted his head to the sky with a tortured howl. I would've slammed my hands over my ears if I wasn't already protecting my delicate sense of smell.
And then, out of nowhere, he melted.
Right then and there. Huge puddle of scab dog goo all over the ground. Somewhere in the distance, I thought I heard laughter. Horrible, cold laughter. Laughter I can still hear to this very day.
You can probably guess how Colt and I reacted.
"You REALLY thought it wash gonna be that eashy?! Idiotsh!" cackled Swoon, toppling onto his back. His assistant continued to stare with that vacant smile.
We were ruled the winners, Clot's death was ruled as being by "natural causes" (nobody could figure out how he was alive in the first place), Swoon gathered up the remains of Phanto and headed back to his ranch, Colt and I prepared to head back to the FIMBA region. After what we'd seen, we weren't surprised to hear as we left that Swoon's Gali had reconstituted itself from the tatters. Colt required several months of therapy, paid for out of my pocket. Damn it all.
Swoon, that dog stank to high heaven, it was ugly as sin, and every day that I had to go out there to clean up the globs of mucous that it passed as waste felt like another day in Hell. But dammit, that was MY dog. And nobody kills Schild Krote's dog. Next time we meet, your monster's gonna get the same treatment that Phanto gave mine. Count on it.