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Pikki Zuka
31st July 2006, 4:27 AM
Eternal Winter: Destiny Bond

Introductions are hard. Hi, I'm Pikki, it's my second post, and here's my fanfic! Now that that's out of the way...

The Story: Eternal Winter is a Pokemon fanfiction that takes place in Kanto and Johto, in a slightly alternate universe than the anime presents. If you're familiar with the episodes, all events pick up some time after "The Fortune Hunters", so think of this as an alternate universe. There are no adventures of Ash and company here -- this is an original-character-driven story, though a few people from the anime have their parts to play. Some elements from the games and Hidenori Kusaka's Special manga are included, so please keep an open mind about the workings of the EWverse. No anime purists allowed. ^_~

E.Winter is rated PG-13 for situations involving same-sex relationships. Please keep an open mind about that, too. If this is something you'd prefer not to read, hit the back button now.

You can find a "promo poster" and a cast list here (http://destiny-bond.livejournal.com/980.html). I do my own art! I have many talents.

The Background: E.Winter has been my biggest project since November 2000, first debuting on fanfiction.net in March 2001 under the handle Neekachu. Originally planned as a trilogy, the first two installments were uploaded at FFN for over a year.

In 2003, I began rewriting the first part, which replaced the previous ones on FFN. Subsequently, they appeared in The Pokemon Tower Library and BMG Forums under the nickname Pika-Zukin, and also on my short-lived website. However, I still wasn't satisfied with the direction in which it was heading, so I've spent the past year and a half revising it carefully. The old 2003 draft is available to read in any of the places mentioned (with the exception of my personal site, which has expired).

The current version (which gained the subtitle Destiny Bond) was officially "published" on December 21, 2005. I've completed nine chapters to date, which are available to read here if you'd like to catch up:

LiveJournal (http://destiny-bond.livejournal.com)
Fanfiction.net (http://www.fanfiction.net/s/2717355/1/)

However, I will be posting the first nine chapters over a period of a couple of months here, so as not to overwhelm anyone. After that, regular updates should take place once a month, schedule permitting.

Notes: A few things to keep in mind about the E.Winter world:

- "Pokemon" is an improper noun, and each type of pokemon will be referred to as such, unless its given name happens to be the name of what it is. For example: "Tracey's marill is named Marill."
- Pokemon genders are largely indeterminate, except by experienced breeders, and in specific cases, like nidoran. Someone who knows his pokemon well enough might be able to guess by watching their behavior, but to the casual observer, it's a mystery.
- Pokemon do not speak their names. This is a cute concept in the cartoon, but entirely unrealistic, especially for the ones that are clearly meant to growl like dogs or caw like birds. There will be no "poke-speech" here, just indications that a creature is making a noise.
- Kanto, Johto, and Hoenn are regions in a fictitious country in an alternate Earth. Several characters have Japanese names, but there isn't a "Japan," per se. Nor is this a particularly Asian-oriented country. It's more of a melting pot of different cultures.
- Team Rocket is concentrated in Kanto. It was never disbanded by any ten-year-olds. That would be impossible.
- James is not gay. Jessie is not a 100% superbeeyotch. Don't flame me because they act a little more three-dimensional than their anime counterparts. I strive for realism.
- "Jessie" is spelled with an -ie. I like it better that way.
- Don't fling the term "Mary Sue" around here. This is a work of fantasy, and my characters are going to be a little extraordinary. If you don't like "Sues," you must like to read about plain, ordinary, boring people. The rest of us enjoy the fiction.

Finally, this story would be nowhere without the support and dedication of my beta-reader, Logan. To thank him for nearly six years of co-plotting, Eternal Winter is dedicated to him. ^_^

As a first-time bonus, I'm posting the first two chapters tonight. They're shorter in comparison, and are mainly for introducing some characters and setting up plot. Enjoy!


Part One: Summer

Chapter 1 - The Saint of Dragons

Thunderous applause and endless cheers filled the stadium. The boy and his weary exeggutor stood triumphant, though his face displayed nothing but impassiveness. As cameras zoomed in on him, announcers decided he must be feeling a mix of emotions -- pride, relief, mental exhaustion. He finally moved his head as paper streamers and confetti rained upon the field, a symbol of the tournament's end. The exeggutor shook her heads as thin colored paper curled around her long fronds.

Her trainer spoke to her, and she leaned down so he could pick the streamer from her leaves. The announcers were bantering about the sportsmanship and camaraderie of this year's Indigo League finals, the best they'd ever seen, especially after last year's. Approaching the winner was the second-place finalist, holding out his hand. Above them, they could be seen enlarged on huge television screens.

"You did great," the second-place winner, another boy, said. "This is my third try at the finals, but I've never gotten this far. I'm honored to have been defeated by a trainer like you."

They shook hands. "Thanks," said the champion. "You did well yourself. I'm sure you'll win next time."

"Wow, you think?" The other boy's cheeks flushed. "I'll never give up! I was born to be a League champion!" He puffed out his chest confidently. "Well, let's go get ready for the awards ceremony. There's always a ton of food."

The winner watched him depart, hanging back for a few moments and watching the last of the confetti settle on the stadium floor. The exeggutor's three heads took turns trying to blow another streamer out of her leaves.


* * * *

"Well, that's another tournament over," Professor Oak commented, standing and stretching his back. "Too bad Ash didn't stick around. He could have made it this year."

Tracey gave a noncommittal "hmm" and stared at the television, where announcers gave a recap of the final battle's most climactic scenes. The winner was a young teenage boy with whitish-blond hair and an emotionless demeanor. Tracey liked his choice of exeggutor in the final round. It was a weird-looking pokemon; not exactly popular with kids.

"Ah, well," said Professor Oak. "Some people just have to see the world."

"And dump their pokemon on us when carrying them is an inconvenience?" Tracey mumbled.

The professor rolled his eyes and shook his head. Tracey smiled, grateful that they were on the same page about it. After all, this was a research facility, not a day-care center for irresponsible trainers.

A ring of the doorbell grabbed their attention. "I'll get it," Professor Oak announced, smiling expectantly. Their most frequent visitor was Delia. Tracey remained on the couch, deep in thought.

"Gary!" The elderly researcher's voice rang from the other room. "What are you doing back so soon?"

With a start, Tracey fled the den, slamming into the doorframe of the bathroom to which he raced. He rubbed his shoulder, staring desperately into the mirror. Shaggy, dark green hair was pushed back from his forehead with his old, faded red headband. The baggy blue t-shirt was only slightly less old, but the knee-length brown shorts were at least new from spring. Tracey winced at himself and yanked the headband off. He wanted his hair long, but it bothered him to have it graze his face as he went about his chores. He wouldn't be working now, though. He brushed his hair hastily, frowning at a shorter lock which fell over his right eye. Too short to tuck behind the ear; he'd have to leave it. He turned his head from side to side, wishing his hair was long enough for a ponytail.

"My training in Johto was really enlightening," Gary was saying as Tracey came around the corner. He didn't falter even as he glanced at his grandfather's assistant. "So I think I know what I want to do now."

"Training?" Professor Oak asked. "Will you be after new badges? Or new pokemon for me to look at?"

"No, Grandpa," Gary said with a grin, shaking his head. "I got my fill of that a couple of years ago here in Kanto. I meant that I was training my mind. I spent a lot of time in temples, learning how to meditate. And I thought a lot about my future."

"Oh?" the professor prompted.

"Pokemon tournaments are fun and all, but you have to join the real world eventually. So I've decided to put everything I've learned about pokemon to good use -- I want to be a professor, so I can pass on my knowledge."

Professor Oak laughed heartily, clapping Gary on the back. "How about that? I didn't think any of mine would follow in my footsteps! You'll continue my work after I retire, huh?"

Tracey's heart plunged into his stomach at that very moment. Two years of working by Samuel Oak's side had convinced the professor that Tracey would be his successor in pokemon academia. He sacrificed many of his own interests to handle a lot of dirty work around the lab: feeding and cleaning up after all the pokemon (half of them Ash's), taking messages from colleagues of Professor Oak's, typing out reports late at night. Tracey had earned a little recognition by now, but his spotlight was about to be usurped by Gary, who waltzed in and announced on a whim that he'd like to join the club. And he'd get in just by name alone.

Why had he made a big deal about looking presentable? It was, once again, obvious that Gary would never acknowledge him as anything more than the lab assistant.

"Well, hopefully that won't be for a long time," Gary replied to his grandfather's question.

"We'll see about that! Retirement sounds better and better lately!" Professor Oak laughed boisterously. "I'd say this calls for a special dinner. Tracey, run next door and see what Delia thinks. And give her a hand. I'm sure she'll need it!"

"Uh..." Tracey started to say, dumbfounded. "Yeah." He watched Professor Oak lead Gary inside, chattering away about his latest finding. Gary looked over his shoulder at Tracey -- not a hostile look, but one that was unreadable in its brevity.

The assistant sighed and left, trudging to Delia's house down the lane. He found her outside, weeding her garden. "Hello, Tracey," she greeted cheerfully. "You took off your headband."

"Yeah, it clashes," he muttered, staring at the colorful flowers.

"Whatever is the matter?" Delia sat upright on her knees, wiping her forehead with the back of a gloved hand. The sunlight gleamed on her auburn hair.

"I'm fine." Tracey stood up straighter, trying to smile. "Just tired. Anyway, Gary's back."

"That's great!" Delia beamed. "Oh, I'll have to make a nice dinner for all of us! How does that sound?"

"I was sent to give you a hand with that, actually."

"How about that?" The young mother kept smiling as she stood up, brushing dirt and blades of grass from her shins. "I guess I read Sam's mind." She giggled girlishly. Following her inside, Tracey smirked. It didn't take a pokemon watcher to figure out that Professor Oak and Mrs. Ketchum were more than friendly neighbors.

"So what's Gary doing back so soon?" she asked, washing her hands in the kitchen sink.

Tracey's amusement faded. "Oh... I'll let him tell you himself. It's pretty big news."

"That sounds exciting! We'd better hurry."

"Yeah," Tracey said under his breath as Delia investigated the fridge. "Really exciting."


* * * *

"He's not even smiling," the second-place winner's mother observed. In the grand dining hall, journalists and photographers swarmed the champion, drilling him with questions and snapping picture after picture. "How about some love over here?" she shouted, though they couldn't have heard her. "Honestly, you should have won, honey... oh, not that we're not proud of you, we are!" She smothered her son in a tight hug.

"Mom, it's okay," he said. "I'm glad I lasted as long as I did. I think he's a psychic, so I'm surprised he didn't just crush me in our first round."

"Psychics," his dad scoffed. "Seems like any kid with an abra thinks he's psychic all of a sudden."

A few feet away from them, amidst the commotion, the champion's mother nudged him as she and her husband leaned close to either side of him for a final photograph. "Smile," she whispered.

He turned the corner of his mouth up as the flash went off. "Okay, I think we're done," said the reporter for The Viridian Times. "Thanks for your time, Dominik. We'll let you get back to your dinner."

"You're welcome," he returned, blinking rapidly as he picked up his fork. All those flashes made me blind.

Even within the confines of her pokeball, in a state of suspended animation, the mind of Leilani the exeggutor was linked to her trainer's. But they're done now? she asked.

I think so. I'm not even hungry. This place is too crowded.

You can always wrap up your feast to give to your hard-working pokemon.

Dominik smiled briefly at her wry tone. I'm glad I have you for company. I wish I could reach the others, too.

What, I'm not enough for you? Leilani then dropped her teasing. None of them are psychic, though. Their minds do not work like yours and mine. Of course we understand each other.

But it doesn't seem fair. All pokemon have complex minds. It's a fact that they're much more intelligent than other animals.

I wasn't referring to intelligence.

Dominik picked at his food with a fork, unaware of his mother's reproving look. Too bad it's not the same for people, he told Leilani. I wish I had someone to teach me what to do. I feel like I should be able to do all kinds of things, if I have such an advanced mind.

You'll figure it out eventually, Leilani reassured him. You're young yet.

Something caught Dominik's attention then, bringing him out of his trance-like inner conversation. People were murmuring and staring at the hall's entrance, as if an important newcomer had just arrived fashionably late. "That's Lance," a girl near Dominik whispered to her friend. "He won the tournament years ago, but he always shows up to these events. I've never seen any other former champions here."

"What's with that cape?" The girls hid giggles behind their hands.

A confident-looking young man in his early twenties, coppery hair swept away from his face as if wind-blown from flying, Lance approached the champion's table. He had been careful not to look at anyone as he strode through the hall. Locking eyes with the new champion had greater impact; Lance only saw what he wanted.

"Are you Dominik?" he asked. It was a formality. Of course the boy was Dominik. He raised a eyebrow in response, waiting for Lance to get to the point.

"I saw your battle, and I was very impressed," Lance went on. "I wonder if I might have a word with you outside."

The dining hall stirred with even more talk, more notice of the former champion. Lance effortlessly tuned out the mindless chatter as he awaited his answer. Despite the din, Dominik felt no need to raise his voice. "Okay," he said simply, rising from his seat. He glanced at his parents to be awarded a smile from his mother and a nod from his father.

They left the banquet, crossing the foyer towards the balcony, which overlooked the Viridian countryside from several stories up. "Much too crowded in there for a talk," Lance remarked. "Or for eating, or even breathing." He looked over his shoulder at Dominik, who didn't say anything; he kept his eyes downcast, his hands stuffed into his jeans pockets. It was a front, a teenage facade of nonchalance. Lance knew all too well that Dominik was overjoyed to leave the silly feast, and interested in whatever they were going to discuss.

Lance rested his elbows on the balcony railing. He didn't expect Dominik to stand beside him and share the view, so he didn't bring it up. Instead, he got right to the point. "What will you do now, Mr. Champion of the Forty-Seventh Annual Indigo League Tournament?"

"What do you mean, what will I do now?" Dominik asked, slightly amused by the grandiose question. "Go home with my parents and start summer vacation."

Lance nodded, expecting something like that. "And what do you want to do?"

Dominik seemed perplexed. Clearly, he had never considered his wishes. Lance smiled. They never did.

"I'd like to keep training pokemon," Dominik replied, sooner than Lance expected. "But not for competition, like this. The part I liked best was the traveling, though it seems like once you've been to one city, you've been to them all. I enjoyed the wilderness more."

"You have a gift, you know."

"You don't have to tell me."

They exchanged a smile. "I meant beyond that. Psychic pokemon are best handled by psychics, but the relationship between you and your exeggutor is deeper still. And she is your only psychic-type."

"I've had her longest," Dominik said. "And I saved her life."

"Ah." Lance nodded. "Still, I think your extraordinary powers should be developed. And the best way is to train with psychic pokemon. You know that, don't you?"

"Yeah. Sabrina gave me the same advice, but I didn't really want to be type-exclusive. A varied team has a greater battle advantage."

"And that was somewhat of a problem for you, wasn't it? Your Indigo League Challenge was too easy, too dull?"

Lance saw from Dominik's slight flinch that he was absolutely correct. "You could try again," he said. "There's a League in Johto, too. You might like it better there. It's more traditional, more natural."

"Maybe," was all the boy gave for an answer.

"What are your other options?" Lance asked, trying to hide his impatience.

"Well," said Dominik, "I was excused from this school year to participate in the League, and my grades were so good that I don't have to make up the year I skipped. So I'll go straight into high school in Septem--"

"High school?" Lance interrupted. "You're psychic. You bond deeply with your pokemon. You're a League Champion. You don't belong with common teenagers in high school."

Dominik gave him a skeptical look.

"Do you really want to?" Lance pressed. "Is it your choice to enter high school, or are you going along because someone wants you to? Your parents, your principal?"

Dominik shrugged. "It's just what you do. The Kanto schoolboard provides the means to educate the public, so we take advantage of it."

"Educate you about what? You already know more about what really matters than what they could teach you in school," Lance said. "What happens when you're done with it? You forget all the stuff they taught you, so you've wasted all those years learning useless facts when you could have been doing something valuable. School doesn't prepare you for the real world, Dominik. It's out there." With a sweeping motion of his arm, Lance indicated the river and forest below, the star-filled sky beyond.

"But don't you complete school in order to get a good job?" Dominik asked. "I know it's dull and meaningless, but you have to play along if you want to get anywhere."

"Get anywhere in a dull and meaningless future, you mean," Lance told him. "I'm not trying to convince you to drop out, please understand. I just think a brilliant person like you shouldn't have to settle for society's conventions. The world of pokemon needs more trainers who truly care about what they do, and I can tell just from watching you at the tournament that you respect your pokemon much more than the average young trainer."

"So you're trying to recruit me as a gym leader or something?"

"Not at all. I'm just letting you know that there are people who base their entire careers around pokemon, and you seem more like the type who would enjoy that rather than something more mundane."

"What do you do?"

Lance puffed out his chest a little, a proud stance. "I'm a dragon tamer for life. Nothing makes me happier than knowing I dedicate my life to the most ancient and revered species of pokemon."

"Are you a psychic, too?"

"Well, one can argue that everyone's a little psychic," Lance answered with a mysterious smile. "And some people just know how to tap into their mental abilities, while some people would rather work at getting along in the physical world."

Dominik raised a pale blond eyebrow.

"Just like some people -- most of them, in fact -- win tournaments by training their pokemon to learn powerful attacks, and some people win tournaments because they truly understand their pokemon. And not just in the literal sense, like how you are able to speak mentally with yours." Lance smiled. "You and I both know which kind of person you are. So what are you going to do with yourself, knowing that?"

Dominik looked out at the countryside for a few moments. "I'll think about it," he said. "But I can't decide what to do with the rest of my life now. I'm only thirteen."

"You don't have to," Lance told him. "But you always have a choice. So follow your heart."

Dominik nodded and returned to the banquet. Lance watched him go with a look of satisfaction. The future was looking very positive, indeed.


----

Author's Notes: So this is the first chapter, the beginning of a lengthy journey for many characters. I hope you all stick around for the ride. ^_^

I pegged Gary for a researcher before there was a Housou special about the very same thing. He matured a lot in Johto, from what little we saw of him. He's the only one from the anime who shows true character development -- he tries his hand at something, learns a few things, and changes. His boastful nature is gone. He is ready for a new challenge, an adult one. And even though it's sad he won't be in the show anymore, it's good to have closure about something. Not like the endless adventures of our boring little hero.

I don't really like Ash, in case you can't tell. But I won't be bashing him through the story, so don't take offense. There are more interesting things to write about. ^_~

The Lance that appears is based on Lance from the Special manga. There is no pink-haired G-man, if you ask me.

See you in chapter two!

Pikki Zuka
31st July 2006, 4:34 AM
Chapter 2 - Fighting Instinct

"Look, here are the winners of the tournament." Mrs. Haruna held out the morning newspaper for her daughter to view. Erika, her fork in mid-lift, glanced up briefly and nodded, continuing to eat her lunch and pore over her monthly earnings report. "You don't remember any of these kids, do you?" The lightness of her tone and obvious amusement made Erika roll her eyes. "They're all so unique, you know," Mrs. Haruna continued. "Armed with their charmeleon and pidgeot."

"Where do kids get such pokemon, anyway?" Erika huffed, not looking up from the paper in her hand. "I know every young trainer needs a pokemon to start out with, but why dangerous fire-breathing ones? They always pick charmander, and they're a real nuisance to my grass-types!" She took a deep breath, trying to calm down.

"Most young people prefer direct power over special side effects," Mrs. Haruna said. "You've known that since you were ten."

"It just seems so... wrong. Who decided that middle-school-age kids could handle these dangerous pokemon?" Erika sighed loudly, blowing her bangs in the process. "Oh, well. I'm just glad that the majority of training is done for the season. I can finally concentrate more on my shop."

"You don't have to be a gym leader, you know. I'd rather see you devote your time completely to your business. It makes you happier."

Erika frowned at her report, but not for any of the numbers. "Somebody has to set an example," she replied. "No one else in the Indigo League respects pokemon the way I do."

Before Mrs. Haruna could respond, a young maid approached the table. "Phone call for you, Miss Erika," she said. "It's Professor Fern."

"Oh!" Erika jumped up, calling thanks to the maid. She dashed to the downstairs office, in which there sat the closest video phone. A woman with a blond ponytail and glasses waited patiently on the monitor. Erika picked up the receiver and greeted her. As a grass-type specialist from Hoenn, a long-distance call from Professor Fern was an honor.

"Hello, Erika. How are you this afternoon?" she asked politely.

"I'm fine, and how are you?" Erika returned. She had been eagerly awaiting this call.

"Good, thank you. But I'm afraid I have some unfortunate news about the roselia formula."

Erika held her breath, afraid of hearing this.

"We can't keep any of the roselia under control." Professor Fern pushed her glasses up her nose. "None of my assistants can extract any essence without getting a face full of stun spore. We might have to resort to finding someone who would be willing to let us use a trained one. Of course, the scent won't be as potent."

The gym leader sighed. She had hoped to start developing her Eau de Roselia perfume over the summer, soon to be released as a unique scent unlike anything else in Kanto. Now it would have to wait.

"Erika," Mrs. Haruna whispered from behind her, only to be waved into silence.

"Are you sure it's impossible?" she asked Professor Fern.

"Well, no one wants to try again. Maybe if I could round up some new interns..."

"Erika!" Mrs. Haruna hissed. "Were you done with lunch?"

"No." She grew increasingly annoyed.

"Gerard thought you were, and he's furious again. He thinks he's unappreciated."

Erika groaned. "I'm on the phone, Mother. I'll finish lunch in a minute."

"He took your plate away. I could hear him raving from the kitchen about slaving away for hours on his food..."

"What? My lunch!"

"Erika?" Professor Fern spoke up. "It's your call. What do you want us to do?"

Erika whipped around to the video phone again. Interrupting the woman whose respect she dearly wanted to earn was not what she had in mind for this afternoon. "Keep trying, please. Wild roselia only. There's no point if they're domesticated."

"Wild roselia?" Mrs. Haruna asked. "Won't that be expensive?"

"I can handle it, Mother!" Erika snapped, then blushed as she realized how impolite that must have sounded. "Please, Professor, I'll cover all the expenses. I really want that scent."

"We'll think of some way to get it," Professor Fern reassured her. "I'll let you know as soon as we come up with something."

"Thank you very much. 'Bye." Erika hung up, sighing again.

"Well, I thought your shop made you happier than running that gym," Mrs. Haruna said.

"It does when things go right." Erika toyed with her bangs, trying to regain her composure.

"Do apologize to Gerard sometime before dinner, please," said her mother, turning to leave the room. "I don't want him to quit."

"He's not that great of a cook, anyway," Erika mumbled when she moved out of earshot. She stood for awhile, mulling over the roselia situation, when the computer emitted a beep, an email notification. She reluctantly brought it up, expecting something from the League. Instead, she found a frighteningly short message from a friend. Milady Erika, I have decided it is time to renew my quest. I shall see you soon, before I set out into the world once more.

She sank down in her desk chair and rubbed her temples. "Oh, Midori," she sighed. "You picked a bad time for theatrics."


* * * *

The mankey took slow steps, holding the tray very still. A steaming cup of green tea rested on it, and she resolved not to spill a drop. She squeaked under her breath, eyes narrowed at the cup as if forcing it to be still.

Her master sat at the dining room table, forehead resting against his propped-up hands. His fingers were locked together, and his blue eyes were focused on some point in the distance, thinking instead of seeing. The mankey had heard the loud discussion earlier, master arguing with his parents. It seemed to be occurring more frequently.

She stopped beside him and squeaked aloud. He lifted his head, alerted by the sound which interrupted his thoughts, then identified her and smiled warmly. "Thank you, Kuri-chan," he said, reaching for the tea. He sighed deeply, which blew away steam from the cup.

Kuri wished she could speak like a human, or at least make him understand her. Instead, she uttered a sympathetic sound, causing her master to smile a little more. He scratched the fur behind her ears, her favorite spot. "I'm just like you," he said quietly. "No fighting instinct at all."

At the faint knock from the front door, he got up and grudgingly answered. A boisterous voice echoed throughout the entrance. "Greetings to you, Sir Yamada!"

He grinned in spite of himself. "Hail, Master Rougan," he replied, though with much less vigor.

A tall young man, though shorter by a few inches compared to the towering Hiroyuki Yamada, Midori's long red hair was only outshined by his wide smile. At his feet sat a petite meowth, blinking lazily and peering inside at the approaching mankey. "Greetings to you too, Kuri-chan," Midori said to her. She squeaked happily and swished her long tail.

Closing the door behind him and unlacing his black boots, Midori asked, "How fare you today?"

"Fine," Hiroyuki answered vaguely.

Midori took note of his deflated tone and clapped him on his wide shoulder. "Take heart. After much deliberation, I feel I can continue my grand quest."

It took Hiroyuki a moment to remember what "the quest" meant. "Still?" he asked.

"I've contacted the lady Erika, so she may lend me her senses in locating everyone. Soon, all will be assembled!" He flung out his arms, and his black trench coat flapped effectively.

Hiroyuki sighed. "What?" Midori asked. "Though you lack the gift, you can surely come with me. I shall need companionship -- human, that is --" he paused, glancing at his meowth-- "on my long journey through the lands. What do you say?"

Running his fingers through his short brown hair, Hiroyuki sighed again. "I can't drift across the whole country. I have to look for work."

"You have your whole life to work!" Midori scoffed. "Accompany me for now."

"No, it's not like that. My parents still don't believe I can make it as a chef. They say if I don't have a job by the end of summer, they'll send me to Saffron... to the family dojo. They want me to train with Kuri and uphold their fighting legacy."

"All the more reason to join me! Kuri-chan would enjoy the sights, I'm sure."

"Midori..." Hiroyuki said steadily. "I can't."

Midori's shoulders sagged, but he smiled knowingly. "'Tis your choice, of course. I wish you luck in your own quest."

Hiroyuki smiled half-heartedly. "You too." He glanced at Midori's boots resting by the door. "Would you like to come in?" he offered wryly. "Have some cake?"

"Thought you'd never ask!" Midori grinned widely.

They started for the kitchen when they heard a booming voice. "Hiroyuki!" Kuri squealed and darted behind her master's legs, hiding. Midori's meowth ruffled her fur, looking up disdainfully.

Dressed in his karate gi, Master Yamada stood taller and more muscular than his son. He approached the front door, where the boys stared at him, frozen in their tracks. "It is time for my afternoon training," he informed them. "You will accompany me and see how it is done. Midori." He glanced at their guest, nodding solemnly.

"Yamada-sensei," Midori greeted him with utmost politeness.

"Midori is leaving town soon," Hiroyuki said. "And he offered to go with me while I started job-hunting, so we're going to be busy." Midori nodded, catching on right away.

"That will come later. Now is the time for training." Master Yamada adjusted the pokeball at his black belt.

Hiroyuki exchanged a look with Midori, but didn't argue further. "Come on, Kuri-chan," he coaxed the mankey, following his father outside. Midori hastily pulled on his boots, not bothering to tie them again, and chased after them, his meowth at his feet.

The back yard consisted of a wide, flat stretch of grass, with a woodsy area in the near distance. The Yamada family resided in a secluded neighborhood, the town being several miles away. Hiroyuki's annoyance marred this tranquil scenery. Master Yamada took in a deep breath, then released his pokemon training partner, a hitmonlee. Immediately it began bouncing a little on its springy legs, kicking the air to warm up.

"It is always best to have a strong pokemon to help you test yourself," said the fighting master. "In your case, it would be better to have a primeape. Mankey are no better than fuzzy housepets."

Kuri sniffed noses with Midori's meowth. Hiroyuki scowled at his father's words.

"Observe." Master Yamada launched a kick towards his hitmonlee, who blocked it with its powerful leg. They danced around the lawn in a circle, exchanging kicks at record speeds, equally matched. Hiroyuki watched sulkily until Midori tapped his shoulder, motioning behind them. Kuri and the meowth were chasing each other playfully, and their owners grinned.

"Hiroyuki!" barked his father. "Perhaps you would like to take up the challenge here."

"I don't think that's necessary. I can learn more just by watching you."

"That wasn't a request for your opinion. Come, let's see how you hold your own this time."

Hiroyuki clenched his fists. "You can't talk to me that way anymore!" he exploded. "I'm nineteen, and I'm an adult! You don't control me!" He spun around and stalked back to the house, startling the pokemon as he passed them.

Midori caught up with him moments later, Kuri and meowth following. "I'm sorry," he said quietly.

"Where are you headed?" Hiroyuki asked, pausing and staring at the ground in quiet rage. "After you leave here."

"To see Erika," Midori replied. "But after that, the road will be uncertain--"

"I changed my mind. I'm coming with you."

"Are you sure?"

"It's obvious I won't find a job here in Ochre Town, and my parents know that," said Hiroyuki. "Celadon's a huge city, and there's bound to be something. Anywhere is better than here."

"Aye," Midori agreed. "It always seems best to leave."

Hiroyuki smiled bitterly.


----

Author's Notes: Erika is the only Kanto gym leader who appears in EW (sorry, RBY fans), and the reason for this is a really nerdy one: way back in the very first days of planning, some friends and I got into the trading card game briefly. I bought Erika's deck and won frequently with it -- it made me proud that plantlike monsters were really strong. Why haven't there been any grass-type masters after Erika? She really knows what she's doing.

Not so much a coincidence, but the friends I just mentioned were the basis for Midori and Hiroyuki. I had told them my idea for an original trainer, and they wanted to be included to guide her along. Good times. ^_^ If you've read the first drafts, you might remember Yama; he's Yamada now. His character got a little more fleshed out.

Ochre Town is a suburb of Vermilion City. As you can probably figure out from Hiro's comment, it's a small place with few opportunities.

Blackjack Gabbiani
31st July 2006, 6:58 AM
Yay! I've always liked your stories, and I'm glad you're posting them somewhere.

You have a way with characters, and I especially like your Tracey.

Pikki Zuka
31st July 2006, 5:54 PM
Thanks! I took a long break from writing there for awhile. It was a good thing, it got my batteries recharged.

*^_^* I don't like to brag, but I know Tracey better than anyone. Anyone, I say. XD

BenJS
2nd August 2006, 12:18 PM
Normally I don't like fics with any anime characters, secondary or not, but this is pretty good.

I've actually been following this on FF.net (It's even on my favourite stories list) however I'm a closet reader by nature. I'm not much of a reviewer either, so don't expect much from me in terms of quality, if I even get off my butt and review at all.

Anyway, nice job and keep up the good work.

chrisivy
2nd August 2006, 4:39 PM
Whoa, nice. This might be good.

Pikki Zuka
4th August 2006, 7:38 AM
BenJS: Thanks, I appreciate the comment! I've seen you on my stats page at FFN. You don't have to review everything, I know what it's like to be a lurker. ^^

Chrisivy: You never know, it might. ^_~

Shrike Flamestar
6th August 2006, 3:06 AM
Well, here’s that half-assed review I promised you :p


There are no adventures of Ash and company here
w00t!


though a few people from the anime have their parts to play.
As long as Ash doesn’t appear in any sort of major role, I’m fine with that <_<


- Pokemon genders are largely indeterminate, except by experienced breeders, and in specific cases, like nidoran. Someone who knows his pokemon well enough might be able to guess by watching their behavior, but to the casual observer, it's a mystery.
But, wouldn’t it be obvious by just, ya know, looking under their tails? :D

Okay, now that those are out of the way, I suppose I should talk about the actual story, shouldn’t I?

Hehe, poor Tracey, just when he thinks he may make it somewhere someone else comes along and knocks him down. Sounds like the story of my life as well. Of course, you can’t blame Oak for wanting his own grandson to continue his legacy.

Eh, wow, Lance sounds kind of...evil to me O_O I mean, it’s not necessarily his words, but the way he says them, just seems...a little too forceful. He’s not holding Dominik at gunpoint or anything, but could anyone seriously go on with normal schooling after that talk...? He’s a villain, isn’t he? <_<

Professor Fern... You just had to do it, didn’t you? You just had to make another Professor <insert tree here> X_x

As I said before, Midori = awesomeness. These are just hunches, but I have a feeling that “the gift” he mentions to Hiroyuki is being able to telepathically talk with Pokémon, he can communicate with his Meowth, and his quest is to find others like him, eventually leading him to Dominik (Lance all the while plotting some sinister, evil plan behind the scenes <_<)

Oh, and Master Yamada scares me.

Um, okay, what else is there...? Your grammar and spelling are good, except my pet peeve of putting the accent over the e in Pokémon (I just have Word autocorrect it... <_<). So um, I suppose that’s it.

Wait! Tracey/Gary, Dominik/Lance, and Midori/Hiroyuki. Are any of those official pairings? :D You said there will be “same-sex relationships” <_<

EDIT: Oh, and happy birthday! *Hands you a card good for one free anything*

Pikki Zuka
9th August 2006, 5:15 AM
I just got back from vacation a couple of hours ago, but I read this Saturday night at my friends' house. It made me giggle a lot, so it was a good way to wrap up my birthday. I think you used the whole thing, as it didn't seem very half-assed. ;P


As long as Ash doesn’t appear in any sort of major role, I’m fine with that <_<
Haha, fear not. :D


But, wouldn’t it be obvious by just, ya know, looking under their tails? :D
I said to the casual observer. The perverted observer would be the one to lift up their tails.


Hehe, poor Tracey, just when he thinks he may make it somewhere someone else comes along and knocks him down. Sounds like the story of my life as well. Of course, you can’t blame Oak for wanting his own grandson to continue his legacy.
Awwww~ *empathy mode on* Tracey's special to me. ^^


Eh, wow, Lance sounds kind of...evil to me O_O I mean, it’s not necessarily his words, but the way he says them, just seems...a little too forceful. He’s not holding Dominik at gunpoint or anything, but could anyone seriously go on with normal schooling after that talk...? He’s a villain, isn’t he? <_<
Heee hehehehe~


Professor Fern... You just had to do it, didn’t you? You just had to make another Professor <insert tree here> X_x
Someone you'll meet in chapter three was originally a professor too (you'll see when you find out her surname towards the end), but I changed that a bit... she was an early character from 2000. ^^;


As I said before, Midori = awesomeness. These are just hunches, but I have a feeling that “the gift” he mentions to Hiroyuki is being able to telepathically talk with Pokémon, he can communicate with his Meowth, and his quest is to find others like him, eventually leading him to Dominik (Lance all the while plotting some sinister, evil plan behind the scenes <_<)
You might be right. Or are you? You'll have to keep reading~


Um, okay, what else is there...? Your grammar and spelling are good, except my pet peeve of putting the accent over the e in Pokémon (I just have Word autocorrect it... <_<). So um, I suppose that’s it.
My pet peeve is when I see some code in place of the ascii text. My browsers are set to read it properly, but I know there are some out there that aren't. And I'm too lazy to go &# 233; in place of every accented e; well, I did it for another word that only appears a couple of times... but we all know how pokemon is pronounced, so I didn't think it was necessary. I have stingy little rules because I'm nuts.


Wait! Tracey/Gary, Dominik/Lance, and Midori/Hiroyuki. Are any of those official pairings? :D You said there will be “same-sex relationships” <_<
Oh snap, that made me laugh and cringe at the same time. Like, all weekend. Dom/Lance?? I could go on about how WRONG that is, but there would be spoilers!

This is payback for that Rayne/Aira suggestion, isn't it? >__o

There are 2.5 of said relationships, and you've only met one of the people involved. So there.


EDIT: Oh, and happy birthday! *Hands you a card good for one free anything*
;155; (heehee) The edit wasn't in the email notification! (I'm subscribed to this thread) What a nice surprise, thank you! One free anything, huh? I might have to take you up on that. XD

Shrike Flamestar
9th August 2006, 5:42 AM
I said to the casual observer. The perverted observer would be the one to lift up their tails.
What? You say something? *Looks up from where he’s checking a Pokémon’s gender.*


Awwww~ *empathy mode on* Tracey's special to me. ^^
I think I’ve realized that... *eye twitches*


My pet peeve is when I see some code in place of the ascii text. My browsers are set to read it properly, but I know there are some out there that aren't.
Hmm...some sites will automatically switch the character encoding to a site default, so that that won’t happen. I wonder if these boards do...


And I'm too lazy to go &# 233; in place of every accented e
And that’s why I set up the autocorrect in Word so it will do it automatically every time I type “Pokemon,” “Pokedex,” “Pokeball,” and so on :D


Dom/Lance?? I could go on about how WRONG that is, but there would be spoilers!
I could also go on and on about how wrong ships between characters who have only met once, or even worse, never, are. I mean, there’s already a Hikari/Ash ship, and she hasn’t even been in the anime yet! For all we know, she could very well never meet Ash and her show could be some sort of spin-off! Apparently ships don’t have to make sense :p

*Checks shipping forum*

HOLY ****! ASH/DREW! Has there even been a single piece of suggestive evidence in the anime for that?! That makes just about as little sense as Dominik/Lance (apparently) does!


This is payback for that Rayne/Aira suggestion, isn't it? >__o
Mwahahaha! <insert devil smilie that this forum does not have here>


I'm subscribed to this thread
As am I, along with my own.


One free anything, huh? I might have to take you up on that. XD
Uh oh, how come I’m getting a bad feeling about this X_x

So...chapter 3? plzkthxbye :D

Pikki Zuka
9th August 2006, 7:32 AM
What? You say something? *Looks up from where he’s checking a Pokémon’s gender.*
None of that in my thread, kthnx. ;P


I think I’ve realized that... *eye twitches*
Whaaat? >_>


HOLY ****! ASH/DREW! Has there even been a single piece of suggestive evidence in the anime for that?! That makes just about as little sense as Dominik/Lance (apparently) does!
Oh lordy. Ash/Drew makes Dominik/Lance look like the sanest pairing of the year.

Then again, Drew gets on my nerves more than Ash, so maybe that's why the idea irks me so. This does not have anything to do with a real-life encounter with a smarmy showoff polygamous *** named Drew that left me really jaded.

vBulletin needs strike tags. They're fun. XD


Uh oh, how come I’m getting a bad feeling about this X_x
Well, I was going to request some writing (since I read your author profile awhile ago, and saw what you planned to write in the future), but... maybe not... I just learned that your tastes and mine are vastly, vastly different. ^^;;;


So...chapter 3? plzkthxbye :D
Maybe tomorrow. I should have been in bed hours ago. *shakes fist at internet*

How do you set up WYSIWYG mode? I like the sound of that. I already have two versions of each chapter, rtf mode and html mode, and it's no problem to do "replace all" to get brackets instead of html tags, but still. [/geek ramble]

Shrike Flamestar
9th August 2006, 7:42 AM
None of that in my thread, kthnx. ;P
Oh, fine... *Kicks the Buoysel I was “playing” with back to the Attracted to Pokémon thread.”


vBulletin needs strike tags. They're fun. XD
I know, I’ve wanted to use them in the past...


Well, I was going to request some writing (since I read your author profile awhile ago, and saw what you planned to write in the future), but... maybe not... I just learned that your tastes and mine are vastly, vastly different. ^^;;;
I saw you looking at the Attracted to Pokémon thread X_x Decided to check out where I post, huh? Well, now the cat’s out of the bag...

You don’t think I’m some sick, disgusting freak now, do you? :(


Maybe tomorrow. I should have been in bed hours ago.
But it’s only around 2:35 where you live! The night’s still young!


How do you set up WYSIWYG mode? I like the sound of that. I already have two versions of each chapter, rtf mode and html mode, and it's no problem to do "replace all" to get brackets instead of html tags, but still. [/geek ramble]
Just click the little button that looks like a big, stylized A with a smaller, plain A next to it in the far upper-right of the post box. Click it again to go back to the normal editor mode. That’s just temporary though; to get it permanent you have to go into your user options and change a drop down menu thing there.

Pikki Zuka
9th August 2006, 8:32 AM
I saw you looking at the Attracted to Pokémon thread X_x Decided to check out where I post, huh? Well, now the cat’s out of the bag...

You don’t think I’m some sick, disgusting freak now, do you? :(
I'll try. I've had some bad experiences in the past with situations like this, but, y'know, it's your thing, and as long as you don't try to convert everyone to it, do what makes you happy. I've got a few little quirks of my own, but they're downright tame in comparison. XD

But you're still cool, and an awesome writer, and that's all good. But, um, if any of that comes up in TFC, I might not be able to read it. Rayne and Aira are about to have a clothes-ripping girlfight smackdown over Shrike's affection, he'd be nuts to pass that up! >_>

Man, this thread has nothing to do with my story now. Does that happen often here? Is it okay? ^^;; But I'm happy there's some activity here. I'm not used to it, so forgive me if I babble a lot (that goes for all of you reading).


But it’s only around 2:35 where you live! The night’s still young!
I gotta work tomorrow~ Yet I'm still here. *sighs*


Just click the little button that looks like a big, stylized A with a smaller, plain A next to it in the far upper-right of the post box. Click it again to go back to the normal editor mode. That’s just temporary though; to get it permanent you have to go into your user options and change a drop down menu thing there.
Oh, awesome. Somehow I missed that when I posted the first two chapters.

Okay, really going to bed now. ^^;

Shrike Flamestar
13th August 2006, 10:12 PM
...So... Chapter 3? :D You said “maybe tomorrow” about four days ago :D


I'll try. I've had some bad experiences in the past with situations like this, but, y'know, it's your thing, and as long as you don't try to convert everyone to it, do what makes you happy.
Bah, as I said before when someone tried to compare us being “different” to how Nazis are “different,” we’re not trying to kill or convert anyone, and only want to be able to live in peace with others accepting our preferences.


But, um, if any of that comes up in TFC, I might not be able to read it. Rayne and Aira are about to have a clothes-ripping girlfight smackdown over Shrike's affection, he'd be nuts to pass that up! >_>
I can guarantee you that Shrike will not be involved in a Poképhiliac relationship. I can also guarantee that the Buoysel I mentioned as wanting to insert in TFC sometime will not be involved in any Pokephiliac relationship, nor will Zethro or Jehiel once they evolve (Buoysel, Linoone, and Quilava are my three favorite Pokémon...in more ways than one)

I can also guarantee that there will be absolutely zero sex scenes, no matter who, or what, the participants are. I may hint at sex once in a while (come now, when Zack gets back into the picture, you surely don’t think I’ll disappoint you :D), but the worst any sex scene I’ll write in a publicly released work will be is two people getting in a bed together, cuddling a bit, and then a scene change.


Man, this thread has nothing to do with my story now. Does that happen often here? Is it okay?
Blame my presence; I have a knack for driving things off-topic. I have yet to see a topic closed for being off-topic, though. I don’t think the mods even care much about these fanfic threads beyond the fanfics themselves being of decent quality and accurately rated.

Pikki Zuka
14th August 2006, 4:12 AM
...So... Chapter 3? :D You said “maybe tomorrow” about four days ago :D
Funny you should say so, I was planning to post 3 tonight. ^^ Stuff came up over the week, blar.


I can guarantee you that Shrike will not be involved in a Poképhiliac relationship. I can also guarantee that the Buoysel I mentioned as wanting to insert in TFC sometime will not be involved in any Pokephiliac relationship, nor will Zethro or Jehiel once they evolve (Buoysel, Linoone, and Quilava are my three favorite Pokémon...in more ways than one)
Ehehe... that's a relief... Jehiel might not take too kindly to being handled that way. XD


I may hint at sex once in a while (come now, when Zack gets back into the picture, you surely don’t think I’ll disappoint you :D), but the worst any sex scene I’ll write in a publicly released work will be is two people getting in a bed together, cuddling a bit, and then a scene change.
.... You're awesome XD

Zack needs to cuddle with someone older. And female. Yes. >_>


Blame my presence; I have a knack for driving things off-topic. I have yet to see a topic closed for being off-topic, though. I don’t think the mods even care much about these fanfic threads beyond the fanfics themselves being of decent quality and accurately rated.
Yeah, good point. That, and these fanfic threads get lost in the backpages quite frequently, so I doubt it's very noticeable.

Pikki Zuka
14th August 2006, 7:03 AM
Yeesh, I was all ready to post, and suddenly the forums stopped working... I didn't even think my earlier reply to Shrike got through, but apparantly it did. :P

If you're starting chapter 3 from this point, go back up to the first post and take note of the link I added -- you can see a cast list and some of my artwork. Go! Go now!

I like switching the editor mode when I post... but, apparently copying from wordpad removes the styling... I had to go back and italicize. Then when I c/p'd the author notes from a website, the styling was all there. What's up with that? [/geeky rambling]

Anyway, thank you to those who have read the first two chapters! I feel like things are starting off slowly, which was my problem before, but it'll all go somewhere. I didn't do months of meticulous planning for nothing. ^^


----



Chapter 3 - The Coming Tide


He was lost and confused. The current had been so fast, so wild and unrelenting. Torn away from the others, he drifted among the depths, calling out to hear no response. They had gone on without him. He had not been able to keep up.

It would have been fine to keep moving forward, to continue searching for his pack, but these waters were no longer safe. A predator stalked slowly, its huge tentacles waving as they propelled it closer. The frightened one let out a cry as he swished his tiny fins faster to get away. I'm sorry I intruded! I'm lost!

The hunter advanced at twice its speed. Fully panicked now, he followed his foremost instinct, searching for a place to hide. Luckily, there was a rock formation ahead, and he dodged into a small opening just as a flying sting nicked the end of his tailfin. The predator reached one of its black tentacles in after him, but he backed farther in until he was beyond capture. He kept swimming through the darkness, putting as much space between him and danger as possible.

He soon discovered that this was no cave, but a narrow tunnel, and he gratefully exited into the open sea. There was no sign of the hunter, but he pumped his fins hurriedly to make his getaway. The scratch on his tailfin, while slight and not infected, burned enough to make him stop swimming after only a few minutes. Built-up exhaustion overcame him, and he closed his eyes, giving into the weightlessness granted by the water. Surely he was at a safe distance now, so he could afford to rest. He felt himself rising to the surface...


* * * *


It was a mistake to return to this city. Before she arrived, Audrey knew she would regret visiting this place. Angry at herself for caving in, forlorn over the haunting memories, she swore that this would be the last visit to Cerulean Bay. And yet, there was her discovery on the north shore... part of her wanted to believe it was some kind of cryptic sign, but her scientific mind told her there was no cosmic connection between her old love and a baby seel.

There had been no one around who might have been its trainer. Even if it did have an owner, Audrey wouldn't have given it back to someone who was so negligent. Half-conscious and barely breathing, the seel had been sprawled out on the sand, a gentle tide washing over it every few seconds. Audrey dutifully carried it to a cafe on the beachfront, the closest refuge. From there, she settled the pokemon into a tub filled with cold water and ice cubes. Now she sat at one of the cafe's outdoor tables, writing some notes from the scientific journals she carried in her backpack, trying to absorb herself in research so she could forget her wandering thoughts. At her feet, the seel stirred a little in its makeshift pool, coming to its senses.

"Awake, huh?" she asked it. "You had me worried there." The seel blinked its huge brown eyes at her.

What was she to do with this newfound pokemon? Even if it hadn't been a water-type, she couldn't look after it with her final year of grad school approaching. But Audrey didn't rescue it just to set it free in the ocean again, either. In the care of even one human, it would become domesticated. If only there was a place where it could be raised by an expert... not necessarily a water-type expert, even...

Audrey's green eyes lit up. Of course! Her favorite teacher from her undergrad days had his own laboratory now. There was no one else she could trust more. She pulled everything out of her backpack, wondering if she had a means to contact him. He wouldn't be in his office at the University of Celadon anymore, not with his own lab. She needed to get to a computer -- she stood up quickly, then gasped as she remembered her newest responsibility.

Would the cafe want their tub back? And could she get away with bringing a pokemon to her motel without a ball? Could it swim in the pool there? And just how would she bring this poor thing to her teacher, anyway? His lab was on the other side of Kanto! Audrey sank back down and rested her forehead in her hands, trying to sort through everything she'd just gotten herself into.

Some splashing from seel made her turn her head. A teenage girl in a short yellow sundress patted the pokemon's head, and it squirmed around in delight. The girl stood up straight when she noticed Audrey looking at her. "I'm sorry, I just couldn't resist saying hi," she said, looking embarrassed. "He looks right at home there with all those ice cubes in a pool." She giggled nervously.

Audrey smiled at her. "That's all right. I guess you just found out seel like to be petted."

The girl giggled again, but her smile fell. "Is everything okay? You seemed upset about something."

"Oh." Audrey felt foolish for panicking in public. "I just became overwhelmed... I only found this seel on the beach a little bit ago, and I'm not sure how to get it to my professor -- or if he'll even want to take it."

"On the beach?" the girl asked. "He's not yours?"

"I can't keep a pokemon. I'll be going back to college this fall, and I won't have time to take care of one. And I really can't turn it loose into the ocean again. It's too young to search for its family. It'll need some kind of caregiver." Audrey looked at the girl hopefully.

She smiled sadly. "I wish I could help, but my parents won't let me have pokemon. I'm going away to school this fall, too."

Audrey frowned. She certainly knew how it felt to have parents disapprove of her interests. "That's too bad," she said, tapping her pen thoughtfully against her notebook. "Hmm... do you live around here?"

"My parents and I are here for the season. We have a summer home."

"Well, I think the best thing to do is to ask if my old teacher can send someone to retrieve this little guy," Audrey said. "I don't think it's safe to send him electronically in a pokeball yet."

The girl looked a little puzzled, but asked, "Could you take him to a pokemon center? There's one in the city... they take care of pokemon, right?"

Audrey drew in a breath. "I'd feel better sending Seel to someone I know and trust. Those pokemon centers, they're more like quick checkup stations for professional trainers. I wouldn't trust them to give Seel the attention he needs." She went with the girl's implication of "he" -- it felt better to assign a pronoun that wasn't neutral.

"Really? I thought that's why they existed."

"A lot of people think that. Anyway... you seem like someone who cares about pokemon..."

"I really do," the girl said. "I've read a lot about them, in case I do get my own in the future." Her face became very wistful.

"How would you like to help me look after Seel, then? At most, until the end of summer. We should figure out something then."

"Could I?" She clasped her hands together, grinning widely. "I'd love to! It would be so much fun!" She knelt down and petted the seel's small head again.

"You can start now," Audrey suggested. "I want to look up my teacher's new phone number and contact him. He may have some precautions to take with a young pokemon. Stay here until I get back? I promise not to take too long."

"Okay!" She was in the middle of splashing her fingers in the chilly water, while the seel batted her hand with a flipper.

"I'm Audrey, by the way." She couldn't help smiling at the overjoyed girl.

"I'm Noelle." The seel squeaked a little, as if responding to her name. Noelle giggled and patted his head again.

"I'll be back," Audrey said, waving as she left. Noelle and the seel were already bonding, she could tell. It would be cruel to separate them eventually, but she couldn't let the poor girl go without some exposure to pokemon when she wanted it so dearly. Audrey glanced over her shoulder at them. Perhaps coming to Cerulean Bay wasn't such a bad idea after all...


* * * *


"You want to dry?" Delia handed Tracey a dish towel as the sink filled with warm, soapy water. As she started washing the silverware, she remarked, "Sam sure seems happy to have Gary studying with him, don't you think? They spent most of dinner comparing notes on Gary's latest observations."

Tracey twisted the towel in his hands. "That used to be me," he said quietly.

"Hmm?" Delia gave him a concerned look. "What's wrong?"

The assistant sighed. "It's just that ever since Gary came here, Professor Oak has started acting like he'll be the instant successor. I know he's happy about it, because he's got his grandson back, but I've done more work than Gary ever has. It's not fair."

"Well... Gary's training was sort of field research," Delia said. "I think he always viewed pokemon training differently than Ash..."

"But still, I feel like I've wasted my time here, if all I'm good for is drying dishes." Tracey scowled, then glanced at Mrs. Ketchum guiltily. "No offense... sorry."

She smiled at him. "None taken. I know it must be hard to have a rival, but don't forget all you learned. You can still be a researcher, and you have your time here to add to your resume."

"I don't know where to go, though. I don't have any money to support myself, and I don't know anyone I could stay with." He started to dry some forks and put them away. "I wish I wasn't so dependent."

"What about your parents? Don't they live in the Orange Islands?"

"I'm not going back there," Tracey said darkly.

"Oh... well, don't worry too much," said Delia. "Things will work out, I'm sure. You've come this far."

"Yeah..." He didn't want to tell her that something much worse was bothering him. To have Gary staying under the same roof and barely speaking to him, as if nothing had ever happened -- that stung more than being replaced. He'd always been the stand-in friend, the subsitute grandson, always just someone to ignore.

It was to his relief that the video phones started ringing. "I'll get it," Tracey said. Professor Oak and Gary were outside feeding all the pokemon together. "Hello," he answered the phone dully.

The woman on the screen was someone he'd never talked to, and, with as many calls as he answered for the professor, it was surprising. "Hi," she said uncertainly. "Is this Professor Oak's lab?"

"Yeah. He's outside right now, though. I'll get him for you."

"If he's busy, I don't want to interrupt..."

"It's fine. I'll be right back."

Tracey shuffled outside, finding Gary and his grandfather leaning against the fence of the tauros pen, chatting away. He cleared his throat loudly after a minute, since they hadn't heard him approach. "Phone call, Professor."

"Ah! Thank you, m'boy," said Professor Oak, flashing him a grin. Tracey took in a silent breath, then turned his head towards Gary, who was still staring at the many bull pokemon.

"How come you didn't feed the pokemon with us?" Gary spoke first, not looking away.

"Uh..." Tracey was taken aback by the sudden question. "I didn't want to interrupt your reunion," he replied.

"Grandpa said you like watching after the pokemon best. So I'm just surprised you didn't come with us."

Neither of them said anything for a minute, perhaps longer. Gary drummed his fingers on the wooden fence. "Look, Tracey," he said. "I know you've been avoiding me, and I know it's because I acted like a grade-A jerk last time I was here. I don't blame you. I'm really sorry about the whole thing."

"Yeah, so am I," Tracey said in a bitter tone.

"I was hoping we could be colleagues," Gary continued. "Since we both know a lot about Grandpa's studies, we could work together."

"Oh, you want me to do your chores, too?"

Gary blinked in puzzlement as Tracey folded his arms and scowled. Then he sighed deeply and began walking back to the house.

"Tracey!" Gary called after him.

"Sorry I bothered you. I'll leave you alone now."

Meanwhile, after pausing to give Delia a rather unrestrained kiss, Samuel Oak picked up the video phone receiver in his lab. "Hello!" he greeted his caller in a cheerful tone.

"Hello, Professor," said the young woman. "I don't know if you remember me, but I took some undergraduate classes with you at University of Celadon a few years ago. My name is Audrey Holly."

"Hmmm... ah, yes! Audrey! What are you up to these days?"

"Finishing grad school this year. About time, too!"

Professor Oak laughed for a long time, which made Audrey giggle. "So, how may I help you?" he asked.

"Well, I seem to have caught myself a pokemon." Audrey explained her situation with the fragile young seel, and Professor Oak agreed that it should be brought personally to his lab by human hands. "You're right, a pokemon that young and in that condition shouldn't be in a ball until it's older and healthier," he said. "You say you met a local girl to help look after it? Maybe you can send it to me in a few months. It should be fine for pokeball transport by then."

"But I wanted you to give it a checkup now. I've never raised a pokemon before..."

"It'll be good experience! You'll be entering the scientific community by this time next year!" Sam chortled, then suddenly stopped. "Say... I just thought of something."

"What's that?" Audrey asked a little nervously, afraid he was going to further pick on her.

"What if I send my lab assistant? He's been working with me for almost two years now, and he certainly knows how to check up on a baby pokemon. He'd do a fine job."

"Oh... I just can't steal your assistant like that..."

"Don't worry, I've got my grandson here to put to work!" He laughed again. "Besides, I think Tracey could use a vacation, and a trip to the beach is just the thing to lift his spirits. He seems to be in a bit of a funk."

"Well, if you insist," Audrey said.

"I do indeed. Just keep your seel in cold water and feed it plenty of baby pokemon formula -- you can pick it up anywhere. And give it lots of attention. You know that, of course. We'll make sure Tracey gets there in a day or two."

"Of course. Thank you so much, Professor."

"You're welcome, Audrey. 'Bye now." He hung up with a thoughtful "hmmm."

"Who was it, Sam?" Delia asked, popping her head in the den.

"A former student of mine with a pokemon dilemma. I'm sending Tracey to help out. She's at Cerulean Bay, so it'll be a nice break for him. Some time at the beach, you know. I think, despite everything, he misses the sand and the sea. And I know his marill does."

"That's great!" Delia beamed. "I bet that'll cheer him up right away."

Sam nodded. "Yes, I hope so. Tracey hasn't been himself lately. I think a change of scenery is just what he needs."

----
Author's Notes: At last, we get to meet Noelle, my very first Pokemon OC and this story's namesake. Some of you may remember that the first drafts were written from her point of view, and that really set a different tone for EW than was intended. As more characters came into the story, it became difficult to maintain everything from Noelle's perspective, so I decided this time around to introduce some of the other players before getting to her. Even then, we're meeting her through Audrey's eyes, so there's much to be discovered about her.

Speaking of Audrey, she began as a recently-graduated professor (following the pattern of plant names), but I thought it would be more interesting to see her as a student still in college. It brings her down to more of the same level as some of the other cast -- there's a lot more to her than the token "all-knowing professor" role.

Poor Tracey, he's having a rough time. We can all see where this is going, right?

Sam/Delia is the closest to canon shipping I've come. It's hilarious to think of the GREAT PROFESSOR OAK messing around with his much younger and MARRIED neighbor. I figure she deserves some fun, though. Her husband, wherever he went, is kind of a flaky idiot. "I think I'll abandon my wife and young child to play with pokemon! I have no sense of responsibility!" She married young, it was a mistake. ^^

Shrike Flamestar
16th August 2006, 4:28 AM
Ehehe... that's a relief... Jehiel might not take too kindly to being handled that way. XD
Hehe, I could just imagine that... Perhaps I should have made him a female, hmm? <_<


.... You're awesome XD

Zack needs to cuddle with someone older. And female. Yes. >_>
Well, Zack is only eighteen or ninteenish, so that’s not THAT far away from fourteen <_< Plus, where’s the fun in all relationships in something being straight ;)

Or perhaps I sense some jealousy here...


Yeesh, I was all ready to post, and suddenly the forums stopped working...
Glad they’re fixing the server tomorrow... Hopefully that problem will go away, as the same thing happened to me when I went to post chapter 16 of TFC yesterday...


If you're starting chapter 3 from this point, go back up to the first post and take note of the link I added -- you can see a cast list and some of my artwork. Go! Go now!
I saw, and I like. Although Noelle seems older than I imagined from chapter 3... How old is she, exactly?

Midori’s sprite is awesome as well :D Looks like he’s ready to pull a couple of guns out of that cloak of his <_< Why is his hair brown in the cast thing?


I like switching the editor mode when I post... but, apparently copying from wordpad removes the styling... I had to go back and italicize. Then when I c/p'd the author notes from a website, the styling was all there. What's up with that? [/geeky rambling]
Hmm? *Goes and tries it out* Hey, you’re right... That’s weird...

Do you not have Microsoft Word? If you don’t, you should look into OpenOffice.org

ANYWAYS... Onto another half-assed review!

Darn it, I was really hoping for the Tentacool/cruel to eat that Seel in the beginning :( You disappoint me <_< Speaking of eating and violence and blood and gore, how much is going to be in here? The more the better I always say; as you can pretty much tell from TFC :D Although, for people who don’t like that kind of stuff so much, it might be a good idea to warn them if the PG-13 rating constitutes that.

So, Audrey saved the Seel, and intends to give it to Professor Oak by means of Tracey while she and Noelle take care of it... How come I get a feeling that something is going to go wrong there? I’m pretty sure that Noelle is going to get the Seel, since she seems to like and want it after all.

Hehe, I thought you like Tracey, and now you’re putting him through all of this? :D Reduced to washing dishes and acting as Oak’s errand boy... I wouldn’t be able to take much more. I mean, shouldn’t Oak have at least asked if Tracey wanted to go all the way to Cerulean first?

Hmm... The Tracey/Gary ship *checks the Shipping forum* (Hey, did you know there’s a Tracey/Miltank ship? “FatShipping”...), apparently called “TranShipping” for some reason beyond my comprehension, grows all the stronger in this chapter! Misunderstanding your partner is always the first part of a successful relationship! We can now also add Audrey/Noelle, Audrey/Seel, and Noelle/Seel to the EW shipping list!


Speaking of Audrey, she began as a recently-graduated professor (following the pattern of plant names), but I thought it would be more interesting to see her as a student still in college.
And because of that I suppose I can let her name slide. She may live...for now...


there's a lot more to her than the token "all-knowing professor" role.
Are you looking at me?!?!?! *Kicks Professor Jura into the closet*


Poor Tracey, he's having a rough time. We can all see where this is going, right?
Yeah; he’ll snap, turn emo, slit his wrists, and write angst filled poetry. <_<


Her husband, wherever he went, is kind of a flaky idiot. "I think I'll abandon my wife and young child to play with pokemon! I have no sense of responsibility!"
Idiot? Giovanni is no idiot! <_<

They really need to answer who Ash’s dad/Delia’s husband is one of these days. But until then, Giovanni sounds perfectly reasonable. Of course, then Ash is Silver’s brother... That would actually make for an interesting plot...

So, great chapter! Yeah... Now post 4!

Pikki Zuka
16th August 2006, 6:07 AM
Well, Zack is only eighteen or ninteenish, so that’s not THAT far away from fourteen <_< Plus, where’s the fun in all relationships in something being straight ;)

Or perhaps I sense some jealousy here...
*shakes fist* Every time I find a boy I like...

Heee, 19/14. That's relevant in my story.


I saw, and I like. Although Noelle seems older than I imagined from chapter 3... How old is she, exactly?
She's 15. I should go back and add their ages to the cast page... I don't know why I didn't. @_@


Midori’s sprite is awesome as well :D Looks like he’s ready to pull a couple of guns out of that cloak of his <_< Why is his hair brown in the cast thing?
The boys are desaturated a little, to make Noelle stand out more. I put together that poster in a hurry, so I don't like a lot of things about it. Dominik looks too ashen.


Do you not have Microsoft Word? If you don’t, you should look into OpenOffice.org
No, I'm ghetto and use wordpad. I did have OpenOffice before my reformat, but it always loaded so slowly. Although, that may have been my hard drive problems. ^^;


Darn it, I was really hoping for the Tentacool/cruel to eat that Seel in the beginning :( You disappoint me <_< Speaking of eating and violence and blood and gore, how much is going to be in here? The more the better I always say; as you can pretty much tell from TFC :D Although, for people who don’t like that kind of stuff so much, it might be a good idea to warn them if the PG-13 rating constitutes that.
*cries* See, that's why I told you that you might not like it... I'm not a fan of violence, so there's really nothing here. Not that it's all completely fluff, there will be some battles and confrontations, but not in gory detail with drawn-out killing. ;P


Hehe, I thought you like Tracey, and now you’re putting him through all of this? :D Reduced to washing dishes and acting as Oak’s errand boy... I wouldn’t be able to take much more. I mean, shouldn’t Oak have at least asked if Tracey wanted to go all the way to Cerulean first?
One has to endure hardships to grow stronger. Tracey will get his reward... and then some. :D


Hmm... The Tracey/Gary ship *checks the Shipping forum* (Hey, did you know there’s a Tracey/Miltank ship? “FatShipping”...), apparently called “TranShipping” for some reason beyond my comprehension, grows all the stronger in this chapter! Misunderstanding your partner is always the first part of a successful relationship! We can now also add Audrey/Noelle, Audrey/Seel, and Noelle/Seel to the EW shipping list!
Goddamn, I hate shippers. I thought Tracey/Gary was called Oakshipping... anyway... no. ;P Although, we dabbled in Audrey/Noelle... *cough*


Are you looking at me?!?!?! *Kicks Professor Jura into the closet*
XD No, I wasn't thinking of Gendou.


Yeah; he’ll snap, turn emo, slit his wrists, and write angst filled poetry. <_<
Nonono. Wow, I thought the situation was predictable... then again, I should have figured you'd guess wrist-slitting.


Idiot? Giovanni is no idiot! <_<

They really need to answer who Ash’s dad/Delia’s husband is one of these days. But until then, Giovanni sounds perfectly reasonable. Of course, then Ash is Silver’s brother... That would actually make for an interesting plot...
I don't buy into the Giovanni theory. Probably because I read a long time ago that Tajiri-san intended for Ash's dad to be some nameless runaway. I think it was on Itomaru's Web, before Encyclopedia Pokemonica had to be removed? I don't see it there now.

Hmm, should I go back to writing 10, or should I read TFC? >_>

Shrike Flamestar
16th August 2006, 6:30 AM
*shakes fist* Every time I find a boy I like...
Well, Zack’s current relationship is rather one-sided, so you may still have a chance if you can somehow break into TFC’s universe, which would be especially hard since you’d also have to travel around 34 or so years into the future as well...


The boys are desaturated a little, to make Noelle stand out more. I put together that poster in a hurry, so I don't like a lot of things about it. Dominik looks too ashen.
Yeah, Dominik is way too pale in it, something is up with Noelle’s face that just isn’t right (maybe it’s her lack of any expression...), and Midori’s right eye is awkward. I usually don’t mind the anime style of seeing eyes through hair, but that’s a little too much with Midori.

On the plus side, Tracey and Lance don’t seem to have any problems.


*cries* See, that's why I told you that you might not like it... I'm not a fan of violence, so there's really nothing here. Not that it's all completely fluff, there will be some battles and confrontations, but not in gory detail with drawn-out killing. ;P
*Pats Pikki Zuka’s back* Hey, I’m not ALL violence. I don’t need it. Well, perhaps I do, but not in everything I read <_<

In stories, plot always come first. With the plot that I get a feel for what you’re doing here (a more romantic one than TFC is and not quite as dark), explicit violence wouldn’t even fit very well.

Don’t think I don’t like romance either; half of Elfen Lied is romance after all (the other half is nudity, violence, and gore <_<).


Goddamn, I hate shippers. I thought Tracey/Gary was called Oakshipping... anyway... no.
Hmm, on a second check both Tran and OakShipping are Tracey/Gary... I skipped over OakShipping at first because Tracey’s name is misspelled in it...


Nonono. Wow, I thought the situation was predictable... then again, I should have figured you'd guess wrist-slitting.
Hey, I’m not emo myself.

Let’s see, a more realistic view of Tracey’s future is he grudgingly goes to Cerulean, there meets Noelle, they fall in love, something happens, and plot commences.


Hmm, should I go back to writing 10, or should I read TFC? >_>
Read TFC! Read TFC!

No, I am not biased at all <_<

Pikki Zuka
16th August 2006, 7:15 AM
Well, Zack’s current relationship is rather one-sided, so you may still have a chance if you can somehow break into TFC’s universe, which would be especially hard since you’d also have to travel around 34 or so years into the future as well...
*does math* Yikes. You win this round, Mr. Reilyn. Unless I find a Celebi...


Yeah, Dominik is way too pale in it, something is up with Noelle’s face that just isn’t right (maybe it’s her lack of any expression...), and Midori’s right eye is awkward. I usually don’t mind the anime style of seeing eyes through hair, but that’s a little too much with Midori.

On the plus side, Tracey and Lance don’t seem to have any problems.
It was a bad time, when I drew that, but I wanted to have it up for the December debut. I've got some other poster ideas... coming eventually. ^^

Oh, Lance has problems all right. XD


*Pats Pikki Zuka’s back* Hey, I’m not ALL violence. I don’t need it. Well, perhaps I do, but not in everything I read <_<

In stories, plot always come first. With the plot that I get a feel for what you’re doing here (a more romantic one than TFC is and not quite as dark), explicit violence wouldn’t even fit very well.

Don’t think I don’t like romance either; half of Elfen Lied is romance after all (the other half is nudity, violence, and gore <_<).
*eek* Well, I wasn't sure how you swung on romantic stories, but I'm glad you can detect some stirrings of plot. I agree, that really is the most important thing.

By the same token, I'm not all romance, I like lots of genres. I can read violence, but watching it is sometimes too much... and I've never taken a stab (ha ha) at writing it. Maybe I should. ^^


Hey, I’m not emo myself.
I meant because there would be cutting, and blood, and maybe licking of blood, and... but yeah, cutting is lame. Licking is better.


Read TFC! Read TFC!

No, I am not biased at all <_<
Already did, there you go. Maybe I have a reply by now! *goes*

Chapter 4 in a day or two, I think... it's pretty short, and is the last of the "introductory" chapters for part 1.

Pikki Zuka
20th August 2006, 4:18 AM
Time for chapter 4 already? Looks like. It sets the stage for things that will happen to Team Rocket in time... *tries to sound mysterious*

Thank you to everyone who rated my thread! Maybe I'll hit five stars someday? I hope so. :D


----


Chapter 4 - Moving Forward

William Mondo whistled along with the radio as he sped down the highway. Often, he would reflect on how much he enjoyed driving. It gave him the awesome responsibility of controlling a powerful machine, even if it was only his old red Jeep. Well, there was also the awesome responsibility of his mission, which was to deliver the usual supplies to his heroes, extreme Team Rocket field agents Jessie, James, and Meowth. Mondo had always admired them, the way they sacrificed the comforts of civilization for their work. Plus, since it was his job to check up on them and bring them food and first aid, he felt a great sense of usefulness. To belong to something as important as Team Rocket, to be trusted by two very cool people... Mondo found his life quite fulfilling.

He swallowed the last drop from his can of Mountain Dewgong soda and tossed it behind him. It landed on the backseat floor, clattering against other empty cans. Mondo glanced over his shoulder. "Guess I haven't cleaned up in a few weeks," he said, grinning apologetically to himself and rapping his hands on the steering wheel to the beat of the music blaring from the speakers.

The closest parking space was several hundred feet away from the main building. Mondo sighed as he turned off the ignition, thinking that he probably could use the walk for exercise anyway. He got out of the Jeep and stretched his arms over his head, staring up at the massive, multi-story structure that was home to the Silph Company, a division of Team Rocket enterprises. Mondo pulled his keycard out of his wallet as he approached the main entrance. Carrying it made him feel important.

On the tenth floor, he swiped his card through the electronic locking device for his supervisor's office and strolled inside. "Welcome back, Mr. Mondo," said the young secretary.

He grinned. "I'm only eighteen, you know. I'm not a 'mister.'"

The secretary giggled. "Sometimes I have a hard time believing you're even that old."

"Why, thank you," said Mondo, who took pride in his boyish looks. "Is Kaede in?"

"No, she's not. But when she gets back, she's got another delivery for you to make."

"Uh oh. I'd better get to work cleaning out my Jeep, then."

The janitorial closet was located at the end of the hall. It would take an entire garbage bag to hold all the soda cans and candy wrappers from his backseat, Mondo was sure. Maybe he could take it to a car wash afterwards. It had been good to him over the past couple of years, so he took the best care of it in return.

A hacking cough from the adjoining stairwell made him jump. "Are you ever going to cut back?" a woman said in a deplorable tone. Mondo knew them right away to be Cassidy and Butch, Jessie and James's hated rivals. Jessie had once asked Mondo to report to her anything Cassidy was up to, and, as Mondo would do anything Jessie demanded of him, he ducked into the dark closet and pulled the door shut, which locked it from the outside.

"I can't believe things are finally going to turn around for us," Butch said in his gravelly voice as he opened the stairwell door. "It's about time we got a promotion."

"I told you we should have worked on developing that breeding center months ago," Cassidy scoffed. "Maybe if you'd listen to me once and awhile..."

"Put a sock in it. The important thing is that we got our recognition."

They had stopped right at the closet. Mondo held his breath. There was no way they could find him -- he was locked inside -- unless they gained a master key with their promotion, and they felt an urge to take inventory of window cleaner and paper towels...

"Yes, at least we'll make sure some work gets done around here. I just know the Boss will be pleased at some of my plans," said Cassidy.

"Excuse me, your highness?" Butch spat out. "Your plans?"

"Put a sock in it," she mocked him. "I've been the brains out of the two of us all this time, and you know it."

"Good thing executives don't really need partners then, huh?" Butch paused. "Although... maybe a new partner is exactly what I need."

"Ugh, you don't need a partner, you need a few anonymous conjugal visits. No wonder you can't focus on your job."

"No, my job is exactly what I'll be focused on. We're executives now. We can order these grunts to do anything we want, and they can't question us."

"Oh, for the love of--"

"Not that! I mean tracking down someone."

Mondo pressed his ear to the door, as Butch had lowered his voice. "I know Akiko is alive," he said.

Cassidy tsked. "Akiko."

"What? Never found her body, did they? That means she got away."

"If she was alive, someone would have made sure she paid for all the damage," Cassidy stated matter-of-factly. "What's it been, two years? Almost three by now?"

"She could be hiding! She always was clever."

"Just like you, huh? Blaming the whole thing on a little girl?"

"Hey, she had that vulpix! She could have very well had it torch the whole lab, and escaped with all the other pokemon!"

"And you could have dropped your cigarette while she struggled against you." Cassidy sounded smug. "I saw the surveillance tape, you know."

There was a pause, and Mondo was sure they were glaring at each other. "Well, it doesn't hurt to hunt for an escaped agent," Butch said at last. "If she really can't be found, then maybe we can assume she's dead. But if she's alive, she has some unfinished business with the team."

"The you and little Butch team, maybe," said Cassidy. "Well, do what you want. I'll be working my way up the ladder while you abuse your power. Eventually you'll be working for me." Her heels clacked against the floor as she walked away.

"You're all talk, anyway!" Butch called after her. Mondo heard the stairwell door creaking open loudly, and Butch's footsteps pounding down the steps. He held his breath for a couple more minutes, then opened the door very slowly. The hallway was deserted. Breathing a sigh of relief, he stepped out of the closet and sank to the floor, closing his eyes and slumping down.

So Cassidy and Butch were executives now. Jessie wouldn't like that. She never wanted Cassidy to be better than she was. But weren't she and James elite field agents? Wasn't their work more important than breeding pokemon for Team Rocket? That's what Mondo had been told, anyway. He always felt proud that his heroes kept constant vigilance out in the wild, gathering rare and powerful pokemon for the team's benefit. That was a big responsibility... unless Cassidy and Butch's job was to raise and breed the pokemon afterwards. That might be a bigger responsibility. That would explain their promotion, but it didn't seem fair that they would receive one, while Jessie and James, who worked just as hard, didn't. Unless they just hadn't been notified yet. Yeah, that was it...

He hoped Jessie and James would be called in soon. Somebody had to keep Butch in line, since it seemed he was already making unnecessary plans. Who was Akiko? Mondo had never heard of anyone by that name, but he had come to work for Team Rocket only two years ago. Cassidy had said the Akiko incident was almost three years past.

Mondo took a deep breath to collect his thoughts, then stood up and brushed off his clothes. It wouldn't do to be discovered sitting around. He unlocked the closet again and grabbed a garbage bag, then headed outside. He wasn't going to let himself get worried. Things would turn around for his heroes, he was sure.


* * * *

It was no surprise, nor break from routine, that James Morgan woke up with a stiff neck and growling stomach. He sat up and immediately fell back over as he realized the ground beneath him was rocking back and forth. The blanket covering him was stiff like heavy plastic. He rubbed his eyes and tried to figure out where he was, and just what had happened the night before. They were celebrating something, a momentous decision... and he felt that their lives were going to change...

He then realized what had happened. He, Jessie, and Meowth had stashed away on a boat bound for Kanto. He was laying underneath a tarp, and the boat was docked, rocking gently with the waves. Had they made it to Vermilion Harbor? James climbed out from underneath the covering, clamboring onto the dock and stretching his back. He pulled off one of his gloves, running his hand through his hair and looking around. If the people mulling about the harbor noticed a disheveled young man in what could pass for an official-looking uniform, he didn't care. It wasn't as though the general public knew about Team Rocket. He really didn't think of himself as--

"What are you doing out here?" How Jessie managed to be so alert just after waking was still a mystery. She peered out from under the tarp at James, a glare in her eyes.

"Just trying to figure out where to get some food," he answered dully.

"That's a no-brainer, even for you. We're right by the sea."

James glanced at the calm, clear water. "So we are."

"Meowth! Wake up!" Jessie said crisply over her shoulder. "It's time to put those catlike reflexes of yours to work. We're going fishing."

James heard Meowth yawn and grumble under his breath, and he smiled to himself.

Fishing was a five-minute endeavor before Jessie tossed her rod into the water out of annoyance. "What's wrong with these fish? They aren't taking my bait!"

"Maybe da sight of you in da morning scares 'em off," Meowth suggested with a hearty laugh.

"I didn't ask you!" Jessie kicked him several feet away.

"Back to picking pockets, then?" James asked.

Two filched wallets later, the three of them ate a good-sized breakfast, which was enough to calm Jessie down and make her behave like a rational human being again. "So how do you think we'll capture Pikachu today?" she asked, sipping her coffee demurely, as if she hadn't just inhaled several plates of food.

"We're not after Pikachu anymore, remember?" James reminded her. "Last night you decided it was a lost cause, and we snuck aboard a ship and wound up here at the Vermilion Harbor."

Jessie blinked. "That's right!" She stood up, clenching her fist and propping one foot on her chair. "It's been how many years now? And we still don't have that little rat? It's time Team Rocket moved onto bigger and better pursuits!"

"Like figurin' out how ta get dinner, right?" Meowth said, still licking his plate.

"Like finding the best way to get back into the Boss's favor!" Jessie corrected him. "You do want to be the top cat again, don't you? We have to find something... it's not like he'd want that pikachu anyway! We've seen more powerful pokemon!"

James rested his chin in the palm of his hand, slightly tuning out her passionate but repetitive speech and gazing out the window. Average people strolled by, chatting with one another, smiling, wearing normal clothes...

"What do you think, James?" Jessie asked.

"Hmm?" He turned his head away from the window. "I think we shouldn't have eaten everything Mondo brought to us so soon. Or spent all our money in one night."

Jessie rolled her eyes. "He'll bring us more. He does anything I say, naturally." She flipped her magenta hair over her shoulder. "But that's not what I meant. What do you think we should do about looking for pokemon? Where should we start?"

James blinked slowly, thinking about her question. "I think we should stop," he said. "Let's just get jobs like honest people, give the Boss back his money, and go on with our lives."

Meowth choked his tuna sandwich, hacking and coughing. Jessie thumped him on the back. "Are you insane!?" she snapped at James. "Honest people? When we've built up a reputation for being so dishonest? And what do you mean, go on with our lives? You want to quit the team? Do you know how many years we've put into it?"

"Not really." James stirred the ice in his glass with his straw. "I've forgotten how old we are. We live like kids."

Jessie stuck her nose in the air. "That's because I refuse to become an old woman. Or is that what you want to see?" She glowered at him.

James sighed and smiled weakly. "Of course not."

Meowth regained his composure and stood up in his chair. "Don't think for a minute dat I'm quittin'," he said. "I mean ta be da Boss's top cat, an' I'm not stoppin' now just because you're bored!"

"Why?" James asked. "Why do you want that so badly?"

"Huh?" Meowth sat back down, looking a little thoughtful.

Jessie banged her fist on the table. "That's enough out of you!" she ordered. "We're going back to headquarters, and we're going to get promotions. I don't know what's got you discouraged today, but you'd better snap out of it. If we wander around without a purpose, we'd starve to death! An anonymous death! Is that what you want?"

Under the glare of her dark blue eyes, James mumbled, "No."

She relaxed a little and shook her head, fanning out her long hair. "We'll get there soon," she said in a much gentler tone. "We're going to do something different now, right? We have a lot of pokemon options now, not just one pikachu."

"Yeah..." James agreed. "Sorry. You're right. I'm just tired. I slept on a boat."

"We'll get a better night's sleep tonight," Jessie said cheerfully, waving a stolen credit card back and forth. "Let's head for Celadon, okay? There are better hotels there than in this harbor town."

"Dat's da best thing I've heard all day!" Meowth chimed in.

James cracked his neck and forced a smile.


----

Author's Notes: These introductory chapters are hard, because Mondo's such a fun character, and he barely does anything here. Maybe there should be a "what-if" story, where he bursts out of the closet in a Cornholio-style caffeine rush and gives Butch a wedgie.

Also, James was already hot, but James with a backbone is all supah sexay. My story, my canon. FWAHAHA.

Shrike Flamestar
21st August 2006, 12:29 AM
...Your new avatar scares me...


Thank you to everyone who rated my thread! Maybe I'll hit five stars someday? I hope so.
You better not! If you haven’t noticed, TFC has gone down from five to four stars :o I will not have you be better than me! *Rates EW one star*

J/K :D I already gave it five stars and can’t change my rating...

Let’s see, hmm...what happened to Tracy and Noelle and the Seel and Audrey :o I want to know how all the angst is gong! Bah, fine, I’ll settle for a Team Rocket oriented chapter.

I have no idea how Mondo acts in the radio drama; is how you portray him his true personality? He’s far too cheerful... He needs more angst; perhaps he could borrow some of Tracy’s.

Ooh, a mysterious name “Akiko” *Checks list o’ sprites* Darn, nothing there. Is she a traitor? Perhaps she found out something deep and sinister (most likely involving experiments on Pokémon) about the inner workings of Team Rocket that shocked her, so she ran away, but Giovanni did not like that so he sent Butch and Cassidy after her to kill her, but they failed...

Morgan is a weird last name for James. Yep.

If the Team Rocket trio is so good at stealing peoples’ wallets, why don’t they do it more often? <_<

Meowth’s style of speech annoys me (in the anime as well, not just this story). Yep.


it's not like he'd want that pikachu anyway! We've seen more powerful pokemon!"
Truer words have never been spoken. Pikachu really isn’t all that powerful nowadays in comparison to the Pokémon gym leaders and league competitors and frontier brains have, contrary to popular belief...

Although, it does still have it’s moments of uberness... Like the battle between it and Juan’s Milotic...

So, you said this is the last setup chapters? Quick, post chapter 5! I want more plot!

...I think that was my most half-assed review yet...

Pikki Zuka
21st August 2006, 4:00 AM
...Your new avatar scares me...
Jynx: We want looooove, Shriiike~


You better not! If you haven’t noticed, TFC has gone down from five to four stars :o I will not have you be better than me! *Rates EW one star*

J/K :D I already gave it five stars and can’t change my rating...
:o Oh, yay! Thank you! Actually, I haven't rated TFC... I'll go do that next.


Let’s see, hmm...what happened to Tracy and Noelle and the Seel and Audrey :o I want to know how all the angst is gong! Bah, fine, I’ll settle for a Team Rocket oriented chapter.
They'll be back in chapter 5, and will stick around until you're tired of them. XD


I have no idea how Mondo acts in the radio drama; is how you portray him his true personality? He’s far too cheerful... He needs more angst; perhaps he could borrow some of Tracy’s.
From what I remember reading about it, he's very energetic and positive, and carries a torch for Jessie. He's a little older in this story, and he's starting to get over her, realizing more and more that she's not the one for him. He's not a very angstful character, though. There will be plenty more of that elsewhere (with 20some characters, everyone's got a little something different ^^; )


Ooh, a mysterious name “Akiko” *Checks list o’ sprites* Darn, nothing there. Is she a traitor? Perhaps she found out something deep and sinister (most likely involving experiments on Pokémon) about the inner workings of Team Rocket that shocked her, so she ran away, but Giovanni did not like that so he sent Butch and Cassidy after her to kill her, but they failed...
MUAHAHAHA.


So, you said this is the last setup chapters? Quick, post chapter 5! I want more plot!
Maybe I should, you're my only reviewer... *woeful sigh*


...I think that was my most half-assed review yet...
Don't worry, I always get a kick out of your reviews. XD I'm glad you post them. ^^

Shrike Flamestar
21st August 2006, 4:35 AM
Jynx: We want looooove, Shriiike~
Ack! Me no like humanoids! *Surrounds himself with a barrier of loving musteline Pokémon; in other words, Buoysel, Linoone, Quilava, and Furret.*


From what I remember reading about it, he's very energetic and positive, and carries a torch for Jessie. He's a little older in this story, and he's starting to get over her, realizing more and more that she's not the one for him. He's not a very angstful character, though. There will be plenty more of that elsewhere (with 20some characters, everyone's got a little something different ^^; )
20 characters! Think of all the possible angst!

Character 1 Personality: Angsty
Character 2 Personality: Angstier
Character 3 Personality: Angstierer
...
Character 20 Personality: Angstiest

Yeah, now that’s my kind of story!


Maybe I should, you're my only reviewer... *woeful sigh*
Oh, don’t take it so hard; I’m sure you have plenty of closet readers who are just too shy, too lazy, or too scared of me to post. After all, where else would these thread views and ratings be coming from?

People tend to have a hard time with reviews whenever it’s their first time posting a fic here, or anywhere, really. I was very lucky I developed the following I have here, and hadn’t even been expecting so many people to read and enjoy TFC. Truthfully, I expected it to crash and burn...

But, hey, think about it this way: you’re not getting any negative or “gr8 job!” reviews.

Hmm, you could always try PMing and asking someone in this thread (http://www.serebiiforums.com/showthread.php?t=38431) if they will review for you. That thread used to be stickied, but it isn’t anymore, for some reason...

Pikki Zuka
21st August 2006, 7:16 AM
20 characters! Think of all the possible angst!

Character 1 Personality: Angsty
Character 2 Personality: Angstier
Character 3 Personality: Angstierer
...
Character 20 Personality: Angstiest

Yeah, now that’s my kind of story!
XD Good to have a fellow angst fan on board.


Oh, don’t take it so hard; I’m sure you have plenty of closet readers who are just too shy, too lazy, or too scared of me to post. After all, where else would these thread views and ratings be coming from?

Hmm, you could always try PMing and asking someone in this thread (http://www.serebiiforums.com/showthread.php?t=38431) if they will review for you. That thread used to be stickied, but it isn’t anymore, for some reason... I'm in awe of my hit count -- I didn't expect that many. Even if they're pointing and laughing, they're still visiting! Heheh...

I don't want to outright ask for them, either. If I was more active around here, more people would see my signature and might click... well, someday. I think my "omgI'man00b" feeling has disappeared, since my postcount icon leveled up. *is weird*

Anyway, since you asked, here's chapter 5. I'm not sure when I would have gotten to it this week, so yeah.


----

Chapter 5 - The Day I Met You

The tip of Tracey's tongue stuck out from a corner of his lips as he scratched his pencil over the paper in short, hurried strokes. His subject, a little girl with a plush clefairy in her lap, held perfectly still except for her feet, which she swung in anticipation. As Tracey glanced from the sketchbook to her, he smiled.

"There you go," he said when he finished, holding out his work. The girl clapped her hands and beamed, exclaiming, "That's me!"

"He did a good job, didn't he?" her mother remarked. "You're a great artist."

"Oh, no," Tracey said. "I just draw what I see."

"Can I have your autograph?" the girl asked.

Tracey signed his name on the sketch, then ripped it out and handed it to her. "Thank you!" she gushed.

"Well, I couldn't do that," said the mother. "It takes talent to capture something realistically on paper like that."

He smiled nervously, feeling his ears getting warm. The woman smiled back, and then motioned for her daughter to stand up with her. "We'd better get to our room," she declared. "How about you? Where are you headed?"

"I'm meeting someone here," Tracey told her. "To take a look at a pokemon." He glanced across the hotel lobby, but there was no sign of Audrey Holly yet.

"Oh? Do you have any?"

"Yeah, I've got three."

"I got a clefairy!" announced the girl, holding out her plush.

Tracey grinned. "It look well-trained, too. I can tell, since I work with lots of pokemon every day."

"How exciting!" The mother clapped her hands together.

A group of people clad in bathing suits passed them. "Let's go swimming now!" the girl insisted, pulling on her mother's hand.

"We'd better go," her mom said to Tracey. "If you're at the beach this weekend, we might see you."

"I might take Marill for a swim," he replied. "So I'll look for you."

He waved until they boarded the elevator across the room, the doors closing them off from the lobby. Tracey sighed and slumped down in his chair. It felt weird to be approached by strangers like that, especially ones who thought he was some kind of portraitist. He didn't mind doing it, though -- the little girl was very cute, and her mother nice. It just seemed like an awkward situation, to be put on the spot, to be called an artist.

He was always uncomfortable with that word. To him, it meant someone who was very dynamic and imaginative, someone who lived in a perpetual state of creation. Tracey didn't consider himself creative -- he sketched pictures for visual notes, a habit born from pokemon watching. He couldn't draw anything fantastical from his mind alone. He had to look at a subject first. And he didn't see himself as a person who frequented art galleries or perceived things in a vague, poetic manner. He was more of a scientist, a researcher, someone who recorded what he observed in very concrete ways. At least, that's what he wanted to be. People respected scientific minds.

Tracey stuffed the sketchbook in his backpack. Why he'd gotten it out in the first place, he didn't even know. Another old habit, he decided. He didn't really want to sketch memories of this trip. He did notice several attractive people walking by, most of them wearing only bathing suits. Some keepsake sketches of them would be nice, but if anyone saw him drawing half-naked people, they would think he was a horrible pervert. Frustrated, Tracey stared at the lobby decorations, trying to distract himself.

Cascade Hotel was Cerulean City's largest resort, and the most lavish place in which Tracey had ever been. Between the exotic potted plants, polished furniture, and huge (but still tasteful) crystal chandelier, he felt like he didn't belong. Maybe the nice woman felt sorry for him, and that's why she invited him to sketch her daughter? If that was the case, what would Audrey think? Surely, to be here, she had to be some kind of respected scientist, the famous student of Professor Oak who was still in college but had already made several important discoveries...

"Tracey?" A voice snapped him out of his thoughts. The woman in front of him, with her reddish-brown hair and glasses, was Audrey herself. Her casual dress and apprehensive demeanor instantly put Tracey at ease. He had expected her to be wearing a lab coat and a complacent expression.

"Hi." He stood up and shook her hand.

"Glad you made it here," she said, smiling. "Have you got your room key? Want to rest from your trip for awhile?"

"Oh, yeah..." Tracey almost forgot that Professor Oak had booked a room for him. This trip to Cerulean Bay doubled as a vacation, a reward for his hard work. Although, Tracey was pretty sure it was a way to get his moping self out of the lab so the professor and Gary could enjoy themselves.

He checked in at the front desk and got a key. "I'll drop off my backpack," he said to Audrey, "but I don't need to rest for awhile. I want to take a first look at this seel of yours."

"Are you sure?" She followed him to the elevator. "Didn't you drive all the way here?"

"Yeah, and it was a long time of sitting down. I don't think I need to sit more. Plus, I'll have all week to rest, apparantly."

"It was nice of Professor Oak to do all this for you."

Tracey made a noncommittal noise. "How about you? Are you doing research here?"

"I suppose so. Water and ice pokemon are my main area of study, but I probably should have chosen a different city."

"Why?"

"Old memories, I guess. I used to be good friends with someone who lived here. But that was a long time ago."

"Heh, me too." Tracey smirked at their similarities. "What happened to yours?"

The elevator dinged, and they stepped out. "She became very focused on her career. Then she moved. How about yours?"

"She became very focused on an oblivious boy. And she follows him everywhere."

"Oh, dear." Audrey rolled her eyes, and Tracey couldn't help grinning.

The room was almost as posh as the lobby, with one king-sized bed draped in a rich navy and gold comforter. "This is way too nice for me," Tracey mumbled, dropping his backpack on the bed.

"That's why it's a vacation," said Audrey.

From a side pocket in his bag, Tracey retrieved a pokeball. "There's a pool, right? I brought my marill."

"Marill are so cute!" Audrey gushed a little uncharacteristically. "I didn't know you were a water-type aficionado."

"Just Marill. I have a venonat and scyther, too, but I left them at the lab to look after things. I doubt they'd enjoy the beach. And they like being with the other bug pokemon."

A room on the bottom floor was home to a huge below-ground pool exclusively for swimming pokemon. Much like the one at the Cerulean gym, there was a downstairs area where they could be watched, as in an aquarium. Audrey and Tracey went there, admiring the indoor sea through high glass walls. Water pokemon of all sorts drifted back and forth, and some napped on beds of rocks. "Wow," Tracey whispered. The aquarium's deep blue glow, which was enhanced by low lighting, made the languidly moving pokemon, as well as the entire room, breathtakingly beautiful.

"Cerulean does love its water pokemon," Audrey said.

Tracey thought of Tangelo Island, his birthplace. In spite of some bad memories, he suddenly found himself longing to live next to the sea again. It was always so vast and dynamic. It was where he met Marill. It was where he tried to--

"Are you all right?" Audrey asked suddenly.

"Uh? Oh... yeah. Sorry, I was on a train of thought." He scratched the back of his neck.

Audrey smiled sympathetically. "I don't know where that seel is," she said, scrutinizing the aquarium.

Tracey squeezed the pokeball which rested in the pocket of his baggy cargo shorts. "I should go upstairs and let Marill have a swim."

"Good idea," Audrey agreed.

Before they could start upstairs, they heard hurried footsteps racing down. A teenage girl with long blue hair halted before them. "There you are!" she said to Audrey. "I was afraid I missed you!"

"Oh! I'm glad you're here," Audrey replied. "This is Tracey -- he's come from Professor Oak's lab to look at our seel. Tracey, this is Noelle."

"Nice to meet you," Noelle said with a warm smile, curtseying effortlessly in her light sundress.

"Um..." Tracey uttered, his tongue hopelessly tied. He managed to say "hi," and Noelle's smile widened. Then she rushed to the aquarium, pressing her hands to the glass. The glow from the water enhanced her cobalt hair richly, Tracey noticed. As she stared at the swimming pokemon, her face alight with wonder, he suddenly longed to capture the entire scene in a drawing, but he knew that such a feat would be impossible for even the most skilled artist.

"I don't see him... oh!" Noelle beamed as the little white seel swam to the window. It spun around until it was floating upside-down, and it stuck its tongue out playfully. Noelle giggled and poked the glass.

"Shall we go upstairs so Tracey can have a hands-on look?" Audrey suggested.

"Okay!" Noelle turned to them. Tracey met her pale blue eyes and blushed. As she started up the stairs first, Audrey elbowed him. "I meant on the seel," she whispered slyly.

"I know that!" he exclaimed, his face getting redder.

In the pool room above ground, he released his marill into the water, and she squeaked appreciatively. "Oh, wow!" Noelle clasped her hands together. "She's adorable!"

Marill giggled and splashed her paws, and Noelle knelt down and patted the water mouse's head. "Go find Noelle's seel and bring it here, okay, Marill?" Tracey asked.

"It's a he," Noelle said.

"Really?"

Her cheeks flushed slightly. "Well, I don't know for sure. I've never been around pokemon before, but they're one or the other, right? And I feel like he's a boy. Will you be able to tell?"

"It's usually not obvious in pokemon," said Tracey. "Especially in young ones. But I think you can guess sometimes based on their behavior. Not to stereotype genders, of course..." He was stumbling into an awkward topic.

Audrey smiled at him knowingly. "Pokemon gender roles are more black and white than humans'," she clarified. "So yes, it is safe to guess from their personality."

The two pokemon resurfaced, and Marill announced their arrival before taking off again for a swim of her own. "Let's see here," Tracey said, kneeling beside Noelle. The seel sniffed his outstretched hand. "Was he hurt when you found him?"

"No, just exhausted," said Audrey. "I think he got separated from his pack somehow, and he swam a great distance very quickly, then fainted and came in with the tide."

Tracey nodded. "If only he could tell us himself, huh? Maybe someone will come up with a kind of translator someday."

Audrey raised an eyebrow. "Maybe."

"So you've kept him in this pool? And spent a lot of time with him?"

"Oh, yes," said Audrey. "And Noelle's been coming here every day." She looked at the girl, who was trailing her hand back and forth in the water. The seel watched intently, head following her every movement.

"Can you pick him up?" Tracey asked her.

"Sure!" The seel wriggled into her outstretched arms, and she rose slowly. Tracey leaned in close to examine the pokemon, trying very hard to focus on his body alone, as he was only inches away from Noelle's.

"What do you think?" she questioned.

Tracey glanced up at her and felt himself blush again. To his surprise, her cheeks were also faintly pink. "H-he looks pretty good," he said, stammering a little. "There's a tiny scrape on his tailfin here, but it looks a few days old. Maybe from a rock or something... in any case, it's not infected, so he's lucky." He took a step back, feeling less nervous now that he wasn't so close to the very cute girl. "You've done the right thing, so he'll be fine. You can't set him loose in the ocean again, though. You've already made a human impression on him, so he doesn't have much of a chance on his own, unless we track down his family ourselves, and that's pretty unlikely."

Audrey and Noelle both nodded, so Tracey continued. "You were right not to send him to Professor Oak electronically... it's not one hundred percent failsafe, and if your pokemon isn't registered and it's lost, you'd have a pretty hard time tracking it down."

"Registered?" Noelle asked.

"With the Indigo League... you don't have to worry about that unless you're going to be a professional trainer, though." Tracey excused it with a wave of his hand.

"Oh... right." Noelle hugged the seel a little closer. She turned her head away, looking downcast. "So... when are you taking him?"

Tracey paused, feeling bad for his cheerful rambling. He had almost forgotten that Noelle couldn't keep the seel, and he realized just how heartbroken she was. He knew before he left Pallet Town that he'd be taking a pokemon away, but he wasn't prepared to witness just how close that pokemon was to, all things considered, its trainer.

"It'll be another week," he said. "Although, I'm starting to wish I didn't have to."

Noelle smiled sadly. "Believe me, I wish I had a say in it." She knelt down again and placed the seel in the pool.

Tracey watched him dive down, wishing he knew what to tell her. Audrey gave them both a compassionate smile, but Tracey could tell that his little vacation would be riddled with guilt.


* * * *

The first thing Dominik noticed as he entered the pokemon salon was that two teenage girls whispered to each other and stared at him without attempting to hide their excitement. This reminded him of Lance's entrance at the dining hall on the Indigo Plateau. He avoided the girls and approached the front desk, where another girl flipped lazily through a magazine. "Excuse me," he said, "is Suzie in today?"

"Yeah, but she's busy right now," the girl answered without looking up. "Do you have an appointment?"

"Kimi!" hissed one of the others, sidling up to the desk. She leaned close to Kimi's ear, but Dominik plainly heard her whisper, "Do you know who he is? The new Indigo League Champion!"

"Oh!" The girl pushed aside her magazine and leaned closer, flashing Dominik a dazzling smile. "I'd be happy to help you."

"Thanks, but I really need to talk to Suzie," he said politely. "I can wait for her."

"I'll tell her you're here right now! What's your name?"

"Kimi!" both of the other girls shouted incredulously. Dominik backed a few steps away.

"Didn't you see his match on television?" one of them continued. "His name's Dominik St. Clair, and he's from Saffron City, and his training style is to evade his opponent's pokemon until they're too weak to withstand a direct attack, and--"

"Are you new to the Celadon area?" the other girl asked Dominik directly. "I can show you around, if you like..."

"What's going on out here?" demanded a new voice, clear and businesslike. A young woman with long teal hair came out to the front area, her arms folded across her chest. "Tell your friends to be on their way, please," she told her secretary.

"But--" the first girl started to say.

"You can see her later. You're bothering my customers."

The girls left sulkily, glancing at Dominik on their way out. "I'm so sorry. I'm Suzie," said the woman. "Did you want to see me?"

"Yeah." Dominik unclipped five pokeballs from his belt, and held them in his outstretched hands. "Can you take care of them for me?"

"A relaxing treatment for champion pokemon, eh? I'd be happy to, but I'm booked up today. Kimi can make you an appointment." From the front desk, she nodded enthusiastically.

"Oh... no, that's not it," said Dominik. "I mean, I'd like you to have them. For breeding."

Suzie's and Kimi's mouths dropped open at the same time. Then Suzie smiled. "Not many people know that I'm also a breeder. You've done your research."

"I looked up every breeder in the area, and I think you're the best one. I wouldn't leave my pokemon with just anyone."

"Why, thank you," Suzie said, neither modestly nor arrogantly. "But most trainers just don't give their pokemon away... and you've been with them a long time, I'm sure..."

Dominik nodded. "I gave it a lot of thought, and I'm sure this is best. See, I'm going to Johto, to take their league challenge next. I want to try different tactics with different pokemon there. Leaving mine behind would mean keeping them stored in their pokeballs the whole time -- my parents are too busy to take care of them. So I'd rather they have the chance to relax with an experienced caretaker. And, for someone in your field, you could breed champion pokemon for your clients."

Suzie's brown eyes sparkled with anticipation. "I... I don't know what to say," she whispered. "That's so generous..." She held up her hands for Dominik to place the five balls. "I'll take them to the breeding center this afternoon. It's out in the country, but I'm sure you read about that."

Dominik nodded again. "I'm glad they can stay in more natural surroundings."

Suzie stared at the minimized spheres. "So, what's your price?"

"I don't want anything. Just knowing they're in good hands is enough."

"Eh!?" Kimi exclaimed. "You can't just give them away!"

"Hmm... how about instead of a price, I give you something as thanks?" Suzie suggested. "You want to go to Johto with different pokemon, right? You have to start with one."

"I've got my exeggutor," said Dominik. "She's the one I can't leave behind."

"Still, I breed a few pokemon for battle. They're not all for show." She turned around and headed around the corner. "Come this way, please."

Reluctantly, Dominik followed her to a large and complex machine, not unlike the ones at pokemon centers. "We can check out my database here," Suzie said, sitting down in front of a computer monitor. "What kind of pokemon did you have in mind for your different tactics?"

She spoke too fast for Dominik to explain in the nicest way possible that he wasn't interested in some pampered purebred. He preferred to meet pokemon in their natural habitats, to get to know them and to find out if they truly wanted to be trained by him. To be handed a pokemon who was born for the explicit purpose of serving a human seemed like cheating.

"I want to put together an all-psychic team this time," he told her. "I want a real challenge -- having pokemon of different elements gave me too many advantages."

"Wow... that'll be a double challenge. Psychic-type pokemon are hard to train."

"I think I can manage."

Suzie scrolled through a list on her screen. "I know," she said after a couple of minutes. "I shouldn't have to tell you that eevee have a psychic evolution, right?"

"Eevee?" Dominik repeated. They were popular but rare pokemon, famous for their ability to turn into one of five different elemental types based on certain conditions. He reconsidered her offer.

"I've got one that's ready to evolve very soon. Initially, that would depend on which stone you'd want to use on her, but there's a good chance she can become an espeon, too."

"Espeon don't come from evolution stones?"

"No, it's trickier to get espeon or umbreon. You have to earn her trust completely, and restrict her training to daytime or nighttime. Even then, it's up to her whether or not she wants to evolve." Suzie sighed. "Those trainers who are fortunate enough to get an eevee don't always end up with its two rarest evolutions. That's why most of them stick to evolution stones."

"I'll try," Dominik said.

Suzie flipped a switch on the bulky machine next to her computer, then clacked on the keyboard in an efficient manner. It dawned on Dominik that he was now witnessing an electronic transport, something he'd never had to rely on during his travels around Kanto. He knew that lots of other trainers stored their pokemon with friends or relatives, or even as computer data, calling upon them whenever they were needed, but Dominik couldn't stand the thought of shelving his living, breathing companions as though they were plastic toys. He didn't entirely trust pokeball transport, no matter how many times Leilani reassured him that the balls were perfectly comfortable, and a good way to get some uninterrupted sleep.

The transport machine hummed loudly, and light bulbs of different colors flashed. Dominik shielded his eyes from a bright white glow that had formed underneath a long tube. When it faded, a red and white pokeball sat in its place. Suzie handed it to Dominik and smiled. "Here you are. I can register the ball and eevee in your name from here." She faced her computer again.

"Okay," Dominik said vaguely, staring at the pokeball in his hands. Had the creature inside felt the instantaneous transport? Would his Kanto team, if Suzie decided to send them to her breeding center that way?

"What's your ID number?" Suzie asked.

He recited it to her, and she typed a few things before swivelling her chair around towards him. "You can let her out, you know. I want to see what you think."

"Oh... yeah." Dominik pressed the ball's release button with his thumb. The familiar red beam formed into a small shape, fading to reveal a fluffy, brown eevee. She looked at Dominik and mewed happily, swishing her bushy tail. He couldn't help breaking into a grin of delight and relief, and he knelt down, offering his hand for her to sniff.

"Got a nickname I can enter for her?" Suzie asked.

"Not yet." Dominik petted the eevee's head. "I can have that registered later, though."

"Yep." Suzie finished typing. "Okay, it's all official now."

"Thanks." Dominik smiled at her from ear to ear; a real smile, not one for conversation.

Suzie walked him out to the front desk. "Come by and visit your pokemon whenever you want," she said.

"I will." Dominik paused and waited for his eevee to catch up with him.

"How cute!" Kimi gushed. "That's the perfect pokemon for you." She batted her eyelashes in an obvious manner.

"You'd better return her to her pokeball before you leave," Suzie warned him.

"I want her to get some fresh air," Dominik said. "And I'll keep my eye on her." He opened the door for the little pokemon to go first. "'Bye! Thanks again!"

The young psychic and his eevee stood back against the bustling Scissor Street sidewalk, watching swarms of people walk by from either direction. "What do you think?" he asked. "She has a point, though... I'd better put you in your ball before we get on the bus."

The eevee took tentative steps out to the middle of the walkway. Her ears twitched at the sound of a high bell, and a boy riding a bicycle zoomed past, missing Eevee by an inch. "Hey, keep your pokemon off the sidewalk!" the boy shouted at Dominik as he skidded to a halt.

"Watch where you're going next time!" Dominik snapped at him. The kid mumbled something and rode off, but Dominik heard passersby commenting on "disobedient pokemon" and "irresponsible trainers."

"Eevee?" he called. She had taken refuge behind a trash can. He approached cautiously and picked her up, pulling a wet candy bar wrapper off her back. He hugged her protectively. "The sidewalk doesn't just belong to people," he said, looking sadly at the litter piled outside the intended receptacle. "The whole world doesn't just belong to people. You think they'd realize that by now." He grabbed her pokeball. "Sorry about all that. You can come out where it's safe at my house. And you can meet Leilani." As he reattached the sphere to his belt with Eevee safely inside, he resolved to believe his exeggutor about pokeballs.

A woman chatting loudly on her cell phone passed by Dominik, tossing a crumpled, brightly-colored flyer towards the trash can. It bounced off the edge and landed on the sidewalk, but she went on her way, absorbed in her conversation. Dominik picked it up and stared after her incredulously, then jumped as a car blared its horn, causing a chain reaction of honking. Why is everyone so stupid? he asked, sending his thoughts to Leilani.

You are asking about humans, she quipped.

I wish we could reset the human race like a video game. Maybe start over and have pokemon be in charge. He tossed the paper indignantly into the trash can.

I do love the way your mind works.

Dominik sighed deeply and shuffled down the sidewalk, heading for the bus stop. The sooner he left downtown Celadon, the better.


----

Author's Notes: Things are going to get interesting now.

Anime fans will remember Suzie, Brock's heroine in the breeding world who gave him a vulpix. "I wanna breed like you! I mean, your vulpix is nice." I think she appreciates Dominik's visit a little more.

Blackjack Gabbiani
21st August 2006, 8:05 AM
Very interesting. I do so love how you characterize Tracey. And the line about wanting to understand pokemon speech...could that be a hint about what lies in store for the Rockets?

Shrike Flamestar
22nd August 2006, 4:22 AM
I don't want to outright ask for them, either. If I was more active around here, more people would see my signature and might click... well, someday. I think my "omgI'man00b" feeling has disappeared, since my postcount icon leveled up. *is weird*
*Checks your posts* Yeah, you could do with some more posting around these boards :D There ARE other places besides the fanfic forum here...

Although this is the only forum that’s not overrun by n00bs...yet...

Well, that was quick. I hadn’t been expecting a new chapter yet.

First of all...ZOMG! I found a typo!


Tracey grinned. "It look well-trained, too. I can tell, since I work with lots of pokemon every day."
:o I am ashamed of you!

Well, this chapter was quite funny. And Dominik returned from the abyss that is a three chapter disappearance! Now, where did Midori run off to...? Well, here are some choice quotes...


Some keepsake sketches of them would be nice, but if anyone saw him drawing half-naked people, they would think he was a horrible pervert.
Like he isn’t? <_< *Flees*


"Shall we go upstairs so Tracey can have a hands-on look?" Audrey suggested.

"Okay!" Noelle turned to them. Tracey met her pale blue eyes and blushed. As she started up the stairs first, Audrey elbowed him. "I meant on the seel," she whispered slyly.

"I know that!" he exclaimed, his face getting redder.
XD


"It's a he," Noelle said.
:o Noelle found out the Seel’s gender! She’s a pervert too!


"It's usually not obvious in pokemon," said Tracey.
Some of the art I’ve seen says otherwise <_<



Tracey nodded. "If only he could tell us himself, huh? Maybe someone will come up with a kind of translator someday."
Here you go! *Throws a Pokécom at Tracey, only to have it bounce off the barrier between fic universes.* Damn it... If you figure out a way to reach Zack, maybe you can pick that up for Tracey :D

Now, I must first get this out of my system before continuing on with more extensive comments.

AAAAWWWWWWWWWW!!!!!!!!!!!! EEVEE!!!!!!! IT’S SO CUTE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

...I love Eevees >_< And the fact that it will most likely evolve into Espeon is all the better, as it’s my favorite Eeveelution!

Now where was I... Oh yes, romance... I claim the Shrike Flamestar/Dominik’s Eevee ship <_< *Is thwarted by the barrier between fic universes again.* DAMN YOU!

*Regains posture and continues like nothing happened.* You couldn’t make Tracey/Noelle anymore obvious if it was branded on my eye, could you? It did make for some hilarious moments, though! Of course, the Dominik/Random Girl 1, Dominik/Random Girl 2, Dominik/Kimi, and Dominik/Suzie ships also deserve love... And, of course...Dominik/Leilani. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before <_<

Noelle has to get the Seel :( I still insist that something will happen that will cause her to get to keep it. I’ll refrain from adding another ship to the list of ridiculous EW ships, but they’re just so cute together!

So there. A review. Read it and weep. Or laugh. Meanwhile, I will be over her crying for the loss of one of the first reviewers of TFC who has been MIA since March and whose account was finally pruned. *Runs away while sobbing uncontrollably.*

Pikki Zuka
22nd August 2006, 5:18 AM
Very interesting. I do so love how you characterize Tracey. And the line about wanting to understand pokemon speech...could that be a hint about what lies in store for the Rockets?
Could be... or could not be. Hehe. Don't get your hopes up too much, though, I don't write TR the way you're used to... they're a different kind of evil.


*Checks your posts* Yeah, you could do with some more posting around these boards :D There ARE other places besides the fanfic forum here...
Yeah, but I'm a) easily distracted, b) actually not that socialable, c) OOH SHINY! and 4) this actually isn't an excuse, but I want to finish my pretty sig banner before posting all over the place. ^^;


First of all...ZOMG! I found a typo!

:o I am ashamed of you!
How did my beta miss that? I need to install WordPerfect again, just for the spellchecker.


Well, this chapter was quite funny. And Dominik returned from the abyss that is a three chapter disappearance! Now, where did Midori run off to...? Well, here are some choice quotes...
Things will be more consistent with character appearances from here on. And Midori will return very soon.

Glad you like some of the lines. I had a lot of fun with this one.


Some of the art I’ve seen says otherwise <_<
Shh, let me pretend it doesn't exist. ;P


Here you go! *Throws a Pokécom at Tracey, only to have it bounce off the barrier between fic universes.* Damn it... If you figure out a way to reach Zack, maybe you can pick that up for Tracey :D
>___> *gets pokeflute*


Now, I must first get this out of my system before continuing on with more extensive comments.

AAAAWWWWWWWWWW!!!!!!!!!!!! EEVEE!!!!!!! IT’S SO CUTE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
That made me fall off my chair. I did not expect such unbridled enthusiasm from you. XD


Now where was I... Oh yes, romance... I claim the Shrike Flamestar/Dominik’s Eevee ship <_< *Is thwarted by the barrier between fic universes again.* DAMN YOU!
Dom would slowly torture your brain if you did anything to his espeon.


*Regains posture and continues like nothing happened.* You couldn’t make Tracey/Noelle anymore obvious if it was branded on my eye, could you?
Muahaha. Come back for chapter 6.


It did make for some hilarious moments, though! Of course, the Dominik/Random Girl 1, Dominik/Random Girl 2, Dominik/Kimi, and Dominik/Suzie ships also deserve love... And, of course...Dominik/Leilani. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before <_<
You're going to do this in EVERY CHAPTER, aren't you?? *sighs* Well, you'll be right eventually.


Noelle has to get the Seel :( I still insist that something will happen that will cause her to get to keep it. I’ll refrain from adding another ship to the list of ridiculous EW ships, but they’re just so cute together!
I'm surprised you haven't just gone to LJ or FFN and caught up. 10's awaiting beta approval currently. But then, that would cease the amusing chapterly reviews... and by now they've grown on me. ^^ I'm so glad you're enjoying it!


So there. A review. Read it and weep. Or laugh. Meanwhile, I will be over her crying for the loss of one of the first reviewers of TFC who has been MIA since March and whose account was finally pruned. *Runs away while sobbing uncontrollably.*
Yeah, we don't want it to end up being just Hanako and me, or it'll be BMG all over again. XD

Shrike Flamestar
22nd August 2006, 10:09 PM
Yeah, but I'm a) easily distracted, b) actually not that socialable, c) OOH SHINY!
Those all apply to me as well, but I’ve built up a post count of around 245 :D Keep in mind that the Attracted to Pokémon thread is in a forum that doesn’t add to your post count, and my real post count is even higher (325 :p).


4) this actually isn't an excuse, but I want to finish my pretty sig banner before posting all over the place. ^^;
Bah, I just cheated and used one I unexpectedly got out of nowhere :D Before that, I was using a crap one which I hated and despised...


Shh, let me pretend it doesn't exist. ;P
http://agn—*Is killed by the mods*


That made me fall off my chair. I did not expect such unbridled enthusiasm from you. XD
Oh, if I hadn’t developed such a hard, tough, and silent external shell, that would be fairly normal for me whenever I see, read, hear, smell, or touch something that I find exceedingly cute. You really do not want to know how I acted after Buoysel was revealed and fanart started popping up <_<


Dom would slowly torture your brain if you did anything to his espeon.
Aw, fine... Now, where did Oriel run off too...

Heh, you may have noticed a certain theme in my choice of teams for TFC. Depending on what posts of mine you read in the AtP thread, you may be able to guess Shrike’s future Pokémon :D


You're going to do this in EVERY CHAPTER, aren't you?? *sighs* Well, you'll be right eventually.
Ah, I’ll tire of it sometime.


I'm surprised you haven't just gone to LJ or FFN and caught up.
But that feels like cheating! Besides, with school starting on Wednesday, I haven’t had the time to do much of anything extra...

Pikki Zuka
2nd September 2006, 5:00 AM
Hay kidz, I made a banner! Pretty sweet, huh? To celebrate, have some chapter 6 along with it. It's really cute, you've been warned.

Man, I'm glad I have a three-day weekend. Busy + cranky is never a good combination, especially at one's workplace.


----
Chapter 6 - The Princess and the Choreboy


Noelle smiled cheerfully at the Cascade Hotel doorman as he held open the heavy wooden door for her. When she passed the front desk, the attendant greeted her, "Good morning, Miss Winter." She said hi back and waved on her way to the elevator.

Stepping out on the fifth floor, she giggled to herself. She reached the closed door of her destination, brushed her pigtails over her shoulders, and knocked. Her excited smile faded when nothing happened, so she knocked again.

After a couple of minutes, the door opened, and Tracey, appearing sleepy and rumpled, gave her a confused look. "Oh!" Noelle exclaimed. "Did I wake you? I'm sorry!"

Tracey scratched his head. "It's okay," he mumbled. "What time is it?"

"It's almost eight thirty. I thought we could have breakfast... but I was afraid you'd already eaten..." She glanced in different directions, noticed Tracey's grey cotton boxers, and blushed.

He looked down and turned equally red. "Be right back," he said quickly, shutting the door. A minute later, he returned with his baggy brown cargo shorts, a different t-shirt in dark red, and hastily-brushed hair.

"I'm really sorry," Noelle apologized. "You can go back to sleep if you want."

"Nah, I'd rather have breakfast." Tracey opened his wallet and checked for his keycard, then closed the door behind him.

"Um..." Noelle pointed at his bare feet and giggled.

With his socks and shoes finally in place, Tracey followed Noelle down the hall. "How did you know where my room is?" he asked.

"Audrey told me." Noelle pushed the elevator button. "I wanted to thank you for coming all this way to look at Seel, so I thought I'd take you to breakfast."

"You don't have to do that," Tracey said. "I have all my expenses covered."

"You can owe me, then." Noelle winked and stepped on the elevator.

"Will Audrey meet us there?" Tracey asked as the doors closed.

"I asked her yesterday, and she said she'd be sleeping in."

"Oh, sure, ask her beforehand, but drag me out of bed." He grinned to show there were no hard feelings.

The hotel's restaurant was just as fancy as the rest of the building. Elegant white cloths covered the tables, and were topped with expertly folded napkins and vases of lilies and bluebells. "I feel underdressed," said Tracey, gazing around at the other patrons, who wore nice jackets and slacks or lovely dresses.

"You're fine," Noelle reassured him. "You're staying here, too."

Tracey looked her over. "Are you always dressed up?"

She picked up the edge of her dress's knee-length skirt, glancing at the flower pattern against light blue fabric. "I'm not that dressed up today." At Tracey's wide-eyed look of surprise, she added, "I guess people are more casual in Pallet Town."

"People are more casual in this town. We're at the beach."

To Noelle's relief, a host came by and led them to a table. As soon as they took their seats, a waiter appeared for their drink order. Noelle looked over the menu, trying to decide. "I'll have coffee," Tracey told the waiter without hesitation.

"Iced tea, please," Noelle said. "Sweetened, and with lemon."

The waiter nodded and left. Tracey yawned under his hand. "Oh, no," he muttered, eyes fixed on a spot behind Noelle. "They're going to kick me out for violating the dress code! Our waiter and some guy are pointing right at me!"

"There's no dress code," Noelle whispered, looking over her shoulder.

The waiter hurried to their table with a guilt-stricken look on his face. "I'm so sorry," he said breathlessly. "I didn't realize it was you, Miss Winter."

Noelle smiled at him warmly. "That's okay. I don't mind at all."

"If there's anything I can do for you, don't hesitate to tell me."

"Give us a few minutes so my guest can look over the menu? It's his first time here."

The waiter nodded to Tracey. "Of course. I'll be right back with your drinks." He left quickly.

With his mouth agape, Tracey watched him go, then turned to Noelle. "What was that? Are you famous or something?"

"No, not really." She toyed with her left pigtail. "Well, maybe around the hotel. My dad sort of made it possible."

"He's the owner?"

"No, he just paid for its construction. He would never own just one building -- he owns many, and funds several more."

Tracey's jaw dropped lower. "What, are you a family of millionaires?"

Noelle cleared her throat and ran her fingers through her pigtail. The waiter returned with their coffee and iced tea, and Tracey pretended to pour over the menu until he left. "I can't believe it," he said quietly. "What's it like? Do you have a mansion with servants, like in the movies?"

"Not servants, maids. And only a couple." She shifted uncomfortably in her seat.

"Wow..." Tracey broke out in an incredulous grin. "Can I see? Even if it's only on the outside. Someone like me probably isn't welcome inside."

"It's only our summer house here," said Noelle. "It's much smaller-- wait, what do you mean, someone like you?"

"You know, a low-class commoner. Raised under the docks at Tangelo Harbor, even. That fishy smell stays with you forever."

Noelle started to protest, but she saw him chuckling. "I'm glad you're so amused," she said wryly.

"I'll stop." Tracey attempted to straighten his face. "I've just never met anyone... is it really true?"

She nodded. "I kind of hoped you wouldn't find out. The last thing I want is for you to think I'm some kind of spoiled rich girl who's making a big deal out of a pokemon she can't have."

"But you're not making a big deal," Tracey said seriously. "I feel even worse about it, since you've been so brave."

"I have?"

"Sure. At least, to me, it seems like you're trying to enjoy the time you do have with Seel, instead of spending the rest of the week being sad about... the situation." He paused at the delicate topic.

Noelle sipped her tea. "I am sad... but getting worked up won't change things, so I won't cause a scene over it." She smirked. "It's in my upbringing."

Tracey glanced at the menu in his hands. "Can I ask you something?"

"Of course."

"Why can't you keep him?"

Noelle looked away, considering her answer. "I'm kind of in the same situation as Audrey," she finally replied. "I'll be attending a special school this fall, and I doubt there would be time to look after a pokemon."

"Oh... well, can--" Tracey started to ask another question, but paused.

Noelle glanced up at him. "What's that?" she prompted.

"Um... forgot what I was going to say. I guess I'm hungry. The waiter's probably getting impatient." He began to study the menu. Noelle watched him for a few seconds, then smiled gratefully.

"Hey." Tracey looked up suddenly. "Now I don't feel so bad, having you buy breakfast. I think I'll order one of everything." He grinned teasingly.

"Oh, go right ahead," Noelle said airily. "Maybe the right combinations of breakfast will disguise your fishy smell."

Tracey gasped in mock horror, and they both giggled.


* * * *

Later that week, Audrey, Noelle, and Tracey went to the beach at Noelle's insistence. She wanted to take the seel swimming, but Tracey felt that the crowded beach, as well as the vast ocean, would be too overwhelming for the young pokemon. To make up for it, he let his marill be Noelle's swimming partner.

Under the shade of a large umbrella, Tracey sat on their blanket with his sketchbook propped up on his knees. It hadn't seen the light of day since his arrival at Cascade Hotel, but as he was enjoying his vacation so far, he suddenly felt the urge to draw some momentos.

"Here you go." Audrey's voice came from above him. She held out a bottle of cold water, already dripping in the sun.

"Thanks," said Tracey, opening it and taking a gulp.

Audrey sat down beside him, smoothing her long green wrap skirt. "Don't tell me you forgot to pack a bathing suit."

"I didn't forget. I don't own one."

Audrey tsked. "We can fix that. Dozens of stores to pick from."

"Not interested. The last time I put on my swim trunks, I was way too big for them. So I threw them out. No one needs to see me half-naked, anyway."

"But you're missing the chance to swim with Noelle." Audrey flashed him a wicked grin.

"I think I'm sparing her from blindness."

The older woman sighed. "You know, I'd tell you that you look fine, but I'm the wrong person to be giving my opinion on that."

Tracey looked at her, raising an eyebrow.

"Maybe she can convince you, though." Audrey nodded towards the approaching Noelle. With her blue hair wet, it hung in limp, dark waves around her shoulders. Her choice of white for a bathing suit would have been a little too revealing in its drenched state, but there seemed to be an inner lining to help conceal her curves.

Marill, at her feet, raced ahead to greet Tracey. He held his sketchbook over his head as she bounded into his lap, dripping water everywhere. "Have a nice swim?" he asked, scratching behind her ears.

"What's this?" Noelle leaned closer to view the sketchbook. Before Tracey could stop her, she snatched it away. "Oh, wow!" she exclaimed. "I didn't know you could draw!" She turned each page, staring with wide blue eyes.

"They're not that great," Tracey said, stretching his arm out for it. Noelle, still on her feet, stepped out of his reach. Audrey laughed.

"These pokemon are so lifelike," she said. "You're really talented!"

Tracey's ears burned. "I just sketched what I saw."

Noelle finished looking through the book and handed it to Audrey. She sat on her knees next to Tracey. "Will you draw Seel swimming in the pool for me? Please?"

His heart leapt from his chest. "Sure. I'd be glad to."

"Yay!" Noelle clapped her hands together. Marill cheered with her.

Audrey paused from flipping through the drawings. "Oh, Noelle, would you like something to drink? I brought water for Tracey and me, but I didn't think you'd be done swimming yet."

"Yes, please. I'm going back in, but I need a break first."

Tracey watched her go, wondering how she always managed to find opportunities to leave him and Noelle alone. There was breakfast the other day, a walking tour of Cerulean Bay's restaurants (so Tracey could find a more casual place to eat), and an upcoming trip into the city. True, Audrey had her studies, but it seemed to Tracey that she knew how he felt about Noelle, and that she deliberately kept to herself just for his sake. But when he wasn't feeling grateful for the opportunity, he felt guilty. He and Audrey became friends because of their many similarities; wasn't she also desperately lonely?

"You'll come swimming this time, right?" Noelle asked, snapping him out of his thoughts.

"I don't think so," Tracey declined. Marill squeaked authoritatively from his lap, and he patted her head.

"Are you sure? It's not so bad once you get in deeper water... most of the crowd is at the edge."

"Yeah, I'm sure. But you've got Marill. And Audrey might go in. Or go diving for shellder or something."

"You have to know how to swim," Noelle insisted. "You're from the Orange Islands."

"Not every islander is a swimmer," said Tracey. "But I do know how. I just don't feel like it today, I guess."

"I'm sorry. I wouldn't have said we should come if I'd known you didn't want to." She bowed her head regretfully.

"Don't let me spoil your fun," Tracey said hastily. "Sorry, I shouldn't be so difficult."

"But you're the guest. You should choose how to spend your week."

"We've already been through town... and we're going to the city later. I didn't want you to get tired of shopping."

"Oh, that's not possible."

They looked at each other and laughed. "Wow, listen to us," Noelle said.

Tracey didn't have the nerve to say that he thought they sounded like a couple. Luckily, Audrey came back with Noelle's water. She took a long drink, then sprang to her feet and challenged Marill to a race back to the sea.


* * * *

Downtown Cerulean had a reputation as a bustling city of tourist attractions and thriving commerce that still maintained cleanliness and order. Tracey felt nostalgic as he strolled down the sidewalk with Noelle. This bayside city was reminiscent of Tangelo, full of sunshine and relaxed people.

In an effort to "dress down" for him, Noelle wore a pair of light brown capri pants, a fitted, white t-shirt striped across the chest in blue, and white sandals. Trying not to outright stare at her, Tracey made mental notes on her outfit. The week was almost over, and he wanted to sketch her.

As they paused to take in a store's window display, Tracey considered buying souvenirs for Professor Oak and Delia Ketchum. The professor did provide this vacation, and Tracey was having such a good time that his frustration had melted away. Of course, it would be hard to leave, to part Noelle from her beloved seel, to say goodbye... he forced his thoughts back to souvenir-hunting. Thinking of his unconventional parental figures reminded him of something else. "Hey, Noelle?" he began.

"Hmm?" Her attention primarily belonged to a window of antique toys, which included stylized figures of pokemon.

"Do your parents mind that you spend all your days out with me and Audrey? I mean, if I was a parent, I'd want to meet my kid's friends... not that I'm asking you to introduce me to your family, that's another subject entirely..." He shut up before he could blurt out anything else awkward.

Noelle smiled sadly at the toy display. "Whether they mind or not, this is my last summer I can do things like this -- go out whenever I like with no questions asked."

"What do you mean?" Tracey wondered.

"My parents told me to enjoy my last childhood summer any way I wanted to," she explained. "The school I'm starting this fall, it's a boarding school for society girls like me."

"Oh, wow, like a finishing school? I didn't know those were still around. But that won't take too long, right? Then you can be on your own."

"It doesn't work that way in my world. Girls only attend school to find a husband. When I turn eighteen in a couple of years, I'm expected to be engaged."

Tracey stared at her mutely.

"That's why I can't have pokemon," she continued. "One time, when I was younger, I asked my parents about them. They said that young ladies don't play with wild animals. But that only made me more interested in them. I've read everything I could get my hands on about pokemon. Just getting to talk to Audrey and see Seel was satisfying enough, but to hold him and play with him..." Her voice caught in her throat.

"I'm so sorry," Tracey said quietly. "I can't believe... engaged? At eighteen?"

"At least I get to choose... not that it's much of a choice. They're all alike. I used to be engaged before -- arranged by our parents."

"You're kidding!"

Noelle shook her head. "I barely remember him. I was only three, and he was older. But our parents had some kind of disagreement, and they called it off. It's a privilege that I get to select my own fiancé now." She rolled her eyes.

"That's insane."

"My parents are very traditional. They think life would be better if it hadn't changed in the past century. Most of Pine City society thinks that."

"Are you really going through with it?"

Noelle sighed. Her eyes hadn't left the window once. "I don't know what else I can do. I've thought about running away, but where would I go? I'd never survive on my own."

Before Tracey could stop himself, he blurted out, "Come with me."

"Eh?" Noelle turned her head to him, her face full of surprise.

Tracey felt his ears growing hot. "For the summer. You said you could do anything, so if you want to come to Pallet Town, you could be with Seel, and help take care of him..." He trailed off, waiting for her to laugh or say that she'd rather die than travel with him.

"Oh, Tracey," she said. "That would be so nice. I really wish I could."

His shoulders sagged. "You don't think you can?"

"I'm pretty sure my parents wouldn't agree to letting me go to the other side of Kanto with someone they've never met. Not even if I introduced you to them." She appeared genuinely disappointed, and Tracey realized that she truly wanted to take his offer.

"Because I'm a low-class shipyard boy, right? Who plays with wild animals, even?"

"I don't think that, I swear!" Noelle declared vehemently.

"I know you don't. You're a good person."

Noelle's eyes welled with tears, and she suddenly buried her face in Tracey's shirt. The top of her head reached only up to his neck. "I wish you didn't have to go," she said in a muffled voice. "You and Audrey are the first real friends I've had, and you're both leaving."

Completely in shock, Tracey tried to decide if he should put his arms around her. "That can't be true," he said in the meantime.

"It is. No one knows anything about me, and I can't talk about what I like or how I feel..." She hiccuped and sniffled.

Tracey gave in and hugged her close. "I'm glad you can around me. I think you're the best friend I've ever known in less than a week. I don't want to leave, either."

Noelle suddenly looked up at him. "You can stay."

He blinked thoughtfully. "I guess I could... but I promised Audrey I'd drop her off at Celadon, so she didn't have to take the bus again."

"You can do that, and then come back."

Tracey grinned ecstatically. "Okay! Hopefully I can find a place to live... and work... that will last until fall..." His smile quickly faded as his practicality got the better of him.

"I suppose it's not a very good idea in the end," Noelle said quietly.

"Yeah," Tracey mumbled. "Well, there's nothing to stop me from visiting your school, right?"

"You'd come visit me?" she asked hopefully.

"Sure. Even if they don't let guys like me past the front gate, we'll figure out something."

"You'll bring Seel, too?"

Tracey laughed at her growing eagerness. "Of course."

With their moods improving slightly, Tracey suggested they return to Cascade Hotel so he could draw Seel, as promised. He entertained the notion of pretending to attend Noelle's school so that she could introduce him to her parents as her fiancé. What's wrong with me? he asked himself. I barely know her, and she's completely out of my league. But his fantasies were all he had to make him happy, and he had to have something to keep his spirits up.


* * * *

"I think he could go in a pokeball at this point," Audrey said as she carried Seel in his plastic tub filled with water and ice. "He's completely recovered from shock, I'm sure."

"Bringing him back this way was the whole point of my driving here," Tracey said, setting his and Audrey's bags in the trunk of his borrowed car. "And Professor Oak wants to look at him before he goes in a ball."

"Oh, right," Audrey agreed. "But still, you'll have to drive carefully after Celadon -- I won't be with you to keep an eye on him."

"I know," Tracey said in a subdued voice. "And it'll be dark. I disliked driving from Pallet to Cerulean in one day, but I didn't have much choice."

"You could stay with me for the night, if you want."

"I might. I'll see how tired I feel." He stretched and yawned.

"Nothing to fear from me, you know," the older woman continued. "Except my cluttered apartment. We'll have to sweep off the couch. Or maybe 'bulldoze' is a better word."

Tracey chuckled as he gazed up at the lovely Cascade Hotel. He honestly expected Noelle to stop by for a final farewell. From what little he knew, it didn't seem like her to miss a moment with Seel. Or, dare he dream, with himself. All night, he had replayed the memory of her tearful embrace, but he'd improvised with more romantic results. If she came to see him now, he might just act on them.

"Did you put Seel's food in the backseat?" Audrey asked, pulling him from his reverie.

"Oh... I'll get it." Tracey rooted through various bags in the trunk. When he stepped back with the small bag of dried formula in his arms, he saw Noelle standing beside him.

"Hi," she said softly. Seel splashed in his tub, and she smiled at the little pokemon.

"Hi," Tracey said. Even if it had to be in front of Audrey, it was now or never. He had to give Noelle something to remember him by. He leaned closer to her. "I--" he began.

"Do you have room for one more?" she asked, holding up a large travel bag.

Tracey blinked. "Uh... there's lots of space in the trunk. What is that, toys for Seel?"

Noelle giggled. "No, I meant room for another passenger. I want to come with you."

The package slipped from Tracey's hands, and he fumbled to catch it. "Really?" he asked, glancing at Audrey. Her devious grin told Tracey that she had known all along Noelle would be accompanying them.

Noelle laughed more. "My parents agreed to let me visit the University of Celadon with Audrey. I told them I'd look for a husband there."

"And they were okay with that?" Tracey asked incredulously.

She shrugged. "It's my last summer," she said with a wide smile. "Think Professor Oak will mind if I stay for a little while? Maybe even help with all the pokemon at the lab?"

"I know he won't mind." Tracey set Seel's bag of food on the backseat floor, then took Noelle's luggage and tucked it away in the trunk. As he shut the lid, he watched her pet the little pokemon, excitedly telling him that she'd be with him longer. He splashed about and licked her hand.

"Oh, yeah," Noelle started to say, looking up at Tracey and Audrey. "I thought of a name for him, if that's okay. I didn't know if I name I picked would count, but..." She trailed off, looking hopeful.

"Sure it does," Audrey encouraged her. "What did you come up with?"

"Littlefrost," Noelle answered. "Does that sound too silly? It was pretty in my head."

"It's lovely. Very poetic, don't you think so, Tracey?"

"Yes, I like it. Noelle should be in charge of giving nicknames to all the lab pokemon."

The girl beamed, looking happier than she had all week. Audrey handed her Littlefrost's tub, and she set it carefully on the backseat, climbing in after. As soon as Tracey and Audrey buckled their seatbelts, they pulled out of the Cascade Hotel parking lot, bound for the modern metropolis that was Celadon.


----

Author's Notes: In this world, the "default" name for any pokemon is the name of its species (as it is in the games). Kind of like how our cats are commonly nicknamed "Kitty." Actually, there's no excuse for anyone not to name his pokemon, Tracey. He must really have very little faith in his creativity, if he can't even invent nicknames for his beloved companions.

Tracey's father is the harbor master at Tangelo Island. This was the idea of an old friend of mine, back when he still wrote fanfiction. I doubt he minds that I'm using it.

Audrey, true to her character, doesn't have much to say. It's not that I left her out on purpose, but this is a chapter centered around Noelle and Tracey. I'm told I am best at dialogue, and I have to agree. However, the next chapter will highlight some action, as well as merge some different characters into the same city. I can't wait.

Shrike Flamestar
4th September 2006, 4:39 AM
Eh, sorry for this taking longer than my usual next day reviews. Life called, in the form of around four trojans infesting themselves on my computer X_x So, a large part of Friday and Saturday I had to spend running antivirus programs, only to end up asking for help on a tech support forum (a hit on my pride...), only to have to run more programs and another antivirus scan. I think it’s all fixed now, though.


Hay kidz, I made a banner! Pretty sweet, huh?
Ooh... Lance and Midori are hot... *Realizes that he’s a guy* Oh. ****. This can’t end well.

Speaking of Lance, please tell me he’s as awesome as he is in the manga (http://home.comcast.net/~zelos689/evillance.PNG).

A new, unnamed female making love with Dominik?! *Checks sprites* Hmm... It seems to be "Amara Sora.”

And wait! No Tracey making love to Noelle or Dominik’s Eevee to me! I call blasphemy!


MWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

"I thought of a name for him, if that's okay. I didn't know if I name I picked would count, but..."
Maybe you need a better beta reader :D

Oh, and I don’t know why, but when I first started reading this chapter I read it out loud in a rich Englishman accent... Don’t know why, but it seemed to fit pretty well... :confused:


Um... *Grasps for new ships, but falls short* Well, I suppose that’s the end of that, then. *Throws list of EW ships out the window*


"Not interested. The last time I put on my swim trunks, I was way too big for them. So I threw them out. No one needs to see me half-naked, anyway."
Yeah, wouldn’t want to see that <_< *coughthoughimsurepikkiwouldcough*


The week was almost over, and he wanted to sketch her.
Titanic-esque scene with Tracey sketching Noelle as she poses naked, plz? :D


"I'm so sorry," Tracey said quietly. "I can't believe... engaged? At eighteen?"
My grandma was only around eighteen when she gave birth to my mom. Beat that, Noelle!


Noelle shook her head. "I barely remember him. I was only three, and he was older. But our parents had some kind of disagreement, and they called it off. It's a privilege that I get to select my own fiancé now." She rolled her eyes.
Do I smell a rival and some sort of one-sided Romeo and Juliet situation here? <_<


"Sure. Even if they don't let guys like me past the front gate, we'll figure out something."
Metal Gear Tracey!

“As Tracey approached the school’s gates, he lay flat in the grass so as not to be seen by the patrolling guards. Crawling slowly along the ground, making no noise, Tracey snaked his way between cover until he had reached the last tree before the road that led up to the school’s gate. Scrambling behind it, Tracey glanced at his belt to make sure the two Pokéballs—one containing his Marill and the other Noelle’s Seel—were still there; he also pulled a small tranquilizer pistol out of its holster and checked the ammo chamber on it. A single dart was loaded ready in it, while another spare was attached to the underside of the barrel. Cocking the loading mechanism of the pistol and easing off the safety, Tracey detached the spare tranquilizer dart and held it in his mouth for fast reloading if necessitated. Muscles and nerves tense, Tracey peered out from behind the tree and took aim through the small scope on the pistol at the stationary guard positioned by the gate. Obviously, he couldn’t enter by the front entrance, but if he created a distraction that drew attention away from the building’s sides...

“Halt! Who goes there! Is that a...boy?!”

“!” Tracey thought as a sound that sounded vaguely like something from a stealth video game that would be played if the player was detected popped into his head. Instantly his plans changed, and he spat out the tranquilizer from his mouth and reattached it to the pistol before popping the whole thing back into its holster. “Noelle! I will not let these guards separate me from you; my true love!” Reaching behind him, Tracey lifted the large M16 assault riffle off the strap he had been carrying it on his back with. “This is for lllloooooovvvvvveeeeeeeeeeee!” Tracey screamed as he charged towards the gate, spraying a rain of bullets on the oncoming guards, his footsteps heavy as he splashed through puddles of crimson-colored blood.”

:D


Well, it seems like the “something” that must happen to advance the plot will now take place in Celadon, considering that Midori and what’s his name are going there; Dominik is probably still there; and now Tracey, Noelle, and Audrey are going that way as well. Yet still, I must ask... If they ever get back to the lab, can there be a scene with Ash’s Cyndaquil? :D Yes, I know, I think this takes place before Cyndaquil is sent back to the lab, but you can work your AU magic some to make it happen! Just make Ash find a better fire Pokémon...or something...


Actually, there's no excuse for anyone not to name his pokemon, Tracey.
Yeah, Ash, May, Brock, Misty, 99% of random characters... The list goes on.

So, um... Sorry if this wasn’t as funny as most of my other reviews. Character building chapters such as this one aren’t my favorite things ever, but yeah... I think Metal Gear Tracey makes up for any flaws in the rest of the review, though :D Damn, that makes me want to start writing in TFC again... I haven’t even begun the next chapter yet because of a severe lack of time.

EDIT: Hey, check this (http://www.serebiiforums.com/showthread.php?t=145299) out. Maybe you should enter :)

EDIT 2: *Notices that they’re allowing human/Pokémon fics in the contest* Maybe I should join as well...

Pikki Zuka
5th September 2006, 6:57 AM
wtf SPPf?! I never got an email for this thread subscription... and they've been late with those before. Good thing I stopped by to check my hit count. [/ego] Otherwise I would have gone to bed saying "Dammit, Shrike, where's mah review??" But here it is. ^.^v


Eh, sorry for this taking longer than my usual next day reviews. Life called, in the form of around four trojans infesting themselves on my computer X_x So, a large part of Friday and Saturday I had to spend running antivirus programs, only to end up asking for help on a tech support forum (a hit on my pride...), only to have to run more programs and another antivirus scan. I think it’s all fixed now, though.
Oh man, that sucks... the trojans and the grovelling for tech support. ^^ I hope it's fixed.


Ooh... Lance and Midori are hot... *Realizes that he’s a guy* Oh. ****. This can’t end well.
Oh snap, that made my night. XD


Speaking of Lance, please tell me he’s as awesome as he is in the manga (http://home.comcast.net/~zelos689/evillance.PNG).
He is. I love love LOVE the Special manga. After I read it, I realized just how horrible the anime is, plotwise. There are some good things, but nowhere near as spectacular as Special. I love Lance in it, there's no comparison to be made anywhere. That look he gives Yellow... it gives me chills (in the good sense) even today. *super nerd*


Oh! And who is THIS! A new, unnamed female making love with Dominik?! *Checks sprites* Hmm... It seems to be "Amara Sora.” And wait! No Tracey making love to Noelle or Dominik’s Eevee to me! I call blasphemy!
SSSHHHH OMG SPOILER TAGS PLZ

By the way, a bigger version of the banner is on my DA page. :D


Maybe you need a better beta reader :D
^^;; He's better at catching plot inconsistencies or somesuch. I started using WordPerfect for typos like that.


Oh, and I don’t know why, but when I first started reading this chapter I read it out loud in a rich Englishman accent... Don’t know why, but it seemed to fit pretty well... :confused:
Holy crap. XD


Yeah, wouldn’t want to see that <_< *coughthoughimsurepikkiwouldcough*
<.< >__> piiheehee~ ;025;


Titanic-esque scene with Tracey sketching Noelle as she poses naked, plz? :D
Haha, great minds think alike. From an old LJ entry:

I watched the first half of Titanic earlier, for teh nostalgia. When it first came out, I saw it five times without really meaning to. Now Jack and Rose remind me of Tracey and Noelle.
NOELLE: If we had lived in 1912, our story would have been just like that.
TRACEY: Except I'm totally hotter than that weasly-looking DiCaprio boy.
NOELLE: Well, yes. But you know what I--
TRACEY: Although, he is a travelling artist... dearest, can I draw you naked?
NOELLE: Only if you buy me a 36-carat diamond.


Metal Gear Tracey!
XD Oh God. I love you. XD


Yet still, I must ask... If they ever get back to the lab, can there be a scene with Ash’s Cyndaquil? :D Yes, I know, I think this takes place before Cyndaquil is sent back to the lab, but you can work your AU magic some to make it happen! Just make Ash find a better fire Pokémon...or something...
*pats your head* No, no, sorry... even though this is, like, two years after Tracey moves into the lab (putting Ash either in Hoenn or Shinou, hypothetically... actually, I don't know where the hell he is, but he's finished with Johto by now), there won't be any specific visits with Ash's old pokemon. That might lead to more snarky comments about how irresponsible Ash is, and we covered those already, I don't want people thinking I'm a character basher now!


I think Metal Gear Tracey makes up for any flaws in the rest of the review, though :D Damn, that makes me want to start writing in TFC again... I haven’t even begun the next chapter yet because of a severe lack of time.
It does. And I KNOW!! I've got chapter 11 open right now, and I can't get in the right mindset for it! It really gets to me, I was in the mood for it all during the Celadon arc, and now nothing.


EDIT: Hey, check this (http://www.serebiiforums.com/showthread.php?t=145299) out. Maybe you should enter :)
Uh ohes, a contest... but the deadline's in November... hmmmm.... you really think I have a chance? ^^

EDIT: Wow, I replied right in the middle of the hax0ring... previewing that gave me a headache. It seems to be okay for now... *leaves quietly* ^^

Pikki Zuka
11th September 2006, 4:32 AM
Apparently our newest member is "dominic." Heehee! I'll just pretend... that my Dom spells his name wrong in forums... >_>

Oh, Shrike, you didn't really have to go back and add a spoiler tag. Not without replying to my hilarious reply, anyway. o__<

I posted to that contest thread, saying I'd enter. No one answered my questions, though. I really am annoying. Here's chapter 7, I'll shut up now. ^^;;


----



Chapter 7 - Instance of Water


While Littlefrost slept in his tub of water, Noelle watched the Kanto countryside whisk past from the window in the backseat of Tracey's car. She had never passed so many small towns before; looking at the simple houses with children and pokemon frolicking outside made her feel as though she was seeing the real world, how real people lived. She asked Tracey and Audrey if this was how they grew up, but they both said no, and nothing more. Noelle figured they were preoccupied with the directions to Celadon, and continued watching.

The idyllic scenes of small-town Kanto paled in comparison to their arrival in the grand metropolis of Celadon, the home of Kanto's biggest university, which Audrey attended. Before dropping her off at her on-campus apartment, however, the three of them decided to get lunch. Tracey said he would call Professor Oak, since he needed to be informed that Noelle would be coming. Tracey wanted the professor and Noelle to meet face to face, so to speak, and drove to the nearest pokemon center to use one of their high-tech telephones.

Noelle stared in fascination at the contraption as Tracey dialed Professor Oak's number. Though she had seen video phones from a distance, this would be her first time witnessing a conversation and actually speaking to the other party. She felt somewhat silly to get excited over this everyday occurence, but it wasn't really her fault that she'd only used old-fashioned telephones. People in Pine City never felt a great need to view the person with whom they conducted phone business.

She glanced at Littlefrost, whose tub rested by her feet. Some of the kids at the pokemon center gave him curious looks. Noelle didn't pay too much attention to them, though, her attention being divided between being interested in the video phone and feeling nervous about speaking to Tracey's employer.

Ringing came from the receiver Tracey held to his ear, and the monitor read Connecting: Please stand by. Tracey looked up at Noelle and Audrey, both standing behind him. "He's probably preoccupied," he said with a roll of his eyes.

Audrey smirked. Noelle looked from one to the other, and was about to ask what Tracey meant when the phone's screen flickered, and a boy with wild brown hair appeared. "Tracey!" he greeted with a grin. "You're probably on your way back home, right?"

"Oh... hi, Gary," Tracey said in a flat tone. "Yeah, I'm in Celadon right now."

"Who's that with you?"

Noelle jumped a little in surprise, realizing that the speaker could actually see her. She waved shyly at him.

"Some friends, Audrey and Noelle," answered Tracey. His voice was still uncomfortable. "Is Professor Oak busy? I wanted to let him know we're on our way."

"No, I'll go get him. See you later." Gary set down his receiver and left.

Noelle put her hand on Tracey's shoulder. "Are you okay?" she whispered.

He glanced at her and smiled briefly. "Gary and I haven't always got along."

"He seems nice."

"Yeah, seems."

A man in a white lab coat and equally wild hair of grey sat down at the video phone. "I hear you're in Celadon, m'boy," he said to Tracey in a warm tone. "What news have you got?"

His shoulder relaxed under Noelle's hand. "Well, I brought Audrey back here."

"Hello, Miss Holly!" Professor Oak said, smiling wide.

"Hi, Professor," Audrey said, bending over Tracey's shoulder to speak more directly.

"How did your research at Cerulean Bay go?"

"Well, I couldn't really concentrate... so I guess it was more of a vacation."

"Those are even better. Right, Tracey?"

"Yes, I enjoyed my vacation very much," his assistant said. "I have the seel with me... and someone else, too."

"Oh?" Professor Oak drawled, sounding very interested.

"I hope it's okay with you, but I invited a friend I met to come and visit. See, she met Audrey before I got there, and she and the seel are kind of close."

"Is that so?" The professor's grin widened.

Even though he probably couldn't see past her shoulders, Noelle curtseyed out of habit before the screen. "It's nice to meet you, Professor," she said politely. "My name is Noelle."

"It's nice to meet you too, Noelle. How long can you stay with us?"

"The whole summer?" she asked hopefully with a glance at Tracey.

Professor Oak burst out laughing, and Noelle backed away, horrified that she'd offended him. "Don't worry," Tracey told her. "He just does that. Everything amuses him."

"I'm not laughing at you, Noelle," the professor reassured her. "It's just... you and Tracey must have really hit it off, if you want to stay the whole summer!"

Noelle blushed and turned away, but not before she noticed the pink in Tracey's cheeks as well. "I think it's the pokemon she's more interested in," he said. "She's always wanted to be around them, but never had the opportunity."

"Well, there's plenty of opportunity for that here."

"I'm really looking forward to it, Professor," Noelle said, calming down from the earlier embarrassment. "Thank you very much for letting me visit."

"No problem. Although, I hope you don't mind being the only girl... sharing a house with three eligible bachelors, even!"

Audrey let out a giggle.

"Come to think of it," Professor Oak continued, "we don't have any spare room. I'm already on the fold-out couch in the den since Gary moved back. I guess somebody's going to have to share!" He chortled again.

"Maybe we can work something out with Delia," Tracey suggested, his face bright red. "To have Noelle stay with her, I mean."

"Hmm? Oh yes, why didn't I think of that? I'm sure she'll be glad to have you stay, Noelle. I'll bring it up when I see her tonight for dinner."

"Who's Delia?" Noelle asked.

"Our neighbor," Tracey answered. "She lives by herself with her Mr. Mime, and she cooks for us a lot. She's the nicest woman in the world."

Professor Oak nodded. "So I'll see you later tonight?"

"Yeah, we'll be there. See you then."

Noelle waved to the professor as Tracey hung up. "Sorry about him," he said, running his fingers through his shaggy hair. "He takes some getting used to. I should have warned you."

"Although, his classes were always the highlight of my day," Audrey chimed in, looking nostalgic.

"I didn't realize that my staying there would be awkward," said Noelle. "I hope I'm not a bother to your neighbor."

"Don't worry about that at all. I'm sure Delia will like you a lot."

"She sounds nice. She lives by herself with no family and cooks for you? At least she's not a lonely old lady, huh?"

Audrey laughed so suddenly that she began coughing. Tracey chuckled and shook his head. "What?" Noelle asked frantically. "What did I say?"


* * * *

After leaving the pokemon center, they stopped by the Celadon Department Store before taking Audrey home so she could pick up a few things. Noelle lingered next to a huge display of pokemon training supplies, and Audrey offered to pick up her purchases and return in a few minutes. Tracey, carrying Littlefrost's tub, stayed with Noelle.

"Do you really need all this stuff to train pokemon?" Noelle asked. There were backpacks, water bottles, gloves of all colors, pokedex battery chargers, badge holders, utility belts, and, most importantly, a variety of pokeballs: packages of six red and white ones, sets of three in blue and white, and singular balls of different colors. Noelle picked up a black sphere trimmed in narrow bands of red, gold, silver. "Why is this one sold separately? You get six in this pack," she noted.

"Some have added features. Supposedly, they're programmed inside to synchronize with a pokemon's brainwaves," said Tracey. "Those six-packs might be the best deal, but they're just plain storage balls."

Noelle turned the black ball in its plastic casing over, reading the back. "It's a luxury ball. 'Makes your pokemon more comfortable and friendly.' Littlefrost should have this, when he's ready to go in one." She looked up at Tracey. "Is it really okay for pokemon to live in these things?"

"Sure," he replied. "Their bodies are broken down into energy, and then the energy is stored in the ball. Then, when you let them out, they're sort of rebuilt -- only not literally."

Noelle stared at Littlefrost and then back up to Tracey, her eyes wide with shock.

"I know it sounds strange, but it's completely safe," he said. "In some cases, it's better for a pokemon to be in there. Like when it rains -- that can be dangerous for some fire-types."

"Really?" Noelle looked at the ball again. "Or maybe like having to carry around a water pokemon in a tub of cold water, huh?"

"I think he'd be okay to go in a ball now, personally," said Tracey. "If he did feel a little traumatized from being washed up on shore, he doesn't now. He eats a lot, which is good, and he acts happy." The seel, recognizing the attention, splashed his fins and stuck his tongue out.

"You think so?" Noelle wondered.

"It's my professional opinion." Tracey smiled. "Audrey thinks so too; she told me this morning. But we'll let Professor Oak have the final say."

When Audrey met up with them, Noelle decided to buy the luxury ball. They had no sooner left the store when she opened up the package, taking the ball out. "What's the rush?" Audrey asked.

"I just want to see what it feels like," said Noelle. "How do you make it smaller?"

"Push the button lightly," Tracey told her. "If you hold it down longer, it opens the ball."

She pressed the golden button with her thumb, surprised at how sensitive it was. However, she'd applied too much pressure -- the top half of the ball flipped open, and a red beam of light shot out. It engulfed Littlefrost and sucked him into the ball, which snapped itself shut. Noelle cried out and dropped it, then shrieked loudly as it wobbled on the ground.

Tracey and Audrey both gasped, and the three of them watched, speechless, until the ball stopped moving. "Littlefrost?" Noelle whispered.

"Good thing I had a professional opinion?" Tracey said dubiously, still clutching the tub of water.

Noelle snatched up the ball and mashed the button. The seel re-materialized in the same red light, looking up at her as if to say, "Here I am! I was hiding!"

"Oh, Littlefrost!" Noelle cried, kneeling down to stroke his head. "I didn't know that would happen! I'm so stupid!"

"It's okay, Noelle," said Audrey. "There's no reason for him not to be in a ball. It'll probably make your drive to Pallet Town a little easier, even."

"But... Professor Oak said..."

"We'll call him back," Tracey suggested. "I can tell him what I observed in Littlefrost over the past week, and I'm sure he'll agree."

"He'll really be okay?" Noelle continued to pet the seel while he licked her wrist.

"Don't worry about a thing." Audrey helped her stand up. "Go on and send him back in."

"Okay..." She watched nervously as Littlefrost's body disappeared into the black sphere, which she clutched protectively as they walked to the car. Audrey put her bags in the trunk while Tracey set the tub on the backseat floor.

The pokemon center was a couple of blocks away, so they decided to walk. "See, it's already more convenient this way," Tracey said, trying to reassure Noelle. "It's probably faster for us to walk there, with this traffic, and he wouldn't really like being carried that far."

"I guess," Noelle agreed reluctantly. She walked ahead of her friends by a couple of steps, eager to get to the center. Maybe someone there could take a personal look at Littlefrost...

With her eyes fixed on the ball in her hand, she failed to notice someone stepping out in front of her. The hurried passerby crashed into her, and she collapsed on the sidewalk. Different-colored pokeballs clattered all around them, rolling in every direction, and an empty box fell beside the young man.

"Noelle!" Tracey exclaimed, rushing to help her up. "Are you all right? What happened?"

"Ow..." Noelle rubbed her backside as she rose, the other hand clutching Tracey's arm for support.

"Sorry, I didn't see you!" the passerby, clambering upright, apologized breathlessly. "I was-- oh!" He snatched a pokeball that threatened to roll into the street, tossed it into his box, and scurried after the rest, brushing his long, pale blue hair away from his face.

"Littlefrost!" Noelle gasped, turning around in a circle. She grabbed the black luxury ball, which had rolled a few inches behind her.

Audrey helped the young man gather his collection. "Is that all of them?" she asked as he surveyed the ground, head whipping back and forth, hair flying.

"Yes, I believe so. There aren't any pokemon in them yet, anyway," he said in the same rushed voice. Then he ran past them. "Thank you! Sorry again!"

"Are you sure you're okay?" Audrey asked Noelle, who stared after him.

"Yeah, I'll be fine." She then examined her brand new pokeball, making sure it wasn't damaged.

"I could swear I know that guy," Tracey mumbled, also staring in the direction which he had fled.

"Oh no!" Noelle cried, mortified. She held out the open pokeball, but no seel emerged. "He took Littlefrost by mistake!" Without a second thought, she bolted down the sidewalk, faltering a little in her sandals, which were definitely not made for running.

She heard Tracey's and Audrey's footsteps behind her. "Maybe it wasn't a mistake!" Tracey called out. "If he's who I think he is, anyway!"

Running out of breath, Noelle slowed down until she couldn't run another step, reaching out to a lamppost to steady herself. "What's wrong with me?" she said harshly between gasps, tears falling down her cheeks. "First the luxury ball, and now this!"

Audrey put her arm around her shoulders, drawing in Noelle to lean on her. "It's not your fault," she said. "I guess it's mine... I could have gone to the store after you dropped me off."

"You two stay here," Tracey said, and Noelle heard him run off.

"He'll never catch up," she lamented. "Just as he said Littlefrost was over his trauma, too..."

A few minutes later, Tracey returned. "I was right," he said, catching his breath. "I do know him, and I figured out where he'd go with all those pokeballs. It's not far, come on." He led them down the intersecting street.

Noelle wiped her face with the back of her hand. "How did you know?"

"Because this is Scissor Street -- Celadon's breeders' district. He must be planning to steal a lot of purebred pokemon."

"Steal pokemon?" Noelle repeated, shocked.

Tracey stopped them at a corner and pointed to a building across from them, on the other side of the street. Beside it, the blue-haired man spoke closely with a woman, who wore a navy jacket and skirt, her magenta hair in a neat bun. She looked like a businesswoman, holding a clipboard and frequently glancing at the box of pokeballs, which rested on a bench.

"Good deduction, Tracey," said Audrey. "You are a sharp one."

"Is he selling her those balls?" Noelle asked.

"I don't think so," Tracey answered. "I think that's his partner, and she's in disguise. Most likely, they're going to swindle a few breeders out of their pokemon somehow. He let it slip back there that all those balls are empty."

Noelle was about to compliment and thank Tracey for his quick thinking when the criminal pair went inside the building. "What should we do?" she whispered fearfully.

Tracey narrowed his eyes as he watched the door close. "Let's go."


* * * *

"Good afternoon, Miss," Jessie said to the teenage girl at the counter inside the prestigious pokemon salon.

"Hello!" the girl replied, snapping to attention as she took in Jessie's professional-looking attire. She pushed aside her magazine. "Do you have an appointment for your meowth?" She smiled down at him.

Meowth opened his mouth, but James nudged him with his foot. "Actually, we work for Silph, and we've been visiting pokemon centers and other businesses to upgrade their pokeballs," said Jessie. "These newer models haven't been released to the public yet, and since you're a reputable salon, we thought you should be included." James held up the box on cue.

"Oh... my supervisor's not here at the moment," the girl said. "You should probably talk to her first. She'll be back soon."

"That's all right. Mind if we take a look around and make sure we have enough of each model?"

"Uh... sure, go right ahead."

"Thank you." Jessie smiled and walked past the desk, turning a corner.

The girl batted her eyelashes and smiled sweetly at James. "So, Silph, huh? Do you get a lot of benefits there?"

"Oh, well..." James paused in his steps. "I don't know. A job's a job."

"Ever think of getting into breeding? Pokemon, that is." She giggled excessively.

James chuckled nervously. "Sometimes, yeah... I'd better go make sure she's not lost." He hurried to catch up with Jessie.

"What took ya so long?" Meowth snapped as James came through a curtained-off room. It was lined with plush furniture and huge pillows, on which several kinds of pokemon were dozing. A couple of them cracked open eyelids to investigate the newcomers, but they quickly closed them and went back to sleep.

"This is perfect!" Jessie whispered. "This must be some kind of relaxation area."

"It won't work, I'm telling you!" James protested softly. "All of these pokemon are out of their balls! How will we switch?"

"Oh, details. We'll just have to find the balls."

"Can I be of any help?"

All three of them yelped as the teenage girl entered the room and spoke up. "You startled us! We were just admiring all the pokemon!" Jessie said artfully. "You must do fabulous work -- they look so relaxed!"

"Well, I don't work with the pokemon, but I do give great massages." She looked pointedly at James until a loud bell dinged from the entrance. "I have to get that; no one else is on duty until Suzie gets back. I'll be at the desk if you need anything. My name's Kimi, by the way." She waved and left.

"Do ya need anyt'ing, Jimmy?" Meowth asked, mocking him.

He set the box on the floor, stretching his back. "Maybe that massage," he mumbled.

"Hmph." Jessie sniffed disdainfully and nabbed a black pokeball, pointing it at a nidoran on a large purple pillow. The red beam, instead of surrounding the nidoran, shot to the floor, where a seel materialized before them. It looked up at them, making a quizzical sound.

"I thought you said you got brand new ones!" yelled Jessie.

Before James could defend himself, the curtain flapped open and a different girl rushed in. "That's my seel!" she cried. James recognized her from his earlier crash.

"Is that so?" Jessie asked, stepping in front of it. "Looks like it's our seel now." She returned the pokemon to the confines of the luxury ball.

Noelle gasped while the woman in navy laughed, tossing the ball carelessly back in the box with the rest. She could have sworn the meowth at her feet was laughing as well.

"What's going on back here?" The girl from the front desk, followed by Tracey and Audrey, burst into the room. "I'm going to have to see some identification," the girl said to the criminal duo. "These people say you're not to be trusted."

"You should have asked for that before you let us in, Kimi dear," replied the woman with a satisfied smirk. Grabbing a red and white ball from the pile, she aimed it for the nidoran once more.

"Marill, water gun!" Tracey's order came swiftly, before his marill had even fully come out of her ball, but she understood perfectly. Her powerful spray knocked the ball from Jessie's hand. Startled by the attack, the room's dozen pokemon raced for cover, darting around the room in all directions, confused by one another.

The angered woman glared at Tracey. "You! From the Orange Islands!"

"You still don't realize you can't use pokeballs on captured pokemon?" he said in an amused tone. "Nice to see some things haven't changed after a few years."

"You're still a little know-it-all. That hasn't changed, either," Jessie huffed. "But losing the headband was a definite improvement."

Tracey's smug smile transformed into a hard look. "Another water gun should cool her off, Marill!"

Jessie reached into her blazer and whipped out her own pokeball. "Go, Lickitung! Use wrap!"

Rooted to the floor in the middle of the room, Noelle felt powerless to take any action. She'd seen pokemon battles on television, but those had been monitored competitions between trainers. Tracey's assault with Marill seemed so forceful, so unlike him.

Kimi raced by her with a bulbasaur clutched in her arms, and Noelle realized that she was trying to round up as many of the confused pokemon as she could find. She snapped out of her panic and stared at the box of pokeballs, currently sitting on the opposite side of Jessie's heated battle with Tracey. If she could get there somehow, she could retrieve Littlefrost's ball...

Something else caught her eye just then: a smoochum, wandering aimlessly without any fear in its wide blue eyes. Compelled to help in any way possible, Noelle made a dash for it, scooped it up protectively, and dived into a tight corner beside the nearest couch. "Stay here," she whispered to the smoochum, setting it between the couch and the wall. It stared up at her curiously, but didn't move.

A hand on her shoulder made her gasp loudly. Noelle whipped her head around, hoping to find Audrey, who had apparantly disappeared when the chaos started. Instead, she was surprised to see the one called James, holding out a black pokeball. "Here," he said quietly.

"What--" she started to say.

He pressed it into her hands. "It's your seel."

Noelle opened the ball right away, and, once materialized, Littlefrost nuzzled her hand, relieved and happy. She gave James an incredulous look.

"I know what it's like to be away from a pet," James said. "Although, in my case, it's been a long time."

"I--" Noelle began, but shrieked as a rattata bounced off her head from the couch, and scurried away.

"Better keep him somewhere safe," James suggested, nodding towards Littlefrost.

Noelle returned him to his ball, reduced its size successfully, and stuck it in the pocket of her capri pants. "Why are you helping me?" she asked.

Before he could answer, Noelle heard a squeal from Marill as she rolled like a ball towards the couch. Noelle directed her attention to Tracey long enough to see Jessie's pokemon lick him slowly with its impossibly long tongue. He twitched and fell to his hands and knees, unable to move.

"Looks like he's been paralyzed," James said. "It's never a good idea to make Jessie mad. I wonder what he said to her..."

"Marill, are you okay?" Noelle asked, touching her fur. She rolled over onto her feet and shook her head, squeaking confidently at her trainer's friend.

"Then use water gun!" Noelle ordered, pointing at Jessie. "Full power! Knock her down and show her what it feels like!" She felt a peculiar rush from saying that. After all, it was her very first pokemon battle command.

Marill's vengeful attack knocked Jessie's feet out from under her, and she fell into a wet, rumpled heap. Noelle's hands flew to her mouth in shock; she didn't expect the attack to be so ruthless.

Jessie swore as she clambered back upright, recalling her lickitung back to its ball. "Forget it! Let's go, James! Come on, Meowth!" She snatched the box and marched for the curtained doorway, dripping a trail of water. But a figure stepped through the curtain and stood resolutely, blocking her path.

"You're not going anywhere with those pokeballs," he said.

"Oh?" Jessie's voice overflowed with annoyance. "And what are you going to do about it?"

He grabbed her wrist and stared at her intensely. From her position on her knees at the back of the room, Noelle couldn't be certain, but she thought his hand was glowing very dark purple. Suddenly Jessie screamed in terror. She simultaneously dropped the box and yanked her hand away, then darted past the young man and out of the salon. Meowth bounded away after her.

James sighed and stood up. "And here I thought I might be one day closer to going home and seeing my growlithe," he said. "Ah, well."

Something clicked together in Noelle's mind. "Wait, what?" she asked him.

He shuffled towards the door without looking back. "Wait!" Noelle called, jumping to her feet. "James! James Morgan!"

All eyes were on her, but if she didn't say something now, she'd lose the chance. "It's me. Noelle Winter."

She saw the recognition in his green eyes and the briefest of smiles before he ran after his partners.


----

Author's Note: I'm extra pleased with the way this turned out. Even my beta reader couldn't find any mistakes. Maybe my action scenes are getting better? I sure hope so, because there will be a lot of them in the future.

Shrike Flamestar
12th September 2006, 4:35 AM
Oh, Shrike, you didn't really have to go back and add a spoiler tag. Not without replying to my hilarious reply, anyway. o__<
Well, it just sort of happened that I forgot to reply to it... See, when I saw your post, I went back and edited my post so as not to forget to do that, but then I just sort of forgot to reply as I had planned to do...

So, here’s a lightning reply! Yes, my computer is fixed now. I love the Special manga too, but I want the G/S/C series, and I’d have to actually BUY those... Oh, come now, inserting a Cyndaquil cameo wouldn’t be bashing! If you really want to make it seem less “irresponsible”, you could just tweak Ash’s journey in your universe so that Ash actually used it in, like, Hoenn or something so that it evolved into a Quilava and have a Quilava cameo instead!


Even my beta reader couldn't find any mistakes.
OBJECTION!

"She felt somewhat silly to get excited over this everyday occurence, but it wasn't really her fault that she'd only used old-fashioned telephones."
Should be “occurrence” ;)

Speaking of that telephone scene, this really made me laugh for some reason:

Tracey wanted the professor and Noelle to meet face to face, so to speak, and drove to the nearest pokemon center to use one of their high-tech telephones.
Yes, “high-tech telephone.” I just find that quite a weird thing to say. I mean, it’s just a telephone...with a camera and screen. Hell, I could duct tape a video camera and LCD screen to one of our cordless telephones; does that make it high-tech too? :D

Oh, and something I’ve never understood about the Pokémon world’s video phones: why do they even have handheld receivers? I mean, they have speakers so that people around the screen can here, and those people can say things without even speaking into the receiver so there must be a built in microphone... So what’s the use of it? Maybe for private conversations, but why do people still pick it up even when the conversation isn’t private? My technophile side demands answers!


"No problem. Although, I hope you don't mind being the only girl... sharing a house with three eligible bachelors, even!"
Three? *counts off on fingers* Tracey... Gary... Professor Oak?!?!?! Oak is a pedophile!!! The truth has been revealed!


"Is he selling her those balls?" Noelle asked.
Yeah, Jessie sure needs her balls alright... :D *snickers*


"Oh, well..." James paused in his steps. "I don't know. A job's a job."
Reminds me of me... My generic answer to almost any question is “I dunno.”


"Ever think of getting into breeding? Pokemon, that is." She giggled excessively.
Undeniable proof for the Kimi/Ja—! *is shot*


Instead, she was surprised to see the one called James, holding out a black pokeball. "Here," he said quietly.
Aw, James is being nice, and it’s not in relation to the plot twist as this happened before it. Do I sense a possible dissension and split between Jessie and James in the future?

Now that those are out of the way... Plot twist! Rampant speculation mode, BEGIN!

So Noelle knows James by sight after a moment, and James knows Noelle by name...? Hmm... Interesting... The first thing that jumps out to me harks back to the previous chapter, and Noelle’s mention of an ex-fiancé. Could James perhaps be that person? He seems a little old for her (but, as there is no verified age for him, who knows what the age difference really is), but Noelle’s family doesn’t seem to be the type to factor age into the marriage equation, anyways. Plus, canon states that James’ family is very much like Noelle’s, with him becoming engaged (to Jessiebelle, although with more selfish intentions admittedly) when he was very young too. Although, one would expect the recognition to perhaps have been quicker if that was the case, if at least from James (who is obviously older than Noelle). His time with Team Rocket may have pushed her out of his mind, though. Since Noelle was only three or so when she was engaged previously, she herself admits she doesn’t remember the fiancé that well. Plus, this also accounts for the disagreement that came up; James’ parents may have decided that Jessiebelle was a better fiancé for James than Noelle, and called the Noelle/James engagement off.

Of course, it could be much simpler. Perhaps the Winters and Morgan family are (or were) just friends of each other. The long time it took for recognition to kick in could be because neither knew each other that well.

Rampant speculation mode, FINISHED!


Maybe my action scenes are getting better? I sure hope so, because there will be a lot of them in the future.
Not bad... Not bad... What most stuck out to me was the lack of detail in places, specifically in the attacks themselves. For example, after Noelle ordered Marill to use Water Gun, you cut straight to its effect on Jessie without actually describing the attack itself. When Tracey first called Marill out and ordered it to use Water Gun, there wasn’t much detail there of the actual execution of the attack, either. Now, while massive amount of detail isn’t always needed, it’s important for any big fight scenes you may have. Having a large fight without much description of the attacks themselves will quickly get boring, since such large fights thrive off the images painted in the reader’s mind. Without the necessary detail, the reader will have no idea what to envision.


Oh, and I’ve actually managed to write some of TFC...two pages, about. Damn, but this part is SLOW right now... I plan for this to be the last chapter of part 3, and since I haven’t had one in this part at all yet, I intend to have an “Elsewhere” scene at the end, so that will be fun to write, especially considering what I plan to showcase in this one *coughtherewillbegorecough*

But, even if I haven’t written much in TFC, I’ve built on several ideas for it. Namely, I have all the primary villains, their looks, personalities, fighting styles (I won’t even bother hiding it now, the previous chapter along with 9 and 10 to an extant should have made it very clear that Pokémon battles aren’t the only kind of fights TFC will have), battle themes (for the most part, I’m still missing one, I think. On the other hand, one of them has around three or four different battle themes...) and their relation to each other decided upon, as well as another technical aspect to add further depth and fill in a potential plot hole before it could form. Heh, and I’ve got this great image of all the villains together in a group stuck in my mind that I’d love to draw, but, of course, I can’t... Besides, I couldn’t show it to anyone because of spoilers...

Blackjack Gabbiani
12th September 2006, 7:23 AM
Another great chapter. I wish I was better at reviewing...*sigh*

I see Jessie got her Licky back...

Pikki Zuka
24th September 2006, 8:03 AM
"Jessie got her Licky back" is about the perviest thing I've heard in awhile... dammit, now I've got "Sexy Back" in my head.

The news: Fall quarter started, and I have an insane workload from now until Thanksgiving. I'll be even less active! 9_9 I'll update the next four chapters sooner than two weeks apart, though, so I can have chapter 12 debut here at the same time it's posted in the other spots. [/dorky rambling]

----

Chapter 8 - The Jade Road


Audrey knelt by Tracey, holding her hand to his back. She nodded to Hiroyuki, and he sprayed the paralyze heal medicine over Tracey. He twitched and shuddered as the feeling came back to his nerves, and he sat up slowly on his knees. Audrey rubbed his back. "You feeling all right?" she asked.

"I... had no idea... that would happen," he whispered slowly.

"Good thing this stuff works on people," Hiroyuki said, looking at the bottle in his hand. "I didn't think it would."

Tracey stared at this newcomer, perplexed. "This is Hiroyuki," Audrey supplied.

Just as she spoke, Noelle rushed over with Marill close behind. "Are you okay?" she asked breathlessly.

"Yeah," Tracey said, smiling up at her. "I really got licked in that battle."

Audrey sighed. "He'll be just fine," she said drolly.

Hiroyuki rose to his impressive height, well over six feet. He held out a hand and pulled Tracey up with little effort. "Did you really have Marill attack Jessie like that?" Tracey asked Noelle.

Marill squeaked proudly, but Noelle bit her bottom lip guiltily. "I didn't know what else to do... she used her lickitung on you, and Marill was right there next to me."

"I think it was the right thing to do, given the circumstances." Tracey rotated his shoulder, still coaxing his body to move. "What happened after that? I heard someone talking, and then Jessie screamed. They left, didn't they?"

"He happened." Hiroyuki nodded in the direction of another young man, one with very long, bright red hair and a black trench coat. He was helping Kimi to coax the still-frightened pokemon out of their hiding places.

"Where were you, anyway?" Noelle turned to Audrey.

"I went to call the police," the older woman said, in defense of Noelle's slightly accusatory tone. "But before I finished dialing, these two came in. They said they'd take care of everything."

"He said it, not me." Hiroyuki held up his hands in protest.

"These two just happened to show up and knew what was happening?" Tracey asked Audrey. "What, were they spying on us?"

"He's the one on the big quest," Hiroyuki insisted. "I'm just here because I wanted to leave home."

"Oh no," Audrey said in a low voice, looking over her shoulder at the red-haired young man. "Even after all this time?"

"I think he was waiting until he finished high school," said Hiroyuki. "Of course, that was a couple of years ago. I didn't see him for awhile after that. I think he spent some time in Hoenn -- his family recently moved there, after all."

The color suddenly drained from Audrey's face. "He took what I told him seriously, didn't he?"

Noelle's and Tracey's puzzled looks had to wait to be answered, as the young man in question joined them, with Kimi following. "Greetings, all," he said with a warm smile. "Miss Kimi and I have accounted for all the pokemon, save one."

"That one." Kimi pointed to Noelle's feet, where a smoochum had come. "That's the last. They're all safe, thank goodness."

"Hello there," said Noelle, bending down to stroke its head of blonde hair.

"Littlefrost," Tracey said suddenly, turning to the discarded box of pokeballs. It lay on its side by the doorway, contents spilled all over the floor.

"He's right here." Noelle reached into her pocket and showed him the luxury ball, shrunken to travel size. "James gave him back to me."

Tracey's brown eyes narrowed, and Audrey knew immediately what the dark expression on his face meant. She was dying to find out just how Noelle and James knew each other, but Tracey battled curiosity, jealousy, and humiliation all at once. Audrey longed to tell him that she sympathized.

The red-haired newcomer broke the awkward silence by plucking the ball from Noelle's outstretched palm. "Ah, yes," he said, holding it up. "The perfect pokeball for your beloved seel." At Noelle's shocked look, he replaced it. Then he turned her hand over and lifted it gracefully, planting a kiss there. "Forgive me, my lady," he said. "I wouldn't dream of parting you from your Littlefrost."

Audrey was sure that he'd taken the luxury ball in the first place just for the purpose of this act. Hiroyuki's eyeroll confirmed it. Tracey, completely flabbergasted, stared with his mouth open.

"My name is Midori Rougan," he continued saying to the blushing Noelle. He retracted his hand and reached into one side of his coat. "I have something you might--"

"What happened in here!?"

Everyone looked up at the doorway, where a woman with long teal hair stood with her hands on her hips. "Kimi!" she called. The teenage assistant took cover behind Midori.

They helped Suzie, the salon's owner, straighten the room and mop up the water from Marill's attacks while they explained what happened. From their descriptions of Jessie and James, she said that they sounded familiar, like the pair of shady stylists who had tried to run her out of business several years ago.

For their assistance, Suzie insisted they take gifts. She gave Tracey an exotic blue pot encrusted with jewels. "It's filled with sea incense," she explained. "For your marill. Water pokemon love it." To Audrey, Hiroyuki, and Midori, she handed three large, silvery pearls, rare treasures prized by collectors.

"We can't really accept these," Tracey said humbly.

"Nonsense, I insist." Suzie waved her hand at him. "Now, I could swear I had another of those pearls..." She rooted around in the trunk she'd carried from one of the back rooms.

"She's notorious for giving presents," said Kimi, patting the side of the trunk. "Even pokemon. Half of the ones around the salon belong to her, because she breeds them. She never keeps them all."

Suzie looked up, blinking thoughtfully. Her eyes fell to the smoochum that hadn't left Noelle's side once. "Kimi's right. How'd you like a smoochum?" she said to Noelle.

"What?" Noelle asked incredulously. "I can't just... I mean..."

"I don't think you have a choice, anyway. The way she's been following you, I'm guessing you made an impression on her."

"All I did was hide her away from the battle..."

"That's all it takes, really," Suzie said. "Pokemon that are very young will latch onto others, especially those that are kind and protective. If you leave without her, she probably won't take it well. I'd better go get her pokeball." She whisked away behind the curtain.

"But... shouldn't she be the one?" Noelle asked. "If she raised her?"

"Suzie spends half her time working at her breeding center," Kimi answered. "She doesn't bond with the pokemon very much, since she works with so many."

"Is it all right to just give away pokemon like that, though? Isn't this the smoochum's home?"

"It's perfectly fine, Noelle." Suzie came back with a red and white ball. "Pokemon are very adaptable as long as someone takes good care of them. Why, just last week, the new champion of the Indigo League came in here and donated five of his pokemon to my breeding center, all because he wanted them to relax while he goes to Johto. It was so nice of him." She smiled happily, undoubtedly thinking that it was also nice for her breeding career.

"Yes, I hope he comes back to see me," Kimi said with a dreamy sigh. "I mean, them. His pokemon."

They left the salon, waving and thanking Suzie still. "That was generous of her," Hiroyuki said, tossing the pearl up in the air lightly and catching it.

"I'll say," Audrey seconded. "This will really help with my school expenses for fall."

"Midori?" Noelle spoke up. She and Tracey walked behind the three old friends. "Did you say you had something for me?"

"Ah, yes!" Midori paused. "But let's wait a bit. I have somewhere I'd like to take you."


* * * *

Tracey drove the five of them, according to Midori's directions, to the north end of Celadon. They left the metropolis behind them and entered a residential area, where every house they passed was bigger than the one before it. In all the time she'd spent at the university, Audrey had never been to this ritzy part of town, though she had a good idea where they might be headed.

"There it is," Midori pointed out. A long, paved driveway led to a hilltop mansion. Several sections of vines made their way up the sides and even along the columns of the huge house, accenting it rather than obscuring. In the front yard, two elegant willow trees, placed at equal distances from the walkway, swayed in the late spring breeze.

Noelle stood behind as Midori led the others to the front door. "It's bigger than my house," she whispered.

Tracey paused with her. "I can't imagine what it's like to have that much room to live."

"It feels like being surrounded by a lot of empty space," Noelle said bleakly.

Hiroyuki glanced over his shoulder at them, then came back to where they stood. "Don't worry," he said. "It only looks like Midori's about to barge into some rich family's house announced and make an idiot out of himself. But a friend of ours lives here. She and her parents are very nice."

Midori grinned at the butler, who answered the door. "Tell Mistress Erika that Midori Rougan and his party are here to see her," he said.

They waited in the foyer, admiring everything from the polished floor to the large, antique chandelier, holding candles instead of light bulbs. Soon a young woman trotted down the winding staircase. She was tall and thin with shoulder-length, blue-black hair. She held up her long skirt so she wouldn't trip as she descended. "Hello, Midori," she greeted with a nod of her head, stepping from the last stair.

"Milady." Midori bowed extravagantly.

Erika broke into a grin and rushed over to hug him. "It's good to see you again." Then she embraced Hiroyuki just as warmly. "And you too, of course, Hiro."

Hiroyuki blushed a little and mumbled a salutation. Erika gave Audrey a hug last, and turned to Noelle and Tracey. "Sorry, but seeing as I don't know you yet..." she said teasingly.

"They're Tracey and Noelle," Midori introduced them.

"It's very nice to meet you," Erika said politely. "Come on into the sitting room, and I'll get us some tea."

Audrey sat on the sofa beside Noelle, while Tracey took the spot on the blue-haired girl's other side, naturally. Midori and Hiroyuki sat in two plush chairs across from them. A glass coffee table divided the seats, upon which Erika placed a tray. She distributed teacups and poured the brew without spilling a drop. Then she brought a wooden chair from the nearby writing desk, sitting down in it by the end of the table so that she could readily pour more tea.

"I believe I can get straight to the point," Midori said. He reached into his long coat, which he had not removed, and pulled out a slim black case. He opened it, picked up something small from inside, and snapped the case shut. "I would like you to have this, Noelle." He leaned across the table.

Noelle held out her hand as Midori deposited the item there. It was a silver token with a thick, curved black line etched on its face. In the center lay a piece of smooth, pale green rock.

"Oh, Midori," Audrey said softly. "You still have those?"

"But of course. Did you think I'd given up?"

Noelle looked back and forth at Audrey and Midori. "What is it?"

"It's a Jade Road badge," Midori answered.

Tracey leaned in to study it in Noelle's palm. "Like a gym badge?" he asked.

"Perhaps. Are you familiar with gym badges, Noelle?"

"I read about them," she said. "The gym leader gives you a badge if you defeat him, right? Then having all the regional badges lets you compete in the annual Indigo League tournament?"

Midori nodded. "That's part of it. The badges affect a trainer's pokemon as well. That is, they can raise pokemon's strength, speed, or obedience."

"Really? How is that possible?"

"Science!" Midori raised his hand in a theatric gesture, his voice deepening as if quoting something. Hiroyuki gave him a pointed look. "Sorry." Midori grinned apologetically.

"So what does a Jade Road badge do?" Noelle asked.

"It can help you to better understand your pokemon."

Noelle furrowed her brows in thought. "Are you a gym leader?"

"No," said Midori. "But I am the master of the Jade Road."

Noelle glanced at Tracey, who raised a skeptical eyebrow. Then she took notice of everyone else. Audrey shifted in her seat, Hiroyuki gazed around the sitting room, and Erika sipped her tea, purposefully not meeting anyone's eyes. Looking down at the trinket in her hand a final time, Noelle asked, "So why me? Why not Tracey? Marill belongs to him, after all."

"But the way you commanded her water gun, without much prior experience with her, makes you worthy," said Midori. "And let's not forget that your smoochum took to following you. Your seel formed an instant bond with you."

"I..." Noelle started to say. "Wait, how did you know about Littlefrost?"

"I shall tell you more soon, milady," he answered. "Perhaps in private. I wanted our friends to witness this moment, but the things I must explain are better left to those of us who possess badges."

"He means him and me," Erika said. "Sorry about that, Tracey."

"Eh?" Tracey was startled that she'd spoken to him. "Oh, no, it's okay. Members only, huh?"

"You get used to it," Hiroyuki told him.

Audrey watched Noelle smile politely at her grandiose friend, then reach for her tea. Midori gave Audrey a knowledgeable look, and the older woman turned her gaze elsewhere.


* * * *

Erika insisted that she, Midori, and Noelle have their talk after dinner, or possibly even the next morning. She wanted everyone to enjoy the rest of the evening, so she invited them all to stay the night, especially since Tracey and Noelle still had a few hours' drive ahead of them. Though she felt imposing, with her apartment not far, Audrey couldn't refuse Erika's hospitality.

After their dinner of banquet proportions (which Chef Gerard reluctantly prepared, Erika said), Midori, Hiroyuki, and Erika saw to feeding everyone's pokemon, and Tracey called Professor Oak to update him on the change of plans. Noelle, meanwhile, sought a quiet refuge on the terrace. Her smoochum went with her, disinterested in eating. Audrey found the blue-haired girl seated in a padded chair, studying the Jade Road badge in her hand. The smoochum explored the potted plants, occasionally batting at small buds.

"Are you all right?" Audrey asked.

All traces of Noelle's earlier cheerfulness were gone. "Doesn't anybody realize I can't keep them?" she asked sadly, glancing at the smoochum. "First Suzie gave her to me, and now Midori singles me out for his badge? How am I supposed to 'better understand' my pokemon when I have to leave them in Pallet Town?"

"It might turn out differently," Audrey said. "Not many things happen expectantly."

Noelle considered her words for a moment. "I guess... I mean, I'm here in Celadon with everyone, and two days ago I was sure I'd be alone in Cerulean." She smiled briefly. "So... does this badge thing really do something? What did he mean?"

Audrey paused, unsure of how to answer. She felt Noelle's eyes on her.

"How did he find me, anyway? And how did he know about Littlefrost?" she asked suspiciously. "Did you say something to him beforehand?"

Audrey smirked in the way that one knows she's caught. "I've known Midori for four years, yes. Erika and Hiroyuki too. Last week, Midori emailed me just to catch up. He said he was coming to Celadon to pay a visit to Erika. I told him about finding Littlefrost, and how you helped me take care of him, and bonded with him in a matter of days. I think he took that to mean something more than I intended -- that is, he blew it out of proportion. And, since I also mentioned that I'd be returning to the university, and that I might be able to see him, he made sure he was in a situation to meet you."

"I see," Noelle said slowly. "Midori's a stalker lost in a fantasy world."

Audrey chuckled. "That might be a little harsh. He's really very idealistic, and has a romantic way of looking at things. After all, he's a drifter. His family lives in Hoenn, but he prefers to go from place to place around here. It's granted him a very unique vision of the world." She pursed her lips in thought. "Noelle, listen. Midori's really a good person at heart. But he's got these badges, and he's making a big deal out of finding the right people to give them to."

"So he has a system for choosing people? He doesn't just pick them at random?"

"He's got it figured out, yes. But before he talks to you about why he chose you, and what the badge is capable of, I want to clarify something first."

Noelle sat up on the edge of her chair, her pale blue eyes wide.

Audrey paused and took in a breath. "Please don't take anything Midori says too seriously. He tends to over-dramatize."

"What... does that mean?" Noelle asked, looking very apprehensive.

Audrey glanced over her shoulder, then leaned closer to Noelle, lowering her voice. "In essence, these badges were designed to be communication devices between humans and pokemon. But they're not perfect. There's a reason the technology isn't made public... and probably won't be developed for awhile."

"Really?" Noelle whispered incredulously. "So I can use this to talk to Littlefrost? How's it work?"

"I'm afraid it's not that simple. If you want to be able to use it, you have to wear it next to your skin. And you have to have an strong emotional bond with your pokemon. So it might take awhile for it to work properly."

"I can't believe it," Noelle said, staring intently at the small badge.

"There's more," said Audrey. "Use it with caution, okay? There are things that can happen if--"

The terrace's screen door flew open, and Marill burst out, a meowth chasing her. Audrey recognized her as Nyassi, Midori's oldest pokemon. She seemed to want to play with Marill's bouncing tail, but the frightened water mouse wanted nothing of it. Tracey soon showed up, holding out his arms for Marill to take refuge.

"Nyaasi!" Audrey scolded lightly. "I thought you knew better than to chase after a pokemon you just met." Nyaasi's reponse was to meow and wash her face demurely, but she looked up again as the smoochum approached, batting at the meowth's tail.

Everyone giggled at the sight. "Looks like she's a bad influence," Tracey said. Nyaasi swished her tail back and forth, much to the delight of the young pokemon. Marill watched intently.

"I guess I should think of a name for her," Noelle said. "We can't very well have Littlefrost and Smoochum."

"I don't know who chooses some of these species names for pokemon," Tracey remarked with a roll of his eyes. "I think Professor Oak's been behind a few of them."

Audrey smiled sadly as Noelle explained the workings of the Jade Road badge to Tracey. You're a smart girl, Noelle, she thought. I know you'll be careful with your badge... I know we won't have a repeat of the first incident...


----

Author's Notes: I made this chapter a little shorter, because I wanted to emphasize the significance of Noelle's two prizes: her smoochum and her badge. Longtime EW readers will note that how she comes by these two is quite different. Also, rather than have Midori present a badge to her and leave with his coat flapping in the wind, it's stated right here and now what they do. Of course, that's not the whole story... muahaha.

If you're dying to know about Noelle and James, that will be explained in chapter 9. Because I'm evil.

Shrike Flamestar
26th September 2006, 4:18 AM
I almost thought you had died :D

Um, I’m really not in the mood to write a review now though (or, well, do anything at all with a fanfic, hence one of the multitude of reasons TFC has almost died...), but I’ll try my best...

So, um, yeah, a typo...

Nyaasi's reponse was to meow and wash her face demurely, but she looked up again as the smoochum approached, batting at the meowth's tail.
Change to response...


"I didn't know what else to do... she used her lickitung on you
That just...sounds wrong to me >_<


"Yes, I hope he comes back to see me," Kimi said with a dreamy sigh. "I mean, them. His pokemon."
Oh Kimi, you can’t fool me with your simple tricks... You truly are infatuated with Dominik's Pokémon! ATP FTW!


So, um hooray, or whatever... Midori has returned... Let us celebrate this joyous occasion... *Waves flags in the air and halfheartedly cheers* I actually thought it was Dominik last chapter because of the glowy purple hand thing, but apparently Midori must have some sort of psychic powers as well that he keeps hidden from people...

Hah, I have the better Pokémon translator :p Yours has the issue of needing bodily contact and a strong bond with the Pokémon to work, while with mine there are no requirements at all! Of course, mine has the issue of needing to be stuck in a person’s ear and thus results in no practical way to remove it, but still... Yours sounds like it has a tiny problem, though... Based on how these seem to be similar to how Dominik is able to communicate with his Pokemon whose name escapes me at the moment, I’m guessing the badges must somehow use psychic energy to work... Perhaps the issue is some sort of “soul-bonding” wherein the souls of the human and Pokémon are somehow fused together? Kind of farfetched, but meh...

Oh, and to continue with my streak of informing you of my progress on TFC, I’m almost done with the boring first “half” of the chapter (the second “half” will be shorter, bloodier, and funner... Not sure why I call them halves...) This will then conclude part 3 when finished... God, I’m just growing tired of this whole fanfic business... Now with school, I have even less time than I thought I would have to do stuff and so I have little time to write anyway... But, it might just be because I’m sick and tired of how the plot has progressed since chapter 8... It’s not that I’m not liking my own plot, I still love the ideas I have in store, it’s more so just how serious these chapters have been. Chapters 11 and 12 were a small break, but in the end they haven’t been enough. Maybe the change in pace with a new part will help, since part 4 is intended to be much calmer and more like part 1 and the first half of 2...

Pikki Zuka
26th September 2006, 7:55 PM
So, um hooray, or whatever... Midori has returned... Let us celebrate this joyous occasion... *Waves flags in the air and halfheartedly cheers*
Gee, thanks. :P


Hah, I have the better Pokémon translator :p Yours has the issue of needing bodily contact and a strong bond with the Pokémon to work, while with mine there are no requirements at all! Of course, mine has the issue of needing to be stuck in a person’s ear and thus results in no practical way to remove it, but still...
Shiny badge > squishy thing you have to insert in your ear. Ew.


Yours sounds like it has a tiny problem, though... Based on how these seem to be similar to how Dominik is able to communicate with his Pokemon whose name escapes me at the moment, I’m guessing the badges must somehow use psychic energy to work... Perhaps the issue is some sort of “soul-bonding” wherein the souls of the human and Pokémon are somehow fused together? Kind of farfetched, but meh...
Heeheehee~

You win for using "soul-bonding." :D


God, I’m just growing tired of this whole fanfic business... Now with school, I have even less time than I thought I would have to do stuff and so I have little time to write anyway... But, it might just be because I’m sick and tired of how the plot has progressed since chapter 8... It’s not that I’m not liking my own plot, I still love the ideas I have in store, it’s more so just how serious these chapters have been. Chapters 11 and 12 were a small break, but in the end they haven’t been enough. Maybe the change in pace with a new part will help, since part 4 is intended to be much calmer and more like part 1 and the first half of 2...
Quit while you're ahead. If you get sucked in, your characters will become your children and your significant others, and you'll have no life. Yes. Fanfiction is teh evil.

I'm growing tired of this whole posting business, myself. I might stop here at sppf with chapter 12/end of part one unless I get some more reviews. Now, I don't write this enormous fic for the publicity -- if that was the case, I would have stopped in 2001. But posting it here, where there is lots of opportunity to read it, and getting replies from only 1 1/2 regular readers... it seems pointless. There are two other locations, so if people are really interested, they can read it there so I don't have to take the time to come here and post it.

Damn, that sounds so whiny... but it's true. Ah well, it's not like anyone but you will read it! 9_9

Blackjack Gabbiani
27th September 2006, 8:43 AM
Sea incense! Will there be an Azurill on the horizon?

And don't feel bad about the lack of reviews. I only had a handful of reviewers on my fics...

Shrike Flamestar
29th September 2006, 5:42 AM
Shiny badge > squishy thing you have to insert in your ear. Ew.
Hey, at least it’s not a fish that feeds on sound waves and excretes thoughts that your brain interprets as an understandable language :D

The Babel fish from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was actually my original inspiration for the Pokécom :) Such a convenient and unobtrusive plot device...


Quit while you're ahead. If you get sucked in, your characters will become your children and your significant others, and you'll have no life.
Eh, too late for fanfics to take over my life :D *Looks at his other interests.* Depending on how much you’ve looked into my posts, you may be able to easily tell what are already the focuses of my life...


There are two other locations, so if people are really interested, they can read it there so I don't have to take the time to come here and post it.
Eh, I don’t have a LiveJournal account, so I couldn’t comment on there, but I supposed I could comment on ff.net if you quit posting here (although, I can’t quote specific lines as easily on there...). Just be sure to tell me, though :)


Damn, that sounds so whiny... but it's true. Ah well, it's not like anyone but you will read it! 9_9
Stop being so hard on yourself <_< *Whacks Pikki over the head with a Buoysel* You can’t expect everyone to be a natural talent at attracting reviews like yours truly *Spontaneously combusts from ego overload.*


GOOD NEWS! My writing pace on TFC has increased dramatically over the past week, and I now feel like I may actually finish this chapter after all! Wish me luck with finishing it up, proofreading it, and getting Hanako to beta it (I hope she won’t be too busy...)

EDIT: Oh god, yes, I can feel it! I can feel that sensation I've lost for so long, that drive and longing to write! Unfortunately, it's 2:00am now, four and a half hours before school... Damn, tomorrow's going to be a long day (not like this entire week hasn’t... This week has certainly proved that time is relative, as this week has just been so slow...), but it seems things are finally looking up for me... Hopefully things will start looking up for you as well regarding your posting here and any other troubles you may be going through :)

Pikki Zuka
1st October 2006, 6:57 AM
Sea incense! Will there be an Azurill on the horizon?
Not on the near horizon, no.


And don't feel bad about the lack of reviews. I only had a handful of reviewers on my fics...Hehe, thanks... but you get a lot of reviews on Obsession. Of course, it's been around here longer.


Hey, at least it’s not a fish that feeds on sound waves and excretes thoughts that your brain interprets as an understandable language :D
Oh dear... Zack should totally give out BabelFeebas.


Stop being so hard on yourself <_< *Whacks Pikki over the head with a Buoysel* You can’t expect everyone to be a natural talent at attracting reviews like yours truly *Spontaneously combusts from ego overload.*
Eww, I don't know where that buoysel's been...

Did you see its evolution? I've been obsessively following D/P news. XD


EDIT: Oh god, yes, I can feel it! I can feel that sensation I've lost for so long, that drive and longing to write! Unfortunately, it's 2:00am now, four and a half hours before school... Damn, tomorrow's going to be a long day (not like this entire week hasn’t... This week has certainly proved that time is relative, as this week has just been so slow...), but it seems things are finally looking up for me... Hopefully things will start looking up for you as well regarding your posting here and any other troubles you may be going through :)
Yaay~ Good luck. I think school is just bothering me already. And it's only been three weeks.. but our quarters are short, so that's 1/3 of it done. Midterms are in two weeks! @_@ I'll probably keep posting, 12 out of [large number of planned chapters] isn't that much, really... you never know who else might stop by. THIS DUEL ISN'T OVER! :172bros:

Pikki Zuka
1st October 2006, 7:16 AM
Here's chapter 9. It's long, so I'll get to the point with some WARNINGS! :o

1. Discussions of bi/homosexuality occur within. If this offends you, turn away now. It's a hot-button issue for some people, so you've been warned. Please don't start arguments here in the thread, and if you really feel the need to yell at me, there's the PM button. ^^;;

2. Canon JJ&M fans, same deal. I take some liberties with their characters, and there's a rant in the author's notes at the end about my reasons. However, if you like your trio the way they've always been without any character development, then don't read this. Remember, it's fiction.


----


Chapter 9 - On Our Way

The next morning, Tracey and Audrey headed out to the University of Celadon. Tracey was disappointed that Noelle had chosen to stay with Erika and Midori to have their private discussion about the mysterious Jade Road. Since last night's dinner, Noelle had seemed quiet, and he hoped that he and Audrey could cheer her up together, since Audrey would be staying at her campus-side apartment while Tracey and Noelle continued on their way to Pallet Town.

Noelle thanked Audrey profusely for everything she'd done. The older woman petted Littlefrost and told him to take care of Noelle as much as she'd taken care of him. She gave Noelle a big hug along with her email address and telephone number. Last, she bid farewell to Erika, Midori, and Hiroyuki, though the chances of seeing them again were more likely.

"It feels nice, knowing I'll be missed," Audrey remarked as she and Tracey drove away.

"Doesn't your family miss you?" Tracey asked. "Or are they nearby?"

Audrey snorted. "They're in Goldenrod. They kicked me out at seventeen."

"What?" Tracey looked at her with wide eyes, then braked hastily for a stop sign.

"It was for the best. I worked hard and got accepted at U.C. All on my own, too. I apprenticed with Dr. Quackenpoker for a year -- his recommendation got me in, along with grants and scholarships. Even if I had still been at home, my parents couldn't have paid for a thing."

"Hey, I met him a few years ago," Tracey said. "I helped him count magikarp."

Audrey laughed. "For anybody else, that sounds pretty lame."

"'How a magikarp got in my pajamas, I'll never know,'" Tracey quoted the famous scientist.

Audrey giggled for a long time. "He really helped me through that time," she said with a sigh. "Everything in my life had hit rock bottom."

"Why did they kick you out? If I can ask... you don't have to tell me."

She smiled sadly. "They found out about my girlfriend."

"Oh..." Tracey whispered.

"If only they had waited a week later to catch us. That's when she left me for her fabulous career."

"I'm so sorry."

"Thanks. She's famous now, so I'm sure she's happy. Comes from a well-to-do family, so she had to leave her legacy. She started out as a gym leader in Cerulean when I was with her. That's kind of why I went there this week. Silly, isn't it?"

"Gym leader?" Tracey repeated dubiously. "I... know the Cerulean gym leaders..."

"She was in charge before they came along. She was tough; no one could defeat her, so the Indigo League declared her a pokemon master and told her she had to quit. I'm pretty sure the heads of the League want their gym leaders to let the kids win. Erika doesn't believe me, though."

Tracey shook his head in disbelief. "Sounds plausible, though. I've watched enough gym battles. If they're such official experts, why do so many of them lose to barely-experienced trainers?"

"It's all a way to make money." Audrey rested her head against the seat, sighing. "I went to the Cerulean gym, even. Such a waste, the way those girls have turned it into a poolside theater. It used to be such a beautiful place of water and ice."

After a long pause, Tracey said, "You didn't have to tell me all that. Noelle's not even here with us, and you've known her longer."

"Only by a couple of days. And besides, I think you and I sort of understand each other."

He nodded. "Yeah, you're right about that."

"Just between us, though," Audrey said in a more serious tone, "I don't know what Noelle would think of me if I told her about this. She's a sweet girl, but with her background... I don't want her to shut me out because of my lifestyle."

"You think Noelle wouldn't be accepting?"

"I don't know, that's the thing. She doesn't act like a typical spoiled rich girl, but she does have a very limited view of the world because she's been so sheltered. She may not know how to handle us deviants." She sighed again. "I'm just being cautious, that's all. My own parents wouldn't even try to live with it. You really learn to be on your guard after something like that."

Tracey gripped the steering wheel. "Noelle can't be like your parents," he protested. "She just can't."

"I hope she's not... for your sake."

After another moment of silence, Audrey asked, "Hey, would you like to see the campus? Maybe we'll find my sister, Faye."

"Your sister goes here?"

"Yes, she's the only one of my family who accepts me, so she left Goldenrod as soon as she could. She's even staying for summer vacation."

Spanning several blocks with its very old buildings, the University of Celadon seemed like its own town. Audrey's apartment was right behind a coffee shop and a laundromat, located within a short walking distance to the school. After they set her bags in her small kitchen, Audrey and Tracey strolled through campus. Though it was summer, many students hung around outside, reading in the shade or playing frisbee with pokemon.

"They have pokemon care here?" Tracey asked.

"Oh, sure. Students are allowed to bring any pokemon with them."

"That's better than Noelle's boarding school."

They left the dorm area and headed to the academic halls, the real places of interest. Tracey wanted to see the biology department, where Audrey studied. As they approached the entrance, however, they heard hurried footsteps and someone calling Audrey's name.

She stopped to identify the approaching person. "Hi!" she called out, waving.

"Did you just get back?" the girl asked as she caught up to them, pouncing Audrey with a giant hug.

"Yes, a few minutes ago. I'm giving Tracey here a tour." Audrey turned to him. "This is Faye, my sister. Faye, he's Tracey Sketchit -- Professor Oak's assistant."

"Oh, awesome." Faye shook Tracey's hand. "Audrey had classes with him." The sisters looked very similar with their thick, reddish-brown hair, wide green eyes, and curved figures. Faye's hair was longer, though, and she lacked glasses. She appeared to be sixteen or seventeen, Tracey's age.

The three of them lingered through the pokemon biology department inside, passing many exhibits of study inside glass cases. Several times, Tracey lamented leaving his sketchbook at Erika's house; the plastic models of pokemon interiors fascinated him.

Faye shook her head and grinned. "No matter how many times I see them, they're still creepy," she remarked. She tapped the glass encasing a diorama of a miltank's four-part stomach.

"Enjoying the sights, are we?" Someone who was clearly a professor walked up to them. "How are my houseguests doing this afternoon?" he asked congenially.

"Just fine, Dr. Haruna," Audrey answered. Tracey's nerves jolted as he realized he didn't recognize his host, Erika's father. To be fair, Dr. Haruna had arrived late the previous night, and left early that morning, so Tracey didn't get much of a chance to meet him.

"Forgive me for not being at home very long," he apologized. "This place does keep me busy. It's Tracey, isn't it?"

"Yes. I'm really impressed with the research here," Tracey said, hoping that he didn't sound too vague.

"Dr. Haruna is the head of the pokemon biology department," Audrey supplied. "He's a little tired of seeing me around here."

"My favorite student? Hardly."

To his shock, Tracey realized that this was the Dr. Takehiko Haruna, the famous biologist. "I've read some of your books!" he blurted out before he could stop himself.

The doctor's thin black eyebrows rose curiously. "Have you now?" he asked, half amused and half curious.

"For a report Professor Oak put together," Tracey elaborated, his cheeks flushing. "I usually have to research the details..."

Dr. Haruna stared at him. "You're Samuel Oak's research assistant? I'm the one flattered to meet you. Audrey, you should have told me!"

It took Tracey a moment to gather that Dr. Haruna was speaking genuinely, not being sarcastic. He gave Faye, who had been quiet, a puzzled look. She shrugged and smiled. "I feel so out of place," she said with an accepting laugh.

"Why so shocked?" Dr. Haruna asked Tracey. "Surely you know that Professor Oak's previous assistants have gone on to succeed in the scientific community. Now I have the honor of meeting our next prodigy!"

"But I'm not... I just feed all the pokemon, mainly," Tracey said, fumbling for the right words. "I don't think I've contributed much of anything..."

"Don't listen to him," Audrey said. "He's modest to a fault."

"Tracey," Dr. Haruna said seriously, leaning in closer to him. "Have you given any thought to your future?" It was an open question, not reprimanding or belittling.

"I--" Tracey started to say. The truth was that his uncertain future had been bothering him since Gary's arrival. "I really want to follow in Professor Oak's footsteps... but I'm not sure how. I always thought he'd pass on everything to me gradually over time, but now it seems like he's ready to give it all to his grandson, who only showed interest in his research a few weeks ago." Great, now I'm venting to him, he thought. He's really going to think I'm an idiot now.

Dr. Haruna nodded. "Don't take it personally. Getting to Professor Oak's level involves more than him dropping all his projects in your lap when he retires. We're all sure that it'll be any day now. Let his upstart grandson handle that -- what you need is a formal education and a degree or two."

Tracey blinked. "Well... of course I'd have to go to college someday. Oh, and the University of Celadon is my first choice, definitely."

Dr. Haruna grinned. "That's good to know, because I meant you should start this fall."

"What?" asked Tracey incredulously. "I can't start then! I... I never went to high school!"

The doctor waved his hand dismissively. "High school is for regular kids. We have a program to admit students at the college level if they already demonstrate superb knowledge of their field. Take Miss Faye here -- she's not in my department, but I understand she's quite the computer genius."

Faye smiled. "Just finished my first year. Infinitely better than Goldenrod's public high schools."

"She's right," Audrey added. "I actually went through the ordeal."

"But... how do I afford it? And what about entrance exams? I haven't had time to study or anything..." Tracey's head spun with all the details.

"You shouldn't have to worry too much about that, given your position," said Dr. Haruna. "Why don't you talk it over with Professor Oak? I've got some application papers and relevant information you can take with you. Come to my office with me."

As he followed, Tracey glanced over his shoulder at Audrey and Faye, who smiled with encouragement. Dr. Haruna's office was just around the corner, and Tracey noticed its clutter right away. Genius professors were required to be messy, he mused.

"Here we are." The doctor handed him a course catalogue, then pushed around stacks of papers and books on a desk, looking for more. Tracey stared mutely at the catalogue cover, trying to imagine himself in such a prestigious institution as the University of Celadon.

"This is it." Dr. Haruna's voice snapped him out of his daze. He held out some papers, the top being an application for admission. "You all right there?"

"It just seems so... sudden," Tracey said quietly. "You make it sound like you really want me here. I'm not used to hearing that."

Dr. Haruna's businesslike air melted into one of sympathy. "You belong here, Tracey," he said. "I can just tell, especially if you're Audrey's friend. People of learning have to stick together, you know." He looked up at the door to make sure no one was coming, then motioned for Tracey to come in farther. "Between you and me," he said, his voice barely above a whisper, "there probably isn't much more you're going to learn from Professor Oak. The man's hailed as a pokemon expert, yes, but that was ten or fifteen years ago. I wasn't kidding about him retiring at any time. I don't think he's aware that he should."

Tracey blinked. "You think I'm wasting my time with him?"

"Not if you enjoy it, of course not. But you sounded just a little apathetic about being his assistant."

"I--" Tracey started to defend himself. He stared at the overflowing trash can while he collected his thoughts. "To be honest, I idolized him growing up. I didn't get along well in grade school, so I left to become a pokemon watcher, which is how he got his start. It was my dream to meet him and have him advise me on how to make a career out of studying pokemon."

Dr. Haruna nodded, folding his arms across his chest.

"A couple of years ago, my dream came true," Tracey continued. "And better than I'd hoped, he asked if I wanted to be his assistant. I thought it was the greatest thing to ever happen to me... but after a couple of months, I realized it wasn't what I expected. He doesn't do that much research, and he spends most of his time with--" He caught himself before he could mention the young, still-legally-married Delia Ketchum. "With friends."

"Hmm," Dr. Haruna said thoughtfully.

"Meanwhile, I do most of the cleaning up, and I feed all the pokemon, half of which don't belong to us." Tracey sighed deeply. "I know I sound ungrateful, but it's just not what I imagined."

"You're fine, Tracey. Professor Oak contributed a wealth of knowledge in his lifetime, so he deserves to relax. But I hope you realize that I'm not putting down your idol."

"I don't know if he is my idol anymore," Tracey mumbled, then looked up at the doctor, horror-stricken at what he'd just admitted. "I mean... when I was younger, he seemed like this great famous genius, totally unapproachable. Now I see that he's just a regular guy who knows a lot. He's... human."

Dr. Haruna smiled. "It is pretty grounding to find out that our heroes are just like us," he said sagely.

"Yeah," said Tracey, staring resolutely at the application on top of the stack in his hands. "It is."


* * * *

The Haruna household's terrace was fast becoming Noelle's preferred spot for quiet contemplation. It faced a slightly wooded area behind the mansion, a beautiful, tranquil area. From the trees, a few pidgey sang gaily, the only sound to be heard. Whenever a breeze blew past, it carried the mingled scent of flowers, both potted and wild. Noelle closed her eyes and breathed in deeply, savoring the aroma and the peacefulness before her mind drifted to that morning's conversation.

"You are our goddess of water," Midori said. "All the domain of water and ice will be under your control in time, because your pokemon will grant you the gift."

"It's true," Erika chimed in. She had been mostly silent about anything involving Midori's badge, despite the fact that she had owned one herself for several years. "Watch." She held out her hand, and small petals from the tabletop flower vase floated to it, dancing around in a spiral pattern. A faint green light surrounded her hand. Noelle gasped.

"There are four earthly elements, of course," Midori went on. "And there are four others, elements of higher powers: light and dark, body and mind. Life and death, order and chaos. There are pokemon types that correspond to these powers, just as there are water and grass pokemon. I will find a suitable representative for each of the elements. That is my mission."

Erika's demonstration stopped, and Noelle stared for a long time at the petals scattered on the coffee table. "So what's your element?" she asked Midori.

He smiled enigmatically. "You should know. We will all know one another, and our minds will be linked. The badges make it possible."

As she replayed their talk over and over in her mind, Noelle remembered Audrey's words of caution: "Please don't take anything Midori says too seriously. He tends to over-dramatize." Did she mean that the Jade Road badges didn't do exactly what Midori claimed? Yet Erika had manipulated those petals with a flick of her wrist. And whatever Midori had done to Jessie at the salon -- the dark violet glow from his hand, the way she screamed from some internal horror -- surely that was caused by his own badge. What terrible power did Midori command, to frighten Jessie so badly?

"What do you think, Snowflake?" Noelle asked her smoochum. The little pokemon had followed her to the terrace, naturally, continuing her exploration of Erika's exotic potted plants. Noelle had decided on the name last night, after Tracey looked up some information online about the species. Noelle learned that Snowflake was a combination psychic and ice type. Littlefrost, a water type, and would evolve into a dewgong, a water and ice type. The more Noelle thought about it, the more she realized she had always been drawn to ice-type pokemon from her casual research, due to her love of the element. She had been fascinated by snow and ice since she was a little girl; cold air transforming falling water into beautiful solid crystals seemed like a miraculous feat. The stillness that followed a heavy snowstorm felt divine, reverent. The blanket of white, the infinite silence -- Noelle always perceived winter as a season of holiness, where others saw it as a season of death before spring’s rebirth.

Perhaps Midori could sense that? Perhaps there was some truth after all to his unbelievable quest? Could her family name mean more than a legacy of spending and society?

Noelle suddenly wished Tracey was there. He always had the answers, or, if not, an educated guess. He'd be able to figure Midori out.

"Hey, Noelle." Erika stepped outside, carrying a pair of large shears. "I came to trim my rose bushes. Want to see them? They're really beautiful."

"Sure!" Grateful for the distraction, Noelle picked up Snowflake and followed Erika. Located along the side of the porch, the white roses bloomed fully. "Wow..." Noelle gushed, leaning down to smell one. "You grew these yourself?"

"I sure did. Gardening is my hobby." Erika snipped an errant branch.

"I guess it would have to be, huh?" The blue-haired girl watched for a few moments before speaking again. "Erika? Couldn't you just..." She flicked her hand, imitating a mystical gesture.

Her hostess smiled. "And take the fun out of doing it the old-fashioned way?" Her face became serious as she continued pruning. "Listen, Noelle, don't rely on your Jade Road badge too much. There are things it can trigger that it shouldn't. Humans aren't meant to do what pokemon can do."

"Then why were they made?" Noelle asked with genuine curiosity. "And why would Midori be giving them away?"

"Midori thinks that the eight elements combined will put an end to some threat that doesn't exist yet." Erika snapped the large scissors closed, slicing off more uneven branches. "He's basing that on a legend that claims it will repeat itself. I don't know why he didn't say so earlier."

"Audrey warned me about Midori," Noelle admitted. "Is he dangerous? Should I not trust him?"

"No, he's not dangerous. Audrey was just trying to advise you not to get as wrapped up in those badges as Midori is. You have to go about your normal life, and don't start believing you're a magical girl."

"I don't want to go about my normal life," Noelle said quietly, thinking about boarding school.

"Not looking forward to Pallet Town?" asked Erika.

"That's not what I meant! I can't wait to get there... I just have a feeling it'll be over before I'll realize it. The past week felt like only one day."

"Time does fly when you're happy," Erika mused. "Or busy. I guess it's easy for me to forget I'm involved in Midori's quest, with two jobs."

"Wow, really?"

"Yes, I'm the gym leader in this city, and the Indigo League's expert in grass-type pokemon. And since I love plant pokemon so much, I also run a perfume shop. I market my own fragrances extracted from the aromas of grass-types."

"That's really cool. I wish my perfume at home came from pokemon."

"I'll have to give you an advance sample of the new one I'm working on," Erika promised. "If I can make it, that is. It would be like nothing else in Kanto, a huge success."

"Why can't you make it?" asked Noelle.

Erika sighed. "I want to use the scent of a pokemon that's only found in the Hoenn region, roselia. But it's been harder to get one than I thought it would be. I'm afraid I might have to give up."

"Is that so?" asked a deep voice from above them. Noelle expected Midori, but she gasped in shock as James leapt from the roof. He landed in a crouched position, steadying himself with one hand. Then he stood up swiftly and shook back his shoulder-length hair.

"I wouldn't leave Celadon without seeing you again, Noelle," he said, taking a step towards her.

"Don't even think about making off with her smoochum," Erika cautioned, snapping her shears loudly. "I'm armed, you know."

"I wouldn't dream of it." In a sweeping motion, James plucked a rose from one of the bushes and held it up to Noelle. She took it and stared at him, speechless.

"Then how can we help you?" Erika asked pragmatically with another mid-air snap.

James turned to her. "I came here to pick up where Noelle and I left off yesterday at the pokemon salon," he answered. "And I happened to overhear your predicament. You need a rare pokemon, you say? My teammates and I have years of experience of dealing with difficult ones."

Erika's green eyes narrowed. "Is that some kind of proposition?"

"How much is it worth to you to make your perfume?"

She smirked. "I see where you're headed with this. Looking for a job, are you? Tell you what: invite your teammates here, and we'll talk business. I really do want that roselia essence."

They heard a delighted squeal. "A job and a chance to capture a roselia?" From around the corner of the mansion, Jessie ran up to them. "James, I'm really impressed!"

Meowth came behind her. "Yeah, he usually don't think of dis stuff on his own," he added.

Noelle watched the cat pokemon walking upright on its hind legs. "He really does talk," she whispered. Snowflake, in her tight grasp, made an inquisitive sound.

"It's time I do start thinking a little harder, Meowth," James said. "It's time to repay the Boss for real, and get on with our lives before we waste them any longer!" He clenched his fist, staring off into the distance.

"James?" Jessie tilted her head in puzzlement. "What's gotten into you?"

"And I don't care about being promoted!" He raised his voice, facing her. "If you want to slave away for Team Rocket, then you're more than welcome to! I left home to get away away from my controlling parents, and now I'm under the control of an even more oppressive corporation! Well, no more! Even if it means doing the 'honest' thing, I swear I will break free!"

"I..." Jessie started to say, trailing off.

"I t'ink I can see his point," Meowth said. "I don't know about you, Jess, but I'm gettin' pretty tired of losin'... and blastin' off."

"Ah..." The magenta-haired woman considered his words. Then she glared at James suddenly. "I still have a score or two to settle, you know. I'm not quitting Team Rocket so easily, and you're the last person who can talk me into it!"

"I'm not trying to," said James. "I'm telling you what I'm going to do. You're no better than my parents or that horrible Jessibelle. I won't be controlled by you, either."

"Me? Controlling?" Jessie fumed. "How dare you say that about me!? Where do you get the nerve?"

"From the part of me I lost after I joined Team Rocket to begin with. I rediscovered it just yesterday." James walked over to Noelle, placing his hands on her shoulders. She jumped in surprise. "This is Noelle. She was my first fiancée."

Everyone gaped at James and Noelle with identical expressions of shock. Erika dropped her shears. Snowflake, imitating everyone else, craned her head up to look at Noelle, blinking her huge eyes expectantly, as though she was waiting for something to happen.

Encouraged by her pokemon's gaze, Noelle turned to James. "I didn't mean to cause a scene like this," she said. "I wouldn't have called for you yesterday if I didn't think I'd see you again. The truth is, I didn't remember your name until you mentioned your growlithe to me."

"It's unfortunate that you were so young back then," said James. "Our parents really should have waited until we were the right age to arrange our marriage, not pair you off as soon as you could walk. Maybe things would have turned out differently." He said the last part with spite, glancing at his teammates.

"I don't believe it!" Jessie snapped. "You're making this up! How could some girl you haven't seen since childhood make you want to quit the team?"

"It's not just her," James replied. "But seeing her makes me realize what I should do. I've never been more sure of anything in my life."

"Sounds like da moltres is comin' back," Meowth noted.

Noelle had no idea what Meowth meant by that, but she stared at the white rose in her hand, blushing as she considered the significance of James's words. How could she have such an influence over someone she knew almost a dozen years ago, someone with whom she was just now getting re-acquainted?

"Well, fine," Jessie said after a moment's speculation, her voice a little calmer. "We'll take the job and go to Hoenn with you. You'd just get yourself into a lot of trouble if you went alone."

"Yeah, I probably would," James said with a smile.

"But if what you say is true, we won't always be around to save your neck. You mark my words, you won't survive out in the world! Team Rocket offers a lot of protection!"

"We'll see."

The two locked eyes for what seemed like several minutes. "Um," Erika spoke up, breaking the silence. "If you three want to come inside with me, we can draw up some plans. I think the sooner you leave for Hoenn, the better."

"Good idea," Jessie said, marching towards the terrace with her nose turned up haughtily as she avoided looking at James. Meowth shrugged and tagged along behind her and Erika, leaving James and Noelle by themselves.

"I'm so sorry," Noelle apologized instantly.

"Don't be." James squeezed her shoulders, where his hands had never left. "We'll talk later, after this little meeting."

"Okay." Noelle blushed again and nodded. "I'll wait in the den. Erika can take you there."

He smiled warmly and went inside. Noelle stared after him, squeezing Snowflake to her. Her head spun with these added complications, and she speculated on how her dull debutante lifestyle seemed very far away. She suddenly wanted Tracey to return from the university. He had to be on his way by now.

Inside, Noelle got Snowflake's pokeball out of her backpack and retracted her inside for the time being. She felt guilty for keeping Littlefrost inside his luxury ball for so long, but the Haruna mansion, for all its opulence, lacked a pool. She couldn't wait to get to Professor Oak's lab with its nearby pond especially for water pokemon.

She went to the den to wait for James, and found Midori and Hiroyuki there, looking over some newspapers. "What's going on?" Hiroyuki asked her.

She briefly told them everything. "Old fiancé, huh?" Midori asked with a grin. "A happenstance meeting between two former lovers in the summer... anything could happen now."

"It's not like that," Noelle said, squirming in her seat. "It's kind of weird... I haven't seen him since I was three or four. He seems so gallant now, but I don't know if he's my type."

"Oho, you have a type?" Midori pressed. "Maybe someone older and worldly, who loves pokemon and embraces all possibilities?" He smoothed back his long red hair.

Noelle giggled. "My type definitely has to love pokemon. Older and worldly isn't so bad, either."

"I knew it!" Midori tossed aside his section of newspaper dramatically and fell to his knees before Noelle. "Say you'll travel with me, and lend your insight to helping me find the other members of the Jade Road." He took her hand in his. "We'll have all kinds of adventures. Truly magical ones."

Noelle glanced at Hiroyuki, who shook his head, laughing quietly. Turning back to Midori, she saw that his eyes were full of mirth. He was teasing, at least for the most part. "Sorry, Midori," she said, playing along. "I'm afraid I already made that promise to Tracey."

"Ah, so your heart belongs to another." Midori sighed and stood back up. "I do envy him, to have such a lovely companion on his journey."

Noelle blushed and looked at the grandfather clock against the wall. "I thought he'd be back by now. He must be taking a tour of the university or something."

Some time later, Erika, followed by James, came into the den. "It's all settled," Erika informed her friends, then moved to stand behind Hiroyuki and his newspaper. "And what have you two been up to all this time?"

"Job hunting," said Hiroyuki, turning a page.

"If you're looking for a job, you should have asked me first, Hiro dear." Erika patted his shoulder. "If I can find something for three shady crooks, you know I can for you."

"Hey..." James protested.

"I didn't want to trouble you about it," Hiroyuki mumbled, embarrassed.

Noelle smiled, watching the two of them before noticing James hanging back. She got up to join him, and they stepped into the foyer. "Are you really going to do it?" she asked.

"Yes, and we'll be leaving soon," James said. "So I'm sorry you and I don't have much of a chance to catch up."

"Yeah," Noelle agreed, toying with the ends of her hair. "Do you have email? It looks like I'll be keeping in touch with friends that way."

"I'll have to get one. We Team Rocket field agents don't have the need for email."

"Did you mean what you said before? I made you realize what you should be doing?"

"In a way, yes. I think I always knew, but I just never acted on it. There are a lot of benefits from Team Rocket, like Jessie said. But after so many years, I don't think it's worth it. When I saw you again, memories of my boyhood dreams and ideals came back to me, like a flood. I thought I knew what I wanted to be with Team Rocket... but now I know better. And I have you to thank."

Noelle's cheeks grew pink. "You're welcome," she said softly, though she still didn't believe she deserved so much credit.

"I only wish we could spend more time getting reacquainted. Maybe after all this is over, and I finally leave on my own..." He left the suggestion open to interpretation.

"Oh..." Noelle considered the implication of his words. "Well, I... I don't know about that..." Her heart began racing nervously.

James nodded. "We'll talk more in email, right?"

"Of course." She smiled wide, partly out of relief for moving away from this awkward topic.

"I'd better go. I'll talk to Erika about getting in touch with you." James held out his arms for a hug. Noelle stood on tiptoe to reach her arms to his neck, and he held her closely for a long moment. It doesn't seem fair, she thought. If things had turned out differently, he and I would have been married by now... he never would have joined Team Rocket, and I wouldn't have to go to boarding school to find a fiancé...

Suddenly, the front door opened. Noelle stepped back from James to identify the newcomer, and she gasped sharply. With his hand frozen on the doorknob, Tracey stood in the doorway, staring dumbly at the two.

"I--" Noelle started to say.

"I have to tell you something," Tracey said abruptly to her. "Can you come outside with me? When you're done." He avoided looking at James at all cost.

Noelle nodded several times before answering. "Okay," she whispered.

He closed the door as he left. "Ah, I see," James said.

"What?" Noelle whipped around to face him.

"I hope he takes good care of you," he said, smiling wide.

Noelle turned again to the closed door, remembering what Midori had said earlier about her heart belonging to another. But if I had married James, I wouldn't be here, she thought. I wouldn't have my pokemon, a Jade Road badge, or my new friends... and I wouldn't have Tracey.


* * * *

Tracey waited on the topmost step of the front porch. He had pictured talking to Noelle on the terrace, but he didn't want her favorite spot to be tainted by the awkward conversation. He only hoped that no one would drive up and interrupt them.

The door behind him opened slowly. He didn't turn around, but he knew it was Noelle. Wordlessly, she sat down beside him, folding her hands in her lap. "Um..." she said softly. "I'm sorry."

"For what? You can do whatever you want."

Noelle's next words caught in her throat, and Tracey looked at her and made himself smile, an expression that fell slightly as he noticed her guilty expression. But he had to say what he had planned first. "I have good news," he told her. "Well, it's still shocking news to me, but it's definitely good."

"Oh?" she asked, squeezing her hands.

"I saw Erika's father at U.C. It turns out he's the head of the pokemon biology department... and he thinks I should enroll this fall."

"Really? That's great! Are you going to?"

"Thinking about it. I'm going to talk to Professor Oak." Tracey ran his hand through his dark green hair. His long bangs fell back into place. "Do you think you'd stay here in Celadon?" he asked pointedly.

"What?" Noelle asked. "Why do you think I'd do that?"

"Erika and Midori are here, and you'll probably want to learn more about your induction to the secret organization... they can teach you how to use your badge to talk to Littlefrost, right?"

"I don't think there's much they can teach me," Noelle admitted. "Apparently it won't start working for awhile, and I'm supposed to figure it out on my own."

Tracey made a skeptical face. "Well, badge or not, you still have friends here. Celadon's a lot more interesting than Pallet Town, too."

"You think I don't want to come with you? I lied to my parents just so I could! I wouldn't back out for anything!"

He flinched at her offended tone. "I just thought you might want to... anyway, the point is that I'd be back in a few months, so we could see each other then."

"There's no way I want to stay here," Noelle said firmly. "You know I'm looking forward to spending the summer taking care of pokemon with you... right?"

Tracey leaned forward slightly, resting his arms on his knees and interlocking his fingers. "There's something else I need to tell you before you make up your mind," he said. "You might change your mind after all."

"What is it?"

"Remember when we called Professor Oak yesterday, and his grandson Gary answered the phone?"

"Yeah?"

"Well, when I first met him two years ago, I liked him. I mean, liked him. So much that I told him. He didn't take it too well... actually, he was repulsed beyond belief. I don't know if he said anything to Professor Oak about it, but he left for Johto about a week afterwards, so I didn't have to worry about him." Tracey sighed deeply. "I'm don't like him now, though. But the reason I'm telling you about this is because I'm bisexual." He paused, waiting for Noelle to say something. She was quiet, and he felt her acute stare. "I may not be involved with any guys right now, but it's still a big part of my identity," he went on. "And I wanted to tell you before Gary had a chance to blurt out something about it. If it's going to bother you, then you should stay here. I don't want to make you uncomfortable for an entire summer. You might decide to run away to Johto far away from me."

"Oh, Tracey..." Noelle whispered.

"Audrey and I talked about it a little," he continued. "She said someone of your background might not understand it as well... or be very accepting. I don't know."

"I know more about that kind of thing than Audrey realizes." She smirked. "High-society people are involved in more scandals than normal people, I think. They're just better at hiding it from the world."

"Heh." Tracey fidgeted with his hands. To his surprise, Noelle slid her arm around his, resting her head on his shoulder.

"Nothing you say would make me run away from you," she said, squeezing his arm. "I'm glad you can be so open with me."

"Really?" he asked quietly, staring down at her. "So you're okay with it?"

"Yes, I am." She moved even closer to him. "I have something to tell you, too."

"You do?" For a second, Tracey's heart skipped a beat as he imagined what she might have to say in this perfect moment.

"About James... he was my childhood fiancé."

"Oh," Tracey said flatly.

Noelle gripped his arm more tightly. "I remembered him yesterday, when I saw him. He apparently followed me here to Erika's house, and confronted me this morning. Then Erika hired him and his friends to help get them out of some trouble with their boss... but the point is, please don't worry about him."

"I'm not... why would I be concerned about him?"

"I don't mean about his well-being or anything. I mean, you shouldn't worry that I'm going to get re-engaged to him, or something like that. He was just one of the few things about my childhood that was good. To me, he was more like a friend who came over to play while our parents talked business. I didn't even understand the concept of marriage at that age. So I was saying goodbye to him just now, when you came in, because he's my friend."

"What, that? I was just surprised you two were there, that's all," Tracey said feebly.

"Is that it?" Noelle asked lightly. "Okay, if you insist. But just so you know, I don't like him that way."

For a minute, Tracey had to think of why she felt it necessary to stress that she didn't have feelings for James. He didn't dare get his hopes up, but there she was, holding his arm and telling him not to worry. Following an impulse, he nestled his cheek in her soft hair, breathing in its scent.

"Midori likes me, though," Noelle said. "He asked me to travel with him, right in front of Hiroyuki. He's not the least bit shy."

Tracey lifted his head slowly. She looked up at him, her pale eyes sparkling mischievously. Seeing the look on Tracey's face, she giggled.

"Hey..." he drawled. On a random whim, he lightly grabbed the side of her slender waist. She shrieked and squirmed, laughing helplessly. "I thought you might be ticklish," said Tracey. "I have a watcher's intuition."

"No fair!" Noelle felt around his stomach in retaliation, but Tracey sat still, smirking. "You have to be ticklish somewhere," she argued. "I'm going to find it."

"Promise?" He ran his fingers along her other side, laughing with her as she grabbed his hands.


----

Author's Notes: Long chapter, long notes! ^^

Well, we've wrapped up the Celadon arc. There was a lot to conclude here. In between writing, I watched some of my Orange Islands DVDs. Working on these last few chapters has made me re-bond with Tracey. I'm so happy to write for him. ^_^

Because my helpful beta reader was uncertain about the famous scientist's name, I've included a link to the episode here (http://www.pokezam.com/anime/episodes/orange/111.php). (Sorry it's not a serebii.net guide, but those early ones are so incoherent, it's not funny.) It's a significant Tracey episode in that we see him swap theories with Dr. Q and receive some helpful advice. He's already rubbing elbows with some pretty big names in the scientific community. It seems natural to me that he would start college at any early age, with the hands-on experience he's had studying pokemon.

That leads me to my next point: as you've seen in this chapter, and a little in chapter 1, high school in the EW-verse doesn't work the same as it does here in the States. Taken from its Japanese roots, I decided that kids in this world have to take entrance exams for high school just like they would for college. However, given the fact that the lives of mostly everyone revolve around pokemon, there are a lot of career options that don't require the formal education of high school. Pokemon students apprentice under masters of their chosen field (like breeding or ranger-ing) in order to gain the real-world knowledge they need in their everyday lives. People with jobs like these really don't need general education "requirements" to survive in their pokemon-specific careers.

This is wishful thinking on my part, of course. I hate how you attend college for training in a field of your choice, and they force you to take unrelated classes in an attempt to make you "well-rounded" (read: to take all of your parents' money). Remember when attending college was about higher education? I sure don't, that was a century ago. The whole system makes me sick (she said as she just bought her books for fall quarter -- used, of course!).

But I digress. So, it's not too abnormal for Tracey to have never attended high school. He's one of those kids who would have been bored by the material; he learns better on his own, in real-world situations. Going out among the islands to observe pokemon was the best thing for him. It certainly made him healthier, getting all that sun and... trail mix? I imagine he ate a lot of nuts and berries for meals. Plus, it paved the way for him to meet Professor Oak, his ultimate stepping stone into the prestigious University of Celadon. Colleges in the EW-verse, by the way, are much more geared towards the higher education and practical training that they should be in our world. It is a fantasy story, after all.

On the other hand, we have Dominik, who argued with Lance in chapter 1 about the value of attending high school. Dominik, while in almost the same situation as Tracey, feels he should complete every level of education possible because he doesn't have a career goal in mind yet. The Indigo League challenge left him dissatisfied with training, so he's open to any ideas, whether or not they involve pokemon. It must be nice to live in a world where high school is optional if you're already naturally brilliant. ^^

Concerning James: This is a big issue for me, because we break away from the canon Team Rocket to see more three-dimensional sides to our favorite lovely charmy villains. Don't get me wrong, I love their characters -- it's just that after SO MANY SEASONS of seeing the SAME ROUTINE over and over... I really want them to have a better life. That's what fanfic is for, right?

There's a reason why EW picks up where "The Fortune Hunters" (http://www.pokezam.com/anime/episodes/journeys/159.php) left off. For one, it's the end of the "Johto Journeys" season (which, to me, is the last season that was any good. Johto is full of way too much filler, but I like a lot of episodes from the first batch. [Also, while I enjoy the addition of May to the Hoenn seasons, there's the filler problem again. May is really the only good thing about the Pokemon anime any more (with a few one-shot exceptions... I'm rambling again)]). Secondly, "The Fortune Hunters" is also the most significant James-centric episode there is.

My theory about Mr. Morgan is that, deep down, he truly has a lot of confidence in his abilities, and is able to act on them when provoked enough. I think he's just in a comfortable place, drifting along with Jessie and Meowth without any pressing responsibilites (except for that huge debt, but they never seem too worried). Maybe he also lets Jessie walk all over him, because he knows it makes her happy? However, he's not afraid to show some initiative, like when he believes his zodiac sign is the godlike Moltres.

He's also completely against living the lifestyle his parents and fiancée want, as we see in "Holy Matrimony." (http://www.pokezam.com/anime/episodes/indigo/048.php) Here, too, does James cast aside his foolish behavior to take a stand and fight for his beliefs.

With these things in mind about his character, I don't find it too unrealistic to have him act the way he does in this chapter. Just as some of his fans are tired of watching him blast off time and time again, he is too. And he wants to do something about it -- it just took the right kick in the rear to get him to do it.

All right, that's enough out of me! See you in chapter 10, which begins the conclusion of Part One. I can't wait!

Shrike Flamestar
4th October 2006, 3:14 AM
Sorry about the delay again :D I’ve been busy these last few days, both with schoolwork and *shock* TFC! I’ve made pretty good progress in chapter 17, in fact, the first part of the chapter is complete! All that’s left is to finish the second part (the “elsewhere” scene), proofread it all twice through, and pass it on to Hanako for beta reading. Hell, if she’s busy, I may even just go “f*ck that!” and skip beta reading <_< EDIT: Yeah, just to let you know, chapter 17's first draft is almost done, and I could probably finish it now if I wasn't so tired. Current stats are 5472 words, and 532 lines. Not bad at all, in my opinion, and already longer than 16 was despite not being complete yet. With all luck, look for it this weekend... Hopefully Hanako isn't busy...

Anyways...


Oh dear... Zack should totally give out BabelFeebas.
If I was any good at writing crossovers, I would totally write that :D “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Hoenn,” yeah...


Eww, I don't know where that buoysel's been...
The closet, silly :)

*Opens a closet door to throw the Buoysel back in, only to reveal shelves filled with bloodstained knives and other sorts of well used weaponry, as well as a large, blood splattered cage with a few bones lying scattered around it’s base.*

Oops, wrong closet...

*Closes that closet and quickly opens another one, throwing the Buoysel in and closing the door before what is inside can be seen.*


Did you see its evolution? I've been obsessively following D/P news. XD
Yeah, and I have too. Based on the sprite I think it’s cool, but nothing more. Based on this fanart (http://www.deviantart.com/deviation/40516872/?&q=floatsel), I think it does look pretty sexy, though .:) Release the official art, dammit!

Now, onto the chapter...

First, to get these formalities out of the way...


I left home to get away away from my controlling parents, and now I'm under the control of an even more oppressive corporation!
Accidentally put two “away”s.


I'm don't like him now, though.
Accidentally used “I'm” instead of just “I”

I really liked this chapter! Some nice character development in it (particularly with Team Rocket, which I like) , and we finally find out what Midori’s great quest is. Now, where did Dominik and his storyline go... The revelations were also cool, I mean, I’m sure no one saw it coming that James was Noelle’s fiancé <_<

I like the way you’ve interpreted the education system for the EWverse (that makes it sound like this some sort of hentai work or something <_<), coming from one who has himself made up an educational system for his fic (which I really need to fully explain sometime, as I don’t feel that it’s sufficiently explained in the actual writing).

Now, um... I’ll just resort to quotes now to fill in the lack of my review skills!


She smiled sadly. "They found out about my girlfriend."
:o Audrey's a lesbian? ...That's hot <_< Yuri FTW!


"I'm just being cautious, that's all. My own parents wouldn't even try to live with it. You really learn to be on your guard after something like that."
I wonder how her parents would react if they had a Poképhile son...


Several times, Tracey lamented leaving his sketchbook at Erika's house; the plastic models of pokemon interiors fascinated him.
O_o Er, so Tracey wants to sketch cross-sections of Pokémon? Yeah, drawing a Pokémon’s innards must be so much fun <_<


"We'll have all kinds of adventures. Truly magical ones."
That line is so cheesy X_x But then again, I suppose you meant for it to be since even Hiroyuki laughed at it :D


Suddenly, the front door opened. Noelle stepped back from James to identify the newcomer, and she gasped sharply. With his hand frozen on the doorknob, Tracey stood in the doorway, staring dumbly at the two.
You just gotta love those awkward moments... *snickers*


Well, when I first met him two years ago, I liked him. I mean, liked him.
:o And Tracey's bi?! Unfortunately, I cannot say that's hot, but it is amusing <_<


Um, I’m slightly confused on one part though, the Jade Road element thing. Midori, the eloquent dramatist that he is, made it kind of hard for me to understand just what exactly are the different elements he’s speaking of. He says there are four elements of a “higher order” but then he lists “light and dark, body and mind. Life and death, order and chaos.” Well, that’s eight right there...is that last set of four just eloquent fluff, or are they paired together and each pair under one person’s control? Then, did I miss something or did he not mention the four “earthly elements.” Obviously, there’s water/ice (Noelle), and grass (Erika), but are the other two meant to be secrets? I’m speculating that one’s fire, since it’s a fairly big and important element (and also finishes off the elemental starter triangle, of sorts), and the other is probably either wind or electricity.

Autumn Nacht seems like a prime candidate for the fire Jade Road badge holder, based on her red coloring scheme and the fireball near her fist <_< If the final earthly element is flying, Amara Sora seems like a good guess (Sora = soaring?). Dominik is probably one of them as well, perhaps the “mind” one or something. Jeong-Sae Kwon perhaps for body? She is a martial artist, after all, and the body is very important for that.

Damn, light is tricky. If Noelle wasn’t already water/ice, I’d say it was her. Perhaps if the final earthly element isn’t flying it’s Amara Sora, but otherwise it could be anyone.

Midori is dark, not like you, the author, wouldn’t know that :rolleyes: An old picture (http://www.deviantart.com/deviation/12113110/?qo=29&q=by%3Adeepgreeneden&qh=sort%3Atime+-in%3Ascraps) of yours on DA spoiled me as to what Midori’s element is, so unless you’ve changed it...

So... Hope to see chapter 11 soon :)

Pikki Zuka
4th October 2006, 10:13 PM
What do I do when I have extra time between classes? Hehe...

New sprites! ;471; Look at 'em bounce! ;492; /really easily amused


Sorry about the delay again :D I’ve been busy these last few days, both with schoolwork and *shock* TFC! I’ve made pretty good progress in chapter 17, in fact, the first part of the chapter is complete! All that’s left is to finish the second part (the “elsewhere” scene), proofread it all twice through, and pass it on to Hanako for beta reading. Hell, if she’s busy, I may even just go “f*ck that!” and skip beta reading <_<
Awesome, awesome.. hopefully I'll have time to read it this weekend. I have another fic on here I've been following, but haven't finished its archives yet. Arr.


If I was any good at writing crossovers, I would totally write that :D “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Hoenn,” yeah...
Haha, that would be great. XD


First, to get these formalities out of the way...

Accidentally put two “away”s.

Accidentally used “I'm” instead of just “I”
Oh good lord. I think 10 is the last chapter I wrote using just wordpad. I may have proofed it in Wordperfect. And I wrote 11 there. I'll have to go through and fix all these things. Thanks for keeping up with them.


I really liked this chapter! Some nice character development in it (particularly with Team Rocket, which I like) , and we finally find out what Midori’s great quest is. Now, where did Dominik and his storyline go... The revelations were also cool, I mean, I’m sure no one saw it coming that James was Noelle’s fiancé <_<
Yay! No one's yelled at me yet for TR.. hehe. Dominik returns for a lot more development in 10-12. ^_~


:o Audrey's a lesbian? ...That's hot <_< Yuri FTW!
XD Yes, yuri always, always wins. *glee* Here I thought you didn't like it, back when I suggested Rayne/Aira. :D


I wonder how her parents would react if they had a Poképhile son...
I think they'd be pretty flipped out, since they don't have a son to begin with.

"Audrey, did you get a sex change!?"
"No, mom... 9_9"
"OMG FAYE! What did she get into at UC??"


That line is so cheesy X_x But then again, I suppose you meant for it to be since even Hiroyuki laughed at it :D
That's why Midori was joking. He's like that.


Um, I’m slightly confused on one part though, the Jade Road element thing. Midori, the eloquent dramatist that he is, made it kind of hard for me to understand just what exactly are the different elements he’s speaking of. He says there are four elements of a “higher order” but then he lists “light and dark, body and mind. Life and death, order and chaos.” Well, that’s eight right there...is that last set of four just eloquent fluff, or are they paired together and each pair under one person’s control? Then, did I miss something or did he not mention the four “earthly elements.” Obviously, there’s water/ice (Noelle), and grass (Erika), but are the other two meant to be secrets? I’m speculating that one’s fire, since it’s a fairly big and important element (and also finishes off the elemental starter triangle, of sorts), and the other is probably either wind or electricity.
They're paired together: light/life, dark/death, body/order, mind/chaos. Being more abstract than water, earth, and so on, they kind of cover more intangible aspects... it's kinda hard to explain. But there are pokemon/attack types that correspond to each of the latter four, and they'll be revealed later (obviously, dark=dark type and mind=psychic type is pretty obvious).


Autumn Nacht seems like a prime candidate for the fire Jade Road badge holder, based on her red coloring scheme and the fireball near her fist <_< If the final earthly element is flying, Amara Sora seems like a good guess (Sora = soaring?). Dominik is probably one of them as well, perhaps the “mind” one or something. Jeong-Sae Kwon perhaps for body? She is a martial artist, after all, and the body is very important for that.
I shouldn't have made Autumn's sprite wielding fire... I was in a hurry. ^^; "Sora" means "sky" in Japanese, and I gave it to Amara long ago... she's not Japanese, even. But you're on the right track, the fourth element comes from the sky. ^_~


Damn, light is tricky. If Noelle wasn’t already water/ice, I’d say it was her. Perhaps if the final earthly element isn’t flying it’s Amara Sora, but otherwise it could be anyone.
"Light" is the most abstract. I didn't make a light-type pokemon, though, I swear. ^^


Midori is dark, not like you, the author, wouldn’t know that :rolleyes: An old picture (http://www.deviantart.com/deviation/12113110/?qo=29&q=by%3Adeepgreeneden&qh=sort%3Atime+-in%3Ascraps) of yours on DA spoiled me as to what Midori’s element is, so unless you’ve changed it...
UH OHES. Good thing there isn't more... but one day I hope to have elaborate portraits of the eight and their elements. I used to do that for the old EW website, every solstice/equinox that came around, I'd change the picture to that character.

Chapter 10 this weekend! Currently working on 12 in between homework. Mustn't babble too much on how significant this arc is... heehee.

Shrike Flamestar
8th October 2006, 6:49 AM
That’s odd, for some reason your reply isn’t showing up as the latest reply, and thus I never got an email about it... I almost would have missed it if I hadn’t checked back...


Awesome, awesome.. hopefully I'll have time to read it this weekend. I have another fic on here I've been following, but haven't finished its archives yet. Arr.
You’ll be glad to know that it is now completely done and I’m only waiting for the sun to rise and people to get on here again to post it :D


Oh good lord. I think 10 is the last chapter I wrote using just wordpad. I may have proofed it in Wordperfect. And I wrote 11 there. I'll have to go through and fix all these things. Thanks for keeping up with them.
*shrugs* If I see a typo I copy the sentence to a txt file to remind myself to mention it. I don’t go out of my way to look for mistakes, though.

That’s also how I get quotes, I just copy/paste them if I find them interesting while reading <_<


XD Yes, yuri always, always wins. *glee* Here I thought you didn't like it, back when I suggested Rayne/Aira.
I don’t like it with my characters. Other characters, though... <_<


They're paired together: light/life, dark/death, body/order, mind/chaos. Being more abstract than water, earth, and so on, they kind of cover more intangible aspects... it's kinda hard to explain. But there are pokemon/attack types that correspond to each of the latter four, and they'll be revealed later (obviously, dark=dark type and mind=psychic type is pretty obvious).
Ah, I see. Thanks for explaining that.


"Sora" means "sky" in Japanese
Heh, that’s just like how Aira’s last name, Kaza, is really just an intentional misspelling of Kaze, Japanese for wind...


But you're on the right track, the fourth element comes from the sky. ^_~
Lightning? It could also be rain or snow, but those are the same as water/ice which Noelle covers... The only other thing I can think of is acid rain <_<

*Drops dead from tiredness*

ShinyUmbreon10
9th October 2006, 1:00 AM
nice i like it!
Hannah's
Hannah's PokePet (http://phttp://pokejungle.net/other/pokepet/trainers/may.png[/img] http://pokejungle.net/other/pokepet/Umbreon.gif
Shadow the level 43 Umbreon!okejungle.net/?id=other/pokepet]PokePet
http://pokejungle.net/other/pokepet/trainers/may.png http://pokejungle.net/other/pokepet/Umbreon.gif
Shadow the level 43 Umbreon!

Pikki Zuka
9th October 2006, 3:45 AM
Another reply! Thank you, ShinyUmbreon10. ^__^


That’s odd, for some reason your reply isn’t showing up as the latest reply, and thus I never got an email about it... I almost would have missed it if I hadn’t checked back...
It's done that to me too. :P

Here's chapter 10. It's the start of a very special arc. I really hope you all like it!


----



Chapter 10 - Magnetism (Part One)

As he exited the Goldenrod Gym, Dominik breathed a sigh of relief. His match with the gym leader, Whitney, was easy enough, but listening to her talk nonstop proved exhausting. She had insisted on recording the battle, and she seemed more focused on her shameless poses and speeches than on any strategy. This embarrassed Dominik throughout the entire match.

The sooner we leave this overcrowded city, the better, he thought, sticking the Plain Badge in his jeans pocket. He glanced around at his feet, then turned back to the gym. "Neriah," he called.

His espeon's ears twitched, and she abandoned the pink flowers by the gym entrance, which she had been sniffing. She looked up at him sheepishly.

He smiled and leaned down to scratch her ears. Having just evolved a few days ago in the Ilex Forest, Neriah's telepathic wavelengths weren't very sharply in tune with her trainer's. As he petted her, Dominik picked up her feelings of post-battle tiredness mixed with excitement. Only with Leilani could he communicate without physical contact. Neriah would soon learn to do the same on a regular basis; her psychic powers were still developing.

Dominik sent her back to her ball and headed for the pokemon center. He remembered shaking Whitney's hand, being barraged by her vain thoughts. Of course, she hadn't detected his mental presence. It would take another psychic to recognize the intrusion, but Dominik did his best to avoid skin-to-skin contact, the key to his ability to read minds. The exception to this condition was Leilani, whose mind was so advanced that she could not only sense her trainer's thoughts without contact, but she could hold telepathic conversations with him as well. Dominik figured this was not only because she was a psychic pokemon who could project her will as effortlessly as breathing, but because they were so close. He hoped it would be the same for Neriah, after they got to know one another.

He often mused that, because of this phenomenon, he bonded more easily with pokemon than with people. Even so, his other five pokemon, now in the care of Suzie the breeder, had not been able to communicate with him as Leilani could. "Psychic pokemon are best trained by psychic people" -- that's what he always heard. By that logic, psychic people connected best with other psychics -- people with similarly advanced mental prowess. Aside from Sabrina, the proud but standoffish gym leader, Dominik had never met a true psychic in his Kanto travels. Many trainers claimed to be because they possessed psychic-type pokemon, but they lacked the gift.

A theory suggested that all people were born with some psychic potential, but it became suppressed one way or another, and people went through their entire lives without knowing. Whenever Dominik considered this, it saddened him; any random person could be his friend and equal. For a time during his journey, Dominik "tested" other people. Usually via a handshake, he would scan their thoughts, but, regrettably, not once did anyone recognize his presence.

Sabrina had refused his hand. Her extrasensory perception was so strong that she knew who he was the moment he entered her gym, and she obviously didn't want him peering at her innermost thoughts.

Though his talent wouldn't allow him to see the future, Dominik saw in Sabrina a mirror of his fate: great power at a great price, self-inflicted isolation. She didn't say otherwise, but it was painfully obvious that Sabrina chose a solitary lifestyle because she believed no one could match her intellect nor understand her personality. And, from what Dominik knew so far of school and pokemon training, she was right to think so. Blessed and cursed both was the life of a psychic.

And, upon consideration, it didn't bother him. Leilani understood him perfectly, and he knew Neriah would as well. Though the exeggutor was younger in years, Dominik felt that she was like his older sister, for all the wisdom and patience she possessed. Neriah was his wide-eyed younger sister, who looked to him for guidance. He didn't have just pokemon friends, but a family.

As he reminisced about meeting Sabrina, Dominik was reminded of Lance. The former champion had also not offered his hand to shake, and he seemed to keep himself physically distanced from Dominik as they spoke. He also had the same bearing as Sabrina, confident and fiercely proud. Perhaps Lance was a little psychic himself? He was well-known for training only dragon pokemon, harder to find and more challenging to raise than psychic-types. No one with an ordinary mind could specialize in such powerful pokemon.

At the pokemon center, Dominik followed the nurse's assistant to a checkup room to watch as she examined his pokemon. As dull as the Johto League seemed for battling, its centers proved much better than Kanto's. In his home region, trainers weren't permitted to go with their pokemon to any of the back rooms. Dominik didn't trust these centers, and refused their services after his first visit. Finding natural remedies and letting his pokemon sleep to regain their stamina was still his preferred method, but he did like getting them checked by licensed professionals. In Johto, pokemon doctors seemed to care more.

"She's looking very well," the assistant, a young woman with short and curly brown hair, said of Neriah. "You're taking excellent care of her. She's still young, so you're smart not to let her battle as much."

Dominik stroked his espeon's fur proudly. I can have a treat for being a good patient, right? she asked, purring. And for beating the clefable at the gym?

Of course you can.

"Did you say you have another pokemon for me to look at?" asked the assistant.

Dominik retracted Neriah to her ball and unfastened Leilani's from his belt. "She should be able to fit," he said, surveying the room.

"Ah..." the young woman started to say dubiously. But Dominik had already pressed the release button, and Leilani materialized to her full six feet. While her height wasn't a problem, her bulk proved to be awkward. She turned slightly so that all her heads could take in the room, and her fronds knocked a few things off the high shelves. Dominik picked them up, repeating her apologies to the gasping assistant.

"That's all right," she said with a nervous smile. "I've just never seen an exeggutor this close." She jumped as each of Leilani's three heads blinked in succession.

"She's very gentle," Dominik assured her.

The assistant held a stethoscope to several spots on Leilani's trunk. "Oh, right," she said to herself, removing the instrument as she realized she wouldn't find a heartbeat. "Sorry, it's just that I've always thought plant-type pokemon are a little strange... they're plants, but they're also animals. It's so bizarre." She laughed airily, to Dominik's annoyance.

Don't anger yourself over her, Leilani told him. After all, I am a monster.

Don't say it like that, he chided her. You're beautiful.

After her checkup, the assistant declared that Leilani was just as healthy as Neriah. "Did they really just fight Whitney's team? Neither of them seem very battle-worn."

"It was an easy match," Dominik said in a nonchalant tone, despite the purple-haired woman's surprised look.

As his pokemon slept in their balls, Dominik headed for the bus station after leaving the center. Unfortunately, the next bus for Ecruteak City wouldn't be departing for another two hours. He killed a little time at a department store buying some snacks -- dried fruit and granola bars for him, and pokemon treats, wiki berry flavored for Leilani and nanab berry for Neriah. As he strolled through the aisles, he marveled at all the useless things touted as must-haves for trainers, and wondered who could carry so many plastic gadgets on a lengthy wilderness journey.

Not that Dominik was one for camping outside. He preferred an indoor shelter for sleeping, especially since pokecenters were free to registered and licensed trainers. That was the reason he used public transportation to get from town to town. Roughing it for days on end just didn't appeal to him.

With nothing else to do, Dominik returned to the bus station. He plopped his well-worn tan messenger bag in a plastic chair and sat next to it, taking out a book. It was a volume of his favorite trilogy, and epic fantasy by J.R.R. Torkoal, written almost fifty years ago. He'd read it twice already since he was nine, but it made him happy to revisit the familiar scenes, especially the band of unlikely travelers wandering through a beautiful, mystical forest. This kind of wistful journeying was what had inspired him to leave Saffron with Leilani last year, seeing the Kanto countryside. What a hypocrite I am, Dominik mused. I claim to love nature, but I have to sleep inside, in a safe, warm bed.

So engrossed was Dominik in his novel that he didn't notice the figure standing in front of him right away. When it did occur to him to look up, he saw Lance. The former Indigo champion had his arms folded across his chest patiently, and he grinned at the boy.

"Leaving Goldenrod already?" he asked. "You're moving through the gyms awfully fast. Didn't you start a month ago?"

Dominik sighed and stuck his bookmark between the pages he had been reading. "I thought you said Johto would be a new challenge. So far I've battled an over-dramatic pretty boy, a bug collector who can't be older than I am, and a self-absorbed airhead. Are there serious gyms I don't know about?"

Lance laughed. "It's true. Johto isn't like Kanto. The league challenge here isn't quite as competitive. People in Johto generally have different mindsets."

"You told me to follow my destiny here," Dominik accused. The annoyances from earlier built up inside him. "I should take up new challenges in Johto, you said. More traditional and natural, you said. But I'm more bored here than I was in Kanto!"

Lance smiled knowingly. "You really are more advanced than trainers your age... I'm glad."

Dominik scowled, recalling the words he'd heard more than once in this past. "He's so ahead of his class, he's bored. He's disrupting the other students with his cries for attention."

"Listen, Dominik," said Lance. "I know as well as you do how tedious earning these badges can be. But they do have merit, and having a complete collection does prove your dedication."

"Who do I have to prove it to?" he mumbled sulkily.

"I wasn't going to tell you until after you finished the challenge," Lance said with a sigh. "But maybe I should. I run an elite group of pokemon specialists, and, despite your young age, I'm offering you a position."

Dominik blinked. "What does this elite group do?"

"It's an organization of trainers who are exceptionally skilled... and who see pokemon as equals, not as tools. And we try to pass this message to the world."

Dominik stared into Lance's golden eyes, considering this unexpected offer. His style, praised and celebrated? How many times had teachers tried to suppress his intellect, so he would fit in with the regular students? Finally, someone understood that being gifted was just that -- a gift, not a disgrace.

The psychic nodded with approval. "But why do I need the other five Johto League badges? I'm pretty sure I won't enter the championship. Once was enough."

"Well, I suppose you don't, but you've already started, so why stop now?" Lance thoughtfully stared off into the distance. "Perhaps you and I could set a personal wager? Would that make your journey more interesting?"

"It might."

"Visit all the gyms by the end of the year, and I guarantee you a place in my elite group. I will tell you that the remainder of the gym leaders are a bit more commanding than the three you've met. In Ecruteak especially -- he's an accomplished spirit medium."

That caught Dominik's interest. "Is that so?"

"Sound like a deal, then?" Lance offered his hand.

Dominik stared at it. Maybe he didn't know after all? The dragon master just smiled, waiting. "It's a deal," Dominik said, shaking his hand. Within Lance's mind, there was nothing. It was as if Dominik faced a blank wall, a forceful barricade. He tried to hide his shock.

"It's June twentieth now," Lance said, taking back his hand. "Meet me in Olivine a month from now? I'll be interested to learn of your progress."

"Sure," Dominik agreed.

Lance nodded and strode off, his long cape flapping behind him. Dominik stared at the hand Lance had shaken. Only a true psychic could block his mind from an intruder so quickly. Why hadn't Lance told him? Did he want Dominik to find out for himself? Maybe the entire elite group consisted of psychics? That idea made Dominik hopeful.

As he picked up his book to continue reading, he found himself daydreaming about training consistently, to meet his upcoming deadlines. The next gym leaders would be stronger, and Neriah would have to learn some new battle moves soon. Dominik realized he was feeling giddy about the prospect of rigorous training; he truly loved it after all. So the Johto League hadn't been a total waste.

On the bus ride, he looked espeon's known attacks in his pokedex, and also studied the map between Ecruteak, the wooded shrine town, and Olivine, the bustling harbor city. Another metropolis, Dominik thought wearily. At least Ecruteak sounded appealing.

It was dinnertime when he arrived at his destination, so he headed for the pokemon center right away to check into a room and see about a free meal for him and his pokemon. Located at the edge of the town's small commercial district, the center had a town map which showed Dominik that the gym was near two huge shrines. He brought his dinner outside so he could feed Leilani and Neriah at the same time. When they finished, he sent them back to their balls so he could hurry to the shrines. After such a distressing visit to Goldenrod, he looked forward to visiting something ancient and sacred, especially located in the countryside.

He was not disappointed. Both shrines were tall, monuments to legendary pokemon of old times. One of them showed signs of having survived a great fire, but still it stood, holding onto its legacy. The structures were several yards apart, and they seemed to be the gates to the huge forest beyond. Dominik stared up at the high-reaching trees, and into the cool darkness of the thickly wooded landscape.

It must be beautiful, Leilani commented, picking up on his perception.

It was a mistake to leave Ilex so soon, Dominik told her. I really liked it, and so did Neriah. I think playing in the forest made her so happy that it encouraged her to evolve.

You'd better take her to play in there. She could use some exercise, after all she ate at dinner.

Dominik smiled as he thought of his espeon's increasing appetite. He also knew that Leilani yearned for the forest, her natural habitat. He looked around for any signs forbidding trespassing, and, seeing none, he entered the dark woods.

The first thing he noticed was the sense of tranquility that washed over him. Perhaps it was the proximity of the shrines, but this forest felt different than Ilex. He released Leilani and Neriah. The espeon started frolicking right away, encouraged by the fresh air, while Leilani stood perfectly still, all three sets of her eyes closed. This is a holy place, she informed Dominik. There are godlike pokemon who call this forest their home.

I feel honored to be here, Dominik sent back as she began walking. He strode beside her, keeping his eye on Neriah. We'll have to come back tomorrow, when we have more time, he added, checking his watch. I want to train Neriah here, but it'll be dark in a few hours. She needs the sun.

She'll like that, Leilani agreed.

Bug pokemon chorused from the countless varieties of trees, enhanced by a few calls from birds. Wild stantler and sentret peered out from behind trees, often scurrying away as Dominik passed them. Leilani was quiet as she stared up at the tall trees. The young psychic smiled at her, and laughed to himself as Neriah chased a common moth. This forest was not unlike the one he imagined from the J.R.R. Torkoal novels. He'd wanted to visit a place like this since he left home. While he'd been through several forests so far on his journeys, none were as vast and old as this one, and none were as sacred. Leilani knew from the trees' voices.

Soon they came across a clearing by a wide stream, which rushed with a gentle, relaxing sound. Leilani faltered, as if afraid to step any further into the area. There, she told Dominik. It's another shrine.

Next to the stream's edge was a small stone structure, much smaller than the ones at the edge of the forest. Dominik approached it, noticing that it only came up to his chest. Worn from centuries of rain and covered with soft moss, it was blocky with a pointed top. An indented area near the top indicated a place for offerings, perhaps.

Dominik stared at the miniature shrine for several minutes, wondering what pokemon it honored. He thought he saw words carved below the offering space, but moss covered most of them. With an apprehensive glance at Leilani, he reached out his hand to brush the growth away.

A loud crash, the sound of a branch snapping and falling, startled all of them, just as Dominik's hand was inches away from the shrine. A pokemon cried out, and there was a crackle and flash of lightning originating from the ground, not the sky. A fight? Dominik sent to Leilani.

The exeggutor spoke aloud to Neriah in pokemon language, but Dominik understood her question from her thoughts. Can you hear anything specific?

Neriah's sensitive ears twitched, and she yipped in response. Two humans are having an intense pokemon battle, Leilani translated.

Dominik narrowed his eyes. Two trainers, no doubt, tearing apart the sacred forest for their own selfish purposes. Knowing he should let them be, but compelled to see the offenders for himself, he marched towards the source of the chaos.

Another clearing, much smaller than the one by the stream, provided a battleground for a man in a violet suit and a tall girl with a long black braid. The man's alakazam swung one of its oversized spoons at the girl, attempting to knock her feet out from under her. She dodged swiftly. "Tenrai, thunderbolt!" she ordered as she landed in a crouching position, steadying herself with one hand. A jolteon raced forward, its spiky yellow fur crackling with electricity.

"Alakazam, use teleport!" the man commanded instantly. His pokemon vanished as a huge bolt of lightning struck the ground where it once stood. "You don't learn, do you? You can't hit my alakazam! Now give up already!"

His pokemon reappeared behind the girl and thrashed her with one of its spoons, the psychically-projected weapon known to the abra line. She fell to the ground with a cry, and her jolteon jumped at the alakazam, slashing it with sharp claws. Alakazam flickered away, teleporting beside its trainer, who approached the fallen girl with a satisfied smirk.

Dominik observed silently, crouching behind the brush. The jolteon raced at the man, but the alakazam acted before receiving a command, aiming a faint beam at its prey. The jolteon skidded to a stop, shaking its head, obviously left confused by the aftereffects of the psybeam attack.

"Stupid girl that you are," the man said, towering over her as she struggled to rise. "If you just gave it to me, these little meetings would stop." He planted a foot on her back, thrusting her to the ground. "Don't make me search your body for it. I really don't want to have to touch you." His voice teemed with disgust.

Dominik! Leilani sent urgently.

I know. Even though he usually overlooked other people's business, this was too much to bear.

"Well?" the man demanded. "What's it going to--" He stopped talking abruptly, wincing. "What is this?" He backed away and whipped around, his short white cape flapping behind him. "Alakazam?"

Alakazam, while not susceptible to very much damage from pokemon of its own kind, could not stand up for long to Leilani's powerful psychic attack. The man fell to his knees, clutching his head. "Who's there?" he shouted.

Dominik stepped out into the small clearing. "I think you'd better leave," he said, folding his arms across his chest. "That's enough for now, Leilani."

The violet-clad man gasped, recovering from the terrible pressure Leilani had inflicted upon his mind. "Who the hell are you?" he growled.

"That's none of your business." Dominik noticed Neriah sniffing noses with the jolteon, bringing it out of its confusion slowly. He stepped closer to the girl, who picked herself up slowly and brushed off her shirt. "Are you all right?" he asked, as an afterthought.

She looked up at him sharply, irritated. "I had everything taken care of!" she hissed.

Dominik flinched. See why I don't get involved? he told Leilani bitterly. How do we know he's the bad guy? Maybe she stole the thing he wants from him!

I don't think so. I saw his mind when I attacked. He wants to take her possession. He is jealous.

"So, have a little reinforcement, do you?" the man said. "Don't think that's going to make me give up."

The girl reached into one of the pockets on her heavy olive pants for a moment, then pulled her hand back out, fist closed tightly. "I know what you're doing!" her foe snarled. "It won't work! Alakazam, use psybeam on her!"

A bolt of lightning, larger than the one the jolteon had summoned, struck Alakazam with deadly precision before it could attack. It toppled over with stiff limbs, paralyzed. The girl opened her eyes, fixing them on the horrified man. "You say that every time," she told him in an icy voice.

He glowered at her. From the trees above, a small yellow creature jumped onto his head with a pleased cry, then landed on its feet -- a pikachu.

Dominik's mouth hung open. He realized that the girl must have planned her pikachu's attack well in advance, and that was the reason she allowed her adversary to trample her when he believed he had the upper hand. These two had obviously held these kinds of battles before, to know one another's weaknesses.

The man rubbed his head, tousling his short brown hair. "I was wondering when she'd come in." He stared at the pikachu before him, at Leilani to his left, and at Neriah and the jolteon to his right. "Four against none, it seems. Perhaps I do know when I'm beaten after all. I'd best take Alakazam to the pokemon center. Convenient, those centers. They'll help anyone who comes in... well, almost anyone." He smirked.

Alakazam is using recover, Leilani informed Dominik. This talk is a distraction. He will attack again, without an order, as his trainer planned.

"Mark my words, your days of playing forest guardian are coming to an end," he continued, shaking a finger at her. "I will send you back to where you came from, and I will see the shrines purified again!"

Now!

"Move!" Dominik blurted out the first thing that came to mind. The black-haired girl gave him a puzzled look. Alakazam flickered into view above her, spoon raised in position above her head. Dominik leapt at her, pushing her out of the way, a split-second impulse. Not until they fell to the ground, as his hands gripped her bare arms, did he realize what he had done.

Confusion. Panic. Uneasiness. These were her surface emotions that arose from the battle, and from Dominik's sudden closeness. Invasion. Revulsion. Desperation. Action. And then, a blankness, very much like the wall behind which Lance hid his thoughts and feelings. Finally, her voice, straightforward and clear. What are you doing?

You know? Dominik was completely stunned.

Stop it! She shoved him away. He collasped on the ground, staring at her beside him. His heart raced with the shock of the discovery, and he gulped, his throat dry from rapid breathing. Her breath, too, came in short gasps, and her golden eyes, wide with fear, fixed on his.

"You're psychic," he whispered.

"No, I'm not," she whispered back.

Dominik, Leilani sent to him. I have taken the liberty of using sleep powder on Alakazam and his trainer. They won't bother us for some time.

Thank you. I appreciate it. Dominik looked over at his exeggutor for a moment. The girl scrambled to her feet, stumbling as she fled. "Wait!" Dominik called out.

Her pikachu scurried after her. Dominik glanced at the jolteon behind him, who stood with Neriah, appearing to converse with her. Then the electric-type evolution of eevee chased after its comrades into the darkness of the woods.

Dominik sat upright, resting his hands on his knees as he replayed what had just happened. Something small and polished next to his foot caught his eye, and he picked it up. It was about the size of a silver dollar, but with a curved, black engraving on one side. Set in the middle of this shape, the center of the round disc, was a small, pale green stone.

Was this what she had taken from her pocket? Dropped when Dominik jumped on her? With a start, he remembered the Plain Badge in his own jeans. While it would only remind him of a simple battle with a simple gym leader, he didn't want to lose it, not if it was to be part of a prized collection for a future elite trainer. He fished around in his pocket and retrieved the trinket, breathing a small sigh of relief.

He stared at it in his right palm. Then he held the newfound disc next to it in his left palm and realized it was the same size, the same shade of silver. A badge? It didn't look like any badge he'd seen before -- he'd researched all the prizes from all the gyms in Kanto and Johto before he set out to earn them.

We should go, Leilani cautioned. It's growing dark.

Dominik stood up slowly, pocketing both silver tokens. We will come back tomorrow, he vowed, as he had done when they first entered the forest. I have to give the badge back to her.

He glared at the still form of the man in violet as he walked past. He would let him and his alakazam sleep there, trusting that the girl and her pokemon would find a safe haven.


----


Author's notes: At long last, it's time for Magnetism. This story arc has been significant to me for three years. I wish I could say more, but I'll let the remaining chapters do the talking. ^^

Here in EW-land, the Johto region is more conservative than Kanto, in regards to the upkeep of ancient pokemon shrines and shinto temples. In Kanto, urban growth is the way of life, but Johto people are more content with country peacefulness (except in the large cities of Violet and Goldenrod, but they manage to blend traditional ways with modern civilization). I know that originally Kanto and Johto were based on the Kanto and Kansai regions of Japan, but it's a loose comparison, I think... I heard that only one or two people in GSC speak in Kansai-ben, so it can't be that similar. (I <3 Kansai-ben, so I paid attention).

Just like Dominik is different among his peers, Leilani stands out compared to the common exeggutor. Her three heads are able to think independently, but when she communicates with her trainer or other pokemon, she can focus her mind to clearly send or speak in one voice. Like Dominik, she's more intelligent and mature than her kind. I guess she has split personalities internally? Or maybe fractions of her personality that speak to one another in her own mind.

Also about Leilani, Dominik reflects on her actual age versus her behavioral age. She must be older than her physical age in "exeggutor years" -- how do pokemon life spans compare, anyway? Leilani's related to tropical trees, so she might live for a very long time.

Blackjack Gabbiani
9th October 2006, 5:54 AM
Another great chapter. I really wish I could think of more to say.

I love the name Leilani.

Shrike Flamestar
15th October 2006, 2:58 AM
Ack! I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry for not reading and reviewing this sooner! ;_; I was busy playing my shiny new video game, Tales of the Abyss, instead... I have failed you!

*Summons an Arcana Energy sword and commits seppuku*

/me is dead X_x

*A leftover reviver seed in Shrike’s pocket from his trip into Pokémon Mystery Dungeon automatically revives him.*

Damn... You know you suck at life if you can’t even kill yourself right... ;_;

*coughs*

Right! Where was I... Oh yes, this review thing!

And first, we have typos!



Blessed and cursed both was the life of a psychic.
Microsoft Word is giving me a green line and saying that should be “were”...


It was a volume of his favorite trilogy, and epic fantasy by J.R.R. Torkoal, written almost fifty years ago.
An. Heh... J.R.R. Torkoal... What’s the book called, The Lord of the Balls? :D


He collasped on the ground, staring at her beside him.
Collapsed.


Unfortunately, I didn’t pick out any other quote-worthy quotes this chapter... Usually I pick out funny things, and this wasn’t a very funny chapter, so...

I did like it though! Dominik is such a great character, although he fits perfectly into the anime archetype of “soft spoken male who’s an outsider to mankind and thinks no one can understand him except for perhaps one other person who is equally socially inept”... But, as I’ve never said before, clichés aren’t the problem, it’s the people who don’t use them well who are! Hell, I’m not one to talk about other’s characters being clichéd since mine are pretty much clichéd too... You do a good job characterizing Dominik and his relations between Leilani and now Neriah, though.

Speaking of his Pokémon, just how do you pronounce their names? I’m thinking Leilani is either lay-lahn-e or lie-lahn-e, and Neriah is nuh-rye-uh. Am I close? I tend to be awful at assuming pronunciations...

More Lance... Appearing out of nowhere again... I’m starting to see more of a Pokémon Special influence on him, as well as the Elite Four. Just as in Special, he seems to have special powers in here (although, so far, they seem to just be a case of advanced psychic power), and as in Special the Elite Four is apparently focused on striving to raise Pokémon’s social status, except in here they’re not going to such extreme measures as wanting to exterminate humans...

What really intrigues me though, is what the hell is Eusine (he’s the only person that I know of who would actually want to wear a purple suit and white cape... Plus, his Alakazam is good evidence...) doing?! So he wants to get that girl’s (who’s name I certainly haven’t surmised. Nope. <_< I’m sure it doesn’t begin with an A, then an m, then an a, then an r, then finally another a <_<) Jade Road Badge? By attacking her directly? This seems to be a recurring thing though, which makes no sense... I mean, can’t she just avoid him if she knows he’s coming after her? A forest is a good place to hide in, after all...

Well, that’s that, I suppose. Hope to see chapter 11 soon (you’ve been waiting for me to post, haven’t you? <_<). But, that would mark the end of frequent updates... :(

/me is very sad

I’ll just have to learn how you feel in regards to TFC :)

<random note>God... My internet is so slow... The fact that I’ve now downgraded to wireless DSL from wired cable is a big killer, and my currently running download of an anime OVA (Gate Keepers 21. I just found out about this Gate Keepers anime and while it’s not as mature or serious as things like Neon Genesis Evangelion, it’s still pretty cool and funny) isn’t helping... God, this torrent is taking a long time to download for only being 2GB... The actual 5GB series didn’t take this long!</random note>

Pikki Zuka
16th October 2006, 9:24 PM
Another great chapter. I really wish I could think of more to say.
What do you like, what don't you like, am I a complete hack, what do you think will happen next, what's that scene all about... there's a lot to say. ^^;;


Ack! I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry for not reading and reviewing this sooner! ;_; I was busy playing my shiny new video game, Tales of the Abyss, instead... I have failed you!
Hmph, see what happens when you're a gamer... </bitter>


Blessed and cursed both was the life of a psychic.
Microsoft Word is giving me a green line and saying that should be “were”...
Word's grammar check isn't always accurate. Rewritten, the sentence would be "the life of a psychic was both blessed and cursed." Not "were," since "was" is the verb for "life."

Yay, English degree! XD


I did like it though! Dominik is such a great character, although he fits perfectly into the anime archetype of “soft spoken male who’s an outsider to mankind and thinks no one can understand him except for perhaps one other person who is equally socially inept”... But, as I’ve never said before, clichés aren’t the problem, it’s the people who don’t use them well who are! Hell, I’m not one to talk about other’s characters being clichéd since mine are pretty much clichéd too... You do a good job characterizing Dominik and his relations between Leilani and now Neriah, though.
XD Win.
Dominik isn't really socially inept, though. He does very well in social situations. He just doesn't enjoy it.


Speaking of his Pokémon, just how do you pronounce their names? I’m thinking Leilani is either lay-lahn-e or lie-lahn-e, and Neriah is nuh-rye-uh. Am I close? I tend to be awful at assuming pronunciations...
lay-LAHN-ee and neh-RYE-ah, yes. Close enough.


More Lance... Appearing out of nowhere again... I’m starting to see more of a Pokémon Special influence on him, as well as the Elite Four. Just as in Special, he seems to have special powers in here (although, so far, they seem to just be a case of advanced psychic power)
/me worships Special :D


and as in Special the Elite Four is apparently focused on striving to raise Pokémon’s social status, except in here they’re not going to such extreme measures as wanting to exterminate humans...
Hmmm.... ;)


What really intrigues me though, is what the hell is Eusine (he’s the only person that I know of who would actually want to wear a purple suit and white cape... Plus, his Alakazam is good evidence...) doing?!
Ha, even Logan didn't know he was Eusine. XD


Well, that’s that, I suppose. Hope to see chapter 11 soon (you’ve been waiting for me to post, haven’t you? <_<). But, that would mark the end of frequent updates... :(
Heh.. I was, but then I got busy, but now seems like a good time to post 11. I finished 12 last week, and as soon as it gets beta'd (he's been swamped for the past week, and out of town... who knows when he'll read it :P), I'll post it here and at the other places. That finally gets us caught up -- and will be the end of frequent updates, yes. But it'll give you more time to read each chapter. ^_~

<random reply>Oh, hush up, or I'll trade you dial-up over faulty phone lines for your wireless DSL. >_o</reply>

Pikki Zuka
16th October 2006, 9:26 PM
Chapter 11 - Magnetism (Part Two)

As he slept, Dominik became keenly aware of a dream forming. Devoid of any setting or sensation, it consisted of him standing (or perhaps drifting? He felt strangely weightless) in a boundless void. It wasn’t a place for sight, touch, or any other earthly sense; it was a place of being.

He “heard,” in a way, his name spoken by someone feminine, older, and very familiar. He turned in every direction, searching for the source until, at last, she appeared out of nowhere. She was tall and strong, her skin a creamy ivory and her long hair dark green.

“Hello, Dominik,” she said.

He knew her as soon as he saw her, but beholding her this way was such a surprise. “Leilani?” he whispered, confirming the truth.

She smiled warmly, her green eyes sparkling. In the form of a woman, she looked lovely and kind. This was the reflection of her soul, the truth behind her intimidating exterior as an exeggutor.

They remained motionless, staring at one another. “It’s... good to see you,” Dominik said at last.

“Yes, it is,” she agreed.

He realized, with certain guilt, that he had no idea what to say next. Here was Leilani, his first pokemon, his soul-sister, and words failed him.

“It’s all right,” she assured him, and he felt liberated, free to say even the most banal words.

“This is extraordinary. Is there a reason for it?”

“I think it must be an introduction. Here, we are meeting as equals. Not as a human and pokemon, but as equal souls.”

Though content to stay in thrall of the experience, Dominik felt a faint, urgent pull. “I’m waking up,” he said with regret.

“It’s suppose it’s time to depart,” said Leilani, sad but calm.

“Will we meet like this again?”

“I really hope so.”

Dominik awoke slowly in his bed at the pokemon center room. He stared at the ceiling, blinking. Never before had he dreamed anything so vivid, so linear. The image of human-like Leilani remained etched in his memory.

Glancing down at his side, he noticed the strange silver token he’d found in the forest the evening before. He remembered staring at it as he lay in bed that night, his thoughts swirling together madly – wondering what kind of badge it could be, when the man and his alakazam had awakened, if the girl and her pokemon were safe, if he should have alerted the police to a trainer unlawfully ordering a pokemon to attack a human, and if the girl was truly psychic? He must have fallen asleep, and the badge had landed beside him. Grateful that it wasn’t lost in the covers, he set it on the night stand, on top of his J.R.R. Torkoal book, where he wouldn’t forget it.

Dominik took a quick shower and grabbed breakfast from the pokecenter cafeteria, all the while mulling over his dream. He retrieved his bag from his room, making sure that his pokedex and berry-flavored treats were inside. He picked up the badge and gazed at it a moment more before tucking it safely away in the zippered compartment on his bag’s front flap.

As he passed by the old towers, entering the forest, he released his pokemon. The woods were even more breathtaking in the morning light, much more so than they had been the previous evening. Rays of sun streamed through the leaves of the forest, accentuating its mystical surroundings. Neriah scampered ahead, but Dominik and Leilani walked side by side. How do you suppose I’ll find her? Dominik asked.

Neriah knows the jolteon’s scent. She will find them.

Do you suppose the badge isn’t hers? I don’t know why, but I kind of want to keep it. He paused and took it out of his bag, studying it in the palm of his hand.

It’s pretty, Leilani remarked. Dominik smiled up at her, then gasped. A faint image shimmered in front of the exeggutor’s body, the form of the green-haired woman he had seen in his dream.

“Leilani...” he whispered. Rarely did he speak aloud to her.

Neriah bounded up to them, curious as to why they had stopped walking. Dominik turned to her, and was even more astounded to see a brief vision flicker in and out of sight before the espeon: a young girl with skin, hair, and eyes all in shades of lavender, a red jewel on her forehead. Then, he heard her voice in his mind, her first telepathy without contact. What’s going on?

Again, Dominik felt as though he wasn’t in the forest, but floating. The trees around him appeared and disappeared, as though he was caught between the physical world and another. Then, suddenly, the forest came back into full view, and he became very aware of the earth under his feet, the singing of bird and bug pokemon. His hand had fallen to his side; the badge had dropped to the ground. Leilani and Neriah stared at him, an exeggutor and an espeon, nothing more.

He picked up the silver token, and, after a few minutes' time, felt the same experience, saw the same visions. He purposefully dropped the item again, and was not so surprised when his earthly senses returned. This badge makes it happen, he deduced. He snapped his head up, eyes wide with shock. That wasn’t a dream!

No, Leilani answered.

Was I holding it in my sleep? Or is it more powerful with a mind at rest? He picked it up and quickly deposited it back in his bag. Neriah, hurry and find the jolteon’s scent. I have to talk to that girl.

The espeon didn’t seem to sense his thoughts without the aid of the badge. Before Dominik could repeat his instructions aloud, Leilani conveyed the message to her in pokemon language.

It took some time wandering through the forest, but Neriah knew where she was going. They passed the small moss-covered temple by the stream, the one Dominik had started to investigate the previous night. He smiled as they continued on, making a mental note to come back to the spot and train.

As they walked, the trees grew thicker, almost masking the stone steps where Neriah paused. Here, Leilani supplied.

The steps, dozens of them, led up to a hill, curving to the side around the trees. Wide sunbeams illuminated different spots, as if encouraging Dominik that this was where he was destined to go. He drew in a breath and began to climb.

At the top of the long stairway rested a huge stone shrine, similar in structure to the one by the river: stacked blocks carved with intricate designs, a pyramid top, a flat ledge in the middle for offerings. This shrine, however, lacked centuries of plant growth – someone tended to it regularly. Someone, perhaps, who sat on her knees before the altar with her palms pressed together and head lowered in silent prayer. Someone who wasn’t dressed for the role, but bore the aura of a devoted priestess just the same.

Rays of light filtered through the canopy above, streaming around her. Dominik watched, urging himself to leave her alone with her devotions, but staying resolutely in place with every passing second. Not until her jolteon rose and wagged his tail at the sight of Neriah did the girl stir, craning her neck over her shoulder to identify the intruders.

Her eyes narrowed. Dominik opened his mouth to speak, but his words were lost, struggling in his throat. Slowly, she rose and approached him, and Dominik realized that she was taller than he, as well as older. It had not seemed so the night before.

Challenged by her hard look, Dominik drew in a breath, meeting her eyes. “I found this,” he said, reaching into his bag. Between forefinger and thumb he presented the silver token. “Right after the battle. Is it yours?”

“Yes.” She reached her hand expectantly towards him.

He held the badge above her palm for a second, then clutched it tightly in a fist, stepping away. “I’ll give it back if you tell me where you got it.”

She answered with another glare. Dominik kept his resolve, staring directly at her. He knew a battle of wills when confronted with one. Her eyes – wide, bright, and golden – reminded him of someone...

“Kira,” she said in a low voice. Her pikachu scampered to a spot in front of her, cheeks sparking, poised on all fours to attack.

...Lance.

“All right.” Dominik shoved out his hand, palm up, showing her the badge. “You can have it. I don’t need to know.”

Kira relaxed, and her cheeks stopped charging electricity. With a cautious glance at the pikachu, Dominik stepped forth and held his hand several inches above the girl’s, dropping the token into her palm without touching her skin. Doing so, he felt a sudden loss – an emptiness that was confirmed as he looked to Leilani and saw only a three-headed tree. He needn’t have asked about the badge after all.

“Come on, Neriah,” he said quietly, walking away.

“Wait,” the girl called, somewhat reluctantly. Dominik paused, but didn’t face her. “Thank you,” she mumbled guiltily. “I didn’t expect you to give it back. You're a better person than I thought.”

Dominik sighed, cursing himself for his little act of withholding her prize for ransom in exchange for his answer. He was hardly a “better person.”

“And... thank you for stopping him... yesterday,” she said in a softer voice.

“I’m sorry,” he replied, turning around. “For... the other thing. I can’t help it, it’s through contact. But you would’ve been knocked out cold.”

“I know.”

“I acted without thinking. That doesn’t happen too often, and I really am sorry about it.” Dominik stuck his hands in his pockets, kicking lightly at the ground. “Psychics are rare. That’s why I asked. But whether you are or aren’t, it doesn’t matter. I’ll be moving on after I defeat the gym leader. I won’t disturb you again.”

He walked slowly beside Leilani. Come on, Neriah, he sent impatiently, out of habit, as the espeon hadn’t budged once.

Eevee are really rare too, came the telepathic response.

He whipped around and gaped at his young pokemon, whose mental voice he had never heard without contact. She raised her nose at him with a pleased expression, then nuzzled the jolteon and hurried to Dominik’s side, dual-tipped tail wagging. Dominik caught a final glimpse of the black-haired girl, who gave her jolteon a puzzled look. The spiky-furred pokemon lifted his face up towards hers, and it seemed as if they were conversing.

“If you want to train here for your battle with the gym leader,” she called out suddenly, “you’d better come back tomorrow. It will storm soon.”

Dominik inspected the sunlight peeking through the thick foliage. Will it? he asked Neriah, who was naturally sensitive to weather patterns.

It doesn’t seem like it. There are no clouds coming this way.

“Thanks for the warning,” he said aloud, to be polite.

I like Tenrai, Neriah told him as they descended the ancient stairway. He said they live there at the shrine. In a treehouse. Can you imagine that? The espeon was proving to be quite verbal, now that telepathy came easily to her. Dominik figured that the short contact with the badge encouraged this development of her powers.

What will you teach me? she asked. I’m ready to learn new attacks! I’m excited! She bounded down the steps ahead of the other two.

I have a good idea, Dominik told her. Something I thought of earlier today. It will require a lot of focus, however, so try to direct your excitement towards that.

The three of them returned to the wide stream and the moss-covered miniature temple, which Dominik felt was somehow significant on Leilani’s behalf, reverence of plant life coexisting with an ancient relic. He sat down near it, urging Neriah to sit with him. He took a deep breath as he began to clear his mind.

Thunder rolled faintly in the distance. Dominik lifted his head, staring in the direction of the stairtop shrine. I thought you didn’t sense any clouds.

I didn’t! Neriah panicked, confused that her weather sense could fail.

Not psychic, huh? he thought of the girl, standing reluctantly. In a matter of minutes, rain began to pour. Lightning flashed brilliantly, and thunder roared. He retracted Leilani and Neriah to their pokeballs and stared at the trees a moment more, contemplating.



* * * *

The next morning, Dominik and his pokemon returned to the same part of the forest. Leilani stood guard, keeping lookout for dangerous intruders.

The young psychic quickly discovered that meditation came easy in the tranquil woods. Once his mind locked with Neriah’s, he guided her through the motions of the complicated attack he wanted her to learn. The potential was definitely there, even if espeon normally couldn’t use it. It would take time to hone the skill before challenging the Ecruteak gym leader.

After a few hours, they took a break. Dominik flopped down in the cool grass, sighing. Mental training seemed more exhausting than physical, to which he was no stranger.

We are being watched, Leilani cautioned. Dominik sat up, following the exeggutor’s gaze. A streak of yellow darted away, and something moved around in the high branches. Dominik suspected Tenrai and his owner, but, as her green and black clothing was hard to detect in the treetops, he couldn’t be certain. Neriah barked a greeting, but she received no response.

She wouldn’t harm us, Neriah assured Dominik. In fact, it was probably Tenrai’s idea to look after us. There was amusement in her tone.

I don’t like to be watched, Dominik told her.

That’s why I didn’t mention all the spinarak and sentret who are extremely curious about an unmoving human, Leilani replied wryly. Dominik made a face at her.

They paused again for lunch, and quit in the late afternoon, returning to the pokemon center for dinner. Dominik fell asleep early, resting deeply all night long without any dreams.

The trio repeated this routine the next day. A pikachu boldly observed them, out in the open, and Neriah confirmed that she was Kira, Tenrai’s companion. Two more days of training passed, and Leilani reported each evening that the forest-dwelling girl and her two pokemon kept a lengthy watch of them. Dominik felt very conspicuous about it, and kept telling himself that the girl was only looking out for the well-being of the forest.

Or was she wondering if her enemy, the alakazam trainer, would attack Dominik in his vulnerable, meditative state? There had been no sign of him in the four days of training. Leilani made an excellent bodyguard, but the notion that the strange girl would be protecting him from afar confounded Dominik. She had made it a point to live in a treehouse in the deep woods; why would she go out of her way to guard him? No, he told himself, she was definitely making sure the forest’s peace remained undisturbed.

On his fifth day in Ecruteak, Dominik decided that Neriah was ready to face the gym leader. He approached the huge towers and the forest entrance as he had done every morning in the past few days, and he smiled thankfully. His training had been enhanced, his mind clearer and more focused, because of the beautiful, peaceful place. He decided that he would make a home deep in a forest someday. Maybe even this forest.

The gym itself was a remodeled Shinto shrine. A young man swept the steps with a contented air about him. He was dressed casually, in jeans and a long-sleeved shirt, and a blue headband kept his shaggy blond hair out of his eyes. Two lines of braided hemp and beads adorned his neck. Dominik wondered if he was a high-schooler on vacation, or the gym leader’s assistant.

“Good morning,” he said politely as Dominik approached.

“Hi,” said the psychic. “I’m here for a match.”

“Ah... do come inside.”

Dominik followed him, perplexed that no one else was inside the cleared-out battle room. “My referee stepped out for the moment,” the young man said. “If you like to stick to the rules, we should wait for him, but it’s fine by me if we battle now.”

“Your...” Dominik started to say as the realization hit him.

“Did you not know? I’m Morty, the gym leader.”

Lance’s words “accomplished spirit medium” echoed throughout Dominik’s mind as he stared at the spacey-looking young man. Not again, he groaned to himself. Not another ridiculously simple-minded gym leader! Lance, how long ago did you take the Johto challenge? How much has changed?

Morty smiled. “Surprised? I get that a lot.”

“Sorry,” Dominik mumbled, reminding himself not to judge by appearances.

“I can tell you’re after a true challenge. I can also tell that you’re a psychic.”

He blinked. “You can?”

Morty smiled again. “My specialty is ghost pokemon, whose attacks are particularly strong against psychic pokemon, which, I assume, is your specialty. How does that sound?”

Dominik grinned. “Sounds like what I’ve been training for. Let’s get started now! My name’s Dominik, by the way.”

“Best of luck to you.” Morty bowed and took his place at one end of the large room.

Dominik set down his messenger bag and unclipped Leilani’s ball from his belt, sending her out to battle first. Recognizing that she was the stronger of his pokemon, Morty sent out his most powerful, a gengar. Leilani’s solarbeam attack did more damage to it than her psychic-type moves, but she was bested when the gengar put her to sleep using hypnosis, then launched its dream eater attack. Dominik watched in horror as Gengar absorbed the exeggutor’s energy for itself while she slept, helpless to fight back despite Dominik’s calls. He returned her to her ball and sent out Neriah, his heart pounding. Truly, this was the type of battle for which he’d been waiting.

“Gengar, use shadow ball!” Morty commanded.

Neriah gracefully leapt away from the black blob of energy. Remember what we worked on, Dominik sent to her. “Hypnosis!” he ordered.

“Oh?” Morty raised his eyebrows, intrigued. His shadow pokemon shook its head from side to side, flinching. “Looks like it didn’t work. Gengar’s still awake.”

Dominik barely heard him, as he was concentrating along with Neriah. Finally, her focus slipped, and she staggered. Dominik held his breath.

“Let’s show them how hypnosis is really done, Gengar,” Morty suggested. But his pokemon stood still, looking around as if it hadn’t understood. The gym leader continued to shout at it.

“Looks like it did work,” Dominik corrected. “My espeon is trained to use it in a special way. The power of hypnosis lies in the ability to induce and reinforce a suggestion. So, rather than suggest that Gengar go to sleep, she gave him the illusion of defeat. He won’t battle now.”

Morty gaped at his challenger. “True hypnosis, indeed. We usually only use it to put a foe to sleep.” He watched his listless gengar and sighed, retracting it back to its pokeball. “I commend you, Dominik. You’re very insightful. To have Neriah use that attack in such a way really demonstrates her level... and your own psychic abilities.”

“Thanks.” The psychic boy felt relieved and astonished that the unconventional hypnosis actually worked. Neriah, however, collapsed from mental exhaustion. Dominik sent her to her ball, sending his thanks to her, whether she could hear him or not.

Leilani, waking up after her release, faced Morty’s second pokemon, a haunter, easily. While its night shade attack did considerable damage, a couple of her solarbeams finally defeated it. With a pounding heart and a smile that had not emerged in days, Dominik accepted Morty’s Fog Badge.

“Congratulations, you’re halfway through the Johto League challenge,” Morty told him. “How has it been for you?”

Dominik looked up at the gym leader. “Honestly? I haven’t been impressed until now. It’s not just your type advantage or your connection to the spiritual, you’re a different class of gym leader than the first three.”

Morty laughed out loud. “It’s true. The Johto League purposefully establishes weaker gym leaders at the beginning of the challenge. The idea is to prepare young trainers for the unexpected.”

Dominik stared at Morty in disbelief, then laughed. “That’s awesome! I have a whole new respect for Johto now. I like this region more and more every day.”

“I’m glad. A lot of kids your age don’t appreciate all that Johto has to offer. Many of them quit the challenge after facing me and then Jasmine, whom you’ll meet in Olivine.”

Dominik nodded. “I had my doubts at first. That should teach me a lesson too, huh?”

The front door burst open at that point. “I’m back!” called a voice, and a sharply-dressed man entered the battle area. “Morty, I found out...” He trailed off as he noticed Dominik. “You!”

The young psychic gasped as he recognized the alakazam trainer.

“I hope you didn’t give this meddlesome boy a badge, Morty!” the man huffed. “Or did he perhaps trick you into handing it over?”

Morty rolled his eyes. “He’s an excellent trainer, Eusine. What’s bothering you now?”

“What did you do, go back for another electro-shock treatment?” Dominik mocked. “Care to sleep it off again?”

Eusine glared at him.

“You haven’t been after her again, have you?” Morty asked with dawning comprehension. “I’m serious, if you don’t leave her alone, I’ll take matters into my own hands!”

“She doesn’t belong there! It’s an outrage!”

“It’s an outrage that he attacked her directly with his pokemon!” Dominik shouted. “More than once!”

“Like you didn’t do the same thing! I was knocked out for hours!”

“It was sleep powder, and it was the only way to keep you under control!”

“Eusine!” Morty cried. “I can’t believe you would stoop so low! Why can’t you let her be?”

“I wouldn’t expect you, of all people, to ask me that.” Eusine whirled around, his short cape flapping as he stalked out of the room.

Morty sighed and scratched the back of his head. “So you stopped him from doing any harm? That’s very noble of you, Dominik.”

The boy stared in the direction Eusine had gone. “I just thought they shouldn’t disturb the forest. With all the shrines around... I got the feeling that it’s a sacred place.” He turned back to Morty. “Why does he act like that? What’s he got against her?” He realized, regretfully, that he didn’t know her name.

The gym leader smiled sympathetically. “A few years ago, she came here to live in seclusion. She made her home by an ancient shrine to Raikou, the legendary pokemon god of thunder.”

“Raikou...” Dominik whispered, remembering how she knelt and prayed to the huge stone structure.

“It’s a local myth that she’s the closest thing Raikou has to a trainer. They say she rides on his back as he patrols the forest.” Morty chuckled. “They also say that every summer solstice, Raikou conducts a magnificent storm in honor of her birthday.”

Dominik counted on his fingers. “That was five days ago, the summer solstice. I talked to her, and she warned me it would storm, even though it was clear. Neriah didn’t even sense it.”

“I don’t think you can predict the whim of a god,” Morty mused. “You talked to her that day? Was that when you fought Eusine?”

“No, that was the day before. I went back to the forest... to train.” He didn’t want to tell Morty about the mysterious badge.

The gym leader smiled. “Anyway, to answer your question, Eusine studies legendary pokemon. His lifelong dream is to make contact with Suicune, the god of the north wind. He’s insanely jealous of the girl who came out of nowhere and took it upon herself to guard the shrine of Suicune’s brother. He’s convinced that she’ll turn Suicune against him.”

“Oh,” said Dominik softly.

“He also seems to think she possesses some device that could allow him to speak Suicune’s language, or something,” Morty continued. “He’s always venturing into the forest to fight with her, but her pokemon are at much higher levels than his. Although, it seems now he’s taken to attacking her directly.” He frowned. “I don’t want to have to alert the authorities... but he can’t keep doing it.”

“I guess that means you’ll have to turn me in, too,” Dominik said. “Leilani acted on her own, using sleep powder, but I take full responsibility for her.”

Morty smiled again. “I think I can leave that detail out. She was acting on your behalf, wanting to protect you... and your new friend?” He added the last part daringly.

Dominik’s cheeks flushed slightly, and he looked away. “I didn’t do it for her,” he mumbled. “I just wanted the forest to remain peaceful.” He was annoyed that Morty disrupted his composure with his subtle teasing.

Looking amused, Morty nodded towards the window. Dominik turned to look, and could see, in the lower corner, the edge of what could have been a head of black hair. Aware that the silence meant she had been discovered, the girl fled, her footsteps fading into the distance. Lighter feet padded after her, and Dominik heard the unmistakable squeak of a pikachu.

“I think she watched our entire match,” Morty said.

“She probably just brought her jolteon to see Neriah. They’re interested in one another, being eevee.”

“Is that it?” The gym leader broke out into a bemused grin.

Isn’t it? Dominik thought, glancing at the window again. Hadn’t she been watching him over the past five days because Tenrai was curious about Neriah? Or, knowing that Eusine was a friend of Morty’s, had she come once again to make sure the fanatic wouldn’t attack Dominik?

If she had the slightest amount of concern for him, Dominik swore it wouldn’t be for nothing. He marched out of the battle area, towards the back rooms where Eusine had exited. He found the man in a small library, standing over an old book.

“You again,” Eusine said bitterly. “You have your badge, now get going to the next town.”

“Not until you swear to mind your own business.”

“Mind my business? Why do you care so much?”

The question took Dominik by surprise. Why did he care about a nameless hermit? No, I care about the forest, he reminded himself yet again. Neriah evolved in one, Leilani is at home there, and it’s a sacred and beautiful place. That’s all.

“You won’t get near Suicune, acting this way,” he ventured. “The gods, even pokemon gods, are put off by acts of hatred and violence, especially towards their followers.”

Eusine slammed his book shut and approached Dominik, his face livid. “Who do you think you are, to judge me? You’re nothing but a child.”

“Who do you think you are, acting like you’re better than everyone?” Dominik shot back.

Eusine raised an arm to strike, but Dominik acted quickly. He grabbed the fanatic’s wrist, lifting the fabric of his jacket high enough to touch the skin between his sleeve and his glove. Eusine struggled, trying to push Dominik away with his free hand, but the boy caught that arm in the same fashion. He planted his feet firmly apart, willing Eusine to stand still as he probed his innermost thoughts.

Jealousy and spite existed in abundance, just as Morty had described. A fierce determination to be purified for Suicune, resulting in strict abstinence (and much frustration). These feelings were constant, fueling Eusine’s obsession – there was little else for Dominik to see. Tell me why it matters so much, he sent to him. Why are you so fixated on Suicune?

But Eusine didn’t respond telepathically, only struggled with his body. Training an alakazam hadn’t enhanced his mind, and, if he was psychic at all, he was a weak one. This realization broke Dominik’s mental hold, and Eusine freed himself, shoving the boy to the floor.

“You’re asking for it now,” he sneered, gasping for breath, his eyes wild. “Not just her, but you too. No one invades my mind and gets away with it. I’ll get rid of you both, one way or another, when you least suspect it.” He threw something to the floor, which erupted into a cloud of thick white smoke. Dominik fanned the air around him, and, when the smoke cleared, Eusine was gone, a magic trick worthy of his ridiculous attire.

“Dominik?” Morty came in as the psychic got up, rubbing his backside.

“He’s insane,” Dominik said. “I read his thoughts, and he threatened to kill me.”

“He wouldn’t,” Morty assured him, though he couldn’t disguise the doubt and fear in his voice.

“He’ll go after her first... if he does anything to her, it’ll be my fault!” Dominik bolted from the library, grabbed his bag from the battle area, and fled from the Ecruteak gym.

“Where are you going?” Morty chased after him as far as the outside steps.

“Find Eusine, and try to calm him down!” Dominik called without stopping.



* * * *

Though Neriah was tired from her battle with Gengar, she sniffed out Tenrai’s recent path through the forest. Dominik had a feeling that the jolteon and his companions would return to their home at Raikou’s shrine, but he wanted to be certain before he barged into the holy place.

At the foot of the stairway, he retracted Neriah to her ball, promising her a long rest. Then he raced up the steps. At the top, Tenrai appeared to be waiting for him, alerted by his clambering ascent.

Dominik bent over to catch his breath, resting his hands on his knees. As he did, he saw the girl’s black boots step closer to him. He stood upright slowly, taking in the sight of her beaten pants, faded black tank top, and very long hair, still in its thick braid. Her expression was solemn, but otherwise unreadable.

“It’s Eusine,” he said breathlessly. “I... I read his mind, and asked him why he’s so obsessed with Suicune. He got really offended, and he threatened to kill us both.”

“His idle threats do not scare me,” she said with indifference.

“He’s serious, I could tell! That look in his eyes, it was real madness!”

“I’ve seen that look a hundred times by now. Eusine is all talk.”

“But I’m the one that pushed him over the edge this time!” Dominik insisted. Why was she so unresponsive? Couldn’t she see that he had practically flown to deliver her this warning? He continued to breathe heavily, and he stared at her golden eyes, hoping that she understood.

Her stony face softened ever so slightly. “Please don’t worry,” she said. “My pokemon are very strong. Plus, if Morty suspects anything, he’ll put a stop to it. I trust him.”

“It’s still my fault. I’ll fight him myself, before he can even come near you.”

She blinked, stunned. “Why is it that important to you?”

“I always take responsibility for my actions. I’m caught up in this mess with Eusine now, and I’ll stick around until it’s taken care of.” He looked around, then tossed his bag to the ground beside his feet. “I’m staying here, on guard.”

“You can’t do that!” She rose her voice for the first time. “Why do you care so much?”

“Because Eusine can’t keep acting this way! He needs to learn just how misguided he is!”

“I don’t mean Eusine!” she snapped, then lowered her voice as she asked, with a twinge of sadness, “why do you care about me?”

Dominik stared at her dark features, grasping for words that wouldn’t come. “I... don’t know,” he was forced to admit.

She turned her head away, frustrated. “Well, why did you come to the gym?” Dominik rebutted. “Why have you been watching me all this time?”

Her golden eyes widened as she looked at him again. “I don’t know either,” she said softly, openly.

The silence that followed gave Dominik time to wonder if she truly didn’t know, or if she had caught on to his language, and her answer meant the same as his.

“I still want to stay,” he said quietly. “If anything, Neriah and Tenrai can spend more time together.”

“Do whatever you want,” she told him, turning to go back to her treehouse. Dominik noticed a sturdy rope ladder suspended from an enormous tree, though any house was hidden above the leaves.

“Wait!” he called out. “Um... my name’s Dominik. Just so you know.”

She paused in her tracks, and a moment passed before she spoke again. “I’m Amara.” Then she climbed nimbly up the rope ladder and disappeared into the foliage.



----

Author’s Notes: Oh man, I’m so happy with how this turned out. Best chapter to date, no contest. Longest, too.

I summarized over half of Dominik and Morty’s battle because writing it out play by play would have made it even longer. Truth be told, I find pokemon battles to be a bit boring. “Use this attack!” *attack is described* “Counter with this!” *further description* When I read fanfics, I skim over the battle scenes until I find out who wins (sorry, writers! ^^’). Unless something significant to the plot occurs during the battle, then I’ll read, but otherwise, I find it to be filler material. I’m weird.

Neriah and Tenrai are almost anagrams. That is entirely coincidental, and I just noticed it while writing this chapter. I picked out their names three years ago, and it never occurred to me. My subconscious is awesome.

I really like the Johto gyms. With Falkner, Bugsy, and Whitney, there aren’t any surprises (no offense, Falkner! I still love you!), but you get to Morty, Jasmine, and Chuck... a spacey guy, a frail girl, and a chubby former fighter. You just don’t expect them to be as strong as they are. Good strategy, Johto. XD

Blackjack Gabbiani
17th October 2006, 8:21 AM
Very interesting. I love how you characterize Eusine, and your descriptive powers. I wish I could write long chapters like this...

Venastois
18th October 2006, 4:35 AM
wow... this is a great fic. i just finished reading the whole thing, and i must say, you are very good at what you do. You now have an avid reader, and i hope you keep writing. I love the portrail of Dominik, and especially the whole poke-soul thing you include.

I must admit, even though the tracy arch is fun to read, i like the Dominik side of the story much better. Do they ever meet? or is this like two stories in one?

edit: can espeon relaly learn hypnosis? because if it can, i would really like to know.

blackemerald
19th October 2006, 12:50 PM
Mistakes first:


They passed the small moss-covered temple by the stream; the one Dominik had started to investigate the previous night.


“Your...” Dominik started to say as the realization hit him.

The wonders you can discover by randomly clicking on a fic and bearing through to the end.

Well obviously I'm not going to review every single chapter so here goes. You have a certain way in which you write which I just generally like. The description is good, not too much but not too little and everything had a good flow to it.

But now onto your strongest point: your characters, mainly James and Lance. The confidence shown here from James is one that is usually non-existent in the anime, with him contemplating what if he should do more with his life than being sent blasting into the sky how many times by Pikachu and co., adding more substance to his character than a scared little rich kid who ran away from home.

YES! We get the true Lance from the pokespecial not that little G-man prick or whatever the organization's name is called! He does seem a little vicious in his words in chapter, subtly bulling Dominik into continuing his journey. Just like special, he seems to have special powers in here that let him control Dragons which makes perfect sense, seeing as they normally live in secrecy and have such destructive powers (Dragonite, Salamence, Gyarados.) Could you imagine a ten-year old controlling a newly caught Gyarados without being torn to shreds?

To be honest, I really, really don't like Dominik. His attitude seems a bit pompous, thinking that people who aren’t psychics won't value him as much and won't understand him so he isolates himself, putting his friendship mostly in his pokemon. That could also be one of the reasons why he treats them as equals and not as tools as you put it and why Lance selected him for his 'special group'. Oh, by the way, DominikxAmara ftw. *Attach spooky voice* The banner knows all. *End spooky voice*

And who could forget our favorite Suicine lunatic Eusine in his trademark purple suit and white cape. It seems he's finally gone over the edge and travelled into the world of conspiracy theories and plots against him, hasn’t he? It seems he would want the Jade road badge so he could trick Suicune into believing he's one of those people who control elements so Suicune could recognize him or something. Vintage crazy legendary collector

I don't have that much to say on the Jade road saga side of things, apart from your original choice to start with Tracy. And because this saga> Jade road.

One major weakness in this story are your battles. The attack is ordered, the pokemon's reaction is shown, the next attack is ordered and so on. You gloss over the details on how it was executed or the impact of the attack on the opposing pokemon. While your pokemon characters are bustling with life elsewhere when they're battling they seem so... empty. From your last A/N it's evident that you hate doing what I'm about to tell you, but to improve them you will have to describe what goes on in them a little bit more, how the attack is carried out, what the pokemon feel in battle ect. It would be a shame to let it go on like this when your characters are so strong.

Still, great fic here. You've just bagged yourself another reviewer who will continue to follow this avidly.

~B.E

Pikki Zuka
19th October 2006, 7:06 PM
*faints* Two new reviews! Thank you both so much! My day is made. :D


wow... this is a great fic. i just finished reading the whole thing, and i must say, you are very good at what you do. You now have an avid reader, and i hope you keep writing. I love the portrail of Dominik, and especially the whole poke-soul thing you include.
Welcome to the small group. XD Updates will be about once a month after I post 12, which I hope is within a few days. I hope you keep reading!


I must admit, even though the tracy arch is fun to read, i like the Dominik side of the story much better. Do they ever meet? or is this like two stories in one?
They'll meet later on. Eventually, everyone's individual plots will merge together.


edit: can espeon relaly learn hypnosis? because if it can, i would really like to know.
No, but E.Winter is in the same universe that assumes a meowth can learn how to speak human language without any assistance from a trainer. Compared to that, Neriah learning a non-espeon-standard psychic attack is pretty believable. ^^


Mistakes first:
“Your...” Dominik started to say as the realization hit him.
Did you think it should be "you're"? I can see how it's not clear -- Dominik's starting to say "your referee?" but then he makes that connection that if Morty has a referee, he must be the gym leader. ^^;


The wonders you can discover by randomly clicking on a fic and bearing through to the end.
Heehee... I'm honored you clicked on mine.


But now onto your strongest point: your characters, mainly James and Lance. The confidence shown here from James is one that is usually non-existent in the anime, with him contemplating what if he should do more with his life than being sent blasting into the sky how many times by Pikachu and co., adding more substance to his character than a scared little rich kid who ran away from home.
That makes me all kinds of happy. I was afraid people would be saying "wtf James only likes boys!! How dare he fall for Noelle Sue!!"


YES! We get the true Lance from the pokespecial not that little G-man prick or whatever the organization's name is called!
I hate pink-haired fake!Lance. No personality whatsoever.


He does seem a little vicious in his words in chapter, subtly bulling Dominik into continuing his journey. Just like special, he seems to have special powers in here that let him control Dragons which makes perfect sense, seeing as they normally live in secrecy and have such destructive powers (Dragonite, Salamence, Gyarados.) Could you imagine a ten-year old controlling a newly caught Gyarados without being torn to shreds?
I know! I'm working on a little Lance background that describes how powerful dragon pokemon are, and how they don't "allow" themselves to be caught by just anyone. It takes a very strong personality to handle them.


To be honest, I really, really don't like Dominik. His attitude seems a bit pompous, thinking that people who aren’t psychics won't value him as much and won't understand him so he isolates himself, putting his friendship mostly in his pokemon. That could also be one of the reasons why he treats them as equals and not as tools as you put it and why Lance selected him for his 'special group'. Oh, by the way, DominikxAmara ftw. *Attach spooky voice* The banner knows all. *End spooky voice*
Heehee, that's okay. He's at that age, though. Man, maybe I shouldn't have made the banner so spoilery. I'll probably put together a new one for part two, anyway. I'm always changing stuff like that. This is my third avatar. XD


And who could forget our favorite Suicine lunatic Eusine in his trademark purple suit and white cape. It seems he's finally gone over the edge and travelled into the world of conspiracy theories and plots against him, hasn’t he? It seems he would want the Jade road badge so he could trick Suicune into believing he's one of those people who control elements so Suicune could recognize him or something. Vintage crazy legendary collector
*laughs aloud in computer lab* I love writing for Eusine. He and Jirarudan would make a good pair. *pokes Blackjack*


From your last A/N it's evident that you hate doing what I'm about to tell you, but to improve them you will have to describe what goes on in them a little bit more, how the attack is carried out, what the pokemon feel in battle ect. It would be a shame to let it go on like this when your characters are so strong.
*nods* Point taken. I know my battles are a little weak, but there will be more of them, so I'll keep it in mind. Putting the entire thing in with Dominik vs. Morty would have made the chapter even longer, and there was a lot going on in 11 already. That's not really an excuse... I wanted to emphasize the budding Dominik/Amara relationship over Dominik's gym battle, despite Neriah's new attack? Yeah, no excuse. XD But yes, more action in coming chapters, so more opportunities to write battle scenes.


Still, great fic here. You've just bagged yourself another reviewer who will continue to follow this avidly.
Oh, thank you! I'm all flattered now. ;025;

Blackjack Gabbiani
20th October 2006, 1:49 AM
*laughs aloud in computer lab* I love writing for Eusine. He and Jirarudan would make a good pair. *pokes Blackjack*

I tried writing that once. It ended badly (for Jirarudan, anyway. Eusine went all RAR HEATHEN on him)

Shrike Flamestar
22nd October 2006, 6:05 AM
GAH!

*Comes running into the topic and crashes into the wall, collapsing to the floor, twitching.*

Sorry sorry sorry ;_; I don’t mean for this to happen, really, I don’t! It’s not my fault, I’m telling you!

*Points to none other than Kudamon (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kudamon).*

It’s its fault! Ever since Ssargon showed me Kudamon I have come to be interested in Digimon again (I had watched the first half of the first series, but lost interest when I realized I had no idea what was going on... I was young and stupid then...), and have thus downloaded every sub for Digimon Savers that there is, and have been watching them religiously... That took away from my fanfic reading time...

*Looks at this art (http://www.deviantart.com/deviation/41295102/) of Kudamon, squeals, and dies of happiness...only to wake up and realize he had just fallen asleep alongside his own Kudamon in the same closet he keeps all his Buoysels, Linoones, Quilavas, Absols, etc in.*

<_<

Now, where was I...


“It’s suppose it’s time to depart,” said Leilani, sad but calm.
Certainly not there, where “I” should be...

Now, good stuff first!

Once again you continue with your knack for well written and developed characters, good description (sans battles, as will be detailed below...), and otherworldly powers. While Blackemerald may not agree, I’m liking Dominik even more as this plot progresses. Dominik/Leilani FTW! The banner might be lying, you know! <_<

Neriah/Tenrai FTW as well! They make such a cute couple... (Tenrai is a boy, right?)

Oh, and thanks to the opening part of this chapter, I’ve managed to figure out how to start chapter 18 of TFC...

As Blackemerald mentioned, your battles aren’t all that great. And, as you mentioned, your excuse isn’t really a valid excuse... Quite frankly, and to put it bluntly, the battle between Dominik and Morty sucked (description-wise). I know you didn’t want to make it seem like too big of a focus, however, instead of saying “Leilani’s solarbeam attack did more damage to it than her psychic-type moves, but she was bested when the gengar put her to sleep using hypnosis, then launched its dream eater attack” you could have done something like:


At first, Dominik attempted to take on the Gengar with psychic attacks, however they proved to not be as effective as he had hoped for. Not the type to give in so easily, Dominik ordered Leilani to begin charging a solarbeam, the light filtering in through the gym’s windows weak yet still sufficient for the attack. Gengar tried to avoid it, however was ultimately unsuccessful, the solarbeam managing to hit its target and doing a good amount of damage; more than psychic attacks had done.

The fierce battle continued on, Morty undeterred by the powerful attack. He knew that Gengar couldn’t take many more direct hits from it, so when Dominik next ordered Leilani to begin charging, Morty quickly commanded a hypnosis attack, putting the Exeggutor to sleep before it could cause any more damage. Further taking grasp of the opportunity, Morty called out for a dream eater attack, a beam of red energy connecting the two Pokémon as they each glowed, Leilani’s sleep becoming deeply disturbed as her health was drained and used to heal her enemy.

Much more descriptive and in-depth, however due to the simple way it glazes over dialogue it doesn’t make it seem as important as what surrounds it.

Aren’t psychic attacks super effective against the Ghastly line due to them being half poison, though...?


When I read fanfics, I skim over the battle scenes until I find out who wins (sorry, writers! ^^’).
Wha, what?! You mean you skimmed over the Zethro/Jehiel, Zethro/Fury, Zethro&Matariel/Mightyena&Grovyle, and Zethro/Pikachu battles (you know, I really do use Zethro too much...)?! How could you! I thought you were an avid reader! I feel so...betrayed now! ;_;

*Goes off to sulk in a corner*

Venastois
22nd October 2006, 8:09 PM
*goes over to shrike and hands him his kudamon plushie and some cookies and milk.*

it's fine, i just got hooked on Bleach (manga, not the starch) again after a long time... so no worries.

anyway, i have to agree that you seem to be glazing over some of the battle scenes, but considering it is the Kanto champion vs. the fourth gymleader, it's understandable this time.

however i was wondering for a long time, what were his other pokemon? (Dominik) i know it's not important, but i've been racking my brains for an answer, (in between reading bleach) and realized there are too many possibilities.

i think randomly about some of these things. -_-

Pikki Zuka
24th October 2006, 5:26 AM
GAH!

*Comes running into the topic and crashes into the wall, collapsing to the floor, twitching.*

Sorry sorry sorry ;_; I don’t mean for this to happen, really, I don’t! It’s not my fault, I’m telling you!
Oh, there you are. XD


Oh, and thanks to the opening part of this chapter, I’ve managed to figure out how to start chapter 18 of TFC...
Woo, I feel important! :D


As Blackemerald mentioned, your battles aren’t all that great. And, as you mentioned, your excuse isn’t really a valid excuse... Quite frankly, and to put it bluntly, the battle between Dominik and Morty sucked (description-wise). I know you didn’t want to make it seem like too big of a focus, however, instead of saying “Leilani’s solarbeam attack did more damage to it than her psychic-type moves, but she was bested when the gengar put her to sleep using hypnosis, then launched its dream eater attack” you could have done something like:
Ehehehe. I'll do better, I promise! *bows energetically*


Aren’t psychic attacks super effective against the Ghastly line due to them being half poison, though...?
Um... >_>


Wha, what?! You mean you skimmed over the Zethro/Jehiel, Zethro/Fury, Zethro&Matariel/Mightyena&Grovyle, and Zethro/Pikachu battles (you know, I really do use Zethro too much...)?! How could you! I thought you were an avid reader! I feel so...betrayed now! ;_;

*Goes off to sulk in a corner*
Oh, no, not in your fics! You're the best writer... um... of all time... and I... oh, this'll get me nowhere. *tosses Shrike a Kudamon*


however i was wondering for a long time, what were his other pokemon? (Dominik) i know it's not important, but i've been racking my brains for an answer, (in between reading bleach) and realized there are too many possibilities.
I never decided on the previous five, since they're not in the story. ^^;; They made a balanced team, though, so there were different types, and probably more than one combination type. I should have a contest like "pick Dominik's winning Indigo League team." XD

Pikki Zuka
24th October 2006, 5:38 AM
Time for chapter 12? Yes.

This finally catches us up to "real time" -- this is the chapter I just finished. Further ones will be posted about once a month, as time permits. But before the next chapter begins, I'll be taking a break to concentrate on school stuff and to revise my story outline. Look for 13 in December or January.


----



Chapter 12 - Magnetism (Part Three)


Upon finishing a chapter of J.R.R. Torkoal’s novel, Dominik paused and gazed up at the ancient stone structure that served as a monument for Raikou, the pokemon god of thunder. The young psychic sighed; much had happened today, and it was only afternoon. Though sitting with his back against a tree trunk wasn’t the most comfortable position, he felt he could fall asleep right there. He began reading again, but the words blurred together, no longer making sense.

He awoke vaguely to the feeling of something lightly prodding his leg. A wet nose brushing against his fingers brought him to his senses. A pikachu sniffed his hand and book, eyes sparkling with curiosity. Dominik petted her head, and he realized that her owner, the taciturn Amara, stood over him. A small bundle of fish, most likely dinner, dangled from the line in her hand.

“How long was I asleep?” Dominik mumbled.

“Maybe an hour. It’s not time to eat yet. This will take awhile to prepare.”

In his fervor to appoint himself guard at Amara’s treehouse, Dominik forgot that his stay, no matter how long, would include mealtimes. As if she had just picked up on his worry, Amara said, “There’s plenty for you, too.”

“Really? I don’t want to impose...” Dominik felt guiltier by the second.

“Tenrai insisted on your hospitality.” She nodded to her jolteon, who lay curled up with Dominik’s Neriah, napping.

A rush of overprotectiveness seized him. “She’s too young to get involved like that,” he muttered.

Amara blinked, and for the briefest of moments, she seemed amused.

While she cleaned and skinned her catches, Dominik helped by getting a fire ready in the designated area, a small stone-lined pit a few feet away from the treehouse. He recalled techniques he had seen on television, and tried rubbing sticks together, then striking rocks. Neither produced any flame. He felt foolish as Amara took the rocks from him and cracked them together, expertly producing a spark which seemed to jump right into the pit. In no time, a fire blazed.

“How did you learn all these survival skills?” Dominik asked. “I mean, did you always know about this stuff, or did someone teach you?”

“I taught myself, mostly. Morty helped me out a little, too.” Amara held an old cast-iron skillet over the fire, cooking the fish.

“So you’re friends with him?”

“You could say that, I suppose.”

“He told me you came here a few years ago... but that’s all,” Dominik added hastily.

She didn't respond to that, concentrating instead on cooking. Dominik found it odd that Amara and Eusine, who hated each other, were both friends with the gym leader. Was it some kind of love triangle? That idea made Dominik uneasy somehow, and he told himself that it couldn’t be right.

They ate in silence, except to talk to their pokemon as they shared bites. Leilani found her own dinner, but Neriah devoured the fish. “She’ll be spoiled,” Dominik said. “Pokemon food won’t taste the same now.”

Obviously we should just stay here, the espeon suggested.

Dominik wished they could remain in the forest paradise. “You’re lucky,” he remarked to Amara. “To live here, with just your pokemon and your instincts. I’ve been traveling and collecting badges for a year, and I don’t know very many camping skills. I stay at pokemon centers. I don’t even own a sleeping bag... the closest thing I’ve got is a water bottle.”

“Hmph.” Amara made a dismissive sound. “Maybe you’re the one who is lucky.” Then she rose and started cleaning up the area, leaving Dominik to wonder what she meant.

He kicked some dirt into the fire pit, muffling the flames – at least he knew how to extinguish a fire. But when he turned around to ask Amara what else he could do, he saw that she had vanished. Sighing, he returned to his spot by the tree trunk. A quiet evening of revisiting Torkoal’s land awaited him, at least, until it grew dark. Reading for hours by pocket flashlight didn’t sound very entertaining.

Leilani, refreshed from the afternoon’s sleep, volunteered to keep her mind’s eye open for Eusine. Maybe he was just talking big, Dominik speculated to her. Morty should have talked to him by now, and he’s probably calmed down. Plus, Amara doesn’t seem worried at all.

Still, past experience tells us that he will return to try for her badge, Leilani countered.

At which point she’ll thundershock him away. Dominik thunked his head against the tree’s rough bark. What am I doing here? She doesn’t need or want my help. I could head back to the pokemon center now, have a filling dinner and a comfortable bed...

And miss the chance to camp outside?

Even Amara has a shelter. Dominik peered up at the canopy above him. He still couldn’t detect her treehouse through the leaves. It’s not like I’m proving anything by camping out. The Indigo League Champion can do whatever he wants. In fact, I think I became Champion in the first place by getting plenty of rest and food indoors! Not like trainers who think they’re all macho by roughing it or something.

Leilani chuckled. You’re an elite trainer, all right, she told him wryly.

That’s right, I’ve got to get to Olivine in a few weeks and meet Lance again. Dominik’s thoughts wandered to the former champion and his offer to induct the psychic into his circle of elitists. That honor plus his championship title was sure to gain him all the recognition he would need for the rest of his youth. Not like his school in Saffron...

As twilight settled, Amara approached the treehouse with Kira, her pikachu, at her heels. She paused in front of where Dominik sat, looking down at him pointedly. He stared back, waiting.

“Come up to the treehouse,” she said. “The ground is too cold and hard for sleeping.”

So certain was he that she would tell him to leave, Dominik didn’t know how to respond at first. “Are you sure? I can go back to town if you really want me to.”

“It’ll be dark before you’re halfway through the woods,” Amara said in a matter-of-fact way. “So come on.” She grabbed the rope ladder that dangled nearby. Kira jumped up to her shoulders for a ride.

Dominik hurriedly grabbed his bag and slung it over his own shoulders. Coming? he asked Neriah.

I think we’ll stay here, the espeon replied, speaking for herself and for Tenrai. We can both watch for intruders with Leilani.

Dominik watched as Amara deftly climbed upwards, disappearing into the foliage. Having never scaled a swinging ladder (or a proper stationary one, at that), Dominik gripped it tightly and stepped up cautiously, both feet resting on the first rung. His stomach churned as the ladder swung gently. Knowing he was only inches away from the ground didn’t calm the sensation.

It’s safe, he told himself. Amara does it every day, and she has to balance Kira, apparently. Repeating this, he climbed up slowly, pausing as each step created another swinging motion. Several minutes passed before he reached the thick leaves, and he became even more nervous as they obscured his sight. He concentrated on the rope between his hands, lifting one foot after the other excruciatingly slow.

At last, coming out of the foliage, Dominik saw the treehouse, which exceeded his expectations. Made entirely of wood, a wide circular deck supported by slanting stilts, provided a flat surface on which the solid shelter rested. It had a sturdy roof, a curtained-off door, and a few round windows. Dominik gaped at this tall, neatly-constructed building as he held onto the gently-swinging ladder.

“Oh,” he said as he noticed Amara standing by the door, waiting. He swung himself awkwardly onto the deck, flailing for balance as he stepped away from the edge. Being so high from the ground made him very anxious.

Amara pointed out to the distance. “Look there, you’ll feel better,” she said. The young psychic turned around and gasped – the treehouse was so high up that he could see the sky with its brilliant sunset. Though many other tall trees surrounded them, the tops of others spread out below like a rich green carpet, as far as the eye could see.

“It’s beautiful,” Dominik whispered. He wished that Leilani could see, but he didn’t think the platform would support a 260-pound exeggutor along with the two humans. He turned to examine the height of the treehouse, and met Amara’s eyes.

She smiled a little. “Yes, it is,” she agreed, gazing up at the sunset.

Dominik smiled back. It was the first time he had seen her look at all happy, and he was glad for it.

He followed her inside, studying every bit of the interior, where she lived. An old rug covered most of the floor, and the square room lacked any furnishings save for a wall of shelves on which rested Amara’s few possessions – some folded-up clothes, extra blankets, baskets, bottles, and boxes. A hammock was suspended in a corner for her bed. The windows had little curtains of their own, though not as heavy as the one guarding the door.

“You didn’t... build this yourself, did you?” Dominik asked incredulously.

“No.” Amara handed him a stack of blankets. “There are treehouses like this all over. There’s even a village in another part of the forest. Luckily, I found this one isolated here. It’s likely that its last inhabitant looked after Raikou’s shrine.”

Dominik spread out a couple of blankets to cushion the wooden floor. “Have you always felt close to Raikou?”

Amara intently watched him make up his bed, the blankets unfurling widely. As they settled, Kira jumped on them, claiming a spot. “I suppose so. I’ve loved storms since I was very little. I didn’t plan to live at one of his shrines, but when I found this place, I knew it would be my home.”

“Plus, you have electric pokemon,” Dominik pointed out, smiling at the pikachu. “It seems like lightning is your element.”

Amara gave him a curious look. “Yes, I suppose so.”

He sat down on the blankets and pulled off his tennis shoes, wiggling his toes inside white socks. “Were you always wandering? Didn’t you have a home before you came here?”

She glanced to one side uncomfortably. “I didn’t mean to– forget I said anything!” Dominik cried.

“I had a bad experience,” Amara said quietly. “So I left with Kira and Tenrai.”

“I’m sorry. I don’t mean to ask so many questions, but...” To say “I want to know all about you” was very difficult. After all, she had her secrets barricaded. She wouldn’t release them so freely.

“It’s all right.” She sat on her hammock, rocking gently as she unlaced her black boots and kicked them off. “I get up at sunrise or a little after, but if you’re used to sleeping later than that, you can. I’ll be rounding up breakfast.”

Dominik nodded, but soon froze as his stomach gave a loud rumble. “Can we skip ahead to breakfast now?”

Amara giggled softly. “Sorry about the small dinner.” She walked over to a tall shelf along the back wall and retrieved a basket full to the brim with wild berries. “It’s all I’ve got here. We’ll have a big breakfast tomorrow, I promise.”

“I’ve got a few snacks, too. But these should be enough.” Dominik devoured a handful of the sweet red berries. “Thanks.”

“You’re welcome.”

Dominik smiled at Amara as she returned to her hammock, but he couldn’t see her very well in the now-dark treehouse. “What do you do for light?” he asked, unable to recall if he’d seen any lanterns.

“Kira,” Amara said to her pikachu. She knew what to do on command: her body glowed, and a circle of light grew around her, illuminating the treehouse as if a lamp had just been turned on. Kira squeaked proudly at Dominik.

“I should have known.” He petted her and fed her a berry. “Um... if it’s all right with you, I’ll read for a bit by flashlight,” he said to Amara. “Under the blanket, even. It’s small, not like Kira’s flash.”

“That won’t bother me.” She stretched out in her hammock. “Sleep well, when you do.”

“You too.” Dominik pulled his book and his travel-sized flashlight out of his bag while Kira’s flash remained in effect. She circled in place on his makeshift bed until she settled down for sleep. Dominik lay on his back, using his bag for a pillow. He stared at the ceiling, visible since his eyes had adjusted to the dark, and it was a long time before he turned on his flashlight to read.


* * * *

He awoke well past sunrise, grateful to have finally fallen asleep after what seemed like hours. I definitely miss the beds at the pokecenters, he thought wearily, yawning wide. He changed his mind, however, when he saw Amara sitting up in her hammock, flipping slowly through his J.R.R. Torkoal book with a pensive expression.

“Have you read it?” he asked.

“My two friends from school did,” she answered quietly. “Committed parts to memory, even. But every time I tried, it didn’t make sense. I never knew what was going on.”

“Torkoal’s pretty vague in places. And he likes long descriptions. So a three-page paragraph describing the same vague thing is pretty complicated.” Dominik chuckled. “That’s why you have to read it several times. I still learn things when I do.”

“I figured I was just stupid.” Amara smirked in a self-deprecating way.

“Oh, no, I don’t think so,” Dominik said. “It takes someone really resourceful to live in the woods like you do, and for so long. Look at me – I can’t stop complaining about missing the pokemon center. Just ask Leilani.”

Amara handed the book back to him. “Well, I was the worst student in the eighth grade. You can ask my old teachers. They reminded the rest of the class about me every day.”

Dominik raised a blond eyebrow. “What? They announced everyone’s grades in class or something?” he asked incredulously.

“Just mine. Everyone thought it was funny, the girl who hung around the two top students could be so far behind. If they couldn’t influence me, nothing could get through, right?”

Dominik frowned. “Sounds like the opposite of my school. I was one of the best students, but they wanted to dumb me down or something so I’d be more ‘equal’ to everyone else. I didn’t have any friends I could really talk to, but forcing me to socialize and play sports with dumb kids wasn’t the way to meet anyone I’d like.”

“Don’t feel obligated to stay here with me, now.”

Dominik looked up at her, horrified. “No, I didn’t mean it like that!”

Amara smiled a little. “I was kidding. Sorry, my sense of humor is kind of non-existent out here in the wilderness.”

He relaxed after that.

“So, did you drop out of school, too?” Amara asked. “You know all there is to know, so you’re honing your psychic abilities by training pokemon?”

“No... I don’t know.” Dominik brought his knees to his chest. “See, I found Leilani’s nest – from when she was an exeggcute – on the playground at recess one day. It had fallen out of a tree some kids had climbed. They pushed her out, she told me that later. I took her to the principal and demanded that they be punished, but she said she couldn’t punish kids for playing at recess like they’re supposed to.”

Amara listened, her golden eyes wide with shock.

“Instead, the principal told me that since I cared so much about pokemon, that I should go on a trainer’s journey. I knew it was to get me out of the class since I didn’t want to ‘play along’ with everyone else, but that suited me just fine. So, during what would have been my last year of middle school, I enrolled in the Indigo League challenge. I collected a team of six, got all the Indigo gym badges, and won the championship this past spring. That and my grades earned me enough credit to graduate middle school.”

“Indigo League Champion, huh?” Amara asked. She sounded amused, most likely because of the offhand manner in which Dominik mentioned it.

He nodded. “After that, a former champion, Lance, sought me out. He asked what my plans are, and I told him I figured I should go on to high school. He seemed very against the idea, for all I complained about school before that – he thinks the same way I do about it, that it just feeds you pointless information. He suggested I take the Johto League challenge, and when I finish that, he’ll induct me into his elite group of trainers. People like me.”

“Elitists who look down on people like me.”

Dominik stared at her incredulously. “No, you're not someone to look down upon! You love and respect your pokemon, and you’re strong and independent! More so than anyone I’ve ever met!” He felt his face become very warm. “If anything, Lance should induct you, too. You might be the same as us – and you might have fallen behind so much at your school because it wasn’t truly challenging. I bet if they’d had a wilderness survival class, you would have been the best.”

“Some fancy title from a bunch of snobs isn’t going to matter to me,” said Amara. “I don’t live in a society where prestige counts. I don’t live in a society at all.”

Though her tone was neutral, her words hit Dominik hard. He never thought of himself as snobbish, just in search of like minds. Being better than the average public was all he had to define himself, as a student, a pokemon trainer, and a psychic. To hear Amara dismiss his promised utopia as “elitist” was a harsh blow to his pride.

“But if that will make you happy, then you should do it,” she added, smiling in her faint way. “Nothing matters if you’re not satisfied with your life.” She got out of the hammock and brought three baskets filled with berries and nuts, which had been sitting by the door, over to Dominik. “It doesn’t look like much, but it’s filling, trust me,” she said. “But if you really want to have a breakfast like you’re used to at the pokemon center, you can go. Stop by Morty’s on your way there – he’s probably talked some sense into Eusine by now, and you can see that he’s really not going to kill us.”

Dominik blinked as he remembered his conversation with Leilani the night before. Comprehension then dawned on him. “You knew he wouldn’t come! Yesterday, I was scared out of my mind for you, and you let me stay that way!”

Amara stared at their breakfast, not meeting his eyes. “I was flattered,” she said softly. “And I know Eusine wasn’t the real reason you came here.”

Dominik hunkered down, his head dropping below his shoulders, humiliated at the attention brought to his childlike affection. “You could’ve sent me back to town,” he mumbled.

“I know.”

So she felt sorry for him, he thought. He was a kid from the city in awe of the forest priestess, and she deigned to let him stay in her presence for a little while. But it didn’t seem in Amara’s nature to do something so cruel. Maybe...

“Well... thank you anyway,” he said. “I’m really happy to have stayed here. Especially after what happened the first time we met. It means a lot to me.”

“Me too. You’re welcome.”

Dominik knew. She wanted him to be there just as much as he did.

From the pocket of her heavy olive pants, Amara pulled out the mysterious badge and held it in her upward palm. “Would you like to take it with you?”

He looked from it to her, stunned. “Why?”

“I’m not keeping it from Eusine because I want it. It’s for his own good... and the good of the world. This badge in his hands would mean a disaster.”

“But... the things it can do! I know you can ‘see’ Kira and Tenrai the same way I saw Leilani and Neriah! You can’t give that up!” He paused as what she said sunk in. “What do you mean, a disaster?”

Amara sat down across from Dominik, laying the badge on the floor between them. “I can ‘see’ them the same way through deep meditation. I’ve had years of practice, and Morty’s guidance. The badge makes that spiritual contact much easier, but that’s not all it can do.” She looked up at him gravely. “If the bond between you and your pokemon is completely synchronized in the astral plane, your souls will merge. You would gain the potential to use her abilities in the physical world.”

“What?” Dominik whispered incredulously.

“If your emotions are heightened to the right level, that is. It’s extremely taxing on the mind to form such a bond. As a result, the things you feel the most are amplified to a overpowering level. Eusine’s crazed obsession with Suicune makes him dangerous enough as it is. Could you imagine what he would do if he could use his alakazam’s psychic powers?”

“Oh...” Dominik wondered who would make such a terrible device.

“Besides,” Amara went on, “this badge is the reason I left home. Carrying it with me is a constant reminder of what happened. I truly do not want it, but I could never just throw it away where anyone might find it.” She looked into his eyes intently. “I know I can trust you with it. You already possess your own power, and you can learn to meditate in order to speak with your pokemon. Once Eusine learns I don’t have it, he will leave me alone.”

Dominik shook his head in disbelief. “That won’t make him stop harassing you. He’s still jealous of your connection to Raikou.”

“There’s not much I can do about that.”

Dominik furrowed his brow in thought. “You can come with me.”

“What?” It was Amara’s turn to be stunned by his words.

“I know the forest and the shrine is your home, but you’d be away from him. You wouldn’t have to give me your badge... even if you don’t want it, I don’t feel right taking it from you.”

She shook her head. “I can’t... I never did well around people. I can’t leave the only place I feel at home.”

“It wouldn’t be so bad... if you stayed with me.”

He waited, silently pleading, hoping that she could somehow read his thoughts without contact, the way Leilani and now Neriah did. Amara wiped a tear from her cheek, frightened and touched at the same time. “Maybe,” she whispered.

Dominik grinned in spite of himself. Noticing, Amara smiled back, and he knew, just knew, that she was really saying, “Yes, it would mean the world to me to travel Johto with you.”


* * * *

Two more days passed, and Dominik remained in the forest, rising with Amara at dawn to gather the day’s food. He learned how to catch a fish, and even how to spark a fire on his own. She started reading Torkoal, since she planned to finish it on their journey together. She had even begun to pack together her belongings, slowly.

Dominik sat on the topmost step of the natural staircase, gazing peacefully at the surrounding forest. Leilani stood at his side, and Kira sat in his lap. I’m happy you’re happy, the exeggutor remarked.

The young psychic smiled anew, stroking Kira’s soft yellow fur. It might be silly of me to feel like this. She’s over five years older than I am. But... I can’t help it. Somehow, I understand everything about her, like we have the same mind. I’m drawn to her in a way I can’t fully explain.

The one thing he regretted was that he refrained from making any physical contact, lest she recoil from his telepathic intrusion again. However, there were numerous times when he wanted to hold her hand or touch her waist-length braid... but he was too cautious even to feel her hair; he might accidently brush her bare shoulder. Instead, he mulled over these brand new emotions, and realized that he was definitely maturing.

Maybe it’s because Neriah is changing, too, he mused. His espeon spent all her time with the much older Tenrai. Nothing had resulted of their new relationship, however, since she was still too young. But maybe her immature natural instincts were bringing out Dominik’s own?

It’s more than that, Leilani reassured him. If you two were just channeling Neriah and Tenrai’s affection, then Amara might want a little more from you than friendship.

He laughed in spite of his embarrassment. That’s true... good thing, then.

Leilani’s three heads grinned simultaneously, but soon quickly dropped to alert gazes. He is coming.

What? Dominik sprang to his feet, dropping Kira to the ground.

Morty is with him. I don’t think there is any danger.

Still, Dominik raced to the foot of Amara’s enormous tree. Kira was faster, however – she cried out loudly, and the rope ladder shook as Amara descended hastily.

“What is it?” she asked Dominik as she jumped to the ground.

“Morty and Eusine are coming.”

Amara frowned. For all her insistence that Eusine wasn’t too dangerous, that Morty had some amount of control over him, she looked troubled. She reached into her pocket and held her hand, closed around the badge, out to Dominik. “Take it.”

“What? You don’t think he’ll–”

She grabbed his hand and pressed the badge into it, closing his fingers over it. With practiced discipline, she spoke in his mind, carefully keeping out any stray feelings. Just in case.

She left and called for Tenrai and Neriah. Dominik quickly pocketed the silver token, awestruck at her sudden telepathy. She was frightened, and, more than that, she trusted him at last to protect her.

Couldn’t you just put him to sleep again? he asked Leilani.

I could. But if I understand what Amara told you of that badge, an attack from a human has a much more devastating effect on another human than if a pokemon were to attack a him.

What does it matter who puts him to sleep?

I think you must do more than that. The key to putting an end to Eusine is to understand his motives and reason with him, not pacify him temporarily.

Dominik shook his head. I tried that already, remember?

You must make him open his mind to you.

It dawned on him then.

Morty and Eusine reached the top of the stone staircase. “Dominik, you are here,” Morty said. “The nurse at the pokemon center asked me to look for you. You haven’t checked into your room in two days.”

“Sorry,” he said. “I kind of forgot about that...”

The gym leader smiled, then looked at Amara, who had come to Dominik’s side. “I also have something to tell you,” he said. “I’m escorting Eusine back to his home in Cerulean City. We’ve been talking, and we agreed that he should spend some time there.”

Behind him, the white-caped Eusine scowled. Morty glanced over his shoulder at him. “Don’t you have something to say?” he asked pointedly.

Eusine glared at the two. “I’ll go back once these two have learned their lesson!” He pushed Morty out of his way and lunged at Amara. She dodged him, and Morty grabbed his short cape, trying to restrain him. Eusine elbowed him sharply in the stomach, knocking the wind out of him. Morty collapsed, clutching his middle, and Eusine continued his advance on Amara, even as Kira and Tenrai stood before her, both charging the air around them with high voltage.

Dominik raced behind the stone shrine. “Guard me for just a bit, Raikou,” he whispered. Clutching the badge, he sent his thoughts urgently to Neriah. Please meet me. Hurry and guide me to the spiritual plane!

“Dominik,” Neriah spoke. He opened his eyes and saw her, a young girl with lavender skin and darker purple hair.

“I don’t know how... but you have to lend me your powers,” he gasped. “Amara said I have to use them!”

Neriah nodded, though she looked a little bewildered as well. “I suppose... it’s like this,” she said, stepping closer. She wrapped her arms around Dominik and slowly faded, disappearing into him. He clutched his chest, feeling her being inside his... and feeling the immense potential of her powers.

“Neriah,” he whispered. He knew, as she knew, that he had to return to his body.

Awakening in the physical world, he noticed the espeon’s body before his, lying still and breathing softly, as if sleeping. He looked down at his hand, and flexed his fingers, feeling Neriah’s sense of wonder at moving around in a human body. But there was no time for amazement. He sprinted towards Eusine, who held a struggling Amara at the edge of the topmost step, preparing to push her down the long, hard flight. “Eusine!” he shouted, narrowing his eyes. “Let her go.”

Speaking these words, he released the strong energy building up inside him. It set fire to his nerves, and he gasped as he fell to his knees, holding himself steady on the ground. Still, he focused his mind to meet Eusine’s in the astral plane. The forest around him shimmered in and out of his eyes’ vision as his will took over. Eusine would meet him. He would tell him all Dominik wished to know.

You... Eusine faintly sent.

Though half conscious of doing so, Dominik rose slowly and approached the man. He grabbed his arm, and placed his other hand on the side of Eusine’s head, touching his skin. Tell me, he commanded with all the force of Neriah’s hypnosis.

Eusine trembled, which was all he could do. Everything within his mind became Dominik’s to explore. A boy in high school, he performed magic tricks in Cerulean City with an alakazam as his stage partner. It was the only thing he could do well, and the only way to earn an honest living, especially with the dishonest and unscrupulous things he did on the side. From various people, he heard an old legend about a pokemon god who lived as the north wind, and purified the water, along with, possibly, the souls of the cursed. He longed for the blessing of Suicune after that, so much that he traveled to Ecruteak City and seduced the gym leader, the closest follower of the legend, into helping him...

What else was I supposed to do?! Eusine asked consciously, in desperation. No one deserves Suicune more than I do! No one else has worked so hard to find him!

Dominik ignored this argument and continued to plunge deeper into the man's memories. While looking for Suicune's shrine in the forest, he witnessed, from afar, the thunder god Raikou in communion with the pitiful teenage runaway. She was the girl Morty had helped, a refugee from a small Kanto town. Eusine loathed her from that moment on – how did this filthy child, this lowly female from a rotten swamp, merit the attention of a god?

Stop! Eusine begged. Now that his feelings were being ripped from his mind, he felt uncertain about them. Privately, his arrogance kept him going and gave him a sense of purpose, but now that someone else knew this, it felt shameful and wrong. Eusine's inner sanctuary was no longer his own, now that he had been invaded by such a powerful presence. Please stop! he pleaded continually.

I will, Dominik told him. And you will go back to your home and forget about Suicune. Even if you find him, he could never purify you. Go, and change your ways on your own. With that, he released Eusine and stumbled backwards, rasping.

“Dominik...” Morty whispered.

Neriah, is it done? It’s too much... I feel... too much...

Through tears of rage, Eusine grabbed Amara again and thrust her at Dominik. “Take her, then!” he shouted. “I never want to see this place again!”

She could not stop herself in time, and he lacked the physical ability to move out of the way. Amara collapsed on top of him, and the combined energy of Neriah and Dominik both raged inside the trifling body of a thirteen-year-old boy. In the instant they touched, he shattered her strong blockade as if it were made of thin glass.

A teacher announced to the class that a fourteen-year-old student should return to preschool and learn how to read. Elsewhere, her only friends were highly praised for their respective brilliance and family achievements. A future genius and a future pokemon master, two things she could never become, thanks to her many misfortunes.

At home, there were many guns, and constant talk of shooting the wild pikachu that kept eating vegetables from the garden. When she fed the creature herself, she was reprimanded severely. Though she thought they secretly pitied her, she begged her friends for help anyway, since she no longer had any pride. He gave her a badge, a secret collaborative project. He was going to teach her how to use it, but he couldn’t foresee what it would do to his mind...

The power he touched was that of darkness, of causing fear, if not death. He lost control of it, and the visions that awoke in her innocent mind were too forceful to stop. Her two friends left her alone to die. Her pikachu lay bleeding from repeated gunshots. Classmates, teachers, and family surrounded her and pointed, chanting a name over and over, the name she was given at birth from one who never wanted her...

In an instant, the visions were severed from Dominik’s mind. Morty had pulled Amara away from him and wrenched the badge out of the psychic’s clutched hand. He felt Neriah’s spirit leave him, and the surrounding forest returned to his sight vividly as his head cleared. But the horrified faces of Morty and, worse, Amara, gave him a sickly, heart-wrenching feeling. Tears streamed down Amara’s face as she pushed Morty aside and fled beyond her tree into the woods.

“Amara!” Dominik cried, scrambling to his feet to pursue her. A bolt of lightning struck just inches away from him. Tenrai leapt in front of him, growling. He was about to ignore the jolteon’s warning and chase after her, but Morty clutched his arm. Let her go. You’d do worse to follow.

No! I can’t! I have to find her! Dominik pulled away from the gym leader, but Tenrai barked, launching another thunderbolt at Dominik’s feet. Helplessly, he stared in the direction Amara had fled. His eyes stung.

“I’ll take you back to the pokemon center,” Morty said gently. “I know you don’t want to leave her alone, but that’s what she needs right now. Her pokemon will console her.”

“I won’t!” Dominik yelled. “I promised! I’ll never leave her!”

“Just for now,” Morty insisted.

Dominik stared at the patient gym leader, and his tears spilled out freely. He had broken through her walled-up memories, those which she had worked so hard to forget. He’d wanted to know all about her past, but not this way. Now he was no better than the childhood friend she once trusted, the boy who had lost control of his powers and attacked her mind.

He made the badge. He gave it to her. His sharp features and the shade of his hair were etched in Dominik’s memory forever. If he ever met this boy, who would now be nineteen or twenty, he would make him pay.


* * * *

She wasn’t in the treehouse when Dominik returned for his bag. He waited at the foot of the giant tree during the daylight, and at dusk, he had no choice but to return to town. The next day, Kira waited there, and he knew that Amara couldn’t have run away forever. Neriah sought out Tenrai, and he reported, through the espeon, that Amara would definitely not be traveling with Dominik. He was disappointed beyond measure, but he knew there would be no convincing her otherwise.

Back at the pokemon center, he checked the date on his pokedex calender. Tomorrow would be July first. There was still plenty of time to get to Olivine before the twentieth, when he would meet Lance, but Dominik felt that the longer he lingered in the forest, the more Amara would stay hidden. Morty might check on her after he returned from taking Eusine to Cerulean, and Dominik could contact him then. He debated staying in the city until then, if not for Lance. If he did nothing else in Johto, Dominik wanted to meet Lance one last time and decline his offer. He had no use for an elite title; not if it meant the slight possibility that he would become as hateful as Eusine.

The next day, the first of July, he returned to Raikou’s shrine one last time. In the offering space on the stone structure, he placed his J.R.R. Torkoal book, which contained a letter, folded up and sticking out of the pages. He pressed his hands together and bowed his head, closing his eyes for a moment. Then he descended the ancient staircase and left the forest with Leilani and a reluctant Neriah.

Amara,

You gave me your badge, and I wanted to give you something in return. I know you’ll enjoy this book. It’s my favorite, especially the part where the heroes meet the powerful and beautiful queen of the forest. As for me, perhaps I’ll find a volcano (you’ll see when you read).

This might be a poor way to explain how I feel, but if I saw you again, I wouldn’t be able to say it properly. I don’t know if you even want to see me. But I couldn’t leave without putting it somewhere, so even if you never read this, at least it exists.

Though I regret the invasion, I saw so much of your mind that it has changed me forever. I feel that now you are a part of me. What I regret almost as much as the act is that I couldn’t give you any of my memories in return. I wanted to create new ones for you, happier memories to replace so many sad ones. Maybe I still can, if there is any future for us at all.

I plan to practice meditating, so I can “see” Leilani and Neriah. I swear I’ll never use the badge. Likewise, I doubt I will ever use telepathy again, either. It came to me suddenly only a few years ago, so maybe it will disappear just as quickly. I would gladly sacrifice my so-called talent, as well as all that makes me “gifted,” if you would forgive me.

Please take care of yourself. I shall pray to Raikou every day to watch over you.

Love,
Dominik


End of Part One: Summer

----

Author’s Notes: I don’t think there’s anything to say. See you in Part Two.



PS: I made some profile pics! I've been waiting to finish them before posting this chapter here. [/URL][URL="http://destiny-bond.livejournal.com/4364.html#cutid1"]Click here (http://destiny-bond.livejournal.com/4364.html#cutid1).

Blackjack Gabbiani
24th October 2006, 7:48 AM
Very good. I love the description of how the badges work. Will they be elaborated on later?

blackemerald
24th October 2006, 12:33 PM
Mistakes:


Everyone thought it was funny; the girl who hung around the two top students


As a result, the things you feel the most are amplified to an overpowering level.


an attack from a human has a much more devastating effect on another human than if a pokemon were to attack a him.

Take out the a.


Eusine loathed her from that moment on – how did this filthy child, this lowly female from a rotten swamp; merit the attention of a god?

Out of intrest, do you only capitalize legendary pokemon names and just leave ordinary ones as they are like so:


He longed for the blessing of Suicune after that, so much that he traveled to Ecruteak City and seduced the gym leader, the closest follower of the legend, into helping him...

and here:


While looking for Suicune's shrine in the forest, he witnessed, from afar, the thunder god Raikou in communion with the pitiful teenage runaway.

Yet in this bit:


A boy in high school, he performed magic tricks in Cerulean City with an alakazam as his stage partner.

and this one as well:


Tenrai leapt in front of him, growling. He was about to ignore the jolteon’s warning and chase after her, but Morty clutched his arm.

Their names arn't capitalized. Just seemed a little wierd.


Once again you continue with well written and developed characters, good description and supernatural powers. More character development for thr DominikxAmara ship here. I kinda feel sorry for him right now, bonding closer to her emotionly but unable to show her any physical affection for fear of breaking into her memories. Poor boy...

I've noticed that I could sum up the backstory of 90% of the main characters in the story in a few sentences: 'Character was young when he/she a a bad experience in his/her life/started to become isolated from people/dissagreed with thier parent's wishes and ran away to try and start a new life doing what they feel is right.' Maybe you could provide a more twisty bsckstory for your other element users.

It was interesting to see what was the driving force behind him wanting Suicune so badly. I could see how he would be jealous of Amara but I thought it wouldn't affect him that much since his mind consists of SuicuneomgSuicuneomgSuicunenowaiSuicuneSuicuneomgS uicune.

I loved the part about Amara's mind being invaded by Dominik. Not just because the description in it was subtle yet effective but because it also make you explode into plot-speculation mode:

Amara and Midiori grew up together and it was him who gave her the badge. The badge proved too strong for her at the time and influenced her mind, feeding cruel visions into her head that would happen in the near-future. shocked by this, she ran away and tried to start a new life, complete with a fake name. Now Dominik is going to go on a defeat the bag guy-get the girl mission after Midiori. Also, based on this (http://www.deviantart.com/deviation/12113110/?qo=29&q=by%3Adeepgreeneden&qh=sort%3Atime+-in%3Ascraps) And Amara's memories it might be possible that Midiori is in fact evil and is using the jade road badge to manipulate the element wielders for something much greater to take place. Or he could just be in league with Lance, using the badge holders to be leaders in a war to exterminate all 'tainted' humans from the earth. Good ol' special Lance :)

And on an ending note:


Dominik/Leilani FTW! The banner might be lying, you know! <_<

As proven in this chapter, NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF THE BANNER!

That is all.

~B.E

Pikki Zuka
27th October 2006, 6:35 AM
Very good. I love the description of how the badges work. Will they be elaborated on later?
But of course.


Out of intrest, do you only capitalize legendary pokemon names and just leave ordinary ones as they are like so:
There's a note about that in the first post -- I once read a rant about how pokemon species names are improper nouns, so they don't need capitalization, but their given names obviously do. Suicune, Raikou, and other legendaries are assumed to be the only ones of their kind, so their actual name is by what they're referred. I don't know if that makes sense... I'm tired. ^^


I've noticed that I could sum up the backstory of 90% of the main characters in the story in a few sentences: 'Character was young when he/she a a bad experience in his/her life/started to become isolated from people/dissagreed with thier parent's wishes and ran away to try and start a new life doing what they feel is right.' Maybe you could provide a more twisty bsckstory for your other element users.
Haha, that really nails the part one cast. XD The forthcoming characters aren't so... that way.


It was interesting to see what was the driving force behind him wanting Suicune so badly. I could see how he would be jealous of Amara but I thought it wouldn't affect him that much since his mind consists of SuicuneomgSuicuneomgSuicunenowaiSuicuneSuicuneomgS uicune.
*giggles*

Good speculation. We'll have to see~


As proven in this chapter, NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF THE BANNER!
IT SEES ALL AND KNOWS ALL.

Anyway, thanks for the replies! I need to go to bed -- going out of town tomorrow to celebrate Halloween with friends. In costume. That I made myself. *is insane* When I get back, I'll have to start reading more fics. :D

Blackjack Gabbiani
27th October 2006, 6:45 AM
Ooh, what's the costume?

Shrike Flamestar
30th October 2006, 1:56 AM
Shrike Flamestar reporting! *Snaps legs together and salutes* Fashionably late, as always! Now with 500% more quotes than ever before!


Oh, no, not in your fics! You're the best writer... um... of all time... and I... oh, this'll get me nowhere. *tosses Shrike a Kudamon*
What, but...how could yo—hey, a Kudamon! Aw, isn’t it just the cutest, most adorable, sexiest little monster you’ve ever seen!? <3

*Makes love to Kudamon in the middle of the topic.*


Look for 13 in December or January.
No! That’s too far away! ;_;


PS: I made some profile pics! I've been waiting to finish them before posting this chapter here.
Oh, sure, make four pics for your story, but you still haven’t finished one for mine. Hmph, and you call yourself a friend.

J/K :D Of course your story should get priority, you are the one who has to draw them, after all.

Um, question about the pics, though. Dominik’s shirt says “Indigo ‘72” Does that mean this takes place in 1972, 2072, or that he’s the 72nd champion? (I forgot if you ever said what number champion he is...)


Once again you continue with well written and developed characters, good description and supernatural powers.
Review stealer...


As proven in this chapter, NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF THE BANNER!
But a rift has developed between Amara and Dominik now! It’s the perfect chance for Leilani to sneak in and steal him away for herself!


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ (Yes, this post has so many quotes in it I feel the need to insert breaks <_<)


Now, um, onto the actual story itself... Still not without its share of typos, though.


but he was too cautious even to feel her hair; he might accidently brush her bare shoulder.
Accidentally


Back at the pokemon center, he checked the date on his pokedex calender.
Calendar


Now, onto my actual thoughts, but in short, I loved this chapter! :)

~~~~~

First, a ton of select quotes this time since I’m actually in a better mood for reading than I was the last few chapters, and this chapter just plain has more quotable things in it. :)


A rush of overprotectiveness seized him. “She’s too young to get involved like that,” he muttered.
There is no such thing as being too young for “that”! ;)


In fact, I think I became Champion in the first place by getting plenty of rest and food indoors! Not like trainers who think they’re all macho by roughing it or something.
Bah, you’re just a spoiled wimp <_<


I think we’ll stay here, the espeon replied, speaking for herself and for Tenrai. We can both watch for intruders with Leilani.
Oh, sure, that’s all they want to do down there, alright... ;)


Made entirely of wood, a wide circular deck supported by slanting stilts, provided a flat surface on which the solid shelter rested. It had a sturdy roof, a curtained-off door, and a few round windows. Dominik gaped at this tall, neatly-constructed building as he held onto the gently-swinging ladder.
I want to live in that treehouse...


But every time I tried, it didn’t make sense. I never knew what was going on.
Same thing with me when I first read Lord of the Rings...


“If the bond between you and your pokemon is completely synchronized in the astral plane, your souls will merge. You would gain the potential to use her abilities in the physical world.”
I KNEW IT! *Feels smart* Although I’d like to change “soul-bonding” to “biomerge” ;) *Has started watching Digimon Tamers*

(Biomerging is an evolution technique used in Tamers where the human tamer and their Digimon fuse together to create one stronger form)


She had even begun to pack together her belongings, slowly.
I thought she didn’t have that much stuff... Geeze, she must be even lazier than I am when it comes to packing for trips...


The one thing he regretted was that he refrained from making any physical contact, lest she recoil from his telepathic intrusion again. However, there were numerous times when he wanted to hold her hand or touch her waist-length braid...
Aw, how sad. :( I’m the same way at times, but for a different reason, of course...


If you two were just channeling Neriah and Tenrai’s affection, then Amara might want a little more from you than friendship.
That settles it! *Takes off after Tenrai and Neriah with a video camera.*

Must...refrain...from...posting...link...to...AGNP H... *Checks anyway* Not like there is much to link to for this particular pair... That site has no taste... And is too crooked, if you catch my drift.


“I suppose... it’s like this,” she said, stepping closer. She wrapped her arms around Dominik and slowly faded, disappearing into him. He clutched his chest, feeling her being inside his... and feeling the immense potential of her powers.
Bah, that’s not flashy enough. You need something like:

“Power of the Jade Road, emerge! Biomerge activate!” Dominik shouted, holding the badge up in the air before him. The green stone on it began glowing as light twirled down from the badge and around him and Neriah, whose eyes were closed as the spectral human form of her stepped lightly across the ground, spreading her arms wide and wrapping them around Dominik as she walked into him, the light from the badge flashing brilliantly before fading away, Neriah’s natural form lying sleeping on the ground before Dominik while he could feel her being and power inside him.

<_<


He gave her a badge, a secret collaborative project. He was going to teach her how to use it, but he couldn’t foresee what it would do to his mind...
Midori! So, Amara and Midori went to school together and were friends, huh?


He made the badge. He gave it to her. His sharp features and the shade of his hair were etched in Dominik’s memory forever. If he ever met this boy, who would now be nineteen or twenty, he would make him pay.
No! Don’t hurt ! ;_;

He had no use for an elite title; not if it meant the slight possibility that he would become as hateful as Eusine.
He’ll be even gladder if my suspicions about the elite four (grounded in your love for Pokémon Special...) turn out to be correct...


*Pants* Well, that’s all for quotes...

~~~~~

Now, some other random musings of mine! No review is complete without them!

As I said, I love this chapter! So much character development... I hate to say it, but yeah, the banner probably is right... :( Not much action until the end, but you’ve finally come and shown what kind of action you’re good at. You may not be so good at battles, but fast paced, frantic scenes like when Eusine/Midori (yeah, that’s right, I used a slash! Whatcha gonna do about it? Huh?) visit the treehouse and the whole biomerge and memory sequence. That part was very well written, but I do have to admit it got a little confusing in Amara’s memories when she got the badge. Did the stuff with her being left to die, a Pikachu dying from gunshots, and all those people chanting her real name actually happen or were they visions induced by [insert name from that spoiler up above here]’s darkness powers?

Other than that little confusion, I loved that scene and this whole chapter. Oh, and Eusine needs to die. Badly. But...

Maybe he’ll eventually join the elite four or whatever evil party is the main antagonist of this story... He certainly hates two of the main characters enough...

I feel so bad for Dominik and Amara... :( I would have just done a biomerge with [i]both Neriah and Leilani and overwhelmed Kira, Tenrai, and Morty and chased after her anyways, if I was Dominik <_<

You just love to push hints at us leading towards Neriah and Tenrai’s true relationship, don’t you? Maybe Dominik could, um, accidentally see what they do at night sometime, ya know <_< *Greedily claims the Tenrai/Neriah ship for himself*

Thus ends this uber long review... Grr... Chapter 13 is too far away... :(

Pikki Zuka
1st November 2006, 8:48 PM
Yay, I'm back! There's only a little over two weeks left for this quarter, and then I get six weeks off. I probably won't have to go to work very much, either (since it's work study), so I'll have lots of time to draw and read fanfics here. :D


Ooh, what's the costume?
Elaborate pirate getup. I'll get some pictures after I wash it. We were dumb and forgot our cameras.


Shrike Flamestar reporting! *Snaps legs together and salutes* Fashionably late, as always! Now with 500% more quotes than ever before!
That image reminds me of Lt. Yamamoto from Irresponsible Captain Tylor, one of my favorite old anime series... Run while you can. XD


What, but...how could yo—hey, a Kudamon! Aw, isn’t it just the cutest, most adorable, sexiest little monster you’ve ever seen!? <3

*Makes love to Kudamon in the middle of the topic.*
NOOOO *throws a blanket over them*


No! That’s too far away! ;_;
Good things are worth waiting for? There will be new characters! You might find out who Akiko is!


Oh, sure, make four pics for your story, but you still haven’t finished one for mine. Hmph, and you call yourself a friend.

J/K :D Of course your story should get priority, you are the one who has to draw them, after all.
Meep *^^* I'll make it up to you! Besides, you said the website wasn't taking much priority... but you could put them on DA.


Um, question about the pics, though. Dominik’s shirt says “Indigo ‘72” Does that mean this takes place in 1972, 2072, or that he’s the 72nd champion? (I forgot if you ever said what number champion he is...)
He's the 47th, I think. It's in chapter one. It's a "vintage" shirt, indicating 1972. The story takes place in the early 21st century, although this alternate world is more technologically advanced than ours.


There is no such thing as being too young for “that”! ;)
Amen. Er. I didn't say that.


Bah, you’re just a spoiled wimp <_<
Oooh, burn. XD


I want to live in that treehouse...
I do too! And I want a pikachu and an almost-14-year-old boyfriend... wait no.


I KNEW IT! *Feels smart* Although I’d like to change “soul-bonding” to “biomerge” ;) *Has started watching Digimon Tamers*

(Biomerging is an evolution technique used in Tamers where the human tamer and their Digimon fuse together to create one stronger form)
Aha. I've never watched any Digimon, but that's the jist of it.


I thought she didn’t have that much stuff... Geeze, she must be even lazier than I am when it comes to packing for trips...
Fortunately, she's modest, and didn't leave her you-know-what in a pile on her hammock. XD


Aw, how sad. :( I’m the same way at times, but for a different reason, of course...
Awww...


Must...refrain...from...posting...link...to...AGNP H... *Checks anyway* Not like there is much to link to for this particular pair... That site has no taste... And is too crooked, if you catch my drift.
Yes, I know. ^^


Bah, that’s not flashy enough. You need something like:
How about "Espeonzord, GO!!"


As I said, I love this chapter! So much character development... I hate to say it, but yeah, the banner probably is right... :( Not much action until the end, but you’ve finally come and shown what kind of action you’re good at. You may not be so good at battles, but fast paced, frantic scenes like when Eusine/Midori (yeah, that’s right, I used a slash! Whatcha gonna do about it? Huh?) visit the treehouse and the whole biomerge and memory sequence.
Yay, thank you! Even the fast-paced action was a little difficult... but I'm glad it came across well. Eusine/Midori, huh?

Technically, the scene in the banner doesn't even happen... so it could be a daydream... or is it a prediction? What will happen?!?


That part was very well written, but I do have to admit it got a little confusing in Amara’s memories when she got the badge. Did the stuff with her being left to die, a Pikachu dying from gunshots, and all those people chanting her real name actually happen or were they visions induced by ’s darkness powers?
*dodges around spoilers* Visions from darkness powers. But vivid enough to cause trauma and memory repression.


Other than that little confusion, I loved that scene and this whole chapter. Oh, and Eusine needs to die. Badly. But...
*reads spoiler tag* Hmm... maybe... not that I don't already have plans for him...


I feel so bad for Dominik and Amara... :( I would have just done a biomerge with [i]both Neriah and Leilani and overwhelmed Kira, Tenrai, and Morty and chased after her anyways, if I was Dominik <_<
I don't think it can work with two pokemon. Also, becoming uberpsychicman and forcibly chasing after Amara would have made the situation worse for both of them.


You just love to push hints at us leading towards Neriah and Tenrai’s true relationship, don’t you? Maybe Dominik could, um, accidentally see what they do at night sometime, ya know <_< *Greedily claims the Tenrai/Neriah ship for himself*
Haha, they're pretty blantant hints. If they ever reunite, Neriah will finally be old enough, and Dominik will "hear" her thoughts as she and Tenrai go spend some time together. He'll be all embarrassed for a week.

Also, you know, if he can send and receive thoughts through touch... imagine what happens when... yeah, I think about this stuff too much. XD;

Venastois
2nd November 2006, 6:36 AM
*thinks about what would happen later on.....*

AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

ITS TOO LATE FOR THAT STUFF!!!!!!!!! (i am seriously sleep deprived....)

*twitches*goodchapter*twitches*bleach*twitches*Ama ra*twitches*soul reaping*twitch*dominik/amara shipping*twitch*Isume shipping*twitch*

i need to stop reading....contrary to popular belief, it is very dangerous....*twitch*


my guess is that he ends up with a girafarig and something else. *thinks of what would beat steel and imagines Neriah and dig owning everyone.*

new contest? sounds fun... um, my guess would be....*if he likes to dodge and wait....* uh...

Pidgeot (doubleteamdoubleteamdoubleteam)
Butterfree (stunsporeposionpowdersleeppowder+whirlwind+ psychic)
Sandslash (digdigdigdigdigdigdigdigdigdigdig)
Lapras (confuseray+sing+ice+water)
Ninetales (confuseray+heatwave+wilowisp+quickattack)
Exeggutor"

never knew this was sooo much fun..... *bangs head on table to stop the rantings of Ichigo and Cron*
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

now that that's out of the way.... >_>

loved the chap, and i hope that Amara ends up going with them, and i hoped to sea the rest of the elite group, dang.

Pikki Zuka
6th November 2006, 7:09 PM
*twitches*goodchapter*twitches*bleach*twitches*Ama ra*twitches*soul reaping*twitch*dominik/amara shipping*twitch*Isume shipping*twitch*

i need to stop reading....contrary to popular belief, it is very dangerous....*twitch*
Stop reading Bleach? Yes. Kubo Tite makes more characters than I do, and that's a scary thought. XD


my guess is that he ends up with a girafarig and something else. *thinks of what would beat steel and imagines Neriah and dig owning everyone.*
Hmmm...


new contest? sounds fun... um, my guess would be....*if he likes to dodge and wait....* uh...

Pidgeot (doubleteamdoubleteamdoubleteam)
Butterfree (stunsporeposionpowdersleeppowder+whirlwind+ psychic)
Sandslash (digdigdigdigdigdigdigdigdigdigdig)
Lapras (confuseray+sing+ice+water)
Ninetales (confuseray+heatwave+wilowisp+quickattack)
Exeggutor
Heh, you're the only one who guessed. It's not much of a contest... I could see him with Pidgeot, Butterfree, and Sandslash -- they're pretty standard. His Kanto team definitely had well-rounded but typical pokemon.


Thanks for reading~ Stay tuned! ;103;

Venastois
6th November 2006, 7:30 PM
yeah, so does that mean i won????

YEEEES!!!!!!!!!!one11!!!one111

ok...... now that my add is taken care of.... -_-;

I don't think of Sandslash as a very typical pokemon, considering hardly anyone uses him, but it is prettyyyy basic.

Earlier in the epic you mentioned that Dominik wanted a different challenge, and that he liked dodging, so if he wants a challenge, is he going to change his battle style as well as his choice pokemon?

just a random thought: will Tracy get a new pokemon, or are you going to stick with the ones he caught during the anime?

i am thinking of writing a fic around johto and kanto as well, and it actually spurred from reading your fic, and the basic plot is in the sticky "fic ideas" or whatever its called, so could you take a look at it and tell me if it would be worth writing? (And if i ever actually get my head into it, and write our a prologue chapters, whatever... could you look at it and tell me how i'm doing?)

Pikki Zuka
8th November 2006, 4:06 AM
yeah, so does that mean i won????
Um... no. There wasn't really a contest. Besides, it honestly doesn't matter for the plot what Dominik's Kanto team was. We won't be seeing them again. ^^


Earlier in the epic you mentioned that Dominik wanted a different challenge, and that he liked dodging, so if he wants a challenge, is he going to change his battle style as well as his choice pokemon?
You'll see.

I'll tell you that if you're here to read about trainers collecting pokemon and badges, you're going to be disappointed. Dominik may not finish the Johto challenge -- that sure would be different than his experience in Kanto!


just a random thought: will Tracey get a new pokemon, or are you going to stick with the ones he caught during the anime?
Anime only. See above.

I looked at your post in the fic ideas thread, and I agree with what CrystalSaurTower says. It seems all over the place and a little implausible, but if you work at it more, it might come out all right. Also, I hope it isn't set in the Special manga universe, because that would make everyone out of character. ^^

Pikki Zuka
11th January 2007, 11:07 PM
Hi everyone! Miss me? I hope you're ready for some more, because Part Two is just about ready to begin. There are lots of things to prepare besides the chapter, though, so stay tuned for new art, icons, and updated character sprites.

In the meantime, here's an "extra" chapter that will hopefully tide you over. It doesn't really count as chapter 13 because it's a lot of fluff and cuteness and not a lot of plotfulness at all. So if you don't like that sort of thing, you can skip it and you won't miss much. But I sure enjoyed writing it. ^^


Our Own Endless Summer

Tracey knocked on Delia Ketchum's front door, and smiled at Noelle beside him. She smoothed her skirt, which had become rumpled while sitting in the car during the non-stop drive from Celadon, and returned his smile, though her face showed she was clearly nervous. "Don't worry," he assured her. "She'll like you."

"I don't know why I feel weird about meeting her," Noelle said. "It's not like I don't know how to introduce myself to new people. I'm aware of what to say and how to act."

"Have you ever stayed at anyone's house for a few months, though?" Tracey gazed up at Delia's cozy house, which looked even more inviting in the light of the setting sun. "You don't have to put on an act for her, Noelle. There's no need to impress her, so just be yourself. It worked for Audrey and me; we like you."

As Delia opened the door, she greeted them eagerly. "Tracey! Welcome back! Come in, come in... I'm so happy to meet you, Noelle!"

"It's nice to meet you too, Mrs. Ketchum." Noelle curtseyed gracefully. "Thank you very much for letting me stay here. I'll do anything I can to help out, I promise."

"Oh, you're sweet!" Delia exclaimed, clasping her hands together. "Tracey's brought home such a nice girl!"

He blushed, shifting Noelle's bag on his shoulder. "I'll go put this in the guest room," he offered.

"You go and see how you like it, and I'll fix us a snack," Delia said to Noelle.

"That's all right, you don't have to--"

"Oh, no, I'm sure you didn't have a filling dinner on the way down here. I insist!" The young mother gave Noelle a gentle push in Tracey's direction.

He chuckled as he watched her disappear into the kitchen. "I told you she likes to cook."

The guest room was small and simple, with a few boxes in one corner for storage. A twin-sized bed, made up neatly, took most of the space, being against the center of the back wall. "Wow," Noelle said quietly. "So here's where I'll be staying. It still feels too weird to be true."

"You sure you wouldn't rather stay at the lab?" Tracey suggested. "Though I warn you, Professor Oak sleepwalks sometimes. And forgets to put on a robe." He laughed as Noelle's eyes widened with horror.

"Can't you stay here too?" she asked. "At least for a couple of days? It'll be so awkward if it's just her and me."

"I--" Tracey felt the blush creep over his cheeks. There was a bed for two in the room, after all.

"I know you have to get up early and feed the pokemon at the lab, but..." Noelle played with the hem of her dress, looking guilty.

"We'll call Professor Oak and work something out," he promised. "Besides, I've been driving all day, so I need my rest. I can't get up at the crack of dawn tomorrow."

"That's right!" Noelle agreed, beaming.

Professor Oak approved of that plan (while smirking wickedly at Tracey over the video phone), and Delia made huge sandwiches with several layers, which she served with milk and a tray of cookies she'd baked earlier that day. Tracey and Noelle felt glad they'd eaten a light dinner, for this snack was as filling as a normal meal. They let their pokemon out for something to eat as well. Delia's Mimey joined Marill, Littlefrost, and Snowflake for some homemade biscuits prepared just for pokemon.

"So Professor Oak will finally give Littlefrost an examination tomorrow?" Noelle asked, recalling Tracey's original purpose in coming to Cerulean City -- to retrieve the seel from Audrey and take him to Pallet Town.

"Yes, and then Littlefrost can try out some of the ponds nearby," said Tracey. "All of the lab's water pokemon hang out there. Seel prefer freezing water, but they can get along fine in lake temperature. It'll be better than confining him to his ball."

"That'll be great!" Noelle gazed at her beloved seel, then turned back to Tracey. "Are the ponds for pokemon only? Is there anywhere we can go swimming?"

"It's a half-hour's drive to the beach," Delia told her. "Did you bring a swimsuit?"

"Of course! I love the beach!" Noelle grinned. "And now that we're back here, Tracey has no excuse for forgetting his swim trunks."

He sighed. "I told you, I don't own a pair. I outgrew my last one, and I never bothered to buy another."

"You'd better, or I'll find a pair for you." Noelle poked her finger in mid-air in his direction, semi-threateningly. "Then I'll have Mrs. Ketchum sew a waterproof marill tail on the backside."

Tracey sputtered and gaped at the suggestion. Delia giggled mirthfully. "I'm handy with a needle and thread when I need to be, Tracey. And I think it would look adorable." She and Noelle shrieked with laughter.

Later, they all got ready for bed, and Tracey stopped by the guest room to check on Noelle before heading to his own designated bed. She was sitting up against the headboard, blanket up to her chest, holding a book. She smiled at him when she saw him in the doorway.

"Are you all right in here? Can I get you anything?" he asked.

"I'm fine, thank you. How about you? Will you be okay in Ash's room?"

"Yeah. I hope he doesn't mind. I hope his bed is big enough, too. I mean, it was made for a ten-year-old."

"Uh oh... maybe we should trade?"

"You want to sleep in her son's bed?"

"Oh yeah. Never mind." Noelle giggled. "Well, if it's really uncomfortable there, you could move in here. You know, on the floor." She glanced ever so slightly at the ample space in her bed.

Tracey tried not to stare at the inviting scene. "I was kidding... his bed can't be that small, or he'd never grow into it. Never mind that he left home... anyway, I'll be fine."

"Well, if you're sure..."

"I wouldn't want to disturb you. I might talk in my sleep or something." The last thing he wanted was to reveal something embarrassing while he couldn't help it. "If you need anything during the night, don't hesitate to wake me up, okay? You know where Ash's room is."

"When you put it that way..." Noelle giggled again.

Tracey laughed in spite of himself. "Yes. Anything. Come and get me."

Noelle lobbed a pillow at him. He ducked and tossed it back, grinning. "Good night."

"'Night, Tracey." She waved at him.

He waved back and closed the door behind him. It was hard to believe that Noelle was actually in Pallet Town, let alone in the same house as he (true, they had both stayed with Erika, but she lived in a mansion, and with other friends in other rooms, it had felt more like sleeping at a hotel). Plus, there was that talk of sharing a room, even in the most innocent way. Tracey started imagining Noelle coming to his door in the middle of the night, asking him to stay up and talk, sitting together on the bed, and finally, when they would run out of idle things to say...

He woke up late in the morning, disoriented from being in unfamiliar surroundings. The mid-morning hour also confused him at first, as he wondered why no one had awakened him to feed the pokemon. He got up, hoping that Delia had made coffee. As his hand touched the doorknob, he realized that Noelle would be out there, and here he was, ready to saunter out wearing yesterday's t-shirt and his boxers. She'd already seen him in that state once before, thanks to his morning fogginess, so he was glad he'd caught himself before scaring her again. He pulled on his cargo shorts, but he had no more clean shirts among the clothes he'd packed. He'd have to shower and change at the lab.

Come to think of it, Noelle had only brought one suitcase. Surely she hadn't crammed her entire wardrobe into that single bag? Did she plan to buy more? How nice it must be to pick up new clothes as you travel... Tracey found himself daydreaming again, Noelle modeling different outfits for him, asking which one he liked best... It took much willpower to snap out of it and head for the kitchen.

"There he is!" Delia said as he entered. She stood over the stove with a spatula in her hand, supervising a skillet of pancakes. "Did you sleep well?"

"Yeah," he said, smiling at Noelle, who was next to Delia. She wore a silken dressing robe over her lacy pajamas, both of which were very pretty. Delia had on a fuzzy pink bathrobe. Tracey wished he didn't have to get fully dressed, but then again, that was his fault for sleeping in his underwear.

"I helped make breakfast!" Noelle told him enthusiastically. "I've never cooked before! It's really fascinating!"

"It smells good," he said. "Are you going to flip, too?"

"Oh, no, I don't want to break them or anything. But I added ingredients and mixed the batter! I never really thought about how eggs and flour and stuff have the ability to become pancakes, have you?" She beamed with pride, and Tracey couldn't help but grin at her sense of wonder.

"She just might become my culinary student," Delia said, pouring Tracey a cup of much-needed coffee. "My very own lab assistant!"

Tracey ate five of Noelle's pancakes, which were truly delicious (a given, since Delia had overseen their creation), and after breakfast, Noelle and Delia dressed, and the three of them drove to the lab, which was only part of Professor Oak's very large house on top of a tall hill. Although it was within walking distance, Tracey wanted to return the car.

The professor was ecstatic to meet Noelle in person at last. She handed him Littlefrost's luxury ball and Snowflake's plain pokeball, and he rushed them off to the laboratory to give them each full examinations. Tracey followed last, noting that Gary was nowhere in sight.

Professor Oak took Littlefrost's temperature and heart rate, checked his eyes and throat, and inspected every inch of his body, combing through his soft white fur. "My esteemed assistant here was right," he announced. "He's a perfectly healthy seel. This faint scar on his tailfin may have come from a wild pokemon's poison sting, but he dodged it very skillfully. It never pierced the fin, so it never got infected. He's a strong swimmer for his young age, and that's good news for the future."

"Oh... I didn't realize it was a poison sting," Tracey said, mortified. "I'm sorry, Noelle."

"It's okay," she assured him. "That's a good thing in the end. It did such little damage that even you couldn't tell."

Professor Oak nodded. "And you all did the right thing after discovering him on the beach. Audrey placed him in ice water to get his temperature down, and you calmed his nerves by caring for him, Noelle. Plus, giving him a luxury ball for a resting place made him feel even more relaxed. I'd say he's one spoiled pokemon now."

He checked over Snowflake next, and, as he guessed, the smoochum was also in perfect health, having been partially raised by an experienced breeder such as Suzie. Snowflake seemed happy with her diagnosis, as she kissed Professor Oak soundly on the cheek while he bent down for a face-to-face view. "Not everyone enjoys a trip to the doctor that much!" he chortled, patting her blonde head.

"That depends on the doctor." Delia giggled. Tracey glanced at Noelle, and both of them tried very hard to keep straight faces at the adults' not-so-subtle exchange.

Tracey slept at Delia's house for two more nights while Noelle familiarized herself with her new arrangements. She kept reassuring Tracey that she wasn't bored, as he seemed to think she would be in the "commoner neighborhood," as he called it. In fact, Noelle was endlessly fascinated by Professor Oak's place, especially as Tracey showed her all the pokemon that resided in the fields and in the ponds. Littlefrost and Marill went swimming together, and Snowflake trailed along beside Tracey's venonat.

The days passed, and the first morning of summer made its entrance. Noelle strolled leisurely along the lane, carrying a basket with both hands on its long handle. She gazed at the pale, clear sky and leafy country trees and smiled with absolute contentment. There were times when she felt absolutely terrible for lying to her parents about her whereabouts, but to able to experience the beautiful simplicity of Pallet Town, it was worth it.

Her smile faded somewhat as her mind turned to other matters. Sure, it was easy to feel happy in her wonderful surroundings with her first best friend, but the time would come when she would have to bid goodbye to Pallet Town, her pokemon, and Tracey. Was it really her fate to sacrifice everything she loved for her parents' plans? It had been easier to accept her future when she didn't know what she would be missing. Now, however, the prospect of passing on her family's good name and fortune, as was tradition, sickened her. What good was tradition if she couldn't be happy?

She sighed and wondered if her mother had gone through the same ordeal. Of course, Noelle didn't know anything about the woman's life before she married, not even her maiden name. However, she was obviously a woman of breeding, and she, like Noelle, had grown up knowing and accepting her fate.

Noelle knocked on Professor Oak's door, thinking of the irony that Tracey envied herlifestyle. He had a number of choices, and he was on his way to choosing a promising future starting with a college education. And, having no riches to his name, he could choose whether or not to marry and start a family. That last thought bothered Noelle, though she did not know exactly why.

When Tracey opened the door, she smiled automatically. "Good morning!" she greeted him.

He blinked. "What's wrong?"

Noelle's sunny smile dropped. Only Tracey had the ability to detect her real feelings, no matter how cheerful she looked. "I was just thinking... about when summer ends. That's all."

He gave her a sympathetic look and put his arm around her shoulders, inviting her to step inside. "I try not to. We have to enjoy it while we can, you know."

"I know." She smiled gratefully at him, noticing his damp hair -- he'd recently showered, which meant he had been up for a couple of hours. "Have you eaten breakfast? I brought homemade cinnamon rolls." She held up the basket.

"That sounds great." Tracey grinned widely. "Did you make them yourself?"

"Mostly. I got as far as rolling up the dough, and I sliced one, and it looked really funny. So Delia sliced the rest."

Tracey and Professor Oak praised the rolls highly, and even Gary, the professor's quiet grandson, smiled at Noelle and nodded his approval with his mouth full. He was a figure of some intrigue for Noelle. She hadn't forgotten Tracey's tale of how badly Gary had hurt him, but she did notice Gary speaking politely to Tracey on more than one occasion. He also diligently helped out Professor Oak, and he handled all the pokemon with practiced care and patience. It seemed to Noelle that he was in fact a very nice young man who had perhaps become overwhelmed by the incident with Tracey two years ago.

Noelle considered telling Tracey her thoughts, but she also noticed how he avoided Gary whenever possible, and how hard his eyes became whenever Gary did find a way to speak to him, even if it was to ask the most trivial question. Tracey would not easily change his bitter perception.

Over the next couple of weeks, Noelle forgot about the issue. She enjoyed watching and playing with the lab pokemon, especially around the ponds, where she watched over Littlefrost. It was on one such afternoon that she sat by herself in the grass beside the water's edge, reading peacefully as water pokemon splashed nearby and Snowflake dozed in her lap, that Gary approached her out of the blue.

"Hi, Noelle," he said simply, standing over her.

"Good afternoon, Gary," she told him politely, though his sudden appearance startled her. "Won't you have a seat?" She felt silly talking as if there were parlor chairs available.

He obeyed, resting in the grass only two feet away from her. "Tracey and Grandpa are busy, right?"

"Yes..." Noelle started to feel quite nervous, if Gary was confirming that they'd be left alone.

"Good. Can I ask you to do a favor for me?"

"O... okay." She faltered in her speech, which rarely happened.

Gary sighed, gazing at the pond for a moment. "Will you tell Tracey I'm sorry?"

Noelle's apprehension melted away. Was that what he wanted? Had she been right about him?

He mistook her stunned silence for confusion. "I'm sure you've noticed that he doesn't like me very much. We had kind of a misunderstanding a couple of years ago, and I acted like a jerk. I feel really bad about it, and I've been trying to make amends, but he doesn't want to hear of it."

As Noelle listened, she realized that Gary assumed she didn't know the whole story. She wasn't about to correct him, however.

"But he'll listen to you," he continued. "So I'm hoping that if you give him the message for me, he'll forgive me. We're going to be working together for awhile, so we might as well try to be friends. Will you do that for me?"

"Sure," Noelle said. "That's very kind of you."

"I changed my ways a lot. I did a lot of self-reflecting in Johto. It's a spiritual region, so it's a good place to find yourself."

Later that day, Noelle found Tracey in his room, and she told him what Gary had said. He stubbornly refused to believe that Gary was sincere, but Noelle asked him to reconsider. A couple of hours later, she happened to be coming around a corner when she saw Tracey and Gary standing there, conversing tentatively. She ducked back behind the corner and peeked around it, listening.

"I really just didn't know how to handle it," Gary said. "And I'd already registered for the Johto League, so that's why I left so suddenly."

Tracey had his arms crossed. "Well, there's nothing to be done about it now. It happened a long time ago, so let's just forget it. I'm sorry I ever spoke up first, even."

"The thing is, sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I hadn't taken off. Maybe... things would have turned out a lot differently."

Tracey gave Gary a scrutinizing look, then he smiled slowly and began to laugh. He lowered his head, and his dark hair covered his face. "Actually, I can't imagine that at all," he said between breaths. "What was I thinking?"

Gary's face was stunned, but he began to chuckle. "Yeah, it would be pretty ridiculous, wouldn't it?"

Tracey lifted his head again, grinning and nodding. "You think stupid things when you're fourteen, though."

"Oh, man. What would Grandpa say?"

They burst out laughing. Noelle smiled wide as she watched, holding her hand over her heart as a grateful feeling swept over her.

The tension around the lab vanished from then on. Gary became good friends with Tracey and Noelle both, and the three of them did lab chores together. Noelle didn't mind one bit helping out, especially now that Tracey seemed even happier. The long summer days were peaceful ones indeed.

The end of July brought the hottest temperatures yet. Noelle reluctantly kept Littlefrost in his luxury ball, fearing that the pond water would be too warm. The humans, however, didn't have pokeballs in which to escape the heat, and Noelle started to insist that they drive to the beach.

"Sure, you guys can, and I'll stay here and watch after the lab," Tracey told her as the two of them straightened up the dining room after dinner.

"I'm not going without you." Noelle pouted a bit. "Come on, Tracey, what have you got against it? If it's the crowd, we can go in the evening, or even early in the morning."

He carried a stack of plates to the kitchen sink and rinsed them off. "Well, what's got you so determined to drag me there, anyway?"

"Don't change the subject." Noelle attempted to tickle his sides, knowing full well that it wouldn't work. Tracey pretended to glare at her, then flicked water from his wet hands towards her, which made her shriek and giggle.

Neither of them mentioned swimming again over the next few days. When the heat finally relented, Tracey and Noelle visited downtown Pallet to run some errands. At one of the department stores, Tracey disappeared briefly, and when he tracked down Noelle again, he held up a pair of baggy nylon shorts. She stared at them, perplexed.

"I'll be wearing a shirt, too," Tracey said firmly. "You can't make me change my mind on that."

She clapped her hands and jumped up and down excitedly.

Professor Oak sent Gary along with them to the beach, declaring that all three kids had earned a day off. "Who does he think he's fooling?" Gary scoffed as they drove away. "He's taking the day off too."

"Well, he deserves to relax now and then, too," Noelle said.

"Somehow I doubt he's doing much relaxing." Gary shuddered.

Noelle blinked. Several seconds passed before she cried out, "Oh, my lord!"

"I told you about him and Delia, Noelle," said Tracey.

"Yeah, but I didn't think they... I mean, he's..."

"Except for his occasional lumbago, he's in great shape," Gary lamented, cringing.

Noelle covered her ears. "I don't want to hear any more, thank you!"

"Man, I hope when I'm sixty..." Tracey began loudly.

"LA LA LA LA!" Noelle chanted to drown him out.

True to his word, Tracey had a faded, light blue t-shirt to wear with his new swimming trunks, which were navy blue with a contrasting orange stripe on the outside of either leg. When Noelle came out of the changing room, she saw that Gary was dressed similarly, a white shirt with red trunks. Noelle glared at them with her hands on her hips. "This isn't fair! I want a shirt too!"

"And cover up all those nice ruffles?" Gary teased.

She glanced at the trim of her white one-piece bathing suit. "Well, it's not fair that you two get an eyeful, while I don't." She tossed her hair and walked past them. "Come on, let's go find a good spot to set up!"

Gary elbowed Tracey in the side. "Hear that? She wants an eyeful."

"So? You've got nothing to hide," Tracey said.

"I don't think she meant me."

Being a very hot afternoon, just about everyone in southwestern Kanto had decided to visit the beach. Tracey, Gary, and Noelle had a hard time staking out a place for themselves. The one they settled on was surrounded by several other groups. Noelle gave Tracey a concerned look as they each spread out their blankets, and he guessed why.

"It's fine," he told her. "The crowd doesn't really bother me. And we left our pokemon at home, so we don't have to worry about them getting lost."

"If you're sure..." she said.

"Yep. Come on, I'll even prove to you that I know how to swim."

Tracey had forgotten how much he did enjoy swimming once he got into the cool depths of the sea. Noelle had been right when she'd brought it up at the beach in Cerulean -- as an Orange Islands native, Tracey took to water naturally. He, Noelle, and Gary explored how deep each of them could dive. Noelle was particularly excited that she'd passed a school of goldeen, which proved just how far she'd swum away from the majority of the crowd. She was the true natural when it came to water.

They ate their picnic lunch and rested for awhile before heading back to sea, and somehow, a group of kids roped them into their beach volleyball tournament. The athletically uninclined Tracey had nothing to worry about, however, because everyone played pretty poorly, which caused much laughter. Even Gary, who gave any kind of competition his full effort, missed the ball more than he hit it, and he blamed the loose footing of the sand.

Everyone cooled off in the water after that, and a couple of kids from the volleyball team challenged Gary to a swimming race. "I'll show them this time!" he vowed to Noelle and Tracey, splashing away.

Tracey laughed. "He hasn't changed that much. Still can't pass up a competition."

"Want to watch from the beach?" Noelle suggested.

They sat at the water's edge, where they could see the racing swimmers as dots near the horizon. Many people were starting to leave as the dinner hour approached. "You didn't do too badly at volleyball," Noelle commented.

"Comparatively, I suppose not. At least I didn't duck from the ball."

Noelle swatted his shoulder. "Although, I think I figured it out."

"What's that?"

"Why you've been so reluctant," she said quietly, tugging on the wet sleeve of his shirt. "If you're self-conscious, you don't need to be."

Tracey stared off distantly, avoiding her eyes. She could read him all too well. "Well, um," he said, trying to deter the subject, "it's improper to be all half-naked in front of a lady. Yes."

Noelle giggled. "This is a public beach. I saw more than enough half-naked guys today."

"Yeah, but you don't know any of them. Gary and I are nice, we covered up for you. Spared your delicate eyes."

"Really? Because your wet t-shirt leaves nothing to the imagination."

Tracey looked down at his drenched shirt, defeated. She giggled again, softly.

"Sorry," he said seriously. "I just still kinda feel... well, I was a fat kid. Going pokemon watching and living off the land for so long fixed that, but I don't get that kind of exercise now. And I'm still growing, you know. Won't stop until I'm in my twenties."

"Aww, Tracey... you left home what, four or five years ago? You look fine now."

He blushed, feeling stupid. "I know, sort of... but I still feel that way. It's messed up."

Noelle squeezed his arm, sliding herself closer. "You feel all right, too."

Tracey's cheeks grew even more red. He glanced at her, but she was still staring at the ocean before them. "I'm glad you went swimming with me. You had fun, right?"

"Oh, yes. I should have joined you at Cerulean, too."

"You have the rest of the summer to make it up to me." She looked up at him, and he gazed at her lovely face. Without much effort, they drew closer, and Noelle's eyelids fluttered, as if she was anticipating...

"Hey guys, I won!" Gary suddenly called out, running towards them. Tracey and Noelle jumped, breaking apart. Gary grinned as his chest heaved, and his eyes were alight with the thrill of victory. "What?" he asked, seeing that he'd startled them. "What'd I miss?"

"It's getting close to dinnertime," Noelle spoke up. "We should go back, so I'm going to get changed." She hopped up and headed for the dressing room.

Tracey stood up too, brushing the sand from his backside. He turned to Gary and found the younger Oak grinning slyly. "Aha, I see."

"What?" Tracey sighed.

"I see what's going on," Gary drawled, obviously enjoying himself.

"Yeah, yeah." Tracey halfheartedly dismissed him, but he smiled wide, overjoyed.

Gary gathered up their towels and picnic basket. "I'll go put these in the car, and you can wait for Noelle."

He was being entirely too helpful, like Audrey had been in Cerulean. He could have been jealous, or was maybe trying to make himself look like the better friend by allowing Tracey to be alone with Noelle. Or maybe, a small voice in the very back of Tracey's mind argued, just maybe, Gary and Audrey wanted to help him be near the one person that made him truly happy. Could his friends really be that considerate of him? It astonished him to think that he'd never known such generous companions until now.

Noelle exited the changing area, brightening when she saw that Tracey had waited for her. "Ready to go?" she asked.

"Yeah. Gary's at the car already. Want to pick up dinner on the way home?"

"Sure, although I bet we have Delia's kitchen to ourselves tonight."

"Don't remind me!"

Noelle laughed. She took Tracey's hand as they walked to the car, and they paced themselves slowly.

Venastois
12th January 2007, 12:45 AM
nice chap, very fluffy. a one piece though? on a teenager? doubt it. but whatever, it was still a nice chapter.

and i'm glad your not dead! i was a little worried there. (well... not really, but you get the idea.)

and now that i read your responce, i feel a little stupid, but that goes away after a while.... (T_T) :)

all in all, nice chap.

edit: NEW LEVEL!

but yeah, i pretty much gave up on that idea, and started with something a little bit more focused, though all the detales are not completely together, and i hit a writer's block right now so that is on hiatus....

Blackjack Gabbiani
12th January 2007, 1:44 AM
I always wore one pieces, even when I was a teenager.

Nice chapter! The only quibble I have is that, really, a department store in Pallet? I know it's close to Viridian and all, but it's supposed to be a really tiny town.

Shrike Flamestar
16th January 2007, 3:43 AM
Oh? What’s this? Another chapter? That you claim is extra yet still adds to the story and is the same length of a normal chapter? Well, I suppose I can read it, if that’s what you really want...

But seriously; how is this an extra chapter? There’s plot advancement in it to the point where someone who skips it will probably be confused come the true chapter 13 (unless you recap everything), and it’s a normal length. Where the “extra” comes in, I have no idea... X_x

Instead of separating the typos from the comments as I usually do, this time I decided just to mix them all together into one big long wall of quote goodness, so here it all is!



"I--" Tracey felt the blush creep over his cheeks. There was a bed for two in the room, after all.
OBJECTION! The story had clearly just said that the bed was a twin bed, which is only a one person bed! (Confusing, I know) If it were a two person bed, it would have to be a full-sized bed!


"You want to sleep in her son's bed?"
He wants too? *Checks the shipping list* Could this be evidence of KenshiShipping?! :o


Tracey started imagining Noelle coming to his door in the middle of the night, asking him to stay up and talk, sitting together on the bed, and finally, when they would run out of idle things to say...
SEX! :D You’ve already hinted at Tenrai and Neriah doing it, so why not Tracey and Noelle already?!


Now, this is completely unrelated to this chapter, but while looking back at chapter 11 I saw this one line...

Neriah knows the jolteon’s scent.
Oh? What scent? She couldn’t possibly know the scent of his--*is mauled to death by a pack of rabid Mightyenas for no reason whatsoever*



"There he is!" Delia said as he entered. She stood over the stove with a spatula in her hand, supervising a skillet of pancakes.
For some reason, I expected her to leap at him and hit him with the spatula. No idea why I thought that, but it seemed fitting.


Snowflake seemed happy with her diagnosis, as she kissed Professor Oak soundly on the cheek while he bent down for a face-to-face view.
BWAHAHAHA! You know what this means! *Adds Professor Oak/Snowflake to the ever growing list of EW ships*


There were times when she felt absolutely terrible for lying to her parents about her whereabouts, but to be able to experience the beautiful simplicity of Pallet Town, it was worth it.
Typo spotted! Arm the anti-typo missiles; we take no prisoners today!


Noelle knocked on Professor Oak's door, thinking of the irony that Tracey envied her lifestyle.
Argh! The typos be persistent today!


"Somehow I doubt he's doing much relaxing." Gary shuddered.

Noelle blinked. Several seconds passed before she cried out, "Oh, my lord!"
Sometimes, I begin to wonder if I might not be the only pervert here, you know that? :D


"You have the rest of the summer to make it up to me." She looked up at him, and he gazed at her lovely face. Without much effort, they drew closer, and Noelle's eyelids fluttered, as if she was anticipating...
Do it, do it, do it!


"Hey guys, I won!" Gary suddenly called out, running towards them. Tracey and Noelle jumped, breaking apart. Gary grinned as his chest heaved, and his eyes were alight with the thrill of victory. "What?" he asked, seeing that he'd startled them. "What'd I miss?"
Grah! The curse of the clichés strikes every time!


So....yeah. Do you realize how tiring it gets trying to come up with different ways to say “Nice chapter! I enjoyed it! Keep on writing so that I don’t have to use this whip I’m holding here to ‘motivate’ you!” every chapter? Regardless, those words are exactly true here. :D

Oh, and it wasn’t that fluffy... It could have been though, if you had had Tracey and Noelle do something together... <_<

EDIT: And I know I'm four days late. I've been...er...busy. Yeah, busy. Replaying Deus Ex (for fun), and Mystery Dungeon (for reasons I will not go into here as it depresses me. The short of it is that I lost my old copy, and had to buy a new one), as well as regaining an interest in the Redwall books (due to stumbling upon some really good fanart) which has caused me to begin rereading the first book take time you know!

Pikki Zuka
16th January 2007, 6:21 AM
Ah, there's my long and amusing review from Mr. Flamestar. Now I can reply. XD


a one piece though? on a teenager? doubt it. but whatever, it was still a nice chapter.
I had no idea what you were talking about until I read Blackjack's reply. If you did mean her bathing suit, then no, not every teenage girl wears skimpy two-pieces, especially if they're as modest as Noelle (not that she wouldn't look smashing in one, but I don't want to make poor Tracey faint now XD).


The only quibble I have is that, really, a department store in Pallet? I know it's close to Viridian and all, but it's supposed to be a really tiny town.
Well, um... even tiny towns have Walmarts? Okay, that's not really a department store. Details, details! ^^


Oh? What’s this? Another chapter? That you claim is extra yet still adds to the story and is the same length of a normal chapter? Well, I suppose I can read it, if that’s what you really want...
The power of fluff compels you...


But seriously; how is this an extra chapter? There’s plot advancement in it to the point where someone who skips it will probably be confused come the true chapter 13 (unless you recap everything), and it’s a normal length. Where the “extra” comes in, I have no idea... X_x
Because:
1) it's not that plotful (having Gary and Tracey make up is nice, but not 100% essential to see in the works for EW's future)
2) Chapter 13, and most of Part Two, will step away from Tracey & Noelle to focus on other characters, but I meant it when I said I could write a dozen more chapters about those two
2.5) I plan to do a summary of Part One in the Chapter 13 post to refresh everyone's memory, since it jumped all over the place
3) labeling it as "mushy extra chapter!" sounded better in my head than "here's the next official chapter, try to ignore the romantic cliches"
4) I'm way too defensive. XD


OBJECTION! The story had clearly just said that the bed was a twin bed, which is only a one person bed! (Confusing, I know) If it were a two person bed, it would have to be a full-sized bed!
What's the one that's not quite queen-sized, but can still fit two people? Double? That's what I meant. I'm no expert on sharing beds. :P

Also, haha, OBJECTION! XD


He wants too? *Checks the shipping list* Could this be evidence of KenshiShipping?! :o
Nononono! It's the only available bed left!


SEX! :D You’ve already hinted at Tenrai and Neriah doing it, so why not Tracey and Noelle already?!
Neriah's still an kitten, even if she's evolved. She's not ready yet.

Noelle's still a kitten, too. a SEX KITTEN


For some reason, I expected her to leap at him and hit him with the spatula. No idea why I thought that, but it seemed fitting.
That would be pretty funny, actually.


BWAHAHAHA! You know what this means! *Adds Professor Oak/Snowflake to the ever growing list of EW ships*
*hits you with a spatula*

You know, if this fic was actually popular, you could start the "Incomplete List of EW Ships" thread, and people could submit all kinds of crazy crap.

Speaking of that, I'm all proud, I submitted a (crack) pairing in the shipper's forum here and named it and I think it went through to the BMGf list. Yay for me!


Sometimes, I begin to wonder if I might not be the only pervert here, you know that? :D
Well, duh. ;D


So....yeah. Do you realize how tiring it gets trying to come up with different ways to say “Nice chapter! I enjoyed it! Keep on writing so that I don’t have to use this whip I’m holding here to ‘motivate’ you!” every chapter? Regardless, those words are exactly true here. :D
.... Mheh heh. I need a lot of motivation. XD


Oh, and it wasn’t that fluffy... It could have been though, if you had had Tracey and Noelle do something together... <_<
Omake #2: Breakfast In Bed.

That sucks about losing Mystery Dungeon. But that's cool about Redwall. Those books always looked interesting, but I never checked any out.