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Thread: Ashes of Johto (Sacred Fire #1) [PG-13]

  1. #26
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    This gets better and better. It has a very good plot, and is written in a good descriptive way that draws you in and makes you want to know what will happen next.
    That's great, thanks a lot. =) It's interesting to me too!

    I <3's me a new twist
    Yeah, that was one of the big ones. But there are bigger ones to come, of course.

    I hadn't suspected him to be a member of an evil guild, and much less like it. Also, making him the son... You're very good
    Glad it was unexpected. It had been in the cards from the beginning, in one way or another.

    That's probably one of my favorite sentences of all time now
    lol, I'm glad you liked it. =)

    Chapter 6 is about half done. I need to revise a bit of the first part, then finishing writing the second, third and fourth parts. It's a long one. :P

  2. #27
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    Chapter 6
    Meet Ursaring

    The hour had grown late in James and Kim’s campsite, the sliver of a crescent moon providing the only illumination as the pair lay easily in their respective sleeping bags. Sometimes, Kim would thrash about in her sleep or mumble, once almost rolling into the dead embers of their fire.

    After one such episode, her eyes popped open, and she found herself staring at the cloudy crescent moon, shivering a little at the brisk air from the mountains. Something stirred next to her, and she came fully awoke, realizing with a start that they were not alone.

    The newcomer grunted and wuffled as it pawed through their packs, evidently looking for food. James’s clothes and personal effects were strewn across the ground, the dehydrated fruit and soup packs lay ignored nearby. Apparently frustrated by the lack of fresh meat, it turned to Kim, its hot, rancid breath washing over her face as it pawed at her sleeping bag. She lay dead still, afraid even to reach for her gun, lest she provoke a deadly attack.

    It continued to investigate the area around her sleeping bag for a terrifying minute and a half, though to Kim it might as well have been a hundred years. She could feel its heavy footfalls around her sleeping bag; and its shaggy fur against her neck. At one point, it even put its damp nose against her cheek, and Kim thought she would scream. Her nose itched from the thing’s dandruff, and she realized with rising horror that she was about to sneeze.

    It was coming though, she could feel the inexorable balloon swelling in her chest, and there was nothing that she could do about it. The sneeze rushed out of her nose with a muffled whump, her body shaking a little from a combination of the sneeze’s force and pure nerves. The intruder jerked away, then whapped her across the cheek with a heavy paw. Stars exploded into Kim’s vision, and she felt blood oozing down her cheek from its claws. Dazed, Kim was nevertheless able to struggle to her pack and yank out her revolver and her flashlight.

    She flicked on the flashlight, and her mouth dried out as she illuminated an Ursaring on its hind legs, its paws spread wide as it bared its teeth and roared. Kim fumbled with the safety of her gun as it fell back on all fours and advanced, ready to tear out her throat with one swipe of those deadly paws. It was actually over her, its cloying breath filling her nose and mouth, when Umbreon hit it with a stunning tackle attack.
    Kim quickly scrambled out of the way as the Ursaring grunted and fell on its side, claws windmilling in the air. Umbreon landed on all four feet, illuminated only by the glowing rings in its fur as it bared its teeth. James was standing nearby, still holding Umbreon’s Pokeball as he ordered another attack, “Confuse it with your agility Umbreon; don’t let it catch you!”

    The Ursaring spun away from Kim to strike out at its new foe, but Umbreon was already gone. It darted about the campsite, a blur of golden ebony that abruptly struck again as James ordered a quick attack. Wounded and angry, the Ursaring reared back and delivered an explosive gout of flames that narrowly missed Umbreon and erupted in a shower of sparks as it hit the fire pit.

    Umbreon quickly regained its feet as James yelled and shielded his face against the brilliant flare from the fire pit, then sprang at the Ursaring with another tackle attack. Temporarily blinded by the spikes, the wild bear Pokemon lashed out with sharp claws and scored a lucky hit, knocking Umbreon to the ground with a squeak.

    Kim had raised her gun now, taking careful aim at the Ursaring’s back as she yelled, “I’ve got a clear shot, James! Get out of the way and let me drop it!”

    “Don’t be stupid, I don’t want to kill it!” James retorted as he produced a Pokeball from his pack. “Umbreon, double team!”

    The camp suddenly filled with five, ten, twenty, thirty Umbreon, all of them lunging at the confused Ursaring. It struck with another fire blast, which struck a nearby boulder and set it glowing with the heat, but was nevertheless a clean miss. The mirror images vanished as Umbreon sent Ursaring sprawling with a clean hit between the golden ring on its chest.

    James heaved his Pokeball, the Ursaring roaring feebly in protest as its final moments of freedom passed and it was drawn into its digital prison. The Pokeball shook three times, and was silent. James and Kim only stood there, the nearby boulder still glowing from the Ursaring’s fire blast. Kim could see the tension in James’s expression. Finally, he walked over and picked it up, balancing it carefully in his hand as he knelt next to Umbreon, “Well Umbreon, looks like we have new addition to the family.”

    Umbreon chirruped and circled spun around twice in a tight circle before sliding over and sniffing at the Pokeball. Kim stared distrustfully at the Pokeball, her eyes narrowed, “What are we going to do with it?”

    “We’re going to keep it, of course,” James said, rolling his eyes, as if Kim was the class dunce. “Pokemon are hard to catch. Trust me; I’ve been traveling for years now, and I’ve only managed to catch and raise two Pokemon. This Ursaring fell right into my lap, we’re keeping it.”

    With that, James tucked away the Pokeball at his belt, and the conversation was over. Kim would see Ursaring again sometime later, though on terms she would never expect.

    2

    A familiar scene was waiting for Dr. Murakami when he headed down the steps to Mr. Nakashima’s basement the following morning in Eben Village. Pidgeot was there, its wing held securely in a sling, and so was a large, rather clumsily poured bowl of Pokemon feed. The old doctor would have dearly loved to have known who was leaving the food for the Pidgeot. Most of the villagers were afraid to go anywhere the basement, and major manufacturers had stopped producing Pokemon feed years ago, for obvious reasons. That left the doctor with a mystery, and Murakami was a sucker for mysteries.

    Putting aside his misgivings for a moment, he knocked away the feed with his foot as he walked up to Pidgeot and patted it on the wing, “Hello Pidgeot, looks like your visitor was here again last night. Well, let’s have a look at that wing, shall we?”

    Humming quietly to himself, Murakami carefully removed the cast, revealing Pidgeot’s injured wing. He was a 67-year-old physician who had lived in Eben Village his entire life, leaving only to attend eight years of medical school in Goldenrod City and the occasional seminar. His colleagues privately called him the village quack, the old man with the shock of grey hair and large spectacle who emerged from the wild only once a year. Despite this, he was widely regarded as an excellent physician, and frequently received calls from locales as far-flung as Saffron City. Pokemon medicine was rather outside his expertise, but in this case, Eben Village had little choice.

    Murakami moved Pidgeot’s squawks of pain as he moved the bird’s wing up and down to test its flexibility, then pulled out a roll of fresh bandages re-splinted the bird’s wing. All the while, his mind was on that feed bowl. Was it poisoned feed? He had to find out, and he would early the next morning.

    * * *

    Dawn broke over Eben Village, three days after James and Kim had set out for Blackthorn Village, relieving the village of another tense night by candlelight. The guards went home to get to sleep, their pistols tucked under their arms, a few of them waving to Dr. Murakami as he sat on his porch, watching the Nakashima house across the road. Murakami had a feeling that Pidgeot’s visitor would appear in the early morning. There were too many people during the day, and nobody went out at night.

    Elder Saitou ambled down the path, head down, out for his morning walk. He paused and waved when he saw Murakami, “Hello Kazuhiro, it’s going to be a fine day, wouldn’t you say?”

    “Yes, I think so, Takuya,” Murakami grunted. “Enjoy them while you can, winter isn’t far off, and my bones tell me that it will be a long one. Now, stop pretending that you’re out exercising and join me for a cup of coffee. Maybe you can help me solve a mystery that’s been bothering for two days now.”

    Saitou chuckled and climbed the steps to Murakami’s porch. Pouring himself a cup of still-hot coffee from the nearby pot, the elder pulled up a chair and settled in next to the doctor, “And what mystery do we have today?”

    “The mystery of the clumsily-fed Pidgeot,” Murakami said dryly. “The past two days that I’ve arrived to check up on the young man’s Pidgeot, there’s been a bowl of Pokemon feed there.”

    Saitou raised an eyebrow, stroking his beard as he did, “And where’s the harm in that?”

    “There is no harm, really,” Murakami admitted, “not unless they are poisoning the bird, which I doubt since it’s the picture of health outside of the fractured wing. I’m curious because the villagers treat that Pidgeot like it has the plague, and why wouldn’t they? We’ve been under attack by Pokemon for better than 10 years now. But there’s somebody here who isn’t afraid, and I want to know who, so that I can shake their hand.”

    “I see,” Saitou said, then set to watching the path with no further comment. It was well known that Murakami, an amateur Pokemon researcher who had occasionally corresponded with Professor Elm before the bells tolled, had nothing but disdain for those who feared Pokemon.

    The day we stop running is the day we begin to make amends, Murakami often said.

    It was an hour before Saitou spotted the renegade caregiver dragging an oversized bag of Pokemon feed behind her. He stifled a laugh and pointed, “Well, there’s your mastermind, Murakami.”

    Dr. Murakami’s eyes twinkled behind his spectacles as little Kara Suzuki struggled up to the Nakashima cellar doors, then dropped the oversized bag of feed to yank at the handle. A moment later, she was headed down the stairs, the huge bag bouncing behind her. Saitou started to rise, but Murakami stopped him, “No Takuya, let her think that nobody knows. Let this be a private moment.”

    So the two elders remained there on the porch, sun warming their faces as they fondly recalled better days, chatting well into the afternoon. Finally, Murakami rose to perform another checkup, content that there was one spark of decency still left in the world, manifested in the little girl who every morning dragged the oversized bag of Pokemon feed to the cellar for her friend Pidgeot.

    3

    While Murakami and Saitou sat reminiscing, James and Kim were back on the road to Blackthorn Village. James had said little about the Ursaring, only once releasing it so that it could be fed with the rest of the Pokemon. It was docile enough as it snacked on the last of their apples, but there was also a restless edge to the bear that made Kim nervous. She was secretly glad when it was back in its Pokeball and they were on their way over the mountains.

    The terrain around Mt. Mortar was rough, with a winding mountain road proving to be the only reliable away through the pass. The air grew progressively thinner as they wound their away around dead trees and huge boulders. Kim would occasionally see the odd Geodude as they walked, but the path was otherwise bare of Pokemon. It was just as well, she mused, since any Pokemon they encountered would almost certainly prove to be hostile.

    Umbreon was there, once again trotting obediently at James’s side, and so was Cyndaquil. But this time, Kim didn’t say anything. After the encounter with nearly-disastrous encounter with Ursaring, she wouldn’t quibble with the protection offered by James’s Pokemon. With the thinning air came increasingly brisk temperatures; so at 1 PM they stopped and James dug out a heavy, winter jacket, “Did you bring anything, Kim?”

    “No,” Kim admitted. She was a little ashamed to be so ill-prepared, but James only tossed his jacket to her without comment and pulled out a lighter jacket. She tried to give it back, but James ignored her and opened a rice triangle instead. Later, they would camp in that mountain pass, neither of them sleeping very well as they gazed up the starry sky and shivered at the cold.

    Kim finally asked a question that had occurred to her before, but had never come up, “James, where were you when the bells tolled?” She was thinking of the stories of Jeff, of how he had been there in the village when the bells tolled, then simply up and left.

    James was quiet for a long time, his face only a dim outline in the dark. Finally, he said, “I was in Kanto with my dad that day. We had made the catch of our lives, everybody was celebrating, and then the bells tolled.”

    “What did you catch?”

    “That’s a long, complicated story.”

    “Was your dad a Pokemon trainer?”

    “Yeah, still is, in fact,” James said quietly.

    “What was he like? I really don’t know much about you.”

    More silence. Kim thought she caught a hint of pain in James’s voice when he spoke again, “If you want to be technical, he wasn’t my father. He adopted me out of an orphanage when I was less than a year old, I never knew my real parents. It didn’t matter though, I idolized him. I think the thing that I loved about him the most was that he had a sense of humor. You would never have guessed it looking at him, but he was a pretty funny guy, my dad.”

    “Where is he now?”

    “The last time I saw him was just about ten years ago,” James said softly. “And that’s also a long story.”

    Kim left it there. They lay in silence under the clear stars, still shivering, each reflecting on their family. Kim thought about her Takuya and Tara Saitou, the Eben Elder and the Pokemon trainer, kind parents who had nevertheless expected only the best from their daughter, and often received it.

    James fell asleep thinking about the Red Dragon Clan, the only family he had ever known. The family he had loved, and the family he had betrayed.

    * * *

    The next day, James and Kim halted near the summit of Mt. Mortar, looking down upon Lake Rage and, not far beyond that, Blackthorn City. James was smiling a little as he pulled out his canteen and sipped some water, “Not far now, Kim. We’ll stop at Lake Rage for some business, then it’ll be another day to Blackthorn City. But first, I want to give you this.”

    He removed Ursaring’s Pokeball from his belt and tucked it into her hand. She flinched, expecting it to burst from its prison and attack, but the Pokeball was still. Before she could speak, James said, “When you asked where I was when the bells tolled, it made me realize that there aren’t many Pokemon trainers left in this world. It’s time that we got some fresh blood in this club.”

    Kim stared warily at the Pokeball, half wanting to throw it over the edge of the cliff. Instead, she tucked it away into her bag, “It’ll never listen to me. Pokemon won’t listen to anybody but you and Jeff.”

    “Oh, I think it’ll listen to you eventually,” James said patiently. “I caught that Pokemon, and now I’m giving it to you. Take good care of it Kim, you’re being given something very rare – A second chance.”

    With that, James started down the mountain side toward Lake Rage, the newly minted Pokemon trainer trailing uncertainly. The next day, they would be lakeside, and in Lake Rage’s pristine water, they would wash away their sins.
    Last edited by Hrist[ALT]; 12th February 2007 at 8:03 AM.

  3. #28
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    Nice. Probably my favourite chapter yet. I like how James and Kim are slowly becoming closer and starting to warm to each other. Little things, like James wearing the less warm jacket, and giving her Ursaring.

    Lol i had an image of Umbreon's everywhere zooming around Ursaring, and then it Focus Punching the real one into cyber space. Was pretty funny, but thank God it didn't happen.

  4. #29
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    Excellent. Ursaring with Kim. I was waiting for Kim to become a Trainer again. Looking forward to some more chapters from you. I've said it before and I'll see it again, this fic has amazing potential, and so far you're using it to the max.

    Your characters are well developed, your plot seems feasible and your battles are effective with their length and believability.

    You mentioned how Pokémon were hard to capture now, with James only capturing and training two (which I noticed the Scyther he used in a previous chapter was forgotten, unless you left out Pidgeot). Does this mean you'll show us a capture going wrong in one chapter?

    I hope you don't rush Ursaring listening to Kim, or make it cheap with her protecting it from something. I want it to sound as great as the story has so far.

    Can't wait for more of James' past to come out. Also can't wait for Kim's battle debut. It'll be amazing to see what she can do, even if she is a little rusty.

    Wouldn't be bad seeing Jeff too, which is why I want this to last a while.

    Keep writing.

    Iota
    "Writing doesn't require drive. It's like saying a chicken has to have drive to lay an egg." ~ John Updike


  5. #30
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    I like how James and Kim are slowly becoming closer and starting to warm to each other. Little things, like James wearing the less warm jacket, and giving her Ursaring.
    phew, I'm glad you think so. I was worried that they were becoming friends too quickly.

    Excellent. Ursaring with Kim. I was waiting for Kim to become a Trainer again
    I think it's pretty obvious that that was in the cards.

    You mentioned how Pokémon were hard to capture now, with James only capturing and training two (which I noticed the Scyther he used in a previous chapter was forgotten, unless you left out Pidgeot). Does this mean you'll show us a capture going wrong in one chapter?
    Nah, he didn't forget Scyther. He left out Pidgeot because he caught it with Cyndaquil's help. Umbreon and Scyther were caught in separate encounters. As for the last, we'll see.

    I hope you don't rush Ursaring listening to Kim, or make it cheap with her protecting it from something. I want it to sound as great as the story has so far.
    Kim has a lot of work ahead of her in the Ursaring realm

    Can't wait for more of James' past to come out. Also can't wait for Kim's battle debut. It'll be amazing to see what she can do, even if she is a little rusty.
    All in the cards, I think

    Jeff will be coming along soon. Thanks for the positive feedback guys.

  6. #31
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    So...he didn't use Pidgeot or Cyndaquil for Umbreon and Scyther then?

    If he used them to battle, then I'd say he used them to capture the Poges.

    Iota
    "Writing doesn't require drive. It's like saying a chicken has to have drive to lay an egg." ~ John Updike


  7. #32
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    He meant after the bells tolled. That was before

  8. #33
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    Oh I get it, Pidgeot was before the bells tolled? And it and Cyndaquil didn't run away. Did James have any other Pokémon that perhaps did leave him when he bells tolled?

    At least I know more now. Sorry, I'm just really really interested.

    So Umbreon and Scyther were caught after the bells tolled.

    Iota
    "Writing doesn't require drive. It's like saying a chicken has to have drive to lay an egg." ~ John Updike


  9. #34
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    Right, and Cyndaquil and Pidgeot were before the bells tolled.

  10. #35
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    Lol, i was confused as well. WTF? When was there ever a Scyther.......* Rereads*......

    Oh...yeah. xD

  11. #36
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    Holy crap, this one took forever. Lots of rewrites. :P I've also been distracted this week. *sighs*

    Chapter 7
    Newcomers

    Kim and James arrived at Lake Rage as daylight faded to twilight, the weather becoming steadily warmer as they descended the mountain, the lake splashing invitingly nearby. When they reached the lakeshore, James dropped his pack and stretched, “Great, we finally made it. Let’s take a little break.”

    Kim nodded and turned to her bag, meaning to pull out a blanket and set up camp, but she was distracted by a splash. She turned to find James swimming laps along their shoreline, wearing only a pair of boxers. Kim winced at the pink scars crisscrossing his chest – Where had he gotten those? When James saw her staring, he stopped to wave, “Water’s great Kim, you should come on in! But do me a favor and release Scyther first, would you? Oh, and Ursaring too. They need to be fed.”

    James kicked off and went back to swimming, leaving Kim to find and release the Pokemon. Scyther seemed glad to be free of the Pokeball. It stretched its wings and screeched (Scyther!); then it was gone. Ursaring stayed in its Pokeball. Kim pushed it from hand to hand, trying to work up the nerve to release it, an occasional gust of wind ruffling her hair as Scyther swept by in a blur.

    Kim still hadn’t activated the Pokeball when James returned to the shoreline, shaking off the water like a wet dog as he buttoned up his pants, “Did you get food for the Pokemon yet?”

    “Oh, uh,” Kim glanced from Umbreon, which was sitting primly on a nearby rock, to Cyndaquil, which had quickly returned to James’s shoulder. Scyther came to a halt nearby, wings still extended as it looked expectantly toward James. They were *all* looking at James that way, and Kim felt a twinge of jealousy as she thought back to her own Quilava, Furret and Murkrow. She had once shared that same bond with all of her Pokemon, but now she was too afraid to even release Ursaring, let alone try and train it. She kept her eyes down to the grass as she said, “I’m going to feed it a little later, when I have some time alone. I want to try and build some trust with it.”

    “Yeah, that’s probably a good idea,” James agreed as he tugged on his shirt. “Well, let’s get the rest of them fed then. There should be some dried Pokemon feed in the right pocket of my pack.”

    The shirt brought Kim back to her senses for a moment. She had been thinking so much about Ursaring that she had forgotten to ask about the scars, “James, where did you get those scars on your chest and back?”

    James hesitated for a moment, then shrugged, “Takeshi Miyai gave them to me. It’s a long story. I’ll tell you about it some other time.”

    Takeshi Miyai again, Kim sighed. She thought about asking just what old Miyai had done to James, but he would say no more on the subject. They ate a spare dinner on the shoreline, Kim munching stolidly on dried fruit and jerky as she sat looking at Ursaring’s Pokeball, the rest of the Pokemon eating from bowls nearby. A little later, James and Kim had set up a fire, and both Umbreon and Cyndaquil had curled up next to it to sleep while Scyther resumed tearing frantically up and down the beach.

    After carefully repackaging the supplies, James began unrolling his sleeping bag, saying, “Do you know how this lake got its name?”

    “Um, no,” Kim said distractedly. She was playing with Ursaring’s Pokeball again.

    James patted down the sleep bag, then nodded toward the lake, “Years ago, this lake was home to an enraged Gyarados. I guess Team Rocket did some experiments on it. Anyway, the lake was almost impassable until a trainer captured the Gyarados and managed to relieve its pain, which earned him a loyal friend in the process. After that, this place became kind of a symbol of friendship between man and Pokemon. I’ve been told that priests come here on a regular basis to pray for peace and ask forgiveness from the natural forces of this world.”

    He looked at Kim, “Well anyway, I guess I’ve always thought that Pokemon turned against humans because we deserved it. Humanity has a lot to answer for in this world, and our treatment of Pokemon is only the tip of the iceberg, you know? Maybe when we finally own up to at least a little bit of what we’ve done, the Pokemon will forgive us and come back.”

    Kim stopped bouncing the Pokeball in her hand for a moment and looked hard at James. As she did, she saw with a start that she could finally read pain beneath those eyes of his. She realized that James felt like he had something to atone for, though Kim could only imagine his crime. Did it have something to do with the reason his Pokemon still obeyed? After a moment, she said, “Did you come to this lake for that forgiveness?”

    James frowned and touched the area where Kim had seen all those terrible scars, his jaw working up and down as he grimaced at some unseen memory. Finally, he said, “Maybe.”

    He said nothing else after that, dousing the fire an hour later and curling into his sleeping bag. Kim lay awake for a long time that night, bouncing Ursaring’s Pokeball, thinking.

    2

    When Kim woke the next morning, she found James’s sleeping bag empty, with a note pinned to the top.

    *Took Umbreon and Cyndaquil to scout the area and scavenge supplies. Left Scyther just in case something happens. Fed all the Pokemon including Ursaring, but it’ll probably want a snack later. Use that to gain its trust. See you later, James.*

    So James was off reconnoitering, and here was her big chance to get to know Ursaring, Kim thought. She took its Pokeball from her bag and began rolling it from hand to hand as she looked out over the lake. It had been ten years since she had last held a Pokeball like this. Was it possible to forget what it was like to train a Pokemon, to lose sight of each species quirks and turn a deaf ear to their needs? No, she could still train a Pokemon, she decided. She was just scared.

    Plain old scared.

    She had been just outside Olivine City the day the bells tolled, ready to challenge the leader Jasmine for her fourth Johto League badge, when the energy generated by the bells arrived like an ill wind. The sound was engraved in her memory as a peculiar gonging noise that seemed to roll up and over her, then out into Johto.

    The wind had picked up, and hundreds, maybe thousands, of bird Pokemon had taken flight. Kim remembered the great migrations of Spearows, Murkrows, Pidgeys, Noctowls and Taillows, their numbers creating shifting black clouds in the sky that blotted out the sun. Afraid, she had only been thirteen then, Kim had run to the nearest Pokemon Center and called Professor Elm.

    Elm had been waiting for her call, and his message had been simple, “Listen to me very carefully. There is an energy wave coming out of Ecruteak City that is causing Pokemon to turn on their trainers. I recommend that you suspend your journey and go home as quickly as you can, Kim. It’s not safe out there right now. Don’t release any Pokemon, don’t get into any battles, and take the fastest route that you can.”

    Kim hadn’t wanted to go, but she had been frightened by those great migrations over Olivine City, and the news being broadcast on the Pokemon Center lobby television seemed dire. There had been reports of Pokemon attacks in nearly every region, with dozens of casualties. It looked as if the sound Kim had heard from Ecruteak City had driven the Pokemon crazy. So she went, slipping out of the Olivine Pokemon Center while everybody’s attention was on the news and hurrying out of town. She didn’t know it then, but she was among a very few left in Johto to still be carrying Pokemon.

    The main roads were not safe from Olivine to Eben Village, so she took the fastest back road she knew how, sometimes waving to the trucks filled with grim-faced National Defense Force soldiers that passed roughly every half-hour. Things are getting worse, she thought, and she did her best to quicken her pace.

    The fourth day found her near the base of Mt. Mortar, camping in the same forest where she would encounter Ursaring ten years later. She figured on only one more day before she arrived back in Eben Village, and from there she would wait out the strange calamity that had befallen the world and get back to her journey. Going against Elm’s advice, she released her Pokemon and started a fire.

    The only food she had with her was a packet of dehydrated soup; she had been meaning to restock in Olivine City. She was boiling a cup of water for the soup when her Murkrow suddenly stirred, “Murkrow? Murk Murkrow?”

    Kim frowned up in the direction that Murkrow was looking. The air had taken on a chill quality, even though it had previously been a warm summer’s night. She stood a little shakily, and whispered, “Is there something there, guys?”

    Now her skin was pricking up in goosebumps, and she could see her breath condensing in front of her. Mist was rising all around them, and fire seemed to flick lower. Then she saw it, and her insides became icy. Suddenly, she wasn’t in the Mortar Woods anymore, she was receiving her first Pokemon from Professor Elm in New Bark Town. She was winning her first badge from Faulkner. She was capturing Murkrow. She was running from a pack of Donphan.

    All of this passed before her eyes in a second, and she was left with the frightening feeling that something had been casually perusing her memories, reading her mind like an open book. Looking upon the perpetrator, she felt naked and violated. Suicune of the North Wind snorted and pawed at the ground.

    Kim suddenly felt an urge to apologize to the Pokemon, as if everything that had happened in the last few days had been her fault. Her fingers felt numb, and all of her Pokemon were looking at her expectantly. She felt a little bitter under Suicune’s gaze, wondering why she should apologize for everything that had happened. It hadn’t really been her fault, had it? Finally, she opened her mouth, and the words that came out were not an apology.

    “What do you want?”

    There was no answer for that question. Suicune vanished, leaving only midsummer snowflakes to lodge gently in her hair.

    * * *

    The next day dawned unseasonably cold and grey, punctuated by gusts of wind that numbed the fingers and nose. Kim sat alone in her campsite, her knees pulled to her chest as she sat sobbing next to the embers of her dead campfire. Her Pokemon had slipped off in the night, leaving her alone at the edge of the Mortar Woods.

    Quilava had been the last to go, the crunch of leaves under its paws waking Kim as it tried to slip away from the campsite. She had jerked up and fumbled for her flashlight to find it halfway into the brush, its head bowed. Kim was stunned for a moment, then caught her breath long enough to ask, “Quilava, where are you going?”

    The Pokemon didn’t reply, it just vanished into the brush as Kim struggled out of her sleeping bag. Heedless of the sharp rocks and brambles that cut at her feet, she stumbled after the Quilava, “Where are you going! Come back!”

    She spotted it with her flashlight heading down one of the alternate paths, and Kim began to run a little faster. Quilava quickened its pace as well, but not enough to escape. Kim caught up with the Pokemon and scooped it up into her arms, oofing a little at its weight as she did, “What’s going on Quilava? Where’s Murkrow and Furret?”

    Quilava responded by squirming ferociously in her arms, finally pushing Kim’s arms aside and hitting the ground with a thump. Kim started to trot after it, but the fire on its back suddenly flared to life, and Kim fell back as a flamethrower singed her head. She sat there on the path, the flashlight only half illuminating Quilava, as she choked out, “Please don’t go Quilava; please don’t go!”

    She screamed that over and over again, the refrain echoing hollowly in her ears, but Quilava went. Just like that, Kim’s privileges as a Pokemon trainer had been revoked. She was alone.

    But now, ten years later, she had been given a second chance. She sat there on the beach, her eyes closed as she sat fiddling with Ursaring’s Pokeball. Finally, she looked up and over Lake Rage. There was something she wanted to say, but the words were stuck in her throat.

    She opened and closed her mouth twice, shaking her head as she did. Finally, they burst out from her mouth like a tidal stream. She spoke quickly, without time to think the words over and possibly rescind them, “I’m sorry! I’m sorry for Team Rocket and Cipher! I’m sorry for not trusting my Pokemon at the end! I’m sorry for not saying this to Suicune! I’m sorry for being such a jerk toward James! I’m sorry for being too afraid to even release Ursaring! I’m sorry for everything! I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry!”

    She had gradually risen to her feet as she yelled her apologies out over the lake, her voice rising with it. When she had finally finished, she collapsed back to the beach, her words rolling away over the lake’s pristine waters. She felt a little better, but only a little. Exhausted, Kim tossed Ursaring’s Pokeball back in her pack and went to lie down next to the fire. Ten minutes later, she was asleep.

    3

    While Kim was screaming her apologies over Lake Rage, James was ranging through the woods near Lake Rage, gathering berries and wild roughage while keeping an eye out for wild Pokemon. He had spent a great deal of time in the wilderness, since leaving Orre, and was used to foraging.

    He stopped to stare at a bush full of blood red berries, his mind going to the Cyndaquil on his shoulder as he did. He thought about Cyndaquil a lot these days. He had done morning exercises with it before leaving, as usual, and had been heartened when it loosed a stronger flamethrower attack than usual. But then the flamethrower had petered out, and he was left cursing and kicking at the dirt.

    Deep down inside, James had to admit that he didn’t trust Cyndaquil to get any better. Umbreon and Pidgeot did the bulk of the battling these days, leaving the difficult to control Scyther and the weak Cyndaquil to languish on the sidelines. With Pidgeot injured, he should have started using the others more, but he went right on using Umbreon in battle.

    Sighing, James was so engrossing in the berries that he didn’t see the man riding up behind him on an Arcanine. A rumpled fedora was pulled low over his eyes, tufts of carrot-red hair poking out from underneath the hat. He was tall, and his skin was pale. When he spoke, his voice was soft and reedy, “Hello, trainer”

    James jerked and spun, his hand closing automatically on Umbreon’s Pokeball. His eyes went first to the proud Arcanine in front of him, then the man perched on its back, “Who the hell are you? Where did you get that Arcanine?”

    “My name’s Jeff Hibiki, and I’m a Pokemon trainer,” he said softly. “Now listen to me very carefully, trainer. Listen to everything I say. Your life is in danger.”

  12. #37
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    Amazing. Excellent chapter. I can't wait for Ursaring, I really can't. Kim is so much more human in this chapter. I actually think she's my favourite character.
    The reveal of James' feelings towards Cyndaquil at the end were nice too. And Jeff Finally.

    Nice cliffhanger though.

    I can't wait for the next chapter.

    Well done again.

    Iota
    "Writing doesn't require drive. It's like saying a chicken has to have drive to lay an egg." ~ John Updike


  13. #38
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    That was amazing. This is a good chapter. I really like how you were able to really plan everything and get them out at a good time. I liked this chapter a lot too, this chapter really seemed to show all their personalities a litte bit more. And it also finally let us see Kim's mysterious past. I understand now why she's hated Pokemon so much. Imagine, your best friends just leaving you without a word, and after working so hard with them. Hurts. Hehehehe. Good job, can't wait to see more. Congrats with another amazing chapter! Good luck with the next too!


    Coming Soon....

  14. #39
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    I can't wait for Ursaring, I really can't. Kim is so much more human in this chapter. I actually think she's my favourite character
    Kim was overdue for more development. I always knew that her Pokemon leaving played a major factor in her personality, but I was surprised at some other things. She is becoming more interesting to me now too.

    I ended up deleting tons of stuff and rewriting this chapter. I had an overlong scene setting bit that described what happened when the Bells tolled. The bit where she talked to Professor Elm was much longer, etc. I'm glad I cut it down a lot. Leaner and meaner now, or something.

    The reveal of James' feelings towards Cyndaquil at the end were nice too
    Well, kind of a reveal. More of a reminder really, since he muses on Cyndaquil's lack of power in Chapter 3.

    Imagine, your best friends just leaving you without a word, and after working so hard with them
    Yeah, gotta imagine that it does. o-o

    Thanks for the kind words. I'm now hard at work on Chapter 8.

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    I love this story so much, it's just great. I was basically going to say what the other two did really, and i like the passing references to the games, like Kim getting her first Pokemon from Prof Elm and the Lake of Rage and the Shiny Gyarados. I wonder if there will be a parallel to the main character(s) from the game...(Jeff maybe?....)

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    I wonder if there will be a parallel to the main character(s) from the game...(Jeff maybe?....)
    Nah, I tend to leave both Gold and Ash Ketchum out of my fics.

    But gym leaders might show up...

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    *subscribes*

    I know you're asking for detailed reviews, but all I can give you is a weird one...

    This fic is beautifully written. Your detail is amazing, and doesn't go overboard, as some others do (really throws off the mood, when they do that).
    Your grammar could use a little work, but it's really not that big of a problem. Just a few sticky spots in the last three chapters (sorry, no time to look for them now).

    I find this fic is good for reading when you're trying to sleep, but can't. I have a lot of nights like that. It seems all my favorite stories are read at that time, too. The plot is deep, and has a powerful grip to it, making it easy to focus on for long periods of time. It tires out my imagination and creative mind, as well, which is another good mark, in my book. Anyway, you've got youself another follower.
    Owner of the Nintendo Club
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    Old members rejoin! New members welcome!


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  18. #43
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    Need...my...Ashes...fix...

    Until then, the last Chapter was great as always. It nice to see my current favorite character Kim develop a little more. However since we got a taste of Jeff, I think Kim is gonna take a back seat to him (in terms of my fav. character.) Oh, and now I'm raising an Ursaring just like Kim .



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    Your wish is my command, Miz.

    Chapter 8
    Jeff and the Salamence

    Kim didn’t nap for long, waking after only an hour. She sat up groggily on the lakeshore and dug into her pack, looking for something to eat. She found a half-crunched energy bar under Ursaring’s Pokeball, a few apples, more of that dehydrated soup that they seemed to eat every night, and some bread that was already going stale.

    Settling for the energy bar, she peeled back the wrapped and started to munch, Ursaring’s Pokeball laying forgotten in the pack. She shivered a little as she ate, realizing that the temperature was already starting to drop even though it was only midday at best. Tonight’s going to be a cold one, she thought, and took another bite.

    She ate about half the energy bar and saved the rest, carefully rewrapping it as James had done earlier and placing it in the pack. By chance, she happened to look up, and was startled to see an Arcanine rushing toward her across the lakeshore. She flinched backward, groping for her pistol by reflex, but it was too late. The Arcanine skidded to a halt next to the fire, and Kim noticed for the first time the two men perched on its back.

    James hopped unsteadily from the huge Arcanine and scattered the remains of the fire with his foot, then began to roll up the sleeping bags, “Sorry Kim, but we’ve gotta go. Come on and help us get this packed up. We’ve gotta get to cover.”

    Startled into action, Kim tossed a few things haphazardly into her own pack, “Why? What’s going on James?”

    James didn’t reply, only pausing briefly to point at the Arcanine. Kim turned and jumped. She had been so surprised by James’s arrival that she hadn’t noticed the newcomer, a man who admittedly had a tendency toward blending into the background. Her mouth fell into an unconscious ‘oh’ of surprise, her heart jumping into her throat, “Oh my god! Is that you, Jeff?”

    The man responded by doffing his hat to reveal a head full of wispy red hair and soft green eyes. He was taller than either of them, but he was a very slender man, and he looked drawn and brittle. James would later comment to Kim that Jeff looked as if he were made of matchsticks. Nevertheless, there could be no doubt that this man was an excellent Pokemon trainer.

    Looking at his face, Kim couldn’t help smiling in relief. She had finally found Jeff Hibiki, Pokemon trainer and champion of Eben Village.

    * * *

    They rode hard and fast from the campsite to the safety of the nearby forest, Jeff explaining the situation as they went. A powerful Salamence roosted nearby, and it liked to hunt around Lake Rage. It was larger and stronger than the average, Jeff guessed that it had once belonged to a trainer, and it was known for attacking humans.

    “I come this way a lot to keep an eye on that Salamence,” Jeff said as they breached the forest and headed down a path parallel to the lakeshore. “You’re lucky that it wasn’t out hunting last night. I suppose that it was still full from the Ursaring that it had taken the night before.”

    Jeff didn’t see Kim’s eyes go wide at that, Arcanine crashing through the foliage at extreme speeds as he spoke. She wanted to speak, but found that she had a hard time even catching her breath as the wind whistled through her hair and thin branches whipped her arms, legs and face. At last, she fell silent, holding tight to Arcanine’s scruff of orange fur and allowing the blur of scenery to wash over her.

    By the time they came to a halt, the sun had dropped below the horizon and the air had grown chilly again. Jeff directed them to the back of a shallow cave, then dropped an armful of kindling and built a fire with Arcanine’s help.

    While they warmed themselves around the fire, Jeff handed out canisters of soup and blankets, explaining, “I run into a lot of people who need help when I’m on patrol, so I’ve started carrying extra soup and blankets with me. Don’t get too comfortable by that fire though. Salamence will be out soon, and it’s drawn to camp fires.”

    James muttered something unintelligible and pulled his blanket tighter around his shoulder while Jeff spread a map around on the ground nearby. Using the light of fire, he pointed to Lake Rage at the top of the map, “We’re here, obviously. If we make good speed, we should be able to get to Blackthorn City by tomorrow afternoon. How long have you been traveling?”

    “About a week now, I guess,” James said, sipping at the last of his soup. His hair was rife with leaves from their trip, making it look even scruffier than usual. Kim thought that it looked like he was wearing a bizarre, leafy crown. “We went up Route 42 to Mt. Mortar, and we had been at Lake Rage for a day or so when you found us.”

    This conversation went on for a while, with James and Jeff comparing notes from their trips and rehashing their first encounter with Ursaring. Warmed by the fire and full of hot, cheese soup, Kim was starting to doze off against the cave wall when Jeff nudged her, “I noticed the Pokeball in your bag, and James mentioned that he gave you that Ursaring he caught. Do you mind releasing it so I can meet it?”

    Tired and impressionable from the trip on Arcanine’s back, Kim’s hand was already to her pack before she realized what she was doing. She came awake more fully, and realized with a bitter start that James and Jeff were watching her intently.

    Sighed inwardly, Kim took a deep breath and activated the release. She flinched a little as Ursaring’s heavy brown bulk materialized in front of her for the first time since James caught it in the forest along Route 42, suddenly remembering how afraid she had been to press the button near Lake Rage. Ursaring wriggled its ears, looked around the cave, then rose to its hind legs and bellowed a challenge.

    Kim watched, paralyzed, as Ursaring dropped back to all fours and jabbed its long nose in her pack. Before she knew it, the entire contents of the pack were on the ground, and Ursaring had hastily devoured her bread and apples. It was halfway through the dehydrated soup and her sleeping bag when Jeff opened a box of Pokemon treats. Ursaring spun around hastily and rose once more to its hind legs, whuffling excitedly as it made its way toward the Pokemon food. Jeff proffered one of the stale treats as it approached, but Ursaring ignored him and quickly made for the box sitting nearby.

    *Whack!* Ursaring whined and down on its haunches, its large paws on its nose. Jeff had hit it hard on the snout as it made for the treats, and Kim braced herself for the worst. At the very least, she expected a rampage through the camp that would have to be quelled by James and Jeff’s combined efforts. But Ursaring only made soft whining noises and, this time, willingly accepted Jeff’s treat.

    Jeff absently scratched Ursaring between the ears now as Kim watched, hardly able to believe what she was seeing. He glanced at her, and smiled, “Ursarings don’t like being hit on the nose. It’s a form of discipline used by Ursaring mothers on the Teddiursa cubs when they get cheeky.”

    Emboldened by Ursaring’s lack of violent retaliation, Kim put out a tentative hand to scratch it between the ears, but quickly withdrew it when Ursaring growled warningly from its food. James chuckled from the corner, where he sat stroking Umbreon’s sable fur, and Jeff shrugged apologetically, “It’ll take a little bit to get used to you. Ursaring are solitary by nature.”

    “Do what Jeff just did, and you’ll be fine,” James added helpfully. “Just watch that you don’t lose your hand or something.”

    Kim almost beaned James with an apple core for that one, but the reassuring hand that fell on her shoulder stopped her. Jeff’s soft green eyes glowed a little in the fire light as he smiled and said, “Don’t worry, you’ll get it.”

    Kim believed him.

    2


    James ended up dropping off to sleep around midnight, with Kim joining him not long after. They had long since doused the camp fire, resorting to blankets and sleeping bags to keep warm against the bitter autumn wind that whistled through the cave. Jeff lay away, pulling his coat tightly about his thin frame and huddling against Arcanine for warmth.

    When he was sure that they were asleep, he rose and nudged Arcanine awake. They slipped out of the cave together, Jeff ordering an extremespeed and lowering his head against the wind as they rushed toward the lakeshore. It was a crisp, wintery night, the first harbinger of colder temperatures to come, and Jeff bitterly wished that he had packed a heavier jacket for this patrol.

    Shivering, Jeff took a deep breath and let out a snort against the cold air to get refocused. He knew that Salamence was somewhere nearby, and even a moment’s inattention could spell his immediate end. Dragon Pokemon had superior senses, Claire had warned him time and again, and they could smell blood a mile off.

    Jeff’s senses proved to be right. As he approached the eastern lakeshore, he could hear the rush of Salamence’s wings overhead. He glanced upward, and sure enough, it was rushing overhead and over the lake’s surface, the water curving outward from the wind generated by its wings. Arcanine came to a stop, and the pair stood watching for a while as Salamence swept over and up through the lake waters, then around the opposite shore. When it was back within earshot, Jeff drew a deep breath and yelled, “Salamence! It’s your old friend Jeff Hibiki! I challenge you!”

    The words were barely out of Jeff’s mouth before he had to leap hastily from Arcanine’s back and roll out of the way to avoid Salamence’s snapping jaws as the dragon hit the ground at a run and tried to snatch him up in passing. Now it turned to glare derisively at the puny trainer that had challenged it from the edge of the woods. Jeff slowly regained his feet and brushed himself off, his gaze never leaving the Salamence’s.

    He had been chasing Salamence for nearly four years now, but had never succeeded in capturing the wily dragon Pokemon. Sometimes, he would defeat it in battle, only to have it burst free from a Pokeball and narrowly escape. Sometimes, Salamence would win the day, and he would narrowly escape with his life. In many ways, they were old adversaries who knew each other far too well. Jeff knew that, one day soon, something would have to change. Either he would finally catch Salamence, or it would devour him.

    Jeff was ready for that day. “Okay Arcanine, you know what to do. Let’s get it done right this time. Use extremespeed!”

    * * *

    At 3:30 am, while Jeff battled Salamence, and James and Kim lay resting comfortably in their cave, the wolves finally descended upon Eben Village. The first sighting came at roughly 2 AM, when a guard named Ryouji Shirakawa reporting shooting and killing a Mightyena at the edge of the village. After that, the village when into high alert, but it did little good.

    The attack came nearly two hours later, and it was deadly. Shirakawa fell at the perimeter, his finger twitching convulsively on the trigger of his pistol as one of the attackers ripped out his throat. The mottled grey and black shadows darted effortlessly between flashlight beams of the guards, seemingly unfazed by their bullets.

    The Mightyena pack went in through windows and battered down doors, smelling out terrified women and children. Hideki Nakashima, the man who had given up his house to house Pidgeot, met an untimely death in his own bed, his corpse dragged out the window and into the night by two of the marauders. Elder Fujiwara narrowly escaped a similar fate by bludgeoning a Mightyena to death with a bedside chair and concealing himself in a closet.

    Two armed guards burst into Elder Saitou’s room and dragged the older man, still mumbling from sleep, out of his bed and to the basement of the rambler, where he found Dr. Murakami huddled with a group of miserable women and children. Saitou joined him, teeth chattering as the sounds of chaos seeped into the tiny basement, “They finally came, old friend.”

    The village, taken by surprise after having been lulled into a false sense of security after nearly a week between attacks, now swung into action. The alarm bell at the center of the village had been ringing almost continuously since the beginning of the attack, and now pistols, machetes, flashlights and torches were passed out to the grim looking men and women who had gathered at the alarm stations.

    The villagers came pouring out of houses and cellars, shouting war cries as they hacked, shot and bludgeoned the attacking Mightyena pack. Barely five minutes after the attack had begun, they beat a mewling retreat from the village, prompting a ragged howl of triumph from the assembled fighters.

    Elder Saitou stepped out of the cellar with Dr. Murakami and wiped the sweat from his forehead, “Well Kazu, it seems like we may have dodged the bullet, eh?

    But Murakami was less sanguine about aftermath of the attack, “I wouldn’t celebrate too soon. They left much more quickly than usual.”

    Unhappily, it was Murakami who turned out to be right. By the time morning arrived, the celebration had become a wake.
    Last edited by Hrist[ALT]; 1st March 2007 at 1:17 AM.

  20. #45
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    Great great great great great. First mistake i think I've seen though- I believe you mean Jeff was ready for that day, not James. That's just above the last ***. Otherwise awesome, gets more interesting and goddamn you you left another cliffhanger at the end to make me wish for more.

    Ooh, just noticed Mence and Arcanine in your sig, any significance or are you just giving Jeff your favourite pokes.

  21. #46
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    Thanks for pointing out the error. Of course I left another cliffhanger! It keeps it interesting.

    And yes, I admit to prominently featuring my favorite Pokemon. Wouldn't you?

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    This chapter turned out way different than I expected. In a good way.

    Chapter 9
    Back on the Road

    Jeff was sitting at the mouth of the cave when James stirred awake at dawn, the rising sun silhouetting his wiry frame. It looked like he was wrapping something, and a closer look told James that he was bandaging a nasty looking wound. James yawned and shrugged away his sleeping bag, leaving Kim to go on sleeping comfortably as he made his way to the cave’s entrance.

    “Morning Jeff,” James said, his eyes trailing down to the wound. “What happened to your arm?”

    Jeff quickly pulled his shirt sleeve over the bandage, turning his attention to Arcanine as he spoke, “I was on dawn patrol with Arcanine, just making sure that Salamence was done hunting for the night. We clipped a tree at high speed, and that messed up my arm a little bit. Anyway, it looks like we’re clear to go the rest of the way to Blackthorn City. We should be there by about noon if we leave soon.”

    James didn’t think that the wound was caused by any brush with a tree, it seemed far too deep for that, but he decided to drop it. There were more important issues at hand, “Um yeah, about Blackthorn City. I mentioned that Kim and I came all the way out here looking for you, right?”

    Jeff glanced up quickly from Arcanine, his soft green eyes contrasting with James’s glittering emerald ones, “Yes, I think you mentioned that you mentioned that yesterday on your way to the lakeshore.”

    “Right,” James pressed on. “So anyway, I was just thinking that there isn’t much point in going on to Blackthorn City. We came to get you because Eben needs a little extra firepower to clear out a Jibacoil that’s nesting in their power plant. It’s probably best if we don’t wait too long before getting back to Eben, you know?”

    Silence fell for a moment as Jeff checked Arcanine for injuries by running his hand through its coarse fur, then spoke in an uncharacteristically hard voice, “I understand that Eben is in danger, but that’s not the reason that you came to find me, right? I haven’t known you for long, James, but you kind of strike me as a mercenary. Do you really have Eben’s best interests at heart, or are you just in a hurry to get back to Eben so you can get back on the road?”

    For a moment, James could see Loam burning in his mind again, and he flinched. They were hard words, and even said in Jeff’s, reedy voice, they stung. He did care to some extent, but they were hard words because they were also true. The ghost of his conversation with Elder Saitou floated up in his mind, “I’m not doing this for you. I’m doing this because I have unfinished business, and when this is all over, your champion will help me take care of it.”

    When James didn’t reply, Jeff went on, “Don’t misunderstand me, I know why you came to this place. It’s just like I know that Kim isn’t here just because she has the best interests of Eben Village at heart. She’s here because, somewhere deep down inside, she wanted to train Pokemon again, and she knew that you could help her do that. But you’re already a Pokemon trainer, so you just wanted to find somebody like yourself, right? Maybe get some answers? Why didn’t you just stop the Jibacoil yourself? You have Pokemon.”

    You’re not like me, flashed through James’s mind, and his teeth clenched involuntarily at the indirect jab, “Like I said, we need a little extra firepower against that Jibacoil.”

    “James, I believe that you could handle that Jibacoil on your own, if you just had a little more faith in your Pokemon. I heard you have a Cyndaquil and a Scyther, how come I only ever see Umbreon?”

    His face growing hotter by the minute, James said, “They’re a little shy, and Umbreon doesn’t like being in a Pokeball, alright? Sometimes Cyndaquil like to ride on my shoulder. Why are you asking me so many questions?”

    Jeff patted Arcanine once on the head before replacing his hat and buttoning his jacket, “I’m going to ask these questions, and a hundred more just like them, because you’re the first Pokemon trainer I’ve seen in almost ten years, James. I mentioned getting answers earlier because there a lot of mysteries out there, and I think you can help us.”

    “And how can I help you?”

    Jeff shrugged and pulled up his collar against the cold, “By coming to Blackthorn City with me. There are a few people there that I would like you to meet, and you’ve gotta believe that they’ll be dying to hear your story.”

    James just stood there, his hands in his pockets, his breath freezing against the morning air, “Maybe first you can explain that little jab about me not trusting my Pokemon, first?”

    “You’ll get your answer when I get my story,” Jeff said. “Now are you coming to Blackthorn City with me, or not?”

    James sighed and threw up his hands. If Jeff really wanted him to go to Blackthorn City with him so badly, who was he to say no? Hadn’t he said that he wanted answers? Pulling his own jacket a little tighter to his body, James said, “Fine, Blackthorn City it is. You want to wake up Kim?”

    “I think we’ll let her sleep a little longer. We won’t be stopping between here and Blackthorn, and I want to give Arcanine some time to rest,” Jeff said. “While we wait, maybe you can give me a free sample and tell me what you were doing around the time the bells tolled?”

    James raised an eyebrow, privately wondering just how much Jeff really wanted to know about his personal history. He thought his brother Kanya Miyai lying dead in his house, the dagger in his pack right now sticking out of his throat. There had been a lot of blood in the past ten years, and he had a feeling there would be a more blood to come. Shrugging

    * * *

    While Jeff fed the Pokemon, James told him about Loam. Not all of it, but enough to whet Jeff’s appetite. Jeff didn’t need to know the whole story, not yet. He talked about being known as a teenager who said little but worked hard work in the sparse fields outside of town. These were traits of great value in the harsh scrubland, which meant that he tended to be well-liked around his town. At night, he would go out to nearby Loam Plateau to train and feed his Pokemon. He didn't like to advertise being a Pokemon trainer, and most people didn’t ask.

    One thing James did nottell Jeff about was the day he arrived in Loam. That was for later.

    He had been discovered in the brush by Sharon LaMott, a Loam resident who had been on her way to Agate to do some shopping, and instead found the young man lying prone in a ditch just outside of town. Temperatures had soared to nearly 100 degrees in the desert, and he had been half-dead from dehydration and heat exhaustion. He was quickly taken to Loam’s clinic, where he was given fluids and allowed to rest.

    When he awoke a week later, he found himself face-to-face with a gruff looking man with narrow eyes and a bald, sun-baked head. He smelled a little like axel grease as he leaned forward and carefully appraised the newcomer, “So you’re awake, eh? What’s your name, son?”

    He hesitated a moment under that hard gaze, and said, “My name’s Akira. I’m from Pyrite Town”

    The man grunted. His voice sounded like gravel when he spoke, “Alright Akira, I’m Leon DeMott, and Loam is my town. Now, since we brought you in from the desert, maybe you can explain that Red Dragon tattoo on your leg.”

    His hand went unconsciously to his leg, where the red Gyarados ran from the top of his calf to his thigh. He lowered his eyes and said, “My adopted father gave me the tattoo.”

    The man snorted, “Is that a fact? I’m going to bet that your adopted father is old Masamune Miyai, am I right? Where’s he now? What are you doing all the way out here?”

    “I’d rather not go into it.”

    “You’re going to go into it, because I said so,” Leon growled. “I know all about people like you and your little family. You have ten seconds to tell me what you were doing out there, or I’ll toss your rear right back out into the scrubland, you hear me?”

    He hesitated, swallowed once, then started from the beginning. As he spoke, Leon’s face became progressively harder, his frown dropping to a scowl. He described the catch he had made with Takeshi in Kanto, his harrowing escape from the Red Dragon compound, and his long trek across the desert. Later, he would be inclined to keep the story to himself, but now he told Leon everything. He talked for almost an hour, grateful to have it all off his chest, and when he had finally trailed off, Leon said, “Now show me what you took.”

    Nodding, James/Akira leaned to the side and reached for his pack. He pawed though it for a moment, then found what he was looking for and handed it to Leon without a word. He was still shell-shocked from his trek across the desert, and horrified by what he had done in the compound. All he wanted now was to be rid of Masamune’s prize and get on with his life as a traitor exile.

    As Leon took it into his hand, his eyes widened and his mouth went dry. He was holding a violet Pokeball adorned with the letter ‘M,’ one of the very few infallible Pokeballs created by the Silph Corporation. He balanced it in his hand for a moment, marveling at its power, “And your catch, it’s still in here?”

    He nodded, “Yes, it’s still in here. It’s too powerful for my father or anybody else to have. I tried to release it, but the Master Ball is stuck closed, it won’t open. I think he put some kind of lock on it.”

    Leon handed the Master Ball back to James/Akira, and he quickly returned it to his pack. He stood there for a long moment, his eyes fixed on the young man carrying the unspeakably powerful Pokemon. Finally, he said, “Masamune has made a lot of trouble for this region over the years, but he’s never found his way to Loam. This is a safe place, if you want to stay. But you have to promise me two things, son.”

    He ticked them off his fingers as he spoke, “Get rid of that Master Ball. Throw it off a cliff, bury it in the desert, or just try to break it open. It’s dangerous, and Masamune will be looking for it.”

    James/Akira nodded dumbly, and Leon continued, “Second thing is your identity, nobody can know who you really are as long as you’re staying in my town. Like I said, he’ll be looking for you,” Leon said solemnly. “From now on, your name’s James Chambers, got it? We’ll give you a place to live, and you’ll work hard for this town. In exchange, we’ll make sure that Masamune never finds you.”

    “Thank you,” James said, not sure what else to say. After a moment, he asked the question that was foremost on his mind, “Why are you letting me stay?”

    Leon laughed as he stood to leave, “Because most people will tell you that I’m a much nicer guy than I let on. And because I hate that ******* Masamune, and I’ll take any chance I can get to throw a little sand in his eye, even if it means putting the village in danger. Take care of yourself, son, and work hard. Don’t disappoint me.”

    And that was how James Chambers, formerly Akira Miyai of the Red Dragon Clan, came to live in Loam. James had just finished telling Jeff about the town when Kim came stumbling out of the cave, rubbing her eyes against the sunlight and smoothing down her hair. Thirty minutes later, they were back on the road to Blackthorn City.

    2


    Takuya Saitou sat solemnly at the kitchen table where, only six days earlier, he had had James Chambers shortly before his departure for Blackthorn City. His hands were folded into his sleeves, and his head was bowed almost to the table.

    In the rambler’s entrance corridor was his old friend Murakami, who was doing his best to comfort Stephen Suzuki and his wife while Saitou tried to get himself together enough to decide what to do. The village council had been split, each of them dealing with the fallout from the attack in their own away. That left Saitou with sole authority, but he didn’t feel like he had the strength or the will to wield it.

    He just felt foolish and old, and that is hard on any man, even an Elder.

    The casualties from the previous night’s attack stood at five dead and thirteen wounded, with four unaccounted for. It was the latter four with which Saitou was most concerned. They included little Kara Suzuki, two of her friends and an old woman named Sayuri Iwamura, the wife of his friend Elder Iwamura. The Mightyena pack had most likely taken them back to the den for later consumption, which was a nice way of saying that they would die one-by-one in the ensuing days.

    Iwamura was still in mourning for his wife of some forty-five years, but Stephen Suzuki and the rest of his Exterminators had already gathered their knives and pistols for the hunt. Saitou could hear Stephen’s voice even now growing steadily louder as he tried to argue down Murakami and get to Saitou. Finally, after five more minutes, there was a loud clatter of footsteps in the main corridor and the Exterminators burst into the dining room.

    “What’s this about making us wait?” Stephen demanded. He was a burly man wearing a faded leather jacket and a headband, a pistol was jammed into his belt. His face was a picture of simultaneous rage and terror, emotions that tended to go hand-in-hand in Saitou’s experience.

    Saitou raised his hands to calm the big man, “I asked Kazuhiro to try and stop you for a moment because you need to take a deep breath and get hold of your emotions. You were ready to charge off into the brush five minutes after the attack, and that would have only gotten you killed. You are one of our best fighters, and we can’t afford to lose you.”

    Stephen’s face went slack for a moment, and he ran a hand through his rough hair as he looked to his compatriots, “I got the Exterminators together, what else do you want from me?”

    Saitou stood and walked around the table to put his hands on Stephen’s shoulders. He could feel the tense muscles under his jacket, and the Elder’s heart went out to the man, “While you were gathering the armory, I had Elder Morioka gather together as many able-bodied men and women as he could. They will help you find your child.”

    “Elder, I,” Stephen began, then shook his head. “Thank you, Elder. Please forgive me.”

    “No Stephen, please forgive *me* for allowing all of this to happen,” Saitou said, pushing Stephen toward the door. “Go and speak with the Takahashis, they will be the leader of the group I’ve asked to go with you.”

    Stephen nodded numbly, then leaned forward and gave the Elder and awkward hug. When he had finished, he gestured roughly to the rest of the Exterminators and his wife, and they headed out the door in a clatter of daggers, pistols, rifles and other weapons. When they were gone, Murakami stepped back in and closed the door, “I think he wanted to kill me for a moment back there. We’re very luck he didn’t just rush off to get his daughter back. He’d probably be dead in the woods now, and that would be one more Exterminator gone.”

    “He’ll have strength in numbers, but that Mightyena is particularly vicious,” Saitou said wearily. “Do you remember their attack when we lost power to that thunderstorm six months ago? They killed ten villagers that night.”

    “Oh, I remember very well. I’m the only doctor here, remember?”

    Saitou snorted a little, “Yes, I remember, old friend. You know, if were twenty years younger, I would have gone with Stephen and his Exterminators. I could handle a pistol in my youth. Sometimes it’s difficult to admit that your time is passed.”

    “Your time only passes if you let it,” Murakami said pointedly. “Do you really want to help Stephen?”

    “Yes, of course I do.”

    Murakami stumped toward the door, gesturing impatiently as he did, “Then come on, Takuya, we can’t keep them waiting. I have an idea.”

    More than a little wary of his friend’s idea, Saitou nevertheless followed Murakami out the door to see his idea. He wasn’t necessarily certain that he had been serious about helping in the fight against the Mightyenas, but he supposed that a shot in the dark by a foolish, old man was better than no shot at all.
    Last edited by Hrist[ALT]; 4th March 2007 at 3:48 PM.

  23. #48
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    Chapter 10
    James and Jeffrey

    Blackthorn City was not far from Lake Rage, its high, makeshift walls surrounding a city nestled in the Mortar mountain range. A path near the edge of the city ran parallel to a shallow river, and the Blackthorn City gym sat at its end. It was clearly visible from the edge of the forest as James, Kim and Jeff finally came to the edge of the city and looked up.

    Jeff nodded toward the city and said, “Welcome to Blackthorn City, guys. You probably guessed, but we’re going through town and up the pass to the gym. Claire will be waiting for us.”

    “You mean Claire Flyer, the old Blackthorn City gym leader?” Kim poked her head around to look down at the city. Even at a distance, the town itself looked foreboding with its steel walls and multitude of tumbledown shacks. “Does she still train Pokemon?”

    “Yeah, she still trains Pokemon. She’s the leader of our little group of three,” Jeff said, patting Arcanine as he did. “Okay Arcanine, let’s get through the town and back up to the gym as fast as we can.” Arcanine barked and jerked forward, Jeff only barely holding on to his hat as the trio quickly descended toward Blackthorn.

    Blackthorn City proved to be even worse up close than it had looked at a distance. The air stank of urine, and elders and children stood warming themselves by fires built in streets and alleyways. They looked at James and Kim with hollow expressions, bringing a shudder to Kim’s spine. Their eyes were cold and hollow. She leaned up close to Jeff and whispered, “Why doesn’t Claire do anything for these people? How could this happen?”

    “They don’t trust Claire, or any Pokemon trainer for that matter. It’s dangerous to even pass through this city,” Jeff said uneasily. He was holding something in his jacket pocket, and Kim guessed that it was either another Pokeball or a pistol. “The best we can do to help them is to send shipments of food and medicine to the town leadership and watch from a distance.”

    “If this area is so dangerous, why not just pick up stakes and leave?” James asked, frowning at one particularly pathetic looking beggar. “Whatever you find can’t be any worse than this.”

    “Claire would never leave Blackthorn,” Jeff said coolly. “We’re here to stay, and they’ll just have to accept that.”

    They reached the mountain path without incident, and Kim was glad to be out. Blackthorn had felt like a dead city to her, a place devoid of hope. She wondered if the rest of the world was like this, and if there was any chance left for humanity at all. It struck her that, despite his protestations to the contrary; Jeff didn’t much like this place either. His eyes were fixed straight ahead, his expression blank. Kim wondered what it was like to look down on that forsaken city day after day, year after year. No wonder Jeff liked to get out of Blackthorn to go Salamence hunting.

    As they headed up the path, the devastated rocks and scrubby-looking grass steadily gave way to trees and shrubs, until at last they arrived at the Blackthorn Gym. It was the opposite of the city below, a stately manor with sloping rooftops and ornate windows. The design seemed to transport the viewer back to better days.

    “This is the Blackthorn City Gym,” Jeff said as Arcanine bore them to the main gate. “You’re welcome to stay here as long as you need. We have a lot to discuss.”

    They passed through the gates without further comment. They were back in the world of the living, strangers in a strange land.

    * * *

    The Blackthorn leader Claire Flyer was waiting for the three of them in her study, a Dragonair curled majestically around her oaken desk and her shoulders. Kim knew that Claire had once been a renowned Dragon Pokemon trainer, a woman who had trained with the legendary trainer Lance O’Ryan while serving as one of the most formidable stops along the road to the Johto League Silver Conference.

    In person, Kim was struck by Claire’s strong features, especially her strong cheekbones and hard eyes. She was tall and lean, and Kim imagined that she cut an intimidating figure on the battlefield as she commanded her powerful Dragons. She rose from her chair and swept her long blue hair behind her back as she moved to greet the newcomers, “Hello, I’m Claire Flyer, the Blackthorn Gym leader. Are these the trainers you were telling me about Jeff?”

    James just shrugged, but Kim threw a confused look toward Jeff. How had Claire known they were coming? Jeff smiled and patted the mobile phone in his pocket, “In the flesh, Claire. They’ve come all the way from Eben Village to ask for my help.”

    Claire didn’t reply, she only took the time to look the pair of newcomers carefully up and down. Dragonair whistled softly, and Kim felt a chill running up her spine. Claire’s eyes were like laser beams. The woman was smiling, but it seemed to become rather fixed as she turned toward James, “What’s your name?”

    “I’m James Chambers, formerly of the Orre region,” James replied.

    Claire’s eyes seemed to flash mistrustfully at the answer, but she only nodded and said, “Jeff has probably told you that it’s been a very long time since I’ve seen any Pokemon trainers outside of our little group,” her smile turned toward a frown now, as if she were deep in thought, “I’m sure we’ll have a lot to discuss tonight over dinner. We need to wait for Morty though, he’s on his way here from Ecruteak City.”

    “Can’t wait,” James muttered. Kim thought he looked about as uncomfortable as Claire did.

    “I’m glad. You’ll have to excuse me now,” Claire said apologetically. “I need to discuss a few things with Jeff. Feel free to have a look around the grounds. I wouldn’t recommend leaving the grounds though. You can probably guess why.”

    A few minutes later, James and Kim were turned out of the office and left to their own devices. James quickly disappeared through the front door, but Kim didn’t follow. Instead, she found herself wandering down the manor’s large corridors, sometimes peeking into different rooms as she digested her encounter with Claire. She realized that Claire’s reaction to James was much as the same as hers had been just a week ago. There was just something about him that automatically raised your hackles and put you on the defensive. He wasn’t a bad guy in the end, but he was secretive. Kim didn’t like secrets, and apparently neither did Claire.

    Sighing, Kim eventually made her back to the gate and headed outside. The late afternoon sun had warmed the weather a bit, but Kim nevertheless found herself pulling her jacket a little tighter about her shoulders. James was sitting in a lawn chair nearby, his legs kicked out and his collar pulled up around his ears. He had released his Pokemon, and now Cyndaquil and Umbreon dozed at his feet while Scyther lurked in the trees nearby.

    Realizing that Ursaring probably wanted a little exercise as well, she pulled its Pokeball out of her pack and looked at it. Remembering the way Jeff had almost casually befriended it, Kim screwed up her courage and hit the release. It appeared with an ill-tempered growl, shaking dust and grit from its shaggy pelt and rising to its hind legs to face Kim.

    Opening Jeff’s box of Pokemon treats, she dropped a few on the ground and gesture, “Go on and take them, Ursaring.”

    Ursaring dropped back to all fours to sniff at the treats, then growled and started toward Kim. She stumbled back a bit, “No Ursaring, the treats are over there! No!”

    She had to dodge now as it swept at her with a heavy paw. It was readying a fire blast when Kim hit it hard on the nose and yelled, “No! You know better! No!”

    Ursaring fell back on its haunches just as it had with Jeff, and Kim was suddenly flush with triumph as she picked up one of the treats from the ground and proffered it to the Pokemon. It took the treat without further comment, and Kim scratched it between the ears. As she did, she thought of Quilava and Murkrow, and felt a momentary pang in her heart. Much as she wanted to, there could be no going back to ten years ago. Ursaring was her future now.

    James was clapping from his lawn chair, and when she turned, he gestured broadly and pulled up another for her. She sat down heavily and leaned back to watch as Ursaring ate the rest of its treats, then began prowling around the yard.

    “You know, I was wondering when you would get up the nerve to start training Ursaring,” James grinned. “Maybe we can have a proper battle now.”

    “Yeah right, I think it would just as soon eat me as listen to one of my commands,” Kim sighed. “Speaking of battles, what was going on in Claire’s office? I felt really uncomfortable in there with the three of you glaring at each other the way you were.”

    “Yeah, I know. I felt pretty uncomfortable myself,” James said as he pulled Cyndaquil to his lap and began to stroke its soft fur. “I don’t think Jeff likes me much, and he probably passed that along to his friend Claire.”

    Kim frowned, confused, “Why wouldn’t Jeff like you?”

    “Oh, he just said some things at the camp this morning that kind of ****** me off. He tries to act like some kind of master trainer, but he mostly just comes off as a wuss,” James’s voice rose to a passable imitation of Jeff’s soft tenor. “*Oh, you don’t trust your Pokemon enough James. You have a lot to learn about life, the universe and everything. I wanna be your best friend, James.*”

    “He probably really does just want to help,” Kim said gently. From the corner of her eye, she saw Ursaring roll over on its back and fall asleep.

    “Well, I don’t need his help. I was on the road for nearly ten years, and I did just fine without him and his wisdom.”

    He leaned back in his chair and went silent for a moment, but Kim could sense the boiling emotion within him. He seemed impatient about something, as if Jeff’s words had tripped some emotion deep within him, and now he was struggling to contain it.

    As gently as possible, Kim asked, “James, what’s wrong? Really?”

    James grimaced, but didn’t say anything for a moment longer. Kim was about to ask again when she said, “I think I made a mistake coming here.”

    The words hung brittle on the air for a moment, neither of them sure what to say. James rose to feed his Pokemon. He had said his piece.

    2


    James didn’t say much for a while after that, and Kim let him be. Her brief experience with the man had taught her that, when he was done speaking, he was done speaking. She knew there was no use in pressing the matter, because he wouldn’t reply.

    She stayed to help him feed and groom his Pokemon, and he seemed to appreciate it. Scyther slowed down long enough to take his afternoon meal, then vanished back into the trees. Umbreon sat haughtily next to James as Kim brushed Cyndaquil, the fire mouse squeaking happily as the brush’s stiff bristles ran through its soft fur.

    When Kim was finished, she put it back on the ground, but it only curled up at her feet. James arched an eyebrow in surprise, “Haven’t seen Cyndaquil act like that in a while, you really seem to know how to handle it.”

    “The first Pokemon I ever got from Professor Elm was a Cyndaquil,” Kim said, smiling fondly as she reached down to stroke its back. “I wouldn’t tell any of my other Pokemon, but it always was my favorite.”

    “Yeah? My first Pokemon was a Cyndaquil too,” James nodded toward Cyndaquil. “It was that one, obviously. Once upon a time, it was my strongest Pokemon. Now, it won’t even ignite unless its life is in danger.”

    “Hmm,” Kim replied absently. She could clearly remember how reluctant Cyndaquil had been to battle at the Power Plant. When it had finally ignited and tried to use a flamethrower on the Jibacoil, the attack had done next to nothing. Tentatively, she said, “Well, a Cyndaquil needs a lot of attention and love, I think. They can be pretty timid before they evolve.”

    James didn’t say anything, just nodding again and leaning back in the lawn chair with his eyes closed. Frowning a little, Kim decided to continue with her train of thought, “It seems like you don’t use Cyndaquil and Scyther in battle very often. Maybe Cyndaquil has no confidence because it hasn’t had much experience lately.”

    This time, James’s eyes popped open. He looked agitated, “Yeah? Well how about you get a handle on your Ursaring before you start lecturing me about Cyndaquil?”

    Kim glanced back at Ursaring, which had begun to stir from its nap, her face growing hot, “Hey, look James, I haven’t trained Pokemon in ten years, and never anything this big. Honestly, I didn’t think I would ever train again.”

    “That’s just a bad excuse for being afraid.”

    “I’m not afraid!” Kim hissed, some of her old temper returning.

    “Well how about a practice battle then?” James said, kneeling next to Cyndaquil. “I’ll tell you what, we’ll have a two on two battle. Since you’ve got such a connection with Cyndaquil, you can borrow it while I use Scyther and Umbreon. We all could use the training.”

    “I don’t know. I haven’t really had a chance to train Ursaring yet. I don’t know if it’ll even follow my orders.”

    James snorted and patted Ursaring on the head. It snapped ill-temperedly at his fingers, but he didn’t seem to notice, “Oh come on, I bet that he’s just dying for a rematch.”

    Kim looked at Ursaring uneasily. James might have wanted a battle, but *it* sure didn’t. Having missed out on James’s hand as a free meal, Ursaring had risen to all fours and trundled over to a nearby apple tree to try and knock down some of the fruit on the upper branches, “I don’t think I can convince it to battle, James.”

    “Oh come on Kim. When are you going to start acting like a Pokemon trainer again, huh? It’ll never trust you if you’re afraid of it! Now come on and battle me.”

    Kim set her jaw, “No James, especially if you’re going to be like this. I need to build up trust with Ursaring first, okay?”

    “I agree with Kim. In fact, I think her attitude is commendable,” a calm voice floated down from the balcony, prompting both of them to glance up at the source. Jeff strode out of the manor and onto the grounds; a Pokeball balanced easily in his palm. “James, if you want a battle that badly, I’ll accept the challenge. I’ll even use Ursaring and Cyndaquil, if it’ll make you feel better. Like Kim said, they could both use the experience.”

    James’s eyes becoming even harder than usual as Jeff approached. They were sharp and almost inscrutable, but there was no denying the anger there. It suddenly became apparent to Kim how little James liked Jeff, and perhaps vice versa. He was the self-styled alpha wolf, while Jeff was the newcomer who, in his own quiet way, challenged any authority James might have had at every turn.

    This was James’s golden opportunity to silence Jeff’s criticism, but Kim could sense fear as well, fear of shame and defeat.

    “You really think that Ursaring is going to listen to you?” He challenged.

    “I’m not worried about Ursaring, it’s just a training session. No matter what happens, it will be a valuable experience for the both of us.”

    But it wasn’t just a training session, Kim could see that. Not with James staring daggers at Jeff as he called Scyther and Umbreon to his side, and not with Jeff standing there quietly next to Ursaring and Cyndaquil, apparently ready to teach James a lesson he would never forget. It occurred to Kim that this was probably the first real encounter between two Pokemon trainers in ten years, and what did Pokemon trainers do but battle each other? But this battle would be anything but friendly.

    They squared off on either side of the courtyard, their Pokemon ready. Umbreon trotted out to meet Ursaring, and Jeff shook his head. James just set his jaw and waited for the match to begin.

    Kim heard herself call, “Alright, the first round will be Ursaring vs. Umbreon. There is no time limit, and substitutions are allowed by either trainer. Go!”

    It would be all over in twenty minutes.

  24. #49
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    Damn, I got lost in that Chapter as I have all your others. They are so descriptive. My heart sunk when I saw your sig though, the tell-tale sign that the chapter was coming to an end.



  25. #50
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    Hooray, somebody finally commented after like two chapters lol. Where did everybody go?

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