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  1. #1
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    Default ~ Choice and Consequence ~

    A/N: Gah. I wish someone would find the cure for procrastination, maybe this would've been out sooner :P

    So. Welcome, one and all, to the rewrite of 'Choice and Consequence'. I'm assuming that anyone here has already read the prequel, Heart of the Magma, and if you haven't, you'd better get to it - it's pretty much required reading. You probably could get away with not reading it if you really wanted to, but it provides a *lot* of background info.

    Disclaimers are also the same as HotM - I don't own Pokemon (obviously) and I credit Coronis with some of the manga-based names.

    (3/08/08): This story's rating has been upped to PG-15, mostly for language, but if anyone has anything to say about the rating at any time, feel free.

    And now, on we go.






    ~ CHOICE AND CONSEQUENCE ~


    HATE.

    I hate him. I hate them. What they’re doing is wrong; it will come to nothing but chaos. They worship death, they worship sorrow, they worship—

    —the fire, the land, they worship blazing anger, fury, instead of cool reason, instead of calmness. They can fight it all they want, but it won’t change the facts: that all life depends on water, on the ocean, without it—

    —we would all be destroyed, because there would be no life without the land. It’s where we live, it’s what supports us, it gives us food and shelter and comfort. But the ocean… all it does is take life, without form, without meaning, all it does is kill…

    …they talk like the land is a living thing, like it watches over us and makes sure we’re provided for, but the truth is that it doesn’t care. It takes away what we need most when we need it, makes its forms difficult to travel, hard to farm. The ocean’s moods may change, but the land is unfeeling. He’s—

    —insane, to think that the world can survive on water; insane to think—

    —that they could actually succeed. That’s why—

    —I have to stop him, no matter what. Because his dream is foolish.

    Because it would kill us all.
    Last edited by purple_drake; 29th May 2009 at 3:52 PM.

  2. #2
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    ~ I ~
    A LIFE HALF LIVED


    “ROSS!”

    Huh? Ross turned, startled, water sloshing against the streamlined hull of his boat at his aborted motion to pole off from the cobblestone-lined edge of the canal. Absently he brushed at his hair, the long wings of his fringe threatening to lash in his eyes with the crisp breeze that ruffled his red-and-white shirt and dark trousers.

    A moment later he grinned; down the footpath he saw his friend Keegan dodging the morning pedestrians with muttered, breathless apologies, her sneakers pounding on the flagstones and cherry-blonde hair bouncing around her neck, her firestone pendant flashing in the sun. At her heels an orange-and-black growlithe bounded happily, the white tufts of fur on his head and beneath his chin rustling in the wind, and behind him—panting, small paws beating the stone relentlessly—was a brown eevee, looking bedraggled and tired.

    “Well, hurry up then!” Ross called out cheerfully, stilling the gentle rock of his boat with the slim pole he had in one hand, flicking up the round brim of his hat with the other.

    Minutes later he pushed off the edge again with a scrape of wood on stone, Keegan stretching her legs out beneath the slatted seats before her with a groan at her aching muscles, her face still red with exertion. At her side, the growlithe had his bright paws on the edge, shaggy head peering down into the clear water, and the eevee was sprawled, wheezing almost theatrically, on the seat ahead of her trainer, short legs outstretched.

    The breeze was even cooler on the water but not uncomfortably so, refreshing them as it caught their clothes and fur, and Keegan let out a long breath, visibly relaxing on the short bench. “So, to what do I owe your company?” Ross asked brightly as he poled the boat along with smooth motions.

    “Three guesses,” Keegan muttered belligerently, leaning back on her elbows with her bangs shading her eyes.

    Ross winced in understanding. “Ah. My company is preferable to your foster parents’.” It wasn’t a question, so Keegan’s only answer was a snort that made both her pokémon flick their ears towards her in knowingness and frustration.

    Everyone who knew Keegan and her family knew the problems that she and her guardians had. They were very protective people and she had a tendency to be reckless; as a result they clashed with each other on a great many issues, especially where the ocean was concerned. Keegan, having been found adrift quite aways from Alto Mare after a particularly violent storm, had an acute phobia for being in deep water. Living on a floating city as they did, most of the recreational activities were aquatic, and therein lay the problem.

    “So what’s up?”

    “Another three guesses, and this time the first two don’t count.”

    Ah again. “The water chariot race.” Ross sighed, expertly steering the boat down a flooded alleyway, the tall stone buildings looming above them, casting shadows as the sunlight gleamed over the graceful steel railings arcing over the passage and along the empty balustrades above. “They said no.”

    Keegan’s lips twisted in frustration and resentment, her blue eyes tracking the swell of the water against the craft’s bow over her eevee’s furry back. “It’s not fair. Are they trying to keep me from having a life?”

    Another stroke, water rippling in the wake of the pole. “They’re trying to keep you from getting hurt.”

    “They’re overdoing it.” Keegan snarled angrily, then grimaced, regretting it almost immediately. Nice going, dummy, yell at the only person who’ll listen to you. “Sorry,” she muttered, sitting up and wrapping her arms around herself in the prevalent chill of the back-alleys, her sleeveless white top and grey jacket not quite shielding her from the temperature.

    “Mmm.” was Ross’ only answer, accepting her apology and encouraging her to continue. Keegan honestly didn’t know what she’d do without him; there was only so much she could rant to Hazel and Firefoot, after all, and whenever she talked to Simon she felt he always had that ‘you know they doing it for your benefit’ look in his eyes.

    “Eebui?” The former tumbled off her perch to crawl onto Keegan’s lap, black eyes huge with concern, and the girl wound her fingers into her long brown fur.

    “It’s just…” Keegan let herself trail off, her thoughts churning, stomach still tight with anger directed at her foster parents. “They never let me do anything.” She hugged the fox-like pokémon, breathing in the fresh scent of her pelt, feeling the soothing rumble of her purring beneath her arms. “I know I don’t like water and all, but I live on a damned floating city. I gotta work up a resistance to it sometime, you know? Sure, the open ocean still freaks me out, but this is different. Surfing is… it’s…” She bit her lip, not sure how, exactly, surfing was different to other water-based sports but knowing it was.

    “It’s all about control,” Ross supplied quietly, and Keegan perked up, nodding her head so fiercely that she jostled Hazel.

    “That’s it. I can control it. Swimming and boating you’re at the mercy of the waves, but surfing it’s you, your chariot and your pokémon.” Her eyes went dark and she gripped the heavy pendant at her throat, feeling its comforting warmth, red light flickering in its depths.

    Ross felt he should say something, but didn’t know what; instead he settled for another “Mmm”, his strokes long and even, shadows dappling over them as they coasted beneath another of the wrought-iron arches and back into the sunlight of an open canal.

    For a long time they were all silent, enjoying the brisk wind, the lap of water on the smooth hull and the glide of the other boats as they passed, the soft chatter of voices—both human and pokémon—on the broad cobbled streets.

    “Ross…” Keegan spoke up finally, head bowed, stroking Hazel almost absently.

    “Mmm?”

    “Can I…” she faltered, hesitant, as though what she was about to ask was beyond the lines of friendship, and with a sudden twist of his stomach Ross thought he knew what she was going to say. When she confirmed his suspicions it was in a rush of words, turning half around to watch him out of the corner of her eye. “Can I borrow Wailmer and take your place in the water chariot race tomorrow?”

    Even though he was half expecting it Ross’ chest clenched, and for a few moments he said nothing, the wide brim of his hat shading his face. It wasn’t that he was especially looking forward to the race—although he was, you could almost say that chariot-racing was his vice—it was that, in some ways, he agreed with Keegan’s parents. He did think they should let her off a little more than they did, but disobeying them in such a way wouldn’t help the situation.

    Keegan apparently took his silence for refusal, because she turned around fully, her blue eyes wide and anxious. “I mean—I know you practice a lot for them and you want to redeem your loss from the open race a while back—but it’s not like it won’t come again and you’ve got so many of the pendants we can hardly see the walls of your room anymore—” Her tone was quick, babbling, almost… desperate.

    It was that, more than anything, which decided him, that and the mental image of her whipped-puppy expression if he really did rebuff her. He sighed, wishing—not for the first time—that he had the strength to say no.

    “Alright,” he conceded, and the way that her face lit up beneath her red-blonde hair, a beam spreading across her thin features, her eyes sparkling, almost made it all worth it right then and there.

    * * *

    When the next day came Keegan was abuzz with energy, feeling drained and tired from a sleep interrupted by excitement and worry but still far too hyped to be brought down by it for long.

    Even worse was the fact that Miriam expected her to help in the library that morning—the books needed constant care to make sure the salt water didn’t damage them. That meant that Keegan had to face her guardians with an appropriately disappointed expression when her stomach was twisting itself into knots out of excitement and fear that they would discover her plans.

    A part of her did suggest that perhaps she explain and tell them she was entered, and perhaps manage to convince them to let her enter by virtue of obligation, but she squashed it.

    They wouldn’t let me. They’d never let me do something so ‘reckless’ and ‘irresponsible’. They’re so afraid of me getting hurt that they barely even let me breathe

    It was going to be close, at any rate. They needed to get to the library, then Keegan needed to get away for a few minutes to escape, then she needed to fight the crowd to the starting location—the races were popular, and the canals were always packed—so she didn’t have all that much time.

    Fortunately she was in the middle of emptying out some boxes from the back room; that meant she could turn on the television to make it sound like she was in there, sneak out the window and be gone. Miriam wasn’t likely to check on her all that often, and by the time she did, it would be too late.

    So deep was she in laying her plans that Keegan hardly even noticed when the reached the broad marble steps of the library, leading in a shallow slope right down to the water front. The wide canal was already speckled with a few bystanders, lingering in the shade of the few small trees nearby, since the race would pass through that point.

    In fact, she didn’t notice anything until Miriam’s concerned voice interrupted her thoughts. “Keegan…”

    Keegan jumped, startled, and lifted her head to meet Miriam’s worried brown eyes. The woman had paused in the motion of opening the tall doors, but Keegan hadn’t been paying attention. “Uh huh?” she asked, trying not to look guilty and feeling even more so with Firefoot and Hazel pressing up against her bare legs.

    For a moment Miriam just looked at her, her plump face framed by short brown curls. “You know we’re not trying to hurt you,” she said quietly, and Keegan’s stomach clenched with familiar, tired aggravation.

    Why does this keep coming up? she thought wearily. I just want it all to be over. I’m tired of fighting. Maybe when they see I can handle myself they’ll stop trying to restrict me so much.

    “I know,” she answered instead, not entirely sure how convincing she sounded.

    It must have been good enough, though, because Miriam only regarded her for a moment more before giving a short nod, her cheeks dimpling with a tiny smile. “I’m sure you’ll find plenty of time to watch Ross on the local channel anyway, hmm?” she teased, and Keegan went red.

    “Of course I will,” she answered, determinedly not responding to the jibe. Ross was only her friend, but Miriam and her uncle Simon kidded her relentlessly about the fact that her closest human companion was a guy.

    Unwillingly she trailed her chuckling foster mother into the mosaic floor of the entryway before departing and making her way through the looming shelves to the tiny storeroom right in the back, her pokémon at her heels. Once there she closed the wooden door and leaned back against it, taking deep breaths against nausea, shutting her eyes and trying to will away the stuffiness of the room. Oh, I wish I hadn’t had breakfast.

    “Grawlth?”
    She felt Firefoot’s weight against the backs of her legs and took comfort in it, his long fur tickling her skin.

    Right. I can do this. Another deep breath.

    “Eebuu.” Gracefully Hazel leapt onto the low cabinet just across the way, squeezed against the wall between boxes and shelves, and pawed at the small antique TV, which flickered to life. The sound made Keegan’s eyes flutter open and she swallowed.

    “Okay. Let’s go.”

    As one unit they moved to the high, round window on the outside wall, paws and shoes soft on the faded carpet. Keegan heaved Firefoot up to the top of the rickety bookcase in front of it, steadying the shelves until the growlithe had nosed open the latch and moved onto the round windowsill. Hazel was next, following Firefoot onto the slight ledge ringing the building just outside, and Keegan came last, pulling the window closed behind her, feeling a glimmer of amusement as she imagined Miriam entering the office to find it empty, with no sign of how she had left.

    Okay, so Miriam probably wouldn’t wonder, but it was a funny image, and Keegan needed the distraction. Badly.

    Within seconds they were all back on cobblestone, in the shadow of the buildings and with the damp of the canal alongside, hurrying down the narrow lane towards the open street ahead.

    Behind them, the television blared to an empty room.



    Anxiously Ross scanned the multi-coloured crowd, absently giving his wailmer more slack when the rubbery round pokémon tugged impatiently on the leash, eager to be off. It’s almost time… if she’s not here soon… he trailed off, not sure how to the end the sentence before his subconscious decided for him.

    If she’s not here soon, maybe it was for the best.

    Violently he shook his head, his long bangs flapping around his face. Can’t think like that. She’s already feeling oppressed, what’ll she do if she finds out I half agree with them?

    A deep, echoing rumble from Wailmer made Ross turn, and to his relief he saw Firefoot bound out of the crush of the people, tongue lolling happily. Hazel squeezed her way past two legs, looking ruffled, with Keegan on her heels, muttered apologies on the girl’s lips.

    Keegan’s shoes were off almost before she’d reached the brown-haired young man, and he pressed a hand to her shoulder, leaning in to whisper, “Good luck,” as he pushed the handle into her hands, backing away from the edge before he had a chance to register or act upon the lingering pang of doubt.

    If he had seen Keegan’s face right then, he might have pulled out after all. Oh God, I can’t believe I’m going to do this…

    Gingerly she stepped onto the slick, streamlined chariot, the black matting rough beneath her bare feet, and almost tipped over there and then as the vessel rocked. Her heart leapt to her throat and her arms windmilled slightly as she fought to keep her balance, splashing water up the curb; but Wailmer knew his stuff, gently pulling the line taut until she could steady herself.

    Before she knew it she was at the starting banner, staring down into the clear water, at the smooth bottom fragmented by the gentle waves. I really am doing this.

    I think I should have thought about this more…

    No way. If you’d thought about it, you would’ve backed out. Coward.


    She took a deep, steadying breath, feeling the insane urge to giggle at her internal monologue. That was how she always worked things out: as though there was two of her.

    Right now one was saying she was insane and that she wasn’t so prideful as to pull out.

    The other was revelling at the cool breeze in her plaited hair, at the gentle rock of the chariot, the slight twinges of satisfaction when she kept her balance easily. I’m sticking with my decision. I’m going to find out just how good I am. That’s good. It has to be good, right?

    If only her foster parents knew that Ross had been teaching her to surf. All at night, of course, so no one would know, and far away from their house; and of course it wasn’t anywhere near at racing speed, but still. She had learned. She knew what she was doing.

    That’s right. I know what to do. Everything’s going to be fine. Fleetingly she touched her pendant for good luck, casting a sidelong glance at the crowd, where she caught Ross’ bright red-and-white shirt in the front and an equally bright orange-and-black figure sitting restlessly next to a brown one at her friend’s feet.

    The xatu crowed.

    Keegan’s heart leapt.

    With an abrupt surge they were in motion, Keegan’s plaited hair lashing in the wind, her breath caught away by the speed and chill of the spray which drenched her, the chariot vibrating beneath her feet as the sidelines flashed past on either side. Oh God I’m going to fall I can’t believe I’m doing this—

    The chariot wobbled and her stomach twisted, automatically moving to compensate and losing speed as someone cut in front of her. Don’t think. Don’t think. Just do it.

    She regained her balance, her skin already numbed by the damp chill and the resistance of the air, her ears filled with the distant roar of wind and cheers. Ahead the dimmed entrance into the alleys loomed, and in an instant they swept into the cool shade, casting splashes of water up against grey stone as they passed in a flash of gleaming red and yellow.



    Humming absently, Miriam picked up the stack of old books she’d just sorted from the shelves, groaning a little under their weight. She had to check them regularly; the older books were more susceptible to the dampness of the salt air, so once they passed a certain age they had to be shipped to the library on the mainland. It was Keegan’s job to pack and unpack boxes—she seemed to enjoy being secreted away where no one could see her, surrounded by the smell of paper.

    I can just take a gander at the television while I’m there, too, Miriam mused, weaving her way expertly among the narrow paths of the main library. Simon said Marlin was going to enter this race. What those men see in it, I’ll never know… but I suppose it’s better than gambling on those ponyta races on the mainland…

    As she came to the door she heard the tinny sound of the TV and smiled, her suspicions confirmed. Keegan never missed watching a race if she could help it; Miriam had given up trying to get her interested in something else. She’s worse than that confounded brother-in-law of mine. Little fox indeed. Using her elbow, she managed to lever open the door, expecting to catch her foster daughter darting guiltily towards an open box to pretend that she hadn’t been slacking off to watch the race.

    What she saw was an empty room.

    Startled, for a moment she just blinked around, automatically moving to set the pile of books down on the round table in the centre of the cluttered study.

    “—definitely some fierce competition in the ranks today, perhaps due to former champion Ross’ last-minute withdrawal. Now we’ve got neighbourhood favourites vying to snatch up the title he finally lost in the open race just two months ago, but his replacement’s turning out to be fair competitor herself…”

    What? Ross withdrew?
    Miriam whirled towards the television, the mystery of Keegan’s disappearance momentarily forgotten. Everyone knew how much Ross loved the water chariot races.

    What she saw made her freeze with shock, her eyes widening incredulously as the camera zoomed in on the contestant who had apparently taken Ross’ place. Even as distorted with spray as the image was, the lashing blonde hair, denim shorts and cut-off shirt were all too recognisable.

    Keegan…

    As she watched, the chariots sped around a tight corner, throwing up water, the riders leaning in on the turn. Keegan hauled on the leash, turning sharply and then drawing in the opposite direction with enough speed to cut in front of the person not far in front of her, making the seadra pull back in alarm and sending its trainer head-over-heels into the water.

    She’s pretty good, Miriam noted numbly, in some distant corner of her mind which understood—you didn’t live on a floating city without picking up some kind of an appreciation for aquatic sports, after all, no matter how much she bemoaned it.

    But the rest of her—most of her—was clenched in fear and disbelief. Oh, God, she’s afraid of water, she’s going so fast, what happens if she falls or hits her head or one of them runs over her—

    They say that karma has a sense of humour, but laughter was the last thing on Miriam’s mind when, to her horror, she saw the grainy image of her foster daughter meet briefly with the curb. The vessel was sent spinning out of control, rocking violently and throwing a stumbling Keegan off, right into the deepest centre of the wide canal.



    Keegan’s hand was dead, her arm was aching, her ears were numb, her feet chafed, her legs stiff and her entire body exhilarated as she burst out of the final closed alley, the sun a flash of warmth that was lost in the prevalent cold of the wind beating against her. We’re in the last stretch, come on, we can do this!

    Squinting through the spray and lash of hair in her eyes she could see the figure of another competitor just in front of her and to the right, a young man in whose wake she’d been riding for half the race. I’ll have to take care of that.

    As they approached a turn she pulled on the leash, guiding Wailmer to cut the corner as near as she dared, and her feet tickled with vibrations as the chariot scraped the edge.

    But she didn’t have time to be afraid of unbalancing, because that was when she leaned in the opposite direction, the chariot dipping in the backwash of water, the weight of air pushing her down as they cut in front of the scaly seadra’s nose. Keegan just caught the seahorse’s surprised expression before they pulled ahead, her spare arm jerking in the air as she strove to catch her balance from the stunt, her heart pounding in her throat and cheeks aching from her fixed, exultant grin.

    Final turn, there we go, then it’s up the home stretch—

    There were still people in front of her but she was having far too much fun to care, even though her body was itchy with the salt and wind and complaining against the drag of air resistance.

    She hadn’t quite gotten her stability back before the bend was right there, closer than she’d thought it was, and with a muffled oath she pulled on the leash to turn—

    Too fast!

    The chariot slanted, threatening to dump her against the ledge, and she desperately tried to correct herself. Obediently Wailmer swerved away from the edge, but as a result of the speed and angle the chariot careened back across the water, its curved side hitting the corner.

    The chariot was sent spinning out of control into the middle of the channel and the leash wrenched out of Keegan’s hand, making her world tilt. For a moment all she could see was sky, the mat rough beneath her feet and arms windmilling wildly as she instinctively fought to keep her balance, but it was too late. She hit the water with a jolting blow that made her gasp, swallowing liquid, and then it all closed over her head, her body dragged down by fatigue and shock.

    A second later panic kicked in. OhGodcan’tbreathecan’tbreathecan’tbreathe—

    She thrashed, terrified, clutching at the light which shone in fragmented swirls on the surface, buffeted by the underwater backlash of passing chariots. Goingtodiedon’tletmedrown—

    Something blue and round came up beneath her, bumping against her suddenly. Wordlessly she shrieked, clawing at whatever was there, unable to realize that it was just Wailmer, patiently absorbing her assault and trying to nudge her towards the surface, but her flaying about just sent her further away from the pokémon.

    There was a soundless whump of water, casting them apart; then something strong gripped her around her shoulders, pulling her upwards until her head broke the surface with a sobbing gasp. One hand instinctively seized a muscular arm with an iron grip, held tightly against a broad chest and alternatively coughing and crying. Her ears rang distantly with shouts and cheers, her body numbed and exhausted from adrenaline rush. By the time they’d reached the side—how had that happened?—she had calmed down to huge, shaky breaths.

    “Keegan!” Ross was suddenly there, pushing through the crowd, his brown eyes worried as she gripped the side, revelling in the solid feel of crumbly stone against her thin body. Hazel all but danced in front of her, keening anxiously, her white ruff looking bedraggled in the dampness.

    “Here you go, little fox,” a familiar voice grunted, and abruptly hands heaved her up and over the edge as she scrambled for the cobblestone. Ross caught her, already wrapping a faded towel around her trembling shoulders, Firefoot whining deep in his throat as he licked her salty arm. Dazedly Keegan looked towards the canal in time to see a bearded bear of a man haul himself onto the sidewalk with a grunt, his blue tank top clinging to him wetly and water pouring off him with tiny splashes.

    Marlin, she registered dimly. Hazily she noted the overturned chariot bobbing in the centre of the canal, Wailmer’s round top visible over the edge of the curb, and the lithe blue golduck sitting on a second upright blue-and-green chariot, still with harness straps across its chest.

    That’s when everything that had happened sank in, and she looked numbly around at the few concerned onlookers, at the distant, cheering crowd near the tall banner some distance up the way, vaguely listening to Ross’ platitudes and self-recriminations.

    Oh. I’m going to be in so much trouble.
    Last edited by purple_drake; 11th August 2008 at 12:14 PM.

  3. #3
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    Keegan was sitting at the kitchen table with her head lowered miserably, her wet hair hanging limply around her thin face, loosened by the wind from its plait, half curled on the chair. She was still a little damp, but when Firefoot had dolefully dragged her favourite blanket down from her room she hadn’t passed up its comfort, wrapping herself up in it and drawing her legs up to her chest. It was a deep purple, with a woven filigree border of silver tangled around the same-coloured silhouettes of the many existing gym badges, and it’d been a present for her first birthday on Alto Mare.

    Firefoot had settled himself on the tiled floor beside her wooden chair, nestled in the folds that draped to the ground, while Hazel was sitting on the table, alternatively glancing towards the slightly rickety stairs leading to the second floor and watching her mistress. Peter and Miriam were up there now, talking to decide her fate.

    Well, maybe that was a little overdramatic, but Keegan felt she deserved being dramatic. Her life was one big drama and always had been, from the time that Pete and Simon had discovered her floating in the ocean to when she’d woken up with no memory of who she was and with only her firestone pendant—and Hazel—to her name, to now, restricted by her foster parents based on some stupid idea that she couldn’t handle herself.

    I was handling myself just fine, she fumed without much heat at all, too tired and despondent to work up the energy.

    Right up until you fell in the water, the other part of herself which held no illusions pointed out, and Keegan laid her head miserably on her knees.

    Oh, shut up, was all she could think of to say. I don’t want to hear it. I’m tired of hearing it. I just want to get out…

    Oh, stop being so self-pitying. You knew what the consequences would be when you entered. You didn’t actually expect to
    win, did you?

    Keegan sniffled, making Hazel’s ears flick worriedly and Firefoot look up with a whine deep in his throat. Well, no, but it would’ve been nice. Would’ve made the punishment easier to bear.

    Oh, I get it. So as long as you get something good out of it you’re fine, but as soon as the slightest bad thing happens, you give up, is that right?


    Keegan twitched. She was not giving up… was she? She just wanted to rest a little… rest from all the fights and accusations and resistances…

    “But I’m the one who’s resisting, aren’t I?” she whispered.

    “Bubui,” Hazel mewed dismally, pawing at her blonde hair, curling with the damp as it dried.

    “Do you think I should just give in, Hazel?” Keegan asked without moving, her arms wrapped around her legs and face half obscured by soft fabric of the blanket. “Stop arguing, and just accept that I’m never going to get anywhere?”

    “Eebui!”

    Hazel’s reply was so loud that it made Keegan jump, looking up at her bristling eevee with wide eyes. “Is that a no?” the girl asked shakily, and Hazel’s ears flapped as she stamped the tabletop firmly with one paw.

    “Graawll…” A glance down at Firefoot showed his usually dopey-eyed expression was one of earnest seriousness, and despite herself Keegan smiled; wanly, perhaps, but truly.

    That’s a no.

    Feeling a little calmer with such steadfast support behind her, Keegan glanced back towards the stairs, the light from the globe in the middle of the ceiling casting shadows over her face. The door beneath the stairs which opened onto the street was closed, but she knew it was getting nearer to sunset because of the glass sliding doors behind her, leading out onto the boat-deck. They lived on the very edge of the city, so their house was half on the water.

    It wasn’t long after the race had ended then did Miriam storm up the pavement, furious and terrified, and it was that obvious terror which made Keegan want to curl up and die with guilt, especially when Miriam fussed and cried over her first rather than chew her out.

    Ross had wanted to come back with her to take some of the blame, but Keegan wouldn’t let him; it was her idea, her fault, and she didn’t think she could bear having what promised to be the biggest row they’d ever had in front of her best friend.

    Marlin had come, though, maybe to give witness, maybe to give damnation, but it didn’t matter and he hadn’t stayed long, just talking quietly to Pete for a few minutes before leaving.

    Ross had managed to tell her—while Miriam was thanking the bearded fisherman fervently—that as soon as Marlin had seen her he’d fallen back and stayed on her tail for the whole of the race, even though he’d had plenty of opportunities to pass and possibly take the lead.

    The knowledge only made her feel guiltier.

    Guilt is going to get you nowhere, that voice spoke up again, the one that Ross had affectionately dubbed ‘the little fox’ when she’d told him about it. It was the one which always encouraged her to do reckless or sneaky things, which, she assumed, was what earned her the nickname in the first place. You made your decision, and Marlin made his. Just be glad he was there and get over it.

    That’s right,
    Keegan realized with a blink. I made my decision. I stuck with it. Even though I’m going to cop so much from Miriam and Pete, I’m willing to deal with the consequences. How can that be bad? It’s hard, maybe, but not bad.

    You’re learning.

    “Bui?”
    Hazel’s ear twitched and a second later Keegan heard the sound of a door closing softly upstairs, followed by two pairs of footsteps. She took a deep, slightly shaky breath, uncurling herself from the chair and stretching her deadened limbs, letting the blanket fall against the back.

    It was bad. I was scared. But it could have been worse, and now I know my limits for sure. I don’t want to fight. I’ll handle this like an adult, and maybe they’ll see…

    But when her foster parents reached the first floor, Keegan found herself unable to look either of them in the eye, instead staring down at the rough wood of the table.

    “Keegan,” Pete said in his quiet voice, and the girl flinched, gripping the edges of the seat. “We want you to know that we’re disappointed. We thought you had more sense than that, and we trusted you—”

    Excuse me? “You never did!” Keegan blurted, her head snapping up before she remembered her vow to handle this like an adult and clapped a hand over her mouth. “Sorry,” she whispered, her stomach twisting when she saw Miriam’s shocked, tearful expression, her face red with crying.

    Pete just looked tired, his face lined and roughened with years of sailing, and the purple aipom sitting on his shoulder cocked his head, throwing a warning look at an alert Hazel. “We trusted you,” Pete repeated, “To know your limits and to trust that we know what’s best for you—”

    Keegan couldn’t help it. “But I don’t!” she burst out, and Miriam flinched before Keegan realized what it sounded like. “I mean my limits,” the girl added quickly, managing to force her voice into a lower tone. “How can I ever know what my limits are unless I test them first?” Pete frowned and opened his mouth to answer, his aipom staring, but Keegan took a deep breath and rushed on before he could do so. “You say you trust me, but you’ve never given me a chance to see what I can do. All we know is that I’m scared of water because of something that happened a long time ago—how am I meant to know if I can handle myself now unless I do something about it?”

    “But you didn’t!” Miriam said shrilly. “Marlin said you were panicking—drowning—you could have died, Keegan, you would have died if he hadn’t been there!”

    “But now I know,” Keegan said passionately. “Now I know what I can and can’t do, instead of just assuming that things are the same as they were!”

    “Keegan,” Pete said quietly in That Voice, the one which proved that he was the dominant one of the marriage, no matter how controlling Miriam appeared to be. “If you know what your limits are, then what do you intend to do about them?”

    Keegan fell silent, staring in his direction in thought but not at him, which brought the aipom into view, his tail whisking this way and that behind Pete’s back. “I… would…”

    “Would you continue to do reckless things, like riding in the chariot races, even though it’s clear how dangerous it is?”

    Keegan’s cheeks flamed before she could stop them, because that’s exactly what she had in mind. She didn’t want to just sit down and accept that she had a fear, she wanted to conquer it.

    Pete nodded. “I see.”

    “But what’s so wrong about that?” Keegan demanded, a lump beginning to start in her throat. She thought she’d be doing so well at keeping herself calm, but she was beginning to lose it. This was going to turn out like all those other times. “What’s wrong… with wanting to get over something?”

    “It’s too dangerous, little fox!” Miriam cried, gripping her husband’s arm tightly as though for support, and Keegan felt a flash of anger at the nickname.

    Don’t call me that—you’re not my parents—you don’t have to right—

    Swiftly the girl clamped down on her instinctive, furious response, swallowing hard against frustrated tears.

    “You can’t go out looking for danger, that just makes you foolish!” The woman’s voice turned pleading, watery, and Pete patted her plump hand reassuringly.

    “It’s that fact which proves you’re not mature enough to make those kinds of decisions for yourself,” he said grimly.

    “That’s not true!” Keegan leaped out of the chair, making it squeal on the tiles and Firefoot jump up in surprise before it tumbled over him. “It’s—it’s different! It’s—”

    It’s a matter of opinion, ‘little fox’ supplied. That is, if you have the skill and power to keep it from being dangerous.

    Which I don’t,
    Keegan realized with dawning horror that Miriam was right. How could she race chariots if she couldn’t handle herself when something did go wrong?

    But how can I learn to handle myself unless I race chariots?

    “It’s not just a matter of maturity,” Pete cut off whatever she was going to babble next—and not even she knew what she was going to say—“But a matter of rules. You disobeyed. You always disobey, Keegan, you always go where you’re not supposed to. Remember when you tried to climb the library to clean off the windows in the attic?”

    “But—”

    “And what about using Simon’s fishing sloop without permission? If you’d asked, you’d have known it needed repairs.”

    “I just—”

    “Or the time you wanted to see the police training their growlithe? You almost got burned!”

    “But I didn’t!” Keegan exploded, furious, knowing that she’d probably just destroyed any credibility she might have gained in the beginning but unable to care. “I didn’t, I can’t believe you’re still going on about those things, you never let me do anything because you always think that you know best! Well, what about me?”

    “What about us?” Miriam whispered, staring at her with wide, wet eyes. “What about the people who worry about you when you almost get hurt?”

    “I’m sorry, little fox, but we’re grounding you until further notice,” Peter said quietly, but with authority.

    “Don’t call me that!” Keegan screamed, her fists clenched at her sides and tears spilling down her cheeks, knowing she was being irrational, too far gone to stop. “Don’t call me that if that’s not what you want me to be! You just want me to be some perfect daughter who’ll do whatever you say, but I’m not! I’m not like that and I’m not your daughter!”

    With that she snatched the blanket off the chair, making it topple with a crash, and fled up the stairs, Hazel and Firefoot following after her with twin keens of distress.



    Keegan lay staring up at the slanted wooden ceiling of her room, hugging her pillow to her chest, half swathed in the folds of her blanket. Firefoot was a warm, panting weight against her side and she could hear Hazel purring in her ear, curled around her head in a tangle of blonde hair.

    The girl felt completely wrung out and exhausted, and her eyes itched from crying so much. She wanted to sleep, but at the same time didn’t; what she really wanted was to do something, something to end all this.

    “I can leave,” she whispered, and Firefoot lifted his head from his paws, his ears flickering forward at the sound of her voice. “I can leave, and that way I can find out what’s going on with me.” She pushed herself up, still clutching her pillow to her lap, but her eyes now roaming the postered walls of the room as she thought. “I mean, plenty of kids go out on pokémon journeys, right? And they’re usually younger than I am. It wouldn’t be so different. And maybe it’s time to go. I’m not happy here anymore. I’m not happy not knowing…”

    Her hand drifted up to clench around the soothing weight of her firestone pendant, her eyes alighting upon the poster at the foot of her bed: an image of most of the Legendaries against a cliff-side seascape, with waves crashing on the rock, an image she’d always associated the most with freedom.

    I’m not happy not remembering.

    With an abrupt movement that signalled she’d made her decision she swung her legs off the bed, opening the door to the battered wardrobe just behind the entrance and grabbing her roomy shoulder bag off the handle. “I can’t take a lot of stuff, but if we leave anything behind we’ll be able to buy them once we out to a port,” she said quickly, half thinking, half needing to get her tension out. I can’t believe I’m doing this.

    “There should be one or two more ferries due to leave this evening, it’s not very dark yet, but we’ll have to hurry…” With practised swiftness she folded up her blanket and stuffed it into the bottom, followed by several changes of clothes and other necessities.

    Hazel and Firefoot had already caught on; within a few minutes the bag was full of the supplies they needed and Keegan was dressed in something more substantial for travelling.

    One last thing.

    She went to the low bookshelf slung across the wall opposite her bed, right beneath the long window that led out onto the street, and pulled her favourite magazines haphazardly from the ledge, spreading them out on the floor.

    I have enough room for some of them. Wish I didn’t need to leave most of them behind…

    And she wanted something to look at on the ferry to avoid looking at the ocean; it was going to be hard enough, boarding a ship, but she thought that she might be just tired enough to do it, as long as she didn’t think about it too much. It was the morning after she was worried about.

    But first she had to choose which issues of her Pokémon Journal collection she wanted to take.

    Most of them were about the Elites; she loved reading about them, not their scandals and lives like other magazines wrote about all celebrities, but their battles, their pokémon, their achievements.

    The first one was easy enough: the bonus issue on Lance the Indigo Champion. Although Keegan didn’t want to be a Pokémon Master herself, the fact that someone could reach to those kinds of heights gave her something to aspire to.

    And, if she wanted to be honest, she was a big fan for other reasons too.

    “Grrlth,” Firefoot nudged another glossy magazine over to her with a whine, and after a hesitant moment of flipping through it Keegan added it to the pile.

    Wallace hadn’t always been the Evergrande Champion, but he had taken over after Steven retired, so that meant he had to be good, right?

    And besides, he’s really philosophical. It’s like he knows all the answers. I’m having a bit of trouble with that right now…

    The last two were more difficult, but eventually she decided one of them should be the volume about Flannery. The young woman had come under a lot of fire when she became gym leader, despite the fact that her grandfather had been a member of the Elite Four in his day. It was just that a lot of people didn’t think she was competent enough for the job.

    Keegan had followed the story in every article she could find. Flannery did seem a bit bumbling and uncertain, but she was still willing and determined to do what she loved, and Keegan couldn’t help but admire her for that.

    Then she looked around at her collection in dismay, completely out of ideas. She didn’t have issues on all the Elites—although she had been planning to collect them—but the ones she had were so interesting. How was she supposed to choose between them?

    I suppose I can just take three, she thought dismally, picking one up randomly and flicking through the pages.

    Then something caught her eye and she hastily flipped backwards to where she’d seen it, coming to a brightly-coloured article and scanning through it.

    ‘—said that despite his expertise in ghost pokémon, Morty has his own special psychic ability. This, which he calls the power of ‘far seeing’, enables him to seek objects, pokémon or people and gain an impression of where they are or what condition they’re in…’

    The article went on, but Keegan’s heart skipped a beat.

    He can find things—lost things—he can point me where to go—

    Hurriedly she put the magazine on the top of the pile and stuffed them into the side of her bag; she’d finish reading the article later, but for now she had to hurry.

    And now she was filled with a new sense of excitement, of urgency; she couldn’t wait to get to Ecruteak, because finally she had something to look for, something to work towards.

    “Sorry about this, Firefoot,” she apologised, lifting his pokéball and returning him in a beam of red light just as he whined his acquiescence. Straightening up, Keegan shrank the pokéball and returned it to her belt, slinging her bag over her shoulder with a slight groan at its unexpected weight. Then she moved to the narrow window and turned the latch to push it open…

    But it didn’t move.

    For a moment Keegan stared. You’ve got to be kidding. She rattled it, shoved it, but nothing happened. If she hadn’t felt so exhausted she probably would have cried again; as it was she felt her chest getting tight. “What… how did they find out?”

    Hazel didn’t even get a chance to answer what could have been a rhetorical question, because that’s when the door opened with a creak and Keegan whirled around, eyes wide and wild, automatically hiding her bag behind her back.

    Simon stood for a moment in the doorway, taking in her guilty, defiant face, her clothes, the magazines still scattered on the floor.

    Then his brown eyes locked on hers and he moved into the room, shutting the door behind him with a click. “Marlin saw you,” he said quietly in his deep, grating voice, not seeming intimidating at all despite his thickly muscled arms, his sleeveless shirt making them seem even bigger than they were. “When you snuck out last week. He was coming by to my place for the evening.”

    “Oh.” Keegan said in a small voice, completely unable to think of anything to say.

    She had a habit of slipping out at night and wandering the streets of Alto Mare to look at the stars or learn how to ride chariots from Ross. She knew Peter and Miriam did what they did because they cared about her, but that didn’t stop her from feeling confined. Being out at night, when the city was empty, helped alleviate her frustration.

    “You were really going to leave,” Simon said, his tone a thick vein of several things Keegan couldn’t recognise, and she nodded mutely.

    He smiled. “Good.”

    There was stunned silence as Keegan gaped at him, and he grinned at her expression. “I never agreed with their way of raising you. You’ve got too much spunk. You’ve always learned by making mistakes; that’s just the way you are, just like doing everything in their power to stop those mistakes from happening at all is the way my brother and Miriam is. You were never going to be happy just staying here, but they’re too focussed on trying to control you to realize it.”

    “What do I do?” Keegan asked in a small voice, clutching her bag to her side, Hazel huddled supportively at her legs.

    Simon held out his hand, revealing the tarnished key resting on his palm. After a beat of surprise Keegan took it, used it, feeling a rush of relief when the window opened. When she tried to return the key to Simon he refused, instead holding out a pokégear device which looked small in his big hand. “Call,” he said simply when she clipped it to her belt, slipping the key into one of the bag’s side pockets. “Sometime, when you feel ready.”

    “I will,” Keegan promised, but he wasn’t done yet, forcing a thick wad of notes and a ticket into her hand as she turned to leave.

    “This’ll take you to Cianwood, it’s closest,” he told her. “There’s one last ferry leaving, but you’ll have to hurry.”

    I can’t believe he’s doing all this, Keegan thought numbly, staring at the ticket, the money scrunched up in her other hand. I always thought he was on their side.

    Her daze shattered and she threw her arms around him, hugging him tightly. She was speechless with gratitude, her eyes turning wet, her throat clogged, but Simon seemed to understand, giving her a fond squeeze back. “You know they love you, little fox,” he rumbled quietly, and she nodded against his chest.

    “I know.” She pulled back and wiped her eyes, stuffing the money and the ticket into her bag as Hazel jumped up on the sill, giving a mew of farewell to the fisherman. “Goodbye, Simon.”

    Keegan scrambled out the window into the narrow alley and onto the eaves of the window below, Hazel grabbing the strap of her bag with her teeth and riding it expertly as her mistress hitched it up onto her shoulder. Without looking back, the girl clambered like an aipom down the gutter and scuttled down the street, unaware that Simon’s burly frame was filling the backlit window, watching her as she disappeared around the corner.

    I can’t leave just yet, she thought desperately, a stitch already beginning to jab into her side as she ran down the cobblestone, illuminated yellow by the setting sun. Hazel bounded at her heels, struggling to keep up but not complaining, having dropped off her impromptu ride as soon as they reached the ground. Although I’ll have to be quick—the ferry’ll need to leave the harbour before full dark.

    She didn’t want to have to explain to Ross’ dad what she was doing up at this hour, dressed like she was going on an excursion, and Ross’ balcony happened to overhang the canal in which he moored his boat; but the building in question was easy to climb and Keegan had scaled it dozens of times when she wanted to visit without their parents knowing.

    It was this technique that she used when she reached his house, chilled and shivering slightly despite the long sleeves of her top and her exertions. Within minutes she’d dropped down onto the small terrace, bathed in the yellow glow of Ross’ bedroom light, and rapped at the window, her face numbed by the breeze. Instantly Ross looked up from the book he was reading and tossed it aside, opening the glass door.

    He took in Hazel, standing on the wrought-iron balustrade, and Keegan’s bag over her shoulder. “You’re leaving,” he said, sounding regretful and withdrawn, but not questioning.

    Keegan nodded, swallowing hard against the lost expression in his brown eyes. “I have to hurry—there’s only one more ferry and I have to catch it. I’m sorry, I really am, I just—I can’t stay here—”

    Ross shook his head as though to clear it, his bangs flapping, and continued to stare at her. “I was so afraid—” he started, then cut off and took a deep, shaky breath before starting again. “I was so afraid when I saw you go into the water. And I thought—if something happened it would be my fault, because I’d let you race.”

    “That’s not true,” Keegan protested, sounding a little shrill. “I was the one who shouldn’t have asked, I was the one who entered, even though I know I’m scared of water.”

    Ross shook his head again, but this time he had a tiny smile on his lips. “Keegan,” he said with strange gentleness. “It may have been stupid, but it was also brave. You were scared and you did it anyway, because you felt you had something to prove.” Keegan flushed, and Hazel purred loudly in consensus.

    “But I couldn’t help thinking,” Ross continued. “I thought that I’d never feel so frightened about something in my life. But then I remembered… I remembered what kind of a person you are. You’re too different from your foster parents, Keegan, and I knew sooner or later something was going to give. I knew you were going to leave, only then I wouldn’t be there to help you. Even if I didn’t even do such a great job of it last time.”

    Oh, Ross!

    Keegan threw herself forward and hugged him tightly around the neck. “Don’t say that,” she said fiercely, trying not to cry. “You were great. I really needed today to happen, and you were the best friend anyone could have. I’ll miss you heaps.” Ross embraced her back, and she stayed there as long as she dared, knowing that once they parted she’d be turning away from the last remnant of her life in Alto Mare. There’d be nothing else to hold her back.

    But it was something she had to do.

    Finally she pulled back and gave him a shaky grin. “We’ll be okay,” she promised. “Haze and Firefoot will look after me.”

    “Bubui!” Hazel echoed in agreement, fluffing her tail proudly.

    Ross just smiled fondly. “I know you will,” he said simply, before giving her a slight push towards the railing. “Now get going, you have to hurry, remember?”

    Keegan backed away towards the bit of sloping roof she’d used to move onto the balcony, giving a slight wave before she disappeared past the eaves, Hazel a moving shadow at her feet.

    And then she was gone.



    Simon waited patiently on Keegan’s bed, leaning back against the wall with his head pillowed by his thick arms, staring absently at the ceiling. He knew that sooner or later Miriam would come in to try and apologise, to reconcile things, and he thought it was better that she wasn’t faced with an empty room.

    An hour and a half after Keegan had first left, not long before full night set in, he had heard the distant horn of the ferry as it departed. Something in his chest had clenched, both with hope that she’d made it before it went and a fear that he’d done the wrong thing.

    Then he remembered the look in her eyes when he held out the key, like she’d been shut in a cell all her life and just been let out to see the sky; like a treasure box, locked for ages, had just been opened.

    She needed this.

    When he heard tentative footsteps pause by the door, he was ready.



    Miriam hesitated, one hand on the knob, debating the wisdom of entering so soon after their argument; but she hated disagreements, she couldn’t stand the thought of being on the outs with someone she loved.

    And besides, when she thought back on it, she was a little proud of the way Keegan had handled herself at first—she’d tried not to yell or interrupt, and she’d said what she felt, and what she said had some merit. But in the end it just wasn’t enough, and she lost control, wasn’t able to hold on to her temper… she just wasn’t ready…

    Cautiously Miriam knocked. “Keegan?” she called, opening the door slowly to give the fox a chance to reject her entrance, but there was no answer.

    And so, for the second time that day, Miriam entered a room which was empty of the girl she’d raised as her own.

    Dismayed, having definite flashbacks to that morning, Miriam surveyed the cramped, cluttered little area, eventually coming to a rest on Simon, sitting facing her on Keegan’s rumpled bed.

    Miriam’s heart lurched. What’s going on?

    “Where—where’s Keegan?” she asked, bewildered and apprehensive, and then even more so at the serious expression on Simon’s face.

    His answer was one that made her entire chest clench and her world go rocketing out of control.

    “I let her go.” he said simply.
    Last edited by purple_drake; 11th August 2008 at 12:26 PM.

  4. #4
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    Great fic you have here^-^

    you probably don't know me bcause I never commented on any of your fics(but I read all of them, with the exception 'Brother my Brother') so I came hurrying towards this re-write of choice and consequence(it's such a fitting title, if I may say so)

    anyway, Keegan in such an adorable personna, having a phobia with being in deep water is probably a result from the storm that nearly drowned her(and killed Hank) and that she floated in the sea, close to Altomare. Her pokemon are cute as well, Hazel is so cute(people may think that it is a cliched starter, but I think it just has to be in a fic as great as this one) she's a present from

        Spoiler:- :


    huh? Now, I think you mentioned how she got Firefoot in your first version but I couldn't spot it in this one, but I think it's that place where she almost got burned huh? what was it again? I forgot>___<

    I'm happy Ross is such a good(and probably only) friend to Keegan, to let her go(as a friend, not the guy with the key, I think it was Simon), practice surfing with her, letting her tke his place in the chariot race, and so on^-^ and the sooooooooooooo overprotective parents is a nice return(although here they don't let the main character go)

    anyway, I adore this fic too much so I'm gonna stay reading this(that makes the fic count that I review 3^-^) good luck with this great fic and keep up the AWESOME work^-^

    see ya

    Electric Soul Fairy
    Searching for Inspiration...

  5. #5
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    IT'S FINALLY BACK!!! KEEGAN!!! I haven't even read the story yet, but when I saw the title on the frist page, I completely flipped out. I thought you'd abandoned this. This story ((well, the prequel first, which immediately led me to this)) is the reason I registered at Serebii ((believe it or not, I still have your avatar from back then ingrained in my memory)). I'm happier than words can describe to see it back, now I need to stop typing this so I can actually read it again. *runs to reread HotM before starting C&C*


    Okay, finished finally. Don't realy have much to say. I loved it, but I already knew I would. I'm really glad you didn't abandon this, it was gone so long I wasn't sure what to think anymore.

    I remember when "The Authors' Cafe" was still "The Author's Cafe".
    Scrap, purple_drake, Ryano Ra, and Burnt Flower are my fanfic idols.


    --fics--
    NEW:Emory In Viridian- A more realistic spin on a new trainer trekking through Viridian Forest. [one-shot]
    NEW:Pallet Evening News [on DeviantArt and not Serebii due to short length] - A disturbing report from Pallet Town's evening news concerning three new trainers. [one-shot]
    Tómur -Dark contemplations of an undisclosed Pokemon about nothingness and the end. [one-shot]
    The Traveler - A lonely traveler encounters a malevolent pokemon during the night on Route 8. [one-shot]
    Redead - A Redead's perspective on its own life. [Legend of Zelda one-shot]

    More at my DeviantArt



  6. #6
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    How can this have such a low rating as it does? It’s just criminal.

    Anyway, I’m glad to see this back again, because it’s good as frell. Characters especially; they’re nicely realized, and I can sympathize with all of them and where they’re coming from. Don’t get me wrong, though—even though I understand her foster parents’ views as well as hers, I am glad that Keegan got out of there at last.

    Speaking of Keegan, I just love her little internal dialogues; they’re quite entertaining to read. You really do a great job of getting into her head.

    The chariot race scene was terrific, and so was Keegan’s argument with Pete and Miriam. The latter particularly shines due to the great handling of character emotions and dialogue.

    Other highlights:

    She thrashed, terrified, clutching at the light which shone in fragmented swirls on the surface, buffeted by the underwater backlash of passing chariots.
    Gorgeous. ^^

    “Keegan,” Pete said quietly in That Voice, the one which proved that he was the dominant one of the marriage, no matter how controlling Miriam appeared to be. “If you know what your limits are, then what do you intend to do about them?”
    “That Voice”. XD I love it.

    “Don’t call me that!” Keegan screamed, her fists clenched at her sides and tears spilling down her cheeks, knowing she was being irrational, too far gone to stop. “Don’t call me that if that’s not what you want me to be! You just want me to be some perfect daughter who’ll do whatever you say, but I’m not! I’m not like that and I’m not your daughter!
    A great, powerful moment.

    The first two were easy enough: the bonus issues on Lance and Steven, the Indigo and Evergrande Champions respectively. Although she didn’t want to be a pokémon master herself, the fact that someone could reach to those kinds of heights gave Keegan something to aspire to.

    And, if she wanted to be honest, she was a big fan of both of them for other reasons too.
    I’ve got to agree with her there. X3
    DON'T CALL IT A COMEBACK
    (Or do. I don't actually mind.)
    The Origin of Storms | Communication

  7. #7
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    Whoo, I am getting so lazy with regards to replying to people ^.^;; my bad! Sorry if my replies are a little confusing, my computer's copy and paste doesn't work, so I can't quote you for reference.

    electric soul fairy: Wow, you've read all my fics? ^.^ That made my day, thank you! I have a habit of closet reading myself, so I know you mean

    I agree that cliched pokemon aren't necessarily a bad thing if they're written well; it annoys me when people dislike a fic on the basis on the pokemon being ones they believe are overused. I just use ones I like or think fit the character, OU or not.

    No, I didn't mention where she got Firefoot in this one, mostly because the story behind that was weak in the original copy and I wanted to change it, but didn't know what to change it to. Still don't, but I didn't find a good place to add in that info anyway, so it gives me a bit of time to figure it out :P

    Thanks again, and don't worry, I just can't give up on my stories, even if it takes me months to get a chapter out ^.^

    SnoringFrog: Whee, you're here! *glomps* ^.^ I'm sorry I made you think it was abandoned - I'm terrible when it comes to actually finishing stories, because I find things wrong and want to go back and rewrite them. Now I've got the experience behind me of actually finishing a chaptered story (a non-pokemon one), I feel safer in being able to get through another. Might take me a while, but I'll get there

    I think you told me that you registered for my story the first time you reviewed, way back when ^.^ I still have trouble believing that, even after all this time - it's one of the nicest compliments I can think of! As a matter of curiosity, what *was* my avatar back then? I can't remember :P

    I'm really glad you enjoyed reading HotM a second time - I liked it a lot more once I'd done the rewrite too, and somehow knowing what's going to happen makes it even sadder. Hank is pretty awesome, isn't he? ^.^ I have got to write that AU.

    Oh, in your review for HotM, you mentioned a fear at one point that Hazel would've gotten too close to Keegan's firestone - I was afraid of the same thing in that scene, but in the anime, in the episode where Ash gets the oppurtunity to evolve Pikachu, Pikachu knocks the stone out of his hand with its tail. You'd think that would be enough to evolve it, but it didn't; so I figure there's got to be at least a little bit of conscious decision involved, as long as the stone isn't directly applied for long periods of time or something.

    That's my excuse, anyway :P

    Sike Saner: Hewwo! *waves* ^.^ nice to see you here! I agree, it's criminal lol, actually, I've stopped paying attention to the star ratings except out of perverted curiosity. They're too easily biased, so I just ignore them. Thanks for the vote of confidence, though ^.^

    I'm a lot more pleased with the character interactions now, compared to what they were before - rereading over the old copy, it seems so much more forced than it does now. And what with Keegan actually falling into the water, I figure her parents have more than enough reason to freak out as opposed to the over-reactions of before :P

    Her internal dialogues are from semi-personal experience I tend to talk to myself like that when I'm trying to psych myself into doing something, believe it or not :P

    Thanks a ton ^.^ I'm glad you like. I agree with her too, I'm a big fan of the Champions for lots of reasons but anyone who looks at my sig could probably guess that *cough* so Keegan's fangirlishness is almost totally mine. *looks sheepish* And, well, I figure a teenage girl in the world of pokemon is gonna have to crush on someone, so I may as well make it someone I can easily rant about

  8. #8
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    Jun 2005
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    NC
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    As a matter of curiosity, what *was* my avatar back then? I can't remember :P
    It was may sitting on a rock or soemthing, with a faded picture of herself in the background, gazing at the sky, if I remember correctly. I'll see if I can find the actual pic and then I'll edit it into this post.

    I remember when "The Authors' Cafe" was still "The Author's Cafe".
    Scrap, purple_drake, Ryano Ra, and Burnt Flower are my fanfic idols.


    --fics--
    NEW:Emory In Viridian- A more realistic spin on a new trainer trekking through Viridian Forest. [one-shot]
    NEW:Pallet Evening News [on DeviantArt and not Serebii due to short length] - A disturbing report from Pallet Town's evening news concerning three new trainers. [one-shot]
    Tómur -Dark contemplations of an undisclosed Pokemon about nothingness and the end. [one-shot]
    The Traveler - A lonely traveler encounters a malevolent pokemon during the night on Route 8. [one-shot]
    Redead - A Redead's perspective on its own life. [Legend of Zelda one-shot]

    More at my DeviantArt



  9. #9
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    Feb 2006
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    PD!!!!!!!!!!!!! Yay!!!!!!!!! You finally put this back up. I do remember her going to Kanto in the last one and it seems now like she's going to Johto. Just speculation. I like how you changed it if you did. Pretty much the same as last time i read this cept I thought she won last time. I don't remember tis been at least a year. *glares at PD* Anway great chap and I can't wait to be reading chaps of this every friday and saturday. *hates that his internet is being cut off druing the week and sunday. Tisn't fair* Anyway, i got a lot of mistakes to give ya. I know you remember me doing this all the time no???

    that ‘you know they doing it for your benefit’
    I think it needs to be either they're or they are

    library the clean off the windows in the attic?”
    to clean not the clean I think

    to buy them once we out to a port,” she said quickly
    get out or go out

    With practised swiftness she folded up her
    Now we get to the spelling mistakes!!! You need to work on this. Practiced no s.

    Keegan couldn’t recognise
    You got the hard part of the word but the s is a z

    but they’re too focussed on trying to control you
    only on s in focused. ^^
    I would love to beta your chaps if tis okies with you. Cause I wanna read these so much i wanna read em before anyone else. And along with the fact that I will be having trouble getting to serebii to read the chaps so an e-mailed chap will be much better than a chap i can't read. ^^; ANyway, good chap and i hope to read more soon.
    jirachiman out
    PS: I was actually gonna get to the other chaps i was supposed to read/review first but I saw this and i was like "I'm going here first, the others can wait" Sorry Scrap, chibi, and or Saber.
    Yes people, I have returned.
    Pearl FC. Arlen 1718-9710-2821
    Eat More Chicken!!! Self-proclaimed, unofficial spokesman for Chick-Fil-A.

  10. #10
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    Jirachiman! Hi. :P

    Yup, she did go to Kanto in the first one, but she went to Johto first. That hasn't changed. And no, the first several chapters are pretty much the same as before in generalized terms, with some exceptions - although you're right, Keegan did win the contest last time. *ducks and hides from glare* sorry! Please don't eat me!

    *coughs* anyway. Those first three mistakes just goes to show: you really can reread a chapter too many times :P thanks for that.

    As for the others, they're not actually mistakes. :P I'm from Australia, so the spellcheck I use in MSW is the Aussie one. Technically, all the words I used are correct.

    Although, in the case of 'practise/practice', according to my Aussie spellcheck, they mean slightly different things. 'Practise' is more to do with the action or application (such as what Keegan is doing: she has done it before) while 'practice' is the act of rehearsing or preparation, if all that makes sense.

    Thanks for the offer ^.^;; but I think I'll pass. I'm a bit too random in my writing to get a beta, because there's no telling when they'd get the chapters so it wouldn't be fair on them, and it ties me down to the constraints of another person. I'm not really a team player... I like to be able to post on my own time :P sorry.

    I suppose you could sort of count my sister as my beta, since she's reading the chapters before they get onto the forums and she's already caught some things I've missed... it helps that we live in the same house. :P

    Although I am flattered CaC came out on top of your list of priorities

  11. #11
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    A/N: I'm so sorry. There is really no excuse for this not being up earlier, especially since it's been finished (aside from minor edits) since before the first chapter was posted. It just never happened, for various reasons. I won't get into them, because most of them aren't much more than excuses and not very good ones at that, so without wasting any more time...

    Oh, yeah. From about this point on you'll probably notice that the pokemon sometimes refer to themselves in weird ways; that's deliberate, I'm sort of experimenting with self-context, so tell me how it works.


    ~ II ~
    MYTH AND SHADOW


    ROCKING.

    Keegan closed her eyes and took a deep breath, huddling deeper into herself in an attempt at comfort. At her side, Firefoot whined and pawed at her hands, which were clutching one of her Pokémon Journal magazines so tightly that she was crinkling the page. “Right,” the girl smiled shakily, turning her attention to the article she’d been reading aloud in an attempt to forget about the sway of the boat on the waves, the fact that beneath them, there was nothing but deep water.

    Oh God.

    “ ‘It is said that Flannery favours strength and power over strategy,’ ” she read on hurriedly to force bad thoughts away. “ ‘A fact which she herself confesses to. ‘I love using fire,’ she admits. ‘There’s something beautiful about it. And besides, the hallmark move of the Lavaridge gym is Overheat; I guess you could say that I just like advertising my gym pride!’ ”

    Keegan stopped to smile down at the eager growlithe, his thick orange fur tousled by the wind that swept down the bow of the ship. “Is that an attack you’d like to learn, Firefoot?”

    The pup shook his head, making the white ruff beneath his chin waver. “Really?” Keegan asked, surprised. “I’ve heard it’s pretty powerful. Is there another one you like better, then?”

    “Graalth,” Firefoot answered, blinking up at her dopily, and Keegan couldn’t help but laugh. He acted so clueless, it never ceased to make her feel better.

    “Hey, we’re comin’ up on the Whirl Islands!”

    “Eebui buu!”

    Hazel’s call came almost at the same time as the boy’s, sounding just as excited, and a second later the eevee came tearing across the deck, prancing impatiently around in front of her mistress.

    Keegan laughed again. It wasn’t often that Hazel acted so playful. “Okay, okay, I guess I can handle coming to see. Just don’t get your hopes up.”

    “Buu bui!” Hazel mewed, tugging at Keegan’s sleeve as the girl got up a little unsteadily, her legs numbed with sitting down for so long.

    “I’m coming, I’m coming!”

    Keegan stuffed the magazine back into her bag, slinging it onto her shoulder and wrapping her jacket around herself against the wind, resolutely not thinking about the wide expanse of ocean. Come on, I’ve lived on a floating city, I’m used to seeing the sea.

    Just not with only a thin plating of steel between me and it…


    She reached the rail, gripping it tightly and shading her eyes from her fringe as it whipped around her forehead. “Where am I looking?” she asked anyone who was willing to answer.

    “Over there!” A young boy with dark hair pointed happily, standing on the lower rails with his green shirt and shorts tugged by the breeze. Keegan looked and saw distant, rocky crags rising from the ocean, made hazy by spray and mist. “They’re really small, but people still live there, all ‘cept on these rocks we’re about t’go past. They’re on the lowest edge of the grouping,” the boy explained confidently, his open face glowing with such animation that Keegan couldn’t dwell on her fear for long and smiled at him.

    “You know a lot about them.”

    He grinned back, showing a space between his teeth where he was missing one. “Me and my ma live in Cianwood, and we visit my cousins on the Islands,” he said proudly. “We were just visiting my gran’parents in Alto Mare, so now we’re going back home.”

    “Grawlth, grawll!” Firefoot barked suddenly, squirming his head through the railings with his ears cocked forward towards the rocks.

    “Bui!” Hazel keened, echoing him, but her reaction was different; instead of standing up with interest, she hunkering down against Keegan’s leg, seeming almost fearful.

    Huh?

    Keegan looked back towards the Islands, wondering what on Earth had gotten into them. They were closer, now, and under the grey clouds the waves battered relentlessly against the sharp cliffs, the shadows looking more menacing than they might have under a sunny sky.

    One of them moved.

    “What was that?” Keegan demanded, leaning forward as though it would help her see better, squinting against the spray and wind. Firefoot stood alert, ears up and tail fluffed out, and Hazel was riveted to the cliffs in a faint, fearful awe.

    “I didn’t see properly—” the boy began, but he was cut off by a long cry echoing out from the crags, sending a shiver down Keegan’s spine. It resonated eerily, deep, full and melodious, and behind her Keegan heard some startled exclamations.

    The silhouette they’d been watching rose up on long, slender wings, shadows sliding over glossy silver hide which could have been either feathers or fur, or both, a strange mixture of beast and bird.

    Keegan drew in a sharp breath, heard the boy’s reverent gasp beside her, but before they could get a proper glimpse the pokémon dived back into the ocean like an arrow, stray sunlight glinting off the rows of blue fins on its back. The spray rose and fell, pattering across the bay like fleeting raindrops.

    “Did you see that?” the boy asked in a hushed, wondering voice, and Keegan nodded dumbly.

    “That was—that was Lugia, wasn’t it?”

    “Yeah… we just saw a lugia…”

    Excited chattering came from behind them, and Keegan turned slightly to see several of the other passengers speaking in animated rushes to each other, pointing towards the southern rim of the Whirl Islands.

    “This is the best vacation ever,” the boy said feverishly as he stared out at the rocks, his eyes glittering with unsuppressed joy, and Keegan had no answer but to follow his gaze in awed silence, Hazel’s purr vibrating against her legs and Firefoot’s ruff drifting on the quiet breeze.

    * * *

    Oh, idiot idiot idiot! Keegan berated herself as she ran, her shoes pounding on the footpath and sides aching. When they made it into port she’d dawdled along the beach for a while, not feeling any hurry to get anywhere and still wanting to absorb the wonder of the afternoon. Before she knew it, it had started getting dark, and she didn’t know whether the Pokémon Centre had a curfew or not.

    Firefoot bounded at her heels, his bright orange fur like a beacon in the gloom, while overhead the streetlamps had already flickered on, soft in the twilight and casting shadows over the fronts of the buildings to either side. Hazel was already tucked securely inside her pokéball, but Firefoot knew what Pokémon Centres smelled like and Keegan was hoping he’d be able to lead her to it, seeing as the directions the boy that afternoon had given her were rambling at best.

    They rounded a corner and Firefoot barked, but Keegan had already seen the glass-walled buildings, the huge ‘P’ over the sliding doors illuminated red and the main hall inside brightly lit. Keegan could see through the windows that there were still trainers lingering, gathered around the leafy pot plants in the centre, chatting on the comfortable benches arrayed the sides. “Oh, brilliant—”

    The twin doors slid apart with a slight hiss as Keegan and Firefoot approached, both of them slowing to a walk on the threshold, the growlithe panting like an engine and the girl with one hand clamped to her aching side, her legs wobbly with fatigue. “Oooh, I need to sit down,” she groaned, and Firefoot echoed her feeling with a huff of exhaustion, splaying down on his belly right in the middle of the entrance and wheezing exaggeratedly.

    There was a giggle from the front desk, and both mistress and pokémon looked up to see the town’s Nurse Joy shaking with laughter at their expressions, her twin looped pigtails quivering. “I’m sorry,” she apologised through her hand, still looking amused. “Your growlithe just looked so funny.”

    “Yeah, he’s a regular comedian,” Keegan muttered with a grin, nudging him with her toe, and he huffed at her with wounded eyes. “Oh, don’t look at me like that,” Keegan blew at him in response, making her fringe flutter, and bounced his pokéball down to return him in a flash of light.

    “Hello, and welcome to the Pokémon Centre,” Nurse Joy smiled, giving her a tiny wave. “I haven’t seen you around before, so you must have just come in.”

    “Hi,” Keegan lifted her hand in response, grinning sheepishly with her cheeks a bit red with embarrassment at her loud entrance. “And yes, I did, just this afternoon. From Alto Mare.”

    “Alto Mare,” Joy repeated as she reached out to take the pokéballs Keegan had offered her, her eyebrows shooting upward. “You passed the Whirl Islands, then. Is it true you saw a lugia on your way past?”

    They know about that already? Keegan was amazed. “It’s true,” the girl confirmed, unable to keep from beaming. She didn’t notice when several trainers nearby stopped to listen avidly, nor that not far away in a corner, a burly, clean-shaven man with hard eyes and dark green hair paused, lowering the receiver at his ear thoughtfully.

    “I’ll call you back,” he said at the screen and hung up, moving closer to the counter unnoticed.

    “It was amazing,” Keegan said, eyes sparkling. “We only caught it for a moment before it dived into the water, but the sound it made was almost like music.”

    “Where exactly did you see it?” the man interrupted, making Keegan jump and spin around, startled, one hand clutching automatically at her chest. His thick eyebrows overshadowed narrow, calculating eyes which blazed with triumph, making Keegan feel abruptly cold, her cheeks flushing when she realized how loud she’d been talking.

    “Some— somewhere on the rocks,” she stammered. “I don’t know—I only knew where we saw it because someone told me—”

    “But you weren’t the only one,” the man persisted, and Keegan shook her head wordlessly, unnerved. She was even more so when the man grinned. “Thanks, girl. You just saved me a long wait and a lotta research.” And he turned away, hurrying out of the Pokémon Centre and into impending darkness.

    “Um…” Keegan was left standing looking after him, face hot with embarrassment at a few of the envious looks one or two of the trainers were throwing her, feeling awkward and very much on display.

    “I wonder if he’s a Legendary hunter,” Joy mused, setting Keegan’s pokéballs into the broad device just behind the smooth counter. “Sounds as though he was expecting to be looking for a while.”

    “He was creepy,” Keegan muttered, the afternoon’s euphoria crashing to a halt on the realization that she hadn’t liked the look in that man’s eyes at all and wishing, not for the first time, that she’d learned to keep her mouth shut.

    * * *

    Keegan was wandering along the rocky seaside, the surf pounding against the breaker to her side and the wind making her ponytailed hair lash violently. For a moment she wished for the sandy beaches of Cianwood, before remembering that half of the sand had actually been rock, and besides, she didn’t really mind clambering over boulders that much.

    She was in Olivine, having arrived that morning. At first glance the portside city seemed grim because of its hideously rocky shore, even though the grey clouds had cleared up some overnight; but once inside the land cleared into gentle grassy knolls on the road towards Ecruteak.

    Keegan liked climbing, so when she got the chance she had checked out the shoreline which led right to the tall cliffs on the far east of the city. She was alone, for once, since Firefoot had received a barb in the nose after harrying a tentacool and Hazel had been curled up asleep on Keegan’s borrowed bed when the girl impulsively decided to go for a walk.

    A bit of solitude was nice; she felt bad putting the two in their pokéballs just so she could feel alone, and she’d spent so much time recently cooped up on ferries that she needed a bit of space.

    There were several battles going on, made tricky by the uneven ground, and she’d even been challenged once. She freaked out at the mere thought of it until she’d realized she had the perfect excuse and declined, feeling guilty as the disappointed boy turned away.

    By the time dark had begun to fall she had reached the cliffs and was beginning to feel chilled by the wind. My hair is going to take forever to brush when I get back, she thought despondently as she turned around, hugging herself for warmth, her cheeks numbed.

    It was only then that she saw it, so focused she’d been on picking her way without getting too wet or slipping. The rocks led inland right up to a thick wood of tangled trees and undergrowth, and towering over that was a half-finished construction. There was a road cutting through the foliage, overrun by weeds which suggested it had been a while since building had stopped.

    Keegan hesitated, wondering what was in there and what it was, and cast a quick glance at the sky. It wasn’t too dark yet, and she could always walk along the verge to make speed if it got too late—it wasn’t nearly as rocky there.

    Impulsively she decided, turning to walk up the dirt pathway, which she could now see was too thin to have been used for trucks. They probably came in another way.

    It was a relief to be out of the constant wind; she hadn’t realized how much it was beginning to annoy her. At least in Alto Mare the buildings served to break it up, taking off its edge unless you were on the city border.

    She came to a tall wire fence, the gate padlocked, the construction sign still in fairly good shape but beginning to rust around the edges. After a bit of searching she found a hole in the fence, where the wire had come away from the bar, and managed to slip through with only a graze of metal across her shoulders and tugging in her hair.

    After that Keegan just wandered, kicking up debris and crumbling bricks, dusty mortar billowing around her shoes and powdering her jeans white. Wild pokémon darted away into hiding whenever she came near, birds fluttering around the lofty struts, jutting silently up into the cloudy sky. Once she saw a murkrow nesting, looking down at her suspiciously as she passed beneath the pylon. There was even some equipment left: a crane with its winch still extended, the chain clinking gently in the eerie breeze, and various rusted tools littered the base of the partitions.

    Wonder what this place was going to be? Keegan mused, glancing up and around at part of what might have been a foyer, spacious and hollow with arching struts overhead, reaching across one side like giant claws. It all seemed so empty.

    At least, it was, before she heard the echo of a kicked stone and a very human curse, and automatically shrank behind a mostly-built—if skeletal—wall. If not for the stillness of the surroundings she might not have heard them at all, and it was well for her that she did, even as she wished she’d brought Hazel along after all.

    A figure strolled out from behind the battered stretch of brick and steel, a man dressed in an enveloping black uniform, a dark cap low over his face, shading his eyes. His white gloves seemed almost incongruous with the rest of the uniform, and as he turned to something behind him—someone, because Keegan could still hear a person swearing and it certainly wasn’t him—she saw the letter ‘R’ emblazoned in dark red on the front.

    She went cold. Anyone who wasn’t living under a rock knew that symbol. Team Rocket. Oh God, I’m in a bloody abandoned construction yard with Team Rocket

    “Where do we put it?”

    Keegan jumped at the abrupt, grumpy-sounding voice, her heart suddenly lodged in her throat and beating as fast as a yanma’s wings, making her feel sick with nausea and find it difficult to breathe.

    Don’t think about it—they don’t know you’re here, they can’t know you’re here, they’ll do something—but if you panic much more you’ll make a sound and they’ll know—hide and seek and capture the flag, remember playing them with the others? You’re good at hiding, good at not being found, because you can stay still, still like a rattata under a pidgeot’s shadow—

    The first man was looking around, now, and she froze, averting her gaze so she could look at him only through the corner of her eyes—she remembered reading somewhere that predators could sense when they were being watched, and Team Rocket were nothing if not predators.

    He shrugged. “Put it anywhere,” he said impatiently. “They’ll find it, no one comes here anyway except punk kids, and it’s too cold for that.”

    Keegan watched covertly, forcing herself to take slow, deep breaths, her knuckles white because she was gripping a steel bar so tightly, her legs rigid with tension and feet beginning to go numb from the uncomfortable crouch she was in.

    “I don’t get it,” the younger-sounding man grumbled, following his partner into the girl’s view, aside from a rogue pylon which reached across the top of the opening and half-obscured his upper body. “All this cloak and dagger stuff. Why can’t we just pass it on face-to-face? This is a waste of time.”

    “Security,” the other man said shortly, hands on hips, glancing around at the decrepit construction disinterestedly. For all his haste he didn’t really seem to be in a hurry to find a hiding place for… whatever they had. “After the Lake of Rage incident, the Triad and the Elite Trio judged it best to keep all parts of an operation separate.”

    Lake of Rage? What happened there? Keegan wondered, turning her head slightly to get a better view. She could almost pretend she was back in Alto Mare, watching from the rooftops as Firefoot tried to catch her scent or Ross and Wailmer patrolled a canal she needed to pass.

    The younger agent shoved against a broken concrete block at his feet, crouching and stuffing a small bundle inside it.

    “Took your time,” the older man muttered belligerently, his arms crossed with impatience and irritation. “The ferry needs to leave in a few hours and we need to get out of here before the pickup.”

    The second agent straightened, brushing off his dusty hands, and although Keegan couldn’t see his face under the brim of his cap she could tell from his stiff movements that he was annoyed. “Then why didn’t you do it,” he snapped back. “And saved me the trouble of coming out here.”

    A snort was his reply. “That’s what rookies like you are for. Let’s go.”

    Keegan watched breathlessly as they turned and vanished back the way they’d come, but the girl didn’t move. For long moments she just waited, completely frozen and neck aching, her heart fluttering in her chest with apprehension until she was absolutely sure they were gone.

    It was only then that she peeked out, eyes scanning the now silent yard for a moment before alighting upon the innocent-looking block of concrete. Capture the flag, ‘anything goes’ style.

    The wry thought flitted through her head before she could stop it, because that’s what it felt like: a rather different, somewhat more dangerous version of the game. Her curious, competitive nature surfaced, and before she stopped to think she scuttled like a nervy fox across the half-finished floor to the block, looking about one last time before pulling out the bundle. Target achieved…

    The dark, nondescript drawstring bag was no bigger than her fist; it could have been dropped by anyone, used for anything. Swiftly, well aware of her place and the deepening twilight, she opened it up and shook out the contents, wrapped in a piece of soft cloth. Flipping aside leaves of fabric impatiently with the hand still gripping the bag, the object was revealed: a strange, faceted crystal.

    Deep within its centre was a swirl of rainbow colours, but the outside surface was pure white. It was warm and seemed to vibrate slightly, almost humming. Keegan examined it closely, fascinated by the smoothness of the faces, the comforting weight in her palm. Like her pendant, it had a soothing charm to it. Wonder what it is and what the Rockets want it for?

    But she’d lingered too long. Her ears caught the sound of the fence jingling and Keegan automatically shrank back into the shadows, darting carefully through the littered tower interior. Moving with restrained urgency, she was already through the fence and halfway back to Olivine’s Pokémon Centre before she realized that, true to the form of the game, she still had her ‘flag’ clutched in her hand.



    “Oh, what am I going to do?” Keegan gripped her hair with both hands and tugged fitfully at her bangs in frustration and dread, staring down at the crystalline object lying innocently on its nest of fabric in the middle of her borrowed bed. Hazel was examining the gem curiously, crouched on the blanket with her tail swishing this way and that, but Firefoot was just staring disapprovingly at his mistress, an effect offset by the bandage fixed securely over his nose.

    Keegan caught his expression and stopped, looking back at him through her raised arms. “What?! I was trying not to panic and got… a little… carried away… when I was imagining I was playing a game. I didn’t mean to take it!”

    With a depressed huff she slumped down on the mattress beside the crystal, making it bounce up and hit Hazel on the snout.

    “Bii!” Hazel bristled, her nose twitching furiously, and Keegan smiled wanly.

    “Sorry.” With a heavy sigh Firefoot padded up and licked her hand consolingly, whining gently, and Keegan absently petted him on the head, ruffling his orange fur. “I thought about taking it to the police station,” she continued thinking aloud, her gaze turning to the darkness outside the Pokémon Centre, the window reflecting the light of the room and preventing her from seeing out. It made the bedroom seem contained, like a tiny little world all on its own where she was safe from black-clad figures.

    She shivered. On the other hand…

    “But then I thought, when they realize it’s gone, they’ll be watching in case someone turns it in,” she finished miserably.

    And as soon as I do… shark bait.

    “Gralth,”
    Firefoot wuffed, leaping onto the bed, and Keegan threw her arms around him, burying her face in his fur at the same time that Hazel mewed and clambered onto her lap, purring with all her might.

    For a few moments Keegan let herself pretend that she hadn’t just had a run-in with a very infamous, very dangerous criminal organisation, that she was back in her room on Alto Mare where things like that just didn’t happen, that she’d only had a fight with her foster parents and her pokémon were comforting her.

    But I don’t want to be back there either. Not yet. I only just got away.

    The girl drew back, slightly surprised to find a lump in her throat and her eyes burning. With a swipe at her face she set Hazel aside, picking the crystal up, wrapping it, dropping it back in its pouch and striding over to her bag near the dresser beneath the window to stow it in the very depths of her belongings. “There,” she said with as much confidence as she could muster. “Now it’s dealt with. We’ll just take it with us and give it to someone we can trust, when we meet someone we can trust.”

    “Buu,” Hazel purred, and the matter was settled.

    For now.

    * * *

    About a week out from Olivine, Keegan discovered something.

    She had a lousy sense of direction.

    Her pokégear had an automatic mapping system on it, which was lucky because she hadn’t really thought through what items she’d need beyond the things she already had in her room and so hadn’t brought a map of her own. On the other hand, the screen was so small it made it difficult to make out the details, so she still got confused as to which direction she had to take.

    At first the road had been broad and easy to follow, but not long after that she passed out of farming land and into forest, where there were fewer Pokémon Centres and no apparent camping sites.

    Not that her first night of camping had been spectacularly pleasant anyway, since she didn’t have a sleeping bag, pillow, or any kind of bedding aside from her blanket. Luckily she had the ability to sleep pretty much anywhere, even on the hard ground, but that wasn’t the biggest problem.

    It was the night sounds. She kept on thinking something would sneak up on her, or that she’d wake up to find a spinarak on her face, or discover a meowth had raided her bag. Finally she’d just let Firefoot out to stand guard, rationalising that at least he could sleep all day in his pokéball.

    He hadn’t seemed to mind, and she found it comforting to have his weight by her side, knowing she wasn’t alone; so she’d started letting Hazel out too, even during the day. All they had was each other, so why shouldn’t they spend time together?

    Keegan found herself even gladder for their company when, somehow, she lost the trail. It was Firefoot who picked up the smell of a man passing by, a trainer himself who’d been camping out to look for meowth in the woods and was able to direct her to the nearest town.

    Unfortunately it wasn’t the first time it happened. There were three towns on the way to Ecruteak, and somehow she managed to lose her way to all of them.

    The eeriest thing was that recently she kept hearing this strange humming, or chanting, or maybe both, but it never caught up to her. Though, sometimes she’d wake up to find it was because Firefoot had just loosed an Ember on some random pokémon, even if they were usually gone before she saw them.

    And, of course, I just can’t catch a break, Keegan thought to herself disgustedly as she fought through one particularly dense bush with one hand, gripping her pokégear in the other and scowling at the monitor. She wasn’t exactly sure how far from Ecruteak she was, but it couldn’t be much more than a day or two.

    Gah, I’m going to seriously need some cleaning up after this… I don’t know what the hell I was thinking!

    …well, yes, I do. And…


    She smiled suddenly, looking down at the blipping marker which showed her position, being relayed by one of Silph’s satellites.

    …and it’s fun. It’s boring, and it’s hard, and it’s uncomfortable sometimes, but I’ve never felt so free in my life. I don’t have any time limits and no expectations, no worries…

    Her stomach gurgled.

    …except to make sure to buy enough food to last until I reach the next town…

    Okay, so there were lots of things she had to think about that she hadn’t considered before she’d left Alto Mare, but the Joy in Cianwood had cottoned onto the fact she was new to travelling somehow—must be ‘Joy intuition’—because the evening she’d gotten into town the nurse had taken her aside and calmly explained everything she needed to know, giving her a traveller’s pocket-guide to take along in case she forgot something.

    That thing is probably that most important thing I own right now.

    Wonder what Firefoot and Hazel would say if they heard that?


    Something rustled in the bushes and Keegan jumped. She whirled around, her heart leaping up to her mouth, unable to banish sudden images of black-uniformed men descending down on her, even two weeks after Olivine.

    Two weeks… already two weeks!

    Her instincts were changing, she saw, noting with a little bit of pride that her hand had flown automatically to Hazel’s pokéball. Something shiny flashed in a beam of light forcing its way through the canopy, and a magnemite hovered out of the bushes. With a relieved sigh Keegan lowered her hand, reattaching the pokégear to her belt. She’d have to move carefully if she wanted to avoid angering the thing; she had the bruises to prove it was a good idea, though how the hell was she supposed to know that furret were that fast?

    She’d been warned that the woods near Ecruteak on the road to Olivine were filled with the electric pokémon during the daytime, but for the most part she’d managed to avoid the deep woods and stayed near the river, which meant she’d seen more flesh-and-blood pokémon than the steel-types.

    “Maa…ne… miiie…” The magnemite’s single eye was heavily lidded and the curving magnets at its sides drooped lazily, the pokémon swaying gently, floating low to the ground. On a human the posture might have meant intoxication; on a pokémon it just seemed… odd.

    But it means I might be able to get away easier.

    Keegan took a cautious step back as the magnemite approached relentlessly, weaving unsteadily in a way that made Keegan revise her opinion. Seems drunk to me… like Simon after a binge night.

    She quickly decided she wanted no part in the matter of a drunken pokémon, and turned slightly so she could sidle away but still keep an eye on it.

    Except she found that somehow more of them had gotten behind her, and they were acting in much the same way as the first, and some of them were sparking, and oh God but this wasn’t what she’d wanted when she’d wondered why she hadn’t seen any until now.

    Her stomach twisted at the sight of them all, more of them parting the bushes as they came nearer. There are so many!

    She snatched up Firefoot’s pokéball and released him, the fiery dog appearing prepped and ready for battle in a flash of red light. The magnemite just wove around him as though he were an obstacle like the trees and foliage.

    For a moment Keegan stared, caught between humour at his baffled expression and trepidation at their numbers; then she jumped as she felt something brush against her, and looked down to find one of the gleaming pokémon pressed against her bag, eye closed blissfully. “Firefoot, a little help!” she yelped, shaking it off frantically and clutching her bag closer, beginning to feel oppressed.

    I think I was just lucky before, if this is how crowded it is in the woods!

    All at once she was awash with heat, yelping again as Firefoot’s Ember swirled past her shoulder and flinching away. “Ow!” She banged her head on the hard round body of one of the pokémon, automatically swatting at it. “Firefoot, please aim in another direction! Use Flamethrower to clear us a path!”

    Firefoot wuffed an apology and for a moment Keegan felt guilty—she had asked for help, and at least he’d just used Ember, but it was still too close and she was beginning to feel distinctly grumpy.

    At least they aren’t actually attacking, she thought irritably, throwing off one of the electric pokémon, which had been clinging to her bag, and ducking beneath another. Or else I’d be extra crispy!

    Oh God… that could actually happen… I could actually end up as a smoking shell…


    Yup, that was definitely panic she was feeling now.

    Fortunately it was then that Firefoot had managed to discern the best opening for escape. He opened his mouth wide, showing off his canines as fire roiled deep in his throat, setting loose a toned-down stream of blazing flames. It was still near enough to be uncomfortably hot, but the fire licking over the steel bodies of the magnemite seemed to jolt them to their senses—until Firefoot closed his jaws, swallowing the last of the Flamethrower before a tree or bush caught fire.

    “Hurry!” Keegan seized the opportunity, dodging past a confused-looking pokémon—what the? That’s a mareep! What’s that doing here?—and fleeing through the momentary path swathed through the swarm of animals, the leaves and foliage charred and smoking, Firefoot loping after her.

    Behind them, several bewildered magnemite (as well as a two voltorb, a pikachu and a blinking mareep) floated off, burns seared across their steel, fur and wool singed. The rest, their eyes once again drooping dopily, followed an unseen trail left by the girl.

    Keegan jumped over a log, a stitch already growing in her side and her bag dragging at her shoulder. She could still hear the creepy chant of the magnemite behind her, interspersed with the occasional bleat, squeal or squeak from various other electric pokémon. At least now she knew what she’d been hearing as she travelled, and what Firefoot had been scaring off at night.

    Although I have to wonder if they deliberately waited until they could overwhelm me! she thought desperately, yanking her foot out of a raichu’s grasp as it stumbled out of the bushes and reached for her ankle, looking totally wasted.

    No, they couldn’t have… none of them are acting right!

    “What—the hell’s—their problem?!” she gasped to Firefoot, just because she was confused as hell and wanted to share it. The growlithe let out something between a bark and a whine, completely unhelpful but unable to offer anything else when he was too focussed on running to speak.

    Abruptly the woods ended and Keegan skidded to a halt at the edge of a low cliff, making dust billow. Her rubbery legs almost made her tumble, but at the last minute she managed to catch herself, though she was gasping too fast to actually take deep breaths and she could taste blood in the back of her throat from running too hard for too long. Down below, the woods were pressed to the side of the crag, and in the distance, looming over the forest, was the Tin Tower.

    Brilliant, we’ve found Ecruteak. The ‘little fox’ noted calmly in some weird corner of her mind which could still focus on random things aside from the immediate problem.

    “Oh great,” Keegan groaned breathlessly, clutching at her side, wanting nothing more than to just collapse where she was. The cliff was little more than thirty feet tall, but by the time she’d climbed halfway down the magnemite were sure to be on her, and after that there was no way she’d be able to maintain her descent.

    Although it would get me away from the others—I didn’t know so many different electric pokémon lived together so closely—

    “Grrrralth,”
    Firefoot turned and set his paws resolutely, head lowered and fur bristling in preparation for a battle even though his flanks were heaving from the run.

    “There’s too many,” Keegan choked out, scanning the cliff edge anxiously, fighting down that annoying, incipient panic. “They’ll—they’ll swamp you.”

    Something to do, something to do, something to do—c’mon, there’s gotta be something—

    Firefoot snarled and Keegan spun about at the sound, stopping in shock and touching her pendant as though in prayer. The magnemite seemed to fill the air; she hadn’t realized there were so many, not with all the undergrowth in the way. Everywhere she looked there was another, some with burns from Firefoot’s previous attack, all with the same dopey look, though scattered among the wall of steel were occasional flashes of red or yellow or pink.

    Keegan took a deep, shaky breath, knowing they had the type advantage but the magnemite had numbers. As long as they didn’t attack outright she was sure she would be fine, and none of them seemed inclined to do that. “Alright,” she said as calmly as she could manage, though her voice still quivered ever so slightly. Her face was pale, but when she remembered how terrified she’d been that evening, when she’d gone for a walk in an abandoned construction site and wandered right into something out of a crime film, she knew she could handle this.

    Her mind was presenting facts in a steady litany to calm her down; they weren’t attacking, they didn’t want to, she didn’t need to defeat them, not all of them, just clear a path, and she could do that…

    “Use Flame Wheel,” Keegan ordered.

    With a wuff and a snap of his jaws Firefoot leapt into a full run, his fur blazing and paws leaving a trail of fire behind him. The hot air around him crackled, the speed making it cone around him into a fiery shield. He ploughed through the magnemite, scattering them to either side. Some, their steel blackened by fire and eyes widening to show some glimmer of reasoning, vanished back into the trees.

    But most ignored the attack, and continued to approach Keegan mindlessly.

    At the edge of the woods Firefoot skidded into a sharp turn, launching himself towards them with twin puffs of dust from his paws as he charged back through, almost stepping on a pikachu as he went. The pokémon didn’t even try to avoid him, hypnotised by something neither Keegan nor Firefoot could see or guess.

    Bursting through the outer edge of the swarm, the growlithe slewed to a halt before Keegan with a billow of dust and chink of pebbles, snow-white tail and ruff fluttering in the air.

    He couldn’t see well, no growlithe could, but he could still smell metal and some fur and sparks of electric wool, could still smell his fire and his mistress’ fear, her confusion. Her determination.

    Why are you acting like this? he wanted to bark, but he knew they wouldn’t answer; he could smell it on them, could smell that there was something controlling them like that burning liquid humans liked to drink.

    <<source…>> they hummed, and to Firefoot’s blurry vision the grey mass in front of them shifted, coming nearer. He snarled warningly, his fur still blazing with the remnants of his previous attack, even though he knew they wouldn’t answer, feeling almost guilty that he had to attack them when they obviously had no idea what was happening.

    But if this one doesn’t, they’ll swarm the Mistress. And that is something this one cannot let happen.

    It was then that the matter was taken completely out of his loyal paws.

    A roar echoed through the woods, making Keegan jump and almost drop Hazel’s pokéball, which she’d just raised to activate. Something tore past her, so close that Keegan felt its weight in the passing and staggered, her shoes slipping on the gravel and making her fall with a hard blow that sparked pain in her elbows.

    She looked up in time to see lightning swelling in a wave of crackling bolts through the wall of pokémon, the ground scored with deep furrows from the attack. Keegan flinched and one hand clenched automatically over the long, pearly-white scars which marked her other arm as some of it lashed out towards her with snaps of electricity, making her skin prickle with goosebumps and her hair frizz, her muscles jolting faintly once or twice though the static was absorbed into the rocky ground before dangerous levels reached her.

    Oh God, what the hell’s going on…?

    Shaking, cringing with every dying crackle, Keegan recoiled from the scene, pressed against Firefoot’s side as the growlithe took her weight protectively. Finally there was silence and Keegan dared to look up through her clinging bangs to see the magnemite picking themselves up dazedly and retreating into the trees, wavering uncertainly.

    They’re… going? What happened?

    Then a snarl caught her attention, and Keegan just barely had time to move, just barely registered Firefoot’s urgent push against her shoulder, before a bolt of lightning slammed down on the rock where she’d been. The ground crumbled in swells of dust, the earth shaking as a piece of the cliff dissolved into rubble.

    Keegan grazed her elbows as she skidded to a halt on her side, confused, frightened, completely bewildered as she stared with a white face at the lithe, yellow-and-black striped pokémon that stood before her, sparks of electricity flashed over and around the dark thundercloud on its back.

    “Wha— what—” she stammered, and the pokémon snarled furiously, its mask-like visage making it seem even more terrifying, its red eyes narrowed with anger at some unknown slight. With a thunderous bark it leapt at her, but Keegan was moving without any notion of actually ordering her body to do so, legs pumping to send her scrabbling across broken and seared ground.

    In the same instant Firefoot howled wrathfully, launching himself at the beast and slamming into it with enough force to make it stumble as it landed. The growlithe pup rebounded off wiry muscles, landing sprawled in the dust near Keegan. Scuttling closer as he shook his head dazedly, Keegan lifted his pokéball, intending to return him and run, because the beast had regained its balance and was looking back towards her.

    Instead she automatically flinched away as Firefoot, eyes blazing, leapt for her. His fangs grazed red lines on her throat, knocking her over as he tore the firestone pendant from her neck, the chain snapping with only a mark to show for its presence.

    White light rippled over his matted fur, unseen bruises engulfed in the thickening of his orange coat, and a magnificent snowy-white mane swelled over his head and shoulders. Keegan rolled to her side and watched, stunned and astonished, as white tufts flared back from his growing paws. Then the light faded, revealing a fiery dog whose size and majesty rivalled that of the beast arrayed before him.

    Firefoot lowered his head, fur bristling, and growled as the now dim pendant slipped from his mouth and dropped to the ground with a chink. The beast ducked its head in something like respect or acknowledgement but snarled a warning back, the cloud sparking fitfully in preparation for an attack.

    Keegan just had time to grab her pendant before Firefoot’s jaws closed on her arm, urgently drawing her up and making her stumble back with an insistent toss of his head. Keegan grabbed his shoulders to steady herself, hands burying in thick orange fur and half falling on him when her balance failed.

    And then suddenly they were moving, the wind almost knocked out of her as Firefoot abruptly darted to the side, dodging a thunderbolt that blistered the ground where they’d been. When they landed again Keegan was almost floored as her feet hit ground, but now she knew what he wanted and just managed to get a leg half over his back as he jumped clear of the beast’s flashing, full-bodied attack, the yellow-and-black pokémon skidding to a halt with a growl.

    Keegan nearly fell off again as they stopped, but then she managed to catch her balance and position herself properly. The instant Firefoot felt her weight he was gone, turning tail and hurtling into the woods, avoiding a snap of powerful jaws that caught only air, his paws thudding on the ground and muscles working, trees streaking past as they fled.
    Last edited by purple_drake; 11th August 2008 at 12:40 PM.

  12. #12
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    WOWO___O

    that was intense!! Ooh, this chapter has soo many things to make me like it, good work Purple-drake^-^I like your descriptions and everything, I can't believe you can describe every scene so well, I'm so jealous^-^

    Ooh the first part is the trip on the boat, good work describing her fears of the deep waters(very deep^-^) and trying to distract herself from it^-^Firefoot is cool again, completely clueless makes him utterly loveable and also having no appreciation for the move Overheat from Flannery(the magazine was written well and I was totally sure it was Flannery who answered the questions.

    Second part is between Cianwood and Olivine^-^ Nurse Joy was great, her laughing over the completely tired out Firefoot, teehee, makes me want to lie down too, but I have to review^-^

    It was great in Olivine too, although I don't exactly know what place it was, you know where she found her 'flag'(I liked the description of thinking her it was a game^-^) was that battletower or something. anyway, nice part here too, next part is my favorite.

    third part in woods between Ecruteak and Olivine. Great as well, she really has a lousy sense or direction (or no sense of direction). I think I know why all the electric pokemon acted so weird, this was in the previous version as well huh? I think that glimmer, rainbow-light stone-thingie is the cause (what you dubbed, her 'flag')

    And Raikou makes it appearance^-^too bad that Firefoot evolves soo soon as I love him in his puppy form (Yeah! Growlithes). Oh well, the cuteness is gone but the coolness makes up for it, that puppy sure is fast in his evolved form.

    Purple-Drake, you once again blew me away with your mighty chapterskills, hope to see the other one sooner than this one(BUT DON'T RUSH IT!!!!!)

    byebye

    Aimi Hanako
    Searching for Inspiration...

  13. #13
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    ...omg. OMG! I can't actually believe it's back!

    This was one of the first fan-fictions that I read back when I first started, and it was already on hiatus then. Keegan's story about Maxie, "little fox" and all that seems like a very distant memory now - one that would have long been forgotten had not it been for an obscure bookmark and a link in Sike Saner's sig!

    A review will be edited in slightly later; right now I have to do some research on drugs. Won't be long!

  14. #14
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    *shudder* Abandoned construction sites are creepy. They just are. Also creepy is a horde of seemingly hypnotized Electric-types that won’t stop following you. It really is a scary thought, being swarmed by creatures whose powers at least can give you an unpleasant little shock, and at worst can freaking stop your heart and fry you. Brrr, definitely creepy.

    I like creepy.

    And hooray for Firefoot’s evolution. ^^ That’s cool that he thought to do that, that he recognized the Fire Stone pendant for what it was and made use of it.

    Which reminds me: When Keegan asked him if he’d be interested in learning Overheat, and he seemed to indicate that he was more interested in a different attack, I wonder what that attack was?

    Oh, and one more Firefoot note: I loved the image of him getting himself stung by a Tentacool; that was priceless. And the bandage on his nose! Very cute. ^^

    Other highlights:

    Keegan caught his expression and stopped, looking back at him through her raised arms. “What?! I was trying not to panic and got… a little… carried away… when I was imagining I was playing a game. I didn’t mean to take it!”

    With a depressed huff she slumped down on the mattress beside the crystal, making it bounce up and hit Hazel on the snout.

    “Bii!” Hazel bristled, her nose twitching furiously, and Keegan smiled wanly.
    XD I love it when someone gets accidentally bonked on the face by something.

    Okay, so there were lots of things she had to think about that she hadn’t considered before she’d left Alto Mare, but the Joy in Cianwood had cottoned onto the fact she was new to travelling somehow – must be Joy Intuition – because the evening she’d gotten into town the nurse had taken her aside and calmly explained everything she needed to know, giving her a traveller’s pocket-guide to take along in case she forgot something.

    That thing is probably that most important thing I own right now.

    Wonder what Firefoot and Hazel would say if they heard that?
    What indeed. XD Again, I just love the little things that go through her mind.
    DON'T CALL IT A COMEBACK
    (Or do. I don't actually mind.)
    The Origin of Storms | Communication

  15. #15
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    OOO yes the druged Magnemites. I remember those. So much better a second time round really. I liked it. It's really so much better than the first one and that was even pretty good. I can't wait till we get so farther in the fic. I sadly don't remember the plot very well yet buut I'm sure i will after a while so no worries there. Anyway, great chap there PD hope to read more soon too. Not like the last one. ^^
    jirachiman out
    Yes people, I have returned.
    Pearl FC. Arlen 1718-9710-2821
    Eat More Chicken!!! Self-proclaimed, unofficial spokesman for Chick-Fil-A.

  16. #16
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    Whoops, sorry for the delay on review replies ^.^;; laziness is a bad habit, I know.

    Aimi Hanako: Or should I keep that as 'electric soul fairy'? either way, hi again! *waves*

    Don't be jealous ^.^ the very first copy of HotM was fairly sparse in description; that's a skill I learned right here on these forums, so just goes to show anyone could learn it.

    The ironic thing about the magazine is that I don't even like magazines :P give me a good book any day. But I do love Flannery, I think she's an awesome character (then again, I love all of the gym leaders, so...)

    And yup, you got it right - it was the battle tower :P I figured it'd be one of those places that Keegan would just love to explore, and in the first copy I needed some extra space between the seeing of Lugia and the meeting with Raikou (or Entei, as it was in the original), so I decided a little side-adventure would put some distance between them. I didn't expect it to turn into an adventure all on its own!

    As for the electric pokemon... *zips up and winks* all you people who read the original will know, but for any new readers...

    I was a little disappointed that we didn't get more of Firefoot as a growlithe too :P but when I was revamping the plotline he growled at me and refused to let go of the oppurtunity. *shrugs* when the characters take control like that, what can you do? At least his personality mostly stays the same :P

    Don't worry the next chapter's already written, though I still do want to space it out a little (just perhaps not as long as the last time...).

    Thanks again ^.^

    Hahahabvc87: Wow, I seem to have more readers than I thought o.O so many old readers that I didn't even know I had are coming back! ^.^ well, hi! I'm glad you found your way back and I hope you enjoy the new version :P ah, research... the staple of university assignments... *shudders* good luck with that.

    Sike Saner: Hehhehheh, have to agree with you :P very creepy. I'm glad you thought so; even though I wasn't consciously trying to make it creepy, per se, I did make a conscious effort for Keegan to realize the danger she was in both times. I mean, heck, who wouldn't be scared? In the anime Ash-co seem to just dive in and not be much scared at all, or if they are, it's only briefly. I figure if something like that happened to a relatively normal person - who, worse luck, isn't even a trainer - it'd have to have some effect.

    Everybody loves Firefoot even me. :P He really is smarter than he acts, isn't he? I characterise him as so dopey most of the time - like a stereotypical dog - that it made me feel guilty. So maybe he's not the brains of the operation (that'd be Hazel) but he's not dumb either.

    Heh ^.^;; as for the attacks, I have no idea. I just thought it'd be stereotypical for a fire pokemon to want to learn such a powerful attack, and decided Firefoot would be different. Now you've got me thinking :P when you think about it, Overheat is a rather uncontrolled attack... at least with Flamethrower you can choose it's direction. Hmm...

    Thank you, thank you ^.^ and I'm flattered to be linked in your sig, too. Seeya 'round! ^.^

    jirachiman: Dun worry, I'll try not to leave it hang for a month again ^.^;; ooh, I'm so bad.

    Yup, it'll all come back to yah :P I can't wait 'til we're into new material either; right now I'm flipping between my old and new versions so I know what I'm doing and to catch anything in the original that would work in the new. Half the time it just feels like I'm rewriting stuff that's already there @.@ it can get a little tedious after a while, but ah well, what can yah do?

  17. #17
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    A/N: So here I am again, almost... a month... later. *sweatdrops* I should just stop making promises.


    ~ III ~
    THE FACTS UNSEEN


    KEEGAN ACHED.

    Her face was chilled by the night air, her legs hurt from being clasped around Firefoot’s belly and the chafing of her jeans, her hands were stiff from clutching his mane and her butt felt like it was made of lead. She was exhausted, she was hungry, and right then and there she would have kissed Miriam’s feet if she could just use her old bed for a night.

    Getting hit by electricity always makes people feel tired, she thought wearily, her mind rambling to different topics because she was just too far gone to concentrate. Electricity was just one of the subjects she’d gone over—twice—in God-knows-how-long. I wasn’t hit, exactly, but I was damned… damned close quite a few times there.

    The mere thought of it made her stomach want to rebel, so she swallowed hard and leaned over Firefoot’s back, half trying to keep a grip on herself and half wishing the arcanine’s constant, flowing movement wasn’t keeping her from sleeping.

    Well, technically it wasn’t, except she knew she’d fall off if she fell asleep, since she’d never ridden an arcanine before and Firefoot had never carried someone, so neither of them would be able to keep her balance.

    It was a testament to how tired she was that she hadn’t even noticed they’d entered Ecruteak until Firefoot stopped in front of the Pokémon Centre’s sliding glass doors, almost making her fall anyway from the unexpected halt. For a moment she stared at the darkened windows, but then Firefoot gave her a little jolt and she slid off his back with a groan at her aching muscles and the burning in her thighs, feeling bowlegged and unsteady on the unmoving ground.

    After their confrontation with that lightning pokémon Firefoot had headed straight for the city without stopping, even though it was further away than the Tin Tower seemed to suggest and by the time they got there—Keegan checked her pokégear clock blearily—it was 3:30am in the morning. Which meant she’d been riding for the better part of thirteen hours. No wonder her butt was sore.

    But Keegan, once her mind had caught up on the events and she’d managed to stop shaking long enough to think straight, hadn’t wanted to risk staying the night in the woods with that… thing… around, so she wasn’t going to complain. Much. There was also the fact that Firefoot hadn’t shown any inclination at stopping—despite the fact that he was now panting like a steam engine—so he must’ve known something she didn’t and agreed it would be a bad idea.

    For the moment she put aside the question of why the hell the pokémon had attacked her straight after saving her, and focussed only on getting to a nice, warm bed in a nice, safe room.

    Although, she did feel guilty for waking Nurse Joy up at this hour, but when she saw the lights flicker on inside the timber-built Centre and the pink-haired woman coming to answer her hammering, Keegan couldn’t help feeling a surge of sweet and utter relief.

    “Wha—” Joy started, stifling a yawn, as the doors slid open, and then her eyes widened as she caught sight of Keegan. “My goodness!” she exclaimed, stepping out of the way to let Keegan stumble inside, Firefoot nearby in case she needed to lean on him.

    I must really look a mess, Keegan thought with strange bemusement as Nurse Joy tugged her gently towards one of the orange-cushioned couches, gesturing to a sleepy-eyed chansey who had just emerged from the back room with her nurse’s cap askew.

    “What happened?” Joy asked anxiously, sitting Keegan down and snatching up a folded cloth that another of the round pink pokémon had just held out to her, pressing it to Keegan’s arm. It was only then that the girl realized she’d scraped herself on a rock somewhere, leaving a long red graze almost from her elbow to her shoulder.

    “Got mobbed by pokémon,” Keegan answered slightly dazedly, absently scratching Firefoot’s huge head when he tried to climb onto the couch with her, whining encouragingly.

    “Must have been a lot of pokémon!” Joy commented sympathetically.

    For some strange reason Keegan found that incredibly funny. She started laughing and couldn’t stop, even though the sound grew hysterical within moments and soon turned to tears. “Shock,” Joy murmured to herself, steadying the girl as she was wracked with giggles, struggling to breathe.

    Keegan wasn’t aware of much after that. All she really knew is that somehow she’d been cleaned up, her injuries tended to, Firefoot was at some point returned to his pokéball and then taken for a rest, and she was firmly led up the stairs and to a spare room where she sank down into a completely exhausted sleep hardly before her head had hit the pillow.

    * * *

    Keegan stood at the base of the cobblestone steps, staring up the path towards the many-tiered Tin Tower, half obscured by the tall wooden blockade around it aside from the open, canopied gates at the height of the stairs. The path and fence were surrounded on all sides by lofty trees, obstructing her view of Ecruteak, and the clear sky was already beginning to dim slightly.

    Latias, but the night comes in quickly in these parts.

    It was early evening, nearly a week after Keegan had gotten into the city. Although Keegan was a fairly active girl, there was only so much she could take before she just wanted to lie in bed for a couple of days. She thought it had been bad for the first week when her feet and legs burned every time she moved, unused to the constant exertion of walking; this was so much worse.

    The ride had left her inner thighs chafed to bleeding point, although she hadn’t realised it until the morning (or rather, afternoon) after when she peeled off her pyjama pants and almost torn off one of the bandages when it got stuck to the material. It had been humiliating to realise that Nurse Joy had taken care of her while she was out of it—it had taken her two days to stop blushing every time she saw the woman—but it was probably better than being awake for it.

    Not that she’d escaped from that fate either. Nurse Joy had come up to check on her and promptly given her a stern talking to about riding for so long when she was so inexperienced. Then she’d sat her down, helped her change the bandages, given her a crash course on what was in a first-aid kit (as well as recommending a store from which to buy one) and confined her to the Pokémon Centre for at least four days.

    Keegan had felt too horrible to complain, although her heart clenched with excitement every time she remembered that she was in Ecruteak, that she was where she wanted to be, and that here was a man who might just be able to tell her something about how she’d come to be in Alto Mare in the first place.

    On the other hand, it had also given her plenty of time to think about the strange lightning pokémon who had attacked her. In the aftermath, she knew that incident had been even more frightening than that night in the construction yard.

    She could truly have died. It had wanted her to die.

    And that scared her, more than anything, made her feel panicky, until she resorted to simply pushing the memory away and trying to pretend it didn’t exist.

    By the time she felt well enough to get up and around, she was so jittery that she just wanted to talk to Morty and get out of the city, the city so close to where that thing had been.

    So she’d decided to take a walk around town to test her muscles, but also to get the chain of her pendant repaired and buy a treat for Firefoot for his evolution. She hadn’t wanted to get a first-aid kit at first, simply because it was a reminder, but the storekeeper had been helpful and she had reluctantly purchased a small portable bag which she’d been able to clip to her belt until she got back to the Centre.

    After that she had headed for the gym, but when she found it, it was to discover that Morty wasn’t there. One of the students told her he was often at the Tin Tower, an area sacred to Ecruteak, and by then Keegan was so wound up that she decided she’d go check it out anyway. She wanted—needed—to do something, and it felt soothing to be wandering around an old-world city such as Ecruteak, so filled with timber buildings, with such beautiful architecture.

    And more… there were people around, wandering in marketplaces, around houses, on the footpaths and working in gardens. She felt safe out in the open, in the daylight, where there were others around—like no pokémon would dare touch her there, nor any black-uniformed men waiting to steal back what she had taken.

    All that meant that hours had passed, which meant it was getting later and Morty probably wouldn’t help her out anyway, at least not until morning. Still, Keegan didn’t want to go back to the Pokémon Centre just yet. She’d just found the way to the Tin Tower, maybe she could look around a bit first? She needed something to lift her spirits, so if she couldn’t find Morty, maybe a bit of exploring would do.

    It looks so old… and the view at the top is probably amazing!

    She needed a distraction right now.

    So she gathered herself, walking cautiously up the steps, her ponytailed hair caught by the slight breeze that sailed through the forest avenue. When she reached the top there was no one around the small courtyard before the entrance, and no one answered when she called. She approached the high wooden doors and opened them guardedly, peeking into a large room with a smooth wooden floor and absolutely no decorations whatsoever.

    Or at least that’s what she thought until she saw the quartet of brass bells, tethered with red cord to an ornate metal frame in each corner. Still, they were the only things the room boasted, aside from broad windows and a staircase opposite the entrance. So that’s where Keegan went, following the consecutives steps up, taking deep breaths of the musty, wood-scented air, rubbing the smooth, polished timber of the rail. Each room was the same, with bare wooden walls and the huge, shining bells, and vaguely she hoped that the pinnacle would be slightly different.

    When she did find a room that differed from the others, it wasn’t by much and it wasn’t the highest point; there was still one last staircase.

    The room was as empty as the others but instead of brass bells they were silver. For a moment Keegan stared at them, wondering whether they were real silver or not, and when she touched one gently she was slightly surprised to find the smooth metal cool in the warmth of the Tower.

    Then she heard soft, near-inaudible footsteps and, heart lurching guiltily, whirled around just in time to catch someone coming down the staircase.

    They saw each other at virtually the same time. The first expression to pass over the young man’s features was surprise, while the first thing to go through Keegan’s mind was appreciation, taking in his appearance in a second: medium height, slender, with sky-blue eyes and a sculpted face.

    It was only a moment. Then both of them recovered and Keegan opened her mouth to apologise or explain, her cheeks pink with embarrassment at being caught out where she wasn’t sure she was meant to be by someone she definitely would have preferred to view from afar to avoid making a fool of herself—especially considering that she was wearing her ratty track pants and still looked like someone had taken a stick to her.

    She hadn’t even managed to say anything, however, before his eyes flashed angrily behind the lock of brown hair falling across his face and a pokéball was in his hand, gleaming in the rays of the setting sun through the slitted windows.

    “Who are you?” he demanded aggressively, moving down the stairs with a billow of the white cape over his shoulders, the pokéball expanded between his fingers.

    Nice to look at, but damn he’s intimidating—

    “I’m Keegan, I was just looking for the gym leader and one of the students said he might be up here,” the girl blurted out hurriedly, backing away from his piercing glare and barely keeping herself from responding by going for her own pokémon. “I didn’t mean to intrude.”

    “Morty’s not here,” the young man said shortly, still eyeing her suspiciously, fingering his pokéball. “And neither should you be. This is private property.”

    “I’m sorry,” Keegan said quickly, her cheeks flushing with guilty embarrassment at the chastisement. “I just—there was no one at the gates, and no one answered when I called, so I thought—”

    “Then you thought wrong,” the young man interrupted, but to Keegan’s relief he minimized the pokéball and tucked it back away somewhere into his purple suit.

    And that was when Keegan’s mind kicked into overdrive and her own suspicion dawned. Okay, so now I know that I’m not meant to be here, but what about him? “What are you doing here, anyway?” she dared cautiously, inwardly wincing at her unintentionally accusing tone.

    “My name is Eusine, not ‘you’, and I happen to have permission,” the stranger snapped irritably, briefly brushing the lock of hair out of his eyes. “But that’s a distinction you don’t.”

    Well so-rry! “It’s not my fault!” Keegan flared at his dismissive tone. “No one ever said anything about this being private property!”

    Eusine stared, and Keegan flushed deeper. Oh boy, there you go, making an idiot of yourself again…

    “It’s surrounded by walls and trees on all sides!” he said finally, sounding disbelieving. “What else could it be?”

    Oh. Keegan fell silent, practically feeling her cheeks burn hot enough to fry an egg. “I didn’t think of that,” she said in a small voice, staring down at her scuffed shoes as he looked at her incredulously.

    “You see a building surrounded by walls and it doesn’t occur to you that it might be private? What kind of a girl are you?”

    Keegan was just wondering that herself, though she’d never really thought about walls before. Obviously she’d never consider running rampant in someone’s house without permission, but a place like this or the Alto Mare library, in the open, a place that everyone pretty much knows and no one seems to explicitly own, a public location, how could she ever consider that going there might be trespassing?

    “But how do I know that you really do have permission?” she tried again, more quietly and less belligerently without looking at him. Her face was quite hot enough, thank you.

    “You don’t,” was the simple, stern answer.

    She glanced up through her bangs, shuffling uncomfortably, to see him tapping his gloved fingers impatiently on his crossed arms. “Well, then—”

    He sighed in exasperation. “Do you always question authority or am I just the lucky one?”

    Keegan flinched, hearing echoes of Pete and Miriam’s words in her head, and smiled a little sheepishly. “Um, always, pretty much. I just—I’d leave, but how do I know you’re really meant to be here?”

    He looked at her again, with those piercing eyes which Keegan felt like were looking right through her, and her cheeks went red again. At least this time he doesn’t look angry, she thought, shifting uneasily and chewing her lip. On the contrary; it was like he was studying her, so instead she began to feel like she was under glass. What was worse was the fact that she couldn’t read him at all, so she had no idea what he was thinking.

    “I’ll go down with you,” he said finally. “And I happen to know where Morty is, so I’ll take you to him. That way you’ll know I’m what I say I am, and you won’t have a reason to go wandering where you’re not supposed to. Done?”

    Keegan blinked, momentarily surprised at his offer and the fact that his tone had softened to something that was almost friendliness, before realizing exactly what he’d said. Her eyes widened and she grinned broadly. “Really? Thanks!”

    “Good,” Eusine said briskly. “But you’d better hurry up, because I’ve still got research to do up here and Morty only gave me today to do it.”

    “Oh.” Keegan followed as he moved to the stairs downward, casting a single, curious glance at the way up before the floor rose around her and obscured her view. She turned back to the front, struggling to keep up while hiding the burn of her still-sore muscles. “What’re you researching?”

    Eusine looked at her with the same measuring expression that he had before as they passed through the next floor, the slitted windowsills tinted gold by the impending sunset. “Legendaries,” he admitted at last. “I’m looking for one of the Legendaries. Ecruteak is the seat of Johto’s myths and legends, so I come here to do my research. Now as for you,” And though his tone was calculating he had, to her relief, looked away, because it was damn hard not to feel put on the spot when someone as handsome as he was staring at you, especially with that intense gaze of his. “Why are you after Morty? You don’t look like a particularly strong trainer, so it can’t be a battle.”

    “I’m not,” Keegan confessed, finally giving in to jogging a bit so she could keep up with his quick, long-legged stride. She winced as her legs complained, drawing her attention from his almost derisively amused tone at the thought of someone challenging the gym leader. “I read that he can see things from far away. I came to see if he could help me find someone.” She wouldn’t normally have explained that much, because the subject was very personal to her, but he was helping her and, as they said, turnabout was fair play.

    “I see.” was all the answer she received, but instead of making her feel relieved it just made her wonder what he was thinking.

    After that they walked in silence, Keegan feeling uncomfortable and self-conscious. She had absolutely no idea what to say and he seemed so deep in thought that she didn’t want to disturb him. Instead she bore the situation stoically, even though she’d always hated the quiet when there were other people around to talk to, and instead focussed on what she planned to do afterward, depending on what Morty was able to tell her.

    So when her companion abruptly stopped, throwing out a hand which she almost banged into, she jumped with surprise. “Wha—” she began, but he shushed her, his gaze not focussed on anything in particular as though he was listening to something.

    Apparently he wasn’t as out of it as I thought. Keegan’s chest clenched with apprehension and she took a deep breath to ease it, closing her eyes to do the same.

    It took a moment before she heard anything, but when she did her eyes flew open and she tensed, her lips drawn tightly shut as though to retract any sound she might make, spoken or not.

    There was someone down there—several someones—and judging by Eusine’s reaction they weren’t supposed to be there either.

    He already had a pokéball ready and expanded, and after only a second’s hesitation Keegan did the same, picking Firefoot’s pokéball out and clutching it with an unsteady hand. This is a game, she told herself firmly before fear could get too deep a grip on her, briefly touching her pendant for luck. Last man standing. The only difference is that we’re allowed to use pokémon, and we even played it like that sometimes, to up the teams.

    So with another deep breath she followed after her companion’s flicking white cape, absently impressed with the quiet of his footsteps. Well, if he’s a Legendary hunter…

    “Is there a sign at the front of the Tower which says ‘anyone can come in and enjoy themselves’, or is this just my unlucky day?”

    You’ve got to be kidding. Keegan only just managed to keep herself from putting her head in her hands, stopping short at the height of the steps not far behind Eusine. Giving them warning is a bad idea, idiot!

    The darkly clad trio in the next room whirled around in surprise at his abrupt, irritable voice, all of them diving for their pokéballs with a speed that suggested special training. Keegan swore she heard Eusine mutter, “Well that answers that question,” as he called out his pokémon, only a beat or two ahead of the intruders.

    A female alakazam materialized on the bottom step, the dark brown armour on her forearms, torso and knees seeming to absorb what light still came through the windows. Barely a moment later she was faced with an oval-bodied azumarill, its ears cocked and eyes hard, but the alakazam had already raised her spoons. With a sweeping gesture of the silver utensils the blue-and-white pokémon was sent flying back into the orange-haired woman that was its trainer hardly before its feet had touched floor.

    Both of them hit the wall and tumbled to the ground with twin thuds, gasping for breath, but before Alakazam could do the same to the others a second pokémon was deposited on the floor, red shell gleaming in the fading light and eyes glaring at Alakazam from beneath the shadow of a yellow star-shaped crest.

    Oh shit—crawdaunt are part dark— Keegan’s stomach lurched with recognition and she darted as far as she could down the steps, shoving past a surprised Eusine as Alakazam narrowed her gaze, her eyes flashing a bright, cerulean blue, and gestured once at the crab-like pokémon with a spoon. For a second the crawdaunt shone the same colour; then the aura was dispelled with an almost audible snap, leaving no effect whatsoever.

    “Ahlaa?” Alakazam’s eyes widened in horror, but before Crawdaunt could retaliate it was knocked aside by a muscular, bright orange-and-black figure.

    With a toss of his white-maned head Firefoot drove the crawdaunt back across the room, the crab’s trainer jumping aside to avoid it, almost tripping, and the water pokémon trying desperately using its stubby back legs to halt its skid before it crashed back into the azumarill which had just staggered to its feet.

    “A fire pokémon,” the third intruder spat in disgust as he lifted a pokéball of his own, his brown hair peeking out from beneath a navy-coloured bandanna with a strange white emblem imprinted on the front.

    What is that? Keegan managed to wonder.

    “Bubblebeam!” the woman snarled angrily, crouched by the wall and clutching her shoulder where she’d landed badly.

    “Zurii!” Azumarill pounced on Crawdaunt’s tall head, firing a rapid stream of bubbles not towards Firefoot or Alakazam, but up at Eusine and Keegan, unprotected on the stairs.

    Without thinking Keegan slipped through the rails, where she’d been crouching to drop Firefoot’s pokéball down the side of the stairs, and let herself fall, hitting the floor hard as the bubbles exploded against the wooden entrance to the next floor. Ow… Keegan staggered to her feet, her knees wobbly from the shock of the landing and her heart pounding down low in her ribs with adrenaline, her thoughts scattered on the wind of instinctive action. She looked up with enough time to see a second Bubblebeam headed off by a Lightscreen from Alakazam, each blow causing the transparent surface of the barrier to fizz.

    “Thundershock!” Keegan heard Eusine shout, and felt a surge of relief that he was all right a second before she realized what he’d said.

    Oh God, he’s got to be kidding!

    He wasn’t. With an undignified yelp Keegan ducked beneath the stairs, her hair already frizzing up from the static, having definite flashbacks to the day before. Lightning crackled overhead, aimed for the crawdaunt as the azumarill skittered thoughtlessly out of the way.

    There was a flash of red, the light forming into a shapeless figure in front of Crawdaunt a second before the lightning hit.

    And then dispersed, revealing a slimy blob of a pokémon, its blue fur slick and expression untroubled.

    Quagsire, Keegan recognised though the slats, for much the same reason she had the crawdaunt—Alto Mare being on the border between Johto and Hoenn, and a city of water to boot, she knew pretty much every pokémon of that type through sheer osmosis.

    But that knowledge didn’t help her much now, except to feel a mixture of dread and relief. Electrical attacks would be useless as long as the intruders had a ground-type to absorb them, but that meant that Eusine wasn’t likely to try to use electricity again, right?

    But we can’t use our best attacks for fear of damaging the Tower, either! she realized, stomach clenching with the thought that those damned electric attacks were probably their best bet.

    Arrcth!” The familiar howl interrupted her thoughts, ringing throughout the close-aired chamber, and Keegan’s heart jumped.

    Firefoot!

    The stairs shuddered as the arcanine bounced off them in a splash of water, landing sprawled to the other side, and Keegan scrambled beneath the steps to check on him, hurriedly squeezing out as much of his sodden fur as she could. Growing up on Alto Mare meant he was a little more resistant to the liquid than was usual for a fire pokémon, but still…

    We can’t go on like this. Electric attacks are the best chance we’ve got, although if we could just get rid of the crawdaunt instead… either way… “See if you can get rid of the quagsire,” she said through gritted teeth as the arcanine staggered back up, shaking himself slightly and looking bedraggled. “We need those lightning attacks to get through!”

    Firefoot’s ears twitched in agreement; then, a second later, his head jerked slightly to the side in response to a command Keegan didn’t hear properly. Abruptly he jumped towards her, knocking her aside in time to avoid a shadowy pincer as it pounded the floor, leaving cracks in the wood. “Take Down,” Keegan gasped blindly, her elbows smarting from where she’d landed on them and unable to see past Firefoot’s bulk and the stairs.

    “Arrcnnn,” Firefoot snarled and was gone, giving Keegan a chance to lever herself up and see what the hell was happening.

    She caught Firefoot’s full-bodied collision with the quagsire, throwing them both to the side just in time to evade the crackling Thundershock which scorched the crawdaunt’s gleaming shell.

    She saw Alakazam’s spoons whirl in her hands, directing a rainbow-coloured shaft of energy towards the azumarill, sending the blue-and-white pokémon cartwheeling across floor. It crashed into the still-dazed and sparking crawdaunt, both of them tumbling back to land in a heap of stubby limbs and pincers.

    Firefoot skidded to a halt, having just barely managed to land on his feet after being thrown by the supple quagsire, his body heaving with pants.

    For a split second there was a lull as the intruders’ pokémon tried to recover themselves, Keegan’s mind racing for what to do next, praying she didn’t clash with Eusine’s orders.

    Then there was a roar of breath-stealing wind and something blew itself up the stairs to Keegan’s left, something encircled by eerie, swirling red and yellow lights which made her eyes hurt, humming a high, steady note which made it difficult to think.

    What’s going on?

    She suddenly felt so alone, and it was so dark, so hard to see anything aside from the scarlet-tinged globes. There were enemies around, she could feel them—

    Something thudded beside her and Keegan flinched away, her heart suddenly pounding with terror, but before she could escape she was wrenched around, pulled away from the fascinating dance of circles and against something warm and breathing.

    “Don’t look at it,” someone breathed sharply in her ear when she tried instinctively to struggle, and a hand came down over her eyes. “It’s Confuse Ray!”

    Confuse Ray. A more effective form of Supersonic. It’s dangerous because it can make your pokémon turn on you unintentionally…

    What? When did I read that?


    Keegan’s mind cleared and she went still, finding her hand gripping someone’s sleeve, leaning against their chest, turned away from the buzz and panicked shouts she could hear somewhere out in the middle of the room. Her arms prickled with goosebumps when the pitch faltered for a second before turning up even higher, making her ears ache and a chill run down her spine. “Hypnosis,” Eusine’s voice sounded somewhere not far overhead, and that was when Keegan realized that he was the one holding her.

    She didn’t need to see to know her face had just gone as red as Firefoot’s fur.

    Her heart lurched. “Firefoot!” she gasped, automatically trying to pull away. For a moment a startled Eusine resisted; then the humming stopped and there were multiple thuds as bodies hit the floor.

    Keegan was up the instant Eusine let her go, but her knees buckled and she staggered, her vision swirling with the pound of a head-rush as she caught herself on the side of the stairs.

    “Eusine, everything all right?” an unfamiliar voice asked calmly over several sets of footfalls as she blinked rapidly to get rid of the white burn of dizziness in front of her eyes.

    “Just peachy,” Eusine answered, and a part of Keegan laughed at his grumpy tone.

    I guess he just ran out of time for his research.

    Keegan’s vision finally cleared enough for her to see, but the first thing in sight was a purple-bodied gengar, floating over the unconscious bodies of the intruders with a wide, red-eyed grin. Keegan shuddered and turned away to find Firefoot sprawled on the other side of the stairs, his ribs rising and falling steadily in sleep, and she returned him, relieved that he seemed to be okay.

    “Who is this?” someone asked, their sharp tone catching Keegan’s attention, and the girl spun around to look at the newcomers.

    One of them had longish yellow hair, held back by a blue headband, and half-lidded eyes which made him look somehow laidback, as though nothing could faze him. Morty, she identified him instantly, feeling her stomach drop to her knees. Great, he’s not gonna want to help me at all now he knows I was trespassing.

    Three more were monks, clad in brown robes and of varying sizes and ages. One of them was scowling at her suspiciously under thick eyebrows which contrasted with his thin face, so she guessed that he was the one who’d asked the question.

    The final member of the party was Officer Jenny, her blue hair tucked securely under her cap as she moved around the room to place the intruders’ pokémon back in their pokéballs and take details, her keen eyes studying the area as Gengar followed with leering interest.

    “A customer,” Eusine said briskly and with a hint of dryness. “You’d better tell the students not to send people up here looking for you, Morty.”

    “Sorry,” Keegan apologised quickly, abashed. “I didn’t mean to.”

    Eusine snorted but thankfully didn’t say anything, not about that anyway, and his continued explanation turned attention away from her. At least, until Officer Jenny looked up at her a few moments later, one hand tapping a pencil against the notebook she had in her hand. “So you just walked up and into the Tower?” the woman asked with something between suspicion and disapproval.

    “There was no one in the courtyard,” Keegan said nervously, sliding down the stairwell’s post to sit on the bottom slat. “And I called to make sure, so I could ask, but no one answered.”

    “We were all in the shrine-house in the back at the time,” Morty said grimly, as much to Officer Jenny as to Keegan. “We got a warning note this afternoon saying that someone was going to steal some of the artefacts the monks keep back there.”

    “There’s nothing really of value in the Tower itself except the bells,” Eusine added, throwing Morty a frown to show that he didn’t appreciate being kept out of the loop. “And they’re of value more for historical reasons, so they’d be useless to sell. There’d be no reason to come in here. Or not much of one, at any rate.”

    “Obviously those guys disagree,” Keegan murmured with a vague wave at the uniformed intruders, letting her head drop tiredly against the rail. Now that the battle was over she was beginning to feel a little tired again, as well as on edge because of all the surprises and sore because at some point she’d stretched the graze on her arm to the point of weeping. I wonder if Eusine would have found them if I hadn’t disturbed him?

    “Well, they don’t have any ID,” Jenny was muttering almost to herself, examining the three compact hang-gliders resting in the corner. “Except this.” She held out a scrap of black material to them, imprinted with the same emblem that had been on the intruders’ bandannas, only this time in blue. In the centre was a circle, while at the bottom were two short lines, with a third at the top, making it look vaguely like an ‘A’.

    Keegan shrugged her ignorance when the policewoman looked at her in query. “Can I go?” she asked in a small voice while she had Jenny’s attention as Morty took the cloth, fingering it absently and studying the symbol.

    “No,” Officer Jenny told her sternly. “I need to get a statement from you.”

    Bugger, Keegan thought, disappointed. She really, really wanted some alone-time to talk to Hazel, to make sure Firefoot was okay, and just be able to keep out of big occurrences in general. Is it always like this, or am I just the lucky one?

    In the end she and Eusine went off with Jenny to the police station first, leaving Morty and the monks to look over the Tower and keep watch over the intruders until Jenny could send in some people to pick them up. It took a couple of hours for Jenny to speak to them both to her satisfaction, during which Keegan got tired of telling the same short story over and over again, all the while wishing she was gone.

    Or that it was morning, either way, because just before they’d left Morty had told her to meet him at the gym the next day so he could give her a reading. The thought that she was so close made her heart flare with hope and her mind resign to the fact that she probably wouldn’t be getting much sleep that night.

    She turned out to be right. She made it back to the Pokémon Centre in plenty of time before curfew, giving her a chance to make plans with Hazel. Or it would have, if the eevee hadn’t been so put out that she didn’t get in on the action that evening that she kept on turning away whenever Keegan tried to speak to her.

    But despite the fact that she slept badly Keegan was true to her nature and arose early, while the horizon was still green with the dawn. Ecruteak was just waking up by the time she got out of the Centre, bidding Nurse Joy a decently cheerful farewell as she went with all her possessions in hand and pokémon cleared for battle, but as she reached the timber-built gym her steps slowed with uncertainty.

    He’s probably not awake yet, she realized with dismay. I always get up earlier than Haze and Firefoot, and even Miriam sometimes.

    A second later she grimaced, feeling a pang of guilt that she hadn’t thought about her foster mother in ages and wondering briefly how she was doing. I hope she never finds out about the whole… um, getting attacked thing. She’d kill me.

    …bad thoughts.
    She forced her mind away from them and refocussed on the gym in front of her. Well, at least I can check… Cautiously Keegan tested the heavy doors, peeking in when they proved to be unlocked. All she saw was a dim, wide-spaced arena, with timber bleachers set at the walls to either side, flanked by the same slitted windows that the Tower had possessed.

    “Well, are you going in or not?” a familiar voice snapped from behind her, and Keegan jumped, her heart rebounding off her ribs and leaping up to her throat as she whirled around.

    “Don’t do that!” she gasped, clutching at her chest and shuddering. God, for a moment there I thought— “And besides, weren’t you the one telling me about walls and private property?”

    “And weren’t you the one ignoring them?” Eusine asked, raising one slender eyebrow and looking faintly amused before pushing past and entering himself, the blonde-haired girl trailing guiltily in his wake. “Morty!” the caped young man called stridently as he moved across the tamped dirt of the arena towards a shadowed doorway Keegan could now make out at the opposite end of the room.

    A second later Morty came through the entrance, flipping aside the dark cloth which draped in front of the door, his blue-and-yellow shirt looking bright in the gloom. “Early riser?” he asked with a slight grin, and Keegan smiled back sheepishly.

    “Sorry,” she offered, but Morty just waved a hand in dismissal and got straight to the point.

    “Eusine said you wanted some help in finding someone. Can you give me a description? Or do you have something they once owned?”

    “Um…” Keegan fingered her pendant and shifted uncomfortably, wondering how much she should say. “I—I don’t know what they look like, or what their name is, or… well, anything.” She swallowed hard, steeling herself to say aloud something her family rarely did, partly out of sympathy for her plight and partly because half the time it seemed like a dream that she actually had the condition. “You see, I—I have amnesia. I can’t remember anything from before I was ten years old, and I’ve lived with foster parents since then.”

    Eusine’s eyebrows shot skyward in surprise, but Morty just nodded in thoughtful understanding, and Keegan let out a shaky breath, her legs feeling unsteady. Damn, but I haven’t said that out loud in far too long. “Um, my pendant,” She tugged on the dimmed firestone, fumbling with the chain to take it off. “It’s one of the only things I had on me when I was found, so…” she drifted off as she held it out uncertainly, feeling strangely vulnerable when Morty accepted it.

    “Before I do anything,” The gym leader looked at her seriously, the pendant’s chain draping over his fist. “I should warn you that since it’s been so long since you received this, I might not be able to See much. And if I do, it might not be to your liking. Too much might have changed.”

    Unable to speak through her suddenly dry mouth, Keegan just nodded, hugging herself around the waist and feeling unexpectedly chilled despite the light jacket she wore. I didn’t think he might not be able to see anything…

    Reassured she understood, Morty pressed the index and middle fingers of his right hand firmly to his forehead and closed his eyes, gripping the pendant tightly. After a moment Keegan felt a slight prickle, similar to when Alakazam had been using Psychic or Gengar had used Hypnosis, only on a much lower scale. “Your arcanine used this to evolve itself,” the gym leader observed idly, not really seeming to expect a reply, though the girl nodded again anyway, her gaze riveted to him tensely.

    Skilfully Morty expanded the scope of his vision, searching for someone he knew could well be too far away even for him to see. Or simply not exist anymore.

    And then… flashes.

    —a man with red hair, tall and dignified, dressed in crimson and black—

    Or is that grey?
    Morty wondered, relaying this out loud. “But I can’t see his face, there’s too much shadow…”

    It was more than that; the image was flickering, unstable, like the distance between them was simply too great. Probably in another region, then; most of Johto is within my Sight.

    A second later the emotion hit him, and he almost gasped out loud. The depth of this man’s passion was incredible, and as clear as the image was hazy. There wasn’t much interpretation needed with a feeling as apparent as that. “He’s the one who gave this pendant to you… and it was given with a great deal of love.”

    Come on, give me a little more than that… He strained himself as far as he could, making his temples throb slightly with the effort, but he was sure there was something else to find and he hated to leave the girl with so little, considering he was probably her only lead.

    The vision changed slightly, the background shifting from obscure shadow into sputtering flames set against the roaring crash of surf.

    “There’s fire behind him, but there’s water too.”

    Keegan couldn’t restrain a sigh upon hearing that. Fire and water. Fire and water. Why is everything fire and water? Damn ocean.

    Morty was silent for a few moments longer before opening his eyes with a rapid blink, lowering his hand. “That’s it. I’m afraid this man is too far for me to see anything detailed, so he’s probably in another region. But judging by what I felt… I’d say it’s a good bet he’s your father.”

    Keegan’s eyes blurred unexpectedly as she accepted the pendant back, her chest clenching tightly with the lump in her throat, and she had to take a deep breath, and then another, to keep from breaking down right then and there. My father. I had—I have a father, and he loved me, and he gave me my pendant.

    “Thanks,” she managed to whisper, brushing distractedly at her eyes even as her cheeks went pink with embarrassment at being seen like this. “But I— I’m not sure where to start looking—”

    “Fire and water sound like pretty good leads to me,” Eusine said with apparent disinterest, looking away and examining the arena like a referee just before an important match. “There are fire and water gyms in both Kanto and Hoenn. Maybe he’s in one of those places.”

    Feeling a swell of gratitude towards the young man for his discretion, Keegan took another deep breath, managing to swallow down the obstruction, forcing back tears. At least until I get somewhere private. “I suppose those are as good as any place to start.”

    “I’d suggest you make the fire gyms a priority,” Eusine added with a slight tilt of his shoulders, as though to acknowledge her comment. “Considering that he was wearing red. Mono-type trainers often like to dress the part.”

    “It’d be easiest to go to Kanto first from here,” Morty suggested, absently rubbing his temple with one hand while ignoring Eusine’s ironic tone and the shift eyes in his direction, an indication of a discussion that Keegan hadn’t been part of. “It’s nearer, for one. Plus you can take the Magnet Train from Goldenrod right into Saffron, and then a ferry to Slateport from Vermillion. Otherwise it’s a lot more running around.”

    And a lot more time on the sea, Keegan thought with an inward grimace. It sounded like she’d be on ferries for the rest of her life at the rate she was going.

    To distract herself from that unwelcome thought she reached into her bag, looking for her wallet. “Um, I heard that you do readings for a living, so… how much do I owe you?”

    Looking slightly surprised and but not ungrateful, Morty named his price and waited patiently as Keegan pawed through her bag, muttering curses under her breath. She finally found her purse in one of the side pockets, nestled in amongst the wad of cash Simon had given her, perhaps half of which she still had. Meals at the Pokémon Centre were cheaper for trainers, boarding was free, and she’d been sleeping outside a lot. Most of what was gone she’d used to pay for the ticket to Olivine.

    “Finally,” she muttered to herself as she took out the notes to get at her purse, stuffing them back into the pocket a second later.

    She looked up to find both Morty and Eusine staring at her. “Uh…”

    “You carry around that much plain cash?” Eusine demanded incredulously, and Keegan felt her face heat up.

    “It was a present,” she protested. “And I don’t have a bank account. How else am I supposed to pay for things?”

    “Usually that’s what parents of any kind are for,” Morty said dryly.

    Yeah… ‘usually’ being the operative word there.

    “Well…” Keegan ducked her head and shuffled her feet, plucking timidly at the loose threads on the edges of her purse. “I kind of… ran away from home.”

    Eusine snorted and she twitched, glancing up at him. “You have pokégear, don’t you?” he asked in a tone of voice which suggested he was talking to a child.

    Keegan stared blankly. “So?”

    Once again, Eusine looked at her as though she were mad, the same way he had the night before when asking her if she didn’t consider walled off areas to be private property. “Didn’t anyone explain to you how it works?”

    “I was… kind of in a hurry at the time,” Keegan protested. “And my uncle wasn’t exactly supposed to be giving it to me.”

    Eusine sighed. “Pokémon training,” the purple-suited young man began long-sufferingly, completely ignoring Morty, who allowed his friend to explain with an amused twist of his lips. “Is considered a casual profession. Trainers who have no other source of income are given a small allowance by the Pokémon Association. Don’t tell me you don’t have the payment card for your pokégear.”

    The what? Keegan blinked. She remembered rifling through the pokégear’s instructions and reading about the cards. Simon had given her one each of the map and radio cards, but they had been the only ones there.

    Apparently her confusion showed on her face, because, to her mortification, Eusine closed his eyes and slapped his forehead with a disbelieving groan as a grin crawled across Morty’s face, the gym leader’s shoulders beginning to shake with silent laughter.

    “Nurse Joy in Cianwood sat me down to explain all that stuff,” Keegan objected, flushing, as a still-chuckling Morty turned around and strode back towards the door he’d initially arrived through. “If there was such a thing, how come she didn’t mention it?” She left note of the fact that Joy had asked if Keegan already knew how to use her pokégear, which the girl had thought she did, so they hadn’t really covered that.

    “She probably assumed you already had it,” Eusine said with great exasperation. “Usually when trainers start travelling they have their finances worked out first.”

    “I didn’t know, how was I meant to have known?” Keegan complained, but despite herself she could feel a grin tugging at her lips. Morty’s laughter was infectious. “And I couldn’t exactly go up and ask my foster parents to lend me money, I had to sneak out on them before they’d let me go anywhere!”

    Eusine shook his head and lifted his eyes upward as though to say ‘spare me’. “Just listen, I don’t want to have to explain this twice. With the payment card you get a certain amount of money a week, usually enough for the more basic supplies. If you leave it go, it accumulates. The card is your credit ID, so don’t ever lose it, otherwise you won’t be able to withdraw anything, and for your account to be activated you need to take it to a Pokémon Centre, so do that as soon as you can.”

    “Gotcha,” Keegan muttered, peeling away the amount she knew she owed Morty from inside her purse as the gym leader reappeared with a flick of the dark curtain. Upon his approach, still looking deeply amused, he held out a thin card the same shape and size as the ones Keegan had found already inserted into the pokégear when she got it.

    She swapped him for his fee, not feeling nearly as embarrassed as she thought she would. “Do I need to pay you for that as well?” she asked wryly, but Morty just shook his head with a laugh.

    “Just explain where you got it and Nurse Joy will credit you to your account,” he told her. “Most Pokémon Centres and gyms carry a few of them for emergencies—you’d be surprised at how many new trainers forget how important money is. Right, Eusine?”

    Slyly he looked sidelong at his friend, and Eusine spluttered indignantly. “I got my card on time!”

    “Yes, from my sensei,” Morty said dryly. “A month after you first left home.”

    A month! At least I haven’t been gone for quite that long yet! Keegan covered her mouth with one hand to hide her smile, her shoulders shaking in an imitation of Morty a few moments ago as Eusine protested.

    So it was that the girl left the gym with a stitch from trying to stifle her laughter, leaving behind two good-naturedly arguing friends and feeling more light-hearted than she had in the nearly four weeks since she’d first left Alto Mare.

    * * *

    A/N: Unfortunately, the next chapter isn't finished yet, so I have no idea when it'll be up. I will make an effort for it not to be too long... I will, really!
    Last edited by purple_drake; 11th August 2008 at 1:34 PM.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by purple_drake View Post
    A/N: So here I am again, almost... a month... later. *sweatdrops* I should just stop making promises.
    don't! (it's quite funny as it remembers me of my father^-^) he's always late for work, and he always promises to be in time (which almost NEVER happens)

    anyway, I'm glad the next chapter is here (Its the first time that someone replies before me, actually two someones^-^' but at least I finally found the will to review as I tend to become an inactive member sometimes)


    NOW!...




    you will receive a dreaded review from Aimi Hanako (Please don't shorten my name^-^') otherwise you can still call me Electric Soul Fairy (ESF) but I prefer the new one as it refers to a character from my fic (although its closed now, on my request^, but I'm rewriting it)


    I (againT__T) loved your description to no end, everything was described even better than I had imagined you did (I'm in now officially in love with your describing skills, fantastic characters and uber plot^-^) again, the new characters that were introduced (namely Eusine and Morty)

    Eusine is again obsessed with the legendary dogs (although they don't resemble them at all if you ask me) so I think it was a good idea for Keegan not to tell that she was attacked by Entei^-^

    and Keegan explored the Tin tower like in the original, although I have to say, the batttle was VERY confusingO__o I could barely understand what happened (but I have a question to ask about their attackers, are those guys the same as the ones that were killed (or almost killed) by the legendary dogs in the original or were they simple members exploring the tower as well?) My favorite part in the Tin tower exploration was how you described Keegan knowing that she was totally red even if it was pitch-black^-^

    I've got to agree with her tough, Eusine is a hot guy, although a little too cold for my tastes (Morty's cooler with his calm attitude and able to see things of great distance) but please, please don't tell me Keegan is again heading in the wrong direction (I want to see her going to Hoenn!)

    Now I think that were the most important pieces of your chappie for me (although all the rest was just as loveable^-^) but the ones that were listed had my special attention, so sorry to not find any errors, I'm not that great with grammatical errors^-^(especially if the writer is far more experienced than I am)

    I've got another question though (two or three actually^-^')

    1. Will Team Magma or Team Aqua appear soon or will Team Rocket cover up their places until Keegan travels to a new region?

    2. When will the rainbow-light-stone-thingie be explained, will Team Rocket try to take it from her or is Keegan gonna find the information by herself or with the help of others?

    3. (One I really want to know) Will Keegan get any pokemon in a few chapters or will she stick with Firefoot and Hazel until she's in another region?

    Now that that is off my chest, I wish you luck with the completing of your next chapter^-^keep it up, I am and will be a staying fan (a new one I may add^-^)

    ~Aimi Hanako~
    Searching for Inspiration...

  19. #19
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    Cool Reviewing finally!

    So sorry, i tried to mail this sooner, but lightning struck the network pole at home and crashed the whole network! No, I'm not kidding!!!

    So far so good! Keegan catches a vaporeon and may add an Umbreon to the crew! Looks like Keegan's getting quite a number of Eeveelutions to her team!

    Apart from not spelling the Pokemon species with a starting caps lock letter, the only glitch i saw in this was:

    With a jerk and a pain-filled cry that made Keegan flinch the vaporeon slung about,
    With a jerk and a pain-filled cry that made Keegan flinch, the Vaporeon was slung about,

    I also liked the whole dialogue between Hazel and Tarn. Portrayed very nicely.
    The Corei Quest's latest chapter: Chapter Forty Seven: Tricks of the Trade (24 April 2014)
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    (Still waiting on the excellent Saffire Persian for another awesome TCQ banner!)

  20. #20
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    Whoops ^.^;; sorry for the late replies. Homework, no Internet access (due to a certain pesky sister who had a long weekend) and then the site was down yesterday. Oh, and let's not forget writing next chapter is done and chances are it'll be up sooner than the others were.

    Ryano: ooooh, I HATE it when you've written heaps and then lose it all ;_; I've been put off stories for months because of that happening. *hugs* well, here's to getting your muse back, and I hope you enjoy the chappies whenever you get the time.


    Air Dragon: Keegan's caught the vaporeon, but the umbreon escaped so no, only one eeveelution.

    As for capitalising, it actually depends on your style. I don't capitalise because pokemon species' names are nouns, just like 'human' or 'dog' or 'cat'; so I only capitalise when they're used as pronouns. Since Keegan nicknames her pokemon, that doesn't happen as often as it might.

    As for the second glitch, technically I'm not wrong, although that sentence is kind of wordy and I could do with a comma there but since it's in the middle of a battle, there's a sense of immediacy, which is represented by the present tense form of the sentence, whereas your suggestion is in the past tense and isn't nearly as urgent. Make sense?

    ^.^ thanks for the feedback though, it's good when you make me stop and think.


    SnoringFrog: You might wanna fix up those spoiler tags of yours and I do remember leaving you on a cliffhanger, but it was on Cinnabar Island, a chapter or so after all the realizations happened, I believe...

    N'ways. ^.^ Thankies; I'm rather fond of the 'Bonding Orb' myself, although you have no idea how many titles I wrote and then discarded because none of them were good enough.

    The comment on treatment is interesting... I'm still not sure how to answer that one :P I see what you mean, but you seem to assume that Tarn is sick because of poison or something. An illness, on the other hand, is something that Keegan couldn't really have had a hand in giving to him--that's the deparment of good ol' Mother Nature--and the comment that she caught him to get treatment suggests that she found him like that.

    ...is that all making sense? *is swirly-eyed*

    Hee, I'm rather fond of the 'healing-mothers' too ^.^ I think half the fun of writing from pokemon PoVs is to make up their own culture--I have this growing list in MSW of how pokemon refer to themselves, to others, and to the legendaries ^.^ fun fun fun!

    It's not just you. Now you've made me reread that sentence, it's bugging the hell out of me :P I'll have to see if I can reword it.

    You remember correctly I actually went through and saved all the pages to my old thread... ahh, memories. I don't even know if BBP is still around

    For those final comments, you get an awesome-sized cookie in the shape of your choosing I had no idea CaC would have that kind of effect, and I think it's one of the best compliments a story could recieve. Thank you!


    Sike Saner: Hee, I like long chapters too, but it annoys my sensibilities when I have to put it up in two posts

    Sleep Powder is actually one of my favourite attacks--not to mention one of the attacks which I think would be damned useful in the real world, but loses out on its potential because of the constraints of the games. I think I have a criminal mind or something, lol. And I seem to have a tendancy to write tons of pokemon in battles, oich.

    YUS! ^.^ A fellow Bill fan! I always imagine him with the British accent they gave him in the anime, so there's the explanation for his phrases--and I've always imagined him to be the epitome of scatterbrained engineers plus, he's so easy to write!

    As a matter of fact, half the reason I started writing this story was because it's an oppurtunity to write in a lot of canon characters. I love non-romantic stories about canon charries, but there are so few of them around in the pokemon fandom--so I decided, 'I'll write my own'. I've got some other epics planned which are about the canon characters and nothin' but the canon characters (okay, and a few OCs which are absolutely essential but aren't the heroes either), but I really ought to get Keegan's story done first

    As for the pokemon terminology, well, sorry to disappoint ^.^ but I've always thought of 'Bonding Orb' and 'healing-mothers' as being used by all pokemon. Certainly saves me having to come up with different names the 'cousin' business is all eeveelution, though. As for the 'healing-mothers', good guess I suppose they could be used to refer to the chansey, but what I had in mind was actually the Nurse Joys, since I figure they'd need to call them something and they wouldn't really know the concept of 'nurse'. Why don't we just say it means both of them and leave it at that? :P

    Hehehe, Bill always makes me laugh ^.^ when I write his scenes I always end up grinning my head off. Squee, Bill! ^.^

    'happy little bouncing Easter-egg looking things' XD LOL! that just about sums it up!

    Actually, I wasn't too happy with that quote ^.^;; I thought it was laying it on a bit thick, but it was about the only thing I could think of to get inside her head. The girl's being deliberately delusional, and she's gonna get herself killed one day, I swear...

    hehe, yanno, in the very first writing of this story, those two Rockets were supposed to be throwaway characters, but I made a mistake. I gave one of them long red hair. Now, I'm a sucker for guys with long hair, and red hair is a bonus (ever heard of Bill Weasley from Harry Potter? hehhehheh...). After that, the mental plans I unintentionally started making for his character just wouldn't let him be captured and wanted him to come back into the story--which I still hope to do, despite various major revisions which may well have written him out of it for good.

    And the thing that's really, truly, ironic is that this guy, despite being a planned recurring character, doesn't even have a name.

    I think that's all ^.^ Thanks for the review, I always love hearing from you! You really know how to inflate a girl's ego

  21. #21
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    A/N: *gasp* can this be what I think it is? PD is updating early! Everybody dance!

    *cough* sorry... here we go... small glossary at the bottom, for those of you who know nothing about Japanese culture like I didn't a year ago.


    ~ V ~
    SOME LIKE IT HOT


    KEEGAN STARED.

    Her head tilted back as she looked up at the sprawling, old-day building that was the Celadon University. The wide structure was made of red brick, ivy swathing the walls and beneath the many windowsills like green velvet, the bricks looking almost golden in the stray early-afternoon sunlight peeking through the clouds.

    She’d left Bill in Goldenrod some hours ago, having rushed to catch the next train in time—and after he’d secured her promise not to go sneaking around the Game Corner. I think I scared him a little.

    She gave a short laugh. I think I scared myself a little. A lot.

    Of course he’d only had to suggest it before her mind started planning it, even if she hadn’t even considered it before. It was just, when she thought of how she’d pulled off her rescue she felt that familiar glow of satisfaction for completing a difficult task, the sense that she was invincible and could do anything.

    Then she’d see a flash of black, her heart would leap to her throat, and she’d turn around only to see it was someone’s else’s shirt or pants and not a red-lettered uniform.

    But the fear would remain.

    Her first stop in Celadon had been the Pokémon Centre, where she’d left Tarn to recuperate—with Firefoot for company, to reassure the vaporeon she wasn’t about to go off and leave him. She’d considered leaving Hazel instead, but the eevee wasn’t injured and a sense of nostalgia had prompted Keegan into deciding otherwise (as well as the eevee’s strong propensity for being a mother-hen).

    Besides, she figured the other two could use the time to introduce themselves properly.

    The gym had been next, but Erika wasn’t there, leaving Keegan to wonder whether gym leaders ever actually showed up—she remembered what had come of her going out to look for Morty in Ecruteak. One of the trainers had told her that Erika lectured at the University, so here she was.

    Keegan took a deep breath and held it for a minute before letting it go with a sigh. Well, here goes. Just think, after this you can go and relax for a few hours. Hitching her bag up on her shoulder, she approached the wide, carved oak doors, pushing them open and peeking in hesitantly. The rich timber walls of the main hall were covered in paintings and tapestries, and there were myriads of plants brightening the room. Directly across from the entrance doors was a long polished receptionist desk, framed by twin gleaming stairways leading up to the other levels.

    Her footsteps echoing on the wide tiles of the floor, Keegan made her way towards the desk, drawing the attention of the balding middle-aged man who was behind it. “Can I help you?” he asked over his spectacles with a raised eyebrow, taking in her somewhat dishevelled appearance.

    Keegan flushed a little, acutely aware of herself after the battle this morning even though she’d taken the time at the Pokémon Centre to clean up. “Um, yes, I’m—I’m looking for Erika.”

    Lady Erika,” the receptionist corrected sternly.

    “Lady Erika,” Keegan repeated dutifully, feeling like she was back in school.

    “Lady Erika is teaching a class at the moment,” the receptionist told her coolly, folding his hands over the open book he’d been writing in. “I can tell her you were here, however, and you may try her again at the gym later on.”

    Keegan hesitated. She didn’t want to disturb anyone; maybe she should have gone to the police first…

    But nothing. This is regarding the welfare and safety of Celadon City—I think this is cause enough to interrupt just about anything! Besides, Bill told you to go right to Erika, didn’t he? He must have had a reason.

    “Um, no, thanks. It’s urgent, can’t you just… tell me where she is?” the girl asked a little desperately.

    The man looked at her appraisingly, and for one heart-stopping moment Keegan thought he was going to refuse; then he sighed and shook his head, taking off his glasses to rub his eyes. “Far be it for me to regulate the professors’ schedules,” he muttered as if to himself, replacing his spectacles, and then addressed himself at Keegan. “Lady Erika is in the courtyard. Follow the hall around the stairs and you’ll find a door leading out there. But first, please sign in here.” And he held out a small notebook and a pen, tapping the paper with the nib.

    A few moments later Keegan was on her way, feeling vaguely discomforted by the fact that she’d just put her name down where anyone could find it out.

    Stop it, she told herself severely as she exited the building through the open doors and stepped on the lush turf of the yard, following the distant sound of a strong voice that was drifting towards her from the crowd of students she could see across the lawn. Bloody hell, but you’re getting paranoid. The Rockets don’t know who you are or where you were going, and they wouldn’t have much reason to go after you anyway, even if that guy escaped. They have better things to do than plan revenge on some travelling girl.

    By this time she’d reached the students, absently taking in the formal uniforms—skirts, blouses and bows for the girls, pants, shirts and ties for the boys, and jackets for both. For a few moments she stood uncomfortably on the outskirts, trying to see over the heads of the students to see their lecturer—the voice was a woman’s, light but firm. After a while she started to work her way around the crowd, uncomfortably aware of the attention she was drawing; a gaggle of young women dressed in the colours of red and yellow were watching her, giggling and whispering at her clothes and windswept hair, while a number of the boys, in hues of blue and green, eyed her contemptuously and then looked away.

    I get the feeling this is a high-class place, she thought uneasily as she came around the edges of the class to see the pretty, black-haired young woman standing on a stone bench situated just off a dirt-floored arena. Her hands were folded before her, half hidden by the draping sleeves of her yellow kimono and the thick folds of her pink hakama.

    Erika.

    She was shorter than she looked in the Pokémon Journal, Keegan thought, but she had a sense of calm, refined grace about her which held the girl fascinated.

    “Are there any questions?” the gym leader was asking, scanning her students’ faces for confusion, and when there was no answer forthcoming she gave a short nod. “Very well, then. Match up by ID number, odds against evens, and then battle in alphabetical order. We’ll begin shortly.”

    With that she hopped off the bench, covered by the sound of rustling clothes and low mutters as the students began to rearrange themselves. Keegan took the opportunity to make a beeline for Erika, approaching the petite gym leader hesitantly. “Excuse me?”

    Erika turned at the sound of her voice, studying her in much the same way that Keegan remembered Eusine had, and the blonde-haired girl shifted uncomfortably, fiddling with her bag-strap as she waited for the Elite Trainer to speak. “I’m sorry,” Erika said finally. “But if you want a battle, you’ll have to see me at the gym.”

    “Oh, no,” Keegan said hurriedly, stifling the brief flash of panic she felt at the very thought of battling a gym leader. She’d be slaughtered within a moment, she had no doubt of that. “I’m, uh, I’m sorry to bother you, but I have—an urgent message. From Bill the Pokémaniac.”

    Erika’s eyebrows shot skyward. “From Bill?” she echoed, but her expression wasn’t surprise—not exactly. It was more like she’d just received unpleasant news that she wasn’t expecting—or rather, was anticipating some unpleasant news. “What would Bill want to talk to me about?”

    “Um…” Automatically Keegan looked around to find half the students’ eyes on her, some discreet, some not. “Can we—can we talk about this somewhere else?”

    Oh my God, I feel like I’m in a bad crime movie. Keegan flushed, catching the sound of s******s somewhere behind her, but Erika didn’t laugh. She just looked the girl in the eye, examining her for the second time before giving a nod and holding out a hand towards the other side of the arena, raising her voice to give orders to her students.

    “Please occupy yourselves for a few minutes. I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

    Keegan trailed after the gym leader as she walked away, trying to put her thoughts into some intelligible order. Why am I involved in all this? she wondered vaguely. Oh, that’s right. I had to rescue Tarn.

    But why did they have to take Tarn in the first place?


    She was jolted out of her ramblings by Erika’s even voice. “And what does Bill have to say to me that he couldn’t over the phone?”

    Oh boy. Where do I start? Keegan took a deep breath, searching for ideas. From the beginning; location would be a good start. “I just came from Goldenrod City,” she began, hesitantly at first, and then gaining speed as her story went on, trying to be thorough but not boring. It was harder than she’d thought; she kept on wanting to give reasons and defend her actions. When she came to the point of explaining why she’d gone back to confront the Rockets instead of going to the police, she couldn’t help herself.

    “I couldn’t leave him,” she mumbled towards the ground, her cheeks warming at the imagined look of disapproval on Erika’s face, but when the girl glanced up the only expression the gym leader was wearing was one of attentive concern. “We overheard some things, while we were trying to figure out what to do.”

    Keegan swallowed. “They said—they said they have a laboratory under Celadon.” Erika’s face flickered, so quickly that Keegan didn’t catch it, and the girl hastily added, “They were talking about the Game Corner. About how they wanted to buy the Goldenrod Game Corner but couldn’t, so they had to set up a lab under it in secret—a lab like the one they have under the Celadon Game Corner.”

    That was when Erika interrupted for the first time, and her question filled Keegan with a deep sense of abiding fear. “Do they know you heard this?”

    “I—I don’t—” Keegan faltered. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes, struggling to think back—and remembering some other things which she really had to tell her. “I don’t know if they realized it or not. They knew we were there—we got into a battle with them later—but I don’t know if they realized—it sounded like they owned the Game Corner,” she tacked the last one on the end quickly, before she could forget it, wanting desperately to change the subject. “They were talking about ‘our pokémon prizes’, like they owned it. And—and they were talking about the Association. About how they didn’t need to worry about Bill and me if we went to the police, because the Association owns the police and they own the Association.”

    That’s why Bill sent me to Erika, the girl realized with the force of a blow in her gut, feeling sick at the realization that she’d almost made the decision to go to the Celadon police instead. He didn’t want to risk the investigation getting stopped, or twisted, or something.

    She continued the story in a half-daze, all the ramifications of the day’s events beginning to come down on her like a sledgehammer. Oh good God and all the Legends, what have I gotten myself into?

    “And—and that’s it, I came here, and here I am, and—” Suddenly aware that she was rambling, Keegan cut herself off by taking a deep, shaking breath and pinning desperate eyes upon Erika. “What do I do now?”

    “Now,” Erika said firmly. “Now you go to the Pokémon Centre, have your pokémon healed, and leave Celadon as soon as possible. It was dangerous of Bill to send you here, knowing what you just told me, and knowing that one of the operatives escaped and would likely come here himself to report to his superiors—but it was all you could do and now I may take the necessary actions.”

    Keegan resisted the urge to shudder at the chill that swept over her. For the second time that day her mind disengaged itself—or the third, maybe, she wasn’t really sure; there were some definite hazy patches in her memories of the morning—and she found herself saying almost inanely, “I needed to come this way anyway.”

    “Then you must continue to wherever you were going,” Erika said evenly. “It’s doubtful the Rockets will chase after you—you are, after all, barely more than a messenger—but if they find you here in the city they may take the opportunity that presents itself.”

    “Okay,” Keegan whispered, the food she’d eaten at the Pokémon Centre sitting heavily in her stomach.

    Erika looked at her and smiled kindly, placing a reassuring hand on her arm. “You’ve done well,” she said gently. “I don’t believe you’re in any danger, but it’s best to be safe. You are a trainer, yes? Continue training your pokémon, and they will serve you as well as they did this morning if the time comes.”

    And before Keegan could unstick her tongue to say that no, she wasn’t a trainer, Erika had already turned away to stride briskly back to her students, her pace quick and bearing calm despite the news she had just received. Her voice floated over to Keegan as she told her students she had to leave and gave them her apologies, and by the time the blonde-haired girl had managed to shake herself free of her daze the gym leader was already halfway across the courtyard.

    Turning around, she found herself faced with the stares of the class, none of them friendly. Her cheeks reddened and she looked down to the ground, trudging across the arena towards the doors so she could leave. As she passed the group, her path was abruptly blocked by a pair of dainty shoes and knee-high socks, and she glanced up to meet with the caustic gaze of a girl with long brown hair, done up in a ribboned ponytail.

    “You know,” the girl announced haughtily, looking Keegan up and down and wrinkling her nose. “My parents pay an awful lot for me to come to this school, and I’m sure they won’t appreciate some little ragamuffin coming in off the street to steal our best lecturer away from us.”

    What? Keegan flushed, half in embarrassment and half with the anger that was stirring beneath her shock. “I didn’t steal her,” she protested irritably. “And it was important, anyway.”

    “Pokémon battles are important,” the girl shot back. “What if we got attacked? Are you going to teach us how to defend ourselves? But then,” she added quickly, eyeing the white bandage Keegan had replaced Bill’s handkerchief with at the Pokémon Centre, “You don’t seem to have had much luck in that regard either.”

    “I’m not a teacher,” Keegan said stiffly, wishing desperately for the familiar, winding streets of Alto Mare where she could—and often had—so easily hide, and for Ross to act as a foil for her as he had so often done. Not this time. This time she was on her own, faced with one of the trials she’d thought she’d left behind: the scathing barbs of a teenage girl.

    I’m supposed to have trouble with rampaging pokémon and getting lost in random places, not be verbally attacked by some arrogant twit, Keegan thought in frustration. In school she’d often been teased for not knowing who she was, and although that died down for the most part once the novelty of her new arrival wore off, especially with the reflection of Ross’ local fame, she still remembered how badly it had hurt. She was acutely aware of the intimidating presence of the students—most of them were her age or a few years older, all of them so well dressed and so confident that they made her feel just like a ragamuffin.

    “But you can still help us train,” a new voice said, smooth and amused, and Keegan’s head snapped around as a boy came through the circle. He was taller than her, and slender, with turquoise hair that fell in deliberately tousled curls. His eyes were a deceptively soft green, but there was a cunning, haughty light there which gave Keegan a dawning sense of dread.

    Oh, no. “Help you train how?” she asked, fighting to keep her voice from breaking. How was it that a bunch of half-schooled trainers could make her feel more anxious than a pair of Team Rocket agents?

    The young man held up an expanded pokéball and smiled disarmingly—a smile which didn’t reach his eyes. “I was thinking of a pokémon battle. You do have pokémon, don’t you?” He raised an eyebrow amid laughter, eyes flickering down to the pokéballs at her waist to show that he knew perfectly well she did.

    Keegan hesitated, gripping the strap of her bag tightly with her uninjured hand. She wasn’t a battler, and she knew they knew it; she could save herself some embarrassment by just turning around and walking away. She hated fighting—in Alto Mare her fights had always ended up with either Ross taking over or her running away in tears, so it wasn’t like leaving now would make much of a difference.

    But the expressions on their faces said they clearly expected her to try and back out. Accepting a battle would be unexpected, and she could get some training of her own in besides… and Erika herself said I should train, just in case. Just in case is a good reason—that’s something that Pete was obsessed with, being prepared, even though I wasn’t so good at that when I first left…

    And… and I don’t want to back down. I didn’t back down against the Rockets, why should I back down now? These people just want to battle to humiliate me—the Rockets wanted to
    hurt me. Maybe I can turn that around. All the battles I’ve been in haven’t been for fun, they’ve been out of necessity. Maybe…

    “Okay,” she agreed, suddenly feeling more confident. Maybe I can actually have some fun. And win or lose, at least I know I’ll have stood up to them—like I never could back then, like I only just learned to do when I left Alto Mare.

    I think… I think I like knowing I can do that.


    A derisive laugh made her look back at the brown-haired girl. “You’re going to lose,” the girl told Keegan with blunt satisfaction. “Tynan’s top of our class, and ours is this year’s graduating class. He’s never lost, and he’s not going to start now.”

    Keegan stayed silent; she had no reply to that. Instead she said, “It’ll have to be one-on-one. I only have one of my pokémon with me—I didn’t expect to be battling.” Hell, I didn’t even want to be battling, but Hazel was so cool this morning—maybe she can show me how it’s done.

    “One-on-one’s fine with me,” Tynan agreed, staring at her from through the wisping curls of his fringe in faint puzzlement, as though she’d just done something he didn’t expect.

    Keegan felt a pang of satisfaction as she moved to her side of the field. Well, good. He should be confused. The vindictiveness with which she had the thought surprised her, but he had been kicking her while she was down, so he deserved it.

    “This will be a one-on-one match,” one of the other students, a stocky boy with flyaway hair, announced from atop the referee’s stand. “No time limit. Begin!”

    Tynan grinned in sudden confidence, loosening his blue tie before expanding a pokéball with a flick and releasing a blazing flareon onto the field, its flames casting strange shadows over the dirt.

    Oh boy. Keegan stared, Hazel’s pokéball already in her hand. She knew she should’ve been expecting an evolution of some kind, but an eeveelution? Damn. Tarn would’ve made this an interesting match, and at least I’d have had the type advantage… oh well, here goes. And she threw Hazel’s pokéball into the ring.

    “Fire Spin!” Tynan ordered before Hazel had even materialized properly, and with a roar of flames the eevee was enveloped in a writhing orange inferno. Keegan jumped at the speed of the attack, flinching away from the heat as the pokéball flew back to her hand, but she instantly dropped it with a yelp, the outside surface uncomfortably hot. “Now follow up with Quick Attack!” she heard, and the fluffy eeveelution flashed across the dusty field, vanishing into the blazing tornado like a rock into a river. A second later Hazel exploded out the back in lashes of fire, smoke pouring off her blackened fur in ashy ribbons.

    Not fair, he didn’t even give her a chance to get out of her pokéball!

    Don’t complain, you didn’t exactly play fair when you dumped sleeping powder all over the Rockets.

    Oh, shut up.


    The outside swirl of sparks dissipated into the air, but the fire remained, the flareon’s orange and red fur blazing with thick veins of molten flame, and for an instant Keegan panicked, even while a part of her noted the occurrence. Flash Fire: a fire pokémon’s attribute, in which their elemental powers are enhanced by storing the heat from other fire attacks.

    It used its own attack to power itself up!


    The flareon drew back its head and opened its mouth, fire roiling in the back of its throat to explode towards Hazel in a thick streamer of flames, but the eevee flipped over in midair, landing lightly and springing away into an evading Quick Attack. Keegan ducked at the fire coursed overhead, the heat making her skin feel tight and dry, and her knees hit ground, one hand coming down to balance herself. I hate it when they aim at me! What was I thinking?!

    Hazel hit the flareon full on, sending it tumbling back as Keegan recovered, scrambling to her feet and picking up the cooling pokéball as she went. Haze has a disadvantage because she can’t use long-range attacks. I wish I’d trained more seriously before I left Alto Mare—I was never really interested in battling—what was I thinking when I agreed to this?

    But she really looks like she knows what she’d doing,
    the little fox pointed out as Hazel skidded to a guarded halt, ears twitching as she panted and Flareon rolled back onto its feet. And how do you know she doesn’t know any long-range attacks?

    Keegan’s eyes widened. That’s right… she could have learned any attack, before—

    “Flareon, Flamethrower!” Tynan commanded, his blue pants and jacket rustling in the heated air pouring off his charged flareon. The eeveelution’s fur blazed, its black eyes flashing as the Flamethrower built in its throat.

    “Shadow Ball!” Keegan retaliated instantly without thinking, feeling as though it was someone else saying the words but knowing it was right, that if Hazel knew any other attacks that would be one of them—because she’d considered teaching it to her once, back when she had gotten tired of running and hiding from the school bullies. If she thought it was a good choice now, wouldn’t she think it was a good choice then, too?

    “Eebuuu!” with a joyful mew, as though Hazel had just been waiting for the command, the eevee sucked in a breath to obey, a writhing mass of shadows gathering in her mouth as dusty veins wreathed about her, mixing with the dark smoke still drifting off her fur. In the same instant as Flareon she released the dusky ball, shadows streaming away behind it as it shot towards her evolution and met the sparking Flamethrower in a brilliant explosion of ash and mist.

    “Tak— Take Down!” Keegan coughed, yanking Bill’s cleaned handkerchief out of her pocket and using it to cover her face against the dusty gloom and smell of burned sand which hung over the field. She hoped that Tynan wouldn’t dare attack while he couldn’t see—she figured people like that always liked being in control—but Hazel had been her constant companion whenever she went out at night and her eyes had always been sharp in the dark.

    The thin haze cleared in time for Tynan to realize the danger, but far too late to avoid it. Hazel collided with Flareon with all the force she could muster, a tiny grunt forced from the eevee’s lungs as she hit. With a surprised cry the flareon skidded back, slewing across the hot ground to jump almost instantly back to its feet.

    Instantly, but not without damage; it was panting as heavily as Hazel, now, its flaming coat dying down to a light glow even as Tynan ordered another Fire Spin.

    Hazel tried to dodge the roaring flames but they twisted about her, enveloping her for a second time, and Keegan unknowingly crushed the handkerchief in her fist, her teeth gritting. Why did I ever think this would be fun?!

    “Quick Attack!” Tynan flashed her a confident smirk from across the arena as Flareon leaped headlong into the outside wall of the inferno… only to appear, confused and alone, out the other side.

    “What the—?” Keegan gaped at the surprised look on the flareon’s face as their eyes met briefly, and Tynan’s hand went to run through his hair in astonished bewilderment.

    Abruptly the ground shifted and dirt exploded around Flareon as Hazel burst up from beneath it, tossing the elegant fire pokémon into the air and making her trainer jump back at the clods of earth and shower of sand which bombarded her. The girl felt a strange sense of familiarity, as though she’d seen this before, and her heart clenched, her breath catching with the thought that she’d been right, that Hazel had been a battler since before she came to Alto Mare and Keegan had forgotten it like she’d forgotten everything else—and Hazel had just been waiting for her to realize it.

    Quickly Keegan wiped away the burn of tears in her eyes, telling herself that she had to focus now and she could celebrate later—and if she won it would be celebration enough. I’ve found something else out!

    “Shadow Ball!”

    “Bubui!” Hazel yowled gladly in response. Shaking soil and smoke from her scorched brown fur, the eevee fired a shifting mass of darkness towards the still-airborne flareon.

    The twisting orb engulfed Flareon amid the distressed cries of the onlooking students, but Tynan just seemed to step back, his eyes darkening and jaw clenching silently along with his crossed arms. As the outer edges of the Shadow Ball dissipated, casting an ashy pall over the field, Flareon hit the ground with a hard thud, rolled, and staggered to its feet. It gulped in huge breaths, trembling with exhaustion, one paw lifted gingerly half off the ground—but its black eyes flashed with incensed pride.

    “Sand Attack,” Tynan ordered almost softly as Hazel flashed across the arena, paws barely touching the dusty, ash-strewn ground, having been moving before Flareon even landed. At the last second, using its fluttering, fluffy tail, Flareon obeyed, kicked up the sand around it. It swirled about the eevee, getting in her eyes and nose, and with a choking cough Hazel faltered, her attack missing the lamed flareon by inches.

    But Hazel had apparently learned strategy just as well as she had learned Dig or Shadow Ball so long ago; using the momentum of the Quick Attack, she spun around blindly on a paw, her own grey-stained tail colliding unexpectedly with Flareon before the eeveelution had a chance to move.

    It was sent sprawling, ash eddying about it before settling around its prone form. Hazel snarled, her ears back in a gesture of good-natured hostility, her head lowered with fatigue and paws set sturdily on the ground to hold her weight. Her white ruff, blackened and glowing with residual cinders, bristled in preparation, but the flareon just twitched, its paws moving slowly and ineffectively. The match was over.

    “Yes!” Keegan shrieked, pumping a fist in the air, having completely forgotten about the hankie she still clutched. Yes yes yesyesyesyesyesyes!

    With a weary—if satisfied—sigh, Hazel sat, tucking her grimy tail around herself and licking her paw; she hated being dirty.

    She didn’t get a chance to clean herself, however, because Keegan had pounded onto the field and scooped her up with a twirl and a true, belly-deep laugh, something she hadn’t done in far too long. “You were awesome, Haze!”

    I think I know why people find this fun.

    “This isn’t the way it’s supposed to happen!” a redheaded girl on the sidelines whined, and Keegan whirled around to look at her with a beaming grin and an adrenaline-pumped motion with Hazel’s pokéball, tucking the eevee up under her arm.

    “I’m not complaining!” she said with a laugh, all her troubles suddenly a million light-years away. It’s funny how things seem so much better when something good happens!

    “Where did you come from?” Tynan’s voice cut across any retort the redhead might have made, Flareon’s pokéball having just fwapped back into his hand from when he’d returned it. He was staring intensely at Keegan as though looking for something, his brow furrowed in thought or anger, she wasn’t sure.

    He doesn’t really seem angry, though. “I’m from Alto Mare!” Keegan said brightly, even though she really wasn’t, but that was neither here nor there considering she didn’t really know where she’d come from in the first place.

    “Bubui!” Hazel huffed, squeezing her way out of Keegan’s grasp and jumping lightly to the ground.

    “Oh, sorry. We’re from Alto Mare, then.” The blonde-haired girl bounced down Hazel’s pokéball to return her in a flash of light, holding it up to her face for a moment. “Remind me to buy you some pokétreats,” she promised the eevee, and the ball wriggled momentarily in affirmative delight.

    “You can’t get to Celadon from Alto Mare,” Tynan said flatly, minimising Flareon’s pokéball, and Keegan blinked.

    “Um, no?” she offered, confused as to his meaning.

    “Then where else have you been?” Tynan asked impatiently, crossing his arms over his dust-tinted white shirt.

    Why does he want to know? Keegan wondered. The young man wasn’t being as haughty as before, but he wasn’t exactly being friendly, either. “Cianwood, Olivine, and then Ecruteak, Goldenrod, and now here.”

    “I see.” A thoughtful look came to Tynan’s eyes, but he didn’t look away or elaborate on what, exactly, he was seeing, and Keegan stared at him, confused. She was coming down off her high, now, and remembering what Erika had told her to do: leave Celadon.

    Better get on that now, I guess. “Thanks for the battle,” she said awkwardly. “But I gotta leave. Maybe I’ll see you again if I come back this way.”

    “Oh, I doubt that,” Tynan smirked.

    Eheh, freaky… Keegan smiled nervously, then threw a cheeky grin and a wave at the huffy brown-haired girl and turned to walk toward the entry doors, uncomfortably aware of Tynan’s calculating eyes on her back the whole way there.

    She was so concerned with the eyes of the trainer, she missed the scarlet pair that gleamed at her faintly from between the bushes against the wall.

    * * *

    Erika strode up the cobblestone path leading to the University, her brow furrowed in thought. If they were lucky, she could squeeze in another half-hour or so with her battling class, although she couldn’t guarantee her full attention; not with plans to secure the Game Corner, her conversation with Bill, and that girl—Keegan, Bill called her—all on her mind.

    If she was exceptionally lucky Keegan won’t have left yet; the students of that particular class tended towards the rich and spoiled, and outsiders coming in to disrupt their lives tended to garner some negative attention, so they may well have stopped her.

    I told her she wasn’t in danger! the gym leader sighed to herself, hardly hearing the greeting of a departing professor as she passed him to enter the University’s main hall. And as far as Erika knew, she wasn’t. But that was also before she’d remembered her.

    From the moment she laid eyes on the girl she’d known she knew her from somewhere, but couldn’t for the life of her recall where. And then when she heard her story, the gym leader had been more concerned with making sure the Game Corner was being watched—

    Being watched by my own people, because the Rockets were more right than they knew, and the existence of a lab in Celadon—in my city—can only mean that the law, somewhere, somehow, has failed.

    —and with hearing from Bill what had happened not only to the agent the Goldenrod police had apprehended, but the one who had escaped as well.

    There’s been no sign of that one; it’s a good bet he’s already made contact with his people, or he’s on his way back here. If he is, I’ll know. She’d put people on the Magnet Station as well, as a precaution, and Officer Jenny, who was about the only police officer in Celadon that Erika trusted, had offered to speak to her cousins—but there were only so many Officer Jennys in the world and not all of them were in a position of authority.

    But if he is on the train, he’s likely to go straight through to Saffron instead. And there, I have no authority.

    Dead end, in other words.

    With everything arranged, there wasn’t much more for Erika to do unless she wanted to take an active role, and her people wouldn’t allow her to do that. So instead here she was, wending her way beneath the stairwells towards the open doors leading to the courtyard, once again reflecting on the conversation she’d had with Morty less than a week before.

    She’d seen on the news that the Tin Tower had been broken into and had rung to make sure nothing was amiss; Morty had reassured her that everything was under control, but he seemed preoccupied, distracted. It hadn’t taken much to get the whole story out of him, including all that hadn’t been publicly released.

    There had been other people involved: Morty’s childhood friend, Eusine, and a girl with blonde hair, blue eyes, and a pendant made from a firestone. Mentions of them had been deliberately withheld for security reasons, but when Morty told her who he thought the intruders were…

    Team Aqua, Erika thought with an inward grimace as she stepped onto grass from the open doors. As if we don’t have enough to take care of.

    Unfortunately their obsession with finding the Legendary Kyogre had clouded Morty’s reading of their emblem; he hadn’t been able to See what they were looking for in Johto, and the fact they’d been in the resting place of a part fire pokémon had just confused him.

    There had been something else on his mind, too, but it was something he flatly refused to tell her, saying it wasn’t either of their businesses. Erika could only wonder if it had something to do with the girl.

    The girl that Erika was now absolutely certain had just paid her a visit.

    Erika didn’t disbelieve in coincidence, but she did believe in making informed decisions. If she could catch the girl before she left, she could warn her about the Aquas. Maybe it would spur some unwanted questions from the curious young woman, but she’d be a good deal safer knowing what was out there, whether they were planning to come after her or not.

    Besides, considering how she’d helped hold back the Aquas and then been willing to jump into the fire against the Rockets to save her pokémon—it was people like that who were a joy to work with. Erika wouldn’t be surprised if someone approached her for that purpose sometime in the future.

    She reached her class just as the battle ended, catching only the flash of red light as pokémon were returned, standing on the edge of the crowd and letting the chatter of the students’ discussions wash over her as she looked them over for a head of thick blonde hair. She’s not here. Well, that solves that, I suppose.

    “Lady Erika!” one of the students exclaimed, catching sight of her, and the gym leader cut short her fruitless search to turn towards the meticulously dressed girl who’d called out. “We thought you weren’t going to be back in time!”

    Erika offered the brown-haired student a tiny smile, drawing the attention of the rest of the class. “I wasn’t sure either, Alyssa, but here I am. You may continue battling as you have; I’ll just watch for now.” She paused for a moment, letting the next battlers step up before speaking quietly to Alyssa. “I take it our visitor has left?”

    Alyssa sneered, tossing her shiny hair over her shoulder in contempt. “She left ages ago, and good riddance, too.” Erika restrained the urge to sigh. It was true that Alyssa was very hardworking; her assignments were legendary among the staff for their length, depth, and exceptional research. Unfortunately, she was the most popular girl in class, not to mention one of the richest, which meant she was one of the leaders.

    And all that meant that she could be unbelievably catty.

    Then the girl’s brow furrowed and she raised a hand to touch her cheek in reluctant, irritable thought. “She was a good battler, though.”

    And willing to give someone their due. Erika reminded herself with a small smile. “Oh? Did she battle someone?”

    “Yeah, Tynan challenged her. She beat him.”

    Erika’s eyebrows shot skyward, even as she thought that she shouldn’t really be so surprised—the girl had managed to stop one of the Rockets from escaping, after all, even if it had only been through the other operative’s cowardice that she and Bill had won the battle. But Tynan was one of her best students; as far as she knew, he hadn’t lost a battle. Now that was no longer true, she had to wonder what he was thinking.

    And that was when the gym leader realized that she’d never seen the familiar head of turquoise curls upon her examination of the class. “Where is Tynan?”

    Alyssa bit her lip, looking around at her classmates as they cheered on the sleek brown-and-white linoone which had just pounded its adversary into the ground, raising a cloud of dust. “I don’t know. He left—after that girl did. After she beat him. He stared after her for a while, announced that there wasn’t anything more he could learn here, and then just left. I don’t know where he went.”

    Now that’s interesting, Erika thought. Tynan was cut from the same mould as Alyssa—rich family, a strong sense of self-worth, and enough confidence to choke a persian. But where Alyssa worked hard to earn her right to brag, Tynan hardly seemed to work at all, and yet still remained as the class’ top battler.

    Erika would have half expected him to throw a tantrum if he ever lost, but what Alyssa said suggested that he’d realized something that Erika spent some of each term’s first lecture stating: there was no substitute for experience.

    If he has left to begin travelling himself, I can only imagine how he will take the hardships—and wonder what he would be like if he were to pass through Celadon again.

    That was when the battle ended in a whirlwind of dust and debris with the powerful beats of the pidgeotto’s wings, and Erika shunted all other considerations from her mind to step forward and critique the battlers’ forms.

    The last, fleeting thought she had was the hope that neither Keegan nor Tynan chose to go south.

    * * *

    Quietly Tynan closed his bedroom door behind him, shutting off the sound of his father’s voice. The old man was on the phone—again. He was always on the phone, business tycoon that he was. This time it was something about buying up some stocks in that Hoenn company, Devon Corporation. Tynan had had to sneak into the house to make sure the man didn’t realize he’d cut class—as long as he thought Tynan was at the University, he wouldn’t try to involve him in the business.

    Philip Montgomery had been a trainer himself, once, but that was a long time ago, before his wife had died. Now all he was interested in was money, and determined that Tynan would go the same way. He hadn’t been too unhappy with Tynan’s talent in training, nor his interest, but he had forbidden Tynan to go ‘gallivanting about the countryside’, as he put it, and at that time Tynan had been inclined to agree. The thought of traipsing through mud and rain, camping in forests, hadn’t really appealed to him; there was something to be said for creature comforts.

    Now, the teen looked around his huge room: the thick, elegant furnishings, the broad windows along one wall, the draping curtains of his four-post bed, the books lying on the floor around his desk and stacked on the shelves, the paper strewn over the tabletop. It was comfortable. It was familiar.

    And I’m really considering leaving it all? I’ve spent so long building up my life, my reputation—Da always says your reputation is important—

    But Tynan didn’t care so much for his reputation as for his reputation being right. If people were going to say good things about him he wanted them to be true.

    People said good things about Erika, and she had a demeanour which so many of the girls tried to emulate—grace and wisdom, a kind of worldliness which Tynan had always assumed came from being highborn.

    But that girl—Keegan, Tynan had learned upon looking at the visitor’s book—hadn’t been graceful, or particularly wise or commanding; hell, half the time it seemed like her eevee was the one in charge. And yet… and yet, that look in her eyes, just after he’d challenged her. At first so confused, almost scared, and he’d been so certain she’d try to back out—then suddenly, for only an instant, her eyes had looked so much older than she was, just before it was obscured by a spark of defiance.

    For a moment he’d felt like a little boy again, watching from his seat as experienced trainers fought for the right to the League Championship. Watching, and wondering whether he’d ever be up there himself, ever be that good, with that odd sort of undefinable confidence. He had to wonder what made them different, what secret they knew, to make them so confident.

    His father wanted him to learn business, and culture, and politics.

    Staring down at a page of his research notes, the meticulous handwriting that degenerated into a looping scrawl, Tynan knew he didn’t want anything to do with politics or business. They bored him. Sure, it was fun, manipulating someone into humiliating themselves like he’d done so many times with those second-rate trainers—but the world didn’t turn on words, it turned on power. Standing around and talking would never get anything done, not when the world depended upon the strength of pokémon. What good were words while Team Rocket was taking over half the economy through the fear of their retribution? What good were words when you were being charged at by a wild rhyhorn?

    That girl had power. She’d gone places, and seen things, and she knew.

    Knowing was always power.

    And if I can find out what she knows—what Erika knows—Da failed as a pokémon trainer, he was good but never better than that, he never knew what they do.

    And if I can know it too… then I’ll have made my own way, with my own power. I wouldn’t be using his money, living in his house, on his sufferance…

    Is that why so many trainers leave home so early? Free to forge their own paths, while we remain chained to our parents; our parents, who pay for expensive schooling, for our high-class food, for all our creature comforts…


    Somehow his hand had clenched on the desk-top, crumpling the page in his fist. If that’s what I have to give up to find out their secret, then so be it. Even if I don’t know where to start, I’ve got someone to follow—I know where that girl went, thanks to my murkrow. She can be my trailblazer, until I know what I’m doing.

    Meanwhile I can train, in gyms, on roads, with wild pokémon—I can train, and then if I can fight her again, and beat her this time, then maybe… maybe I can know what she knows too.


    He looked around once again at his opulent surroundings, the sound of pidgey chirping and ledyba humming floating through his open window. He took it all in for the last time, because come morning he was going to embark on a trip of his own; he was going to turn his back on everything his father and his companions represented and would take his first steps on his own path.

    South… towards Fuchsia.

    * * *

    A/N: hakama--loose pants which resemble a skirt, with a varying number of pleats (or 'panels', if you want the correct term) depending on how traditional the wearer is. Usually worn by men, and usually during some kind of training. Erika's, since she's from a highborn, likely traditional family, is probably wearing the full seven-panelled hakama of the samurai.

    I don't think I need to get into what a kimono is, do I? ^.^;; although, I should probably mention that the term 'kimono' is used for more than just the dresses--it refers to the robes over which people wear the hakama, too... but you all probably realize that ^.^;;

    Yes, I did actually research up on this, a little bit at least... but that was a while ago, for a different fandom (Rurouni Kenshin, anyone?) and then I looked at a picture of Erika recently and recognised the clothes. So there we go.

    Reviews loved ^.^
    Last edited by purple_drake; 11th August 2008 at 2:43 PM.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by purple_drake View Post
    A/N: *gasp* can this be what I think it is? PD is updating early! Everybody dance!
    *dances*

    Yay, the new chappie and early too(something you can't say about me>__>I'm late), now I have to say, this chapter was much more fun than the previous one, even if it was a lot like the original, I still loved it for some reason, guess this chapter had some interesting bits^-^

    Now this certainly is a great chapter, and I think it is good to start with Keegan gaping at the celadon university, It seems a very good start to me for a chapter.

    This comment about that happening was my particular favorite:

    Quote Originally Posted by purple_drake View Post
    leaving Keegan to wonder whether gym leaders ever actually showed up—she remembered what had come of her going out to look for Morty in Ecruteak.
    Now inside the university(which is almost the whole chapter, I think>___<) was also very funny, as the middle-aged man behind the desk, correcting her like in school, ultimately funny in my opinion^-^

    I liked the way you portrayed Keegan when she entered class, I could imagine it, spoiled teenagers that brag about their pokemon and skills, and then suddenly noticing a rather dirty trainer(compared to them^-^) and begin to scowl, anyway, everything was perfect

    The talk with Erika was also good, it just shows how a trainer feels to talk alone with someone who is your superior(is that spelled right>__<I don't think so?) in many ways.

    Now, what really caught my interest in this chapter was the battle between Keegan and Tynan. (I love action, so battles are probably the things that excite me the most in a chapter^-^')

    I knew Tynan would make a return in the revised version, although I couldn't remember his pokemon which currently leads me to conclude that he has two pokemon at his disposal; Flareon and Murkrow(the latter only shortly introduced towards the end^-^). Even if Tynan is somewhat an opposite to Keegan, the fact that he has Flareon and she Vaporeon and Eevee makes them similar in training pokemon(also, if my memory isnt playng tricks on me 'Brother' is going to team up with him to get back Tarn, right?)

    now the battle was amazingly put, the description was flawless, and the humor was good(mainly the 'little fox' side of Keegan amused me^-^)

    Quote Originally Posted by purple_drake View Post

    Not fair, he didn’t even give her a chance to get out of her pokéball!

    Don’t complain, you didn’t exactly play fair when you dumped sleeping powder all over the Rockets.

    Oh, shut up.



    and


    But she really looks like she knows what she’d doing,[/I] the little fox pointed out as Hazel skidded to a guarded halt, ears twitching as she panted and Flareon rolled back onto its feet. And how do you know she doesn’t know any long-range attacks?

    Keegan’s eyes widened. That’s right… she could have learned any attacks, before—
    very amusing^-^

    Now, one little thing that I didn't like is that Shadow Ball AND Dig were introduced in the same battle(I'd say one is fine, but two is somewhat much(I certainly can live with it, I mean, it's not like she used five totally new moves in one battle)), it was just something that occurred to me, please don't let it bother you^-^'

    Now some personal commentary^-^:

    Tynan seems to me that his talented, rich, and spoiled but has a very calculating mind, and deems weak trainers useless(although that is just a thought that arised, could be that he is a little nice but hasn't shown his kinder streak yet, all posibilities). 'Brother' the pokemon that he maybe was going to get was also a little rebelling no? I recall him as caring brother and wants Tarn back and he'll probably disobey orders if he's in danger or something.

    Keegan was very amusing in this chapter, being a little clumsy, didn't really know what she was doing, but was also quite calculating and has a vast amount of trust in her pokemon(I was a little disappointed we didn't get to see Firefoot and Tarn(I keep forgetting that Firefoot is now an Arcanine adn I still think of him like a playful, puppy pokemon^-^'))

    Erika seems very good to me, although I always imagined her as a soft person, but sometimes she sounded very firm and maybe a little stern, nothing bad though^-^A little disappointed again that we didn't get to see any of her pokemon, and I certainly hope she'll introduce some in future chapters.

    Questions:

    1. Will Alyssa or any other school girl reappear in other chapters?

    2. What is the next direction Keegan goes?(I'd guess Vermillion to go on a ship and sail to Hoenn)

    3. Will Keegan get a new pokemon soon, or will it take some time?

    4.(elaborated from previous question) If she gets a new pokemon, will it be an egg, a wild pokemon, a gift or something else?

    5. Will Tynan follow Keegan around for very long or is he simply using her as a compass of sorts?

    6. Will Tynan follow Keegan all the way to Hoenn?

    7. Will Keegan eventually get a travelling partner?

    well, that rounds it up, I'd say, keep it going purple-drake, this was a brilliant chapter...

    'till next time

    ~Aimi Hanako~
    Searching for Inspiration...

  23. #23
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    Bay: oooh, new reviewer! ^.^ hi!

    Sorry about those long sentences ^.^;; I have a habit of writing sort of like a thought process, which does make for some long sentences, just like a person would think in run-on sentences. And then there are those pesky sentences in which lots happen and I can't find a place to gracefully chop it in half.

    I'm getting kind of fond of Keegan too, actually ^.^;; in the first copy, I hated her. I guess that's good, right?

    As for the story moving too quickly--yanno, I never thought of that. I guess when you put it like that I can sort of see how it seems to move quickly--but then again, I know what happens later on now that I think about it, this story really is about the Teams just as much as it is about Keegan; the difference is, in CaC their story is being told through Keegan's perspective, because hers is the main plot and theirs is the sub. In the sequel (yup, I said sequel!) the plot is going to revolve around the Teams, with Keegan swept along for the ride.

    I guess her first meetings with the Teams were sheer bad luck, not to mention her reckless nature, but it never twigged just how early they began. I suppose that's one advantage of having an insanely curious character with no regard for keeping their nose out of other peoples' business--you can blame it all on them! ^.^;; that said, there will be other meetings with the Teams--but those first meetings and their relatively successful resolutions are going to have a kind of domino effect which will led to her getting unintentionally involved in affairs she really shouldn't be involved in.

    As for the legendaries, well... I don't consider Lugia to be a meeting so much as a sighting, since it was only at a distance and there were other people with her. Raikou, however... *winks* as you noted, there is something up with Raikou, and it is an exceptionally big 'something' which is going to keep Keegan (unknowingly) on her toes. She is going to meet other legendaries, but hopefully the way those meetings are planned are unique enough to keep from being cliche.

    Finally, that battle--no, you didn't miss anything. It's more along the lines of Keegan missing something; she was so focussed on her own little battle that she didn't notice what was happening across the room until the shout drew her attention. ^.^;; hopefully by the time the story's over I'll be able to write multi-pokemon battles without losing the threads on anyone, eh?


    Aimi Hanako: Yup, you spelled superior right

    I'm rather pleased with the way Tynan turned out this time... not so spoiled or snobbish. I think I can really work with him now, if I can just keep him toeing the line...

    Ah, the attacks... never thought of that, actually. Mostly I needed a way to introduce attacks which Hazel knows, but which Keegan's forgotten she knows. Ergo, a pokemon battle. :P

    The thing with Hazel is that she's actually at a fairly advanced level, if you want to think in game mechanics; she's certainly got more experience than either Tarn or Firefoot (which is going to be a problem later on, if Keegan doesn't start training them up). However, for her to start using attacks without her trainer ordering them--or knowing she can use them--doesn't indicate a particularly good trainer, and that would dishonour Keegan in a way Hazel refuses to do. So she didn't use them until such a time that Keegan begins to realize that (particularly since Keegan hasn't been much of a battler in the past anyway--Magmas aside).

    On the other hand, there is also the problem of maintaining the battle's fluidity, which I do by allowing the pokemon to have their heads and attack or defend without necessarily needing their trainer's order to do so. Hazel grew up battling fire pokemon, so it would make sense to use an attack with a type-advantage, whether Keegan has ordered it or not. And now that Hazel now longer feels she's barred from using attacks Keegan would be surprised by...

    Anyway. That turned out longer than I expected ^.^;; I should really learn not to ramble.

    Tynan... is an interesting character. :P in fact in the writing of that chapter, I think he became one of my favourite OCs. I don't want to say too much because I still getting a grip on his character, but he is still figuring out his own place in the world, and that's going to be interesting to play with.

    I'm not going to say any more on his pokemon, except that he does get more, and you haven't seen all the ones he already has yet, either.

    Heh :P 'vast amount of trust', I thought that was an interesting comment. I suppose that is it, in one way. In another, it's that her pokemon know more than she does about battling! Or Hazel does, at least.

    Erika... is Erika. :P she's not really one of my favourite gym leaders, but I don't dislike her either. I imagine her as mostly soft, as you said, but with a hint of steel (so to speak). She's a teacher and a good one, so she knows how to command. I do believe that's the influence of the manga, there...

    To answer your questions... in spoiler tags... or I would, if the spoiler tags were working <_< *mumbles about stupid C&P not working*

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    1: Actually, I like Alyssa, strangely enough she will reappear at least once later on... however, that particular reappearance is scheduled for the sequel. Whether or not she shows up in CaC again is unknown, but unlikely--same goes for the others.

    2: I've actually stated (indirectly) where Keegan will be going. I said that Tynan is going to follow Keegan, and he's planning to go south to Fuchsia. So there you go her immediate destination. Anything after that, however...

    3: Keegan will get a new pokemon soon, yes.

    4: That one, you'll just have to wait and see

    5: 'a compass of sorts' isn't a bad way of putting it, actually. :P in the grand scheme of things, no, he isn't going to follow her for long--although that time does span over several chapters.

    6: This is a loaded question, although the answer isn't really that big of a spoiler. fact is, Tynan gets to Hoenn *first*.

    7: Yes. Several (although not necessarily all at once or for very long periods of time).

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    ^.^ thanks for the review, I love answering these questions... although sometimes I don't know where to stop talking -_-;;


    Ryano: Yay! You're caught up! ^.^ *glomps*

    I'm liking Tynan more too his character is going to be fun to write, hehehe... it's true that his lifestyle has led him to be condescending, and he and Keegan are going to fight like cats and dogs, but really I think he's pretty cool then again, I know what's going to happen...

    Reading a lot for one chapter, heh... ^.^;; you know, if you look at the last chapter, it spans a timeframe of, like, an hour. That's really sad...

    *gasps and snatches up Tarn* aw, leave the poor baby alone! :P

  24. #24
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    A/N: *waves sheepishly* Hello, people, please don't kill me. I have various excuses for not updating in so long, some good, some bad. I won't get into them. Suffice to say, I'm not happy with the chapter but it's been too long and now it's done and edited, I may as well put it up, right?

    Firstly, to those reviewers I never replied to--thank you for letting me know you were still reading! ^.^;

    Secondly, this chapter has upped the story's rating to PG-15 for excessive language use, so be warned--there's a lot of swearing in here. I didn't intend it, but Tynan just wouldn't shut his mouth, so blame him. Plus, I've gone back and revamped some stuff in previous chapters (or will have, eventually. The idea of having to reformat all those bold and italics tags is... ehhhh). Nothing major, really; just stuff like... now Tarn and Keegan don't seem to bond as easily as they did before, that kinda thing. Noticeable if you were to go back and read it, perhaps, but not terribly important in the big picture.

    Finally, I want to dedicate this chapter, despite its suckiness, to two members of this forum: Flannery and Arwen, because they both cared enough to take the time and PM me with encouragement about this chapter (even though it probably didn't help as much as we all hoped).

    Unfortunately, the next chapter won't be out quickly either. It won't take as long as this one (I hope/promise/Godhelpme) but some of the upcoming plot needs rethinking and I'm in my final semester of Uni (as in, I'll be graduating at the end of this year, eep!) so... yeah. Sorry! ;_;

    To make up for it though, here are some pictures of my OC characters, including one who will appear in about chapter 22. :3 I have more, but they're not inked, so you don't get to see them. Yet.

    http://purple-drake.deviantart.com/a...on-OC-93638677
    http://purple-drake.deviantart.com/a...on-OC-93638867
    http://purple-drake.deviantart.com/a...on-OC-93638997

    That's it. ^^ Enjoy, and have fun pointing out all the suckiness, especially towards the end.


    ~ VII ~
    TO RECOVER WHAT IS LOST


    STORM CLOUDS.

    Brother could hear them, taste them, feel their chill in his fur, their blinding illumination making his vision flare white every time lightning flashed.

    He licked the air almost pathetically, hoping beyond hope that the Wish-Giver might have answered his prayers, but all he could taste was water, water and trees and soil. There was nothing to follow. There was no trail. There was nothing.

    “Brrreeeenn!” he keened in frustration, dark paws kneading the ground in little showers of dirt every time he pulled up with his claws. The bush under which he was sheltered kept on dripping, leaving his short fur sodden, his long ears drooping on either side of his head beneath the weight.

    The Woodland of Bondage was nearby, and with it, the Town of Ensnarement. They were the icons of the area—that girl, that human, she was sure to have gone there.

    But the legends-damned sky-water washed away any chance of picking up that familiar and loathed scent, warm and spicy, tempered by the tang of salt. He couldn’t follow her through the Path of Turning Circles, had lost her trail in the Woodlands because of the weather, could only assume that she had been to the Town of Ensnarement.

    Now she was gone, and Bairn, sweet, frail Bairn, had gone with her.

    And he didn’t know where.

    O Guiding Light, show me where the Stained has walked, so I may seek my pack, my litter-mate, my brother, he thought despairingly, casting the prayer up to the heavens for the Guardian to hear.

    He would wander forever if he had to, but he couldn’t afford to waste the time; there was no telling how she could hurt him, subvert him, if Brother got lost, if Bairn was left in her clutches for too long.

    The sky roared, water began to fall, and Brother could only flop miserably down to the semi-dry ground, at a complete loss, his lithe body beginning to shiver a little in the cold.

    And then came running the human answer to his prayer.



    Thunder boomed overhead, the wind lashing at the foliage, whipping the leaves. Rain pelted the ground like bombs, the crackle of lightning casting an eerie, intermittent glow over the path.

    Damn—damn—damn—damn!! Tynan cursed inwardly, one arm raised to stave off the downpour, the other clutching his bag close, his boots pounding the wet dirt as he ran down the path which supposedly led to Fuchsia City. How people can stand this—I can’t believe I left home for this!

    His sleeveless green coat flicked and flapped around his legs, the material heavy with dampness, dripping in his wake, its hem peppered with mud that flecked onto his trousers with every step.

    Cover, I need cover—damn this storm, anyway, no wonder no one ever goes travelling—

    Well, no one worth knowing, at any rate.


    The path dipped, making him step through a puddle before he could detour, water splashing up to drench the tops of his boots, but he didn’t do much more than curse; there was no point in stopping, he’d only get wetter.

    I’ll probably reach the gym sooner than the Centre, it’s on the outskirts—I can wait there until it stops raining, the city proper isn’t far after that.

    Thank God for that, at least. He’d left Celadon City several days ago, but after having travelled Cycling Road and been confronted by those idiot bikers, he was more than ready to get into a real city. He didn’t know whether what’s-her-name, Keegan, would still be there or not—or whether he’d beaten her there—but he figured if she’d left then someone would’ve seen which way she went and he could trail along.

    He did, briefly, contemplate the thought of travelling with her—but he didn’t want her to start getting expectations and he didn’t intend to follow her for long anyways. Just until he got on his feet, so to speak. Or until he managed to get a clue as to her and Erika’s secret.

    Although he’d be damned if he was gonna keep on if it was still raining by then…

    “Bruuuun!”

    The abrupt howl made Tynan recoil in surprise as a darting figure of yellow and pitch-black exploded from the foliage lining the thin path. The young man swore heavily, instinctively dodging away from it with soggy footsteps, casting up sheets of mulch and water.

    The figure—an umbreon?! Tynan thought incredulously—skidded across the width of the track, fur bristling wildly and fangs bared in a snarl, its tail and swept-back ears quivering with hostility. Without pausing for breath it launched itself at Tynan in a flurry of leaves.

    Shit!

    Tynan jerked aside, his boots slipping on the slick terrain to send him crashing to the ground with a breath-stealing thump, the pokéball he’d just managed to snatch up arcing through the air to bounce off a wrinkled tree nearby. The umbreon landed at the same time that a black-feathered murkrow coalesced into existence, sending herself into a shallow stoop with a powerful thrust of her wings.

    What the hell…? Tynan rolled over with a groan, pushing himself up onto his elbows, the sleeves of his white shirt soaked through and clinging to his skin. He lifted his head, shaking back his damp fringe, in time to see the umbreon leap away from his murkrow’s Peck attack, the flying pokémon flaring her wings just enough to angle her back upwards with a series of flaps.

    The umbreon came down on soft paws, head drawn back as shadows built in its throat, wisped over its muzzle, and Tynan’s heart jolted in recognition. Shadow Ball—

    “Murkrow, dodge!” he shouted desperately, rearing up onto his knees, oblivious to the leaves and mulch which clung to his clothes.

    “Krrawk?”

    The pokémon sounded startled, but at the hollow roar behind her she banked so sharply to the side that she rolled in midair, wings tucked close to her body as the dusty globe shot past, darkness steaming along behind it. The force of the attack sent the flyer tumbling, uncontrolled, even as the Shadow Ball punched through the canopy and writhed into nothingness beneath the downpour which greyed the sky.

    She didn’t manage to catch her balance before the umbreon was right there, but before any attack could connect the murkrow dissolved into red light, recalled.

    The umbreon hit ground once again, springing instead for the trainer who had just staggered to his feet, Murkrow’s pokéball still clutched in one hand. With a hiss through gritted teeth which may or may not have been a curse Tynan jerked instinctively back to avoid the umbreon who sailed past, boots kicking up mulch as he twisted to follow the pokémon’s path, a red-and-white pokéball in his hand and pitched before the umbreon had landed.

    It was a second after that that he realized the pokéball he’d just thrown was empty.

    Fuck!

    The umbreon skidded across mulch, legs outstretched to slow itself down, and turned around just in time to see the pokéball coming—and to wait for it, red eyes flashing with some emotion Tynan didn’t understand.

    Then it dematerialized, the pokéball dropping to the damp turf, vibrating fiercely for a moment before locking down.

    Tynan stared, slightly stunned. I caught it? But I didn’t even hurt it!

    Although…

    It was almost like it
    wanted to be caught…

    Thunder boomed, startling Tynan out of his thoughts, and the teen shook his head violently, hitching his bag up onto his shoulder. What the hell am I doing, I’ll get soaked if I don’t keep moving! Re-energised, the trainer dashed forward, scooping up the pokéball as he passed and continued on his run down the narrow path, casting up leaves and debris in his wake.

    And inside the sphere in his hand, a red-eyed pokémon trembled with adrenaline and wild glee, fighting the urge to burst from his prison, scornful at the human’s arrogance to think that he’d be so easily subdued. Take me to her, human.

    I will endure this indignity, I will endure being called
    your Kin, so long as you take me to her.



    The storm-pelted trees opened up ahead of the muddied path, and Tynan hissed in relieved triumph as he saw the tall, thick timber barrier fencing the gym’s extensive grounds, the wood darkened by water and the green roof tiles swept with rain. He ducked through the broken curtain of droplets that scattered over the ground at the edge of the clearing’s canopy, the hem of his coat further drenched by the mud splattering up behind him as he ran across the short hard-earthed stretch of ground between him and the mansion.

    The tall wooden gate stood open, the long trail leading up to the entrance lined with dishevelled bushes that were only a blur as Tynan hurried past, his only concern getting inside and out of the wet. It was only once the massive doors had shut behind him with a hollow boom that he stopped to relax, leaning wearily back against the timber and gulping down air, struggling to slow his pounding heart.

    The corridors in front of him and to his sides were all identical: narrow, the walls and floor plain wood, lit with round lights set into the ceiling. The thought of just waiting here at the doorway like a coward didn’t appeal to the turquoise-haired trainer, but as his breath slowed to something more comfortable Tynan eyed the passageway warily. He remembered reading about Koga and the Ninja Clan for his history class last year, and the Elite was known for booby-trapping the gym.

    True, all gym leaders usually set up some kind of obstacle, but the Fuchsia gym had made it a serious custom. The whole ninja thing, probably… they’ve always been really big on discipline.

    He could do without it, but considering that the gym doubled as a ninja training dojo, he wasn’t sure he was going to get a choice. The clans tended to be very… focused… when it came to their training. Those that are left, anyway. There aren’t many truly traditional establishments left anymore, let alone pure clan-lines.

    The Dragon Clan was very secretive about their techniques, the martial clans less so; but the ninjas tended to practise on visiting trainers.

    He shivered suddenly, the insidious cold of his wet clothing becoming apparent now he’d cooled down, and he wrapped his arms around himself, hunching his shoulders to keep his bag from falling. The action made him remember the pokéball he still clutched in his gloved hand, and he lifted it closer to study the black-and-yellow figure inside. Umbreon had good senses, he knew, aside from the fact that they practically had no sense of smell—and their sense of taste more than made up for that.

    But, looking at those flashing red eyes and the bristling fur, Tynan decided that this was the last place he should risk releasing a recalcitrant, probably hostile pokémon. It wouldn’t do any good for my reputation to be seen being disobeyed.

    Instead he called out his short, dinosaur-like marowak, who did have a good sense of smell and would be able to tell with reasonable success whether another pokémon was nearby.

    “Mmarr,” Marowak rumbled, leaning his weathered bone comfortably on his scrawny shoulder and cocking his head enquiringly at Tynan.

    The trainer shook his head, hugging himself tightly, brushing off a stray drop which trailed down his neck. “Just be ready,” he said a little wearily, fingering the semi-transparent surface of the umbreon’s pokéball. “I don’t intend on going in any further.” The Fuchsia gym was just about last on my list of gyms to visit. I don’t like the idea of being sneak-attacked.

    As if those two nights he’d spent outside hadn’t been enough—he’d hardly slept at all, because of all the damn noises, the paranoid fear that something might attack him while he rested—to say nothing of the damned rain. And then there had been those idiot bikers who’d ambushed him on the Cycling Road—not once, but twice, one gang at the entrance to Celadon and a couple of grimy wannabes nearer Fuchsia.

    So in all, Tynan wasn’t a happy camper.

    He was right about one thing, however.

    He didn’t get a choice.

    From somewhere nearby there came a muffled pop, following by a low hiss, and automatically Tynan whirled around, only to be met with a stream of acrid smoke. He flinched away from it, one hand flashing up to cover his mouth and nose, the air harsh on his throat as he breathed.

    “Mmraa!” Marowak cringed, hunching down as though it would be help him avoid the fumes and gesturing insistently down a corridor with his bone, his brown tail cutting through the smoke which billowed around his scrawny form. Tynan grimaced at the thought—deeper into the lion’s den—but then another shallow breath caused him to choke and cough. With a mental curse he turned on his heel and fled the main doors in a cloud of miasma, his marowak a swift figure beside him.

    His rain-slick boots slipped on the polished floor when he tried to take the first corner, and with an automatic oath on his lips his hands shot out to snatch for balance. As if on cue there came a howl of warning from Marowak, a second before something hard hit the back of Tynan’s knees, making them buckle.

    “Sh—”

    He was cut off by an explosion of breath when he hit the floorboards, automatically curling over the twinging shoulder which had landed first. “Maro— the hell—?!” he gasped, head aching slightly with the abrupt change in position.

    “Mmmrr,” Marowak rumbled, pointing his bone into the airspace above his trainer. With a slight huff Tynan rolled half onto his back, feet slipping as he tried to push himself up, shoving his bag aside—and finally saw the twinkle of the electrified spinarak web suspended at what had been his chest height.

    What… the…? He stared dumbly, unable to reconcile the sight as truth, unable to accept that the ninjas had actually set a trap so dangerous for him. Trick panels and smoke bombs were all well and good, but outright electrocution…?!

    “Mmarrr!” Marowak jabbed him impatiently on the shoulder, causing the young man to automatically jerk away with a hiss when the club hit developing bruises, snapping him out of his disbelief.

    I need to get out of this nuthouse, was the first thing to come into his mind, followed by the incredulous thought of: they just tried to kill me!

    The idea spurred him back to his feet, his wet coat heavy around his legs, once again remembering the umbreon only when he put his hand out to push himself off the wall. Grimacing, Tynan stuffed the pokéball into its pouch on his belt, slung his bag onto his shoulder, and ducked cautiously under the sparking line to move down the corridor.

    He only made the first few steps before Marowak stopped him with an out-thrust paw and a terse grunt. Unthinkingly the trainer froze in place, chest clenching in sudden apprehension and eyes darting around the passageway to find what had given Marowak pause. With a practised flick the dinosaur-like pokémon sent his bone spinning end-over-end down the hall, ripping through glittering spinarak silk with sparks of severed currents, threads trailing like banners behind it. The club struck the wall at the far end of the corridor, dropping to the floor with a clatter and making Tynan twitch.

    Now is it safe?” he asked with a mixture of guardedness and slight desperation, shifting his weight in preparation for movement—either forward or back, he wasn’t fussed as long as he could get out of there. I can’t believe the Association actually supports this place!

    A floorboard stirred beneath his foot and his stomach dropped as he froze for the second time in under a minute. You must be joking.

    “Marowak…”

    Good God, that could not be his voice—his voice wasn’t that high, and his voice didn’t shake

    And then he really didn’t have time to think about it, because there came a wooden clunk from somewhere behind them. Eyes wide in his ashen face, Tynan twisted slightly around to see the rest of the hall, thready wisps of smoke drifting around the corner from the entrance.

    He swallowed, his heart beating painfully fast in his ribs as he turned further, trying to see something he didn’t know was there. “Maro— Marowak—what—”

    His foot slipped, the floorboard skidding out from underneath him, and with a curse he staggered, struggling to keep his balance. The walls shuddered, groaned, a panel at the near end sliding up into the ceiling, and suddenly Tynan really didn’t care about the fact that he’d almost gone ass-first towards the ground.

    He wasn’t exactly a film buff, but he’d seen enough movies to know what was going to happen next.

    Fuck.

    “Mmmarrr!”
    Marowak tugged urgently on his trainer’s coat, and without waiting to see what was going to emerge from the opening—although judging by the rattles there were a lot of them—the pair turned on their heels and ran.

    “Trrrrrrzzzz…”

    A high buzz filled the hall, the air almost seeming to vibrate with the sound, counterpointed by the clatter of many round bodies against wood.

    Tynan’s back prickled wildly with fearful anticipation, his boots pounding the floor in unison with his heart against his ribs, but he resisted the urge to look back; he knew what they were.

    Voltorb! Why the hell did it have to be voltorb—they’re fucking Bomb Balls!

    He pushed himself to go faster, his bag dragging at his shoulder and coat flapping behind him, Marowak’s pattering footfalls an accompaniment to the thud of Tynan’s steps and the slight whisper of dragging silk as it clung to their feet.

    The end of the corridor approached in a blur of wooden walls and near-panic, the air behind them crackling with sparks of electricity. The floor shuddered beneath the force of the rolling pokémon, Tynan’s ears ringing with their unending, high-pitched drone to the point that it felt like it was the only thing in the entire world—all except for the harsh rasp in the back of his throat and the stitch growing in his side.

    Then he was there, and he was going too fast, and with a curse he slammed shoulder-first into the wall at the far end—

    A hidden panel gave way beneath him as he hit and he hurtled into the unlit room beyond, feet slipping on the layer of spinarak silk. Already off-balanced by an expected collision, he crashed to the floor with a whump that left him breathless and wheezing, his previously uninjured shoulder taking the brunt of the blow.

    No time no time no time—

    Red-faced, Tynan rolled over clumsily, scrabbling into the small room and shoving the hidden door closed with his feet as Marowak darted in, snatching up his bone club when he swept past where it lay. The trainer caught a glimpse of the red-and-white mob packing the corridor beyond—I was right, they’re voltorb—and his stomach twisted violently with a terrifying realization—it’s not gonna stop them, it didn’t stop me and it won’t stop them and they’ll explode and I’m a goner—automatically scrambling back from the crackling juggernaut.

    The panel clicked shut, outlined only by the bright glow of electricity.

    Marowak snarled from somewhere beside him, barely audible over the ear-splitting buzz which vibrated the close walls.

    Something hurtled across the darkened space, striking a tab on the wall with a thud.

    A trave fell across the door just as the voltorb hit the other side of the barrier. The small room rocked violently with multiple explosions, the near-deafening sounds making Tynan clutch his ears and curl into himself. The panel was almost blasted off its hinges, slivers of wood bursting inwards, the timber splitting, dust and debris billowing in the confined space.

    Then it was over, and for a few seconds Tynan just lay and trembled, struggling to control his gasping breaths. When he finally unfolded himself from his foetal position it was with the twinge of aching muscles, his eyes wide in a pale face as he pushed himself up just enough to look blankly back in the direction of the still-very-much intact barrier, ignoring the cloud of dust settling around him. There’s no way…

    “Mmrrr,”
    Marowak grunted, accompanied by the scrape of tough hide on timber, and Tynan took a deep, shaky breath, deliberately pushing away the thought of just how close he’d been to those explosions. Shit, but they didn’t teach me anything about this at the University!

    Another deep breath. Light. I need light. Almost immediately he decided against letting Flareon out; the room was stuffy enough as it was, and even though he’d been cold not long ago he now felt flushed, his clothes sticking to him damply. Instead he fumbled for the penlight keychain he usually kept on his belt, clicking it on so that the thin bean wavered over the timber walls, his hand still not quite steady enough for his liking.

    Scrambling to his feet, he hitched his bag onto his shoulder, taking a cautious step forward and kicking something that rattled across the slightly debris-strewn floor.

    Fuck!

    He flinched and froze, his heart leaping back into his throat after just having settled. Wasn’t he ever going to catch a break?!

    “Mmmr,” Marowak scoffed at his trainer’s reaction, waddling into the dim light and picking up his bone, the glow playing across the sharp edges of his sleek skull helmet.

    Oh. was all Tynan thought for a moment, recalling the sudden, sharp motion in the air in front of him just before the voltorb had struck the panel. A second later he shook his head as though to throw off the confusion, discomforted by his uncertainty, unnerved by his position. I don’t know what the hell I was thinking when I decided to do this, he thought bitterly as he bent down to scoop up his bag. These people are nuts. That Keegan girl is nuts. The League is fucking nuts!

    Scanning the ground with his torch, he approached the door warily, the wood furry with splinters and splits. It was only when he looked closer, shining the light over a particularly deep groove, that he realized the panel was significantly thicker than its weight and ease of movement would suggest, likely due to the matte grey material behind the wood.

    Lead. The fucking door is lead-lined.

    With something between a sigh and a groan he thunked his head against the door, resting his brow against the warm timber and closing his eyes wearily. I should’ve fucking known. Not even the ninjas are fanatical enough to kill challenging trainers. If Marowak hadn’t dropped the beam then they probably would’ve done it themselves in a second.

    Which meant they were watching him—he already knew that.

    It was just that he hadn’t exactly behaved in a manner befitting himself.

    I hate this fucking gym.

    “Mmmarr!”


    Something tugged impatiently on his still-wet coat, but still Tynan snatched an extra second or two of motionlessness, aware of his various aches and the adrenaline-weary drag of his limbs. This was not what he wanted to be doing when he left home, this was not how things were supposed to go! When I get out of here…

    When he got out of there he didn’t know what he was going to do, but it included putting the Fuchsia City gym on his list of places he never wanted to go again. In fact he was quite willing to imagine the place didn’t exist. Period.

    I’ll check out the city, he thought viciously, opening his eyes and scowling at a fuzzy splinter just in front of them. The zoo. Maybe I’ll see if I can’t catch something in the Safari Zone, if I have time—not like I’m short on cash, not with what I had saved and the allowance from the Association.

    Anything to expunge my memories of
    this place!

    “Mmaarr!”


    “I know, I know,” Tynan grumbled into the panel, and with a huff the trainer raised his head, blinking in the dim light.

    Now what? he thought grumpily. We can’t get out this way, the voltorb will be blocking the door—and I’ve been close enough to voltorb to last me a lifetime, I am not going to go wading through them. Besides, how do I know they’re all fainted? I could go out there and get exploded for real!

    “Mmaarraww!”


    Something hit him on the back of the legs and Tynan jumped, his heart leaping to his throat as he whirled around, his penlight wavering over an impatient-looking Marowak. The dinosaur pokémon grunted as though to say ‘finally!’, pointing impatiently with his bone at the opposite wall.

    For a moment Tynan couldn’t see what the big deal was, but then the beam from his penlight played over the wood in just the right way and he saw the fracture-thin shadow that was the seam between door and jamb. He resisted the urge to slap his head, feeling his cheeks warm in embarrassment. A second door. I should’ve thought of that.

    Damn ninja.


    He and Marowak spent the next ten minutes making sure the door actually was safe to go through, as quickly and thoroughly as they could in the dim light. When they finished, Tynan eyed the timber warily, still skittish, but his desire to get the hell out of that cursed gym overruled his fear. He prodded the door cautiously near the edge, the weight distribution causing it to swing open easily and without a sound.

    The room on the other side appeared even darker than the stuffy antechamber, and Tynan’s mouth turned down in displeasure. The beam from his penlight was like a pinprick in the gloom, their footsteps sounding loud on the floorboards as they entered guardedly. Everything seemed muffled and close, and Tynan could swear he could hear something in the walls, but when he paused to listen there was only the faint drum of rain on the roof.

    Still storming, I guess.

    The surface beneath his feet softened, but angling the penlight down only showed a glimmery silver carpet… which, considering he was in the middle of a ninja’s dojo, was kind of strange.

    Make that very strange.

    Cautiously, his heart doing a slow pound low in his ribs, Tynan scanned the room with the penlight, but he couldn’t see much of the walls—it seemed to get kind of foggy the further the dim light had to travel. “Marowak, can you—”

    He walked into something.

    His heart moved from low gear to high and he jerked automatically away from the thin web with a curse, but the threads had already clung to his skin and clothes. A second later they pulled taut and he was yanked off his feet, dropping his penlight, airborne for a gut-wrenching moment before his back hit soft wall with a whoomp. His boots found the floor, his bag bounced against his side, still dangling from his shoulder, and he found himself bound to the thick silver web coating the timber wall.

    He snarled uselessly into the dark, hands flexing with adrenaline and resentment, straining against the tough silk holding him still. Shit, I am sick and tired of being flung around!

    “Marowak!” he snapped, eyes scanning the darkened room. The beam from the penlight was a soft glow somewhere out ahead of him, illuminating the ‘carpet’—more webs—but other than that there was no movement.

    “Mrra-rrr,” Marowak’s stilted, disembodied voice sounded, but Tynan couldn’t tell from where.

    I’ve had it with this fucking gym! he growled to himself angrily, tugging at his bonds, twisting his wrists this way and that, to no avail.

    “I’d stop doing that if I were you,” said an unfamiliar, female voice, and Tynan jerked in surprise, his head snapping up to search the dark room.

    “Stop hiding and show yourself!” he shouted, his tone thick and shaking with anger and annoyance.

    “Temper,” the woman chided with slight amusement, but the ceiling flared with over-bright lights, making the trainer flinch away and squeeze his eyes shut against the dazzle.

    After a few moments the glow through his eyelids abated and he cracked them open cautiously, squinting a little through the lingering glare, his breath and heartbeat sounding loud in his ears.

    The first thing he saw was Marowak ensnared in the corner, the pokémon straining against the silk cocooning him, his eyes narrowed and concentrated as he stretched—futilely—for the bone lying on a bare patch of floor nearby.

    The second thing he saw was the massive, red-bodied spider clinging to the opposite wall, its pincers moving slowly. A chill ran down Tynan’s spine, his eyes lingering on the pokémon for several long moments before he managed to tear his eyes away. Shit, that’s a big fucking bug.

    That was when he finally noticed the young woman standing a half-dozen feet in front of him, clad in a dark, thigh-length kimono, her pink hair tied in a short, spiky ponytail and her lower face obscured by the magenta scarf wound around her neck, draping down her back. He could only see her eyes, slanted and amused.

    The teen bristled. Smoke me out, electrocute me, scare me to death, humiliate me, but don’t you dare fucking laugh and think you’re going to get away with it!

    “Who the hell are you?!”

    …smooth, Montgomery, real smooth…

    The woman raised a hand before her eyes, a pokéstar caught between two fingers, and seemed to smile coyly. “I am Janine, daughter of Koga, gym leader of Fuchsia City.”

    The gym leader’s daughter. Shit! Tynan cursed with a particularly savage yank at his restraints, his wrist throbbing when the silk dug into his skin. He didn’t notice—his tingling fingers had unexpectedly brushed the round form of a pokéball beneath his coat.

    Abruptly only half his attention was on Janine; the rest was diverted to straining his bonds, stretching for the elusive device as discreetly as he could possibly manage while praying it wasn’t the umbreon’s. Maybe the ninja weren’t actually out to kill him, but they were doing a fucking good imitation and that still made them nuts in his book.

    “You know,” Janine said almost conversationally, crossing one arm over her stomach and moving the pokéstar aside so she could study him without it being in the way. “It’s usually good manners for a challenging trainer to introduce themselves first.”

    Tynan mustered the best sneer he could manage with his heart pounding in his throat and his hands beginning to throb persistently, threatening to go numb, as he continued to work at the silk. “Then you’re not a very good ninja, are you? I only came into the gym to get out of the fucking rain!”

    “Ma-aarr!” Marowak growled an echo to his trainer’s shout, heaving against the web pinning him down and drawing an admonishing chitter from the spindly-legged ariados on the wall.

    “Oh my.” The pokéstar shifted back in front of Janine’s face, the flatter side pressed against the cloth over her mouth as though in self-chastisement. It might’ve been convincing, too, except that her brown eyes were gleaming with laughter, their corners crinkling with an otherwise unseen smile. “My mistake.”

    Stop. Fucking. Laughing. Tynan snarled inwardly just as he managed to get a hold on the pokéball through his coat. His heart skipped a beat and he had to fight the wave of satisfaction which swept through him lest it show on his face.

    “Just as well, I suppose,” Janine mused, apparently not noticing Tynan’s struggles or the reason for them. “Quite aside from the fact that my father isn’t present at this time, you’re clearly not a very good trainer.”

    Excuse me?! Tynan snapped back to attention with a snarl. “What did you just say?!” he demanded angrily with a jerk at the ariados silk, wrenching his shoulders and causing him to hiss at the twinges that ran down his arms.

    Janine raised a delicate eyebrow, in disdain or amusement Tynan couldn’t tell, but neither sat well with him. “I did warn you not to do that, you know,” she observed mildly.

    “Answer the fucking question!” Tynan hissed, feeling stupid as soon as he’d said it, just because the question itself hadn’t been particularly intelligent.

    “Well,” Janine said slowly, drawn out, as though debating whether or not he was worth her wisdom. “It’s just that it’s usually the trainer who commands the pokémon, rather than the other way around.”

    What the fucking hell does that mean?! Tynan gritted his teeth furiously. “If you’re going to talk, at least make some fucking sense!”

    The woman sighed behind her makeshift mask, shaking her head slightly without taking her eyes off him—her eyes, which were suddenly serious and… pitying?

    “A good trainer isn’t made through education, wealth or the possession of strong pokémon,” she said quietly, and pointed at Marowak with her pokéstar. “Let me guess—this one belonged to a family member or friend before he started travelling with you, correct?”

    Tynan tensed, suddenly on edge, but he still didn’t take the chance to make his move, sensing she had a point to make and curious to know what it was despite her attitude. “What of it?”

    “Because,” Janine shook the pokéstar at the dinosaur, the pokémon watching her carefully. “He’s the one making the decisions—he’s the one who warned you about the ariados webs, he’s the one who blocked the door, he’s the one who got you out of the antechamber, all without your help.”

    The turquoise-haired boy flushed, opening his mouth to defend himself, but Janine wasn’t finished. “He’s the one who’s done just about everything, and you’ve just been following his lead.” The pokéstar shifted from Marowak to point accusingly at Tynan. “He’s the pokémon. You’re the trainer. It’s your responsibility to lead, not his.”

    The pokéstar was pulled back, the woman resting her elbow on her other arm, the bladed ball held next to her face. “It’s just as well you’re not here for a gym battle,” she concluded grimly. “You’re nowhere near ready for one.”

    Tynan ground his teeth, his face as hot as a furnace as he struggled to think of a retort—and yet, he couldn’t find one.

    Because she was right.

    Fuck it all, despite everything, she was right.

    What the hell am I doing wrong?

    For a moment in which he was stuck in a quandary, that was all he could wonder, suspended between shame and anger and what realisation his pride didn’t immediately quash.

    Then he shook his head violently, making himself shake in his bonds. Stop it! I can’t get distracted now—if I’m to save any face at all, I have to get out of here under my own power.

    His eyes narrowed. “I may not be ready for a gym battle,” he growled, his heart pounding and head throbbing with tension, determination thrumming in his arms and hands and veins. “But I’m more than capable of taking you on!”

    And he heaved at the silk binding him, throwing himself to the side to toss an abnormally warm pokéball forward with a short jerk. It hit the cushioned ground less than a foot in front of him and exploded in a burst of red light and the roar of purple flames, Tynan already hunching away from the light and heat.

    “Smokescreen!”

    With a swirl of smoke the flames turned to smog, the Smokescreen blanketing the room. Holding his breath and blinking rapidly against the thick, ashy haze, Tynan pulled hard at his restraints. With only a little pressure they snapped, charred and weakened by Flareon’s downplayed Will-O-Wisp. He shook them off, counting himself lucky that it had been Flareon. He had spent a lot of time training with the eeveelution to maximise his speed and efficiency by preparing moves while still in the pokéball and taking advantage of their opponents’ delays and his own attacks.

    He chose to ignore the similarity in that method with the ninja’s own techniques.

    “Two against one is a little unfair,” Janine’s amused voice seemed to echo through the smog.

    “Fuck you,” Tynan snarled, his voice strained as he yanked himself away from the wall entirely, raising an arm to cover his mouth with his shirt.

    “Language,” Janine chastised in a singsong voice which resonated into a never-ending laugh, making Tynan’s back prickle and the trainer spin around automatically before righting himself.

    Breathing shallowly through the material over his face, he stumbled in Marowak’s direction and almost ended up tripping over the pokémon’s hunched form, who was busy straining against the weakened silk while hiding his nose in his paws to temper the stench. Eyes watering fiercely and throat burning because of the smoke, Tynan caught his balance and snatched up the bone Marowak had finally abandoned, using it to break the threads without them sticking to his hands.

    Marowak reared up, snapping the last of his bonds, and Tynan thrust the makeshift weapon at the pokémon, already turned half away to searching the thinning smoke for Flareon. The bone had barely left his fingers before he caught sight of a fox-like silhouette standing watch through the nearest veil of the haze, its ears tilted and straining for warning sounds and long fur wavering like sputtering flames.

    Tynan tried to think quickly, but he could hardly see or breathe, the ash thick in his mouth and nose and against his smarting skin. Smokescreen probably wasn’t a good idea, he realised with dismay, because even though it had provided him with cover it was now a burden.

    But what else could I have done?

    “Ariados, Constrict!”

    Tynan’s heart leapt to his throat, his stomach twisting so sharply that for a moment he thought he’d been the target.

    Which wasn’t all that impossible, considering she’d been targeting him almost directly since he’d walked in the door.

    No, she hasn’t, he realised. Everything she’s done ‘til now has threatened me and Marowak.

    Which meant she would target all of them, catch all of them in one attack.

    Which meant Flareon wouldn’t be able to burn the cords without hurting him more.

    Which meant…

    Stop thinking!

    “Protect!” he shouted desperately just as the lingering smoke seemed to shift beneath the cutting edge of twinkling silk.

    “Mmarr!” For what seemed like the nth time, something hit the back of Tynan’s knees. He buckled with a curse, head spinning with the movement, as there was a flare of green light in his fire pokémon’s general direction. A dully glittering veil rolled over them, missing Tynan’s head by an inch as he pushed himself to his elbows. The silk broke upon it and it shattered into drifting shards of fading light, the threads floating gently to the cushioned ground.

    “Mmaaar-a!” With a grunt Marowak pulled back his throwing arm and sent his bone spinning away into the thinning haze on the heels of the Protect’s vanishing glow. Tynan staggered to his feet, coughing and pressing the heel of his palm to his throbbing temple.

    “We need an exit,” he said hoarsely, the lightly burned skin of his face pulling slightly as he spoke. Preferably not the one we came in by.

    Marowak snorted in an ‘well that’s obvious’ manner, his bone returning to him in a waft of smoke and slapping into his paw. Too late they saw the silk attached, and hardly had the dinosaur pokémon’s stubby fingers grasped around it then the thread yanked and brought the ariados hurtling through the last wisp of miasma, its spindly yellow-ringed legs cocked and braced for a landing.

    The sheer suddenness and proximity of a bug that size made Tynan jerk back, his heel catching on a knot of silk in the ‘carpet’ and making him stumble. The sharp movement made his head pound so he wasn’t sure if what came out of his mouth was a curse or a cry or an actual order, but Marowak ducked and tugged hard on his weapon, looping the silk around three of the spider’s legs. The thread slingshot around, hauling the ariados with it on a collision course with the not-so-far wall.

    Before the pokémon could hit, air hummed and a draught of wind blades sliced through the silk, passing so near to Tynan’s head that he ducked to the ground with a curse and decided to stay there. With a convulsive motion of its legs the ariados freed itself, shooting a pin of thread to catch the wall and flip itself upright.

    “Fire Spin, Bonemerang!” Tynan shouted, jabbing a finger at the ariados while craning his head to find the bat pokémon somewhere above. Fire roared past as Tynan scrambled back, wiping silk off his hands, while Marowak ducked low to avoid the flames, hurling his bone into the inferno.

    The ariados shot a thread to the ceiling, gliding upwards on a glistening cord of silk and avoiding the worst of the flames. There came a puff of embers as the bone came hurtling from the roiling streamer of fire, echoed by a blaze of sparks as Flareon exploded out in a Quick Attack, fur ablaze with red and gold veins of fire.

    The crobat banked with a silent twist of its lower wings, the blackened club soaring past. With an urgent chitter the ariados tugged on its thread to swing itself out of the way, and Flareon rebounded off the scorched wall with the crack of smouldering embers.

    Timber splintered and collapsed beneath the fox’s burning paws, a panel shifting beneath his weight to swivel open, charred ariados silk stretched across the gap like a damaged veil.

    Tynan’s head had snapped at up the first sound of wood breaking and for a moment he could only stare at the prospect of freedom only a few feet away, certain it was a trick.

    Then: “Protect!” he roared to both his pokémon as Marowak caught his bone with a grunt and Flareon landed on a patch of cleared floor, primly shaking ash off his paws. Two heads cocked towards their trainer in response to his order, and then the corner was cast with double films of fragmented green light.

    A second later the first one rippled and shattered beneath the pounding of sludge bombs, purple gunk splattering over wood and web. The second hummed and splintered the way of the other as Pin Missiles hailed down upon it, but shards of light fizzled to nothingness only on shimmering silk, the panel in the wall swinging ever so slightly and the sound of running footsteps muffled by thick walls.

    In a hollow across the room, Janine just smiled slightly beneath the mask of her red scarf, recalling both her pokémon with shafts of red light to the pokéstars between her fingers. He has potential.

    Potential, but little experience. He’s not worthy. Yet.


    She let him go.

    Until he was ready, they wouldn’t meet again.

    * * *
    Last edited by purple_drake; 11th August 2008 at 2:51 PM.

  25. #25
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
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    Blackthorn City
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    Yes, it's been a year since I last updated. *hides behind Lance*

    I hope people are still here too. ^.^;; Although I wouldn't blame anyone if they'd given up on me, just be a bit disappointed (in myself, mostly, for being so slack).

    I'm glad to know that at least one person still remembers me, though! XD *is glomped*

    Yeah, it was really fun for Tynan to get pwned. >D Mostly I just liked how Janine played with him. XD She was fun to write, I can't wait to write her again.

    I hope you get more in less than a year too. XD Although it's good, 'cos part of what was hindering me was the knowledge that I had some plot revamping to do. Now that in the past few days I've sat down and considered how to change it, I know what's happening and how things are changing, so that roadblock's pretty much over.

    Fortunately, since the first of the major changes will be happening in the next chapter. XD

    Anyway! ^^ Good seeing you're still around, and thanks for reviewing! *offers platter of dragonite cookies*

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