The Strength of Friendship. Home Sweet... Home?
Of all the places on earth, one place that many Pokemon recognize as being among the most inhospitable is a mountain by the name of Mount Blaze. Renowned for its scorching heat, and lakes of molten lava, it is a place that even the most experienced of rescue teams would avoid when helped. In light of the recent rise in temperature around the world, however, this mountain has instead experienced quite the opposite effect, seeing temperatures plummet far below freezing. Why this is happening? Nobody knows for sure, but one thing that is for certain is that it cannot be good, and that something must be done to stop it.
It is also here on this now frigid mountain where a certain rescue team has survived and prevailed above its most challenging of trials yet. It is here on this frozen hell where a team once separated will be united once more.
Tristan gazed across the plateau, as he waited for Torchic and Totodile to appear on the other side. He could hear their voices from somewhere within the labyrinth of boulders but he couldn’t tell where exactly. As the voices came closer, he couldn’t help but wonder why they were here. After all, he had shoved them aside when he fled the village as if they meant nothing to him. Was he really worth that much to them?
“Are you sure you saw him?” He could hear Torchic shout, as the voices became clearer. She sounded somewhat frustrated, or perhaps exasperated.
“Well I’m sure I saw something over there,” retorted another voice defensively. This must have been Totodile. “And if it’s not him then maybe it’s someone who’s seen him.”
Tristan continued to watch over to the other side of the clearing, when he noticed the scarf he had thrown on the ground a little while before. Upon seeing the scarf, he was suddenly reminded of how cold he was. He also realized that many of his wounds weren’t causing him pain anymore. The cold must have numbed his wounds, freezing them shut. Well, at least he wouldn’t have to worry about losing any more blood at the moment. His shoulder, however, still stung painfully from where Zapdos had stabbed him twice. But Tristan worried that it would only be a matter of time before he lost feeling there, too. How much time did he have until he lost sense of everything?
As he looked over himself, he realized how much of a wreck he was. His skin was pale, and his body was practically covered in blood. What would Torchic and Totodile think about this? He looked back at the scarf again, thinking quickly. If he could just try to wipe off at least some of the blood, they might not notice as much. He had been the source of enough trouble already and he didn’t want to place more burden on them.
As fast as he could, he staggered over to the other side of the plateau, though he was nowhere near as quick as he wanted to be. He struggled to drag his feet across the cold stone ground, panting with exhaustion with every step. It felt almost as if he was dragging one of the boulders behind him.
“Tristan!” Torchic cried. Tristan looked up to see that Torchic had come around from one of the large boulders, an expression of joy and relief on her face.
A moment later, another Pokemon came into view, however, it wasn’t the Pokemon Tristan expected to see. He was much larger than Totodile, perhaps roughly twice his size. He also gave off an intimidating vibe. Despite this, though, there was still something about him that was familiar.
“Yes!” I knew I saw something!” the newcomer boasted triumphantly.
“That voice…” Tristan thought. “There’s no mistaking it. That’s his voice. But... what happened to him?”
“We were looking all over for you!” Torchic cried as she ran up to him. “Oh, it so good to see you’re…” she took a moment to glance over him and suddenly gave a horrified scream. “Tristan! Wh- wh- what happened to you? Croconaw! Get over here quick!”
“What... this?” Tristan replied stubbornly, trying to put on a brave face. “It’s… nothing. Don’t worry about me.”
“Yeah, we’ve heard that one before,” the new Pokemon spoke as he dropped their toolbox onto the ground and reached into for what Tristan could only assume was an Oran Berry. “They’re a little burnt, but they should do the trick.”
Tristan took a moment to look at the berry in the blue hand in front of him. He then reached for it gratefully, ignoring the charred skin. The berry didn't have much taste to it, but Tristan wasn't sure whether this was a good or bad thing. Evidently it was good because he didn’t have to bear the awful burnt taste of it but it was also troubling because it was the blood in his mouth that was nullifying it. He shoved several more down his throat before he began to feel their effects. A minute later, and his fatigue had begun to lift, and his colour returned. He still looked like a wreck, but with some renewed strength, he managed to stand up straight. The first thing he did was walk over to his scarf and wipe off as much blood as possible.
“Totodile,” Tristan attempted again. “Wh-”
“Croconaw,” he interrupted.
Tristan paused a moment. “What?”
“Croconaw…” he repeated. “That’s my name now. Oh…” Upon the remark he placed a hand on his chin.
“Oh what?” Tristan asked. So what? He wasn’t Totodile? Who was he? Why was he here? Where was Totodile?
Croconaw turned to look down at Torchic. “We didn’t explain evolution to him did we?”
“Evolution?” Tristan asked. This was definitely new to him.
“This… really isn’t the time for this.” Torchic replied as she looked back up at Croconaw. “Isn’t there something else that we should be telling him?”
“Oh… right…” Croconaw said, as his expression dimmed. “Uh… Tristan. There’s… something we gotta… tell you.”
Whatever it was, Tristan could tell that it couldn’t have been good. They had bad news for him? But it couldn’t have been as bad compared what he had done.
“There’s something I need to tell you too,” Tristan admitted. “But you go first.”
Both Torchic and Croconaw exchanged confused and hesitant looks but proceeded nonetheless.
“Okay…” Croconaw began reluctantly. “Well you know… you know the day we met? The day when we had our first encounter with Team Supreme?”
He hesitated a moment, until Torhic spoke up in his place. “That day, you told us that you were a human. We… didn’t believe you. We told you that we did, but we were only playing along.”
“… what?” Tristan asked, taken aback. He was hoping he’d heard them wrong. Or perhaps it was a slip of the tongue.
“You see,” Croconaw continued, “The only reason we told you we believed you was because we wanted you on our team. And the only reason we wanted you on our team… was because… we thought that if you were around, we could become more like Team Blue.”
“You mean…” Tristan asked, realizing that they really were serious. “Everything we ever did? Anything we ever said? It was all an act? It meant nothing to you?”
“No wai-” Torchic attempted.
“But... we’ve been through so much. Yet you’re saying it was all just an act to get me to believe that you cared?” He tried to shake his mind of the thought. It couldn’t be true. Yet the tiniest hint of doubt remained in his mind, continually nagging at him. What if it was true?
“No, that’s not it Tristan…” Croconaw mumbled.
But Tristan was already lost in his thoughts. All his time as a Pokemon he had thought them to be his friends. They were the first and only ones to believe his story, or so he thought. They were his only source of comfort, the only ones who he wouldn’t feel alone around. And now he found himself being told that none of it even mattered to them? That all they ever cared about was that he was their ticket to fame.
Why? Never before had he felt so alone. Now there really was nobody to turn to. He looked back up to face the two, seeing them as completely different from how he knew them only minutes ago. All the things they had ever done for him suddenly lost meaning. All the words of comfort they had said were no more than lies to keep him on their team. Even when Tristan had fallen in the river, Totodile had probably only saved him so he could keep his prize teammate alive. Maybe Tristan would have been better off if he had drowned.
“After all the places we’ve been,” he said, his voice trembling. “After all the challenges we’ve faced… Did you ever once consider me to be your friend? Is the only reason you came all this way was to get your precious mascot back?”
“No Tristan!” Torchic cried.
“We look back at what we’ve done, and we hate ourselves for it!” Croconaw said desperately. “We’ve always considered you as our friend! Ever since we saw the way you treated Growlithe back on our first mission! We saw what kind of person you were then! It was then that I wanted to be your friend! And it was then we began to regret the things we’ve done!”
“We may not have believed you at the time,” Torchic added. “But we did know that you were a good person! One who would stand up for his friends, no matter what! We were exiled from the village because we stood up for you! We didn’t have to, but we did it anyway! We chose our friendship with you over the reputation of our team! We came all this way in order to find you and make amends!”
Tristan suddenly felt a pang of guilt, as if he’d been stabbed in the heart by Zapdos. They had become exiles because they stood up for him? And what did they have to get through to get here in the first place? It was only now that he realized that he wasn’t the only one in rough shape. Both of them showed signs of painful burns all over their bodies. Even Torchic’s feathers were singed in places. He suddenly felt awful for jumping to the wrong conclusion so quickly and doubting their friendship so easily.
After a moment of silence, Tristan spoke. “You did all that… for me?”
“C’mon, it’s what friends do, right?” Croconaw asked, trying to break a grin. “I mean, you would’ve done the same for us right?” It was the first smile that had been attempted since the mention of the bad news, and it was much needed. “And... we really do believe you’re a human now, too.”
Tristan gave a confused look. “What do you mean? I thought you said you didn’t believe I was a human.”
“Well... that’s what we used to think,” Torchic replied. “But we ran into someone who told us differently.”
“What? Who...” Tristan asked, as he tried to think of anyone who would have told them something like that. At first, it seemed pretty hard to believe. “Oh... wait... you’re not saying...” The burn marks said it all. They must have fought the firebird he saw earlier. It must have been Torchic and Croconaw that he sensed before leaving in a rage.
Both Torchic and Croconaw nodded. “Yeah,” Croconaw said, as if reading his thoughts. “We fought Moltres. He was the one who told us you were a human.”
“You fought that monster?” Tristan cried. This was far worse than he’d imagined. He would have known since he had to fight against both Articuno and Zapdos with assistance and luck. Both of those birds had brought him to his limits. He shuddered at the thought of what they had been through.
“That’s when I evolved,” Croconaw added proudly. “You could say the battle was a good thing. I came out stronger than before.”
“But there was something weird about what Moltres said,” Torchic said, tilting her head. “Legend has always told that the legendary birds were very territorial, but that’s not why he attacked us. He almost let us go had it not been for my big mouth.”
“You didn’t insult him somehow did you?” Tristan asked.
“No!” she snapped back instinctively, then, realizing the tone of her voice, calmed down. “The reason he attacked us was because we were friends with... you.”
“That’s right,” Croconaw jumped in. “I remember. He accused us in interfering with Articuno’s attempt to kill you, and then accused us for assisting in the destruction of the world. Tristan, do you know what he was talking about? What the heck is going on?”
“I’m... not really sure myself,” Tristan answered regretfully. “There was... something I didn’t tell you since we returned from Frosty Forest.”
“And that was?” Torchic asked.
“There was someone after my life.”
Both Torchic and Croconaw were silent a moment. “Hang on,” said Croconaw, “Your life was in danger and you didn’t even bother to tell us?”
“And what difference would it have made if I did tell you!” Tristan answered defensively. “That was all I knew at the time! All Articuno told me was that there was someone out there and that they wanted me dead! I just didn’t want you to worry.”
“But we’re a team,” Torchic urged. “Teams face things together.”
“What’s so wrong with friends worrying about each other?” Croconaw asked. “Why must you hide everything from us?”
To this, Tristan could not answer. He really didn’t know why exactly. He always felt like he’d be a burden if he did that. His eyes wandered from the ground up to the slopes of the frozen volcano, hoping he’d find the answer there. “I don’t know...” he finally answered. “I just haven’t really been used to anyone worrying about me befo-”
“This isn’t the human world anymore, Tristan!” Croconaw interrupted, startling Tristan. “It doesn’t matter what your life used to be like anymore! You have friends now! You don’t have to face things alone anymore! Please, let us back you up!”
“That’s right!” Torchic agreed. “We’re here for you!”
This one hit home. Finally it was all coming back to him. The feeling that there was someone there for him. Someone who would support him, and even fight for him. After his long journey of solitude to get here, he felt he would never know what it was like to have friends again. That it was just something that he was never meant to experience. Now, it was all rushing back like a tsunami. “You guys...” Tristan said as he covered his eyes to hide his tears. “I... I don’t know what to say...”
“You don’t have to say anything,” Croconaw replied comfortingly, approaching Tristan and placing a hand on his head. “Just try not to hide things from us anymore.”
Tristan looked up at his friends again through tearful eyes and nodded slightly. “Alright... I’ll try.”
“Now...” Torchic began after several more moments of silence. “Was that all you know about what’s going on?”
“Well,” Tristan answered, as he tried to dry his eyes with the clean parts of his blood stained scarf. “That’s all I knew for a while. But I know a lot more now. Its all because of what happened on this mountain.” He proceeded to describe what he had witnessed in the clearing only hours ago. Both Torchic and Croconaw were shocked to learn about the mysterious appearance of Jirachi, as well as troubled by hearing the mention of Sanngot. Apparently neither of them had ever heard of such a Pokemon either.
“I just don’t get it though,” Croconaw said, scratching his head. “Why do you need to be dead for this Sanngot guy to save the world? We’re trying to figure out how to save the world too, right? Why are we a threat to him? I mean, we wouldn’t try to stop him or anything. Would we?”
“I don’t know,” Tristan answered,equally confused. It’s as if his thoughts were becoming verbs through the mouths of his friends. “I know I wouldn’t stop him.”
“There must be something we’re missing...” Torchic murmured thoughtfully. “Or perhaps something we’re not being told.” Just then, a freezing gust of wind swept up from the foot of the mountain, giving everyone shivers. “...W-w-w-well I’m pretty sure we won’t f-figure much out just standing around here,” she shuddered as she tried to burry herself deeper in her charred scarf. Her attempt to gain more warmth however, proved to be in vain. “Maybe we should start heading back now.”
“Where?” Tristan asked.
“Where else?” Croconaw chuckled. “Back to the village of course. We probably won’t be very welcomed, but I’m sure everyone will get over it.”
At the mention of this, Tristan suddenly got an empty feeling in his gut. “Maybe it’s not such a good idea...” Tristan answered nervously.
“It’s because of Dave, isn’t it?” Croconaw asked. “Tristan, we know that the reason you left was because you tried to speak with him. And we know that he was your friend in the human world.”
“What? How did you-” Tristan was about to say.
“Let’s just say you give away a little more about yourself away than you think,” Torchic interrupted. “But there’s something you should know about Dave. When he came to the human world he lost all his memories. He couldn’t remember you even if he tried.”
“Huh? Really?” Tristan asked.
“Yeah,” Croconaw answered. “We tried to stop you but when we got to the village, it was too late. You were already running in the opposite direction.”
But... that didn’t make any sense. Tristan could understand why Dave might have arrived in the Pokemon world with amnesia, since Tristan himself couldn’t remember a thing when he arrived there too. But Gardevoir had returned Tristan’s memories to him and specifically told him to speak with Dave. Why wouldn’t Gardevoir have returned Dave’s memories to him?
“Um... Tristan?” Torchic asked, interrupting his thoughts. “So are we going or what?”
“Well that wasn’t exactly the reason I didn’t wanted to go back,” Tristan said.
Torchic gave a great sigh. “Then what is it? I really want to get off the awful mountain!”
“Well, now that you know all that I know about what’s going on...” he began awkwardly. “Well, what if I really was a threat to the Earth. What if this Sanngot person really did need me dead. I was just thinking... perhaps it would be best if you guys did leave without me after all. I mean... I would understand if yo-”
“Tristan!” Croconaw snapped. Tristan looked up suddenly up to see his friend with his hands on his hips and wearing a annoyed yet amused expression. “Why even bother asking? You already know what the answer’s gonna be?”
“You might as well give it up,” Torchic said. “You’re not getting rid of us.”
To this Tristan gave an amused smile, rolling his eyes before moving to follow his friends off the plateau. “Fine, you win” he joked. “Man there’s no getting away from you guys is there?”
With that, the finally reunited team made to leave the frigid mountain, every one of them glad to be leaving the freezing place behind. Their journey here may have been a living hell, but the journey back couldn’t have been better. Surrounded by his friends again, Tristan was able to feel worry free again. He knew that he should probably have been worrying about what actions should have been taken next. But for now he just wanted to enjoy himself.
“So that’s what evolution is...” Tristan said, impressed, as he looked back at Croconaw with a look of amazement on his face. Tristan still had the habit of looking to where Totodile’s face would have been. It would take a while for him to fully get used to Croconaw’s new height. “And here I thought that all the Pokemon I met looked that way their entire lives.”
They were currently heading in the direction of their team base, walking along the familiar dirt road which was surrounded by dense lush green forest. It had been a few days since they left Mount Blaze behind, and though they were still injured badly, they had managed to take the important measures to stay healthy. The first thing they would do upon returning to the village was head for the Chansey Hospital.
The sky was a clear blue with the sun shining directly overhead. There was barely any humidity today, though the heat of the sun could still be felt. The only odd thing was that everywhere they looked, it was completely silent. It was as if the entire forest had been abandoned. Another thing evident was the slight scent of dirt that mingled in the air.
“Nope,” Croconaw answered proudly. “Though there are some Pokemon that don’t evolve during their entire life, there are also others that will evolve up to two times.”
“Only twice?” Tristan asked, astounded. “And is that it for you? Or will you evolve again?”
“Oh, I have one more evolution down the road for me,” Croconaw answered excitedly. “By then I will become a Feraligatr!”
“And you?” Tristan asked, turning to Torchic.
“Well I still have two evolutions to go through,” she said, even allowing herself to become excited by the thought. It was clear that evolution was an exciting topic among Pokemon. “First I’ll become a Combusken, and then I will become a Blaziken.”
“And... what about me?” Tristan asked reluctantly.
“Oh, you’ll only evolve once,” Croconaw answered. “And when you do you’ll become a Marowak.”
“What? Only once?” Tristan asked, almost in a whiney tone. “Man, that sucks.”
“Well if it makes you feel any better,” Torchic giggled, “Dave only evolved once too, while both Sceptile and Typhlosion evolved twice.”
Tristan winced a moment. Just by the mention of their names brought back bad memories making Tristan feel uneasy, and slightly ashamed. However he quickly brushed the thought away, replacing it with a new one.
“I find it odd though,” he said, speaking his thoughts. “Doesn’t it get confusing to have to change your name all the time? I mean wouldn’t it take you a while to get used to being called Croconaw? And what if there are a bunch of the same Pokemon and you only wanted to talk to one of them? That’s something I’ve always found confusing.”
Both Croconaw and Torchic exchanged nervous glances at this, as if they had been hoping he would never ask.
“Well you see...” Croconaw said. “Along with the name of what species they are, a Pokemon will also have a nickname that they either named for themselves, or named by their parents. But usually if there aren’t many others of the same species around they will be fine if they are just called by their species name.”
“Oh,” Tristan said. “How come you’ve never told me your names?”
“Uh... well uh,” Croconaw said, tapping his two index fingers together. “You see. I... really prefer it if people call me by my species name rather than my nickname.”
“Same here,” Torchic added, turning back to Tristan.
“But why?” he asked. “It doesn’t make sense. Why wouldn’t you want to be called by a name that sets you apart from all the others of your kind?”
“Well you see,” Croconaw said reluctantly. “My parents gave me that name, and well... when I’m called by that name it reminds me of them. I mean I know my goal is to find them one day, but to be reminded that their gone every time someone calls me by name, I just can’t handle it.”
“I don’t like to get called by my name essentially for the same reason as Croconaw,” Torchic stated. “It just reminds me too much of my past. And that’s something I just want to leave behind and never look back.”
“Oh,” Tristan said, feeling sorry he’d asked. That was a whole lot to take in, and he was hoping that it hadn’t taken too much on their part to tell him. “Well... is it not too much trouble to tell me what your names are?” he asked hopefully. “I won’t call you by them, I just wanna know.”
“Well...” Croconaw said, slightly reluctantly. “I guess I should’ve told you when we first met shouldn’t I? The name I go by besides Croconaw is... Tide.”
There was a pause when both Tristan and Croconaw turned to Torchic.
“...Do I have to?” she asked.
“No...” Tristan replied, slightly disappointed. “I just though it would be nice to know.”
To this Torchic gave a huge roll of her eyes. “Well when you put it that way...” she sighed. “Fine, I’ll tell you. My name is Ashley. But please, just call me Torchic OK?”
“Yes, yes,” Tristan agreed. “I already said I would didn’t I?” Quietly, however,he uttered to himself, “Unless I’m looking for you amongst a crowd of Torchic.”
“What was that?” she asked, giving a threatening look back.
“Oh nothing,” Tristan answered, managing to hide his smirk before she turned around again. Well at least if he did lose them in a crowd now he would be able to find them without a problem now.
They had just turned the corner that led towards their team base. Just the sight of it managed to bring back good memories, making Tristan even more confident in his decision to come back. Glancing at the mailbox, Tristan noticed that there was no mail that had arrived for them. Obviously people either didn’t allow mail to come to them anymore, or people didn’t want to be rescued by them. It would probably take a long time before they managed to clear this bad mark off their record.
Just then all three of them noticed some commotion out front their team base. Two small mice had just left the yard, both of them looking frantically up and down the path. There was something strange about the way they were behaving. They seemed rushed, and in a panic. Upon closer inspection, Tristan realized that these two mice were none other than Plusle and Minun.
Minun caught sight of Team Supernova approaching, and quickly nudged Plusle to get his attention, then both of them ran towards the team at full speed.
“What’s th-” Torchic was about to ask.
“Oh Team Supernova! Thank goodness you’re here!” Minun cried. “We need your help! Persian is in trouble!”
“Hang on,” Croconaw said, holding his hands out to slow the two mice down. “Pause, rewind and slow down. What’s going on?”
Minun took a moment to breathe, then regained his composure. “It’s Persian from the Felicity Bank!” he cried as he pointed in the direction of the village. “He’s in trouble! He needs help!”
“Hold on,” Torchic said. “Where is everyone else? Surely there’s someone in the village who could help him out better than we could.”
“But everyone’s at the refugee camp!” Plusle answered frantically. “There’s nobody around to help him! And we’re to small to help him ourselves! He’s going to fall if we don’t hurry!”
“Refugee camp?” Tristan asked in alarm. “What’s going on? Did something happen?”
“Just hurry! There’s not much time!” Minun urged. With that, both Minun and Plusle sprinted in the direction of the village. Tristan, Torchic and Croconaw all exchanged confused looks before following in their steps. All of them wondered what possibly could have happened while they were gone.
As the village drew nearer, the silence of the forest grew ever heavier. The only noise that broke the silence was the innocent breeze through the trees. One thing that stuck out more than ever now, though was the growing stench of dirt in the air. With every step closer to the village, the smell became ever more potent.
A light at the end of the path signaled the entrance to the village. But Tristan couldn’t help but be confused. It wasn’t how he remembered the entrance to the village. He was sure there was a distinct turn before the woods ended. Looking at the expressions on both of his team-mates, it was clear that they were thinking the same thing.
Up ahead, both Plusle and Minun stopped abruptly where the trees ended, joined quickly by the three members of Team Supernova. Nothing could have prepared them for what met their eyes next.
“Wh- what happened here?” Torchic asked in horror.
“The village...” Croconaw managed to croak. “The village... it’s...”
“Gone...” Tristan finished.
To be continued...