Ayell, huh? Sounds interesting...wonder what it really looks like. lol
A dead Jigglypuff? That sucks!
Didn't see any real mistakes, can't wait till the next chapter.
Ayell, huh? Sounds interesting...wonder what it really looks like. lol
A dead Jigglypuff? That sucks!
Didn't see any real mistakes, can't wait till the next chapter.
Pokemon Black team:
Well there is in fact a pic of Ayell here made by Sinnohdragon. Hope everyone likes it, I know I do.
Yeah, I was bored one day and came across Jigglypuff's classification ... the Balloon Pokemon. Then the gears started turning and, well, I take things literally. >>;
Thanks as usual.
Anyway, tentative chapter eleven title:
The Name of the Game (Journey Through the Mountain!)
Meh, I'll probably change it though ... =/
Last edited by SugarPesticide; 30th November 2008 at 1:14 AM.
ah i read this a while back and i forgot to comment good story and the absol description was excellent the only thing i didn't like basically was the whole reference to to the simpsons I thought it wasn't really necessary and was more of a lil filler. Other than that the randomness was excellent and humor was great as well. Lookin forward to the rest
Fan fic reader. Writer at heart artistic at heart. My name before was roodude15 and I'm back PM me if you want me to review something. I'm always happy to review a story.
I love crude humor it's the biggest thing since sliced bread and sliced bread is pretty darn good too
My sincere apologies for the ridiculously long wait. Also, I swear that anyone who says "It's okay, DDT, it wasn't your fault" will be brutally murdered because it was my fault. I didn't even think about starting this chapter until about two weeks after finishing the last one. The only excuse I have that's even partially pliable is that I wanted to get the story MOVING as opposed to just talking and walking and occasionally fighting something.
So here's the chapter, enjoy it.
* * *
Chapter Eleven: The Name of the Game (Pastime to Interest the Dead!)
“Okay, okay, we’re moving!” Leaf snapped, rushing from the Pokemon Center with Frosti’s and Paris’s Poke Balls in tow. Lightning followed right behind, Peach looking confused on his shoulder.
<It’s beginning!> Cheri said frantically. She was wrapped around Leaf’s neck, like some lethal, pointed scarf. Leaf didn’t particularly mind this arrangement, as Cheri’s body felt comfortably warm against her skin, but she did wish the bug Pokemon would stop wagging her spiked tail around. Getting poisoned was not high on her list of priorities.
<Okay, you lost me at “the world is ending”,> Peach said a bit irritably, her worried glare directed toward Cheri. <If you would kindly elaborate, maybe I’d be happier with some explanation about why you dragged my butt out of there before I was ready.>
Startled, Leaf skidded to a halt as a shady-looking, unshaven guy stepped out of one of the bushes, a large brown overcoat draping around him. At the sight of the middle-aged man, Lightning squealed and ducked behind Leaf, worried that perhaps he had cronies with him.
“Relax, relax,” the man drawled. “I’m just a businessman. People around hear refer to me as—” He paused, glancing around furtively before returning to his unfinished sentence: “the Salesman.”
Lightning gulped. “Not drugs, I hope.”
“Nah, drugs are overrated. Can’t get good marijuana anymore. No, what I sell is—” He drew a deep breath for dramatic effect. “Pokemon.”
Leaf stared at the Salesman analytically, wondering if this was Cobalt in another lame disguise; however, a quick glance revealed that he was far too pudgy to boast the sharp, almost aquiline features of Cobalt. Besides, he was balding. Not a wig for miles.
“I got almost every subspecies here,” he continued, throwing his overcoat open to reveal that its inside lining was covered with at least twenty Poke Balls – far more than the legal maximum carrying amount. “Cerulean Crimson, Pallet Brokefin, Dewford Pinchgill, Grayvine Orange … even the Rage Noobkiller! You don’t find many of them apples just lying around.”
Leaf rolled her eyes. “That’s cute, but we’re in a bit of a rush. If you’ll just—”
“And at the low, low price of five hundred credits!” the Salesman continued hurriedly. “Limited time offer!”
Lightning’s eyes glowed. “Really? Only five hundred for a … whatever it is?”
<No time!> Cheri keened shrilly, panicking. Her flailing tail lashed about suddenly, and the Salesman, startled, fell backward and landed on the hard ground with a curse. His Poke Balls rattled at the impact, and one of them was jerked off, flying ungracefully through the air for a moment before bouncing off the ground, in a sort of crash-landing roll – right towards the river.
“DAMN IT!” the Salesman roared, and lunged toward it. He was too late, however: the Ball soared right over the edge of the gorge, flying for a moment before smashing into the other rocky side. Shattering violently, a burst of blue light radiated from it for a moment, before condensing into a wide-eyed, flailing Magikarp. The fish’s mouth opened and shut rapidly as she squealed in fear, tumbling after the remains of the Poke Ball into the raging depths of the river.
Leaf blinked a few times before a little detail she had overlooked clicked into place: the Magikarp was a bright golden. Lot of shinies turning up, it seems, she thought, bracing herself.
“URGHHHH!” The Salesman turned purple with rage, swiveling back around to face them. “That was my best merchandise! Little *******s. Attack them, my minions!”
With astounding speed, he plucked off one Poke Ball after the other, tossing them onto the stretch of ground between them. In every beam of red light a Magikarp materialized, looking as fearsome as only a retarded-looking orange fish can look. Opening and shutting their mouths stupidly, they bounced up and down to keep themselves in motion, and some bounced on top of others, knocking each other down in an effort to be on top. The Salesman, looking a bit smug, caught each Poke Ball with ease as it flew back toward him, and placed each in its appropriate space, leaving only four or five Magikarp out of the battle.
“Now you’ve done it, Cheri,” Leaf sighed.
“Oh, not you again!”
“You wound me. Seriously, now I’ve got this big gaping hole where my undying love for you used to be. It’s right here in my CPU, and it’s just killing me. I’m gonna cry.” A mechanical sniffing emanated from the Pokedex’s speakers. “Never betray me again, love. Anyway, as I was saying, these buggers that you see here are Magikarp, the “Most Retarded Pokemon of All” Pokemon. Gender is Crowd-Surfing-Turned-Orgy, hell yeah! Height is Little Sushi Boy, Weight is Smashed Pumpkin. Yeah, I’m pretty much going to say what you already know: it’s stupid, pathetic, weak, retarded, unintelligent, puny, brainless, thick-skulled, scrawny, and more than a little slow upstairs. But did you know that they are also packed with enough nutrients to make a light bulb explode? Even though they taste like the only thing they produce: UTTER CRAP. But if you’re going to tick one off, make sure you kill it later, because if it survives it will surely evolve into this wriggly ***-kicking snake called Gyarados, and it will kick your *** into the next century.”
“Do not diss my minions!” the Salesman shouted.
“Cheri, I like you, but this is still partially your fault. Make up for it by knocking them out.”
“Dory, Peter, help her out! Peach, you can help if you want to.”
With two red flashes of light and a shrill “CHUUUU!” Lightning’s Pokemon appeared before the Magikarp, tensing in anticipation. Cheri, unwilling to put off departure, squealed and tightened her hold on Leaf’s neck. Half snarling, half gasping for air, the girl managed to tear the caterpillar free, tossing her into the midst of the fish.
“Tackle them, minions!” the Salesman yelled. “Tackle, Tackle, Tackle ‘til you just can’t Tackle no more!”
“Poison Sting them, Cheri! If you get a chance, use String Shot to trip them up!”
“Give them your own Tackles, Peter! Start out with a Thunder Wave, Peach, and follow that up with a Thundershock! Dory, Growl at the closest ones before Scratching at them.”
<Kuku ka chu!> Peach squealed excitedly. She generated a transparent golden wave of energy, which rippled from her small body and sliced through the first few Magikarp in front of her. The fish groaned as waves of crackling electricity surged through their rotund bodies, seizing up their muscles and inhibiting their movement.
<Hurr hurr hurr,> they murmured stupidly, crashing into each other.
Cheri, flailing as she fell in an arc towards the mob of fish, ran a quick calculation in her head. The sooner she took out the Magikarp, the sooner they could all escape the inevitable wave of Crushings. Maximum effort would be in order, then. She made her plan of action effective, yet simple. They were bigger and faster than her, but she had the power of poison on her side, and only a fool would not use that to his advantage.
It was difficult to position her body while falling, but she managed to point her tail spike downward just as she landed on a Magikarp with maximum force. The spike punctured his thick, orange scales, and he gurgled in agony as it dug deep into his skin. Although it failed to pierce his thin, almost useless muscles, it nevertheless hurt him, and she could be content with that. Using the momentum of her fall, she swung the rest of her body around in a wide arc, embedding her head spike in another Magikarp. She let it sink as deep as it was able to before tugging her tail spike free of the first fish and slicing her body through the air again, stabbing yet another Magikarp.
<Hmm,> Dory said thoughtfully, lazily hanging back and watching Cheri leap around violently. <Somersaulting in battle? That looks like good exercise!>
<Exercise is fo’ losahs,> Peter droned, simply sitting there. <Da real issue is dat chickie’s brain. I dunno why she tinks she’s some sorta ninja skank.>
A Magikarp bounced up to them. <Hurr?>
<"Hurr” mama loves ya too, big boy.> Snickering, Peter knocked the fish on its side with a well-aimed sticky string from his red antenna, covering its lower fin in a sticky white mess.
Dory made a face. <No sexual jokes, bug.>
<Da name’s Peter, bunny! Get it right!> He rammed into the Magikarp over and over again, and it gasped every time the successive Tackles made contact. <Say it wif me! Pe–ter!>
<I’ll keep that in mind, P-Durr.>
The Magikarp’s mouth continued to open and shut uselessly, even after it had fainted; its blank eyes simply glazed over a bit, and it stared, unseeing, into empty space.
<Wow.> Peter shook himself; the use of several Tackles in a row was slightly disorienting. <Dat was fun. Ya gotta come beat da crap outta dem, toothy!> He rammed into a nearby Magikarp, surprising it so much it could only Splash around pathetically, doing nothing to defend itself.
Dory rolled her eyes. <Whatever.>
<C’mon!> The caterpillar spat a sticky white String Shot at her, covering her paws in the gummy substance. Before she could sneer in distaste, she was yanked into the battle, barreling through a few fish before colliding with Peter.
<You are so immature,> the Nidoran sniffed, before Growling melodiously at the closest three Magikarp. Their eyes fluttered, and they glubbed happily at the beautiful noise before her tiny claws raked through their tough skin.
Cheri eyed them curiously for a moment before returning her full attention to the task at hand. She had already hit most of the fish, and would run through diagnosis of the situation once she had completed phase one. Stab. Five to go. Stab. Four to go. Stab. Three…
Another stupid Magikarp jumped in her way, meeting in her in midair for a sudden Tackle. Surprised, she thought about dodging the move for a split-second before dismissing the idea; it was too late for that. Deciding to improvise, she spun her tail around, snaking it under its stomach to avoid the brunt of the blow. She lodged her tail spike in its tender gut and heard its resulting groan with some satisfaction. It rammed against her head just then, knocking all three of them – itself, its comrade, and the determined caterpillar – to the ground with a thud. Wincing, she squeezed her eyes shut against the resulting pain. There was something in it for her, though: the momentum of the fish’s body had pushed her head spike even deeper the foe it was already lodged in. Its point, though deadly sharp, was tender enough to feel the wall of a vein burst upon contact, allowing the spike to pump vicious toxins into the victim’s bloodstream. Smiling to herself at her success, she yanked her head away from the poisoned fish, swinging it into a new one.
Peach, eyes aglow in excitement, aimed several Thundershocks at the fish, bright flashes of electric energy crackling in the air for a moment before rushing into the foes with great efficiency. They thrashed around in pain, moaning a moment before fainting.
<Look, they’re green!> she yelped, as Cheri landed next to her, panting.
The caterpillar surveyed the scene, and saw with approval that seven Magikarp were, indeed, looking very green around the gills. A bit of drool dripped from their mouths, which seemed to be sucking in more air than usual. <They should drop soon,> she said, feeling a bit exhausted herself.
<You look really tired,> Peach commented, looking slightly concerned.
Leaf quit biting her nails and spoke up. “Yeah, I think you should rest for a while, Cheri.”
Cheri looked her trainer in the eye. <I never back down from a fight, human. I will battle until I fall. It is the Code of the Forest, and I will follow it for the sake of my daddy.>
Her eyes shone with emotion, and Leaf could see the conflict within them, could feel the Weedle’s longing to turn back and rescue her people. How much it must hurt her, then, to be torn from them and leave them to a fate best left unknown!
The moment was ruined as an excited Magikarp Tackled Cheri to the ground, wiggling excitedly. A few Poison Stings later, and he was no longer wiggling.
“You’re doing great, guys!” Lightning yelled encouragingly, as Peach jumped back into the melee. “Dory, Growl at them to put a bunch of them off guard so Peter can tie them up with String Shot! When they’ve done that, Peach, Thundershock them into the dirt!”
The panting Magikarp, eyelids drooping, bounced less enthusiastically as another rhythmic snarl escaped Dory’s throat. Peter, clearly in his element, break-danced around the group of tiring fish, spitting sticky strings at them as he did so. <Everahbodeh dance now!> he sang, as his victims were slowly mummified in goo.
<DODOGYUUUUUN!> Peach roared, aiming three jagged Thundershocks at the hapless fish. Screeching in agony as the electricity coursed from one to the next, carrying poisonously painful shocks between them, they shuddered wildly until, one by one, they fell to the ground, twitching and unconscious.
<Pity dis has ta end,> Peter sighed, knocking out a Magikarp with some Tackling. The fainted fish bowled into two others, knocking the wind out of them just long enough to allow Dory to finish them off with her vicious Scratching.
Suddenly realizing that they were alone in a battlefield filled with their fainted brethren and a small group of bloodthirsty rodents and caterpillars, the remaining three Magikarp attempted to flee, bouncing anxiously towards the paling Salesman. A swift rope of string from Peter, however, snaked around their stomach fins and knocked them to the ground, where he easily dispatched them with a few Tackles, although he bruised his head on their hard scales.
<Damn sushi *******s hurtin’ mah poor head like dat,> Peter muttered, rubbing his head against the ground in pursuit of some pain relief. <I got da feelin’ of a massive hangover comin’ on … ooh—>
Suddenly he froze, twitching, half-standing. A faint glow appeared around his body, distorting the view of the sparse trees behind him. Eyes wide, a sudden scream of pain ripped through his small frame, as his antenna dribbled sickly greenish goo. The goo poured down his body, coating his lively verdant green with the paler hue.
“Peter!” Lightning yelled, rushing to his Pokemon’s side. “Peter, what’s going on? What’s—”
<Do not touch him!> Cheri snapped suddenly, for Lightning was about to poke the writhing caterpillar.
“Lightning!” Leaf barreled into the boy, knocking him over just before his finger could enter the glow. They rolled a few feet, grass and moss snagging their hair, before coming to a stop a short distance away from the scene.
Lightning’s eyes narrowed in shock. “What was that for?”
“Cheri just said not to touch him!”
“But he’s my Pokemon! I can’t let him die!”
Leaf got to her feet. “No,” she murmured, staring at Peter as his shrieks became muffled in the goo. “Not dying…”
The goo began to solidify, muting Peter’s writhing movements. It hardened at an alarmingly fast rate, its color darkening to a deep, dull green. Abruptly the caterpillar stopped screeching, and as he blinked rapidly, the humans were shocked to see the pupils of his eyes suddenly shrink to half their original size. His eyelids, coated in solid goo as they were, seemed to be too heavy to lift, as they were only half-open. He cast his passive, sleepy gaze at the open-mouthed spectators of the scene.
<Mmmph,> he muttered.
“Dun dun dunnnnnnn! Lookie at this ugly little bugger!”
<Mmmmmph!> Peter rocked back and forth, indignant about his inability to do anything.
“You say you want a revolutiooon, welllll, you know – insert guitar here – we all wanna change the world … c’mon, Naaaarrrrrrrgh, you know you wanna sing along! You tell me that it’s evolutiooon, welllll, you know—”
“Peter?” Wide-eyed, Lightning approached the strange, crescent-shaped new form of his Pokemon. The glow having vanished, he warily picked him up, the ridges along the tough shell making strange patterns on his skin. The shell was hard, yet strangely smooth, and it left a faint, powdery residue on the human’s fingers.
“Pffft, humans. It’s sad how emotional they have to be about these things. Metapod, the Sausage Pokemon. Gender is Male, but you morons already knew that, so whatever. Height is … geez, this technical info thing is really boring me. I don’t get why they had to send me here—”
“Send you?” Leaf raised an eyebrow.
“…Did I say ‘send me’? Sorry, I meant ‘programmed me’.”
“But you just—”
“MetapodisalamePokemonwiththeIQofasalamiandtheysho uldbeexterminatedbecausetheyeatourtreeseventhought reessuck, andalsonevertickoffaMetapodbecausewhentheyevolvein toButterfreetheirpowderswillputyouondrugsandyouwil ldiefromODing, thatisallgoodbye!”
“Strange…” Leaf scrutinized the bright orange contraption, eyes narrowed.
The Salesman, shocked with his unforeseeable defeat, began to recall his many fainted Magikarp. “You meet a lot of strange folks in this job,” he murmured to himself.
Lightning watched him for a moment, thinking. Then, after returning the tired Peter to his Poke Ball, he marched towards the Salesman, a determined glint in his eye. “Mr. Salesman—”
“I’m going, I’m going!” the Salesman cried, returning the Magikarp at a faster rate. “You won, you got your evolution thingy, let me leave before my dignity gets crushed even more!”
“It’s a funny thing, reputation,” Lightning commented, ignoring the frantic Salesman. “All it takes to break it is this little sentence: I absolutely owned him with a Caterpie. And there’s a good chance that I’ll use that sentence to everybody I see.”
“That’s a bluff and you know it.” The Salesman sneered, but turned pale all the same.
“Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. You’ll know for sure when you run into a bunch of other salespeople and they start snickering at you.” He stopped just a few feet away from the man, facing him with some uncharacteristic determination. “But perhaps I could be … persuaded … to let you off the hook.”
The Salesman bit his lip. “So whaddya want?”
“Sell me a Magikarp for half price.”
Relieved, the Salesman laughed as he recalled his last fainted Pokemon. “That’s all? I can work with that. Gimme the cash first, and then I’ll give you this lovely gem.” He lifted the Poke Ball in his hand to eye level.
“I’d prefer one of the Magikarp that didn’t fight, if you don’t mind.”
The Salesman pulled a face. “Wha?”
“You heard me. I get a healthy fish, you get two hundred and fifty credits. Plus your reputation.”
With a dramatic sigh, the Salesman replaced the Poke Ball in his overcoat. “Oh, all right. Here’s one.” He withdrew a red-and-white sphere, flourishing it in his hand as he waited for the money.
Lightning looked unimpressed. “That’s the same one.”
“It is not!”
“It is too.”
“Just work with me here.”
“Fine!” the Salesman snapped, tossing a different Poke Ball to the ground between them. “Fine! Be a picky blond snob! Just give me your damn money and leave me alone!”
Rummaging in the pockets of his baggy shorts, Lightning soon produced two hundred-credit bills, plus a fifty. Offering them to the Salesman with one hand, he stooped to grab the Poke Ball with the other. Flustered, the Salesman snatched the money and stormed off without a backward glance.
Sticking the Pokedex back in her bag, Leaf gave the boy a look. “You actually bought one?”
“Remember Kaleri’s book? ‘Gyarados is ugly, a brute, and Milotic’s evil twin’. What if I could prove her wrong? Wouldn’t a Gyarados have just as much opportunity to show its inner beauty?” Saying such, he released the Magikarp onto the ground, where she bounced up and down for a moment, staring at him.
“If you say so,” Leaf said airily, unconvinced. “Just don’t blame me when you figure out that all she can do is go ‘hurr’.”
To her utter shock, the Magikarp turned toward her, a look of utmost disapproval on her face. <Is that so? You do realize that, while I may look like my ungifted siblings, they are not me? It appears, then, that I am somewhat better off with a trainer, albeit marginally.>
Leaf stared. “A smart Magikarp? There’s a new one on me.”
“Really? She’s smart? Cool! See, we’re going to have an easy time with this, Maggie.”
<”Maggie”? What sort of preposterous name is that?> the Magikarp sniffed.
Something struck Leaf in the back of her leg. Swiveling around in surprise, she visibly relaxed when she saw that it was only Cheri, bouncing around in impatience. <We defeated them, so let’s go!>
Leaf rolled her eyes. “Fine. Lightning, Cheri says we need to move.”
<Fast!> Cheri squealed worriedly, zipping up to Leaf’s shoulder. <Fast, fast, fast!>
<”Fast” has twenty different synonyms, I’m sure you could have thought of at least one of them just then,> Maggie said sharply, looking disgusted.
Giving the new shapes of his Pokemon a final glance, Lightning returned his bunny and fish, and Peach leapt onto his shoulder, eager to continue their adventure. The entrance to Mount Moon loomed before them, dark and foreboding. Nervously, the humans approached the gloom, and left behind the world of light and heat as they entered the blackness within.
* * *
Phlash looked up at the midday sun, a strange, loopy grin twisting her face. <The egg is directly over the burger,> she intoned happily.
Cobalt didn’t answer. He was too busy readjusting his wig, knocked askew after the sudden earthquakes.
Bulbasaur, trotting behind as before, shot Phlash the universal “you must be retarded” look.
“Maybe we shouldn’t have come this way,” Gina said a bit nervously, as they arrived near the Pokemon Center.
“You know those earthquakes are covering for Rocket dynamite, right?”
“Yeah.” It wasn’t exactly a secret, after all.
“Guess who’s in charge them.”
Amazingly, Cobalt paled. “You mean—”
<Wait, wait, what’s in charge again?> Phlash asked, bouncing in front of them.
Cobalt scowled darkly. “Severus.”
<What? Oh!> Phlash suddenly beamed. <I know this song! Snape, Snape, Severus Snape, Snape, Snape, Severus—>
He grabbed her muzzle, cutting her off. “Don’t sing that.”
“He’ll recognize that rhythm, even if he can’t hear the words. And unless you want your head sliced off, it would be a really good idea if you didn’t sing that around him.”
The Phrygoil wriggled out of his grasp, still grinning. <But he can’t hear me now! Snape, Snape…>
Cobalt rolled his eyes. “He’s not that Severus. He’s the big, tough, executive ox-face Severus.”
Bulbasaur snickered, then suddenly gasped. <Cobalt…> she whimpered.
He rolled his eyes. “What.”
<Behind you! There’s a big, hairy, horny—>
“I knew it! I knew you were going to make a sick joke like that!”
<What? Turn around, we’re going to die!>
“Whatever,” Cobalt growled, and swiveled around into the face of a very annoyed Tauros.
* * *
The left path rose sharply to the left, its ascending stony floor lost in the dark just a few paces ahead. The right path dipped shallowly, and a faint clanking sound echoed from further along its twisting, unseen corners. Curious, Leaf leaned toward the right, wondering in vain if the source of the noise would come barreling around the corner; but Cheri, her body wrapped securely around Leaf’s neck, jerked herself toward the left, forcing Leaf to take an involuntary step forward.
<This way,> Cheri whispered. <Someone evil lurks on the right. We’d best not encounter him.>
A tad disappointed, Leaf nevertheless turned to the indicated path, Lightning following in mild puzzlement. The steep, uneven slope was immediately apparent, and Leaf wondered where exactly this unused path led.
<The abandoned Moon Shop must be ahead!> Peach squealed, as if reading her thoughts. <I heard one time there was a monster who came scared everyone away.>
<There are no monsters but the Lord of Evil and his delusional followers,> Cheri replied, still glancing around nervously.
“Maybe you should explain this ‘Lord of Evil’ thing,” Leaf said reasonably, tripping over a stone but regaining her balance just in time. “And why you’re freaking out about crushing.”
<It’s Crushing!> Cheri snapped fearfully. <Not crushing, Crushing! There’s a world of difference!>
“I still don’t get it.”
Cheri was silent. The only sounds in the unlit, pitch-black corridor were the rustling of the trainers’ clothes as they walked carefully on. The mysterious clanking had been left behind.
They walked a long while, their pace slow and steady. The heat that swirled in the sun’s light could not reach the interior of the sturdy mountain, and Leaf clamped her teeth together to stop them from chattering. The stale air carried a faint scent of some unknown mineral, reminding Leaf of Roark. She half-closed her eyes and smiled, fondly remembering his sparkling eyes, the motion of his pale fingers running through his hair—
<My people have a long history with fighting evil,> Cheri said abruptly, jerking her from her reverie. <Since the dawn of time we have defended our Forest alongside the Children of the Moon.>
A moment of silence.
“The who?” Leaf asked finally.
“Ooooh, I love them!” Lightning squealed suddenly, banging his head up and down as if he were at a rock concert.
Peach rolled her eyes. <Darling, just when are you getting your distemper shot?>
“No, Lightning, I was talking to Cheri. She’s telling us about some crushing thing.”
<Crushing!> Cheri corrected, half hissing.
Lightning stopped banging his head. “Oh, right. I keep forgetting about your ‘I hear Pokemon’ thing. Which is funny, because I shouldn’t be forgetting something as cool as that, and I’m not really sure what that means, since if my memory’s that bad—”
“Hush!” Leaf interrupted, for Cheri was speaking again.
<There has never been a time when pain and suffering has not existed. The Forest is old and powerful, and yet the mere movement of an army crossing through will destroy it. That is why we fought together, Children of Sun and Moon fighting and dining as brothers. We were not always enemies.>
Leaf put on her “I’m trying to think and it hurts” face.
<I think I get it,> Peach said slowly. <You mean that your people and the Butterfree used to be friends, right?>
Leaf scowled at being beaten to the answer.
<Yes,> Cheri said sadly. <Cooperating in battle, we could push back any destructive foe, no matter how great. The subtle art of their powders, the force behind our spears … there were times in the past, too, when the Lord of Evil would rise, gathering his minions with him. But often it was us that blocked his way, us who bought the time the hero needed to strike him down … nothing could tear our races apart. At least, not then.>
Another moment of silence.
<What happened?> Peach asked in a hushed voice.
<An internal matter, a simple and trivial one which should not have torn us apart,> Cheri replied sadly. <It occurred a few hundred years ago, after the Lord of Evil’s last rising. It had been a particularly vicious and difficult war, and hundreds of thousands lay dead around the Indigo Plateau, their lives the steep cost for our victory. There was much rejoice over his defeat, and we celebrated for weeks in our Forest … eventually, my people realized that we could not merely let our spears grow blunt while potential enemies might still bide their time. We returned to our extensive training, sparring to get ourselves back to warrior standard. We encouraged the Children of the Moon to return to business as well...>
Peach leaned forward, eyes bugging in fascination.
<…But they had learned in that time that their nature is not warlike, that it is not their natural instinct to make the first move in combat. No longer would they fight with us, but instead lived like kings to hide behind our warriors. They laughed behind our backs at our persistence to live the way we should, calling us fools for our efforts. We ignored their jeers as best we could, but our pride could not be denied, and soon we turned on them as well, calling them cowards. The next thing we knew, armies were forming on both sides, to soothe our wounded egos. No doubt war would have broken out, too, if not for a hasty agreement made between ambassadors from our different races. It was decided that, if we could not cooperate, we would live separately in the forest, living out our different ways of life.>
Another blank space of quiet stretched across the gloomy path. The sound of pebbles clattering as the humans walked carefully along echoed against the jagged stone walls.
Eventually Peach spoke up. <So now you sun-bug things are living the old ways while the other guys are just partying it up?>
<They were until I ruined it all,> Cheri said dejectedly. <With the Butterfree holding my people as hostages, they have supreme power over the Forest. And the humans who walk through it, well … my people often swarmed at passing trainers, playing out their battle plans. We never harmed them, although humans, being delusional, would afterwards howl to their friends about us for days on end. The Children of the Moon, however, have no such mercy towards outsiders. They abduct humans for their twisted “party games”, first using their powders to subdue them before messing with their minds…>
Leaf frowned. “How can they make that into a party game?”
She felt a violent shuddering vibrate through Cheri’s small body, almost like a neck massage. <They bring the victim to some secluded spot, where many Butterfree then gather. They then compete to see who can … wh-who can … put the victim through enough mental torture to push him into insanity. They fire Confusions directly into the eyes, which can p-possibly destroy certain areas of the brain … they use their Gusts and Psybeams to c-create horrible illusions … the more vicious ones Captivate the victim, seducing him to their carnal impulses, and sometime d-during the act—>
Leaf thought of Roark again and blushed hotly.
<—Sometime during it, the illusion will change, and the victim will see himself lying d-down with a vile monster—>
The blush crept down to her neck and up to the roots of her hair.
<—And, in his horror and revulsion, he will attempt to t-tear himself free, but c-cannot—>
Something in her stomach twisted in a strange, fluttery motion. Peach glanced down at Lightning and grinned dreamily.
<—And instead it will p-push itself further upon him—>
Peach’s grin broadened.
<—And then, the tingling it brings—>
“OKAY!” Leaf roared, and the other three jumped at the sudden noise. “SOMEHOW I THINK THAT’S ENOUGH DETAILS!”
Peach, recovering quickly from the shock, roared with laughter.
Lightning had unintentionally bashed his head against the ceiling, and he grunted in pain. “Geez, Leaf, what was that about?”
“You don’t want to know.”
He rubbed his head. “Maybe I do—?”
“Trust me, you don’t.”
“IT WAS AWKWARD!”
<Keep moving!> Cheri hissed, as if this were ten minutes ago all over again. Shrugging, the humans resumed their walking, Lightning still holding a hand to his throbbing head.
The path was evening out now, and a faint, eerie blue light cast a sort of aura further down the lonely corridor. Leaf, still fuming in mortification, vaguely assumed they were nearing the Moon Shop. Mostly to distract herself from embarrassing thoughts about Roark, she said, “So you used to be friends, but now they have freakish parties. What does that have to do with this Lord of Evil business?”
Cheri shivered. <It may be that whether or not the Children of the Moon realize it, the empty shells their victims produce have been useful to help the Lord of Evil produce practice targets for Crushing.>
“Mmm, right. Except that what you just said made no sense at all.”
The caterpillar tensed in helpless frustration. <What doesn’t make sense?>
“It’s been at least half an hour since I asked what crushing — Crushing, then, sorry — since I asked what it is, and you still haven’t told me!”
<You’re better off not knowing.>
Taking a deep breath, Cheri lowered her eyes. <Our legends claim that the Lord of Evil gains his power by stealing it from others in the vilest way possible: by using his dark influence on people to make them kill others in awful, painful ways. He then intercepts the dead ones’ souls before they can reach Giratina’s realm, and locks them away within himself to slowly squeeze their life force into his own storage of energy. They do not fade or die, but remain there in unspeakable pain for millennia. When defeated, he can only sap minimal energy from every captive soul; but as his power grows, so does the amount of power he can obtain.>
Leaf had a sudden vivid mental image of a shadowy figure squeezing screaming lemons.
They froze in their tracks. Whatever had just roared couldn’t be too happy.
Lightning bit his lip. “Maybe we should’ve gone the other way…?”
Peach nipped his ear affectionately. <Aw, don’t be a sissy!>
<It can hardly have anything to do with the Lord of Evil,> Cheri said reasonably, looking deeply unimpressed. <Therefore, we have nothing to fear.>
They were nearing the source of the pale light, which seemed to open up into some kind of cavern. The distinct sound of scuffling and growling could be heard, punctuated by an angry shout.
“Someone’s fighting it?” Lightning asked unnecessarily.
Leaf’s mouth set into a grim line. “If it’s who I think it is, that monster won’t stand a chance.”
Then, in a sudden influx of light, the room opened up before them …
* * *
The Tauros, like most brutes, had a demonic tint to his beady eyes. He had a broad, muscular body, supported on four spindly legs and sprouting three lashing, tufted tails. A brown ruff of coarse fur wrapped around his neck and trailed down his chest, most likely the result of too much testosterone. The silver studs lined his forehead, and a pair of silver horns, as sharp as any knife, pointed ominously toward the Rocket members.
Sweat beaded Cobalt’s brow. “Don’t,” he murmured to his companions, “make. Any. Sudden. Moves.”
Naturally Phlash grinned and immediately shot forward, coming to a halt directly in front of Tauros before pointing at him with a paw and laughing. <Ha ha ha!> she yelled. <Walking burger! Ha ha ha—>
Snorting in rage, the Tauros sliced his head downward towards her body, clearly intending to gore her. But she was too fast for him; his horns stabbed at thin air, and as he looked around in confusion, she appeared directly behind him, grabbing his tails in her mouth before pulling them hard. He leapt several feet into the air, squealing, before making a crash landing on his back. Attempting to roll back onto his hooves, and failing miserably, he whined in frustration as his legs thrashed uselessly above him.
Cobalt blinked in surprise before speaking. “Maybe you really are worthy.”
Phlash spat out a hairball and grinned. <I know! Also, did you know there’s a dead body right behind him? I wanna drink its blood, I need my sugar. Sugar sugar SUUUUUUUGAAAAAR!>
Saying such, she leapt into the bushes directly behind the Tauros. A second later, she pulled out a limp body, which was still leaking blood from numerous gashes. His shirt and pants were ripped almost to shreds. From the Poke Balls on his belt, it was plain to see he had been a Pokemon trainer. Looking as though Christmas had come early, Phlash closed her eyes, opened her mouth wide, and thrust her head into the corpse’s body, sucking out the stagnant blood.
Bulbasaur moaned. <That Tauros must’ve killed him! We’re all going to die!>
Cobalt, circumnavigating the flailing beast, made his way to the body. Kneeling over it, he frowned thoughtfully before pulling a battered Pokedex from its clutched fingers; they were still warm, indicating that its death had been very recent, possibly just minutes ago. Checking the trainer’s details just long enough to make sure he had been nobody important, he then dove into the trainer’s records, scrolling through the list of captured Pokemon. His eyes narrowed as they took in the trainer’s active team.
He turned back to the body then — ignoring Phlash’s moans of sanguine delight — and unclasped the four Poke Balls from its belt, tossing them to the ground. Three bright red beams of light burst out before condensing into Pokemon: a vile-smelling ball of floating, purple gas; a gray-and-purple pig with black pearls lined along its head; and a small, rotund bird with wide red eyes and ridiculously protuberant eyebrows. Casting astonished glances from their dead trainer to the furious Tauros, they immediately scattered in different directions, the Hoothoot flapping off vigorously while the Grumpig scampered into the coarse bushes by the path with the stupid-looking Koffing in tow.
The fourth Poke Ball was empty. He picked it up warily before turning back to Gina, who still stood frozen in place, wide-eyed.
“Do you realize what this means?” he asked her quietly.
She shook her head.
Setting his mouth in a grim line, he tossed the Poke Ball up in the air before catching it again, noticing how the Tauros’s eyes narrowed in hatred as they followed its progress through the air. His fingers tightened around the Ball almost protectively, and when he spoke, the true tension in the voice was perfectly clear.
“That Tauros killed his own trainer.”
* * *
The Forever Young Casino sprawled for miles in the strange side dimension. Whether the Casino was the dimension itself, or was merely a fraction of it, was anyone’s guess; no one had ever found a way to reach the hypothetical outdoors. Indeed, no one ever bothered to. If anyone came, it was for the Casino. “Open 24 Hours a Day”, read the sign over the area where most incoming visitors materialized – but in a windowless building such as the Casino, who could tell when was day and when was night, or if either existed at all?
Spirits leaned over roulettes and slot machines, watching the spinning wheels with eager anticipation. In the Casino, no difference was made between spirits and physical bodies, making the normally transparent and air-filled spirits a sturdy solid, one of the main reasons for coming. It was not merely the souls of ordinary, dead Pokemon who visited: the legendaries, most of whom had a rather bad habit of sleeping for millennia, often sent their own spirits out to the Casino for something to do. Meditating Pokemon often stumbled here on accident, and would suddenly toss religious reasons for meditation out the window. Gambling, after all, was fun.
Humans were not wanted, dead or alive.
Many different sections branched out from the Casino: a massive mall which could give even the ditziest shopper a heart attack; an arcade room filled with thousands upon thousands of riveting, action-packed games; an amusement park and enormous pool, complete with several never-ending water slides; a hundred movie theaters, capable of playing any film that ever existed; basketball, hockey, volleyball and tennis courts; baseball, soccer, and football fields, all opening up to an artificial night sky; numerous stadiums, where those anxious to battle could fight to their heart’s content; an enormous spa with incredible humidity and a few part-time dead massage therapists; a room filled with checkerboards and soft sofas, where those who had died at a grand age could get away from “those whippersnappers”; a virtual reality room where one could have a lifelike, guaranteed risk-free experience; a seemingly small mountain whose top could never be reached no matter how high one climbed; and a long series of actual, dangerous, monster-filled dungeons far below the basements, for those who were seeking a real adventure. But entering each location required a ridiculously high amount of Casino Coins (
C). That was where the Casino itself came in: an acceptable sum of twenty Coins was given to every newcomer, allowing them a chance to gamble to achieve their wildest desires. Those who ended up in debt were not allowed to leave until they had paid up, but with all the action occurring, nothing could compel the dead to leave until the Death Overseers ordered them to.
But legendaries were not as easily impressed. The only thing that could make even them excited was the huge playing board in the exact center of the Casino itself, reflecting its status as the greatest game of all time. The game that could bend the laws of time and space, and simply toss all rational explanation out the hypothetical window. The game that could make Darkrai sit down and cry like a little girl. The game with such ancient power that the awestruck dead only referred to it as The Game.
The Casino’s owners had kindly dubbed it as “Retarded Mortals”.
Those who visited the Casino could be as strange and unusual as anything in their dreams, so when two cloaked figures suddenly appeared in the entrance area, nobody even glanced up from their activities.
<This is a stupid idea,> snarled the shorter one, the small muscles on her four furry legs tensed as if torn between fight and flight. She had a roughly canine appearance, her white and green fur contrasting against each other nicely.
<This was Mom’s idea,> the taller, bipedal one replied calmly. A tiny moneybag winked into existence right in front of her beaked face, the coins within clinking loudly. Not even flinching, she snatched it out of the air with a clawed, feathery hand.
The smaller one snapped at another appearing moneybag. <Alright, then it was Mom’s stupid idea. And this cloak is the most retarded thing you’ve ever thought of, Fystor. No, I don’t want those! Go away.>
The moneybag tinkled almost reproachfully before vanishing.
Fystor, the tall Pokemon – although only tall in comparison, for any adult human easily towered over her – sighed in a resigned manner, looking about the vast dimensions of the Casino, its dim lighting punctured by the brightly lit Game in the center of the room. <”Mom” and “stupid’ don’t belong in the same sentence.>
The shorter one snorted. <The irony.>
<We will learn something.> She paused for a moment in her scan, and her bright silver eyes narrowed as she watched a whooping Trapinch spirit.
<And you’re sure about that?>
<Absolutely. He probably already knows you’re here.>
The quadruped blanched. <Aw no, not him.>
<Why don’t you like him? You two make a cute couple.>
<Why should I like him? He’s immature!>
<Is not! He’s very sophisticated!>
She sniffed. <I sacrificed myself to keep the entire fricking mortal world and everyone in it from going to complete hell. All he bothers to do is run this retarded Casino with his sister and snicker at everyone who’s oh so excited about hollering whenever the same retarded little picture appears on all three wheels. Sophisticated my ***.>
Fystor scowled. The expression twisted her beak into a peculiar shape.
<Maybe you should compare your accomplishments to his. Oh wait, you don’t have any! Fail!>
<I keep these bloody Twins from getting bored!> Fystor snapped, stalking towards the bar counter.
Her sister snickered, trotting close behind. <This was exactly the same as it was when you were first assigned to them, am I right?>
<Hardly. We didn’t exactly have movies thousands of years ago.>
<Pfft. Renovations in technology? Who cares? All it boils down to is that Mom had no idea what retarded purpose you could possibly serve, and now you’re useless. USELESS! HA HA HA—>
WHAM! went the feathery fist as it smashed into the furry head.
A smirk appeared on the short Pokemon’s muzzle. <Type disadvantage.>
Fystor swore loudly.
* * *
Bulbasaur stared at the Tauros incredulously. That son-of-a-Bibarel killed his trainer? Preposterous. True, there were times when she really wanted to kill Cobalt, but she wouldn’t actually kill him. It was a pretty straightforward thing, really. This guy, though … he must be crazy.
<Ick!> the Tauros fumed.
Cobalt frowned. “Ick?”
Phlash raised her head in curiosity, fangs still dripping blood. <Ick?>
<Ick ick ick!>
“Ick ick ick?"
“Ick?” Gina repeated, thinking.
<Cobalt, just give up on your “ick” orgy already!> Bulbasaur rolled her eyes as she spoke.
“Yeah, but he’s probably saying ‘ick’ for a reason. Gina, would you check…?”
But Gina was ahead of him; she was already kneeling at the Tauros’s side, careful to avoid his thrashing, horned head. Whispering softly in an attempt to calm him, she patted his nose until he was no longer flailing about, but simply breathing heavily. Then, quick as lightning, she grabbed his lower jaw, yanked it downward, thrust her free hand into his mouth, groped around inside it, and soon pulled out something that was small and bright neon pink, dripping with the bull’s saliva.
Surprisingly, he did not resume his furious flailing, but instead spat viciously into the grass nearby.
“A Pokeblock,” Gina explained, noticing Bulbasaur’s baffled expression. “He hates the taste.”
<Bad ick!> Tauros spat. <Bad! Ick ick ick!>
“Then why were you eating it?” Cobalt asked, slightly exasperated.
<Tauros not want eat it! It ick. Trainer say, eat and you be cute. Tauros not want be cute! Tauros want be strong! But trainer say, eat. Ick get stuck to top of mouth. Ick ick ick! Tauros get angry! Tauros hurt trainer! Bad trainer!>
“Hold on!” Gina said, and from seemingly out of nowhere pulled a bright orange Hello Kitty bag.
“Aw no, aw no, it’s the bag.”
Gina rolled her eyes while she fished around in the bag, before retrieving a small cube quite similar to the one she had just extracted from the Tauros’s mouth, albeit a dull yellow. Holding it carefully between her fingers, she pulled his lips apart and forced the candy through his clenched teeth.
There was a moment of anticipatory silence. Tauros chewed it thoughtfully, but it sending him into a rage was still a possibility. Cobalt bit his lip as Gina watched the bull’s jaw move.
Then Tauros puckered up, squealing in delight. <It umm! Good umm!>
Cobalt sighed, visibly relaxing.
“Breeders know what makes Pokemon happy,” Gina explained, standing up and slinging her bag over her shoulder. “I guessed from the way he was acting that he might like sour candy instead of sweet.”
Abruptly Tauros managed to swing his bulky self onto his hooves, stumbling slightly to regain his balance. He looked Gina in the eye, but instead of goring her to death, he said, still sucking happily on his Pokeblock, <Girl good. Girl give Tauros umm. Tauros like girl. Tauros like umm. Tauros go with girl.>
Gina watched him warily. “Cobalt, what’s he doing? He’s looking at me funny.”
“He wants to come with you for some reason. Obviously he’s never watched you in action.” He snickered.
She gave him a look. “Not funny.” Turning back to Tauros, she pulled a strangely-colored Poke Ball – green rather than red, and flecked with red teardrops – and met his gaze again. “Tauros, if you want to be my Pokemon, you’ll get to eat as many yellow Poffins as you want, as long as you don’t kill anybody. Pokeblocks are nice every now and then, but they’re not as good for you as Poffins. Okay?”
Tauros nodded excitedly, horns bouncing dangerously fast. <Tauros agree! Tauros like umm!>
“Excellent.” Gently she tossed the Friend Ball at him, which opened wide as it neared him. Tauros converted into a bright red beam without a fight, and disappeared into the ball, which shut with a sharp click. It didn’t even wobble before the cheerful ping signaled his successful capture.
Last edited by SugarPesticide; 26th January 2010 at 1:51 AM.
Cobalt looked somewhat unimpressed at this anticlimactic ending. “Wow. You caught a dunce.”
The girl stooped to pick up the now occupied Friend Ball. “Oh, Tartar’s not a dunce! He’ll be great on my mammalian crossbreeding project—”
“Maybe he’s not a dunce, but you’re definitely one if you’re calling him ‘Tartar’.”
“Yeah, well, since Daddy ordered you, an admin, to do grunt work, I wouldn’t—”
Gina turned to him, exasperated, only to draw back a little at the sight of his chalk-white face. “What—”
“If the girl with the Lapras went into Mount Moon …” he began slowly, with the uncertain air of someone putting two and two together, “… and Severus is in Mount Moon …”
Suddenly looking extremely alarmed, he abruptly bolted off toward the dark entrance to the mountain, leaving the females looking rather baffled behind him.
Bulbasaur watched his shrinking figure with a mixture of disbelief and surprise. <Dunno if we should follow him—>
Phlash tore her bloody fangs from the corpse, which was now exceptionally pale and rather shriveled-looking. <We should, freckle-face! When Weird Hair Guy looks like that, he needs us to help him eat babies!>
<No, he does n—>
Without warning Phlash leapt up from the grisly body, latched her teeth onto Bulbasaur’s bulb, and tore off after Cobalt excitedly. The dinosaur swore loudly as the weasel dragged her along the hard, grassy earth.
<We gottsa folla him!> Phlash managed to shout through her mouthful of Bulbasaur.
Gina, watching the strange scene, took a hesitant step forward. “I must have missed something,” she sighed, and warily began to jog after them.
* * *
As they reached the bar counter, the bartender Hitmontop leapt onto it and spun into the air, rotating fast enough to generate a gentle wind. He nodded politely to Fystor: her arrival, even in a ridiculous-looking cloak, always demanded respect. <The usual, miss?>
One of his long, bendy legs snatched a glass from a shelf behind him. <And what for the kiddo?>
The furry Pokemon gnashed her teeth in rage. <Kiddo?!>
<Just a water for her. You know how kids are.>
The bartender nodded and dived behind the counter again.
Fystor smirked as she looked at her fuming sister. <To use your ridiculous vocabulary, you’ve just been owned.>
She did not reply immediately, but turned her glare to the bartender as he reappeared a second later, setting two glasses full of liquid onto the counter. <Maybe I’m younger than you, but remember that the middle kid never amounts to anything,> she snapped back, fluttering up to the counter with small, pink, petal-like wings and taking a sip of the cold, clear water.
Fystor’s eyes narrowed as she carefully lowered her beak into her own glass, which was full of a green, bubbly drink. She was thinking of something witty to shoot back, when she sensed a sudden change in the aura around her and realized that someone was now standing behind them.
The furry Pokemon yelped in shock, snorting water up her nose and accidentally knocking over her glass. Sneezing, she watched in dismay as the water cascaded gracefully over the counter’s edge, ready to soak the short, hard carpet…
But a weak wave of psychic energy rippled over them, and a millisecond later the glass had leapt up after the water, somersaulting in midair as it fell before rushing upward to catch every droplet easily. It then hovered in the air in front of the green, red-faced Pokemon, who was glaring at the newcomer while water continued to drip from her nose.
He was a graceful, blood-red Pokemon with the shape and sleek dignity of a stag or unicorn. Around the base of his long neck were four shining silver steel petals, which had an uncanny resemblance to a four-leafed clover. Similarly colored claws protruded from his paws, elbows, and knees, looking dangerously sharp. Seven long, rectangular plates sprouted along the top of his body from the tip of his nose to the end of his thick, pointed tail. His shiny, lethal appearance, however, was softened by a pair of delicate ears shaped vaguely like the number seven, and a pair of eyes as clear and blue as ice, though they shone with surprising warmth.
<Where’ve you been lately?> he asked, craning his head towards her slightly. <I haven’t seen you in—>
<Can it, Secloven,> she snarled.
<Aw, don’t be cruel, Shay-Shay! You gotta know I’ve missed you, girl!>
<Don’t call me Shay-Shay, that’s almost worse than Minnie! Now shut up and go away.>
<Give him a break, Shaymin,> Fystor cut in smoothly, swirling her drink around idly and watching the bubbles float up to the surface and burst in tiny sprays of emerald mist. Her voice was calm and chastising, yet she kept careful track of his aura.
<It’s cool, Feisty. Don’t you guys want to try your luck at Retarded Mortals? We’ve got a huge event on us lately, what with the Appster possessing the Missing One and all—>
<We’ve heard about it, we’re not stupid,> Shaymin growled, although her lips were pressed together to keep herself from chuckling at “Feisty”.
Refraining from commenting, Fystor turned her gaze to The Game, where numerous Pokemon crowded around.
<We’ve got our “chosen girl” in a relatively safe position, I guess,> Secloven continued airily. <If you hurry, you might get there early enough to back her in this round—>
Fystor stood up straighter. <No one’s backed her yet? Well, in that case I’ll—>
A soft, smooth voice behind her cut her off. <So sorry, Fystor. Jirachi’s just decided to back her, and you know how she likes to get her way.>
Fystor groaned without turning around. <Oh, no, not you!>
<A somewhat unsatisfactory greeting, but I’ll accept it anyway,> the new Pokemon replied, half smiling. When the eagle-like Pokemon did not reply, the newcomer prowled around into her line of vision. The whiskered head appeared first, boasting a pair of pointed, tufted ears and two glowing golden eyes. It was followed by a long, many-legged body, and six large pieces of broken glass protruded from her back, reflecting numerous shades of scarlet, gold, and sapphire. The long, jagged tail came last, twisting gently in the air. Covered in black fur from nose to tail, the Pokemon looked sly, yet her friendliness contradicted this, catching others off guard.
Looking unhappy, Fystor nodded curtly. <Sentarpen.>
The black cat Pokemon grinned more widely, revealing large fangs coated in a pale purple poison. <Fystor.>
<I know what my name is, thanks,> Fystor snapped.
<There’s no need for animosity,> Sentarpen said, looking somewhat hurt.
<I’ll be as animous as I like—>
<Calm down, Feisty,> Secloven cut in, sticking his head between them hastily. <I’m pretty sure “animous” isn’t a word, anyway. Why not just join in the game and have fun?>
Fystor scowled. <Animous is a word, it means “not unanimous”.>
<I sort of doubt that—>
<I’ll back somebody,> she interrupted him briskly, <but I really wouldn’t know who. If you’ll excuse me…>
She slammed the glass on the counter, drawing a shocked look from the bartender, and set off towards The Game, not once looking back.
<Fystor!> Sentarpen quickly padded after her, attempting to catch up.
<Why are you following me?> the eagle snapped back, not looking around.
<Fystor, you need to listen to me, something dreadful is going to happen to somebody down there and we need to stop it—>
<Yeah? The Missing One’s in the Lord of Evil’s control. Somehow I don’t think things can get worse than that.>
Sentarpen’s sorrowful eyes glinted in the bright light of The Game as she shook her head. <Things can always get worse.>
Fystor snorted. <I don’t believe that.>
<Really? His dark influence just made a Tauros brutally kill his trainer. That’s another Crushing, Fystor. Another boost to his power. And there will be another one if you refuse to help!>
Abruptly Fystor halted, still a good distance from The Game. Sentarpen collided with her and spat out several feathers.
<Just tell me what’s going to happen, and I might listen to you,> Fystor said coldly.
Sentarpen told her.
<Fystor, you’ll need the dice!> Sentarpen cried, for the eagle had just broken into a flat run toward The Game. Flustered slightly, the cat squeezed her eyes shut in concentration, and a second later three dice materialized in one of Fystor’s clenched fist. Not pausing to examine them, she continued to run…
* * *
“They’ll have gone this way,” Cobalt muttered to himself, climbing down into the dark passageway on the right. Immediately the clanking noise grew louder, and he grimaced at the discordant sound. Teeth clenched, he darted nimbly along in the darkness, and soon a faint gray light appeared up ahead, throwing shadows against the nooks and crannies in the rock walls on either side of him. Then he was through, and he blinked in the sudden burst of light.
Before him stood an enormous cavern, so tall that its upper regions remained obscured in shadow. The room had a roughly conical shape, and its opposite end sat far, far in the distance. Dusty tan-colored rocks sat scattered about the cavern, some hardly reaching his ankles while others towered a hundred feet above him. A strange shape jutted from the far end cave, its shining silver color magnified by the waves of silver light exuding from it. The clanking was magnified a hundredfold in the vast acoustics of the cavern.
“Gah!” He swiveled around, then sighed in relief. It was only Phlash and Bulbasaur, the former looking hyper and energetic as she let go of the latter, who looked less than pleased. “Oh, it’s only you. Now listen to me—”
“Cobalt, what are you thinking?” Gina asked irritably, approaching from the depths of the passageway they had just left. “Running off like that without telling me why? Shame on you.”
He glared at her. “You know Severus, he’s the kind that acts first and asks questions later. If that girl ran into him, we can expect nothing to remain of her and her Pokemon but a bloody mess.”
Cobalt was not listening: he had broken into a run towards the object in the excavation site, praying that his mission would not be aborted in such a grisly manner. Pebbles crunched under his shoes as he sprinted, and the cool, stale air whipped about his face. If he was already too late—
Skidding to a halt, Cobalt swiftly turned to the right to see several worried-looking teenagers approaching, wielding heavy-looking shovels. He had a shrewd idea that these were Rocket grunts; perhaps it was the black shirts emblazoned with bright red R’s that tipped him off.
“You’re trespassing near a Rocket excavation site!” shouted the lead grunt, looking rather nervous. “Leave now or we’ll be forced to—”
“Chill,” Cobalt snapped, whipping out the badge that identified him as a Rocket admin. "Anything big happened down here?”
The grunts visibly relaxed, letting the points of their shovels hit the ground.
“No, Cobalt, sir,” reported the lead grunt, running his fingers through his hair. “We’ve just been trying to dig out the Massive Moon Stone. Yeah, it turns out it’s real,” he said, catching the incredulous look on Cobalt’s face. “The Clefairy are going nuts about it, though, they keep chanting and waving their fingers like evil little cult fairies…”
“I bet they are. Has any civilian stumbled down here?”
“No, although I wish someone would. Executive Severus is in a bad mood today, he threatened to gut me when I wouldn’t cook his lunch for him.”
“Oh.” Cobalt sighed in relief. The mission was still on after all. “Well, I may just move on, then—”
A cold, hard voice interrupted him. “Cobalt … what the hell are you doing here.”
Cobalt groaned inwardly as a tall, long-haired man strode angrily toward him, pushing grunts out of his way as he did so. Black, greasy hair dripped to his shoulders, framing his prematurely lined face. He looked vaguely like a football player gone to seed: there were traces of burly muscles lining his arms, but as the arms were quite skinny, they looked rather out of place. His bold red shirt boasted a silhouette of a Honchkrow perching on a black letter R: the mark of the Rocket executive. He bore a mark of handsomeness, to be sure, but only the boldest or most desperate of females would show remote interest in him, due to his harsh nature and appearance. Of course, the fact that several long, bone-white claws protruded sharply from his tough-skinned knuckles may have had something to do with that as well. No one could be sure when he had obtained the strange claws, or how he had gotten them; but they could be sure that any references to Wolverine in his presence would definitely result in a violent and painful end.
Naturally people tended to be wary around him, which was why, when Cobalt snapped, “I’m wondering how you don’t shish kebab your brain whenever you pick your nose, that’s what I’m doing,” the grunts cautiously peered at Severus, half hoping that he might be put in his place. It was no secret that the two hated each other, after all.
“And I’ve often wondered how an idiot such as yourself managed to weasel your way into becoming an admin,” Severus sneered, coming to a halt in front of him. “Of course, the Boss always was a bit senile…”
“Is not!” Gina cried indignantly, having nearly caught up to Cobalt.
Severus shook his head, sending his hair whipping about his face. “I’m not impressed with you either, Gina, but you’re almost ordinary compared to this *******.”
Cobalt glared darkly.
“And look, a pair of runts!” Severus said without enthusiasm, noticing Bulbasaur and Phlash trotting towards them. “Are they yours, Cobalt? I must say, you’ve really lowered your standards … although, considering this is you we’re talking about …”
A scowl threw Cobalt’s face into shadow. “You know nothing.”
“You’d be surprised. My IQ is probably triple yours …”
Cobalt clenched his teeth.
“There’s something I’ve wanted to tell you for a very long time,” Severus continued, striking his claws together to create an ominous clicking sound.
Inaudible, the celestial dice flew forward from the feathered hand—
“You see, the Boss may be fooled by your stupidity, but I’m not. And you’ve been annoying me for a very long time…”
—breathless were the spirits of the dead, watching them roll—
“But the thing is, Cobalt, that you are the weakest link…”
With alarming speed, his hand whipped around, claws flashing in the cold light. Before anyone could react, he stabbed viciously into Cobalt’s chest, smiling evilly at the surprise and horror spreading across the admin’s face, as well as the blood spreading across his pale blue T-shirt.
Gaping in shock, Cobalt gasped for air, clutching futilely at his chest. Grin widening, Severus swiftly pulled his claws out again. Blood gushed from Cobalt’s torso, cascading down his front and staining his shirt. It splashed around his feet and onto the feet of others, who were too horrified to squeal and jump back. His eyes going wide and blank, Cobalt collapsed to his knees in a puddle of blood, deaf to Gina’s screams …
* * *
LOL, I know what you're thinking. "WTF DDT, three new legendaries at once?" Well, they're there. Deal with them.
Author's Note: Info on these Three Legendaries
Classification: Fortune Pokemon
Weight: 100.8 lbs.
Ability: Super Luck
Egg Group: No Eggs
Gender: None (games only)
Catch Rate: 3
As the mascot of Pokemon Jasper, the first of two paired versions, Secloven's as full of good luck as ... well ... anything. You know how kids sometimes see legendaries at the start of their journeys? Well, Secloven is the Pokemon to see. It also should be noted that while other regions have had millions of psychics in the legendary rosters, Secloven is the ONLY Psychic-type Kerothyun legendary.
Classification: Fate Pokemon
Weight: 128.5 lbs.
Ability: Super Luck
Egg Group: No Eggs
Gender: None (games only)
Catch Rate: 3
Sentarpen is the version mascot of Pokemon Opal, the second of Kerothyu's paired versions. Sentarpen is the very essence of bad luck, and is said that those who she appears to will die soon. She also tends to be more subtle than her twin. Uniquely, she is the only Poison-type uber.
Classification: Valiant Pokemon
Weight: 87.6 lbs.
Ability: Battle Armor
Egg Group: No Eggs
Gender: None (games only)
Catch Rate: 3
Fystor is the version mascot of Pokemon Topaz, the third version. She believes in justice and fairness, which was why she is the one who keeps an eye on Secloven and Sentarpen. It's her job to keep them from getting bored and destroying something.
Last edited by SugarPesticide; 20th July 2009 at 5:43 AM.
Wow! A crazy army of Magikarp, a metapod that is apparently, 'a sausage', and Severus Snape all in one!!
How did you know i like Harry Potter? lol
That Tauros seems suspicious, i'm sure there's more to that murdering creature...
Nice names for your games; Jasper, Opal and Topaz. If only they were real
And... can i do piccies for these lovely legendaries too?
Naturally you can. ^^ Just keep in mind that Fystor isn't an eagle per se, she's actually a bipedal griffin.
Ah yes, those names. I thought for sure that Platinum was going to be called Opal or Girasol ... Platinum doesn't really fit Giratina ... so when it wasn't, I wanted something to be called Opal. You know, since opals are awesome.
Not saying anything about Tauros. >>;
lol, funny as always and saw like one mistake but forgot it. Sry...lol
Pokemon Black team:
hahahaha oh man. I am hurt that you bashed magikarp sure they may be crappy pokemon but they have a redeming side as well they can......um....they can.............
anyways.....hahaha the randomness good story and I forgive you for the uber long wait but next time might not be so forgiving lol jk jk.
On an overall basis chapter was good description was good though one thing. Could you possibly remind us which trainer have which pokemon and their nicknames? Gets kinda confusing trying to remember who they were even though you describe them. Especially when we have to wait a long time for a chapter >,> hard to remember who has what .
Fan fic reader. Writer at heart artistic at heart. My name before was roodude15 and I'm back PM me if you want me to review something. I'm always happy to review a story.
I love crude humor it's the biggest thing since sliced bread and sliced bread is pretty darn good too
>_< I really am sorry about the wait. I was going to ask someone to kick me and hurry up and start it, but then I got three pages done over the weekend. Yay me. It should be done before the end of the month, so keep an eye on this if you're that optimistic.
And here's a list:
Leaf - Charmander (Frosti), Lapras (Paris), Weedle (Cheri)
Lightning - Pichu (Peach), Nidoran (Dory), Metapod (Peter), Magikarp (Maggie)
Ocean - Bulbasaur (Hideki), Spinda (Rosa)
Fire - Squirtle, Drowzee
Cobalt *deceased* - Bulbasaur, Phrygoil (Phlash Phryer)
Gina - Mudkip (Qwerty), Belly (Weepinbell), Sprouty (Bellsprout), Tauros (Tartar)
Belly and Sprouty haven't been introduced yet, but they were mentioned in Chapter Eight, so I might as well acknowledge their existence.
Also, thanks again for the compliments. I'm surprised no one's commented on Cobalt's death yet ... >_>
Last edited by SugarPesticide; 12th March 2011 at 12:24 AM. Reason: Caterpie lolwut.
EDIT: And the rating is back at PG-13, btw. Reason? The Jigglypuff scene wasn't that gory. I think.
* * *
Chapter Twelve: Of Miners and Minesweepers (The Ways to be a Hero! Joy for the Giggling Immortal Bomb!)
Fystor closed her eyes. I’ve failed. She wasn’t used to failing, or the crushing feeling of defeat it always brought. Failing was something that happened to other people, especially people with no lives.
The feeling was deeply contrasted with the cheers and raucous laughter as the dead continued to place their bets, unaware of the severity of the situation. In their eyes, it was mostly just a game. A dangerous, unpredictable Game, to be sure, but a game nevertheless.
The Game’s bright light penetrated through her eyelids, and it flashed and dimmed according to the scene playing out before her. Against her will the lids snapped open, and she watched the drama as if it wasn’t really there, as if it were only a bad dream.
“Cobalt!” Gina screamed, her delicate hands curling into fists. Jerkily she lurched forward, landing with a sudden splash into the deepening pool of his blood. Ignoring the droplets of blood which flew shakily into the air before latching themselves onto the hem of her miniskirt, she grabbed his lolling head and shook it frantically, watching his blank eyes roll back and forth. “Don’t die, you idiot! You’re not supposed to die!”
One of the more emotionally unstable grunts, a little girl who could be no more than ten, burst into tears. Bulbasaur stared in horror; Phlash sat frozen, not even the thick scent of death arousing the predator within when her shock was so prevalent.
“Stay with me!” Gina howled, tears flowing as thick and fast as his blood.
He merely drooped forward limply, like a dying flower wilting in the cruel winter’s chill.
Teeth ground in despair, she turned her gaze toward Severus, her dripping eyes turning as hard and cold as iron as they took in the sight of his smile, the smile of a killer.
“YOU KILLED MY BEST FRIEND!” she roared. With an abruptness to shock everyone, she leapt from the body, which splashed into the blood as she released its hold. Before Severus could react, she had knocked him several paces backward, and she rushed at him with uncontrolled rage. “I’LL KILL YOU! I’LL—”
“Save it for the theater, Gina,” Severus drawled lazily, pushing her away from him with ease. His claws nicked her arm, and a few drops of blood sparkled before they rippled into Cobalt’s.
She snarled at him, hair askew, eyes wild and furious.
“Your little admin friend is gone.” The words had a strange finality to it, as if they sealed the fact that there would be no return. Ignoring Gina, he turned to the grunts instead. “I know you liked him better than me. I don’t care. He had it coming to him.
“I’m not quite done with him, though,” he continued, swooping down and pulling Cobalt out of the bloody pool by the collar of his shirt. The unlucky admin was completely soaked in blood now, and it rained from his drenched clothing and wig. “He makes a good example of what happens to people who I don’t like.”
Still grinning, he raised his free hand in the air, claws hanging above his head for a moment before descending. He gave the body a condescending little shake, watching in satisfaction as the head lolled around, the arms swayed back and forth at his sides …
And then one of those arms rocketed upward, slamming a clenched fist into the unsuspecting executive’s face.
Severus’s mouth dropped open in shock, his arm freezing in midair. “What the—”
Cobalt’s eyes refocused, and his leg slammed upward into the offender’s groin.
“AAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRGH!” Severus howled, dropping him and crouching into a protective position, his eyes watering in pain.
Standing a bit shakily, Cobalt smiled at the expression on Severus’s face, before hooking his foot around the man’s ankles, sending him falling backward onto the rocky ground. His greasy head made a satisfying clunk sound as it made contact with a particularly nasty rock.
“What—” Severus spluttered dazedly, spitting his wayward hair out of his mouth. “But you’re – how did you—?”
In answer, Cobalt hooked his fingers through the holes in his shirt, then pulled them sharply in separate directions, ripping it open. On top of his lean, muscular, undamaged chest (which caused the little ten-year-old girl to swoon and collapse in the midst of her uncaring peers) sat something clear, crumpled and punctured, dangling from a cord around his neck and still trickling blood. It looked suspiciously like a bag of blood which one might find in a hospital or blood bank.
Severus stared at it, unfocused eyes narrowing in exasperation. “Do I want to know?”
“No, I don’t give my secrets to idiots.”
He ripped the bag from his neck and tossed it in the executive’s disbelieving face, smiling as the cheers rising from the grunts sharply increased in volume, ringing against the steep cavern walls. Then Gina caught him in a crushing hug, pinning his arms to his sides, and buried her tear-stained face into his shoulder, still sobbing; and suddenly all of the grunts were rushing around them, and he was abruptly lifted onto their shoulders and borne triumphantly back toward the excavation site, none of them caring that droplets of blood still dripped into their hair and eyes, because at last, at last, the tyrant had been defeated …
Fystor’s devastated expression did not change.
<Oh, look, there’s a happy ending,> Shaymin’s voice drawled lazily. Fystor sensed her standing by her side, with a dejected Secloven behind her.
How long had they been watching? She didn’t care.
<Don’t be so gloomy, Feisty. You know what, Feisty’s a good name for you, because it’s the most ironic thing ever. Feisty, Feisty, Feisty, Feisty, Feisty—>
Ignoring the fox-like Pokemon’s taunts, Fystor scanned around at the setting for the first time. A map of the world, shining deep blue and green, served as the board. It seemed that the ordinary laws of space did not apply to it, for the opposite end never seemed to stay the same distance away, and the many attempts of the dead to measure its hazy perimeter had churned out an equal number of results. The scene inside Mount Moon shimmered in the air before those gathered around, like an all-too-real hologram; various other scenes distorted its edges, rippling and changing as each struggled to be as real as the one in the center. Piles of numerous objects, such as cards, bones, and poker chips, seemed to sit motionless in the air above the board’s edge. The bright light emitting from it seemed to drown out the rest of the casino, which was dimly lit.
<Mein auss ich eetching,> a tinny voice complained.
Turning to the adjacent side, Fystor noticed a table that seemed to have been pulled up to the Game. The one who had just spoken sat in a chair far too small for her, jammed firmly between the table and the board. Her large, rotund body sported a curious lack of features: no eyes or mouth or visible face of any kind was present. That, however, didn’t seem to discourage her from sloshing a pungent liquid inside the glass in her claw-like fingers. Her tough silver shell shone blindingly in the light of the Game, and her short, cylindrical legs were propped up lazily against the board’s edge. From the darkness which served as a surrogate face, seven red dots flickered in unison at irregular intervals, as if they were blinking eyes. Sharing her table sat two others: a hulking rock-like thing with brownish dots and a patchwork appearance, and a brilliant blue crystalline being whose yellowish dots flickered just a tad less frequently. Both had tough-looking spiked backs, and both had a tough, almost bodyguard-like aura; yet the silver one seemed to hold dominance in more than just her obvious height advantage, even when she was currently reaching ineffectually for a nonexistent behind.
<Problem, Registeel?> Secloven asked airily, prancing around the spectators to meet her and shedding his sadness easily. Snapping his head around, he caught a backscratcher in his mouth from seemingly out of nowhere, before offering it to the golem.
<Ach! Danke, Secloven,> Registeel said, reaching gratefully for it with her free hand and twisting its hooked end towards who knows where. <Mein self be lairge, boot vat can I do?>
Shaymin stifled a snicker.
<Mein own hoppiness doch not mattair to mein self, anyway,> Registeel continued plaintively. <Ich mein mastair dat doch haff eemportance. Let oos toast to heem. Heil Regigigas!>
<Heil Regigigas!> echoed her hulking compainions, raising their own glasses in unison, albeit with some difficulty as they lacked fingers.Then, at the same time, all three of them dumped the contents of their glasses onto their own heads, letting the drinks splash sloppily over themselves. Regice’s froze into a peculiar shape as soon as it touched his head, but it seemed to evaporate into nothingness along with the others.
Fystor caught Shaymin’s eye, and they both burst into uncontrollable laughter. Everyone stared in disbelief as they leaned their heads against the board, shaking with mirth.
<Youch can laff,> Registeel said sternly, mistaking the cause of their hilarity for her loyalty, <boot mein mastair ees de king oof aull law ahnd ordair. Eet vas heem dat keeps dat uncouth Apolydon froom retairning to powah.>
The change in the atmosphere was immediately noticeable. Everyone around the Game fell silent, their wide and fearful eyes trained on Registeel. Fystor and Shaymin froze, the smiles vanishing off their faces as if they had never been.
<We do not speak his name!> Shaymin snarled, and suddenly she looked feral, teeth bared, feathery ears pinned back, hackles raised.
<I doubt it’ll make a difference,> Fystor said calmingly, despite her own unease. <He’s already taken over the Missing One, after all.>
But Shaymin could not be appeased. Still growling, she abruptly zipped through the air toward Registeel, before coming to a hovering stop just inches from her … face.
<You wouldn’t be so quick to toss his name around if you knew the true terror he is,> Shaymin snapped, the light in her eyes gone. <I don’t care if your master’s “de king oof law ahnd ordair”, it was me who kept him back in the hour of darkness. If it wasn’t for me, everyone in this room, including you, would be screaming in unimaginable agony.>
Registeel did not flinch. <Youch ich offahnded?>
<Putting it mildly, yeah!>
<Shaymin…> Fystor murmured warningly.
<Ich fine, Fystor,> Registeel said dismissively, waving her off. <Mein self joost vondairs vhy Apolydon vas not eerahdicahted, den, ven youch faced heem een dze hour oof dahrkness. Vas eet veakness, pooseebly? Or vere youch merely ahfraid?>
There was a moment of tense, abrupt silence. Outside of the game, the happy-go-lucky dead on the roulettes paused, realizing something was amiss. A strange quiet was settling upon the Casino like snow, and soon only those who were furthest from the game could still be heard. “Surfin’ USA” drifted softly from the loudspeakers overhead, clearly audible for the first time in a long while. Secloven bit his lip and glanced at the Game, barely noticing the cheering Rockets.
Fystor watched the odd staring contest, her eyes darting between Registeel’s relaxed position and Shaymin’s tensed muscles. This is the problem with abrasive personalities, she decided. They always rub together the wrong way. We don’t need that, especially not now. Hopefully Shaymin’s not mad enough to forget that.
Then Shaymin spoke, and her voice barely rose above a hoarse whisper. <Weak?> she hissed. <Weak? Afraid, I can understand. Who wouldn’t be afraid to face him? Who wouldn’t be afraid to willingly walk into the place where he is strongest? Who wouldn’t be afraid of a slow death by torture? Yeah, I was afraid, I’ll admit that. I was terrified, I was scared, I kept wishing someone would swoop down and tell me the worst bit was over, that I could go home. I was hoping for death, if that’s what it took to stop the pain. But it takes a strong heart to stay in a bad situation when you can just walk out anytime. A weak person wouldn’t stay there to save the souls of those who would spit on him as soon as look at him. I am not weak. I accomplished the task I was born to do, and my soul is still in one piece. The world was on my shoulders, but its weight didn’t crush me. So no, it “vas not veakness”.>
<Shaymin—> Fystor began.
The fox swiveled around to face her, and she was astonished to see that Shaymin’s eyes were bright with tears. <We’re leaving, Fystor.>
<Don’t argue with me.> She fluttered a little ways away, ignoring Secloven’s hesitant reach for her.
<I SAID DON'T ARGUE WITH ME!>
Everyone flinched. It seemed impossible that such a noise could blast from someone that small.
Fystor opened her beak, decided that arguing wasn’t going to help, and snapped it shut again. Shooting an apologetic look to Sentarpen, who was looking baffled, she darted after her overemotional sister. They only went a few yards before both abruptly dematerialized, leaving no trace that they had been there.
Registeel’s … eyes … blinked. <Vas eet sometink mein self said?>
Nobody answered her. The dead, taking this to be the end of the drama, turned back to their gambling. Their volume swelled to normal, in a babbling, untraceable flow of words.
Then a tiny, runt-like Pokemon across from the Twins abruptly burst into tears. <Th-th-that was so beautiful!> she wailed, tears streaming down her face. Her golden, star-shaped headdress shook along with the rest of her stubby body as she cried, and the teal tags sticking from three of its points fluttered.
<Erm … well, yes,> Sentarpen agreed, looking a bit uncomfortable. <But—>
<She is s-so inspirational!> the Pokemon cried. <It makes me wish I had a p-purpose in life, too!>
<But you do have a purpose, remember?>
But the Pokemon wasn’t listening. She seemed to prefer bawling over hearing people out.
<Jirachi, Jirachi, please!> Secloven pleaded. He blinked a long, slow blink, and a white handkerchief appeared directly in front of the little Pokemon’s face, as if by magic. <This is a happy place! Be happy, for my sake!>
Hesitantly Jirachi took the handkerchief and dabbed her eyes with it. <I-I want to b-be happy,> she said, her hitching breaths slowing, <b-but …>
<The Game?> he asked hurriedly. <It’s about time you had a turn, after all.>
At the sound of his voice, the dice – still scattered on the colorfully bright board, where Fystor had tossed them – rolled mechanically toward Jirachi, who diffidently opened her tiny hand. Without missing a beat, they leapt straight into her outstretched palm, where they waited patiently for her move.
Abruptly the scene above the board was pushed to the edge, replaced by the image of the girl and her friend stepping into the light. Sentarpen’s eyes gleamed: once again Fate would toss those two into another surprising twist.
<I don’t get it,> Secloven murmured into his sister’s tufted ear. Neither took their eyes off of Jirachi, who was preparing to roll. <Why did Feisty go emo over the Cobalt guy living? That’s a Crushing prevented, after all.>
Sentarpen didn’t move her gaze as she spoke. <It’s because they’re happy.>
<Wow, being happy. That’s a huge problem. Nothing says “the world is going downhill” quite like happiness.>
She ignored his sarcasm. <You have to be analytical about it. Think: the Severus is very horrible to the Rockets—>
<Understatement of the year.>
<—and they’re delighted that he’s been put in his place, even if it’s for just a little while. In fact, they are so happy that their aura just might attract somebody.>
Unaware of the stares, Jirachi’s eyes narrowed slightly in concentration, and her tiny fist uncurled as the dice flew from it. They flew through the air for a brief moment, glinting in the board’s light.
The smile slipped from Secloven’s face, and his eyes bugged in comprehension. <You mean … her?>
<Exactly. And she just can’t wait to practice that new technique she’s learned.>
He turned pale under his soft crimson fur. <Crap.>
The dice clacked as they struck the board, their numerous sides whirling as they spun in a sort of bouncing roll. They skittered for a moment before abruptly coming to a halt, a total of eleven dark dots facing upward. Jirachi hesitated before she reached for the stack of cards. The Game was on; there was no turning back.
* * *
The brightness forced Leaf to squeeze her eyes shut; after the long, arduous trek through the dark passage, practically any light would be too much to handle.
The noise was what got her attention: something snarling deafeningly, its growls ricocheting off the walls of the cavern. The beast seemed to have no need to pause for breath, for its snarl continued in a single long, grating, unbroken sound; yet every now and then it was punctuated by a sudden increase in pitch, rising almost to a low soprano, before returning to a deep, rumbling base. Whenever this happened, the scuffling sounds abruptly became more pronounced, and the mutterings of the human battling it became interrupted by a loud curse.
Curiosity quickly overcame her better judgment, and she forced her eyes to open for the cold blue light. The luminosity stung unpleasantly, but that wasn’t what made her gasp: the cavern she had just stepped into was roughly conical in shape, its slanted walls dark and flawlessly smooth. She craned her neck to peer upward into its height. So tall? She had thought for sure that their endless walk had taken them at least somewhere in the proximity of the mountain’s peak, and yet it still stretched above them, evasive as ever. Disappointment seeped into her mind at this revelation. Making an exasperated face, she lowered her gaze to the abandoned Moon Shop. The depilated, lopsided building was little more than a glorified shack, its roof slanted unevenly over one of its grimy windows. Its wood was rotted, and knots splayed though its unspectacularly dull color. Yet the pockmarked rocks surrounding it, the source of the light, splashed it in a silver that made one almost imagine that its walls had been beautiful at some point. Lower still was the rocky, jagged floor, with cracks that spider-webbed ominously through it; it was unnerving to imagine just how deep they might reach.
But the shadowy figure riding cowboy-style on the snarling, unidentifiable beast was what got her attention.
“Damn it!” the figure hissed as the monster bucked wildly, clasping onto its horns to stay on. “Why don’t you move it already, you idiot? You’re supposed to help me, not let it kill me!”
Leaf opened her mouth to retort, but then another familiar voice whined from somewhere in the shadows. <But I do not like it, Master! It is a savage demon, and it could crush me! Getting crushed is not what I was planning on doing when I did wake up this morning.>
From her side, Lightning nudged her hard. “I know that voice!” he said excitedly, referring to the angry human. “It’s Fire!”
Fire? What’s he still doing here? Then she noticed several small objects scattered on the ground, flattened and shattered: the remains of several Poke Balls. Oh, he’s trying to catch the thing. Makes sense. She remembered how he had saved her from certain death, and she blushed without knowing why.
The beast swung into the light then, revealing its features. Rocky gray plates covered its tough-looking gray body. Its legs, like its sharp claws and the horn on its nose, were short and stubby. Its crimson eyes flashed in anger as it snarled menacingly, attempting to shake Fire; but he was sitting firmly between the two spikes which protruded from its back.
Then he spotted the new arrivals watching from the entrance. “Well, don’t just stand there!” he yelled angrily, gritting his teeth as the Rhyhorn bucked again. “Bring it down!”
Leaf and Lightning glanced at each other and shrugged. “’Kay, Peach, get ready for this one,” Lightning said, giving the small yellow mouse a knowing look.
“No,” Leaf said suddenly.
“I want my Pokemon to deal with this one,” she explained, grabbing a Poke Ball off her belt. “They need the experience for the next gym, since they actually need to win that one. Besides, electricity doesn’t do anything against rock-types.”
“… You mean ground-types.”
“Well, for all intents and purposes they’re the same thing, right?”
Paris and Frosti materialized in beams of red as bright as sparkling rubies, the silver of her shell and the flame of his tail shining brightly in the dim cave. Leaf tried to suppress her shock at the fact that Paris’s head now reached her knee. She’s growing up so fast, she thought fondly.
<Look, Mommy!> the little Lapras chirped, using her indigo head to indicate the unorthodox rodeo. <That guy I beat in the place with all the trees is trying to fly! He looks so silly. But I think that horny thing is getting mad at him.> She giggled.
“He is, isn’t he?” Leaf agreed, patting the Pokemon’s head. The Rhyhorn, she could see, was beyond mad: it was frothing at the mouth, its furious eyes red with rage. The guttural snarl issuing from its throat vibrated the stale air. Frosti flinched when its unfocused gaze passed over him.
Cheri, watching it from her post around Leaf’s neck, looked unmoved by this show of wrath. <You’re wrong,> she said, sounding completely indifferent.
“What? How does he not look mad?”
The caterpillar rolled her eyes. <That isn’t what I meant. That Rhyhorn is female, you know.>
Leaf did a double take. “Really? She sounds pretty masculine to me.”
“I could’ve told you that,” the Pokedex said in an annoyingly helpful tone, abruptly forgetting its silence. “Perhaps you could let me give you some information that might shed some light on why it looks so incredibly stupid-looking—”
“WHAT THE HELL?” Fire roared, grabbing the spikes tighter as the beast almost threw him off. “ARE YOU GOING TO JUST STAND THERE, OR DO I HAVE TO DO THIS MYSELF?”
“… Or not. Fine, then. Be a pigheaded moron, you cowboy. By the way, your hat just flew off. It’s a very ugly hat, would you like me to obliterate it for you?”
“Get over yourself, Fire. Okay, Frosti, start off with a Sunny Day to blind him – her, I mean – and then sweep in with an Iron Tail. Cheri, while he’s doing that I want you to jump in there and slow her down with a couple String Shots. Paris, can you land your adorable Growl on her?”
<Yes, Mommy!> The Lapras nuzzled her trainer’s hand.
Frosti cleared his throat nervously. <Can I sit this one out? That thing looks rabid.>
“No. Now get a move on it.”
The fiery lizard cringed, but he nevertheless swung his tail around in a bright, fiery arc. Light from the shining rock rushed down with the sweeping movement, forming a small, bright, silvery orb a few yards above their heads. The flame on his tail grew startlingly blinding as it caught the surrogate sunlight. He then stiffened in shock as Cheri slid down off of Leaf’s neck and onto his head, ready to move in.
Warily he darted toward the bucking Rhyhorn, sidling around behind her before she could catch sight of him. He concentrated for a brief moment, and soon his tail became a bright, shimmery silver, matching the orb above. Looking nervous, he swung his tail upward before slamming it down on the Rhyhorn’s behind with a loud crunch.
<Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight!> Peach chanted, leaning forward on Lightning’s shoulder as she watched eagerly.
Growling, the beast clumsily turned around, murder in her eyes and a cursing Fire on her back. <Lizard must die!> she roared, twisting her head toward him with astonishing speed and sticking the sharp horn on her nose into Frosti’s flank. He screamed in pain, but she ignored him, instead yanking it out and twisting it into one of the many sections of Cheri’s body. The young Weedle cringed, but she nevertheless pulled her injured body away from the horn, leaving a gaping hole dripping with green bug blood. Gasping, she shot a sticky white string at the Rhyhorn’s feet, but the brute simply leapt over it with surprising agility. The rhino prepared to rake her lethally sharp horn through Frosti again, but a high-pitched purr distracted her, and she easily missed the Charmander.
“Atta girl, Paris!” Leaf cheered, patting her on the head. She could feel the Growl’s vibrations through the contact, just a second before they stopped emanating from the sleek sea serpent’s throat. That thing is way tougher than I thought, she said to herself worriedly, watching Frosti dodge the Rhyhorn’s horn again. I need a better way of getting this done.
<Leaf!> Frosti yelled, swiping at the beast with his claws. <She’s too tough for me! I really don’t like her—>
The next Horn Attack was better aimed, stabbing him right in the gut. He gasped as it knocked the wind out of him, eyes widening before they went blank with unconsciousness. Limply he collapsed to the floor, Cheri leaping nimbly off of his head before impact.
“Damn it!” Leaf exclaimed darkly, returning the fiery lizard back to his Poke Ball. “How am I supposed to do this? Cheri, try poisoning her!”
The Weedle leapt into the air, somersaulting over the raging Rhyhorn, and landed smoothly behind her, stabbing her large rocky rear with her head spike. The skin was far too tough to be punctured, however, and Cheri was forced to jump out of the way as the furious rhino awkwardly turned around, snapping at the spot that she had just left. A swift movement caught the Rhyhorn’s eye, and she slowly twisted toward it, only to trip and fall hard on the stone floor, her stubby forepaws entangled in Cheri’s clever barrage of String Shots.
Fire, still muttering profanities under his breath, grabbed another Poke Ball from his belt and threw it at the beast’s head, but she merely jerked it upward, smashing the ball with her spiked nose. The fragments spun wildly through the air before clattering lightly against the floor.
A sudden burst of cheering erupted from below them, and everyone froze, listening. Despite the huge distance that must stand between the floor and the base of the mountain below, the noise was clearly audible.
“Fabulous,” Leaf sighed, rolling her eyes. “Like this situation’s not crazy enough.” She glanced at the mouth of the tunnel behind her, as if expecting a horde of war-crazed Spartans to come bursting through it.
Frosti’s fake silver sun flickered, then winked out into nothingness. The cave suddenly seemed horribly dark, in spite of the shining stones all around them, and the Rhyhorn crazily stared through Leaf, awaiting her next move …
* * *
Brock stood in the tall tent’s entrance, gazing (probably) out over the scene below. The busy action of numerous police and medical personnel, still herding evacuees toward safety, mirrored the thoughts bouncing around inside his head. If someone had walked up to him two days ago and told him that he was going to have to deal with Tyran, angry citizens, his possible unemployment, a very pretty brunette, the destruction of his city, and the arrival of Roark, he would have immediately brushed them off. Events like those could never happen all together in such a short space of time, he’d have told himself. And yet here he was, two days later, staring – well, seeming to stare – over the large makeshift camp at the flooded ruins. It was madness.
His list of problems was far too long for his comfort. Somehow he was expected to make sure everyone was safe and on high ground. He’d need to go asking the nearby farmers beyond the wreckage for food to feed them all, as he was pretty sure that they hadn’t brought enough emergency rations to go around. And people needed to be kept somewhere, herded like sheep. Where were they going to go? It wasn’t as if somebody could just toss them into the Lost and Found.
Putting the people problem aside for a moment – all right, for more than a moment – he grimaced as he remembered a clash from just a few hours ago. Some gorgeous blond girl had walked up to him, bold and anything, and slapped him. Hard. Then she started yelling about how he was weak and should have been able to stop the flood, and why was he wearing something that tacky, anyway? Even though she was long gone, her angry voice was still ringing in his ears.
And then there was the other thing. He … looked … behind him into the tent, which was full of thin white cots, as it belonged to Nurse Joy. Several bandaged Pokemon rested on them, looking tired and bored. The Nurse herself hurried busily between them, back and forth, but she was passing by a particular cot far too often for Brock’s liking. The cot’s occupant seemed rather embarrassed by this.
“Really, I’m fine,” he protested for the fiftieth time. “I’m not hurt or anything. Skipper made sure of that.”
The gigantic mudfish standing by his side glowed with pride at these words.
“Oh, don’t be silly!” the Nurse chirped, sounding even more giggly than usual. “You need to rest, and what better reason to rest than almost getting electrocuted?”
“Hush!” she said, cutting him off. She reached his other side, placing a slender hand on his forehead. “Don’t get yourself stirred up. You need to just lay back, relax—”
“I thought you didn’t hold for healing humans, Joy,” Brock said suddenly, startling both of them. “Or are he and Leaf different subspecies?”
Joy was spared the need for a stammered excuse when the walkie-talkie on her utility belt squawked. The belt wasn’t very nurse-like, but emergencies such as these made such discrepancies unnecessary. It hugged her hips so tightly that she could only take rather small steps.
Brock wanted so badly to be that belt.
“Nurse?” the voice from the walkie-talkie repeated. Officer Jenny. Originally Brock had been following her all around the makeshift camp, but she had managed to lose him somehow.
Hastily withdrawing her hand, Joy unclipped the walkie-talkie, bringing it up to face level. “I’m here!”
“That’s good to hear, I’m sure. I’m guessing Brock’s with you?”
“He is! Do you want me to put him on?”
“For the love of Arceus, no.”
“Look, we’ll be having a meeting shortly. All the important people have to be there, you see. That means Brock has to be there for some reason. Are you listening, Brock?”
He didn’t answer – not that he had to.
“We need to come up with better solutions for this whole thing. I wouldn’t have minded just escorting the evacuees out first, but the mayor insisted that the sooner the problem gets solved, the better. I think he’s clamoring for city insurance or something. It’s not like I can argue with him, since I have to babysit Oak’s grandson. Anyway, it starts in a few minutes, so you both should hurry up and get here before I get annoyed or something.”
“We’re on our way!” Joy said in a cheerful voice so cheesy that both the young men sweatdropped.
“Good. Oh, and one other thing.” Here Jenny’s voice suddenly became soft and shy. “I, uh, need Roark to come too.”
Brock’s overactive imagination kicked in at this point. He didn’t like what it was showing him.
“We’ll probably have the Contest problem settled by the time you get here, you see.”
The spiky-haired gym leader relaxed at these words.
Joy rolled her eyes. “Oh, all right,” she sighed. “But I need to stay by him at all times. He might collapse, you know.”
“I’m not going to coll—”
“I know he’s perfectly fine, which is why I don’t want him to sit in bed all day. Besides, you’ll try and keep him there forever anyway, and he probably doesn’t want that, so at least respect what he wants.”
“…Okay. We’re coming.”
She clipped it back onto her belt and reached for him, but he leapt off the cot before she could grab him. A second later he was standing next to Brock, looking somewhat relieved. Skipper chuckled and followed them out of the tent, Nurse Joy trailing behind dejectedly.
“She’s actually pretty scary,” he whispered conspiratorially as they made their way through the short, yellowing grass. He glanced behind to make sure she wasn’t eavesdropping. “Way worse than the one in Oreburgh. At least I could promise to see her later. The Oreburgh Jenny, now, she was really bad. She stole my shoe once, and apparently she was doing some really creepy things with it, since—”
“Oh, shut up,” Brock growled, not looking at him. “Don’t go on and on about how much they drool over you.”
“And don’t pretend you don’t know what I mean, either!” Now that he had started, Brock realized that his internal dam had just burst. A few passing, limping civilians glanced up curiously at his volume, but he ignored them. “As if I don’t already have so much to do, you just have show up here at the worst possible time! Girls are supposed to be leaping up into my arms and gazing up at me while the rest of the panicked humanity swirls around us, but you’re distracting them! You know what, my life is turning into a pretty bad chick flick right now! I mean, why else would a jock get half-ignored by his own city when the nerdy cousin just shows up out of nowhere, and for no reason? You tell me that, and I might just listen to you!”
He turned toward Roark then, ready to deliver another, harsher blow; but the words caught in his throat when he … saw … the expression on the redhead’s face. The puppy-dog eyes he was being given were probably capable of inducing an “awwww” reaction from even a cold-blooded killer.
On an unimportant note, a passing little girl stared this expression for a moment before she pointed at him, looking up at her watchful mother and saying seriously, “Mommy, I want one of those for Christmas.”
Brock could feel his own heart melting at the soft, insistent gaze. You cruel *******, he thought to himself. You just had to go shoot him down when he was starting to cheer up again. He glanced (possibly) away, mainly to avoid the shocked disbelief in those eyes, and found himself being stared at by Skipper. The buff Swampert glared at him murderously, looming protectively over his trainer.
“Er … sorry,” he muttered apologetically, turning to look (apparently) over the chaotic mess below. His pride suffered slightly when he spoke the words, but at least a bit of the weight seemed lifted off of his shoulders. Besides, the chance that he would be smashed into the ground by an enormous mudfish had now dropped considerably.
Roark sighed. “I’m sorry too,” he said, dropping his gaze. “I shouldn’t be distracting you with girl talk when people are dying.”
Another pang of guilt stabbed through Brock’s conscience, this time for the people he had sworn to protect and yet had barely thought about.
Skipper rumbled darkly, but subsided as Roark patted his nose. “And I already told you why I came here,” he continued. “For Contests. You heard that yesterday when I was telling Leaf.”
“Yeah …” Brock paused for a moment, hoping to put the girl issue behind them. “But ... why here? There’s nothing wrong with the Super Contests in Sinnoh … well, nothing as far as Contests are concerned, anyway. You could’ve just ignored your dad and done those easily, and you didn’t. I don’t think you were telling the whole story the other day.”
“Of course not. But it’s not a pleasant one.”
“I’d hear it anyway.”
“Did you ever hear the expression ‘ask me no questions and I’ll tell you no lies’?”
Brock punched his shoulder playfully. “You’re such a nerd.”
The Coordinator grinned. “Something wrong with that?”
“No, but you would be so much more awesome if you were manly like me.”
“… Where did that come from?”
He shrugged. “I dunno. It’s true, though. Remember that family reunion a couple years ago, when your dad said to me, ‘Brock, my son won’t listen to me. Maybe you can convince him to cut his girl hair’?”
“I do not have girl hair!”
“Yes. Yes, you do.”
“Do shut up,” Officer Jenny said wearily, her sudden appearance from within a nearby tent startling them. “Brock, the meeting’s in here. You weren’t looking where you were going, were you?”
Brock blushed. “Of course I was,” he retorted defensively.
She raised a blue-green eyebrow at him. His knees trembled; it was so easy to forget to overlook girls when they gave you that kind of look. Roark stifled a snicker at the reaction.
Finally withdrawing her probing look, the officer changed the subject. “It seems like everyone’s here,” she said, counting them off on her fingers. “You and me — Jack and the mayor are inside — and there’s Joy right behind you.”
A slender hand suddenly grabbed Roark’s shoulder. “Are you feeling okay?” its owner chirped, placing her chin on his other shoulder and grinning in an eerily cute way.
Panicked, he tried to jerk away, but her grip was strong. Fortunately, Skipper was stronger, and the miner found himself easily yanked into the Swampert’s comforting grasp. Placing a paw on each of his trainer’s shoulders, the mudfish growled a soft warning at the young nurse.
Joy turned pale, eyes widening. Roark would have felt sorry for her if she hadn’t been so terrifyingly overbearing.
Brock seemed to feel sorry for her anyway.
“Fear not, sweet nurse!” he exclaimed, leaping at her and throwing his arms around her in what was meant to be a protective hug. “I will save you! I can be your hero, baby …”
Roark watched the look of stupefied disbelief on her face, and he desperately hoped that he hadn’t been wearing it just a few seconds earlier.
“That’s enough,” Jenny sighed, rolling her eyes. “As if things aren’t weird already … anyway, Roark, we’ve talked about the Contest thing, and it’s been decided that even if there were a spot for it to take place—”
He hung his head; he knew where this was going.
“—A Contest really isn’t high on our priorities right now,” she finished apologetically. “I really don’t have time for keeping noob Coordinators from killing each other anyway. Not with that horrible excuse for a collector on my hands …” Her face suddenly lit up, as if by the metaphorical light bulb. “Say ... would you mind bringing Ocean with you? Ocean Oak? Just to keep an eye on him for a while, so he doesn’t get into any more trouble and I won’t have to be bothered with him. It’d only be for a few days.”
He shrugged in consent, then gasped when she suddenly leapt forward caught him in a crushing hug.
“Thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou!” she moaned happily. “He’s been so annoying! Now he’s out of my hair and I don’t have to watch him or listen to him go on and on about how he’s memorized the names of every subspecies of Magikarp!”
“Need … to … breathe …” he wheezed.
“Sorry!” she laughed awkwardly, releasing her hold and stepping back. The blood rushing to her face suggested that she had enjoyed that a lot more than he did.
“The Contest in Cerulean is coming up in just a couple days!” Joy piped in, staring at them enviously and half-ignoring Brock’s embrace. “It’s not far, you could probably make it there really quickly. Although,” she added as an afterthought, “that means you could stick around here for a while longer.” She raised her eyebrows at him suggestively.
He cringed at this remark. “I really need to take off, though, and Jenny needs the kid gone. But thanks anyway.”
Looking at the expression on Brock’s face, he felt an aching pang of hurt at his cousin’s noticeable relief. As if he had nothing better to do than monopolize girls, he thought bitterly. He’s not even going to miss me. Still, the relief was not immediately obvious under the façade of regret that the gym leader was struggling to put up. It wasn’t very convincing, but Roark appreciated the effort.
“Well, my half-sister who’s up on the mountain told me that the Rockets are causing some nasty earthquakes up there,” Joy said, grasping at straws. “Maybe, in case somebody up there is hurt, I could come with the two of you—”
“NO!” everyone else yelled at the same time.
“Joy, face reality,” Jenny explained tiredly. “People may or may not be injured up there. People are definitely injured here. Do the math.”
“And we’d really move faster if it was just me and the other guy,” Roark added. He decided not to put in a “but thanks for the offer”, since that would only encourage her.
“And I love you,” Brock cooed.
Everyone stared at him. He … gazed … down at Joy for a long while before seeming to look up, noticing their incredulous gawking.
“What?” he asked defensively. “It’s true.”
* * *
“If you’re smart, you’ll use Paris,” the Pokedex commented helpfully, ignoring the sound of the cheering as Cheri artfully leapt away from another potential goring.
Leaf glared at it. “I’m not sending a baby like her into a fight against that thing.”
<Hey!> Paris pouted, sticking out her lower lip. <I’m no baby, Mommy! I’m a big girl now!>
“No, Paris, you’ll get hurt—”
“Suit yourself,” the Pokedex said, shrugging. “But she’s got a wider moveset than that Weedle. Just throwing my two cents in here.”
Leaf and Lightning simply gawked at it.
“…What?” it asked rudely. “Don’t look at me that way! I am not an animal!”
“You …” Lightning said shakily, “… y-you just shrugged.”
“I did not shrug,” it retorted snappily. “It’s impossible. Everyone knows that Pokedexes can’t shrug.”
“But you just did,” Leaf pointed out.
“I did no such thing. Next you’ll be telling me I’ve grown another eye.”
“What startlingly intelligent conversationalists. I really love your arguments, but could you at least pause for breath once in a while?”
Leaf rubbed her aching temples; she didn’t need the Pokedex’s sarcasm in the heat of the battle. “Please, just tell us info about it. I’m not in the mood for funny business right now.”
“Aw, you’re no fun. Rhyhorn, the Blockhead Pokemon. Gender is Female, like you didn’t know that already. Did you know that it has a brain whose composition is ninety-eight percent mineral? Meaning that its brain is literally MADE OF ROCK. Yeah, it doesn’t help that the thing is the size of your fist, either. It’s so stupid, it can only remember one thing at a time! And its nerve endings are pretty rocky, too, so it’s not going to feel any pain from whatever you throw at it. Not until tomorrow, anyway. Then it’ll get a pretty good idea of what a hangover is like, I think.”
The girl tapped her chin with her fingers, thinking. “Stupid … one thing at a time … hmm. Paris, you’re going out there after all.”
The little Lapras grinned and tensed, eager to battle.
“The Rhyhorn might not remember to faint,” Lightning commented.
That wasn’t comforting.
“Kay, Paris,” Leaf said, ignoring him and keeping her eyes on the battle. Cheri leapt gracefully, almost as if dancing, while the Rhyhorn’s bulkier movements were reminiscent of some drugged cow, complete with a very unhappy cowboy. Beauty and the beasts, she thought, and chuckled inwardly. “I need you to give Rhyhorn a good dose of Water Gun. Then she’s going to look at us, and you can give her another one right in the face! Sound good?”
<Yeah!> Paris cheered excitedly. Following the brute’s movements with her head, she opened her mouth and launched a solid stream of water through the air, striking her right in the side. Angrily she turned around, fuming, only to get a harsh eyeful of water. Screeching, she squeezed her eyes shut, trying to clear the water from them.
“Great job! Now I want you to hit her hard with a Return, but don’t stick around to get hurt.”
The Lapras gazed up at her trainer in admiration, her eyes turning into huge pink hearts. <I love you, Mommy!> she squealed happily, seeming almost to grow taller right before her trainer’s eyes. Then Leaf realized that she was floating on a large pink heart, which was swelling and rising off the floor like some mutant hovercraft. Hardly two seconds had passed from Leaf’s command, when Paris abruptly took off on her heart, racing above the cavern floor and weaving around wildly. Giggling, she dive-bombed the horned menace, slamming her into the ground with astonishing force. A few indigo scales flew off upon impact, clattering softly against the floor. She then rose swiftly into the air again, yelping <Wheeeee!> as the Rhyhorn groaned and picked herself off the floor, disoriented. Fire took the opportunity to get a better grip on the horn in front of him, grumbling inaudibly.
Leaf stared in wonder. Cute, shiny, and powerful? She wished Skipper were here to watch. “Whoa, nice one! Now stick her with an Ice Shard before she tries to hit you! Cheri, try poisoning her again.”
<It didn’t work the first time, did it, human?> Cheri muttered, but nevertheless tensed herself for her next attack.
Paris aimed her open mouth towards the foe again, and a sudden barrage of small, jagged icicles rushed from within it. With shocking speed they whistled through the air, almost immediately slicing at Rhyhorn’s tough skin. Cheri swiftly sidled up alongside the beast, concentrating on the damp area that marked where the icicles had struck, and stabbed it with her sharp tail spike. This time it hit home, sinking deep into the rocky hide, softened by moisture.
Yowling in rage, the Rhyhorn turned toward the caterpillar, drooling furiously. Her rotating body changed the angle at which the spike had entered, and Cheri, though she pulled as hard as she could, was unable to break free. The brute raised a stout paw, her stubby claws protruding ominously, and Cheri’s eyes widened as it began to descend, as if in slow motion, in a lethal Stomp that would surely crush her head.
“Oh, Cheri!” Leaf yelled in horror, fumbling at the Poke Balls on her belt in search of the right one. Lightning and Peach gasped, eyes wide.
Suddenly Cheri froze, twitching. A faint glow appeared around her body, distorting the view of the Rhyhorn behind her.
Relaxing, Lightning looked at Peach. “They call this déjŕ vu,” he told her, pointing at Cheri.
<I know, sweetie,> Peach retorted, rolling her eyes. But she patted his head, all the same.
The Rhyhorn screamed in pain and shock as the glow around the tail spike (because Cheri was evolving all over the place, not just where she was visible) began to eat away at the portions of the body that it touched. The beast easily yanked herself away from contact: there was a dark, gaping hole in her side, larger than the tail spike. Its edges sizzled as dark blood oozed slowly downward, its flow as sluggish as mud. Leaf shuddered and looked away, turning back to watch Cheri, who was trembling violently but would not scream. Poor, brave bug, the girl thought, half-smiling in admiration at her Weedle’s courage.
Golden goo began to drip from Cheri’s head spike, trickling down over her head. The trickle soon came on faster as a small stream; then it gushed down in full force, quickly encasing her shaking form. It hardened at an alarmingly fast rate as it poured down. The second her tail spike became fully coated, the glow abruptly faded, and the new Pokemon seemed to relax, although she still shivered from the memory of the paralyzing pain.
Leaf gazed at the beauty of Cheri’s gold protective coat, which shone softly in the light of the surrounding stones. The Pokemon’s lower body was tapered to a point, and a pair of skinny, sharp arms was held close to her chest, as if for warmth or protection. Her dark eyes narrowed into an impassive glare, but nothing else indicated that she had once had a head.
<Mmph,> she commented.
“Oh, yeah! LET’S DO THE TIME WARP AGAIN! Ahem. Kakuna, the Hard Pokemon. Take that as you will. Gender is … what the hell, you already know what it is! Why do you keep asking me dumb questions?”
“But you were going to, Naaaarrrrrrrgh! Eh, whatever. Kakuna are pretty much like Metapod, except they’re not on drugs. I guess that could make a lot of difference. Anyway, they mostly sit around doing nothing, because they’re such couch potatoes. Supposedly, it’s to preserve energy for their next evolution, but everyone knows that it’s really because their butts are really lazy.”
Last edited by SugarPesticide; 26th January 2010 at 1:53 AM.
<Mmmmph?> Cheri asked wryly. Suddenly bouncing up onto her point, she stood upright. She jabbed her arms outwards towards the Pokedex, and a sticky string abruptly shot from each pointed arm. The strings hit the Pokedex’s speakers dead-on, and its indignant yells were comically muffled.
Several yeards away, the Rhyhorn sat uncharacteristically still, staring in horror at the appalling wound in her side. Fire, taking advantage of her distraction, pulled another ball from his belt.
And then, quite suddenly, all hell broke loose.
* * *
Victory tasted sweet; revenge and glory were even sweeter.
That was the most obvious truth running through Cobalt’s head, borne through the air by Gina and his many underlings. As they ran under him, the wind ruffled his bloodstained wig, and he half-closed his eyes as he grinned at the sweet scent of unearthed minerals rushing towards him. He bounced contentedly as they happily attempted to navigate the uneven ground, their deafening cheers ricocheting off the walls and wafting towards the shadowy ceiling. Bulbasaur and Phlash ran alongside the horde of Rockets, the latter occasionally snapping playfully at the heels of stragglers. Glancing behind him, he smirked at the distant, pitiful figure of Severus, painfully dragging himself towards them. Returning his gaze towards the nearing excavation site, where several evil pink cult fairies were dancing in circles around the glorious silvery stone, he laughed as a beautiful idea formed in his mind: the grunts would be finishing the work under his command, not Severus’s. He would be the one to take credit for the unearthing of the Massive Moon Stone, not that unsavory executive. Promotion would be inevitable. The entire cave around him seemed to dazzle with the splendor that he was basking in.
And yet something still nagged him.
He tried hard to shut out the memory of Gina standing over his seemingly dead body, and yet he could still hear her words ringing in his mind, as clearly as if he were still lying prone in the pool of donated blood: “YOU KILLED MY BEST FRIEND!”
Inwardly he snarled in defiance at the statement. He was nobody’s friend. He had acquaintances, to be sure: grunts and junior admins and his own fellow admins, and executives and the Boss himself, all on a hierarchal chain of order. In the cutthroat quest for the Boss’s favor, grudging respect and sneering commandeering were his closest allies. He had neither the time, nor the capacity, nor the patience for friendship.
And yet another part of him was treacherously touched by her words. There was something oddly refreshing in having somebody around who could look him in the eye without fear or disgust, somebody who could poke fun at him without fearing a negative report as a result. And really, if he was honest with himself, he enjoyed her company. Certainly more than the mindlessness of the many grunts under him. Not to mention that it was always nice to have somebody to balance him out, to catch him when he fell.
How very poetic, he snapped sarcastically, trying to drive the feeling away. Next you’re going to burst into song and skip off into the sunshine. Get a hold on yourself.
Perhaps he would have struggled with his inner emotions more, to create a deeply uncertain character complex. Perhaps, in time, he could have reached a conclusion that could have both solved his problems and eased his guilt at having them in the first place. Perhaps he might have really reached a point at which he would willingly burst into song and skip off into the sunshine.
But, thanks to the giggler, the world will never know.
* * *
On the treacherous, sun-baked trails that climbed uncertainly upwards towards Mount Moon, as the sun began fall into the west on its journey toward sunset, one would expect to see a Spearow eating a dead Rattata, or perhaps a deranged child flaunting his shorts fetish.
One would not expect to see a massive mudfish climbing steadily upwards, breathing heavily, with four passengers aboard for the bumpy ride; their combined weight would not pose nearly as big a problem to his injury as the crushing coils of an Onix would. A Pokemon snoozed comfortably in the arms of the human in front. Another Pokemon lay sprawled on the Swampert’s large head, and was gritting her teeth at the endless babble streaming from the second human.
“So I dold hib dat I’d begome de greadest collegdor id de world,” Ocean was saying, sniffing heartily. “Ad he said do be, he said: ‘Oh really?’ Ad I gould’dt led hib hab de lasd word, gould I? So I gabe hib dis look, see, ad I said, ‘Yeah, really!’ Ad I guess he gould’dt really beliebe dat, so he raised his eyebrow, de lefd one, I dink, ad he said, ‘Do way!’ Bud I needed hib do see dat I was serious here, so I said—”
<Please,> the Pokemon muttered, leaning her head against one of Skipper’s blue head fins. <Somebody. Shoot. Me. Now.>
Closing his eyes, Roark took several deep breaths to calm himself. Hardly fifteen minutes in the excitable blonde’s company, and he was really starting to pity Officer Jenny – the Pewter Jenny, that is. He would never forgive Oreburgh Jenny for what she did to his shoe.
“… I really liged Dyrad, he was fud. I jusd wish I gould habe agdually draid hib bedder. Ded he’d sdill be bide. I wish I had Leaf’s luck, she fides de Labras ad de Swamberd … Roarg, did you dow dat your Swamberd loogs exagdly lige Leaf’s? Bud I dink hers is fadder …”
“So you ad Brogg are gousids, den? I deber dew dad. Id’d be hard do guess, you dow, sidce you loog so differedt frob eajh other. Lige, how you're really, really pale, ad he's nod. And he does’dt habe eyes, bud you obviously habe eyes. I bead, loog at dose glasses! Dey’re, lige, edorbous! You really are a derd … id a good way, ob gourse! I dew a derd odce, he was fud. Bud den he fell off a cliff. Dat sugged for hib …”
“You eber heard ob Eebee? Ob gourse you habe. Eberyode’s heard ob Eebee. Beoble really lige Eebee begause id’s really rare ad sduff. Bersodally I dod’t really gare for Eebee, dough, id’s a bit oberraded. Bud beoble tell be dat I loog lige sobbody who’d traid ad Eebee. Dey dink I’d be dice do id ad ode day ebolbe id idto ad Ubreon. Well, agdually id’d be ode dight, since dat’s whed you cad ged ad Ubreon. Deir fluffy coads are dice, dough. I gould go ged ode ad shabe it. Den I gould habe a bare Ubreon! Hahahaha! Ged id, a bare Ubreon? You dow, bare, ad Ubreon …?”
He pulled out his Pokedex and a pair of earphones. “Bide if I plug id?”
“Hmm … what? Oh, sure, go ahead, I don’t mind.” Yes! Please, for the love of Arceus, shut up!
“Danks,” Ocean said, plugging the earphones into the ‘dex. He then put them into his ears and pushed a few buttons to access the radio function, and after a few seconds he began to bob his head up and down in time to inaudible music, leaning back comfortably against Skippers huge, broad tail.
Everyone else relaxed in the glorious silence. For about three seconds.
<Finally!> snapped the Pokemon sitting on Skipper’s head. <I thought he’d never shut his trap! But my poor head …>
<Being thick-skulled comes in handy sometimes, then,> Skipper teased.
She made a face. <Shut up.>
Their trainer rubbed his aching temples with his wrists, one at a time, so as not to disturb the small Pokemon in his arms. She stirred and muttered something in her sleep, but quickly subsided in the soft, constant rhythm of Skipper’s footfalls. Her rotund, dark gray body boasted four stubby legs; their pale silver color matched that of the protective metallic coating on her head and back. A single blunt spike protruded from her back as well. Normally her eyes would be large, blue, and subtly demanding; but now, as she slept, they were gently closed.
<I’m not sure how Emily could sleep through that,> Skipper remarked, referring to the sleeping Aron. He winced as he pulled himself up a particularly steep section of the trail.
<I sure as hell wish I could,> the gray-and-blue Pokemon on his head muttered darkly. She peered up at the mountain looming above them, tilting her spiked, blue-domed head to get a better view. Her red, hawk-like eyes narrowed from the glare of the bright sky, and she crossed her stubby arms impatiently. <Man, Skipper, you’re so slow. Look, that Slowpoke over there is beating you.>
Skipper glanced to his right. <Huh? What Slowpoke?>
She smirked. <Ha, psyche!> she crowed, elbowing him in the fin.
He made a face. <Aw, c’mon, Anni. I just came back, so cut me some slack.>
<No chance of that, little bro. No chance.>
<So who’s little here?> the Swampert retorted.
“Say, Skipper,” Roark cut in, shifting Emily’s incredible weight to one arm, “speaking of Pokemon—”
<Who’s speaking of Pokemon?>
“I am, of course.”
<That,> Anni cut in, <has to be the lamest. Excuse. Ever.>
“I know. Anyway, Skipper, speaking of Pokemon, yesterday I heard you mention something … interesting.” He felt the Swampert’s muscles tense under him, and felt some satisfaction that he was getting somewhere with this. “You and Leaf were talking about somebody called Paris, and how there was ‘no need to let Roark in on this’—”
<You did a great job of not letting on that you could hear me,> Skipper commented hurriedly, letting out a nervous laugh. <And hiding your surprise that she could, too. Your eyes only bugged out a tiny bit, but I think the glasses hid that—>
“So I started wondering: who’s Paris?”
<I think maybe only Brock noticed, but you can never tell with his eyes. If he has any. He’s a funny guy, that Brock—>
<—His heart’s in the right place, but he’s a bit … what’s the word again? High-strung, that’s it. Takes everything far too seriously, except when there’s a girl around—>
<I’m not at liberty to say.>
“Come on, just tell me. What, do you think I’ll get mad or something?”
<No … yes … oh, I don’t know!> The Swampert gritted his teeth, frustrated.
“Does it have something to do with the time when you were … er … gone?”
“Really now, Skipper. If something bad happened that I need to know, you need to tell me. Please?”
Skipper lowered his head, uncomfortable. The movement involuntarily forced Anni to slide down his head. Caught by surprise, the Cranidos stopped her fall only just in time, grabbing at the front of his fins. She pulled herself back up, hissing in annoyance.
<Well,> Skipper said slowly, seeming not to notice his sister’s discomfort, <I don’t know if I need to. You weren’t completely honest with Brock and Leaf, after all—>
“That’s not the same!” Roark snapped suddenly, bristling. “It’s an ugly story. Horrific. Even if they’d wanted to hear it, and even if they didn't completely freak out, they would never, never understand.” Despite the blistering heat, he shuddered.
<You’d never forgive him, then?>
He chuckled humorlessly. “You know the answer there.”
Skipper almost nodded, but caught himself in time. <Like Anni and I will never forgive our own dad.>
Anni clacked her beak in distaste. <Bastiodon? Bastardon is more like it.>
<Indeed. So all right, Roark, I’ll tell you. Just don’t be surprised if you find that you can’t forgive me, either.>
“What? What do you—?”
<Paris is my daughter.>
The words dropped from his mouth almost of their own accord. They rolled heavily from his tongue, as if they were huge boulders to be used to seal his own grave. He continued to climb, feeling the rocky earth scratch his palms. He waited for their cries of horror, their accusations at his betrayal. Lowering his eyes meekly to the path he was traversing, he braced himself for their harsh words, and for Emily’s inevitable bawling when their shouts woke her up …
“Your …” Roark began slowly. Then he drifted into silence. Skipper wished he wouldn’t; he’d rather take a barrage of screaming and disowning than a cold, looming stillness.
But Anni was less subdued. <Your daughter? You run off into the middle of nowhere and have a daughter? Geez, Skipper. A daughter! Holy schist, do I look old enough to be a fricking aunt? Don’t answer that. A daughter! I never knew you had it in you, you lunkhead! For the love of fricking Mew! You go off and have a fricking kid and come back and never tell us? What the hell? How could you not tell us something like that, you retard?> She smacked him hard on the nose. <I’ve been a fricking aunt for who knows how damn long and I haven’t even seen this sweet little lovechild of yours and you never breathed a fricking word about the whole damn thing! Why the hell would you keep your big trap shut about it, you moron? Unless she’s a Bidoof. Then I might understand. But I have a niece! That’s so damn cute and creepy at the same time!> She squealed a very un-Anni-ish squeal.
Skipper frowned. He hadn’t expected a response quite like that.
<Did you hear that, Roark? Our little Skipper, all grown up! A freaking dad! Because evolving again obviously wasn’t enough. Way to drop the bomb, little man. Ugh, you gave me a fricking heart attack, Skipper!>
Slowly, something began to dawn on him. <Wait … you’re not mad?>
<Not mad? Of course I’m mad, bucko! Mad that you didn’t break the good news to us sooner! Geez.>
His jaw dropped. <Good news?>
“You’re serious?” Roark whispered finally.
<Ugh!> Anni snapped, nearly slipping off again. <You did it again, Skip! And right in the middle of my dramatic pose, too!>
<But …> he protested, faltering, <b-but I’m a father!>
<Obviously.> He couldn’t see her expression, but he could tell that she was rolling her eyes. <That’s what happens when a guy has a kid. It’s not like we’re going to think you’re the fricking mother.>
<I know,> he said, blushing deep purple. <But I meant that … well … what if I become like … like them?>
<What are you … oh.>
His words came out in a rush as he continued. <I mean, what if I ended up hurting her? Would I be really, really sad? Or would I just look the other way? It’s hard to say, guys. Look at our examples. I don’t want to turn into them.> He cringed at the thought.
“But you love her,” Roark reasoned softly. “You wouldn’t want to hurt her in the first place.”
Skipper was silent, his brow creased in thought. That argument had never occurred to him.
Suddenly an arm was flung around his short, thick neck in a tight hug. “Oh, Skipper!” Roark sobbed, his face buried in a broad blue shoulder; the Swampert could feel his trainer’s tears absorbed into his skin. “You’re a dad! It’s so amazing! You were a cute little guy just last month and now you have a cute little girl and it’s just incredible—”
<Really, Roark,> Anni scoffed, cutting him off unceremoniously. <Look at you, blubbering twice in two days! And you call yourself a man!>
<Actually, he calls himself Roark.>
The others groaned at the horrible comeback. Skipper grinned weakly at their response, and the grin turned into a grimace when Anni facefaulted and smashed her skull against his, but deep down he was elated. They still loved him, even though he was a father. And now, finally, he could fully trust himself to keep his daughter safe and sound.
Of course, he’d have to fetch her back first. But that was a given.
Ocean’s voice wafted behind them. “Hey, gad you geeb id dowd? I’b drying do rogg oud do ‘Besd of Both Worlds’ here.”
There was an awkward pause.
<Um,> Anni finally said. <Ew. Ew, ew, ew. Throw him off, Skipper. Now.>
Abruptly, an explosion shattered that conversation.
* * *
Cobalt noticed something was amiss when he realized that he seemed to be the only human who could hear it; Phlash and Bulbasaur had paused to listen, but the mass of Rockets hadn’t. Frowning slightly, he turned his attention toward the annoyingly cute laughter, attempting to pinpoint where it was coming from.
<Everybody’s so happy!> the unseen creature giggled. <Happy, happy, happy! I like happy. Wheeeeee!>
The voice moved from the left to the right, before suddenly ascending high above the group, where she giggled happily, invisible. Cobalt felt an ominous feeling settle in his gut. The voice reminded him of a horror movie he had seen once, where a demonic thing had possessed a cheerful little girl and then proceeded to slaughter her parents, neighbors, and an annoying older kid who had teased her for wearing braces.
<Their aura’s sooo pretty!> the voice chirped happily. <I like pretty. Pretty means happy. Happy means fun! And fun means games! Yay!>
The Rockets, who were quite unaware that their aura was pretty, had almost reached the excavation site. Cobalt forced himself to ignore the voice, concentrating instead on the sparkling silver portion of the Moon Stone that had already been unearthed. The one he had ransacked from the museum (still securely situated in the canvas bag that he had not let go of, even in “death”) would be nothing compared to this marvel. The possibilities it would open up were endless; its potency was probably astounding. And by revealing its glory, he would cement his own. Giggling voices have no place here, he told himself sternly. Especially annoying ones. It’s all just a figment of your imaginat—
Something exploded some distance to their right, sending debris flying in all directions and shaking the ground beneath their feet. The Rockets abruptly paused, their voices suddenly silencing. The echoes of their cheers rang eerily through the stale air.
“I don’t think we planned that one,” a grunt said helpfully, biting his lip.
Then Cobalt caught a glimpse of it: a bright pink Pokemon, darting playfully from boulder to boulder, far too fast for him to get a proper look at. Sadly, she seemed no worse for the wear from exploding just seconds before. She levitated a few feet above the air, sometimes rising and falling to the quick rhythm of her laughter. His eyes narrowed slightly as he considered her. Maybe she was worth something.
“Over there!” he exclaimed, pointing at her; but she had already moved along by the time he had finished his sentence. “That Pokemon! Look, it’s—”
An even bigger explosion cut him off. This one was directly in front of the Rockets, knocking several off their feet. The majority toppled like dominoes, falling hard on each other, while others broke away from the group and ran in all directions, shrieking in panic. Cobalt fell hard onto the ground as his bearers collapsed beneath him. Cursing loudly, he climbed awkwardly to his feet, only to hit the floor again as a yowling grunt smashed into him.
“Fifteen minutes,” he muttered, pulling himself up again and diving into the terrified sea of red and black. “Just fifteen minutes, and we could have saved so much on that blasted insurance…”
After several seconds of pushing and elbow-jabbing, he managed to clamber out of the swarming mass of grunts. Looking around, peering through the raining rocks and screeching Geodude which the blasts had dislodged, he saw the mysterious Pokemon begin to shimmer oddly, than release a brief flash of light. Several copies of herself suddenly appeared out of nowhere, all giggling and leaping around just as infuriatingly. Each then proceeded to explode at random intervals, creating looming clouds of dust that obscured any trace that the perpetrator was still there.
<Let’s play Terrorist!> the original giggled, diving toward one of two large, somewhat tall structures on either side of the Moon Stone. The Clefairy surrounding it, realizing what she planned to do, squealed in alarm and darted away as fast as their fat pink bodies would allow. <The two Towers get destroyed first!>
<Yay!> the Double Team clones all cheered in unison.
Cobalt noticed a clone diving near him. Instinctively he ducked and rolled sharply to the side, narrowly avoiding being caught in another explosion. Pebbles rained on him a moment before he leapt to his feet. He started running toward the site, hoping to prevent too much damage, but a sudden thought stopped him in his tracks.
“Gina!” he cried out, swiveling around only to get knocked down by yet another fleeing grunt. Swearing darkly, he looked out at the mass of people, but failed to see any sign of his fellow admin. Jumping to his feet again, he pulled two Poke Balls off of his belt and aimed their beams of red light randomly through the swarm. The lights hit a pair of grunts, who yelped as they hit the ground, stunned. He swore again, trying to get a better glimpse of his Pokemon.
<We're coming, Weird Hair Guy!> Phlash's voice cheerfully wafted towards him, and a second later he saw her rushing towards him with a mouthful of indignant Bulbasaur. The freckled toad looked intensely annoyed, but so would anyone else who was getting dragged around by a psychotic weasel.
Nodding unconsciously to himself, Cobalt put the Poke Balls back. Glancing back up towards the mass of panicky people, he hesitated, wondering if he should stay and wait, or go and defend.
The shimmering light of the Moon Stone won him over.
Screams echoed about him as he dashed for the excavation site. Detonations blasted around him, creating ominous craters in the floor. He heard the sharp clacking of Phlash's small claws against the stone as she ran, and Bulbasaur's grunts of discomfort. As he neared the site, he watched the strange creature slam into one of the tall structures, blowing up upon impact. The bottom half exploded into a floating, dissipating cloud of dust, while the top flew halfway across the cavern, spinning wildly. Almost against his will, Cobalt whipped his head around to watch the awesome sight of a two-ton hunk of metal soaring through the air. It clipped Severus’s head as it passed, and the greasy executive smashed against the floor, unconscious.
Cobalt would have grinned were it not for the fact that the creature had just destroyed the mechanism that kept the earthquake-making machine from working perpetually.
Sentarpen gritted her teeth as another grunt died. <More Crushings, indeed.>
<It’s my turn!> Jirachi pouted. <Gimme those dice!>
<Say "please",> the cat-like Pokemon said softly.
<I don’t want to.>
Sentarpen shrugged and passed her the dice.
The stone beneath their feet could never hope to conceal the sound of the blast far below. Squeaking in fear, Peach grabbed at Lightning’s shoulder, eyes wide. Cheri’s eyes narrowed even further, and she peered keenly at the trembling floor, keeping perfect balance. <Mmmph,> she muttered to herself.
“Cheri,” Leaf said slowly, looking down nervously, “what was th—?”
The next explosion was big enough to actually blast a hole through the floor, sending chunks of rock flying everywhere. Cheri was sent flying, and she flailed around in the air for a second before Leaf hastily recalled her. Several rocks smashed into the walls, sending down showers of pebbles that rained down heavily.
Lightning did what almost any other red-blooded Kantoan male would do: scream like a little girl.
“Shut up!” Leaf yelled over the thunder of falling stone. “Something’s going wrong, guys, we need to get out of here!”
“No, really?” Lightning shot back, panicking. “I thought explosions only happened when something goes right! Way to be obvious, Leaf!”
Fire, being Fire, ignored them. He calmly tossed the Poke Ball at the Rhyhorn’s head, and she, being frozen in shock from the explosion and her horrific wound, never saw it coming. It sucked her in easily, landing gently on the floor with a soft clack. Fire no longer had a Pokemon to sit on, however, and landed with a loud thud and a curse. But the Ball snapped shut, and three seconds passed – drawn out infinitely long by the tension in the room – before it dinged cheerfully.
“There,” he said shortly, picking it up as he got to his feet. “I finally bagged this savage thing. No thanks to you losers.”
Leaf’s retort was cut off by another explosion. No hole appeared in the floor this time, but a few of the cracks suddenly widened considerably.
<Everything’s so loud, Mommy!> Paris observed cheerfully, still floating several yards above the scene. <It’s like a giant’s come to play! Do you think he likes tea, Mommy?>
“Paris!” Leaf hurriedly aimed the Poke Ball at the Lapras, but she was twisting around on her floating heart, causing the red beam to miss. Glancing at the ominous floor over which Paris glided, Leaf cringed when she realized that she’d have to traverse the treacherous ground. Glancing at the far side of the cave, she analyzed the tunnel there, the one that could take them back down and out of the mountain. The floor seemed relatively stable over there, but the thought of going over there on foot was terrifying. Still, she knew that would be what it took to get them out of the cavern, before it turned into a death trap of cascading boulders.
“What’re you doing?!” Lightning exclaimed in shock as she suddenly darted over the cracking ground. He and Peach gasped in unison as a small, jagged section of the floor suddenly gave way the moment she had taken her foot off it.
“Getting out! Both of you’ll have to, too,” she shouted over the cacophony of clacking stone, aiming this last remark at Fire as well. She moved quickly but carefully, aiming every footfall for a spot that didn’t look like it could cave at any moment. Closing in toward the spot that was beneath Paris, she aimed the Poke Ball upwards, but missed as the young sea serpent, giggling delightedly, swerved around on her magical pink hovercraft. The trainer was at a closer range than before, however, and when she aimed again, the beam of red light hit the Lapras dead on, sucking her into the Ball easily. The heart, no longer having a rider, vanished in a puff of pink smoke.
Lightning shook his head in disbelief. “You’re crazy!”
“So are you,” Fire sneered. “But she’s right. It’s not in my best interest to just sit here while I can still get out alive.”
Saying this, he turned and followed Leaf’s lead, sprinting over the floor. Peach nudged Lightning, pointing towards the opposite side and then giving him an injured look.
“Yeah,” the blond boy muttered, seeing what she was getting at. “I can’t really let you get hurt just because I’m scared, can I?” Taking a deep breath, he tensed himself, then began to bolt in the direction of safety.
But, of course, they couldn’t expect that it would be that easy. The floor beneath them suddenly jolted into a frenzied shaking, causing them to stumble in imbalance and alarm. The jagged cracks were definitely wider now, as dislodged boulders pounded holes in the stone. With an almighty leap, Leaf threw herself towards her goal, flying through the air for a moment before hitting the refreshingly solid floor of the tunnel, bruised but safe. Groaning, she picked herself up from the cold stone, rubbing her sore arm. She turned and was startled to see Fire’s Drowzee waddling drunkenly into the tunnel, evident relief on his piggish face.
<Master is having a problem,> he commented nasally, turning to watch the boys traverse the makeshift minefield. He cringed as another blast blew a hole right in the spot where Lightning was about to put his foot, and the blonde managed to avoid it only just in time, hastily twisting his foot towards a different spot.
Leaf patted his oily head absentmindedly, but immediately regretted it. Disgusted, she wiped her hand on the rocky tunnel wall, feeling it shake wildly all around her. “I know,” she said a bit sharply, disguising her fear as anger. “If they don’t survive this, I swear I’m going to kill them.”
<Is that not redundant?> Drowzee asked stupidly, looking up at her over his long, suggestive nose.
The girl ignored him, keeping her full attention on the others. Fire had started the dangerous trek first, but the earthquake had forced them to drop to their knees and crawl at a ridiculously slow pace, and Lightning seemed to be the slightly faster crawler. He easily passed Fire, and the brunette scowled darkly at the smaller boy when he realized he would be beaten.
“Gosh!” Lightning gasped as he finally reached Leaf, collapsing on the tunnel floor. “Never again! That was the worst—”
The hugest blast yet had them scrabbling to find a firm hold on the tunnel walls, grabbing at its rough, uneven sides. Clenching their teeth, they turned their heads to watch the entire floor behind them explode upwards, shimmering in the glowing silver light. The shack flew up with it, breaking up into single planks that twisted effortlessly through the air with the shattered stones. Then a figure rushed through the air towards them, and they gasped to see that it was Fire, flailing wildly through the air. For the first time in her entire life, Leaf saw panic distort his features, sweeping his façade of unemotional disinterest into some dark corner. Her eyes widened when she realized that he wouldn’t make it. He would fall close to them, she predicted, but they would be unable to grab him and keep him from falling down, down, down, into a hellish ruin below—
An image flashed before her eyes: she sat in the McDonald’s with Lightning and Brock only the other day, listening to their words in curiosity. The normality of the scene seemed to be a world apart from the nightmare she was trapped in now. She remembered the tenseness in their eyes (at least Lightning’s, anyway) when they had related her narrow escape, and how they still seemed relieved that Fire had saved her from a horrific death …
“Drowzee, Hidden Power!” she heard herself yell. She pushed herself from the trembling tunnel wall, throwing herself to the floor and gasping at the jarring vibration. Pain lanced through her body as she slid towards the edge, ignoring Lightning's shocked protest. Distantly, in the corner of her brain that had retained rationality, she hoped that Drowzee had the sense to listen to her.
Luckily he had. She saw the bright silver light arc over her, easily reaching the edge of the tunnel before she did. It formed into a long, shining, flat surface, which attached to the edge and extended a good ways over the terrifying nothingness below, As she moved onto it, the change was immediate, for the surface did not shudder as the rest of the mountain was. Suddenly her head felt clearer in the sudden, relative stillness. The rim of the surface flew towards her at an alarming rate, and she put her hands before her to slow herself. She skidded to a halt just in time, and she saw Fire fall swiftly towards her, fear shining in his eyes. Knowing she would only have one chance, she hooked her legs around the surface to secure herself and extended her hands outwards.
“REACH!” she yelled over the cacophony of the disaster.
Half a second later she had grabbed his outstretched arms, feeling his weight pull at her, straining the hold on her legs. Beads of sweat popped up along her brow, and she gritted her teeth as she heaved him upwards, knowing that only air separated him from the distant stone floor far, far below. Her muscles screamed in protest, and every portion of her body shrieked in agony, but she refused to relieve them by letting go. Jagged bolts of pain stabbed through her back as she dragged Fire, inch by excruciating inch, upwards towards her. She could barely tell how long it had taken – for a moment it seemed that nothing had ever existed but this – but suddenly he was there, kneeling in front of her. She realized that she was sitting, but she couldn’t remember pulling herself into that position. The ragged gasps of breathing seemed to tear at her throat. It was impossible to tell who was trembling harder.
“You saved me?” he whispered. His eyes were still wide, but now the fear was fading from them, to be replaced with wonder, gratefulness, and curiosity – more emotions that she had never seen there before.
Her head swam as she blearily peered at him. Rubble rained down around them, and she swayed slightly to the side as one whistled past her. He caught her before she could lean too far. Darkness started to close in around her, and her eyes fluttered in exhaustion.
“Well, you saved me first,” she replied weakly.
Then she fainted.
<Yay!> Jirachi squealed happily. <That didn’t take much effort! Now I can—>
<Like, no way, man,> cut in a large, floating blue Pokemon, brandishing tough-looking arms which boasted sharp claws. With its broad, disc-like body and piercing red eyes, it probably would have looked intimidating if not for the stupid-looking spike on its face that passed for its nose. <It’s, like, my turn. Your guys are, like, totally crusin’ at the moment. But my dudes need to, like, not get totally wiped out, y’know?>
<Give it the dice, Jirachi,> Sentarpen said, not taking her eyes off the shifting scenes in the Game.
<Oh, fine,> Jirachi muttered, pouting as she passed the Metang spirit the dice.
<Y'know, they chose their Chosen One pretty well,> Secloven muttered sideways to his sister, eyes narrowing slightly in the light of the Game. <A lot of proud noobs would just let their hugely annoying rival fall. That'd be satisfying to them, and they wouldn't really be bothered, since they're so callous and stuff.>
The huge black cat nodded in response, and her curved fangs glittered as she smiled. <I know. This one seems to have just a bit more to her. But she's still a bit dull, in my opinion.>
<Yeah. She'll blow her top when she hears what Lady Arceus has planned for her, though.> He laughed softly. <That's a benefit to sticking with whatever side is winning. If we don't want Feisty to trap us with their plan, we should help these kids on their quest, or something. Be guardian angels and all that crap, y'know?>
<Of course. But we cannot make things too easy for them, can we?> she said slyly, winking at him.
He caught the look and grinned mischievously. <I like the way you think.>
There is a man in Sinnoh who claims that prolonged exposure to the type a gym leader specializes in can, over time, breed a certain sort of empathy between him or her and Pokemon of that type. The man goes on to say that it has something to do with the gym leader’s aura getting attuned to the type, allowing him or her to better understand how those Pokemon feel or intend. The theory is an interesting one, but as the man currently wanders homeless in the abandoned mine of Iron Island, with no one but his mystical blindfolded jackal for company, the theory's overall stability is naturally questionable. It does, however, explain how Brock was able to sense Tyran's outrage in spite of the fact that the gym leader, at the time, had been hanging out in the back room behind the gym, rocking out to heavy metal with the volume cranked up full blast.
It also explains why, when the muffled explosions abruptly blasted from within the mountain ahead, Roark suddenly gasped and clutched at Skipper's shoulder with his free hand. Anni merely gave him a sideways look and asked, <What's with you?>
"Well," he said, recovering a bit from his shock, "I felt a sort of disturbance in the ... in the Force, you might say. As if a hundred Geodude cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced."
The dinosaur scoffed at him. <Way to be, Obi-Wan. You think they've been flung into orbit, then?>
He shrugged, returning Emily to her Poke Ball before she could stir. "I dunno. Skipper, keep a firm hold on the ground while you climb, 'kay? Those explosions could trigger more earthquakes."
Skipper, grabbing at the earth more tightly, continued to pull himself up. <I got it.>
Ocean pulled the headphones out of his ears, frowning. "Did I biss sobeting?"
“No. Just a potential bombing up in the mountain, that’s all. And we’re going in there to investigate.”
“Whad?” Ocean gasped. “Are you grazy? I dod’dt wadt do go ub dere! I’ll ged gilled for sure …”
<Oh, just trust your feelings, young Jedi,> Anni commented, stretching lazily. <Do that, and the Force’ll be with you.>
Roark gave her a look. “Okay, I think you’re taking this analogy too far.”
“Nothing. Anyway, you have to come with us. I promised Jenny I’d watch you, and that’s not easy when you’re sitting safe inside the nearest Pokemon Center while I’m battling it out with terrorists. Or suicide cults, or whatever.”
At this point they had reached the Pokemon Center in question, and Skipper paused for a moment, catching his breath. The mountain loomed above them as only a mountain can, frowning as the ominous vibrations of each blast rumbled forth from it. They masked the roar of the rushing Moon River nearby.
“Bud you dod’dt habe do baddle id oud,” Ocean protested. He looked toward the Center, where he saw several terrified faces pressed against the windows. He grinned and ran a hand through his spiky hair when he noticed a couple of girls giggling, but the grin slid off his face when he realized they hadn’t even noticed he was there.
“Well, technically I do,” the other explained, trying his best to keep his patience and ignore the rabid fangirls. “It’s a gym leader’s responsibility to make sure the area’s safe. Since Brock’s been too busy to investigate, it’s up to me to do that, even if I’m not really a gym leader anymore. You know, since I have authority and experience.” He let himself smirk with pride for a moment. Then he frowned as a thought occurred to him. “Although … I wonder why Misty hasn’t looked into this. Mount Moon is in her domain too, after all.”
<That's a good point,> Skipper commented, nodding thoughtfully. <She should've investigated the quakes in the first place, I think—>
<DAMMIT, SKIPPER!> Anni roared as she tumbled off his head, landing face-first on the ground. <I TOLD YOU TWICE ALREADY TO STOP DOING THAT! WHY DO I HAVE TO BE THE BUTT OF ALL THE JOKES CAUSED BY YOUR IDIOCY?>
The Swampert cringed. <Sorry,> he said meekly.
<SORRY? THAT'S ALL YOU CAN SAY?> She leapt to her feet angrily, spitting out a mouthful of dirt. <I'LL SHOW YOU WHO'S GOING TO BE SORRY, YOU LITTLE—>
"Save it for later, Anni," Roark chided, sliding a little awkwardly off of Skipper's back. "We need to check this thing out. Ocean, get off Skipper's back, he can't protect us when we're in there if we're sitting on him."
Ocean gave him a guarded look. "Prodegd us frob whad?"
"Nothing you need to worry about. At least, not if you're wearing a helmet."
"Fabulous," the younger boy muttered, taking a deep breath before jumping off, landing almost gracefully next to his companion. "Jusd dod't be surbrised if I rud off whed de whole blace gabes id, all righd?"
"Like I said, Skipper'll protect us."
Skipper rolled his orange eyes as they started toward the yawning entrance. <You wouldn't get three paces anyway, buddy.> A faint, barely perceptible vibration began move the ground beneath them, ever so slightly, but his broad paws were also quite sensitive. <Hmm. Seems like there's a bit of disturbance—>
<In the Force!> Anni intoned mystically, before she snickered in satisfaction.
Roark groaned, facepalming. Ocean gave him a "one of us is crazy and I don't think it's me" look.
Then, suddenly and quite inconveniently, the earth began to rock violently beneath them, sending them all tripping and falling in various directions, trying and failing to regain their balance. Hitting the tough ground, Skipper gritted his teeth as he slowly, unsteadily, pulled himself to a standing position. The others' yells were drowned out by the deep rumbling of the massive earthquake, but a loud clattering sound still reached him. As he looked up at the shaking mountain above, he was horrified to see a barrage of dislodged boulders begin to slide down its rocky sides, gathering speed as they tumbled. It was obvious that the rock slide would crush them if they couldn't get into the tunnel in time.
Grunting in concentration, he summoned the familiar waves around his arms, letting them circle for a moment to gather speed and momentum before letting them fall to the ground in a powerful rush. The water rushed around himself and his friends, picking them up in the artificial flood; somehow, even without looking, he could feel his Whirlpool bearing them, the water seeming to mute the vibrations of the rumbling. He then focused on the mouth of the tunnel, silently willing his waves to bring them there, and they obeyed his unheard call. They roared almost eagerly, rushing towards the dark threshold of safety, pounding roughly against the shaking earth.
Then they were through.
And not a moment too soon. As the welcomingly cool shadow was suddenly thrown over them, Skipper heard an ominous, thunderous splash sound behind them, and the sunlight which streamed through the yawning entrance abruptly ceased, throwing them into darkness. They floated there in the water, hearing rather than feeling the shaking of the mountain around them. The humans' teeth chattered audibly from the sudden drop in temperature. The Whirlpool remained beneath them, carrying them calmly down the shaking tunnel. It soon split in two, and, gravity being what it was, they floated serenely downward through the tunnel on the right.
A splash broke the almost calm eeriness. "I'b-b s-so g-g-gold!" Ocean wailed nasally.
Skipper heard Roark gasp. "Wha—? Oh. Okay, then, that's good to know. Just one thing."
"STOP HUGGING ME!"
There was a brief pause.
<Well,> Anni said finally, <this is awkward.>
<Like whoa, man,> the Metang breathed in awe. <Those dudes are, like, surfing! That was so, like, totally rad! I'm, like, in awe of their mad skills, man!>
<That is fine,> Sentarpen said patiently. <But if you don't mind, I would like the dice now.> She reached out with a black paw, giving him a knowing look.
The metallic Pokemon looked crestfallen. <Aw, man. But I was, like, cruising! Like my guys were with those wicked waves, man!>
<Like, I know, man,> Secloven put in, before he could stop himself. Several of the surrounding Pokemon spirits snickered appreciatively.
Sentarpen gave him a look. He grinned weakly in response as she took the dice.
The sudden earthquake sent Cobalt tripping and falling face-first to the ground. Cursing, he tried fruitlessly to pick himself up from the rocking floor, and in the end simply tossed his bag over his shoulder and started to crawl awkwardly towards the glimmering Moon Stone. He moved slowly over the uneven, violently shaking ground. His pulse quickened as the remaining distance was slowly but steadily swallowed up; it was only a few yards away, tantalizingly just out of reach. Almost there—
“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” he howled, eyes narrowed in fury as he watched the strange pink Pokemon dive at the Massive Moon Stone with impossible speed. She hit it with incredible force, and the resulting explosion sent him sprawling flat on the floor again. Hearing boulders thud ominously around him, he covered his head with his arms. The rocky ground was rougher here, and the jagged stone scraped his hands, knees, and face. He trembled as tears of rage streaked down his dusty cheeks, stinging as they rolled over his bleeding cuts. An uninterpretable hiss whistled through his clenched teeth. A few small shards of rock bounced painfully against his body, but none that would do any real damage. He barely felt them anyway; his shoulders were shaking with his ragged breaths. I’ve failed him, he thought miserably, picturing the disappointed look on the Boss’s face when he arrived empty-handed. The letdown was more than he could bear.
<Oh!> He heard Bulbasaur suddenly cry out in surprise, followed by a startled squeal of delight that could only have come from Phlash. He ignored them. There was no point anymore.
<Why are you sad?> a voice directly in front of him asked. <People shouldn’t be sad, they should be happy! Don’t you like our game?>
His fingers clawed at the ground in fury as he recognized the voice’s owner: it was the mysterious pink Pokemon, come to add insult to injury. She had destroyed his glorious dream, and now she wanted him to be happy about it. His lips tighted angrily as he started to push himself back to his feet, fully prepared to give her a taste of his pain.
Then he actually saw her. His eyes widened in incredulity, and his sting of his crushing failure was obliterated by complete and total shock. This had to be some huge practical joke, he knew. It was too much, on top of everything else.
<It’s her!> Bulbasaur hissed excitedly behind him. He didn’t turn around to acknowledge her confirmation. He couldn’t even hear her. There was only astonishment and and wonder in his mind as he stared at the creature before him.
It was Mew!
He had never seen her before, of course, but there was no mistaking her. The cat-like Pokemon was small and skinny, and her seemingly fragile body, levitating serenely in the air hardly two feet above him, was covered in fine pink hair. Her long, rabbit-like feet and lengthy tail sharply contrasted with her short, stubby arms. A pair of triangle-shaped ears graced her feline head, and her baby-blue eyes locked his deep green ones in a gaze that seemed to pierce through to his soul. His breath caught as she cocked her head to the side curiously.
<Don’t be mad,> she said kindly, lowering herself until her face floated just above his. <Being mad never helped anybody. It feels better to have fun!>
He felt like he was drowning in those eyes. A pleasant fuzziness was starting to creep over him. He frowned slightly, his brow creasing in thought. Why did he want to hurt her again?
She batted her eyes at him, giggling. <There, you’re not mad anymore! Your aura’s so much prettier now!> A stray, microscopic pink eyelash fluttered down invisibly and landed in a bleeding gash on his outstretched palm, but neither of them noticed. <But this game is almost over anyway. I’m going to win again, isn’t it great?> She giggled once more.
He felt himself smiling back; her good mood was infectious. All thoughts of the Gina, Severus, the Rockets, and everything else were gone, and there was only a cheerful, buoyant happiness. He could barely feel the violent shaking beneath him.
A Double Team clone corkscrewed through the air nearby, laughing cutely. <Yay! We blew the Pentagon up!> she cheered happily, soaring above him before exploding against the other structure, which, conveniently, was the mechanism that caused the earthquakes. Abruptly the rocking ceased, and though rocks still rained down upon the excavation failure, there was suddenly an underlying sense of an almost eerie calmness.
It was the clone’s shadow, throwing the floor before him into temporary darkness, that made him frown again. The shadow reminded him of another shadow on a night long ago, although that one had blocked the moonlight, its owner diving towards him as he shivered, half-dead, in the snow … the wonder that had filled his eyes, the smile that had formed on his blue lips, before he had passed out … the time he had seen it.
That made him snap out of it.
“Get over here, you little—” he snarled, abruptly leaping to his feet, but Mew easily floated away from his grasping hands. His bleeding cuts started to throb faintly, but he ignored them. They could be dealt with later.
<Silly boy, tricks are for kids!> she giggled, somersaulting through the air before soaring away towards the very center of the cave. Her clones giggled with her before all exploding in unison, and their self-destruction was very gratifying.
<Ooh, I love Trix!> Phlash commented. From the sound of her voice, she seemed to be drooling.
Cobalt turned his head, following her with his eyes. Nearly all the Rockets were stampeding this way by now, not seeming to notice that Mew was floating over them. He released a pent-up, disgruntled sigh, knowing he would have no chance to catch her. Looking back ahead of him, he saw the silvery shards of the Stone scattered sadly. It was a sorry sight, but the gears in his mind began to turn as he regarded them.
<What are you doing, you idiot?> Bulbasaur hollered as the admin suddenly darted nimbly toward the ruined site, reaching the fragments of Stone in just a matter of seconds. Scowling darkly, she unsteadily began to follow him, taking slow, careful steps.
“Using my brain!” he yelled back over the noise of the clones' continued detonations.
<Well, that’s news to me!>
<Weird Hair Guy, you forgot your bag!> Phlash exclaimed rabidly. She leapt down, grabbed the neglected sack with her pointed fangs, and rushed towards him in a streak of grease-colored lightning. Within half a second she had reached him, wagging her tail eagerly as she drooled.
Last edited by SugarPesticide; 21st September 2009 at 12:47 AM.
“Er … thanks,” he said, taking the slobbery sack from her maw. She instantly zipped back to fetch Bulbasaur, who already knew what was coming and consequently looked disgusted. Knowing he didn't need to worry about them, he leaned down and grabbed piece after shattered piece of Moon Stone, tossing them one after another into his bag. The Rockets should at least have something to show for this disaster, and he'd be the one to save the day.
"Cobalt, let's go!"
"Wha—?" He swiveled around, and the word died half-finished in his throat. Galloping up behind him was Gina, riding cowgirl-style on Tartar, who chewed on a Poffin happily. Most of the grunts were swarming behind her, eagerly pushing at each other in their haste to escape. He glanced from the huge, testosterone-packed bull, to his rider. She nodded to him, as if reading his thoughts. Or maybe that was just the motion of the wild galloping, it was impossible to say. Tensing himself, he took the bag in his teeth (wincing at its unexpected weight) and waited until Tartar was almost on top of him; being stupid, the idea that he could simply turn and pass the unmoving admin never occurred to the hairy Pokemon.
Then, ignoring the pain lancing throughout his body, Cobalt grabbed at the lethally sharp horns protruding from the bull's head, pulling himself into a sharp somersault and suddenly landing deftly on Tartar's shoulders. The bull snorted in surprise, but Gina, who seemed unfazed by Cobalt's flip, hastily shoved another Poffin into the Pokemon's mouth, and he accepted it happily with a contented <Umm>.
"Way to take a bull by the horns, Cobalt!" Gina yelled, grinning at him. He merely groaned in response, taking the canvas bag out of his teeth.
Suddenly Phlash jumped up into his lap, holding Bulbasaur in her mouth. <You got the shiny stuff?> she asked, spitting the disgruntled dinosaur out and wagging her slobber-coated tongue around.
A sudden <WHEEEEEEEEEEE!> cut off his reply. He swiveled around, hoping to Arceus that Mew wasn't going to jump in his lap as well. Exploding would be too much, even for him. Luckily, she was nowhere near him.
That was the good part. The bad part was that she hit the center of the huge cavern half a second later, creating an explosion that would put all the other ones to shame, and then immediately winked out, vanishing for good. Cobalt gritted his teeth against the jarring shock wave that burst past them, but that was the least of their problems. There was a great rush of dusty wind that had suddenly picked them up and flung them through the air, and they were flying ungracefully through the air, grunts squealing and pinwheeling, Tartar snorting and pawing uneasily. The wigged admin gripped the Tauros's horns tightly, watching the floor fly under them with incredible speed. The hairs on his wig whipped wildly about, smacking at his face annoyingly.
A deep, ominous rumbling above them caused him to glance up, and his face turned chalk-white when he realized that the force of the latest blast was making the ceiling collapse. His breath caught in his throat as he saw the distant rocks above beginning to fall slowly but steadily closer, growing larger as they neared. Please hurry, he thought to nobody in particular. Please, please, please, just let us live...
Of course, the amusing thing about people who worry is that they tend to miss things. In this case, Cobalt missed out on enjoying the ride. There are very few people who can honestly claim that they have ridden a flying cow.
He also missed the point where Tartar hit the ground running, snorting excitedly as he swallowed up the remaining yards to the tunnel that could lead them out. The admin only realized the situation when a sickening series of groans and thuds jerked him out of his prayerful reverie: the grunts, it seemed, were not nearly as shock-absorbant as the powerfully-muscled bull. Cobalt bit his lip, almost in sympathy, as he watched a grunt land hard on her arm, crying out hard as the horrific snap sliced at the air.
In spite of himself, he shuddered and turned away, just as the shadow of safety passed over them, and they were through. Skidding to a halt, Tartar lowered his head and panted hard, his tongue lolling. Several of the grunts, who had miraculously managed to get up in spite of the pain of whatever unfortunate body part they had broken, were sprinting desperately towards them. Reaching the tunnel at last, they sucked in huge gulps of air, massaging their aching sides and wincing as they rubbed their blistered feet.
Then an incredible barrage of stone hit the cavern floor. There was nothing quite like it, Cobalt decided, as he watched the avalanche of hundreds of tons of stone falling like hail, shattering as if they were glass and tossing into the air an incredible fog of dust. First a city, then a mountain, both thrown into unbelievable chaos and destruction. The entire mountain shook with the massive force of the boulders' impact. He shook his head in disbelief; there seemed to be no end to it.
"Those poor grunts," Gina whispered behind him, horror and sadness coloring her voice.
He nodded vaguely in response. The grunts' loss didn't bother him too much, although Gina seemed to feel differently. He would never understand what she saw in grunts. They looked like people, but they were just mindless tools. Occasionally a few would pop up with brains, but those were promoted to junior admin anyway. He would know, after all.
All the same, he reached back and patted her hand soothingly. He'd want comfort, too, if he had a stupid pet that was crushed ruthlessly for the sake of fun. Unless that pet was Bulbasaur. Then he might make an exception.
A flash of movement caught his eye. Squinting, he peered through the thick cloud of dust and flying debris that obscured his view. "Do you see something, way over there?" he asked Gina, pointing. He knew that girls had a better eye for details, even though he was more awesome than them.
She scrutinized the scene, looking for whatever he had seen. "Oh, yeah! Some sort of green flash, where Severus is! There's a hulking blue thing Protecting him, I think."
"He's not dead?"
"Yeah. There's a couple of guys standing in the far tunnel. It's hard to tell, but it looks like one of them has a stop sign on his head. And it so doesn't go with what he's wearing. I think the blue thing's theirs."
"*******s. Why couldn't they let him die?"
"I know! They're not Rockets, so they're going to take him into custody, which Daddy says is even worse. Isn't that horrible, Cobalt?"
He gave her a long, searching look until she finally tore her eyes away from the scene, looking back at him. "To be honest, I don't care," he remarked, parroting the greasy executive's earlier words. "He had it coming to him." He smiled triumphantly.
She nodded in response. Then, with a soft word to the bull Pokemon, she turned Tartar around, leading the grunts down the long, winding tunnel, as the cacophony of falling rocks echoed darkly around them.
* * *
Huge chapter is huge, no? I apologize for that, as well as any headaches caused by the bad German accent and Ocean's cold. Hopefully you can forgive me for that.
Last edited by SugarPesticide; 29th June 2009 at 11:25 PM.
eirhhh i finally finished reading it. That must be the longest one yet, are you trying to break a record?
'Save it for the theater'
should be theatre
After that i stopped looking for mistakes 'cos it was just too funny. Not much from the Pokédex this time though. And Poor Cheri, what a bad time to evolve. And the blood at the start was rather gruesome.
Registeel was awesome. yay for the accent
Hah, I love how every trainer isn't goody-goody; on the contrary, quite a few of them have deep, complex personalities which you seemed to have thought a lot about.
Just one thing I noticed~
Lovin' the last two chapters (God, they took me a long time to read!), especially the new pokemon. Even without pictures (though I understand they're on the way) I feel I have a pretty good idea what they look like.
Just few things of note:
> I think you said 'holy shist' or words to that effect at some point. If it was mean to be a play on words because the pokemon who said it (Annie) is a rock type, then it shold be schist. I should know, I was revising metamorphic classification only yesterday. (Geology rocks!) <.< >.> *looks about for bad pun police*
> Annie and the Aron (I forget her name), have they been introduced before? Because it took me ages to to figure out who the 'baby' and the pokemon on Skipper's head were. Just a little more description a little earlier on needed, I think. Unless of course it's just me being forgetfull, in which case, excuse me for my mistake. ^_^
> The whole talking to pokemon thing. Leaf having the ability I can understand, and the way it was explained and her reaction was priceless. Then, we find Cobalt has it to; an interesting twist and one that is vital for the hilarious banter between him, Bulbasaur and Phlash, so I can understand you using it here. But when it seems Roark has it too... ehhh, that's a little too much for me to swallow. You described it yourself as very rare, but now it's as though you're giving it to a character every time it's convenient; like when Skipper had to explain about Paris. I advise you to tread carefully, if it gets out of hand you could be heading dangerously close to Mary-Suesville and nobody wants that.
Also, I'd like to speculate some stuff, so I'll spoilerify it:
See ya, ~JammyU
Last edited by JammyU; 30th April 2009 at 6:08 PM.
"For me, I am driven by two main philosophies: know more today about the world than I knew yesterday, and lessen the suffering of others. You'd be surprised how far that gets you." - Neil DeGrasse Tyson
"Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known." - Carl Sagan
Well I thought this was a great introduction to the characters for a more in depth development (especialy with Leaf - I saw great improvement in her as a whole) and I thought Phrygoil was very interesting but I'm not a big fan of fakemon so I wouldn't be very good to review that character.
The twist with Ocean was quite funny and I like what you did with the ball disintergrating - well done. The only thing I thought was weird was the dismanglement of the shorts boy because Officer Jenny was there but Oh well.
This was a great Chapter in length so I must applaud you there with the succesfulness behind it. I would have liked something else to be put in there, not sure what but I felt the first post lacked something in it. Sorry. The battle scene was also so succesful and I love the reprocussions upon Pewter tow. That was realy funny so a great twist there.
I really liked those two Chapters and will most definitely catch up so don't worry...the only thing I think you can improve on (and this is my own opinion) is explaining which character has which Pokemon in a spoiler tag so that I can keep up and remember nicknames and so on. Also with new characters trying to keep nicknames original again like Frosti and Orca unlike Peter.
Otherwise great so thank you!
Most Recent Chapter - Chapter 31: Don't Forget Me - Posted 26/01/13Credits to Sweet May and DanChimchar
I will pursue You, I will pursue Your presence
@ Sinnohdragon: Actually, "theater" is the Americanized spelling of the word, so it's technically correct. ^^;
Only for the longest drought between chapters, apparently. >_<That must be the longest one yet, are you trying to break a record?
And the blood at the start was rather gruesome.
Registeel was awesome. yay for the accent
@ BynineB: Thank you! I try not to make them too goody-goody, that would be annoying, wouldn't it?
@ JammyU:Hey, it's no prob. They weren't introduced before, although Roark mentioned them. The Aron's name is Emily, btw. ^^> Annie and the Aron (I forget her name), have they been introduced before? Because it took me ages to to figure out who the 'baby' and the pokemon on Skipper's head were. Just a little more description a little earlier on needed, I think. Unless of course it's just me being forgetfull, in which case, excuse me for my mistake. ^_^
There's actually a valid reason for why Roark understands his Pokemon. (*gasp* Something valid in Blazing Frost? omg nowaiz!) It might be popping up sometime in the next couple chapters, depending.> The whole talking to pokemon thing. Leaf having the ability I can understand, and the way it was explained and her reaction was priceless. Then, we find Cobalt has it to; an interesting twist and one that is vital for the hilarious banter between him, Bulbasaur and Phlash, so I can understand you using it here. But when it seems Roark has it too... ehhh, that's a little too much for me to swallow. You described it yourself as very rare, but now it's as though you're giving it to a character every time it's convenient; like when Skipper had to explain about Paris. I advise you to tread carefully, if it gets out of hand you could be heading dangerously close to Mary-Suesville and nobody wants that.
@ harryheart:But we must remember who's doing the nicknaming. *coughLightningisn'tverycreativecough* And there is a list with the Pokemon and their trainers just a few posts up (I know it looks like more with the ridiculously long posts, but meh) that's mostly accurate. All that's really changed is Cheri's and Peter's evolution, and that Cobalt's death was a psyche. All the nicknamed Pokemon are listed there too, besides Roark's Pokemon (Swampert=Skipper, Cranidos=Anni, Aron=Emily) and Leaf's mom's Electabuzz, Lecky.the only thing I think you can improve on (and this is my own opinion) is explaining which character has which Pokemon in a spoiler tag so that I can keep up and remember nicknames and so on. Also with new characters trying to keep nicknames original again like Frosti and Orca unlike Peter.
Anyway, thank you all for reading. And look, this one actually took less than two months to write. Yay.
* * *
Chapter Thirteen: True Colors (Welcome to Cerulean! The Dazzling Team Waterflower!)
I. And behold, I didst find myself in the darkness of the holy pit again. And the darkness was like unto the night thereof, which is black, and yet revealing all at once.
<This isn't a pit ... Mom! It's that annoying prophet again!>
II. And I didst hear a voice come from the darkness thereof, and it was bold like unto a bronze—
<You said that before. Repetition is frowned on, you know.>
<Oh, did I? Forgive me, I must have forgotten. If I may—>
A miserable wail interrupted him, filled with some sort of sorrow that made the hairs on Bart's neck stand on end, all five thousand, four hundred and eighty-three of them. There had been more, of course, but a great chunk of them had been burned off when a raging villager had thrown a torch at his head and missed slightly. The savages. They didn't know wisdom when they heard it.
Surprised at the sound, the Absol paused in his writing and listened harder. <Did you hear something?>
There was a long moment of silence. Then, finally, the bronze-voiced Pokemon gasped in some sort of revelation. <Oh, you can't see, can you? Sorry, I nodded there. Here, let me get some light to help you see...>
<Thank you,> he said gratefully as she shuffled off somewhere.
III. And behold, a cry didst spiral out from the darkness, a very woeful cry such as that which a little child uttereth if he hath mistakenly killed his pet rock. And I didst pause to listen for a good while, which canst not be well depicted here, for ellipses are not recommended for use in prophecy.
IV. For it hath been said in ancient times by the wise prophet Fitzgerald, who didst cry unto the Coronites to repent straightway, before they stoned him to death before a class of children to contribute to unnerving educational experience,
V. That to hesitate is to err, and to stutter is to admit folly; therein lies truth, but the truth lies not. Thus, all must refrain from the use of ellipses, for to do otherwise wouldst surely cause our feeble wills to drag us into the depths of hell.
<Not anymore,> Fystor's voice said, returning. <Hell's getting too full for common idiots, and managing everyone in there drives Giratina up the wall, the poor thing. Ah, here we go...>
A sudden light flared up in the cave, and the prophet squinted at its brightness. As his eyes slowly parted, adjusting gradually to the light, he looked about him in awe and wonder. He had been completely wrong in his original analysis of the place; it wasn't a cave at all. It simply a vast expanse of a diamond-like substance that stretched out from his paws and endlessly onward in all directions, a surreal psuedo-world sparkling in the enigmatic blue-green light shimmering in Fystor's clawed hand. No walls or ceiling contained the shining plain: only the pitch-black sky arced above them, an infinitely deep dome of darkness littered with huge, brightly twinkling stars.
Then he lowered his gaze, seeing a being standing several yards in front of him. It was quite an enormous being, probably capable of crushing him just by stepping on him, but all other details were concealed in the dazzling light surrounding it. The light, blazing with an incredibly pure silver color, was so painfully bright that he wondered for a moment why he hadn't seen it earlier. Probably because I'm not legendary, he decided finally.
<Are we on the moon?> he whispered shyly to Fystor, curiously examining her as he spoke.
The eagle-like Pokemon rolled her eyes. <Don't be moronic. If we were on the moon, we'd be floating around in one-sixth/gee while suffocating to death in negative one-hundred twenty-three degree conditions. Besides, you wouldn't be hearing anything, as there are no molecules in the vaccuum for the sound waves to vibrate.>
<...What's a "gee"?>
She facepalmed. <You don't know anything, do you? And why are you staring at me that way?>
<Well ... I always imagined you as being taller,> he confessed, looking down at her.
A scowl twisted her beak into a peculiar expression. <I'm a god,> she retorted. <Gods don't have to be tall.>
<But doesn't height add to your ... you know ... mysticism?> he asked, feeling a bit proud that he had found an apt word.
<Who needs mysticism when you have power?>
<...> Bart replied eloquently, returning his gaze toward the strange glowing being. The sheer luminosity of the light was not simply a mere glow; it was pure, unrestrained love from the depths of the being's soul: he could feel it, tearing at his heart, summoning stinging tears into his eyes. Now that he was paying proper attention, he could see that there was a smaller being there as well, floating level with the taller Pokemon's face. This second creature shone just as painfully bright, but her emerald green light radiated not only love, but a deep, despairing ache that clawed at the very center of Bart's soul; mingling with it were feelings of embarrassment, discouragement, and fear that were less prominent, but no less intense. It was impossible to tell using mere sight, but somehow Bart could tell that the silver creature was nuzzling the green one comfortingly, crooning softly as she sobbed miserably.
He could almost feel his heart break in a separate sadness of his own, as he longed so much to be part of that deep, compassionate mercy. The prophets had always spoken of the legendaries as omnipotent beings of quick temper and quicker judgment, but they had hardly mentioned anything about the great mercy and compassion that seemed not only a part of them: it was them, as defining as the fact that he was an Absol, and that none of it would, or could, ever change.
His eyes continued to water as his head began to ache from the intensity and overwhelming absorption of emotions. Then, dimly, he noticed that his tears were beginning to take on a color that looked very off. Distantly he sensed that something was wrong, but he couldn't be bothered to shut off the flood of emotions pouring through him.
The sound of Fystor's voice faintly reached him. <I hope you're not looking at them, you know. They're halfway in their true divine forms, which would mean that if any mortal were looking at them, his brain would start to melt right around now ... oh wait. Whoops.>
He knew that those words probably meant something, but he couldn't react in any way until something smacked into his head with astonishing force, sending him smashing facefirst into the shimmery, diamond-like substance beneath him. He uttered a shocked oof! as the wind was knocked out of him, as he collided painfully into the smooth, cold floor. An agonized sob tore itself from his throat. Away from that great power and love, he felt overwhelmingly alone, exposed and vulnerable. If not for his shock and the ominous drip, drip, drip of tears and melted brain falling to the floor beneath him, he would have looked up again immediately. His aching head pulsed horribly, and he groaned.
<Mom, I told you that you shouldn't summon him if you weren't going to phase back!> he heard Fystor say. <If we really need him, it's probably not because we want his brain to start gushing out his ears!>
The silver-voiced being said something in an unearthly, melodious language that instantly soothed Bart's troubled soul, and his hitched breathing slowed into a more natural rhythm. He could feel her love in the strange words, not drowning him in their depths as before, but merely carrying him along on a gentle current, floating and buoyant. His tear-stained face stretched into a smile as he rested his chin on the floor, exhausted. Blearily he noted that there was a bright pink flower laying just a few yards in front of him, looking as though it had been callously discarded, which pretty much matched the way he had just felt a minute ago.
<That's nice, Mom, but we need to work with something here,> Fystor said unconcernedly. <Appy seems to have gotten enough strength for a "hunt" on Cinnabar. And we don't want that, do we?>
The being said something unrecognizable in reply.
<Well, so-rry. I just figured that, cruel as it sounds, saving the world is probably more important than boosting Minnie's ego—>
A horrific roar cut her off, bespeaking of unimaginable power. Bart yelped and flung his arms over his head, and he lay cringing in the blast of noise.
<I am not!> Fystor yelled indignantly over the deafening noise. <I'm only trying to talk sense, is that so wrong—?>
The roar got even louder.
<OKAY!> the eagle Pokemon shrilled. <OKAY, FINE, I WILL! IF IT MAKES EVERYBODY HAPPY! NOW CALM DOWN BEOFRE THIS PROPHET HERE GETS AN ULCER!>
Abruptly the roar dived down in volume to a deep rumble, before returning to the tenor croon it had first used to comfort the green being. The latter had subsided slightly, seeming rather unperturbed by this exchange, and was sniffling heartily.
A shadow fell over Bart. Looking up, he saw Fystor standing over him, scowling darkly. She didn't look very tall even from this perspective.
<I need to go,> she muttered, half to herself.
<Why?> he asked stupidly.
<To question Uxie. There's some information we'll need from him, since things are moving a lot faster than we thought. And after that I need to keep an eye on the girl, and contact her when the time's right. I wanted us to go and stop Apolydon right now, before he gets stronger, which would be the smart course of action. But Mom says that's "not the way things are done".> She rolled her eyes wearily. <Anyway, I probably won't be back for a while. Stay here in the meantime, I don't want to have to wait until you go into a trance again before we have to get you.>
He frowned, confused. <Why would you need me here?>
<We'll explain later. It'll probably be better if we can enlighten both you and the girl at the same time. And it'll be less annoying to have to say everything just once, anyway. But just stay here, and don't look at them again. Not until Minnie's stopped feeling sorry for herself, and they go back to normal.>
<But nothing. You're not worth anything if your brain's leaking out of your skull.> With these cheerful parting words, she spread her wings wide, leapt into the air, and soared past him. Turning, he watched her fly with incredible speed towards a staircase he had not noticed earlier, which seemed to descend impossibly far below; the sound of wind in her wings quickly faded into mere echoes.
Sighing, he put his head back on his paws, keeping his eyes fixed on the pink flower. This was going to be a long night. He might as well write something.
VI. And as I didst consider Fitzgerald's great words of wisdom, it came to pass that a great light appeared; yea, and I saw that I stood upon a sea like unto glass ...
* * *
<Master!> the Missing One cried mentally, feeling pain pulsing within him. Power washed around him in a infuriatingly tantalizing flow.
The stranger, of course, took no notice. He was busily Crushing the souls whom he had recently intercepted, their silent screams tearing through his body, fueling his limbs with power. The darkening, dusky sky was veiled in ominous clouds gathered in a looming storm, signaling the threat of a distant hurricane.
The chaotic, exhausted of strength, gave up the fight in despair. It was useless to throw off the iron hold of the invader. As if that weren't galling enough, he had realized in horror, some time into his futile struggle, that the one who had stolen his body was none other than his master, the lord of all chaotics, great Apolydon himself. It was he who had created the chaotics long ago, giving them the arcane strength and skills they needed to survive. And now, eons later, he had feigned ignorance of his own creations in order to seize control of one of his more important followers.
<Master...?> The Missing One tried again one last time, halfheartedly.
The other did not reply.
<Douchebag,> he snarled sulkily to himself. Like their forms, the loyalties of chaotics could change in an instant if need be. He could feel no guilt or shame for insulting the master who had betrayed him so deeply.
Apolydon opened his mouth to speak, and for one heart-stopping moment the Missing One was terrified that his rudeness had been heard; but the words that issued forth put his mind at ease, ironically. <This strength is sufficient,> he said in satisfaction. It was impossible to tell who he was addressing, if anyone. <I will now hunt in the nearby village to Crush more directly. I have found in the past that to actually hear their screams is something to be coveted.>
Then, much to his captive's delight, he took a step forward.
The invader had been standing in the same place ever since taking over, in order to get used to inhabiting a body again and to regain strength through his recent Crushings. As such, he was completely oblivious to the fact that, among other abnormalities, the Missing One's body was unique in that its mass was extremely compact, resulting in a staggering weight. And the Lord of Evil did indeed stagger, unprepared for the way the body's balance would be unsettled if he took such a quick step.
Which was how he tripped over absolutely nothing, and fell facefirst into the sand, creating a monster-shaped crater with a loud thwump.
The Missing One giggled childishly as the Lord of Evil snarled, unsteadily attempting to get to his feet. But his mirth was soon extinguished as his mind, sharp as ever, went into action. He knew that in spite of this mishap, the evil one would surely get whatever he wanted, and sooner rather than later. He'd have to find a way to boot him out before his hold got too strong.
<Perhaps I could dive down within myself,> he mused. Initially, he found the idea repugnant. Examining the shadowy recesses of his own soul would require him to relinquish his last feeble hold on himself, leaving it entirely in the dark hands of his former master. He wasn't sure about some people, but he liked his body, unstable and unpredictable as it was. The idea of simply handing control over to a malevolent backstabber made him sick. He had done it several times before, of course, but that was merely done to survive; his body would still be free to regain once he returned. (The latest such incident had happened several centuries ago, when a group of retarded philosophers had tried to dissect him. Once he had gone limp, they decided that he had died and carelessly sliced his bonds away, but they immediately regretted it when he leapt up from the table, eagerly leaping upon them to messily devour them while cursing them with horribly foul language.)
Of course, he could always coerce his Beast into helping him.
That single idea convinced him. Abruptly relaxing his weakening grip on his body, he retracted himself deep into the core of his mind, like a primordial sea creature pulling back its slippery tentacles. Abruptly all pain was gone; his nerve endings no longer tore at him. Around him a dark, winding corridor begin to shimmer, gradually forming into a segment of his shadowy, mazelike mind. For a moment he had no purpose, no sense of self, as he was swiftly becoming an entity separate from his own mind; but several memories fluttered towards him from the darkness ahead, obediently settling on his skeletal frame like moths. Purpose swept over him once more, reminding him of who he was and what he was doing. With an uncharacteristically grim huff, he darted along the corridor, beginning his search for the deepest dungeon.
Outside, Apolydon had gotten to his feet. His eyes, brilliant blue orbs gleaming in the skull's once empty eye sockets, turned ominously to the flickering lights of the village in the distance ...
* * *
The familiar scent of Lysol burned Leaf's nose as she returned painfully and hazily to consciousness. Her eyes fluttered weakly as she tried to adjust to her surroundings, but they were shrouded in darkness, punctuated by soft little whispers that hissed like fires around her.
"Ice, for the love of Arceus, ice!"
"... just contacted parents ..."
"... another one here, Joy says it's too extreme ..."
"What? Why do they always get rocks in their eyes?"
"Been a few minutes ... more Rockets found, or ...?"
"A few. Smashed dead, I guess ... couple smashed but still alive, though ..."
An involuntary groan escaped her slightly parted lips. Instantly a voice whisper-screamed, "SHUT UP! YOU'RE ALL WAKING HER UP!"
There was a moment of surprised silence. Then a few disgruntled mutters returned, but softer, quieter than before. The sounds of their rustling danced lightly through the air, as they busily returned to their tasks.
A silhouetted figure loomed in her unfocused vision, its head leaning slightly toward her. Something touched her hand softly: warm fingers holding hers gently, tentatively. "Go back to sleep," the figure said, a quiet forcefulness underlying his words. "I can't stay for long, I'm needed somewhere else. Just relax."
"Don't go—" she slurred wearily.
"Sssssssh," he hushed softly, cutting her off. "Breathe in ... breathe out. Breathe in ..."
She found herself automatically inhaling and exhaling in time with his commands, feeling the tension within herself evaporate as she slid comfortingly into a gentle unconsciousness. It seemed to be only a few seconds later that she reopened them only to be assaulted with the sun glaring brightly through the window.
"Ow," she muttered, squinting.
"Ooh, she's awake! Cool! Leaf, why do you always end up in the hospital? Maybe it's not the Pokemon Center like last time, but still! This is just crazy, right?"
"Lighdding, led her resd—"
"She's been resting for, what, twelve hours? I wanna see her."
Leaf craned her neck upwards, gazing at her surroundings. It was the usual, sterile white hospital room, with ominous-looking surgical instruments scattered about at various intervals. Through the window on the opposite wall, she saw the stunning sight of pristine buildings glinting blindingly in the sunlight. And beyond them glimmered the soft, restless movements of the sea itself, stretching out in a blue-and-platinum vista stretching endlessly toward the horizon. A surge of excitement suddenly flooded through her. We're in Cerulean!
"We're in Cerulean," Lightning said, repeating the obvious. He was striding toward her from the open door a few yards on her left, Peach perched on his shoulder as usual. "It's a pretty place, at least from what I've seen. Not quite as orderly as Pewter, though. Maybe the difference has something to do with the gym leaders."
"These cities," Fire sighed, "were built centuries before either of them were born." He emerged from the hall outside, appearing to be somewhat subdued. His hat, of course, was missing, having been lost in the wild Rhyhorn battle; but his left arm was settled securely in a sling, hanging taut on his shoulder. He looked about as tired as she felt.
Ocean, seated comfortably in a stiff chair in a far corner of the room, rolled his eyes at Fire's words. "He was jusd poidding oud de goidcidedces, dad's all," he said. "You're suje a gilljoy sobetibes, Fire." He stretched his legs out as he spoke, wincing.
"Ocean!" Leaf sat up fast in bed, ignoring the pins and needles that immediately pricked at her back. She smiled happily at them, wondering if one of them had been the comforting figure who had come into her room last night — an action which, incidentally, could be taken horrifically out of context. "What — what're you doing here? Did you bribe Jenny to escape, or what?"
He reached back and rubbed the back of his head, making his spiked, dark blond hair bounce slightly with the movement. "Well, id has more do do wid my nadtural charms," he said with false modesty, while grinning like a cat with a canary in its mouth. "She said she'd led be go, bud odly if she gould massage me, ad I said I was all righd wid dad. Ad id sdarded oud iddocedtly edough — rubbing by hads, you dow — bud ded she boved dowd do by bicebs, ad ded by bag, ad de degzd ding I dow she's all ober be ... dad was real dice ..."
Fire made an exasperated face at him. "You are such a bad liar, you know that?"
Ocean's grin broadened, and his face turned red. "Baybe..."
"Aw, how cute! You called him baby! I was wondering how long it'd take you to find your way out of that closet, but you did, and I'm proud of you for it!"
"POKEDEX!" they all shouted in annoyance.
"Well, it's true," the Pokedex sniffed self-importantly. It was sitting on the sparkling clean cabinet several feet away, propped up against Leaf's bright yellow handbag. "I keep waiting for him to dress up like a French maid and give one of you less flamboyant boys the giggling valley girl treatment. That would give me a chuckle, and you know how lacking I am when it comes to humor, so that would be a good thing. Teehee, the spiky-haired nitwit dancing with the cowboy failure. That's almost cute."
"That's gross," Lightning muttered.
<I'm glad you think so,> Peach crooned, stroking his ear. <Because if you didn't, I would ... well, I'd probably electrocute you. And then I might cry.>
"I'm not a failure," Fire muttered to himself.
"I'b dod flabboyadt!" Ocean protested explosively. "Are you drying do dell be sobeting here?"
"Don't be stupid. Of course I am!"
"Shut up, Pokedex," Leaf sighed wearily. "But really, Ocean, what're you doing here? You couldn't have written those lines that fast, could you?"
"Do," Ocean admitted, deflating a little. "Jeddy sedt be away, agdually. She was busy with de ebaguatiod ad all. Bud I'd already wrode de lides fibe huddred ad fordy-dwo dibes. I'll be oud of gusdody id do dibe." He looked rather proud of himself for it.
The Pokedex snickered. "'Jeddy,' eh?"
"I said to shut up!" Leaf snapped.
"Id's ogay," Ocean said, shrugging. "I gad'd helb dad I habe a gold. If Fire was dalking lige dis, I'd be baking fud of hib, doo."
"Thanks so much," said Fire.
"Of gourse, id'd be ebed fuddier if id was hib, begause he's ad ebo ad eberyting."
"I am not an emo!"
"Yes you are!"
"No, I am—"
"SHUT UP!" Lightning hollered. He blushed when everyone turned towards him, surprised at his uncharacteristic outburst. "I mean ... let's not, um, argue. There's something else that has to be done. Fire...?" He gave the brunette a meaningful look. Peach mimicked his expression, and Leaf had to stifle a giggle at this.
"What? Oh, yes..."
Fire walked purposefully towards Leaf's cot, keeping his eyes cast low to the ground. Leaf raised an eyebrow at his stiff, uncomfortable gait. He stepped to an abrupt halt just a few inches from her side, biting his lip as he slowly brought his gaze upward to meet hers.
"Fire, what happened to your arm?" Leaf asked concernedly, starting to lift her hand to touch the cast. Then she paused: he probably wouldn't like that at all.
The brunette shrugged. "A rock fell on it."
"After you saved me."
"Leaf..." He took a deep breath, tensing himself. "I don't know how to say this, it's not something I ever thought I'd say ... you know how it is, don't you? I mean ... you showed me a lot about being a good person. I-I'd thought that saving you from Tyran was just something that made me better than you — than any of you — and it was also a chance to show my strength on the side.
"And you're not just a good person, either..." He paused, glancing briefly over his shoulder towards Lightning; the blonde's encouraging nod seemed to reassure him, and he continued. "Not just a good person, but a good trainer. You can get the best out of your Pokemon, without even forcing them to. You care for them, and everyone else, so much ... and I never saw that, ever, until yesterday. And you applied yourself to the situation so well, that you didn't even depend on them at all when were willing to risk yourself to save me. Me! And I was always such a ... well, a jerk."
"Ah!" Ocean interjected lustily. "He's fidally seed de lighd!"
"Yes," Fire agreed, and he surprised everyone by not sneering at the spiky-haired boy; instead, a sad smile appeared faintly on his face. "Yes, I have. It was so, so wrong of me to do something hard for glory ... when you would do something so much harder just because you cared."
Leaf stared at him in surprise for a moment, wondering at his expression. Then she lowered her head, shaking it slightly. "You make it sound so much better than it was. It's not like I was thinking or anything—"
"Exactly. You didn't have to think about it. You just automatically knew what was right, and you went through with it. Leaf ... maybe I'm rambling, I don't know, but you had to see where I'm coming from before I say it, so..."
"So, what I'm trying to say is ... well ... I'm sorry."
Lightning's mouth fell open.
"You're nod serious!" Ocean burst out, eyes bugging in shock. "Who are you ad whad have you dode wid Fire?"
"But I am serious. Leaf, I want to be a better person, like you. I want to change who I am and stop being cruel and selfish."
"So in other words, he wants to turn over a new leaf," the Pokedex commented, snickering.
Fire ignored it. "It won't be easy for me, after so many years of being who I was ... but I'll try. I really will. So ... will you accept my apology?"
Hesitantly he stuck out his hand, the one that no rock had fallen on. The next few seconds seemed to stretch for an eternity, as the boys watched with baited breath while Leaf incredulously examined Fire's outstretched hand. She stared in wonder at the silent pleading shining from his eyes, so different from the detatched apathy she was used to.
Then she smiled and grasped his hand, squeezing it reassuringly. "Of course I do," she said graciously. "You're my friend, after all. Even if you didn't know that before."
He grinned shyly. "Thank you," he whispered, his fingers curling around hers.
"You should apologize to your Pokemon for your attitude, though," she chastised, giving him a knowing look.
Fire looked apprehensive at this, but he nevertheless turned and let out his Pokemon. Drowzee squinted at him adoringly with beady eyes, while Squirtle trembled as she stared at his feet. "Guys? I have to apologize. For not being nice to you, or treating you well."
<But you do treat us well, Master!> Drowzee said sycophantly.
It was Pokemon speech, but its meaning was clear to everyone, and Fire shook his head. "No, I didn't. I treated you like objects, and I hurt Squirtle, when I knew that I wouldn't want anyone to treat me that way." Squirtle raised her gaze hesitantly at this. "I just want you to give me a second chance at this. Please?"
Squirtle looked him in the eyes, her expression nervous and almost hopeful. She tilted her head for a moment, thinking deeply on the matter. Then she shivered and turned away, head lowered slightly.
Fire sighed sadly. "I'm sorry," he said again. "I hope you'll change your mind. I won't hurt you again." With that, he recalled his Pokemon, looking a bit defeated.
The others watched on, feeling sympathetic about his plight, but content that at last they could be around a friend who wouldn't constantly sneer at them every time somebody opened his mouth.
The Pokedex scoffed. "There is way too much human interest here for that to be real," it said cynically. "I bet Oprah's about to burst from that cabinet and offer somebody a free house."
<I want a free house,> Peach commented, a faraway look appearing in her eyes. <I could share it with Lightning ...>
<It's Leaf!> exclaimed a voice from the doorway. Looking toward it, Leaf was surprised and amused to see Frosti standing there, looking pleased. <Great, you're okay! We're all fine, thanks for asking. Hanging out at the Pokemon Center. We broke out, though, which was cool ... I've been looking everywhere for you, you know. I had to look in every room I passed to see if you were there! The things I almost walked in on ...> He trailed off, shuddering. A sudden whooshing sound wafted from the hall behind him, and he wisely dived to the floor just in time.
<BANZAIIIIII!> Paris squealed happily, rushing into the room on a Return, spinning wildly in the air as she soared right over Frosti's orange head. Well, it actually sounded more like <BAHNSHAIIIIII!> because of the fact that she was holding Cheri in her mouth, drooling slightly on the cocoon Pokemon's golden covering. The Kakuna, black eyes narrowed, seemed completely indifferent to flying with a baby sea monster on a magical pink heart-shaped hovercraft.
Leaf stared in shock as they suddenly took a sharp dive. "Paris, watch—!"
"... out. Oh dear."
<I'm okay, Mommy!> the little Lapras chirped happily, picking herself up off the floor as the Return-heart evaporated beneath her. Dropping Cheri unceremoniously, she scampered over to Leaf's side, leaving a trail of indigo scales as she came. <It was fun! I ran over a lady in white, though. She made a funny face when she fell.>
"Paris," Leaf said, scratching behind her curly ears, "it's not nice to knock people down."
<But you have me knock Pokemon down all the time!> Paris pointed out, tilting her head to the side slightly.
Leaf facepalmed at this obvious oversight. "Oh. Well, that's true ... but I only want you to knock down Pokemon, okay? Not people. With Pokemon it's fun, but with people it's rude."
<Ohhhhh, okay,> Paris said, nodding to herself. <That's probably why the weird sneaky guy had a mad face.>
"Eh? What weird sneaky guy?"
<The one I knocked down in the big main room where people wait, before I ran over the lady in white. His hair looked pretty funny, though. When he fell he was grabbing at it like it was about to fall off.> She giggled at the idea.
Leaf released a long groan when she realized what this meant.
"Oh crud!" Lightning gasped, watching her in horror. Then he started jumping up and down in a panic, bouncing all over the room in anxiety. "Oh crud, oh crud, oh crud! This is it! This must be it! I can't watch! Somebody, hurry and go get a doctor! She must be going into labor! Leaf, you have to breathe! BREATHE!"
Ocean put a stop to his ravings by bashing him over the head. "She's nod bregdadt, you weirdo. She brobably jusd heard sobeding ibbordadd frob de Labras, which I wadt very buch, by de way. Ded she'll dell us whad id is, ad we'll be all lige, 'Oh do, de world's aboud do ed id a fiery burding death begause of whad we heard frob dis liddle Labras who Ocead wads very buch.'"
Leaf sweatdropped. "You people ... are weird. Lightning, Paris saw somebody in the lobby, and knocked him down. Somebody with fake hair — a wig, I mean."
Lightning paled. "You mean ...?"
"Cobalt!" they spat at the same time.
Ocean frowned. "Waid, who's Gobald?"
"A Team Rocket person," Leaf explained, looking annoyed at the idea of encountering him again. "He's after Paris for some reason, the jerk. Why he's doing that is anyone's guess."
"Maybe," Fire said reasonably, "it's because she's shiny."
She shrugged. "Maybe. Or was that sarcasm?"
He grinned feebly. "Sorry, that was a slip."
"Okay then. Anyway, Cobalt has another Team Rocket person with him, named Gina. She's the main reason why Pewter City is a mess, but I don't want to go into details there."
Ocean's eyes lit up. "Is she hot?"
Lightning bashed him over the head. "Focus, Ocean!"
"And now it seems like they've been following us!" Leaf went on, ignoring them. "There'll probably be another huge disaster when they show up, as if we don't have enough to worry about! And they are not going to steal my baby!" she snapped fiercely, grabbing a surprised Paris protectively. "My sweet, precious baby who's worth more than them and all their Pokemon combined!"
<Thanks, Mommy, but can we go now?> Paris asked, another scale clattering to the floor. <This place is getting boring.>
Leaf looked from Ocean, who had Lightning in a headlock, to the Pokedex, who was cackling manically at everyone, and wondered wistfully if life would ever go back to boring again.
* * *
Some distance away, Elvis emerged from a tall building, a cool salty breeze making his sparkly clothes billow strangely. He swiveled, stumbled for a moment, and abruptly straightened, before beginning to walk uncertainly down the long sidewalk, snapping his fingers to some song that was going through his head.
"Mom, look!" exclaimed a passing little girl, pointing in astonishment at him. "It's Elvis!"
"Elvis?" her mother repeated, freezing in place as she watched the dark-haired man go by.
"Elvis??!!" gasped a great deal of other people, who seemed to appear out of nowhere with great sparkly eyes and faces of utmost adoration, as all inconvenient fans have a habit of doing when famous people suddenly appear.
He paused and looked behind him through ridiculously huge sunglasses at the enchanted mass of delighted people behind him. Then, suddenly, he bolted, as anyone with half a brain would do in his situation.
"ELVIS! ELVIS! ELVIS!" the fans chanted, starting to sprint after him, unless they were incredibly old or fat, in which case they merely cheered after the huge mob, before turning and arguing with each other in surprisingly high-pitched voices. But we don't care about them. We care (or at least care more) about Elvis's flight down concrete, nearing the crosswalk of a busy intersection, filled with honking cars and trucks, while screaming people were chasing him.
The famous singer reached the edge of the sidewalk and, without missing a beat, leapt surprisingly high into the air, somersaulting once over traffic before landing feet-first on a fast-moving bus. He sank into a crouching position, watching the disappointed people sink into the distance behind him, yelling his name.
"WE LOVE YOU, ELVIS!" crowed a small horde of pretty girls, who were standing at the front of the pack, as pretty girls often tend to do.
"Thank you!" he called back, pointing coolly at them in farewell. "Thank you very much!"
They waved at him, some deperately trying to follow him as they ran alongside the street on the sidewalk; but the bus was too fast for them, and Elvis slowly vanished from sight, his clothes waving dramatically in the rushing wind around him.
He jumped off smoothly at an alley a few miles away, closer to the suburbs, and chuckled to himself at the expressions on the passengers' faces as it pulled away. Then something pulled at his pant leg, and he gasped; but it was only Phlash, who was tugging at him impatiently.
<Weirdsch Hair Ghuy, ya needschta c'mon!> she exclaimed, her mouth full of fabric.
He stared at her. "Why?"
Something rustled in the shadows. Turning, he saw Gina, who was leading a few nervous-looking grunts toward him. "Cobalt, your Phrygoil is acting funny," she said, looking at the grime around her in distaste.
Elvis-who-was-not-really-Elvis-but-actually-Cobalt-in-yet-another-strange-disguise gave her The Look. "You just figured that out?"
The copper-haired girl ignored his sarcasm. "Can you just keep her calm, or something?" she asked. "We're in bad shape here, and we really don't need any weasel drama."
She had a point, he decided grudgingly. The surviving grunts (of which there were still many) had set up camp some ways to the northeast of Mount Moon, where they could lay low while the police and medical teams were still swarming there. Meanwhile, they still had to figure out what to do about their clashing objectives, which were giving him a headache even though he hadn't really thought about them yet.
On the one hand, he and Gina had been given a specific assignment: get the Lapras. Everyone knew that when the Boss told you to do something, you followed through on it until you succeeded or died — unless you got so embarrassed trying to succeed that you ended up failing miserably, and the Boss simply buried his face in his hands and moaned at the fact that you were a glaring embarrassment to his Team. But to Cobalt, that was neither here nor there. It simply was his duty to do what the Boss had commanded.
But on the other hand, the Mount Moon excavation had been executed due to an important project which the Rocket scientists were currently working on — important enough to put a deeply sinister and unpredictable executive in charge, if that was what it took to accomplish the mission. The mission (to recap briefly) had almost ended in complete disaster, if Disaster was the name of a pink immortal kitten who found satisfaction in blowing up. Luckily, Cobalt had retrieved most of the bigger Massive Moon Stone shards, several of which were now tucked safely away in the hidden compartments of his sparkly silver boots, because he was just that awesome. And he knew full well that the Boss would want them as soon as possible, especially now that the police were investigating and so on.
So, in trying to decide between which of the two missions to choose, one could say that he had a slight dilemna.
"You were spacing out again, weren't you?"
"... No ..."
<Cobalt!> Phlash exclaimed, letting go of his pant leg. <We must phace them in an epic battle oph phreedom of belieph!>
He gave her a surprised look. "Are you talking with an accent?"
<Just look!> she said, staring angrily out of the alley to the brightly lit sidewalk outside.
Cobalt turned around, a bit annoyed. He was unimpressed by what he saw, which was a pack of wild Phrygoil, their tough appearances magnified by grimy fur and chipped claws. However, he was greatly amused at the sight of the biggest one: he seemed to be the leader of the pack, because he had a yellow paper crown on his head.
<Look, my phriends!> he said hungrily. <I thinks it is a phoe oph our sacred beliephs!>
<Phoe nothing, phat one!> Phlash snapped back. <It is you who are the inphidels!>
<Inphidels?> the other spat incredulously. <Pshaw! We is mere servants oph the one and only true belieph! But you is a dark and murderous threat to the right way of liphe!>
<I am stronger than you, phools,> Phlash declared, crouching into a sleek position, her muscles tensing. <I have the truth on my side. I shall send you all to the demons phor your interpherence in my quest to spread the great words oph truth and light and Ronald McDonald!>
<Your words is strong, little one.> He stood up on his hind legs, moving into a karate pose that was definitely not designed for Phrygoil. His gang scuttled behind him when he swayed slightly, nervously ready to catch him if he fell. <But our holy phaith will always prevail against the likes of you. Eat my wrath of holy phiiiiiiiirrrrre!>
He took a deep breath and, after a dramatic pause, belched loudly.
Cobalt and Phlash stared at him for a few seconds. Then, in unison, they collapsed to the concrete, howling with painful laughter.
<You can lauph,> the big Phrygoil said sternly, eyeing them with disapproval, <but soon you will die! That includes you, you with the phaggoty-looking hair!>
The next thing he knew, the Phrygoil was suddenly lifted into the air by the scruff of his neck (courtesy of a no-longer-laughing Cobalt) and thrown violently over the buildings on the other side of the street with an incredible lightning speed. The gang of Phrygoil watched in astonished bemusement, their heads following their leader as he arced through the air, yelling indignantly, <Looks like I is blasting ophph ... phor the phirst time!>
There was a strange ding as he vanished behind the rooftops and out of sight. Then, just as suddenly, his followers jerked themselves out of their frozen state of shock, and zipped across the street towards wherever he had gone, meowing in dismay.
A moment of meaningless silence ensued. Silence in the alley, that is, considering the perpetual skids of tires and honks of horns on the road, and the occasional distant smash of some random careless fool who should never have been allowed a driver's license.
Slowly, a frown stretched over Cobalt's face. "Did I just throw him?"
<Yeah!> Phlash grinned rabidly. <It was so cool! The phatty never stood a chance!>
"But what were they about?"
<This,> she answered darkly. She reached down and picked something up in her mouth: it was the crown the other Phrygoil had worn, which had fallen off in Cobalt's sudden movement. <They are the phollowers of the sinister Lord of the Phrozen Phace.>
She gave him a hopeless look. <Burger King?>
"Oh, I know them!" he exclaimed in realization, making Phlash facefault.
"Cobalt," Gina asked slowly, "you threw that thing really strangely."
He looked around at her. "... No I didn't. I just threw him."
"Actually," she said seriously, "you did. You moved so fast that you were, like, a blur. And you threw him, what, sixty feet? That was like some freaky ninja thing! How'd you do that?"
He frowned, thinking. Now that he reflected on it, he realized that he really had been extremely fast and strong in that moment, even though he was so awesome that he was fast and strong all the time anyway. But where had that come from? He only knew that it had been so easy, so natural, that he'd barely noticed any difference.
"I have no idea," he told her, scratching absently at his hand. "Probably just because I'm so awesome that even physics love me now ... what are you people looking at?"
The grunts, who had been staring at him in disbelief, jumped and immediately averted their gazes. "Um ... nothing, sir."
He glared at them. "I'm not crazy!"
"We didn't say you were, sir."
"But you were looking at me like I had two hands!"
"I meant heads. Geez, I'm losing it." He turned back to his fellow admin, as the makings of a plan began to form in his head. "Gina ... can you take these people back to camp? I want to try and head off the girl and snatch her Lapras."
She frowned. "Wh—?"
"I'll tell you why. I couldn't nab the thing before, since it smashed me to the floor, and they'll probably be on their guard around the hospital ... but you can bet they'll be heading to the gym, and they won't expect me to be sneaking around there. Hopefully. And if we can get it, then we can run back to headquarters, give it and the Moon Stone bits to the Boss, and finish both missions! Why didn't I see it before?"
She shrugged. She's been struck speechless by my incredibly genius self, he thought egomaniacally.
"Great!" he said eagerly, taking her silence for consent. "Now I'm off to do just that. Phlash, come on ... Phlash?"
<This must burn!> Phlash chanted psychotically, ripping the crown up into tiny pieces and jumping on them rapidly. <Burn! Burn! Burn! Burn! Burn! Burn! Burn! Burn! Burn!>
Cobalt sweatdropped. If I can get her to move, that is, he thought pathetically.
* * *
"Keep an eye out," Leaf ordered, as she led the way out through the sliding doors of the hospital, waving back half-heartedly at the overenthusiastic nurses at the counter. She squinted as she emerged out in the stunning sunlight, with her trusty handbag slung over one arm and a happily chirping Paris in the other. Frosti trotted along at her side, occasionally scowling up in slight jealousy at the little Lapras.
Lightning followed close behind, glancing around him nervously. "Leaf, I don't like this. What if they ambush us?"
Two shadowy figures suddenly came close behind him. Lightning caught sight of them and yelped in fright, before realizing that it was only Fire and Ocean. Peach giggled at the expression on her trainer's face, patting his shoulder soothingly.
"Why would they ambush us?" Fire asked, rolling his eyes. "Isn't that the point of looking around, so that they won't?"
"Well ... I dunno," Lightning muttered, biting his lip. "They might do something different this time ... they might have brought friends ..."
Leaf raised an eyebrow, and the change in her expression caught his eye. They stared at each other, thinking, before abruptly exploding into wild laughter.
"C-cobalt?" Leaf gasped between guffaws. "With friends? Are you serious?"
Lightning only giggled in reply.
"Right..." Fire sweatdropped and turned away. "You're not strange at all."
Leaf, still shaking with laughter, raised an eyebrow at him.
Fire understood her unspoken meaning perfectly. "Oh, I did it again. Sorry. But you know, it'd be so much easier not being sarcastic if you guys didn't roll on the floor laughing all the time."
"Roffle!" Ocean exclaimed happily, making everyone else facefault.
Peach gave him a sideways look. <"Roffle"? That's the dumbest line I've ever heard. Is he mad, Leaf?>
"Yes," Leaf said as they got up. The answer instantly got her weird looks from the boys, and she glared back at them. "...What?"
"You're talking to yourself again," Lightning explained, making the girl facefault a second time.
<Mommy?> Paris asked uncertainly, half pinned to the sidewalk by her trainer's weight. <Why do you keep falling like that?>
Leaf sighed, reaching her hand upwards to scratch under Paris's chin as she slowly pushed herself to her feet. "Why? Well, Paris, they're crazy. That's probably why."
"Yeah, but you're talking to yourself, again," Lightning put in.
She gave him The Look. "Lightning. I already explained this twice. Don't make me get angry with you."
He cringed. "Sorry?"
"Thank you. Now which way's the gym?"
Ocean looked away. "De gyb? Well...?"
Leaf made a face. "Ugh ... you don't know where it is, do you?"
"Well, as a madder of facd, do."
Last edited by SugarPesticide; 2nd January 2010 at 7:35 AM.
"But I would guess," Fire cut in, "that it's somewhere near the ocean. It keeps to the theme of water-types, which the gym leader trains."
"He does?" Leaf asked, shocked.
<What do you mean, "he does?"?> Frosti repeated incredulously. <Everyone knows about Misty, and the horribly wet Pokemon she trains!>
"...The gym leader's a girl?" Leaf said uncertainly, and everyone groaned at her apparent lack of knowledge on this subject.
"Just stop," Fire said in a pained voice. "Please. We're going this way." Glancing over his shoulder to make sure the others were following, he randomly headed off to the right, almost looking as if he wished he didn't know them.
A tall figure, leaning against a lamppost near the intersection on the opposite side of the hospital, watched them go. It waited for a few moments after they had rounded the corner, while pedestrians walked hurriedly past like schools of lost fish. Then, very casually, it straightened up, stretched, and followed them.
Eventually, after much complaining and sore feet, they stumbled upon the gym, a broad, tall dome sitting serenely in a small park near the water. A short, winding path led up to it, and they moved down it eagerly, although Leaf, who remembered what happened last time she had approached a gym, was a bit guarded. The gym's top half was decorated with loudly-colored stripes, giving it an appearance of an overgrown beach ball. A huge plastic Dewgong perched in front of it, above the main entrance to the gym; the white, finned Pokemon was stretched out, grinning as if to say, This is MY beach ball.
Upon reaching the heavy double doors, Leaf paused warily.
"Oh, you won't fall again," Fire said, understanding her doubt. "I'm not on the other side to knock you down this time." He grinned ruefully.
She smiled back, then pushed the doors open. They were greeted with the sight of a waiting area, heavy with the smell of chlorine. The pale blue walls with its painted fish gave them the eerie sensation of being underwater. To the right and left were doors marked "Changing Room", but one would have to navigate a large collection of tables and stuffed chairs to get to either one. A full-length mirror hung from one wall. At the far end of the room, standing to the side of a receptionist's desk, were the double doors to the gym itself, more or less flaps that could be pushed aside with minimal effort. Voices could be heard from within, amplified by that unearthly echo produced by all large arenas.
Ocean immediately strode over to the mirror, in which he admired himself, smoothing back his hair in vain. Lightning took a seat in a nearby chair, Peach watching intently from his shoulder as he idly scrolled through his Pokedex's functions. Leaf recalled Paris and Frosti (who looked at her rather reproachfully as she did so), and she and Fire approached the receptionist, who was looking rather anxiously towards the double doors.
Fire didn't bother with greetings. "We want a gym battle," he said, showing off his spectacular talent for not wasting any time.
The receptionist, a blond, muscular young man wearing a shirt that read "Lifeguard", jumped at the boy's words. "What? Oh, sorry. Um ..." He paused, trying to look somewhat like he knew what he was doing. "I'm sorry, but the gym leader is currently busy."
"Fighting?" Leaf asked curiously, craning her neck in an effort to see through the doors' plastic windows, but they were too fogged up with condensation.
A sudden, mostly feminine shout from beyond the doors cut him off.
"ARE YOU TRYING TO TELL ME HOW TO DO MY JOB?!"
"... although not with her Pokemon," the receptionist said, cringing along with the challengers. He rubbed the back of his head nervously as he glanced toward the doors. "I'm sorry about this. I'm not sure when they're going to stop arguing, so you might have to wait a while. But I'll be sure to get you in as soon as I can. I'm the referee, you know. Wennett Raines, at your service. That's my job ... Would you like a souvenir?" He gestured towards the shelves behind him, which were stocked with neatly folded T-shirts. "We have them in red, indigo, turqoise, yellow, black, lime, and beige. No, I have no idea why they ordered beige. Those girls can have strange tastes in clothes, really."
Leaf shook her head. "No thanks. We can just wait here for them to get it over with."
"Suit yourself," Wennett said, shrugging. "But don't touch the stuff near the mirror. They belong to the guy she's arguing with." He gave them the obvious "or else" look.
They glanced over to the general mirror area, ignoring Ocean as he struck an awkward pose. A gray vest lay draped over the back of a chair, and on the table next to it sat a small dark pack and a glaringly familiar red helmet. The teens' gazes passed over this slight detail casually, then abruptly snapped back to it in a double take.
"What? Roark's here?!" Leaf and Fire both exclaimed in shock.
There was a moment of uncertain silence before, bug-eyed, the two swiveled towards each other, pointing and asking in unison, "You know him? How do you know him? I thought only I knew him!"
"Dad's weird!" Ocean commented cheerfully, looking at them in the mirror. "Begause I dow hib, do!"
"Yeah! Dey wouldd'd led be go off od by owd, sidce I'b sdill id drouble, so Jeddy sedt hib ub wid be. Aldough, he said dad I gould sday wid you guys ad de hosbidal undil we rud iddo hib agaid. I dink he dinks he's babysidding be." He shook his head almost pitingly. "Whad a lie. I'b dot a baby."
The Pokedex snickered evilly. "And I bet that was fun for both of you, eh?"
"Shut it, Pokedex," Leaf scolded. "Fire, how come you know him? I don't get it."
"It was after you saved ... after the mountain incident," Fire explained, glancing away. "He called up the police and the Cerulean Nurse Joy and everyone to help rescue anybody who was up in that area. He found us in that tunnel after you fainted." He shrugged.
"Oh. That's more exciting than when I met him. Well, actually, not really. It was, like, after the gym battle, and he was mad at me for a bit. And then he cried, which was sad. And then we walked around to look at the Contest place. That was boring, but not really, because I was watching him." She took on a starry-eyed look that made Fire sweatdrop.
"Aw," Lightning pouted. "I feel so left out, you guys. I'm the only who doesn't know him. I sure wish I did."
There was an awkward silence at this. Peach glared at him meaningfully.
"I mean—" Lightning blushed when he realized what he'd said. "I mean, I — ugh, you know what I mean!"
"We sure do. Hey, spikehead, can you turn back toward your closet and drag your little blond pal out too? He needs to make like a pendulum and show us how he swings!"
"Excuse me?" the machine asked sharply. "Is that a tone? Are you using the tone with me, young lady?"
"Please, people!" Wennett pleaded hastily. "Let's keep the arguing down to a minimum! In here, anyway. Just calm down, if you would ..."
Leaf glared darkly at the Pokedex, who snickered in satisfaction. Then she turned to the helmet, which was sitting rather oblivously on the table, and her murderous attitude evaporated as a rather shrill squeal wriggled its way through her throat. The others stared at her, a bit alarmed at her sudden mood swing, as she darted girlishly to the table and, a bit immaturely, poked the helmet. Then, to their utter astonishment, she picked it up and put it on.
The helmet, of course, had no objection.
"Ooh, this looks great on me!" Leaf crooned excitedly, standing in front of the mirror and half pushing a stunned Ocean out of the way. She struck a pose, turning back and forth, putting her hands on her hips and turning her head to the side. "And it goes with my outfit, too! Doesn't it make me look sexy?"
The males sweatdropped awkwardly at this, trying to find a way to get out of answering that question. Leaf eyed them shrewdly in the mirror, and they stammered, "Well..."
Luckily, a sudden angry yell saved them.
"THERE IS NO REASON," the yell went, "FOR YOU TO TRY TO TELL ME WHAT TO DO! I AM PERFECTLY CAPABLE OF RUNNING THINGS MY OWN WAY!"
"I know that!" protested another voice. "But you were still being irresponsible. Now, if you had put a stop to—"
"IRRESPONSIBLE?" the first one cut him off shrilly. "YOU'RE CALLING ME IRRESPONSIBLE? I'M NOT THE ONE WHO WALKED OUT ON HER JOB, YOU PATHETIC LITTLE HOLE-DIGGER!"
"... Is that supposed to be an insult?"
"DAMN RIGHT IT'S SUPPOSED TO BE AN INSULT! BECAUSE FORGIVE ME IF I'M NOT AS CONCERNED ABOUT STUPID MOUNTAINS AS YOU AND YOUR SQUINTY-EYED PAL! IF YOU'RE NOT GOING TO SHUT UP ABOUT IT, THEN YOU CAN JUST FORGET ABOUT HEARING ME OUT, BUCKO!"
There was an echoey slap, slap, slap of cargo boots hitting wet concrete.
"AND QUIT FOLLOWING ME!" the female person shouted angrily. "WE'RE NOT TALKING ABOUT THIS ANYMORE! IF YOU TRY TO LECTURE ME ONE MORE TIME—"
"I'm not following you! Sheesh, it's not my fault that we're both heading for the doors."
Leaf froze. Ocean shot her an oddly gleeful look.
There was a sudden smacking sound as the doors flew open and hit the walls with surprising force; they all swiveled around in shock at the noise. Emerging from the rather humid gym beyond, in which they could see that a very large and invitingly blue pool was situated, was an angry-looking, red-faced, orange-headed girl. She appeared older than the startled visitors, although somewhat younger than Cobalt; she wore blue shorts, a yellow T-shirt, and a flustered scowl, although the latter looked strangely out of place. Her short hair was pulled up to one side in a spiky ponytail, giving her a strangely boyish look.
Behind her came a familiar face, wearing much the same expression. Roark strode out in a huff, looking more than a bit uncomfortable, steamed-up glasses gleaming dramatically in the florescent lights. Sweat glinted on his forehead and bare arms, and Leaf realized why he hadn't worn his vest and helmet into the gym; the humidity would be just too much with those.
Then he skidded to a halt, his scowl softening into a confused frown, as he caught sight of Leaf. The gym leader, meanwhile, followed his uncertain gaze toward the thoroughly embarrassed brunette, and her lips pressed together into a tight, controlled line — for what reason was impossible to tell.
There was a long moment of tense, awkward silence.
"Er," Roark said finally, pointing up at the helmet perched on Leaf's head; its redness was now rivaled by the brilliant color blotching the girl's face. "That's my ... why are you ... I mean, you're wearing ... wait, what?"
Blushing crimson, Leaf slowly brought her hands up and pulled off the helmet. She then set it on the table, before taking a few steps backward and pointedly looking at anything but him.
Then she jumped in shock when the Pokedex abruptly let out a series of overly amused cackles, and everyone's attention turned to it in surprise. Vibrating slightly in hilarity, it laughed so hard that it actually fell out of Leaf's handbag, smacking the ground hard, although its annoying chortling never hitched at this.
"Mmmmmmph!" the gym leader snorted suddenly, as her tight-lipped facade suddenly dissolved in a giggling fit.
The others stared at her for a moment; then, one by one, the five boys and Peach broke down as well, each chuckling or roaring, depending on who was laughing. Ocean actually collapsed to the floor, pounding on it wildly as he shook uncontrollably.
"It's not funny, guys!" Leaf protested childishly, still utterly mortified; but no one heard her complaint in the rippling sounds of mirth flowing around them all.
The gym leader wiped a tear from her eye, her breath uneven. "I'm sorry," she said, an errant giggle sneaking in to ruin the effect of that statement. "That's not how I usually greet challengers ..." She paused, overcome by another slight onslaught of giggles, before hazily reaching up to shake Leaf's hand. "Welcome to Cerulean. I'm Misty, the gym leader. I don't know who you are, but you just made my week."
Several minutes later found them collapsed on the bleachers in the gym, most still giggling feebly. Leaf still felt sore about her recent embarrassment, and kept her attention away from them, instead letting her gaze drift over the great, rippling waters in the pool, taking up most of the space in the gym; the doors on either side of the gym, which led back to the changing rooms; the tall lifeguard's chair, situated at the edge of the pool, directly where the blond referee would normally stand; and the high, domed ceiling above them, which gave the unnerving impression that the gym was inside a large, concrete bubble.
"I really am sorry about all this," Misty apologized, chuckling again. "But It's been quite a rough week for me. I would've gone right up to your hospital and praised you for your efforts and all that, but events ..." She trailed off, looking down ashamedly at her bare feet dangling below her.
"I'm sure," Roark said, the only one of them who was standing. He was leaning against the side of the bleachers, next to the others. His words were serious, but they were belied by the look on his face: a radiant, almost loopy grin that showed there was no real enmity between Misty and himself. "And what could possibly be so important that you would let a whole mountain collapse before you acknowledged that there was a problem? Tell us now, before you go back to biting my head off."
"You're pushing it," Misty replied mock-seriously. "You keep asking, 'Misty, why didn't you go investigate?' Well, why didn't Brock investigate? It's in his domain, too! And he didn't have anything keeping him busy before the Tyranitar incident!"
The other opened his mouth, then shut it again, like a gaping fish. Clearly that thought hadn't occurred to him.
Misty allowed herself a smirk at the boy's realization before continuing. "But as for the situation here, there've been hurricane reports off the coast, to start. Nothing too horrible — yet — but a lot of the merchant and fishing ships sailing around out there are panicking about it. They keep going off course to avoid storms, and end up wrecking against some stupid rock. I have to swim out there once every couple days to save them. It's ridiculous how few of them actually know how to swim, considering."
Wennett nodded in approval of her tone.
"Wow!" Ocean's eyes lit up, filled with hopeless adoration. "You swib oud dere all by yourself? You're so heroig!"
Mist rolled her eyes at him. "I don't go out there 'all by myself'. I surf out there on my Pokemon. It's not like even I can swim for miles all alone. But there's more. Crime's rocketing for some reason ... it's not the worst here in Cerulean, but it's still a pain to control. Team Rocket's getting stronger, and it's impossible to tell where another closet grunt is going to pop up next. Then I have to keep a close eye on that idiot Bill to make sure he doesn't do anything stupid ..."
The others stared at her uncomprehendingly.
"You know, Bill? The one who's doing those stupid experiments that'll probably get him killed one day? ... No? ... Right. Moving on. There's been a few mass battles between Phrygoil packs. They're scaring a lot of people, and almost nobody's using the drive-thrus anymore. It's not fun to see a weasel head poke through your open car window. And as if all that wasn't enough, I have to convince those Wicked Witches that my Pokemon are not solely for their stupid shows!"
Lightning frowned. "Wicked Witches? Who are they?"
Suddenly, the answers to that question conveniently came bursting through a door at the far end of the gym, twirling and laughing as their hair — blond, blue, and pink — circled their heads like halos. The sight of their slender, bikini-clad forms made Ocean's eyes practically bug out of his head, and even Fire sat up straighter to watch. Abruptly stopping at the edge of the pool, the three young women each tossed a Poke Ball into the air, spinning several times before they reached out and caught them deftly.
"Talent, power, beauty, grace!" the pink-haired one chanted in a sing-song voice, striking a pose.
"Perfect body, perfect face!" the blue-haired one chimed in, throwing her hands to the sky in a manner that made Ocean moan and drool.
"Team Waterflower, performing in the sea and light!" added the blond one, blowing a kiss. Lightning pretended to catch it, and Peach growled in disbelief.
"Surrender and wonder at the sight!" the young women finished their chant in unison. They released the creatures in their Poke Balls into the pool, where they materialized in a shower of water that splashed into the air before cascading down in droplets that sparkled like jewels. A slightly small blue Pokemon with antennae skittered across the water, flapping along the surface happily. A rather stupid-looking seal-like white Pokemon flipped around in the air a couple of times before splashing heavily in the water, and a reddish, serpentine Pokemon arched its horned head back, releasing a stream of water from its annoyingly smiling mouth.
The boys cheered and applauded wildly at the performance. The girls and Peach were less enthusiastic.
"Marvelous, ladies!" Wennett gushed, smiling. "Truly spectacular use of water and dance! My only concern is your speed. Moving too quickly on wet cement can make you fall, you know." He nodded, as if agreeing with himself, before abruptly getting up and leaving. "I must return to my desk, sadly. I have a job to do. Until then, good-bye!" He disappeared through the doors dramatically, making Leaf sweatdrop.
"The rhythm was all wrong," Misty commented, yawning widely. "And go put something on. You're going to make these people drool all over my nice bleachers."
"Oh, lighten up, Misty!" the pink-haired girl said in a giggly voice. She and her two cronies began to make their way towards the group, making Ocean squeal like a fanboy.
<I don't like them,> Peach muttered angrily, shocking Lightning slightly. This only put a silly grin on his face, however, and the Pichu yelled in frustration. <Don't look at them, sweetheart, look at ME! NO MORE OF THIS!>
The little mouse abruptly unleashed a crackling wave of golden electricity, which swept down into the pool, creating a current of electricity that rushed through the waters, tracing their ripples. The lightning hit the water Pokemon hard, and they twitched for a moment before fainting in the deadly waters. The electricity lingered for a moment, then abruptly winked out of existence.
Roark raised a suspicious eyebrow at her display of power, and Leaf's heart jumped into a faster, more anxious rhythm, as she hoped against hope that he wouldn't make any connection.
"Oh, darn!" the blue-haired girl sighed in a giggly way, as she and her sisters recalled the Pokemon. This distracted the miner, and Leaf would have felt grateful to the girl if she hadn't had a sudden urge to strangle her.
"Well, that's what you get for putting on beauty shows with MY Pokemon!" Misty said, highly self-satisfied.
"But water shows are pretty," the blond sister complained as they reached the group. "People like pretty. Who are these people? They don't live here, right?"
The teenagers sweatdropped at this question.
"Anyway, we are Daisy—" the blonde continued, flipping her hair around.
"Violet—" the blue-haired one added happily.
"—and Lily!" finished the pink-haired girl. "Togeth—"
"...'Gasp'?" Lily paused, frowning. "Was that part of the motto?"
Daisy thought for a moment, an action which she made look incredibly difficult. Then she shook her head. "No, but that guy cut in," she said, pointing at Roark. "He's a meanie."
Startled, he ducked his head down, cheeks flushed. "Sorry," he muttered. "It's just that ... my mom's name's Lily." His mouth turned down in a grim frown.
"Whoa, dad's so weird!" Ocean exclaimed excitedly, the way he usually did. "Begause by sisder's dabe is Daisy!"
"Yeah," Lightning added. "But I never had a hamster named Violet."
Everyone stared at him.
<..."Hamster"? What is this "hamster" you speak of?> Peach asked, eying him shrewdly.
"Bud you dow whad dis beads?" Ocean asked Roark enthusiastically, quickly forgetting Lightning's strange remark. He grabbed the other boy's shoulders, shaking him slightly with each word. "Id beads I'B YOUR UGGLE!"
"What's an uggle?" Violet asked, confused.
"Probably some weird technical term," Lily said, shrugging. "Who are these people, Misty?"
"Hey, I asked that!" Daisy protested, pushing her back. "You're stealing my lines!"
"SHUT UP! I'll tell you!" Misty interrupted, looking extremely annoyed again. "These people are Leaf, Fire, Ocean, and Lightning. They're noobs from Pallet Town, but they're getting stronger."
"At least one of us is," Fire commented.
"How cute! You're reaching for the stars!" Violet said happily. "Good for you! But what about meanie boy? He doesn't look like a noob. He looks like a girl!" She poked Roark's forehead a bit condescendingly.
The miner put on an utterly astonished look. "No I don't!"
"Ooh, he does!" Lily agreed, grabbing his chin and turning his head slightly one way, then the other. "But we'll fix that. He needs a better outfit, to start. Look at what he's wearing! It doesn't fit him at all. And then we should give him a mohawk!"
The other two squealed in approval.
"Ack! Not the hair!" Roark exclaimed, clutching his head protectively. "Don't touch the hair!"
Something fell off his belt as he tried to jerk away from them. In a beam of red light, the fallen Poke Ball released some grayish creature which Leaf thought looked rather ugly, in a very prehistoric way; the same, however, could not be said for the bracelet circling her wrist, which was decorated with small, gray, intricately curved beads from an Everstone. The Cranidos glanced up at the scene, then rolled her red eyes. <With you, my boy, the Force is very strong,> she remarked sarcastically.
From Leaf's handbag came an ominous beeping sound.
The girl groaned in disbelief. "Why can't you ever stop?"
"Because it's a free country, my dear Naaaarrrrrrrgh. We all have rights, and I just happen to have the right to not remain silent. Cranidos, the—" The Pokedex suddenly burst into mechanical laughter. "Actually, forget anything I come up with; its official classification is gold. Shall we hear it?"
<NO! LET'S NOT HEAR IT! I'M SICK AND TIRED OF IMMATURE LITTLE PRICKS GIGGLING AT IT!> the Cranidos exploded suddenly. <DON'T SAY IT!>
"It," the machine repeated. "There you go. Cranidos, the Head Butt Pokemon."
<NOOOOOOOOO!> the dinosaur howled, bashing her head against the wall in frustration. <I HAVE HEARD THOSE FREAKING ARCEUS-DAMNED MACHINES SAY THAT SINCE THE DAY I WAS FREAKING RESURRECTED! WHY, FOR THE LOVE OF MEW, DID THOSE RETARDED POKEDEX CREATORS GIVE ME SUCH A RETARDED CLASSIFICATION?>
"Anni!" Roark scolded, swooping down and snatching her up. "Remember what we talked about? You're not allowed to use your head indoors!"
<Oh yeah ...> Anni's gaze drifted over the small crater in the wall, where her head had dented it. <Oops.>
Misty groaned. "Great. Now I need a new wall! Why is—"
"YOU MUST ALL SHUT UP!" the Pokedex hollered. "I WASN'T DONE WITH THE ENTRY! Thank you. Now back to our dear little butthead. Gender is female. Height is Pathetic Little Orphan That's Not Really An Orphan But Just An Actor In A Pathetic Movie That's Not Going To Do Well At The Box Office. Weight is Average Obese Person From Sixty Million Years Ago. Cranidos are aggressive little buggers that do nothing at all except smash their tough heads into things they don't like. Luckily for the world, they all died out ages ago when this big-*** meteor smashed into the ground and blew them all up. Anyone who says they went extinct some other way is a moron and should be shot in the head. But sadly some idiot miner named Roark and his weird psycho of a father went out and discovered their fossils and dug them up and resurrected them. Blasphemous. Who do they think they are, Shaymin? And now the little menaces are running around again and smashing innocent things up, but this time they have a deranged four-eyed fanboy looking out for them who wears a helmet just like theirs. Whoo, I was on a roll, wasn't I?"
Anni shot it a murderous glower. Everyone else just stared.
"... Does it always do that?" Roark asked finally, more bemused than insulted.
Leaf took a long, deep breath. "Yes," she said wearily, burying her face in her hands in exhaustion. The day was't even half over yet, and she was already tired from the stupidity and sarcasm and pretty boys around her. "Yes, it does."
"That's weird," Daisy said happily, mysteriously pulling out another Poke Ball from who knows where. "I'm going to do a show now. Who wants to watch?"
The spectators sweatdropped at the abrupt change of topic.
"I will!" Violet and Lily exclaimed excitedly, going into ridiculous cheerleader poses as their sister strode up to the edge of the pool. She unleashed a rather dumb-looking Pokemon with a pink, flat, heart-shaped body and a pair of creepily blank black eyes. Its inherent cuteness factor made Leaf almost as sick as the dead Jigglypuff at Mount Moon had.
<Happy happy!> the Pokemon chirped happily, jumping up and down in the water excitedly. <Joy joy! Happy happy joy joy! Happy happy joy joy! Joy joy joy joy joy joyyyy!>
"Oh, you're such a good fish!" Daisy crooned, patting the Pokemon's head. This action failed, however, as it was virtually impossible to distinguish its head from the rest of its body. "Let's do a show, Romeo! Go into Routine Number Eight!"
<Joy joy!> the Pokemon exclaimed eagerly, flopping around in the pool.
"Daisy, for the love of Arceus, SHE IS A GIRL," Misty said in a strained voice, her face starting to go red again.
"But I call him Romeo!" Daisy said back, with a sort of pouting expression on her face. "He wants to be named Romeo, so he will be Romeo. Are you ready, my manly Romeo?"
<Happy!> exclaimed the manly yet girlish fish. She flipped backwards in a wide arc, shooting a sparkling Water Gun into the air to create a rainbow of blues and silver-grays above the pool. The second she touched the water again, she abruptly shot across the surface of the water in a crisscrossing arc, as a skater might. A strange combination of fluttering pink hearts and clear water spouted from her mouth as she skiied across the pool for several moments, creating a strange, hoselike thing which floated in the air for a few seconds, then collapsed into the pool behind her as she continued to feed the constant stream. The hearts remained, however, leaving a distinct trail to mark where she had been. Suddenly she leapt into the air, twirled cutely as she hung for a brief, sparkling second, and splashed into the water, squealing cutely before posing dramatically in the middle of the pool.
"Ooh!" the spectators exclaimed, craning their necks to see the end result. It was difficult to see at that angle, but there was no mistaking the pattern of the huge treble clef in the pool, composed of glittering hearts. It remained their for a moment, boldly pink, before fading out gently, vanishing as if it had never been.
"Lame," Misty sighed.
"That was AWESOME!" Lightning cheered enthusiastically, applauding. "Ten out of five!"
Ocean could only groan in a fanboyish manner.
"I shall now proceed to ruin this lovely setting with some fascinating tidbits on this stupid fish. What fun. Luvdisc, the Illegal Pokemon. Gender is Female, or so the government wants us to believe. Height is Midget, Weight is Bulimic. These sickening little buggers are famous for stalking couples who are destined to be stuck with each other for ever. People think they're attracted to love, but they're really just there to sneak in and watch when they GET IT ON, WHOOHOO! Also, they're like Lopunny in that even their males are obsessed with men. Given this, and the fact that two of them always kiss daintily when they meet each other, we can safely assume that when the world ends, Luvdisc all over the world will congregate in a Tunnel of Love and start a mass orgy. We'll see how cute they are then, eh?"
<Joy?> Romeo asked, tilting her head to the side. As she lacked a head, however, she tilted her entire body instead, and toppled sideways into the waters of the pool.
"Pokedex," Leaf sighed, "stop. That was really neat, actually. Paris, come out and watch this!"
<Watch what?> the little Lapras asked cutely, materializing before her trainer in the very familiar beam of red light. She looked around, grinning. <Wow, the air is so wet here, Mommy!>
"It is, isn't it? Watch that funny-looking fish," Leaf explained, pointing at the Luvdisc as she tried to get herself upright. "She's going to make a pretty show! Won't that be fun?"
<Yeah, Mommy!> Paris agreed, nodding excitedly. Another couple of scales fell off as she bounced up and down.
Leaf picked one of the indigo scales up, frowning. "Hmm. That's weird. Why do your scales keep falling off? Do you feel sick, Paris?"
<No, I feel great!> Paris replied, grinning as she looked over at the pool.
"Good. Still, there's got to be a reason for it." She turned to Misty, who was looking utterly bored. "Misty? Do you know why they're dropping off?"
Misty shrugged, although she looked somewhat surprised at Paris's unique coloring. "Oh. Um, I have no idea. Wennett probably knows, though. He's more of a brainiac than I am." She took a deep breath, then bellowed an echoing shout: "WENNETT! GET IN HERE!"
"Yes?" Wennett asked sycophantically, rushing back into the gym and skidding to a halt next to them.
"This Lapras is losing scales for some reason," Misty told him, pointing. "Do you know why?"
"Hmm." He crouched down to Paris's level. "Hi, you're very cute, aren't you? Yes, I think I know why."
"Routine Number Twelve!" Daisy called, not noticing the Lapras. Romeo happily obliged, beginning by putting on a burst of speed that left a sparkling trail of water behind her.
"Wild Lapras are found mostly in polar regions," Wennett explained, patting Paris's head. "They're naturally accostummed to those waters, having an Ice sub-type. But it's still too cold for the newly hatched calves, so they developed a different mechanism."
A slight rustling diverted Leaf's attention. Turning, she was surprised to see a very tanned young woman with bronze-colored hair seating herself a fair distance from the group, dressed lightly but not nearly as lightly as Team Waterflower. Her silvery eyes locked onto Leaf's for a moment, and she nodded slightly before turning her attention toward the show, her sharp-featured face looking tense.
Misty followed Leaf's gaze. "People come in here all the time," she said, answering the girl's unspoken thought. "They like watching gym battles or those retarded shows. Carry on, Wennett."
Anni, meanwhile, watched the Lapras in shock. Then she turned to Roark, who was watching Routine Number Twelve in fascination, and pulled sharply on his pant leg until he looked down. "What?"
<Look!> she hissed quietly, pointing. <That must be my niece! That cute Lapras there! That purple Lapras!>
"Indigo," he corrected automatically, dropping his voice to a softer volume. "Whoa, that's really neat! Skipper with a really pretty daughter. I like that." He looked proudly at Paris, eyes gleaming a bit wetly.
Anni stared in hopelessness at his expression. <You're not going to start blubbering again, are you?>
"Of course not," he said defensively, sniffing. "Poor Skipper. He feels awful for letting her go. And he wouldn't have done it if he hadn't remembered what Dad did."
<Yeah, that guy's a *******,> Anni agreed casually. <Poor us. What's wrong with your head?>
"I don't know," the miner said with a slight grimace, rubbing his temples. "I just ... ugh, I feel weird for some reason."
<So do I. That guy—> She pointed at Ocean as she spoke. <—is one of the strangest people I ever saw. He's moaning more like a Miltank than the Miltank ever could.>
But Roark couldn't hear her. He was suddenly having the ominous feeling that his brain was about to be stabbed at and swirled around on a stick like a puff of cotton candy.
"Calves have an extra outer skin for the first month or so after hatching," Wennett was still explaining, picking up a scale and pinching it slightly. "That second skin has a denser concentration of fat molecules to keep them warm, as well as provide a little extra defense against predators. After that first month, they shed the skin. The peeling scales signal that the skin's about to go ... scientists aren't sure why it does that yet. In warmer climates like this, though, they'll shed the skin a lot earlier."
"Oh, that makes sense!" Leaf said contentedly, patting Paris's nose. "I thought something bad was about to happen. Silly me."
At that moment, of course, three bad things happened in quick succession.
Romeo, in spite of her great coordination on the water, abruptly smashed into the side of the pool, sending water splashing all over the group, who cried out indignantly.
Paris stared at the dazed Luvdisc for a brief second before squealing <I wanna play with the funny-looking fish, Mommy!> and abruptly darted off toward the water, which would not have actually been such a bad thing if the motion wasn't immediately followed by an extremely ominous RIIIIIP!
And Roark suddenly gripped his own head and keeled over like demons were spitting on him, his groans a great deal less comical than Ocean's somewhat pathetic cow noises.
"WHAT THE HELL?!" Misty exclaimed, leaping to her feet; around her, the others did the same, looking confused and horrified. They glanced from Paris, who had just jumped into the pool and left great clumps of scales behind, to Roark, who was on his knees and bending as if he were about to hurl. "WENNETT, CALL AN AMBULANCE! WAIT, I'LL CALL AN AMBULANCE, YOU SEE WHAT'S WRONG WITH THE LAPRAS, THEY DON'T USUALLY GO 'RIP'! DAISY, GET LUVDISC OUT OF THE POOL!" she ordered, white-faced as she sprinted for the doors, nearly slipping on the wet concrete. "YOU PEOPLE GIVE HIM CPR OR SOMETHING!" she added, speaking to the Pallet noobs before disappearing through the doors, which flapped violently as she burst out through them.
"Paris?" Leaf called anxiously, staring at the pool as the boys around her rushed to attend to the miner, while Anni looked on in paralyzed horror. Team Waterflower dived into the water, calling for Romeo in overly dramatic voices.
<I'm okay, Mommy!> was the Lapras's muffled reply which wafted from the mess of splashing water. <This fish is funny. It's tickling meeeeeheehee!>
Satisfied that her Pokemon was in no immediate danger, she swiveled around and rejoined the boys, who were looking extremely traumatized.
"Oh no!" Lightning squealed, bouncing around fearfully. On his shoulder, Peach jumped around in a startlingly similar matter. "Somebody get the midwife! I think he's going into labor! Oh no, oh no, oh no, oh no—"
"Lightning!" Fire exclaimed, staring at him incredulously. "There's a time and place for stupidity! I highly doubt that this it it!"
"Whaddawedo?" Lightning hollered, not really listening to the brunette. "Whaddawedo whaddawedo whaddawedo whaddawedo whaddawedo whaddawedo whaddawedo whaddawedo whaddawedo whaddawedo whaddawedo whaddawedo whaddawedo whaddawedo whaddawedo whaddawedo whaddawedo—?"
"CBR!" Ocean interjected fervently, getting to his knees. "I saw dis od DV! You lay hib dowd od his bag—"
"There's something wrong with my head!" Roark interrupted insanely, eyes wide with terror behind glasses that had fogged up again. "My head is hurting and I'm going to die and WHY IS IT NOT GOING AWAY AND ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGH!"
"... Of gourse, usually de vigdib doesd'd thrash aroudd," Ocean added nervously, as the miner started doing just that. "Uh, galb dowd, Roarg. Roarg? Dabbid, he's dod listeding. ROARG, SDOB BOVING LIGE DAD OR I BIGHD HAVE DO HID YOU. ARE YOU LISTEDING? YOU'RE DOD BAGING DIS ADY EASIER OD YOURSELF! JUSD SDOB SGREABING LIGE A LIDDLE GIRL OR LIGHDDING, AD DAGE A DEEB BREATH!"
"Ocean, stop it!" Leaf snapped, her heart pounding as if it were about to smash its way out of her rib cage. The gym seemed to swirl around her in an echoing cacophony of fear and horror and worry, and she shuddered. "He can't hear you, so just shut up!"
"Bud I gad'd do CBR od hib if he's doing dis!" Ocean protested, grabbing the miner by the shoulders and pushing him toward the ground with enormous effort, where he stayed mostly face-up, besides the obvious and ungainly thrashing. "Dow loog, od DV id was mosdly lige dis: the bersod leads over de vigdib, lige so ..." He lowered his face to Roark's, trying to lock on to his mouth.
Abruptly they were all startled by the Pokedex's sudden laughter. "AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!" it guffawed, snickering from Leaf's handbag. "I ALWAYS KNEW YOU WERE HIDING SOMETHING LIKE THAT IN THAT CLOSET, SPIKEHEAD! WHAT'D I TELL YOU GUYS, HE'S AS STRAIGHT AS A CIRCLE AND MAKE NO MISTAKE—"
"STOP IT!" Leaf hollered, looking down to glare at it. A small movement caught her eye as she did, and she looked up to see the strange tanned woman, sitting and watching them with slightly narrowed eyes.
Almost as if she were concentrating.
"I swear to Arceus," Leaf declared furiously, marching toward the woman with a murderously fast pace, "if you're trying to kill him for some damned reason, you won't know what hit your freaking tan face when I'm through with you!"
"Calm down," the woman said quietly, but in a voice of powerful boldness.
"'Calm down'? Is that a joke? You're—!"
"Leaf, I can't deal with you at the moment," the woman interrupted a bit sharply, never taking her eyes off the scene. "I've saving him from himself."
Leaf paused. "What?"
"Living a lie can kill you. That's what he's been doing, even though he doesn't know it. I have no idea how it could be in his head that long without one of us noticing, or even how the perpetrator could have put it there without getting our attention. Leave a dream like that in someone's brain for too long, and it starts twisting around its folds in strange ways ... of course it's going to hurt him. He'd have to have an IQ of ten or below for this not to. At least I nipped your misguided thought in the bud now, as opposed to a less convenient time."
The girl stared at her. "What are you talking about?"
"Now's not the time for explaining."
"Damn right it's the time for explaining! You just tell me what's going on, or—"
There was a sudden, surprising silence behind her. Turning, Leaf saw to her astonishment that Roark had rolled over on his side. For some completely random reason, he had abruptly fallen fast asleep. Ocean hastily put his ear by the miner's slightly open mouth to make sure he was breathing — which he was, though his breaths were ragged and uneven. Anni still stared, completely and utterly frozen.
The abrupt calm was infinitely more eerie than the screams. It echoed around them in a deep stillness, the ghosts of noises still bouncing in her mind and chilling her to the bone. And yet her heart fluttered happily as she watched Roark's unconscious form, his expression almost peaceful. He's okay! ... Right?
"Dreams always start with sleep," the woman remarked behind her. "And so they end that way, too. He'll live, but he might freak out a bit trying to reconcile with himself. But your problem—"
"What problem?" Leaf snapped, swiveling around again.
"—has already been dealt with by me," the woman finished. Having finished her strange concentration, she turned to face the girl, eyes flashing. "Leaf, I'm sorry. I know that you trusted so much in her, but you had to be disillusioned sometime—"
"WILL YOU QUIT TALKING IN CIRCLES AND JUST GET TO THE DAMN POINT ALREADY?"
The woman didn't even flinch. "Look behind me," she sighed, "and see how you've been deceived. I'll see you outside." She turned and started for the door, glancing over her shoulder.
"...Weirdo," Leaf muttered, watching her go. "Why am I listening to a freaky lady? And how does she know my name, anyway? She must be one of those stalkers. Cobalt could take a couple lessons from her."
Then she looked ahead to the pool, and froze as she saw the truth.
Team Waterflower was climbing out of the pool, sopping wet; the young women were handling the dazed Romeo carefully, murmuring comforting words to the dazed Luvdisc. Near them, Wennett was staring in utter shock and disbelief at Paris, who flopped up out of the pool cheerfully, giggling. The pool and surrounding concrete were littered with stray indigo scales, scattered like flower petals. The second skin floated in the water, translucent and radiating a deathly, chilling beauty, like an exotic snakeskin. The large hole in the thing's back marked the place where Paris's shining silver shell had been. In the midst of all the blue water and indigo scales, it took Leaf a moment to catch sight of Paris. Then a strange, Lapras-shaped silhouette moved against the water, and Leaf gasped in utter horror when she realized that it was not a silhouette at all.
Because — the reality pounded choppily in heavy waves through her disbelieving mind — Paris was the color of the rippling water behind her.
* * *
Last edited by SugarPesticide; 24th September 2009 at 1:42 PM.
And this took only ONE month to write. ZOMG.
* * *
Chapter Fourteen: It's a Blunderful Life (The Twist in Fate!)
"You're ... not ... shiny?" Leaf asked finally, in a strained voice. The room seemed to spin around her, shattering and melting as her former security in that one fact — I have a shiny Lapras, I'm so cool! — dissolved before her eyes. How could she face the world without that satisfying knowledge?
<What's shiny, Mommy?> Paris asked cutely, making Peach facepalm.
"Fascinating!" Wennett breathed, watching the Lapras intently. "This must be some sort of genetic mutation! The genes which affected alternate coloration were found only in her second skin! What a discovery ..."
"Leaf?" Lightning's voice distantly wafted toward her from somewhere. "Leaf, are you okay?"
She couldn't hear them. The blood pounding painfully in her ears was too loud.
<Mommy?> Paris repeated, tilting her head a little to the side.
The girl shuddered. "I ... I have to be alone for a while. This is just too ... too ... I don't know." Shaking her head, she slung her handbag over her shoulder and headed towards the doors which she had entered through not too long ago, embarrassed but in a better mood overall.
<I'll come!> Paris exclaimed happily, bounding after her trainer.
"I mean really alone," Leaf said a bit sharply, surprising the young Lapras. "That means you stay here, Paris. Understand?"
<...Yes, Mommy,> Paris agreed sulkily.
"You are never aloooooone," the Pokedex put in eerily, but Leaf ignored it. Instead she walked away, not looking back, shoes hitting the concrete softly as she brushed through the doors and out of sight, as if in a dream.
The strange woman waited on the other side, sharp eyes widening as the girl appeared. "Leaf, I'm sorry. I needed to speed the process of the shedding. You had to know—"
"Leave me alone," the girl muttered, stalking away.
"I had no choice!"
"I TOLD YOU," Leaf exploded, swiveling around to glare at her, "TO LEAVE ME ALONE! HOW HARD CAN THAT BE TO UNDERSTAND?"
Silver eyes flashed dangerously as the woman matched Leaf's gaze. For a moment she seemed about to give some cold and threatening warning about impudence to elders and other such things. But then, to Leaf's surprise, she lowered her head slightly in a nod. "Forgive me," she said, sounding almost humbled. "I shouldn't lecture while you're distraught. Take some time to come to terms with reality. I will find you when you're ready."
"Ready for what?" the girl asked bitterly.
But the woman had already swept past, navigating around the untidy furniture with ease and exiting gracefully through the main doors.
"... Is something wrong?" a voice behind her asked uncertainly. Leaf glanced over her shoulder briefly to see Misty watching her, tapping her fingers anxiously on the phone sitting on the receptionist's desk.
The brunette sighed, turned, and stormed dejectedly towards the exit, ignoring the gym leader's concern. The sun, perched directly above the earth in its glorious noontime position, illuminated the park around her and the gleaming buildings of the city beyond. The woman was nowhere to be seen, but, as Leaf marched down the path back into the urban environment of Cerulean, the sounds of approaching sirens filled the air with their cacophonous wailing.
But the girl couldn't see whether they were in range of vision yet. Her eyes were squeezed shut in horror; but when she heard the skid of tires and the slamming of doors, the hasty rustling of people rushing past her with a rattling gurney, and the curious, half-hostile tone of their questioning voices, she was sure that, if they saw her as they ran, they wouldn't be wondering who she was, why this girl was just moving like a sleepwalker.
No, they'd be wondering why a single, glittering tear had forced its way past her eyelids, soaking her dark lashes in despair.
* * *
"Out of the way, out of the way!" a person in white exclaimed, bursting heroically through the doors with his gurney. Several other people rushed in after him, with Misty bringing up the rear, but they all skidded to a halt when they took a second look at the situation: the snoozing miner surrounded by three noobs, a curious electric mouse, and a horrified-looking dinosaur.
"The victim is ... sleeping?" asked a female doctor uncertainly.
"Sssh! Dod'd wage hib ub!" Ocean whisper-screamed, waving them back.
"Ocean," Fire said wearily, getting up from his kneeling position, "these are doctors. I think we'll have a better chance of helping him if we let them wake him up."
The spiky-haired boy blinked. "... Oh."
A doctor approached the unconscious form, frowning slightly as he knelt to examine the situation. "'Scuse me, pardon me, need to check him here. Respiration?" he muttered, leaning forward until his ear was over Roark's mouth. "Normal, though a tad uneven. Pulse?" He put two fingers against the pale neck, and felt the blood pound rhythmically under the skin. "Normal ..."
<That was creepy,> Peach commented. She nuzzled Lightning, feeling him still tremble slightly. <I hope that never happens to you, sweetie.>
He patted her head reassuringly, not understanding a word she was saying.
"... And normal," the doctor finished. He faced the other doctors, looking puzzled. "I'm not really sure what happened here," he admitted. "He seems perfectly fine. He's only a bit tense, and he's perspired quite a bit, which are usual symptoms of going into shock, or a seizure ... but people don't recover that fast from either of those, so ..."
The medical personnel looked thoughtful at this news. "That is odd," another doctor commented unnecessarily. "I suppose we should figure out who his parents are, and—"
"Don't call 'im," a sleepy voice mumbled.
Everyone jumped at the unexpected sound. Surprised, the boys swiveled around to see Roark yawning and stretching. He pushed himself into a sitting expression, eyes tired and half-open.
"You okay, son?" the doctor beside him asked concernedly.
"Yeah," the boy replied, although Lightning noticed he had tensed slightly at the word "son". "I'm alright, just a bit tired ... wait, what happened?"
"You fell for sobe reasod," Ocean explained, in the understatement of the year.
The doctor shook his head in wonder. "This is very odd ... Hang on for a moment, and I'll try to search up for whoever your parents are. They should know about this incident ..." He paused to rummage through the pockets of his white coat, looking for something.
"Don't contact him."
"Excuse me?" The doctor looked up, irritated by the young man's tone. As a rule, doctors work best as a team, as efficient and smooth as clockwork. Civilians who felt like they had something to say about the way things worked were rather like gum stuck between the interlocking gears. It was difficult to get things back up to speed, and it wasn't easy to get rid of indignant civilians, either. Nothing annoyed doctors more than people who got in the way of whatever they were doing.
But he froze at the sight of those eyes. They were gazing sternly at him, burning with a cold and harsh light that made his skin crawl. Don't argue with me, they seemed to say, or else you will be very, very sorry.
Several small things, cold and circular, were pushed unobtrusively into the doctor's hand. His fingers tentatively traced one of their surfaces, and his eyes widened when he realized how many zeroes were there.
"Do not," Roark repeated firmly, retracting his own hand, "contact my father."
The doctor swallowed. He knew better than to turn down such a good bribe, especially one from such a unnerving person, even though the ethics of doctoral honesty wailed at him not to. "Er, of course not." Standing, he returned to the rest of the doctors, waving at them to follow him. "He's eighteen," he explained to them, pocketing the coins with the faintest cli-clink. "People that age don't need parental contact when injured. We're done here."
His companions nodded, though still looking slightly confused. They followed him through the doors, vanishing beyond the gym's perimeters with the slight echoing of footsteps as they returned to the waiting ambulance outside.
There was a moment of uncertain silence.
"... You're dod really eighdeed, are you?" Ocean asked finally, making everyone else facepalm.
"I'll just pretend I didn't hear that ..." Roark said, edging away from him. He looked over at Anni, who was staring at him with wide red eyes and shivering slightly. "Anni? Are you okay?"
For a moment she just watched him, not moving. Then, with alarming swiftness, she leapt at him, colliding with him painfully as she locked her stubby arms around his neck and sobbed miserably.
"OOF! Anni, Anni, what's wrong? Everything's fine—"
<No it's n-not!> she wailed, burying her face into his shoulder. <I c-couldn't do anything! I just st-stood there, and you could've d-died! Then we'd b-be all alone, fending for ourselves, or worse! I c-can't even protect my own trainer!> Out of breath, she inhaled sharply, before dissolving into tears again.
"Oh, Anni," he sighed, shaking his head. Hugging her comfortingly, he rocked back and forth slightly, trying to calm her. "It's all okay now. There's nothing to worry about; whatever happened is over. It doesn't matter."
<Yes it does!> she protested shakily. <You could have died!>
"But I didn't."
<But you could've!>
"I don't think you'd have been able to do anything about it, anyway."
<I should've at least tried!>
"Anni, I'm not blaming you for anything! You were just startled when it happened, that's all. I'm not hurt, so it's okay."
<B-but I was so scared,> she sobbed, surprising him. She had to be feeling strongly about this, he knew, if she could unbend her pride that far to admit her fear.
"I know," he agreed, squeezing her gently. "I was scared, too."
They were silent for a second, as the echoes of their voices bounced hollowly against the walls of the gym before fading. With a start, he realized he was trembling just as hard as she was.
But it fell upon Ocean to break the mood, as usual. "Waid," he said, confused. "You gad uddersdadd her?"
The other boys facefaulted at his slow insight.
"Romeo ..." someone muttered. Looking over his shoulder, Lightning saw Team Waterflower huddled together, gazing at the Luvdisc.
"He's asleep and lost in dreamland!" Lily said dramatically.
"Romeo, Romeo," Daisy crooned, "wherefore art thou, my manly Romeo?"
"STOP CALLING HER ROMEO!" Misty yelled at them.
"But it's his name," Violet protested.
"JUST TAKE HIM — I MEAN, TAKE HER TO THE POKEMON CENTER! DON'T JUST STAND THERE LIKE BRAINLESS GEESE!"
"Hey!" Daisy said indignantly. "Don't call us that! We're not geese!"
"Oh, for ... go already, will you?"
"Rooooomeooooo ..." the bikini-clad girls intoned mystically as they carried the fish through the door-flaps and out of sight.
Misty sweatdropped. "They are so damn weird ..." She turned back toward the group, but almost tripped over the grinning Lapras in front of her. "What—? Holy mother of Darkrai, weren't you shiny ten minutes ago?"
At the sound of her words Roark and Anni glanced around, their disbelieving shock showing clearly on their faces.
"I don't believe she was ever actually shiny," Wennett commented, much to everyone's surprise; they had completely forgotten he was there until he had spoken up. "It's likely just a genetic abnormality in that skin. But beneath it, on her normal, post-infant coat of scales, she's just an ordinary Lapras."
Fire raised an eyebrow. "Well, beauty is only skin deep."
"Hmm." Misty patted Paris on the head distractedly. "This is all very odd. What happened, exactly?"
With a sigh, Lightning began to explain the events which had been in motion during her absence. The acoustics of the gym magnified his words, giving them a surprising larger-than-life quality; as he spoke, he felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end, as a strange thrill swept over him.
A moment of silence passed after he had finished, as the echoes died into nothingness and only the lapping waters of the pool, together with Anni's hitched breathing, could be heard. Wordlessly, Misty reached down and picked up a random indigo scale, examining it closely. Then she glanced up at Roark, an orange eyebrow raised. "I guess rolling on the floor screaming is manly in your opinion."
He looked away. "Well ..."
"Miss," Wennett cut in, speaking of course to Misty, "do you suppose that Leaf could have headed north, toward the Cape?"
Misty froze. "To the Cape? Oh, if she did ..."
"What Cape?" Fire asked, frowning.
"Cerulean Cape. It's an area full of beaches and forests, and a couple hotels scattered conveniently around. Basically your average tourist trap. But Bill also lives up there in his stupid cottage, where he researches stuff. He's a bit ... what's the word I'm looking for—?"
"Evil?" Lightning asked in an attempt to be helpful. "Crazy?"
"Mm ... eccentric," Misty said finally. "That's the one. But he's also sort of a genius. If Leaf runs into him, she might get hit with all sorts of terrible things. Calculus, for example. Or microbiology, or any other foreign concept he's studying at the moment. I suppose we should save her from brain implosion."
"Indeed," Wennett agreed, nodding. "I'll make sure the rest of the day is clear of appointments, miss. I don't believe there are any battles scheduled for this afternoon ..." He turned and swept away, brushing aside the doors with ease.
Ocean frowned. "Bud we dod'd deed do go charging afder her if dad's all she'd have do worry aboud."
"That's right," Misty agreed. "But he tends to get caught up in sharing his interests with people. In fact, he might even show her one of his latest projects." She blanched.
"... Dad's bad, righd?"
"Bad like you wouldn't believe."
"Miss!" Wennett stuck his head through the doors. "You have an email, miss! Would you like to read it now, or—?"
"Now's a good time," Misty decided briskly, heading towards him. Behind her, the boys got up to do the same, looking a bit uncertain. Still shivering slightly, Anni scrambled up onto Roark's shoulders, and he gritted his teeth at her weight.
In the waiting room, the gym leader approached the computer sitting on the receptionist's desk; an annoying pop-up flashed on its screen, announcing that someone had emailed her. Next to her, Wennett checked some sort of memo pad, while the boys emerged shivering from the gym; they had already gotten used to its steaming, chlorinated atmosphere, and tiny droplets of moisture clung to their clothes.
"Oh," Misty said softly, instantly causing everyone else to look at her. "He's been ... oh dear ..."
Leaning over the counter, Lightning craned his neck around to see the message.
Guess what, I'm on the edge of a HUGE scientific breakthrough!! WHOOOOHOO!!!! It should work out hopefully, but if I start acting really weird, like crazy or something, then there's a bottle of white stuff in the fridge that you'll have to make me drink. (It's not my "special stuff", LOL!!) But it'll probably be fine. Big experiment = awesomely famous me!! Stay awesome!!
Lightning blinked. "Um ... he likes exclamation marks, doesn't he?"
"The last experiment Bill did," Misty said tightly, fists clenched, "he almost blew up half the Cape. And that was a normal experiment. Normal for him, anyway. Dammit, dammit, dammit. This is NOT GOOD."
"Oh do!" Ocean exclaimed worriedly. "We deed do gatch ub do her! Bill bighd do sobeting drasdig do her, lige durd her iddo a boy!"
He started to bolt off in a random direction, only to trip and fall ungracefully over Roark's outstretched foot.
"You can't go anywhere on your own," the miner sighed, as the spiky-haired boy smashed awkwardly into the carpet. "That's a pity."
"Wennett, you stay here," Misty ordered, although she was forced to stifle a snicker at Ocean's pained face. "Keep an eye on the Lapras while we're gone. I don't know if Leaf can handle the sight of her at the moment. And if my sisters come back, keep her away from them. I don't want the poor thing to get brainwashed by their stupidity."
"Come on, the rest of you." She darted around the desk and out the door, with the bemused boys following close behind.
* * *
I was wrong.
A breeze, heavy with the pungent scent of sea salt, tossed Leaf's hair half-heartedly. Pausing to glance over the railing, she barely registered the storm clouds looming above the water's surface far off in the distance. All she knew was that the chillingly sharp rocks sticking up out of the water below looked disturbingly inviting.
I thought she was special, she thought defeatedly, her eyes feeling weighted down with unshed tears. It was supposed to mean something, finding her. It was supposed to mean something!
The dull edges of an indigo scale cut into the palm of her clenched fist. She couldn't remember picking the scale up at all, but she knew that this was all that remained of the Pokemon who had been her pride and joy. Unbidden, the words Oak had spoken upon Paris's hatching drifted to the surface of her mind. "A shiny egg ... they say that people who find one of those are 'chosen' or something along those lines ..."
But I'm not chosen. I'm not special at all. And she's not either.
Memories of Paris's smiling eyes, gleaming from an indigo face, flashed before her eyes in a poisonously painful montage. As a baby, curiousity shining there at feeling a human's touch for the first time ... in the forest, wide with delighted excitement as she defeated Fire's Drowzee with ease ... their excited flash as she stood in the street beside her father, small against the menacing shadow of Tyran.
We've been through so much in such a short time, I thought nothing could shake my love for her. Would I still be so protective of her, so loving, if she hadn't appeared to be shiny from the start?
She thought of her radiant delight at the sight of the newly hatched Lapras, stumbling clumsily over her own indigo flippers. Then the mental image shattered and reconstructed itself into a different scene: a blue Paris standing in the dark, helpless and alone, whimpering pitifully in fear as a shadow advanced toward her, claws menacing.
And she felt nothing.
I never loved her, she realized numbly. It wasn't love. It was satisfied greed, and pride in having such a valuable pet to fawn over. But she's worth nothing now.
The thought stung more than she had anticipated. Shaking her head to clear it, she turned from the railing and returned her gaze to Nugget Bridge, which stretched from beneath her feet to the land on the other side of the small inlet. A few trainers were standing at random intervals on the bridge, looking bored. But she had never in her life had any less desire to battle, and she uncertainly hoped that the expression on her face would deter them.
"Oh hiya!" exclaimed the nearest trainer, a dirty little boy who was holding a net for some reason; having noticed her, he bounded in her direction eagerly, reaching for a Poke Ball.
"Kid, I don't want to battle," she snapped darkly, looking for a way to get past him.
He blinked. "Oh. Well, that's too bad. Because I do want to battle!" He then guffawed heartily, as if he had just said the funniest thing in the world.
Leaf just stared at him.
"Oh, and here are my Pokemon who you'll fight!" he exclaimed, unleashing a Caterpie and a Weedle. The familiar bug shapes entered a couple of battle stances which aimed at being frightening, but failed miserably.
The girl, in response, did nothing.
"Aw, come on!" the boy pouted, putting his hands on his hips. "Don't be a sore loser before you've even lost!"
For a moment Leaf's eyes flashed dangerously, as the boy's words brought Paris to mind again. Then, her expression still stony, she unleashed her other two Pokemon. "Beat everyone on the bridge if you have to," she ordered them, turning back to watch the bleak weather forming on the horizon.
Frosti was staring at her incredulously even before he had fully materialized. <Geez, what's with her?>
<Mmph,> Cheri said unconcernedly, looking over at the caterpillar Pokemon opposite them.
<Pfft. Girls these days. Ow, watch it!>
<Oh, sorry!> giggled the Weedle, who had just rammed his horn into Frosti's foot.
<Funny, you don't sound sorry,> the Charmander growled, before blasting the little bug with an Ember. Squealing in pain, the Weedle staggered backward, only to trip and fall over Cheri's timely String Shot, smashing into his ally the Caterpie. The two caterpillars groaned as they hit the bridge, unconscious.
"... No!" the boy said predictably. "My Pokemon cannot be fainted! They are the most powerful creatures in the entire world!"
Frosti snickered as the boy stalked away. The lizard then picked up Cheri, who seemed completely indifferent to this, and began to walk further down the bridge while carrying her.
Only to be halted by the next trainer, a girl whose sudden appearance made Frosti jump. "Oh hi! You're Pokemon, aren't you?"
The Charmander blinked. <... Wow. Way to fail.>
"You're so cute!" the girl squealed, making it obvious that she hadn't understood him. "I think I'll battle you! Go, Pidgey!"
<Yeah! Twin fliers activate!> exclaimed a small bird as it burst from its Poke Ball. The brown Pokemon had a cream-colored belly and wing-tips, and black markings emphasized sharp eyes. She spread her wings, catching the wind and doing a backflip excitedly.
"Oh my goodness. It's the little winged rat that we all know and hate!" Even at a distance, the smarmy voice of Leaf's Pokedex, sticking haughtily out of her handbag, was unmistakable. "You know, girl, you need to cheer up. So pay attention to me, dammit! Pidgey, the Really Dumb Pokemon. Gender is Female. Height is Not Tall, Weight is Not Heavy, because having a brain would make it weigh a lot, you know? These buggers are gentle and prefer not to fight. THOSE PACIFIST FREAKS. But it also has an incredible sense of direction, which can be really useful for them, because then when they have to fight, they can easily find their way home to their mommies, the imbeciles! And by the way, these things are EVERYWHERE. In fact, I can't believe we haven't seen any of these maniacs yet! People usually can't go two feet without tripping over eighty of them!"
<That thing stabbed at my honor!> the Pidgey exclaimed, spreading her wings even further in an attempt to look more powerful. <Time to heal my wounded ego with the wounded foe! KAMIKAZE BIRD AHOY!>
<Eh?> Frosti grunted confusedly, only to gasp as the bird's Tackle knocked the wind out of him. He dropped Cheri, who landed with a soft clatter onto the bridge, although she did not look particularly bothered by this.
<The kamikaze failed?> the Pidgey said disbelievingly, jumping into flight again and hovering over the fallen Charmander. <Impossible! I was sure that the mystical Selfdestruct technique would have taken hold by now!>
Frosti stared at her. <You can't be serious.>
The Charmander glanced over at Cheri, who had somehow gotten herself into an upright position. The Kakuna extended one of her stinger-like arms to point at him, then at the Pidgey, and finally at herself. Realizing what she meant, Frosti jumped to his feet, ready for action.
"Quick, Pidgey!" the bird's trainer exclaimed, bouncing up and down excitedly. "Hit him with Gust while he's down!"
<I am serious!> the Pidgey protested at Frosti, unaware that he was edging slyly towards her. <You can't not be serious about the kamikaze! But enough of this, for it's time to demonstrate that the wind gives me SUPER STRENGTH!>
She began to flap her wings rapidly, summoning a wind that buffeted at Frosti's body; but the lizard, gritting his teeth against the onslaught, leapt into the air and grabbed her clawed feet in a death grip, startling her out of her Gust. Shrieking in shock, the Pidgey fluttered frantically in an attempt to yank herself free, but Frosti's weight, together with the element of surprise, allowed him to tow her down; descending back to the bridge, he flung her feathery body downward to Cheri.
Quick as a wink, the golden cocoon extended her two stingers, just in time for the hapless Pidgey to land right on top of them. Blood spurted freely as the stingers gored the soft, feathery body like hot knives sinking into butter, and the Pidgey let loose an agonized cry, her wide eyes staring into Cheri's dark, impassive ones. She jerked one way, then another as dangerous poison was pumped painfully into her body.
"Pidgey!" the trainer exclaimed in horror, fumbling for the right Poke Ball.
<Kamikaze ... failed ...> the Pidgey moaned distantly, before she was absorbed into a beam of red light. The trainer, not even sparing Leaf's Pokemon a glance, darted back at full speed to Cerulean, probably in hopes of finding a Pokemon Center.
Frosti met Cheri's eyes. <I'd high-five you, but dead teammates probably aren't your favorite kind,> he said nervously.
<Mmmmmph,> Cheri replied indifferently.
"Run away!" someone screamed. Looking up, Frosti was astonished to see two of the trainers ahead sprinting away from them, looking utterly terrified. "The demon bug is going to kill us all! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!"
Looking after the vanishing humans, the Charmander raised an imaginary eyebrow. <"Demon bug"? I always knew you were evil, Cheri,> he commented, amused.
The remaining trainer, who appeared to be a boy scout of some sort, pulled up his pants haughtily as he began to march toward the Pokemon. "I won't run away! Not from you! It's my civic duty to keep things like you under control!"
<Things, are we?> Frosti muttered, good humor quickly evaporating. <You're going down, kid!>
"It's time to take action!" the boy scout continued dramatically, unleashing a Pokemon. "Mankey, bring these two to justice!"
<Justice!> echoed the new Pokemon as he materialized. He had a cream-colored, almost perfectly round body, sporting pointed ears, lanky arms and legs. A brown-tipped tail that lashed furiously to and fro as he examined his opponents. His pig-like nose twitched as he caught their scent, and his eyes narrowed even further.
"Leaf, get over yourself," the Pokedex yawned, to no avail. "Oh look, another ugly fatty. Mankey, the Butterball Pokemon. Gender is Male. Height is Ugly Little Man, Weight is Holy Crap What A Chunk Of Flab. Mankey is the ultimate bipolar Pokemon. One minute it's normal — as normal as a blubbery monkey can be, anyway — but the next it's a complete maniac! It goes into a rage and starts attacking everything in sight! Which, incidentally, makes it rather like Leaf ..."
"Not really," Leaf muttered, barely listening.
"That was supposed to make you go into an explosive rage and prove my point. Wow, you're so helpful. NOT."
The Mankey began breathing heavily through his nose, eyes burning with sheer rage. He locked gazes with Frosti, and the Charmander gasped when he realized that those eyes were actually changing: they narrowed into slits, starting to glow an eerie red, before abruptly opening as wide as they could go. They were almost completely covered by their unnaturally dilated pupils, and Frosti shuddered in horror at the sight.
"Great Leer, Mankey!" the boy scout cheered. "Now use Focus Energy while he's distracted!"
<Distracted,> Mankey repeated, sounding overly furious. He blinked slowly to clear his eyes before taking a deep breath, flexing his fingers ominously.
Cheri watched the scene serenely. Taking advantage of the moment, she stiffened her shining golden shell, making it glint even more in the sun. Then she stiffened it again; she had no desire to let this savage damage her forming body within.
Meanwhile Frosti, still shivering, began to cough, a dry, hacking sound that startled everyone but Cheri. For a moment his body convulsed with the involuntary movement, but abruptly he finished his fit with an especially nasty wheeze, and a stream of gray smoke spewed from his open mouth. It hovered in front of Mankey's face, forming into an annoying, semi-transparent cloud.
<That's Smokescreen for you,> Frosti said with a smirk, straightening and looking proud at using the move for the first time.
"Ignore it, Mankey!" the boy scout cried shrilly, and the Pokemon snorted violently at the strong stench of smoke surrounding it. "Go in close to the Charmander so you can't miss, and hit it with Karate Chop!"
<Karate Chop!> the Mankey echoed, scrambling in closer in spite of the cloud that was making his eyes water. Then, in a lightning-fast movement, he brought his fingers together and slammed his hand down onto Frosti's head.
<OW! Cut it out, you savage!> Frosti snapped irritably, wincing.
Suddenly, unbidden, a snatch of words from a battle long ago came back to him, in a rush of far-off memory: "Iron Tail is inaccurate, and therefore, unreliable ..." But I'm close this time! he thought, so if I really focus, I'll hit him! Without further ado, he summoned the metallic power to his tail. In an instant he felt its uncomfortable weight bear it down, but he forced himself to swing it in a swift arc, concentrating his attention solely on hitting the Mankey.
He was rewarded with the feel of his tail hitting a coarse-furred body and an audible thump, as the savage primate was flung backward with a surprised yowl, before hitting the bridge with a satisfactory squeal of pain.
"What? No!" the boy scout shouted, glaring as Frosti's tail resumed its normal orange color. "I cannot lose! This is an outrage!"
<Outrage!> Mankey repeated, drawing himself up to stand as tall as he could. Then he deflated and turned to his trainer, saying, <But I do not know Outrage.>
The boy scout blinked. "Why are you just standing there saying 'Mank maaank'?" he asked angrily. "Hit that Kakuna with Karate Chop!"
<Karate Chop!> the primate said robotically, swiveling around and bringing his hand down hard on the unmoving cocoon. Frosti watched incredulously as the momentum of the Mankey's movement involuntarily brought additional power to the arm's swing, and he gasped, realizing that this would cause the chop to deal far more damage than normal.
But the boy scout did not take into account that Cheri had been patiently Hardening herself the entire time, not to mention the general ineffectiveness of Fighting moves against her kind. As such, the Mankey smashed his hand into her shell only to realize in dismay that in spite of all the power applied, the warm golden coating remained as firm and unscathed as ever. Then he looked down and discovered his hand was broken.
<Hand,> he spat, before turning angrily to his trainer. <My hand is broken! You will fix it by allowing me to bury it in your flesh!>
"Don't use that tone of voice with me!" the boy scout shot back angrily, but he stepped back when the monkey's eyes took on a bloodthirsty glow. "No! Get away from me, you freak!"
The Mankey leapt at him, growling; in terror the human fled down the length of the bridge, screeching in a very un-scout-like manner.
Leaf didn't even look up.
<You're welcome,> Frosti shot sourly, glaring at her unmoving slouch before turning. <Hey ... there's another guy coming up the bridge now. Hope he doesn't want to battle,> he added unhappily. He didn't like to admit it, but fighting three battles in a row, even with Cheri, took a toll on him.
"Are you the trainer of those Pokemon?" the lanky teenager asked Leaf as he approached, pointing at Frosti and Cheri without looking at them. His hair was getting whipped around by the wind, and he had a cloak wrapped around himself for some reason.
The girl just shrugged.
"Their performance was fascinating," the teenager went on, taking that as a yes. "You must be a great trainer. In fact, here's a prize which I think you deserve." He pulled a shining gold orb seemingly out of nowhere, which glinted blindingly in the sun, throwing enchanting flecks of light against everything. Frosti gasped at the sight of such unexpected beauty.
For the first time Leaf slowly looked around to fix her unfeeling gaze on the Nugget. "The last time I got something valuable," she said tonelessly, "it turned out to be nothing but fake."
"But it's real!" the other spluttered, looking scandalized at the idea that he was trying to give her some painted rock. "I've weighed it and everything! Now take it!" he ordered, shoving it into her hand.
Frosti watched as Leaf tightened her grip on the Nugget without looking at it. For a moment he thought that she was going to turn and throw it far out into the waters of the inlet; but then she simply tightened her grip on it slightly, her face as expressionless as ever.
"Excellent!" the teenager exclaimed, beaming. He then spun rapidly in place, in appeared to be an impromptu ballet; when he abruptly skidded to a stop, however, he had mysteriously ditched his cloak, revealing a black uniform with a bright red "R" blazing on his shirt. "And now, I have a proposition for you. I represent a segment of the population which doesn't get the respect it deserves ... but it might if you join us. And by us, I mean the great Team Rocket! We need trainers like you, you know, so will you join our ranks and become part of one of the greatest endeavors of the century?"
The girl shrugged. "Sure."
He looked taken aback. "Really?"
"Mm. I don't even care anymore. Whatever happens to me won't make me anything special," she said in a dead voice.
The Rocket grunt deflated. "But your heart needs to be in it if you'll join! If you cheer up, then—>
"FRATERNIZING WITH THE ENEMY, I SEE!"
He swiveled around to see the gangly figure of Elvis standing beside him, having appeared quite without warning. Snatching the precious stone from Leaf's unresisting hand, the famous rock star gave the grunt The Look, and the latter suddenly realized that this was none other than his own beloved (for want of a better term) admin. "Wait," he said, puzzled. "You mean ... this is the one with the shiny Lapras?"
"Exactly. Now go back to camp this instant."
"But ..." The grunt scrunched his face up in confusion. "But I thought you were going to ambush her on the way to the gym!"
"I was," Cobalt agreed grudgingly, "but Phlash took so long ripping up that stupid crown that when I reached the hospital, they'd already left. It was impossible to reach them fast enough to ambush them properly, so I started heading back to camp to make sure Gina hadn't blown everything up. Now go."
<Yeah, go!> chirped a familiar voice at Cobalt's feet. Phlash poked her head up from behind his ankles, staring at him eerily.
The grunt shrugged and ran off in a hurry, secretly glad that the admin hadn't punished him for almost losing the Nugget. He still thought the girl needed it more than Team Rocket, anyway.
"So," Cobalt said, glaring at Leaf.
The girl, however, had returned her gaze to the distant ocean beyond the inlet. The sun was beginning to vanish behind the approaching cloud cover, but the day's stifling heat still lingered oppressively. Frosti wondered vaguely if the weather was an incidental reflection of his trainer's current attitude.
"... Well, aren't you going to fight?" Cobalt asked tersely, starting to turn red as he realized that the argument he had been looking forward to wasn't going to come easily, if at all. Wait, "looking forward to"? Where did that come from? He frowned at the thought.
Leaf still didn't reply.
"At least say my outfit looks stupid, or something!" the admin demanded, preferring a confrontational approach to a cold stillness. Plus, he wanted a good excuse to battle her. Nothing pleased him more than beating a foe in an unfair fight, after all.
Only silence greeted him.
"Ugh. Well, if you're not going to argue, then just hand over the Lapras!" he snapped, stretching out his hand as if he actually expected her to give him the sea serpent's Poke Ball.
"The Lapras." Leaf turned away from the railing and stared at him, expression as dead as ever. "Do you really want the Lapras? After all the trouble she's caused me, and you, and everyone we've met this whole time?"
Cobalt actually flinched. Though the girl's face remained numbly unemotional, her voice oozed with unanticipated venom.
"If you want her, then you can have what's left of her!" she spat darkly, shoving the scale she held into his hand. "She won't mean as little to you as she does to me, anyway!"
Then, turning sharply from him, she stalked away, feet echoing hollowly as she traversed the bridge. Frosti blinked at her sudden departure, then bent down to pick up Cheri, who was still as detached as ever.
Cobalt stared at her, then looked down at the glimmering scale in his hand, then back up at her shrinking form again. "Is the Lapras okay?" he asked Frosti uncertainly, wondering what on earth Leaf's enigmatic outburst could mean.
Frosti glared at him automatically. <Of course she is,> he said, though uncertainty dulled the sharpness of his words. Clearly he was just as confused about the girl's behavior.
The tall human nodded distractedly as Frosti began to follow his trainer, staggering slightly at Cheri's weight. Then he returned his gaze to the scale, running a finger along its edge, and smirked as an idea came to him. If Rocket technology was as good as the Boss and his scientists claimed it to be, he might not need the Lapras herself to complete the mission. The scale would have the adequate genetic material to create another one just like her!
<Weird Hair Guy, your grin is really weird,> Phlash commented hypocritically, tongue lolling out of her mouth. She glanced over to the girl, who was stepping off the bridge and rounding the corner, vanishing from sight; the Charmander and his buggy baggage followed close behind. <Aren't we gonna chase them or something? I wanna bite the lizard, we didn't finish our fight when the city blew up.>
"We don't need to," he told her, pocketing the scale with a feeling of fierce pride. The Lapras's condition didn't matter to him anyway, he told himself. With the stone shards and the scale, all that remained was to deliver his prizes to the Boss, in exchange for that lofty title of Executive which he had coveted for so long. His dreams were about to come true, and even though the clouds above loomed closer, grouping together in a dark and ominous congregation, he felt as if the sun shone all about him, and he basked in its imaginary, golden glory.
Then he blinked. For some strange reason, something in the back of his brain was nagging at him to follow her. He frowned, his good mood slowly trickling away as he tried to figure out why. There was no reason to do so, after all; he'd just been gloating over the situation, so he knew better than anyone why it was unnecessary. Yet still the feeling lingered, floating just on the edge of his consciousness like an itch he couldn't scratch.
And then suddenly he grasped the general idea, the meaning of his need to follow her: a sense of danger lying ahead, ready to snap her up like a ravenous Carnivine lunging for a cute yet pathetic little animal. And then there was a flash of something more: a sensation that the danger was unlike anything he had ever experienced, a being of such unfathomable evil that the mere suggestion of its existence made goose bumps prickle up his neck.
His heartbeat jumped into overdrive at the thought. He couldn't imagine where that strange idea had come from, or why it had appeared in the first place, but he knew he had to stop her. If she met with the evil, she would almost certainly be killed — unless she was even less lucky.
<Oy!> Phlash exclaimed, tugging at his pant leg. <Quit staring into space like one of the alien warthogs! I wanna go do something, like actually spread Ronald McDonald's truth to everyone! Y'know, before the Frozen Face Followers can regroup and start the Apocalypse, okay?>
"No," he said, sharper than he had intended; apprehension of what was lay ahead had unsettled him. "We're going to follow them after all, Phlash. But we need to hurry, I think they're heading into some sort of trap."
<But I thought—>
"Hurry!" he exclaimed, already darting down the length of the bridge. Wind brushed against the hairs on his wig, but he merely pressed on, ignoring the faint rumbling of the brewing clouds. Phlash scampered after him, mouth wide open in excitement. She couldn't have any idea what was going on in her trainer's head, but instinct whispered to her that something exciting was about to befall them.
* * *
<IT'S THE END OF THE WORLD!> Frosti howled wildly. <WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE! SOMEBODY SAVE US BEFORE WE DIE!>
"It's just rain," Leaf muttered flatly. A few warm, fat drops of water splashed against her head, as if for emphasis.
<It could still kill me,> Frosti remarked darkly, drawing his tail in front of himself as if to protect it; its flame wavered slightly as he spoke. He almost knocked it into Cheri, whom he still carried, and only just whipped his tail away again in time, although the cocoon didn't appear to care anyway.
Standing at the edge of an overhanging cliff, Cerulean Cape, they looked at the sandy coast below them and the restless ocean beyond. Several disgruntled tourists could be seen making their way back from the beach, thoroughly unhappy at the sudden arrival of raindrops; but their mutterings were drowned out by the cracking, rolling thunder from clouds as black as coal, their vast expanses rapidly obscuring the blue sky above. It seemed that Misty's stories of hurricanes broiling over the sea weren't exaggerated in the slightest. Yet even with vile weather closing in, the view from the Cape was breathtaking; standing there, one would feel as if they stood close to the edge of the world, with nothing but endless sea and eternal sky stretching before them.
<I bet they're not happy,> Frosti commented, chuckling at the tourists in spite of himself. <Serves them right for sitting on the beach all day. But at least they have some shelter to go to, and get out of this.> He looked up over his shoulder, gazing wistfully at the fancy-looking hotels behind him, sitting neatly in a long row. Cliffs loomed over those buildings, tall and enigmatic in the fading light; crooked trees grew out of their sides in seemingly impossible postitions, their gnarled roots twisting in and out of the sheer faces.
Wincing as more raindrops fell on him, Frosti squinted and focused on a blob of color at the base of a cliff face, before it resolved itself in his vision as a two-storied yellow building, topped with a green roof. It didn't look like one of those fancy-schmancy hotels, he thought. With any luck, they could stay there until the storm passed.
<Follow me!> he ordered, his voice higher-pitched than usual in his anxiety to avoid the inevitable downpour. Scampering off between two hotels to get there, he glanced over his shoulder briefly to make sure Leaf was following. To his relief, she was, head bent and shoulders sagging. Rain didn't pose nearly as much of a threat to humans as it did to Charmander, he knew, but she still couldn't stay out and get hopelessly wet, no matter what she was angsting about.
It was really only about a minute before they had arrived at the door, but it seemed longer to Frosti; his tail was starting to steam worryingly in the rain, and he began to shiver. For a moment Leaf just stood by him, and he wondered if he should be the one to knock on the door, but as this thought occurred to him she wearily lifted her hand and rang the doorbell, whose haunting, muffled echo could be heard faintly chiming within.
Almost immediately the door was flung open by a wild-haired brunette whose clothes were ripped in various places, although said clothes had probably not been in prime condition to begin with, anyway. His palms seemed to be dusted with something dark and rust-colored, looking horribly like dried blood. As he stared at Leaf, his expression twisted into an intense, hungry look, which so unnerved Frosti that he suddenly wished they had not come this way at all.
"It's raining," Leaf said dully, not seeming to notice the young man's stare. "We need to come in to get shelter."
The man blinked rapidly. "Yeah, yeah, yeah," he muttered, glancing around over her shoulder furtively. "C'mon then. Hurry now!" He turned and started back into the building, beckoning them to follow. Frosti stared at him for a moment, feeling more and more weirded out, but Leaf merely entered mechanically, and the Charmander grumbled to himself as he tagged along after her, Cheri still sitting impassively in his grip.
The building, as he saw once his eyes had adjusted to the dark, looked vaguely like it had once been a house: the hall they walked along had empty frames lining its walls, and a brief glimpse of an adjacent room revealed a rather dead-looking sofa sitting gloomily in the dim lighting. But as they turned into another room, the acrid chemical smell that hit Frosti's nose told him loudly that this setting belonged more in some underground lab. Now all we need is some mad scientist to step out and start cackling wildly, he thought, sneezing in disgust at the strong stench.
He and Leaf stood in the doorway of the room, watching the young man clumsily step over something that looked like a stuffed Feraligatr, as he crossed the confined space to a cabinet at the opposite side of what had been a kitchen once upon a time. An unknown substance bubbled cheerfully in the sink, and something that looked like a whole crime investigation lab sat on top of a long counter. Books were scattered messily on the floor, filled with strange equations and words that made Frosti's head hurt just looking at them; from the various scribbles that defaced their open pages, it was obvious that their owner had made several notes concerning their mysterious contents. A strange, exotic-looking plant had attached itself to the wide, grimy window above the sink, and was crooning happily to nothing in particular, its orange flowers opening and closing rhythmically.
The sight and smell of the place brought a faint flash of understanding to Leaf: This must be that Bill person Misty mentioned ...
<Help me!> a voice suddenly squealed from the far, unseen side of the long counter.
Dimly, as if in a dream, Leaf uncertainly navigated her way around the chaotic maze of books, head still muddled in the aching sadness of disillusionment of Paris's true nature. The voice, she noticed vaguely, had been quite fearful about something, and none too soft, either, although Bill, still rummaging around in the cabinet and muttering to himself, didn't seem to have noticed. Frosti followed her uncertainly, keeping his eyes on the strange, jerky movements of the young man. It was as if the human didn't fully have a handle on his own body.
As he almost tripped over a book that had been sitting inconveniently in his way, Frosti's hold on Cheri slipped slightly, and her blank gaze was shifted so that she caught sight of Bill for the first time. The Charmander's surprised growl was cut off by Cheri's sudden <MMMMMMMMMPH!>; the anger and fear in her muffled shout was the first emotion she had displayed at all since evolution.
Then Frosti, having finally reached Leaf's side, caught sight of what was behind the counter, and he stared in utter amazement. Sitting there was a bizarre-looking machine: a large, tarnished gray box covered with dials and buttons, most of which appearing as though they had no purpose whatsoever besides looking cool and somewhat official. There was, however, a large yellow lever, which they shrewdly assumed was the most important part of the contraption, due to a large sign sticking up above it that read "THE BIG ONE" in big, bright red letters. On either side of the machine was a somewhat large, semicircular container, big enough for a full-grown human to sit in. One appeared to be unsealed, a transparent door-flap hanging open from its side; the other one, however, contained a frightened-looking pink fairy Pokemon, which bore a close resemblance to the sickeningly cute Jigglypuff.
Upon seeing them, the fairy Pokemon's eyes widened, and she fluttered her wings frantically, grabbing at the edges of her container's door-flap with her stubby hands. <It's going all wrong!> she shrilled at them, her brown-tipped ears twitching in alarm. <Get out of here while you still can! It's a—!>
Something smashed Leaf to the floor, and she gasped as the weight of whatever it was pinned her down mercilessly against the ice-cold tiles. Dazedly she stared up, and her eyes widened when she saw what it was: Bill, straddling her stomach with his knees pinned against her sides. He smiled down at her, a feral grin that was made even less human by the thunder breaking out overhead. The knife in his hand glinted a bloodthirsty silver.
"Time to die, sweetheart," he hissed, and lunged.
* * *
Last edited by SugarPesticide; 23rd May 2010 at 12:07 AM.