Hey all, here's the next installment, and this time it's relatively on time. We're going to staseeing more character centred chapters from now on, well at least for the next few anyway as developments are really needed all round I believe, and the Pokemon are feeling a tad underloved as well, so luckily in the grand scheme of things I have these next few plot tiwsts to enchance them.
And without further ado:
Chapter 23: A Devious Agenda of Sides
Roxanne watched a few particles of sand blow over the trail that was still fresh on the ground, and in their hearts. Although she herself felt that her part in the four young people’s growth had relatively little impact over the past couple of days, their development and motivational emphasis on life struck her hard and right in the core of her emotions. She was as sad as any to watch Curtis and Rose finally fade into the distance, one last moving wave to signal their departure. It was as if a lifetime had come to an end…
“Are you two okay?” Roxanne’s sensitive and emotional words floated in the breeze as they passed her lips, calmly satisfying the two young adolescents left with her on the beach, as the softness crept into their ears, “I’d just like to say that you two knew what was best and right for yourselves, and no matter how you feel right now, Curtis was right when he said this was just the beginning.”
Neither Max nor Harriet decided to respond to the words of deceitful comfort, but instead dwelled on the messages that had just been delivered to them. The words somewhat portrayed optimism, however they also knew that their own optimism was a long grasp away, still choosing to be just out of reach. The departure of true friendship was a hard burden to carry, more so when a flickering spark of trust began to ignite in the heart. Letting go of a firm and strong bond was, as Max thought, the most difficult decision one could face throughout the course of a lifetime on Earth.
“Well, that was a battle I won’t forget,” Harriet noted trying to cut the lengthy silence that hovered over them, “And thanks to those two and their friends…” She looked over at the fluttering beauty that seemed to be content to rest in the whips of the wind, “… I now have Mothim!”
Roxanne turned her expressions towards Harriet, with a joyous beaming smile adherent on her face, “I suppose you could see it as a parting gift, Harriet. Just think what new extravagancies will face the two of you in upcoming contests.”
Harriet seemingly calm and peaceful reflected the mildly humorous compliment with one last smile of thanks and contentment. Now however, she knew that another torturous goodbye would face both Max and her, as they prepared to finally leave Rustboro behind them and engage once again on their old paths with new meanings and new accomplishments. And, she knew that the hardest burden would rest upon Max.
“Well then, why don’t we head back for a spot of lunch, I’m pretty sure Brock will have whipped up something quite delectable,” Roxanne said.
As if the utterance of nothing had become normality, the two adolescents began a slow trek along the beach, heading along the same path that Rose and Curtis had just travelled along. Roxanne could only feel the heartbreaking essence of sorrow that accompanied the two young trainers on their journey, and so she too began to follow in silence, trudging with the beat of sadness.
The Gym Leader wasn’t able to bring herself a glance at Max and Harriet, as their parting grief would only burrow deeper inside her. She remembered back to her travelling days, the days when she had met and befriended many along her path to become a renowned Pokémon Trainer. That goal, that dream had been acquired and was present every day, but the friendships no longer were. That fact was the hardest matter to deal with. There was, though, one small glimmer of hope left, and she knew that the two would indeed be fired up for their journey within a matter of hours, raring to hit the road once more. At that age everything comes and goes, but no matter how hard it is to depart from the encounters… the look towards the future only brings joy and comfort. That was how she coped and dealt with all the unfathomable occurrences on her journey. Just look towards the future and everything would fall in place, and that was indeed what everyone had to handle at this very instance.
She was suddenly interrupted with her thinking as she collided into the back of Harriet, who had just come to a sudden stand still. Roxanne looked up into the bright daylight, and with that movement all the happiness and eagerness entered her heart once more. Coming full circle though, she gazed into the distance noticing a remarkably similar image of a relentlessly charismatic person. No sooner than having just said goodbye to one set of friends had another reappeared. Before them was the cocky but caring feature of Mark.
“Well hey there my fellow trainers,” he uttered with the same entertaining tone as before, “And it looks as if we now have a new companion within the two bandits… I suppose this makes you the mysterious three – yup I like that name.”
A surprised look of delight sprung upon Max, energizing him with a renewal of everything that he felt had departed with his other two friends, “Mark… ha-ha,” Max stated in complete and utter astonishment, “It has been a while hasn’t it, but I’m glad to meet you again mate.”
Max extended his hand towards Mark, clutching it tightly with true friendship entwined within each other’s palms. He had truly put the petty and childish fiasco behind him thanks to his rapid growth in maturity in the following weeks after his first encounter with Mark.
“It’s likewise to you my m brother,” he smirked, still retaining his same essence of cockiness but with less of a bold brunt, “And it’s certainly a pleasant surprise; I must admit, I still thought you’d be in the vicinity of Petalburg, cos I did happen to hear about the onslaught brought onto you by your Father.”
“Actually, if it wasn’t for that loss then I’d probably be that same annoying brat that you first met, my Dad really managed to push home the meaning of battling and it was there that I think I really did mature… anyway I might as well introduce you fully to our new friend Harriet,” Max said, waving over the attention to his rather bewildered new companion, who so far hadn’t quite understood anything that was previously said.
“Well it’s indeed a pleasure to meet you Harriet, Max always seems to have the best acquaintances out of anyone I seem to know,” he said while staring at the beautiful image of Roxanne with his scarlet clear eyes that only captured the beauty of which he desired.
“Ah, well I guess that’s a compliment then,” she chuckled, “Anyway, excuse me for asking but what on earth is an m brother?” she purposefully stated, acting as if it was indeed a matter of dire importance, but her only response was deep bellows of laughter erupting from even the likes of Roxanne, “I’m being serious, come on guys!”
“I wouldn’t worry about it if I were you Harriet, it’s simply just something that Mark refers to me by,” he said, whilst brushing off the remainder of the comedic statement that Harriet had so obliviously stated. She was still a little perplexed, but she now acknowledged the hopelessness of preying upon the subject.
“Well then Mark, now you know everyone, how about a battle to test our updated skills, because if I recall correctly, last time you had to fight against Roxanne, but now I’m ready for you!”
“Sure thing Max, there’s no better time than the present and I quite like my odds considering I happen to have 4 badges,” he smirked, though still retaining the composed posture that had drifted him through the recent conversation.
Max was rather taken aback by this comment, seemingly nerved to the bone by the realisation that one of his first rivals was doubly closer to entering the league than he was, whilst he could only grasp at the mere thought of battling at the Ever Grande Stadium.
“So Mark, do you happen to have my badge then,” Roxanne inquisitively asked.
“Actually I do, I beat the old Kanto leader that was minding your Gym for a while, as a matter of fact I earned the badge not long after bumping into you two as you were nearing Petalburg.”
“So what other badges do you have?”
“Well my first badge came from Flannery in Lavaridge Town, giving me the heat badge; my second badge came from Dewford when I beat Brawly to earn the Knuckle badge, and then I beat Brock and earned the Stone Badge and then finally I beat your Father Max and won the Balance Badge; all tough battles though I must point out, and going from my battle with you Roxanne, if you had been in the Gym I may only have 3 at the moment.”
Rather out of the blue, Max then decided to delve his hand into the side pocket of his yellow back pack, withdrawing the badge case that he had received after his first Hoenn Gym Battle against his Father. He gradually, with utter delicateness, opened the lid of the box as sparkling rays of light radiated off the surface of the badges.
“Well, I only happen to have 2, however I know I could easily take you on and give you one of your best fights to date,” Max feistily retaliated trying to boost his own inner confidence by sounding lively and energetic, he wasn’t going to let a matter of numbers overcome all he had worked upon.
“Certainly, well how…”
“Hang on a second,” Mark had been cut off mid sentence by the still confused and puzzled Harriet, whose face now showed complete bewilderment at what Max thought was still something only minor, “How come then you’re back in Rustboro if you already have the badge?”
“I’m only passing through, I have somewhere to be you see, and that’s why I’m a little pressed for time so our battle’s going to have to be a one on one Max so I can still keep to my schedule.”
“That’s absolutely fine, I already know who I’m going to use so pick your Pokémon and let’s get started!”
Max wasn’t wasting any time, he had longed for this opportunity ever since he first encountered Mark over a month ago. Roxanne had pretty much put Mark in his place, utilising the skills that her two rock Pokémon had to offer, combining the two’s defences as a way to maximise their performance in battle. It was finally time for Max to show Mark exactly what he could do, to show Mark exactly why he deserved his 2 badges.
Max quickly turned tail and headed a few paces down the cobbled road, halting in his tracks once he felt sufficiently far enough away, “Well this street’s as good as any,” he called to Mark, who had also used the wide spaces to gain a little distance, “So without further ado, Budew I choose you!”
Max tossed his sphere that quickly edged through the air, blurring the two colours of red and white together as it span efficiently down the make shift arena. The culminating energy forced the two halves of the ball to hinge open and expel the white power inside that mystically began to combine and gain a tint of green as Budew was forming. Once the glowing sparkles of pure white light had dispersed, the green bud like creature stood proud and strong, feeling her trainer’s courage and determination. Budew was ready to shine once again. Her fall at Rustboro was behind her, her errors resolved; she was about to prove just why she clenched the win back at Petalburg.
“You most certainly have a brave fighter there Max, I wonder though if she’ll be a match for Togepi… Ready my friend, it’s your turn!”
Mark too emulated the actions of Max, thrusting his ball down the street with great strength. It quickly burst through the air, soaring with the same blurred elegance as Max’s happened to. With a great sheer flash of light the ball split open in an instance, again like Max’s retaining a hinge between the two parts. The disfigured rays of energy partially danced their way to the ground, combining and entwining to form an half egg shaped Pokémon with a few spikes on the tip of its body acting, as it seemed to Max, as strands of hair. A rather weak looking creature stood before Max, pampering its little feet upon the cobbles below where it stood, but Max wasn’t going to be tricked into a false security about its strength. If he hadn’t known how deceiving and clever the trainer was then he may well have fallen for the masquerade of a weak and helpless baby, but underneath that shell he feared what nerving aggression had the potential to break free.
“Max, your move…”
“Right then, best start things off right this time, eh Budew? Go straight into a Sleep Powder, let’s knock’em out early!”
Budew relaxed the muscles that kept the two sprouting appendages upon its head to stay constricted, releasing the two concealed pads that were attached at both ends of the two thick attributes. Both of the pads started to throb vigorously, transforming the colours into a vibrant green that seemed to convulse in a sickly fashion, forming tight crystalline jewels that distilled almost immediately upon creation. The fading crystals left residual powdery traces in the air, which wafted like light little emerald glitter down the street straight towards Togepi – there was nowhere for it to run!
“Hmm, a clever tactic, luckily we have something that will scorch this little trick of yours; Togepi hit them with a blast of your Flamethrower!”
“What – no way…but…!”
Max’s face drooped, signalling the shock that pulsed through his emotions, as if quickly injected by an appalling needle of pure horror that was rapidly conquering all his stable senses of reason. His face said it all: the lack of confidence, the dawning peril that could easily overcome anything he threw at them; this all reminded him of his Contest battles where his elegance and style were thwarted left, right and centre, where he utilised… That was it, Water Sport was the answer. Turn defence into an offence.
“Actually, Budew we’re going to be alright mate, concentrate your water energy just like you did in the Contest and let’s give them a blast of your Water Sport. Quickly, it’s time to put out their chances of winning!”
Whilst the frothing particles of sleep dust began to burn and form a clear path of evasion for Togepi, Budew had already stored enough water inside her bud shaped body to alter her appearance, noticeable by the continuous rhythmic pounds of the sparkling sapphire tint that coursed through her every cell.
The stream of fire was only a few metres away now and Max realised he had to retaliate now, no matter whether there was enough energy to produce a jet with damage; water was still water and fire was still fire.
“Budew, you’ve got to do it now!”
The red and blue pads were put to use yet again as a torrent overflowed from the captivity of the cells. The water culminated together as it breached the lining of the padding and grew in a gushing eruption that began to propel with extreme speeds away from the grass type. The Flamethrower stood no chance against such a beast of power and disintegrated, similarly like the Sleep Powder, into water vapour due to the merging combination of fire and water. Now with nothing left to defend the poor egg Pokémon it was helpless.
It had no time to brace and ready itself against the surge of spherical perfection, there wasn’t even enough time for it to twiddle its fingers, all it could do was go with the flow, and in a matter of seconds Togepi was dynamically propelled away from its trainer, past the twinkling buildings bustling with life as its energy was sapped away.
Somehow, luck was clearly on Max’s side and Budew was fortunate for this, narrowly escaping a fiery onslaught, but by the determination brewing in Mark’s eyes he knew full well that Togepi would be ready and recharged in the same amount of time it took to knock that thing down.
“You never cease to amaze me Max, and now it’s time for me to do the same to you, be prepared for a surprise!” Mark energetically assured, waiting upon the return of his Pokémon before he continued his revelation, “Togepi, use your Metronome!”
Togepi started to sway its fingers from side to side to a simple beat; tick, tock, tick, tock. Backwards and forwards, from left to right, again and again the fingers moved. The recurring beat was now controlling the movement, left and right, back and forth, no stopping, no nothing; another sequence over and over.
“Okay Budew, it seems we’ve escaped again, so use your Bullet Seed!”
As Budew propelled the blurred seeds encased within their own aura of jade colour, Togepi’s finger tips began to radiate their own light, deepening in vividness as the blinding light grew stronger. Soon it had overtaken the whole egg shape, including the spiked tips; no one could bear to look. The light however quickly left the confides of Togepi’s body and began melding into one giant ball that glistened and rippled ceremoniously in front of the creature, and more importantly for Max, directly in front of his attack.
“Ha-ha, if that’s what I think it is then… wonderful,” Mark’s ecstatic voice cried, “Okay Togepi let the Flash Cannon rip!”
The gleaming orb, still hovering above the ground with clean precision, began shifting its gravitational force forward at the same rate as Togepi bended its fingers in the same direction. The pellets that stood as opposition were ritually knocked of course, crashing to the ground with their light bleating out, fading into nothingness as the sphere zoomed past. And with one last tremendous flick from Togepi, the ball crashed into its target, driving Budew off its delicate little feet and straight into the rays of the other blinding object that hovered in the sky. Budew temporarily vanished out of sight before crashing down in a heap against the cobbles.
“Great one Togepi, now it’s time to wrap this up and use your Flamethrower once more!”
“Budew, dodge it and use Synthesis!”
As Budew poised itself, ready to leap frog out of the way, its body was filled with dots of what seemed like sparkling sunlight, and it was exactly that. The warmth caressed all the pain that bit on like savage little creatures, expelling all the injuries by infiltrating the body with soothing liquid. Budew felt refreshed and improved, free to spring back into the battle anew… literally. With great confidence it soared in the breeze – drifting with tranquillity – and avoiding the fiery inferno below.
“Yes, take that Mark; now Budew hit Togepi with another offensive Water Sport, and then dampen the street, we best protect ourselves against future Flamethrowers!”
The delicate shade of blue burst throughout her body yet again, and the two tangled vines uncurled as the flood of water discharged. The circular spiral flew with elegance and grace, and hurled its mass towards Togepi at great velocity, and for the second time, Togepi had no chance of evasion. Wherever the little creature moved, the water only swerved and bent to its motions, following Togepi with specific care, such as it would a target. Finally, the water struck!
Togepi lay drenched from its head to its little feet, lying on cold and soaked cobbles. It looked a right mess, continuously dripping droplets into the few small pools that had formed in the cracks of the road. It dreaded to think how reduced the power of its Flamethrower had become, and it sensed that its trainer to was filled with the depressing dismay. There was not much left for them to use tactically, and Mark figured that their best hopes rested upon the unpredictability of Togepi’s other attack.
“Buddy, don’t worry about that, I guess we’ll just have to rely upon your Metronome, so go once more!”
The same monotone actions repeated on the same specific timer, back and forth, tick, tock. Max hesitated about throwing another attack at the Pokémon; he had to stay alert and prepared and free up Budew for any quick needed retaliations.
“Here we go Budew,” Max commented as the illuminating light appeared upon the tips of Togepi’s fingers, “Get ready…”
Before Max knew it, Togepi was charging straight for Budew with the gentle draping whisk of the winds trailing behind. The surroundings that enclosed the Pokémon had also become mere blurs to it… and to everyone else. There was something remarkable about the powers of Quick Attack, but Max had not time to bask in wonder, he had to adapt hastily, noticing how Budew’s time for a defence was swiftly dwindling.
No hesitation peeked from Budew; it wholeheartedly placed its trust within its trainers command and unleashed the barrage of storming seeds. It didn’t care whether much damage was inflicted, as long as Togepi lost its own bearings and trailed away – that was all that mattered. So the little pellets cascaded through the air and Togepi continued on forward.
After a few seconds of waiting, Budew was still standing there, untouched and only slightly drained of energy. There plan had worked, succeeded, even operated efficiently it thought, and with a joyous grin it leapt into Max’s arms feeling the flourishing relief of comfort. Max looked up at Mark, just about to send Budew back into battle when he noticed his opponent hunched over Togepi, gently raising it from the ground whilst soothing whispers touched its ears. And then it was gone… absorbed back inside its comforting ball.
“Who would’ve guessed eh? I got beat by you… yet… I’m not overly surprised. You showed determination and clear strategy once the battle had begun and I doubt any Gym Leader would’ve found that challenge a walk in the park.”
“Thanks, and that Togepi is a real beast – man he gave me a fright with that Flamethrower, he’s certainly not one to underestimate… as I did.”
“Well, Max, your honesty is appreciated, and I look forward to our next encounters,” he speedily stated, collecting all his belongings and returning Togepi’s PokeBall back into its allocated etched socket that rested close to Mark upon his belt, “But I’m afraid I’m going to have to depart,” he began to merge into a run as he headed along the cobbled paving, sweeping his feet off into the distance, “Can’t stay for chit chat and all,” he shouted.
Amongst the three companions fell yet another dreary silence, basking each and every one of them in mild tones of confusion. With a brief smirk, Harriet sank into the reassuring bells of questions that rattled through her brain; at least this time it wasn’t only her.
The dusty clearing fell into perfect view as the overhanging trees sprang out of hiding whilst the bustling shopping streets slowly faded into the background, along with the towering buildings that sank into the skyline. Piles of sooty ground shifted underfoot, stirring a few clouds of the murky particles with the haste of movement that camouflaged the luscious grass with such a dirty complex. There was no time to stop and soak in the stunningly attractive nature, or dwell amongst the spirited Pokémon that tottered amongst the concealed bushes. The noises were splendid, crinkling leaves, the brittle snapping of twigs, and the pleasant tones of the creatures, but there was a place to be.
Mark continued his trek, keeping a close eye out for the garbage of creatures he had come to acquaint with. Why he had sunk so low again was the burning question on his mind. Yes the money was good, wholesome and useful, but the deceit was only crippling. No good ever came out of the wicked schemes, and luckily last time his plans were foiled by a persistent Jimmy, and Roxanne was reunited with her beloved Sudowoodo. This time however, his family bore the brunt of his actions.
“There you are,” some cackling and seductive rich tones said as a stout lady stepped out from the security of thick tree, “And it seems this time failure was never an option, am I right Butch?”
From behind a different set of trees emerged the lean and muscular young man, his green hair symbolising the evil that coursed through his veins, “I agree!”
“So do you have our package then, Mark?” Cassidy inquisitively questioned, instinctively raising her outstretched hand with the anticipation of her request.
“Yes… yes I do… but…” Mark hesitantly paused as he pondered his brain for the correct words to use, “… I don’t want to do this anymore. This time I’ve sunk too low, and I now know this isn’t me… this isn’t right. So I’ll let this one slide, as I’m pretty sure this creature wouldn’t have preferred it at my parents’ ranch anyway and you probably are more capable of turning it into a fighter… but if I ever see you again I’m not going to go lightly on you!”
With his words he thrust the PokeBall into Cassidy’s hand and recoiled with a sharp pain of terror. The deed was done, no more to it. All that he could do was leave this life behind, and so he slithered away, but his emotions flowed with insanely irreparable feelings that were unfixable and permanent. That was his payment for such a dastardly act. The money had already been paid in advanced, but he couldn’t touch it and probably never would be able to. At least now though he was rid of those monsters, worse than any he had ever known… and at least he had trustworthy friends, but for how long?