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Thread: Pokémon Revolution: Maverick Heart

  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2005

    Default Pokémon Revolution: Maverick Heart

    Hello, friends. EM1 here.

    If you clicked on this, I would assume that it’s because of one of a few reasons:

    One: You’ve read my work before and pretty much liked it, probably saw my name under the title and went, “He hasn’t retired yet?” and then came in to check it out.

    Two: You asked around for a good fic to sink your teeth into and somebody from category number one pointed you in this direction.

    Three: You were just poking around the fanfiction section and this happened to be near or at the top of the list because someone just posted on it.

    Well, whatever category you’re in, even if it’s ‘none of the above’, I’m glad you’re here. So, before we start, let me take the opportunity to set the record straight about a few things you can expect to see in Maverick Heart.

    1: You can expect not to see one Travis DePaul. He’s referenced in passing once or twice, but if you came expecting to see a third story about Travis, I’m afraid that’s the one place I guarantee you’ll be disappointed. He and the majority of the cast from the first two series don’t make any appearances. (If you pay attention, though, you may see a cameo or two from Advent Phoenix’s minor cast.) This is a new group of characters, a completely new group of personalities, and it’s my hope that you learn to love – or at least love to hate – these characters to an even greater degree than the ones you might have read about in Advent Phoenix (or even Revolution: Johto if you’re one of the REALLY old crew that’s been around at least four years).

    2: You can expect to see very few rookie mistakes in terms of spelling and grammar. You may not like the story or the characters – everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, after all – but I will not let Maverick Heart or anything else I write become the proverbial middle finger to the English language. Understandable for someone in his early teens who just started out…but for a guy that’s 20, just graduated college, and has been writing on SPPf for closing in on eight years, it’s just embarrassing.

    3: This story is in the same universe as the first two I’ve written. But if you’re looking for another case of ‘Trainer takes the gym challenge (and maybe finds out he’s heir to a special power on the way)’, then look elsewhere. Don’t get me wrong: those stories have merit when done well. But I decided long before I actually started writing this that it was going to be unlike anything that I’ve ever done before. So the third thing you can expect is for this to be completely different than either of the first two.

    4: If you’re new or you haven’t been back for a while, you can expect to be able to jump right in and grab hold relatively quickly. In my last story, I made a mistake that probably cost me a lot of readers. I am very aware that sometimes it felt that, to truly understand the characters in Advent Phoenix, one had to go back to read about their beginnings in Revolution: Johto. Maybe that wouldn’t have been so horrible if the latter hadn’t been 60 chapters and over a thousand pages long. The beauty of wiping the slate clean as far as characters are concerned is that it doesn’t take a background lexicon to get one up to speed. Like I mentioned before, there are a few passing references to the old characters and old stories, but not many, seeing as these characters for the most part didn’t participate in those stories. In short: you won’t have to go back and read (or re-read) one of the first two unless you really want to. Seeing as the first two stories total 140 chapters and about 3,000 pages, I think we all can agree that’s a good thing.

    5: You can expect this story not to stagnate. As you can probably tell, I’m not the type to completely abandon a fanfic unless the circumstances are extreme – pretty much death, permanent incapacitation (like losing several of my fingers, for example), or an extended loss of internet service (like 4-6 months or more) would be the only things that would cause me to drop the story entirely. Sometimes chapters take a while (maybe a month if I’m going kinda slow, rarely ever longer than that), but I’m not a quitter. They may say that I couldn’t write, but they will never say that I didn’t.

    DISCLAIMER: Pokémon is the property of Satoshi Tajiri, GameFreak, Nintendo, all or some or most of those people. I don’t own it. However, anything that wasn’t created by them probably belongs to either me or Air Dragon, who helped with a lot of the details. This story is set in a fan-made region that is part of an alternate universe that may not (and likely will not) conform to the established canon of the Pokémon games, anime, or manga.

    Now for the moment we’ve all been waiting for. I proudly present to you:

    Pokémon Revolution: Maverick Heart
    1 – Leaving Lucas
    June 3, PA 2019

    “Daddy! Daddy! Hurry up!!”

    A small boy of about six shouted down the stairs, waving one little hand furiously in the air.

    The man at the bottom of the stairs – a tall, mid-thirties gentleman with shockingly bright red hair – sighed hopelessly at the sight of his son, who had now proceeded to jump up and down excitedly like he was on an invisible pogo stick. It was amazing how much the boy had grown up. He stood nearly four feet in height already and absolutely dwarfed other boys his age. He would likely wind up being extremely tall, just like his father and the other boys in his family.

    Such was the gene pool of the Blackthorn family. Even the smallest ones ended up looking average when compared to most people.

    “I’m coming, Landis,” he sighed, still staring up at the boy as he made his own way up the cobblestone stairs. The boy scratched his head full of chaotic hair – hair that, since his birth, never seemed to be able to make up its mind on what color it wanted to be. Through his childhood, it had gone back and forth between bright vermilion, like that of his father, or pale blond like the locks of his mother – but mostly it had stayed somewhere in between. Landis was wearing a red t-shirt and jean shorts and, with a scab on his right knee from where he had fallen during play, looked every bit of the five years old that he was. In fact, as his father looked at him, he noticed that the shorts were showing a bit more knee, and the shirt a bit more arm.

    He grows up so fast, the red-haired father thought to himself. Looks like we’ll be clothes shopping again this summer.

    The man finally reached the top step, taking a heaving breath as Landis grabbed onto his arm. He wasn’t exactly exhausted to the point of collapse, but still…those stairs weren’t quite as easy as they had been when he was in his twenties.

    “Daddy, let’s go,” he moaned impatiently.

    “I’m coming – keep your shirt on,” the man replied to his son, a tired smile on his face.

    “I wasn’t taking my shirt off,” said Landis, looking indignant and confused.

    The man sighed.

    “It’s a figure of speech, bud,” he told the boy, ruffling his hair. “It means to be patient.”

    A look of recognition dawned on the child’s face – he seemed to understand.

    “Oh,” Landis answered.

    “Sir Lance! Landis!!” an exclamation from another boyish voice caused father and son to whirl around and look up. Standing there was a boy that was probably an inch or two taller than Landis, if that. He had short hair of a deep turquoise color and was wearing a white shirt with black trim and blue jeans.

    “Evander!!” Landis shouted enthusiastically, running to greet his best friend. He stopped short, however, when he saw a man that looked like a twenty-years-older version of Evander step out of the huge castle doors. This man was wearing a black shirt and pants. His face, framed also by hair of a turquoise shade, was kind, but his strong, muscular build must have looked to the boy like someone who could rip him in half with his bare hands. Despite that, it was not the man that seemed to be worrying young Landis.

    Judging by the boy’s eye level, he was looking straight at the two little girls flanking the man’s legs. They were both small five-year-olds and appeared to be twins, with their matching long, onyx hair and similar facial features. The one holding the man’s right hand had her hair tied back in a long, thick braid, and was wearing a pink shirt with a glitter heart along with blue jeans. The little girl on his left side, however, had her hair out, and was wearing a pink sundress.

    “Lance! How are you doing?” the man said, coming down the stairs with his struggling preschool-age girls, both of whom seemed to be trying to move faster than he was.

    “Got the full clan with you today, Noah??” Lance replied with a laugh. It was then that he noticed that Landis had hidden behind him. “What’s wrong with you, bud? I thought Evander was your friend.”

    Landis muttered quietly as he vaguely motioned toward the little girls.

    “Oh, come on,” Lance pulled his son out from behind him and nudged the boy forward. “They’re not going to bite you.”

    Evander had made his way off to the side of this small, grassy area, which was lined with trees and split down the middle by the path of white bricks that led up to a vast castle that stretched several stories into the air. He waved to Landis, who quickly ran sideways to join him, obviously not wanting any part of Noah’s twin daughters. It was at this point, however, that the girls wrested themselves free of their father’s halfhearted grip and the twin with the braided hair pelted for Lance’s son at full speed. Landis, looking like he’d just seen a Gyarados bearing down on him, tried to escape and run around Evander, who stood rooted to his spot silently, but with a clear message written on his face…

    Here we go again…

    “Uh-oh,” Lance said. It was at this point that the ponytailed girl caught up with Landis, grabbed him by the hand, and pulled him into a bone-crunching hug. The men couldn’t help but laugh. After a stern look from his father, Landis hugged the girl back rather tentatively, letting go after about half a second. She didn’t seem to get the signal, however, and squeezed him even more tightly.

    Noah looked down as he noticed his pant leg being pulled. Standing there was the twin that was wearing the dress. She appeared to be sniffling as she pointed wordlessly at her sister, who was still affectionately strangling the life out of Landis.

    “What?” Noah grunted. “Well, go over there.”

    The girl with the skirt ran over to where her sister and Landis was standing, the latter’s face as red as the roots of his hair. Landis stared at her for a moment until she raised her hand in a silent wave.

    “Hi, Alex,” Landis said nervously. The little girl beamed and threw herself upon him in an embrace that was gentler, but no less embarrassing to the little boy. Alex let go and felt herself stumble sideways. Her sister had shoved her and nearly knocked her to the ground.

    “Nikita, play nice!!” Noah scolded his daughter loudly. As Noah was the highest ranking military official in Blackthorn City, when he talked, people listened – and that included his children. Looking back at Lance, he smiled and commented. “I might have to keep my girls in their room the next time you bring Landis over to visit. They argue all the time over which one’s going to marry him when they all grow up. Alana just laughs; she thinks it’s adorable. I say, ‘Sure, it’s cute now because they’re five and not fifteen.’”

    Lance shuddered.

    “All of these kids as teenagers?” he commented. “I don’t even want to think about it. Just dealing with one was bad enough, but in ten years…”

    Noah smiled.

    “Remember when we were younger and didn’t have any kids running around?” Lance asked. “Say...eight years ago, before you and Alana got married?”

    “How is this my fault?” Noah asked, his hands held up incredulously.

    “Because you were the first ones,” Lance replied. “Good grief, you couldn’t even wait until you were back from your honeymoon.”

    “You think we planned to have Evander that early?” Noah said. “I would have loved to wait a year or two, but that’s not how things played out.”

    “So, you’re saying you regret it?” Lance asked.

    “Of course not,” Noah answered, a wry smile on his face. “Evander wasn’t an accident. He was more like a ‘pleasant surprise’.”

    “That’s good…but it still doesn’t change the fact that everyone starting having kids after you guys got married,” Lance commented. “Twenty-seven with three children already? I don’t know how you deal with it.”

    “Very well, actually,” Noah replied, patting Lance on the shoulder. “If the girls move out at seventeen, I’ll have an empty nest before I turn forty. You, on the other hand…you’d better hope you can get Ali to take a little trip like her older cousin just did. Otherwise…”

    “I’ll be fifty,” Lance said, frowning. Shaking his head, he said, “I can’t picture myself at fifty.”

    “Eight years ago, I couldn’t picture myself pitching in to raise a whole village of little kids,” Noah laughed. “Fighting’s easy compared to this, if you ask me.”

    “I wouldn’t go that f—okay, yes, I would,” Lance answered. Noah laughed. “Watch Landis for me while I go in and talk to Clair?”

    “Sure – don’t I always?” Noah replied. Lance chuckled this time, patting Noah on the shoulder as he walked by and into the castle. As the red-haired leader of Blackthorn City disappeared from sight, the young man looked at the two boys and two girls scampering playfully around the garden. He let out a sigh.

    “Things sure have changed around here…”

    Thirty-six was not a ripe, old age…but as people in Johto usually lived into their early- to mid-seventies, thirty-six was not young, either. It meant that, unless she was very fortunate or very unfortunate, her life was halfway over in the grand scheme of things. If she had wanted, like many of her relatives and friends, to marry and start a family, she would have been quickly running out of time.

    Clair Blackthorn was not aware of the exact point that she realized that it simply was not for her to be married. It might have been the day she turned thirty and realized that she had not enjoyed anything that resembled a steady relationship. She had even failed to become the beneficiary (or victim, depending on one’s point of view) of a two-week teenage fling. It might have been even further back than that, when Lance left on his Journey of Passage. Lance ended up being a great Trainer – so great, actually, that he became a League Champion and didn’t come back home to live for about fifteen years. Thus, it was Clair that was left with the task of leading the city as a young woman after their father died.

    Perhaps it was three years ago, at thirty-three, when a cocky, black-haired, young man had taken up residence in Blackthorn City and become one of her ‘Junior Assistants’. Normally, that title was reserved for young Trainers in their teens that wanted to specialize in a certain type of Pokémon and therefore aligned themselves with certain Gym Leaders. This young man, however, was in his later twenties – strapping, in the prime of life. Tall, strong, confident…and although he was several years younger, she had fallen for him all the same.

    So, at that point, she knew what it was like to be in love.

    She also found out what it was like to get burned.

    The Orange Islander evidently had liaisons with three or four different women in the city, including Clair. Lance had indeed been right when he had said that he thought the guy looked like a playboy. She was so furious that she kicked him not only out of the gym, but out of the entire city. It was really for his own good, because if either of her brothers had gotten to him first…

    It might have been at that point where she just simply gave up. The only guy that had ever wanted any part of her evidently wanted a part of everyone else, too. Other than that, most men were simply cowed by her near-six-foot frame, the way her yellow eyes peered over her thin-rimmed spectacles, her long and wildly styled light blue hair, and her overall commanding presence. Lance had once told her that she was the type of person that could suck the air out of a room just by walking in.

    She laughed to herself. If she’d managed to have children of her own, she probably would have terrified them out of their wits. Maybe that was why Fate had not seen fit to give her a family.

    She knew, though, that there was more to being a mother than simply marrying and procreating. When she thought of it, she had been a mother to several different people since she had been a teenager.

    The first was her youngest brother, Lorca. Their mother, never a picture of great health, had survived three difficult pregnancies; but, nearing the age of forty, a fourth proved to be too much. So Clair, who was eight years older, was really the only mother Lorca ever knew.

    Now, these days, she was a mother figure to her many nieces and nephews. The rest of her family had borne enough children to make up for her total lack of a love life. Each of her siblings had parented two.

    Lorca had Diamond – a five-year-old that actually looked a bit like her – and Lyle, a two-year-old miniature of his father.

    Lance had Landis, who was five and had a birthday coming up, and Alyndra, the baby of the family, not yet a year old.

    Laena, the only sibling older than Clair, had died nearly fourteen years ago, but had left two children of her own, too. Since she had left the city to marry, the older of the two boys was not raised as a Blackthorn. But, eight years ago, when circumstances brought him to the city for the first time, they had accepted him as a family member all the same. He was twenty now, had just been married about nine months prior, and lived in the Orange Islands with his new wife. They still visited from time to time, though, mainly to see his younger brother.

    Lucas had been taken in by the family when his father died seven years ago. He was Laena’s younger son, the one she had right before dying. He had been six year old when his father was killed in a motorcycle accident.

    Seven years had passed since then…which meant that there was now a new hole in the family that his presence used to fill.

    Clair sat in her library, spectacled eyes poring over a book, in an effort to distract her from the weighty pressure that kept pushing in on her insides.

    THUMP. Someone was knocking…

    “Come in,” she said with a sigh.

    The brown door swung open and revealed a very tall man in his thirties with short, slightly wild, red hair.

    Her younger brother.

    “Oh,” she reacted rather morosely. “Hey, Lance.”

    “We didn’t find you at the liftoff this morning,” he said. “Weren’t you going to come and say goodbye?”

    “I already talked to him last night,” she answered. “At length, in fact.”

    She closed the book.

    “Carona, Lance?” she sighed. “Carona? Where did we go wrong? Nobody else in the family…”

    “You know him by now,” Lance said heavily, taking a chair beside a tall bookshelf, the top of which even a man of his height could barely reach. “He’ll listen to your advice, but at the end of the day, he marches to the beat of his own drum.”

    “He’s got too much of his mother in him,” Clair said with a sad smile. “I bet Laena’s looking down from the clouds, laughing at us as we try to keep him reined in…how’d Landis take it?”

    “I took him to the liftoff this morning,” Lance explained. “I’ve been teaching him about the whole process, and I wanted him to see it. I don’t think it’s hit him yet, though, that Lucas won’t be coming back for a while.”

    “It’ll be hard for them,” Clair sighed. “He always was close with the kids. I bet they’ll miss him even more than I will.”

    She gulped and closed her eyes as the insides of her eyelids suddenly flooded. She opened her eyes and fixed a watery stare upon her brother, blinking back tears.

    “Sorry,” she sighed. “I’m getting old, is all.”

    “Don’t say that,” Lance said, a smile on his face. “I’m only two years younger than you are, so what does that make me?”

    Clair let out a chuckle in spite of herself.

    “Everything changed once that boy got here,” she said.

    “Yeah…having a seven-year-old running around with us took some getting used to,” he replied.

    “No, not him,” Clair explained. “The other one.”

    Lance thought back.

    “Oh, yeah…” he sighed.

    “How is he now? I was so happy when I heard he had won,” she said. “I’d been a bit worried about him since he left here for the last time.”

    “He’s still in Hoenn with his wife. Actually, they sent me a message last week. She’s getting pretty big now,” Lance said with a smile.

    “Wow…he was only twelve when I’d met him…” Clair laughed, sitting back in her chair. “Now he’s a Champion and has his own family. If that and running a city don’t make you feel old…”

    “I suppose you’re right,” Lance said, standing up and heading toward the door. “Well, I’d better go rescue Landis. Noah’s girls were a little bit too happy to see him.”

    Clair smirked wordlessly. She would feel quite old indeed when her third-oldest nephew left home in about seven years or so.


    She looked up, blinking again.

    “He’ll be okay,” Lance said, peeking back over his shoulder with a reassuring smile. “This can’t be worse than when you watched me leave, right?”

    “That’s what worries me,” Clair said. Lance gave a hearty laugh and closed the door behind him.

    **** **** **** M.A.V.E.R.I.C.K H.E.A.R.T **** **** ****

    All was silent in this small, austerely adorned room. Golden-white rays of sunshine filtered through a window, illuminating the room wall to wall, revealing the occasional dust particle. In rain and night, the room’s source of light was a round globe of fluorescence that could be activated by switch. One small dresser made of wood stood forgotten and gathering dust in the corner. It was closest to the door and not far at all from the suspect-looking bed that lined the long wall of this room. Looking at this pitifully crafted piece of furniture – and here the term is used generously – would give one the impression that this room was designed with short-term habitation in mind. The bed was the resting place of a traveler, not nearly comfortable enough to sleep deeply within.

    The form currently inside this bed, with a thick, greenish blanket pulled over itself completely, had managed a decent night’s sleep. The room was utterly quiet, save for the placid breathing that emanated from somewhere in between the blanket and the white pillow upon which a mostly veiled head now rested.


    The blankets shifted as the form underneath them rolled slightly toward the wall.


    “Mnmf…what…” a moan of regained consciousness came forth from the covers as the form stirred again.

    “Hey, kid! Wake up!” A muffled, relatively young-sounding voice filtered through the wooden door at the end of the room, followed by another loud sound of impact. The form remained motionless this time.

    The blanket exploded away from the form under it. Two long, light tan legs swung out from the bed. Two bare feet melded themselves to the carpeted floor and began to detach, one by one, step by step, taking their owner toward a door opposite of the banging and the shouting.

    The feet pattered into a tiny, tiled room lined with a sink, a toilet, an iron bar, a translucent sliding door, and a mirror above the sink. The feet turned toward this mirror. Three feet higher, a right hand picked up a small toothbrush. A left hand picked up a tube filled with gel and squeezed it, emptying some of its contents onto the fine, white bristles. The mouth opened in something of a rather goofy, silent growl, and ran the bristles repeatedly along even, white teeth. The gel was quickly replaced by foam that filled the mouth for several seconds until it disappeared behind his lips, only to be spat into the sink and washed down the drain by a torrent of water.

    The eyes left the sink and arrived at the mirror.

    What those eyes saw was a boy with a slightly tan face and irises the golden-brown color of a lion’s coat. His head was a shoulder-length, curly shag of red flecked with hotter red and jet black. He took one of his hands and ruffled it furiously, attempting to make it appear as voluminous and as messy as humanly possible.

    TAP. TAP.

    “Wake up,” a tiny, childlike voice sounded. The thirteen-year-old sighed and looked up at the ceiling. “Wake up!!”

    “Ugh….you guys suck,” he muttered to someone absent. She, like an innocent, angelic, adorable, little minion, had been sent to do her parents’ bidding. That was usually how they got him. Her parents knew with a certainty that was as sure as death that he couldn’t say ‘no’ to her.

    Ruffling his hair one more time for good measure, he exited the bathroom, took the six steps that were required to get through his ‘bedroom’, and opened the door carefully. It was then that he found himself staring down at the face of the little girl whose voice he’d heard moments ago.

    She was very young – no older than five. As such, she was only just about up to the boy’s waist. Granted, that still made her taller than a lot of other little girls her age. She had very long hair that was sky blue like her father’s, and her mother’s wide, aquamarine eyes. At the present, that long hair of hers was out of its customary bushy ponytail and wildly hanging her back, which was covered by a light blue nightshirt and a royal-blue pair of pajama bottoms that displayed several of a long, big-eyed, serpentine creature with a white underbelly.

    “Hi, Lucas,” she said, smiling weakly.

    “Good morning, Diamond,” he replied, returning her smile – moments before the girl threw herself upon him so quickly that she nearly tackled him to the ground. He staggered for a moment before he gathered her up into his arms.

    Thirteen-year-old Lucas Blackthorn had many peculiarities for which he had been well-known in his hometown. Perhaps the most perplexing (albeit the most admirable) was the fact that he was known to be very patient and caring with the younger children in and around his family. However, out of all of them, it was Diamond that held a special place in his heart.

    Lucas was without either of his birth parents. He never knew his mother, who died shortly after giving birth to him under mysterious circumstances. Ergo, he never knew about his mother’s side of the family – not until his older brother forced it out of their father in a rather heated argument that ended with his brother leaving home permanently. The truth that Michael Azuki (for that had been his father’s name) had kept from Lucas – whom he had named Marco, a name that Lucas detested to this day – was that Lucas’ mother, whom Michael had known as Lauren, was actually the oldest daughter of the Blackthorn family, meaning that Lucas counted everyone born of that Dragon Tamer clan among his relatives. Therefore, when Michael died in a motorcycle accident seven years ago, the choice for Lucas’ guardian was obvious. Laena Blackthorn had three siblings. One of them was, at the time, the Champion of Johto’s Pokémon League, and the other a Gym Leader.

    Lucas, however, had been left with the youngest member of the clan, as it had been he and his wife that had requested the task of housing and raising him.

    As much as Lucas felt in his heart that what his Uncle Lorca and his Aunt Marcia had done for him was what family should do, he was nonetheless thankful and held a high amount of respect and love for them – although his rough pattern of speech didn’t always show it.

    It was thus that Lucas – then nine and in the midst of training for today’s particular morning – was present for the birth of Diamond Lorelai (after her maternal grandmother – no relation to the former Elite Four member) Blackthorn, nearly five years ago. They were cousins by blood, but had grown up together as a brother and sister would. So, out of his several younger cousins, it was Diamond with whom he was closest.

    “I don’t want you to go,” she whimpered. Her five-year-old mind didn’t quite get the concept of the Journey of Passage. Truth be told, sometimes Lucas didn’t, either. But what she did gather was that Lucas – her brother – was leaving and wouldn’t be back for a long time.

    Lucas sighed.

    “We’re almost there now,” he tried to explain as gently as possible. “We can’t just turn around and go back, can we?”

    “Why did you have to pick someplace so far away?” she asked grumpily.

    Lucas remained silent. His reasons…those were something that Diamond’s innocent ears did not need to hear about. Heck, he hadn’t even explained it to his Uncle Lance and Aunt Clair. They may or may not have figured it out, though…

    “Look who finally decided to join us,” said the voice of a laughing man as Lucas put Diamond down onto the ground. Lucas looked up to find a tall, young man in his twenties approaching him. His hair was a neck-length mess of sky-blue. His bespectacled, yellow eyes flanked a long, pointed nose, and he was wearing a green shirt along with some long, black slacks. The tall man approached Lucas and ruffled his curly hair, making it even shaggier. After a few seconds, Lucas knocked the hand away with a motion akin to swatting at a bothersome fly. “Have a good sleep, kid?”

    Lucas’ mouth set in a firm line. At ten, he didn’t mind much that his Uncle Lorca did that, but at thirteen, it was a bit irritating.

    “Did you have to wake me up?” he asked.

    “What did you want me to do? Dump you off in Carona while you were knocked out and leave with no goodbye? Diamond would have never let me hear the end of it!” the man explained, as the little girl beamed. Suddenly, Lucas’ face became serious.

    “How far are we out?” he asked.

    “Something like an hour,” the man replied.

    “An hour, huh…?” Lucas repeated. Diamond’s face fell.

    They made their way to a long, indoor cabin area that was lined with chairs in rows of two on each side. It looked rather like the inside of an airplane, except that two rows of chairs would face each other and be spaced a distance apart. Lucas sat down in a seat nearest the wall. Out of that window, he saw a vast expanse of sky and water, dotted with the occasional island and obscured by the occasional white puff of cloud. In the dim, blurred reflection from the window, he saw Diamond pacing up and down the cabin, stopping to look at him every so often.

    “Lucas,” a man’s voice snapped Lucas out of his daydreams about adventure, self-discovery, the moment that he could meet that person…calmly, the boy looked back toward the opposite row of chairs. Sitting down in those chairs was the tall, blue-haired man from earlier. Joining him was a young woman, similarly in her later twenties. With her long, auburn hair, sun-kissed face, and aqua-colored eyes, her appearance could change based on her mood. If she was happy or calm, she was quite good-looking. Get her angry and she could be intimidating, to say the least – and although the years had mellowed her, she could still have a short fuse if you caught her on a bad day. In her t-shirt and jeans, however, she didn’t look to be interested in exposing anyone to her rage. She simply looked at Lucas with the utmost concern on her face, matching the expression of her husband. “We have to talk to you.”

    “I think I know what this is – mind if I take a guess, Uncle Lorca?” Lucas sighed, leaning back in his chair. Lorca grimaced. Sarcastic, biting, opinionated, stubborn in both word and in action, Lucas hardly ever went out of his way to be rude; but his way of talking tended to push people’s buttons, that was for sure. Lorca and Marcia, however, had grown used to it over the years. “You’re gonna tell me to behave myself in Carona and not do anything stupid. I know what’s going on. D’you think I picked Carona without doing my homework on it first?”

    “I know you did your homework – that’s what worries me,” Lorca said, palming his forehead.

    “It bothers me that no one else in the family has ever done their Passage in Carona,” Lucas answered. “You can’t seriously tell me that one of the greatest warrior clans in the world is afraid, but that’s sure what it looks like.”

    “It’s not that, Lucas,” Marcia groaned impatiently. Her voice (while calm, of course) had grown through the years to be quite a bit more pleasant, and her verbiage had become less harsh. “It’s…well…”

    “I know the reason,” Lucas replied, leaning forward. “Are you guys just afraid I won’t finish the journey?”

    “Finishing that journey doesn’t make you a man, Luc,” Lorca said, leaning forward and bringing everything to silence. “It’s the journey itself – what you learn, what you see, what you find out – that makes you a man.”

    “It’s just that simple,” Lucas said, nodding. Meanwhile, he felt (and ignored) the grip of a little hand on his knee. “I get it.”

    “I’m not sure if you do,” Lorca said. “Your grandfather never gave me the chance to go on a Journey of Passage. He already had plans for me – to study government and represent the city in the Grand Council.”

    “Man…that sucks,” Lucas muttered.

    “You’ve got choices available to you, though,” Lorca said. “And that’s important. Your choices impact what kind of man you’re going to end up being.”

    “That’s just it,” Lucas sighed. “One of the reasons I wanted to go to Carona is that, there, I’m not famous. People could care less about the last name ‘Blackthorn’. Well…most of them.”

    “You’re just as much a part of the family as everyone else, Lucas,” Lorca said.

    “I know that…but being the face of the Blackthorn family? That’s still Uncle Lance’s job. And after that, it’ll belong to Landis…and as far as I’m concerned, they can keep it,” Lucas laughed cuttingly.

    “Don’t get too cocky,” Lorca advised him. “Keep in mind, you don’t exactly know Carona like the back of your hand. You don’t know where you’re going, what you’re doing…do you?”

    “Nope,” Lucas answered. “But that’s part of the fun, right?”

    “Very funny, Luc,” Lorca groaned, slapping his head. “Listen, are you even taking this seriously?”

    “Yes…and no,” Lucas replied nonchalantly. “Am I supposed to?”

    “Yes…and no,” Lorca answered. “You’re supposed to enjoy life – don’t let anyone tell you different – but...”

    Lorca leaned forward. “This isn’t a game, either. You and the people around you don’t get extra lives to play with. Once you lose – that’s it. So don’t do anything reckless and end up hurting someone you care about.”

    “I’ll worry about that when I meet someone in Carona that I care about,” Lucas answered.

    “Yeah – that’s the other thing,” Lorca said. “There’s a part of me that wanted to straight to Clair and tell her that you should stay an extra year. She says it’d do more harm than good.”

    “What?” Lucas was astonished to hear this. He thought that Lorca and Marcia couldn’t wait to get rid of him. “Why’s that?”

    “Well…that’s the whole point of the journey, I guess,” Lorca answered, fiddling with his glasses. “None of us will be there to hold your hand anymore. And outside of the family, the whole ‘tough guy’ act might make you more enemies than friends.”

    “And you don’t want to go around making enemies for no good reason,” Marcia piped in. “I wouldn’t know what to say to Diamond if something happened to you.”

    “And you’re saying Carona’s worse for that than someplace else?” he asked. “You guys didn’t do anything wrong. Wasn’t Blackthorn City almost taken over eight years ago?”

    Lorca had a hard time finding an answer for this. “That’s a completely different situation.”

    “Maybe,” Lucas replied, “but you made an enemy by doing nothing, right? Point is…no one’s ever truly safe. Some people in this world…”

    He trailed off, staring outside the window. He heard a rustling – Lorca and Marcia had left.

    Meanwhile, the little girl had stretched out on the chairs and across Lucas’ knees, looking out of the window. Marcia looked at Lorca, who nodded silently, and both left their chairs. Lucas looked down at Diamond, who was sprawled across his knees, kicking her legs back and forth and admiring the view outside. Suddenly, she stopped and sat up, settling back into his lap sadly.

    She whined. “Who am I going to play ‘Princess’ with?”

    Diamond, like most small children, had a vivid imagination, and used this imagination to play every game her young mind could invent. One of her favorites was the one she had just mentioned, where she played the ‘princess’ and Lucas, predictably, played the ‘knight in shining armor’ and rescued her from any number of difficult imaginary predicaments.

    Lucas smiled.

    “You could always teach L.J. someday,” he said. Lyle Jacobi Blackthorn, Diamond’s younger brother, was two-and-a-half and a bit of a handful, which was why his parents left him with Lance and Fiona, who also had two children of their own. It never crossed Lorca’s mind to leave Diamond with them as well. Knowing that Lucas was leaving without saying goodbye would have made her gloomy at best, and Diamond would have never let her parents forget it.

    “He’s too little,” Diamond said, folding her arms grumpily. “And it’s not the same.”

    She clung to Lucas and looked out of the window, as small islands and landmasses began to increase in size and frequency. Lucas, knowing that he would land in Carona in a matter of minutes, held onto Diamond all the more tightly. She squirmed and laughed when Lucas tickled her. The little girl looked up at him, bumping his stomach with her head.

    “Take care of Otto, okay?” she said. Lucas rolled his eyes.

    “His name is Apollo, alright?” he said.

    “Otto!” Diamond exclaimed.

    “Apollo!” Lucas replied. Diamond, at once, reached her hands up to Lucas’ face and started yanking on his cheeks. “Ow! Get off, Di! Stop!!”

    “Good morning, everyone, this is your captain, Martin Ro**** speaking,” a low, fast voice came through some nearby speakers, making Diamond (her fingers still applying firm pinches to Lucas’ face) turn her head. “If you look out of your windows, you will notice the Belveyun Archipelago. We are now in Carona airspace and will be approaching our destination, Port Narra, in about ten minutes.”

    “Ar-ka-what?” Diamond said, a quizzical look on her childish face as she turned to Lucas.

    “Archipelago,” Lucas repeated. “It’s a really big word for a bunch of islands.”

    Diamond thought for a minute.

    “Oh,” she said. “Are we there yet?”

    “Yeah,” Lucas answered. “Yeah, I think we are.”

    Diamond’s face fell again. Silently, she settled back into her cousin’s lap.

    Lucas, wearing the backpack that contained his few starting supplies, stood at the front door of the airship. He had dressed in his traveling outfit, which consisted of blue jeans, black and red shoes, and the shirt that he had gotten as a going-away present from his brother and sister-in-law, who had shown up at the end of May to visit him one last time. This shirt was black with narrow, bright red trim and silvery buttons. Its collar and cuffs were a stark white. Despite its coloration and appearance, the shirt was surprisingly light, especially when Lucas kept it opened to the second button, revealing his favorite birthday present – picked by Diamond, bought by her parents. It was a silver necklace with the model of a fierce-looking Gyarados. He had also donned his trademark skullcap, which was black and held his flyaway shag in check, so that the remainder of his hair sat in a wide array of crimson curls covering his neck and hanging near his ears.

    ”Well,” Lorca said. “Are you ready, Lucas?”

    “Define ‘ready,’” Lucas said, staring at the door.

    “I’m giving you one last chance to back out,” Lorca replied. “Once you step out and this airship takes off, you’re on your own. Even if we were allowed to help you, we can’t do anything for you if you’re out this far.”

    “Back out?” he repeated with a slight laugh. “Why would I do that?”

    “Lorca,” Marcia’s voice sounded next. “Where’s Diamond?”

    “Obviously, she’s somewhere on the ship,” Lorca answered. Marcia rolled her eyes.

    “Di! Di, where are you??” she called.

    After a few moments, the sound of slowly shuffling feet broke the silence. Lucas looked over his shoulder. Diamond was trudging into the room, still wearing her nightclothes and looking down at her feet. She inhaled and produced a loud sniffle. She was carrying something that seemed to be dragging against the ground. It was black and separated into three segments connected by a long, narrow piece of wire.

    “Lucas,” she said, holding up the strange object. “You forgot this.”

    “Oh, come on, after all the grief we took from Clair for letting you have that?” Marcia rolled her eyes. Lucas walked over to Diamond, who held it up for Lucas to take. He took it, folded it and dropped it into a holster in his bag. He then looked down at Diamond for a moment.

    “Don’t look at me like that,” he said. He lifted the little girl up to his eye level. “Promise me you’ll be good, okay?”

    Diamond nodded.

    “You gonna listen to your mom and dad?” Lucas asked. Diamond nodded again. “Are you gonna stop picking on L.J.?”

    At this, Diamond shook her head. Lucas grimaced.

    “Maybe that was asking for a little bit much,” he sighed. A whirring sound rang through the airship, and a thin line of light appeared on the back wall and began to widen. Lucas saw the area directly behind him brighten and looked over his shoulder. The door to the airship was opening, falling down into a ramp that would lead from the airship…

    To whatever was outside.

    Lucas looked back at Diamond and mentally resolved to make this goodbye as quick, but as meaningful as possible. Diamond’s lip was trembling – a warning sign that she was about to start bawling, which could have been the one thing that could have gotten him to change his mind. Seeing her cry turned his stomach.

    “Come on, are you gonna give me a smile before I go, or what?” Lucas asked. Diamond wiped her eyes with her sleeve and managed to put together a convincing smile. Lucas hugged the girl and received an affectionate peck on the cheek in return.

    After several seconds, he set Diamond down on the ground – or at least tried to, when he realized that she had latched around his neck so tightly that she would sooner bring him down than let go of him.

    “Ouch…Di, my neck…” he grunted. Diamond was not especially heavy; she, like the rest of her family, would probably end up being tall and gracefully trim. Nonetheless, a few dozen pounds hanging from your neck like an overlarge necklace while you’re bent double still doesn’t feel very good.

    Lorca laughed. “Come on, Diamond, get off him.”

    Diamond unlatched her hands from Lucas’ neck, lost her balance, and then fell backwards on her rear end. Lucas knelt down and helped her up and the two shared one last hug. Lucas turned on his heel and walked straight at Marcia, who received him with a hug and then started fussing with the collar on his shirt in a rather matronly matter.

    “Hey – hey, what are you –” Lucas grunted moments before his young aunt turned him around and gave him a shove toward the door, where Lorca was waiting. Lorca cuffed his arm around his young nephew’s shoulder and gave him a classic, old-school noogie – one that brought to Lucas’ mind memories of his early childhood with his older brother.

    “Ouch!” Lucas snarled, pulling away from him. “Geez, everyone’s trying to kill me all of a sudden.”

    “Well, I thought you were too cool for a hug, so…” Lorca sighed. “Plus, I was really hoping that I could finally get you to say….”

    “‘Uncle?’ Right, that’s hilarious,” Lucas replied, rolling his eyes to the ceiling. Lorca’s head dropped and then came back up, wearing a smile.

    “Well, in any case,” Lorca said, putting an arm around Lucas’ shoulder. “Remember the stuff I taught you. Behave, play nicely with others, all that?”

    “Sounds like you’re dropping me off at school or something,” Lucas quipped.

    “Well, school’s not always a building, kid,” Lorca replied, clapping a rather large hand on Lucas’ shoulder. “In fact, I’d argue that this might be the best education you’ve gotten yet. Oh, and one more thing…don’t forget what Lance told you about being honest with people.”

    Lucas turned from Lorca’s sight, his cheeks reddening as he knew that Lance hadn’t exactly put it like that. Nope, what he had actually said was more like:

    “If you think you’ve met that special someone, make sure she knows that.”

    Lucas couldn’t be too upset with his oldest uncle; after all, losing your first girlfriend in a tragic house fire really sucks. But there were two differences in that department between him and Lance. The first one was the Lance, at Lucas’ age, was a bit luckier; the second was that Lance, at Lucas’ age, had actually found the energy to give a damn about what other kids his age thought of him.

    Lucas had no idea how to deal with women. He would be the first one to tell anyone that. Far from having a girlfriend, Lucas never even had a girl friend. In fact, outside his family, he had very few friends at all. It was either that he got on everyone else’s nerves, everyone else got on his nerves, or a little bit of both.

    “I’ll be fine,” Lucas finally said – not knowing why, not knowing how, but knowing somehow that the statement was true. “It’s not like I was sheltered…like you, for instance.”

    Lorca grimaced, but could not say anything as he knew Lucas was telling the truth. He laughed inwardly as he remembered back to when he himself was Lucas’ age. Honestly – an arranged marriage? What the hell was that all about? Granted, he was still best friends with the girl as well as her husband – Alana and Noah Ryndale, who, in a strange twist of fate, came from two rival noble families that couldn’t stand each other. They liked to conjecture at times, when it was just the three of them, what Lorca’s children would look like if he had been married to Alana instead of Marcia.

    Lucas held back a smirk. Diamond was much cuter with Marcia’s eyes. Alana could be scary sometimes.

    “Nope,” Lorca said. “You just didn’t interact with anyone and so you have no social skills.”

    “I know how to deal with people,” Lucas sighed. Tucking a few of his curls behind his ear, he added, “They just don’t understand me.”

    I don’t even understand you sometimes, Lucas,” Lorca replied. He let out a sigh. “Well, you’d better go. Are you sure you want to do this? Because once you step…off…”

    He looked up and saw that Lucas had stepped across the threshold and into the light. He grimaced.

    “Later, kid,” he muttered. He started back toward Marcia.

    “You’re limping,” Marcia (who was holding Diamond, who had seen Lucas leave and promptly buried her face into her mother’s shirt) commented.

    “It’s flaring up again…” Lorca muttered, grimacing and looking at his leg, where, under the fabric of the pants was a wound that he had received in a fight years ago. Ten percent of the time, it was a nuisance. The other ninety percent, though, it was simply a tale-worthy battle scar. Marcia smiled.

    **** **** **** M.A.V.E.R.I.C.K H.E.A.R.T **** **** ****

    Dalton Gregg was a mostly-ordinary university student from the region once called Johto.
    Then a fateful encounter set him on a quest to change history.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2005

    Default Chapter 1-2

    **** **** **** M.A.V.E.R.I.C.K H.E.A.R.T **** **** ****

    Lucas looked over his shoulder and saw the small, black airship close its doors. He ran a few steps to safety as all manner of dust began to kick into his eyes. The airship’s boosters glowed an ethereal, blue color as the vessel began to hover higher and higher. It turned and then pointed itself to the southeast.

    After a few moments…


    Up into the air it went, high into the clouds and out of sight.

    Lucas sighed and did a full three-sixty, taking in the entirety of his new surroundings. He was standing on what looked like an absolutely huge parking lot. Behind him were a small beach, and a harbor with several ports designed for the vessels that had traversed the miles upon the ocean instead of thousands of feet above it.

    “Hey, kid, you lost?” Lucas jumped as he heard a gruff male voice attempt to get his attention. He turned around again and came face-to-face with a middle-aged man. Obviously, as he was just above five and a half feet tall like Lucas himself, the man was rather short, but he might have been almost as big around as he was tall. He was a load – that was for sure. Despite his height, Lucas thought that the man might have been well over two hundred pounds. A smile hid behind a head of bushy, brown hair as well as a fully grown, completely unkempt, mountain-man kind of beard. Discreetly, Lucas sniffed the air for a hint of the type of terrible stench that would come from a man who has not bathed himself in several weeks, but to his great surprise, realized that this mysterious man was probably not homeless, but had just started an honest day’s work. Lucas took a look at his overalls and pants, which did smell – like oil and all other types of vehicle fluids.

    Give this guy an axe and he’d either be a mountain man or one of those dwarves from Diamond’s favorite fantasy stories. But alas, he was not holding an axe (thank goodness for that, as Lucas probably would have been running clear in the other direction) but a wrench. Putting two and two together, Lucas made a guess that this man must have been some sort of mechanic.

    “Kid? You all there? What’s wrong with yeh?” the man asked.

    “Oh, no – yeah, I’m fine,” Lucas said. Waiting for a moment, he asked, “Where am I?”

    “This here? This is Port Narra on Belveyun Isle, ya see?” the man answered gruffly. Lucas frowned.

    “I know that,” he said. “What is this place?”

    “Oh, this is…well, the port. Matter o’ fact,” he answered, looking up in the air, “we’d better get the hell off the runway before another airship lands right on our heads.”

    Lucas looked up and grimaced as the oily, bearded man with the wrench turned and started walking inland.

    “Oh…good point,” the red-haired boy said, trying to put from his mind the image of one of the faceless Blackthorn soldiers coming to Lorca and Marcia with the news that Lucas had died five minutes into his journey because an airship had landed on top of him.

    As the two started walking across the huge asphalt lot, Lucas, whose head was still on a swivel, began to notice that the lot was covered in circles that seemed to be several dozen yards in diameter.

    “What are all of these circles?” he asked.

    “Oh, these are landin’ docks for all the airships that come through,” the man answered. “ ‘N a small airport like this one, we normally only get small vessels that land here – ‘bout the size of the one you dropped in on, fer instance. We have a couple of bigger dockin’ places for those jumbo-types. Of course, we never have to use ‘em, but better safe’n sorry, right?”

    “Right,” Lucas muttered, hiding a smile. On the subject of ‘jumbo-types’…

    “Now Belveyun’s Demèry – they’ll have a slightly larger lot. But this is probably the smallest public lot you’ll find in all of Carona. Once you get to Carona proper – well, them things stretch miles across,” the man explained.

    “Oh, I get it,” Lucas said. The concept was easy enough to understand, he supposed. Bigger cities meant bigger airports. Bigger airports meant bigger airships. Bigger airships meant bigger lots.

    “I s’pose you’ve never seen an airport before?” the man asked.

    “Nope,” Lucas said. “They’ve only got a handful of airships on the continent where I’m from.”

    “You wouldn’t be from Johto or Kanto, wouldja?” the man asked. Lucas set his mouth in a firm line, then decided that there couldn’t be any harm in telling him.

    “Yeah, I am, actually,” he said. “From Johto, that is.”

    “That explains it,” the man answered. “Yeah, them people on that continent like it old-fashioned, that’s for sure.”

    Lucas frowned. He didn’t think that the technology in Johto was that bad.

    “Then again,” the bushy-bearded mechanic continued, “might not be worth the money to build airports for a continent that small.”

    Lucas raised an eyebrow. “I’m pretty sure it takes several weeks to cycle all the towns in Johto.”

    “HAH!” the mechanic uttered a bark of a laugh that made Lucas jump. “‘Several weeks?’ If you walk fast, you could walk around Carona’s mainland in about a year and a half or so.”

    “A year?” Lucas repeated incredulously. “Know anyone who’s ever tried it?”

    “A lot of people have tried it. I only know of one who’s done it,” the mechanic replied, a cryptic glint in one of his beady, black eyes. “Traveller Rossi, more than five hundred years ago.”

    “Some kind of legend, right?” Lucas said with a smirk.

    “Well, no one doubts that he existed, or that he did it,” the mechanic said, raising his eyebrows. “There are historical records, y’know. It’s what happened after that’s up fer argument. Some people say that he left to see other continents. That’d seem like him, if you ask me – but there’s also a small group that say that he settled down and started a family. You’ll run into the odd person that claims Rossi blood, but most of ‘em are total crazies. Anyway, that’s not important. The point is, Traveller Rossi started something – something that’s been a staple of this country ever since the first guy that tried to copy ‘im.”

    “Oh,” Lucas said simply once he knew the mechanic was done. “So…where are we headed, anyway?”

    “The terminal, o’ course,” the mechanic answered as if he thought Lucas should have known this already. “From there…yer on your own, I s’pose.”

    “Well, can you at least tell me how to get to the nearest town? I think it’s called Narra, too, right?” Lucas asked quickly.

    “Shuttlerail’ll getcha there in a matter o’ minutes,” the mechanic replied. Seeing the quizzical look on Lucas’ face, he asked, “Magnet Train still runnin’?”

    “Magnet Train?” Lucas repeated. “You mean the one that leaves from Goldenrod City and goes to Saffron in Kanto? Yeah – why?”

    “Based off our very own shuttlerail,” the mechanic asked. “Johto’s think tank – they’re smart, no doubt about it, but they’re not the most original people. They just figure out how ta mess with stuff Carona’s already done. Hopin’ yer not takin’ offense to this, of course.”

    “Not really,” Lucas replied, shrugging his shoulders. After all – he didn’t have much of anything to do with Johto’s ‘think tank’. Plus, knowing that he grew up in the second most technologically advanced city in Johto, he could see that the mechanic had a point.

    They reached the terminal which was, as Lucas had predicted, rather small. Whoever worked here, though, did a pretty good job of keeping the place clean. Spotless tiles, white dotted with blocks of navy blue arranged in diamond patterns, lined the floor and shone in the sunlight that poured in from the glass doors. Presently, Lucas and the mechanic were walking past a desk that featured a young man that could have been twenty-five, with well-combed, black hair and wearing a navy blue, very official-looking polo. The desk, also, was very clean, and this picture of cleanliness only served to throw into sharper relief the overall grunginess of the mechanic’s appearance.

    “Hey, there, Lenny! Enjoying your break?” the young man said in an eager, amicable tone of voice. Now, this was a guy that evidently really liked his job…either that or he’d had a double shot of espresso that hadn’t quite worn off yet.

    “Howdy, Bill. Had to go rescue a stray,” Lenny laughed gruffly. Lucas rolled his eyes as the young man laughed. “And seeing as there ain’t no airships around here to actually work on…”

    Lucas felt about a point smarter after guessing correctly that Lenny was a mechanic.

    “I’m showin’ this kid to the shuttlerail, and then I’ll be back,” Lenny said, beckoning to Lucas to follow. As the red-haired teenager caught up with the stockily-built worker, the latter looked in his direction and asked, “So, what are yeh doing here, anyway?”

    Lucas went silent for a second. “Dunno. I’m on a journey and I guess I’m looking for someone, but until I find that person, I’m not really sure.”

    “No plan – nothing? You good at working on airships?” Lenny asked with a hopeful ring to his voice. Lucas couldn’t resist – he laughed.

    “I’ve seen about two in my entire lifetime, and I have no idea how either of them works,” he said.

    “Ah…right. Stupid question. Sorry,” Lenny answered, looking crestfallen. Obviously, he had been hoping for a bit more company in his line of work.

    They approached another set of glass doors. Lucas reached for one and saw it slide open with a quiet hiss.

    “Wonderful, technology, isn’t it?” Lenny remarked. Lucas wasn’t impressed; they had sliding doors in Johto. He frowned and wondered if he should ask Lenny whether Carona had figured out a way to get airships to run on cleaner fuel. Then, Lucas remembered that Johto wasn’t really running commercial airships, period.

    All that’d do is prove Lenny’s point, Lucas thought to himself, grimacing.

    Lucas looked out over the land past the airport. The terminal was elevated, so Lucas could see for miles…nothing but endless, green plains and the occasional tropical tree. This place truly looked like it was in the middle of nowhere.

    “Damn,” he muttered. “No wonder people use shuttlerails to get out here.”

    “This way!” Lenny grunted. Lucas followed the bowling ball-shaped mechanic toward the side of the terminal and down a long flight of stairs that hugged a rock face that might have been a couple dozen feet in height. Once at the bottom, Lucas looked over Lenny’s broad shoulders and saw it…

    A streamlined, white vehicle with navy blue stripes and many windows, it even looked fast standing still. As Lucas had figured, it was perched on a rail. Lenny walked up alongside it onto a platform that appeared to be designed for the loading and unloading of passengers.

    “Here it is,” Lenny said. “This thing should take yeh on a straight line to South Station in Narra…unless it breaks down and yeh get stuck in the middle of nowhere. Even then, just follow the rail and you’ll get there eventually…except I don’t envy the person that has to travel by foot. Damned hot out here, innit?”

    Lucas wiped his forehead. He really wished Lenny hadn’t said anything about the heat. He’d noticed from the moment he got off the airship and had been trying to ignore it.

    “Yeh look nervous,” Lenny commented. “Sure yeh don’t want some comp’ny?”

    “No use having anybody hold my hand now,” Lucas replied, stepping through the open door.

    “I get it – yer the conf’dent an’ innapendent type,” Lenny commented. “Yeh’d be best served keepin’ yer pride in check, though. Havin’ ter swallow it all the time’ll leave a bad taste in yer mouth.”

    “Whatever,” Lucas droned, suddenly anxious for this shuttlerail thing to start moving.

    “Good luck at – whatever it is yer doin’,” Lenny said. Lucas raised his hand in a half-wave as the door slid shut with another hiss.

    The inside of the tram was also clean-looking and unadorned. Actually, it looked a lot like the passenger cabin of the airship that had brought him to Carona in the first place. He settled into a close seat near the window and closed his eyes, utterly annoyed at Lenny’s last couple of comments.

    “Just who the hell does he think he is?” he muttered to himself.

    Truth be told, he was used to people making assumptions about him. People did it all the time back at home. One thing that everyone in Blackthorn City could say about him was that he was never a bully. He rarely grew impatient with younger children unless they were extremely bratty or he was having a really bad day. That was about the only thing anybody understood about him, actually. All the boys his age – not that there were really many of them, as it had become a tradition for nearly all families to send their sons (and now even most of their daughters) off into the world for the first time the summer after they turned thirteen – thought that he was a little rich kid that enjoyed nothing more than lapping up the benefits of being the oldest of the ever-growing brood of Blackthorn children. Most of the adults knew from gossip that Lucas didn’t really care for the responsibilities of being a Blackthorn too much, and they all thought that he was being disrespectful to his family.

    They liked attaching labels to people.

    To some of the married women in Blackthorn City, for example, his Aunt Clair was an “old maid.” That really bothered Lucas. Why did everyone in his society think that you needed someone else to be successful? Clair was a strong woman and a strong person in her own right, and she had become perfectly content with being single.

    There were some older folks with whom it still did not set well that Lorca abandoned his post in the Johto Grand Council nearly eight years ago to start a family. Granted, another young man had taken over the post via election and was doing well for himself, earning the respect of his peers as well as his elders.

    Probably, everyone’s favorite family was not the Blackthorns at all. In fact, it was the Ryndales. Noah and Alana were still young, yet they were already war heroes as well as the very good, very proud parents of three children. What made them so endearing most likely was the fact that their romance and subsequent marriage survived both a war and a decades-long blood feud between the Ryndales and Alana’s maiden family, the Mercers. Even to this day, the story made Lucas scratch his head. How could someone truly fall in love with one of their family’s worst enemies? Lucas himself couldn’t do it. He’d laugh at the very idea, in fact. Of all of the possible hands Fate could possibly deal a person, the one that contained that card would be one of the hardest for Lucas to swallow. Granted, romances that were off the beaten path weren’t exactly a new thing among the Blackthorn family and its associates.

    Uncle Lorca had married a sailor’s daughter.

    Uncle Lance had married a noblewoman disguised as a common soldier.

    And Lucas’ mother, Laena…she had married Michael – a mysterious biker-type that liked to keep secrets.

    Fate did strange things to people – that’s what Lucas thought. He’d never say that there were no choices in life, just that most of them came based on circumstances.

    It was just then that it hit Lucas full-force. He was in a land thousands of miles away from home, where his only acquaintance was a grimy-looking airship mechanic named Lenny. Other than that, for the first time in his life, he was completely alone.

    It was strange…Lucas wanted to scream, and he didn’t know why. Part of it, he supposed, was honest-to-goodness fear. He hadn’t been this scared since the day his father left on a bike ride and didn’t come back. But the other part…was more like a peculiar kind of excitement. He was realizing that he had a whole world open to him that he had never seen before, and that he could go as far as his own choices and resources could take him.

    Of course, Fate’s constant curveballs notwithstanding. Some things would just happen to happen, and he would have to make choices based on those things happening. But that in itself was an adventure, wasn’t it?

    A smile parted Lucas’ lips as the train began to whir (was this thing hovering?) and left the station. He looked out of the window and saw miles upon miles of grassy plain pass through his field of vision like a movie in fast-forward. He looked up at the fluorescent lights in the shuttlerail car’s ceiling. One of them was blinking. That was random.

    He had just closed his eyes and was starting to drift off when a robotic male voice droned, “We will be arriving at our destination shortly. If you are seated, please continue to do so until the shuttlerail has come to a full and complete stop.”

    He looked to his left and realized that he no longer saw grassy meadows, but a grate of metal pillars that caused light to filter through the windows in little boxes that moved along the far wall of the car. First they moved rather quickly. Then, slower…slower…slower…

    With a loud hiss and a low hum, the shuttlerail screeched to a stop.

    “Welcome to South Station, Narra Township,” the automatic-sounding voice said again. “Please stand clear of the doors.”

    Lucas leapt to his feet and made his way to the right side of the car, where the door sat open. Without hesitating, he walked through.

    After his feet found the solid metal of the platform, he heard the voice drone, “This shuttlerail will be leaving in two minutes. Destination: Narra Airport.”

    He smirked. Even if he wanted to go back, there was no use in thinking about it now. Again, he looked around and took in his rather empty surroundings.

    Up the stairs from the platform was the main body of the station. Pillars of stone grey rose out of the concrete floor. A stiff breeze redirected napkins, cans, and newspapers along the trash-strewn grounds. Something latched onto Lucas’ shin, hanging there until the boy finally relented and peeled it away from his pants to investigate. Already having determined that the contents of what appeared to be a Carona tabloid were insignificant to him, he nonetheless scanned them for a second or two. The little bit he got while throwing away said something about a multi-millionaire’s daughter being thrown some kind of lavish gala for her upcoming birthday…if late July qualified as ‘upcoming’ around here…

    Tossing the paper to the winds, he then took a moment to reflect on how thankful he was that tabloid magazines weren’t accepted as gospel in Blackthorn City. However, some of the larger cities and tourist hotspots – take Goldenrod, Olivine, and Cianwood, for example – were full of tabloids. Lucas had been told about his own name popping up in one or two articles recently. It was one of the negative side effects of turning thirteen and coming of age. The age of thirteen was not only a rite of passage for adolescents in Blackthorn City, it was considered the beginning of the end of childhood everywhere in Johto. Those who were not pursuing a specialized trade usually finished formal education around that time. The age of thirteen also often marked the rookie year for nearly all young Pokémon Trainers.

    Why was ‘thirteen’ such a lucky number to the tabloids? If you happened to be a famous thirteen-year-old, like Lucas, it meant that you were pretty much fair game at that point.

    Lucas chuckled to himself at that thought. He never had been good at smiling for the camera – maybe that was why it was good for him to be gone.

    He continued to track through the small station. Aside from one or two bums with mugs and signs, and workers (everybody EXCEPT the custodial staff…no wonder this place was so dirty), Lucas didn’t see many potential passengers. He supposed Lenny was right – if someone was going to leave Carona, they could do so from a larger airport. Besides, he had studied Carona’s geography enough to know that he wasn’t yet on the mainland. This was a small island – at least small by Carona’s standards.

    Kicking a can aside, he sauntered languidly out of the station’s front entrance, squinting a bit as the sunlight hit him full on in the face. He looked around and saw a trash can and ashtray. He frowned as he was once again reminded of his father. ‘Motor Mike,’ as most of his friends and the kids around town who knew him called him, wasn’t a chain smoker, but he did have a pack every now and then.

    Speaking of his father…

    As Lucas started in the direction that he figured (by the position of the sun) was north, he strolled down a sidewalk complete with small city lights and most things you would find in a small suburb. In the middle of the day, all were off, of course. He guessed that this was the shopping district, as both sides of the street were lined with sidewalks. Cars (much more prevalent here than in Johto) passed him going in both directions as he found his way into a small crowd. It was highly reminiscent of the small shopping area in New Bark Town, Johto – his birthplace…except busier. One thing Lucas was glad to find as he strolled past these shops, was that he did not look too out of place. He wasn’t quite sure what he’d expected the people of Carona to look like, but was nonetheless relieved when he realized at a glance that they didn’t look too terribly different from people in Johto. This came down to the teenagers as well – the majority of them that hung around here travelled in groups, somewhere between two and seven, as the boys joked and jostled each other while the girls gossiped, giggled and some twirled their hair, dressed in t-shirts, jeans, shorts, baseball caps…

    They looked normal.


    “Whoa!! Dude!!” a boy cried as he walked into Lucas, nearly knocking him down. He featured a rather thin build to be sporting a black tank top and cargo shorts, Lucas thought. His hair was dirty blond, but that was just barely visible underneath a backwards baseball cap that looked like it had been thrown into the dirt and stomped on once or twice. Tiny writing was visible on the fitting strip.


    Lucas stood still and looked as the boy turned to face him. He stood at the front of a group of three, and all of them looked to be in their mid-teens. The boy who had bumped him was barely half a head taller than he was, and had a couple of pretty nasty bumps that dotted his face. If Lucas was to hazard a guess, he would have said that the boy was about fifteen.

    “You alright, man?” the older boy asked. Lucas grimaced.

    “Yeah, I’m fine,” he replied.

    “Sorry for almost taking you out. You a tourist?” he asked.

    “Seriously, dude?” another boy – a black-haired kid dressed in some seriously tight jeans (what the hell was up with that?) asked. “How often do we get tourists in Narra?”

    “Actually, I am a tourist,” Lucas said, fumbling with the beanie on his head. “…Sort of.”

    “Oh, okay,” the cap-wearing boy said awkwardly, looking at each of his friends. After a silence that was even more awkward, he said loudly, “Uh…catch you on the flip side!!”

    With that, he walked past Lucas down the sidewalk, followed by his two buddies. As Lucas watched them walk off, he couldn’t help but laugh.

    “…Wherever the hell that is,” he snickered to himself, rolling his eyes disdainfully as he looked over his shoulder.

    He continued down the street, looking around – this row of shops had to end at some point, right?

    He started past an alley and heard, over the crowd murmur, a shout:

    “What the hell do you guys think – I was born yesterday? Ten thousand? You’re kidding me, right? Add another four zeroes to that, and maybe we can start talking…but not likely. That’s the only one I have. ”

    It sounded like the voice of a girl or young woman.

    “We could just take it from you.” This sounded like the voice of a man.

    Lucas stopped. He didn’t like the sound of that at all.

    “Hey, move it or lose it, kid!!” he heard a man yell as he was, for the second time in fifteen minutes, nearly knocked to the ground.

    “You could try,” the girl’s voice said.

    Lucas looked around him, wondering if he was the only one that could hear this conversation, and then ducked into the alley.

    It was…well, everything you’d expect a city alley to look like – dirty, grungy, filled with dumpsters and the contents of dumpsters…

    Lying in an alleyway, blending in with the filth, was a small, gray, ratty-looking, doglike creature that Lucas immediately recognized from his studies as a Poochyena. The creature barked at him twice. That’s when everyone looked in his direction. Wearing white t-shirts and jeans and looking completely unashamed of their criminal-looking behavior were two young men who appeared to be twins, each with messy, black hair.

    And then there was her.

    Leaning against a dumpster was a girl. He grimaced. It wasn’t like he was surprised – it had sounded like a girl. He’d actually been a bit worried to come down here and find another guy. She wasn’t a supermodel or anything – he detested the color purple, which was exactly what her hair was – but he had seen worse-looking teenage girls in his lifetime, from what he could tell from this distance.

    He approached closer and heard her try to end the confrontation:

    “You know what? Screw both of you guys. I’m outta here.”

    With that, she made to walk through the twins, but one shoved her backward and she hit the dumpster again with a clatter. It was at that point that he arrived right next to the scene.

    Everyone exchanged glances…then…

    His eyes found hers.

    Her curtain of long, violet hair framed a yellowish-tan skin tone and bright, sapphire eyes that clashed with both, yet somehow seemed to be perfectly in place. She seemed to have a slight bruise on her right upper arm, which was left exposed by the fact that she was wearing a white tank top – a garment that was now slightly dirty after being exposed to the squalor of the alleyway. She, like the twins, was clearly giving Lucas a “who-the-hell-are-you-and-what-are-you-doing-here?” type of look.

    Lucas shook his head and stared straight at the twins, intentionally avoiding the girl’s eyes. This was a mistake; it was time for him to show himself out.

    “Just passing through, guys. Sorry, made a wrong turn,” he muttered, turning around and taking three steps back the way he came.

    It took about a split-second for Lucas to meet the same fate as the girl – that is, pushed up against the long dumpster, staring at and being stared at by these sketchy-looking guys.

    He got a better look at her. She was maybe an inch or two shorter than he was, if that. As hard as it normally is to tell with girls, who grow into their adult bodies much earlier and much faster, Lucas dared to guess that she was probably very close to his age – perhaps a year either way, but that was about it. Her blue eyes were almond-shaped and ornamented with long eyelashes. Quickly, he looked away from her so that she would not pick up the notion that he was staring.

    “Who the hell are you?” the girl whispered.

    “Yeah…definitely made a wrong turn,” Lucas muttered, ignoring her question. Rolling his eyes, he commented, “****. What did they tell me about curiosity?”

    “It killed the Meowth?” the girl replied.

    “Does it look like I have a coin on my forehead?” Lucas scoffed in annoyance. “Seriously – what were you thinking?”

    “It seemed like a good idea at the time,” the girl answered snippily.

    “You’re joking, right?” Lucas muttered. “When is going into an alley by yourself ever a good idea?”

    “You’re one to talk, Mr. ‘I-Made-a-Wrong-Turn’,” the violet-haired girl snapped. “What were you thinking?”

    “Like I said, I was curious,” Lucas said flatly. “Now, if you could do me a favor and tell me these guys aren’t friendly, because if they are, I’m going to feel like a complete *** for coming down here.”

    “Aren’t you smooth?” the girl blustered sarcastically.

    “Yeah,” the red-haired boy grunted. “Charming…”

    His yellow eyes caught one of the twins. He was losing patience – his fists clenched.

    He charged…


    Well, isn’t this just delightful. Making new friends already, right? Please don’t ask me what possessed me to turn down that alleyway. Blame my ears for picking up a robbery in progress. At least, I think it was a robbery. It sure as hell looks sketchy enough to be a robbery. Damn it, I have no idea. But at least I’ve got something in particular to do…at least until this chick and I get rid of these guys, or we both end up dead.

    I figured, eventually, I’d have to do something to make my own fun.

    Safe to say…this wasn’t quite what I had in mind.

    **** **** **** M.A.V.E.R.I.C.K H.E.A.R.T **** **** ****

    Well, hope you enjoyed this first chapter. As you can see, Lucas is very much not Travis, which should make this far less predictable. Chapter 2 is already done, but I edited the heck out of this chapter before I posted it and plan on doing the same with the next one. Expect it up this coming weekend.

    In an effort to keep all of you updated on when new chapters come out, I’m going to be starting a PM list. If you post either on the thread or a visitor or private message, I’ll put you on. That way, everyone will find out at more or less the same time.

    That’s all for now. You’ll be hearing again from me very soon.

    - EM1

    Dalton Gregg was a mostly-ordinary university student from the region once called Johto.
    Then a fateful encounter set him on a quest to change history.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2006
    A therapist's Sofa


    Just so I can beat Air Dragon. I'll start reading it now :P

    I got the most important first post. Hey look, my laurels, I think I'll rest on them

    1: You can expect not to see one Travis DePaul.
    Just so you know, I'll be talking about the whole paragraph not just this one line. Yeah, minor cast cameos sound good (Gotta mention, loving the Blackthorn Clan catch up. So much Nostalgia) If there's one thing you can pride yourself on, it's your massive list of characters. So I'm glad to see that you'll be bringing some people back, and adding a hell of a lot more to the list if I know you xD

    2: You can expect to see very few rookie mistakes in terms of spelling and grammar.
    I have noticed that AD hasn't posted a massive spelling/grammar correction post in a VERY long time. And of course I've noticed the grammatical correctness as well, keep it up.

    3: This story is in the same universe as the first two I’ve written.
    New is good. I like that from this point on, I'm reading from a blank slate point of view. I don't know the overarching aim of the fic, I don't know much about any of the characters. I like that it's been freshened up, is what I'm trying to say.

    4: If you’re new or you haven’t been back for a while, you can expect to be able to jump right in and grab hold relatively quickly.
    Kinda ties in with the last bit. From what I've heard, this is almost like a complete reboot. To use a random example I just thought of, it's like the Heroes of Olympus book after you've read the first five interconnected Percy Jackson books, same universe but the main cast has been switched up and doesn't require as much pre-knowledge.

    5: You can expect this story not to stagnate.
    QFT. Has it really been four years? This fic has been with me since I joined up here, ah memories. To people reading this, chapters may not be like clockwork but they will always come around and they don't disappoint. (Plus, the length of the chapters always make up for the time lapse)

    The actual chapter. Like I said, catching up with the Blackthorns was a really nice surprise, I was a little disappointed (but could totally understand why) Lorca wasn't in AP, seeing as he was one of my favourite PRJ characters, so it was good to see him here. Just thinking about it gets me all nostalgic.

    Poor Clair though, she'd be welcome... VERY welcome to come and spend some time with me.

    Wait a moment... I just had a ridiculous thought that if true, makes you a plotting genius. Just some things Marco Lucas said and some random nostalgia I had and the purple haired girl, surely not... I'll come back to you on this one when the story unfolds a little more.

    Lenny pwns, not much else about it really. He just does.

    All in all, I think you succeeded very much in what a sequel sorely needs. For people to Nostalge about the previous fics. Plus, it being well written helps as well ;P
    Last edited by Diddy; 15th November 2010 at 7:27 PM.

    Gardenia never liked the Old Chateau, but what if the Old Chateau liked her?

    Author's Profile

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Behind you...


    Why I oughta... :P

    Oh, well, let's get this party started!

    You know how this works...

    And it begins... This was an interesting and fairly nice opener. It's nice to see just what the Blackthorn family and their friends have been up to since Lorca and Marcia took Lucas up north. it should be interesting to see just how the new kid on the block fares, although if his present track record is anything to go by, Traveller Rossi might not get his record broken.

    Aside his interaction with his first new "friend", I think this gets my "Best Part of the Chapter" Award:

    “Don’t look at me like that,” he said. He lifted the little girl up to his eye level. “Promise me you’ll be good, okay?”

    Diamond nodded.

    “You gonna listen to your mom and dad?” Lucas asked. Diamond nodded again. “Are you gonna stop picking on L.J.?”

    At this, Diamond shook her head. Lucas grimaced.

    “Maybe that was asking for a little bit much,” he sighed.
    I believe so, Luc... :P

    Well, as today's a holiday here (not that that means anything to me), I have work to do... in six different places. The sooner someone teaches me self-replication, the better.

    Last edited by Air Dragon; 16th November 2010 at 7:18 AM.
    The Corei Quest's latest chapter: Chapter Forty Seven: Tricks of the Trade (24 April 2014)
    PROJECT C-SQUARE STATUS = 100.00% Complete (11-12-2010, ca. 2:40pm GMT)
    Butt-ugly Banner by Me
    (Still waiting on the excellent Saffire Persian for another awesome TCQ banner!)

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2007


    Wow. I really enjoyed this, you managed to fit lots of information into this space without it becoming too boring or monotonous, which was very good.

    I enjoyed Diamonds' character. She was really entertaining and seemingly adorable. The length was good, you've put a lot of work into the Blackthorn family., kudos for that. I'm really excited with this, it has soo much potential and I'll try my best to comment on every chapter.

    The main character is a little strange, maybe its just because I'm not used to him. I keep picturing him as Lucas from Diamond, does he look like that or is that just a borrowed or coincidental name?

    And because I'm new to your work I'm looking forward to the way you describe battles.

    Please send me a PM/VM when the next chapter comes out.
    Last edited by moonlightning; 19th November 2010 at 4:41 AM.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2007


    Hey, so, I read all of Revolution Johto way back when you were nearing its completion. I've read parts of Advent Phoenix, but life got in the way and I never finished it.

    but, since now you have a new series, I shall follow it!

    Question: Are the 'mon in this fakemon or real?
    Current Black Team: Rivka (Stoutland), Elmo (Musharna), Scarlett (Whimsicott), Gabriel (Carracosta), Reese (Klang), Sean (Mienfoo); all are at level 47. Currently in Victory Road.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2005

    Default Chapter 2-1

    Diddy: Yes, you managed to get first post this time. Don’t let it go to your head. And, yes, it’s been a little under four years. The first chapter of Advent Phoenix was posted on March 24, 2007. And as for Lorca not being in AP, I could only shoehorn so many characters back into the story. Since Lorca wasn’t doing anything plot-relevant to the story at the time except for taking care of Lucas, I felt he had a very airtight reason not to be in the story. And as for cameos from previous characters, well…

        Spoiler:- Cameos::

    Air Dragon: We discussed this already, the whole you getting beat thing was the server was being dumb, so let’s move on. That conversation was actually lifted from one I’d had with a younger cousin several years ago. Sometimes life imitates art, but art imitates life a lot. And shadow clones might cure your troubles. Just saying…

    moonlightning: I knew I’d get this question at some point, and the answer is a very emphatic ‘no.’ Not only is this Lucas not the Lucas from Gen.IV (if you want to read about that Lucas, check out Breezy’s Lull. Very good fic from another very experienced writer.), but I (re)named Lucas back in early ’07, before the Gen. IV games were even out in the states yet. I figured I’d run into this problem, but since I had already established Lucas’ name three years ago, I wasn’t about to change it just because GameFreak America decided to use the same name on a whim.

    The last two fics I wrote were pretty much journey fics. There will still be some Pokémon battles, but not as many, in MH. As much as I enjoy them, a guy going around, battling, and winning badges isn’t the focus of this fic.
    And, yes, I will add your name to the notification list.

    Araleon: I definitely remember you. Welcome back. I know all about ‘life getting in the way’. As fast as I finished Advent Phoenix, it would have been done quicker if I hadn’t had to contend with a little thing called ‘college.’ Sometimes life gets in the way of living, you know. And as for the Pokémon, a little bit of both, but as far as the details, I’ll have to get back to you. Air Dragon volunteered to help me put together a basic listing of Carona-native Pokémon, but there have been some delays, uncooperative computers and the like. You’ll know not long after I do.

    I was planning to wait another day or two to post this, but it looks like the weekend will be a bit busy. Without boring you with the details, let’s just say it involves my house, an insect infestation, and a certain movie that just came out today. Hope you guys enjoy!

    2 – Clement Weather

    June 4, PA 2019

    Narra Township, Belveyun Isle

    If you had told Lucas Blackthorn two hours ago on the flight over that he would be leaning against a dumpster in a dark alleyway with a girl he didn’t know, staring at a couple of identical twin goons that were up to no good, he would have laughed at you...or told you to check on him in the afternoon.

    But, sure enough, just moments into his Carona journey, here he was. He didn’t know anybody’s name, what they were doing in the alley…hell, he didn’t even know what he was doing in the alley, except that he heard the girl apparently cornered in the alley by these two guys, and that bothered him for some reason because he had this annoying, self-written code of honor that was pretty much the only thing that regulated anything he did, but back to the subject.

    It is a testament to how slow time can seem to move in a tense situation like this that all of these thoughts and more ran through his head as his golden eyes observed one of the twin robbers clench his fist and lunge, bringing his arm up to throw a punch…

    Using part skill and part sheer adrenaline, Lucas hooked the larger man’s arm and whipped him into the dumpster on the side furthest from the girl. He lowered his shoulder and drove it into the other robber’s gut, knocking him into the brick wall and clearing a path. The girl saw her opening and wasted no time. She ducked under the man’s flailing arms and took off further down the alley. Seeing the twins starting to rise to their feet, he took off after her.

    After a few longer-than-normal strides, he caught up. She was a fast runner – he had to give her that.

    “Why didn’t you outrun them in the first place?” Lucas panted as they came to a stop.

    “I only…had one…following me at first. When I tried to lose him…” the girl said breathlessly. Lucas frowned as he figured out what she was saying.

    “There they are!!” Lucas swiveled around as he heard a shout, and saw two six-foot-tall twins running straight at him at full tilt.

    “Time to go,” Lucas uttered, turning his head. The girl was already about fifty feet away.

    They kept running, Lucas doing so at an uneven pace, trying to move his curly bangs away from his eyes as they were now plastered to his forehead with sweat. After about ten seconds at full speed, Lucas’ eyes found a fence that had to be about seven feet tall.

    “Oh, no…” he muttered, less concerned about himself and more about the girl – but she seemed to be on top of things…

    And over them.

    Landing with a slight bend of the knees on the other side of the fence, she stood and looked at Lucas, as if waiting for him. Lucas grimaced for a moment, looked at his surroundings, then took his route.

    Onto a small dumpster.

    Sideways, off the dumpster.

    The very top of the fence…

    …He hoisted himself over it with a grunt of effort, then went down to the ground as delicately as possible – a hard thing to do when the ground’s solid concrete. Bouncing in an ungainly manner because of the shock to both of his ankles, Lucas swore and leaned against the nearest wall. It was at this moment that he heard a tinkling laugh. He looked up at the violet-haired girl.

    “Are you okay?” she asked, still stifling laughter. Lucas groaned.

    “I’ll tell you once I can feel my toes again,” he grumbled.

    “You landed too flat-footed. You’ll break your ankles that way,” the girl commented. Lucas scowled mutinously in response and almost had a few choice words for her when he turned and realized that the twin robbers were coming straight at the fence.

    “Great…these guys just won’t quit…” Lucas groaned, readjusting his skullcap on his red hair.

    So the two ran. They made it out of the alley and into what seemed to be a street lined with apartment buildings. They drew looks from two or three passersby, and the girl ignored them all as she hung a left. Lucas stopped. Maybe he could leave her here and go on with life as he knew it.

    But his gut was telling him to keep going. In his short life experience, he’d found that sometimes following his gut got him in trouble. More often than not, however, not following his gut got him into worse trouble.

    He turned left and went after her.

    “Did I ever mention that I don’t…like stalkers?” the girl panted. “Who are you?”

    “I thought I told you before,” Lucas grunted. “I heard you…in the alley…and thought you were in trouble.”

    “So you thought you’d rescue me and make me fall head over heels for you. Was that it?”

    Lucas gave a laugh. There were those assumptions again. “Uh…no. I don’t really care much.”

    “You really are a piece of work. Are those guys still behind us?” the girl asked. Lucas turned his neck to look, saw no one…and definitely didn’t see the slightly raised panel of sidewalk in front of where his legs were going.

    He grunted in shock and spit out a fleck of bloodstained concrete from his teeth, swearing in frustration. He was definitely hungry – but he wasn’t desperate enough to try to make a lunch out of solid cement.

    “Very graceful, aren’t you? You okay?” Lucas looked up. The girl was looking down at him, offering her hand in assistance.

    “You’re just making fun of me,” he grunted, slapping the hand away and getting up on his own. He turned his head to look behind him. The two white shirts were emerging from the corner, gaining on them fast.

    “Give it up,” one of the would-be robbers said, pulling out a piece of metal that Lucas immediately recognized as a set of brass knuckles. “We’re getting that Kaegon one way or another.”

    “What the f**k is a Kaegon?” Lucas muttered to the girl.

    “You don’t know what a Kaegon is?” the violet-haired stranger asked, sounding astounded and maybe even a bit insulted.

    “Should I? I’m not from around here,” the red-haired boy answered. “As in, ‘not from this continent’.”

    “Oh, okay…that explains a lot, actually,” the girl replied, tilting her head.

    “I know it’s either expensive or rare because these goons want it, right?”

    Her,” she corrected.

    “Well, how the hell was I supposed to know?” Lucas said, his voice doing an octave-skipping cartwheel in mid-sentence.

    That was embarrassing. He thought he’d gotten over that during the spring.

    “Hitting puberty, eh?” one of the thieves asked.

    “You don’t ‘hit puberty,’” Lucas grunted, looking away pointedly from everyone involved in the conversation. “Puberty hits you.”

    A giggle rang out from behind him. “Cute. Come up with that on your own?”

    “Shut up,” Lucas snapped. “That goes double for girls.”

    Between the girl’s violet hair, her yellowish-tan skin, her blue eyes, and the red that now occupied her cheeks, she had about half the known spectrum on her face. A vein pulsating in her temple, she snarled, “You…why are you so rude?”

    “C’mon, yell at me – play along here,” Lucas replied simply through his teeth. He peered between the men’s heads, looking at nothing in particular. “We might get the attention of those cops across the street.”

    The men both turned around, waited a moment, and then turned back in the direction of the teenagers. Except…there weren’t any teenagers. They were well down the block already, running like their lives depended on it.

    “Were there really cops across the street?” she asked.

    “Nope,” Lucas answered. “I just said that to get them to panic.”

    The girl’s lips broke into a small smirk, showing that she was mildly impressed.

    “Well, at least you’re decent at thinking on your feet,” she commented.

    “Okay, so back to my question,” Lucas said, looking over his shoulder for their pursuers. “What’s this Kaegon? Is she a friend of yours?”

    “Well, yeah…” the girl replied.

    “Human trafficking?” Lucas paused for a moment. “What the f**k…is wrong…with this place?”

    “No…” the girl groaned. Taking a deep breath, she said, “She’s a Pokémon. They do have –”

    “Of course…they have them…where I’m from,” Lucas groaned as they slowed down. “Why the hell are we slowing down?”

    The mystery girl looked right toward the street, and then left…toward another alleyway.

    “You know, trying the same thing and expecting different results is – oh, screw it,” Lucas groaned as the girl tore into the alleyway. He swore to himself. Now, he would have to follow her.

    This alley was different. It was a bit cleaner than the other one – not that this was saying much – and seemed, judging by the obstacles as well as the windows that lined each wall starting at about ten feet up, to be between two apartment buildings.

    It was not long before they came face to face with another fence. This one was a lot taller than the last one. There was no visible way of jumping down from that height without one’s ankles paying for it dearly. But there were boxes. If they could get over the fence, they could climb down the fence, and then run like hell out of the other side of the alley, where people could actually see them and they didn’t stand as high a chance of getting mugged.

    Too bad the girl wasn’t interested in simply going over the fence. She did jump onto a box, though. Then she jumped straight at, and kicked off…

    A solid brick wall…

    From there, she leapt again and, with a slight grunt of effort, smacked up against one of those weird, iron staircases that always seem to be on the sides of apartment buildings for no apparent reason. She hoisted herself over it, flipped up onto the landing, and immediately sprung into the air, jumping as high as possible and using both hands to grab the lowest rung of a truncated, iron-wrought ladder.

    Lucas did a mental replay of what he had just seen. He was still on the ground, figuring out what the hell to do.

    “Are you just gonna stand there?” the girl shouted, beckoning to him animatedly from above. “C’mon!!”

    “Easy for you to say,” Lucas snapped. “I don’t have superpowers!”

    “Me, neither,” the girl called. “Just find a way to get up here…unless you want to fight those guys – with no room to work with.”

    Lucas thought about it for a second. She had a point. He had been trained in martial arts – a clan tradition, of course. If she could pull off those moves, he should be able to do it.

    Not to mention her other point. He wasn’t really in the mood for a street fight, let alone one where the odds were distinctly not in his favor.

    “Here goes nothing,” he muttered as he jumped onto the box. As soon as his toes touched it, he was already on his next move. He leapt toward the wall. Sticking one foot out, he kicked off the wall as hard as possible. He turned his head and saw the staircase coming closer. He lunged out with his hand, his heart sinking terribly as the realization hit him in mid-air that he had come up a few inches short…


    He closed his eyes and waited for the nasty sound and the even worse feeling of impact with the opposite wall, but it never happened. Instead, he felt his right shoulder nearly being yanked out of its socket. He opened his eyes. He was hanging on by the salvation of two small, but strong hands that had managed to grab hold of his wrist before he made abstract art of himself against the apartment building wall, the ground, or anything in between. Flailing his legs and grunting with effort, he took his free hand and grabbed onto the railing. Next, he pulled his feet up, began to swing his leg over…

    “THERE THEY ARE!!” Lucas, hearing the yell, lost concentration for a second, and his leg failed to find the iron floor, leaving him racked atop the rail in a rather awkward – not to mention agonizing – position.

    “Come on, we don’t have time for this,” the girl said quickly, pulling Lucas over and onto the landing by his shoulder, which did nothing at all to help the pain in his…

    As the girl scrambled up the ladder, Lucas got to his feet and tried to will energy into his legs for a jump. Once he left the floor, he found that he could get the second rung of the latter and immediately grabbed it. He pulled one leg up – more difficult than it sounds, considering what had just happened to him. He immediately scampered up the ladder, neither knowing nor caring where it led, as long as it was away from those crooks.

    With another grunt of effort, he pulled himself to the roof of the building.

    It was made of concrete overlaid with gravel – tailor-made for walking. Huge, metal beams stuck out of the building like oversized handles. There was even a small building with a door that probably led to a service staircase for workers and the like that needed to check stuff up here.

    It was when he got to this roof that he quickly realized something – everything was big in Carona.

    The way Lenny the mechanic had described it, Narra was one of the smallest towns in all of Carona, and was maybe about a size and a half bigger than a frontier-type outpost. And yet, from this height, Lucas could probably see at least five miles in each direction, and the town still stretched a bit past the horizon. It was at least three times as big as his childhood home of New Bark Town, and that was being conservative.

    “You look kind of overwhelmed,” a girl’s voice snapped Lucas out of his daydream. The violet-haired, blue-eyed girl was sitting on one of those metal pipes and looking straight at him. Lucas folded his arms.

    “Nah, I’m good, actually…” Lucas sighed casually. “I just got to the continent for the first time four hours ago, haven’t even got my bearings, now I’m taking on robbers, following total strangers, and prancing around roofs like I’m friggin’ Gligar-Man or something. I’m not overwhelmed at all.”

    “Gligar-Man?” the girl repeated, her lips drawn in confusion. Lucas frowned.

    “It’s a Johto thing,” he sighed, shaking his head.

    It didn’t occur to Lucas that the girl might not have known where Johto was until a slight change in her expression signaled that she did. She looked for a moment like she wanted to say something but simply seemed to file it away as new information. Finally, it seemed, they had a moment of peace. Lucas heard cawing in the sky and looked up. He observed several bird-like Pokémon fly overhead in small flocks. One species was a ratty, brown thing with a stubby beak that Lucas recognized.

    “Finally, something familiar,” he muttered in mock delight. “A flock of Spearow.”

    “They have Spearow in Johto?” the girl asked curiously.

    “You kidding?” Lucas laughed. “Too many of them. I don’t recognize the gray ones, though…”

    “Starly,” the girl replied. “They’re actually more common here than Spearow. Spearow usually nest in the city, but you can find Starly almost anywhere.”

    Lucas noticed that the girl’s voice was closer, and turned his head to notice that she was leaning over the roof and standing right next to him.

    “So what’s your name?” Lucas finally questioned.

    “Nalani Clement,” she answered. “’Nalani – it means ‘the sky’ or ‘heavenly.’”

    “Is that why you like rooftops?” Lucas replied by way of a sarcastic joke.

    “Very funny,” she folded her arms. “What’s your name?”

    “That’s personal information,” Lucas quipped.

    “That’s not fair,” Nalani folded her arms and turned toward him.

    “Lucas,” he answered, a nonchalant smirk on his face. “If it means anything special, nobody’s told me.”

    “So you’re new here, huh?” she repeated.

    “Still wearing the price tag,” Lucas quipped flatly. “No – seriously. I just got here about four hours ago…I think. Do you know what time it is?”

    “I’d have to guess about noon,” the girl said, looking straight up. “The sun’s almost directly overhead.”

    Lucas rolled his eyes. Soon after, a loud rumble of protest came from his belly.

    “Oh, great,” he grunted. “I haven’t had anything to eat since…yesterday…”

    “You don’t know where any food is, do you?” Nalani asked, a knowing smirk on her tilted face.

    “I don’t know where anything is,” Lucas reiterated. “Hell, I wouldn’t even be able to retrace my steps back to where we were just now.”

    Nalani breathed hard through her nose. A stiff breeze caused her hair to hover away from her shoulders a bit. She jumped to her feet and said quickly, “We’d better find an escape route.”

    “Escape…route?” cried Lucas, his voice flipping in and out of octaves again. A smirk was visible on Nalani’s face. Lucas ignored her. “We’re on the top of a f**king mid-rise. How do you propose we ‘escape’ from here?”

    “Get to the top of a different one – what do you think?” Nalani replied.

    “Sure, you make it sound so easy,” spat Lucas sarcastically.

    “You make it sound so hard,” she shot back, piercing through him with a smirk and those glowing, sky blue eyes. “Follow me – I’ll show you a thing or two.”

    “Like I have any other option now. Damn it, what the hell did I get myself into…?” Lucas muttered, hands in his pockets as he slowly trudged behind Nalani to the other side of the building. By the time he got there, the enigmatic, plum-haired girl had a foot perched at the end of a ledge on the building. Lucas raised an eyebrow at her and then watched as she stepped down and took about seven long, deliberate steps from the ledge. She began swinging her arms. Beads of sweat formed about her forehead, running down between her clear sky-colored eyes and off her thin nose. Lucas’ jaw dropped as he realized what the girl was about to do. “Wait…you’re not gonna…jump…? Hey, wait a sec—!

    Nalani heard this in passing as she accelerated to a run. Lucas made to go after her, perhaps (he didn’t know himself) to hold her back, but he was several steps too late for the fleet-footed teenage girl, who went straight toward the ledge at full choke and leapt. It seemed to take forever for her to travel through the air, her jacinth locks trailing out behind her like the tail of a streaking comet, across the firmament in slow motion…

    Then she hit the roof of the opposite building and launched herself into a roll, skidding to a stop on one knee. Getting up, she favored her left arm, which she had gone down on hard as she landed. Other than that, she was completely unscathed.

    Lucas just stared at her.

    “Oh, it’s just a seven-foot gap,” she called, now standing with a hand over her hip and the other on her shoulder. “Nothing to wet your pants over.”

    “Who said I was wetting my pants?” Lucas replied.

    “Seven feet on the ground doesn’t get any longer when it’s fifty feet in the air,” Nalani answered loudly. A vein in Lucas’ jaw started to pulsate.

    “It does if you f**k up,” the red-haired boy said darkly, peering over the top of the building at the alley below. “It gets really long…”

    “You could always go back down the ladder,” Nalani answered. “Those two guys were armed, and I’m sure they’d love to take their frustrations out on somebody.”

    “You think I’m afraid? Is that it?!” he shouted at the girl angrily.

    Nalani looked back at him through those blue eyes, wearing that smirk of hers. It was starting to really get on Lucas’ nerves.

    “Prove me wrong, then. Or you can stay there if you want to.” Nalani taunted.

    Lucas grit his teeth. A feeling in his gut was urging him on…but it made just about as much sense as the feeling that told him to turn into the alley a few minutes ago.

    He backed away from the ledge, his heart pounding twice…


    …with every…




    …he took.

    As he whirled around, he could practically hear his body’s cadence echoing in his ears, thundering on and accelerating like the proverbial drum roll. With a snarl meant to provide a distraction for himself from any second thoughts, Lucas broke into a run. He had five steps…


    …to decide whether or not to back out. Now, he was amidst the stride leading to the sixth step, and it was already too late. Now, he had to take the jump – and make it. Otherwise, his momentum, or loss thereof, would carry him from these sheer cliffs of brick straight into the trash-laden, concrete valley that awaited below. His foot hit the ledge – the final step – as his heart blazed a hail of bullets into his heaving chest. In flight, he opened his mouth, and flung out a reverberating bellow. He pedaled an invisible unicycle across the gap, arms and legs flailing in circles. Wind fumbled with his skullcap and rearranged the array of curls that lay exposed behind it. His clothes rippled, battling the air as he hurtled through nothingness.

    His feet slammed into the roof of the next building and he launched himself into a forward roll. At this, he leapt to his feet and whirled around defiantly, death and gravity foes he had left bloodied and defeated in the gap between this edifice and the last.

    He stared back at the other mid-rise, his jaws undone in shock.

    Just a gut feeling, right? What the hell am I doing? Maybe it makes sense at the moment…maybe the moment doesn’t make sense. This is absolutely crazy. Why am I – oh, ****, there go my knees…

    He staggered, feeling his legs give way under him. Now that the adrenaline was wearing off, he needed to find something to sit on…anything that could hold his weight. He finally fell back against what looked like a raised air vent, focusing only on his heavy breathing for a couple of seconds and hoping his heart would slow down before it pounded a hole right through his chest.

    “…Not the most stylish…” Lucas looked up. In all of his antics, he had forgotten the existence of whatever or whomever it was that had just compelled him to leap a gap between two five-story buildings. She was crouched down and looking at him through sapphire eyes curtained by long eyelashes. She pushed back some of her plum hair out of her eyes. “But you get some points for having the balls to try it.”

    “Ah, it wasn’t that tough,” said Lucas in an affectedly rough, gravelly sort of voice, standing up and stretching. Nalani folded her arms.

    “Well, from what I can tell, your pants are still dry,” Nalani replied, stifling a laugh. Lucas’ jaw unhinged again for a brief second in an ‘I-can’t-believe-you-just-said-that’ kind of expression. There was a long silence. “Looks like those guys aren’t coming back…we finally got rid of them.”

    “Great,” replied Lucas with his patented dry wit. “Now, how the hell are we supposed to get down from here?”

    “There’s gotta be another one of those ladders around here somewhere,” Nalani answered, but it seemed more like she was simply muttering to herself.

    For a few moments, Lucas observed her silently, intrigue etched into his youthful face.

    Who is this girl?

    What’s she doing on her own?

    After a while of bending over and looking for something on one of the ledges, Nalani turned toward him. She was glistening with sweat from the heat and her many recent shows of athletic prowess. She put a hand on one of her sides, which were left partially exposed by the tank top she was wearing. “You sick little pervert. You’re undressing me with your eyes, aren’t you?”

    “N-no,” Lucas said a bit too uncertainly, shaking his head quickly once he realized that he’d been staring.

    “Tell me you weren’t looking at my *** just now,” Nalani demanded, a hand still on her hip. Lucas winced. He’d been doing nothing of the sort…but now that she brought it up…

    “No!” Lucas’ voice cracked again. Nalani was obviously biting her lips and trying not to laugh at him. “I wasn’t looking at you like that.”

    “Really?” Nalani answered incredulously. She then looked slightly upward, almost as if she was thinking of something. “How old are you, anyway?”

    “I’ll be fourteen in November,” Lucas replied. He always thought mentioning his next birthday made him sound older – even if that next birthday was six months away. Besides – no one would ever say ‘thirteen-and-a-half’…unless they were actually eight or nine.

    “Really? Same age as I am, give or take a couple of weeks,” Nalani commented. Lucas sighed.

    “Does that matter?” Lucas asked impatiently.

    “It explains a lot,” Nalani answered with a smile. “Like why your voice is always cracking…and why your eyes just did that tiny flick toward my boobs just now.”

    “WHAT?!” Lucas flailed his arms, his face as red as his hair. To make matters worse, it was at that moment that his eyes tried to go to the exact place that he was trying to convince her that they were not going. He focused his golden-brown eyes on a spot on the roof well behind her until his head started to ache a bit.

    “Calm down, I’m just messing with you,” Nalani informed him, laughing.

    “Oh,” Lucas said, folding his arms and looking a bit upset. He turned away from her.

    More silence.

    “So, what are you going to do now that you’ve ‘saved’ me from a terrible fate?” Nalani asked. Lucas, looking in the opposite direction, rolled his eyes in such a pronounced fashion that Nalani could practically see them rotating through the back of his head.

    “Shut up,” he groaned. “I have no idea.”

    “Well…” Nalani said. “I could use some company.”

    The curly-haired teenager made to open his mouth and make one of his obligatory smart-*** comments, but it was almost as if Nalani had read his mind.

    “I could use some better company,” she corrected herself. “Like, company that doesn’t try to take my stuff.”

    “Oh, really? Hanging out with those guys wasn’t your idea of a good time?” Lucas snarked.

    “What?” Nalani asked.

    “Nothing,” replied Lucas loudly.

    Nalani put her hands on her hips again and walked toward him. His face went hot, and he looked away.

    “What’s wrong?” she asked. “Am I making you uncomfortable?”

    “What?” he uttered, looking straight at her defiantly. “No.”

    “Where are you staying?” she finally asked.

    Lucas muttered something that Nalani couldn’t hear. “What was that?”

    “I said, I haven’t gotten that far yet,” Lucas answered, as the reality of his situation began to hit him. He had no idea where he would be sleeping tonight. “Damn it…”

    “Well…you’re in luck,” Nalani said brightly. Lucas looked at her. “I happen to know a very good hotel. If you don’t following me, that is.”

    ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

    I said yes. What the hell did I have to lose? So, this random Nalani chick led me through the city, pointing out supposedly important crap that there was no way in hell I was going to remember anyways. Who cared about all these landmarks, anyway? I needed food and a place to rest, and this seemed to be as sure a bet as any.

    It was over in the northeastern quarter of town. I think it was the northeast, unless the sun sets in the east around here. That’d be just my luck, right?

    Anyway, it was a motel. This place wasn’t five-star or anything, but it wasn’t sketchy, either, so I couldn’t complain. It looked like it had been around for a while, but still kept up pretty well. The arrangement was pretty well-done, if you ask me. I could tell because Nalani showed me the back first. The motel was three floors, kind of in a square missing a side. There were a whole bunch of kids playing in the big pool that was in the center of all of this. No surprise – I’m not sure if I mentioned this, but it was really freaking hot in Narra for a day in the beginning of June. I don’t understand. We’re due west of Sinnoh, and Sinnoh’s really cold during the winter. Maybe I’d better get used to extreme temperature changes. If I’m here a while, I’ll have to remember to get some good winter clothes – provided I have any money to my name by then.

    So we got to the front desk of this motel. Nalani goes up to the dude and says something to him while she’s pointing back at me. I guess she was asking the guy to find a room for me. The guy might have been…twenty-five or something in that neighborhood. Anyway, he starts laughing and I hear him say to her:

    “Just make sure to keep it down, okay?”

    What the hell was that about?

    So, I followed her – just like I’d pretty much been doing for the entire day. She was giving me a place to crash, so I figured I might as well not mess up a good thing. Each step, I took, though, I kept hearing this voice in my head. I’m not nuts or anything – everyone’s got a couple of voices in their head. One’s your conscience, of course, and the other’s that sense that tells you that something’s not quite right.

    “There’s a catch.”

    “Don’t do it.”

    “You sure about this?”

    Meanwhile, my feet were screaming. All the extra activity was making them hurt like hell. And when your feet hurt like hell, Murphy’s Law states that everything you have to get to will be really far away.

    Case in point? The guy gave us Room 330. That’s all the way at the top floor, and furthest away from the stairs. But I wasn’t going to be the one to piss and moan about it. After all, in a place like this, there probably weren’t going to be a hell of a lot of other places I could stay for a thousand a night.

    And it was better than having wannabe Pokémon thieves on my *** for the rest of the day.

    Which reminds me, I’d better let Apollo out soon. He’ll be ****** at me if he stays in his ball any longer.

    Apollo is a Charmander. I got him for a thirteenth birthday present. Hell, half the stuff I have on me is stuff I got for a thirteenth birthday present. Turning thirteen in Blackthorn City, if you didn’t know this already, is kind of a big deal. Uncle Lance had to pull some strings with Professor Oak in Kanto. The standard in Blackthorn City is Dratini. I didn’t want a Dratini. First of all, there aren’t a whole lot of ways to make a Dratini – or a Dragonair – look tough. Besides, Charmander can breathe fire. That’s right: fire. You tell me what’s more awesome than fire. It’s a short list.

    Second, every kid in Blackthorn City – including Landis and Di – wants a Dratini. And I’ve been to the Dragon’s Den already. At least once a month since I was seven, and at least once a week in the last year. In other words, I’ve seen more Dratini in my seven years living in Blackthorn City than a lot of people would see in their lifetimes.

    Nope – I wanted to be different.

    I looked over the railing. After jumping a gap at fifty feet in the air, looking down over a sheer thirty-foot drop over the safety of an iron rail seems kinda tame.

    What the hell is that kid doing to that beach ball?

    “We’re here.”

    With the room they had gotten, this was sort of obvious, but at least it got Lucas’ attention. Indeed, their room was at the very top outside corner of the motel. If anyone was stupid enough to jump the rail, it was a thirty-foot drop to the sidewalk below, unless one hit the gate first.

    Given the fact that the motel’s iron-wrought gate was crafted in a manner very reminiscent of a rack of spears, Lucas would have taken his chances with the drop. A cavity search with an iron spike could ruin this journey very early.

    Nalani slipped a card into the small slot to which the door’s handle was attached. She heard a telltale CLICK. She twisted the handle. The door swung inward, and a draft of cooler air wafted across Lucas’ face. She stood still, turning around imploringly, until Lucas got the hint and came inside.

    The room, just like the motel itself, wasn’t some ritzy high-class place, but it was more than satisfactory. Two beds, a lamp, a desk, and a television, and a table…

    Two beds…a lamp, a desk, and a television, and a table…

    Two beds…a lamp, a desk, and a television, and a table…

    “If you don’t mind, I’m kind of feeling like I need a shower,” Nalani said candidly.

    “Hold it – what?” Lucas spluttered. “B-but this is my room, right?”

    “Sure,” Nalani said, pulling a white towel and washcloth from a nearby rack with a smile. “I’ll leave you the entire thing if you want – you’ll be the one that winds up paying two large a day.”

    “What? Did you…are we…” Lucas sat down on one of the pair of beds, both of which had blue bedspreads. Well, knowing this information, at least there were two beds. He yanked off his skullcap and ran a finger through his crimson and black curls. “Ugh…are you serious??”

    Nalani sighed apologetically. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I didn’t have a choice. They didn’t have any single rooms left when I got here, and at two thousand a night…”

    “So you met me, and decided I wouldn’t make a bad roommate for a couple of days,” Lucas finished the thought. “That way, you could split the cost and you’d only have to pay one thousand.”

    “Hey, if it weren’t for me, you might have never found a place for the night,” she shot back. “And this is one of the best bargains in town.”

    “…That’s true,” Lucas admitted with a sigh.

    “So…if this isn’t going to work, just say it now,” Nalani told him.

    Lucas let out a sharp breath through his nose. “Fine,” he said. “Just make sure to get back behind your ears.”

    “Funny,” Nalani said, taking one last peek around the small wall near the bathroom door. “One last thing – the lock on this door is broken. See that over there?”

    Coincidentally, Lucas was looking straight at it at that very moment. Leaning up against the wall, the rod was shiny, tinted violet, and looked to be about six feet long.

    “If you even think of peeking,” Nalani said, a dangerously sweet smile on her face. “You will learn new and painful meanings of the phrase, ‘having a stick up your ***.’”

    Lucas rolled his eyes at this attempt to intimidate him, impressive-sounding though it was.

    “That’s cool. I won’t peek – trust me,” he said. Under his breath, he added, “I probably wouldn’t be missing much, anyways…”

    “Did you say something?” Nalani asked. Lucas mentally slapped himself. For once in his life, he’d have to keep his mouth under control.

    “Nope,” he answered. The door slammed shut, and Lucas immediately collapsed backwards onto the still made bed. “How the hell did I get into this?”

    Such was the lot in life for a kid out on his own that didn’t choose to be a Pokémon Trainer. If that’d been the case, he could have just gone down to the nearest Pokémon Center, shown some ID, and gotten a room for as long as he wanted for free.

    But Lucas made the decision long ago that, while training Pokémon would be part of what he did, it wouldn’t be the sum of it. The reason was obvious; he would have given it about a couple of weeks before people started making the Lance and/or Clair comparisons. He wouldn’t have been able to deal with it. He didn’t like the whole idea of becoming Champion, either. Being tied down to one place, being forced to keep winning if you wanted to keep your job, or to throw a match to a less skilled, less experienced Trainer if you wanted to branch out and experience some new things. And once a Champion, always a Champion. If you were there for any length of time, your generation would remember your name. This went double for a name that people already recognized.

    Lucas also knew something else from his first day here.

    Whatever happened in Carona…would probably end up staying in Carona. To think of how one of his aunts or uncles would react if they knew that, on his first day here in Carona, he shared a room with a girl he’d known for a few hours…

    Of course, there was nothing going on. They were pretty much strangers. He was learning how to survive.

    “Sleepyhead – wake up!” a girl’s voice snapped him out of his daydream…at least, he thought it was a daydream, until he realized that his eyes were closed. With a short groan, Lucas opened his eyes and saw Nalani’s huge orbs.

    That is, her eyes. They were sky blue and staring straight back at him.

    She had changed into another white tank top and now had her hair tied in a ponytail that was presently hanging over her right shoulder. In addition, she was wearing an interesting pendant necklace with something like a fang hanging from it. She reached for Lucas’s shirt, causing him to freeze.

    “This is such a cool necklace,” she commented, grabbing the ornament and pulling it up to get a closer look. “A Gyarados, huh?”

    “Y-yeah,” Lucas stammered, not daring to follow suit and examine her necklace more closely. “What’s yours?”

    “Oh, this?” Nalani laughed, lifting it up so that Lucas could get a better look and, in the process, finally releasing her hands from the neighborhood of his chest so he could breathe easily. “It’s a good luck charm – the first tooth from a baby Bagon. You do know what a Bagon is, right?”

    “Yeah. Bagon I’ve heard of,” Lucas replied, remembering back to the rather annoying studies he was forced to do last year about Dragons native to other nations. In retrospect, maybe they would prove useful, although they sure as hell didn’t mention a Kaegon…maybe he’d fallen asleep during that lesson or something.

    “That’s good,” she said, again with a laugh. “I was starting to worry that you were born under a rock somewhere.”

    “Very funny,” Lucas answered with biting sarcasm. Nalani responded with…nothing. The room went silent – just in time for…


    Lucas held his hands to his stomach, his cheeks going slightly pink.

    “Damn…” he groaned.

    “Sounds like it’s lunchtime,” Nalani said with a smile.

    **** **** **** M.A.V.E.R.I.C.K H.E.A.R.T **** **** ****
    Last edited by EonMaster One; 20th November 2010 at 1:37 AM. Reason: Royally jacked up edit tags...

    Dalton Gregg was a mostly-ordinary university student from the region once called Johto.
    Then a fateful encounter set him on a quest to change history.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2005

    Default Chapter 2-2

    **** **** **** M.A.V.E.R.I.C.K H.E.A.R.T **** **** ****

    Ten minutes and four blocks later, Nalani stopped walking and turned into a shop near the corner. It took one whiff of the air for Lucas to realize that, contrary to what he had been expecting. Lucas’ heart leapt.

    Not just food, but…burgers.

    He followed her inside, opening the door, which announced his presence with that annoying, synthetic, ding-dong beep. The vintage smell of meat on grills and burning fat permeated the place. Tables were arrayed across the checkered floor, filled with hungry customers making small talk, drilling into burgers and sandwiches, quartering French fries with their teeth, and of course, there was the occasional oddball that apparently came into a place like this with the intention of getting only a salad. This particular person – a black-haired lady that might have been in her early thirties with a trim figure (big surprise there) and in possession of a rather large bag that looked like it might have come from Narra’s Shopping District – was sitting near a window, ignoring and ignored by the rest of the restaurant’s patrons.

    “Excuse me, how may I help you?” Lucas realized he was at the front counter. He sighed. He’d really have to get that daydreaming thing under control at some point, after he managed to take in all the sights and everything didn’t look quite so new to him. He looked up and saw an absolute behemoth of a man. Wearing the blue shirt that served as the centerpiece for the restaurant’s uniform – a shirt that must have been custom-made, because there was no way in hell they sold that size in any normal clothing store – he looked like he could have been both the most devoted worker in this place as well as its most devoted customer.

    Lucas looked over the menu. He saw something that he really liked, but then frowned. He was on a budget – a stiff budget. As in, he didn’t know where the hell he would get money once the bit he had ran out on him. He found a particularly cheap item on the menu – standard issue burger-and-fries, no garnishes, no extra stuff – and ordered the beef from the beefy man.

    After taking the red plastic tray that held his meal, Lucas skirted away from the line quickly. His eyes scanned the restaurant for Nalani, who had taken her place at the other window on the wall perpendicular to the one where diet lady was sitting. He suddenly became aware of the floor and everything on it. The last thing he wanted to do was to slip on a newly spilled soda or something and crash headlong into the floor. The prospect of the sheer pain aside, it would likely cost him his own meal, not to mention several laughs at his expense.

    Stepping gingerly over the last of the ketchup packets, he settled into the seat across from Nalani, muttering, “Geez…must suck royally to be a janitor somewhere like this…”

    Silently, he bit into his burger. It was good enough for what he had paid for it. More importantly, it shut his stomach up and kept him from starving. Nalani, herself nose-deep in a burger, opened her eyes and looked straight at Lucas, who pointedly stared down at the chunk he had just taken out of his own sandwich. He looked up again and saw two rings of blue staring back at him. After a few seconds, it felt like someone was shining sunlight through a magnifying glass right at his face.

    “Stop doing that,” he said quickly, looking away.

    “Doing what?” Nalani asked.

    “Looking at me,” Lucas said flatly, shifting in his chair and focusing himself back on his burger. He looked down and heard another laugh.

    “Why?” Nalani asked with all the innocence of a four-year-old expecting to hear nothing less than the truth.

    “Because…I don’t like people staring at me while I’m eating,” Lucas replied uncomfortably.

    There was another long silence.

    “Had a bad experience or something?” she asked. “Your face has been red the entire time you’ve been sitting down.”

    Lucas frowned.

    “Whatever,” he said gruffly.

    “Hey,” Nalani replied sternly. “That’s no way to treat someone who gave you a bed for the night.”

    He winced for a second and looked around to see if anyone had heard. That comment said by a girl to a guy, without proper context…

    “Only so you wouldn’t have to pay for the entire cost of the room yourself,” Lucas shot back, setting down his burger. They both stared at each other for a moment, neither deigning to so much as blink. It was obvious to each of them what the other was thinking; they were right, but so was the other person sitting across from them. Ergo, this was an argument that would go nowhere fast. Nalani reached for a stack of napkins and proffered one to Lucas.

    “You’ve got ketchup on your face,” she commented. Lucas, rolling his eyes, took the napkin from her and wiped his mouth. While he did so, she continued, “I have never met someone embarrassed to have people looking at them while I’m eating.”

    “Yeah, well, I’m different,” Lucas stated a bit standoffishly.

    “Enlighten me,” Nalani requested, popping a potato strip into her mouth. “Tell me about yourself.”

    “Why?” Lucas demanded.

    “Since we’re going to be staying together, we might as well get along,” Nalani answered. (Another fry went into her mouth.) “That is…if you even care about getting along with people.”

    “I don’t jump through hoops or roll over for people, let me put it that way,” Lucas replied languidly, watching a school-age boy walking his pet Poochyena down the street past the window by which they sat.

    “So you don’t care at all what people think of you?” Nalani asked.

    “Should I?” Lucas asked. Nalani frowned.

    She was in a bad mood and didn’t say anything the entire way back to the motel. At least, that’s what Lucas picked up – but what the heck did he know?

    Lucas sat down on his bed, hearing the springs creak a tiny bit under his weight as he did so. When he heard the sound a second time, he looked up. There was Nalani, lying on the opposite bed, looking straight at him. He felt his face grow hot and looked toward the wall. After he did so, he heard a dull sound of impact – Nalani had slapped the mattress in frustration, and now she was sitting up.

    “What now?” she grunted. “You’ve eaten, you’ve gotten a nap…you don’t need a diaper change, do you?”

    “Shut up,” Lucas snarled, looking away from her again and fuming at her joke.

    “Hey – hey, Lucas,” Nalani continued quickly. “Luuuuuuuucas. Do people from Johto have a sense of humor?”

    “Yeah…which is exactly why I don’t think your jokes are very funny,” the curly-haired teen said tersely.

    “So…no sense of humor, acts like he’s never seen a girl before…” she began talking to herself. Almost unbidden, a vein started going in Lucas’ temple and he finally turned to look straight at her in a show of defiance. Her eyes did a familiar flick downward and focused for a split second on the region of his pants. Then she looked up at him. Halfway out of embarrassment and halfway out of anger, his face was now every bit as red as the majority of his curly hair. Then, to add to the awkwardness, Nalani asked this question, a strange grimace on her face. “You’re not a eunuch, are you?”

    “Nope – my equipment’s there and it works just fine, thanks,” Lucas said, drawing his feet into the bed and settling his head down on the pillow, hoping this comment served to unsettle Nalani enough to stop the conversation.

    More silence – but not the good silence that comes with closure. Rather, this was the awkward silence that happens mid-conversation…like something was being left unsaid. It was starting to grate on Lucas’ nerves.

    They have eunuchs in Carona? I’m sort of curious…but at the same time, I really don’t want to know…

    “So, what’s your favorite color?” Nalani asked. It was obvious that she was just fishing for a conversation at this point. Lucas conceded that maybe she would shut her mouth if he said something, so he decided to humor her.

    “Red,” he answered flatly – traditionally, black and red had always been Blackthorn City’s colors, especially the latter. Part of this fact was because red hair had always been a very dominant gene in the Blackthorn bloodline – along with yellow eyes and above average height. Of course, Lucas knew that this wasn’t always the case, especially more recently with the youngest children, but Lance, at six-foot-three, with stop-sign red locks and piercing, golden eyes, was looked at as something of a ‘Blackthorn prototype’ – as were his oldest two nephews, Shiro (who was now a lanky 6’2” and looked like a skatepunk version of his uncle with some of his dad’s tattoos) and Lucas himself.

    “Least favorite color?” Nalani asked.

    Lucas’ eyes flicked upward to Nalani’s bangs.

    “Purple,” he said. The girl looked offended.

    “Are you serious?” she asked.

    Lucas nodded. “I really don’t like purple.”

    “So you don’t like me because I have purple hair?” Nalani asked. “Geez…shallow much?”

    “I didn’t say that,” the red-haired boy replied back in irritation, looking at the ceiling. “I just don’t like the color purple. Why does everybody always have to read into everything?”

    “Okay, calm down, calm down,” she sighed.

    Great. This is so awkward. Not only am I sharing a room with a total stranger, but I’m sharing a room with a total stranger who’s a girl!

    “As much as I’d love to grow a pair just to make you feel comfortable,” Nalani piped in sarcastically, “I can’t do that. So, you’re just going to have to suck it up. Yes, I’m a girl, and believe it or not, I don’t have cooties. Deal with it.”

    “Did you just…read my mind?” Lucas said, backing up and scooting toward the far edge of his bed to put a little bit more distance between himself and her. “What the hell are you?”

    “You think really loud,” Nalani laughed. Lucas frowned. Nalani stuck her tongue halfway out of her mouth playfully.

    “For us being pretty much strangers, you’re really trying to push my buttons. You don’t know me very well. What if I had a really violent side, and you told one annoying joke too many…and I snapped and killed you?” Lucas asked casually.

    “Killed me? Really, Luc?” she laughed. A vein in Lucas’ jaw started going. “You really think you have the guts to do something like that?”

    “I could,” Lucas replied with a stone face. “…and don’t call me that.”

    “Why not?” Nalani asked. “You have a thing against nicknames? Well, I’ll be fair. You can call me ‘Lani’ if you want to.”

    “Why are you still talking?” Lucas snarled. “You talk too much.”

    Nalani rolled her blue eyes.

    “In your own perfect little world, you’d be able to travel completely on your own, because, apparently, you’re a complete lone wolf who doesn’t like being around people in general,” she said briskly. “But, since you came here with only a small wad of cash to your name and have no idea where the hell you’re going next, you can’t do that, can you? You need to find ways to stretch your money…and you also need to know how to get where you’re going once you decide.”

    “Hold on a second,” Lucas said, his golden-brown eyes flashing. “Are you saying that I might need you?”

    “Scary thought, isn’t it?” Nalani laughed, jumping to her feet and hovering over Lucas, so close to his head that he could practically feel the ends of her violet locks touching his face. “But, you know what should scare you even more? What happens if you need me, and I’m not around?”

    “Well, I’m pretty much f**ked then, right?” Lucas laughed sarcastically.

    Nalani smirked, and then laughed, flicking her nose into the air and sitting back on her bed.

    “You have got to be one of the most bitter and cynical people I’ve ever met,” she declared.

    Hearing this, Lucas popped to his feet, momentarily putting Lani on notice, as she wondered whether he would indeed ‘snap’ and do something violent. But Lucas simply slid his hands into his pockets and made for the door, his curly shag of red hair bouncing against his neck as he went.

    “Leaving?” she asked.

    “I’m bored,” he said flatly. His annoyance was increased even further when she giggled at the comment.

    “Such a brooder,” she remarked. “You’d better know where you’re going.”

    “Yeah, sure,” Lucas grunted, opening the door and walking through it.

    Of course she doesn’t understand me.

    I’m not bubbly and talkative like she is. Is that a crime nowadays? How come I can’t talk about myself? It’s not like I give a damn whether she likes me or not. But it’s not like I’d really know what to say to her, either.

    For the record, I did answer her question seriously. I don’t like the color purple, and I have my reasons for that – and they’re none of her business. Strangely, I do like the colors that make purple – red and blue. I couldn’t say ‘blue’ in front of her, though. She’d start asking me questions, try to lure me into a trap with those scary eyes of hers – which are, awkwardly enough, my favorite shade of blue. It’s the same shade of blue that reminds me of Diamond – it’s the color of her hair, and one of the colors she always likes to wear. I wonder how she’s doing, trying to adjust to life without me. I don’t know what I’d do if somebody I cared about a lot left me and I didn’t know when they were coming back.

    …Which is exactly why I don’t care about a lot of people. It’s weird – I miss my family, but I don’t miss home that much. When I was seven, I thought it’d be a dream come true to live in Blackthorn City. I got bored with it really quick. Everybody had two names for me in the city. A few people called me ‘Sir Lucas.’ Apparently, being part of the Blackthorn clan makes you some sort of nobility in Blackthorn City. Who knew? In any case, I didn’t like it. I didn’t really give a damn about being nobility.

    And then the vast majority of people called me ‘that brat.’ I’m not as sociable as the rest of the people in my family. Again, I don’t think there’s a damn thing wrong with that, but it’s all about perception – how people think you are, and what they want you to be. They wanted me to play the part of the celebrity, and I didn’t, so now I’m ‘that brat.’ That’s what they called me, always pointing fingers at me. If I wasn’t trying to be a decent example for my cousins, I would have shown those people some fingers too, if you get my drift.

    My cousins. Landis, Alyndra, Diamond, and L.J. – maybe the reason I’m close with them is that they can actually stand me. Little kids don’t complicate stuff the way teenagers and adults do. Everything’s black and white to them. They’re not really ready for the real world, obviously – but a lot of times, they’re not really as fussed about what the real world thinks of them. If they’re happy, they’ll laugh and scream. If they’re sad, they’ll pout and sulk. If they’re ******, they’ll shout and start throwing crap. If they like you, they’ll hug you, and if they don’t, they’ll shove you away or try to start a fight. Little kids are simple.

    It’s from older people that they learn how to lie and how to be fake. They smile to your faces and say you’re something, and then say something completely different behind your back. Sometimes they say that they’re trying to protect you from something.

    Like when your dad raises you to believe that he eloped with some random chick he met, they just got together and had your older brother, and then you, and then your mom died tragically of health complications right after you were born.

    He neglects to tell you:

    One, that random ‘chick’ was actually part of the most famous family in the country.

    Two, that ‘chick’ told him that she was part of the most famous family in the country.

    Three, that ‘chick’ was a murder victim.

    All that while straddling a bike and smoking a cigarette.

    That was my dad – ‘Motor’ Michael Azuki, conman extraordinaire. He pretty much raised me and my brother, Shiro, by himself for as long as I can remember. He dated a couple of times and might have had one steady girlfriend – well, at least, steadier than the other ones he had – but he liked to keep up a loner-slash-punk-slash-badass image for some reason. He always spiked his hair – I don’t want to know how much gel that took. My dad had hair like mine, or I have hair like his – except his was all black, which is the reason I got these weird lowlights…the only cool gift I ever got from my dad. He had tattoos everywhere. I mean,
    everywhere. As in, the only places on his body where he didn’t have tattoos were places he’d never be able to display to the public. He could have stepped outside completely in the buff and looked like a piece of really weird abstract art with a man-package. Thankfully, he never did that…not that I know of.

    And then, he had the leather jacket with the shoulder spikes – don’t get me started. He wore that everywhere except the shower. And he did wear it to the shower once. He’d always been an occasional smoker, but the year after my mom died, he started drinking a little bit, too. One night, he got so plastered that he went to go take a shower…with his clothes still on, apparently. That’s when my brother, who was seven, walked in on him and asked him what he was doing. To his credit, he never drank again after that.

    When he died, back in 2012 – I’m not gonna lie, it scared the hell out of me. I was six years old, my mom was dead, my brother was aimlessly drifting around the world ‘searching for himself’ – I guess I did pick up something from him after all – and now my dad, who was probably the worst parent in the world but still all I had, was gone, too. When some of the neighbors found out, they sent their teenage son over to watch the house – I guess until the state came and got me. That was my brother’s best friend. He was almost fourteen and had come with his girlfriend. I had seen those two a thousand times. He never knew this, but I was always thankful for him staying there with me, even if I acted like a prick when he was there. Now, I wish I could find a way to thank him, but it’s sort of hard to get direct contact with a guy when he’s Pokémon League Champion on another continent.

    It was a couple of days after my dad died, that I saw them for the first time. It was raining like all hell that evening, and like every little kid – especially kids that don’t have any parents around to tell them things will be just fine – I hated thunderstorms. They made me jumpy. I nearly ****** myself when I heard that knock on the door.

    That’s when they came in – Uncle Lorca and Aunt Marcia. They were really young back then. They had just gotten married about two or three weeks before. (Let’s just say I’m glad they made a point to put my room clear on the other side of the house. It was less noisy over there.) I’m guessing Shiro called them when he found out because he didn’t want the state to take me when they didn’t need to…or something like that. As much as it’s hard for me to think of my big brother being responsible, it was probably him. In any case, he took better care of me than Mike did.

    I still remember it like it was yesterday…the date and everything.

    July 16, 2012.

    That was the day my life changed. I went from being by myself in the world to having a big family that loved me and cared for me – because I was one of them.

    Of course, I wouldn’t have known that at the time. I had a hard time trusting anybody at all. Not making excuses, but how do you expect a six-year-old kid to react when his identity is suddenly taken away from him? How would you feel if the slate was wiped clean on your life, and you had nothing?

    All this, way before I’m twenty.

    And I came out to Carona for some adventure.

    …What the hell was I thinking?

    Lucas looked around. He was on a rather busy street, and could see the sign of a large, steaming cup across the street with the word “CAFÉ” emblazoned in huge block letters across the largest window. Nearby at that window stood a pair of school-age children and a well-fed woman with auburn hair and a necklace of pearls. The little boy – also with auburn hair and dressed in what appeared to be designer clothes – seemed to be hammering something to the nearest bulletin board, where whatever he was posting would be one announcement of many.

    “Why are you going through all of this, Rory?” the woman asked. “We could always just buy you another one.”

    The girl – clearly older than Rory, perhaps a preteen – looked up at the woman mutinously and Rory whirled around.

    I don’t want another one!” he shouted loudly, turning around and hammering a yellow flyer of sorts into the wooden board. “I want Remy back…”

    “You shouldn’t have been so mean to her, Rory,” the girl piped in.

    “I was not mean to her!” Rory cried defiantly.

    “Callie, stop – he’s already upset enough as it is,” the woman scolded the little girl, her ring-adorned, slightly bulky index finger pointing at her forcefully.

    By this point, Lucas, on one of his whims again, had begun to slowly cross the street just out of curiosity. Apparently, something of Rory’s was missing – or rather, someone. Lucas guessed that Remy couldn’t have been human, given the rather casual way that the woman talked about “buying another one”. The woman also said this without much hesitation, which indicated that either she did not care much for Remy, or that she was simply so loaded that it didn’t matter. He then remembered – of all things – his first meeting with Nalani earlier that day. Was Remy some sort of Pokémon?

    Lucas was very good at reading people by what they said. And he was proud of that fact. Not like it was any sort of divinely gifted power or anything like that – he was skeptical about such things, anyway. It wasn’t something you’d get an award for, either – not like Lucas even cared about what other people thought of him. Lucas was proud of his ability to read people simply because it got him through the day. He was good at reading between the lines.

    Trying to avoid the eyes of all of the parties involved, Lucas walked around behind them, feigning interest in going into the café.

    “Okay, we’re finished, aren’t we?” the woman said impatiently. “Can we go back now?”

    “A couple more down the street, Mom – please?” Rory begged as he turned to the thick woman, who rolled her brown eyes.

    “Fine, fine,” she answered. “Let’s hurry up, though.”

    With that, they began to walk off. Lucas took that opportunity to stop pretending to look inside the café (which was probably creeping out a few of its patrons, anyway), and whirled around, stepping up to the bulletin board. The poster was simple, but very well-made for being the handiwork of an eight-year-old child. The first line read, in large, boldface print:


    Below this large lettering was the picture of a Pokémon that Lucas had never seen before in his life. It was a gray, cat-like thing with a long tail that seemed to be kept in a spiral. Immediately on the picture, the red-haired boy saw the articles that were meant to differentiate this particular Pokémon from others of her species. She was wearing a pink collar as well as little pink bows behind her ears. If she still had those on, she’d be easy to spot, although he got the feeling that Glameow wasn’t the type of Pokémon you’d just randomly find in large groups on street corners.

    Under the picture of the Pokémon was a hand-written message, all (like the title) in first-person:

    My name is Remy and my owners, the Donovans, miss me very much. If you think you’ve found me or might know where I am, please call the number below and ask for Riordan, Callista, Dorothy, or Todd Donovan. I’m worth a lot to them, so if you return me, you’ll get a twenty-five thousand Pokédollar reward.


    Looking at the phone number quizzically, he wondered if there had been a mistake. After all, most of the numbers on his continent had ten digits. Either whoever made the poster had just screwed up, or the calling system in Carona was completely different.

    He’d have to ask Nalani.

    Realizing what he had just thought, Lucas swore to himself as he took the poster down, taking care not to rip it too much. He then looked around…and swore to himself again as he realized that he had no idea where he was.

    Finding his way back was as easy as remembering the name of the hotel where he was staying (it was the name of a season, and then ‘leaf’ – he’d get it on the fourth try, at least), going into the café, and asking for directions. Of course, he’d never tell Nalani that he asked for directions. She would never let him hear the end of it. Women were like that, Lorca had told him.

    Getting back, however, was the interesting part. Not so much because it was difficult, but rather because it took quite a while. Lucas had utterly lost track of time when he stormed out of the Springleaf Inn and started walking, but getting back must have taken well over an hour. By the time he found his way back, his feet were almost dead underneath him, and it was late afternoon.

    Lucas breathed a sigh of relief when he finally reached Room 330. He went into his pocket for his card key and, for three seconds of rummaging around, felt nothing.

    “Oh…nice,” he muttered when he realized that the card key that was supposed to be in his pocket…wasn’t in his pocket. Grimacing, he raised a fist and rapped on the door.

    Three. WHACK!

    Times. WHACK!

    Hard. WHACK!

    “Nalani!” he shouted. “Nalani, are you in there?”

    No answer. Lucas frowned. This would be her idea of a joke, he thought.

    “Nalani!” he yelled again. “This isn’t funny! Open the damn door already!!”

    “Alright, alright – geez…such a slave driver…” Lucas got his answer, but unless his ears were really messing with him, it wasn’t coming from inside the door. It was coming from his left, and didn’t sound muffled at all. Lucas’ yellow eyes shifted in that direction, just in time to feel a hand shoving him out of the way. “Move it. Thanks.

    As Nalani swiped the card through and opened the door, Lucas was left staring at lank, stringy strands of clearly soaked hair plastered to bare skin on a golden-tan back that was also glistening with water, covered only by the back strap of a bikini top. Everything from waist to shins was covered with a white towel. She turned around slightly, frowning.

    “Are you coming in or not?” she asked impatiently.

    “Y-yeah,” Lucas stammered. As he came in and sat down on his bed, she went to the back of the room. Near the bathroom was a sink, and over the sink, a mirror that took up the space of that entire wall. She gazed into the mirror, painstakingly putting back on her earrings as her violet hair fell limp and slightly wavy over her temples and into her eyes.

    Nalani, who must have seen him through the mirror, looked over her shoulder, stopped, and smirked.

    “Remember what I said about the door,” she said, going inside the bathroom and closing it. Soon, the hissing of the shower was heard. Lucas teetered back onto his bed, dropping the flyer.

    What the hell was that?

    Okay, so
    maybe she’s kind of attractive…but it’s not like I haven’t seen an attractive girl my age before – she’s dead wrong about that. It’s complicated.

    Then there was the comment about the bathroom door…she knows she’s getting under my skin, doesn’t she?

    And she’s enjoying every f**king minute of it.

    A tiny part of me wishes that I was still eight…you know, too young to care.

    It’s no big deal, though. It was probably just the bikini…or the wet hair.

    Or both.

    You know, I probably could have ignored it if she hadn’t looked back at me. Those eyes – damn those blue eyes of hers. Like one of those creatures you hear about in mythology – you stare straight into her eyes and you die, or turn to stone, or get your soul sucked out, or some other weird sh** happens that you’re not gonna like.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not falling for her at all. I’m just saying that she’s okay-looking enough to where she doesn’t make you want to burn your eyes out when you look at her. She’s still really annoying – so it’s a good thing she’s easier on the eyes, or else I
    really wouldn’t be able to stand the sight of her.

    But I’m not falling for her. I don’t ‘fall’.

    “Oh, but you’re supposed to. It’s totally normal, don’t worry about it.”

    I’m a guy, and I’m thirteen. So?

    That’s just another one of those ‘stereotypes.’ And you know what I think of stereotypes.

    My brother’s not normally known for sagelike wisdom, but one thing I did learn from him is that thinking with body parts other than your brain tends to get you in trouble.

    The bathroom door swung open, revealing Nalani once again. She was wearing her usual tank top and pants. Her hair, now tied back into a ponytail with a white scrunch, was still damp.

    “So, how was your stroll?” Nalani asked, flinging herself onto the bed. “Did you forget your personal raincloud? I see you’re dry.”

    “I see you aren’t,” Lucas replied.

    Have you ever thought nothing of a sentence when you said it and then, after it came out, realized that you sorta wanted it back?

    “Well, I got bored,” Nalani groaned, rolling her eyes. “I can’t go swimming if I want to?”

    “Go swimming – I don’t give a damn,” Lucas replied.

    “Of course you’d say that,” Nalani replied. “I saw that look earlier. You’d probably do anything to get me back into a swimsuit.”

    Lucas snorted, then he started to suck in air.

    “What’s that?” the violet-haired girl asked.

    “The sound of your head expanding, and me…still not giving a damn,” Lucas replied flatly, punctuating his snark with a light smirk and a leap of his eyebrows. Nalani folded her arms and pouted.

    “You know, you’re really going to hurt someone’s feelings one day,” she said. “And then you’re going to feel like an *******.”

    Lucas looked away from Nalani, staring pointedly at the poster he’d brought in.

    “What’s that?” Nalani asked again.

    “A missing persons poster,” Lucas replied. “Or…missing Pokémon, actually…”

    He handed Nalani the poster.

    “Ohh, a Glameow!” the girl exclaimed. “She’s so cute!”

    “Really? You’ve got a weird definition of ‘cute’. I thought it looked like somebody had thrown her face-first into a brick wall,” Lucas chuckled mirthlessly, sitting up. “In any case, I got a look at the family. It’s a couple of kids – and their parents are loaded. Twenty-five grand is probably chump change for them. But for us…”

    “…We’d be able to make it out to Belveyun with that much,” Nalani finished.

    Lucas turned to her. “I thought we were on Belveyun.”

    “No – Belveyun City,” Nalani explained. “It’s the port city that’s on the northern side of the island. It’s about twice the size of Narra. Nice beaches, pretty palm trees, airships to the mainland…”

    “Belveyun City…” Lucas muttered to himself, looking at the flyer intently.

    Okay, so we have our heading…or something like that. We’re going to find a way to get this kid’s Glameow back. Then, we’re going to collect our fat paycheck, and ride that paycheck all the way to the mainland.

    This is great. For the first time since I’ve gotten here, I have a sense of direction.

    So, why do I feel so uneasy – like this isn’t going to end well?

    **** **** **** M.A.V.E.R.I.C.K H.E.A.R.T **** **** ****

    Interesting first day for Lucas in his new surroundings. This may seem like a strange way to bring characters together, but it establishes things about their personalities and abilities. I hope things don’t seem too slow to you guys. While the advantage of not having a tight connection to the other stories lies in the fact that it’s easier in most cases to grab hold of the new characters, the disadvantage is that it takes exposition. Since most writers were, at some point, readers, most of you guys will agree with me when I say that writers and expositions often have a love-hate relationship. As for me, I’d much rather slip little tidbits of exposition into dialogue and description than put it all up front, which sometimes takes a little longer, but also (IMHO) makes for an easier read as opposed to something more encyclopaedic. In a nutshell, I try my very hardest to avoid introducing characters in the same way that a Pokédex introduces Pokémon. If it seems slow, worry not, things will pick up after a bit. Just don’t neglect small details along the way, or you might find yourself confused by a character or an event later.

    - EM1

    Dalton Gregg was a mostly-ordinary university student from the region once called Johto.
    Then a fateful encounter set him on a quest to change history.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Behind you...


    Not this time, Didds... not as big as the Big One, but still... anyways, over that.

    You know how this works, bud.

    An interesting chapter. A really interesting chapter. I liked how you portrayed the chase, the main premise and the "friendship" between Nalani (name is so for the win. ) and Lucas, no matter what they say.

    The only real error has been pointed out by moonlightning, so we have only two pieces I'd like to share as fun times:

    Given the fact that the motel’s iron-wrought gate was crafted in a manner very reminiscent of a rack of spears, Lucas would have taken his chances with the drop. A cavity search with an iron spike could ruin this journey very early.
    Definitely not the best way to end a first day... ouch. :P

    Have you ever thought nothing of a sentence when you said it and then, after it came out, realized that you sorta wanted it back?
    Oh, yes... very, very much.

    Well, this is my piece, and yes, I get the feeling Apollo and this Kaegon will be seeing quite a bit of action really soon... just a hunch though.

    Gotta slide now...

    Last edited by Air Dragon; 20th November 2010 at 7:30 PM.
    The Corei Quest's latest chapter: Chapter Forty Seven: Tricks of the Trade (24 April 2014)
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  10. #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2007


    I read the whole thing at once, mostly because I couldn't look away. The chase at the beginning was gripping, it was very exciting. I found the dialog hillarious at times and charming in others.

    This is really the kind of story I've been looking to follow, I like the chapter length, that's one thing I can't do but you pull off so flawlessly.Because I'm against a review of only blind praise I'm going to point out a blindingly obvious error. There is a slight error caused by the italics... here:

    “Very funny,” she folded her arms. “What’s [I]your[/I[ name?”
    I don't really look for errors like that, they don't bother me but I just thought I'd point it out. Maybe while I'm waiting for chapter I should read you previous work?

  11. #11
    Join Date
    May 2006
    A therapist's Sofa


    *walks into room 330 of the Springleaf Inn with a knife*

    *cuts tension*

    Oh, I can see this becoming very interesting. Maybe even more interesting when we learn more about Nalani and of course Lucas. Not exactly an open book is he (someone I can relate to, although I can imagine he isn't the best person to relate to xD) I've made my fair share of women related "oh-god-why-can't-I-take-back-what-I-just-said" moments.

    You can't blame Lucas though, Nalani isn't exactly helping manners by being so capricious. I think I'm going to like this one a lot, just to see how un-journey fic you make it and to see where we're going this time around.

    Gardenia never liked the Old Chateau, but what if the Old Chateau liked her?

    Author's Profile

  12. #12
    Join Date
    May 2005

    Default Chapter 3

    AD: Yeah, let’s hope the ‘net doesn’t decide to screw you again. And…well, you’ll definitely see things develop over the next few chapters as the main cast starts to come together.

    moonlightning: These chapters are mercifully brief for me. They’re known to get to 30-35 pages on average, and my longest one was 61 and took FOUR posts. FOUR. Granted, it was pretty much the last chapter of one of my stories, not counting an epilogue, but still…

    Diddy: Tension FTW. You’ll find right now that both Lucas and Nalani are sort of testing the waters at this point. The one thing I wanted my main characters to have is very complete, complex psychologies. As opposed to there being moderate levels of focus on about fifty people like AP was, you’ll see Carona through the eyes of probably about a handful of main characters with a small supporting cast that’s more or less on the periphery. I hope for it to be a while before readers have the main characters figured out, and right when you think you do, they might develop into something slightly (or completely) different. Personalities – why people are the way they are, what makes them tick – have always been something of a fascination for me. Even more intriguing, however, is what can happen when you bounce those personalities off each other.
    Oh no!! He took a week and a half to post the third chapter! What’s the world coming to? Relax, I’ve just been a touch busy. Strange goings-on in life and such.

    3 – Kitty Cat Jam
    June 4, PA 2019

    Narra Township, Belveyun Isle

    Lucas studied the picture of the Glameow on the paper flyer.

    “So, where…exactly…do we start with this?” Nalani asked.

    “You’d think someone would start with calling the cops,” Lucas muttered.

    “Eh…things don’t work like that around here,” Nalani replied a bit nonchalantly. Lucas tore his eyes away from Remy’s portrait and looked at the girl quizzically.

    “Uh…what?” he uttered. “Cops can’t be bothered with looking for a family pet? The crime rate around here must be a *****.”

    “Actually, it’s not as bad as you might think,” Nalani answered. “Where do I start…well, Carona’s a little different from your neck of the woods. You see, people here learned a long time ago that everybody can be motivated to take care of somebody else – for the right price. There’s some people that make a living from it, actually…and a lot of times, they free up the specialists to do their jobs without worrying about a whole bunch of side stuff.”

    “ ‘Specialists’?” Lucas repeated, confused.

    “I guess…it’s another way to say ‘professional’,” Nalani explained.

    “A professional? A professional what?” Lucas asked her again.

    “Anything,” Nalani answered simply. “It’s anybody that has a specific life’s work and gets paid to do it. They’re the best in their field. That’s one of the ways to earn a living around here. The other is to be a mercenary. You’ve heard of a mercenary before, right?”

    So she launched into this really long explanation of what life as a mercenary was.

    Mercenaries are freelancers – they live off work that comes their way, and instead of grinding one skill into the ground, they’re jacks-of-all-trades. It took me a couple of minutes to realize it, but it sort of makes sense. Even if there was some sort of specialist whose prime area of expertise was tracking down lost Pokémon, they’d likely be pretty hard to get a hold of, and their asking price would make twenty-five grand look like a drop of water in a swimming pool.

    Mercenaries are also if you want a lot of roles filled by a few people. For example, if somebody stole your favorite Pokémon – not dropping any hints here at all – and you were dealing with specialists, you’d be looking for a private investigator to find the *******s who did it, a spy to keep tabs on them for a while and get enough information for you to make a move, and some professional muscle to take them down. Depending on how the thing goes, you might also want a negotiator or someone that can get inside and bring them down from within. You’re probably spreading your money and attention six or seven different ways. If one of those six or seven people f***s it up, you’re up the creek without a paddle. But if you want a good “Plan B,” that’s an entirely different set of guys. And most specialists work in groups, too, so they’ll have their own teams, and before you know it, you’re trying to make sure thirty people get paid to bring home one missing Pokémon.

    I’ve never been a math whiz, but it doesn’t take one to figure out that it’s usually less expensive – and if not, then a lot less of a pain in the *** – to pay one guy or a small team of mercenaries, give them the reins to your problem, and let them do pretty much whatever it takes to get the job done.

    She was just about to start talking about ‘guilds’ or something weird like that when I decided that my brain couldn’t take any more information.

    “Okay, okay, I get it,” Lucas cut her off. Nalani frowned. “Since you’re in the mood to answer questions, here’s another one – what’s this?”

    He was pointing to the set of numbers down at the bottom of the flyer. The violet-haired girl folded her arms and looked at him in astonishment. “Uh…you’ve never seen a phone number before?”

    “Of course, I’ve seen a phone number before,” Lucas retorted. “I just haven’t seen one with nine digits before.”

    “How many digits do they usually have where you’re from?” Nalani asked.

    “Uh…ten,” Lucas replied a bit disdainfully, forgetting for a moment that Nalani would not have known this information.

    “Are the first three, like, some sort of area code?” she asked.

    “Yeah,” Lucas answered. She did know that much; that was a relief. To his great surprise, she smiled.

    “Then, it’s not all that different,” she replied. “You see that ‘43’? That’s the area code for the southern half of Belveyun Isle – Narra’s area. Narra’s one of the rare cities that has only one area code. Most of the cities in Carona have more than that. The second code is a zone code – here, you’re talking different neighborhoods and parts of town…but once you get to some of the bigger cities, some of the buildings get so huge that they have their own zone codes.”

    Lucas shook his head. “That’s insane…”

    “And then, the four-digit code for the specific phone line you want to call,” Nalani finished.

    “Sounds easy enough,” Lucas commented. “So, you can sort of get an idea of where something is, just by the first five digits?”

    “Right,” Nalani answered. “See? You’re picking things up fast.”

    “Don’t push it,” Lucas warned her.

    She let out a quick laugh. “You won’t mind if I yank that flyer for a second, would you?”

    “Sure – knock yourself out,” Lucas obliged, holding up the sheet of paper. Nalani took it from him and pored over it for a second.

    “Holy crap, you were right,” Nalani gasped. “Four-three, double-oh-four…isn’t that in Ryderfield?”

    “What’s Ryderfield?” Lucas asked.

    “The rich part of town,” Nalani answered. “It’s actually not too far from here.”

    “Aren’t you just a walking encyclopedia?” Lucas scoffed sarcastically.

    “I’ve been here for a week or so,” Nalani explained. “You pick up things – at least, you do, if you want to know your way around. Anyway, I think that, before we do anything else, we need to try to talk to this Donovan family – ask them where they last saw Remy, possible places to look. Otherwise, we could spend a lot of time on a wild goose chase and never even get a whiff of that reward.”

    “Sounds like a plan,” Lucas said, flopping back down onto his pillow.

    There was an awkward silence.

    “What, do you want to call them now?” he asked incredulously.

    “Why not?” Nalani responded. Pointing at the cordless telephone on the dresser between them, she said. “It’s just as easy as taking that phone and dialing the number.”

    “Why not? I’ll tell you why not,” Lucas answered, frustration obvious in his voice. “I just got into the country at about eight this morning, and I’ve been walking or running around all f**king day without even getting a chance to get my bearings. I’m exhausted. That’s why not.”

    “Okay, you don’t have to ***** about it,” Nalani sighed wearily.

    “You’re lucky I even showed you the flyer in the first place,” Lucas bit back. “I could have just done it myself, helped myself to the reward, and used it to get to the mainland – not to mention getting the hell away from you.”

    “Oh, please – you’re so full of it,” she scoffed, a smirk flashing on her face as she sat up. “You came back because you knew that you’d need my help.”

    Lucas gazed back at her silently for several seconds.

    “Get over yourself,” he muttered, flying by her and toward the bathroom.

    Lucas stared straight at the bathroom’s tiled wall as hot water from the shower ran over his now naked upper body. It weighed down his hair, causing the curls to unfurl a bit. He sighed heavily.

    “I’m not good at this type of thing…” he muttered to himself. When he wasn’t around family, Lucas was used to being alone. Even as a young boy, he’d had few, if any, friends. He wasn’t sure what it was, but he just wasn’t good at talking to people. He could get away with it with his family – they cared for him regardless, and that was a comfort – but his constant sarcastic wit and argumentative tone never took long to wear on everybody else. Part of it, he guessed, was just that he didn’t get his brother’s charisma. Everybody had known his older brother when they were growing up together – everybody. And there were a few people in town that couldn’t stand him one bit – but that was merely a drawback of knowing and being known by so many people. Lucas, in contrast, knew very few people and wasn’t liked by any of them. Some people were just loners by nature.


    What the f**k?

    No way did I just hear the door open.

    After all that grief she gave me about peeking on her, she can come in here whenever the hell she wants to? That doesn’t seem right. I don’t care if she is giving me somewhere to sleep for half-price.

    What if…oh,

    What if she had to take a leak and decided it wasn’t worth the trouble of holding it or finding another bathroom? I’d have to stand in here as long as she took to be done – no way am I coming out completely in the buff while she’s on the can with her shorts around her ankles…I’ve had enough awkwardness for one day.

    I guess I could wrap my towel around my waist and pretend she’s not there…oh, yeah – this bathroom is about the size of a sugar cube. That wouldn’t work.

    Speaking of which…

    Where is my towel?

    Lucas, starting to panic, shut off the water. He was surprised not to hear any of the telltale sounds that he knew came with someone using the toilet. After several seconds, he decided to risk it and take a peek outside – after all, if she got caught in a compromising position, it was nobody’s fault but hers.

    Drawing back the curtain only partially and making sure to keep everything else hidden, he stuck his head out of the shower. To his great relief, the only things that were on the toilet were his bedclothes…and a fresh, perfectly folded, perfectly white bath towel.

    “That wasn’t there before,” he muttered to himself.

    Five minutes later, he emerged from the bathroom to the voice of a strange man.

    “…And for the Belveyun Islands, not much relief from the heat, unfortunately. There’s a frontal system coming in soon that’s expected to bring some rain and cooler temperatures. Tomorrow, though, you’re still looking at hazy, hot, and humid. Temperatures are expected to be around eighty-five degrees or so…slight chance of some pop-up thundershowers just because the conditions are so volatile, but don’t expect any serious rain for another couple of days…”

    Lucas walked back into the bedroom to the sight of Nalani, laying belly-down on her bed, her blue eyes focused singularly on the images firing from the screen in front of her. A black remote control was in her left hand. Her left thumb worked one of the buttons furiously as the images on the television screen flickered and changed every so often.

    No questions were necessary. Nalani was channel surfing. Obviously, since the Blackthorns were probably the most well-known family in Johto, Lucas had enjoyed having a television in his own room, which was something of a minor luxury among people of Johto. Lucas had gotten rid of the television once he had turned thirteen, though – it just so happened that, on his birthday, camera crews had caught a glimpse of him during his initiation ceremony (another custom for any member of the Blackthorn clan turning thirteen). By that time, he had largely lost interest in television anyway. When he was very small, he had been rather enamored with Gligar-Man. But, as he grew into his teens, he lost interest in the superhero – and all associated comics, television shows, movies, and other media and paraphernalia.

    “About time you got out of there,” Nalani sighed distractedly, continuing to flip through channels, resting her head against her free hand in boredom. “What were you doing, putting on makeup or something?”

    “Shut up,” Lucas groaned, hitting a button on the television as he walked by it. With a high-frequency squeal, the television set shut off.

    “H-hey!” Nalani yelled indignantly.

    “Mind explaining what you were doing in the bathroom when I was in the middle of taking a shower? Hm?” Lucas asked.

    Nalani looked away from him. “I was…”

    “You actually have a reason for barging in there? I’d love to hear this. While you’re making up your story…”

    Lucas, after a struggle, yanked the remote control from Nalani’s left hand.

    “What the hell are you doing?!” the girl exclaimed, popping to her feet and taking a swipe at Lucas’ arm.

    “OUCH!” Lucas snarled as the girl’s nails (which weren’t long, but still long enough to do some damage) took a tiny chunk out of his right forearm. “Crazy chick, it’s just a remote! Sh*t!”

    Lucas ducked as Nalani went for the remote again. He made his way over to the foot of his own bed.

    His eyes set themselves directly on the long, narrow metal rod that leaned against the wall in the corner.

    He immediately began rethinking his plan.

    Thankfully, Nalani didn’t grab the weapon, but seemed to think that that clawing away at Lucas’ arms would suffice. Each swipe forced him to step back a bit. After about three steps, he felt the foot of the bed at the back of his legs and realized that he had run out of room. When she swung at him again, he leaned back to avoid it, and lost his balance.

    Before he knew it, Lucas was on his back, with Nalani sitting on his stomach. She definitely wasn’t fat, but she wasn’t exactly as light as a feather, either. Of course, being on his back, in bed, with a girl on top of him, was awkward on several different levels, but that was actually the least of Lucas’ worries right now…

    “I…can’t…breathe,” he wheezed.

    “Give me the f**king remote,” Nalani retorted, reaching for Lucas’ right hand. She wrested it from his grip and clocked him over the head with it once for good measure as she leapt off his belly.

    “Damn it!” Lucas groaned, his hand pressed against the throbbing knot on his temple. “It’s not cool to try to beat people up when you don’t get your way. Didn’t your mom ever teach you that?”

    Nalani’s facial expression suddenly changed. Almost instantly, Lucas knew that he’d said something really wrong.

    “She never got the chance,” Nalani said, a hollow look in her normally bright blue eyes.

    Lucas went silent, staring at his knees in shame. He heard Nalani climb into bed. The lone light in the room shut off soon after, leaving the room completely dark, save for a bit of light from the moon outside, filtering in through the curtains.

    All of a sudden, I could relate to her about something. It was something small, and probably something neither of us would ever want to talk about, but here I was, with this girl from worlds away that I’d known for less than twelve hours…and we had something in common.

    Lucas slid down into bed, turning toward the windows and muttering to himself.

    “You, too, huh…?”

    ~~~ *** ~~~ *** ~~~
    June 5, PA 2019
    ~~~ *** ~~~ *** ~~~

    “Good morning to all in Belveyun City, Narra, and everything in between! I’m Cole Adler and this is your news on June 5, 2019.

    “…As summer starts again, authorities of the Belveyun City Police Department and the security forces at the Demèry Airport are warning non-commercial airships flying across to the mainland to be on the lookout for raider airships in the neutral airspace. Now, the good news this year is that the Belveyun City Council has reached an agreement with Cadlamere City to patrol the nearby waters jointly. This does, however, mean that you could be subject to searches from airships out of both police forces, so try your best to be cooperative as it is for your own safety.

    “…Now, on a lighter note, June also means that Ch’arad is set to start in less than two weeks now. The Belveyun Hurricanes, who went seven games over .500 last year and just barely missed the cut, are poised to make a deep run into the playoffs this season. While the Hurricanes’ front office went against everyone’s expectations in the first round of the January draft by taking forward Christian Overbay, they believe that the seventeen-year-old Juniors Circuit All-Star will make an immediate impact. Here are fellow forward and team captain, Tanner Flint, and head coach, Troy Lendwall, with more.

    ‘Everybody got on us for it – I was the fourth leading scorer in the Eastern Conference, and we went out and picked another forward. I’ve had a chance to get to know the guy, and I think it was worth the risk. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with him except for the fact that he wasn’t a defenseman like everyone wanted.’

    ‘So, coach, tell me a little bit about Overbay – his skillset. What made you guys pick him over a defender like Cade Lawson or Dracen Edmonds?’

    ‘Well, he’s a matchup nightmare. He’s got all of your stereotypical forward stuff – 6’2”, long arms, good hands, great leaping ability, not afraid of those guys banging him around over the middle of the field. But he’s got a variety of throws available to him like a center.’

    ‘With Flint already a star at forward and in the prime of his own career, how do you guys envision yourself using Overbay?’

    ‘Well, it’s really a no-brainer. He’s got forward catching skills and throws three different passes well, so he could see time at the outside – or maybe we move Tanner to the flank and have Christian work as a forward. You see, it can change from possession to possession – that’s what Christian gives us. More firepower, more options, more guys that the defense has to try to account for and gameplan against. And I tell you this much, with all the 5’9” and 5’10” flank guys that these defenders are used to covering nowadays, there’s only going to be so much gameplanning you can do against 6’2” on the outside.’

    ‘Sounds exciting, we’ll be looking forward to the season opener, which is on the June 17th in Cadlamere against the Cadets. Back to you, Cole.’

    ‘In baseball news, the Rebels’ hot streak from May appears to have gone cold. The team has dropped six of its last eight…’”

    Running the towel through his hair, Lucas blinked and stared at himself in the mirror. His loosely coiled locks – all various shades of red with some black peppered in – hung down lankly and came to a stop near his neck. Slowly, he stretched out his skullcap and put it over his head, leaving only the ends of his hair exposed.

    With a satisfied sigh, he whirled around to walk back toward his bed. He stopped for a moment, realizing that he had forgotten something on the sink (which was right outside the restroom). He reached his hand for a heap of silver on the marbled countertop – and found that a smaller, yellowish-tan hand had landed on top of it. Lucas let out a gasp as the hand vanished as quickly as it appeared. Lucas followed its movement all the way back to the girl that was now standing next to him. It was with a strange mix of emotions that he’d registered her presence.

    Oh. Okay, so all that stuff yesterday did actually happen and I wasn’t dreaming.

    “. . . . . . . .” Lucas and Nalani looked at each other, both blushing just enough to be noticeable to the outside eye.

    “I was going to tell you…you’d forgotten that,” the violet-haired girl said, seemingly trying to hide the offending hand in a back pocket as she turned her eyes away from Lucas.

    “Oh,” Lucas replied laconically. “You know…that thing I said about your mom…”

    “Don’t worry about it,” Nalani cut him off briskly as he began to walk away. “You couldn’t have known…”

    “So…what about your dad?” Lucas asked, stopping halfway across the room. “Is he around?”

    “He died a few weeks before my mom did,” Nalani replied. “Before I was born – so I never knew him.”

    “…That sucks,” Lucas commented.

    “It’s no big deal,” Nalani replied wryly. “It’s not like I have anything about him to miss. He probably wouldn’t have been a very good father, anyway. Went off chasing something or other when he was supposed to be taking care of my mom and getting ready for me to be born, and he got himself killed.”

    Lucas stayed silent. Figuring it could do no harm, he mentioned, “You know…my parents are gone, too. My mom died right after I was born, like yours…”

    “And your dad…?” Nalani asked.

    “Bike crash – about seven years ago now,” he answered.

    “I’m sorry. Do you…miss them at all?” Nalani asked.

    “How could I?” Lucas replied. “My mom didn’t even stay alive long enough for me to remember the sound of her voice. I think I was a week old…and my dad, well…he was an *******.”

    “What do you mean?” Nalani asked.

    Lucas frowned. He didn’t like where this conversation was going. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

    “Oh,” Nalani uttered. “So…who raised you?”

    “An aunt and uncle,” he explained.

    “Really? You, too?” she asked.

    This is getting weird. We’re both thirteen, we’re both orphans, we were both raised by aunts and uncles, we both have no memories of our moms and don’t think much of our dads, either…and, now that I think about it, she’s damn near the same height as I am. Differences: I’m a guy, she’s a girl, and we come from opposite ends of the planet.

    Well, I’m a guy, and she’s a girl. That means we just plain come from different planets.

    There was a long silence.

    “By the way, yesterday…” Nalani uttered. “Since I had been the only one staying in here, they weren’t giving me a lot of extra towels. I had to go and get one for you.”


    Well, thanks a lot. Now I really feel like an *******.

    “O…kay, Q&A session’s over. Time to go pay the Donovans a visit,” Nalani said briskly.

    “What – we’re going over there?” Lucas muttered.

    “Didn’t we already go over this?” Nalani asked, throwing up her hands in mild frustration. “We’re trying to get some information so we can avoid a total wild goose chase.”

    “But…we’re not chasing a goose – we’re chasing a Glameow,” Lucas replied smugly.

    “It’s a figure of speech,” Nalani answered, a frustrated vein going in her right temple.

    “I know that,” Lucas said, folding his arms with the same smug look on his face.

    Nalani rolled her blue eyes. “Okay…Ryderfield.”

    “I don’t know where Ryderfield is,” Lucas commented as Nalani walked past him toward the front door, grabbing her rod on the way.

    She opened the door, stopped, and looked over her shoulder. “Then I guess you’ll just have to follow me, then, won’t you?”

    “Great. That worked really well last time.”

    Nalani smiled and slipped through the front door.

    It might have taken something like a half-hour of walking for them to reach the Ryderfield neighborhood. Once one got out of the hustle and bustle of downtown, it wasn’t really all that difficult to find, what with the rather large, palatial houses (none of them were as big as the mansion where he had grown up, of course), some set back on hills in ways that recalled one of the richer neighborhoods in his birthplace of New Bark Town. Somebody he knew lived in a house like one of these at one point. One of his brother’s good friends…

    “Lucas!” the boy jumped slightly and whirled around in a slight panic, seeing no one. Although he could have sworn he’d just heard Nalani’s voice. It was hard to forget that voice; it was overpowering and had an excess of energy – like strong, black coffee. He whirled around again at hearing a whistle. “Here, boy.”

    Fuming, Lucas located the voice. He had apparently gone about twenty paces too far, because Nalani was standing right outside a black, iron-wrought gate that barred a long driveway that led to a building that was either an enormous house or a small mansion. He trudged over to the gate, hands in his pockets.

    “So I’m a pet Growlithe now?” he uttered, ironically noticing more than ever how much he tended to growl when he was annoyed.

    “Well, I had to do something to get you to notice,” Nalani retorted defensively. Pushing a button on what appeared to be a speaker box, she added, “You’ve got an attention span of about five seconds.”

    Lucas put his hands on the gate a bit gingerly, half expecting it to give him an electric shock on contact. He looked up the driveway at the house. Between the gate and the house was a long asphalt path bisecting what had to be the biggest plot of grass that Lucas had seen in years.

    “Holy crap, I hope they have enough money to pay somebody to do yard work. Mowing a lawn this size must be hell,” he commented.

    “No kidding. You could get two regulation Ch’arad pitches, just on the front,” Nalani agreed.

    Lucas pulled his face out of the bars and looked at Nalani, who was impatiently pressing the button on the box near one of the gate’s hinges.

    “What is Ch’arad, anyway?” Lucas asked. “I’m guessing it’s some sort of sport.”

    “Oh, yeah – it’s the most popular one in Carona,” Nalani replied. “The rules are…well, sort of complicated, but it’s played on grass.”

    “Oh,” Lucas uttered – he’d been hoping for a slightly better explanation. But if Nalani had one, it would have to wait. At that moment, a soft POP seemed to come from the speaker. Nalani and Lucas both turned their eyes upon it.

    “What do you children need?” a slightly garbled voice came over the speaker, but it was clear enough so that Lucas recognized it. It was the voice of a very annoyed-sounding and slightly snobbish woman – the mother of the boy Lucas had seen posting the flyer the evening before.

    But how did she know that there were ‘children’ at her front gate?

    “Are you Mrs. Dorothy Donovan?” Nalani asked, speaking loudly and clearly into the speaker.

    “That is my married name, yes,” the woman replied.

    Lucas and Nalani looked at each other, eyebrows raised.

    “That’s a strange way to answer that question,” the former commented.

    “Yeah, it’s almost like…” Nalani muttered. She shook her head.

    “Excuse me?” the lady’s voice blared over the speaker again. Nalani put her hand to her ear in slight discomfort.

    “We’re here to ask you about the Glameow your family lost,” she answered loudly. “Remy?”

    “…I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Dorothy said after a pause that was way too long. “Run along, now. I don’t feel like entertaining visitors, much less complete strangers.”

    Nalani took one look at Lucas, whose golden eyes were set in suspicion. She pointed with her chin to an unspecific point behind Lucas, who understood the message…somehow. He had found the small, white box atop the gate, which was no doubt the camera by which Dorothy was watching them. Nalani wanted to talk to him – away from the gate’s mechanical eyes and ears.

    Once they were a safe distance, Lucas and Nalani stared at each other a bit strangely for a moment.

    “How did you understand?” Nalani finally asked.

    “I guess it’s a gift,” Lucas commented. “But back to business. Something’s…”

    “…really fishy here,” Nalani finished, putting one hand on her hip and looking over her shoulder at the distant gate.

    “Yeah…” the teenage boy muttered. “Did you pick up on what she said earlier? It doesn’t sound like she and her husband are together. Maybe she’s a widow – or maybe divorced. I know I definitely didn’t see a dad with them when they put up the flyer.”

    “That can’t be right,” Nalani answered. “Todd’s the father, right?”

    Lucas thought back, remembering that he had indeed seen a ‘Todd Donovan’ referenced as a contact on the poster – and unless Rory was planning on passing on any messages to Todd or vice versa, they both lived in this house.

    Almost on cue, the gates to creak and swing open. Lucas and Nalani looked at each other, incredulous at their luck…and immediately ran in.

    “What a pain,” Lucas muttered about three minutes later as the two teenagers trudged up a driveway that seemed like it would never end.

    “Not used to a lot of walking?” Nalani asked.

    “I don’t have a problem with walking,” Lucas answered. “I just don’t understand what the hell the point is of having a driveway that’s half a freakin’ mile long. It’s not like she walks a whole lot.”

    “What do you mean by that?” Nalani questioned curiously.

    “Well, I’ve seen this lady, and…” Lucas shook his head, fighting down a laugh. “It definitely shows that she has people to do work for her.”

    Nalani tried not to laugh, but a small smirk crossed her face nonetheless.

    “That bad?” she asked.

    “It’s not like she’s got elbow grease leaking out of her *** or anything, she’s just sort of…round,” Lucas replied offhandedly. “No – who am I kidding? She looks like a bowling ball.”

    Nalani folded her arms. “You really say what you think, don’t you?”

    “About…ninety-nine percent of the time, yeah,” Lucas replied slowly. When Nalani raised an eyebrow curiously, Lucas added, “I mean, I don’t feel the need to bullsh*t people. Is that really so wrong?”

    “‘Tact’ is a four-letter word to you, isn’t it?” the purple-haired girl asked.

    “It’s a four-letter word to everybody,” Lucas muttered. “Unless you guys spell it differently around here.”

    Nalani’s blue eyes rolled around the top of their sockets.

    “You’re such a smartass.”

    After a while, they finally saw the Donovan house. It was a large and mainly white with matte green accents. The architecture looked rather classical compared to everything else that Lucas had seen in Carona thus far. While Lucas didn’t quite feel dwarfed by the house, it was indeed large.

    Feeling rather brazen as they did so, Lucas and Nalani finished the rest of the walkway and made their way up to the green door. Lucas initially thought to ring the doorbell. His hand never made it past his hip, as he realized that the owner of the house did not know that they were at her door. He stole a sideways glance at Nalani.

    “Great. Now what do we do?” he asked.

    “Don’t ask me,” Nalani replied with a whisper.

    The inner door (behind the glass storm door) swung open. Staring at them through the glass was a young man with medium-length auburn hair, wearing a…bathrobe??

    He unlocked the storm door. Lucas and Nalani stepped back, so as to avoid having their faces rearranged as this door swung open, eliminating the last barrier between them and this bathrobe-wearing stranger.

    “Morning,” the young man said.

    “Uh…good morning,” Lucas said awkwardly. The young man glanced behind himself furtively, then leaned his head forward.

    “You here about Remy?” he whispered, his eyes wide.

    Lucas nodded wordlessly, gulping.

    “Come on,” this auburn-haired youth whispered again. “And keep it down.”

    They stepped into the foyer of the house. The first impression that Lucas got of this home was that it didn’t have that many more rooms than a normal house did – everything was just a lot bigger. The foyer featured a gold-plated chandelier that was hanging from the ceiling and must have been about twenty feet in the air. Changing the lightbulbs on that thing must have been an adventure. An unnecessarily large staircase led the way up to the second floor of the house, where he assumed most of the bedrooms were located. Through a pair of white double doors on his right looked to be a rather ornate dining room, where sunlight was coming in obviously unabated through some distant windows that were hidden from his view.

    Then there was a shut door to his left…a door which, presently, the young man (after spouting forth a muffled oath) was opening…and pushing both him and the girl into very forcefully…and closing…

    After a great deal of crashing and pain, Lucas realized he was on the ground. It was a good thing he had his sense of touch, though, because he couldn’t see a damn thing.

    He felt several things.

    The first was a major ache in his elbow when he tried to extend his arm and summarily smashed it into a wall. The second was a peculiar sort of warm breeze on his lips and nose. Like someone was breathing.

    Inches away from his mouth.

    The third thing he felt…

    “Ouch…” he groaned. “Oww…”

    “Stop whining so much,” Nalani’s voice replied at a whisper. Lucas quickly realized that her lips were at most three inches away from his, and that for the second time in about twelve hours, she was laying on top of him.

    Last night, when it hit me that I was sharing a room with a girl that I’d known for about half a day, my first thought was that it couldn’t get any more awkward. Now it’s the second day, and we’re playing “Seven Minutes in Hell” in a pitch-black closet.”

    By the way, I’m hurting really, really badly at this point.

    “Gah…” Lucas grunted. His first instinct was to push against her to move her away, but the pitch-darkness of a closet not big enough to fit his own frame and the chance of his hands landing somewhere he didn’t want them to land (which would have resulted in her hands landing on his face – hard) made him rethink that decision. “Nalani…get off.”

    “Yeah, right,” she laughed. “You’re trying to use reverse psychology. You’re actually enjoying this, aren’t you?”

    “Not really…” he muttered.

    “You’re still afraid of a girl being this close to you?” Nalani laughed. “That’s strange, you look like a guy on the outside...”

    “I have never – been so secure…in my masculinity,” Lucas groaned painfully.

    “Really?” Nalani asked.

    “Yeah,” the boy replied, his voice leaping upward and staying up there this time. “Your knees…they’re crushing them.”

    “Crushing what? …Oh!”

    Light spilled into the closet. The bathrobe-wearing mystery man was looking down on them, and Lucas’ next thought was about how this must have looked in the light from his point of view.

    “Sorry – did I interrupt you guys?” he asked a bit awkwardly, obviously trying to fight down a laugh.

    “Definitely not,” Lucas muttered, pushing Nalani off him now that he had a bit of space to do so. She scrambled to her feet outside, while Lucas crawled out himself and staggered, leaning against the front door for support and then slumping over, hands on his knees. After a couple of seconds, he looked up at the young man.

    “Sorry…” he said, a sheepish grin on his face. “I couldn’t think of a better way to hide you guys fast.”

    “Yeah, sure…” Lucas grunted. “Dude, do you have a chair? That five minutes in there was…sort of rough on certain body parts.”

    There was a long pause. The young man raised his eyebrows at Lucas. Nalani turned toward him, letting out a snicker as if she was embarrassed for him.

    Lucas frowned as he mentally recapped what he’d just said. Kneading the bridge of his nose, he uttered, “That totally came out wrong.”

    “What are your names?” the young man asked. Lucas, still trying to put from his mind the fact that this guy was wearing a bathrobe (which basically forced him to think about what, if anything, could be under the bathrobe), gave a start.


    “Nalani Clement,” the girl said suddenly, pointing to herself. Lucas panicked for a moment. “…and Lucas…come to think of it, I don’t know what your last name is.”

    “And you’ll keep on not knowing,” Lucas replied. “Why do you need to know? It’s not like you’re getting married to me or anything.”

    Nalani’s face tightened very quickly after this comment, which meant that it’d had its desired effect.

    “Nalani and Lucas,” the young man repeated. “So, you found one of Rory’s posters?”

    “Yeah,” Lucas replied. “…And you are…?”

    “Todd Donovan,” the youth answered. As if reading Lucas’ mind, he added, “Uh…don’t be freaked out by the fact that I’m wearing a bathrobe. We have a pool in the back. Callie, Rory, and I were swimming back there and I came back in to, uh…Well, I was headed for the bathroom when I heard my mom send you guys away. But she went into town to…well, she just said she was going into town. She didn’t say why.”

    “So you’re Rory’s brother?” Lucas asked.

    “Yeah,” the robed young man answered.

    “Okay…we thought Todd was Rory’s dad,” Nalani explained.

    “He is. But I’m Todd, Junior – and if there was a ‘Todd’ on the poster, Rory was talking about me,” Todd answered.

    “I guess that means your dad isn’t here?” Lucas asked.

    “Nope. Actually, that’s more or less the reason I’m still here,” Todd laughed. “I’m nineteen, so I could be long gone by now, but ever since Mom and Dad split up about three or four years ago, Rory doesn’t really have a lot of positive male influence. And I couldn’t leave Callie alone with Mom, either.”

    “Hmm…that sucks,” Lucas commented, his brow furrowed. “You think we could talk to Rory now that your mom’s not around?”

    “Yeah, sure,” Todd answered. “Come on back.”

    They made their way through the ground floor of the large house, back through the main hallway. This hallway spilled out onto the kitchen, which had an island so large it could have shown up on some maps. A very large, well-set table with several chairs lay to the left, partitioned slightly away from the kitchen down three wooden stairs and a short ledge. Sunlight flooded into the kitchen through a large portion of the far wall made entirely of glass windows, and it was through these windows that they could easily see the family pool.

    Lucas let out a whistle.

    “Geez,” he commented. “I think it’s bigger than the one back at the hotel.”

    “Wow, perfect timing – looks like they’re coming inside,” Todd commented just as Lucas caught sight of two children opening the sliding glass door that led from the pool to the kitchen. Lucas instantly recognized their faces as those of the Donovan children, whom he had glimpsed the day before. It seemed like Callie, her auburn hair limp and heavy from pool water, had thought it either inappropriate or uncomfortable to come back into the house wearing her bathing suit, so she had covered it with a white bathrobe made of fluffy, furry material. It looked like a towel with sleeves. As she turned around and apparently tried to shut the door on her little brother, Lucas saw a large capital “C” in glittering, pink script on the back of the garment. Seconds later, Rory ran in, completely unconcerned about appearance, bare-chested and wearing swimming trunks. Lucas didn’t think it was possible for swimming trunks to look expensive, but Rory’s somehow did.

    “Jerk!” he shouted at his sister, who looked up at Todd, trying to feign innocence.

    “Callie, be nice,” Todd sighed. “We’ve got guests.”

    The girl, who looked to be about eleven or so, stuck her tongue out at her little brother, who folded his arms angrily.

    “Who are you?” Callie asked.

    “Don’t be rude, Callie,” Todd scolded her. “This is Lucas and Nalani. They’re here to help Rory with his little problem.”

    “Heeeey…” Callie drawled, her hands on her hips as she got a better look at the teenage boy. It was one of those “wait a second, don’t I recognize you from somewhere?” kind of utterances. “Didn’t I see you hanging around the café yesterday? I saw someone who looks just like you across the street.”

    Lucas’ heart gave a jolt.

    “Yeah…so what?” he asked defensively.

    “You don’t have to be a creeper, you know,” Callie said, sounding maddeningly sure of herself. “You could have just asked for my number.”

    Todd frowned apologetically. Lucas’ already sour expression went from cheap soda to lemon juice in about a second flat.

    “Are you serious?” he laughed. “Try again in about three years.”

    Callie rolled her eyes. “Fine. Your loss. I’m going to have something to drink.”

    And she walked toward the refrigerator. It had to have been the biggest refrigerator Lucas had ever seen. Lucas was overwhelmed with the desire to make a joke about this in response to Callie’s smart mouth, but thought better of it. He really needed that money.

    “You think these two could talk to you for a second?” Todd asked his youngest sibling.

    “Sure,” the boy replied, looking a bit confused but agreeing nonetheless.

    “So…what happened?” Lucas started a bit awkwardly. “I mean…where did you last see Remy? Where did you lose her?”

    “Um…” Rory answered. “She was here last week. We were going out to swim right when Mom was answering the doorbell. It was a man. It always happens, so I didn’t pay any attention.”

    “Always happens?” Lucas looked at Todd, who seemed not to want to explain this.

    “Mom’s been seeing people again for the last couple of months,” he sighed.

    Lucas felt a tickle and a shiver down his spine as the girl next to him started to whisper in his ear.

    “Guess what money and alcohol have in common? After enough of it gets involved, even fat-asses start to look like supermodels.”

    This was so unexpected, so without warning, and so hilarious, that Lucas made a face and snorted in spite of every attempt he was making not to do so.

    “Something wrong?” Todd asked.

    “N-no,” Lucas stammered, instantly turning his smirk into a grimace of pain. “I’m still hurting a little bit.”

    “Ouch,” Todd replied, an empathetic frown on his face.

    Did she just make me laugh? Weird. Okay – game face back on, Now.


    “So…” Lucas uttered, trying to set his face back into a line. “You’re saying that, after this person left, Remy was gone?”

    “Well…yeah,” Rory said, looking ashamed of what seriously sounded like an accusation of theft.

    “Did you get what he looked like?” Nalani asked.

    “No,” Rory sighed. “Mom told us not to come out front. She went somewhere talking with him, and then came back in. That’s when I realized that Remy was gone.”

    “Gotcha – and what did your mom do then?” Lucas asked.

    “Nothing,” the answer came from the corner of the kitchen, from Callie, in between sips of soda. “Mom hated Remy. Dad had bought her as a family pet years ago, but Mom had said she wanted a Persian. She’s right…they’re so much better-looking…”

    Far from saying his first thought as soon as Callie started speaking, which would have come out sounding something like “nobody [freaking] asked you,” Lucas remained silent, having learned some valuable information.

    “So…that’s all you know?” Lucas asked Rory, who nodded. Todd smiled and patted his brother on the head, which seemed to annoy the little boy a bit.

    “You can go now,” Todd said to Rory. Beckoning to Callie as well, he said, “You guys can just get back in the pool when you’re ready. I’m going to go talk to these guys for a little bit longer.”

    “Okay,” Rory answered. Callie, meanwhile, was less polite.

    “Sure. Whatever.”

    “Your little sister’s really got an attitude problem, you know that?” said Lucas grumpily as Todd led him and Nalani back toward the front of the house.

    “Now, come on, you’re not going to let a little eleven-year-old girl get under your skin, are you?” Nalani teased. Lucas rolled his eyes.

    “Shut up. Geez.”

    “How’d you know Callie was eleven?” Todd looked at Nalani, who shrugged her shoulders casually.

    “Just a good guess. She reminds me of me when I was that age,” she commented.

    “You mean you were a selfish brat?” Lucas laughed. “Why am I not surprised?”

    Nalani shot him a mutinous look. He responded with a smug smirk and walked out in front, his arms folded across his chest.

    “So, let’s go over what we’ve learned here,” he said. “We think that one of Mrs. Donovan’s many beaus might have stolen Remy. She didn’t like Remy, so she didn’t really give a damn either way. It doesn’t look like anyone knows what this guy looked like, either – or even what kind of car he was driving. Or did he just walk up to the gate like us and ask to come in?”

    “I’d have to guess that she didn’t let this guy out of her sight the entire time he was here,” Nalani commented. “If that was the case, it’d be awfully hard for him to run off with a Pokémon without her seeing him.”

    “What bothers me is how nonchalant she was that it happened,” Lucas replied. “When I saw her near the café yesterday, she kept trying to coax Rory into buying another pet, and it was almost like she didn’t want him to search for Remy. And today, when we come, she acts like she doesn’t know anything about any missing Pokémon.”

    “What are you saying?” Todd asked curiously.

    “I’m saying that it doesn’t add up,” Lucas replied impatiently, his hand in his chin.

    “You’re saying my mother’s hiding something,” Todd said. Lucas raised an eyebrow.

    “Yeah. I am. And?”

    “I’d say that you’re right,” Todd sighed sadly. “It’s pretty obvious that she went out of her way to keep you guys from finding out anything. I always took after my dad. He’s a good man. My mom…not so much. I mean, she wasn’t always this bad, but after the divorce…” Todd shook his head as he trailed off. “I stayed here because my brother and sister had to have some type of influence other than her. You see what Callie’s started to turn into, I have to remind her every day that the world doesn’t revolve around her.”

    The young man sighed.

    “You’re a good person.”

    Todd and Nalani both turned toward Lucas, the latter looking shocked. Lucas, who had opened the door, was staring down the driveway. Nalani frowned.

    “Isn’t that van…” she uttered. Todd stepped in front of her, got a look at the black van coming up the large driveway, and grimaced.

    “Damn it,” he muttered. Looking toward the closet, he nervously said, “I hate to do this to you again, but…”

    Lucas and Nalani both understood. Lucas, in particular, didn’t like it.

    **** **** **** M.A.V.E.R.I.C.K H.E.A.R.T **** **** ****
    Last edited by EonMaster One; 2nd December 2010 at 4:48 AM. Reason: Maybe I should just stop with the glut of edit tags...

    Dalton Gregg was a mostly-ordinary university student from the region once called Johto.
    Then a fateful encounter set him on a quest to change history.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    May 2005

    Default Chapter 3-2

    **** **** **** M.A.V.E.R.I.C.K H.E.A.R.T **** **** ****

    The two teenagers sat closely together, lower legs slightly tangled and backs against the walls. Lively, blue eyes stared into suspicious orbs of yellow as each tried to make out the other’s face in the dim light funneling through the doorway, which had been left slightly cracked.

    There were a few seconds of awkward silence – not like this was a new thing for them. Finally, though, the line in Nalani’s face broke upwards, turning into a smile. Lucas shook his head.

    “Did you have to tell that joke in the middle of the questioning?” he asked, half amused and half perturbed, if that was at all possible.

    “That seemed like the best time,” Nalani replied. “You were being too serious. I mean, we’re not cops. No use scaring the kid with your tighty-whities in a bunch like that. ”

    “I wear boxers,” Lucas blurted out without thinking. Nalani put her hand to her mouth, snickering.

    “Good to know.”

    Lucas’ cheeks and curly hair soon bore matching shades of red.

    “Urgh…screw you,” he muttered angrily, looking toward the other wall.

    “I’m sure you’d like that, us packed together in this closet and all,” she laughed. “But anyways…the thing with Todd was kind of random. ‘You’re a good person?’ Where did that come from?”

    “That’s me saying what I think,” Lucas answered.

    “Since when did you start complimenting people on anything?” Nalani asked.

    “…Families need to stick together,” Lucas finally answered, not looking at the girl. “But…that doesn’t mean that kids always have to be like their parents. Sometimes, that’s the worst thing…”

    Nalani smiled.

    “You might be the most complicated boy I’ve ever met,” she said.

    Lucas didn’t know how to take this comment, so he remained silent.

    That made the next explosion of noise all the more startling. Somebody outside had broken into loud, echoing wails. Lucas gave a jerk and banged his elbow against the wall. With a sensation akin to tiny needles running down his forearm, the boy bit his lip and swore through his teeth.

    “What the hell was that?” he whispered. The wailing continued, punctuated by Todd’s voice every couple of seconds.

    “Mom, calm down…” he was saying. “Tell me what happened.”

    This was met by a loud scream from the woman that had turned them away at her gate hours before.

    “What do you think happened, idiot boy?!” she shrieked. “H-he dumped me!!”

    “Dumped you? Why?” Todd asked.

    “It was that…that…stupid furball!!” she screamed. Except that the second-to-last word of her shriek started with the same letter as the last one. So flawless was the delivery that even Lucas, who was not shy about throwing swears around when out of the earshot of his family, winced.

    “What?? Remy’s been gone for nearly a week!” Todd exclaimed. “What are you talking about?”

    “That’s exactly it,” Dorothy sobbed. “Herb didn’t like what I did…not that it’s any of your business. Just leave me alone.”

    Rather heavy footsteps indicated that the woman was now walking toward the closet. Lucas could feel tiny, barely perceptible tremors with each footfall. His golden eyes widened, and he looked toward the girl a couple of feet away.

    The door opened, and Dorothy Donovan looked down.

    “TODD!!” she shouted. “Who left these coats on the floor in here??”

    “Oh, sorry, that was me, I was looking for something earlier,” the young man’s voice and footsteps could be heard quickly approaching. Meanwhile, under the said spillage of coats, Lucas and Nalani lay as flat and as silently as they possibly could. “I’ll get them.”

    “You’d better,” Dorothy said harshly. Lucas let out a sigh of relief as he heard her footsteps leaving.

    After a few moments of cautious silence, Lucas finally heard Todd’s voice: “She’s gone.”

    He and Nalani threw the coats off themselves in tandem and struggled to their feet, still trying very hard not to make any extremely loud noises. They emerged from the closet. Todd had that perturbed look on his face, almost as if he had learned some information of which he would have rather been kept ignorant.

    “Well, we have a lead,” he finally said. “Although I can’t see this ending well…”

    “Yeah, it must have been something really messed up to make the guy stop dating her,” Lucas replied. Then, lowering his voice to a mutter, he added, “Either that, or he took off the beer gogg– OW, F—”

    Nalani slapped her hand hard over Lucas’ mouth, which didn’t hurt nearly as badly as the foot she had trod on. Lucas shook the girl off him and raised his eyebrow at her in a very bothered manner.

    “Okay…” Todd looked at both of them like they were crazy. “Anyway…now it’s time to call Herb – or Mr. Voight as I know him…God, this is gonna be awkward.”

    “Why?” Lucas asked.

    “Lemme guess…she was dating your old teacher or something?” Nalani laughed.

    “Close enough,” Todd said. “See, Herb gave me my first job. It was right after Mom and Dad split up and I was only fifteen. It was at Burger Boyz down in the shopping district.”

    “Hold on – he wasn’t a big guy, was he?” Lucas asked.

    “No,” Todd answered. Then, lowering his voice and leaning in furtively, he said, “He’s huge. And he…he hates skinny women.”

    Nalani’s eyes glossed over.

    “That guy…”

    “What guy…?” Lucas asked.

    “We were in Burger Boyz yesterday,” she answered. “That’s where we went to lunch.”

    Lucas turned toward her.

    “That was yesterday?”

    That’s right. I’ve only been here a couple of days. That’s strange, it feels like it’s been more like a couple of weeks, at least.

    “That’s weird,” Lucas commented, turning to Todd. “Don’t take this the wrong way, but I never pegged your mom as someone who would be interested in someone who flips burgers for a living.”

    “Yeah, well…” Todd sighed. “They knew each other already from when I started working for him, and he’s probably the one guy in town that wouldn’t think that my mom needs to lose a few pounds. On top of that, he’s got a little bit more pocket than people think. After all, he built Burger Boyz from the ground up, he’s got about three locations here, and he’s been looking for buildings to buy out in Belveyun City to expand the franchise there. He’s good at what he does…and he likes taking in teenagers and giving them their first jobs, so the people here in Narra love him.”

    “So he likes eating burgers and he’s business savvy,” Lucas commented. “Suddenly, it doesn’t sound so insane.”

    “Yeah, they probably would have been a good couple,” Nalani added. “No wonder your mom’s so upset about them breaking up. She probably thought he was her perfect man.”

    “Yeah, well…can’t say she didn’t have it coming to her,” Lucas answered sourly. “More importantly than her messed-up love life, he knows what happened to Remy, so we need to talk to him, like…now.”

    “Right,” Todd said, making for the kitchen, where (presumably) a phone was located. He picked up the cordless receiver and dialed the number. Lucas noted that the number indeed had nine digits. He also noted that, at the end of Todd’s dialing, he seemed to press the same key at least three times. He felt a slightly warm breeze as Nalani began to whisper information into his ear.

    “Line codes for businesses usually end in one or more zeroes,” she said. “Makes them easier to remember.”

    “Hello?” Todd said loudly. Apparently, his call had been answered. “Yeah, I’d like to speak to Mr. Voight. He’s there, right?”

    A girl or young woman had answered the phone, if Lucas was hearing correctly.

    “No, I’m not. I need to speak to him. Tell him it’s important,” Todd answered more loudly.

    The girl on the other end seemed to be growing snippy.

    “No, I can’t leave you a message; this is personal. I need to talk to him,” Todd groaned, exasperated. The response was audible a few feet away as high, agitated-sounding chatter.

    “I know you like your job, Tricia,” Todd said. “I think you like it a little bit too much, actually, but this isn’t about you. I want to talk to Herbert – there’s something I need to ask him.”

    There was silence, then more chatter. Todd lost his temper.

    “What do you mean, he’s not there?! I just heard his voice in the background! Do you have nothing better to do with your time than be difficult?!” he shouted. “Listen – hey!”

    Todd tore his face away from the receiver and looked at the phone in shock as if it had offended him.

    “She hung up on me,” Todd muttered sourly. He looked for a second as if he were about to throw the phone, but he instead put it down – rather forcefully – onto its hook. He shook his head and sighed. “Sorry. You see, Tricia’s the reason I quit that job. Don’t let anybody ever tell you that someone can’t be a power-hungry cutthroat just because they’re flipping burgers in a fast food place. Herb liked her work ethic and that’s why he hired her, but she was in the business of stepping on everyone else in the place just to make herself look better and…well, frankly, I didn’t have the patience for her B.S. And she doesn’t understand why she can’t get a date to save her life…”

    “Ouch,” Lucas commented.

    “So now what do we do?” Nalani asked.

    “Well, we need to weed that information out of him somehow. I guess the best way to do it is to go see him in person,” Todd replied. “You said you two were in there yesterday, right? He might recognize you.”

    “Oh,” Nalani gasped. Then, she smiled. “I just had a thought.”

    “What?” Lucas asked, gazing askance at her and not liking where this was going.

    “Herb doesn’t sound like the kind of guy that would overlook it if someone said he did something wrong,” Nalani said with a smirk. “We might be able to make that work for us.”

    “What do you mean?” Lucas asked.

    Five minutes later, Todd came back down the stairs, fully dressed in a polo and jeans, and a key jangling in his right hand as he walked.

    “Mother!” he shouted. “I’m going out to grab a bite!”

    “Whatever! Just don’t wreck the van!” came an irritated shout from upstairs. Todd, who looked as if he was going whether his mom liked it or not, continued out of the door with the keys, beckoning Lucas and Nalani to follow him.

    “Do you seriously still have to tell your mom everywhere you’re going?” Lucas asked as they walked down the sidewalk.

    “Not really,” Todd said casually. “She doesn’t care most of the time – it just makes her feel better to think that she can still control something.”

    This sounded so harsh, Lucas couldn’t help but grimace.

    They rounded the corner toward the driveway, and the black luxury van came into sight.

    “I call cigars,” Nalani said quickly, running out in front of Todd and leaving Lucas confused.


    They all got into the van – Todd in the driver’s seat, Nalani in the front passenger seat, and Lucas behind her on the right side of the car. It had a great interior that was kept extremely clean. Lucas had half-expected to find the van littered with snacks and old bags that had formerly contained fast food. Lucas also registered the third seat behind him, which looked like it could seat three people – four if they were small and packed together.

    With a grind and a growl, the engine on the van kicked into life.

    It had been a long, long time since Lucas had ridden in any sort of car. As with airships and televisions, cars existed in Johto, just not in such large quantities. The last time Lucas could remember being in one was when he and his father took a Christmas ‘vacation’ to neighboring Cherrygrove City…but that was back when he was five or six…

    “What was with the ‘I call cigars’ thing earlier?” Lucas leaned forward and asked no one in particular as the van began to pull off. Nalani was the one to answer, turning around as she did so.

    “You’ve never heard of that before?” she asked, sounding surprised.

    “Uh…no,” Lucas replied rather tersely.

    She rolled her eyes and sighed. “Sorry, Todd, Lucas isn’t from here. Do you think you could –”

    “Well, hundreds of years ago, before we had these cars and such,” Todd explained, “people got around in these covered wagon things called…I forget, but they were drawn by Pokémon. Usually on the front bench, there was enough room for two people. Anybody else had to sit underneath the tent with all the luggage. Well, if it was a family, it’d be the man driving the wagon with his wife or oldest son sitting next to him. But if a group of friends or people that just met each other were traveling together, only one person could sit up front. In exchange for that, he was supposed to be kind of like the co-pilot. He’d help the driver with directions, entertain him to keep him awake on long rides, stuff like that. He’d also light the guy’s cigar for him at the start of the trip – only if the guy smoked, of course. So, I guess it got passed down and stuff. Nowadays it’s kind of a teenagers or twenty-somethings thing. If you’re riding somewhere with friends, whoever’s the first to call ‘cigars’ gets to sit up front.”

    “Oh,” Lucas uttered, sitting back. “…Well, that’s sort of stupid.”

    “Don’t pout about it just because you lost,” Nalani teased him.

    “I’d only do that if I cared about winning,” Lucas commented. “There are more important things in the world than whether or not I get to ride in the front seat.”

    “I swear, you two sound like an old married couple,” Todd laughed. The van slowed to a stop. Lucas leaned over and looked out onto the street. Several yellow lamps of sorts were hanging several feet above the street. The one facing the van was shining an attention-grabbing red. “So, how long have you two been going out?”

    Lucas’ heart jumped into his throat. Nalani laughed nervously.

    “Eh…we’re not,” she answered.

    “Really?” Todd seemed surprised. Lucas frowned. Did they really seem like that much of a couple, or was Todd just assuming things?

    “We barely know each other,” he told the driver, who had sat back in his seat. “I’ve been in Carona about a day-and-a-half.”

    “Oh, yeah, Nalani was telling me you weren’t from here,” Todd commented. “Where are you from?”

    “Johto,” Lucas replied. “It’s on a continent way southeast of here.”

    “Past Hoenn?” Todd asked.

    “Not that far,” Lucas answered, a bit surprised for some reason that someone up here knew that Hoenn existed. “It’s due south of Sinnoh.”

    “Gotcha,” Todd replied, gripping the steering wheel tightly as the van started moving again. Apparently, he had a decent handle on his world geography. “How’s the weather there?”

    “Well, where I am, it’s really extreme,” Lucas answered. “It can get really hot in July and August, but it’s stupid cold in the winter. It’s a hell of a lot less humid than it is here, though…”

    “What do you expect? We’re on an island,” Nalani commented.

    “When I need you to be a know-it-all, I’ll tell you,” Lucas shot back at the purple-haired girl, who stuck her tongue out at him and turned around. Meanwhile, the vehicle began to roll to a stop.

    “We’re here,” Todd answered.

    “What?” Lucas uttered incredulously. “I don’t see anything.”

    “Left side,” Nalani sighed. Lucas turned his head and looked through the far window. Indeed, they had arrived at the corner where the Burger Boyz restaurant was located. Nalani opened the door. “Okay, let’s go.”

    “Go?” Lucas repeated, opening his own door (after five seconds of struggling to figure it out and hoping Nalani didn’t see him). “Where? Do we have some sort of plan?”

    “I have a plan,” Nalani said. Taking his hand, she put the other one on her hip and said, “Today’s your lucky day.”

    About fifteen or so heads turned toward the Burger Boyz entrance as a teenage girl walked in, screaming at the top of her lungs as she yanked along a curly-haired boy that did not entirely look like he wanted to be there.

    “Calm down,” the boy pleaded, looking furtively around him.

    “Calm down?!” the girl shrieked, turning around. “No, I’m sure as hell not calming down. I’m not spending another evening like I did last night – no way! Somebody in the kitchen f**ked with my burger and I’m going to find out who the hell did it!!”

    The shouting drew the attention of a ponytailed, young blonde. She was wearing the blue polo shirt that served as part of the Burger Boyz uniform. If that hadn’t been a dead giveaway that she worked there, the name tag with the Burger Boyz logo (an anthropomorphic cheeseburger with big shoes and a baseball cap) on the left side of her shirt definitely was.

    Lucas, trying to ignore the glances of the many restaurant patrons, fixed his eyes (with no thought to how awkward this probably was) right on the young lady’s chest, staring at the name tag, which read, in bold capital letters, “TRICIA.”

    “Excuse me?” the young blonde, who looked like she was about Todd’s age, give or take a year or two, said loudly as she approached the two teenagers. Lucas grimaced. “Is there some sort of issue?”

    “You’re damn right there’s an issue!” Nalani shouted, her eyes glittering with rage. “Are you the manager?”

    “No,” Tricia admitted. “That’s Mr. Voight.”

    “Okay, then,” Nalani said, forcing a smile (which, Lucas thought, had to be easy after spending twenty seconds pretending to blow one’s top) and tilting her head condescendingly. “Can I please speak to Mr. Voight?”

    “Mr. Voight doesn’t have time to entertain kids,” Tricia replied.

    “Even ‘kids’ that have a complaint about his burgers?” Nalani asked, her voice growing sweeter and more simpering by the minute.

    “You keep making a scene, and I’ll have the cops escort you out of here,” Tricia said, wagging her finger in Nalani’s face.

    “You seem angry,” Nalani said matter-of-factly. “Angry enough to slip a laxative into someone’s burger if they got on your nerves…”

    Lucas looked down, his cheeks red. He couldn’t believe they were actually going with this story. The young blonde assistant, meanwhile, looked affronted.

    “What –” she uttered, the color leaving her already pale face.

    “Yeah, you look like you could be a prime suspect,” Nalani repeated, a nasty smirk on her face. “You wanna go get Mr. Voight now?”

    Tricia’s mouth imploded. Then, huffily, she stormed into the back, yelling the large manager’s name. Not too long after, an absolute mountain of a man lumbered into the main restaurant area and right toward them. Lucas winced; he didn’t think that Nalani calculated into her plan what to do if this guy got angry. He was a decent fighter, yes, but he still didn’t like his chances against three hundred (plus) pounds of Herbert Voight.

    “Well, hello there,” he said very jovially. Nalani’s face softened. As hard as it was to pretend to be angry, talking to someone who had such a naturally friendly manner about him made it that much harder. “Say, I remember you two…now, what seems to be the problem?”

    “Well…” Nalani started. Gripping Lucas’ hand tighter (as he blushed so violently that even his hair looked redder than normal), she said, “We just started dating a couple of weeks ago, and he wanted me to come here. I thought he was being cheap, but I don’t mind a burger every now and then. The burgers were great when we ate them, but then when I went back home…”

    “What?” asked Herb, looking worried.

    “Well, it’s kind of embarrassing to say in public…” muttered Nalani, looking away from the large manager. “I’d feel a lot more comfortable if I didn’t have to tell you in front of all of these people…”

    “Oh…” Now Herb looked really worried. He inched them toward the front door of the restaurant and muttered, “Come on, then.”

    They stepped back outside and into the fresh air. Lucas breathed a sigh of relief; he hadn’t eaten breakfast that morning and the smell of fast food grease was doing nothing to help his hunger. The large man looked at both children. He lowered his voice.

    “So…what happened?” he asked. “Did my burgers give you the…you know…”

    “Well…” Nalani looked away from him.

    “Mr. Voight!” All three hundred pounds of the man whirled around at once as he caught sight of a young man with auburn hair.

    “Todd?” Herb seemed surprised. “Well, this is awkward…you know that your mother and I decided to stop seeing each other, right?”

    “Yeah, that’s actually sort of why I’m here,” Todd answered. “She said you broke up with her over what happened to our pet Glameow, Remy.”

    “Oh, yeah,” Herb said apologetically. “I can’t believe anyone would be so selfish and vindictive…”

    Todd sighed. “I have to be honest with you. There’s nothing wrong with your burgers.”

    “Wha??” Herb uttered quizzically, looking back at the two teenagers, and then at Todd again. “How’d you know that…”

    “These two are…sort of working for me,” Todd explained. “I tried to call you earlier, but you have an assistant that likes to stonewall people out of pure spite, so we had to figure out some sort of way to move her out of the way.”

    “You mean, that entire thing was all a setup?” Herb asked, astonished.

    “Yeah,” Lucas replied. “Obviously, the part about us coming in yesterday to eat lunch is true – you’re the one that took my order. But we’re not dating, and she didn’t spend all of yesterday afternoon in the bathroom.”

    Herb’s facial expression changed about three times – from surprised to perhaps impressed for a second…then he frowned in anger. “I’ve gotta admit, the entire thing was rather rude. You know how that little scene in there could hurt my reputation? I could lose a lot of money.”

    “That’s why I raised such a fuss,” Nalani explained. “I tried to make it so over the top that everyone else would just think I was crazy.”

    Herb thought this over for a minute. “But, still…”

    “If it makes you feel any better, we’ll give you a cut of the reward money for your trouble,” Lucas blurted out. Nalani’s face contorted in shock and anger.

    “Lucas, what the hell?” she groaned. “We need that money to get to the city.”

    “Well, it’s better than pissing him off and coming away empty-handed,” he muttered back.

    “You can keep it,” Herb replied. “So, you’re trying to find out what happened to Remy?”

    “Yeah,” Todd replied. “My little brother and sister really miss her, and Mom let slip that she had something to do with it.”

    “Gotcha,” Herb sighed. “Well, don’t tell her I told you, but…about a week back, your dad showed up, trying to visit the kids – or trying to take them, as far as she was concerned. Dottie told him that he couldn’t see the kids, but he could have the family pet because he was the one that bought her, and she didn’t feel like she should have to take care of her.”

    “Dad came to visit?” Todd muttered in surprised. “She never told us that. We thought it was you.”

    “Nope. I was actually out of town then,” Herb explained. “Well, that’s all I’ve got for you. As far as I know, that Glameow’s at your dad’s place.”

    “That’s really helpful, though. Thanks,” Todd replied.

    “Anytime,” Herb chuckled. “Just as long as you don’t come in and accuse someone in my restaurant of spitting on your fries next time.”

    With a laugh at his own joke, he lumbered back toward the restaurant, reaching out for the door and then stopping. He looked over his shoulder.

    “And, Todd…” the restaurant manager said, looking straight at the young man. “I don’t want anyone to accuse me of being a homewrecker, but…something’s got to be done, or those kids aren’t going to be raised right.”

    And he went in, shutting the door.

    “Dad’s place…” Todd muttered. He seemed very morose for a moment, but then took in a deep breath and grimaced. “Well, that makes things a lot easier.”

    “Great,” Nalani replied, twirling her hair. “Where to next?”

    Todd smiled.

    “Actually, this is where I’m letting you guys go. You guys have done your job for sure,” he said. Nalani opened her mouth to say something, no doubt about the payment or lack thereof, but Lucas pulled her back as he watched the auburn-haired young man go into his jean pocket and produce a very bloated-looking wallet. He pulled a few paper bills out of the wallet, counted them, and handed them to Lucas, who immediately started counting. The bills were a matte greenish-yellow and each had, among various symbols and writings that Lucas did not understand or care about, the digits “5,000” printed on their corners. Lucas spread them out and counted eight. Eight? That was –

    “Hey, wait!” Lucas shouted after Todd, who had already started toward his van, which was parallel parked a ways down the street, no doubt near a meter that would expire before too long. The young man turned around and grinned.

    “Thanks so much!” he shouted. “I think I might finally be able to convince Dad with this! Good luck with…whatever you’re doing!”

    “Yeah, thanks, you too,” Lucas replied loudly after Todd, who got into his van, looking like Christmas had come early. Lucas looked down at the collection of bills in his hand – a full fifteen thousand more than they were counting on getting. “What did he mean by that?”

    “If I had to guess,” Nalani answered, “he’s going to try to convince his dad to take his mother to court over custody of Rory and Callie. But that’s just what I’d do.”

    “Hmm,” Lucas replied noncommittally. “Well, I’m done trying to figure it out. Are all families in Carona that dysfunctional?”

    “No way,” Nalani laughed, reaching for Lucas’ hand. “In any case, we get to line our pockets a little bit.”

    “Yeah, our pockets – which is exactly where this money is staying until we use it to travel to Belveyun,” Lucas commented, vehemently yanking his hand away as he stuffed the wad of cash into his pants. Nalani pouted.

    “Aw, you’re no fun,” she whined. “Can’t we at least grab a bite to eat?”

    “Yeah,” Lucas sighed. “We should do that…”

    He looked up at the Burger Boyz sign plastered on the front of the restaurant, and then looked into the restaurant itself, where a blonde was working the counter. As a customer whisked away their tray with burger, fries, and drink, she gazed at the window at them, a murderous look flashing across her face.

    “…and we should probably go somewhere else,” Lucas added, grimacing. “Too many burgers can be bad for your health, you know…”

    Nalani put a hand to her mouth and giggled.

    “Well, you’re in luck,” she said. “I know some other places…”

    They started down the sidewalk, again with no obligations to anyone or anything but perhaps their own stomachs.

    “So…what have we learned from this experience?” Nalani commented, looking at Lucas as he calmly trudged alongside her, hands in his pockets.

    “There are always ways to make money around here,” Lucas finally replied. “You just have to look hard enough.”

    Nalani folded her arms.


    “And…angry, fat divorcees are always bad news,” Lucas answered again.

    “That’s funny, but I was more looking for something along the lines of ‘keep your friends close by, because you never know when you might need their help,’” Nalani replied. Lucas looked at her blankly.

    “…Friends?” he repeated. It seemed like almost a foreign concept to him – like so many things in Carona…something that existed, just in someone else’s world. “We’ve only known each other about a day.”

    “The way I see it, we’ve known each other a whole day,” Nalani answered. “Think about it. Ever since we met, we’ve done pretty much everything together, and we haven’t killed each other yet. Actually, I think we make a pretty decent team – even if you are a total newbie.”

    “Gee, thanks,” Lucas scoffed sarcastically.

    And they walked away, combing the Narra Shopping District for a place to fill their empty bellies.

    So that was my first full day in Carona. My first “job” or whatever. In the back of my head, I still feel weird about this whole situation with Nalani, but maybe I should just go with it for now. It’s not like I know anyone else around here.

    And besides, she’s okay to be around…for a girl.

    **** **** **** M.A.V.E.R.I.C.K H.E.A.R.T **** **** ****

    For right now, I’m planning on posting Chapter 4 somewhere around December 10th. Of course, if I decide to do it earlier or later, those of you on the PM list will know in timely fashion. Hope you enjoyed it, and you’ll be hearing again from me soon.

    - EM1

    Dalton Gregg was a mostly-ordinary university student from the region once called Johto.
    Then a fateful encounter set him on a quest to change history.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Behind you...


    Hey ho, well whaddya know? A fresh chapter ready for correctional surgery!

    Mr Eon, prepare for surgery... *snaps on the rubber glove*

    You know how this goes...

    So after detailed scrutiny, the most glaring fault was the tag type misfire. You and your tag buttons really don't get along, do they?

    [COLOR=White]Last night, when it hit me that I was sharing a room with a girl that I’d known for about half a day, my first thought was that it couldn’t get any more awkward. Now it’s the second day, and we’re playing “Seven Minutes in Hell” in a pitch-black closet.”

    By the way, I’m hurting really, really badly at this point.[/CENTER]
    Funny way to look at Seven Minutes in Heaven... Poor, poor, awkward Luc. :P

    Awww... how cute an ending was that? Things might look up if it weren't for the whole "tension-so-thick-you-need-a-LARGE-axe-to-cut-it" thing they have going on.

    But they seem to work well together if this case was anything to go on. So why do I get the feeling things are gonna get really hairy from here on in?

    OK, I gotta go... it's 4 a.m. and I have to start thinking about getting ready for work. O.o

    Last edited by Air Dragon; 2nd December 2010 at 4:08 AM.
    The Corei Quest's latest chapter: Chapter Forty Seven: Tricks of the Trade (24 April 2014)
    PROJECT C-SQUARE STATUS = 100.00% Complete (11-12-2010, ca. 2:40pm GMT)
    Butt-ugly Banner by Me
    (Still waiting on the excellent Saffire Persian for another awesome TCQ banner!)

  15. #15


    *incoming review*

    I must admit, I really like this fic. It's well written and you do explore your characters. I suppose, at the moment, you could call this a 'trainer fic', but it's actually superb and far better than any trainer fic I've ever read.

    The characters are well explored, and I imagine that because of Lucas' roots, this won't be a classic journey. More on Lucas: I like him. His character is written and rounded off well, in that you don't go to silly stereotypes to make your characters compelling. I loved the bits between him and Diamond.

    Nalani, again, I like. I assume you'll explore her character more, as we don't know much about her? Either way, so far, she has a good chemistry with Lucas.

    Now, onto my nitpicks, or rather, just one nitpick. You mention Apollo and Kaegon, but they've never been shown so far. Maybe it's just because I look forward to seeing you write a Pokémon battle or Pokémon in general. And something very minor is Nalani's hair; I can't imagine hair being purple. Then again, this is Pokémon.

    So, you've hooked another reader. I look forward to the next chapter.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    May 2005

    Default Chapter 4 - The Way of the Dodrio

    Air Dragon: Am I that predictable that we have a shipper on deck already? Don’t start planning the wedding just yet…this thing just got started and I’m the only one that has any kind of idea where it ends.

    zen_master_dude: Welcome aboard! I hope this chapter gives you an idea of some of the things you were wondering about in your last review. Like I said, though, this isn’t really centered around Pokémon battles. My first two fics were, and after about seven years of work in the ‘get Pokémon, collect badges’ genre (although, if you ever get around to reading them, you’ll find that there’s a lot more than that going on), I decided to take a different route this time around. But I am still partial to Pokémon battles, so you’ll see them. They just won’t be so many conventional ones chapter after chapter. As for Nalani’s hair…such are the things you can get away with when your fanfiction is loosely based on an anime.

        Spoiler:- About Nalani's hair...:

    Alright, compadres, today’s December 10, and like I said I would, I’ve got a chapter ready. Enjoy!

    4 – The Way of the Dodrio
    June 7, PA 2019
    Narra Township – Belveyun Isle

    Three full days went by after the whole thing with the Donovans. Nalani said that we should take a full day to rest and do nothing before we started traveling. How thoughtful. Truth is, I was tired, so I didn’t argue with her, but I did sort of get the feeling that she just wanted to hang around town so she could shop. I gave in and let her take ten thousand. After all, we’d gotten a whole fifteen thousand keys more than we were expecting, so I was guessing ten thousand couldn’t hurt us that much.

    Anyway, one day turned into two, and two turned into three. Remember, we’re staying in Narra on a budget. It might’ve been a bigger one than we had a few days ago, but we still couldn’t hang around forever.

    So after about three days, I was tired of doing nothing – and paranoid that Nalani was going to find something she really liked and spend all of our hard-earned cash. So, I decided I was going to say something.


    The door swung open and Nalani came in, carrying a bag. Lucas’ eyes opened upon hearing the sound and his heart instantly jolted. He was glad he hadn’t given her more than ten thousand. Low-maintenance vibe notwithstanding, she was still a girl.

    “Oh, you’re still here,” Nalani commented, as if she was surprised. “Good.”

    “Uh…what?” Lucas uttered, sitting up with a confused expression on his face. “Of course I’m still here. Even if I knew my way around Narra well enough to get back, you ran off with the freakin’ key. Besides…I was enjoying the peace and quiet.”

    Nalani frowned. “Well, that’s no way to talk to someone that just got a gift for you.”

    Lucas’ bemused expression was quickly covered by a pair of shorts that Nalani had tossed toward him. He peeled them off his face and felt the material.

    “Wha??” It didn’t register right away.

    “Uh…don’t they have swimming trunks in Johto?” Nalani asked.

    “Well, y-yeah,” Lucas stammered defensively. “But…why swimming trunks?”

    “I was in this ‘His-and-Hers’ store down on Main Street,” Nalani replied casually, pulling a pair of sunshades and what was probably a two-piece swimsuit out of the bag, then discarding the bag onto her bed. “They were having a sale. Get something for a girl and the guy’s item is half-off – or the other way around. I got a new bathing suit because I was getting tired of black, and figured I might as well get the trunks since they were cheap – more or less to let you see that I don’t have to pay top Pokédollar for everything.”

    “So you could pull off a random act of kindness and prove a point all in one go,” Lucas sighed. “That’s really thoughtful of you.”

    “I almost got you an umbrella instead,” Nalani replied. “You know, since it’s always raining in your little world.”

    “Don’t push it,” Lucas answered tersely.

    “Geez…Krabby,” Nalani’s face fell in disapproval. She grabbed the new bikini and shuffled into the bathroom.

    “Hold it –” Lucas’ face and full bladder both contorted in protest. Two short minutes later, though, Nalani was out, wearing her latest purchase. Lucas made it a point not to look at her, as she’d given him no end of grief about it the last time.

    “Yeah…” she commented, sounding satisfied. “This is better. The black one added about ten pounds.”

    “Or maybe the ten pounds added about ten pounds,” Lucas couldn’t help but mutter, thinking back a few days. Nalani shot him a murderous look.

    “What? Now you’re calling me fat?” she shouted. “Well, if I’m taking up too much space, you can always move and get your own room.”

    Why? Why is your mouth opening? You’re just going to end up choking on a foot – either your own or hers.

    “I’m not calling you ‘fat’,” Lucas groaned. “You’re just...not light. Remember – you sat on me a few days back trying to get the remote? You’re…muscular, and muscle is heavier than fat…right? I mean, you’re not manly muscular, you don’t look like a dude or anything…”

    “Maybe you should quit while you’re behind,” Nalani said smugly. She came right up to him, bending down and poking him in the forehead. Lucas saw the finger and tried his level best to focus only on the finger. “You’re lucky I’m in a good mood, or I’d kick your *** and toss you onto that gate outside face-first.”

    “You’d try,” Lucas answered, swatting at the finger like a bothersome fly. “What is it with you and really gruesome death threats? Do you have a problem I need to know about before the next time I go to sleep in here? Some sort of crazy, murderous alter-ego that comes out once every --”

    Nalani ignored him and went toward the bathroom again.

    Oh, man, I just realized what that sounded like. I’m REALLY glad I didn’t finish that sentence.

    “Yeah, by the way, I’m leaving tomorrow,” Lucas said loudly after her. “With or without you. We can’t stay around here forever.”

    “Tomorrow? Sounds fine,” Nalani replied. “Quickest way’s by Dodrio. There’s a place on the north side of town.”

    Two things confused Lucas. First of all, he’d been expecting an argument. Second…

    “By Dodrio?” he repeated.

    “Dodrio,” Nalani said again. “The Pokémon?”

    The three-headed flightless bird instantly came to mind.

    “Oh, that Dodrio,” Lucas chuckled. “Of course I know about Dodrio, but for all I know about Carona, it’s some sort of food here.”

    “Oh, come on, Johto can’t be that different, can it?” Nalani asked, emerging from the bathroom with a towel. Lucas had a good feeling where she was going.

    “Well…” Lucas murmured noncommittally. Truth be told, he’d only seen about three different towns in Johto in his lifetime, so most of the things he knew about his home country he had learned from books and older relatives.

    “Okay, then, while you rack your brain on that question, I’m going out for a swim,” Nalani told him.

    “Now? It’s nearly eight,” Lucas commented.

    “That’s perfect – all the annoying little kids are out of the pool by now,” she answered. “See you later.”

    “Yeah, sure,” Lucas said to no one in particular, as Nalani was already gone.

    Okay, so Nalani’s not horrible. And she’s not horrible-looking, either. But she talks to me just any kind of freaking way, and I’m not sure I like that too much. Maybe it’s good that she’s not all sugary sweet – once you get past about eight, ‘sweet’ stops being cute and starts being irritating, if you ask me – but with all her sarcastic comments, it’s pretty easy to see why she’s been by herself for most of this time.

    But she enjoys it that way, doesn’t she? Yes…no. She doesn’t mind being alone, but she likes company. That’s part of the reason I’m here…no matter how much she says it was a business decision. If she had really been trying that hard to cut costs, it’d bother her a lot more to just go out and blow money on a swimsuit.

    She obviously wanted me to come down and swim with her. So why shouldn’t I?

    Because she wants me to. And I’m not going to do what she wants me to just because she wants me to do it. That would make me her slave, and I’m nobody’s slave.

    But I like swimming – not like she would know that, no one’s ever brought it up. But I don’t want her to think she’s got me wrapped around her finger or something. What should I do?

    I’ll go – she’ll get ****** at me if she got me these and I never use them. And if we’re going to be traveling together, I need her ‘***** mode’ (and every girl has one) to be switched to ‘off’.

    Solid logic all around.

    But first…I really, really have to take a leak.

    Ten minutes later, Lucas was at the pool, feeling not quite himself with only a pair of swim trunks between him and total nudity. Gingerly, he put one toe to the water at the deep end. The water wasn’t horribly cold, which was good because, with night falling, the air wasn’t all that hot, either. Discarding his towel on a nearby lounge chair, he leapt in. After feeling the water wash over every part of his body, he emerged. His senses readjusted themselves. Colors danced across his field of vision, separated from white light by the water droplets in his eyelashes. Everything looked as surreal as he felt.

    He didn’t see her anywhere…but, frankly, he didn’t care much.

    He closed his eyes and relaxed as much as he could. Everything was up to him. What his plans were – and how this strange girl fit into them – were totally up to him.

    There was no need to worry…he was still in control.

    They would visit this place, rent two Dodrio (which, hopefully, didn’t drain the rest of their funds) and get over to Belveyun as quickly as they could, where, hopefully, she could find someone else she knew and he could unload her and get to the mainland.

    But what if she was all alone out here? What if some more thugs came and…

    Was it really his problem?

    He heard extra splashing. That definitely wasn’t him – he was hardly moving.

    He opened his eyes – just in time to get a face full of water. The chlorine in his eyes burned a bit.

    “OUCH!!” he shouted. “NALANI, WHAT THE HELL?!”

    “Oh, get over it,” he heard Nalani’s voice through the muddle of his senses.

    “Easy for you to say,” Lucas muttered. “Your eyes aren’t full of pool water.”

    “Did it really get in your eyes?” the violet-haired girl giggled.

    “Why are you acting like this?” Lucas grunted. “I don’t even know you.”

    “You haven’t taken time out to know me,” Nalani answered.

    “What’s there to know?” Lucas chuckled, rubbing his eyes and finally seeing Nalani in front of him, bobbing up and down, her purple hair floating on the surface of the water and her blue eyes looking up at him.

    “What do you know about me, then?” Nalani asked.

    Lucas sighed. This was going to be a pain. “Your name’s Nalani Clement…you’re thirteen…you’re a girl.”

    “Oh, you noticed, did you?” she interrupted him sarcastically. Lucas ignored her. “What else?”

    “Your hair’s purple, your eyes are blue, you’re about five-foot-six…” he went on, sounding rather bored.

    “How’d you know?” she asked.

    “Well, I’m five-seven, and you’re just barely shorter than I am,” Lucas answered. “Your parents died before you ever got the chance to remember them…sorry about that, by the way.”

    “You don’t have to keep apologizing,” Nalani answered, looking irritated. With appropriate hand motions, she added, “It’s not like I have a big neon sign above my head, pointing down at me and flashing, ‘orphan.’”

    Lucas’ deadpan face broke for a moment. At least she had a sense of humor.

    “You’re saying things that I’ve told you – except for the height part,” she said. “Try something else that I haven’t told you and see if it’s right.”

    “Well, I’m guessing you’re from a rich family,” Lucas said, turning around. “You don’t seem to have any problem spending money. On top of that, when we went to the Donovans a few days ago, I could tell you weren’t really impressed with the house.”

    “Interesting,” an intrigued smile appeared on the girl’s face. “Keep going.”

    “You like swimming – this is your third time coming down to the pool since we met each other,” Lucas said. Nalani nodded. “You have a tomboyish streak – and you’re proud of it, because any other girl probably would have slapped me for saying that just now.”

    Nalani chanced a laugh. “How’d you get that one?”

    “Well…” Lucas had stopped meeting Nalani’s blue eyes. This was getting awkward. “Most girls would be a little nervous having a guy as a roommate, for one. Two, you’re obviously athletic. You’re a good swimmer, a fast runner, and can jump pretty far. Actually, you’ve probably taken martial arts somewhere, because that was definitely a bo staff – I’ve seen one before…but you’ve got no skill at hand-to-hand.”

    Nalani frowned.

    “You left your weapon in the hotel room and didn’t look like you knew what to do with yourself when those two guys cornered you in the alley,” Lucas said. “Which reminds me – if they were going to steal your Pokémon, why didn’t you use her on them?”

    “You don’t know anything about the laws in Carona?” Nalani rolled her eyes. “First of all, it’s really frowned on in Carona society for a human to order their Pokémon to attack other humans with the intent to harm or injure. Other than that, it’s illegal.”

    “Illegal to have a Pokémon?” Lucas uttered, his jaw dropping.

    “Of course not,” Nalani groaned, as if Lucas should have known this by now. “It’s illegal to battle with them in the streets. They don’t have a law like that in Johto?”

    “I don’t know if there’s a law against it,” Lucas answered nonchalantly. “It’s just….no one does it.”

    “Makes sense, right? Stuff ends up getting destroyed,” Nalani explained.

    Damn. I’ll have to keep that in mind.

    “So…” Lucas started to ask, now curious. “There’s no Pokémon League here in Carona?”

    “Nope – but there are the arenas,” Nalani replied. “And Contests. You do know what…”

    “Yes, I’ve heard of Contests,” Lucas interrupted, frowning. “They’re not all that big in Johto, though.”

    “Oh,” Nalani replied briskly, her lips pursing in curiosity. “Got anything else for me?”

    “Your hair’s purple and your eyes are blue,” Lucas answered a bit tersely. He didn’t see the point of this game.

    “My turn?” she asked, a hopeful gleam making her blue eyes look even brighter.

    “Fine…go on…” Lucas sighed, leaning back.

    “Okay…” she replied, with all the look of a girl that had just gotten an early birthday present. “Your name’s Lucas, you grew up in Johto, you’re thirteen, your birthday’s in November…your favorite color is red and you don’t like purple.”

    “I told you all of that,” Lucas replied, frowning.

    “I know that, I was just trying to get the obvious stuff out of the way,” Nalani replied. “You’re very good at figuring things out from small details, don’t mind the occasional fight. You can work in a team if you absolutely have to, but you prefer working alone. Your social skills are clumsy and you feel like nobody understands you, so you hide behind a lot of dry wit and sarcasm when you’re talking to people…”

    “Okay, okay, I didn’t ask for a whole psychiatric evaluation,” Lucas suddenly interrupted, looking uncomfortable. “I’m getting sleepy. It’s time for me to go to bed.”

    He was mercifully close to the ladder. His feet found it, and he hoisted himself out of the water.

    “Does it ever get tiring for you? Being alone?”

    Nalani’s voice had gone a bit small, and it had been perhaps this that had caused Lucas to stop briefly. He swallowed hard. “You’ve spent this entire time trying to get into my closet…looking for skeletons, I guess. Well…hate to disappoint you, but…”

    He turned and looked dead at her.

    “I’ve got dead parents...and that’s about it.”

    He grabbed his towel from the nearest chair and stalked away.


    The door opened to near-total darkness. Nalani strode in, quietly closing the door behind her. The moonlight was filtering in through the curtained windows, falling directly on the nearer of the two beds. Lying there was a boy, in an A-shirt and some dark bottoms. His chest heaved, and the slightest hint of a snore was on each breath. Obviously, he had fallen asleep some time ago.

    She thought for a brief second of waking him…probably not a good idea. She had to change…but she didn’t really feel like it. She’d lay down on the bed, watch television for a couple of minutes…then she’d change.

    She tossed her towel onto the nearby table. At this distance, she could just barely make herself out in the mirror. The ends of her hair, dark violet and lank from the water, hung down her back. Every bit of tannish skin that the bikini didn’t cover was bathed in dim, distant light from the moon. She drifted sideways and saw her reflection move out of the mirror with her.

    She slumped down onto the bed – it’d been made in her absence. She bit her lip and shifted her weight a bit. This felt…good.

    Ever since that blindfold had been taken off, and she had arrived in Narra several days back with naught but a name and a small wad of money…everything was new. Rarely had she been outside her hometown before that day. Rarely was there ever a need. There were so many things that she had heard about, read about…but so few that she had seen with her own two eyes, heard with her ears…

    She jumped to her feet and pulled out the covers, revealing fresh, white sheets. After a moment’s hesitation, she slid into the bed and pulled the comforter over herself. She let out a sigh; the bedding felt warm and gentle this close to her nearly-bare body.

    She glanced over at the sleeping boy. A thought flashed through her mind that they could part ways tomorrow. In contrast to her aimlessness, there was some sort of unspoken spur driving him on toward the mainland. Perhaps his patience with her had finally run out…

    She closed her eyes to blink…

    “…A B-class trade ark went down in the Beryl Sea this morning at about 4:30 local time. Cadlamere Marine Patrol was dispatched to investigate the situation. Fortunately, all five of the crew members were found at the scene with non-life-threatening injuries, but this latest attack has put authorities from both neighboring city-states on notice. Here’s Cadlamere’s director of law enforcement, Captain Sergei Hamilton, at a press conference held earlier this morning...”

    Nalani rolled onto her back. Room 330 was full of a dusty golden hue now. She glanced over at an alarm clock on the desk between the beds…it was just after eight in the morning. The television was on, too…funny, she’d never gotten around to turning it on the night before. The man that had just appeared on-screen was in a highly decorated, navy police uniform and a hard-brimmed hat. The occasional wrinkle on his face and the stray gray hair in his mustache, which sat powerfully upon his upper lip, marked him as a man of middle age, perhaps mid- to late-forties. Nalani pulled herself out of the bed, her blue eyes fixed on the news broadcast.

    “...These thieves and miscreants are becoming bolder, and as such, it has become painfully obvious that our original strategy has not been effective…”

    At that moment, a boy strode in between her and the TV, fumbling with his curly, red-and-black hair. He stopped mid-motion and did a double take.

    “Er…” he uttered, freezing in place.

    “…What?” Nalani uttered snippily. She started toward him and tilted her head. Then she looked down at herself. “I slept in my bathing suit. Is that illegal?”

    She walked past Lucas and made for the shower. He looked over his shoulder briefly, then slumped down on his bed, an obvious expression of confusion on his face.

    God, girls are weird.

    Or maybe it’s just Nalani that’s really weird.

    He didn’t know how much time he had spent there staring blankly at the television and not really paying attention to anything on it. It had cycled back to sports – apparently the Rebels had won a game last night and had an off day today – when Nalani re-emerged from the bathroom, wearing her white tank top and cropped jeans again. She had slung a backpack over her shoulder and was holding another. Lucas flipped the TV off and, at that moment, saw one of the bags flying through the air. He realized that it was his just before it landed heavily in his lap – good thing his legs had been closed. He looked up at her again, wondering exactly what in the hell was coming next.

    “Why are you looking so lost?” she asked. “You said we were leaving today, didn’t you?”

    Lucas jumped to his feet, slinging the bag around his shoulder and fumbling with a strange holster attached to the bag. “I said I was leaving today.”

    “‘With or without you’, that’s what you said to me – exact words,” Nalani smiled playfully, her index finger pointed straight up. “Oh, come on – you’re gonna just kick me to the curb after all we’ve been through together?”

    “ ‘All we’ve been through together?’ Listen, we’ve known each other for, like, a week,” Lucas said impatiently.

    “I know – it’s been great, right?” she asked enthusiastically.

    Oh, man. This is gonna be awkward…

    “You know,” Lucas replied hesitantly. “Maybe you’re getting the wrong idea about this.”

    “Really? You know what I’m thinking? Okay,” Nalani bent forward, drawing herself down to Lucas’ eye level. “Tell me what you think I’m thinking.”

    Lucas was growing irritated with her. She wasn’t getting the hint.

    “You think that helping me out once or twice means that I have to stay hooked to you forever,” he replied, standing up. “Everybody thinks that. It’s why I don’t like people doing me favors if I can help it.”

    He made for the door, and put his hands on the doorknob, started to turn, and then stopped.

    “…Can’t do it, can you?” Nalani asked, sounding almost as if she was taunting him. “You’re not heartless enough.”

    Lucas waited for a second, then lowered his arm.

    “Guess I owe you a ‘thank you’,” he said. Then, he yanked the door open and quickly walked through it.

    It was about two full hours and a lot of walking later that Lucas found the Dodrio rental agency on the north end of town. It was a small, one-story building with a tented roof that looked from the outside like it could have been two or three rooms wide. It was set back on a platform made of sandy-colored wood planks. Especially of note was the size of the fenced area behind the building. Lucas could see past the small hut itself and onto the plains below. The fences, which were several feet high, looked like they went for quite some distance. Lucas supposed that was where they kept the Dodrio penned.

    He supposed it was just as simple as going inside and asking for a Dodrio to rent. The door was cracked open on this hot early summer day, so Lucas showed himself in.

    The first thing that he figured out when he was inside – this place was not air-conditioned. The only circulation came in the form of a large fan that was a corner of the room, just to his right. A desk, cluttered with papers, was directly in front of him, along with a young man who was sitting at the desk with a bored expression. Two closed doors were off to the left. One of them opened, revealing a tiled surface on the wall of the room inside the door that could have only belonged to a restroom.

    Lucas’ heart sank like a rock, somewhere into the pit of his stomach.

    How the hell did she beat me here?

    “Finally made it, did you?” Nalani Clement was standing in front of the bathroom, her arms folded. She stalked toward him. “Bet you’re hot as hell right now, aren’tcha?”

    The young man looked up, seemingly desperate for something interesting to happen. Lucas frowned.

    “If you were staying, then why are you here?” he asked, turning his back on her. “And if you were leaving, then why aren’t you already gone?”

    “There’s a problem,” she answered.

    “What’s the problem?” Lucas asked, walking past her and straight to the desk. “Excuse me, err…Shane?”

    He had looked at the gold-plated nametag on the young man’s polo shirt. His thatched, brown hair was matted against his forehead. He looked up, his brownish eyes just radiating boredom.

    “How can I help you?” Shane asked. Probably what he was thinking was more along the lines of, How can I help you get out of my face?

    “I’m looking to rent a Dodrio – going to Belveyun City,” Lucas explained. “How much is it?”

    “Well, ten thousand if you’re renting from us, but you’ll have to take that up with the girl behind you. We’ve only got one left,” he explained.

    “One?” Lucas uttered, looking over his shoulder. “And she already rented it?”

    “Yep,” Shane replied, a bit curtly. Lucas drummed his fingers against the desk for a couple of seconds, then rounded on Nalani.

    “So you came all the way out here just to screw me?” he asked.

    “I’m going to pretend that didn’t sound completely dirty,” she replied flatly. “But I was waiting for you.”

    “Then, don’t,” Lucas replied, annoyed.

    “What are you gonna do, then? Cross the plains on foot?” she asked.

    “Uh…yeah. Is that difficult or something?” Lucas replied nonchalantly.

    “On foot…by yourself. That’s at least two days, probably three,” Nalani said. “And that’s for someone who knows their way around. Suppose you make a wrong turn and get lost. There’s not a lot of cover from the sun out there. ‘God, it’s hot. Maybe I wouldn’t be out here dying of heat stroke if I hadn’t done this –’” she put certain fingers up. On both hands. Emphatically. Lucas felt a sort of sick comfort in knowing that the meaning of that gesture knew no national borders. “‘…to someone that was trying to help me out!’”

    “So what are you after, going through all this trouble just to help me?” Lucas asked. “A warm, fuzzy feeling?”

    “I made…a ******* mistake,” Nalani replied through her teeth, the same hollowness visible in her blue eyes that Lucas had seen when she had let it slip that she had no parents. “I wasn’t about to give up Ahi…she was all I had. But I wasn’t armed, and it was two-on-one. If you hadn’t come along…my body might be rotting in a dumpster somewhere.”

    Hold on…is she saying I saved her life that day?

    “Fine,” Lucas sighed, looking away from her. “Don’t start the dramatic stuff. It’s too hot for that sh*t. We can travel together as far as Belveyun. Then, you’re on your own. Deal?”

    Nalani looked up, the glimmer back in her blue eyes. “Deal.”

    Lucas walked up to the desk where Shane was sitting. He pulled out two crisp bills and plopped them down onto the table of the suddenly interested worker, who appeared surprised. Travis wondered whether Shane was used to seeing bills that size, because the latter held them up to the nearest lamp, obviously investigating for a blemish or imperfection that would mark the bills as fake. After about ten seconds of checking, he opened a lockbox that had been on his desk and stuck them in. With a small sigh, almost as if he was gathering energy, he left his chair. “Right this way.”

    He went toward the door in the back of the room. Lucas turned his head back toward Nalani, who followed him. With a dull clunk, the iron-wrought door in the back of the small room opened as they approached, sending in a rush of hot air that caught Lucas as he stepped through the doorway again. He squinted, shading his eyes from the sun, which was almost directly overhead.

    They were standing at the top of a slope, between two awnings that jutted out a bit awkwardly from the back of the building, almost as if they had been added as an afterthought. On one side was a very long trough filled with water, and on the other was an enormous barrel full of a grainy substance that looked like small pebbles and that Lucas guessed was used to feed the Dodrio. The yard featured one tree and was enclosed by an impossibly high gate made of wooden stakes that had to reach at least thirty feet off the ground. Lucas had read somewhere about Dodrio being known for being flightless but making up for it in running speed and jumping ability. Obviously, keeping them contained required a fence that they would not be able to clear.

    Slowly, Lucas sauntered down the hill, Nalani in his wake. At the bottom, they noticed that the far fence, which was facing north, had a closed gate on it. Off to their left, there were several tall posts. At the last post was Shane, trying to untie the rope that held the one creature to the post. After two or three seconds (he had to shoo away one of the heads, which had almost put his eye out trying to ‘help’ with its beak), he had the knot undone and was leading the Pokémon over toward the pair of teenagers.

    Nalani let out an audible gasp as Shane and Dodrio drew closer. For Lucas, it was just like in the books – a tall, russet-feathered creature with three heads, all sporting pairs of black, beady eyes, long beaks, and long, black necks that seemed to crane on forever. The one surprise for Lucas, however, he hadn’t been expecting it to be this large.

    “This…” Shane looked tired already, and in this heat, who could blame him? “…is Tiny.”

    “Holy sh*t,” Lucas raised his eyebrows, looking up at the rather large Dodrio. “If this is ‘Tiny’, I’d hate to see ‘big.’”

    Who came up with the idea to give anything or anybody that’s a lot larger than normal the nickname ‘Tiny’?

    All six of Tiny’s eyes seemed to be looking at Lucas with interest, each head tilting in a quizzical expression.

    Nalani raised her eyebrows. “I…think we can both ride him.”

    “You’re telling me…” Lucas muttered. He saw the silver, stirrup-looking object that was attached to Tiny by a rope gently tied around his body. He stepped up into it and then leapt, getting his leg over and settling on the Dodrio’s large back. He looked down at Nalani, whose blue eyes regarded the sight with a kind of wonderment. “I thought you’d ridden one of these before.”

    Might as well try to be polite.

    He let his left arm hang, trying not to be obvious. A second later, he felt a lurch as if someone was trying to pull him off his mount. Immediately afterward, he felt the warmth of another human body right behind him. Ignoring the sound of Nalani shifting herself around, he kept his eyes forward and saw two ropes in front of him. He picked them up, looking for their ends. It turned out he was dealing with one rope, each end tied around one of Dodrio’s lateral necks.

    “Tiny’s a little bit…different,” Lucas jumped; he had forgotten Shane was there. Both he and Nalani looked down at the young manager as the latter scratched the back of his head sheepishly. “We’ve taught the Dodrio to respond to basic human commands – ‘go’, ‘faster’, ‘slow down’, ‘stop’, all like that. But, for some strange reason, Tiny only responds to the names of berries.”

    “Berries?” Nalani repeated, one finger near her lips in a pensive pose. “Like, um…Leppa—eek!

    A lot of things happened at once in the next five seconds. Tiny took off as if shot from a cannon. Lucas had the presence of mind to grab the ropes. Nalani, who had no ropes to grab, teetered backward unsteadily before locking her arms around Lucas’ stomach. The boy wheezed as he felt most of the air leave his body in an instant. He squinted his eyes against the air quickly rushing into them.

    “Lucas, Lucas, turn, TURN!!” Nalani yelled very quickly and very loudly – straight into his ear. Eardrums ringing, he opened his eyes a bit wider…and realized that they were heading straight at the high wooden wall.

    “I…” Lucas looked down at the ropes in his hand. He gave a hard tug on the right side, praying that his theory worked. Dodrio’s right head raised quickly and the entire Pokémon turned right. Problem was, now Tiny was heading straight for another wall – the farthest wall – and, with time to stretch his legs, he was hitting a dead sprint. “Shane!! How the hell do you stop this thing?!”

    “Say ‘Chesto’!” Shane tried to yell.

    “Pecha?” was what Nalani heard. In the instant she said it, Lucas knew something bad was going to happen.

    “STOP TALKING!!” he roared as he felt Tiny’s legs coil. He yanked the Pokémon to the right just in time for it to spring high into the air. Again, Nalani locked her arms around his waist, her eyes shut tight as she felt wind whipping past her. “OH, FU—”

    Lucas dared to open his own eyes after a few moments, and Nalani did, too. Shane looked small on the ground, and they had time to take in the sight of the entire field. Lucas looked at the sky. There were quite a few more clouds than there had been that morning, but the sun shone through, not quite as mercilessly hot now that they were floating through the air.

    “Holy sh*t,” Lucas uttered breathlessly. “This is awesome.

    He felt the grip on his gut begin to relax a little. Obviously, Nalani was no longer fearing for her life, but she wasn’t about to let go until they were on the ground again. With a heavy footfall, Tiny landed, and started running again, until Lucas grabbed the left side of the steering rope and pulled.

    “Chesto, Chesto!!

    Tiny reared back and turned, but more importantly, he came to a stop. Shane looked relieved.

    “Got the hang of it yet?” he was trying to hide a smile and it wasn’t working. “This is why we don’t rent out Tiny to most customers.”

    “Yeah, I can see that, but this bird clearly needs some exercise!!” Lucas shouted. He heard Nalani’s tinkling laughter behind him. “How do you slow him down?”

    “ ‘Cheri’ will do it if he’s already moving,” Shane explained. “But if you just want him to go, then say ‘Oran’.”

    “Oran,” Lucas repeated, and this time, the Dodrio started toward Shane at a reasonable pace. He stopped Tiny with a whisper of “Chesto,” and looked over his mount’s flank at Shane.

    “And I see you figured out how to turn, right?” Shane asked.

    Lucas silently held up the ropes.

    “Okay, then, you’re fine,” Shane replied with a smile. “Tiny recognizes most of the area, so once you get to Belveyun, he should be able to find the rental on his own.”

    Lucas looked over his shoulder. “You okay back there?”

    “Yeah,” Nalani replied, trying not to smile.

    He rolled his eyes, facing forward stone-faced. “Don’t get me wrong, I don’t care or anything. But if you puke on my back, you’re making the trip by yourself.”

    “Are you two from here?” Shane asked.

    “No, and…huge ‘no’,” Nalani answered for the both of them, pointing to herself and Lucas respectively.

    “Crime’s up lately, so don’t mess around on the plains,” Shane replied. “Bandits and such…”

    Lucas frowned.

    “On top of that, as hot as it is, I wouldn’t rule out the weather turning ugly this afternoon,” Shane added. “So…basically, if you can get to Belveyun as quickly as possible, do it.”

    “Alright, thanks for the tip,” Lucas replied. He patted the Dodrio’s middle neck and muttered, “Oran.”

    “You and your girlfriend have a safe ride,” he heard Shane say.

    Chesto!” he shouted instantly. He turned and looked over his shoulder. Shane backed up a step, obviously sensing that he had said something that had touched a nerve. As for Lucas, he was trying to figure out how to respond – or, more specifically, which swearwords to use to emphatically drive home the point that Nalani was not his girlfriend. Finally, he settled on something, mercifully, a bit more innocuous. “She’s an acquaintance.”

    “Sorry, sorry,” Shane sounded flustered. “I just assumed –”

    “Yeah…exactly,” Lucas cut him off. He faced forward and turned Tiny toward the open gate, wanting to get out as quickly as possible. “Leppa.

    He suddenly felt wind resistance pushing him backward as Tiny darted straight for the gate. Lucas slowed him down only a bit a few minutes out. The scenery stopped flying by and Lucas finally got the chance to look at it.

    **** **** **** M.A.V.E.R.I.C.K H.E.A.R.T **** **** ****
    Last edited by EonMaster One; 10th December 2010 at 8:56 PM.

    Dalton Gregg was a mostly-ordinary university student from the region once called Johto.
    Then a fateful encounter set him on a quest to change history.

  17. #17
    Join Date
    May 2005

    Default Chapter 4-2

    **** **** **** M.A.V.E.R.I.C.K H.E.A.R.T **** **** ****

    In stark contrast to the urban sprawl of Narra (Lucas still couldn’t believe that was considered a ‘small town’), this area was a vast, rolling plain, as far as he eye could see. Occasional trees dotted the distance and horizon and seemed to go as quickly as they came with Tiny trotting so quickly. Dark gray rocks protruded from some of the hills, making small cliffs. Lucas felt the bright light and heat leaving the environment around him and looked up. The sun had hid its face behind a chubby cloud. Lucas was thankful for the relief – it took the edge off the ninety-degree weather, at least for a couple of moments.

    Lucas, up to this point, had been ignoring the whispers and sharp intakes of air behind him. Now, they were getting to be a bit much.

    “Would ya stop doing that already?” he turned and asked. “Act like you’ve been here before. Damn.”

    “I haven’t,” Nalani said simply, her blue eyes darting around Lucas’ head, seemingly trying to take in every sight they could.

    Lucas frowned. “I thought you were from here.”

    “I’m from Carona,” Nalani explained. “But more like the opposite edge of Carona. Up north.”

    Lucas raised his eyebrows. “North, huh?” I wonder if…nah, better not pry.

    “Aren’t you going to ask me where I’m from?” Nalani questioned.

    “No,” Lucas replied flatly.

    “Why not?” the violet-haired girl queried.

    “Because I don’t like people prying into my business,” Lucas answered simply. Nalani heaved a sigh right onto Lucas’ neck.

    “You’re hopeless,” she commented. “You know, we didn’t eat breakfast before we left…and I’m kinda hungry.”

    “Stop…now?” Lucas uttered. “You’re proposing we just stop here and stuff our fac—”


    “I think your stomach likes my proposal,” Nalani said, a knowing smile on her face.

    So they tied Tiny at the next tree they found, which was quite large and lorded proudly over its own hill. Lucas could see for some distance and noticed an entire cluster of trees off to the west.

    Lucas jumped as he heard a twitter behind him. A pair of birds that were dark-feathered and a bit pudgy came fluttering out of one of the boughs.

    “Starly…” he muttered. He’d seen a handful of them in the last couple of days.

    “Lucas,” Nalani was trying to get his attention – again.

    What?” he groaned, exasperated by his traveling companion’s energy. By the time he had finished rolling his eyes and turning his head toward her, she had her hands on her hips, her blue eyes staring at him mutinously.

    “Okay, fine,” she said, waving one arm – an arm holding a small bag – dismissively through the air. “I’ll keep the f**king sandwich if you don’t want it.”

    Lucas grimaced. “Wait, what…?”

    He caught the plastic bag when Nalani threw it at him. Lucas held it up closely to investigate. Two pieces of white bread enclosed a reddish meat that looked a bit like salami. He’d only ever eaten salami once in his lifetime. He didn’t mind its taste…but frankly (as he opened the bag with a dark look at where Nalani had been standing, only to notice that she was no longer standing there) he was more concerned about the manner of its exit than its entrance. The last time he’d had salami, his stomach did not thank him.

    “You gonna sit down or what?” Nalani asked.

    He looked at her with astonishment for a second and then sat down, furious with himself.

    Next time she asks me anything, I’m gonna say ‘no’. She needs to know she doesn’t own me.

    “Do you –” Nalani started to ask.

    “No,” Lucas cut her off. There was a second of silence, punctuated only by Tiny’s impatient cawing. Lucas looked up, trying to hide the nervousness in his face.

    Am I about to get *****-slapped?

    Nalani’s hands were firmly around her sandwich. If looks could kill, though…

    In her brain, she is definitely *****-slapping me. Repeatedly.

    “You just managed to lie without even stopping to find out what the question was. I see it right there on your waist,” she took one hand off of her sandwich and pointed in the general direction of Lucas’ hip.

    “What?” he uttered a bit dimly.

    “I was going to ask you if you had any Pokémon,” she said. “And I see your balls right there.”

    Nalani’s facial expression changed a second later as she realized how this had come out.

    “Don’t worry, I know what you were talking about,” he said flatly, taking the object in question off his belt and pressing a button on its center. With a mechanical beeping sound, it swelled to the size of a grapefruit. Its top half was stop-sign red, several shades lighter than Lucas’ hair. The opposite half was white. He pored over it for a second until he heard a loud pop. He jumped because he knew that it was the sound of a Pokéball bursting open. He also knew that he hadn’t done anything with the one in his hand.

    He looked up and saw a bright flash of light. Trying to avoid having his eyes burned out, he shut them tightly. But a strange sound got his attention – something between a squeak and a chitter. He opened his eyes again and saw a strange, red creature cozying up to Nalani. Lucas’ heart leapt into his throat with a kind of excited curiosity. He had never seen the creature before, but could tell from first glance that it was some sort of dragon. It stood on all fours, just about two feet off the ground and was a shade of red with just a hint of orange over most of its body. Slender wings sprang forth from its back, hovering above its body. Its underbelly was scaly and a yellowish tan. It opened its mouth just enough for Lucas to see tiny fangs at the corners. Its two blue eyes blinked a couple of times. There was a large, circular jewel on its head that was sky blue as well. Lucas noticed that the Pokémon had long eyelashes as it blinked. It tilted its head inquisitively, revealing an ear shaped almost like a small ember of flame, frozen in time.

    Nalani giggled as the small dragon rubbed cheeks with her, rattling off speech that sounded to Lucas’ ears like, “Kai! Kai!

    “This is Ahi. She’s my Kaegon,” Nalani said with a smile.

    Kai! Kai-gon-kai!!” the small dragon squeaked, somehow smiling similarly.

    “She says, ‘Hi! Nice to meet you,’” Nalani explained.

    A strange question popped up in Lucas’ head. But then he thought better of asking it and instead asked the second question that came to mind – it seemed less out of left field. “You can…you know, understand her?”

    “Well, yeah, of course. Just like I hear you talking,” Nalani seemed surprised at Lucas’ lack of knowledge. “You can’t understand your Pokémon?”

    “I mean…sometimes,” he conceded. “But only bits and pieces.”

    “What’s your Pokémon?” Nalani asked.

    “A Charmander,” he answered. “They live somewhere in the Kanto region. That’s right to the east of where I live.”

    “Really? Can we see him?” Nalani asked. “It’s a ‘him’, right? I’ve got enough Pokémon food in my pack for both of them.”

    “I’m not sure that’s a good idea…” Lucas muttered.

    “Oh, come on – it can’t be that bad, can it?” Nalani was very persistent. Finally, Lucas caved.

    “Okay, fine – guess he needs to stretch anyway. Apollo, c’mon out,” he said, letting the ball in his hand roll to the ground nonchalantly. It flumped against the grass and turned over once before splitting open at the middle. The Pokémon that came out was bright orange, also about two feet tall, and had a long tail with a candle-like flame burning on its end. Ahi’s wings flapped twice, very quickly. She was clearly excited.

    Unfortunately, Apollo didn’t read Ahi’s actions as ‘excited to meet a new friend.’ He thought they had anything but friendly intentions.

    Char char-man <challenge> char?” Lucas only understood one word of what Apollo had said, and that had been enough.

    “Oh, sh*t,” he whispered, leaning forward to dive. “Apollo, wai—”

    But the Charmander leapt at Nalani, raising a claw. Ahi’s chipper nature disappeared and she leapt in front of her owner.

    Kai kai gon-KAI!!” she flapped her wings once and, in an instant, two more wings appeared close behind them. Except that these wings were not made of scale and leathery flesh, but pure fire.

    “Apollo, STOP!” Lucas yelled. The Charmander did just that, lowering his claw. The flames on Ahi’s back disappeared, and she shrank back toward Nalani, burying her face in the girl’s white shirt.

    “Shh…it’s okay, girl…” Nalani sighed. After a couple of seconds, she looked up, straight through Apollo, to Lucas – and almost straight through Lucas.

    Oh…I’m f**ked. I am SO f**ked. Is my shirt on fire yet? She’s staring at me and it feels hotter than it did before now, and that’s saying a lot. If there’s a hell, I bet it’s run by a chick…a chick that just gives you the murder stare forever.

    “That’s one hell of an introduction. Don’t you raise your Pokémon with any f**king social skills?” she asked.

    “He’s stir-crazy,” Lucas muttered defensively.

    “That’s a really bad excuse,” Nalani frowned. “You’d think he’d never seen another Pokémon before.”

    “He has…” Lucas replied. “Most of them just…well, try to beat the hell out of him. He’s not used to seeing a Pokémon that isn’t challenging him to a fight.”

    “Well, clearly he needs to get out more,” she replied, now holding Ahi in her arms and stroking her head. Apollo was standing up, still eyeing the other Pokémon and trainer with suspicion. “Do you spend any time with him?”

    “What are you, some sort of Pokémon shrink?” Lucas asked uncomfortably.

    “Just answer the question,” Nalani fired back almost immediately.

    “Of course we spend time together,” Lucas said nonchalantly. “We used to train at least three times a week back at home.”

    “Hmm…that’s why you can’t understand him,” Nalani answered. “I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, now that I know you.”

    “What’s that supposed to mean?” Lucas raised his voice. Apollo might have sensed his trainer’s anger, because he started growling as well. “Apollo, stop it. Go over there and apologize to Ahi so Nalani can shut up.”

    The Charmander turned around. With one clawed finger, he pointed straight at Ahi. “Char-charmander char char….

    Lucas was confused. “Sorry. What?”

    Charmander <mean> char-char!!” he said. Lucas noticed that, when he could understand him, Apollo sounded a bit like a small child.

    “Maybe you’re right,” Lucas answered, biting into his sandwich again. “But…maybe you’re not.”

    Char….” Apollo was clearly confused, but made an effort to approach the small dragon nonetheless. “Charman-chaaaar…?

    Ahi surfaced from Nalani’s arms, staring at Apollo with a tearful, wounded expression. “Kaaaai…

    Char-char-char.” Apollo tilted his head and craned it towards Ahi. It looked somewhat like an adult dealing with a cute toddler. “Charmander-char-char…

    Ahi’s teeth suddenly bared. “KAAAAAIIII-GON!

    She launched herself at Apollo, bowling him over and putting him right on his back. Apollo, who had been wearing a hint of a smirk during most of the conversation, was no longer smiling. Ahi, on the other hand, was.

    Char…” Apollo grunted.

    Kai,” Ahi let Apollo up.

    Lucas was completely confused.

    “Do you have any idea what just happened?” he asked Nalani.

    Nalani seemed to have been watching with a great deal of interest. Smugly, she replied, “Your Charmander just said Ahi looked too cute to be a strong fighter…so Ahi just showed him why you can’t judge a book by its cover.”

    “That’s kind of hypocritical, don’t you think? You just got ****** at me when Apollo attacked her,” Lucas commented, wearing a frown on his face as he folded his arms. “And how are you doing that?”

    “I’m just listening,” Nalani replied, pulling a bowl out of her backpack. “Alright, you two…you can fight later. Lunchtime.”

    Ahi started to chirp enthusiastically while Apollo just sat there looking nonplused. Nalani noticed this, and stopped what she was doing to give Lucas an incredulous look.

    “Please…” she gaped. “Don’t tell me…”

    “Wait – what? No!” Lucas uttered, figuring out where she was going with this. “Of course we feed him. Twice a day, every day. Except…”

    His heart sank.

    “He’s been in his ball since we got here to Carona. F**k!” he slapped his head at his own stupidity.

    “*******,” Nalani snarled at him. “You’re lucky Pokémon can survive in their balls without being fed for a while. No wonder he was in such a bad mood. No food, no exercise, and all you do is battle with him. I’d be ****** off, too.”

    She revealed a bag of what looked like auburn-colored pellets and looked at Apollo.

    “Come on, you too,” she said to him. “Time to eat.”

    She opened the plastic bag and dumped a large portion of the pellets into the bowl. The first bit of food had hardly landed in the large, blue bowl before Ahi had her snout in it, digging in with gusto. Apollo watched for a second. Ahi looked over her shoulder.

    Kai…?” she uttered inquisitively.

    Cha…” Apollo appeared nervous. He then looked down at his stomach strangely as it growled back at him. Gingerly, he approached the bowl, sniffed at it, then chomped into a mouthful of the pellets.

    He staggered backward about two seconds later, eyes quite wide. Lucas jumped as Apollo raised his head straight upward and fired a stream of white flames into the air with explosive recoil. The Charmander barely missed the tree they had camped under and fell onto his backside immediately. Ahi laughed.

    “Holy sh*t!” Lucas squeaked, his voice cracking again. “What the hell did you just give him?”

    “Special recipe – made for Fire-types,” Nalani answered, smiling as if seeing a bomb go off in Apollo’s mouth was something Lucas should have expected. “I guess your Charmander isn’t used to it.”

    “He’s going back for more, though…” Lucas muttered – the orange lizard had dove right into the bowl again, this time with a lot more enthusiasm. “Guess he likes it.”

    “How’s the sandwich?” Nalani asked about five minutes later.

    “It’s okay…” Lucas muttered, looking down at his half-eaten lunch. “It’ll keep my stomach full, in any case.”

    There was dead silence – again – between the two teenagers. Apollo and Ahi, on the other hand, seemed to be getting along just fine.

    “So, I was wondering…” Nalani started.


    “Why are you here exactly?” she asked.

    “It’s kind of complicated,” Lucas answered.

    “Try me,” Nalani shot back immediately.

    “Well…basically, where I’m from, it’s a tradition for boys to go on a Journey the summer after they turn thirteen. It’s supposed to be a rite of passage,” he explained. “My hometown’s sort of tucked back in the mountains, so we don’t get to see a whole lot of the outside world.”

    “But you know where you’re going, right?” Nalani asked. There was a look of intrigue in her blue eyes like never before.

    “You get to pick, most times,” Lucas answered, biting into his sandwich again. “I picked Carona. First one in my family to do it.”

    “Really? With my family, you’re blindfolded, and they plop you down somewhere and leave you to survive on your own,” Nalani muttered. “I bet you spent a whole lot of your childhood studying.”

    “Yep,” Lucas said grimly. “My head’s full of knowledge about random sh*t that’s only useful if you’re trying to impress somebody. But that’s school for you.”

    Nalani laughed. “That’s so weird. You’d think we were, like, long-lost cousins or something.”

    “I doubt that. Nobody in my family has purple hair. Nobody,” Lucas replied darkly.

    “I’m saying that your family sounds a lot like mine,” Nalani said. “Or, what’s left of mine, anyways….”

    Lucas instinctively went for his skullcap as the curls that were exposed flapped around in a sudden gust of wind. “Geez…was it this breezy when we left?”

    “No,” Nalani answered, sounding just as bewildered.

    Weather…that’s what Shane said to us before…it’s starting to get overcast.

    Lucas popped up to his feet.

    “Time to go,” he said quickly. “It looks like a storm might be coming.”

    “A storm? As in, a thunderstorm?” Nalani asked, whisking away the empty bowl from the two Pokémon and putting it into her bag.

    “Yeah,” Lucas responded briefly as he untethered Tiny from the tree. Nalani looked up toward the sky. There were still many blue spots, but clouds were obviously rolling in. Lucas, for one, was thankful, because more clouds meant the second leg of the trip wouldn’t be quite as hot.

    It was not long at all before they were off again, at Leppa speed, barreling north toward Belveyun. Lucas could hear the wind whistling in his ears and not really much else. Nalani (who was rather annoyingly hiked up, hands on his shoulders as she craned her neck over his head) was trying to say something to him, and Lucas, for one, was legitimately glad that he had an airtight (no pun intended) excuse not to hear her.

    That was, until he heard Nalani yell something really loudly. “PECHA!!”

    As much as Lucas didn’t mind jumping, he sure would have liked to have been prepared for it. Before he knew it, he was several feet in the air. Once he dared to look down, he realized that the Dodrio had gone much higher than normal in relation to the ground. He looked over his shoulder and saw a rather high cliff. Then it all came together, in a rather frightening moment as he thought about what could have happened. Hard to admit…but maybe Nalani knew what she was doing, after all…

    “HEADS UP!” Lucas heard her loud and clear this time. He turned and saw a rather large, gray blur coming straight at his face. Defensive instincts took over at that point; he put his forearm up and whatever had been coming collided rather painfully with that. There was an explosion of feathers and a loud, surprised squawk. They had reached the peak of their jump and were going down.

    “Push yourself up a little bit,” Nalani instructed him.

    “What? In mid-air? Hell, no,” Lucas answered vehemently. “Why?”

    I found out why about two seconds later.

    To all you people with hanging parts – that means the guys – if you’ve ever hit a hard bump riding a bike, you know a little bit of what this feels like. Just imagine the same feeling from about thirty feet up.

    “I told you,” Nalani said to Lucas, who was slumped over on the Dodrio, whimpering like a wounded puppy.

    CHESTO!” Lucas grunted. Instead of coming to a gradual stop, Tiny hit the brakes abruptly, which only made the pain worse.

    “You okay?” Nalani asked.

    Lucas grimaced and tried to talk. All that came out was a feeble squeak, like a Rattata having its tail stepped on.

    “Are you okay?” What kind of stupid question is that? I’ll tell you what: you go grow a pair of these, and then rack yourself on them from the top of a three-story building and tell me if you’re f**king okay.

    Why do girls always assume that asking that question makes it feel better? It doesn’t.

    “So…I’ll take that as a ‘no’,” Nalani answered, somewhat distractedly.

    Oran,” Lucas finally muttered, looking up at the sky. Then he felt one cold, solitary drop of water hit him in the forehead. “Uh-oh. Leppa.

    As Tiny stretched his long legs and accelerated to full speed, Lucas felt the rain growing faster too.

    “There’s not a speed above Leppa, is there?” Lucas asked.

    “If there is, Shane didn’t tell us,” Nalani answered nervously. Lucas grit his teeth.

    “I was afraid of that,” he groaned. “I think we’re probably about to get wet.”

    “Great. I’m not dressed for – hey, Lucas…” Nalani said, her voice dropping to a quiet sort of urgency.

    “What’s up?” he asked.

    “I think we’re being followed,” Nalani replied.

    In spite of himself, Lucas turned around. All he saw was, slightly above him, a greyish, birdlike Pokémon. It looked a bit like a Starly’s big brother.

    “That’s a Staravia,” Nalani commented, looking up nervously at it. “I swear it’s looking straight down at us…”

    The bird Pokémon banked to their left, revealing a second Staravia that dropped off in the opposite direction.

    “What?” Lucas grunted, his ochre eyes darting from right to left. There were Staravia on each side of them, flanking Tiny, whose outside heads squawked as he sensed a threat.

    Lucas shuddered as he heard a hiss in the air and then felt cool wetness penetrate the layers of his clothing one by one.

    Damn!” he snarled. “If it wasn’t for you and your lunch break…”

    “This is my fault?” Nalani snapped. “If you hadn’t screwed around in town this morning, we could have left earlier!”

    Lucas heard a screech and turned his eyes to the left.

    “Oh, sh*t!! CHESTO!!” he yanked back on the reins and brought Tiny to a sliding halt. As a gray blur missed his head by mere inches, he changed direction and set the flightless bird Pokémon into motion again. “Why the hell are they attacking us?”

    “No idea!!” Nalani exclaimed breathlessly, dodging a second Staravia dive-bomb. She lost her balance on the mount and started to slip sideways. She let out a scream.

    “Hey, watch it!” Lucas yelled, feeling the girl grip him around the waist so suddenly that she nearly pulled him off the Dodrio. He put one hand in front of his face, attempting to see. The rain was driving now and fell in sheets over the plains. He had rainwater dripping out of places that he had no idea he had. More importantly, he couldn’t see much of anything. “This is ridiculous!!”

    Then, there was a flash of light and an explosion of sound, almost like a bomb had gone off nearby. The boom was deafening, and mixed in with it was a muted squawk as well as a high-pitched, fading squeal. Lucas became suddenly aware of the wetness of the rain on his back as he came down a hill with a high, jutting rock. He looked over his shoulder as he crossed the small valley and realized exactly why his back was cold all of a sudden.

    Uh-oh…looks like I forgot somebody. Oh, well. Sucks for—


    There was another loud crash of thunder, and Nalani let out a scream that was somehow even louder. It made even Lucas’ hair, curly and drenched with rainwater, stand on end.

    “Aggh…nonononononono….” Lucas grunted, turning Tiny around. His heart and stomach both lurched as he felt the Triple Bird Pokémon lose his balance. All three heads let out a cacophony of squawks in confusion. But he did right himself and tore straight for where Lucas had steered him – the cliff. “PECHA!!”

    Tiny leapt, crossing the distance between the two outcroppings easily and hitting the ground running.

    From a distance, Lucas saw a feeble stream of smoke and reddish light. It looked like fire.

    Nalani staggered backward, favoring her left arm. Her violet hair hung limply over her eyes. Standing in front of her, irises darting in her eyeballs, was Ahi. Smoke rose like a column from the back of the Dragon Pokémon, who soon started to turn her head, trying to figure out where the assailants had gone.

    K-kai…” she mewled weakly. She hated water. There were no words strong enough in polite vocabulary to describe how much she hated water.

    “Staaaa…” a squawk came from their left. One of the Staravia was coming in hard, wings outstretched and stiff.

    “Ahi, now!! Use Ember!!” Nalani shouted desperately. Ahi could only manage a weak stream of flame, but it was enough to get Staravia’s attention and force him to abort his attack.

    Suddenly, Ahi let out a pained keen as she went sprawling to the ground. The other Staravia had come out of nowhere and put the Kaegon into the dirt with a Quick Attack.

    “Ahi, no!!” Nalani yelled.

    There was another crash of lightning and thunder. She screamed again, staggering backward and crouching into a ball, covering her head. Ahi looked over her shoulder, concerned. She knew exactly what was happening…

    She had taken her eyes off her enemies for just one second. Suddenly, she found herself airborne, her entire body burning from a Wing Attack that had cut right across her. She twisted around helplessly in midair as follow-up attacks slammed into her. After being bounced around several times, she finally hit the ground. The fall itself was not bad because of the soft grass, but the damage had already been done. She struggled to get to her feet, and through bleary eyes, watched as both Staravia hovered above her, ready to finish both her and her Trainer. She gathered all the strength she could muster and forced herself to her feet.

    The sky flashed white, and thunder rolled over the plains once again. Terror seemed to have robbed Nalani of her voice, which now burst forth in a clipped squeak.

    “Auntie Millie…?”

    “No…I’m sorry. She…she’s not coming back.”

    “Gone…? Forever?”

    “I’ll take care of you. I promise. I am all you have now, after all. Your parents, Emilia…they’re all gone. So without me…”

    “You’re alone.”

    Nalani looked up, her eyes red and her face wet from a mixture of rain and tears. She saw the two Staravia closing in…Ahi could barely stand…

    “CHARR!!” A cry came from somewhere in the distance, as well as a quickly dying stream of flames. One Staravia sensed the danger and flapped its wings powerfully, gliding up and out of the path of the attack. The second one wasn’t as attentive and squawked in pain as the small fire pellets burned away at his body. He, too, fluttered to safety, although in a much less graceful manner.

    CHESTO!!” Fast, pounding footsteps came from somewhere on Nalani’s right. “Stay there. Don’t move. HEY!!”

    Nalani saw a familiar pair of jeans and shoes walk alongside her. She followed them up to the waist and then to the head, where she saw his face. He had one arm outstretched, pointing at the two Staravia.

    “You birdbrains wanna bully somebody? Come on,” he snarled. Next to Ahi, who was struggling to her feet, was a Charmander whose tail was smoking like a chimney, but was trying his best to ignore it.

    “<Hurry.> Char-char-char…” Lucas looked down at the Charmander, who had a point. Apollo, predictably, was not a rain lover.

    “Go get ‘em, Apollo,” Lucas said clearly. “Ember!!”

    The Staravia parted ways again, trying to attack Apollo from both sides. But the Lizard Pokémon stood his ground, turned to the left, and fired a stream of small flames that grazed Staravia and sent him into a tailspin.

    “Apollo!” Lucas yelled. “Other side!!”

    The Charmander wheeled around and heard a squawk. Ahi had leapt around him and Tackled the second Staravia, ramming her head right into the bird’s breast. Apollo took the opportunity and spat forth a large fireball that hit his opponent dead-center, felling him from the sky.

    “Serves you right,” Lucas looked down at the fallen Staravia, going for a Pokéball on his belt. Something held him back, though. He put the ball away and looked away from both Staravia with a sour look on his face. “Now get the hell out of here.”

    Cha…char-man-der?” Apollo was looking at Ahi, who was obviously wounded. She seemed unwilling to look him in the eye.

    Gon? K-kai…” the Kaegon’s snout was glowing a bit, right under the eyes. Or maybe that was just a trick of the sunlight…

    Sunlight? Lucas looked up. He had been so preoccupied with the battle that he hadn’t noticed that the rain had stopped. As nasty as the storm had been, it had been just that quick as well. Clouds were starting to show holes in places. The red-haired boy turned his attention back to Nalani, who was tilted over on her knees and breathing very hard. He crouched down in front of her.

    “You okay?” he asked, a bit awkwardly. He finally got a good look at her face once she looked straight at him. The whites of her eyes were pink and her eyelashes matted. For whatever reason, she’d been crying. She shook her head.

    “I’m not a big fan of thunderstorms,” her voice came out in little more than a whisper. “You came back for me.”

    “Yeah…” Lucas muttered uncomfortably. “So what?”

    “Why?” she asked.

    “No idea,” he replied, not meeting her eyes. “Guess my conscience wouldn’t have liked it if you’d gotten pecked to death…or hit by lightning.”

    “So…it was all about keeping your conscience clear,” Nalani looked disappointed.

    “Well…yeah,” Lucas said nonchalantly as he returned Apollo to his ball. He didn’t see why that was so hard to figure out. Nalani shook her head and returned Ahi as well. Meanwhile, Lucas took off and hopped on Tiny. “LEPPA!

    The violet-haired girl’s heart sank horribly as she watched boy and Dodrio speed off into the distance. She stood there for a moment, completely flabbergasted, gazing blankly into the clearing horizon…

    …until she heard a familiar squawk from behind her. She wheeled around.

    “Hurry up,” Lucas was saying bossily. He was extending his arm down off Tiny’s side, looking straight ahead. “There’s no telling if another storm’s gonna roll through here…but I sure as hell don’t wanna be outside if it does.”

    Nalani shook her head. “You think you’re such a badass.”

    “I’ve been wandering an unfamiliar country for a week, and I still haven’t died a grisly death,” Lucas said distractedly. “I’d say that earns me at least one badass point.”

    Nalani sighed through her nose and grabbed onto Lucas’ wrist, hoisting herself up onto Tiny’s back and scooting up behind Lucas. She grabbed him around the waist again. He resigned himself to it this time. She’d probably fall on her head if she didn’t grab onto something.

    “You’re also a liar,” she said matter-of-factly into his ear. “Leppa!

    Tiny squawked in response and sped north again. Lucas could have sworn he felt the slightest amount of pressure being applied to his ribs for about a second.

    Don’t look at me like that.

    Absolutely nothing’s changed. I’m not having second thoughts about getting rid of her once we get to Belveyun. And I definitely don’t think about her completely differently than I did five days ago. I don’t wonder at all what it’d be like to have friends – let alone what it would be like to have her as a friend.

    Trust me. Once we hit Belveyun, I’m through with her. People enter and leave your life and sometimes, I guess, after they’re gone, you wonder what life would be like with them still around. But that’s definitely not going to happen. Once she’s gone, life goes on the same as it would if I’d never met her.

    Hear me on this one.

    Nothing’s changed one bit.

    **** **** **** M.A.V.E.R.I.C.K H.E.A.R.T **** **** ****

    Yep. Sure, Lucas. We all believe you.

    Not quite sure when the next chapter will be up. I’d like to have it posted before the New Year, but I’m thinking I might take a short break when Christmas rolls around. Then again, if I get on a roll next week, it could be up by next weekend.

    Like I’ve said before, I try to shoot for a month between chapters maximum. If it ends up being any longer than that, I will let you know, but I seriously doubt it.

    And now, for a new segment entitled ‘Did You Know?’ that will cover some trivia about the story and its author:

    Did You Know?

    1. Belveyun is two syllables, pronounced BELL-vyoon.
    2. ‘Ahi’ is the Hawaiian word for ‘Fire’.

    Well, that about it for now. Hope to hear from you soon, and I hope that you all will hear from me again very soon. If that makes any sense…

    - EM1
    Last edited by EonMaster One; 10th December 2010 at 8:39 PM.

    Dalton Gregg was a mostly-ordinary university student from the region once called Johto.
    Then a fateful encounter set him on a quest to change history.

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Behind you...

    Wink Ichiban are!

    Ok! In the words of Champ: "Game time!"

    Because this is how we roll. Let's R&R this baby!

    Interesting... from running from killer Staravia and Ahi and Apollo's intro and budding relationship (the word being used as liberally as possible), this was one surprise after another. Lucas was clearly in denial at the end. I mean, who does he think he's fooling? :P

    The Clement family have slightly harsh conditions for their rite of passage. I think I might have wet myself if I was transported to a foreign region blindfolded, and then left to my fate.

    The best part of this chapter to me, though, was Tiny. Although the misnaming gimmick has been done to death, you managed not only to pull it off with aplomb, but set it apart with berry unique commands. (Hehe, I made a punny.) Best parts of that ride, however, to me were:

    “Push yourself up a little bit,” Nalani instructed him.

    “What? In mid-air? Hell, no,” Lucas answered vehemently. “Why?”

    I found out why about two seconds later.

    To all you people with hanging parts – that means the guys – if you’ve ever hit a hard bump riding a bike, you know a little bit of what this feels like. Just imagine the same feeling from about thirty feet up.

    “I told you,” Nalani said to Lucas, who was slumped over on the Dodrio, whimpering like a wounded puppy.

    “CHESTO!” Lucas grunted. Instead of coming to a gradual stop, Tiny hit the brakes abruptly, which only made the pain worse.

    “You okay?” Nalani asked.

    Lucas grimaced and tried to talk. All that came out was a feeble squeak, like a Rattata having its tail stepped on.

    “Are you okay?” What kind of stupid question is that? I’ll tell you what: you go grow a pair of these, and then rack yourself on them from the top of a three-story building and tell me if you’re f**king okay.

    Why do girls always assume that asking that question makes it feel better? It doesn’t.

    “So…I’ll take that as a ‘no’,” Nalani answered, somewhat distractedly.
    As Shiro would say, "Dude, you just racked yourself from a height of twenty to thirty feet. I don't care how tough you are, but you better lie down." -_\

    And then the internal exchange when Nalani fell off during the chase:

    Uh-oh…looks like I forgot somebody. Oh, well. Sucks for—

    You sure know how to push the limit beyond the normal. Good job.

    Lastly, to wrap up this surprisingly long-as heck review, I'd like to congratulate you on no identified grammar bumps! Give yourself a round of applause!

    OK, I'm out. Life's about starting up again here, and you know what that means...

    Last edited by Air Dragon; 11th December 2010 at 4:24 AM.
    The Corei Quest's latest chapter: Chapter Forty Seven: Tricks of the Trade (24 April 2014)
    PROJECT C-SQUARE STATUS = 100.00% Complete (11-12-2010, ca. 2:40pm GMT)
    Butt-ugly Banner by Me
    (Still waiting on the excellent Saffire Persian for another awesome TCQ banner!)

  19. #19


    New chapter, and on schedule!

    I must admit, the relationship you're building with Lucas and Nalani is paying off big time. Them guessing each other's personalities in the pool was a charming scene, but the part where Lucas flat out left her in Room 330 was very powerful.

    “On foot…by yourself. That’s at least two days, probably three,” Nalani said. “And that’s for someone who knows their way around. Suppose you make a wrong turn and get lost. There’s not a lot of cover from the sun out there. ‘God, it’s hot. Maybe I wouldn’t be out here dying of heat stroke if I hadn’t done this –’” she put certain fingers up. On both hands. Emphatically. Lucas felt a sort of sick comfort in knowing that the meaning of that gesture knew no national borders. “‘…to someone that was trying to help me out!’”
    Oh snap, go Nalani!

    Travis wondered whether Shane was used to seeing bills that size, because the latter held them up to the nearest lamp, obviously investigating for a blemish or imperfection that would mark the bills as fake.
    Heh heh, still got Travis DePaul on your mind?

    Tiny is such an awesome bird. Admittedly, the whole thing about him obeying to Berry names is a bit odd, but it serves as a great moment when Nalani blurts out "Leppa".

    And yay, Pokémon!

    Kaegon, as a species, is described in great detail, and the budding "relationship" between Ahi and Apollo is certainly cute.

    Uh, oh, killer Staravia! I'm interested where that subplot will go, if anywhere, since Shane did mention bandits and such... I genuinely felt sad for Nalani and Ahi when the Staravia cornered them. But, they're no match for Apollo.

    So all in all, this was a very enjoyable read. Looking forward to the next chapter, as always.

  20. #20
    Join Date
    May 2005

    Default Chapter 5 - Full Swing

    Air Dragon: Beyond the limit? I haven’t even gotten rolling yet. And Lucas sort of talks to himself quite a bit. I kind of think everyone does. The difference between Lucas and Travis is that you’ll get to actually read most of Lucas’ conversations play out.

    zen_master_dude: Yes, Nalani is aware of the pure stopping power of the double deuce. I hate to disappoint you, but there wasn’t really a subplot with the Staravia. Lucas swatted a Starly by accident mid-chapter and the parents got ****** off. But maybe my reputation precedes me if you expected that to turn into a full-blown subplot. It’s something I would have considered doing a couple of years ago. But don’t worry. There’s going to be more than enough plot down the road to keep you satisfied, I think.

    And now! Just in time for the holiday season…a brand new chapter! Enjoy!

    5 – Full Swing

    June 9, PA 2019
    Belveyun City, Belveyun Isle

    Lucas Blackthorn’s eyes were still closed when he woke up the following morning. It took a second for it to register with him that this was not Room 330 of the Springleaf Inn in Narra Township. Mainly, he figured it out by the different collection of sound samples he was hearing. Instead of a steady rumble of distant traveling vehicles, he heard a light rushing sound – water?

    He opened his eyes. These beds weren’t as nice as the ones in Narra, in his opinion. So then why the ever-living hell was this place three thousand keys a night? At least, that was what Lucas thought he’d heard when Nalani asked the man at the counter the evening before. By that point, he’d been so tired and wet that he no longer gave a damn. After going to a Pokémon Center (yes, it turned out, Carona had them, although they weren’t completely free like they were in Johto) and having Apollo and Ahi checked out, they had come straight to this hotel. Lucas had no idea how late it was by that point, but it would have been dark enough for them to be unable to see where they were going had they been out on the plains. There had been a salty aroma on the breezes, and Lucas could only guess that they’d happened upon an inn on the north end of town, right on the coastline.

    That was about all Lucas knew; as soon as they’d secured the room (he registered with a slight jolt of the heart that they were sharing again. Last night, he’d been too tired to care), he peeled off his damp clothes and leapt straight into bed. He didn’t even remember his head hitting the pillow, and wondered if he’d been out before that happened.

    Lucas’ eyes finally opened – bleary, golden-brown, not quite fully awake yet. He sat up and didn’t move for a second, basking in the uncomfortable floating sensation that comes with being semi-conscious. There was one thing that he noticed before anything else. He really had to pee. And that sound of rushing water was not helping matters.

    He leapt from his bed (wondering if hotels were required by law to have floral patterns on their comforters…as if males never used the rooms) and crossed the two steps to the bathroom. He opened the door, took a power stance above the toilet, and…

    The sound of rushing water stopped. He heard a slight grinding sound, almost like a sliding door opening.

    No way did that happen.

    He saw a tan arm emerge from inside of the shower and knew the rest of the body – all of her body – was coming next. But once one has started…going, it’s almost impossible to stop on a dime without causing a mess. In other words, he couldn’t move, and he couldn’t zip up…



    Nalani jumped as she looked to her right. The boy, who had been completely motionless save for breathing five seconds ago, had gone from fast asleep to wide awake and leaping out of bed in an instant.

    “You always wake up like that?” Nalani asked casually, looking up from a magazine. Lucas whirled around upon hearing the voice. For some weird reason, he looked relieved to see her.

    She could not possibly know how relieved he was to see her – dressed.

    Granted, this was given a liberal definition of the word ‘dressed’. She was wearing shorts, along with what was clearly the top to the swimsuit she’d bought just before they had left Narra. But it was still more than what she’d been wearing in the dream…

    “Nightmare?” Nalani asked, trying to sound casual.

    Oh, yeah,” muttered Lucas darkly. Truth be told, he’d been less concerned about actually seeing her naked than what she possibly could have done to him as a result. In a dream, one’s imagination runs wild. So she might have, say…decided to pull out a knife. And taken it straight to the first part of exposed flesh that she could have gotten to…

    Lucas shuddered. Now he was concerned about the dream itself. He’d always heard about dreams being some sort of twisted extension of real life – a mix of actual events, past and present, along with fantasies of best- and worst-case-scenarios.

    There was no way in hell that he had that dream because he had some secret, deep-seated desire to see her unclothed and would have dealt with any consequence just to have a peek…

    Was there?

    Granted, that was the first time in his dreams that a girl had been naked. Usually, if anyone was naked in his dreams, it was him, and he was standing in front of people.

    He had that one a lot, actually.

    But, aside from Diamond walking in on him taking a shower once when she was three (and even then, because of a quick move with a towel, she wouldn’t have seen anything that would have cost her eyes their innocence), a girl had never seen him naked. So that dream had no basis in reality.

    So did that mean that dreams meant nothing at all? That would be comforting.

    But it also wouldn’t explain why he’d had the dream of a crowd staring at him in his boxers – or less – three times since he’d gotten to Carona.

    “At least you’re up now. I thought you’d fallen into a coma,” Nalani commented, leaping up and tossing the magazine back onto her bed with a giggle. “I’ve already had breakfast and taken a stroll around town.”

    “In that outfit?” he asked, wondering why he’d done it just about immediately after.

    “It’s a beach town, and it’s summer. Everyone dresses like this around here,” Nalani rationalized. Walking right up to Lucas and poking him in the chest, she commented, “So, if I were you, I’d get over my fear of seeing a girl in a swimsuit really quick. Otherwise, you’re not going to last too long. Especially because we’re going to the beach today.”

    “Um…I didn’t decide that,” uttered Lucas uncertainly.

    “You might as well. Our clothes are in the dry cleaners,” Nalani answered, as if Lucas should have figured this out already.

    Lucas, on the other hand, felt like someone had mistaken his brain for an egg – and scrambled it. “What.”

    “I found a dry cleaners and took our clothes there,” Nalani replied. “They were all dirty from the trip – not to mention soaking wet. I figured you wouldn’t want mold growing in your pants.”

    Lucas winced. She had a point there. “But what if I don’t want to go to the beach?”

    “Why would you not want to go to the beach?” Nalani asked, astonished…ten minutes later as Lucas trailed behind her, carrying towels and a cheap blanket.

    “It’s not all that great,” Lucas muttered.

    “Well, I don’t know that,” Nalani retorted.

    “Wha – you’ve never been to a beach before?” Lucas asked.

    “It’s cold where I live,” Nalani said, facing Lucas to talk and thus, walking backwards. “I mean…it’s f**king cold. Like, there’s no summer – here’s good.”

    “No summer?” Lucas set the pair’s belongings down on an empty plot of sand. Thankfully, they hadn’t needed to walk far at all. In fact, if there was another Lucas standing right outside of their room on the second floor of Tradewinds, the motel where they were staying, he would have been able to see himself from the balcony. It was clear outside and the sun was close to its midday high. It was warm, but not hot – Lucas guessed that the storm the day before had taken some of the sting out of the air. As awkward as it felt to be standing around in an undershirt and trunks (somehow, more awkward than just trunks), it felt good. Lucas couldn’t imagine a place with no summer.

    “Well, technically, we have summer,” Nalani amended her last statement. “But, in Ëdelbourg, ‘summer’ just means that it gets a little bit above freezing and you don’t have to wear your really heavy coat. It’s f**king cold.”

    Lucas muttered, “Oh.”

    Nalani started to help him with unfolding the blanket. Lucas hadn’t seen the design on it and hoped that it wasn’t something too lame or too girly – wait a second…

    “Wha…” was all that came out of Lucas’ mouth, but it was enough to get Nalani’s attention. She looked up.

    “Something up?” she asked.

    “Did you just say you were from Ëdelbourg?” he questioned.

    “Uh…yeah,” Nalani answered. Why was he looking at her like that?

    Why was she looking at him like that?

    “Mm,” he hummed noncommittally.

    “…You know about Ëdelbourg?” Nalani asked, sitting down and fumbling with the buckle on her jean shorts.

    “Not much, but…” Lucas muttered. “It’s where I’m trying to get to.”

    She froze in place. Lucas tried not to look at her – first of all, this conversation was going somewhere he didn’t really want it to go. Second, it didn’t matter if Lucas knew that she had bikini bottoms on. The fact that she had her shorts around her knees was still sort of awkward to him.

    “Oh,” Nalani’s tone changed a bit, no longer sounding cheery. “Really? What…kind of business do you have up there?”

    Lucas frowned. Now he really didn’t like where this was going. “I’ve gotta…meet with someone.”

    There was a look in Lucas’ eyes that was begging Nalani to change the subject.

    And to Lucas’ surprise, Nalani had that same look. “Well, you’re on your own with that one. I don’t have any interest in going back to Ëdelbourg anytime soon.”

    Lucas blinked a couple of times. Then he sat down.

    “Really?” Lucas asked.

    Nalani kicked her shorts all the way off her shins and put them down near her backpack. “ ‘Course not. Why?” She resurfaced wearing a familiar smile – the one that was three parts delight, with a dash of mischief. “I like the weather here a lot better.”

    It momentarily disturbed Lucas that he knew that Nalani had a couple of different types of smiles…and that he could tell the difference.

    “Listen…” her smile was fading a little bit and was now just the shadow of a smirk. She leaned back on her hands, her head and deep plum hair lilting over onto her near shoulder.

    …which might or might not have been the first time that I thought to myself that she was kind of cute.

    I wanted to slap myself.

    “It’s pretty obvious that things get awkward whenever we start asking each other questions about our homes. You don’t want to talk about yours,” Nalani went on, “and I really don’t want to talk about mine.”

    “That just an observation, or are you trying to make a point?” Lucas asked, adjusting his head slightly.

    Maybe she’ll look ugly from this angle…she could have a mole or something that she’s hiding…

    Ehh…crap. It’s exactly the same.

    “I’m saying that, maybe…we just shouldn’t,” she answered simply. “If I’m ever ready, I’ll tell you.”

    “Hm? Yeah, sure,” Lucas muttered, clearly distracted.

    “You okay?” she asked.

    “Yeah. I’m fine,” he murmured.

    “Well, relax. Why do you have to be so on edge all the time?” she questioned.

    “I’m not on edge. What are you talking about?” Lucas answered defensively, nonetheless squirming.

    Nalani grimaced. “So…what do you like?”

    “Mmm?” Lucas turned his head toward her. What a strange question.

    “I mean…to do. Or food. Or…anything, really,” Nalani answered.

    Lucas listened to the hiss of the sea for a moment. Nalani sat up.

    “Do you like anything?” she asked, sounding irritated.

    “Mmm…” Lucas sighed.

    “…You’re not serious.” Nalani was gaping at him.

    “What? Is that weird?”

    “…You’re either joking or lying,” Nalani answered. A smirk was on her face.

    “Water,” Lucas replied, reaching off the blanket for a handful of sand and then letting it spill slowly out of his palm. “I like water – being in it, around it…”

    “Really?” Nalani asked. “Is there any reason for that?”

    “It’s nature’s perfect balance, isn’t it?” Lucas chuckled. If he’d been looking Nalani’s way, he would have seen how taken aback she was by this answer. That was exactly the reason he wasn’t looking at her. “It gives life to the earth. Most living things run on it. It can be calm, just like this…streams, oceans, rivers…but it can also be a whirlpool, a tidal wave. It’s gentle enough to give life, but strong enough to destroy if it has to.”

    “You act like such an old person,” Nalani commented.

    “What’s that supposed to mean?” Lucas turned toward her.

    “When was the last time you smiled?” she asked. “And not sarcastic, either. When’s the last time you were really happy?”

    There was something about the way this whole conversation was going that was irking Lucas.

    “Always with the analyzing,” he groaned. “I mean, seriously, what the f**k do you want from me?”

    Her eyes flickered away from him for a second.

    “Who is Lucas?” she answered very plainly, the last shadow of a smile now gone from her face. “All you’ve gone out of your way to show me is this sarcastic ‘tough guy’ that looks out for number one and wants everyone to think that he doesn’t need anyone else to make it. But if you were really like that, if you really only cared about yourself and no one else and that was just fine with you, then what made you come to help me when I was in trouble? Twice?”

    Lucas didn’t meet her eyes.

    “It’s just hardwired into me to help defenseless people,” he answered. “It’s how I was raised, I guess.”

    “So you enjoy being a hero?” Nalani asked. Lucas did look at her this time.

    “F**k, no,” he answered, the slightest trace of disdain – or perhaps anger – etched into his suddenly aged face. “It’s not worth it. People try to make it glamorous in movies and comic books and sh*t like that, but real-life heroes…they pay a high price for what they do.”

    “And…what’s that?” Nalani asked, taking in every curve and subtle facial expression of a boy that now looked to be channeling a much older soul.

    “A lot of times…it’s their humanity,” answered Lucas darkly. “After a while, to the masses, he’s no longer a person…he’s just a garbage can where they can dump all of their problems and hope to have them taken care of. He doesn’t have as much time to feel joy, feel pain, or…even love, I guess. Too many people depend on him for him to be human. So…no. I don’t want to be a hero at all. I just want to be someone that does the little things right. If there were more of those people in the world…we probably wouldn’t need so many of those big damn heroes.”

    “So, you want to help people without actually caring for them,” Nalani tried to summarize after a while. “That’s what you’re saying.”

    “…Yeah, I guess,” Lucas muttered.

    It’s a lot less hassle that way, isn’t it?

    “You don’t say this to many people, do you?”

    “Nope.” Lucas focused his eyes on an indeterminate point in the sky. “You’re actually the first to bother to ask.”

    “Really? I feel special,” she replied with a smile. Lucas didn’t know whether or not she was being sarcastic.

    “Sure. Just don’t let it go to your head,” he said flatly. Suddenly, he hoisted himself up to his feet.

    “Wait a sec…” uttered Nalani, a bit feebly.

    “I’m hot,” Lucas interrupted, walking toward the water. Nalani started to go after him, but thought better of it.

    Lucas treaded water and looked up aimlessly into the sky. A few wispy, feeble attempts at clouds were floating up there aimlessly, right around the sun.

    I just can’t trust her. Not at all. It’s obvious she’s got some sort of angle. What’s the angle?

    I don’t buy that she just saw me and went, “He looks like he’s an okay person. Maybe I’ll bend over backwards to be friends with him.” I mean, nobody does that, much less for me, unless they’re lonely. And nobody’s that lonely…right?

    And to make matters worse, I could easily be gone. I told her yesterday, before we left Narra, that I would travel with her as far as Belveyun – and here we are. I could ditch her and not have broken my word at all.

    So why haven’t I done it yet?

    I already know that she’s not going to keep this up. Once she gets what she wants – whatever that is – she’s going, and she’ll probably f**k me over in the process, too. That’s what most people do, anyway. But she’s tough to read. She’s been helpful, friendly, and maybe even…a little bit of a flirt. Is she always like that? Or does she just know that it gets under my skin – like it’s our own personal inside joke or something?

    And now, I’m at a disadvantage. She knows more about me than I do about her.

    Who is Nalani?

    She claims to know so much more about Carona than I do…and she can sort of back that up. She was born and raised here. At the same time, though…everything she does seems like a new experience to her. I can only guess that she doesn’t know a lot about the world outside of Ëdelbourg except for what someone else has taught her. And I can’t make a comment about it out loud at the risk of sounding like a creepy pervert, but she’s not very modest, either. For a teenage girl, she doesn’t seem to have a problem with showing skin…even if it
    is just to make me uncomfortable. Really, she acts like someone who’s willing to try just about anything once. I wonder if she was sheltered growing up? Maybe her aunt and uncle were overprotective.

    Maybe that’s the reason she doesn’t want to go back to Ëdelbourg. Yeah, that’d make sense.

    I wonder – did she run away from home?

    Why am I spending so much time trying to figure her out? I guess I could just ask her.

    Nah…that’d make me sound as if I actually wanted to know.

    But don’t I? Isn’t that why I’m just floating here, thinking about her?

    She acts like she wants to be friends, but doesn’t volunteer any information. Not exactly the best way to build a trusting relationship. Is she waiting for me to ask her – to show her that I really want to know?

    Is that what you do when you’re trying to make a friend?

    I wouldn’t know. I’ve never had any friends. I’ve had my family and that was it. I wasn’t really well liked in Blackthorn City, and when I was little, in New Bark Town…most parents thought my dad was a bad influence. In that sense, I guess the move was really bad timing. 2012…I was six years old in 2012 when Dad died. I would have started school there in town that fall.

    There are a couple of schools in the city, but most kids in the Blackthorn Clan are home-schooled. Home-schooled kids always have the stigma of having bad social skills. It didn’t help me at all that I didn’t have a cousin – or even the kid of a friend of the family – in my age group. My aunts and uncles, the Ryndales, all the noble families, really...only started having children after I got there. So I wasn’t around many kids my own age at all…and it wasn’t really anyone’s fault. I guess, maybe, they could have made a bigger point of putting me around other children, but honestly, I’m not sure it would have worked. There was too much going on in the first couple of years, what with me even getting adjusted to living with them. Most Blackthorn Clan kids start their education at five, which meant that I was already a year behind when I got there.

    And their education’s really involved. You don’t get the standard issue ‘reading, writing, math’ that most parents teach their kids. Well, you do, but it ends up being something more like ‘reading, writing, math, Pokémon training, Dragon training (which is a completely different monster), martial arts, basics of government, and a dash of military strategy’. You see…most Blackthorns end up doing one of three things when they grow up: training Pokémon, helping run the city, or becoming a fighter. Obviously, they have no way of knowing what your role is in the clan when you’re five or six years old. So they just start teaching you a little of everything.

    Don’t get me wrong, they teach ‘diplomacy.’ A lot of times, Blackthorns that aren’t running the city are clan ambassadors to other cities or countries. But ‘diplomacy’ is for politicians. The same theories don’t always work when you’re just dealing with people, and even if they did, ‘diplomacy’ was my worst subject by far. I was best at martial arts, and my Pokémon training was actually somewhere in the middle. Not bad…not even mediocre…but definitely not great. Just slightly above average, like my brother.

    Bad at ‘diplomacy,’ good at causing bruises…that’s me in a nutshell.

    Nalani let out a sigh. Her eyes were closed against the sunlight. She wished she’d thought to get a cute little beach umbrella for some shade. But not too cute. Lucas was already uncomfortable around her as it was.

    But it was getting hot, and Nalani wanted to join him in the water. Maybe ten minutes with his thoughts would be good enough. The way she had always heard, introverted people (and Lucas clearly was one) saw social interaction as draining…sort of like emptying a gas tank. If it got all the way to empty, then they tended to shut down. But solitude, for most of them, was their way of refilling the tank.

    She thought of herself as a natural extrovert…which meant that she worked the other way around. A little bit of solitude had its place, but after a while, she needed to be around people.

    “Hey – violet,” Nalani opened her eyes when she heard the voice, knowing that whoever was speaking was probably referring to her. After all, dark purple wasn’t a very common hair color. She sat up. It was a pair of boys. Both were standing above her, and neither one of them was Lucas. Both were teenagers – older than either her or Lucas, but not by much. The one slightly in front had a mop of water-sodden, bleach-blond hair that made her blue eyes ache. He was wearing hunter green swimming trunks. The other was brown-haired, with a smug, distracted expression on his face. In front, the blond-haired boy was standing, arms folded across his waist in a way that was obviously meant to bring more attention to his admittedly better-than-average muscle tone. She supposed he wasn’t bad-looking…but she already didn’t like his attitude.

    “Something I can help you two with?” she asked casually, sitting up.

    “Dunno,” the blond boy said casually, squatting down to reach her eye level, just off the blanket. The way he did it, the way he knew not to step on the blanket – that the square of cloth was her space, and anywhere within it was coming too close, too fast…it was almost tactical. The boy’s facial expression changed – almost as if it had registered with him that he wasn’t dealing with someone that was completely naïve. What Nalani couldn’t tell though, was whether that fact had turned him off or made him even more eager. In the back of her head, she wondered how Lucas would react if he happened to come back and see this scene. “Depends. How old are you?”

    Nalani observed him for a moment. She figured him to be a year, maybe two, older than she was and not a day more. She could almost pass for being a young-looking seventeen…and she was aware of that, too. But if she said ‘seventeen’, it could backfire. After all, teenage boys liked teenage girls but dreamed about women. To scare them off, she could say she was younger…say, eleven…but no way in hell were these two guys buying that. In fact, she wasn’t sure she could say that she was eleven with a straight face. She was far too…gifted in certain areas, as it were.

    “Thirteen,” she finally replied.

    “Thirteen?” the blond boy repeated, his head drifting back a bit. Clearly, he had thought she was older. No surprise to her; she’d gotten that reaction a lot. He looked over his shoulder at the other boy.

    “Two years isn’t that bad,” the other boy commented. Nalani tried to hide a smirk. She had been absolutely right. “Besides, you just had a birthday.”

    “Yeah. Right,” the blond turned back with a smile, making sure to show only some of his teeth, and not all of them. Otherwise, he would have looked like a slasher and he didn’t want that. “Dane Gould. You by yourself here? I mean…no parents, no…boyfriend?”

    Nalani didn’t answer. He looked furtive – as if he knew that he’d gone too far, been too obvious.

    “No boyfriend? Seriously? A knockout like you?” Dane sounded astonished – or at least, he did a good job of pretending to sound astonished.

    “Maybe I’m on the market…but I’ve got this thing about…third wheels,” Nalani finally said. The dark-haired boy’s face went pink.

    “Well, if you’ve got a friend that’s half as good-looking as you, then he’s all set,” Dane laughed.

    “Yeah…I don’t think the double-date thing’s going to work out. I don’t swing that way,” a casual voice came from behind Dane. Both he and his friend turned in tandem and stepped apart, revealing another teenage boy with dark red curls that hung limply down his neck. He looked from one boy to the other.

    “Lucas…?” Nalani muttered. Where’d he come from?

    “Who the f**k are you?” Dane grunted. He turned to Nalani. “Thought you said you didn’t have a boyfriend.”

    “Well, I don’t,” Nalani said stubbornly. “But I didn’t say anything.

    “She’s a friend…that happens to be a girl,” the red-haired boy corrected Dane. “Huge difference for me, but same difference for you.”

    “Well…if you’re not dating her, then why is it such a problem for someone else to ask her out?” Dane questioned, a sneer on his face.

    “Because guys like you bother me,” Lucas answered nonchalantly. “Now…step away from the blanket, or – well, let’s just say the consequences could be dire and…possibly deadly.”

    “You mind explaining that?” the brown-haired boy stepped closer to him, clenching his fists.

    “I kick both of your skulls in,” answered Lucas. “That enough explanation for you? Or do you need a demo?”

    Dane laughed. “You? Against both of us? You’re bluffing, right?”

    Nalani looked on. Without her rod, she was no good in this situation…

    “You don’t know me well enough to assume that. Maybe I’m some skinny-looking kid that talks a big game and can’t back it up,” Lucas replied. “And maybe I actually do know about ten different ways to put you on the ground in three seconds flat. You don’t have to take the chance, you know. You can just walk away.”

    He stepped toward Nalani, between the other two boys. He had just about reached the blanket when he felt a hard grip on his right shoulder.

    “Hey – listen, pal…”

    Nalani watched as Lucas grabbed Dane’s hand, wrenched it from his shoulder, and tweaked it in a way that looked very painful.

    “…Don’t do that,” Lucas muttered grimly. Nalani had barely enough time to see what happened next – and Dane definitely did not have enough time to react. Lucas hammered a forearm into the crook of Dane’s elbow, bending it inward and weakening Dane’s grip. Then his knuckles found the older boy’s nose. Dane went reeling to the ground whilst his friend stood there with a dumbstruck look on his face. Dane was hunched over on the ground, groping at his nose. Lucas glanced at Dane’s comrade for a second, almost as if daring him to do something about it. He got a couple of steps of momentum...

    Nalani winced as Dane fell to the ground, breathing heavily and clutching the side of his head where Lucas had just punted him.


    “What the hell?!” Dane’s friend screeched, running over to help the other boy, who was now clearly crying and trying to hide it.

    “You…” Dane choked. “M-mother…”

    “You should have just walked away.” Lucas’ remark took the form of a rather unnerving monotone as he gazed out at the water distractedly. Dane and his friend left, the former tripping over himself in an effort to get as far away from Lucas as possible.

    “The kick to the head? Overkill,” Nalani finally said, several awkward seconds later.

    Lucas shook his head and stared at the water again. She didn’t get it. He was trying to prove a point – more to himself than to anyone else.

    “Strong enough to destroy if it has to…” he muttered. He turned back toward Nalani, who was scrambling to her feet. She froze, her blue eyes gazing up at him from her half-kneeling position. “You’re gonna hate me for asking this question…but I’m gonna do it anyway.”

    Nalani watched him as he flumped down on the blanket, right next to her. His knees were curled up slightly and he was gazing toward the water.

    “When you were growing up…in Ëdelbourg…” Nalani winced. “How many friends did you have?”

    “Nobody,” she answered.¬

    “Sad,” Lucas muttered.

    “Yeah…” Nalani whispered. Lucas decided to risk a glance at her and noticed that she was suddenly busying herself with her feet for some reason. If Lucas had blinked, he would have missed it. Her long eyelashes fluttered a couple of times in blinks, and a solitary drop fell from one of her eyes.

    “I figured as much,” Lucas said wryly. “Anybody that’s gotta rely on me for company must have a pretty pathetic social life.”

    Nalani looked up at him. “You’re better than nothing.”

    “Am I?” Lucas chuckled. “Guess it’s beginner’s luck. I have no idea what I’m doing.”

    He turned to look at her. He was sitting up, his face still set in a firm line. Nalani watched him for a moment as he fell onto his back, hands behind his head and eyes focused on the blue sky above. She leaned down. A smile crept over her face.

    “You…are the most complicated person I’ve ever met.”

    He opened his ochre eyes and turned his head to look straight at her. He was trying to hide it, but the slightest hint of a smile was on his face. “Ditto.”

    My aunts and uncles say my brother and I are a lot alike. I think we have different…world views, I guess. I say…well, sh*t happens. He says sh*t happens for a reason. I think we run a lot of things ourselves, but I’m starting to wonder. We can’t control other people…or variables. Suppose I had gone strolling by that alley a few minutes earlier. Nalani and I never would have met.

    I keep jumping into the unknown over and over. I guess that’s just sort of my thing – jumping into the unknown. I don’t know if I know how to be a friend to anyone. I’ve never done it before. I guess I know how to care…but I don’t know, either.

    Nalani said once that we could have been long-lost relatives. I laughed her off, but the more I think about it…we both have neither of our parents, so we were raised by aunts and uncles in places that are sort of closed off from the rest of the world. Neither one of us has had someone we could really call a friend. Now both of us are wandering Carona for some reason or another. It’s kind of scary. It’s like she could be me in some sort of alternate universe.

    Maybe that’s why I feel comfortable saying things to her that I wouldn’t to other people. People are trying to figure me out, and maybe there’s something in my head that thinks that she’s the one person that could actually pull it off.

    I don’t know exactly what it was, but I know that something – maybe everything – changed for me that day.

    Lucas found himself thinking, later, that for someone who had never done it before, Nalani sure knew what to do. It also occurred to him that maybe he should start getting out of bed earlier and being productive. In the couple of hours before he’d awoken that morning, Nalani had not only found a dry cleaners (where they went after their short beach trip to pick up their clothes), but a sports grill not far from the Tradewinds Motel where they could get a good lunch for relatively cheap. Of course, no one under seventeen was allowed in on their own after about nine – too many drunks. In the early afternoon, though, that wasn’t a problem.

    Thus, it was at this sports bar, appropriately (Lucas guessed) called ‘The Locker Room’, that Nalani and Lucas ate, after changing into their clothes again back at the inn.

    It was an interesting place, to be sure. They sure didn’t make restaurants like this in Johto. Granted, there were very few sports in Johto unless you counted Pokémon Training, which was the biggest spectator event in the nation. The place was dimly lit, but in that warm, inviting sort of way that didn’t look quite so sketchy. Besides, it wasn’t like they needed a lot of light; in fact, given that several different walls within the building were lined either with televisions or with large projector screens, less light was probably better. The walls that didn’t have some sort of screen on them bore various sports paraphernalia. In the ledge right behind the chair opposite him had a built-in glass case. Inside of it was a wooden baseball bat with the untidy scrawl of some famous player’s signature. Likewise, there was a white-and-yellow plastic disc that looked suspiciously like a Frisbee.

    Okay – it was a Frisbee. At least, that’s what they called in it Johto. From the few gameplay clips Lucas had seen in the last few days, he knew that this was a Ch’arad. Just like baseball, the name of the sport and the object used to play it were called the same thing. He supposed calling the game ‘Disc’ just didn’t have a ring to it, but he guessed that the word ‘Ch’arad’ had some sort of historical significance or something. Other than that, it didn’t really make a whole lot of sense to him.

    Lucas leaned back a little, staring at the empty seat opposite him. Nalani had gone off, probably to use the bathroom. He’d already ordered his meal; freshly cut fries and a hamburger that looked like it might have been enough to feed him for a couple of turns. The Tradewinds Motel had a microwave in the dining area, so he could always finish it off there if he got full.

    He squirmed a bit in his seat. He felt happy. Well, not just happy. Giddy – embarrassingly so. Problem was, he couldn’t figure out why. It only felt like something he had felt a handful of times in his life. Not to say that he’d had a bad childhood – from age six onwards, he had actually had a very neutral childhood, if anything. Combine the perks of growing up as a member of the Blackthorn clan (he was rich and, although nobody particularly liked him, he was never bullied growing up) with some of its drawbacks (like having to endure the grind of extra studies), and everything sort of offset itself. But this wasn’t the neutral ‘happiness’ that simply said that nothing was going wrong. This was the kind of feeling one gets where something had gone very right.

    Funnily enough, he’d been feeling that way ever since he beat down that guy that tried to pick a fight with him at the beach earlier that day. Maybe he just needed someone to hit in the face to let out all of his pent-up frustration about how weird things had been since he had arrived in Carona the week before.

    “Marbury Salad with a Rawst Berry smoothie?” a young lady’s voice asked, putting the aforementioned food and frozen beverage down on the table. Lucas looked up and saw the young, blonde woman that had been their waitress. She was very young – twenty at the extreme oldest. She might have been new, too. She had a tiny, nervous tremor to her voice, like she wasn’t quite used to this yet, but was trying to cover it up with an extra dose of exuberance.

    “That’s me,” a girl’s voice cut in breathlessly before Lucas could respond. Nalani slid into view and into her chair, gathering the large, leafy plate and the glass, which was filled to the brim with a frosty-looking indigo substance that wasn’t fully liquid.

    “So I guess you got the ‘Classic Third-Pounder’ with fries and the Nomel Soda?” she asked. Lucas nodded and received a plate with an overflowing carton of fries and one of the largest burgers that Lucas had ever seen. Next came his glass – a transparent, fizzy drink that looked like carbonated, liquid gold. “You two have a good meal, and let me know if you need anything, okay?”

    Nalani nodded and sent the young waitress on her way.

    “She’s a hell of a lot better than our last blonde waitress,” she said when the young woman was out of earshot.

    “Got that right,” Lucas agreed. “Granted, we did kind of irritate her…”

    “She deserved it,” Nalani replied snippily. “She was being difficult.”

    Lucas had run out of things to say, but was not at all surprised when the silence between them ended much more quickly this time.

    “So…other than the whole thing with going to Ëdelbourg,” Nalani asked. “Is there any other point to you being here?”

    “I have to go back with Apollo fully evolved,” Lucas replied. “Into a Charizard. That’s when my journey’s complete, according to them. The thing about dragons is that they…”

    “…Take a while,” Nalani replied. “It’s a little bit more complicated for me. Two years.”

    Lucas looked up at her. “Two years? You can’t go back home for two years?”

    “I have to learn how to survive on my own – or at least, without my family helping me,” Nalani answered, chomping down a forkful of salad. Lucas couldn’t even crack a joke about girls and salads in this case. First off, he found out the first day he met her that she wasn’t a leaf-eater. Second, he ate a lot of greens, too, to balance out his tendency toward junk food. Part of martial arts and being able to do them well was at least trying to eat in a way that would keep one in shape. That would probably go double for Nalani, who Lucas already knew was very self-confident about her figure and would seek to keep it up. “I’m not thinking about going back home right now, though. I just got out here to Belveyun Isle the last part of May.”

    “You seemed to sort of know where you were going. Did you get to read up beforehand?” asked Lucas, who had made a point of doing a little bit of research about Carona in the several months between choosing to come here and actually making the trip.

    “I did…but that only helped so much. You see…I didn’t know exactly where they’d drop me,” Nalani replied, frowning. “I was thinking – hoping – it’d be Cadlamere. But, nope…leave it to my uncle to make things more difficult. He drops me on the freaking island. Not that it matters, though…”

    “Speaking of Cadlamere…” Lucas muttered. “How do you propose we get there?”

    Nalani seemed to look somewhere else in thought for about a half-second, and then she turned her eyes on him, her blue eyes glimmering like she’d gotten an early Christmas present.

    “You said ‘we,’” she said with a smile.

    “Well, yeah…” Lucas replied uncomfortably, trying to focus his eyes somewhere else. “I guess this…arrangement we’ve got going could be a lot worse.”

    “We’ve been lucky the last couple of times to get double rooms,” Nalani commented, hiding her lips in her mouth and trying to hold back a smile. “I hope we stay lucky…but we might not…”

    “Yeah, well…” Lucas sounded calm, but his face was going as red as his hair and he couldn’t even bring himself to look at the girl. “We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”

    If we ever get to that bridge, I’m chucking myself off.

    “About that…” Lucas uttered. “Don’t take this the wrong way, but...did it ever occur to you that, you know…sharing a room with a guy might not be the best idea? There are a lot fewer people like me and a lot more like that idiot we met on the beach—”

    Nalani’s facial expression changed.

    “What?” Lucas looked over his shoulder. “Oh, what the f– are you serious??”

    At the opposite end of the restaurant, barely visible, was Dane Gould. The way Lucas could tell was from the hair and the fact that, even from a distance, there was a shining purple spot visible on his forehead. He was with a group of friends, including a younger boy of maybe eleven or twelve that looked like he may have been Dane’s little brother.

    “Turn around,” Nalani implored him, for a smirk had crossed Lucas’ face.

    “What? You’re not scared of that guy?” he asked in astonishment.

    “No. I just…wanted to ask you a question,” Nalani replied. She was leaning in towards him. He did the same. Involuntarily, a faint heat spread across his face. From any third-party point of view, it probably looked like he was getting ready to kiss her. “There’s a baseball game at the stadium later today. Do you wanna go?”

    Lucas was confused. “Wh-what?”

    “I think we should go,” Nalani answered. “You’ve never seen a baseball game before, have you?”

    “Well…no,” replied Lucas.

    Nalani smiled and drew her head back. “Well, that’s settled. We’re going.”

    Might as well go with it. You’re not going to win an argument against her. She’s a girl.

    Yeah, but I…

    But she…

    Fine, fine, fine. But why?

    She’s your friend now, right? Friends hang out and do stuff.

    Maybe…suppose she is, just for the sake of argument. Why a baseball game?

    She’s outgoing. She likes crowds. And she’s probably never seen a live game before.

    I don’t like crowds. People are assholes.

    But you’re not going to the game with them; you’re going with her.

    You make it sound like I’m taking her on a date. Actually…this whole day has seemed like a date. Beach, lunch, baseball game…

    Didn’t she set you straight on that one already? Like you said before – and these were your words – she’s your friend…who happens to be a girl.

    When did I say that? That doesn’t sound like something I’d say.

    Yeah – surprised me, too. Anyway, it’s not a date. You know it’s not a date. She knows it’s not a date…I think. Although, I’ve gotta admit, you did act an awful lot like a jealous boyfriend back there…

    Now you’re just making fun of me. Or I’m making fun of myself. Wait – what the hell? There are two of me having a conversation with each other in my head. I just realized how completely f**ked up that is.

    Actually, I’m your heart. Don’t overthink; just roll with it.

    Wait…what? Then shut up. I need time to think about this.

    See? Shutting me down again. You always do that to me. You’ve been doing it for years. I’m important, too. You’re going to need me for this to work.

    Damned if that doesn’t sound familiar. Isn’t that what got me into this situation? ….Fine – I’ll throw you a bone for once.

    “Okay,” Lucas finally replied. Nalani’s jaw unhinged just slightly. Clearly, she’d been expecting him to put up more of a fight. “I mean, we’ve got nothing better to do, right?”

    “Well, then…we’d better hurry up and finish,” she said. Her blue eyes flitted around in her sockets between blinks, almost as if she was scanning the room for something or someone. Lucas noticed almost right away. It was making him a little bit nervous. “Excuse me! We’d like our check, please.”

    Lucas twisted slightly in his chair to see the young, blonde waitress whisking away the plates of two people at a table at somewhat of a distance. He caught the full face of one of the patrons – a young man. He had dark hair – black or perhaps a very dark brown – heavily tanned skin, and might have been anywhere from his later teens to early twenties. From what Lucas could see, he was also rather well-built. Did that guy glance at him for a moment?

    “Here’s your check – and a couple of boxes for your leftovers,” Lucas whirled around to see the waitress placing the aforementioned items on their table. Lucas almost immediately put his unfinished half of burger into one of the foam boxes. He caught a glance of the check as Nalani picked it up and stood. Lucas, carrying his box, followed suit.

    “So…how much money do we have left?” Lucas asked.

    “Enough for maybe a couple of days,” Nalani assured him.

    Lucas frowned. “Then what? Unless another odd ‘find-a-missing-Pokémon’ job from a rich family drops into our laps, we’re...well, boned.”

    Nalani grimaced. “Yeah, I know…but…you’re a decent Trainer, aren’t you?”

    Lucas’ mouth twitched. “Yeah, I guess,” he replied uncertainly. “I can hold my own.”

    Like I said before…I’m probably slightly above average. Maybe I could be better if I really put my mind to it…but it’s never been a life’s goal of mine to battle in Gyms or Leagues or sh*t like that. Too many people watching.

    “There’s always the arena,” Nalani commented. “I think Belveyun has an arena. You could earn money there on the amateur circuit.”

    “Amateur circuit?” Lucas repeated. Some words and phrases you can twist to have a good meaning, if you try hard enough. There’s some stuff that just sounds like a bummer any way you slice it. Like ‘amateur circuit’. Or ‘circumcision.’

    Maybe that’s an extreme comparison, but you get my point, right?

    “Well, the pro circuit’s just what it sounds like,” Nalani explained. “Specialists – career Pokémon Trainers.”

    Lucas grimaced. He didn’t like his chances against someone who had been training Pokémon and battling with them for several years or more.

    “But the amateur circuit…anyone can sign up and earn money by competing in matches against other people,” Nalani continued.

    “And this is probably in front of a crowd, right?” Lucas asked.

    “Well, yeah, of course. Somebody has to pay for tickets so that the arena can hand the purses out to the winners,” she answered.

    Balls, I was afraid of that.

    “I’ve mentioned that I don’t really like huge crowds, right?” Lucas muttered.

    “Well, unless you can figure out another way to make some money, you might have to suck it up,” Nalani replied – a bit unsympathetically, Lucas thought. “Let’s get going. We’ll have to be there early if we want decent seats.”

    The red-haired boy’s mouth contorted in something of a frowning grimace (or a grimacing frown?) as he stood up to leave. He still wasn’t sold on this whole friendship thing. It seemed to be taking him a lot of effort.

    As they went to pay for their meals (Nalani took one last look over her shoulder), they were not aware of the conversation that was being held just a few tables away.

    The young man that Lucas had glanced earlier was drinking something hot and steamy, while watching the two teenagers intently over the shoulder of his comrade.

    “You hear that?” he asked the other young man. “Two teenagers with no money and no real agenda.”

    “Isn’t that most teenagers?” the other young man asked. His look was a rare sight indeed with his chocolate-brown skin, and dreadlocks framing his brown eyes in front and falling down over his ears (one of which had two small, silver hoops ornamenting it) and to his neck in the back – all in varying shades of brown with the occasional lock of blond. He was wearing a gray muscle shirt that accentuated his lean, athletic build. A silver necklace depicting some manner of bird sat around his neck.

    “But that kid…” the dark-haired young man replied. “That’s the same one that we saw at the beach earlier.”

    “You mean the one in the fight?” the dreadlocked youth asked. His voice itself was like sand on a beach – warm, but slightly gritty.

    “You did see what he did to that guy, right?” the well-built one questioned with a chuckle, pointing to another table with his chin. The other man’s dreadlocks flipped as he tilted his head around his partner, focusing his own eyes on another teenage boy that also looked to be watching the one near the counter. This boy had a clear bruise on his forehead. “Clearly, he can handle himself and kick his fair share of ***. I like his style.”

    “Okay, let’s say you have a point and he can fight,” Dreadlocks answered a bit cynically. “Wil – this kid’s, what, twelve? Thirteen at the most?”

    “That’s a big-*** twelve-year-old – he’s gotta be older than that. And even if he isn’t, why is that bad?” Wil raised his eyebrows. “We need some young talent. At least…my cell does.”

    “Your ‘cell’?” Dreadlocks answered, punctuating his comment with a derisive laugh. “Dude – it’s just you. You don’t have a cell.”

    “Thanks for reminding me, ****.” Wil said, his eyes and voice going deadpan for a second. Dreadlocks frowned.

    “Don’t call me that,” he snarled.

    “Don’t act like one,” Wil replied. “That’s the whole point of this trip, ain’t it? To scout potential talent for my cell?”

    “But why Belveyun?” Dreadlocks asked. “There are so many other places in Carona we could have gone, and you start with Belveyun?”

    “Why not? It was closest,” Wil shrugged his broad shoulders. Downing his hot, steaming mug of something in one gulp (the dreadlocked man gave him a brief look of horror), he slammed it on the table with a clank, grinned a devious grin, and said, “Now, let’s get our checks and get the hell outta here. I’m in the mood for some baseball.”

    **** **** **** M.A.V.E.R.I.C.K H.E.A.R.T **** **** ****

    Dalton Gregg was a mostly-ordinary university student from the region once called Johto.
    Then a fateful encounter set him on a quest to change history.

  21. #21
    Join Date
    May 2005

    Default Chapter 5-2

    **** **** **** M.A.V.E.R.I.C.K H.E.A.R.T **** **** ****

    Maybe Lucas was a bit strange.

    Okay, he was a bit strange.

    In any case, he didn’t understand what the fun was in watching men with wooden sticks trying to hit a ball about the size of one’s fist and running between white pillows. The sport was no doubt difficult – apparently you could fail to get a hit seven out of every ten times and still be considered very good – but Lucas didn’t understand the fun in watching it. The guys down on the field looked like they were enjoying themselves, so maybe one had to play to have an appreciation for it – but he was bored.

    His eyes found the scoreboard in what he supposed to be the fourth inning. The Rebels were up two to nothing on a team called the Rays from a city called Riúlta. There were people everywhere. As far as the eye could see, nothing but people. It made him feel closed in and exposed all at the same time. It was the reason he kept his eyes locked on Nalani for most of the time. In a twisted sort of way, her presence was a source of comfort. But she was watching the game pretty intently – obviously she, unlike Lucas, was a fan of the sport.

    The man with the bat swung.

    There was a loud crack, almost like a gunshot. Lucas didn’t have to be an expert at the sport to know that the batter had hit something hard. Apparently the crowd liked it, because a crescendo of sound permeated the explosion. Lucas couldn’t help but cringe a bit as people around him started to stand up. He had no reason to celebrate; he didn’t know what the hell was going on. And being the only one sitting down in a crowd of thousands standing was really uncomfortable. He felt his stomach turning.

    Oh, f**k.

    Nalani was on the seat, trying to peek around an abnormally tall man that had seated himself in the row directly in front of her. She looked right for Lucas and then did not find him. Then she looked down and noticed him still sitting. The bright smile on her face went away.

    “You okay?” he sort of saw her mouthing – he wasn’t really hearing anything. She was crouching down to his sitting level to look into his eyes. He really wished she wouldn’t do that – he felt like he was either about to throw up, pass out, or both.

    “Need some air,” he grunted, moving her hands away from him and standing quickly. Thankfully, they’d chosen seats near the end of a row, so he didn’t need to step over a bunch of people on his way to the stairs.

    Nalani watched him take off up the stairs desperately and her first thought was to follow. Then she thought for a second. That would probably make things worse.

    She sat down, looking at her knees. Suddenly, this game wasn’t so fun anymore. Why hadn’t she picked up on the fact that he wasn’t enjoying himself?

    “Yeah? Dane?” Nalani turned. To her horror, about two rows up, was the same little boy that was with the group she’d seen at the restaurant earlier that afternoon. He was sitting alone in the middle of a cluster of about five or six empty seats, a cellphone to his ear. “Yeah, he just left. He might be headed for a bathroom – he looked pretty sick.”

    Nalani’s blue eyes narrowed and a hot anger surged through her.

    “You son of a *****!” she shrieked, jumping up into the next row, much to the shock and chagrin of the young family sitting there. The boy looked up, saw her just in the nick of time, and ducked out of the way. “Get back here! Gimme that phone!!”

    “What? Why do you want my phone?” the boy asked, looking around and faking (at least, from Nalani’s point of view) confusion.

    “Don’t play dumb with me, jackass!” Nalani yelled. “I know exactly what you’re f**king doing – now gimme the phone before I snap your f**king neck!!”

    “Will somebody do something?!” the young mother (who had her hands firmly clasped around her young son’s ears) pleaded.

    Suddenly, Nalani felt a strong hand on her shoulder. Her first instinct was to swing. The young man caught her fist and said, “Whoa, whoa, calm down, calm down!! I’m gonna have to ask you to leave the stadium, miss.”

    “What?” Nalani’s voice failed her. “But – you don’t understand – I came here with a friend and if he doesn’t know where I am. On top of that…”

    “You’re disturbing people,” the guard replied. He was obviously trying to be calm and reason with her.

    “I need that phone,” Nalani said, pointing at the boy. “He’s having my friend followed.”

    “If you think your friend’s in trouble, come to one of us in security and let us know. But we can’t have you jumping rows and causing trouble for people that came here to watch the game. I’m going to have to ask you to leave,” the guard explained.

    “I’m not going,” Nalani replied through gritted teeth. “Not until I find out where he is. Then I’ll change sections or whatever and you won’t hear another word out of me.”

    The guard seemed to wrestle with whether or not to offer mercy. Finally, he said, “You’re lucky I’m feeling generous. Now you go and find your friend and move to another section. If you’re caught causing any more trouble, though, I’ll personally see to it that you spend the night cooling your heels downtown.”

    Nalani’s mouth twitched. “I’ll pass. I just got out of prison.”

    And, with that, she took off up the stairs. The guard nodded at the surprised family and the boy with the phone and followed her soon after. The boy turned back to his phone and put it to his ear again.

    “I don’t think you have a chance with that girl, Dane,” the boy said. “And, even if you did…she’s out of her mind.”


    It took forever, but Lucas finally found a bathroom way out of the way where there were not a lot of people. Thankfully, his stomach had just managed to hold it together. He no longer felt like a projectile vomit was imminent, but he still didn’t feel well. He stared at himself in a mirror as cold water dripped down his nose and face. He heard the hissing of a running faucet next to him, and then heard it shut off not too much later. Then, he heard disappearing footsteps. He was in here, and there were three other guys (at least, he assumed and hoped) – all in full stalls. They had come in here at once, which seemed kind of odd to Lucas…

    He unholstered his three-piece rod and stared at the closed stalls in the mirror. “Three guys about the same age all happen to have to take a dump at the same time? I’m not buying it. Come on out.”

    He heard a click and watched the center stall open. A second one opened soon after. Two boys, both appearing to be in their mid-teens, stood in front of the stall doors. They looked at each other for a moment, then at the third stall door, which was still closed. The rushing sound of a flushing toilet echoed throughout the bathroom, and the third door opened about three seconds later. When this boy, who looked a bit younger than the other two, emerged, his two friends stared at him.

    “What?” the third boy asked. “Stop looking at me like that.”

    Lucas couldn’t help but smirk. “So…is there anything I can do for you?”

    The three boys fanned out and started to move closer. Lucas’ ochre eyes darted left, then right.

    Oh, no, no, no…f**k this, you’re not surrounding me in here.

    Lucas turned on his heel, lowered his shoulder, and trucked straight through the boy on the right. The teenager fell on his back, and Lucas felt no guilt whatsoever about treading on his face by mistake as he escaped the bathroom, leaving the other two boys to help their comrade up and follow behind him.

    Lucas opened up his stride and heard his footsteps echoing through the upper concourse. This place was deserted – there was nobody up here in the extremely cheap seats, after all. He was at the very top floor of the stadium, where the events of the game below were usually relayed by news report and word of mouth. He leapt over a concrete barrier. Now, he was officially trespassing. People weren’t supposed to come up here – this part of the stadium was being renovated. An empty, dormant popcorn machine caught his eye on the right side. On another concrete barrier in the distance, there sat another two boys that looked sickeningly familiar.

    “Hey. Remember me?” Dane Gould asked. He was holding an aluminum baseball bat, tapping it against his shoulder. His best friend was there as well, standing next to the barrier where Dane was seated.

    “Of course,” Lucas replied. “It’s hard to unsee a face that ugly. I thought kicking your head in would improve your looks, but I guess some people really are beyond hope.”

    Dane’s mouth twitched. “Really witty. You don’t know who you’re f**king with, do you?”

    Lucas looked over his shoulder. The three boys that had chased him earlier (he saw that one had a nosebleed) were coming over the barrier.

    “Oh…great,” Lucas muttered. “You decided to throw me a party. I’m honored.”

    The five boys – two in front, three behind – started to spread out, until they encircled him. Lucas, though, was mainly focused on Dane – him and that baseball bat. He was a bit concerned. He knew he could take any one of these guys one-on-one if given the opportunity…but all five of them at once? That would require eyes in the back of his head, and Lucas didn’t have those.

    Pain is a natural reaction in your body when something’s gone wrong. But, if you’ve felt enough of it, you can also prepare yourself. Most people hold back when faced with the threat of physical pain. If you can accept that something’s going to hurt like a *****, it doesn’t necessarily make it hurt less…but it at least gets rid of the shock factor.

    Lucas went after Dane, and the two boys on his flank closed on him. Dane took a step back, and that was all the opening Lucas needed. He flung his weapon out and heard the crack as it hit something. Dane yelled and charged, brandishing his baseball bat. At the same time, one of his crew came from Lucas’ left, fist raised in the air. Lucas turned on the spot. He caught the other boy’s arm in the chain of his weapon and used it to pull the boy in front of him as a human shield for his bat-wielding foe. Lucas immediately turned his head and kicked one leg out behind him. It caught a charging hooligan in the chest and put him on the ground. He turned his attention back to his captive, reset the middle piece of the rod around his neck and pulled back hard.

    “MASON!” Dane yelled – but Lucas continued his choke hold on the other teen, who clawed desperately at his weapon, trying to free himself. Then, Lucas lurched sideways. Someone had slammed into him and was now driving him to the ground. He felt his three-piece rod leave his hands and heard it clatter along the floor.

    Before he could retaliate, they were on him – two boys, then three, kicking and stomping wherever they could find a free spot. Lucas rolled over and protected his head as best as he could.

    “GET HIM UP!!” Dane’s shout pierced the silence again. He felt his skullcap yanked from his hair, then his hair itself was yanked. He tried to resist, but hands were pulling him to his feet by his arms and holding them back behind him. Dane approached, his eyes glittering as he smiled ironically. “I just wanted a date with a cute girl. But you wouldn’t mind your own f**king business!!”

    Dane was tapping the bat against his shoulder as he walked toward Lucas. All Lucas had to do was wait. After a while, Dane was only a stride away.

    Lucas kicked out with one of his legs, but Dane saw it coming and stepped aside. Almost immediately, Lucas felt those same legs nearly give way as someone withdrew a fist from his nether regions. Now, the two (or more?) boys were holding him up. Lucas smelled metal as he stared down the silvery barrel of the aluminum bat.

    “Batter up, *****,” he grunted. He swung back with the bat slowly, then came forward quickly…

    The pain was unimaginable – like getting hit in the testicles, except higher. He had been hit in the cavity between the halves of his ribcage – the second most vulnerable spot on his body. All the air went out of him at an instant and he immediately felt the room spinning around him from a lack of oxygen. By the time he regained enough focus to think straight, he was being propped up again.

    The bat came again.

    He heard a crack as he felt the metal connect with the ribs themselves this time. The boys propped him up a third time. Dane pointed out the bat to line up his swing…except, this time, he was aiming a bit lower…

    No…no way…

    “You guys feel big? Huh?”

    Dane turned around. A tall, slightly burly young man was hopping over the concrete barricade. Lucas could have sworn he’d seen him before, but his outfit was slightly different. He was wearing some sort of loose jacket, which he kept open to reveal at least a six-pack.

    “Five guys on one – one of you has a bat. I really hope you feel good about yourselves,” he repeated.

    “It’s got nothing to do with feeling ‘big’,” Dane grunted, pointing the bat at this newcomer. “But since you’re not involved, you wouldn’t know that.”

    “You might find this hard to believe, but I know everything that happened,” the well-built young man replied, pacing and cracking his knuckles every couple of steps. “This is the third time that you, me, and that kid have been in the same place today. Never know who’s watching, do you? Yeah, I saw exactly what happened. He came back and caught you flirting with his girlfriend…”

    Lucas was in too much pain to protest this statement.

    “You didn’t like it and you tried to rip his arm out of the socket, so he turned around and almost kicked your head off your shoulders,” the young man went on. “Then you happened across him at The Locker Room and overheard him say that they were coming to the game tonight, so you brought your crew and thought it’d be a good idea of payback to follow him if he went off by himself so you could corner him and teach him a lesson. He hurt your pride, so your response is to bring a few guys to beat him up and use his ribs as batting practice. Punishment doesn’t fit the crime, if you ask me.”

    “So you’ve been following us this whole time?” Dane replied. The other two boys that weren’t preoccupied with holding Lucas were flanking Dane, all wearing the same uncertain expression on their faces. Testosterone was telling them to charge; reason was letting them know it could only end badly.

    You guys? You guys aren’t worth the attention,” the young man answered. “And stop pointing that at me – unless you want a length of metal rammed up your ***.”

    “Fine…have it your way,” Dane muttered, stepping back and lowering the weapon. He swung around. This time, he came from the shoulder and his two friends, sensing a wide swing, let Lucas’ arms go and ducked out of the way. Already injured and exhausted, Lucas was not able to dodge.

    In spite of himself, he let out a scream as the bat smashed into his chest again. He fell to the ground. He might have blacked out for a moment or two, he wasn’t sure; all he could see from his face-down vantage point was a blur of legs and bodies…guys hitting the ground and scrambling to get away, a smattering of yelled oaths, and then…all was silent.

    Somehow, Lucas was able to push himself to his knees. He saw a pair of legs and heard a voice.

    “Hey, man, are you –”

    Lucas never gave the man a chance to finish his sentence. He came up swinging. The man looked surprised for a second, but leapt out of the way. Lucas, all technique forgotten, overextended himself horribly, tripping and falling to his knees again.

    “Hey, kid! What the hell are you trying to prove?” the young man’s yell echoed again.

    A ‘kid’ can’t do what I mean to do. That’s a job for a real man…and a real man doesn’t surrender!!

    “I’m not a ‘kid’!” Lucas yelled as he jumped to his feet. His opponent was so taken aback that he didn’t dodge and Lucas landed a blow on his left jaw. The youth came back, cocking back a knee…

    Lucas’ vision went out of focus as he felt his diaphragm take a hard shot once again. This time, he curled up on the ground immediately. He tried to will himself to breathe as opposed to crying…but his effort was for naught. The air would not come, and the tears did. Suddenly, he felt something cold on his shoulder. Through his blurred peripheral vision, he saw the barrel of the same bat that had abused him so.

    “What are you doing, huh?” the young man’s voice did not sound angry – at least at first. “You pick fights with everyone like that? That’s what you think being a ‘man’ is? YOU GONNA TRY TO TAKE ON THE WHOLE WORLD BY YOURSELF?!”

    His voice echoed in the halls and in Lucas’ ears.

    “You’ve got drive, heart…hell, you might have won that fight if it wasn’t for this thing,” Lucas felt the bat lifted away from his shoulder. “But you can only get so far acting like this, and more often than not, you end up getting hurt. You wanna learn how to be a man?”

    Lucas stared through his tear-stained eyes at the concrete floor. That wasn’t what he wanted. It was what he needed. To accomplish his goal…he would have to be a man.

    “Five in the morning, North Beach Harbor,” the young man said. “Come by yourself and be ready to travel to Cadlamere. And put some ice on those ribs.”

    He heard the young man’s trailing footsteps slowly disappear. He stayed frozen in place for a moment, now with nothing to distract him from the immense pain in his chest. It felt as if the blows had broken his very heart…

    “Lucas…? Oh, God!!” he heard a girl’s voice and approaching footsteps. He was being shaken lightly by his shoulders. “Lucas? Lucas? C’mon, say something.”

    Lucas looked up, and if the fact that he was hunched over in pain on the ground wasn’t a dead giveaway to Nalani that something bad had happened, the fact that he’d obviously been crying certainly was. She knew almost instantly. “Damn it! DAMN IT! I’m gonna f**king kill those *******s!!”

    “Stop,” Lucas reached for the first thing that he could grab, which happened to be Nalani’s leg. Needless to say, this got her attention. As for Lucas, not only were those guys presumably already taken care of, but he couldn’t bear to think of Nalani running off to try to stick up for him and getting the same type of treatment. “It’s fine. Let’s…get outta here. My sanjiegun…have you seen it?”

    “It’s right over here…” Nalani left for a second and then came back with Lucas’ signature weapon. Lucas looked straight at her blue eyes, fixed on him, brimming with tears of concern. He felt a bizarre and frightening urge – more frightening than anything that had happened to him in the last week. But as quickly as it had come, it had passed. And that was good; he had already made his decision. He was going tomorrow morning, and it would be without her. It was something he felt he had to do.

    That solitary thought carried Lucas out of the stadium, back to the other side of town via shuttle bus, and back to the hotel, where he lay on the bed without another word to Nalani, who cried herself to sleep after a while of trying to start a conversation with him. It shouldn’t have been like that. No one should have been crying over him at all. He’d learned a while ago that it only did a person well to put his full heart into tasks and not into people.

    You blamed yourself for a lot of things otherwise.

    He lay awake, staring at the ceiling and listening to the rushing sea water outside. Before long, the sky was well and truly dark. He chanced a glance at the nearest clock:


    He sighed. Six hours lying on the bed, and not a minute of true sleep. It might have been better this way, though…

    He stayed in the shower for a while, letting the hot water run down his body, to hit the indigo bruises on his chest, stomach, arms, and back. He felt…fortunate. He had come to Carona with a goal in mind; only he had no idea how, exactly, he was to go about reaching it. Then, a few days later, someone comes along and offered him seemingly the very thing that he would need. Or, at least something useful. Maybe he was being naïve. Maybe this was a trap; he would have said the exact same thing a week ago.

    His thoughts turned to Nalani again. Before he met her, he thought that everyone in the world was out to get him.

    A week later, he still thought most people in the world were out to get him.

    But not everyone. She had changed him, even in the short time that they had known each other.

    That was really the only hard part about this; so hard, in fact, that he was having second thoughts. Nalani’s presence had become familiar to him, and now he was leaving it for another unknown. He supposed Fate (another curveball, of course) was just cruel like that. In order to get something he would need, he would have to give up something he really wanted to keep. And he felt even worse for her; it took a desperate and lonely person to want to be friends with him. But he was all she had, and now he was leaving. It almost seemed unfair. When the world made decisions for people, didn’t it give a damn about the people around them? Hopefully she would find better friends; and maybe that required a grump like Lucas to be out of the way.

    He usually didn’t believe that things worked out for the best for everyone, but in this case, he had to. She was nice and had only been good to him since they had met each other, but…still, she wasn’t his family. He was doing this for his family – to protect them. And that was why he was going.

    When he finally reached the door, he stared at it for a long time. Gathering his strength and ignoring the pain in his chest – which he wasn’t sure was only his ribs anymore – he opened the door and stepped into the foredawn air. It was mild and breezy, and quiet. Small, winged creatures were circling the beach, their caws echoing through the early morning. He stood there for a while. He did have at least half an hour, after all…

    “You’re leaving, aren’t you?” Lucas’ heart dropped. He turned around. Nalani was standing outside the locked door, bag in one hand, rod in the other.

    “Yeah…” Lucas replied, trying hard not to look at her. “I…I gotta do this. Sorry.”

    “That’s fine…I sorta saw this coming, to be honest,” Nalani said. “But I would think that I’d earned at least the right to say goodbye to you.”

    Lucas frowned. She did have a point.

    “I…just didn’t want to make it harder than it had to be,” Lucas answered.

    “Oh…that’s…” Nalani looked down. She seemed to want to say something, but thought better of it. “Where are you going?”

    “North Beach Harbor,” Lucas replied. “Don’t worry, I already know exactly where it is.”

    Nalani smiled knowingly and then took a deep breath. “Can I walk with you at least that far? You’re still hurt…and if you fall down, you might need someone to help you out.”

    Lucas thought for a second. “…You’re not gonna take ‘no’ for an answer, are you?”

    So they walked and talked – mainly about their adventures the last several days. And there had been a lot of them – enough to fill a full twenty minutes of conversation, and some things that Lucas had nearly forgotten. Finally, the concrete of the city streets gave way to the sand-covered wood of North Beach Harbor, and Lucas and Nalani stood at the entrance. As soon as Lucas stopped walking and turned to her, Nalani already knew what was going to happen. She put on the straightest face possible. For his sake, she was not going to shed tears in his presence.

    “Guess this is it,” he said.

    “Yeah,” Nalani replied, her voice barely above a whisper. She managed a half-smile. “You’re not gonna go on a whole bunch of new adventures and forget about me, are you?”

    “Of course not,” Lucas appeared surprised by Nalani’s fear. “You’re…”

    …the closest thing to a friend I’ve ever had.

    Lucas’ eyes hardened.

    “You don’t follow instructions very well, do you?” Lucas turned toward the wooden walkway. Coming in his direction, looking tall and strapping as always, was the young man who had invited him here the day before. He was wearing sunglasses (what the hell?) and a smirk on his face. “I told you to come alone.”

    Lucas went silent, his brain weighing what seemed like months of experience all crammed into one week. Then, he spoke. “You watched my movements for an entire day. You want me for something just as much as you want me to want you. How are we traveling?”

    “Ark,” the young man replied.

    “…Small airship,” Nalani whispered into his ear by way of an explanation. “He probably has his own.”

    “Why?” the young man asked.

    “Because I don’t do one-sided deals,” Lucas answered clearly. “If I go with you…if I go with you, then Lani travels with us to Cadlamere.”

    “What if I said she couldn’t?” the young man queried, raising his eyebrows.

    “Then I’d tell you to have a nice life,” the younger boy answered flatly.

    Often, there is a thin line between smiling in elation and simply breaking down into tears. Nalani’s face was toeing that line precariously.

    The young man smirked.

    “You’re prepared to trade what could be years of self-improvement for a person?” he asked.

    “…Not just for anyone,” Lucas answered. “But, in this case…yeah, that’s exactly what’s happening.”

    To Lucas’ surprise, the young man started toward Lucas and kept coming until the two were face-to-face…in a manner of speaking. The young man was quite tall – maybe almost as tall as Lucas’ brother. But Lucas was no shrimp, and he certainly wasn’t afraid.

    “People will tell you that a man should be prepared to advance himself no matter what the cost,” the dark-haired youth told him. “But a good man never sacrifices his friends for any type of personal gain. You passed my test.”

    Lucas’ mouth tightened as the young man backed off from him.

    All of that for a test? What a **** move…

    “If you’re really coming with us, you’d better be really for a little danger,” the young man was now talking to Nalani. Nalani took a brief glance at Lucas…then held her bo staff up to the young man’s throat. He raised his eyebrows.

    “I think I’ll be fine,” she said.

    The young man smirked. “Aren’t you kids just adorable?”

    “Don’t you think you should tell us what we’re doing?” Lucas asked strongly.

    “You can’t always know everything, kid,” the young man asked. “If you’re like most people and don’t have a crystal ball, you’ve gotta adapt.”

    “A name – can you tell us your name, then?” Lucas asked, sounding annoyed. This guy’s cryptic way of speaking was starting to get on his nerves. The young man turned his back on them for a moment, took a couple of steps away, and then looked over his shoulder, a smirk on his face.

    “Captain Wilhelm Connor…but I’m fine with just ‘Wil.’”

    Captain? Of what? Who is this guy? He seems alright. Maybe a little bit of a ham, but I get a hunch that he’s a decent guy…and that’s really saying something, because I don’t get that hunch about a lot of people. I suppose if it’s something that I really can’t agree to, we can always just back out when we get to Cadlamere. In any case, this beats having to wait and pay for a ferry. I’m not sure how much money we have left.

    And if all else fails, Cadlamere’s one step closer to Ëdelbourg, and that’s a very good thing.

    **** **** **** M.A.V.E.R.I.C.K H.E.A.R.T **** **** ****

    I won’t say that the next chapter’s a Wham Episode…just that, if you choose to skip it, you’ll miss one of the premises that drive the entire fic.

    Happy Holidays to all – enjoy the company of family and friends, and I’ll see you in 2011.

    - EM1
    Last edited by EonMaster One; 22nd December 2010 at 8:00 PM.

    Dalton Gregg was a mostly-ordinary university student from the region once called Johto.
    Then a fateful encounter set him on a quest to change history.

  22. #22
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Behind you...

    Default OK! Let's go!

    Skip it? Not a chance.

    I'm so on this like white on rice.

    Ssh now... Daddy's reading.

    Review delayed due to "busy day" syndrome.

    Anyways, I found this quite well done. There was one part where a part seemed to be missing:

    “…Small airship,” Nalani whispered into his ear by way of an explanation. “He probably has his own.”

    “Why?” the young man asked.
    There seemed to be some missing text there. But I guess you've been alerted to that as it were.

    But even with flying baseball bats and head-punting (not as gory as, say, a LARGE FLAMING axe on the loose, but still...), this part won the best scene award:

    “Because I don’t do one-sided deals,” Lucas answered clearly. “If I go with you…if I go with you, then Lani travels with us to Cadlamere.”

    “What if I said she couldn’t?” the young man queried, raising his eyebrows.

    “Then I’d tell you to have a nice life,” the younger boy answered flatly.

    Often, there is a thin line between smiling in elation and simply breaking down into tears. Nalani’s face was toeing that line precariously.

    The young man smirked.

    “You’re prepared to trade what could be years of self-improvement for a person?” he asked.

    “…Not just for anyone,” Lucas answered. “But, in this case…yeah, that’s exactly what’s happening.”

    To Lucas’ surprise, the young man started toward Lucas and kept coming until the two were face-to-face…in a manner of speaking. The young man was quite tall – maybe almost as tall as Lucas’ brother. But Lucas was no shrimp, and he certainly wasn’t afraid.

    “People will tell you that a man should be prepared to advance himself no matter what the cost,” the dark-haired youth told him. “But a good man never sacrifices his friends for any type of personal gain. You passed my test.”

    Lucas’ mouth tightened as the young man backed off from him.

    All of that for a test? What a **** move…
    Oh, and "Lani" is it now? Looks like Luc's growing up quite quickly.

    Just one more thing to a fellow reader: moonlightning, it's "Nalani", not "Natalie". :P

    Dunno why i felt the need to put that out there.

    OK, this is me out! Happy Holidays!

    Last edited by Air Dragon; 23rd December 2010 at 5:25 PM.
    The Corei Quest's latest chapter: Chapter Forty Seven: Tricks of the Trade (24 April 2014)
    PROJECT C-SQUARE STATUS = 100.00% Complete (11-12-2010, ca. 2:40pm GMT)
    Butt-ugly Banner by Me
    (Still waiting on the excellent Saffire Persian for another awesome TCQ banner!)

  23. #23
    Join Date
    Nov 2007


    Sorry Eon, I haven't posted here for a while, I've been reading but I haven't had the internet to respond.

    I'll comment on the previous two chapters.

    Again, the relationship between Lucas and Natalie is charming. He gets so childish sometimes, it makes me laugh.

    Tiny the Dodrio was awesome. How did you come up with that? Were you just writing then you had the sudden inspiration to make a Dodrio named Tiny that only responds to the names of berries?

    Your writing is very easy to fall into. Just to read and read and read.

    Now I must read the latest chapter, keep writing! (Although I don't think anyone could stop you...)

  24. #24
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Cupertino, Ca


    I've been a closet reader for quite some time and I am very impressed! The plot is as good as the two sequels and you have inspired me to join serebiiforums. You have my vote for the Fanfic Awards. This is right up there with Pokemon Crusade, Quest for the Legends, and Hoenn's Legacy

  25. #25
    Join Date
    Apr 2007


    Woo! All caught up , finally. School killed me, literally tried to destroy me, the last six weeks, but the semester's over! Finals are over! Break! Time to read, write, review, plot, hang out and... sleep.

    So I read chapters 3, 4, and 5 today.

    I really like Nalani, and I'd love to see a picture of Kaegon, it sounds awesome! I've always wanted a Fire/Dragon type (well, one that's not legendary), not including Charizard of course.

    I like how different Lucas is from Travis. Travis was so swept up in heroism and was moody and was aiming for the perfect life. Lucas is cynical, has no real goal in life besides survival, and is no where near as trusting as Travis. But the biggest difference is how they treat Pokemon. They're both good people, but Travis os all about constant communication with Pokemon and... is the typical good guy. Lucas, not so much. He's not a bad dude, he's just different.

    It's a refreshing change from the normal protagonist. I'm excited to see his interactions with Pokemon.

    One thing, since there's no League, are there gonna be battles? I was kinda looking forward to reading about another League, but this makes sense with I guess.

    So, yeah. Great work so far! I'm looking forward to the next chapter.
    Current Black Team: Rivka (Stoutland), Elmo (Musharna), Scarlett (Whimsicott), Gabriel (Carracosta), Reese (Klang), Sean (Mienfoo); all are at level 47. Currently in Victory Road.

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