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Thread: But Thou Must!

  1. #1
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    Default But Thou Must!

    Hello everyone. This is my satirical look at the XY games, in which I parody the scripted nature of the world and how that forces the main character to do things he doesn't want to do.

    I hope you read it and enjoy it, and if you do, please tell me. If you don't... still tell me. I welcome all types of feedback.

    *_*_*_*_*

    Chapter One: Calem, the Chosen One

    Let me tell you the story of my first morning in the Kalos region.

    See, within this modest household that oversees the entrance of Vaniville Town, there exists a great menace. Its gaze, which is produced by two jet black orbs, had been set on me, the single occupant of the room, my head buried deep in a mess of plain bed sheets. This menace, I suspect, had been sent by its master to carry out a single task, one that it would carry out to its utmost ability with a silent swoop and precise sting of its weapon. Limbs spread in preparation, the rising sun behind it casting a menacing shadow across its victim, it struck with practised grace.

    Doesn't that sound epic? It's a shame that reality doesn't imitate art.

    Well, actually, it's not a shame at all. Being awoken by a Fletchling dive-bombing into your stomach at the crack of dawn is far from fun, as is the annoying tweeting that sounds like its enjoying your pain. It did hurt, and got me out of bed earlier by a good four hours, the bastard.

    I guess introductions are in order. I'm Calem, and I've recently moved to this small town in the south of some remote region with my mother. My father... apparently doesn't exist, which makes me a biological miracle of sorts. Am I some sort of chosen one? Mum seems to think so. As a successful Rhyhorn Racer, it was expected that her son would inherit the same talent and one day have the same success. She just had to find a way to bring that latent talent out.

    That sure is the dream; to ride on a giant rock and race against other people also riding giant rocks. It's sounds like so much fun that I'd gladly give up the rest of my education to train for it, and then move to a smaller house on a far off continent after I had retired because my winnings couldn't sustain my family for life without getting another job.

    See, I've got it all planned out.

    For now, though, the plan is to get to work on making a groove in our new sofa, because until I enrol into a new school, I've got nothing better to do. So, not bothering to change out of my pyjamas, I make my way down the stairs. Reaching the bottom, I immediately encounter my mother's beaming face.

    “Morning, Calem!” she says. “You sure slept well. All rested up after the move?”

    “No, because that stupid bird--”

    “Calem!” she interjects. I stare at her. Is she going to scold me for insulting the family pet?

    “What?”

    “You look like you've just rolled out of bed!”

    “That's because I have.”

    “Go have a look at yourself in the mirror and change out your pyjamas.”

    “Why? It's not like I'm going to be doing anything constructive today, not that there's actually anything to do in this town, but still--”

    “Calem!”

    “...what?”

    “Go have a look at yourself in the mirror and change out your pyjamas.”

    “Why?”

    “You look like you've just rolled out of bed!”

    “So?”

    “Go have a look at yourself--”

    “Ugh, fine, I get it already.”

    She isn't that persistent, usually.

    The mirror in my room is unnecessarily large, tall enough to fully reflect two of me standing on top of each other. Staring back at me is, obviously, my reflection, looking anything but well-rested. Tired blue eyes, pale skin, messy, blond hair... my image could be best described as “awoken for a Fletchling's schadenfreude”. If I had any plans to go outside today, I could wear the shades and hat that came with the “adventurer's ensemble” Mum brought for me, but no such plans exist, so a simple shirt and jeans will do.

    I make my way over the stairs again, but that bloody bird is in the way. He's just sitting there, staring at me. I try stepping over it, but it flies up at my face. I flail around in an attempt to swat it away, but it retaliates by pecking my face.

    “What the hell do you want?”

    Fletchling flies over to my wardrobe and perches on a coat-hanger. Hanging from it as a blue jacket, another part of the ensemble. Below it is the earlier mentioned hat and shades combo, while sitting next to that is a black bag. It's everything a young, prospective trainer needs for his journey, but nothing I have any intention of using because I don't want to be a Pokemon trainer.

    Does that shock you?

    But with the way Fletchling is acting...

    “Mum wants me to wear the whole thing, doesn't she.”

    Fletchling nods its little head and then flies back to the staircase, blocking my way once more. It stares at me again, clearly saying that it wasn't going to move until I give in. So with a resigned sigh, I complete the outfit.

    I feel so stupid right now.

    Seeing me, mum's expression turns pleased. She's big on always looking stylish, and is always happy when I wear the outfits she picks out for me.

    “It's about time you got going!” she announces.

    “Am I supposed to be somewhere today?”

    “Why don't you step out and say hello to the neighbours?”

    Mum returns to the kitchen, offering nothing more in the way of explanation. I'm sleep deprived and wearing a stupid hat, so I don't feel like going out and meeting new people today, but as I try to sit down on the sofa, mum is in front of me in a flash, and suddenly I find myself being pushed out of the front door.

    What was with her today?

    Standing outside the house are two girls, one a good few inches shorter than the other. She's wearing a pink shirt and shorts and has has hair tied in pigtails. For some reason, she's quivering in what looks like barely contained excitement. The girl standing by her side appears to be around my height, and has light brown hair tied in a ponytail. With a calm smile on her face, she looks much more composed than her companion.

    “Welcome to Vaniville Town!” she says. “My name is Serena. I'm your neighbour.”

    “And I'm Shauna! Great to meet you!” the shorter one says in a voice so high-pitched it'd make a Whismur cry. “Guess what, we've got to come get you!”

    That doesn't sound ominous at all.

    “The esteemed Professor Sycamore lives here in the Kalos region. I was told he had a request for five kids, including us,” Serena explained. Learning that some man was looking for kids to do him a favour wasn't doing anything to ease this sense of foreboding I was getting. “But I'm a little surprised he knows who you are. You did just move to Vaniville Town, after all.”

    I'm not as surprised as she is. Mum has been to a lot of social gatherings and has probably met this guy at one of them. I am concerned about what she may have told him about me, though. Scared and concerned.

    “We'll wait for you in the next town over! And you know what? We're going to get a Pokemon!” The short one – Shauna – takes one of Serena's hands and dashes off, Serena looking mildly amused. They stop at the end of the pathway leading up to my house. Shauna waves at me. “C'mon! Hurry! Let's go!”

    Seeing as the front door is shut and, apparently, locked, I have no other choice but to follow the hyperactive girl and her friend. I don't want to – I'm not as into Pokemon as most are - but between them and milling around a town so small you wonder why it's not just part of the other, slightly larger town that's tens minutes up the road, and where amongst its residents is a fat, bearded man who scares the local children, hanging around with two girls seems an infinitely better choice.

    So why do I feel like I will regret this decision?

    *_*_*_*_*

    “Hey, Calem! This way! Over here!”

    By some miracle, the volume of that girl's voice doesn't attract any attention from the resides of Aquacorde Town. She, along with Serena and two other boys, are sat around a table that seems to be a part of a café’s outdoor dining area. I say 'seems' because I can clearly see the café, yet there are no waiters, nobody else is sitting at any of the tables and there are no drinks, despite the sign clearly reading “OPEN”.

    I begin walking over, and Shauna leaps from her chair and grabs me by the arm. She practically drags me to the table.

    “We were just talking about you!” she tells me without an ounce of shame. She pulls me down into a chair. “C'mon, have a seat!”

    “This is the meeting place, Calem,” Serena points out. Thanks for that, I hadn't noticed. “Here, let me introduce you. Everyone, this is Calem.”

    “Wow... Shauna's description was spot on!” says a rather heavy-set guy in a black shirt. He's staring at me with something akin to wonder. The temptation to say something rude is great, but I'll suppress it and smile politely instead, because I'm such a nice guy.

    “So, Calem, this is Tierno – he's got some serious dance moves – and,” I snort loudly, but she either ignores me or doesn't hear me, as she points to the other boy, considerably smaller than Tierno, “this is Trevor. He never misses a single question on his tests, but he's a little shy.”

    I'm sure he's thankful to you for putting him on the spot, then.

    “All right! Nice to meet'cha!” Tierno says. “You know, it'd feel like we're a closer crew if we call each other by nicknames. Can I call you C-Meister?”

    His over-friendliness is creeping me out. And what kind of name is “C-Meister”? It's got more syllables than “Calem” for goodness sake!

    “What? No way! He's Li'l C, for sure!” Shauna argues. There's nothing little about me, missy. “What do you think, Trevor?”

    “What? You want me to give a nickname to someone I just met? You shouldn't put people on the spot like this, Shauna.” And yet despite knowing what it's like to be put on the spot, Trevor still thinks it over. It might have something do with the fact that there isn't a single intelligent thought passing through Shauna's and Tierno's minds right now, so it'd be pointless arguing any more. “Well... how about something low key? Maybe... something like Big C...”

    “Why don't you decide what we should call you?” Serena, I've decided, is the most normal and sensible member of this “crew” for offering the most common sense answer to this debate over a name I don't even want. I get that they want to be nice and friendly to the new guy, but this VIP treatment is something I could do without.

    “Just call me Calem. It's not like I'm the Chosen One or anything; you don't need to call me anything else.”

    “You want us to call you the Chosen One?” Serena checks without any incredulity. Something wasn't right here.

    “No, I was just--”

    “Okay! Chosen One suits you perfectly! I'm sure we're gonna be great friends, so I'll call you that, too!” Shauna turns to Tierno. “Hey! Can we see the Pokemon now? I want to meet my new partner soon!”

    “Seriously, don't call me the Chosen One.”

    “I know, right? It was such a cool feeling what Trevs and I met our Pokemon!” Tierno says, ignoring me. “Hope you feel the same we did!”

    Tierno hauls a case up onto the table and opened it. Inside were three Pokeballs. He offers the case to me, looking expectant, beckoning me to be the first one to choose.

    You know, if they're just going to ignore me, I may as well not be here.

    “Thanks, but I'm not really into the whole Pokemon thing,” I tell them, and get up to leave. It's sounds like an excuse for leaving, but I'm really not fond of Pokemon. I don't mind them, but unlike many my age, I don't want to be overly involved with them beyond civil cohabitation. These people seem to have every intention of discussing Pokemon, and it makes no sense for me to be a part of that.

    So for future reference, Professor Sycamore, try asking me first before trying to dump a Pokemon on me.

    As I walk away, I'm hit by a sudden spell of dizziness. I reach out around me, searching for something stable to hold onto, and feel the cold, metallic surface of the table. I take a few deep breaths, then relax in my chair.

    Wait, what chair?

    I look down and, seeing the surface of the table stare back at me, realise that I was sitting down again, which is or isn't weird, considering that just moments ago, I was on two feet, walking away, and didn't feel myself sitting down. If had sat down, I would be sitting on the floor, so how...

    “I know, right? It was such a cool feeling when Trevs and I met our Pokemon!”

    Why was Tierno repeating himself? And why was he hauling that case up onto the table again? Hadn't he already done that?

    “Didn't you hear me? I said I don't want a Pokemon.”

    I study Tierno's reaction closely. Nothing. His face appears to be locked into a toothy smile, while of the rest is still, unmoving. I look at the others, and find them to be the same way. They're not even breathing!

    “Whatever,” I say, and get up to leave again. I get a few stops away from the table, and that dizziness comes over me again. I'm back in my chair.

    What on earth was--

    “I know, right? It was such a cool feeling when Trevs and I met out Pokemon!”

    The case is back in my face for a third time. This time, the three Pokeballs were glowing dimly. Tentatively, I pick one, and pluck it from the case. Tierno then suddenly shifts his position and presents the case to Serena. After a moment's deliberation, she picks her own Pokeball.

    It should go without saying, but I'm very confused right about now. It sounds incredibly stupid, but I feel like I'm stuck in an infinite loop where I won't be able to leave unless I take the Pokeball, as if this was some sort of game. But that had to be impossible. Maybe I was feeling unwell or something.

    Still, it wouldn't hurt to test my crazy theory. I mean, confirm without a doubt that I'm being stupid and that this theory is stupid. See, I'll just get up from the table, walk away, and--

    Dizziness. Chair. Tierno holding the case in front of Shauna.

    Let's try that again...

    Same result.

    I take a deep, shuddering breath. Not being able to leave is annoying, and worrying, and very illogical, but the lack of reaction from the others to my constant getting up and leaving the table is very unsettling. Either they are very good actors and could keep a straight face all the time, or they are robots or something, which is silly. They're clearly human beings, and human beings have free will to do what they want. It's a fundamental fact, and this feeling of doubt will not shake my belief in that fact.

    While I was getting my thoughts straight, Shauna had taken the last Pokeball, and Trevor had put his own case on the table.

    “Uh, pardon me, but I have something for you from the professor as well. It's something that will help you understand Pokemon on a much deeper level.” He opens the case, and inside were, again, three objects. He hands one to each of us. “Um, so you see... the Pokedex I just gave you is--”

    “Something that will help us understand Pokemon on a much deeper level?” Completely unnecessary sarcasm, but I'm keen to cling on to some sort of normalcy at the moment. It's the only way to prevent myself from going insane at the fact that I can't leave my chair.

    These things aren't exactly comfortable.

    “--a high-tech device that automatically records the Pokemon you encounter! The reason you get one is because the professor wants us to go on a journey with out Pokemon and complete the Pokedex. To put it another way, it's an important mission from the professor. I'm sure of it!”

    No reaction. Again. No looks of annoyance or disapproval, no verbal reprimands, no laughs or snorts, nothing. They all just took it in their stride, as if they'd rehearsed this very scenario.

    Let's try being more controversial...

    “So a supposedly famous and successful professor wants a group of kids to travel around and find hundreds of different Pokemon to complete his Pokedex, which could take who-knows how long. He offers no payment, no means of getting about the region and the single perk of one Pokemon, yet apparently this is an important mission. I'm sorry, but he's going to have to find some other schmuk for this job because there's no way I'm leaving my house and jeopardising my future on some guy's whim.”

    “Oh lighten up, Trevs! You're way too serious sometimes.”

    You cannot be serious.

    “Um, Chosen One, please take this with you, too.”

    I sigh deeply, pinching the bridge of my nose, thinking that I should have taken my chances with the bearded old man who scares children. “What is it?”

    “It's a letter from the professor. He said you should give it to your mum.” Tierno hands me the letter. He then pumps his fist in celebration. “All right! We're done with our errand for the professor. I guess Trevs and I will go look for Pokemon!” He gets up off his chair and starts waddling – sorry, running off, calling out “Let's go, Trevs!” as he goes.

    “In Kalos, kids are chosen to carry a Pokedex and go on an adventure. But you need to give that letter your mum before you go,” Trevor says to me before running to catch up with his much larger friend.

    Knowing my mum, she'll be all too happy to get me travelling. “Oh, it all started for me when I was a simple Pokemon trainer!” is one of her favourite stories that she tells to try and get me inspired, but I've got no intention of going on an adventure. I'm just going to go home and pretend this strange episode didn't happen, so I'm not going to give her the letter. Simple.

    With new Pokeball in hand, I get up and walk away without a word to the two remaining occupants of the table. To my relief, there is no dizziness, and I'm able to go further than I did before.

    “Calem, wait!” Shauna calls after me. “You're going to my opponent in my Pokemon battling début!”

    I ignore her, and continue walking. I feel that if I battle with the Pokemon, I'll be stepping into dangerous territory and won't be able to turn back.

    Dizziness.

    I growl. “Why?”

    I've no idea what's going and who's causing this, but whoever it is, they really want me to become a Pokemon trainer. This time it seems I have to battle Shauna if I want to go home.

    *_*_*_*_*

    “I'm back,” I call into the living room.

    Mum doesn't respond, transfixed by something on the television. I leave her be and go upstairs into my bedroom. Once there, I chuck the Pokeball with my new “partner” inside onto the bed, then throw my hat in a random direction with hopes that Fletchling will use it as a toilet. I shed my jacket and begin hanging it up inside the wardrobe until I hear the tell-tale “click” of a Pokeball opening. I frown at Fennekin, who was now sitting on my bed.

    He better not leave any fur on it.

    “You shouldn't come out the Pokeball on your own.”

    “If you knew what it was like inside one of those things, you'd want to come out, too.”

    “Really?”

    I pause for a moment, and realise who I was talking to.

    “Yes, really,” Fennekin said.

    “You can talk.”

    “Indeed.”

    “Pokemon can't talk.”

    “Ordinarily, no, they can't. But I can.”

    “How?”

    “I am the messenger of the Magnificent One.”

    “The Magnificent One.”

    A Pokemon is talking. A Pokemon is talking and is telling me he's been sent by some guy called “The Magnificent One”. So many questions are flooding my mind right now that I can barely think straight, but one thought is standing out: he better not say I'm some kind of chosen one.

    “Yes, and he's sent me to inform you that you've have been chosen--” I slam my head against the wardrobe door, “--to save the world.”

    “Save the world from what? Stupid names?” I quip with my forehead still resting on the wardrobe.

    “No, nothing like that. Just the criminal organisation hell-bent on destroying all life and creating a new world.”

    I raise my head, and stare at the fire-type. “Come again?”

    “The criminal organisation that wants to destroy all life and create a new world,” Fennekin repeats, sounding as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. “The Magnificent One thinks you are the most capable of stopping them, and he has altered the conditions of this world so that this will be possible.”

    The strange events of the day immediately came to mind; mum being unusually pushy, the loops that forced me to choose a Pokemon and have a battle, the robotic, scripted way the “crew” acted... everything makes sense now.

    Wait. No it doesn't.

    “Okay, putting aside the issue of who this 'magnificent one' and how he's 'altered the conditions of this world', why me? And more importantly, what makes him think I'm going to go fight a criminal organisation for him?”

    “I can't say why he chose you,” Fennekin said, “but you really have no other choice. This is now a scripted world, where everything you do is pre-determined. Even if you resist, something will happen that will force you to follow the script. No matter what you say or what you do, you'll be ignored. You could go on a mass killing spree, molest some poor girl or even jump over a ledge and it wouldn't make any difference; if it's not in the script, it won't happen.”

    “So the only way to return things back to normal...”

    “Yes, Calem. You must follow the script to the very end, and save this world.”

  2. #2
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    Heya! Felt like responding to this one. I have a few tips for you on the plot and stuff.

    See, within this modest household that oversees the entrance of Vaniville Town, there exists a great menace. Its gaze, which is produced by two jet black orbs, had been set on me, the single occupant of the room, my head buried deep in a mess of plain bed sheets. This menace, I suspect, had been sent by its master to carry out a single task, one that it would carry out to its utmost ability with a silent swoop and precise sting of its weapon. Limbs spread in preparation, the rising sun behind it casting a menacing shadow across its victim, it struck with practised grace.

    Doesn't that sound epic? It's a shame that reality doesn't imitate art.

    Well, actually, it's not a shame at all. Being awoken by a Fletchling dive-bombing into your stomach at the crack of dawn is far from fun, as is the annoying tweeting that sounds like its enjoying your pain. It did hurt, and got me out of bed earlier by a good four hours, the bastard
    This is good. I really, really like this introductory paragraph. The way you describe it definitely makes it sound annoying, in fact your way of describing things great throughout the story!

    My father... apparently doesn't exist, which makes me a biological miracle of sorts.
    Umm... What? xD I'm almost sure that you have this part planned out, because you wouldn't want to make your main-character totally unbelievable. In fact, its strange that Calem almost seems to accept this fact. If you want to make him look extra-believable, this would be the one thing separating him and his mother, in fact, there might be a little bit of a negative relationship between the two.

    Fennekin said, “but you really have no other choice. This is now a scripted world, where everything you do is pre-determined..."
    So now it makes sense! Everything is scripted, with Calem being the only ordinary human on the planet. So this usually isn't what a normal reader wants to hear, since it might be exactly like copy-pasting what you see in the X and Y games in story. (That's why we have Let's Plays on Youtube! )
    But now that Fennekin mentioned it... How would Calem feel? Would he get angry at Fennekin? Who would he think about that is now trapped in this scripted storyline? Is the task too much for him? Would he break down under stress?

    also, it seems that pokemon, or Calem's pokemon more specifically, are unaffected by the script. Is this true? Maybe they might be the only ones, maybe not. Pokemon usually seem to do whatever they want in the story anyway. (except for those skiddo in Lumiose)

    Just remember, this is your script. You are the real writer, and the Pokemon games don't have to write your story for you. You gooot diiis!!

    With that said, I look forward to reading you next chapter.

    EDIT: Review game time!
    Last edited by Garch0mp0utrage; 26th June 2014 at 3:03 PM.
    ~You've been 0utraged

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  3. #3
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    Dropping a note to say this is cute and I interested to see wherethis is going.

  4. #4
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        Spoiler:- Replies:


    *_*_*_*_*

    Chapter Two: Fire Makes Everything Better

    The room is filled with silence. Fennekin is still sitting on the bed, watching me pace around. My mind is working overtime, trying to compute everything that has just been said in the last few minutes.

    The prevailing question right now is 'why'; why is there a talking Fennekin? Why is he saying he's been sent by somebody called The Magnificent One? Why did this Magnificent One change the world? Why is it me that has to save it?

    Pondering the answers to these isn't going to get me anywhere, though. What I need to do is work out how I'm going to get out of being the Chosen One or, failing that, how I can restore the world back to normal without following this so-called script. So first of all, let's try going directly to the source of these problems. I don't know who this Magnificent One thinks he is, but if he thinks I'm going to let him tell me what to do, he's going another thing coming.

    “Okay, here's what's going to happen.”

    “Yes?”

    “You're going to go back to wherever you came from, and tell this 'magnificent one' to shove it.”

    If Fennekin is a messenger, he must have some way of communicating with whoever is giving him messages.

    “I can't.”

    Not the answer I was looking for...

    “What do you mean, you can't?”

    “I mean what I mean. I don't know what The Magnificent One looks like, or where he is, so how can I go back to him? It's the same for all of us.”

    “'Us'?”

    “His servants. He gives us orders in our dreams, and we do all sorts of things for him – scouting, information gathering, baking him pies, assassinations, torture, ruining the lives of teenagers...”

    “Hold up a minute. You bake pies?”

    “That's what you're concerned about?”

    “Oh, by the way, are you familiar the phrase, 'don't shoot the messenger'?”

    “Of course. It's a sound piece of logic. After all, the messenger merely carries the words of another.”

    “Well, I should tell you, I don't follow that logic, and I desperately need to take my frustration out on something.”

    “But what does that have to do with-- oh.” Fennekin backs up when he sees I've got his Pokeball in my hand.“I'm just a cute little Fennekin. Let's not be hasty now.”

    I flash him my most charming smile.

    “Stand still.”

    *_*_*_*_*

    True to form, mum had been keen to kick me out the house so I could go an “adventure”. The moment I had stepped back down the stairs, she had been there, like she was this morning, beaming, bag in hand, talking about how Professor Sycamore was offering me a great opportunity and how I'll grow as a person and so on. The frightening part? She hadn't read Sycamore's letter. It was like she had been prepared for this very moment.

    Is this another example of the scripted world that Fennekin talks about?

    I thought about rebelling by just living in Aquacorde Town for the foreseeable future, but with only a small amount of cash, I wasn't able to afford any accommodation. I looked around for some jobs but, surprise surprise, there were none. I wonder who's fault could that be...

    I've decided that that's the plan, though; to go from town to town, working, earning some money and then settling down, criminal organisations be damned.

    Turns out I need to travel down Route 2 and then through a forest to reach the next town. I wanted to take a bus or taxi, but those services are suspiciously missing from this area, as are roads, in general. When I asked a passerby about the quickest and safest passage through the forest, they just shrugged their shoulders and said “leave breadcrumbs” or – and this is my personal favourite - “just burn the forest down”. Apparently, there aren't any maps, either, even though it's a often explored forest.

    I know I'm meant to be the Chosen One, but without some form of assistance there's a good chance I'm going to end up in Orre somewhere.

    “It won't just be you, you know,” Fennekin said. He's keeping his distance from me. I can't imagine why. “The others will help, too.”

    “...the Pokemon went inside the Pokeball?”

    “This world is screwed.”

    “I fear you may be right...”

    That amazing observation came courtesy of Shauna, who was having a tutorial on how to catch Pokemon from Serena. Technically, I was as well, but I had long since stopped listening; you didn't need to be the daughter of two veteran trainers to know how to capture Pokemon. Part of me wondered if Shauna was that stupid because the script demanded it. If that is the case, then this Magnificent One is one mean bastard.

    Maybe I should start calling him The Magnificent Bastard.

    “You're thinking bad things about his magnificence, aren't you.” Fennekin looks at me suspiciously.

    “What gave it away?”

    “Oh, just a feeling.”

    As you might have guessed, the fact that I'm talking to Fennekin and Fennekin is talking to me doesn't register with Serena and Shauna at all. In fact, judging by the way they're just standing there, staring off into space, I don't think anything is registering with them at the moment.

    “Have they run out of stage directions or something?” I ask, idly waving a hand in Serena's face. She doesn't even blink, nor do her pupils follow the movements of my hand.

    “They're currently in standby mode. They'll remain like that until the next scene starts.”

    “That must be uncomfortable.”

    “They can't feel anything.” He then adds, “Oh, I wouldn't recommend touching them, either. You might be in for a shock.”

    “Don't worry, I already know,” I said. “And that pun was incredibly lame.”

    “Well, you certainly don't take long, do you?”

    Something in Fennekin's tone irritates the hell out of me, so I glare at him. “I don't like what you're insinuating there.”

    Leaving the girls behind, we walk up the route, wading through several patches of knee-high grass as we did so. Route 2 was a narrow strip of flat land nestled between a relatively large body of water and a steep cliff face, so it was difficult to get to the other end without passing through the oh-so dangerous grass. Strangely, there is no trodden pathway through the grass, and no other signs human activity, despite this being a popular route for trainers... or so I'm told.

    Eventually, we reach the entrance to the forest, a concave cluster of trees casting their shadows on the dirt path.

    “When two trainers' eyes meet, a Pokemon battle must begin!”

    Holy crap!

    Approaching from completely out of nowhere is a young boy in shorts. I didn't even see him! Was he hiding behind a tree this whole time?

    “Looks like it's time for a battle,” Fennekin said, unfazed by the appearance of the youngster.

    “Stupid question, but can I say no?” Fennekin just looks at me. I sigh. “Thought not.”

    “The script says that whenever you make eye contact with another trainer, you must have a battle.”

    “But we didn't even-- ah, whatever, I can't be bothered any more. You have fun with him.”

    “Where are you going?”

    “Just over there, so I'm out the way. Don't worry, I'll be cheering you on.”

    “That's not how battles work! You're meant to give me commands.”

    I shrug. “Capable of talking, capable of independent thought. Now get out there and show that Zigzagoon what the Magnificent Bastard's lackey can do!”

    That seemed to be signal for the fight to start, as the youngster orders his Zigzagoon to tackle Fennekin. The fire-type casts an annoyed look at me before dodging lithely to the side. Zigzagoon leaps at Fennekin again, who dodges to the side once more. The battle continues like that for a good few minutes. It seems Fennekin is trying to wear down his bulkier opponent with quick movements, but...

    “You seem to be struggling out there. What happens if we lose?”

    Fennekin is struggling to keep his breath, while Zigzagoon doesn't look tired at all. At this stage, I'm not sure he could even dodge another attack.

    “You'll have to... go back... to the Pokemon Centre... before you can continue.”

    “Eh, that'll be a pain.” I stand up, dusting the loose grass off my jeans as I do so. “Listen, instead of trying to dodge everything, why not try this revolutionary idea of fighting back?”

    “But that's not graceful enough. You've got to win in style!”

    That sounds like something I'll hear a lot on this trip.

    “What you're doing now is anything but stylish,” I say. “Just use Ember on the thing and be done with it.”

    Fennekin looks reluctant, but nonetheless spits out several small balls of fire from its maw at the advancing opponent. They arc though the air and land on the Zigzagoon's face, successfully stopping it in its tracks and leaving several singe marks.

    “Now end things with Scratch.”

    A flash of claws and a quick scratch on Zigzagoon's side later, the normal type is knocked out, and the youngster withdraws it.

    “You should've told me you were that strong!” he says, before running off to who knows where. Wonder if his parents are concerned about his whereabouts.

    “That was easy. How were you having so much trouble?”

    “Oh, I was trying to lose on purpose.”

    “Why?”

    “Because you left me to fend for myself! We're meant to be a team, you know. How do you expect to get through all the battles if we don't work together?”

    “There's more than one way to win a fight,” I say cryptically. Certainly, if I'm going to fight in many battles on this journey, I'll have to start getting... creative.

    Yeah, that's the word.

    *_*_*_*_*

    Santalune Forest could be best described as green. Green and dark. Tall trees huddled together in groups, their green leaves creating a thick blanket which blocks out the majority of sunlight; green grass, which covers most of the ground; green flower stems... just green everywhere. Then there's that earthy smell, mixed the faint scent of pollen that just makes the place a nightmare for hay-feaver sufferers.

    Ugh, my eyes are starting to itch.

    Thankfully, there's a dirt road winding through the trees, so the route should be fairly direct. I'll be out of here in no time.

    “Wait up!”

    Who the hell is--

    I whirl around, and see nothing.

    “Who's there?” I call out.

    Fennekin sighs by my side. “Look down, Calem.”

    Confused, I do as he says, and see Shauna's face beaming up at me. What does she want? And what's with people sneaking up on me today? This better not become a regular thing.

    “I'll walk with you. I'll feel like something exciting will happen if I stay by you,” she says. I really want to be sarcastic right now, but sarcasm's not worth it if you don't get a response.

    “That does not mean what you think it does,” Fennekin chimes in.

    I give an exaggerated sign. “What a shame.”

    I'd probably die of hay-feaver before we got to the good part, anyway.

    Shauna said she'd walk with me, but in reality she's walking behind me. She's offering no conversation, and is mirroring my movements: if I stop, she stops; if I go left, she goes left; if I run around in a circle... she follows me around in a circle.

    With Fennekin urging me to stop fooling around, we continue down the path, passing the rest of the crew along the way. None of them come over to chat, and instead scatter and do various things; Serena and Trevor look for Pokemon, while Tierno is battling with another youngster who, creepily enough, looks exactly the same as the youngster I battled earlier.

    “Maybe you should catch some Pokemon,” Fennekin suggests. “I'm not going to be enough to take down a crime syndicate.”

    “A lackey is just a lackey, I guess.” Fennekin bristles, but I cut him off before he can retort. “In all seriousness, none of the Pokemon said to live in this forest interest me.”

    “What would interest you?”

    I think about it for a moment. “Let me get back to you one that one.”

    A bit more walking leads us to a junction in the path. The path leading left is being blocked by another youngster in shorts – are they triplets? - while the path ahead is clear. In other words, I can either battle, or I can avoid it altogether and continue on through the forest.

    Much to Fennekin's disappointment, I chose to go straight ahead. Battles are just time consuming, and I don't want to be in here any longer than I have to.

    But you know what they say about best laid plans and all that.

    “Your Pokemon are in for a shock!”

    My opponent this time is a young girl with a blond ponytail, pink shirt and black jumper. Her Pokemon? A Pikachu.

    Shocking, isn't it?

    “Let's get this over with quickly, Fennekin. Use Scratch.”

    Before Fennekin can even move, the trainer's Pikachu closes the distance and rams its body into him; Quick Attack, I believe. As Fennekin gets back up his feet, the Electric type unleashes two yellow bolts from its cheeks that zip across the turf, leaving scorch marks as they go. Fennekin barely evades by throwing himself to the side, and the attack stops just short of my toes.

    That was waaaayyyy too close for comfort.

    “Okay, new plan: go with Ember.”

    Unfortunately, this Pikachu is one quick bugger, and the attack only grazes it. More damage seems to be done to the grass, which has now become a charred mess right in front the girl, who, expectedly, doesn't acknowledge that fact at all.

    It's just as well that I've got my wits about me, though, as a Thundershock comes whizzing past my ear and snaps off a small tree branch. This battle has suddenly become very dangerous.

    “Hey, what happens if an attack hits a trainer?”

    Fennekin dodges another electric attack, and spits out another ember that, again, misses. “I... don't know. I assume that they must be protected, somehow.”

    Knowing whether or not they, and by extension, myself, are protected would be incredibly useful knowledge to have so I don't one day end up a bit too close to the action like I am right now. And it may also be useful towards keeping the opposition trainer out of harm, too.

    Only if I'm feeling nice.

    And if they don't annoy me, but let's be honest, I get easily annoyed.

    Seriously, though, who's bright idea was it to set-up a battle in such an enclosed space, with an electric Pokemon and plenty of flammable material?

    “Hmm... we better try it out. Use Ember on the girl.”

    “I'm not going to attack a defenceless girl!”

    “It's for research purposes!” I argue. “Picture this: I'm having a battle in a city somewhere. Attacks fly everywhere. Windows break, buildings get destroyed, and people fall to their deaths.”

    “That's pretty grim.”

    “But also possible. Just imagine: I send out an Aggron, I tell it to use Earthquake, then boom, whole city destroyed. Everyone dead. All because you wouldn't let me confirm whether Pokemon attacks hurt humans or not.”

    Fennekin opens his mouth to argue, but quickly closes it and shakes his head in what looks like exasperation. A good sign that my logic is flawless, as always.

    “Okay, okay, I get it already.”

    Fennekin's breaths out a small amount of fire – obviously he's holding back – that arcs over the Pikachu's head. The girl can see the fire coming towards her. My thinking is that by seeing it, her common sense will kick in and she'll move away, which will imply she, and everyone else, can get hurt by these attacks. Obviously her being hit by the attack would outright confirm it, but I actually don't want her to get hurt and--

    What's that burning smell?

    A small flicker of flame is resting on the girl's shoulder. I watch as her face remains stoic for a few seconds, but then slowly morphs into one of horror. Slowly, she turns her head, and stares at the flame.

    “I'm on fire,” she remarks. I just nod stiffly. There's silence for a moment, then...

    “I'm on fire!”

    “She's on fire!”

    I honestly did not think the so-called Magnificent One would allow people to get hurt so easily like this! I'm starting to think I'm totally justified in calling him the Magnificent Bastard.

    “What do I do?”

    “Get it off!”

    “What?”

    “Get the jumper off!” I clarify. Nodding frantically, she attempts to raise the jumper over her head. I don't need to tell you why that's a terrible idea. “No, not like that!”

    She frowns at me. “Then how?”

    Resisting the urge to roll my eyes, I step close to her and, ignoring her startled look, I grab hold of her jumper with both hands.

    “Like this!” I say, then give the fabric a mighty tug. A tear appears, and I keep pulling until the front is open, then slip the jumper off her like it was a jacket. Now, standing around with a flaming object in hand, I feel incredibly dumb. “Uh... anyone got any water?”

    “No,” is the joint reply from the girl and Fennekin. With no other choice, I turn to the other person who's been with us the whole time...

    “Shauna! You've got any water?” Blank stare. “Shauna? Hey, talk to me. Please respond, Shauna!”

    “What do we do?” the girls asks with worry.

    What do we do? I've got a flaming garment in my hands that's gradually getting smaller and smaller and if I hold onto it for too long I'll burn my hands. Yet I can't exactly drop it on the floor, otherwise this whole place will be set ablaze. We need a way to get ride of the flame somehow.

    Thinking, thinking...

    I've got it!

    “Fennekin!”

    “Yes?”

    “Eat it.”

    “Excuse me?”

    “Eat it,” I repeat. “You're a fire type. You like fire.”

    “I do like fire,” he says, “but I don't eat it, nor do I eat textiles.”

    “Damn, I'm out of ideas.”

    The girl then suddenly holds up her hand.“I know! Dirt can put out the fire!”

    “Brilliant!” I turn to Fennekin. “Get digging.”

    “Why me?”

    “Do I look like I'd be good at digging holes?”

    “Well, you've certainly dug us a good one with this stupid idea of yours.”

    Okay, he may have a point there, but witty retorts aren't what I need right now; this jumper is becoming smaller and smaller by the second.

    “This isn't the time for that!”

    Fennekin sighs and inclines his head in the direction of some shrubbery. “See that branch? If we stick the jumper on the end of it, we can just let it burn.”

    “Oh,” I said, feeling stupid for a second time. “Why didn't we think of that?”

    The branch in question was why this girl's Pikachu had snapped off with its electricity not too long ago. After she fetches it, I place the jumper on one end, while holding the other. Now we're all just milling around, with a burning cloth on the end of a stick.

    All we have to do is wait for the cloth to burn away and we can carry on our merry way. The branch is sturdy, so it's not like it'll break--

    Snap

    --anytime soon.

    ...yup, definitely a bastard.

    “I think it's time to go,” suggested Fennekin, the wise one.

    “Good idea.”

    *_*_*_*_*

    Thankfully, we hadn't been too far from the forest exit when the accident occurred. Before the flames had really gotten going, the girl, Shauna, Fennekin and myself had been safely out of the forest. Several other people had followed afterwards, including the rest of the crew. Apparently, they had ditched whatever the script was telling them in favour of tearing out of the forest.

    Not long afterwards, though, they were back to “normal”, and throwing some cursory lines at me that I ignored. Either they have balls of steel, or they were acting out the script once more. Their blank expressions suggested it was the latter.

    Interestingly enough, Serena had frowned at me. It happened for just a short instance, but her face had definitely shown emotion before it set itself in stone again. This, combined with the useful things I learned in the forest, have made this recent experience worthwhile.

    Not that I'd recommend starting a forest fire to anyone, mind you.

    According to the Town Map my mother had helpfully provided, we were now on Route 3 and a short walk away from Santalune Town. I could actually see the town in the distance.

    I wonder if they noticed the fire.

    For the time being, Fennekin and I were taking a short break. Once the adrenaline left our systems, we felt exhausted; so exhausted that Fennekin didn't even feel like walking, let alone battle in a few obligatory battles.

    I'm keen for us to get out of here soon, though, in case any authorities decide to show up. I don't think I can lie my way through a witness report.

    “I just realised something,” said Fennekin.

    “What's that?”

    “That girl didn't even realise I could talk.”

    “Well, people don't really notice the small things when in a blazing inferno,” I explained dully. “I realised something as well.”

    “Yeah?”

    “There was absolutely no reason for Shauna to follow me. At all. Was there any point of that being in that script of yours?”

    Fennekin just sighs, apparently too tired to give a reasonable explanation. “Who knows?”

    “Clearly, these are things we must ponder in front of the remains of a forest fire.”

    Indeed, in front us is the smouldering remains of Santalune Forest. Well, part of it, anyway. Rangers had arrived not long after we had vacated the area and they had managed to stop the fire from spreading. I have to admit, I do feel a bit guilty about all this, but I did learn something valuable because of it; something that'll change the world.

    Potentially, anyway. There are still some things I need to find out.

    “This is the stupidest thing we'll ever do,” commented Fennekin.

    “I don't know, I think we can top this by the end of the story.”

    That was sarcasm, in case you couldn't tell.

    Really.

  5. #5
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    Aw, don't burn that forest down! it's pretty. Though as I've said elsewhere, with all the destructive capability Pokémon have, maybe the plant life in that world is super fast at regenerating...

    Amusing so far; I like how Calem's first thought at Fennekin escaping his Pokeball is 'I hope he doesn't shed on my bed'. Also the thoughts about the Magnificent Bastard (I have a guess at who that is, but won't say it here), and the identical youngsters, and Calem's chosen nickname being Chosen One. The story seems dialogue heavy, not to the point of being talking heads but enough that you might want to consider breaking up the longer ones.

    Also, this line from the first chapter: 'You could go on a mass killing spree, molest some poor girl or even jump over a ledge and it wouldn't make any difference; if it's not in the script, it won't happen'. I think it's pushing the limits on being offensive, so might want to downgrade on the crimes. Hey, it could even give you a chance to poke fun at how squeaky-clean the script is for the horrible things in the plot later on.
    Pokedex OS- Still trying to capture every single Pokemon out there in words: 648/718 Kanto, Johto, Hoenn, and Sinnoh complete!

    Fluer Noir- A story of a black flower, a shameful history, and magic.

  6. #6
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    *_*_*_*_*

    Chapter Three: Fire Definitely Makes Everything Better

    It's a mild morning in Santalune City; that sort of mid-way temperature where it's somehow cool enough to wear a jacket but also warm enough to go without one. The sun's high up in the sky, unobstructed by any clouds, glaring at the city below and for the first time I'm thankful for this hat. I wanted to just wear the sunglasses, but they were fixed to the hat and wouldn't come off, as if someone had stuck them there with some sort of strong adhesive. But get this: no signs of glue, tape, or any other sticky substance.

    Neither Fennekin or I had managed to get a good look at the city last night. We had dragged our tired selves across Route 3 and slogged our way through battles with young school-children who were out at night without any adult supervision – that's another design flaw in the bastard's script – before finally arriving and passing out on the closest bench we could find. Now that we're more awake, and that the city has been lit up gloriously by the sun, we can actually see that this place is pretty nice.

    The pathways are made up of brown stone, set-up in an interlocking pattern of various shades. Tall, black street-lights adorn the pathways, along with lots and lots of benches that, from my five minute observation, nobody sit on. In the centre of the city is a giant stone fountain, it's basin the shape of a flower. Standing resplendently atop the flower is a statue of a Roselia, water spilling out it's trademark roses. Not far north of that is a trainer school, presumably there to inform students that Roselia can't, in fact, spray water from its roses. I've not heard anyone say that Roselia can do that but someone's definitely thinking it.

    Fennekin and I had decided to sit outside a café perched on top of a slight elevation of land that's high enough to give us a good overview of the city and allow us to see over the city walls, into the vast expanses of the Kalos region. Lots of green, and a big ol' mountain which, if I remember right, is Victory Road. It's a good view, though we didn't sit here specifically to enjoy it.

    “I had a dream last night,” Fennekin says. “His magnificence spoke to me, and told me what was supposed to happen. You and the others were meant to meet up by the exit of Santalune Forest and then leave together in a terrific show of friendship and coming of age. The forest wasn't meant to burn down.”

    “That's interesting.” I mean that. Sure, it should go without saying that burning down part of a forest wasn't meant to be a part of my heroic tale, but the fact is it did happen. It happened when it shouldn't have, and that suggests that this script isn't as absolute as Fennekin said it'd be.

    “You are meant to be in Santalune City, though, and you are meant to earn a gym badge here. There's no way around that.”

    “We'll see about that.”

    Indeed, the plan today is to work out a way of leaving the city without having to bother with the gym. I took some liberties, albeit inadvertently, in Santalune Forest, so why not in Santalune City?

    Fennekin shakes his head ruefully. “I'm telling you, it's hopeless.”

    “And I'm telling you that it's not.”

    I want to prove him wrong, but we need to wait a while before we can do anything. Down in the city below, I can see police officers and rangers patrolling the streets and talking to various people, no doubt trying to find the culprit of last night's fire. If they just walked up those stairs they'd find him, but that's the thing; nobody is walking up those stairs. Even though there are tables and chairs here and a café, nobody bothers coming up here.

    It may have something to do with the café not having a door.

    “You know, I actually feel guilty about what happened last night. Maybe I should I turn myself in.”

    “I can't see that helping us on our mission to save the world.”

    “It wouldn't help you, but it would certainly help me,” I say. “Can't play your game while behind bars, can I?”

    “Well, no, I suppose not. But you would have the minor problem of being behind bars.”

    I shrug my shoulders. “It wouldn't be that bad. I'd get three meals per day, plenty of exercise, lots of time to socialise and I may even find love, all without having to save the world.”

    “In that case, everyone will just go on standby mode until you get out of prison, and then you can fulfil your duty as the Chosen One. The world will wait for you.”

    I can't help the wry smile that appears on my face. “Then the world's going to be waiting for a long time.”

    One way or another, I will find a way to restore the world back to normal. I won't let my or any other life be dictated by someone pompous enough to call himself The Magnificent One, and if it does fall to me save the world, I will do so on my own terms, preferably with a large army behind me. I will not conform to this script.

    Heh, don't I sound heroic?

    *_*_*_*_*

    It was around mid-afternoon when the authorities had finished their investigation and gone back to wherever they came from, leaving only a few behind to continue patrolling the area. I had picked that moment to leave the café seating area and attempt to exit out the city via Route 4, but any hopes of progress were immediately dashed by a tall brunette in a rather tight fitting shirt and jeans. My eyes were... somewhere.

    “...you're one of the kids who got a Pokemon from Augustine Sycamore, right? That Fennekin you got there looks pretty happy. You must be a good trainer.“

    I come out of my reverie to the sound of snickering. Fennekin seems to be doing his best not to keel over in laughter, and I take no offence from that whatsoever. Whoever this woman is, she just came out with top notch Tauros crap.

    “In that case, get over to the Pokemon Gym. I'm sure my sister will be glad to meet you!”

    And that's all she said. I attempt to walk around her, but each time she just moves to stand in front of me, not even saying a word, and running away is just met with a maddening spell of dizziness and me back where I started. So, I'm left with little choice but to go to the gym and meet her sister.

    If she's as good looking, then this may not a complete waste of time.

    The gym is over in the opposite corner of the city. It stands out as one of the more isolated buildings within the area, and for having tall, wide windows. According to this guide book I picked up from the Pokemon Centre, the gym also functions as a gallery and as a greenhouse, so the windows are there for both practical and aesthetic purposes.

    The same can't be said about the girl standing in front of the gym entrance. Dressed in a yellow top and Lycra shorts and donning knee pads and a helmet, I assume she's one of those sporty types, but last I checked, standing in the way of a public entrance wasn't a sport.

    “Hey, stranger! Isn't cruising around town on your Roller Skates the best thing ever?”

    “No, not really.”

    “...Wait. Do you mean to tell me that you don't even own a pair of Roller Skates?”

    “That's not what I said.”

    For the record, I actually don't own a pair of Roller Skates.

    “Then how about this: if you beat me in a Pokemon battle, I'll give you a pair!”

    “How about this: you can stop needlessly obstructing my way into the gym, and we can all get on with our daily lives.”

    “I can never say no to a contest, not me! So how about it? Do you wanna battle?”

    ...I don't know what I was expecting.

    Everything has stopped again, just like that time at the café in Aquacorde Town. That time, I had to choose a Pokemon, and any attempt at not making a choice at all resulted in me being stuck in a loop until I made one. To put it another way...

    “You have to make a choice before you can do anything else.”

    It's as Fennekin says. There's no “none of the above” option here; it's either one thing or the other. In this instance, it's “yes” or “no”. The script will assume that I say yes and battle this girl, but what if I say no? Will that effect things at all? Will it instigate a different set of events?

    Let's find out.

    “No, I don't want to battle.”

    Things are moving again, so I know I've made one of the possible choices. The girl, though, says nothing else, and remains standing there. It appears my choice didn't accomplish anything, but maybe I'll be able to go past her and enter the gym.

    I try walking around her, but just like with that woman earlier, she moves in front me.

    “Hey, stranger! Isn't cruising around...”

    “No, I don't want to battle. Please move aside.”

    “Hey, stranger! Isn't cruising around...”

    “No, I--”

    “Give it up, Calem!” Fennekin says loudly. “This is obviously one of those situations where you have to win if you want to progress the story.”

    “What's the point of setting up these choices when I don't actually have a choice?”

    The rules of this game are essentially like this: every now and then, I'll have a choice to make. Until I make that choice, I cannot progress. There is no “none of the above” answer. If I choose “no” or “none”, nothing will happen and I will not be able progress. “Yes” is the only choice that does anything, therefore I must choose “yes”.

    “I told you it was hopeless,” my 'partner' comments, presumably seeing the frustrated look that's come over my face. “Let's just battle her already. We're wasting time.”

    I exhale deeply.

    “Fine. Okay.” I turn my attention back to the girl, and state, loud and clear, “Yes, let's have a battle.”

    So begins another obligatory battle, and this time I won't get away with setting the opposing trainer on fire. Conforming to the script is not something I want do to, but it may well be quicker to do so right now. Or at least, that's what I'm telling myself so I feel better about life. I'm sure you can understand. I'm about to waste more precious time battling another Zigzagoon. Well, actually, Fennekin is, but he's insistent that I tell him what to do, even though he's perfectly capable of doing these things by himself.

    An Ember and Scratch later, the battle is over and, true to her word, I am now the owner of a brand new pair of Roller Skates.

    Now what I am going to do with these?

    “If you're not going to use them, you should put them in your bag,” Fennekin advises.

    “They're not going to fit.”

    “Just try it.”

    I try shoving the skates into my bag and, as expected, they disappear into a black abyss and add zero weight to my bag.

    What.

    “Please explain.”

    “His magnificence foresaw that you'll be collecting a lot of items during your trip, and as such he's modified your bag to hold more items and not get heavier. Amazing, right?”

    “That is amazing,” I say honestly. “Yet at the same time it's weird and slightly terrifying how this guy can casually manipulate the space-time continuum.”

    These aren't things that a mere human can do. What am I up against?

    Entering the gym, we're greeted with a hole in the ground and a metal pole descending down it from the roof. I'm sure that's there for a reason. Surrounding that are white walls littered with large, blown-up photographs of Pokemon, caught in poses that show off their best aspects in attractive, natural backgrounds. Whoever took these is obviously very skilled. It'd be a shame not to look around and admire more of their work, now that we're here.

    “Hey, how much is it to see the rest of the gallery?” I ask the only other human occupant in the room: a rotund fellow in navy blue slacks, cream shirt and suspenders. I would comment on his fashion but I'm walking around with a stupid, impractical hat.

    “What's the hustle, little Crustle? Welcome to the Santalune Gym!”

    He's just insulted me, hasn't he? What part of this face looks like a Crustle?

    “So, future Champ, this'll be your first time challenging a Gym, huh? Are you thrilled? Are you pumped? You should be! No worries here! You've got Pokemon on your side! And really, they're the ones who are gonna be doing all the battling. Am I right or am I right? Right?”

    You need to stop talking.

    He turns his gaze over the hole and pole. “Jump on that pole there, and you'll be on your way to where the gym leader's a-waitin' for you!”

    Ah, so you do give out useful information.

    “But wait! Before you go, I'm supposed to tell you something. Everybody in this Pokemon Gym uses Bug-type Pokemon. Got it?”

    Bug-types, eh? This shouldn't take long, then.

    I grip the pole in one hand and attempt to shake it. It doesn't budge an inch. It's nice and sturdy, and should be able to support my weight as I slide down. I'm hesitant, though. Looking down into the hole, all I can see is darkness. I'm not sure the script would have me plummet to my untimely death so soon, but so far attention to detail hasn't been it's strongest point.

    “If I die, I want you to go back to The Magnificent One, and tell him he's a bastard.”

    Fennekin rolls his eyes. “What would be the point of killing you off here?”

    “By the way, how are we going to do this?”

    “Like this.”

    Without warning, Fennekin leaps onto my back, and then starts climbing up to my shoulder.

    “Ow! Don't dig your claws in!”

    “Oh, deal with it. You're meant to the stoic-faced Chosen One; act like one!”

    Grumbling, I pull myself onto the pole, wrap my legs around it and then start sliding down into the darkness. I can feel the air rush past me for an instant, and then the poll ends, and I land on something soft, bouncy and sticky.

    “What the hell is this?” I ask in disgust.

    “Help me! I'm going to get eaten by a giant Ariados!”

    Fennekin is stuck on his back, flailing his little arms and legs around.

    “A giant Ariados? I don't think I could take one of those on. You're on your own, buddy.”

    “Calem, don't leave me here!”

    I roll my eyes and help him up. “You're meant to be the Chosen One's ever-reliable partner; maybe you should act like one.”

    Now that we're back on our feet again, I take a good look around this new dimly lit area. There are large leaves growing out the walls, and wooden structures with trainers on top of them dotted about. At the far end of the room is a tent. Below us is a pool of brown, muddy water.

    And the thing we're standing on? An oversized web that's suspended over the water. The threads are wide enough for us to comfortably stand on, and are covered in some sticky substance so the danger of falling off isn't as high as you'd think. What's more concerning to me now is the humidity. I get that Bug Pokemon and certain plant-life enjoy humid conditions, but I've only been down here for a few seconds and already I'm sweating out half my weight's worth of sweat.

    “What do we do know?” Fennekin asks.

    It looks like we need to get over to that tent. Looking closer at the web, it seems that some threads are thinner than others, so there are certain routes we can't take. Considering how the trainers are placed, it's safe to assume that there is a route that'll take you past all three and, eventually, to the gym leader. How else would they have gotten onto those platforms?

    “We need to get over there,” I tell him, pointing to the tent. “But there are only so many ways we can get there. One route will take us past all the trainers--”

    “That's the best route.”

    “--but that'll take time and effort and not knowing how tough this gym leader is, we need to be in top condition before we face her.”

    “...I guess that makes sense.”

    “So we need to find another way around the web,” I conclude. And following a certain route with my eyes, I think I've found one...

    “Got any ideas?”

    “Yeah,” I say. “Follow the bubbles.”

    “The bubbles?”

    I direct Fennekin's attention to a collection of bubbles on one of the threads. Until I had taken a closer look, I hadn't even noticed them, but once I had it was easy to see how they formed a trail around the web, and how they avoid the trainers. There's no doubt that this is the best route to take.

    I start off down the thread, and Fennekin reluctantly follows me. I can tell he wants me to battle the other trainers, but there's just no point. We're hear to get the badge so we can move on to the next town, not so that we can gain battling experience.

    We practically walk the entire circumference of the web, passing two trainers – who I made sure to give a rude gesture to – on the way, before eventually reaching the tent where the gym leader is standing. And yes, I can confirm that she is as good looking as her sister.

    We get within three steps of tent and, at this point, I've removed my jacket in a futile attempt to cool myself down. I'm drenched in sweat, sticky, and haven't had a good breath of air since I got here, so it's to some relief that we're close to finishing up.

    Naturally, things are never that straightforward.

    “Tee hee hee! Such weak pray! You've been caught right in my Spider Web!”

    That gets me thinking: why is it called Spider Web? Shouldn't it be Spinarak or Ariados web? Galvantula web, maybe? And for that matter, what even is a 'spider'? This is something I should add to my list of things to ponder, along with other things such as why that café didn't have a door, and why this girl I'm about to battle looks exactly the same as that other girl who I set ablaze the day before.

    Now, you'd think that this battle would be held on the bigger, sturdier wooden platform this girl is standing on, but nope, what's going to happen is that she's not going to move, while I'm going to be standing on this thread where if I happen to lose my balance, I'm going to plummet into a pool of dirty, muddy water.

    Here's a bit of blatant foreshadowing for you: it's going to happen.

    The Pokemon she sends out is a Kakuna, a bronze coloured cocoon with a pair of dark eyes that somehow stands up-right. Conventional wisdom suggests it has little to no mobility, but compensates with high defences provided by a hard shell. In which case, Ember should make quick work of it.

    Imagine my surprise, then, when the Kakuna manages to launch itself from a standing position, despite having no arms or legs that it can use to propel itself forward, flies through the air, misses Fennekin completely, and hits me right in the face.

    “Whoa! You okay there?” Fennekin asks.

    “I think my nose is bleeding.” I take a look at my hand, which is covered in blood. “Yup, definitely bleeding. Ow.”

    With no tissue on hand, I hold my jacket to my nose, and then pinch the bridge in an attempt to stem the blood flow. Fortunately, it's not broken, which is as much of a miracle as that Kakuna managing to throw itself so far.

    “Should I use Ember on it?”

    “No, you might set the thread on fire.”

    “Scratch, then?”

    “That won't do much against that defence.”

    By this point, Fennekin was getting frustrated. “What, then?”

    “I don't know. You think of something. I'm a bit busy trying not to die form blood loss.”

    “Think of something, he says...” I hear him mutter. “Hmm, maybe that could work...”

    He runs up to the Kakuna, turns around, and starts brushing his tail over it. Quite what this is accomplishing I've no idea.

    “What are you doing?”

    “I'm lowering it's defences.”

    “By polishing it?” I question. “Oh, are you trying to create friction by rubbing your tail repeatedly against it's shell, so as to eventually wear the shell down?”

    “No, I'm just wagging my tail in its face. It usually works.”

    “I-- okay. Whatever. You can use Scratch now.”

    Fennekin does so, and amazingly, it does a large amount of damage. A follow-up Scratch puts the Kakuna out of commission.

    Pokemon are weird.

    Her next Pokemon – because some of these trainers have the audacity to use two Pokemon – is a Combee, a bright orange flying thing with tessellated faces. It's got three faces. Why does it have three faces?

    The Combee starts out with what looks like Tackle. It flies straight over Fennekin's head, but instead of stopping and changing direction, it continues forward... right towards me.

    “What is this, beat-up Calem day?” I exclaim while frantically avoiding being hit in the face for the second time. The Combee comes back around, and then aims for me for a second time. I step aside again, but stumble slightly, and then begin teetering.

    Yup, I've managed to place myself on the edge of the thread, and now I'm about to fall in. This must be karma.

    Well, screw you karma, I'm not going down that easily.

    In my efforts to maintain my balance, my jacket flies from my hand and drops into the water below. Finally, I manage to get away from the edge, and then drop to my knees in relief.

    Hot, sweaty, sticky, covered in blood. What a day this has been.

    “Fennekin.”

    “Yes?”

    “Set it on fire.”

    “On it.”

    One accurate Ember attack later and the Combee is defeated. We can now finally move onto the gym leader.

    She's standing in the tent, surrounded by photography equipment. She's shorter than her sister, with blonde hair, white shirt and green trousers. I'm not seeing much resemblance, but do find her attractive.

    “That determined expression... that glint in your eye that says you're up the challenge... it's fantastic! Just fantastic!”

    My shirt's covered in blood and I feel like I'm about to keel over from dehydration but it's okay because I'm determined and up for this. Personal well-being is no obstacle on the path to a gym badge!

    “Is this your first time challenging a Gym? Fantastic!”

    Easy win! That's what she's thinking.

    “Whether it's the tears of frustration that follows a loss or the blossoming of joy that comes with victory... They're both great subjects for my camera!”

    Blah blah blah yadda yadda yadda let's fight already.

    The Pokemon she send outs is a Surskit, a minuscule blue Bug/Water hybrid with a round body, four thin, spindly legs and what can be best described as a pointy yellow hat on top. I tell Fennekin to use Ember, but the Surskit sort of slides out the way of it. It responds by approaching with a frightening amount of speed, and Fennekin has to jump in order to evade it.

    When he lands on the ground again, Fennekin quickly turns around and fires another Ember at it, but the Big-type is too slick and just moves to the side.

    Now, I should point out that Fennekin and Surskit have switched positions, so that Ember is actually coming towards me. I have to move aside so it doesn't hit me, but it doesn't pass by harmlessly.

    Why? Because the web is directly behind me. You know, that web made of some sort of thread, covered in some sort of sticky substance that I was worried about catching fire?

    Yeah, that web.

    Anyone getting a sense of deja vu?

    As I thought, the web catches fire easily, and in matter of seconds the flames spread across it and burn the entire thing to cinders.

    “I've battled against many fire-types and not one has managed to do that,” the gym leader says, looking aghast.

    “I guess that makes us trailblazers,” Fennekin says weakly. No one's laughing, not least the gym leader, who's growing more and more concerned.

    “If word gets out about this, our reputation as a gym could face some serious damage,” she says, and begins pacing. “This is not fantastic.”

    Now that we're having a normal conversation, I feel this is a good time to ask about something that has bugging me since I got here.

    And no, that was not meant to be a pun.

    “What were you thinking, using such a blatant health and safety hazard?”

    “Money's tight, and we can't always afford the best materials.” She runs her fingers through her hair. “This is a problem.”

    It is a problem, but she should know that it's not her only problem.

    “I got attacked by one of your trainer's Pokemon. Twice. And I dropped my jacket into the water. Imagine what they'll think when they find no web, and pick up my bloody jacket?”

    The gym leader sighs. “What do you want?”

    “I won't tell anyone... if you give me the badge.”

    “Is that all?”

    “That's all.”

    She studies me closely for a few moments, then nods. “Okay. I hope you keep your word.”

    “Don't worry, you can trust me.”

    I'll just ignore Fennekin's loud, derisive snort.

    *_*_*_*_*

    “Fresh air!”

    Even if today is a hot, summer day, it feels like stepping inside a fridge in comparison to that Gym. A glance at my Holo Caster tells me we weren't even down there for more than an hour, and it felt horrible. I can't even imagine how those trainers and the Gym Leader cope with it.

    After successful “negotiations” with her, the Gym Leader had handed me the The Bug Badge, a thick slab of metal that's meant to represent the thick shell so characteristic of many Bug-type Pokemon, but, in reality, shares a closer resemblance to a toilet seat more than anything. Nevertheless, this is a legitimate badge that counts towards qualification for the Pokemon League and should enable us to leave this city and move on with our adventure.

    Before that, though, I really need to get myself cleaned up and get some rest. It wouldn't do to walk around with blood on my face and shirt, although the idea of pretending I'm a vampire or something and creeping people out sounds fun.

    Meh, too tired.

    “That's him!” a voice calls out. “He's the one who caused the forest fire!”

    Now who's the one saying these crazy things?

    Approaching me is a girl with blonde hair wearing a pink skirt and white blouse. Wasn't she the girl we battled in the gym? Didn't she have a jumper?

    Oh, wait, I remember now. She's that other girl we set on fire.

    Man, why does everybody have to look the same?

    Standing alongside her is a burly police officer, garbed in pale blue uniform, complete with hat, tie and nightstick. He eyes me with dark, sharp eyes, and I admit to feeling a little bit intimidated. Resisting arrest against this guy would probably end badly.

    “Are you sure? You said he was wearing a jacket.”

    On second thought, this might be easier than expected.

    “Yes, I'm sure! Hat, blond hair, black bag, blue jeans; it's definitely him,“ the girl states firmly. “Look, he's even got the Fennekin I was talking about!”

    “Of course I have a Fennekin,” I say, trying my best to sound as happy and innocent as possible. I lean down and pick him up. He doesn't struggle; he must've caught on quick. “They're so cute and cuddly and innocent. Why wouldn't I have one?”

    The police officer stares at me some more. I meet his gaze evenly, willing my heart to stop beating so fast.

    “I see no flaw in that logic,” he says. He look at the girl, who's face is absolutely priceless right now. “This doesn't appear to be the culprit you're looking for, miss.”

    “He is! He's just not wearing his jacket.”

    “It's starting to get late, so you should go home. I'll escort you.”

    “At least take him in for questioning!”

    “Don't tell me how to be do my job, miss.”

    “B-but...”

    I watch as the girl is dragged away, and even wave Fennekin's paw at her, just to rub it in . Once they're out of sight, I heave a big sigh of relief. I just lucked out big time. Who'd have thought that there was a police officer that incompetent?

    Well, I'm not one to look a gift Ponyta in the mouth. Now would be a good time to high-tail it out of here.

    “Didn't you say earlier that you wouldn't mind being behind bars?” Fennekin asks me.

    “I did say that,” I confirm. “But I've things I want to accomplish, and I need to be a free man in order to do that.”

    For the time being, this farce of an adventure will have to continue.

    “Fine with me,” he says. “By the way, never me call me cute or cuddly again. It sounds disgusting coming from you.”

    “Is that really something you should be saying when you've got no where to escape?”

  7. #7
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    Jun 2008
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    Chapter Four: Repress Memories to Maintain Sanity

    Do you want me to bore you with more details about Kalos geography? Of course you do.

    Route 4, otherwise known as Parterre Way for reasons you'll soon discover, is one of five routes leading into Lumiose City. Years ago, before the city became the behemoth that it is today, this route was simply a dirt track with nothing remarkable about it. But when the grand development project kicked in, they decided to spruce the whole route up a little bit.

    When tourists arrive in Kalos via the southern airports and port towns, Route 4 is the most likely route they take when travelling to Lumiose City, so they wanted to give them a strong first impression.

    They accomplished this by, for all intents and purposes, turning the route into a park. Large flowerbeds with a wide variety of flowers, hedge mazes and decorative foliage flank the pathway. Smack bang in the middle of the route is a huge fountain, surrounded by benches for people to sit on and enjoy the scenery.

    Do you see why it's called Parterre Way now?

    ...no?

    Me neither.

    Regardless, this place is popular to tourists who like to get away from the busy city and enjoy some peace and quiet. But to me, Route 4 is no different to Santalune Forest: it's a hay-feaver sufferer's nightmare. All those flowers, plus hot, sunny days with little breeze, make for an abhorrent amount of pollen. It's for that reason that Fennekin and myself decided to travel by night, when it's cooler and the pollen level isn't quite as high. This way, I won't be sneezing every other second and drawing unnecessary attention to myself; the last thing I need is to have another run-in with that girl or any authority figure competent at their job.

    So after cleaning myself up and getting a few hours sleep, we left Santalune City a couple of hours before midnight. Usually, sneaking out of town in the middle of the night is slightly counterproductive towards trying to avoid the eyes of the law, but in my case the law has no idea who they're looking for thanks to that one officer ruling me out as a suspect. The guard stationed at the exit didn't even give me a second glance when I left.

    As one of the routes that's guaranteed to be occupied by people throughout the day, there are a number of lights in the shape of little orbs lining the way. It's not bright enough for me to see all the nature, so I won't be able to enjoy the full splendour of this place, but this is still quite a pleasant experience. That I get to see a number of fine sights – human or otherwise – is one the few perks of being forced on an adventure to save the world.

    Not that I know what I'm saving the world from. Fennekin mentioned a crime syndicate of sorts but he wasn't too forthcoming with the details. “Crime syndicate” sounds big and scary, and “wanting to take over the world” sounds menacing, but for all I know they could be a group who flamboyantly prance around in leotards, pulling funny poses and battling people with Magikarp.

    Let’s pitch the question to my ever-reliable partner in crime…

    “His magnificence didn’t go into much detail. He just said we’ll recognise them when we see them.” If Fennekin could, I’m sure he’d be shrugging his shoulders.

    “Helpful as always, the Magnificent Bastard.”

    Fennekin bristles. “Be thankful that he even warned you about it in the first place.”

    I snort. “Sure, I’m so thankful for having the opportunity to face down an organisation who wants to take over the world. What would I have done with my life without it?”

    “Probably bumming around at home, disappointing everyone with your lack of ambition.”

    “What you call lack of ambition, I call self-preservation,” I say. “And I would like to preserve myself now by finding out more about these people I’m meant to go up against. Are you sure you’ve not been told anything else?”

    Fennekin rolls his eyes. “Yes, I’m sure.”

    “Keep your eyes peeled for anything suspicious.”

    “Would that count?”

    I look at what Fennekin is looking at, and see three people standing in front of the fountain. Each of them is wearing a long, dark trench coat, with hoods casting a shadow over their faces.

    “Yes, yes it would.”

    Simultaneously, the three suspicious people hold out a hand.

    “Hold it right there, sir,” one of them says. “We have witnessed your youthful countenance foolishly wander this night, and have decided to punish you.”

    “You will not feel pain.”

    “You will not scream.”

    “But rest assured, in our benevolence, we will… dazzle you.”

    The three rip off their coats and reveal they are wearing, from left to right, blue, white and red leotards. They've got slicked back hair and thick moustaches, and don't seem to have any physical distinctions. They strike identical poses with perfect synchronisation.

    Then, the one in the middle, in the white leotard, steps forward, and holds up a Pokeball. It snaps open, and in a quick, bright flash of light, a Magikarp appears in his hand, being held by its tail.

    “Now, sir, draw your weapon, and prepare to face the terror of the Équipe de Magikarp.”

    In this situation, there are several reactions you can have. You could see the Magikarp, see the men dressed in leotards, and run away in fright. You could stand in there in complete and utter confusion, wondering if you had eaten something funny not too long ago. You could calmly take action by calling the police or battling heroically against these fiends.

    Or you could do what I'm doing, and burst out laughing. For several minutes. It's just... I'm being threatened with a Magikarp, by a man in spandex. I don't care how evil or devious or insane these people may be; the moment they presented themselves in those get-ups the fear factor completely disappeared.

    With my laughter finally calming down, and while I wipe a few tears from my eyes, I usher Fennekin in to battle.

    “Go get ‘em.”

    The man in the middle, though, holds out his hand, gesturing for me to stop.

    “You are mistaken, sir. We do not battle Pokemon, we battle humans,” he says, wagging his finger. The other also wag their fingers. “Now, draw your Magikarp and come at me!”

    The guy leaps at me, and swings the Magikarp right at my head. I desperately dive to the side, and stare at him in disbelief.

    “What the hell are you doing?”

    “Battling you, sir.”

    “More like attacking me! What gave you idea to to try and slap someone round the face with a Magikarp?”

    “Where I come from, we battle as men in the noble sport of Magikarp Fencing. We do not hide behind the beasts known as Pokemon.”

    “I don't doubt that a Magikarp could be an effective weapon, but it's cruel, you know?”

    “On the contrary, the Magikarp are delighted to be so useful after years of humiliation and derision. Now, enough talk; either draw your weapon or prepare to be flayed!”

    Okay, so appealing to his moral conscious isn't going to work. Flaying people with a Magikarp is messed up, but going by the look on that Magikarp's face, this guy is right: that thing clearly wants to end me!

    He swings at me again, and I stumble out the way. Abandoning all pretence, I turn my back, and run.

    If you were expecting to stand and fight, well, you should've known better.

    “Come and fight me like a man, sir!”

    The man in the white leotard gives chase, and I lead him around the fountain a couple of times in hopes that'll he give up.

    Guess what? He doesn't.

    “Fennekin, help me!”

    Can I expect my ever-reliable partner to help me here? No, of course not. He's too busy having a laugh at my expense.

    “I'm sorry, this is too entertaining to watch,” he says, and then starts snickering again.

    “Reliable partner my ***!” I yell at him.

    The chase continues, and briefly I wonder why the other two are just standing there, watching, and not blocking off my routes of escape. I guess three on one is dishonourable to them?

    Whatever their reason, they may not even need to get involved. All this running is seriously starting to tire me out, and I can feel myself slowing down. Yes, my fitness levels are pathetic, but give me a break; I'm just some introverted guy who spends all his time bumming around at home. It'd be a bit unrealistic if I was suddenly able to outrun grown men, you know?

    “I've got you now!”

    My pursuer has closed the distance between us, now close enough to strike. He readies his Magikarp.

    “Oh, bollocks.”

    He swings. I throw my arms up at the last second to try and defend my face, and take the full brunt of his swing. The force behind the swing was enough to send my staggering backwards, over the stone railings and into the shallow basin of the of the fountain.

    Frantically, I splash my way to the centre of the fountain, where a large statue of a Pokemon I can't identify sits atop a stone podium. I climb on top of that podium, and eye my attacker wearily, trying to judge if he's willing to follow my. I'll admit: I will continue to run away. That blow I blocked hurt, and I can feel my forearms throbbing. I'll climb the statue if I have to. I'm not taking that on.

    “Running from a fight. How cowardly,” a new voice says. I look up towards the source, and see a blue, furry bipedal creature, with what looks like a cape tied around its neck, standing atop the statue. “But never fear, for I, Riolu the Hero, will protect you from the evil that is Équipe de Magikarp!”

    The Riolu leaps, complete with front flip, off the top of the statue and plants a foot right in the face of the one wearing the white leotard. The ones in blue and red, with their own Magikarp in hand, move in to avenge their fallen comrade. They both swing, hard, at the small Pokemon, but the Riolu drives a palm in the gut of one and stick his foot in the gut of the other.

    Brutal.

    Oh, and let me take a moment to acknowledge that this Riolu is talking.

    Thoroughly beaten, the three members of Équipe de Magikarp – what does that even mean? - reconvene and begin hightailing it towards Lumiose City.

    “Curse you, Riolu, for thwarting our nefarious deeds once again!” one of them calls over his shoulder.

    “I'll always be here to deal with scum like you,” Riolu responds.

    “We'll be back!”

    With the Équipe de Magikarp now gone, the Riolu looks pensively up at the moon in the sky.

    “There is more evil that I must defeat,” he announces, then departs, taking off towards the trees.

    With that, this bizarre episode ends, and I can now begin repressing this memory.

    “I didn't expect him to show up,” Fennekin comments, looking in the direction the Riolu departed.

    “Friend of yours?”

    “More like acquaintance. He is also one of the Magnificent One's messengers.”

    Fennekin did mention that he wasn't the only messenger of the Magnificent Bastard. Though I didn't expect to meet another one so soon, that I knew of their existence dulled the shock of seeing another talking Pokemon.

    “Ah, another one of his lackeys. At least he was useful.”

    “I thought you'd be able to handle it on your own.”

    “Then you've obviously never had a Magikarp swung towards your head.”

    It's just as well that Riolu showed up when he did. With the way things were going, I was sure to end up being beaten by Magikarp all evening. I have to wonder, though: was all this part of the script? Are the Équipe de Magikarp the crime syndicate I'm meant to be stopping? Was I meant to meet Riolu? If he's after that gang, are we meant to be partners?

    While sitting here on this podium, on this mild, summer night, completely soaked after being chased by a man with a moustache wielding a Magikarp, I decide that these are clearly things I must ponder.

    *_*_*_*_*

    Night time is when it becomes blatantly obvious where Lumiose City got its name. This vast collection of large, overbearing buildings is lit up so brightly you'd scarcely believe you were outside. Even now, in the middle of the night, I can make out the pathways clearly, read the numerous signs jutting out the side of many establishments and make out the features of people still wandering the streets. But curiously enough...

    “You can't go through here. There's a blackout.”

    This piece of information came from a worker, complete with high visibility jacket and hard hat. Obviously, he didn't elaborate any further, and just stood there looking all sour, as if telling tourists that they couldn't go past him was a massive chore. Yet, if he just turned around, he would see he wouldn't have to do this job.

    There is no blackout. The lights in the buildings behind him are all shining brightly, illuminating the pathway behind him.

    As Fennekin and I walk around, we notice that there are other workers stationed at certain points, presumably for the same reason. Again, the lights are all on. The peculiarity of it all would probably make for an interesting mystery, but it's late, and I'm in a city full of strange people. This is no time for mysteries.

    One of those strange people comes stumbling out the alley way in front of us. It's a man with dark hair and stubble, dressed in stylish clothes, and reeks of alcohol, cigarette smoke and something that smells sweet; quite possibly perfume. Clearly, this person has had a night out.

    He looks our way, and recognition spreads over his face.

    “At, it's, um, you. Salut!” he says, waving his hand. I look over my shoulder to see if he was talking to somebody else, and nobody's there.

    Why are you saluting me?

    “Who are you supposed to be?”

    “Did your mother not tell you about me? I'm Augustine Sycamore! I'm the one who gave you that Fennekin.”

    Ah, so this is the guy who's dumped all his work on five kids, including one who's extremely unwilling and unhappy about it. The esteemed Professor Sycamore, famous for his research in the field of Pokemon, the man who gives amazing opportunities to children by handing them a free Pokemon and Pokedex and, apparently, somebody who indulges his vices.

    Suddenly, it becomes clear why he couldn't get professionals to do his job for him.

    “Thanks for that,” I say, nothing bothering to mask my sarcasm. “My name's Calem, by the way.”

    “Calem! That was it!” He snaps his fingers. “Anyway, Calem, it's not safe for you to be wandering around at this time of night. There are all sorts of shifty characters around.”

    Yes, I can see that.

    “Why don't you stay at my lab for the night? It's not too far away, and there's plenty of room.”

    “Your lab has bedrooms?”

    “I spend the majority of my life there, so why not sleep there as well?” He shrugs his shoulders. “I prefer staying with friends for the night, but the lab isn't bad, every now and then.”

    He may think I don't know what he's referring to, but I don't miss the suggestiveness in his tone. You may think that being invited to stay at this guy's home – which it is, for all intents and purposes – would leave me feeling a good amount of trepidation, but I'm actually not worried at all, for two reasons: firstly, he's a friend of my mother, so he's likely to have the best intentions at heart, and secondly, if he does try something, I'll just get Fennekin to set him fire.

    I'm sure the alcohol in his blood would burn quite nicely.

    So after affirming I'll take him up on his offer, I follow him to his lab. It's a three story building that, despite its own large size, is still a lot smaller than some of the other buildings in the city. The exterior is unremarkable, almost modest, which I'm sure will be the complete opposite of what the interior will be like.

    We enter, and pass by what seems to be a lobby area before arriving in a corridor lined with several doors.

    “This is where the rooms are,” Sycamore explains. “You can have this room.”

    “Thanks.”

    “In the morning, there's something I want to discuss with you so, please, hang around for a while.” I nod, and he smiles brightly. “Great! Hope you sleep well. Bonne nuit!”

    What the heck does that mean?

    I enter the room, and flick a switch which turns on the lights. It has a simple layout, with a bed in one corner - which Fennekin immediately jumps up onto and flops down on - a dresser with a mirror in another and a desk against one of the walls. I place my bag on the desk, and then flop down into the simple wooden chair.

    “You're not going to sleep?”

    I shake my head. “Not tired.”

    “I could do with a bit of a nap, myself.”

    “Yeah, it's been such a strenuous hour or so for you,” I remark. Fennekin ignores me, already curled up into a ball and attempting to sleep.

    With my only source of conversation now gone, I'm left sitting in silence. The problem with night travel is that it can mess up your sleeping pattern, and now instead of being tired like I should be around this time, I'm wide awake. I'm tempted to go for a walk around the part of the city I'm allowed to visit, but don't want to take the chance of meeting a suspicious person without Fennekin with me. You wouldn't think it, but he is the brawn of this duo; I'm a wimp when it comes to defending myself.

    So, bored and in need of something to do, I start sifting through the draws in the desk. Maybe I'll find a pack of cards or something...

    Moving aside a couple of pieces of paper, I find a small, rectangular stack. Picking them up, I can feel that they're not cards, but polaroids. Photos, in other words.

    It's nosy, but I'm going to have a look through these.

    The first picture is... of my mother. She's dressed in nice clothes. Was this taken during one of her many social outings?

    I move on to the next picture... which is also of my mother, only this time she's missing a few items of clothing. I go to the next one, and she's wearing even less clothing. Sensing a pattern, I move onto the next picture.

    Yup, she's naked.

    Why are there naked photos of my mum in this room, in Professor Sycamore's laboratory?

    Why are there naked photos of my mum, at all?

    I flick through the rest of the pictures. A couple are of mum, in the nude, in various poses that I file away into the “things I need to repress” section of my mind, while one is of a man, with styled dark hair, stubble, no clothes, and who looks suspiciously like one Augustine Sycamore.

    And guess what? He's also naked.

    So my mum is naked, and he's naked, and they're in pictures together, and they “know each other”...

    I look at the next picture, and then immediately slap it face down on the desk. I did not want to see that. That's going to be showing up in my nightmares.

    My mum and Professor Sycamore did that, and took pictures. Those pictures were found in this room. They did that, in this room, on that bed...

    Nope, definitely not sleeping tonight.

    *_*_*_*_*

    Morning finally came, and I was greeted at the door by one of Sycamore's aides, who told me that he was waiting for me in his office on the top floor. I had dragged my sleep deprived self up there with Fennekin, in way too good a mood for this time of day, following at my heels. Once there, Sycamore started acting strangely, re-introducing himself, talking about the reasons why he chose me and other stuff I didn't really pay attention. No doubt it was the script's doing.

    Serena and Shauna showed up at some point and then Sycamore said we should have a Pokemon battle. Going by the way the two girls just stood off to the side, it was me who had to battle him.

    And that's where we are now. Fennekin is in front of me, facing down Sycamore's Squirtle, and the urge to hurt the professor is so strong that I almost forgot I can't physically touch the guy.

    Okay, deep breathes. In, out, in, out... okay. I'm good.

    The issue we have here is Squirtle not only has the type-advantage over Fennekin, but also has defences high enough to withstand Scratch. By the time Fennekin has wagged it's tail in it's face enough times to lower its defences – that sounds so incredibly dumb – the Squirtle would just fire off a Water Gun and the battle would be over. The most reasonable course of action here would be use another Pokemon, but I've only got Fennekin, who's a fire-type, and not that strong, and only knows two attacks...

    I really should get round to catching more Pokemon.

    Well, we'll just have to make-do. Maybe we can outmanoeuvre it, and somehow get it on it s back so it can't defend itself.

    “Fennekin, get in close and try knock it off balance.”

    “You want me to tackle it?”

    “Sure, that'll do.”

    “I don't know Tackle, though.”

    “Charge into it head first, then.”

    “Oh, that I can do.”

    I have no words.

    Fennekin runs in, and just as he gets close, Sycamore's Squirtle takes a deep breath, then blam, Water Gun straight to the face. He's hit with such force that he's propelled straight into my arms. It's a good thing I was standing here, otherwise he may have been defenestrated.

    I better take him to the Pokemon Centre.

    Without a single shred of opposition, I'm able to leave the office, go down the elevator and eventually leave the lab. The citizens of the city don't spare us a second glance, and seem to be normal people, doing everyday, normal things; except for that one guy with red hair and a red suit who was chasing someone in what looked like a leotard.

    Repress. Repress.

    I enter the Pokemon Centre, and hand Fennekin over to the nurse at the counter. She smiles and tells me to wait for a moment, and through the wonders of modern medical technology, Fennekin is resuscitated in no time at all, looking disgruntled but otherwise healthy.

    “We hope to see you again,” the nurse says to me, still smiling.

    I think this nurse may love her job a bit too much.

    Fennekin and I plonk ourselves down on one of the sofas in the lounge area for a strategy meeting. Fennekin, of course, suggests I go and catch one or two more Pokemon so that I don't have to use him all the time. Admittedly, he does have a good point. If I come up against more Water-type Pokemon in the future, or any other type that's strong against Fire, I'm going to be royally boned. On top of that, it'd be great to have a Pokemon that won't sit there laughing at me when I'm getting chased by a leotard wearing weirdo wielding a Magikarp.

    The only problem is...

    “It's too much work.”

    “Of course it is. Being the Chosen One is hard work.”

    “I'd rather just think of another method of winning.”

    “And in time it takes you to think of that method, we could catch ourselves some new Pokemon.”

    “There's more than one way to win,” I say, aware of how weak an argument it sounds. He's got a point, but I'm not prepared to admit defeat. When there's a problem you can't solve, you either find a way to solve it... or you move on to a different problem that you can solve. Indeed, catching a Pokemon would be a more solvable problem.

    But, we can look at it another way: if you don't know the answer, change the question. I don't know the answer to the question “how do we beat Sycamore's Squirtle without catching new Pokemon?”, but if the question was “how do we beat Sycamore?”, I would be able to give several answers.

    It just so happens that several of those answers are sitting in my pocket, and one big trick is hiding up my sleeve.

    “I don't like that look on your face.”

    “This is the look of someone who's just had an idea.”

    “Oh yeah?”

    “Sycamore and I are going to play a little game.”

    *_*_*_*_*

    Fennekin and I return to Sycamore's room, and find that he, along with Serena and Shauna, are still standing there in standby mode, awaiting my return.

    Should I be flattered?

    When I assume the same position as before, the battle restarts. Sycamore sends out his Squirtle again, and Fennekin takes his position in front of me. Now is the time to use my secret weapon.

    In my hand, I have a certain collection of photographs. I look through them, and pick out the most offensive, dirtiest picture I could find, suppressing the urge to gag as I did so. I hold it up in front of me. Just like with the girl in the forest, Sycamore's reaction isn't immediate, but his facial expression slowly changes.

    It's quite funny to watch, in a weird way.

    “Where did you get that?” he exclaims, wide-eyed and pale-faced.

    “In the room I stayed in last night,” I reply. I shoot him an accusatory stare. “I knew you and mum knew each other, but I didn't think you knew each other this well. Should I start calling you dad?”

    The professor puts his hands up in a placating manner. “Don't worry, I'm not your father.”

    “That's extremely reassuring.”

    “Your mother and I were close, you know?” he offers, sounding every bit as nervous as he looked.

    “I can see that.”

    “And adults do these kinds of things from time to time.”

    “Sure, but nonetheless, no kid wants to see their parent like this. It's mentally scarring.” I cringe as the image flashes briefly through my mind. Stay repressed, damn you... “And imagine how embarrassed my mum would be if I showed her this.”

    Sycamore master's his facial expression, and gives me a knowing look. “I see. So it's like that.”

    I'm so glad we're on the same page here.

    “Yup, it's like that.” I can't help the smirk that appears on my face.

    “You shouldn't blackmail your elders, you know?”

    “You shouldn't leave incriminating evidence around for people like me to find.”

    He chuckles. “Touché. So, what do I have to do to get that picture back?”

    I fish a coin out of my pocket, and hold it up for Sycamore to see.

    “Play a game of coin-toss with me.”

    “Is that all?”

    “I want to move on and start forgetting this whole thing ever happened and this will be the quickest way to do it,” I explain. “We'll each choose a three-digit sequence of coin flips, and then keep flipping the coin over and over. The winner is the one who's sequence appears first. Sound good to you?”

    “Fine by me,” he says. “What happens if you lose?”

    “I'm not going to lose, so it doesn't matter.”

    As per the deal, I hand him the photos. Boy am I glad to be rid of those.

    “Confident. That's good.” He deposits the photo in a draw in his desk. He then asks a pen and paper from his desk, and starts scribbling on it. He holds it up. “My sequence is Heads-Tails-Heads.”

    “I'm going with Heads-Heads-Tails,” I state, and he writes it down on the paper. I then hand him the coin. “You can flip.”

    Sycamore inspects the coins, probably looking for any signs of it being rigged. I am the type who cheats, but tampering with the coin is too obvious, and the challenger throwing the coin is unfair as it stacks the odds in their favour. This is a completely fair and honest contest which either of us can win.

    Let me just say, though, that only Sycamore can lose.

    Sycamore flips the coin, and it lands on the floor between us with a soft thud. We both peer down to see the result.

    It's Heads.

    Without a word, he leans down and picks up the coin. He flips it again. Thud. The result is Heads.

    Sycamore frowns, but I keep my expression neutral. He repeats the process – pick up, flip, thud – and we both look down to see the result.

    It's Tails.

    “Looks like it's my win,” I announce.

    Sycamore sighs, but he's smiling. “So it is.” He then pulls something from his pocket, and throws it towards me. “Here, catch.”

    I catch it. It's a red and white Pokeball. “You're giving me a Pokemon?”

    He nods. “I planned on giving you it all along. It's just something to help you on your journey.”

    Oh, right, the journey. I need to talk to him about that.

    “I'll trade you,” I say, and hand him a red device I received not too long ago but never actually bothered to use. “I think that fancy gadget of yours is better off in the hands of somebody actually willing to do a favour for you.”

    “Not many trainers pass up an opportunity like that.”

    “Let's just say I'm trying to break the mould.”

    “I see,” he says thoughtfully. “Well, you're free to do what you like, Calem. However, I did give you two Pokemon and a place to stay for the night, so maybe you could do me a little favour in return?”

    I grimace, realising that it would be slightly unfair if he does me a couple of favours without receiving anything in return. The temptation to run off with the Pokemon is great, but that's exactly the sort of thing that would come back to bite me.

    “I suppose so.”

    “Great. See, here's the thing...”

    Sycamore leans down to whisper his favour in my ear. He doesn't need to, since the two girls aren't even paying attention, but I guess he doesn't know that.

    “...think you can do that?”

    There are times in life where we do reckless things. Sometimes, we do them knowing full well what the consequences will be. Other times, we do them without even thinking about it. We don't know why we do them, and most of the time, once we do them, we sit and wonder why.

    Sycamore has asked me to do something reckless. Despite that, I'm going to do it, and no doubt once I do it, I'm going to regret doing it. But this may help me to accomplish one of the things I've set out of accomplish, and if it does, it'll be totally worth it.

    What is this thing I want to accomplish?

    You'll find out soon enough.

  8. #8
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    I'm really starting to enjoy this so far! The characters are nice, and the dialogue is great so far! Description seems to be a bit lacking, but not every story needs that to make a good story.
    I'll do a bit of review for chapter 4!

    I did happen to notice a few grammatical errors, but I'm not going to pester you with those. You get to go on an error-hunt in the meanwhile. :3

    Quote Originally Posted by VoltTacklingPika View Post
    Do you want me to bore you with more details about Kalos geography? Of course you do.
    This little section here is awesome. I really liked it! Narrating to the audience isn't too often used in fan-fiction, so it's nice to see it every now and then. It also had a good bit of humor to enjoy it with. It seemed to be pretty decent description too, given that it was to-the-point.

    Quote Originally Posted by VoltTacklingPika View Post
    “Crime syndicate” sounds big and scary, and “wanting to take over the world” sounds menacing, but for all I know they could be a group who flamboyantly prance around in leotards, pulling funny poses and battling people with Magikarp.
    Lo and behold...

    Quote Originally Posted by VoltTacklingPika View Post
    The three rip off their coats and reveal they are wearing, from left to right, blue, white and red leotards. They've got slicked back hair and thick moustaches, and don't seem to have any physical distinctions. They strike identical poses with perfect synchronisation.
    Very good sense of humor. I stared at it for a while trying to take it all in. I'm pretty sure that me and Calem were on the same terms with this sight.
    I also like the fact that they "duel" with Magikarp. With this in mind, I wonder what a duel between Équipe de Magikarps would look like? (hint-hint-nudge-nudge)

    Quote Originally Posted by VoltTacklingPika View Post
    "Running from a fight. How cowardly,” a new voice says. I look up towards the source, and see a blue, furry bipedal creature, with what looks like a cape tied around its neck, standing atop the statue. “But never fear, for I, Riolu the Hero, will protect you from the evil that is Équipe de Magikarp!”
    Ah man... here we go. I can tell that Riolu will be a running gag/thing throughout the story. Though, I would really like to see him joining up with Calem at some point!

    As a suggestion, Riolu sounds like one of those guys that would be throwing in French (no, not that French) in his sentences to just impress... I guess. It would be kind of funny at best to see what would happen later in the game when Korrina gives you the Lucario.
    ...Maybe that Lucario IS Riolu... Maybe Riolu doesn't want to join Calem, but at that point in the story, is forced to because of the script.

    and Fennekin and Riolu are.... acquaintances. I think I detect some jealousy/envy/rivalry in that. o:

    “There is more evil that I must defeat,” he announces, then departs, taking off towards the trees.
    Noo! Don't leave us! You were just beginning to be an awesome thing. :c

    Quote Originally Posted by VoltTacklingPika View Post
    Fennekin runs in, and just as he gets close, Sycamore's Squirtle takes a deep breath, then blam, Water Gun straight to the face. He's hit with such force that he's propelled straight into my arms. It's a good thing I was standing here, otherwise he may have been defenestrated.

    I better take him to the Pokemon Centre.
    Well, I don't have much of a problem with the plot, but overall the fainting of Fennekin seemed to be a bit rushed. What did Calem think about Fennekin getting pummeled? What's more was that Fennekin didn't really seem to react to it in any way, but just plopped into Calem's arms. For all us readers know, Fennekin might've been killed.

    So that's about it for my review! I hope you find it interesting and can reply/take ideas from it!
    ~You've been 0utraged

    I have a Youtube channel! It's small, but always awesome! (I hope)
    https://www.youtube.com/user/redF1r3w0rks


  9. #9
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        Spoiler:- Reply:


    *-*-*-*-*

    Chapter Five: How Calem Breaks the Mould

    Nothing beats wandering around a big city aimlessly. It's hot, and crowded, and noisy and I've picked up one too many shocks from bumping into people, but other than that it's not bad. I would, of course, much prefer to move on to the next town, but any attempt to leave through any of the gatehouses has been met by opposition of some kind. One such opposition came in the form of Trevor, who told me I couldn't leave because I still had “unfinished business”. That was news to me.

    Not knowing what this unfinished business was supposed to be, Fennekin and I took to the streets in the hopes that someone will just jump out at me and yell “complete me!” or something. With the way this trip has been going, we didn’t think the possibility was particularly remote.

    We’ve been walking for a good half hour and nothing has happened. Either I’m missing something obvious or this unfinished business is one of those annoyingly small loose ends that we’ve yet to tie up. Whichever it is, our current strategy of walking until we find it isn’t working too well, and I’m becoming a bit frustrated. And bored. That’s a dangerous combo for someone like me.

    “This is spectacularly dull. I'm going to go do something constructive.”

    I stop walking, turn on my heel and then march down the closest ally way I can find.

    “What constructive thing could you be doing down an alley way?”

    “This,” I reply, and open the Pokeball that Sycamore gave to me.

    The Pokemon that materialises in front of me is a Bulbasaur, a four-legged creature with a dark green bulb resting on its back. It looks around the alley, and then sets its curious gaze on to me. We stand there, staring at each other for a moment, until a dark green vine emerges from its bulb. I watched as it slowly ascended to my head, and then started slowly, gently caressing my face

    “Your skin... feels fantastic.”

    “Uh, thanks.”

    I’m not feeling particularly comfortable right now.

    “I like to touch things,” Bulbasaur says. “With my vines, I can touch many things.”

    Wonderful.” Then, I say to Fennekin, “Interesting friend you have here.”

    The awkward look Fennekin has right now explains everything. “He’s, um, certainly the curious type. He’s very capable, though. You just to have to keep an eye on him, since he likes to wander off.”

    Unlike Fennekin, Bulbasaur didn’t seem to mind being in the Pokeball, so his supposed tendency to wander off shouldn’t be a problem.

    Now that I know who my new Pokemon is, it’s time to call him back, and then continue my search for that thing I’m meant to do. Can't the bastard give me a clue or something? He's such a bastard.

    I go to call Bulbasaur back, but notice that something’s not quite right.

    “Where did Bulbasaur go?”

    I hear a high-pitched scream, likely belonging to a girl. Sounds like Bulbasaur’s sense of curiosity has gotten the better of him. He better not be doing anything indecent with those vines of his.

    Damn it, I’m the one who has to take responsibility for this, too.

    I fly out of the alley, Fennekin at my heels. Not too far away from us, a crowd is beginning to form, watching as Bulbasaur runs his vines up and down some poor woman’s bare legs. She’s looking utterly terrified, yet nobody seems to want to help her. Not like moving a Bulbasaur is that difficult.

    Although it'll make me look like the owner of a perverted Bulbasaur, I charge into the throng of people and grab. Without waiting to see the reactions of those around me, I dash off in a random direction. As soon as were a safe distance away, I set him back down the ground.

    “You can't just go around molesting people,” I tell him disapprovingly. He tilts his head and stares at me blankly.

    “Maybe you should put him back in his Pokeball,” Fennekin suggests.

    Well, telling Bulbasaur off doesn't seem to be having any effect, so I may as well. I take our his Pokeball and aim it at him, ready to recall him. Or, to be more accurate, I aim at the spot he used to be standing, because the little bugger has run off again.

    I catch sight of him running towards a familiar looking blonde girl in a red skirt and black shirt, vines already out and primed for action. I sprint after him, and before he can come into contact with his next victim, I dive on top of him.

    “I think we've found our unfinished business,” Fennekin says, having caught up to us. I take a closer look at the familiar looking girl, and find that it is, in fact, Serena.

    Well, isn't that convenient?

    “Come this way,” she instructs, and enters the café.

    Who knew that having a perverted Bulbasaur could be so useful?

    I follow her inside, and see her standing in the middle of everything, looking at two people talking to each other in the corner. Both have abnormal hairstyles and are wearing flashier clothes than everyone else, so we can assume that they must be important.

    Hey, it’s how things work. Why else do you think I’m wearing a stupid hat?

    “Oh, it's Lysandre... and is that Diantha?” I have no idea who they are, so don’t ask me to confirm their identity. “Just so you know, neighbour, Lysandre is the head of Lysandre Labs, which created the Holo Caster. And Diantha is one of the most famous movie stars around. I wonder what they could be doing together.”

    I’ve no idea what they could be doing together, but why don’t we listen in and find out? It’s what every other curious teenage protagonist would do.

    “You played a young girl so wonderfully in your début on the silver screen. Wouldn't you rather remain young and beautiful forever and always play such roles?” asks the guy called Lysandre, who looks like he’s long overdue for a date with a pair of scissors. Admittedly, I do like his beard.

    “What a strange question... why would I want to play the same old roles forever? Youth may be beautiful, but it's not all there is to life. Everything changes. I want to live and change like that, too, so I look forward to playing different roles as I get older,” the woman, Diantha, I’m guessing, responds.

    “You were chosen to be a movie star, correct? Isn't it your duty to be ever beautiful? Everything beautiful should stay that way forever. I would make--”

    You know what's a great skill? Looking like you’re paying attention when you actually aren't. You’d think the head honcho of a big corporation such as Lysandre Labs – naming a business after yourself totally isn’t egotistical, by the way – and a supposed famous actress would have something more interesting to discuss with one another than some philosophical crap. You’d also think that these two have better things to do than rendezvous in a small, average café like this.

    It’s almost like I’m supposed to hear this conversation… which is all the more reason to not pay any attention to it.

    You know what would make my life easier? If the Magnificent Bastard could upload these conversations to an MP3 player or something, and then send me the MP3 so I can listen to them on the go.

    I feel a tug on my trouser leg and look down. Fennekin is jutting his head in Serena's direction. Seems like she wants to say something to me.

    “I have something to ask you, neighbour,” she says. “Would you be willing to compete with me to see which of us will become stronger?

    Absolutely not, but I can just tell that this is one of this scenarios where I won’t be able to say no. So rather than get all annoyed and scream ‘no’ in her face repeatedly, wasting precious oxygen in the process, I’m going to try out a new theory of mine.

    “Bulbasaur, flip her skirt.”

    “With pleasure.”

    As Bulbasaur begins to extend his vines, I turn around. Don’t want to be seeing things I’m not supposed to be seeing. After all, I'm an innocent young man with a pure, easily corruptible mind.

    “What are you doing?” Serena yells. That’s right, she yelled; an expression of emotion in reaction to having a Bulbasaur flip her skirt. As sadistic as this will sound, that was music to my ears.

    I turn back around, and take note of her face, coloured a vivid red.

    “Welcome back to the real world.”

    “Huh?”

    She’s all confused, bless her.

    *-*-*-*-*

    “So let me see if I got this straight.”

    The three of us are sat at a table in the corner of the café, Serena and I at opposite ends and Fennekin sitting on the table between us. A half-empty glass of water sits in front of me, while Serena has a cup of coffee... her fourth cup, to be precise. She's massaging her temples and looks very irritated, something that became increasingly apparent as I explained to her about the Magnificent One and his scripted world. She had been silent throughout the whole explanation, but it was obvious that she was sceptical and so desperately wanted to launch a barrage of questions at me.

    “This world is now scripted,” she starts.

    “Yes.”

    “It was scripted by someone who calls himself the Magnificent One.” She says his name with a beautiful amount of disdain.

    “That’s right.”

    “He did this because of a crime syndicate that is hell-bent on taking over the world.”

    “So says his lackey,” I respond, gesturing to Fennekin, who nods his head in confirmation.

    “You were told this by a messenger because you are the Chosen One meant to save us all from this threat." Fennekin and I nod. “There is more than one messenger.”

    I hold up Bulbasaur’s Pokeball. “This guy says he’s one, and I’ve met a talking Riolu, too.”

    “And I’ve been a support character in all this.”

    “Apparently.”

    Serena takes a big, long chug of her coffee and then sighs, deeply. “This is completely asinine.”

    “It is, but it’s the only explanation we have for being forced to do things we didn’t want to do. For example, I had to battle someone for a pair of roller skates.”

    “And I had to play the part of friendly, goody-two-shoes neighbour who gives out useful advice to her 'friends.” She shudders. “Then to make things worse, I had to choose you as a rival. You couldn't even beat Professor Sycamore without cheating!”

    Not that it changes her point any, but I didn't cheat to beat Sycamore; I just manipulated the odds so they'd be in my favour. Is it suspicious that three 50-50 coin-flips with a fair coin all fell in my favour? Of course it is, but the beauty of the trick is that the opponent usually writes it off as luck and not as something sinister. And it's not my fault Sycamore didn't find anything wrong with the oddly specific nature of the rules I set.

    I won't deny that I'm an incompetent trainer, though. Coming up with strategies to win battles is one thing, but things like looking for, capturing and training Pokemon I don't have any motivation to do.

    “I had to use blackmail to get the first Gym Badge, too.”

    “See? In what way would you be good competition?”

    “Because I'm your neighbour, and as your neighbour, we're meant to be friendly with each other, and have a nice, neighbourly competition.”

    Serena glares at me. “Stop it. Stop it now.”

    I have to say, I like this Serena a lot better than the script's version. Not only can I get a reaction out of her, it seems like she'll give as good as she gets, too, whereas the script would just have her ignore me and not allow her to express herself at all. That doesn't exactly lend itself towards stimulating conversation.

    “It could have been worse; you could have been like Shauna.”

    Serena signs again, and rests her head on her hands. “She's not that stupid, usually. A bit airheaded at times, but even she knew that Pokemon went inside the Pokeball. This script wasn't kind to her.”

    I thought the same thing, and it doesn't apply to Shauna alone. Everyone that has been effected by the script is being forced to play a role that doesn't properly represent them. Serena didn't want to be the friendly advice-giving neighbour, and I'm sure Shauna doesn't want to be a massive happy-go-lucky idiot. There's all those trainers, too. Do they want to be standing around like that? They've probably got lives they want to live.

    I can't forget about me, either. I certainly don't want to play the role of Chosen One.

    “Then what if I told you I knew a way of changing things back to normal.”

    Serena looks at me with interest. Fennekin tuts loudly. “This rubbish again.”

    “Listen to what I have to say, and then decide if it’s rubbish or not.”

    Fennekin looks like he wants to argue something, but Serena stops him. “I want to hear him out. He's been the only one who could act like himself during this whole thing, so he may know something.”

    “Don't get your hopes up.”

    It's understandable that Fennekin is so dismissive, but I've got a lot of evidence that has piled up over the last couple of days that would shake even the most devout follower's faith.

    “There are two things I’ve learned,” I begin. “Firstly, the script is not absolute. It doesn't completely dictate what we can and can't do. Secondly, the Magnificent One is not omnipotent. In fact, he's not that powerful at all.”

    “What’s your proof?”

    “There have been three occasions where I was supposed to follow the script, but didn’t.” I hold up a finger. “The first was in Santalune Forest. I was meant to battle a girl and win before I could move on, but we never finished the battle. The forest fire interrupted us.”

    “So it was you who caused that fire,” Serena says, looking distinctly unimpressed. Not that I expected her to be anything else; I was hardly proud of what happened back then.

    I take a quick look around the café to see if there are any police officers nearby. Seeing none, I explain, “I wanted to see if a Pokemon's attack could effect a human during script-induced battles, so I set a girl's jumper on fire. I didn't expect things to escalate so quickly.”

    She just gives me a deadpan look. “You didn't expect that using fire in a forest would be potentially disastrous.”

    It sounds so ridiculously when she puts it like that.

    I clear my throat, loudly and exaggeratedly. “Moving on. The second time was in the Santalune City Gym. I was meant to beat the gym leader for the badge, but the battle was stopped again when the web set fire and I got the badge through other means.”

    “What is it with you and arson?”

    “Hey, that time the gym leader admitted culpability for it. It wasn't my fault her gym didn't live up to proper health and safety standards.” She doesn't look convinced. Let's move on... “And finally, I was meant to beat Sycamore in a battle, but after showing him that picture, we avoided battling at all.” I look at Fennekin, who's looking bored with all this. “Now tell me, Fennekin, what do all three of those instances have in common?”

    “They were all a result of your stupidity?” he offers. “That they involved fire? That you're lazy and don't want to battle?”

    Okay, that last one is true, but not what I'm looking for.

    “A stimulus that invoked a strong, emotional response,” I state. “When we set that girl’s jumper on fire, when the web was incinerated, and when Sycamore saw that photograph, they started acting normally again. Noticing this common pattern, I decided to try something.”

    “What did you try?” Serena asks. I give a pointed look, and shake Bulbasaur's Pokeball. Her face flushes. “You don't mean...”

    “That's right. I wanted to see if the embarrassment caused by Bulbasaur flipping your skirt would be enough to jolt you from the script's influence, and it was,” I say. “You can thank me later.”

    “Sounds like an excuse to be a pervert, to me,” Fennekin quips.

    “I agree.”

    “Regardless, it confirmed what I thought: people will stop following the script if they feel a strong emotion,” I say, brining the conversation back on track. “Fennekin, you said to me before that if something isn't in the script, it won't happen.”

    “I did say that.”

    “So, then, what are the odds of me telling Bulbasaur to flip Serena's skirt being in the script?” I ask. “What about me finding those pictures, or setting the forest on fire?”

    “It's not impossible for them to be part of the script,” Fennekin says unconvincingly.

    “Would a Chosen One be scripted to do such things, though? They're not exactly heroic,” Serena chips in.

    “What about the times you did follow the script, then? You had to choose a Pokemon, and you did. You had fight all those battles and you did!”

    “That was before I realised I didn't have to, and that brings me on to my next point,” I say. “If the Magnificent One truly believes that his script is the way to save the world, why does he allow me to change things?”

    “That's...”

    “If this script is the answer, then why does he not return people to their original roles? That girl in Santalune Forest was meant to play the part of 'trainer I'm meant to battle', but she appeared in Santalune City. Serena was meant to play the part of 'neighbourly rival', but here we are, having this conversion. So what happened? Did their roles change? Or is it a case of the Magnificent One not being able to restore them to their original roles?”

    And that leads me to another theory I've come up with it, but I haven't got enough evidence to back it up yet, so I won't bring it up here.

    “Why does any of this matter? We're meant to save the world, so let's save it! Or do you not care if a crime syndicate takes over and ruins everyone's lives?”

    “This script is already doing a good job of that!”

    “He made it with the best intentions!”

    “What best intentions? He wants to save the world by manipulating the free will of everybody in it. That is not heroic or good. If he can influence people like this for a supposed good purpose, what's to stop him from doing it for a bad purpose?” I take a deep breath to calm and steady myself. “I will save the world, not from this supposed crime syndicate, but from the script itself. That's my choice.”

    “Then I'm going to save the world from what we're meant to be saving it from, with or without you!” Fennekin explodes. He jumps off the table, and starts walking towards the café door. He gives one final look over his shoulder. “And that's my choice!”

    With that, he's gone. I don't bother stopping him.

    “Drama,” Serena comments. I'd say that's a succinct way to put it.

    “Expected from someone so far up the bastard's backside,” I say dismissively.

    A natural silence falls over us. Serena stares into her coffee and drums her fingers in the table, seemingly deep in thought about something. It's to be expected. The amount of information I just dumped on her, plus the proclamation I made about saving the world, would be enough to provoke at least some thought from anyone with half a brain.

    I lean back in my seat and take a swig of water. I glance around the café, and observe how people are looking over at our table. It's comforting, in a way, because it's perfectly normal for people to be curious about an argument that happened in a public. Nosy, but normal, and understandable.

    Normality. Hasn't been a lot of that lately.

    “What you said about saving the world.” Serena breaks the silence, and I return my attention to her. “Did you mean it?”

    “Of course I did,” I reply. “I even have a plan all figured out.”

    She looks at me expectantly, but I don't say anything. There's silence again for a few moments, and then she rolls her eyes.

    “Okay, I'll bite. What is this plan of yours?”

    I give another look around the café – no doubt looking extremely shifty – and then lean forward, resting my elbows on the table.

    “I will expose everyone to a strong, emotional stimuli.”

    A look of astonishment appears on Serena's face. “What? How many people do you think are in the world? There's no way you can do that!”

    “Take a look around,” I say. People are looking over again after Serena's little outburst. “See how normal everyone is acting? This is after they all saw the same thing.”

    She glares at me. “Just so you know, I am going to get you back for that.”

    “So if I create some big commotion in every town, I'll be able to 'save' multiple people at once,” I explain. “For example, if you just flashed to a large crowd in every town...”

    Oh, if looks could kill, Serena would have murdered a lesser man by now. This is all oxygen for me, though.

    “There's no way I'm going to join you on your crazy crusade. I promised my parents I wouldn't end up in prison.”

    “I'm not going to end up in prison.”

    She raises her brow. “You're going to go round doing crazy things just to get a response out of people. I'm certain that you'll do something that'll land you in prison.”

    “You make it sound like I'm a criminal or something.”

    “Well you are, aren't you?”

    “I prefer 'villain who everyone needs, but doesn't want'.”

    “Oh, how heroic.”

    See, I don't need Fennekin around to have snark-to-snark combat with someone. This is the first proper conversation we've had, but I'm starting to think Serena could be a useful ally. I'm under no illusions here: carrying out this plan of mine will be near impossible without help. Despite his annoying suck-up tendencies, Fennekin was useful to have around as both a battler and as a sounding board for ideas. Bulbasaur can battle but I'm not sure his mind is working in the right way...

    The companionship would be nice, too, though that's the last thing on the list of things that make a useful ally. It's not like intelligent conversation is important or anything.

    I'm being serious.

    “There is something in it for you,” I tell Serena. She doesn't look wholly convinced. “I was initially going to avoid every Pokemon battle that I could, but you could fight them in my place. I think that'd be challenging enough for you.”

    “Rivals aren't meant to travel with each other, either,” she adds thoughtfully.

    “Precisely.” I hold my hand out to her. “So, are you in?”

    She looks at it reproachfully. I'm a shifty guy responsible for burning down a forest and exposing her underwear to the public, so I wouldn't have been surprised if she had told me where to go. However, that she's not immediately dismissed my offer is a good sign, and I take that as a sign that she's giving it some serious thought. I can't tell you what she's thinking, but if it were me, I'd be jumping at the opportunity to screw over the Magnificent Bastard.

    Eventually, and reluctantly, she takes my hand.

    “Why do I feel like I'm making a deal with the devil?”

    I'm not the devil, but I am going to raise some hell. That you can be damn sure of.

    *-*-*-*-*

    Having finished up our conversation at the café, Serena and I went to the Pokemon Centre for a quick re-stock. The distance to the next town isn't long, but does require us to hike up a hill and traverse rocky terrain where there's a good chance of injuring ourselves. There's obvious things such as food and water, too, for both Pokemon and human. Although some games like to make travelling look as easy as simply walking from one point to another, in real life it's a bit more complicated than that.

    I've completed my business promptly, and so am waiting outside the centre for Serena, who had sensibly decided to look for a pair of jeans to replace her usual skirt. But they couldn't be any pair of jeans, oh no, they had to be “stylish and suit her, so she could wear them on other occasions” and this, apparently, takes an incredibly long time to decide.

    I actually envy her for having the money to spend on new clothes. I've barely got enough for the essentials, let alone luxury items like that. Her parents must have given her a generous amount of spending money. If only my mother did the same; not like she ever worked in a lucrative profession...

    I think I'll add “think up lucrative money-making scheme” to my list of “Un-heroic things to do”.

    With nothing better to do as I wait, I let my mind wander. That conversation in the café was oddly serious, wasn't it? I feel as if something ferociously stupid will happen just to make up for that, as if the order of the world needs restoring or something. Maybe the Équipe de Magikarp will make an appearance, or some other super-secret-but-not-so-secret organisation will show themselves before me. Perhaps I'll have a lot of small, unfortunate accidents. I can just foresee something involving a trampoline and a large body of water.

    The sound of the Pokemon Centre door sliding open brings me back to reality. Serena emerges from within, looking satisfied with herself, sporting a new pair of blue jeans and a red jacket not too dissimilar to mine. The postal bag she had before has been replaced by a rucksack. I would also get myself a rucksack, but I can't imagine there are many rucksacks that come with their own pocket dimension like my current bag does.

    “Ready to go?” she asks.

    I nod. “All my 'unfinished business' should be taken care of now. There shouldn't be anyone blocking the exit.”

    “I bet that gets old fast.”

    “You've no idea.”

    That's pretty much the extent of our conversation as we make our way to the Route 5 gatehouse. What, did you think we'd be trading life stories? Our current partnership is business, just like how my previous partnership with Fennekin was business. Most of our conversations will involve planning something which may or may not be nefarious in nature, and insulting each other.

    Speaking of Fennekin, I've not seen any sign of him since he oh-so dramatically stormed out the café earlier. I had kept half an eye out for him in case he got cold feet and decided to come crawling back, but he didn't. And before you mistake that for me being concerned, I am completely indifferent to what he does now. Even if he ends up getting in the way, it's not like he would pose any sort of significant threat; not like sticking his tail in my face and making me sneeze would beat me.

    We reach the Route Five gatehouse, helpfully marked with a giant number five and, not seeing Trevor or anyone who looks like they might prevent us from leaving, go inside. There are a few people milling around inside for some reason, but they're minding their own business. Hey, I may be able to leave a city in a completely normal way for once.

    “You two. Stop right there.”

    Damn it, spoke too soon.

    From behind a plant pot steps out a man with slicked back brown hair, dressed in a garish pink suit. My weirdo senses are already going off, and judging by the look of disbelief on Serena's face, so are hers. She looks to me, and mouths “who is this guy?”. I shrug helplessly in response. I turn my attention back to the man, and find him eyeing me. I feel a shiver go up my spine. Something feels off about this guy.

    His gaze changes over to Serena, and he eyes her in the same way. Just as I was thinking about grabbing her and making a run for it, a strange, creepy-looking grin appears on his face, and he utters one simple, ominous sentence.

    “It's bonding time.”
    Last edited by VoltTacklingPika; 6th July 2014 at 11:35 PM.

  10. #10
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    Chapter Six: Things Get Fishy

    Have you ever woken up with a temporary sense of dissonance? Those times where you randomly doze off, wake up two hours later but feel like you've been sleeping for about ten years, or forget that you fell asleep on your couch and what your living room looks like. There was nothing wrong with you taking a nap, but you feel like something isn't right; that something is completely out of place, but you can't figure out exactly what it is.

    I'm having one of those times now, only instead of waking up on a couch, I'm waking up on concrete, and instead of a living room, I'm in a skate park. For the life of me, I can't figure out why I'm in a skate park. My mind blearily recalls Serena and I making our way towards Route 5 and being stopped by somebody, but the finer points are lacking.

    ...what the hell just happened?

    The sky is tinted orange as the sun casts a lingering glance from behind the trees in the distant, providing just a sparing amount of natural light; the rest of the area is illuminated by street-lights appended on thin, blue poles. Not too far in the distance is a collection of bright lights, perhaps a town of sorts, while beyond that, in the background, I can see a steep slope leading up to a sheer rock face. For some reason, the word “versant” comes to mind, but I've no idea what it means.

    Opposite that, the stupidly tall structures that form Lumiose City stand overbearingly over everything. Seeing that jolts my mind back to life, and I remember that the road between the “slope” and the city is Route 5. We're on Route 5, on our way to Camphrier Town and beyond to create chaos, havoc, mayhem and anarchy. Or are they all the same thing? I don't know, I'm not thinking straight right now.

    Okay, let's start focusing again. I've woken up in a place I don't remember going to or falling asleep in, after meeting a strange person, so a quick inventory check would be the best thing to do right now. My amazing, both in an awe inspiring and disconcerting way, pocket-dimension bag is still here, as are its sparse contents of travelling supplies – food, water, medicine – and one pointless pair of roller skates. My clothes are still intact, if a bit dirty from sleeping on the ground, and that stupid hat is still attached to my head; so stupid that nobody would even steal it, apparently. The toilet seat badge is still nestled in my pocket – isn't there a case for these things? - along with Bulbasaur's Pokeball.

    Everything is accounted for, then. As far as my personal well-being goes, I feel confused, but not in any sort of physical pain, which only serves to exacerbate my confusion. Did I decide to take a nap in a skate park? Did Serena decide to take a nap in a skate park and I just went 'eh, why not?' and joined her? Where is Serena, anyway?

    As if answering that question, a soft groan comes floating over from a body that's been hung out to dry over a low-standing rail. Judging by the jeans, red jacket and light brown hair, it's definitely Serena. Her position looks distinctly uncomfortable.

    “You alive over there?” I call out, approaching her. She groans again, and then slowly, wearily raises her head to look at me with tired, blue eyes.

    “Calem?”

    “Yeah?”

    “What did you do?” Even in this state, she still manages to look and sound accusatory.

    “Nothing.”

    Serena pushes herself off the rail and rises to her feet. She brushes the dirt off her clothes irritably with pursed lips, and then gives it the double tea pot and directs that look of irritation at me.

    “I've been with you barely an hour and you've already got us into some weird situation.”

    What can I say to that? There's no doubt that this situation is weird, and if that strange guy was responsible for this there's a good chance my status as the Chosen One attracted him to us as part of the script. Quite what he accomplished I don't know. Perhaps there is an event that's meant to happen and we would have missed it had we been allowed to leave the city at the time we did.

    “I'm the Chosen One. Weird things are going to happen around me,” I tell her.

    “Obviously. I worked that one out for myself,” she responds, rolling her eyes. “What I want to know is why I got dragged into this as well.”

    I want to know why, too. If Fennekin were here, he'd say that as Serena travelling with me was obviously scripted, she would also included in other scripted events, but that's way too convenient an explanation. Serena was meant to be my rival; she's not meant to be here with me right now. Unless the script was re-written to account for that major change, she shouldn't be involved in any event that's meant to happen to me alone. If the Magnificent One had the power to re-write what will happen, I don't see why he would limit himself or change the story he wants us to enact.

    Other than all that hypothetical stuff, there is a simpler explanation.

    “It might not have been a scripted event, for all we know.”

    Serena shudders and I know why. The idea that some strange guy in a pink suit hiding and waiting for us to walk by is a normal, natural occurrence is disconcerting, but not every event is the result of the bastard's perverse sense of drama. There are strange people in this world who do strange things, and sometimes you just end up in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    “Regardless, shouldn't you be protecting me? I mean, if I'm going to fighting the majority of your battles, you should at least spare me from the creepy crap that happens to you.”

    “How do you propose I do that? I'm not psychic; I can't predict what's going to happen.”

    “Easy: you walk several steps ahead of me, and when something weird is about to happen, you can deal with it while I take cover somewhere. Not only will I be safe, but I get to be entertained by watching you embarrass yourself.”

    “We won't be able to talk much if you're several steps behind me all the time.”

    “That's okay, I didn't plan on talking to you much, anyway.”

    I feel so loved.

    Now that we're both awake and aware again, Serena and I leave the skate park and start making our way to Camphrier Town, though to any observers we'd look two people who just happened to going in the same direction, such is the distance Serena has put between us. Apparently she's expecting me to guide her as well, judging by how she's looking at her Pokedex instead of looking at the road. A vindictive part of me wishes for her to walk into a lamp-post.

    Putting her aside, Camphrier Town isn't far away at all. So long as we don't encounter anything strange on the way and so long as Serena win any battles quickly, we'll be there in no time at all.

    We travel in silence for a couple more minutes until I spot something approaching us from a distance. It's something blue, bipedal, and very fast, as just as I contemplate moving out the way, it's already brushed past me. I whirl around, and see that this thing is in front of Serena, arms wrapped around her shoulders, and making noises - something like a soft growl - of contentment. Serena, of course, looks completely terrified. I think you would be too if a Lucario just came out of nowhere and hugged you.

    “Does this qualify as a weird situation?”

    “Yes,” Serena bites out. “Do something. Now.

    “Uh, hey, buddy, I think the lady is feeling uncomfortable. You might want to let her go,” I say to the Lucario, which proceeds to completely ignore me. Serena is glaring at me, unimpressed at my attempts at helping her. I don't know what she's expecting. I'm not an expert Lucario extractor, nor do I have any experience of being glomped by a Pokemon.

    Serena tries pushing the Lucario away, but without total freedom of her arms, she doesn't get very far. I grab hold of its shoulder and begin pulling; maybe between the two of us we can wrench it off.

    The Lucario takes exception to that, though, as in an instant it releases Serena, swings the back of its paw into my face and sends me falling to the ground. I look up at it wearily as it growls at me, loud and menacing, from in-front a shocked looking Serena.

    I know a few very colourful expletives that'd be very appropriate right now.

    “Wait! Lucario!”

    The source of this new voice comes from a girl who looks around our age, dressed in a white, sleeveless shirt, a shirt skirt that covers a pair of spandex shorts, knee pads and a helmet. A blonde pony-tail is sticking up from out the back of it.

    “Sorry about that! Are you okay?” she doesn't appear to be addressing that sentence to anyone in particular, instead looking blankly ahead. “I was just doing some special training with my Lucario when all of a sudden it dashed off.”

    That blank look isn't the only indicator that somebody is under the script's influence. The stiff, robotic way the lines are delivered is also a dead give away.

    “Hey Lucario, what's wrong with you?” the newcomer asks her Pokemon. “Did you get draw to this girl's aura, or something?”

    Her Lucario's response is to hug Serena again.

    “Huh. Well, it seems Lucario likes you.”

    “Oh, what gave you that impression?” Serena says with scathing sarcasm. It's no good, though; from experience, I can tell you that sarcasm goes completely undetected by people under the script's influence.

    “See, Lucario can read people's auras. I guess something in your aura has made this one take a liking to a stranger!” It's not pheromones, is it? “This Lucario is always getting worked up in battle with my other one. Maybe it's just been waiting for a trainer to appear who's strong enough to challenge it...”

    While this girl continues to spout out some nonsense, I'm going to do something about the pain I'm in by applying a cold sponge to entirety of my face. That's the wonders of modern day technology, folks. We have bottled medicine that we can apply to Pokemon via a spray that'll help heal damage when out in the field, but no equivalent for humans, who are stuck with compresses and run-of-the-mill painkillers. You'd think someone would've made a human Super Potion by now. Could you imagine how much you could sell that for? A quick-working medicine that can be applied on the go. If I knew anything about chemistry, biology and medicine, I would totally be developing that right now. But no, any future opportunities have been stolen from me by that bastard, and that's one of the many reasons why he's a bastard, and--

    “Calem!” Serena exclaims.

    “What?”

    “They're gone.”

    “Oh. Fantastic. Let's move on.”

    “Sounds like a plan.”

    Don't worry, Serena, repressing bad memories is actually a lot easier than it sounds.

    *-*-*-*-*


    What an amazing coincidence it is that my progress is halted by the only route out of town being blocked by a Snorlax, of all Pokemon.

    Serena and I arrived in Camphrier Town not too long ago, and upon seeing how small and boring the town is, immediately decided to leave and press on towards Cyllage City via Route 7 and the Connecting Cave. If we didn't dawdle, we'd get there in the early hours of the morning. Admittedly, part of our eagerness to get moving came from the fear that if we lingered in Camphrier too long the sheer dullness of the place would rob us of our sense of humour, and that's the last thing anybody needs.

    But, and this should really go without saying at this point, things didn't go to plan. Our departure was impeccably intercepted by Shauna, of all people, who had the burning desire to go and check out Camphrier Castle and, of course, wouldn't take no for an answer. Such was its potential significance in her quest to discover the secret behind Mega Evolution, apparently.

    Mega Evolution is one those buzz terms you see in papers and hear all over the news that's repeated so often even the most ignorant of people would know it referred to a supposed huge, important development in the study of Pokemon and their evolution patterns. It's something that has the world's most famous and successful professors all working together trying to discover the how and the why and they've been going at it for a good couple of years now.

    That didn't stop this version of Shauna from thinking that the answers could lie in a mere tourist attraction: Camphrier Castle; a moderately sized stone structure that looks dull and uninspiring on the outside and has one solitary display case inside it... though it is a nice display case. Well worth the admission fee.

    To her disappointment, Shauna didn't get the answers she was looking for, but it turned out not to be an entirely wasted endeavour: we learned that the bridge leading out of Camphrier Town and into Route 7 is being obstructed by a Pokemon large and heavy enough to be unmovable. That description could fit a few Pokemon, a few of which are so unlikely to show up around here that, knowing how this script works, could well have been our latest obstacle to progression.

    Thankfully, there was no Wailord, Onix, Steelix, Kyogre or Groudon blocking the bridge, but a Snorlax instead. Snorlax, a grey and white furred beast that stands at six feet and eleven inches tall and weighs a stupendous 1014.1 pounds, tend to come down from mountainous areas in search of food because, well, not a lot grows up there, so it's not beyond the realms of impossibility for one to turn up in this area. That it chose this particular bridge to sleep on is quirk of fate, though, though which fate is being a quirky little bastard I'm not quite sure.

    How one goes about moving a sleeping Snorlax I've no idea. All I know is that it's a near impossible feat. These things sleep off 880 pounds of food per day so they're essentially dead weight, and short of bringing out some heavy machinery, nothing is dead lifting something that weighs over a 1,000 pounds.

    Incidentally, a Snorlax's stomach acids are so powerful that it can even digest mouldy and expired food and be absolutely fine afterwards. Major food retailers around the world actually use this fact to their advantage by dumping their unwanted and unneeded foodstuffs in Snorlax habitats instead of the trash. This way, food isn't wasted, and the Snorlax eat less of fruit and vegetables that humans use to feed themselves. This is just one example of symbiosis between humans and Pokemon.

    Not that any of that is relevant at all. I just needed to pad out my monologue.

    At this point, I can think of three possible courses of action. Firstly, we can attack and catch the thing.

    “There's no chance of that happening. Snorlax have incredible powers of recovery when sleeping, so any attack we could throw at it with our Pokemon wouldn't do nearly enough for us to capture it.”

    ...which is what I was going to say, until Serena rudely interrupted.

    Our second option is to find an alternate route. We could backtrack to Lumiose City and get to Cyllage City via one the other routes, but that'd take a lot more time; too much time to justify even visiting the city in the first place. Our best bet here would be to find a different way to access Route 7, either by following the stream until we find another bridge, wading through the stream itself, or climbing over the Snorlax.

    What's the elasticity of a Snorlax stomach?

    Let's be real; knowing my luck, physically climbing over a sleeping Snorlax would end likely end with me taking a swim in that stream, which is actually a good few feet below us, and those steep rock faces either side of it don't like they can be climbed easily.

    Then that leaves...

    “Basically, the Poke Flute is what we need to wake the Snorlax.”

    Time for some more exposition.

    I'm not sure on its origins, but the Poke Flute is a flute that, when played, produces a melody that will awaken sleeping Pokemon. Some reckon it's produced from a particular material that produces that sort of sound, while others think it's technology developed by some company somewhere. I know this all sounds vague, but there's very little anyone knows about the thing other than that it exists and what it does, and we only know that because the guy who discovered let the entire world know.

    Needless to say, it's a rare item that not any old schmuk will have. Although he suggested using it, this guy, who was apparently here the whole time and I didn't notice, unsurprisingly does not have the Poke Flute on him, but he at least knows where it's located, which is more helpful than a lot of other people I've met on this trip.

    “Parfum Palace is down Route 6. It's not too far from here,” Serena comments. “The guy who lives is said to be such a narcissist that he decided to show off how rich he is by opening his home up to the public.”

    “Interesting.”

    “It's a bit out the way, though.”

    “Oh well.”

    “You seem unusually eager.”

    “Of course I am; I'm about to visit the humble abode of one of the richest men in the region. It's going to be so much fun.

    “I don't like that look in your eyes...”

    *-*-*-*-*


    “The admission fee is 1,000 Poke Dollars. Per Person.”

    “You've got to be kidding me! It costs money to go inside?”

    “You see, the owner of this palace follows the line of the thought that you can never have too much money.”

    “Yeesh! This is how the rich gets richer!”

    “The proceeds from the entrance fee help pay for repairing and restoring the palace. Probably...”

    While Shauna argues with a butler over the admission fee – which, admittedly, is a load of bollocks – and Serena, who can I only guess is contemplating whether 1,000 Poke Dollars is really worth it, watches on, I've taken the time out to look at the palace. Or, to be specific, the alarming lack of security surrounding the palace. Sure, there's a wall and a obnoxiously tall golden gate, but nobody is patrolling in the courtyard, and there are no security cameras. It's almost as if this guy literally opened his home up to the public and did nothing else, which makes me wonder how there haven't been any high-profile burglaries of this place.

    Well, there's a first time for everything, I guess.

    Something grabs my attention a short distance away. Three figures, dressed in leotards, are approaching the wall holding a long package.

    There is only one group I can think of who'd be dressed like that, and I was hoping I'd never have to recall their faces ever again.

    But still, I'm a little curious, and this may be a good opportunity.

    “What are you three up to?”

    My voice startles the three of them. Each of them turn to face me, standing rigidly.

    “We weren't planning on stealing from this palace! No sir!” the one in the white leotard says.

    “I thought we were, brother Benoit?” asks the one in red.

    “Quiet now, brother Christoph.”

    “Both of you be quiet,” commands the one in blue.

    “Yes, brother Albert.”

    Who knew the members of Équipe de Magikarp had names?

    You know, I can't help but notice that 'Benoit' has a bigger moustache than 'Christoph', and that Albert has a bigger moustache than both of them.

    “So you guys are planning on sneaking into the palace? Let me come along.”

    “Why would we do that?” Albert, apparently the spokesman for the team, asks. It's a perfectly appropriate question. After all, last time we met, he was chasing me around a fountain with a Magikarp as my 'enemy'. However, there's a very good reason why he may help me.

    “I won't report to the police that there are three suspicious people planning on burgling Parfum Palace if you help me,” I say. “I'll even help you escape afterwards.”

    Albert looks uncertain. “That is unusually generous.”

    “There's something I need to do inside the palace.”

    “I see. There is something you must do.”

    I smile coyly. “That right. So how about it?”

    “You have a deal.” Albert and I shake hands, and then he snaps his fingers at his two supposed brothers. “Boys, prepare our revolutionary tool.”

    The 'revolutionary tool' in question is actually an extendible ladder, of all things. Benoit and Christoph place it against the wall, and it's just a simple matter of climbing it and dropping down to the other side. It's actually a brilliantly simple method of entry, what with no security whatsoever, and the only person who can stop us is currently being occupied by Shauna and Serena.

    For once, there are no problems, and the four of us casually stroll into the palace via the front door. After agreeing a time and place to meet, The Équipe de Magikarp disappear down one hallway, while I go another way.

    The best way I can describe the palace is that it's fancy. The floors are marble and covered by a smooth crimson carpet, while navy blue drapes hang either side of tall, spotlessly clean windows. There are several doors lining the hallway, interspersed between portraits and numerous pedestals that serve as platforms for the owner to show off his possessions.

    Like this vase, for example. It looks mighty expensive. It's sitting there, on a pedestal, completely exposed to the public. I can reach out, touch it, brush my fingers across its smooth, polished surface, pick it up, put it in my bag...

    I'm starting to really like my amazing pocket-dimension disguised as a bag.

    This is a process I repeat while I walk through the hallways. Everyone else here are too busy looking at the various fancy and expensive objects and being law-abiding citizens to notice what I'm doing. This, combined with my not having to walk around with a suspiciously swelled sack, makes this all too easy. I almost feel guilty.

    Almost.

    As I turn the corner into the next hallway I plan on liberating items from, I hear what sounds like people arguing.

    “Get lost, woman! This is a delicate operation!”

    That sounds like Albert. Don't tell me they've been caught.

    “What 'operation'? You're clearly stealing!”

    And that's definitely Serena's voice. Yup, they've been caught. By the one person I warned them not to get caught by.

    I duck behind a nearby pedestal. If you want something done right...

    “Stealing? No no, young lady, we are not doing something as uncouth as stealing. We're liberating these fine pieces from the clutches of that evil hoarder or riches and possessions!”

    “Dress it up however you want, you're committing a crime and I won't stand here and let-- stop waving your Magikarp in my face!”

    “Begone!”

    “What seems to be the problem here?” says a new voice.

    I peer out from behind the pedestal and see a burly man dressed in a pale blue police uniform. He looks vaguely familiar to me, but I can't make out his features clearly enough to properly identify him from where I am.

    “These guys are thieves!” Serena exclaims, pointing dramatically at Équipe de Magikarp.

    “We are not thieves, we are couriers of justice!” is Albert's defence.

    “Calling someone a thief is a serious accusation, miss. Are you absolutely sure?”

    “Yes, I'm sure. Just look at those burlap sacks they're carrying. That's totally suspicious!”

    “Tch, she's onto us.”

    “I knew we shouldn't have used the burlap sacks.”

    “But they're essential for any thief!”

    “I'm going to have to take you three in for questioning.”

    “We must flee!”

    With that declaration, the three most stupidest people I'm ever likely to meet start running up a nearby staircase where, you know, the chances of escape are at its smallest. The police officer follows them, yelling our arbitrary commands like “freeze”, “halt” and “stop”.

    I better go after them. I did promise to help them escape, after all, and they're less likely to reveal I'm an accomplice if I do something for them.

    Oh, who am I kidding. I'm just acting out of the kindness of my heart.

    ...sorry, that was a terrible joke.

    “What are you doing?”

    That question comes from Serena, who's looking down at me questioningly. I stand up, and take note of the empty hallway.

    “Liberating,” I tell her, swiping the goblet on top of the pedestal and slipping it into my bag.

    “Not you too...”

    “It's for a noble cause.” Serena looks like she wants to dispute that statement, but I cut her off quickly. As much as I'd love to have an argument, I really need to get moving before those idiots do something idiotic again. “Look, I need you to trust me on this one. I'm going to go bail those idiots out, and then leave this place. Once I'm a safe distance away, I'll call you, we'll arrange to meet up, then I'll explain everything. Got it? Good. See you later.”

    That said, I take off towards the stairs.

    “Hey, wait!”

    I ignore Serena and fly up the stairs. As I round the corner into the hallway, I catch a glimpse of a door shutting at the far end. The police officer is standing in the middle of the hallway, facing in the opposite direction, arms crossed with his face scrunched up in concentration.

    It looks they managed to somehow give him the slip. Miracles really do happen.

    Seemingly deciding that the trio were not here any more, the police officer begins walking my way. He spots me, and a flash recognition spreads across his face.

    “So we meet again, young man.”

    I frown for a moment, trying to recall whether I've met the guy before. Burly appearance, sharp eyes, hat and night stick...

    ...isn't he the police officer from Santalune City?

    Looking at him more closely, I'm certain it's the same guy; the incompetent police officer who disregarded the accusations of a young girl as false on the basis that I wasn't wearing a jacket. I was concerned about how I was going to lure him away and get to the Équipe de Magikarp, but it turns I don't need to worry at all. Unless this guy has grown a few extra brain cells over the past twenty-four hours, convincing him to leave should be easy.

    “Oh, you're that police officer from before. Caught any criminals lately?”

    “Funny you should mention that. I'm chasing down some right now. You didn't happen to see three guys in leotards prance through here, did you?”

    “Now that you mention it, I saw them running down the stairs not too long ago.”

    “They did?” He looks surprised. “How crafty. It's like they knew I was here.” He comes closer and pats me on the shoulder. “Thank you, young man. It's upstanding citizens like you that make the job of this Kalos Police officer easier.”

    I give him my best smile. “Happy to help.”

    He returns the smile, and then leaves via the staircase. I watch him go, then wait a few seconds before checking that he's really gone.

    See? Told you it wouldn't be difficult.

    With him gone, I walk down the hallway towards the door, making sure to collect a silver plate along the way, and give a couple of firm knocks with my knuckles.

    “Who is it?” comes Albert's voice from the other side.

    “You know, if I was a police officer, you would've totally given your position away just now.”

    “Calem?”

    “Yes, it's me. Are you stooges going to let me in or what?”

    “Is he gone?”

    “Don't worry, I sent him away.”

    The door clicks open, and Albert head pops out the narrow gap. He casts a couple of shifty looks down either side of the corridor. Satisfied that nobody else was there, he opens the door fully and steps aside to allow me entry.

    The room appears to be a sitting room, lavishly decorated and equipped with the essentials for sitting, namely a settee and coffee table. Benoit and Christoph are sat on the settee, inspecting the contents of three burlaps sacks that are atop the table. Albert walks past them to the window which overlooks the front courtyard.

    “Looks like you got a good haul,” I comment.

    “Of course we did. We are the Équipe de Magikarp.”

    “My own haul is a bit smaller than yours,” I say, taking said items from my bag and placing them on the table.

    It's here, playing show and tell in this den of thieves - this den of the luckiest thieves you're ever likely to find – that I belatedly realise that if I keep going as I am, I will be a criminal.

    Okay, so technically, after the whole Santalune Forest fire incident, I'm already a criminal, but back then I lucked out by meeting that particular policeman. Today, I've lucked out again by meeting the same person. On one hand, it's tempting, with all the adrenaline flowing, to take advantage of that and finish what I started. But on the other hand, luck is not something you mess around with. One day, you will get caught. It's simply the law of averages.

    My goal is to not obtain these items, but for this palace to lose them; something so uncommon and severe that it'd resonate throughout the local area. It's a crime either way, but I stand a much higher chance of being caught if I waltz out of here with the items than I would disposing them. As long as nobody finds them, the plan will still work.

    And for the sake of a certain someone, I can't have the law chasing after me.

    “You can have those if you want.”

    “Are you getting cold feet?”

    That was unusually perceptive.

    “To be honest, yes,” I say. “But don't worry, I'll keep my end of the bargain; I'll help you guys escape.”

    “This is very generous of you.”

    “I'm a generous person,” I say while shrugging my shoulders. I stand next to Albert and look out the window. The courtyard below is as barren as it was when I first arrived. “We can get out through here.”

    “That is quite the drop, no?”

    “We're not going to jump out the window... unless you want to, of course. In which case, be my guests.” The three members of Équipe de Magikarp shake their hands. “What we're going to use is a revolutionary tool that I recently obtained.”

    I start rummaging through my bag.

    “You mean...”

    “That's right,” I say, and pull out the extendible ladder.

    In a surprisingly efficient way, the window was thrown wide open and the ladder stood against the wall. The three sacks were packed with everything, including the items I stole, sealed and slung over the shoulders of each member. Then, we began to descend the ladder, Albert leading the way, followed by Benoit, Christoph, then myself.

    Just as we reach the bottom, a bellowing voice reaches us.

    “Thieves! Thieves!”

    Approaching us is a portly man in a dress suit, who's pointing us wildly, followed by a certain police officer.

    “We are not thieves, we are handymen!” Albert objects.

    Benoit follows up with, “Yes, we are men who like to use their hands for noble causes such as...”

    “...liberation!” Christoph finishes.

    The Équipe de Magikarp touch ground, line up, then strike a pose simultaneously. The guy in the suit is fuming at the trio, demanding that they return his possessions, but I'm not concerned about him. As I walk behind the trio, I wearily note how the policeman's eyes are following my every movement. His face is unreadable. He may genuinely not be thinking much, but can I really chance it here?

    Short of outright admitting it, there is no action that is a greater admittance of guilt than running away when confronted with authority. As far Équipe de Magikarp are concerned, running is the logical option. They have the items they wanted, so all that matters at this point if for them to escape.

    My own position is different, though. I'm just a suspicious person due to my proximity in this situation. If they were to search me, you'd find none of the items that belong to this rich person, therefore any accusation of me being an accomplice in a burglary will have no grounds. The three stooges could claim that I was involved, but they have no proof.

    To put it another way, my arse is sufficiently covered to eradicate the need to run away.

    “These are the three you're looking for, officer,” I state in a loud, clear voice. There is silence as everyone stares at me. Benoit and Christoph look stunned, while Albert is glaring at me with venom.

    “You dare betray us?” Albert hisses at me.

    “Betray you? I was never with you in the first place.”

    You...

    “Indeed, it seemed like he was on to you the entire time,” the policeman comments. Thank you for that useful misunderstanding, Mr. Policeman.

    “Is it not suspicious that he climbed out the window with us?” Albert exclaims.

    “He was obviously chasing after you.”

    “That's exactly what I was doing.”

    “There you go. Now then, please do not resist arrest. You'll only be worsening your position.”

    The three crooks share a look, and then nod solemnly to each other. The next moment, there's a flash of light, and the three are holding a Magikarp each in their hands. Benoit and Christoph leap straight at Mr. Policeman, swinging their Magikarp overhead. Caught completely be surprise, he barely throws his arms up in time to parry the blow.

    “That is grievous abuse of Pokemon rights!” he cries.

    “Ordinarily, yes, it would be. However, these are no ordinary Magikarp.”

    I can vouch for that. These are nasty, evil, snarling Magikarp, and I'm not even sure a Magikarp can snarl. That's how evil they are.

    As all this goes on, Albert takes the opportunity to bypass the police officer and come running straight towards me. Before he can strike me with his own Magikarp, I lob Bulbasaur's Pokeball at his face. He shifts to the side. The ball passes him by and lands on the ground behind him. It snaps open, and the Grass type emerges, the same vacant expression on his face from our first meeting.

    There's a tense moment as Albert stands between Bulbasaur and I. He gazes at us in turn, seemingly deciding who he should attack. He settles his gaze on me, then charges at me, Magikarp held above his head.

    “Bulbasaur, help!”

    “Huh? Oh, yeah, sure.”

    Bulbasaur's vine flies out of its bulb and wraps around Albert's wrist. The sudden resistance causes him to drop his Magikarp to the floor. It flails around there and then somehow, some way, manages to use its own tail fin to propel itself forwards and straight into...

    ...the back of the policeman's head.

    Wordlessly, his body hits the floor. Silence comes over us as we all try to comprehend what just happened. Then, three moustached faces slowly turn to face me, and break out into identical smirks.

    I'm in trouble, aren't I?

    Benoit and Christoph suddenly jump atop of Bulbasaur, pinning him to the ground. Albert makes a dive for Bulbasaur's Pokeball and his Magikarp, then looks to me, grinning victoriously.

    Yeah, I'm in trouble.

    “What will you do now, sir?”

    “Who knows?” I respond, sounding calmer than I felt. “Maybe we could talk this out?”

    Albert just laughs mockingly. “If only our hostilities could be resolved that way. Were you a man of honour, I would perhaps consider it. However, you are a traitor, and for a traitor like you, punishment must be meted out.”

    A drop of cold, nervous sweat runs down my face. This has backfired on me spectacularly. If the policeman was still conscious and fighting, I could've fended Albert off and ran away, but him being put out of commission has left me in a tight spot.

    Let's assess my options. I can try and fight them, but with their numerical advantage and Magikarp, I'll just get battered and who knows what'd happen after that. I can run away, but that'd be abandoning Bulbasaur, which I have zero intention of doing. I can call for help, but will anyone hear it? And if they do, will they arrive before I get beaten?

    I look beyond Équipe de Magikarp, and see the man in the dress suit cowering a distance away. He's not going to much help, either.

    I'm really screwed, aren't I? Who knew these guys could be so serious.

    I hope Bulbasaur is okay over there...

    “Oo, you boys are a bit frisky. I do love a bit of skin-on-skin contact.”

    “Albert, this is becoming mightily uncomfortable.”

    “Endure a little longer, brother.”

    “Just put him back in his Pokeball already!”

    Albert sighs in exasperation. “Fine.”

    He recalls Bulbasaur to his Pokeball, then pockets it. That mere action causes a rush of anger to surge through me. He's taking my Pokemon, yet I can't do anything about it. By a quirk of fate, the tables have been completely turned and I'm cornered. I can't fight, I can't run, and no one is coming to help. What can I do? Damn it, this is frustrating.

    I take a deep break in an effort to calm myself. I won't be able to think straight if I'm mad. There must be a way out of this. I just need to think of something. Can I negotiate with them? Do I have anything to offer? Can I trick them?

    “It's about time we wrapped this up.”

    Think, Calem. Think think think thin--

    *-*-*-*-*


    The star filled sky looks down on me. I'm lying on something soft, and loose. If I move my hands around, it moves, and if I scoop it up, it seeps out from between my fingers. It's silent, bar the occasional soft rush of water.

    Have you woken up with a temporary sense of dissonance?

    I'm awake, but my mind is not working properly. I realise that I'm on a beach, and that it's the middle of the night. My body is soaked, and I feel the chill of the evening sharply. I don't know how I got here, or why I would be here. I feel my hair stick against my forehead; my hat has gone missing. So has my bag. I don't know why they would be.

    I look around. Not too far in the distance, perched upon a cliff, are a collection of lights. A town or city, maybe. In the opposite direction, the beach stretches on for a while, and then ends at another town or city. Somewhere, in my mind, this layout is familiar.

    The beach is empty. Of course it is. It's night time. Nobody comes to the beach during the night. Why would they? It's only logical that I'm alone.

    Then I see it, and I scream.

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