Chapter 10: An Unlikely Prison
It took another week of training, but Rosa was able to return to Aspertia and defeat Cheren. She had gotten two of her four Pokemon over the level that Nate had won at, so it was actually an easy battle. This time, none of her Pokemon got knocked out. Cheren actually laughed at that. “Well your team has improved fast.”
“We worked really hard,” Rosa said, trying not to blush too much.
“I can tell,” he said. “Just be careful to not work your Pokemon too hard. Still, yours seem happy and healthy, so you should be okay. And for your fine work, you have also earned the Basic Badge.”
“Thank you,” Rosa said as he passed over the gold badge to her. Was he really impressed with her? Maybe she’d gotten her chance to catch his eye now.
“Both of you are ready to move on then,” Cheren said (instead, to her slight disappointment). “If you head on past Flocessy, you’ll arrive at Virbank. There’s another Gym there, so you should try your skills there. Just remember, as you keep earning badges, the challenges you get from Gym Leaders will get tougher and tougher. But I think with the respect you get from badges, you can get more people willing to talk to you both about what you’re searching for.”
“And we need to be exploring many places, so it’s good to continue with the League along the way,” Nate said.
Cheren nodded. “Of course. Well, keep in contact. I’ll be keeping an eye on how you two are doing, but it’s always best to hear it from you personally. Take care.”
“Yeah, we’ll send along any news we get about your friend,” Rosa said, trying to find something to cover her disappointment. “You take care too. Come on, let’s go!” She ran off out of the schoolyard.
Back on the street, Nate caught up with her. “Hey, what is it?”
She thought about saying nothing. He was a boy, after all, and boys didn’t always get it. But, this was Nate. She turned to him. “I was so sure that he’d like me even more after I won against him. But I don’t think it changed all that much.”
“I’m sure he does respect you more,” Nate said. “And you haven’t really said anything to him about how you feel, right? Maybe he just doesn’t realize it.”
“Maybe,” Rosa said, calming down at his words. “Or, is it because I only have one badge? Because he could go and become the League Champion right now if he wanted to. Well maybe not right now, now that he has to run the Gym here. But he’s that good… maybe if I can earn eight badges too, then he’d see me in a different light and I could safely tell him how I feel.”
“That's not exactly what I meant,” Nate said.
Rosa ignored him. “So that’s it. I’ll keep my Pokemon happy and strong, and then he’ll fall in love with me. Okay, let’s do it!”
Nate chuckled and shook his head. “If that’s what you think. But yes, let’s head on to Virbank.”
The three towns of Aspertia, Flocessy, and Virbank were fairly close together. Since they started out from Aspertia in the afternoon, they had to spend the night in Flocessy, then head down Route 20 to reach Virbank in the early afternoon. In the gatehouses, Rosa was excited to see her victory being announced on the electronic bulletin. It didn’t state her name, but it did say that a Trainer from Aspertia had defeated the Aspertia Gym Leader Cheren on the day that she had won. It was the only such announcement on the board, though.
“They used to do a daily battle report there, and on the internet,” Rosa said. “And some days, there would be dozens of wins to report. But in the past few years, participation in the League has dropped.”
“I read about that,” Nate said. “Seems like people are still influenced by Team Plasma’s ideals, even after they came apart.”
She nodded. “At least it seems the decent ideals came through, like treating Pokemon better. Hey, you think maybe if we do good enough, then we can spur on more interest in the League again? It seems sad that something that was a big part of everyone’s lives and talk is still on a decline.”
He shrugged. “Maybe. It might take more than just two people. But then, we could set a good example that others will want to follow.”
“That sounds like a wonderful idea.” She grinned in excitement, clapping her hands together. “So we’ve got to do really well here too! Great, I’ll have to… ack!” She stumbled as she was trying to walk backwards, falling onto the floor.
“You have to watch where you’re going,” Nate said, giving her a teasing smile as he offered her a hand up.
“Oh, don’t make fun of me,” she said, but that didn’t break her happiness for long.
Virbank was different from the other two towns he had seen, Nate quickly realized. It was very industrial. Large factories surrounded the town. Concrete walkways and roads took up much of the space, leaving only small patches of grass amid the houses and buildings. Not too far away, there were docks with large cranes in sight. Heading down the road, they found that they were on a raised walkway above the harbor, hence why so much was trying to cram into this small area.
The Pokecenter was a short walk from the gatehouse, but before they could get in, a pair coming out of the center made them stop. “Get real,” the woman of the pair said sharply. She had white hair that was pulled up on top of her head, but she had the face of someone in her twenties. “You have an important job to do.”
“You do as well,” the man said, with gray hair and definitely looking older than her. He wore a hat that seemed nautical, a mock-off of a navy captain's hat (or maybe it was that). “If you can lead a band and run a Gym, then who's to say that I can't run a ferry and be a movie star?”
“I can make time for both! But people depend on you to get to and from here. You're going to cause a lot of trouble in delaying the ferry.”
“But I'm not the only ferry, just busiest right now. It'll be fine; the others can pick up the slack. I'm after my dreams.” He waved and headed off down the street.
“Argh!” the woman growled, clenching a fist to her chest. “You dim-witted... dense... dumb... daft... dippy... dorky... doltish DOFUS! Doing double duty isn't the problem! You're causing problems for people! Keeping people from getting where they're going because of sheer selfishness is unforgivable! I've HAD it! I'm going to the Gym!” And she strode off without noticing them.
“Whoa,” Rosa said. “Uh, can't they have the drama inside?”
“Do you remember what we talked about after you got the badge?” Nate reminded her. “Back in the street?”
“Ooooo...” she blushed, then brushed loose strands of hair aside. “Fine, I suppose you can't really plan drama. But they're adults; they should have it settled by the time we get around to the Gym.”
He shrugged. “Who knows? Let's see what's around town, so we can figure out how to plan the next few weeks.”
They found some stores past the Pokecenter, but much of this town was taken up by docks, warehouses, and small factories. At the north end of town, there was a gatehouse that led to Pokestar Studios, but they weren't allowed past. There was a preschool where children and Pokemon played, but that wasn't like the school in Aspertia where there would be Trainers their age. While there was also a regular school, it seemed to be smaller and not much suited for battles.
A place that was suited for battles, even suggested by locals, was Virbank Complex, an area in and around where an oil refinery was located. Surprisingly, there was a large amount of grassy lots there and much of it was open for Trainers to battle or look for wild Pokemon. A few areas weren't public, but they were clearly marked as such. Overhead, there were large pipes crossing between various containers; it seemed like it might been be possible to walk over them.
There was one building near the entrance that was blocked off, but in an unusual manner. It was taped off with bright yellow caution tape. A worker was standing there, taking photos. Feeling curious, Rosa went closer to the building. “Excuse me, but what's going on with this place?”
“Hmm?” He looked up, then back to the building. “It's coming down. Not today, and it's not all that dangerous, so don't worry about being around it.”
“Why's it coming down if it's not dangerous?” she asked.
“You'd know if you went inside, but I don't recommend that,” the worker said. “It's been a magnet for bad luck, which is understandable. See this place, there were two legendary Pokemon that had been captured and held here for decades. And it just got worse when they were discovered, as whatever...” he waved a hand a bit, “bad spirit about it, if you'll excuse the term, was released instead of being pent up. I didn't believe in superstitions before, but it's giving everyone the creeps.”
So that was where...? Rosa shivered. “Oh, I see.”
“They were found two years ago,” Nate pointed out. “Why did it get left up?”
“We wanted to be rid of it once we realized that it was bad business.” He shook his head. “But there were complications about who really owned the place and where he was. They found a bones a few months back and it's only been recently confirmed to be this guy, Umber. With that, we could finally get rid of it.”
“And we could go in there, if we wanted?” Nate asked.
“If you wanted, yes, but really, I don't recommend it unless you've got nerves of steel,” the worker said, then moved on with his assessment.
“You're not seriously thinking of going in there, are you?” Rosa asked, worried and a little scared. What if it turned out that Nate was Keldeo's reborn form? It was weird that one of the legendary swordmon Pokemon would be reborn as a human, and it didn't quite match up to Nate's memory. But, his memory wasn't reliable and if it turned out that he was, then going back in there would surely trigger a bad flashback.
“Well Hilda's disappearance is related to what's going on with Keldeo,” he said, a lot calmer about it that she was. “I might see something in there.”
“It might be horrible! And you'd get a headache out of it too.”
To that, Nate just smiled warmly at her. “Thanks for being worried, but I can’t let that stop me. Still, if I did see something, the side effects would knock me out for the rest of the day. Maybe we'll train around the complex until evening and then go in.”
Go in that place with bad spirits, at night? Somehow, that didn't seem like a much better idea. “I don't like the sound of that.”
“It's better to know then to turn away in fear.” And with that, he seemed to feel that the issue was settled.
The few hours they got in training their Pokemon were tough, but worth it. The wild Pokemon here were much stronger than those on the routes. Not only that, but there was a Poison type living in the complex, the Koffing, so that gave Rosa a preview of what they'd be fighting against. Unfortunately, it seemed that Angel was going to have a hard time with it, as the poison really hurt her. Even her leaf cloak had started to wilt after the battle was over. It made her heart seem to ache seeing the Sewaddle shudder like that, so she had hurried back to the Pokecenter to clear that up. Fortunately, Bard, Finn, and River were strong enough to take out to few Koffings Rosa had come across.
In the evening, when the lights all over the complex were bright enough to block out the stars, they met back up at the entrance to the doomed building. There was a handle which seemed out of place, given that the whole wall had been plastered smooth at one point. Nate didn't seem to be afraid; neither did Ruby, as the Tepig snuffled around the door, checking the place out. Angel was half asleep on Rosa's shoulder due to the sun setting and Bard never seemed down for long. As for Finn, it was hard to tell with is default fierce face markings. The Basculin swam in place, watching them to see what they were going to do.
But Rosa still felt nervous about entering. And, so did River. The Riolu tugged at Rosa's black leggings, leaning away from the building and looking up at her with wide eyes. She pointed to the building and shook her head.
“River doesn't think this is a good idea either,” Rosa said.
“The guy said it wasn't dangerous,” he reminded her. “And it's not like they've begun the demolition process. There's likely nothing but memories in there, but those memories might be ones I need.”
“Memories of when two Pokemon were held captive against their will. With the way memories affect you, that could be trouble.”
Nate looked back at her. “I appreciate the concern, but I’d have to check out this place sooner or later. I could just go in with my Pokemon if you want to stay out of it.”
“Hmph, you don't have to be rude about it. Okay, okay, but if you get that look on your face, I’m pulling you out.” She looked down at River. “It is odd for her to seem spooked. She's so calm and stoic most of the time.”
“The Pokedex says that she can read auras, so old feelings might linger and be visible to her,” Nate said, opening the door. “Snapper, come on.”
From nearby, the Mareep stood still. His eyes were closed. “I think he fell asleep again,” Rosa said.
“Great,” Nate said sarcastically, taking out a Pokeball and recalling the Mareep. Snapper seemed to have lost much of his enthusiasm once they beat Cheren. The past few days, he didn't even want to walk around with Nate and Ruby. “I’ve got to find a better way to motivate him. Well, let's go.” He walked in after Ruby and switched a nearby light switch.
For some reason, the electricity was still on for this building. One light was out, but they could see most of the interior. It was an empty office building where nothing had been left behind. Being empty and now devoid of purpose, it should have been non-threatening. Maybe it was to Nate and three of the Pokemon (four, since Angel seemed fully asleep). But it made Rosa's hairs stand on end. River stayed close to her, looking around as if she suspected something dangerous might be around.
The second floor was even more empty, without interior walls. There were some ominous looking metal things on the floor and ceiling, but they were inactive and still. But the feeling of something being wrong was even stronger here. In this place, Rosa could imagine being locked up or tied down in helplessness, knowing there was an entire city outside but that the chances of being noticed were extremely slim. How could anyone be so mean to a Pokemon? Not even considering how special they had been. She turned aside and rubbed at her eyes, not wanting Nate to notice that she was tearing up at the thought.
In the meantime, Nate had stepped into the large rectangle made by the metal strips on the floor. “Possibly an energy barrier, useless now,” he said. Then he closed his eyes and was motionless.
For a worryingly long time. Rosa wanted to leave, but she didn't want to leave him alone there. “Are you getting anything?”
“Not like before, but it's like there's something at the edge of my notice,” he said. “Maybe another spot...”
River suddenly barked, startling because she didn't often make noise. The two teens both looked at her, pointing to a spot on the wall. Over there, it was just a white wall. Or was it? Something changed and a Pokemon appeared there. It was humanoid but small, with green hair spilling over part of her face and a black covering over her body like a dress. With her hands clasped near her chest, she spoke without moving her lips. “What are you doing here? This is a terrible place. I wouldn't come in if I didn't sense you.”
“Are you... Meloetta?” Nate asked.
She nodded and put her hands down. “Yes, that's me. What are you doing here?”
Since she was one of the legends, he explained what they were doing. Rosa nodded slowly at the end of it. “Yeah, he wanted to come even thought I tried to talk him out of it. This place is spooky.”
“I suppose if you were searching for someone, you would need to look at important places, even tragic ones,” Meloetta said. “I do not know about Hilda, but I know that something has happened to Kyurem.”
“What happened with him?” Nate asked.
“The past winter was mild, with lots of rain.” She shook her head. “I don't know what, but something has muffled his powers. When I think on him, I sense a great sadness and loneliness. It is strange coming from him; I looked and couldn't find him.”
“We're looking for Keldeo too, since Hilda was looking for him,” Rosa said, reminding her of that part of Nate's story.
Meloetta put her hand to her cheek. “Are you? But Keldeo is here.”
“Why would he still be here?” Nate asked. “We haven't seen him.”
“Uhh,” she looked down, lost in thought for a moment. “Keldeo... maybe he has not yet remembered who he is. You seem to be close. Please, be kind to him.” Then Meloetta vanished, apparently not wanting to stay in this place any longer then she had to.
Keldeo had been with them. Nate thought over that for the next few days while he worked on training his Pokemon. Maybe he was living as another Pokemon? If he stayed as the same type, then there was Bard, Finn, and River to consider. Finn didn't seem like anything special; he seemed battle-thirsty for being on Rosa's team, bored if he wasn't in a fight. Bard seemed too carefree and silly, while River was composed and serious about keeping in good shape. That is, save for when she'd been spooked about going in the building. Then again, that made the Riolu more likely than the Oshawott or Basculin.
But he might not even be of the same type. That gave potential to Rosa's other Pokemon Angel and his two in Snapper and Ruby. Angel seemed like a stretch, being shy and easily scared, but that might be a result of what happened to Keldeo in his last incarnation. Ruby had the kind of loyalty and drive one might expect from the legends he was reading at night. As for Snapper...
Nate was almost certain that it wasn't Snapper. Once he'd been taken off the ranch, the Mareep proved to be lazy and troublesome. It was a disappointment, as Nate had seen him defeat the other Mareep in their games of strength and Snapper did all right in some battles. But most of the time he was like he was now, staying in one spot in the shorter grass to munch on it, not even motivated enough to take more than a couple of steps to get to more grass. Besides, Snapper had been in his Pokeball when they spoke with Meloetta. Only the fact that the Pokeball was there made him a possibility.
“Snapper, you're falling behind,” Nate told him. “If you're not going to be serious, I'll take you back to Flocessy Ranch and release you there. We need you to cooperate.”
“Meeehh,” Snapper replied, not moving.
Ruby snorted in irritation. Whatever the Mareep had said didn't sit well with her.
Did he try to break through to Snapper and get his friendship? Or should he just try again with another Pokemon? Nate was leaning strongly towards the latter, and he had a good idea of what he wanted. “Okay, then.” He recalled Snapper, then headed into the grassy areas further from the path. Going deeper into the area led to stronger Pokemon, he had noticed. If he could find a Audino, they seemed unusually happy to act as a sparring partner to others. One had even tossed a berry at Ruby to help heal her so she didn't get knocked out too quickly.
Further in, he ran into a lot of the same Pokemon: Koffings, Growlithes, Magbies, Patrats, and even a couple of Grimers. But then he saw three of what he was looking for, Magnemites. Nate wanted to watch them like he had with the Mareep (the best he could do without save-scumming and RNG counting available), but the three Pokemon noticed him too quickly. They flew over, but then seemed to be in a bit of squabble about who would fight.
“Hey, you three,” he said. “Yeah, I’m looking to capture one of you, but I need a Pokemon who's willing to travel across Unova with me and work hard with us. I'll treat you like I do anyone, but I definitely don't want any slackers around.”
“Gruh, ge,” Ruby said, wagging her tail. Hopefully speaking for him too.
With that said, one of the Magnemites backed off, going elsewhere. The two who remained decided to attack him at once, causing Ruby to hurry ahead to get him out of range of the battle. Nate brought Snapper back out. “Ruby, Flame Charge one of them. Snapper, follow up with Thunder Wave... don't go to sleep now.”
But the Mareep didn't seem that interested. Why was he such a problem? He didn't have the collar of the ranch Pokemon. Maybe he had been captured before and had a bad experience with it. But then, Snapper hadn't been troubled when he'd brought out a Pokeball to catch him. Or had he, and Nate just didn't notice?
At any rate, Ruby picked a target and knocked it right out. Nate expected something like that, but hoped for something else. Snapper didn't do anything, so Ruby did the same attack on the other Magnemite. This one squeaked at the attack, getting knocked back in the air a couple of feet. But it came back, still floating as it used a small electric attack at the Tepig. If his memory was right, that was the one he wanted. He had picked up some Great Balls earlier, so used one of them just to make sure the capture went right.
“I feel like calling it Argent,” Nate said, retrieving the ball. Then he looked back at Snapper, who had not moved from his spot to nibble at some grass. “Do you even care? Well let's get back to the Pokecenter.”
He called over to Rosa and told her he was going for a walk elsewhere for a few hours. She seemed to be all right with that, more focused on training her Pokemon. At the Pokecenter, he healed up the Pokemon and then had to use the public PC there to release Snapper. Supposedly there were tools that could allow one to release a Pokemon anywhere, but he had no idea where one would buy something like that. The program that ran the Storage Boxes could be used for that purpose, and that was free.
After the bond was broken, Snapper reappeared near the computer. Nate wondered for a moment how he should say goodbye to him. While he wasn't that cooperative, he had still helped against Cheren. “Well you're free now, but I’ll keep my word and go with you back to the ranch. Shall we go?”
“Baah,” the Mareep said, shaking himself.
He took a few steps towards the door. “Please?”
Thankfully, Snapper followed him out of the Pokecenter, along with Ruby and Argent. The latter two seemed to be chatting, based on how they reacted to each other's oinks and buzzes. It struck him as being odd, knowing that Ruby had knocked out the other Magnemite in one hit and nearly got this one too but then seeing Argent acting playfully towards her. He would dip and bob at her in the air, bopping her in the side. She would squeal, then run around in circles trying to bop him back while also trying to keep up with Nate. From observing her for the past couple of months, he knew she was having a good time from her alert but pleased expression.
On the other hand, Snapper did his best to ignore them. Once they were past the gatehouse, he stopped a few feet out and started eating grass. Nate tried to call to him, but he wouldn't budge. “Well, you are free to do what you want. Take care of yourself.” Then he went back to the complex to get back to training.
But he had to wonder if he hadn't made a mistake somewhere, and what that mistake had been.
Snapper the Mareep stayed by the gatehouse; grass was good pretty much anywhere, even if it tasted a little different in each location. At one time, he thought he'd wanted to go on a journey with some young Trainer in order to get stronger and see the world. After all, it was what every other young Pokemon around him wanted. He had even rough-housed with others to be a strong one that would be picked out above the others. And it had worked with Nate.
But then he'd underestimated how much work it was to be a battling Pokemon. Nate was a nice guy and that almost made up for it. He was also a serious kid, and thus had drilled him and Ruby in many fights. At first, Snapper had tried his best. But it just wasn't any fun now that he was a Trainer's Pokemon. He began to wish for lazy days at the ranch, where the sun was warm and there wasn't anything to do but munch on grass and enjoy the weather. After he had helped to defeat a Gym, his motivation to keep battling just bottomed out. This wasn't the life for him.
At least he was now free to do what he wanted. He didn't even have to return to the ranch, which would be nice as there would be less competition from other Mareep and less questions of why he was back. While the lack of sneaking into the barn in bad weather was a downer, he might just hang around out here until autumn. Or even winter.
“Look look, it's a Mareep!” a little boy said, running closer to him. “Do you think I can catch it?”
“It might belong to someone,” a woman with him said.
“But there's nobody out here,” the boy said, coming right in front of his face.
So Snapper spit at him. It made the boy cry, but he didn't much care. He simply moved a short ways off and resumed eating.
The weather was rough that day, with winds whipping up the waves around the dock area. Despite that, Rosa went down to get a closer look at the sea. Her brown hair was threatening to come out of the looped ponytails that she wore every day and the salt water spattered over her clothes despite her raincoat. Where many other girls wouldn't have been happy, it gave Rosa a thrill to be in the middle of it all. The only one of her Pokemon that didn't love it (that was Bard) or didn't mind it (that was River and Finn) was Angel, who tried to hide from the storm against Rosa's neck. So she recalled her and walked along the dock paths with her other three.
Ahead of her, Bard was twirling around and singing in the wind, slowing down in his spinning but then falling backwards into the water. Rosa laughed. “You definitely meant to do that!” she called, kneeling down and offering him a hand out. The water droplets from the larger waves hit her face, but it felt nice. Then the wind gusted through the lower portion of Virbank, pushing her over backwards as she pulled Bard out. “Whoa! Ha ha, no fair wind!”
There was another roar as the gust continued, grabbing her visor and flipping it down the dock. Rosa scrambled to her feet to chase after it, but River did a face palm and then dashed after it faster than Rosa could run. Still, even the Riolu didn't get the visor; something else did.
They caught up to see what had gotten her visor: it looked like a large blob of pink jelly sprawled on the dock. But it definitely had a tentacle that clung to the visor, and black eyes that opened up to look at them. “Oh, is it a jellyfish?” Rosa asked. “Or a jellyfish Pokemon? I've heard of them. You must've gotten blown up from the storm, but... you seem kinda cool. Hey, can I capture you? I'll get you to the Pokecenter to be checked out and then we can figure out what to do.”
As the wind had slowed briefly, the jellyfish tossed the visor back at Rosa. That was a good clue that it was a Pokemon rather than a simple jellyfish. Rosa put the visor back on and dug in her bag for a new Pokeball. But then the jellyfish swatted at River. It wasn't going to break tradition by letting her get it without a fight. At first, she wasn't able to figure out why River's attacks weren't working. Only Assurance got it before Rosa decided to just throw the Pokeball and hope for the best (especially in this inclement weather).
Bard immediately went chasing after the Pokeball, apparently thinking it was some toy. But at least that reaction made sure the ball didn't get blown around and dropped into the bay. Rosa clapped her hands. “Bard, bring it over to me!”
“Oossh!” The Oshawott grabbed the ball in both paws and held it at arm's length with both paws while waddling back to her.
“Good boy,” Rosa said, giving him a hug as she took the Pokeball. After another short gust, she added, “As fun as this is, I don't want to lose my visor or any of you. Let's get out of here.” While Finn snorted at her comment, they hurried along the dock back to the staircase that led back up.
At the top, Nate was waiting on them with his new Magnemite and Pignite out. “What were you doing down there?” he asked. “It's dangerous to be around the water in this kind of weather.”
Ruby gave a small snort, not looking too bothered even though the rain hissed upon hitting her.
She gave them a grin. “Don't worry, I can swim! And so can these ones, and another I just caught! At least I assume so, as I haven't looked yet.”
“Nice, but let's at least get back inside before finding out,” he said. “I could go for a warm meal tonight after this stormy day.”
“Fine, let's get to the Pokecenter,” she said, hurrying along the road and only slowing because the wind made her.
They were dripping water by the time they got in there, but the center staff had added a large coat hanger at the entrance for raincoats. There were still wet footprints on the floor, indicating that they weren't the only ones who had tried to be out this afternoon. After getting her team healed up, Rosa checked the Pokeball and the Pokedex to figure out what she'd caught. It turned out to be a Frillish, another Water type, but she was also a Ghost type.
“That makes her different!” Rosa said happily. “I think I'll keep her. You okay with this?”
Now that she was attached to a Pokeball, the Frillish was able to keep well hydrated with technology. Watching her float there was like watching a pink water balloon with large light ribbons bobbing in the air. She had a small face, so she smiled at the question. “Wooorooo.”
“Awesome, so...” she thought about it, but then a name seemed obvious. “You'll be Medusa!”
Medusa seemed to coo as she bounced in place.
“Isn't Medusa the name of a mythological monster?” Nate asked.
“Is it?” Rosa asked, puzzled. “I know it's the name of an adult jellyfish, the non-Pokemon ones.”
“That's so. I guess she is different.” Nate smiled too. “Looks like you're getting a team you like.”
She laughed. “Yeah! What about you?”
“I like these two,” he said, looking to Ruby. “I've been thinking about what other Pokemon to look for. But, we'll see.”
At the complex area, there were a series of round pipes that hung eight feet over the ground. They were just wide enough for a human to walk on, although it would be hard for them to balance. On the other hand, River was able to stay standing still up there for her balance exercises. It was important to have good balance. Flow like the water and wind, to be graceful at any speed, to be nimble in battle. That was what she had been taught when she was a young pup. While she felt she had good mastery over that, River still didn't have much power. At least, she didn't think so. She was under a Trainer now, so this should be a good opportunity to become a truly great fighter.
Should be. The Riolu had known that she would be best off with a human Trainer; it was just a matter of when she'd find one. When wondering about it before, she thought that maybe she'd find a human master of martial arts. Or maybe one who was already a great Trainer who would know how to bring out the best in her. Instead, she ended up with a novice Trainer, a girl who had more enthusiasm than grace in her movements.
Below her, she could see Rosa using Finn to battle a wild Audino while some other girls from Virbank had paused in their walk to watch briefly. “Come on, it can't take that much longer to beat him,” Rosa said.
The Audino spun around, dancing more than properly fighting. “Hah ha, that's what you think! Come on and try me.” He made an insulting gesture that most humans tended to mistake for a cute ear wiggle.
“You're foolish to think you can beat a proud warrior of the blue tribe!” the Basculin said before ramming his body into the Audino.
However, the pink Pokemon merely laughed again, tossing an oran berry in the air. “Who said what I was thinking? That is, what I think now is that that attack wasn't any more hurtful than being slapped with a dead fish. Wooo, wimpy fins! I don't even need healing from that.”
“You'll pay for that insult,” Finn growled, waggling his tail fin in preparation for his next attack. “Take this!” But the Audino just jumped aside and slapped the Basculin with his paws.
“Why're you fighting with such a slimy Pokemon?” one of the Virbank girls asked. River crossed her arms over her chest on hearing that. That girl had an aura of someone who liked to be pampered, one who'd rather others do all the work for her. If the Riolu had run into her when looking for a Trainer, she would have steered wide and clear away.
“He is not slimy,” Rosa insisted, looking away from the battle. “He's adorable.”
The Audino laughed at that, shaking its head. Finn grunted. “What're you laughing about? She says that I'm strong.”
“No she's not,” the Audino teased. “She means that you're a dainty fin! Dainty fin, wimpy fin!” Then he ate the berry he had.
“You've got weird tastes,” the girl said, then headed on with her friends.
While River would agree that Rosa had weird ideas of what made a Pokemon adorable (that toothy menace, who'd probably be happy if he got a scar for show?), that wasn't enough to dismiss her on. The fact that her inexperience showed painfully and that she seemed frivolous had been initially why River had tried to escape. But then, there was something else to her. Rosa's aura was peculiar. It hadn't seemed like much at first, nothing to investigate. Yet the longer River stayed around Rosa, the more apparent that difference stood out.
It wasn't like with Nate. Nate had a strange aura for a human too: all mixed up, not quite fitting in to his surroundings, seeming older than his appearance. However, he was definitely human and he had a chance at unscrambling things himself. Rosa most often seemed human, but occasionally something seemed to shine out from within, a power that belonged to a Pokemon. At first, River had thought it was that charm of Keldeo that the girl wore, since the Pokemon aura coming off her was definitely Water-based. Then they had gone into that abandoned building and met Meloetta, who claimed that Keldeo was with them. That tiny sword could be reacting with Keldeo's spirit, but it seemed significant that Rosa was holding onto it.
After another minute of fighting, Finn finally won over the rude Audino. Rosa hugged him. “Good job, even if it seemed to take forever.”
“He kept growling my power away,” the Basculin said, still irritated at it. “He can stay away forever.”
“Yay, you won!” Bard called, hopping over and waving with Medusa. Bard was now a Dewott, which meant that it was harder for Finn to escape his hugs. River usually noted his intent before not allowing him to hug her.
“Okay, I think you did enough practice, so...” Rosa let go of Finn and looked around. “Let's see, there's you two and... River! Where are you?”
“River!” Bard called, turning around to look. “I'm gonna hug you one of these days, and it'll be sooner if you're lazy!”
The Riolu sighed, then kicked the pipe she was standing on. It did get their attention. “I've been doing my own exercises,” she said. “And keep your hugs to yourself.”
Rosa laughed at seeing her up there. “Wow, you got high up! How'd you get there?”
For a moment, River considered if it would be wise to let her know. Then again, she'd probably look anyhow. She pointed to the stairs that led up to this level. “I'm going to have to watch you carefully if you get up here.”
As she thought, Rosa decided to come up to the pipes with her. Bard followed along and was soon dancing along another pipe; he at least had good balance too. River opted to keep an eye on their Trainer. Hopefully, she could do something to keep her from breaking her bones. Maybe Medusa or Finn could catch her, as their water bubbles let them swim freely through the air as long as they weren't focused on battling.
Rosa did have the sense to keep her arms out and move slowly. She paused, then took a step back. “Whoa, this is easier when I'm moving. How're you staying still? Maybe it's cause you're smaller.”
“And I practice my balance every day,” River said. “I want to see you try something.”
“How're you going to ask her?” Bard asked, coming up on the Riolu's other side. The pipes criss-crossed each other, creating multiple paths.
“I may have to try different ways,” River replied. Then she pointed up to the tiny sword on Rosa's necklace.
“Oh, did you want to practice martial arts with me?” Rosa asked, getting completely the wrong idea. “Normally I spar on a mat, not a pipe off the ground like this. And I'm not that far along. I've got a green belt.... that's not much.”
River put her paws on her hips. “That might show what I want to see. But I don't know if I want to try teaching a human to fight with her fists. I had enough trouble teaching my daughter a few years back.”
By then, Bard had managed to be hanging below the bar. “Wow, you're a mother already? I didn't think you were that old.”
“Yeah, well it happened while I’ve been preparing myself,” River said while the Dewott got himself back on top of the pipe. “I've seen fifteen winters and my daughter has seen five. Anyhow, I think that sword can do something. Draw it.”
Rosa still thought they were talking about sparring. “And while you might be smaller than me, I think you could beat me easily. Maybe if I had some armor or something... I do have a sword!” She laughed as she pulled out the tiny sword from its necklace case. “A little bitty one that's might draw a tiny bit of blood, but not enough to win with.” She then put it back.
“Maybe it has to be drawn in a particular fashion?” River thought aloud, tapping a foot on the pipe. “Like quickly, or with a chant.”
“Or flashy!” Bard said, pretending to draw a sword quickly. He continued his play by fighting off some imaginary foe opposite of River. “Come on, we'll fight back to back like badass buddies!”
She looked back at him. “Your form is more suited to your shells; you might want to stick with them over trying to learn swordsmanship.”
Rosa clapped her hands. “Oh, are you going to be the next Errol Flynn? That would be sweet. Maybe you could even make this little thing look awesome, like this!” She then drew the sword out quickly and sweeping it down and forward, trying to be dramatic.
And it was more dramatic than she intended, as the sword decided to no longer be tiny. Instead, it turned itself into a blue and silver longsword. The end of the handle even had a longer version of the lock of Keldeo's hair. Despite the fact that she wasn't expecting it, the sword kept her balanced on the pipe.
“Whoa, how did that happen?” Rosa asked, staring at the sword with wide eyes.
“Wow, I wish I had a real sword like that,” Bard said, pausing in his play to admire it.
“It's like Meloetta said,” River said, bowing her head. “Keldeo is with us and the sword reacts to his spirit. Or rather, hers.”
“What do you mean?” Medusa asked. The Frillish made her tentacles flutter below her. “Rosa has a very strong spirit, I can taste that. But where's Keldeo? I've never met a legendary Pokemon before.”
“I think she's Keldeo,” River said, pointing to Rosa. “But she doesn't remember, so her power doesn't show well. But that sword might be a key to revealing the truth.”
“I don't know what to do with this,” Rosa said, holding the sword up in front of her. “Huh, I wonder if Mom and Dad knew it could grow like this. But what do I do with a sword?” As she questioned it, the sword returned to its tiny size. “That's weird. I'll have to figure it out.” She put it back, but then as she glanced around, she slipped off the pipe, managing to catch it with her hands on her way down.
“Eep, Rosa!” Bard ran towards River, so the Riolu jumped over him so that he didn't knock them both off too.
“Ack, I don't think I want to be up here much longer,” Rosa said, forcing a smile at them. Then she looked down. “Thank goodness for leggings.” Then she dropped to the ground. “Well come on, we can't let Nate's team get too far ahead of us!”
“Yay!” Bard called, leaping off the pipe. Now that Rosa was fine, he was happy again.
“Right,” River said, jumping down to join them.